Tomorrow is the anniversary of martial law in Poland, and again the day will say the fash marching in Warsaw and Wroclaw, calling for the murder of communists and basically trying to take the centre ground of history.
Theirs is the view shared by many in Poland and beyond Poland, largely by conservatives, that pre-1989 saw the situation of communism as experienced in Poland as the antithesis of patriotism. This infers that being communist was per se anti-Poland.
History shows us that the issue in Poland is not communism against patriotism, rather nationalism against the people of Poland.
Let’s start with 1945. Zygmunt Wojciechowski, a member of the anti-Semitic All Poland Youth was an associate of the fascist Roman Dmowski. He admired Hitler’s anti-Jewish policy as a good role model for Poland (at first at least, he was later to be part of a family that sheltered a Jewish woman). He was very active with the communist government in Poland, especially in their attempts to define the “recovered territories” as being “originally Polish”, via various publications. Undoubably, he was influential within and without communist circles in Poland in pushing a nationalistic agenda.
Such a nationalism can also be seen in Wrocław not only in the programme for the “intensifaction of the re-Polonisation campaign” which led to the elimination of the German language and forced “Polonisation” of first and last names, but also in the allocation of names for key streets, throughfairs and ur which were dominated by the likes of the Grundwald battle, the Silesian insurgents, Tadeusz Kościuszko, Piłsudski and, on the arse-end of Wroclaw, Dmowski (note how the street is still named after that fascist). With the exception of a street named after Stalin (now ul. Świdnicka, though that was renamed after 1956) hardly any key parts of the town were named after communists and Soviets. Certainly, there were streets named after Klara Zetkin and Luksemburg, but these are minor streets on the outskirts of the town.
Of course, naming a street after people from Polish history is not nationalistic per se. It’s just that the locations of the streets shows something about what was important to the communist government in Lower Silesia. National symbols were more important than communist symbols. Let’s put this another way: There was never a street named after Lenin in Wrocław while there is (still) a square named after Józef Bem. The communist government was plainly more interested in national(ist) than communist symbols.
The post-war PM of Poland Bołesław Bierut repeatedly quoted the fascist Roman Dmowski (here’s one quote: “The nation becomes the master of its fate not only when it has many good sons, but also when it possesses enough strength to restrain its bad ones.”)
Moving forward to the martial law. Let me introduce you to Maciej Giertrych, fan of Franco and Antonia Salazar and a member of the League of Polish Familes (LPR). He was a member of the Advisory Council, an organisation which refused contact with Solidarność. Giertrych supported martial law, it seems, as he was suspicous of Solidarność as he said that “they serve the interests of non-Polish people”.
Another nationalist collaborator was Bołesław Piasecki, the founder of the fascist and (of course) anti-Semitic party the ONR who, in 1947 founded PAX Association, a Roman Catholic organisation that worked with the state. His anti-Semitism is claimed to have been influential in the drastic events of 1968 . While he died in 1979 his organisation supported Jaruzelski during Martial Law. (See here for more information.)
There’s also the matter of the “Grundwald Patriotic Association“, founded in 1981. It contained All-Poland Youth member Napoleon Siemaszko, the anti-semitic book writing and later key fan of Radio Maryja Edward Prus, nationalist-party founder Stanisław Tymiński and anti-semite Tadeusz Bednarczyk. The aim of the association was to bring together pre-war right-wing veterans in order to discredit Solidarity, saying that some activists had a “Jewish background”, doing parades in the Gdańsk shipyards where people were warned about “Zionist” elements within Solidarity. More here from the excellent 161 infocafe.
This is not to say that all of communism in Poland was nationalistic, and that all nationalists supported Jaruzelski. This is however to say that, contrary to what nationalists in Poland and conservatives in Poland and abroad say, nationalism played a key part in collaboration in Poland. (In fact I would argue that nationalism was key to Lenin’s theories, and that nationalism was always part of the Soviet Union, as well as Poland; this line of thought shall be continued in a later article).
Or to put it another way: ONR members and their friends in the NOP and All-Poland Youth have founders and key members who collaborated with communist authorities. Taking their own views to a logical conclusion, nationalists in Poland may want to hang themselves.