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Poland: fighting for gay rights

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Last month thousands of people defied a government ban and joined a heavily-policed Pride march in Warsaw to protest ongoing discrimination against Polish lesbians and gays. The Warsaw Equality March was given the go-ahead by Warsaw city officials who, bizarrely, also gave permission for a “counter-protest” by the far-right All-Polish Youth (MWP) to follow the same route!

A history of homophobia
Former mayor, Lech Kaczynski, had banned the two previous gay parades. In 2004, his excuse was that a gay march would provoke a counter-demo and so create disorder. Thus, instead of protecting the right of equality marchers to protest, be blamed them – in advance – for the violence threatened by a far-right rabble!

In 2005, he said that homosexuals didn’t need to protest – they could be “cured” – but, perversely, he still gave permission to counter-demonstrators. He also permitted a so-called “March for Normality” the following weekend – the “normal” marchers turned out to be 200 homophobic religious bigots and neo-nazis.

Defying the ban on the Equality March, lesbians and gays saw their ranks swell to about 3000 by others who were incensed by Kaczynski’s dictatorial stance. About 200 mostly far-right skinheads pelted them with stones and bottles, but were chased off by the police – who Kaczynski later criticised for not arresting the equality marchers!

Unfortunately, some lesbian and gay rights activists drew the conclusion that the police are reliable protectors – a dangerous illusion, as was shown later that month. When a banned equality march went ahead in Poznan, the heavily-armed police viciously broke it up, attacked and arrested many marchers.

Bigot Kaczynski – better known to Poles as Kaczor or Duck – is now president of Poland. In the run up to last year’s presidential election, he used homophobia to help build an electoral base among the most reactionary religious elements, and was repaid with the support of arch-catholic Radio Maria. (During the referendum on EU membership, even former Polish Pope John Paul II admonished this radio station for its fanatically anti-EU propaganda.)

In the elections for Poland’s Sejm (parliament), Kaczor’s party Law and Justice (PiS) posed as a “social” party who would soften the neoliberal reforms proposed by its main rival and expected coalition partner, Civic Platform (PO), thus protecting pensioners and the poor. This gimmick paid off, but although PiS became the largest party, it fell well short of a majority, and when negotiations with PO failed, it formed a minority government.

This proved too unstable, so PiS formed a coalition with the populist Self Defence (Samo Obrona) and the arch-catholic League of Polish Families (LPR). One result of this was that the ministry for women and equality was simply abolished. Meanwhile, LPR leader Roman Giertych became a deputy prime minister and education minister. One of his proposals is to replace one physical education lesson with instruction in Polish patriotism! He is also virulently homophobic.

Polish Pride 2006
Giertych “appealed” to the MWP, which is the LPR’s youth movement, to call off their counter-demo – and promptly went on TV to denounce the “perverts” and “communists” marching for equality! That didn’t stop around a hundred skinheads pelting marchers with eggs. Though Giertych had dissociated himself from this, there is no doubt that it was organised by his youth movement, which includes neo-nazis elements.

Meanwhile, the PiS-controlled finance ministry has been preparing its assault on the social security system it promised to protect. This will hurt most the very people hoodwinked into voting them in – the poorest, concentrated in the east of Poland where unemployment reaches over 30%. The government is also busy planning tougher laws to deal with the inevitable protests this will unleash.

The attack on welfare is not surprising, however. The real masters of Poland are the imperialist multinationals who control key sectors of the economy. The state – neoliberal or “social” – will do their bidding.
Right now, protest is patchy, but there has already been a series of strikes by doctors and nurses in the crisis-ridden public health sector. When Kaczor’s cuts really begin to bite, lesbians, gays and health workers will be joined by others – workers, students, youth and pensioners ready to shout: PiS off, Ducky!