FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Xenophobia Without Immigrants: Protesting Darwinian Capitalism in Poland

by

In last autumn’s electoral campaign, the Law and Justice Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc, PiS) took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to stoke up xenophobia. “Look at Sweden or France: there are areas where sharia rules and patrols see that it’s applied! Do you want that sort of thing here?” asked PiS president Jaroslaw Kaczynski in September. At a meeting the following month he even accused migrants of “spreading cholera and parasites”. Aleksandra Rybinska, a journalist on the pro-PiS weekly W Sieci, says: “Poles travel and they can see what migration leads to. Multiculturalism doesn’t work, so they don’t want it here. The previous government had to accept 7,000 migrants. That was more than enough.”

Aziz W, originally from Tunisia, has lived in Warsaw for six years. He works as a cook, speaks Polish, goes drinking with his Polish friends, but still feels rejected by his adoptive home. “It’s really hard,” he told me. “Sideways glances; youths at the bus stop who say: ‘Go home, Muslim terrorist!’ I’ve been attacked several times.”

Mamadou Diouf was born in Senegal and has lived in Poland for over 30 years. “In 2007, I applied for and received Polish nationality. PiS was in power then. I was afraid they’d expel me.” Diouf runs an Africa-related foundation (Afryka.org), takes part in debates and visits schools. “It’s tough fighting against prejudice,” he says. “The words ‘negro’ and murzyn [moor] are commonly used. Every schoolchild knows old novels and poems that are racist. So I explain that human biology is against homogeneity, that ancient Greece and Rome benefited from contact with their neighbours… Really, how can Poles be fascist, given the country’s history, and the size of the Polish diaspora around the world?”

Poland has no experience of multiculturalism: it’s a country without a colonial past, whose borders have changed throughout history and whose troubled history has led to a conflation of Polishness, ethnicity and Catholicism. Poland has some minorities (Germans, Ukrainian, Jewish and Tatar Muslim), but few immigrants from outside Europe: some Vietnamese traders who arrived in the 1970s; around 5,000 Africans; and now migrants accepted in tiny numbers.

Most Poles want to preserve that homogeneity: only 4% believe their country should take in migrants, according to an opinion poll conducted in January by CBOS. The attacks on Paris and the sexual assaults in Cologne may have strengthened this xenophobia. “Germany is going to become an Islamic republic,” a PiS activist spontaneously told me. Anti-Semitic graffiti, fascist Celtic crosses, often drawn by groups of football supporters, are a frequent sight on walls. “Anti-Semitism already existed, although there have been hardly any Jews here since the Holocaust,” says Marta Tycner, an activist from the leftwing Poland Together (Razem) party. “Now we have xenophobia without immigrants.”

Cédric Gouverneur is a journalist.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail