If people can’t even be nice to you on your birthday, that’s a sign they really don’t like you at all. Such is the case for countries, too, and Poland is a case in point. That country, at least as long as it is led by its Law and Justice Party, is becoming a pariah within the European Union. Indeed, beyond the EU, the Western elites, overall, are increasingly hostile. And so Poland, forever embattled, is embattled once again.
The events of November 11 illustrate this syndrome. On that date, Poland celebrated its birthday or, more precisely, the day of its rebirth as an independent country after more than a century of subservience.
Back on November 11, 1918, as the Kaiser’s Germany capitulated, thereby ending World War I, Polish patriots seized the chance to declare their liberation. For Poles, their national dream—the dream of such heroes as Tadeusz Kościuszko, who had fought for American independence, as well as Polish independence—had finally come true.
Yet just two decades later came the horrors of World War II; in 1939, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia combined to conquer Poland. Some six million Poles died by violence in the next six years; about three million of them were Jewish.
The Nazis, of course, were ousted in 1945, and yet the last Russian troops didn’t leave until 1992; Poland joined the EU in 2004.
So now, on Poland’s special day, revived once again—and hopefully for good—one might have thought that world leaders would have converged on Warsaw, offering gestures of friendship and solidarity. And yet there was no such luck for Poland. Why not? It seems that the Poles, in their national deep-dyed conservatism, have been electing the wrong leaders, in the view of the EU and Western chatterers.
Indeed, Poland’s November 11 Independence Day march, totaling some 60,000 parading through the streets of Warsaw, became an international flashpoint.
Within hours of the march, the Associated Press blared this headline: “Declaring ‘White Europe’ and “We Want God,’ 60,000 join far-right march on Poland’s Independence Day.”
We might linger over some of those signaling phrases: “far-right” is bad enough (read: non-progressive), but in addition, as the AP pointed out, it was President Donald Trump himself who recalled the words of an old hymn, “We want God,” in his July 6 speech in Warsaw. So I guess we know what the media thinks about Poles citing Trump approvingly. And as for “White Europe,” what is there to say?
Many other media outlets joined in the anti-Polish pounding. The Guardian, for example, added such details as hearing the uttering of the words “pure Poland, white Poland,” as well as the occasional presence of a fascistic residue from Poland’s past, such as the falanga symbol of the 30s. Even more provocatively, CNN reported that the marchers happily passed under a banner reading, “Pray for Islamic Holocaust.”
As a matter of fact, that report of the “Holocaust” banner proved to be false; CNN soon retracted it.
And yet even so, the “Holocaust” meme spread around the world, seeping into countless news reports. Three centuries ago, Jonathan Swift nailed this sort of phenomenon: “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.”
We might also pause to note that the crowd, whatever it said and believed, numbered 60,000 people, including a contingent of foreigners—in other words, just a drop in the bucket for a country of some 38 million. We can ask: What country couldn’t be ill-judged by the excesses of its farthest extremes? Yet for a larger perspective on Polish thinking, we can observe that no extremist party has more than a seat or two in the 460-member Sejm, or parliament.
Yet still, just to be on the safe side, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda quickly denounced the extremists among the marchers: “There is no place in Poland” for “sick nationalism,” he declared, nor for any kind of xenophobia or anti-Semitism.
Moreover, the Polish government announced that Richard Spencer, the American Alt-Right leader, would not be allowed entry into Poland. As Spencer lamented, “I’m being treated like a criminal by the Polish government.” No doubt most Americans would be happy to be rid of Spencer, too, and yet here in the U.S. one can imagine that the American Civil Liberties Union would take up his case, vindicating his “right” to be a provocateur. Yet fortunately for Poland, there doesn’t seem to be a “PCLU” in that country; Poles should be glad that their vision of ordered freedom doesn’t allow for the presence of Spencer.
Still, Duda’s denunciation of extremism, and the government’s action against one particular extremist, seemed to do little good; the international punditariat now has Poland in its crosshairs. Here, for instance, is a headline atop a column in the Toronto Star: “Massive fascist rally in Poland shows how the far right has perverted the word ‘Patriotism.’”
And here’s the headline for a hostile New York Times op-ed: “Poles Cry for ‘Pure Blood’ Again.”
Also, there was this Financial Times header: “Poland leads the way in normalising the far right.” In the words of the FT, the Warsaw march represented “a depressing echo of the fascist demonstrations across Europe in the 1930s.” Indeed, speaking for the pro-EU worldview of both the newspaper and its affluent readership, the paper lambasted Poland’s political leaders, even as it went on to reveal its own ultimate bias:
“The political and cultural paranoia of Law and Justice, fueled by a perverted idea of Polish uniqueness and greatness, is the greatest obstacle to fulfilling that promise for Poland itself, apart from all the damage it is doing to the European project as a whole.” (Emphasis mine)
If we tarry over those last words, we can see that Poland’s greatest insult to the transnational orthodoxy has been its getting in the way of the piously phrased, and endlessly repeated, mantra of the EU trans-nationalists: “The European Project.”
Next, having made the point that the Poles were flirting with fascism and getting in the way of a consolidated Europe, the FT unleashed an analogy sure to be seen as the coup de grâce by any suitably “enlightened” reader: “It is more important to notice another parallel: between Warsaw and the far-right gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.”
In other words, the events in Poland should be seen as linked not only to the Alt-Right, but also, by extension, to the Dreaded Trump—and that’s all the non-virtue-signaling needed to provoke progressives into anti-Polish apoplexy.
And the hits keep coming, fast and furious. On November 28, The Washington Post headlined, “Poland’s in crisis again. Here’s what you should know about the far right’s latest power-grab.” By now, the reader gets the idea: Poland is in one place, and the worldwide media are in another.
As a matter of fact, the Post article noted that the Law and Justice Party, anathematized abroad, is actually gaining at home; polls have it defeating the next-largest party by a more than 3:1 margin.
So perhaps it’s Poland’s destiny to celebrate its birthday mostly alone—including its centennial next year, 2018. The EU might tolerate Poland as a member-state, but it doesn’t have be happy about its right-wing ways.
That leaves Poland in a curious kind of isolation, however. As they have so many times in their past, Poles must chart their own course, sturdily defying their neighbors.
James P. Pinkerton is an author and contributing editor at TAC. He also served as a White House policy aide to both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.