Poland’s ruling national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party has chosen one of the country’s most prominent far-right figures, Robert Bąkiewicz, to be a candidate in parliamentary elections that will take place in October.
Bąkiewicz, a former leader of the National Radical Camp (ONR), last year warned of “Jewish blackmail” against Poland and has previously declared that “Jewish organisations want to rob us”.
He has also called for “LGBT totalitarianism” to be “fought with fire, literally with fire”. This year, he was found guilty of assaulting a woman who was protesting against Poland’s near-total abortion ban.
„Ani słowem nie mrukną, kiedy Żydzi chcą ograbić naszą ojczyznę. Takie mamy dzisiaj elity” – Robert Bąkiewicz, kandydat Prawa i Sprawiedliwości. Te wybory jak żadne inne w IIIRP będą albo za faszyzmem, albo przeciwko faszyzmowi
— Michał Danielewski (@synczeslawa) August 31, 2023
Yesterday, an unnamed senior PiS figure told news website Interia that Bąkiewicz had been chosen as one of its candidates. He added that the far-right leader “has recently changed his views [and] shares our concern for the good of the state”.
Today, PiS MP Marek Suski confirmed to broadcaster Polsat that Bąkiewicz would indeed be on PiS’s electoral list in the city of Radom. He noted that Bąkiewicz had been proposed by Sovereign Poland (SP), a hard-right coalition partner of PiS whose candidates will be standing on the ruling party’s electoral lists in October.
Asked if he was concerned that someone recently convicted of assault was now a candidate to become a PiS MP, Suski said that it “was not a very big offence” and noted that there is “no ban on people who have had some problems in life from standing as candidates”. He added that Bąkiewicz is “a civilised, nice man”.
— Agnieszka Gozdyra (@AGozdyra) September 1, 2023
In March, Bąkiewicz was sentenced to a year of community service and ordered to pay 10,000 zloty compensation for attacking activist Katarzyna Augustynek, who is better known as “Babcia Kasia” (Grandma Kate) and regularly attends protests in favour of women’s and LGBT rights.
The incident in question took place in October 2020, when Bąkiewicz formed a “Catholic self-defence” force to defend churches against what he called the “neo-Bolshevik revolutionaries” who were protesting against a decision by the constitutional court that month to introduce a near-total ban on abortion.
“If necessary, we will crush them to dust and destroy this revolution,” said Bąkiewicz at the time. He and his followers then stood outside churches and physically removed protesters – including Augustynek – from in front of them.
At the time, PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński had also called on his own followers to “defend Polish churches at any cost”, warning that those seeking to attack them want to “destroy Poland…[and] end the history of the Polish nation as we know it”.
Proboszcz warszawskiej Parafii Św. Krzyża potwierdza, że wyraził zgodę na interwencję narodowców w kościele i przed kościołem. Mówi, że sami się zgłosili i jest im wdzięczny, że bronią świątyni przed napierającą „tłuszczą” #StrażNarodowa @BMikolajewska https://t.co/biNXDBLSLA pic.twitter.com/wCRip6MAGC
— OKO.press (@oko_press) October 27, 2020
Previously, Bąkiewicz served as a leader of ONR, a far-right group with its roots in an interwar organisation of the same name that was led an anti-Jewish campaign in the 1930s.
The modern ONR programme calls for Poland to be “ethnically homogeneous”. Bąkiewicz himself said in 2017, while part of ONR, that it is “a good thing that we are now a practically a monoethnic nation”. He also called democracy “one of the dumbest systems ever created by man”.
In 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that ONR’s behaviour, slogans, uniforms and symbols mean that the group can be described as fascist.
Far-right group ONR can be described as „fascist”, Poland’s Supreme Court has ruled.
The activist who won the case hopes that ONR – one of the founders of Warsaw’s annual Independence March – can now be outlawed completely, as promoting fascism is illegal https://t.co/qSX1SyPW1c
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) February 28, 2021
In 2019, Bąkiewicz said, in response to US-backed demands for the restitution of former Jewish property in Poland, that “our greatest ally and friend wants to rob us along with Jewish organisations and Israel”.
He added that “PiS think that the nation is so ignorant and so stupid that it will not realize what is really going on”.
Last year, Bąkiewicz warned that “Jewish blackmail” was being used against Poland to distort the truth about the Holocaust.
Poland’s new restitution law has been criticised for blocking claims by Holocaust survivors. Israel calls it „antisemitic”.
But proponents say it does not discriminate and helps end legal uncertainty
We asked a lawyer to explain what it means in practice https://t.co/DAun2nizt2
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) August 30, 2021
In 2019, he called for “LGBT totalitarianism” to be “fought with fire, literally with fire”. At the time, Bąkiewicz was the chief organiser of the annual nationalist Independence March in Warsaw. The following year, participants in the march set alight an apartment in a building where an LGBT flag was hanging.
Although the event has often seen violent clashes with police, PiS figures have defended the march. After attacks on police in 2020, a deputy prime minister claimed – without presenting evidence – that the violence had been caused by “provocateurs”.
Under the PiS government, nationalist organisations linked to Bąkiewicz have also received millions of zloty in state grants. That led over 160 public figures to sign an open letter in 2021 calling on the culture minister to “stop financing fascism”.
Over 160 public figures have called on Poland’s government to “stop financing fascism” after far-right groups were given large state grants https://t.co/CBFJqUbRG2
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) June 30, 2021
As he has moved closer to PiS, Bąkiewicz has seen his relations with others on the radical right fray. Earlier this year, he was forced out of the association responsible for organising the Independence March, which he had previously been president of.
At the time, news website Onet reported that the ousting of Bąkiewicz occurred because other nationalists believed he had “sold out” to PiS.
Last week, Poland’s main opposition group, the centrist Civic Coalition (KO), itself named another former far-right leader, Roman Giertych, as an election candidate. Giertych founded the resurrected All-Polish Youth, another interwar nationalist group, in 1989 and led it until 1994.
Roman Giertych – who was once a far-right leader and an ally of the current ruling national-conservative PiS party – will stand in October’s elections for Poland’s largest opposition group, the centrist KO, its leader Donald Tusk has announced https://t.co/rsvP8H3tiL
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) August 28, 2023
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Correction: an earlier version of this article referred to Roman Giertych as a former leader of National Radical Camp (ONR). In fact, he founded and led another far-right group, All-Polish Youth.
Main image credit: Agata Grzybowska / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.