Just before and on 27 January, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, part of the Polish radical left participated in small demos in a few cities (e.g., Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, Poznan).
Each demo attracted a few dozen people, organised with the message, “Auschwitz (Oswiecim) 1945, Chechnya 2005, Stop the genocide” (as the poster of the organisers put it explicitly in Krakow). The demos were organised in the main by the Committee “Free Caucasus”. This group is dominated by the radical anti-Communist right (activists from the Republican League, who were a few years ago responsible for physical attacks against May Day marches, but are now in a deep crisis) and the Anarchist Federation. But a big part of the Marxist left also participated, including Workers’ Democracy, a small Polish clone of the British Socialist Workers’ Party.
A number of Polish left wingers had big doubts about participation. Even if one supports solidarity with Chechnya, don’t these demos mainly meet only the needs of the Polish right?
Don’t these demos only satisfy the anti-semites by comparing the biggest genocide in history to the crimes committed by Russian troops during a local war. Does not such a comparison minimise the scale of the Holocaust tragedy? (Not to mention the role played by Islamists in the pro-independence Chechnya movement and the cruel terrorist attacks of Islamists against ordinary Russian civilians. These worry a part of the Polish left too, which in the past was much more supportive of the Chechnya independence slogan).
And did the demos have to be organised on 27 January, the anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation — the main symbol of the Holocaust — when anti-semitism still plays a part in Polish society?
Don’t these demos only meet the strong anti-Russian phobia of a big majority of the Polish right?
Probably the general perception of the demos was as disturbing the commemoration of Auschwitz’s liberation, or even insulting the dignity of the victims. And perhaps this resulted in the much lower than expected turnout.
In a poll of 230 people on the most popular left website in Polish 45 per cent expressed their support for the demos, but 43 per cent said that they “do not support the forms and the message of protests organised by the Free Caucasus Committee”. We should remember that almost every Pole of 25 years old has grandparents who remember the mass persecutions and killings done by German Nazis.
About 30 participants of the Cracow demo were detained by the police during a brutal intervention, which of course should be condemned as an unacceptable attack against the right to free assembly and free speech. But because the protest was considered to a large extent anti-Russian, and to a certain extent as something that should not have been organised at the time of the Auschwitz memorial, no parliamentary representative has protested, apart from Mariusz Kaminski of the Law and Justice party (PiS).
His party lives on and cultivates anti-Russian feelings, anti-Communist obsessions, demanding a strong state and draconian penalties in the criminal code, fighting against abortion and gay rights etc. This nationalist politician was very satisfied by the anti-Putin protest, similar to the protests organised a few years earlier by himself as a leading activist of the Republican League.
So, the left protests and the right profits?
August Grabski, Warsaw