Polish far-right sympathisers marched through Warsaw on November 11 2021 for the annual Independence Day gathering. Warsaw’s liberal mayor and courts originally banned the march, but, after the country’s nationalist elite helped challenge a court-ban on the event, it was granted the status of a state ceremony. The march has occurred at a time when Poland faced an unprecedented wave of migration along its border with Belarus. Thousands of riot police, troops and border guards are turning-back migrants, most trying to enter the European Union from Middle Eastern countries, including Afghanistan and Syria. Makeshift camps have been setup in Belarus near a crossing at the Polish town of Kuznica, and with access to the frontier restricted, a humanitarian crisis and possible military conflict looms ahead with people stuck with nowhere to go.
Thousands have marched in Warsaw to mark Poland’s Independence Day, composed of extreme nationalists and far-right groups calling for stronger borders. One banner in Warsaw read; “we thank the defenders of Poland’s borders.” One of the most prominent far-right groups within the Independence March Association, which organized the event, was the National Radical Camp (ONR). According to DFRLab, Suspicious Twitter accounts bolstered the popularity of the nationalist march, with at least 100 Twitter accounts amplifying hashtags linked to it. The March commemorating Poland’s independence featured, according to some estimates, up to 100,000 people in Warsaw. Some groups of the crowd could be seen burning the German flag, Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk, as well as the LGBT rainbow flag. Anti-European rhetoric was heard as well, as patriots and far-right chants blended together. Several people also waved green flags representing the National Radical Camp, depicting a white hand with a sword; a far-right symbol dating back to the mid-1930s.
Other large nationalist events materialized across various Polish cities. Far-right ultranationalist group, ONR, marched in a rally in Kalisz. Hundreds of people joined in the far-right march, shouting antisemitic slogans, burning a medieval document legalizing Jewish rights in Poland, waving Palestinian flags, and shouting “death to Jews.” Some groups even called for an intifada, carrying a large black poster with the words “we want out land back now.” The crowd also chanted “this is Poland, not Polin”, referring to the Hebrew name for Poland. The slogan is used to suggest that all Jewish and Zionist influence over Poland must be extinguished. Aleksander Jabłoński, the organizer of the march, declared that “LGBT, paedophiles and Zionists are the enemies of Poland.” During his speech, he also critiqued COVID-19 vaccines and notably demonstrators funneled conspiracy theories blaming Jews for the pandemic.
One of the main themes tying the numerous marches together concerned the current crisis in relations between Belarus and Poland. Recently, Belarus’ leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has encouraged immigrants to cross from his country into Poland and the European Union, allegedly to punish Poland and other countries for accommodating and defending Belarussian dissidents. Belarussian forces are allegedly crafting what is sure to become a humanitarian crisis by escorting migrants to the Polish border, fueling far-right and white supremacist groups to call for violence and mainstreaming fear of foreigners in Poland. Poland’s right-wing government is refusing to let the immigrants in the country, taking security precautions by lining the border with police, water cannons and tear gas. Meanwhile, videos have surfaced of Border patrols in Belarus pushing people over the Polish border fence and forming something of a human shield to prevent them from returning to Belarus. There is also a video of a Belarussian soldier shooting at the migrants stuck in the man-made borderline which has become a no man’s land.
This series of events has placed the Polish-Belarusian Borderline in the spotlight of the far-right’s global anti-immigration stance. Elements of the transnational far-right movement have an eye on how events will unfold and are spreading falsehoods to disseminate hate for immigrants, many of whom are cold and hungry young children caught between a tense political showdown. According to SITE Intelligence, the International Far-Right Community has advertised, and celebrated the Nationalist Independence March in Poland. An Anti-Semitic French Writer issued a statement claiming migrants on Poland-Belarus Border are going to commit acts of terror, and a Belgian White Nationalist Group published an article denouncing migration in response to the Poland-Belarus border crisis. These are not isolated instances and it is highly likely that as tension increases, there will be more interest in this hot spot in the weeks to come, as it will inevitably come to epitomize the increasing tension and strain migrants pose in the European Union and beyond.
Krystel von Kumberg is a Policy and Practitioner Fellow at CARR and is a graduate from Georgetown University with a Master’s degree in Security Studies. See full profile here.
© Krystel von Kumberg. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).