At the recent Conservative Party conference in Britain,Theresa May announced that Poles would not get preferential treatment when it came to apply for work in post Brexit. This means that Somali and Pole, Afghan and Bangladeshi, Mexican and American, will in future stand equal for the purposes of gaining entry to the UK.
This is despite the huge contribution to Britain’s economic growth and social stability Poles have made, not only in the last twenty years of free movement, but the tremendous sacrifices they made during the Second World War for Britain and the shameless way they were treated by us after the war. (Katyn)
This is a double betrayal. Editor
Alexandra Tompson writes;
One hundred years ago Poland was reinstated on the world map. On 11 November 1918, World War I was over and Poland became free after 123 years of geo-political oblivion. The current government, the Law and Justice party (PiS) makes no secret of its desire to preside over the centenary celebrations. Its success is largely attributed to campaigning on Polish national pride and ‘getting up off our knees’. Repeatedly accused by Western commentators of giving Polish nationalism a bad name, three years on, the Law and Justice remains the most popular political party. The way to a Pole’s heart and vote lies in posing as a defender of Poland’s sovereignty.
A free Poland is a relatively new reality. Poles have enjoyed independence for just under 30 years; the ‘90s kids’ are the first generation to be born in a sovereign state. They are the first generation to have always enjoyed free, democratic parliamentary and presidential elections. Independence has also brought a new constitution, economic prosperity, memberships of NATO and the EU, and much hope for the future. And yet, despite these achievements nationalism lives on. Why?
For centuries Polish sovereignty was only a dream. Invaded and divided in 1795 amongst three neighbouring powers; Russia, Prussia and Austria – Poland was wiped off the map. But the nation survived. As each of the imperial powers implemented a policy of denationalising Polish citizens; including bans on the use of the Polish language and, in the case of Russia, forced conversions to Orthodoxy, as well as Germanisation in the case of Prussia, Polish nationalism became the ‘essence of the nation’. No longer defined by borders but by ideas, national heroes, history and religion, the nation preserved its identity and continued to exist as a cultural community. The ‘Polish Case’ was perpetually advocated, the idea of regaining independence never abandoned. Poland became a cause.
Polish nationalism payed off with Poland regaining its independence in 1918, but happiness was short-lived. After successfully crushing the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1920, Poland was invaded yet again at the outbreak of the Second World War. Having only recovered their sovereignty 21 years earlier, the Poles were determined to defend it. They never surrendered to Nazi Germany, and despite terrible losses they fought loyally alongside the victorious allies to the very end. Tragically, Poland was treated as one of the war’s losers. Sold out to the Soviets, the nation remained under another totalitarian regime for 45 years more. Polish nationalism however prevailed until the country freed itself of oppression in 1989.
The Polish nation’s greatest goal has always been freedom and cultural self-realisation. After being squeezed between empires and occupied in turns by fascism and communism, Poland intends to remain free. History is part of the Polish identity, survival runs in their veins, and sovereignty is their answer. The Law and Justice party understands this, and continues to thrive selling cultural and identity politics. They promised to ‘put Poland first’. While in favour of EU membership,Law and Justice has a vision of the EU arguably similar to the British one; a union of member states trading freely with one another but not interfering in domestic politics or national culture.
A testimony to Polish nationalism as alive and well today is the controversial annual Independence March. Last year’s widely covered 2017 march attracted an estimated 60,000 people. United under the slogan ‘We want God’, which refers to a well known hymn, Polish citizens including families, children, and war veterans, proudly walked through the streets of Warsaw, brandishing Polish flags, and signing patriotic songs. They chanted for Poland. They chanted for traditional Christian values of faith, family, and patriotism – their community of belief. They chanted for home. A home they had long fought for.
Polish nationalism, once considered Poland’s greatest virtue, has always been about defending home. It was not about superiority, or power over others but about love of an invaded land. It is often said that nationalism is grounded in superiority and hatred, that it’s militant in nature. Patriotism on the other hand, is defined as peaceful until forced to fight so as to protect what it loves. Would Polish nationalism not in fact be patriotism?
Against the backdrop of an increasingly cosmopolitan and multi-cultural Europe, Poland is branded ‘populist’, ‘xenophobic’, ‘nationalistic’. Polish citizens today see threats and dangers looming. Considering the eurozone crisis combined with the spate of ISIS terrorist attacks, and reports of problems assimilating minorities in Western Europe, it is not that surprising. And so, they march, sing, and pray for their home. When reflecting on patriotism, CS Lewis wrote;
‘How can I love my home without coming to realise that other men, no less rightly, love theirs? Once you have realised that Frenchmen like café complet just as we like bacon and eggs, good luck to them and let them have it. The last thing we want is to make everywhere else just like our own home. It would not be home unless it were different’.
Theresa May and the British Conservative party, as they lead their country down the path of multiculturalism toward national identity erasure, might ask themselves if they should not be following Poland’s example.