Where the horizon ends on the far, far right side, Sunday saw two new – marginal, I hope – developments in Poland. Both in the context of the European elections.
First, another new party was created. It is called Polexit and its driver is Stanisław Żółtek, MEP, former associate of Janusz Korwin-Mikke. Mr. Żółtek is a former deputy mayor of Kraków in 1990s and a current MEP with the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF). Polexit will advocate for leaving the European Union altogether. Sounds similar? Remember UKIP and its difficult start?
The reason to leave the EU according to Mr. Żółtek is the recent vote in the European Parliament that links the rule of law with the distribution of the EU funds. Żółtek: “If [this] enters into force, and it is close, then we will lose our sovereignty completely, other countries will decide on our behalf. This is occupation”. Mr. Żółtek also dislikes ETS which makes the energy prices go up in Poland. He blames the EU for Poland’s increased energy prices.
The Nationalists March in Oświęcim
Second, the far-right march. 27 January is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day to remember the liberation of the largest German Nazi-era concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, located near the town of Oświęcim. 27 January 2019 there is an international commemoration led by the Polish prime minister and foreign dignitaries. The attention, however, is high-jacked by a group of radicals led by Piotr Rybak. Piotr Rybak is a convict who has burnt an effigy of a Jew awhile back. On Sunday he argues: “During the occupation years our countrymen died here for the liberty of our motherland. Today it turns out that over last 30 years the fact has been forgotten that all nations of the world, including Poles, died here.” If thus far what he says could sound reasonable, listen to the rest of his speech: “It’s time to fight against the Jewry and free Poland of it. Where are the rulers of this country? At the trough! This has to change.”
This causes an outcry in Poland and abroad. The Washington Times, the Haaretz, write their stories. In Poland the opposition (Paweł Rabiej, deputy mayor of Warsaw, Grzegorz Schetyna, PO leader, for example) accuses the ruling PiS of doing nothing, or little, to fight anti-Semitism. PiS responds that the PO is the guilty party here, as the mayor of Oświęcim is from PO and it was during PiS rule when Mr. Rybak was sentenced (that’s Jacek Sasin, deputy minister of culture and frequent media commentator, for example).
The police looks into the issue.
Chapeau bas to the interior minister Joachim Brudziński, Law and Justice (after throwing some anti-opposition comments beforehand): “I have said this before and I shall repeat once again: there will be never any OK from me for any activities affirming Nazism and anti-Semitism”.
Za akcję którym zdjęciem „okrasił” Pan swój wpis,Rybak został skazany już za TEGO rzadu.Dlaczego kłamie Pan pisząc: ciagle tak dla #antysemityzmu. Mówiłem wielokrotnie i powtórzę po raz kolejny, nigdy nie będzie zgody z mojej strony na,żadne akcje afirmujące nazizm i antysemityzm https://t.co/ww1upgCWMR
— Joachim Brudziński (@jbrudzinski) January 27, 2019
As for Rybak, better bad press than no press.
It does not matter much if Żółtek runs. He’s always a candidate. Sometimes he is elected, like for the deputy mayorship in Kraków in 1990s, or as MEP in 2014. Most of the time he is not. He is not a very popular individual, unlike Mr. Korwin-Mikke. “Polexit” going solo has no chance. “Polexit” as a force within a larger, united anti-European platform on the right side of the Law and Justice, this could happen. United right, Polexit and the Rydzyk moves (or no moves) – there seems to be enough stirring on the Polish far, far right. Can someone unite them?
Brudziński and Sasin incidentally agreed that the Polish courts are politically motivated. They claim that Rybak’s sentencing took place “on this government watch”. If the courts were independent the arguments used by PiS politicians would be different. Hence, are the courts free? Earlier this month a case from the Netherlands, where a local court stopped a transfer of 11 suspects to Poland fearing they would not face a fair trial in Poland. That’s worrisome.
As for Rybak there is bad news and good news. The bad news: Rybak’s popularity re-emerged among the far-right. The good news: there is no more acquiescence for anti-Semitism. To see Law and Justice and the opposition competing for who is more against the far-right – that is how things should be. The unfortunate news is that it took Mr. Adamowicz to die for Law and Justice to be more critical of the far-right. Not self-critical, but critical. Maybe more self-aware. And viciously offensive towards the opposition – who continues to be vocal on those issues, too.