Latest newsletter #169 Click to read online

Poland: patriotic, not authoritarian

Tomasz Wroblewski

WARSAW - How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Abraham Lincoln's famous question sought to ridicule those who wished to change the reality by rebranding the truth.

I'm reminded of it by the ongoing, well-orchestrated campaign to brand the Polish government as a pro-fascist regime. Despite the popular narrative in Europe these days, the dog still only has four legs, and the Polish government is no less democratic than the rest of the Old Continent.

Many pointed to a recent outburst of violence and extremist sentiment at an independence day parade in Warsaw (November 11, 2017) as evidence of Poland's democratic decline. But out of the 60,000 people in attendance, no more than 10 percent could legitimately be called far-right nationalists of the "fascist" variety. And those represent a small fringe group with no standing in Polish society. Out of hundreds of patriotic banners waved there, no more than 10 were an idiotic nationalistic mix of fascist and communist paranoia.

Nor are these extremists a threat. We're dealing with troubled, immature minds. This was obvious in the contradiction of their messages. Next to racist banners promoting "white power", we saw anti-communist and anti-capitalist slogans. Some were reminiscent of earlier pro-Russian provocations.

Regardless of their motives, their despicable actions were harshly criticized not only by Polish President Andrzej Duda and Jarosław Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, but by all major conservative nationalist organizations.

Their actions were met with outrage and fierce condemnation across Polish media and social networks long before foreign media addressed the topic.

Accusations that the Polish government supported fascism and anti-Semitism are far off the mark. It's worth remembering that this is the first government in Poland's 27-year-old democracy to have sentenced and jailed someone for anti-Semitism.

The problem is that any time someone proves that a dog still has only four legs, demagogues come up with a new twist.

The UK's Financial Times blamed the Polish government for commending the march as "patriotic". Why shouldn't it? The march was, after all, attended mainly by hard-working, middle-class people with families. They turned out, peacefully, in remembrance of getting our freedom after years of Russian and German occupation.

The word "fascism" is increasingly overused in Europe. What makes a specific government or a party fascist? Is it a political system or form of governance — resembling Germany 85 years ago - or just a phrase to emphasize a sense of indignation and contempt for different political views?

In France, many Jewish citizens are migrating to Israel out of fear of the growing anti-Semitism, but no one accuses France of being "fascist".

Extract from Tomasz Wroblewski, Politico (European edition), November 28, 2017.

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