Sunday, 13 November 2011

On fascist violence and the media distortion of anti-fascists

Blast off!  It's party time
and we don't live in
a fascist nation.
Blast off!  It's party time
(From this excellent song)
I'd like you to do a little role-playing now.  Imagine yourself to be a young lad or lass

You're not interested in politics., but you're happy that Poland regained its independence in 1918.  You like living in Poland (your friends are Polish, you like Polish hip-hop, you've had many nice holidays in Zakopane and Sobot.)   You're glad to be Polish.

Some friends of yours hard about a 'march of patriots' on Polish Independence Day and, as Poland will be playing Italy in Wrocław that evening, it sounds like a cool thing to do, to experience the mood before a game, to express that you're glad to be Polish.  You arrive in Wrocław, and wow!  So many people!  These are people like you.

The march starts and people light flares, like at a football game.  It's all so impressive.  You feel good.  We're all Poles together.  You enjoy the football-type chants.  This is a good thing.  You walk along, and people are smiling, people are making noise, on this nice looking market square, packed together.  This is Poland!

While walking away from the market square you see a small group.
Violent, up to no good, anti-free speech scum, apparently

They appear to be against us.  People around you at shouting at them, so they must be against this parade.  They're anti-Polish, people are shouting.  They're not one of us.  They're not real Poles.  You are caught up with the group mood.  Apparently they are the 'red gang'.  That name rings a bell.  They must be communists.  They did bad things in Poland.

You see a flag with a man you don't recognise on it.  "Who's he?", you ask your friend.  "Roman Dmowski", is the answer.  He was a "Polish patriot" who helped to make Poland exist.  He wanted to protect Poland against their enemies, "Germans and the Jews".

You have already noticed a few flags with the letters 'NOP" written on them.  You don't know who they are, but they must be cool.  They organised this parade, you hear.  You like this parade, so the NOP must be good people.  They are pro-Poland and anti-those who are against Poland.  Your grandmother had told you about those nasty gays, trying to destroy Poland on behalf of the EU.  They're not like us. 

You begin to feel more powerful as part of the group.  God bless (Roman) Catholic Poland and the NOP!

The importance of a strong counter-voice

What I have tried to convey here is the process made possible by such marches.  A march by fascists is not the danger per se.  A Poland without marches by fascists would not mean a Poland without fascists.  The thing is, a bit of awareness of group dynamic procedures (see Zimbardo) shows two outcomes that can occur after marches by fascists: While such inbetweeners may not be as radical as the NOP fascists, such a march strengthens their sense of being Polish, a sense with is exclusive.  People of other religions, views: LGBT's and Jews implicitly do not fit into this Poland.  This implicit sense can become more explicit over time, upon being exposed to more radical views.  While the young people or other 'patriots' may not leave the parade as NOP members, they'll be more open to them as being a "good thing" and also more open to extreme views.

Secondly, the point of the fascists I imagine they felt more powerful after the march.  They were so big, and the counter-demo was so little.  Such a feeling of power can lead to an escalation of violence in their everyday life (attacks on people of different colours, graffiti on Jewish graveyards), as they feel that there is a small opposition to them.

That we, the counter-demo was so small (there were about 150 of us compared to 1,200 of them) shows that no credible alternative to right-wing extremism was demonstrated.  For the inbetweeners such a parade can serve as a turning point.  The counter-demo was so small and contained no-one they had heard of.  No Priest.  No politician.

Of course, there was the 'march for tolerance' on the Wednesday before (a good event that I attended), but I doubt if the fascists and inbetweeners read Gazeta Wyborcza, the newspaper which supported the event, an event which will certainly serve to maintain or increase group cohesion between those who are pro-tolerance; furthermore, the Israeli/Norwegian/Polish school exchange will help.

With a very small exception, those who support tolerance did not turn up to stand against intolerance.  Instead, they left it to the anarchists.  However, anarchists are not liked by the mainstream.

Prejudice against the 'far-left' and anarchists

Gazeta Wyborcza has reported that at there were 'gangs from both sides running after each other' (last year) and 'people on both sides were throwing fireworks at each other' (this year).  Probably unlike the reader of this article, I was present at both events.  Regarding last year the claim is totally untrue.  I saw one scuffle between an antifa girl and a fascist over a flag.  What was reported simply didn't happen.  Regarding the throwing of the fireworks, well look at this video:

Torches of fire were thrown at us as soon as they came to us.  These hit people.  One girl found herself with small burning bits of paper on her head.  I would estimate that about 25 lit torches were thrown at us, and two lit flares.  Of them about four lit torches were thrown back.  The words used by Gazeta Wyborcza are a misrepresentation of what happened.  We were under a sustained attack.  People on our side backed away from the police line to avoid being hit.  Some went into the passage to escape the flames.  We were under immense provocation (click on the video about, by the way, and see how in the comments how happy people were that we were being attacked in such a manner).  That is the context in which to read that some lit torches were thrown back.  The great majority of people on our side simply stamped the torches out.  (Read also here for first-hand eyewitness accounts.)

This attack on us was simply described with the words "people on both sides were throwing fireworks at each other", thus creating the false impression of the same old story of the 'far-left and far-right being as bad as each other' (something I wrote about here).  The Gazeta Wyborcza did also not help in their selection of photos shown, which showed no lit torch coming our way (I would put this down to a difficulty in producing such photos myself, or perhaps I am being naive).

I have also read the claim that all of those who protested against the 'patriots' were there to do violence.  This is a spurious claim with no basis in reality.  This is the usual anarcho-bashing.  Please, if you are to comment on 'anarchist violence' do a bit of research first.

Another incident happened, by the way; one that I am not clear about.  For some time hundreds of fascists didn't march, rather, in the midst of the thrown lit torches stood in front of the police shouting abuse at us.  I then saw that some policemen were hitting some of the fascists.  It seemed that either the fascists were attacking the police or that they were trying to get through the police to get to us.  In any case, the police used tear gas, I thought to push the fascists back, but I also hear in order to 'separate the two sides'.  In fact hardly any of us were right behind the police due to the aforementioned fire-attack.  It is for this reason that most of us covered our faces with scarfs.  Bear that in mind regarding the discussion about people hiding their faces.  (A separate article will be written about the state's answer to the day's events.)


Bravado, alcohol, group dynamics were some of the reasons why we were attacked (furthermore, after the march we were to find ourselves surrounded by fascists by Hotel Monopol with the police protecting us on both sides).  There's more to that, though.  It was, consciously or unconsciously an attempt to scare us.  This is a common fascist tactic: Recently the English Defense League sent a warning message to the Occupy LSX campers in GB.  Plus we have Breivik, of course.

They wanted to discourage us from coming again next year and from using civil courage in any acts of violence we see in our daily lives.  I know some who avoided coming due to the fear of violence.  It is this fear that strengthens fascists.  It's a (pardon the pun) vicious circle: They had a greater number, so they felt more powerful, so they attacked us (such an attack didn't happen last year when the numbers were more equal).  Less people may attend next year as a result.  I was with people who were at their first protest.  They backed away from the missiles coming our way and I don't think they'll come to a protest again.

 Those violent anarchists again, this time in Warsaw

If one wants a more tolerant Poland one has to do more than support tolerance (through marches, days of business, exchanges), one has to show courage by opposing intolerance in our daily lives, including during such marches.  By backing off, by showing fear, by inaction, by staying at home, by complaining about those people who actually wish to let fascists know what they think fascists get stronger (and, read these words very closely: 

Those at the counter-demo did not want to stop the fascists from speaking their opinions, rather, letting the fascists know about theirs.)

An alternative circle would be: More anti-fascists than fascists would mean that an attack would be less likely* as the fascists would feel less powerful and anti-fascists would feel more powerful.  To conclude: Such parades serve to move impressionable people to the far-right and to make the far-right feel more powerful.  They physically attack the anti-fascists, who find no sympathy from those who were not there who don't know the full story of what happened.

Had the state, Christians, the vaguely left-wing and liberals supported our stand for democracy and tolerance and against fascism, this would be a different situation in Wrocław.  But no, the usual scapegoating and easy-to-say-but-not-provable saying 'the far-left are as bad as the right' prejudice dominates.

Oh, and regarding the events in Warsaw I cannot comment too much because, if I know that the media are reporting untrue accounts of what happened in Wrocław then I cannot trust what is being reported about Warsaw.  I can only say that, again, we see the violent nature of the far-right in their bloody attack on the police.  If the information regarding German 'anarchists' (here one has to be careful, as we don't know that they are anarchists.  Anarchists are a very diverse group) is true, it sounds to me like, I am being serious here, a cultural misunderstanding about national symbols and who wears them.  I'll see what information emerges before I comment further.

This link shows a curious story of the German antifa actually not being at the demo. 


A humble message to those who stood up to the fascists:

Thanks for being there.  The banners were excellent.

Perhaps next year (should the state be so kind as to allow us to exercise our democratic right to express our views) we could do something that the mainstream would like more.  I know we cannot really rely on them, or maybe even trust them, but still, it would be worth trying.

When the fascists throw fire torches at us, perhaps we could throw flowers at them?  With different colours, with the words 'Poland has many colours' stuck to them on pieces of paper.  I know we've got a tough battle in convincing the mainstream (and thus winning people to our cause) of our peaceful aims, but this would help, perhaps.

Perhaps we could organise a festival of culture for 11/11/12, with music and poetry from Polish people who represent different cultures: Piotr Dumała, Czesław Miłosz, Chopin, etc.?

Keep in touch.

* The police may bear the brunt of the fascists' ire instead.  At least they have legal weapons.

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