Up to 100 far-right activists – organised by the National Rebirth of Poland movement (NOP) and football hooligans from WKS “Śląsk” – disrupted a public lecture at Wrocław University by the renowned sociologist Zygmunt Bauman.
The demonstrators gathered at the back of the lecture hall and before Bauman could begin his speech they shouted obsenities at him and slogans such as “Nuremberg for Communists”. The demonstrators were removed only after the police and then an anti-terrorist unit intervened. Bauman was then able to deliver his lecture to the packed audience.
The far-right are arguing that intellectuals such as Bauman support totalitarianism and should not be allowed to speak freely at public universities. Bauman was forced out of Poland during the anti-semitic purges in 1968, when a number of prominent intellectuals were expelled from the country, and has resided in England since 1971. After the Nazis had invaded Poland in 1939, his family escaped to the Soviet Union. He served in the Soviet controlled Polish First Army and participated in battles at Kołobrzeg and Berlin. He worked for the Communist government after the war and remained a committed Marxist. However, he became critical of the Communist government, which eventually led to his expulsion from the country.
Bauman had been invited by the Lassalle Centre for Social Thought and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in order to mark the 150 anniversary of the formation of the German Social Democratic Party (Ferdinand Lassalle who helped create this movement was from Wrocław). After the far-right demonstrators were removed, Bauman was able to deliver his speech. He reminded the audience how since the election of Gerhard Schröder, the German SPD has lost over 1/3 of its vote and at how European social democracy has capitulated to the programme of the right.
For the far-right Bauman’s political biography means that he should not be speaking at public universities in Poland. This is the latest in a series of attempts by the far-right to break up the lectures of left-wing speakers at universities and intimidate the participants at these meetings.
It is essential that the far-right are not allowed to prevent such meetings from taking place. They wish to demonise the left and remove its voice from the public debate. The large turnout at Bauman’s lecture and the fact that it was able to proceed after the demonstrators were removed was an important victory for all those that believe in free-speech and democracy.
This post was first posted on Beyond the Transition