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Poland: Women against fascism

Carolyn Egan

November 26, 2020

The mass protests in Poland against attempts to restrict abortion access shocked the right wing Law and Justice government. In Warsaw alone over 100,000 people took to the streets showing their determination to fight. There were similar actions in cities across the country. The participants are for the most part young, and brought creative approaches to slogans and placards, “Girls Just Want to Have FUNdamental Rights”. A lot were in English, attracting international interest and support. Many men are taking part and there is broad participation from different sectors. Farmers blocked roads with tractors carrying banners stating, “Fight the Virus, Not Women”.

The Catholic Church has a strong influence in the country, but as we saw in Ireland a number of years ago, a broad based movement can push back against both church and state. The government is trying to whip up opposition to the pro-choice organizing by suggesting that it is  anti-Catholic but it is not having any success. The huge numbers in the streets show that support is growing and the popularity of the government is waning. It has lost 10% in opinion polls.

Trade unions have come out in support of the mobilizations, the OPZZ (a federation of labour), a large teachers and education workers union, as well as an oil and gas union, and miners unions. The last two have predominately male members, which shows the breadth of the growing movement.

Reproductive justice is a fundamental issue which has been at the heart of struggles for women’s liberation in many countries including Canada. In the early eighties a campaign to overturn the federal abortion law galvanized support across Canada and Quebec. After the establishment of an illegal clinic that became a symbol of resistance to an unjust, racist and class biased law, and a long campaign that mobilized hundreds of thousands in the streets, the law was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1988. It made it clear that we have the power to make real change when we organize from the bottom up. It is movements from below as we witnessed in Canada, Ireland and today in Poland that can win reproductive rights for all.

We are seeing in the US that it is the right that is trying to restrict access to abortion in state after state, and overturn Roe vs Wade at the Supreme Court. This most directly the most vulnerable in poor and racialized communities.  Huge mobilizations such as the Women’s Marches met the threat and the battle is ongoing.

It is no surprise that the neo-Nazi movement in Poland is vehemently in support of increased restrictions on abortion rights. It has attacked marches, burned LGBTQ banners and has tried to  mobilize the population in favour of the government. Because of the large numbers in the streets in support of abortion rights, they have also begun to lose support as it becomes clear what they actually stand for.

The fascists have marched for years on November 11th attempting to show their power. This year the event was dramatically smaller, an embarrassment to their leaders. The media called it a “flop” and attributed the fewer numbers to the strength of the pro-choice demonstrations. This is a powerful and growing movement which will hopefully win greater abortion rights, but also influence and build progressive forces across the country. 


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