Legacy of counter-revolution
State sharpens anti-gay attacks in Poland
Published Jun 15, 2006 9:01 PM
Estimates of the size of the June 10
"Equality Parade" in Warsaw, Poland, range as high as 10,000, making it the
largest gay rights demonstration in that country’s history. Those who came
out braved threats and an attack by Polish neo-fascists, reportedly members of
the All-Poland Youth organization, who hurled rocks, bottles and eggs.
The Equality Foundation said only city officials could have known the
time and route of their demonstration, which had not been made public but was
included in their application for a permit.
Warsaw city officials
scheduled an ultra-rightist League of Polish Families parade at the same time
and along the same route.
The June 10 attack and others on recent gay
rights marches in various Polish cities are being generated—and actually
organized—as part of a sustained political and ideological campaign
against homosexuality by the Polish coalition government, the Roman Catholic
Church hierarchy with which it is closely allied, and some of the national
media. This classical scapegoating is a blatant attempt to deflect mass anger at
the economic dislocation brought to Poland in the last decade and a half of
Gay rights groups in Poland report an escalation
of anti-gay political attacks after the center-right Law and Justice Party (PiS)
in September won a national election marked by low voter turnout. Anti-gay
rhetoric is a centerpiece of the party’s program.
now Poland’s president, had banned pride marches in Warsaw when he was
mayor in 2003 and 2004. Several thousand gays, lesbians and their supporters
defied the mayor and took to the streets, despite organized neo-fascist attacks.
The president’s identical twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who now rules
parliament, had earlier called for a ban on gay men teaching in
Shortly after being appointed as prime minister last September,
Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz—a senior politician in the ruling
PiS—publicly characterized homosexuality as unnatural, likening it to a
spreading disease that must be stopped. One of his first acts was to dismantle
the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for the Equality of Men and Women,
which was established to stop discrimination based on sexual
In May, PiS formed a coalition with two parties even farther
to the right in an attempt to secure a parliamentary majority. This brought the
League of Polish Fam ilies (LPF), closely allied with the Cath olic hierarchy,
and the peasant-based Self-Defense Party into the government. Both parties are
ultra-nationalist, anti-gay and espouse feudal anti-Jewish propaganda.
a reward for bringing the LPF into the coalition government, Roman Gier tych has
been appointed education minister and deputy prime minister. Giertych founded
the All-Polish Youth organization in 1989. This youth wing of the LPF is a
magnet for skinheads, neo-Nazis and other fascist elements. Its violently
anti-gay members were reportedly the core of ultra-rightists who threw stones
and eggs at participants in a March for Tolerance in Krakow in April.
of Giertych’s early acts after being appointed education minister was to
demand a list of all schools that had been visited by gay rights
Giertych’s closest aide—LPF director and former leader
of the All-Polish Youth, Wojciech Wierzejski—reportedly told the
Warsaw-based daily newspaper Zycie Warszawy that if demonstrators marched on
June 10, they should be bashed with clubs. He later denied saying it. However,
Wierzejski wrote a formal letter on May 12 to the justice and interior ministers
demanding a criminal investigation into funding sources of Polish gay rights
organizations. Wierzejski has tried to link gay rights with child sexual abuse
and claims that organized crime and drug traffickers are financing gay
The Polish state prosecutor then announced on May 30 the
launching of a widespread investigation into alleged criminal connections and
financing of gay rights groups. He used the specter of child molestation to
justify state scrutiny of the relation of gay rights organizations to the Polish
The deputy minister of education, also a leading
member of the LPF, charged on May 19 that the Polish organization Campaign
Against Homophobia—which had organized several gay rights marches
—was “depraving young people.” He vowed to sever all funding
to this group and others like it.
Struggle wins some
Polish gay rights organizers have found some support, mostly
from intelligentsia, artists and Social Democrats within Poland, and from Social
Democratic lesbian and gay politicians and organizations in Western Europe.
Famous Polish singer Michal Wisniew ski announced that he and his band,
Ich Troje, supported the Warsaw march organizers. The band held a concert in
Berlin on May 7 to raise money for the march.
Chartered buses brought
hundreds of Germans of all sexualities to the Warsaw march. Politicians from
Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden traveled to Poland to take part.
Individual Poles were also drawn to show their solidarity. Law student
Kata rzyna Maszkowska said, “I came here to support the idea of freedom. I
see no point in discriminating against people because of their sexuality. I want
to live in a country which respects human rights.”
quoted one man who marched: “I’m hetero myself, but I quite simply
support these people, because they have the right to express themselves as they
This support for gay rights
predates the Warsaw
The government investigation of gay rights organizations, and
attempts to equate them with child molestation and infiltration of the school
system, come on the heels of successful national protests against
Giertych’s appointment as minister of education. Gay groups, joined by
students and left-wingers, held a demonstration in Warsaw on May 9 estimated by
organizers as 8,000 strong.
Within days after a petition against Gier
tych’s appointment was posted online, some 60,000 people had signed it,
including academics, artists, prominent film directors and Mark Edelman, the
last living leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
In March, when
Polish police on the orders of the Warsaw City Council raided and tried to shut
down a gay bar, Le Madame, heterosexuals joined a sit-in with gays and lesbians
to occupy the club. As word of the resistance traveled, left-wing activists,
artists, students and other intellectuals—including those from out of
town—made their way past police barricades to reinforce the occupation. A
group of militants from the left-wing political party Nowa Lewa (New Left), with
its chairperson Piotr Ikonowicz in the lead, “eventually broke through the
police barricades while lobbing a few beer bottles at blockading forces.”
(Gay City News, Doug Ireland)
The club, owned by Polish-born Black gay
activist Krystian Legierski, was home to many political currents, including gay
rights activists, anti-globalization acti vists, pacifists, anarchists and
left-wing opposition parties.
Also, thousands of demonstrators marched in
Warsaw, Gdansk, Elblag, Rzes zow, Lodz, Torun, Wroclaw and Poznan last November,
after police and right-wingers attacked a March for Equality and Tolerance in
Poznan. The marches, called by the Campaign Against Homophobia, were
co-sponsored by some branches of the Polish Social Democratic Party, the Green
Party, the Democratic Party, the Young Socialists and feminist and human rights
Struggle within state
There are indications that the
Polish capitalist class is not united behind the ultra-nationalist outlook of
this far-right government. A struggle has opened within the state over
repression aimed at the gay rights movement.
After police arrested scores
of gay rights demonstrators in Poznan in a march declared illegal by local
authorities, courts later ruled the ban was unconstitutional and all charges
Similarly, a ban on a gay rights march in Warsaw decreed by
then-mayor Kac zynski was overturned.
This year, Warsaw municipal
authorities—known to be controlled by conservative forces—were
forced to formally allow the June 10 march after a ruling by the Supreme
Administrative Court that gays and lesbians, and other groups, have the right to
rally and march. The crowd reportedly cheered on June 10 when several police
joined in the march.
After the May 30 announcement by the Polish state
prosecutor ordering an investigation of gay rights individuals and
organizations, a Polish daily newspaper quoted this response from an anonymous
police official from the state prosecutor’s office: “This is absurd.
We are not here to check the sexual orientation of adult
These point to tactical differences in the Polish ruling
class over how to relate to the European Union. The Polish elite hoped that the
restoration of full-blown capitalism would result in their enrichment on a par
with the Western European ruling classes. Poland and seven other former
socialist-bloc countries joined the European Union in 2004. However, the
dismantling of the remnants of planned economies has left Poland and other
Eastern European countries economically ravaged by imperialist finance
One wing of the Polish ruling class is obviously concerned that
state attacks on gay rights will result in the loss of European Union voting
rights. On the other hand, pressure from EU politicians on the Polish government
to protect gay rights is grist for the ultra-nationalist mill. German
intervention is particularly resented by Poles, based on Germany’s history
of fascist military occupation of Poland and mass extermination camps.
movement in Poland can’t count on segments of the capitalist class there
or in the EU or U.S. to turn the political situation around. It was their
conspiracy with the Catholic Church hierarchy to bring down the weak Polish
workers’ state and sever it from the socialist bloc that opened the door
to the right-wing nationalist forces in the first place.
This is what
Some are comparing the
police attacks on gay demonstrations to attempts by the former Polish government
to repress the Solidarity movement, and blaming “communism” for
It’s a false analogy.
Poland never had a strong socialist
state, even though it was part of the Soviet bloc. It was the Red Army after
World War II, not a workers’ revolution, that removed the capitalists from
power, many of whom had collaborated with Nazi Germany’s military
occupation of Poland. However, the new Polish regime, while anti-fascist, was a
political amalgam that made many compromises with the former propertied classes
and with Western imperialism.
More than 87 percent of agricultural
production remained in private hands and had to be subsidized. Eventually, the
capitalist banks got into Poland, convincing the political leaders to take out
loans. Finally, Poland owed $20 billion to 14 imperialist banks that then
demanded the right to oversee and control the “planned economy.” It
was the workers who paid for all this with low wages and hard working
conditions, making it easier for reactionaries to gain their confidence.
The leaders of Solidarity were Western-oriented intellectuals who used
the workers’ grievances as a tool for counter-revolution. Most of the
plants and shipyards where Solidarity demonstrated are now either closed or have
been bought by Western imperialist companies that have
“stream-lined” them by cutting the workforce.
Today, the last
thing those struggling against capitalist reaction in Poland and the rest of
Eastern Europe need is anti-communist leadership.
hailing the tearing down of the Berlin wall and other spin doctors of Wall
Street all promised that overturning the regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern
Europe would mean freedom, democracy and a “peace dividend” for all.
Sixteen years later the reality is that these countries are collaborating with
the U.S. military in exchange for a few crumbs while their people suffer severe
economic and social dislocation.
The neo-fascist movements there, taking
a page from the feudal past, are targeting same-sex love and Jews. White supre
macy and ultra-nationalist attacks against immigrants of color are on a sharp
This is what “democracy”—capita list state
In Moscow on June 3, fascists, police and the city
administration broke up a Pride demonstration. The same day, Romanian police
teargassed the Pride demonstration in central Bucharest as nuns and priests
joined other right-wingers in throwing bottles and eggs at marchers. The Latvian
parliament voted to ban same-sex marriage in December.
Romania have banned demonstrations protesting same-sex discrimination.
Hungary, the leader of the Christian Democratic People’s party ran on a
viciously anti-gay platform in the recent general election.
progressives worldwide should reach out to the gay movement in Eastern Europe,
it should be not with anti-communist rhetoric but with a common program on
fighting the forces of reaction, which have so clearly been generated by
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