Posts Tagged ‘Soviet Bloc’

Vox Political: Why Isn’t Britain and other Countries Condemning Israeli Gaza Massacre More Strongly

May 18, 2018

On Wednesday Mike put up a post questioning why Britain and many other countries had not made stronger condemnations of the Gaza massacre by Israeli soldiers. He also attacked the statement issued by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, justifying the shootings by stating that Hamas is a terrorist movement intent on the destruction of Israel that ruthlessly uses unarmed civilians and children, and so put them up to massing at and trying to break through the fence. Mike points out that, whatever the Israeli state has claimed, no Israelis were harmed, while 55 – the number of dead reported at the time – Palestinians had been killed. He also pointed out that this is blaming the victims, exactly what the Nazis did to justify their own persecution and genocide of the Jews.

And other Jews in this country and Israel have similarly been appalled and disgusted at the Israeli’s violence. They include tweeter Tom London, whose avatar is the fizzog of 18th century radical Tom Paine. Haggai Matar, whose first name is that of one of the lesser prophets of the Hebrew Bible, also posted a piccie of 500 Israeli protesters blocking the Tel Aviv road.

Muslims and those of Arab descent have naturally not been silent. Aleesha has expressed her utter disgust, and Mehdi Hasan has stated that the comments on the massacre by various organisations, which don’t condemn the Israeli state, mean that nothing they say on the subject of Israel should ever be taken seriously again.

Alistair Burt, speaking for the government, just made a very anodyne and half-hearted condemnation urging restraint of both sides, stating he was very saddened by the massacre and the use of live fire, but also the use of civilians by terrorists, and that all this was a threat to the peace process and a two state solution.

He was immediately torn into by Tom London, who found this weak condemnation also ‘cowardly, immoral and shameful’.

Rupert Colville, the UN’s spokesman on human rights, declared that the massacre was a violation.

And Linda Sarsour pointed out that South Africa, which has also lived through apartheid, has just broken off diplomatic relations with Israel. South Africa was a strong supporter of Israel under apartheid, something that appalled and disgusted many Israelis, even those who supported their own apartheid against the Palestinians. Will this loss of an erstwhile ally upset the Israelis? Not while they’ve got new, extreme right-wing allies in Europe like the present Polish administration and Fidesz in Hungary.

So why is the British government’s own response so muted? According to Marsha de Cordova, it’s because last year Britain sold the Israelis £216 million of arms, including sniper rifles. And coincidently, many of those murdered in Gaza were killed by snipers. The tweeter radicals put the figure at £445 million, including snipers.

Jeremy Corbyn issued a much more robust, statesmanlike response stating that the massacre came after weeks of Palestinians being killed while demonstrating for their right of return. He mentioned Trump’s movement of the American embassy to Jerusalem as a further emphasis to the threat to peace and the injustices inflicted on the Palestinians. He condemned the weak response by western governments to the massacre, and urged them to take a lead from Israei campaigners for peace and justice. There should be an end to the 11 years siege of Gaza, and the 50 year occupation of Palestinian territories, as well as the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.

He concluded:

“We cannot turn a blind eye to such wanton disregard for international law. That is why Labour is committed to reviewing UK arms sales to Israel while these violations continue.

“The international community must at last put its collective authority and weight behind achieving a lasting settlement that delivers peace, justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, who have waited so long to achieve their rights.”

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/16/why-is-the-uk-and-the-international-community-not-condemning-israel-bitterly-for-the-gaza-massacre/

Corbyn’s speech is excellent, gives due credit and emphasis to Israeli campaigners for peace and justice for the Palestinians, and rightly condemns the ‘merchants of death’. So we can expect it will be seized upon and twisted by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism for alleged Jew hatred. As soon as the Israel lobby finds a way of fending off public outrage against them, of course. Mike’s put up a piece today reporting that the Board of Deputies of British Jews is being torn to shreds by British Jews, who like Tom London, find their statement disgusting. Liberal Judaism is particularly appalled, as is Yachad. Many joined a demonstration held outside Downing Street by Jewdas, while others held a ‘Kaddish for Israel’. The Kaddish is the lament at Jewish funerals, and comes from the passage in the Hebrew Bible ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord’. MPs have also condemned the shooting, and the board’s excuse that 50 of those killed were Hamas terrorists has been dismissed by one blogger as ‘a load of Fascist crap’. It’s another comparison between Israel and the Nazis. But as Mike points out, it isn’t anti-Semitic as it’s accurate.

He ends his article with the rhetorical question that if the side of reason is winning the argument, then

Why is the Duke of Cambridge – Prince William – determined to continue with a planned visit to Israel that will amount to an endorsement of that country’s murder of innocent people?

This issue becomes more complicated by the second.

Which is precisely the point Dr. Basem Naim, the former Gaza Health Minister raised when interviewed by Afshin Rattansi earlier this week.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/17/huge-backlash-against-supporters-of-israeli-government-over-gaza-massacre/

Apart from arms sales, there are also other geopolitical reasons why Britain supports Israel. It’s one of the two pillars of British foreign policy in the reason, the other being Saudi Arabia. They’re supposed to represent islands of stability in the region, and were our allies against the Soviet bloc and its Arab allies.

In fact the various statements that have been made justifying this situation are just so much guff. Israel isn’t the only democratic state in the region – so was Lebanon. And what the Americans and our governments feared was Arab nationalism, which was also considered pro-Soviet. Many of the Arab socialist regimes were pro-Russian, but not Communist. And almost from the moment the Balfour declaration was issued, there were suspicions that this was an attempt to create a pro-British Jewish island in the region, just like Belfast was a pro-British island of Ulster Protestants.

The Conservatives have always had a very close relationship with the arms industry, and I don’t doubt for an instant that many of them have shares in arms companies. The excuse for backing the arms industry is that it will open up these countries to the import of other British products. It doesn’t. They don’t buy other British goods, just our arms.

And earlier this week people compared the British attitude to the Gaza massacre with the Saudis using British arms to kill children and babies in Yemen. Well, once again, the accusation is correct. The Israelis have also been using British weapons to kill the innocent. Especially as one of those who died was a baby after Israeli squaddies threw CS gas into a tent.

Israel is an apartheid state engaged in ethnic cleansing. It is a disgrace, like every other nation with the same policies. We should stop arms sales now, and give every effort to support a secure, just peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And those organisations justifying such massacres and persecutions should be marginalised and destroyed.

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Tony Greenstein: Richard Spencer, Founder of the Alt-Right, Declares Himself ‘White Zionist’

August 18, 2017

Tony Greenstein, a Jewish socialist and anti-Zionist, as well as opponent of all other forms of racism, has put up a very interesting piece on his blog commenting on Richard Spencer’s declaration that he is ‘a White Zionist’. Spencer is the leader and founder of the ‘Alt-Right’ movement, which takes its name from the website he founded. He is a racist and White supremacist, and one of the organisers of the Nazi march in Charlottesville last weekend, which saw the stormtroopers surround the hall in which a multicultural, multi-racial meeting against the racists was being held. The Nazis also surrounded a synagogue, chanting ‘Sieg heil!’ The rabbi and one of the officials smuggled the Torah Scroll out of the building because they were afraid these thugs would desecrate it.

The whole march was like something from the Third Reich, with the Nazis carrying torches, bearing shields with Nazi insignia, and chanting ‘Blood and Soil’, one of the Nazi slogans, and ‘the Jews shall not replace us’. There have been documentaries on the Beeb over here about how, amongst their other atrocities against the Jews, the Nazis also invaded synagogues and brutalized the rabbis and congregation during Krystalnacht. That was the evening when the Nazis smashed the glass front windows of Jewish businesses.

Greenstein notes that apart from Spencer, Trump’s administration has included other anti-Semites and racists. Such as Steve Bannon, the former head of the racist and White supremacist Breitbart News, Steven Miller, who formulated Trump’s immigration policy and was mentored by Bannon, and the infamous Sebastian Gorka.

Gorka’s one of the founders of the New Democratic Coalition in Hungary, which includes Jobbik, an openly racist, anti-Semitic party. He has also given his support to the Hungarian Guard, Jobbik’s anti-Semitic militia, and has the Vitezi Rend, a medal for a chivalric order created by the Hungarian dictator, Admiral Horthy, who presided over the deportation of his country’s Jews to the death camps.

But Spencer also claims to respect Israel and has talked about having an alliance with the Jews. When Rabbi Matt Rosenberg of Texas A&M Hillel challenged Spencer to learn the Torah with him, which was God’s revelation of radical inclusion and love, Spencer threw it back at him. Would he be so supportive of such radical inclusion if the entire Middle East could move to Israel? He then went on to state that he respects the Jewish people because they didn’t assimilate to the nations around them, and that is what he wants for America, his country.

Greenstein has also included two articles about Spencer and his views on Israel, one of the Israeli paper Haaretz and the other from Y-Net. The Y Net article states that Israel isn’t shocked by the presence of anti-Semites in the White House, as an upsurge in anti-Semitism is good for Israel.

The article states

As the Jews in Israel long for immigrants with a certain affiliation to their people, and as Zionism—like any other ideology—needs constant justification, we have a secret hope in our hearts that a moderate anti-Semitic wave, along with a deterioration in the economic situation in their countries of residence, will make Diaspora Jews realize that they belong with us. Is proof even necessary? No one will protest the assertion that the rise in anti-Semitism in France gave us some satisfaction, in the sense of “we warned you, didn’t we?” Late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not hesitate to make such a declaration, angering the French government and many Jews who see themselves as unconditional French citizens. Thousands of Jews from France who see Israel as a lifeboat, as an insurance policy, purchased apartments here and raised real estate prices in the coastal cities. That’s good. It proves Zionism was right. Furthermore, no one can deny that the economic crisis in the Soviet empire, coupled with the nesting anti-Semitism there, were the cause of the immigration to Israel of about 1 million Jews and their non-Jewish relatives, most of whom have no affiliation to Jewish culture. Neither can anyone contradict the embarrassing fact that Israel worked to lock the gates to the US, the opening of which may have directed many of these Jews and their relatives there, and perhaps even most of them.

The article also states that the comfortable existence of American Jews raises the question of whether the foundation of Israel was worth it. Israel’s existence has not made Israel a normal state, and has not combated anti-Semitism but has partly served to increase it through the state’s maltreatment of the Palestinians. The article concludes

In order to remove these malignant doubts, it would be good to have some anti-Semitism in America. Not serious anti-Semitism, not pogroms, not persecutions that will empty America from its Jews, as we need them there, but just a taste of this pungent stuff, so that we can restore our faith in Zionism.

http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/the-neo-nazi-organiser-of.html

This is very much the same view as Greenstein’s own: that Zionists are perfectly happy allying and stirring up anti-Semitism, as they believe it will ultimately benefit Israel by causing Jews to migrate there.

It was statements like this, which got Livingstone suspended from the Labour party, when he told the historical truth that Hitler had forged a brief alliance with the Zionists to send Jews to Israel from Germany.

And it is because of this, entirely correct assessment of the Zionists’ attitude towards anti-Semitism, and their utilitarian view of the brutalization and persecution of diaspora Jews, that Mr. Greenstein himself has repeatedly been vilified as ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘self-hating’.

Vox Political on Blairite Entryism

August 17, 2016

Yesterday, Mike also put up a piece from Medium entitled ‘Blairite Entryism’. This was about an email from three councillors for Oval Ward in Lambeth, Jack Hopkins, Jane Edbrooke and Claire Holland, appealing for people to join the Labour party so they could vote out Jeremy Corbyn. They made the usual noises about Corbyn and his supporters being unsuitable for government, stated that as well as trying to tackle inequality and protecting the most vulnerable, they were also active running basic council services, and threatened that if Corbyn was elected, it would mean the disappearance of many present Labour councillors. The email was sent to everyone, including Lib Dems and Conservatives. It was specifically targeted at the members of other parties, who were not Labour voters, to join simply to get rid of Corbyn.

Mike asks the question why Tom Watson, if he is so frightened by Left-wing entryism into the Labour party, isn’t also denouncing this Right-wing entryism, and demanding that they be duly punished in the same way as all the Trotskyites he imagines are out there.

Of course Watson won’t. Part of Tony Blair’s strategy to appeal to the right was to recruit Conservatives into the Labour party and the government. Those who switched sides were parachuted into safe Labour seats, often at the expense of the popular, Labour candidate for those areas. When it came to government officials, Blair decided that his was a Government Of All the Talents, and included even present members of the Tory party. This included Chris Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong. It was noted by Blair’s critics that he was far more comfortable with these Tories than he was with traditional Labour party members.

As for the long paranoia and fear about left-wing entryism into the Labour party, this has been around since the 1920s. Labour were concerned about possible Communist party infiltration, and so passed a resolution to remove members of the extreme left. The official stance of the Labour party is opposition to the class war, which is one of the major planks of Communist ideology. There is a problem in that under Stalin, the Comintern did have a policy of turning western Communist parties into carbon copies of the Soviet Communist party, and using them to further specific Russian foreign policy goals rather than those favouring their own nations. One of the reasons Communist Yugoslavia split from the Soviet bloc and aligned with NATO instead was because Stalin tried this effect takeover of their nation through the international Communist organisation. Milovan Djilas, the dissident Marxist writer and one of the architects of the system of worker’s control in the former Yugoslavia, described this process in his autobiography, Rise and Fall. For example, the official Communist international line demanded that the press in the satellite countries printed stories mainly about Russia, to the exclusions of articles about the satellite nations itself. And the way Stalin took over and the nations liberated by the Soviet Union during the Second World War into Communist states under the sway of the Soviet Union was by infiltrating, amalgamating and purging the local Socialist and opposition parties. For example, in East Germany the Social Democrats were, against their wishes, forcibly amalgamated with the Communist party. The leading Social Democrat politicians were then purged, and the majority Social Democrats then reformed as a Communist party, along the way turning their country into a Communist state. This didn’t just happen to Socialist parties. It also happened to non-Socialist parties, which occupied the leading left-wing position, such as the Peasant’s Party in Hungary.

There were also attempts to take over the trade unions through the Soviet trade union organisation. It’s why Ernest Bevin, the veteran trade unionist and Labour politician, hated Communism.

And it wasn’t just the Communists, who tried these antics. The Socialist Workers’ Party, which is the country’s main Trotskyite organisation, was notorious for trying to infiltrate other left-wing groups and campaigns in order to turn them into its front organisations. The ‘Rock Against Racism’ movement fell apart in the 1980s after they gained a majority on its leading committee. The campaign then declared it was working in concert with the Socialist Workers. The majority of its members, who weren’t interested in Trotskyism but simply wanted to listen to rockin’ bands while saving the country from the NF and the rest of the Fascists, voted with their feet and left.

Other extreme left-wing organisations adopt the same tactics. In the early 1990s a group of anarchist troublemakers tried to infiltrate a re-enactment group of which I was part. They left en masse after they were caught discussing their plans to take control of it.

Much of the fear of left-wing entryism into the Labour party and the trade unions was also stoked by the Americans as part of the Cold War. Robin Ramsay and Lobster have published a number of articles describing and criticising the process by which the American and British intelligence agencies sponsored various working class movement and organisations to combat possible Soviet influence. The Blairite hysteria here over Corbynite ‘Trotskyites’ is part of this pattern, as Blair and the other leading members of New Labour were sponsored by the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, a Reaganite project to influence the coming generation of politicians in favour of the Atlantic alliance and American interests.

All this hysteria ignores the fact that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t a Trot, and neither are his followers. They’re traditional old Labour. But this is too much for the New Labour capitalists, who get the vapours every time somebody mentions traditional, old Labour values, like working for the working class, protecting the unemployed, nationalisation and a mixed economy. New labour’s based entirely on copying the Tories and trying to steal their ideas and voters. And hence this attempt by the three Lambeth councillors to pack the party with voters from the Right, all the while screaming about the threat of the extreme left. The Blairites themselves are entryists – capitalist entryist, spouting Thatcherite nonsense. This should have no more place in the Labour party than Communists or Trotskyites on the hard Left.

Dubcek’s Plan for Industrial Democracy during Prague Spring

July 4, 2016

I put up a piece yesterday about how the fake allegations of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party recall the attempts by the Soviet Union under Brezhnev to discredit the Czechoslovak Communist leader, Alexander Dubcek during their invasion in 1968. Dubcek was, like Gorbachev later, a convinced Communist, who wished to maintain his party’s political dominance as the country’s leading political and economic authority. However, he was well aware that the Stalinist command economy and totalitarian political system had no given Czechs and Slovaks either the freedoms that they were formally guaranteed under the constitution, nor the economic and social improvements that they also expected and demanded.

He therefore committed himself to creating ‘socialism with a human face’. This meant allowing some, non-Communist political and voluntary groups to form, and introducing democratic debate and elections, rather than dictatorship and appointment within the Czechoslovak Communist party itself. He was also determined to introduce market reforms into Czechoslovak industry. Instead of rigidly adhering to the economic plan, firms were to be given autonomy, and allowed to respond to market conditions, setting their own targets and so on, in order to provide Czechoslovak consumers with more choice.

He also planned to include with these reforms some measure of industrial democracy, in which the workers would elect their managers. In his Action Programme Dubcek announced

In developing democratic relations in the economy we at present consider the most important task the final formulation of the economic position of enterprises, their authority and responsibility.

The economic reform will increasingly push whole working teams of socialist enterprise into positions in which they will fee directly the consequences of both the good and bad management of enterprises. The Party therefore deems it necessary that the whole working team which bears the consequences should also aim to influence the management of the enterprise. There arises the need of democratic bodies in enterprises with determined rights towards the management of the enterprise. Managers and head executives of the enterprises, which would also appoint them to their functions would be accountable to these bodies for the overall results of their work. These bodies must become a direct part of the managing mechanism of enterprises, and not a social organisation/ they cannot therefore be identified with the trade unions/. These bodies would be formed by elected representatives of the working team and by representatives of certain components outside the enterprise ensuring the influence of the interests of the entire society and an expert and qualified level of decision-making; the representation of these components must also be subordinated to democratic forms of control. At the same time it is necessary to define the degree of responsibility of these bodies for the results of the management of socialist property. In the spirit of these principles it is important to solve many concrete questions: at the same time, it will be necessary to propose a statute of these bodies and to use certain traditions of works councils from the years 1945-48 and experiences in modern enterprising.

Dubcek’s Blueprint for Freedom: His Original Documents Leading to the Invasion of Czechoslovakia, introduction by Hugh Lunghi, Commentary by Paul Ello (London: William Kimber 1968) 50-51.

Unfortunately, Dubcek’s attempt to transform and democratise Czechoslovak Communism was terminated by the Soviet invasion. After the Fall of Communism, the state industries were systematically privatised, just as they were in the USSR and throughout the former Soviet bloc, so that they are now bog-standard capitalist enterprises. An opportunity to create a genuinely democratic Communist society for the benefit of the working people has therefore been lost.

Vote Leave Scaremongering, Bristol and Albanians and Romanian Immigrants

June 10, 2016

I’m still a bit annoyed about the Vote Leave’s scaremongering last night about Turks, Albanians and Romanians all threatening to abandon their homelands and march across Europe to get into Britain. Frankly, it ain’t going to happen. Apart from the fact that Turkey, for example, isn’t expected to reach the criteria for EU membership for another 30 years, the number of Turks, who actually have passports is only 8 million. Yet if you believe Vote Leave’s bilge and UKIP, all 75 million of that ancient and historic country’s people are going to leave Anatolia, just to come to Britain. Furthermore, despite the freedom of movement written into the European constitution, there are still some border checks in the Schengen area. So remaining in Europe doesn’t mean that millions of foreigners will sudden be heading over the Channel anytime soon.

As for the particular threat from Albanians and Macedonians, I think this is going to be very overblown too. Bristol’s a very diverse city in terms of the various ethnic minorities, who’ve settled here. Apart from Blacks and Asians, there were also Poles and other peoples from eastern Europe, who arrived here after the War. There are also long-established Italian families, such as Verecchia’s, who are ice cream vendors. Bristol also has an Albanian community. I don’t know how large it is, or indeed anything about it. I only know it exists from looking along the shelves at the Central Library in town, and finding a few books in that language. One of them was on Mother Theresa of Calcutta. The fact that they’re here, but are otherwise unremarkable indicates, I hope, that there’s little in the way of friction between them and other Bristolians. I certainly haven’t noticed outbreaks of mass prejudice against them in my part of Bristol, though that doesn’t mean it necessarily doesn’t exist.

The same goes for Romanians. Remember how UKIP were telling us all that millions of Romanians were threatening to come over, along with a similar number of Bulgarians? In the end, instead of the millions only a few thousand or so arrived. According to an item on the local news a few years ago, Bristol is also the major centre of the Romanian community in the UK. We have so many of them in the city, that the government decided to locate their consulate here. I’m pleased that our city has such links with a part of Europe that was previously closed to westerners. Again, I might be wrong, but I haven’t noticed any particular problems with those that have come here.

So, from the fact that Bristol’s Albanians and Romanians are so un-newsworthy, I think that these people present very little of a problem as immigrants. I’m aware that there are criminal gangs from eastern Europe, and that human trafficking from the former Soviet bloc is a problem. But from my city’s experience, I don’t see immigrants from these nations are likely to cause any problems, and I don’t believe that there’ll be the mass migration with which Vote Leave and UKIP are trying to scare us all.

It is just scaremongering, and should be treated as such.

VICE Report on Nationalist March in Poland

April 3, 2016

I’ve been blogging quite a bit recently about the frightening rise of the far Right in Europe, and especially eastern Europe. I put up a video yesterday about the cult of Stepan Bandera, the great, modern nationalist hero of Ukraine. Bandera fought for his country’s freedom from the Soviet Union during World War II. However, he did so by allying himself and collaborating with the invading Nazis. Poland has also seen the emergence of extreme Right-wing groups, such as the National Rebirth of Poland, which is now actively trying to recruit members from the Polish expatriate community living and working over here.

This piece from VICE is a report about this years Polish Independence Day march. This is held annually, and attracts crowds of extreme nationalists. In previous years it’s been marked by violence between these Fascist groups and the police. Many of the nationalists come from gangs of football hooligans. VICE’s reporter shows the march’s stewards, who are themselves drawn from the far Right, training under a bridge in Warsaw to deal with violence, including being bombarded with smoke bombs or CS gas.

After that, he then goes to the town of Lodz in the company of a member of the Ultras, the violent supporters group for the Widzew lower league team. Lodz appears to be quite a grim town. The reporter says it’s quite picturesque, but the area inhabited by the Ultras seems to be quite run down. It’s got an unemployment rate of 12 per cent, which, the presenter states, compares well with the national average, but there is little to distract its young men away from nationalism and violence. As they’re driving through it’s slightly run-down streets, the Ultra he’s with points out the two supporters of a rival team, and states quite plainly that if the presenter wasn’t there, he’d go after and attack them.

The presenter also states that it’s not a mystery that there is so much nationalist sentiment and antagonism to refugees and Islam in Poland. The country now has a new government, and politicians have been appearing on television talking about the threat from Muslim refugees. The documentary shows television footage of one particular Polish politician stating that refugees don’t respect their host countries’ culture or ways of life, and once they’ve become firmly settled there, they then begin to make their sensitivities clear. The reporter then goes to the muster point for the march. This is at a Roman Catholic church, where the reporter says that they’re to thank God for Poland’s independence, and get Him on their side for the day. During the service the priest thanks the biker gangs that are in attendance for joining them. Standing outside the church are bikers and skinheads with Polish flags and armbands. The reporter states that he thinks the Nazis have ruined armbands, and that after them, no-one can wear them without it looking dodgy.

The march itself this year is strangely quiet and uneventful. There are no battles with the police. This is remarked upon approvingly by a couple of older ladies, who have joined the march. The marchers from Lodz carry their banner, showing their support of Widzew, which they made earlier down in the basement of one of the tower blocks. Along with the Polish flag, which the reporter’s companion from the Ultras has told him is ‘sacred’ to the Poles, are other banners for the National Rebirth of Poland. Several are explicitly anti-Islam. Some simply have the slogan ‘Stop Islam’, while others show a mosque with ‘stop’ traffic sign across it, familiar from Western anti-Islamic groups like the EDL over here and PEGIDA in Germany. The speeches at the march, included in this report, are also overtly anti-Islam. A young voice is heard over the loudspeaker system shouting, ‘Pride, pride, pride. We don’t want rape. We don’t want violence. The Gospel, not the Qu’ran!’ The reporter also briefly interviews a middle-aged Polish man, who makes it clear that the people there fear the influx of Muslim refugees. The man states that they don’t want immigrants to arrive in their country, ‘as we aren’t prepared for them. He also says that they don’t know who they – meaning the immigrants – are, and that they should have to wear armbands identifying them for two or three years. It’s exactly the same kind of rhetoric that’s coming out of Trump and Ted Cruz across the Atlantic in America.

Vice’s reporter ends the documentary by saying that although there hasn’t been any violence between the marchers and the police that day, if felt like a victory parade for the Polish far Right after they had conquered the state. The documentary itself ends with the statement that since it was made, hundreds of thousands have taken part in anti-government protests, and the EU is looking into the state of democracy in Poland.

The rise of the nationalist extreme Right in Poland, and the consequent increase in xenophobia and fear of Islam, and the deep link between Polish national identity and Roman Catholicism can partly be explained by the country’s history. Following the rule of Jan Sobieski, the Polish king who broke the Turkish siege of Vienna, Poland was conquered and divided between Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. They only gained their independence after the First World War, when they finally became a united nation once more under Marshal Pilsudski. They have had to fight for their survival as a people and nation in a way which we Brits, or at least, the English, are fortunate not to have to. In the Russian ruled areas, the official language, including that of the schools, was Russian. If schoolchildren were taught Polish, it was as a foreign language.

Secondly, the redistribution of territory following the First and Second World Wars, including the loss of parts of Ukraine, meant that Poland’s population were almost uniformly Roman Catholic. 98-99% of the Polish population belong to the Church, which became the focus of opposition to the Communist regime following the expansion of Soviet power as the Russians pushed the Germans back across Europe at the end of the War. The result is a powerful sense of national identity, which itself is deeply identified with Roman Catholicism, as well as a terrible sense of insecurity and threat from outsiders.

The specific fear of Muslim immigration can strike Western Europeans as peculiar, given that Poland isn’t the destination of choice for refugees from Africa and the Middle East. These mostly want to settle in the more prosperous west of the continent. This, however, seems to be part of a general rise in Islamophobia in eastern Europe – in Hungary, and the Czech and Slovak Republics. There’s an interesting report linked to by the anti-Fascist, anti-Islamist organisation, Hope Not Hate, on the rise of militant anti-Islamic politics in the Slovak republic. This also comments on the fact that Slovakia is off the main migration route. However, the article traces the rise to the fact that the Slovaks, compared to Britain, Germany, France and Italy, are a small nation. There are only five million of them. They therefore fear that they will be swamped by mass immigration. And their politicians are also partly responsible, even the left-wing Socialist party, as they have attempted to boost their electoral support by playing on the fears of a mass influx of immigrants from outside Europe. The result has been the resurgence of ugly strands of nationalism, last seen in the collaborationist regime of Monsignor Tiso during the Second World War. Tiso was the Roman Catholic cardinal, who governed the country during its alliance with the Nazis, and was partly responsible for sending his country’s Jews to their deaths in the Holocaust. Tiso himself seems also to have been a hero of the Slovakian far Right for a very long time. I can remember reading in one of the Communist/ Trotskyist newspapers a friend of mine bought in the 1980s an article about the rise of the Fascist right in the Soviet bloc then. Along with a discussion of the notorious, and now defunct Russian Nazi group, Pamyat’, the article also mentioned with horror that the Slovaks were also putting a statue up to honour Tiso.

And finally, I think some of the rise of the extreme Right in eastern Europe is due to the social dislocation following the collapse of Communism. The democracy the peoples of Europe waited for did not bring the prosperity they expected. In fact I can remember talking to a girl, whose parents were Polish, who said that actual conditions in Poland seemed to her to have deteriorated after the Fall of
Communism, to the point where she didn’t feel safe travelling through the country. This was in the 1990s. It was about this time that the Russian economy also went into meltdown due to Yeltsin’s mass privatisation of the state industries. Millions were made unemployed, in a country which had no unemployment support system, as under Communism full employment, provided you kow-towed to the party, was guaranteed. It wouldn’t surprise me if something similar had also happened in the former Soviet satellites and break-away states. And with economic insecurity comes the desire to find a scapegoat, a terrible ‘other’, who can be blamed, or made the focus for all the fear and insecurity. And so in some of the former eastern bloc, it’s back to anti-Semitism and a hatred of the Jews, and now a fear of Muslims.