Right-wing racists flew in from Slovakia, Hungary, and Spain to join tens of thousands of Poles at a white supremacist rally in Warsaw on Saturday where marchers bore signs with messages like “Europe Will Be White” and “Clean Blood.”
Reporters on hand said the crowd numbered roughly 60,000, citing police estimates. A polish neo-nazi group called The Radical Camp, borrowing its name from a 1930s fascist movement in the country, organized the march.
“A number of people in the crowd said they didn’t belong to any neo-fascist or racist organization but didn’t see a problem with the overall tone of what has become Poland’s biggest independence day event,” the Wall Street Journal noted.
Counterprotesters also showed up in far smaller numbers. One small group in the square held a sign reading “We are Polish Jews” and stood encircled by police. Nearby, a group of 2,000 anti-fascists rallied in opposition to the massive hate march.
Poland’s resurgent fascist youth movement has embraced President Donald Trump, whose campaign manager Steve Bannon worked for years to exploit white ethno-nationalist political energy in western Europe as well as the United States from his position leading Breitbart.com.
The Radical Camp made the slogan of this year’s rally “We Want God,” a line Trump quoted from an old Polish folk song during a state visit to Warsaw in July. In prior years, The Radical Camp was only able to muster a few hundred attendees at its own events on independence day, a national holiday with many official and semi-official mass events to commemorate Poland’s 1918 emergence from a century of foreign rule.
While Poland’s economy largely escaped the scourge of the global financial crisis, islamophobic backlash there against refugees fleeing Syria’s long-running civil war has helped empower fascist political organizers. The annual independence commemoration has become a flashpoint for such groups over the past few years, with civil unrest and flag-burning now common on the day.
The rally was even an international draw for like-minded fascists and white christian nationalists in other European countries. Reporters noted the presence of marchers from relatively nearby Slovakia and Hungary, and from farther flung ultra-rightwing parties in Sweden and Spain.
Poland’s domestic politics have tracked right in recent years as well. Law and Justice, the right-wing party currently leading the government, styles itself after ethno-nationalist political movements in Hungary and elsewhere. The party has pushed Polish policy in a xenophobic direction, giving free rein to ideas that are also stirring in Europe’s largest democracies. Germany’s extreme right had its best electoral showing in decades this fall. Similar nationalist and racist ideologies are growing in influence in Greece, Austria, Switzerland, and numerous other democracies across the continent.
The Law and Justice party in Poland has already acted to consolidate and prolong its power in defiance of democratic norms there. Its ministers passed a law allowing the government to fire the senior members of the judiciary, effectively giving Law and Justice control over the official validity of polish elections. The party’s approval of Saturday’s mass mobilization of ethno-nationalists in Warsaw was on display in official state media, where evening television news programs that routinely hype the threat of islamist violence described the rallygoers as “patriots.”