A group of hardcore fascists won 10 seats in Poland’s parliament, hidden in the lists of Kukiz’15, a populist party headed by former rock star Pavel Kukiz, and have now set up a parliamentary group of their own.
Although the general election took place in October last year, the fascists’ manoeuvre – and the fact that they now have a substantial presence in parliament – has gone largely under the radar outside Poland.
Poland’s hardcore fascist parties – the National Radical Camp (Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny, ONR) and the All-Polish Youth (Młodzież Wszechpolska, MW) – have traditionally been paramilitary and streetfighting organisations. But they launched an electoral alliance, the National Movement (Ruch Narodowy, RN) in 2012.
RN faced its first big test at the European elections in 2014, a test it failed as the fascist lash-up received a derisory 1.39% of the vote.
But in the elections to Poland’s parliament RN did not stand in its own name. Instead five leading RN members, including leader Robert Winnicki, and five more candidates officially supported by RN were elected as MPs, sneaking in under the banner of Kukiz’15, which has a total of 42 MPs.
Kukiz’15 was set up by former rock star Pavel Kukiz, who won a shock 20.8% in the May 2015 presidential elections, with a platform centred on electoral reform. Kukiz presents himself as an anti-establishment populist, although he is not averse to tapping into racism, as with his description of refugees as “culturally foreign”.
Kukiz appears to have given the number one spot on several of his local party lists to RN in return for the resources and campaigners on the ground that the fascists were able to provide – essential for the Kukiz’15 election campaign to operate across Poland.
The RN-backed candidates had to sign a separate “National Contract” setting out political aims including “preserving the cultural and ethnic cohesion of the Nation”, rejecting “property claims of Jews on the Polish state” and supporting “militarisation of the Nation” by “universal access to weapons”.
Now the RN and RN-backed MPs have set up a separate formal parliamentary group of their own, in addition to their membership of the Kukiz faction. The new National-Democratic parliamentary team includes 16 MPs and a member of the senate – a handful of extra Kukiz MPs and a couple of members of the ruling far right PiS party have boosted its numbers.
The fascists’ strength on the streets has already been demonstrated. We witnessed a 40,000-strong Independence Day march – under the slogan “Poland for the Poles, Poles for Poland” – a pre-war anti-Semitic slogan now aimed at Muslims and other minority groups – led by the ONR and MW groups in November. The fascists’ hijacking of official independence events in previous years ended in rioting and violence.
The RN fascists are known for virulent anti-Semitism, racism against other minority groups in Poland and vicious homophobia. Along with Polish flags, paramilitary uniforms and the ONR’s swastika-like sword symbol are prominent on their demonstrations. MW’s sword and streamer device harks back to the insignia of the pre-war fascist National Party (Stronnictwo Narodowe). White Power symbols are on display too.
As with streetfighting fascist groups across Europe, they have links with football hooligan and nazi skinhead groups.
This week, the ONR staged its own mass in the cathedral of Bialystok and its paramilitaries drilled and marched through the city’s streets (see photo at the top of this article).
The group of MPs who sneaked in under the radar now give the fascists a legitimising parliamentary presence to go with their paramilitary, streetfighting organisations.
Coming soon on Dream Deferred: our full analysis of fascism and the far right across Europe, with a country-by-country breakdown.