Activists of the Communist Party of Poland condemned for propagating communism
Four activists of the CPP were condemned on 31st of March 2016 by the Regional Court in Dąbrowa Górnicza for propagating communist ideology in the „Brzask” newspaper and on the party’s website. They have been sentenced to 9 months of limited freedom and with compulsory gratuitous social work and fines.
The verdict was taken during the summary procedure without presence of all the sides, that is usually used in offences, when guilt of the accused is certain. The court did not undertake standard judgement procedure and based its verdict only on a charge. The accused had no possibility to defend themselves. The condemned had already made objections to a judgement demanding normal court proceedings.
Activists of the CPP were accused of breaching article 256§1 of the penal code: „Whoever publicly promotes a fascist or other totalitarian system of state or incites hatred based on national, ethnic, race or religious differences or for reason of lack of any religious denomination shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to 2 years”.
An earlier attempt to amend this article by adding a ban on communist symbols was met with protests both in Poland and abroad. On 19th of July 2011 it was lifted by the Constitutional Court that proclaimed it contradictory with the principle of freedom of speech.
Accusations against activists of the CPP for promoting a totalitarian system are the next example of equating communism with fascism and banning communist activity.
The case was started by a denunciation made by Bartosz Kownacki – MP of the Law and Justice (PiS) party in 2013. The persecution refused to proceed. However in 2015 proceedings were resumed and gathered pace after the elections won by PiS. On 31st of December 2015 Regional Persecution in Katowice issued the case to the Regional Court in Dąbrowa Górnicza. The act of accusation stated that activists were publicly promoting a totalitarian system, by publishing in “Brzask” newspaper articles “directly related with the communist system and Marxism-Leninism, which in the context of historical experience is contradictory with democratic values” – that means for the activities of a legal political party.
The case is also important in the context of the politicisation of the persecution by subordinating it to the Minister of Justice – Zbigniew Ziobro from PiS, who was nominated as the Persecutor General. The justice system is openly treating right wing extremism differently. At the same time when members of the “Brzask” editorial staff are being sentenced, neofascists from ONR (National Radical Camp) freely demonstrated on the streets of Białystok commemorating the 82nd anniversary of their organisation. During the demonstration under the phalanx symbol they carried torches and promised to “do away” with political enemies, so directly referring to fascism. Despite this, the Ministry of Defence plans to arm neofascists as part of the territorial defence. Earlier, the court in Częstochowa acquitted charges against a man selling racist t-shirts, not seeing any violation of the art. 256 of the penal code. Recently the Minister of Justice and Persecutor General has suspended a sentence of a nationalist sentenced for assaulting a policeman.
The verdict condemning Polish communists was taken at the same time when on the 1st of April the Parliament voted through a law “on banning the promotion of communism” that forces local authorities to change the names of streets and other objects that are associated with communism, which is an attack against the tradition of the workers’ movement. The Institute of the National Remembrance creates a registry and demands from the local authorities liquidation of the monuments of Soviet soldiers and others related to communism. The Devastation and liquidation of monuments and falsifying of history are common features of fascist practices.