Commemorating the Warsaw Uprising in 2018 (update)

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Commemorating the Warsaw Uprising in 2018 (update)

After writing up my impressions of yesterday, I learned that I had missed one of the key events of the day.  A much larger ONR gathering had taken place a bit earlier at an intersection in Warsaw’s commercial center (scandalously named the “Dmowski Roundabout.”).  Again it is impossible to estimate the size of the crowd, because that’s always a crowded space and many of those present were wearing anti-fascist stickers to protest the presence of the ONR.  Regardless, there were easily a thousand or so ONR supporters present.  When they tried to march downtown for a planned convergence on Castle Square for the concert I wrote about yesterday, they were blocked by city police.  A spokesman for Warsaw stated that the group was propagating hate-speech and was therefore prohibited from marching. After a tense standoff, the ONR members walked along the sidewalks to the Castle Square, but quite a few just went home.  The noteworthy aspect of this story is that the municipal government, which is still controlled by liberals opposed to Poland’s authoritarian regime, was able to act with decency and independence.  Just because the ruling party at the moment is opposed to liberal democracy, that doesn’t mean that all aspects of public life have been (yet) subsumed by Mr. Kaczyński. It’s hard to remain optimistic, however. The city had the legal (not to mention moral) right to ban that march, but if the ONR had challenged that right in court, the case would have gone to a legal system which is now completely controlled by the ruling party. It is hard to imagine anything resembling a fair trial under these circumstances.  My first reaction to the story of the blocked ONR march was to recall how vitally important the local self-government elections later this year will be.  If the elections are free and fair (a big “if”), the opposition is heavily favored to win in Warsaw and the other major cities. But my second reaction to the story is to remember that the judicial system is now a mere arm of the ruling party, so local self-government will be operating in highly constrained circumstances.  Yesterday’s episode went well, all things considered, but the future remains grim.

About Author

Brian Porter-Szucs

Brian Porter-Szucs is a Thurnau Professor of History at the University of Michigan, where he specializes in the history of Poland, Catholicism, and modern economic thought.

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