Red and white. Those were the colours the streets of central Warsaw seemed to have been composed of last Saturday on 11 November. Every year on this day, thousands of people gather in Warsaw to celebrate Poland’s independence in 1919. According to the German ZEIT, it used to be a “colourful celebration” of Independence Day, commemorating the country’s independence from Austria-Hungary, Prussian Germany and the Russian Empire. During the last years, however, the march has become a platform for nationalists and right-wing populist. This year’s march attracted about 60,000 people. Chants of xenophic and anti-Semitic character, including, as The Guardian states, “Refugees Out” and calls for an “Islamic Holocaust” underlined the highly charged and aggressive atmosphere.
Poland has had serious problems with Anti-Semitism, Xenophobia and Islamophobia over the last decades. This is not a new phenomenon. What is new but arguably has been growing for years now is the massive support of these mindsets. Moreover, it feeds into a European development which governments should take seriously. Explanations like discontent resulting high unemployment rates among people do not suffice. To get to the core of these issues, solutions for these questions cannot exclusively be found on a national level. Member state need to tackle them on a transnational level. Otherwise, our societies will drift apart even more. Recent examples in Germany, Austria and Czech Republic reflect this development.
Looking at Polish political developments since 2015’s parliamentary elections, it has become more than obvious that government’s actions support a strong national agenda. An agenda to support refugees is quasi inexistent. Critics and opposition are having increasing difficulties to raise their voice. Major reform of the judiciary enforced by the PiS-led government has caused outrage within the EU. Infringement proceedings were opened this July.
There is a clear divide within Polish society. What seems to be uplifting is the fact that people went to protest the crowd of 60,000 people to set example what a more open and welcoming Polish society could look like.