Deputy PM critical of poster for Independence Day March

Jarosław Gowin has criticised the poster promoting the November 11, Independence Day march organised by nationalist organisations.

The Deputy PM Jarosław Gowin has publicly criticised a poster promoting the 11 November Independence Day march. The poster promoting the march displays a fist with a rosary around it, with the caption: “put our nation under your care”.

The march has, for a number of years been organised by nationalist organisations, with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) usually keeping its distance from the event. This is mainly due to incidents involving violence and displays of extreme-right symbols during the marches.

However, last year the government held an Independence Centenary march on the same day, effectively taking over the march. While there were still a small number of extreme symbols on display, the huge numbers who turned out with red-and-white flags meant that the atmosphere around last year’s march was rather different.

The nationalist organisations, such as the Nationalist Movement (RN) objected to the government subsequently claiming success for the march, which attracted 250,000 followers. Robert Winnicki MP, the RN leader who has just been re-elected to the Polish Parliament as part of the party “Confederation” criticised PiS for their attempts to “take over “ the march.

Mr Gowin, in a radio interview with commercial station “Radio Zet”, criticised the display of nationalist symbols and rhetoric with religion, and emphasised that the ruling party was not prepared to identify with the nationalists. “I have always opposed mixing religion with politics, because this rarely helps politicians, and undeniably doesn’t serve the Church either.” He added that he did not like the aesthetics or the message behind the poster.

Comment:

The truce for last year’s centenary celebrations of Independence Day was never likely to last long. The nationalists, fresh from being elected as part of “Confederation” are going to emphasise their separate identity and opposition to PiS.

Mr Gowin is the most liberal leaning of all key figures in the ruling coalition. Not at all surprising then that he found the poster promoting the independence march questionable.

But many on the more conservative side of PiS may disagree. They might argue that the alliance of “church and throne “ has served the party well.

For the Church, this kind of mixing of nationalism and politics with religion is not particularly welcome. It may not wish to openly criticise nationalists for displaying their religious colours, but on the other hand, they may wish to distance themselves from it, as many of the faithful do not necessarily share the nationalists views.

There are those who will argue that Poland’s political elites neglected Independence Day and it was the nationalists who stepped into the vacuum that this created. Last year it nearly wrecked the independence celebrations, as PiS and the Nationalists argued about how the march should proceed.

During the years of Civic Platform rule, it became an occasion for anti-government protests, with the unrest that occurred sometimes attributed to police provocation. The march has been more peaceful since the current government took power but the display of some hard line nationalist symbols that have racialists overtones has continued.

At the end of the day, the Independence March should be a joyous occasion for a demonstration of national pride but free of extremist symbols and aggression. Maybe one day it will be just that.


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