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Independence March in Poland

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The recent Independence March on November 11, 2017, on Poland’s National Independence Day, generated much controversy in the international media. But how did Polish people themselves see the events taking place in their own country?

The Independence March is a Powerful Symbol of Polish Freedom

Nicholas Siekierski | 2018. January 08. 00:00

The recent Independence March (Marsz Niepodległości) on November 11, Poland’s Independence Day, generated much controversy in Western media. The hysterical coverage was not representative of the “facts on the ground” however. Poles peacefully manifested their love for their country on its independence day.

The recent Independence March (Marsz Niepodległości) on November 11, Poland’s Independence Day, generated much controversy in Western media. Headlines from outlets, such as CNN and The New York Times, blared that “60,000 fascists” marched in Warsaw. A young Fulbright scholar from New York hid in his bathroom, fearing to even look out of his window, telling readers of The Forward, that “I came [to Poland] to prove that true anti-Semitism is over. It isn’t.”

The hysterical coverage was not representative of the “facts on the ground” however. The story that was omitted was that roughly sixty thousand Poles, including families with children and seniors, peacefully manifested their love for their country on its independence day. I took part in the march for the second year in a row, not as a supporter of any political faction, but as a Pole. I couldn’t have felt prouder to walk across the Poniatowski Bridge, where my grandfather faced off against the Nazis as a defender of Warsaw in September 1939. The slur of “fascist” against the marchers would be absurd if it weren’t so mendacious.

*Widespread popular support

Most of the years since November 11, 1918, were not independent ones for the Polish people. Just twenty-one years separated Poland’s rebirth on the map of Europe, to its re-subjugation at the hands of the Nazis and Soviets. After World War II, the victorious USSR continued its control until 1989. For most of the 20th century, Poles could not publicly manifest their affection for their country and fly its colors. It has taken over twenty years for free Poles to begin expressing their pride publicly and on a mass scale. The Independence March is one of the largest, regular demonstrations of patriotism in modern Poland and it is a healthy sign that Poles are enthusiastic about peacefully demonstrating their identity as patriots, Christians and defenders of their nation.

Although the March has been organized by several nationalist groups since its inception, the cross-section of people who have gravitated towards the event is far broader and more diverse than simply the membership of a political faction, support for which hovers around one percent only! Since Law and Justice (PiS), a center-right party, won the 2015 elections and took control of the government, the dynamic of the March has also changed. No longer is it an adversarial display, aimed towards the center-left coalition of the Civic Platform (PO) and Polish People’s Party (PSL), which governed from 2007–15, and has been associated by many with the post-communist ruling class. For the first time since its inception, the March has been at least tacitly supported by the government, which recognizes that the marchers represent its electoral base. In previous years the event has been marred by violence, which to some extent resulted from a heavy and aggressive police presence, as well as the actions of a tiny minority of violent individuals, some of whom are suspected of acting as provocateurs to intentionally discredit it.

*False accusations and misinformation

If the reported anti-Semitic signs and slogans at the most recent March were genuine, their display should be condemned. The accusations of bigotry against all of the marchers however are not only false, but intentionally defamatory. In one example of fake news, a picture of a sign promoting violence against Muslims, purportedly taken at the March, was shared on social media. It turned out that the photo was taken two years ago, in a different city, and its author is unknown.

Poland finds itself in the midst of an information war aimed against it. The government, NGOs, civic groups and common citizens, need to recognize this and not only respond quickly and forcefully, but take the initiative to shape the narrative about Poland, in English, rather than leaving it to hostile media outlets.

The March is not only a powerful symbol of freedom for Poles, but for patriots across the West who are concerned about the direction in which their societies are heading. As the British activist and journalist Tommy Robinson, who attended the March, commented in a recent interview, such a display of patriotism and national pride would be impossible in England today, both because of government opposition and hostility from Islamists and far-left movements like Antifa.

Poles should not back down from the March, and recognize that the attacks against them come with the territory in today’s geopolitical environment. National pride is anathema to transnational elites who strive to create a borderless world governed by undemocratic bureaucracies. Leadership means doing what is right, not what is popular and fashionable. Poland, raise your flags high.

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