Poland’s youthful ultra-nationalists helped Law and Justice (PiS) take power last year. Their growing self-assurance and belligerence now threatens to turn them from useful allies to rivals.
PiS has turned a blind eye to the activities of the likes of the All-Polish Youth and the National Radical Camp (ONR) — which were banned for decades before the fall of communism in 1989 — to the dismay of mainstream parties like the Centrist opposition Civic Platform, which this week asked Poland’s prosecutor general to outlaw the ONR for propagating fascism.
The complaint from opposition MPs came in response to incidents at the reburial on August 28 of two resistance fighters murdered by the communists after the war. At the funeral, attended by the president and prime minister, hundreds of young nationalists held up smoking flares — the traditional gesture of the soccer hooligans who form a key part of the nationalist base.
Green ONR flags rippled in the background as PiS-affiliated President Andrzej Duda made his way to a Gdańsk church for the reburial mass. Nationalists booed and harassed a handful of activists from the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD), a Centrist grouping that has staged anti-government street protests in recent months.
My report for Politico Europe can be found here.