In the past 20 years, various attempts to make coalitions between the left and right have taken place in Poland. The involvement of supposedly left wing or anarchist groups with the far-right have been treated in various publications. These have involved such organizations such as the Anarchist Federation, the August 80 union or ATTAC. It seems that after many years of discussion, some leftists keep falling back into this cooperation.
Since it is election time, one of the organizations to be considered in the so-called „Social Warsaw”. This organization was spearheaded by leftists and is trying to be a national organization, with similar affiliates in other cities. It started out dealing with some important social issues, which in fact my own organization was dealing with as well. So more than once in the past we have been on the same demonstration, dealing with the same issues. However, its development shows how easy it is for such initiatives to slide into social populism which turns its back on many leftist issues in order to incorporate the right. This is especially true in election times where trying to smuggle in a few issues in an agenda acceptable to social conservatives becomes the norm.
Other social activists and antifascists began to notice a higher and more influential participation of right-wing people in this organization. This is despite the fact that the Chairman is a union activist from the left-wing Confederation of Labour and the Vice-Chairman an activist from the left-wing Workers' Initiative. Both of these people are very well known leftist activists and are the main faces of the organization.
One of the first issues to come out is that „Social Warsaw” does not consider abortion to be a social issue. In fact, it is a burning issue for thousands of women in the city, especially for the poor. In Poland abortion is only allowed in cases such as rape, incest or a serious threat to the life of the mother but this is only in theory. Around the country, women are harrassed by the church and denied abortions in hospitals where religious fanatics make decisions or refuse to perform the procedure. This became a very loud political problem in Warsaw as there were cases of public hospitals refusing to perform abortions. While this was a discussion in society, we can read not only that Social Warsaw will not support a certain candidate because of the abortion issue (she is pro-choice) but the organization published a meme claiming that politicians are discussing abortion instead of „important issues”.
So what was more important for this organization at the time?
At exactly this time they were very busy with defending a cinema from closing because the rents were increased. At first maybe this seems like a rather normal campaign. But any closer examination shows how this has a lot more do to with gaining publicity through the campaign than with any politics which might be more legitimate for leftists.
The first thing to comment on is that there are whole sections of Warsaw which are full of empty storefronts. Rents are being raised all the time and this has especially effected small businesses. Many things have disappeared from the face of the city without the slightest protest. Especially individually run businesses like the local tailor or shoe repairer. Unlike the local tailor or repair shop, the cinema was not an individual or even small business but a part of a large corporation. It was owned by a chain of cinemas, which in turn is owned by a major corporation, a media conglomerate which most notably owns one of the most popular newspapers in Poland. The decision not to pay the higher rent was a business decision not to keep open a less profitable theatre, especially due to the fact that there was another movie threater 100 meters away and no less than four large multiplexes with a couple of tram stops of this location.
But the organization persisted in its cries that culture is being destroyed in the city. In such a way, and through the pages of the paper whose owners owned the same theatre, they struggled for the movie theatre and, in effect, the interests of the corporation to maintain higher profits.
Somehow in all of this it got lost that this chain of theatres is not very good when it comes to working conditions. Despite the fact that this organization, which is hierarchically based, is led by unionists, workers rights do not appear any more in their campaigns. At one time at least they referred to some issues related to people keeping their jobs, against cuts. Now this is absent. No doubt this is also due to the descent into populism. It simply is easier to struggle about seemingly neutral issues, even if they are not so neutral and even can be seen as class collaborationist.
Coming back to the right-wing, three public events were held together by this organization and National Anarchists from a group formerly known as the National-Social Option. These events were publicized on the pages of both organizations. At this point, anti-fascists began to notice and inform others about this cooperation. I learned about this through the anti-fascists and checked it out. I couldn't say I was shocked, but truly disgusted. I hadn't been on the website of those national anarchists before and I was quite upset. There was a lot of „Poland for Poles” rhetoric, along with the usual right-wing mix of patriotism, xenophobia, homophobia and anti-feminism.
Although it was suggested in the anti-fascist networks that people from Social Warsaw be banned, the left-wing and self-proclaimed anarchist buddies of the Vice-Chairman came to his defense. He later explained that he didn't know their politics. He admitted he had been on their website but claimed not to have seen anything wrong.
Some people believed it, some not. Despite this misadventure, Social Warsaw continued to hold public meetings on street corners and squares around Warsaw. With slogans like „take back Warsaw from the politicians” (a slogan which has a long history in Poland, originating in the slogans of Solidarity electoral campaigns in the 90s), Social Warsaw held meetings encouraging people to become candidates in upcoming elections. Posters were put up around Warsaw saying „come and listen and run for elections”. In other words, the organization was encouraging complete strangers to show up and become candidates on their lists.
With such a strategy, they can always claim they just had no idea who their candidates were. Under the guise of promoting the vox populi, an organization was ready to endorse the candidacy of people they just met. Although after the first scandal, it is not too credible to think they didn't check them.
On the organizations' lists in various districts we find people with known right-wing sympathies. But what is worse is that we find a known Strasserist leader of the organization Niklot as number 2 on one of their lists. On the internet we can find various photos of this person with the leaders of Social Warsaw. One of the interesting things about Facebook is that people can tag others in the photo and that tag can lead you to that person's Facebook profile. So anybody who is interested in who this candidate of Social Warsaw is can simply click on the tag and go to his profile. There they will find a banner of Niklot on the top of the profile.
So maybe the leaders of this organization would like again to try to pretend they don't know what Niklot is or didn't notice this. I simply do not believe it. And not with somebody so known.
Maybe in other countries people don't know what it is – so they can find info in the links below. But people here know exactly what it is. Especially anybody who is as politically literate as the people in question.
Of course being politically literate doesn't mean rejecting cross-front cooperation. Many attempts have been made by numerous leftists over the years, usually from the same scene, to try and socialize the third positionists and disassociate them from their ideology. There have been many attempts to portray some of these people as „normal leftists”.
One of those people who various sorts have tried to portray as a „normal leftist” is one of the former members of Niklot, who is an influential eurasianist, on Kremlin money, defending the Donbass etc. in Poland. His main organizational partner in this has been the Falanga. (See article on Polish pro-Russian fascists linked to below.)
However members of the authoritarian left, reactionary anti-Western and pro-authoritarian communists, find a common politics with these people and begin to portray them as defenders of communism and even some sort of anti-fascists. It is no suprise them that another prominent member of the leftist Workers' Initiative could be found picketing together with Falanga etc. at the demo organized by Poland's main Eurasianist.
It is clear that there are people looking for points of unity with the Strasserites. And this is the very essence of the problem of the cross-front.
Organizations like Social Warsaw have entrenched themselves in social populism. So there is no wonder that they wind up having a bona-fide far-right leader on their lists.
People can see this quite clearly now. The candidate is a high-profile person. Very involved with the national movement in the city. Famous for getting the UNA-UNSO to come to the yearly nationalist march in Warsaw. The one that antifascists used to try to block.
So what do self-professed anarchists and antifascists say about this all? What do the members of those unions, for example Workers' Initiative, say about one of their most well-known members going around the city with one of our long-time enemies?
Problem? What problem?
As we all know, that organization is a union, so, according to members, running in elections is a personal decision, running in elections with fascists is also a personal decision. In no way does it reflect on the politics of the union.
For me this is pretty much bullshit. If a union claims it is apolitical, well then of course it might have fascists, antifascists and all sorts of people in the same organization. If it claims to be political though, it would seem logical that it distance itself from things like this. Since, after all, this is not something that individual members are doing in the privacy of their own home, but in the public spotlight. And they are closely association with that union.
Some people might argue that in a union, even a political one, there might be some people with different ideas, maybe even ones that are against the union's supposed values. Yeah, I can imagine situations like this. And maybe even, if we were talking about some rank and file worker, who joined because of a concrete struggle, we could say that this could happen. The problem with using the union argument here is the nature of the people who are doing these things. Simply put, these are not people who came to the union because they are struggling in their workplaces. These are influential leftist ideologues, ones that have written hundreds of articles, have blogs on the authoritarian left portal. They are in the union for ideological reasons, not as workers in struggle.
In such a situation, where members of the union have been dutifully trained to believe that there is no contradiction in any of this and attack any antifascist who consistently is against collaboration with fascists, we can wonder if the next organization which will open itself up to more cross-front cooperation won't be that one.
FB in Polish (but understandable symbolism, etc.) https://www.facebook.com/Stowarzyszenie.Niklot
Longer piece on right-wing extremism: http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/id-moe/09409-20121029.pdf
Which side Niklot is on: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/100898
Article about Polish fascists' pro-Russian activity. It is a link issue for fascists and Polish authoritarian leftists, including ones who are in pseudo-syndicalist organizations.