Polish government’s promotion of “Cursed Soldiers” remembrance day in Slough gives legitimacy to far-right speakers among Poles in Britain and must be opposed, argues JL
On Sunday, a day-long celebration of the Polish national remembrance day dedicated to the “Cursed Soldiers” will take place in Slough.1 The remembrance day, initiated in 2011, continues to cause controversy. The “Cursed Soldiers” is a broad term for the anti-Stalinist partisans in the post-war Poland, as well as a number of victims of the Stalinist repression, who were members of the resistance prior to 1945 but did not take up arms against the new regime. Some of the partisans celebrated as “the cursed” were guilty of violent acts towards the civilian population, including ethnically-motivated mass murders.
While the topic of the event in Slough is dubious at best, its main guests are simply deplorable. One of them is a Catholic priest Jacek Międlar, who became known for his open association with the Polish far-right groups and regular publications in the nationalist press. He caused controversy by celebrating a mass during a major event by the Polish fascists from the National-Radical Camp for the 82nd anniversary of their organisation last year. In his sermon for the occasion, he used antisemitic language, which led to disciplinary consequences from the Catholic Church. However, despite the restrictions placed by the church hierarchy on his public appearances, Międlar continues to spread hate and attend fascist rallies. Britain First have already confirmed that Międlar will be present at their demonstration in Telford on Saturday.
Another speaker, Leszek Żebrowski, is a historian for the Polish far-right. He is known for promoting the antisemitic myth of “Jewish communism” or Żydokomuna in the Polish context. He has also questioned the results of investigation into the war-time pogrom in the village of Jedwabne. Żebrowski’s publications retain an outward academic appearance but closer reading reveals that he is a “historian” only in the way David Irving was before he had lost all the questionable credibility he ever had.
One could argue that the participation of Żebrowski and Międlar in the event on Sunday is just another attempt of the Polish far-right to increase their presence among the Polish migrants. Already in 2013, a Polish far-right leader Robert Winnicki had to cancel a number of his events across Britain, following a series of protests by the anti-fascist movement. However, this time the event in Slough is receiving promotion from the new Polish government. It is listed as part of the nation-wide celebrations of the “Cursed Soldiers” co-organised by the National Institute of Remembrance (IPN) and sponsored by a number of state-owned companies.2 While the event in Slough has its own local sponsors and organisers, the fact that it is embraced by the officials in Poland and takes place in the Polish House of Slough, gives it much legitimacy and raises the profile of the speakers among Poles in Britain. Furthermore, this is not the first instance when the new conservative government in Poland cooperates with the far-right. Razem party has documented over one hundred cases of collusion between state institutions and the far-right in promoting the latter since 2016.3 In one high-profile case, Polish ministers publicly protested against Facebook’s decision to remove several profiles for inciting racism and homophobia.
The nationalist but nevertheless conservative Polish government might hope to contain the more radical far-right with their policy of limited concessions and support. We all know too well how dangerous such ideas can be. We must vigourously oppose the attempts to spread racism and fascism everywhere, and recognise the danger of racially-fuelled divisions between migrants, especially in the context of organising against the racism of government policies towards all migrants.
The Polish anti-fascists from Dywizjon 161 have issued this leaflet, with contacts to event’s organisers and sponsors. You can also check the following facebook event by Anti-Fascist Network for further details: https://www.facebook.com/events/162418570931482/