Saturday, May 27, 2023
by Konrad Rękas
Some scholars describe Poland's current political system as “illiberal”, i.e. as preserving the external appearances of neo-liberal parliamentary democracy, but with a limited level of human and civil rights. This analysis seems incomplete. Poland is not an exception to the Western system, some relic of an own authoritarian past or a freak of local populist authoritarianism. On the contrary, the example of Poland can be used to trace the evolution that will almost certainly be shared by other countries subject to the neo-liberal domination of the United States and the UK.
Dismantling the last vestiges of parliamentarism and the rule of law is an inherent feature of the present stage of imperialism. They become redundant, as historically they only secured the smooth functioning of capitalist mass production, which is no longer needed today in the realities of global financialised capitalism. The ruling class now has no need for social consensus or the acceptance of left-wing parties and trade unions that give a certain scope of freedom of expression and organisation.
Poland shows that in the next phase of imperialism there will be an attempt to strengthen it through authoritarianism – a mono-party system (now poorly concealed by the false division into ‘ruling party / parliamentary opposition’) and possible references to populist and outright fascist content, while of course maintaining neo-liberal slogans and phraseology.
In Poland, these processes have been accelerated, especially as a result of the Russian-Ukrainian war, when surveillance, censorship and repression are carried out under the pretext of “fighting against Russian influence”. The Polish prosecutor's office and courts willingly refer to the law penalising “incitement to hatred on the basis of national, ethnic and racial differences” while recognising that it prohibits also criticising the Banderite ideology, which is only the Ukrainian form of Nazism.
These days the Polish courts regard “Banderite” as synonymous with “Ukrainian”. People are prosecuted for recalling the Volhynian Massacre (the mass genocide perpetrated by the Ukrainian Nazis on Poles, Jews and Ukrainian anti-fascists during the Second World War). They include Katarzyna Sokołowska and Andrzej Łukawski, who have been campaigning to commemorate the victims of Nazi crimes. Four residents on the Polish-Ukrainian borderland were arrested for trying to organise civic patrols to protect neighbours from attacks of aggressive Ukrainian immigrants bearing Nazi symbols. Although formally Nazi signs are prohibited in Poland, neither the courts nor the police react to their increasing presence, claiming that they are currently “justified by the Ukrainian defence against Russian aggression”. Protesting Poles face up to two years in prison.
“Praising Russian aggression against Ukraine” now considered a crime in Poland and it’s used to stifle the anti-war campaigners like Henryk Mikietyn a 72-year-old pensioner and one of the former leaders of the Communist Party of Poland (KPP).
The KPP is banned in Poland, and the mere use of communist emblems can be punished. Groups referring to the heritage of communist Poland have taken part in anti-war actions under the banner the Polish Left Movement (PRL). This probably prompted the Court in Legnica to sentence Comrade Mikietyn to three months imprisonment conditionally suspended for a probationary period of two years. His mobile phone was confiscated as a “crime tool”. And under the supervision of a probation officer Mikietyn has to now do six months “voluntary service” in “an entity providing assistance to residents of Ukraine affected by the effects of the war”.
The blogger Najjjka was sentenced to five months restriction of freedom (ordered to do unpaid social work by the Court) for saying, quoting the Bible, that she would not allow Ukrainian Nazis into her home.
Similar judgments have been handed down in other cases in Krakow, Wrocław, Świdnica and in many other Polish cities. The prosecutor's office is now focusing on activists of the Polish Anti-War Movement (PRA), such as Piotr Panasiuk from Lublin, who describing the alleged “Bucha Massacre” as a Ukrainian hoax.
In addition to the police and the prosecutor's office, critics of Poland's unilateral involvement in the Ukrainian conflict are pursued by numerous non-governmental organisations, mostly financed by the Polish government and its Western sponsors.
Neither Amnesty International nor the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights took any action to defend those convicted and detained for criticising Nazism. On the contrary, the Helsinki Foundation publicly praised the new practice of the Polish Government as an example of the "fight against hate speech”!
the fight intensifies
Mateusz Piskorski PhD, a former MP and then founder and leader of the anti-imperialist, left-wing CHANGE party was arrested in 2016 and for three years he was held in prison without trial on charges of “cooperation with the Russian and Chinese intelligence”. He was released after intervention of the United Nations Working Group, which investigated the lack of rule of law in Poland. To this day, however, Piskorski is under strict police surveillance, he cannot leave the country, and his court case is pending.
Janusz Niedźwiecki, a human rights activist, has been in prison for the last two years accused of “espionage for China”.
Further amendments to the Polish Penal Code are on the cards including introducing criminal liability for the “unintentional form of espionage” (up to five years in prison), as well as for the crime of “disinformation involving the dissemination of false or misleading information” (up to eight years in jail). The scope of the Internal Security Agency (ABW), a branch of the secret police, will be significantly expanded.
It can therefore be assumed that the number of political prisoners in Poland can only increase in the coming months.
Sunday, May 21, 2023
That’s exactly what happened when a Ukrainian military depot was totally destroyed by a Russian ballistic missile this week. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says reports that radiation levels have risen in the aftermath of the Russian strike are wrong.
Whether deadly gamma rays really were released when the warehouse went up is a matter of indifference to the hapless citizens of Khmelnitsky. They stampeded to the shops to buy iodine pills and are being told not to drink the tap water. They're seeing patrols going around the streets with radiation dosimeters after the explosion. They were not prepared to give their authorities the benefit of the doubt. Neither should we.
Sadly Labour’s leaders and most of the trade union bureaucrats think otherwise. They spend their time thinking of new ways to take the UK back into the European Union and drivelling on about the “human rights” they believe can only exist under the rule of the bourgeoisie. These days many of those who pose as socialists have also become cheer-leaders for imperialism and its lackeys in Israel, south Korea and, of course, Ukraine.
No treaty explicitly banning the use of DU is yet in force, however repeated UN General Assembly resolutions have highlighted serious concerns over the use of DU weapons. Needless to say, the UK, together with the USA, France and Israel, are the only states that have consistently voted against the resolutions.
Sadly, the influence of the venal social-democrats and the bogus left stretches far beyond the union movement. Its dead-hand stifles debate in academia and within the traditional anti-war and peace movements in Britain.
CND and the Stop the War campaign are in the doldrums precisely because they refused to take a principled stand when the Russians intervened to defend the people of the Donbas last year. But genuine communists, such as the New Communist Party, along with anti-imperialists and revolutionary socialists, stepped up their solidarity work in support of the Donbas people’s republics and the underground Ukrainian anti-fascist resistance.
More people are now seeing through the lies of the imperialists and their willing tools in the peace and labour movement. Stop the War, which originally called for an end to the fighting on NATO’s terms, is shifting. CND to its credit has called on the Sunak government to put an immediate end to its use of DU. They say “inflicting it on the people of Ukraine is the last thing they need” – it’s the last thing we need too.
Sunday, May 14, 2023
It was certainly good for Labour but there’s no grounds for complacency. Labour ended up nine per cent ahead of the Tories picking up more than 500 seats and winning control of 22 more councils on the night. But the swing is nothing like the astronomical levels recorded by the pollsters at the beginning of the year and though the Conservatives lost over a thousand council seats nearly half of them went to the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.
Though there’s still a year or more to go until the next general election if nothing changes a nine per cent swing will not be enough to give Labour an overall majority in the House of Commons. Starmer says Labour isn’t interested in cutting a deal with the Liberal-Democrats or the nationalists but this hasn’t stopped speculation in Westminster and in the bourgeois media about a coalition to avoid a hung parliament.
The Liberal Democrats did join hands with the Tories to form a coalition under David Cameron. But it ended in tears at the 2015 general election with loss of 48 seats in the House of Commons, leaving them with only eight MPs. Nevertheless the Lib-Dems would still like to be king-makers if Starmer won’t play ball, Rishi Sunak might have no choice.
Though local elections generally reflect national issues local issues sometimes benefit campaigns like the Canvey Island Independence Party that increased their share of seats on their local council. But unlike the Scottish or Welsh nationalists the only “independence” they want is that of their old Canvey district council in Essex.
Needless to say the left posers who call themselves part of an imaginary “revolutionary left” were well down with the also-rans in this election. The reality is that these “alternative left” parties are rejected time and again by the same working class their programmes claim to advance. There isn’t even a remote possibility of any of them taking office as the rhetoric and wild promises of these parties do not reflect reality.
The glittering display of pomp and circumstance for the coronation of King Charles at Westminster Abbey may have thrilled the royal fans and the gaping tourists who delight in these spectacles but it did nothing to change the lives of the millions of working people trying to cope with the cost of living crisis.
In ancient days the slaves were kept quiet with free food and entertainment in the arenas and circuses whose ruins can still be seen across what was once the Roman Empire. When the going was good even the barons and their feudal church would provided feast days, religious holidays and sports for the peasants who tilled the land that kept the lords in clover. But the workers get nothing from the capitalists.
The incompetence, greed and indifference towards the unemployed and the homeless sums up all that is rotten within the British ruling class.
We don’t want the ‘austerity-lite’ of Starmer & Co. We don’t want a mealy-mouthed compromise with the worthless Liberal-Democrats that the liberal bourgeois pundits who pose as friends of the working class are now advocating. What we want is an end to austerity and the restoration of trade union rights. Saving the NHS, capping rents and building cheap council homes, raising wages, getting rid of the need for foodbanks, saving our schools, restoring the right to independence for the disabled, restoring proper care for the elderly and restoring legal aid to bring justice for all – restoring the public sector, cutting the defence budget and taxing the rich to make them pay for the crisis of their own creation will pay for all of this and more.
Getting rid of capitalism and replacing it with socialism is the ultimate objective of working people. Getting rid of austerity and replacing it with social justice must be the immediate objective of the working class.
Tuesday, May 02, 2023
In fact all that her letter in the Observer said was “Tomiwa Owolade claims that Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from “racism” (“Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It’s far more complicated”, Comment). They undoubtedly experience prejudice. This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.
"It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships”.
There’s confusion between “prejudice” and “racism” and silly talk about “redheads” while any reference to the “prejudice” against Jewish people is incomplete without reference to the Holocaust.
Prejudice and racism are, of course, not quite the same. But one often leads to the other. Adolf Hitler hated Jews but he didn’t talk about extermination during the Nazi rise to power in Germany after the first world war. But there’s a certain inevitability once you establish the creed of the “master race” and state that Jews were “sub-human” enemies of the entire human race.
Yes Diane Abbott’s letter is insensitive, crass and historically wrong. But it’s certainly not anti-semitic.
The left social-democratic Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) network points out “ No individual has suffered more from racism over her 40 years as an MP than Abbott and to even think of characterising her as racist is grotesque political chicanery”.
Or as Caribbean Labour Solidarity rightly says: “Whether you agree with the formulation of Diane’s letter...or not, we must be clear that this is not the real issue at stake here. She has been suspended from the Labour Party for being a socialist who opposes the class-collaborationist position of the Starmer leadership. We may wish to discuss with Diane the terms in which we discuss the nature of racism, we do not doubt her commitment to the struggle against racism in all its manifestations. We cannot say the same about Keir Starmer. She has apologised and withdrawn the statement. Let that be the end of the matter. We demand that she be reinstated forthwith”.
Starmer & Co now seems determined to purge Labour of all the remaining Corbynistas including the tiny band of Labour MPs who still support the former Labour leader in the House of Commons. But Starmer should beware. Diane Abbott is a highly respected London MP. Kicking her out of the Labour Party will cost Starmer votes – not just in her north London constituency and not just amongst the Black ethnic minority communities either.