Anti-left repressions in Poland. The new authoritarian paradigm inside the EU

By Ewa Groszewska

The new government in Poland created by the Law and Justice party ( Prawo I Sprawiedliwość (PiS)) is very spectacular and non-conformist in its fight against the “remains of the communist system”. Officials and politicians consistently carry out such tasks as changing street names and glorifying the so called ‘cursed soldiers’ who fought against the new communist authorities at the end of the Second World War even despite the fact that they committed crimes. The PiS went even further in its servility to the US and in its Russophobia  as did all political forces since 1989. The PiS has been criticised by the so called opposition (officially the liberal and socio-democratic parties) for court reforms and a totalitarian tendency but never for anti-communism or Russophobia. This government has a strong popular support now because it is the first time that people in Poland received some benefit from the state (eg. for each second child in the family), moreover the PiS shortened the retirement age and increased the hourly wage rate. The majority of the voters who supported the PiS did so for social reasons. The same people demonstrated against the government when it planned to totally ban abortions.

The attack on the radical left was initiated by PiS people but with the complicity of the neoliberal opposition

In 2013 Bartosz Kownacki, an MP of the ruling party,  informed the prosecutor’s office on the “propagation of totalitarianism” by members of the Communist Party of Poland (KPP). The case was then closed. A few months later, the district prosecutor’s office initiated an investigation upon the recommendation of the General Prosecutor. The investigators studied the content on the KPP website and its magazine, “Brzask”.   Prosecutors from Katowice ( the city) sent some of these materials to the Institute of National Remembrance and they received confirmation that the content published in “Brzask” propagated totalitarianism. The basis of this assertion was an article published on the anniversary of the October Revolution titled: “The Revolution which Changed the World”. The article ended with the thesis that the conditions prevailing under neoliberal capitalism have much in common with the causes of the 1917 revolution. In addition, a court expert, a political scientist from the Jagiellonian University ( according to members of KPP, the expert  was a religious studies scholar, not a political scientist) had no doubts that the KPP promoted totalitarianism.  On the basis of the materials collected by the prosecutor’s office, the court in Dąbrowa Górnicza issued a verdict in order. It is mainly used in cases where the accused’s faults are not in doubt.  Just few months before the PiS created the government ( during the Civic Platform government- neoliberal opposition)  four members of KPP  were sentenced to fines and deprivation of liberty in the form of social work. They appealed against the verdict and have had several court hearings since 2016. The last court hearing took place on July 12 this year. The judge asked about the attitude of the accused towards Belarus and North Korea.  In the meantime the public TV made a report about communists in Poland, grossly manipulating facts and statements. Among others, it deemed “outrageous” a statement of a professor related to KPP regarding what he termed ‘real socialism’.  The professor said that “People’s Poland”, by which he meant the Polish state during the so called ‘socialist period’, offered the opportunity for emancipation for millions of poor people.

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Solidarity from abroad to members of KPP comes mainly from France and also from the Czech Republic. The Polish left is very divided and both post communist parties on the left, the Democratic Left Alliance ( Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej), which has proved since 1990 that it has nothing common with communism, and the new social-democratic Party “Together” (Razem) officially keep an anti-communist image.

But the Communist Party is not, far from that, the only organization persecuted in Poland. In April 30th the owner of a left-wing website “Władza Rad” ( Power of the Councils – Soviets) was visited by the police which requisitioned a laptop, two hard drives and mobile-phone. In prosecutor’s warrant it was written that the organization was accused of  “propagating communist system”. The abuse of this accusation lies in the fact that there is no the paragraph in Poland that forbids communism. The ban concerns the promotion of totalitarianism connected either with fascism or with communism.

A most dramatic case is related to the imprisonment of Mateusz Piskorski, the  leader of the  officially pro-Russian party “Change” ( Zmiana). He is in prison since 2016 and the System of Justice does not respond even to the interventions of the Human Rights department of the United Nations. At first he was accused as being a spy of Russia and China and afterwards for undermining good relations between Poland and post-Maidan Ukraine.

In the past Piskorski was related to far right organizations. He changed his political orientation when he became a member and spokesperson of the political party “Self- Defense” (Samoobrona) in 2005. This party was a populist anti-neoliberal initiative of peasants joining conservative and socialist factions.  Self-Defense formed a coalition government with the “Law and Justice” party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) in 2006. The leader of Self Defense died under strange conditions in 2011, the official version being that  he commited suicide. He was branded by official tabloids as a crazy irresponsible critic of “democratic” reforms .

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Piskorski became a member of the anti-capitalist Polish Workers Party in 2012, one year before figuring on the ballot in the national elections. A year later he was excluded because some activists from that party did not  believe that Piskorski completely severed his links with far right organizations in Poland and abroad.

In 2015 Piskorski decided to organize a new party named “Change” (Zmiana) based on ex-members of Samoobrona. He also convinced some activists from the left anti-capitalist side to create this party  but they later discovered that he also invited members of far-right organization “Falanga” and they eventually refused membership. “Change” was thus based on “Falanga”and on a few leftists mainly from Stalinist “Communist Youth” and the Samoobrna party. Its main positions included leaving NATO and building good relations with Russia. Piskorski and his collaborators were also involved in the events in Ukraine, namely the anti-Maidan protests and the struggle in Eastern Ukraine against the new regime. But it was not clear whether they supported the right to self-determination  or where simply opposing the encirclement of Russia by NATO or whether they supported the Russian nationalists.

There is no doubt the accusations against Piskorski are absurd. One may wonder whether the reason for his imprisonment were his foreign activities such as frequent trips to Russia and post-Soviet republics within the Geopolitical Analysis Center (Piskorski was a university lecturer, doctor of political sciences) or whether they were related to the coalition government of 2006. After the annexation of the Crimea, he was an observer of the referendum and his opinion about it  was very positive.

In May 2018 two years after the arrest, official charges were pressed against Piskorski. The first charge “concerns the participation from 2009 to May 2016 in the activities of the Russian civilian intelligence service of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SWR) directed against the Republic of Poland.” The legal basis of the accusation were alleged “crimes against the Eastern Flank of NATO”. The second charge “concerns  taking part in the period from an unidentified date up to October 23, 2015 in the intelligence activities of the People’s Republic of China, directed against the Republic of Poland”. During the investigation it was ‘established’ that Mateusz Piskorski was conducting large-scale activities and using his social, professional and political position and contacts among national and foreign politicians and journalists to influence social groups in Poland and abroad. In Poland and abroad, he allegedly promoted the political objectives of the Russian Federation. And he allegedly provoked an anti-Ukrainian attitude among Poles and an anti-Polish attitude among Ukrainians.

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Thanks to the support of Professor Bruno Drwęski from Paris, the Working Group on Arbitrary Deprivation of Freedom at the United Nations wrote a letter to the Polish authorities asking for clarifications regarding Piskorski. However, despite the UN intervention , the court dismissed Piskorski’s complaint regarding the extension of pre-trial detention  and  on May 16th ordered him to be detained for another six months. On July 18, a court preparatory meeting was held. The defence asked that all information related to the process  be made public. The court did not agree.

But the police repressions in Poland are not limited in those cases.  In May the police “visited”  an academic conference titled “Karl Marx 2018” organized at the Szczecin University holiday center in the village of Pobierowo!!! Policemen admitted that they were tasked with verifying whether the event was linked to “antinational activities” (in relation to the new Act on the Institute of Historical Remembrance – IPN) and whether the conference violated the Constitution by “propagating totalitarian practice” (although there is no agreement what that is supposed to mean).

In May the police also “visited” preventively the meeting about events in Palestine and Gaza which was held in Wrocław. The organizers of the meeting about were asked about participants. This “visit” was justified by “security considerations”.

The harassment and detention of the left activist Piskorski is related to Russophobia and anti-communism which became official state doctrine under the government of PiS. Even the Razem party was accused of communism, despite its rather moderate, reformist program – some even called for it to be outlawed. Moreover, communism has become an insult used by both sides, either the government against the opposition or the neoliberal  opposition against the government. The opposition leaders who organise protests “in defence of free courts” never talk about the repressions described in this article. And they are also responsible for them because of the narrative they conducted since 1990 discrediting everything related to leftist ideas and portraying Russia as the main threat to the world.

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