When on Remembrance day Britain watched with shock as a mob of far-right thugs clashed with police to storm the Cenotaph, I wasn’t shocked at all. For two reasons: because I saw it coming, and because I had seen it already. In Poland. You might have seen it too, as scenes of far-right thugs clashing with police during the Independence March on 11 November in Warsaw are often broadcast by foreign media too.
The Polish model
How did it come to this? The outgoing government is Kaczyński’s Law and Justice (PiS) party. They came to power by cosying up to the extreme right in hope of getting their votes. It worked, but they really did not think this through: after setting things in motion, they were unable to stop it.
I observed the same mechanism in Britain, when the Conservative government turned towards the far right in search of support. Just like the PiS government, they have found that they have painted themselves into a corner: they encouraged the far-right to feel strong, and got the mob marching. At this point, they are left with very limited choice: either they try to stay at the head of this march, which obviously will move further and further to the right – as we can see with the consecutive Conservative governments over last few years – or they will die, trampled under the feet of the fascists that, once encouraged to take the street, no longer need Conservative politicians to lead them.
The UK was distracted
Back in 2016, when everybody’s main worry was Brexit and unwanted EU influence, I observed that “there was [already] one EU country that had recently voted for getting up from its knees and standing up to the dictators from Brussels”, referring to Poland, but I warned that “The country slowly turned into a nationalistic dictatorship, becoming a backwards hovel of Europe at its own wish.”
I concluded “if only Britain was not so focused on blaming migration for all its problems and was willing to look around from time to time, it could learn from others’ mistakes.” I stand by those words today. You should be smart, listen to others, if only to avoid the mistakes they have already made.
Is it too late now?
As you might know, Poland has recently managed to remove PiS from power. Of course neither is it a total disaster for PiS (they still won the most seats, but other parties have more votes in combination; PiS has no potential coalition partner), nor will it change things overnight.
As I write those words, PiS is still claiming to be able to create a new government – which they know they won’t, but they are playing for time. Why? Because until the new government is sworn in, which could take a few weeks, the PiS are still in charge and able to “arrange things” to their own advantage, including ordering shredding machines on an unprecedented scale. It will take years to undo all the damage to the legal system and democratic mechanism they caused during the eight years of their rule.
The new Polish parliament includes representation of two radical right parties. Konfederacja, a conglomerate of pro-Russian, anti-EU, neo-fascist and anti-science movements that is often mentioned in the Western media. But there is also a radical wing in Kaczyński’s crew itself, a small, staunch anti-EU satellite party orbiting Kaczyński’s PiS. It’s called Suwerenna Polska and it’s led by the Justice Minister and prosecutor general Zbigniew Ziobro. If we have two extreme right wing parties in the parliament, calming down the radical right might be the toughest nut to crack.
And what about Britain?
In Britain things are not so easy. If it was a true democracy reflecting the will of the majority of the British people, the Conservatives would have been out years ago. But thanks to the first-past-the-post system, even though most of the voters were against them in last few elections, they have been able to hold on to power. This time observing Poland can give you a glimpse of hope. When PiS realised they were losing power, they lost all that was left of their decency and started to grab as much as possible in the little time they had left.
If I look at what the Conservatives are doing nowadays, I have impression they have also realised they will have to go soon.
But even under a new government, the extreme right will stay awake. The new government will have to disarm this threat, otherwise one day a British equivalent of Geert Wilders could come to power.