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Neo-nationalism in Poland

Jarosław Tomasiewicz

The revival of pre-war political movements after the collapse of the Communist rule is an obviously strange phenomenon. Communists in Poland did not allow any legal opposition nor independent activity. Distinct differences between Marxism-Leninism and „Christian nationalism” (as Jędrzej Giertych called his ideology) made legal existence of nationalist organizations unreal. Repression broke organizational continuity of the nationalist movement and prevented „generations exchange”, reproduction of cadres. Only nationalist group in exile played the role of „guardians of tradition”, but they had no influence in Poland nor contact with real life in the country, therefore they could not react to social changes. Ideological evolution of nationalist emigration — under the pressure of liberal environment of United Kingdom — was not understood amongst nationalists in Poland.

But nationalist ideology was never destroyed. It stayed alive, mostly in family traditions or in personal contacts, sometimes in other way. Echoes of „Christian nationalism” could be heard in legal Catholic groups like PAX or ODiSS. Nationalism influenced even some groups within communist PZPR. Jan Morawski wrote in 1987 in underground paper „Krytyka”: „[…] there is mosaic of orientations in PZPR, not only democratic socialism (officially condemned), but also continuations of National Democracy, peasants movements and Christian socialism”.

Because of this situation political thought of Polish nationalism was „conserved”. Polish nationalists were interested in survival, not development of their doctrine. Any synthesis of nationalism and different ideologies was always extorted (sometimes it was a kind of camouflage). Nationalist ideology — contrary to ideologies in Western Europe — did not evolve, did not react to current challenges. In addition — isolation of Polish nationalists from the world, from its own roots (unavailability of books), even from each other led to sterility, simplicity and regress.

This is what Polish nationalists were to deal with when the „Third Republic” of independent Poland came. They try to adopt old ideas but these ideas are incoherent to new reality. Nationalists cannot win large support because of their anachronistic doctrine. For example: in secular society basis of „national catholic” formation is limited to ever smaller ghetto of traditionalist Catholics. In my opinion this is a reason of Polish nationalist movement being now only a shadow of its past.

Deep disintegration of the movement contributes to its weakness as well. In 1989 nationalist movement kept thoroughly divided. During the communist period small groups of sympathisers and even activists themselves stayed in isolation. Personal ambitions and mutual hostility prevented unification. Some of the conflicts referred to current politics: within the nationalist movement there were „collaborators” (who collaborated with communist regime), „orthodoxes” (adherents of irreconcilable but passive opposition) and „revolutionaries” (they took part in struggle against communism). Except old divisions we can see new ones, like a conflict between adherents of Wałęsa and supporters of Bartoszcze in presidential election in 1990.

But on the other hand new conditions accelerated ideological evolution of the nationalist movement. New problems, which need reflections, include an attitude towards globalization and European integration, towards Vaticanum Secundum, towards new (mainly foreign) right-wing ideas, towards economic program, and also — how to act in face of secularization of society (not only in matter of tactics but also principles) and… what means anti-Semitism in country without Jews.

Actually, different factions of the movement evolved in different directions (sometimes they did ideological „zigzag”) and in different time. Different groups accented different components of nationalist ideology and therefore several tendencies were born: „old nationalist” (loyal guardians of ideological „orthodoxy”), „national-liberal” (they accept — although in limited form — liberalism), „leftist” (populists who do not deny democracy) and „national-revolutionary” (like pre-war ONR). Tejkowski's group occupied separate position, out of ND tradition, for their neo-Pagan and Pan-Slavic ideas.

But we should find any common ideas, a „mainstream” of the nationalist movement. The nation is a central category: it is an object of history, the most important platform of social life, eternal and immutable body, natural form of humanity. Polish nationalism in its mainstream abandons biological, racist sense of the nation — for Polish nationalists nation is a community of language and culture. Enemies of the Polish nation are: Germany (and its tool — the European Union) but first of all — „Jewish-Masonry Conspiracy”, which promotes globalism (this second element becomes more and more important for Polish nationalists). But on the other hand we must remember — nation is not the highest and absolute value for Polish nationalists. They have their own concept of European unity, based on Western civilization, and their own version of Catholic universalism.

While nationalism is strongly connected with Catholicism, this is so not because Catholic confession is so widespread in Poland but for metaphysical reasons, Catholicism being considered as the only true religion. Contemporary form of Polish nationalist ideology is in fact another phase of Catholicization of nationalism. The consequence is cultural and moral traditionalism of Polish nationalists — they defend traditional Catholic morality against new permissive customs. Catholic traditionalism is also a reason of nationalists hostility towards secular West. And Catholicism, criticising both totalitarianism and liberalism, made Polish nationalists very moderate in their constitutional demands.

Nationalists of mainstream do not want to make political nor economical experiments and they support parliamentary democracy and free-market economy. Private property should be the basis of country's economy — for both its economical effectiveness and social justice (in a sense maintained in Catholic social doctrine). Democracy is for nationalists „a power of the nation” — a consequence of superiority of the nation. Although all elections proved failures for nationalists, they still believe in democracy; only extreme factions contested this principle.

We should take notice that mainstream of Polish nationalism — in their own words completely „orthodox” — in fact created new doctrine. They mixed various elements: ideas of so-called „old” nationalist faction in 20's (democracy and capitalism) and integral Catholicism of so-called „young” nationalist faction in 30's. Why? In my opinion one reason is that everything connected with socialism was to be withdrawn.

But it is not tactics only. Let us consider a revaluation of foreign policy ideas: nationalists have contested their traditional pro-Russian orientation and now they propagate an idea of Catholic bloc of Central Europe. Geopolitical „realism” was replaced by ideological vision. In my opinion this is caused by an influence of Koneczny's „theory of civilizations”, according to which whole social life should be based on Catholicism. We can see Koneczny's influence in all aspects of neo-nationalist doctrine. „Theory of civilizations” made nationalist ideology more coherent and gave nationalists quasi-„scientific” fundament but on the other hand made this ideology more dogmatic and anachronistic.

This is why, first of all, nationalist movement, so strong in the Second Republic, is very weak now. Nationalist groups have small number of activists (and they are dropped out very often), weak structures and papers, lack of support of important social groups. There is potential base for conservative nationalist party in Poland (example of the Radio Maryja) but nationalists can't mobilize these people.

Therefore the nationalist movement is not serious force on the Polish political scene. Nationalists tried to collaborate with Polish Peasants' Party (PSL) but PSL is not interested in such partner (only National Democratic Party SND was PSL ally for short time). Nationalists had to seek allies amongst non-parliamentary groups. Some factions (SND, SN) collaborated with conservative or „independent” right, but others (e.g. Ojczyzna) — with populist (sometimes post-communist) groups like Samoobrona.

The result is that nationalists could not make out common attitude towards any problem. They did not work together in any elections. Their factions have been bitterly arguing with each other in such principal questions like PRL, economy, NATO, even the Church. The only matter in which they agree is a negative attitude towards European Union.

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