Mobilizing the Masses

M. Nagy

To quote Brubaker from the second week, populism is the successful use of “politics of fear”.1 The effective ability to categorize and separate a population into insiders and outsiders creates a dynamic of constant anxiety that fuels a desire for stability. In this respect, the new and the uncertain go hand in hand with one another; why else would populist leaderships seek to shut down or re-appropriate prestigious institutions if they disagree with their conceptualization of reality?2 It provides not just a rallying point for discourse on the nature of these foreign and different ideas, it also allows for a managing of the future messaging on a given topic. This is also not a new phenomenon, as it has been demonstrated in how Italian populists took control over the news media within their nation to secure a platform of expression and dialogue.3

In much the same way, we see the use of “Creating uncertainty, managing fear and building an atmosphere that makes everyone feel that he or she can become a victim always requires some demonised enemy.”4 The simultaneous attack on academic institutions and gender dynamics through the effective othering as a means of ‘re-establishing’ a hierarchy from the past in times of turmoil and uncertainty as a means of creating stability. Through this charismatic approach to the modern issues, populist can engage and spur their supporters into the approaches that further this dichotomy. It establishes the precedence for more than institutional attacks, but personal ones as well. As seen in the case of the United Kingdom, failure to address the deep-seated issues that cause a distrust of what these people consider foreign; can have massive reaching impacts of bodily harm to both the individual and the public.5

1Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?” NUPI Podcast (51 minutes) .

2Andrea Peto, “Report from the Trenches: The Debate around Teaching Gender Studies In Hungary, 10 April 2017. Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Green Political Foundation, .

3Anna Cento Bull, “The role of memory in populist discourse: the case of the Italian Second Republic” Patterns of Prejudice, 50:3 (2016): 213-231.

4Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 566–588.

5 Sarah Marsh, Aamna Mohdin and Niamh McIntyre, “Homophobic and Transphobic Hate Crimes Surge in England and Wales” The Guardian, 14 June 2019, https://www. 2019/jun/14/homophobicand-transphobic-hatecrimes-surge-in-englandand-wales

The Far-Right: United in Fear

Kathleen McKinnon

In the anti-genderism movement, the far-right is picking another opponent and this is not a surprise. We can see through time the folk devils have often changed, from Jews and antisemitism in the WWII years, to democracy and the West and now land on genderism, not that it has never been a topic for the far-right but now it is a more publicized enemy of the right in today’s backsliding European countries. In Poland, the church takes a role in the issues with abortion and genderism (Zuk and Zuk, 567), but it may be the case that even if the church was absent from the discourse in Poland, as it was in France (Paternotte and Kuhar, 8), that this type of rhetoric would continue. 

The factors that unite these issues are closer than the circumstances that make them different in each country. The fear and hate that unites the far-right against a common enemy, the fear of change and deviances vs. whether or not the government is far-right and can condemn genderism, if the Church is playing a role, etc. In each case, the underlying factors are the same even if the catalysts change depending on the context for a respective group.

David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-19.

Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 566–588

Anti-Gender Populism – Institutionalized Religion and the Far-Right

Wesley M.

The Anti-Gender movement in contemporary Europe that has been made a tool for far-right populists as well as institutionalized religions so that they might be able to reinforce their influence and thereby solidify control over the society in which they occupy.

Professor Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk discuss how the far-right’s arguments against gender, and sexual minorities have been aided by the forces of institutionalized religion, specifically using the example of Poland and the Catholic Church within Poland which allowed for them to portray their repression in the post-communist era to the public as a kind of compromise, under the belief that far-right changes could be worse, which allowed for acceptance of the far right process of othering both people internally as well as Poland internationally against the EU.[1] Both authors explore how right-wing media tactics are used to generate fear, as well as how the othering can be used to simplify and demonize any narrative as well as twisting it so that it’s false such as the narrative that claims that abortion has false ties to the Stalinist regime when it doesn’t, which in turn allows for ideological manipulation of the population by state as well as the institutionalized religious forces.[2]

Professor’s David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar argument about scholars urgent need to disentangle the global right’s Anti-Gender from the far-right narrative is interesting as both movements are very similar but distinction would clearly assist further analysis of how the right-wing criticism mainly comes from what they deem to be threatening European progressive policies in order to argue gender ideology as a kind of Marxist/Totalitarian conspiracy by legitimate democracies, specifically utilizing five target areas in order to further their populist discourse: 1. same-sex marriages. 2. Reproductive rights. 3. Sex and gender education. 4. Gender. 5. Gender Ideology in the far-rights view being politically autocratic.[3] In the same breath the authors also acknowledge that the tactics used by the far-right populists as well as have been able to use the anti-gender campaign, as well as institutionalized religion’s support, in some cases, to be able to gain a far wider audience for their rhetoric, specifically focusing around the politics of fear that they are able to use in order to create or exasperate anxiety within society.[4]

The reading by Andrea Peto argues that how Hungarian populists are using their discourse to attack the subject of Gender Studies has in fact made it more relevant, and that the reason behind the attack is to allow the Populists to shift public attention from governmental corruption within their country.[5] This viewpoint if true shows a classic autocratic move: create a crisis in order to target a group as a distraction to secure their hold on power (cough…Reichstag Fire Decree…cough…). As the Parsons reading indicates, the Hungarian government continues to repress sexual diversity by cracking down on the LGBTQ community.[6] Given the upcoming Hungarian election, this speculation of a distraction tactic does seem likely.

[1] Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 575.

[2] Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’:”: 576-585.

[3] David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-10.

[4] Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling”: 11-13.

[5] Andrea Peto, “Report from the Trenches: The Debate around Teaching Gender Studies In Hungary, 10 April 2017. Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Green Political Foundation,

[6] Vic Parsons, “Powerful Film about Non-Binary Teen in Transphobic Hungary Is Heartbreaking for the Right Reasons,” PinkNews | Latest Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans News | LGBT+ News (blog), March 24, 2021,


Parsons, Vic. “Powerful Film about Non-Binary Teen in Transphobic Hungary Is Heartbreaking for the Right Reasons.” PinkNews | Latest Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans News | LGBT+ News (blog), March 24, 2021.

Paternotte, David and Roman Kuhar. “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe.” Politics and Governance 6, no. 3 (2018): 6-19. doi:

Peto, Andrea. “Report from the Trenches: The Debate around Teaching Gender Studies In Hungary, 10 April 2017. Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Green Political Foundation,

Żuk, Piotr and Paweł Żuk ‘Murderers of the unborn’ and ‘sexual degenerates’: analysis of the ‘anti-gender’ discourse of the Catholic Church and the nationalist right in Poland.” Critical Discourse Studies, 17:5 (2020): 566-588, DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2019.1676808.

Nuance in the Anti-Gender Conversation

Alison Miller

One of the major themes in the readings this week was the influence of institutions on the promotion of anti-gender campaigns and ideology, as well as how the analysis of anti-gender movements could be more nuanced.

I found the Żuk and Żuk article to be very well written, as the way that it methodically broke down the logical fallacies present in a lot of right wing discourse is a useful way to structure and address our own anti-fascist and anti-populist arguments. Appeals to emotion are very useful on both sides of the argument, but recognition of why these arguments are poor ones to make can be very useful in cutting through strong emotional responses, especially when dealing with emotional topics as abortion and LGBTQIA issues.

In a different vein, I appreciated the Patternotte and Kuhar article especially, as I think the emphasis on looking at different ways that anti-gender movements operate allows for a more nuanced approach on how to solve these particular issues. I do still think there is some connection often between countries, as we have seen from previous weeks’ readings that there is a transnational element to these movements. One example would be a comparison of the new-Marxism present in especially CEE countries, versus the “cultural-Marxism” based in the United States.  

What I thought might have been interesting for Patternotte and Kuhar to look at would be the media’s presence in all of this. Britain especially is known for its wide variety of tabloids, and the framing that media does when it addresses issues like gender would have added to the conversation.

On a bit of a side note, trans-exclusionary radical feminists are an interesting intersection of all of this, as they often perceive themselves to be protectors of women and feminists but are surprised when many of the things they talk about receive positive attention from right-wing populists. Patternote and Kuhar highlight that the anti-gender conversation is not just about right-wing populists but left-wing as well. To further see this kind of dynamic, there’s an interesting article on La Manif Pour Tous’s founder Emile Duport who states that he does not see his work as left or right wing, or Catholic, but rather “This is a humanitarian topic. It is like ecology for us. We try to give [it] a higher meaning.” He now works as part of an anti-abortion organization supported in part by the Catholic Church.

Anti-Genderism and Right-Wing Populism: Two Sides of the Same Coin?


The set of readings this week were quite interesting. While most of them established the connection between “gender ideology” and right-wing populism, I think the Paternotte article was useful in making us understand the distinct characteristics of each of them. As that article suggested, anti-gender mobilization originated from religious centers. When it comes to populism, it can be a powerful fuel for the former, but ultimately belong to a category of its own. Indeed, the particularity of populism, Paternotte and Kuhar argue, is that it does not have a “side”. The capacity of populism to be integrated into a variety of ideas reminded me of some of the earlier readings we have done this semester, specifically the notion that populism is often combined with an ideological host. 

There is definitely a correlation between the intensification of anti-gender sentiments and the rise of right-wing populism. The statistics provided by the article on the homophobic and transphobic hate crimes surge in England and Wales show that hate crimes have significantly increased in recent years. This increase has been associated with Brexit and its effects. 

It is interesting to see how in other countries like Spain or Poland, this hate is closely linked with the Church. As the Zuk article points out: “the language of religion permeates the language of politics and how the discourse of religious fundamentalists penetrates the homophobic discourse” (Zuk & Zuk 568). This notion got blended in right-wing populist rhetoric. Thus, LGBT people were cast as the epitome of debauchery and hedonism, and part of a corrupt elite “devoid of national Catholic values”.

The case of Poland is worth looking at. The Zuk article asserts that the public opinion is generally in favor of those constraining laws became it is a good “compromise”. This speaks to the tactic used by the government in place. Zuk argues that when “facing the threat of an even more repressive law, the public is much more likely to accept the existing repressive regulations and even considers them to be a ‘compromise’” (Zuk & Zuk 570). This is what Paternotte and Kuhar have determined to be the “politics of fear”, which consists of inspiring fear in the hearts of people based on real or imagined dangers. As a result of all this, attempts from the left to change public opinion and to liberalize the law have been unsuccessful. 

That being said, it is important to mention that Paternotte and Kuhar insist on the fact that gender ideology and right-wing populism are not exactly two sides of the same coin. While anti-gender ideology originated from the Church and addressed concerns that were prevalent in religious centers, populism is not always in line with such an idea. Interestingly, some populists endorse LGBT rights to stigmatize specific groups of people like migrants or Muslims. 

The notion of populism being ideologically flexible took me back to readings from the early weeks. One of them explained how the group targeted by populists is defined not by wealth, class or race, but by having the wrong values. One of the core ideas of populism is to protect the homogenous group of the majority against any threat from the inside or outside. Hence, it can take on a variety of forms, and stand against any ideology that is deemed alien. This is why you can have populists adopting anti-LGBT rhetoric in one place and pro-LGBT rhetoric in another. In the end, it all depends on who is the target. 

The Body Politic

Declan Da Barp

The Anti-Gender movement has sprung up across the globe and in the guise of different populist movements on the right and the left. What is clear though is that this messaging of anti-Genderism is a pernicious element in the body politic today that is a backlash of the liberalization of sex and gender in the post-68 period. While many of these campaigns materialized around the move to legalize same-sex marriage and extend rights to the LGBTQ2+ community it has morphed into a movement that aims to regulate the body, restrict reproductive, and prevent sex and gender education (Paternotte and Kuhar). These ideas are widespread and have many overlapping interests, for example in Poland of the Catholic and populist regime. In this way, it touches on the ideas mentioned earlier in the course by Mudde of a “thin-crusted ideology” (Paternotte and Kuhar). Innately, as shown in both readings this week, anti-gender activists map neatly over other pre-existing ideologies.

The idea of gender ideology being a new Marxism was a poignant one, particularly in the Polish context. Poland as described by Piotr and Paweł Zuk defines itself as Catholic and anti-Marxist. The Law and Justice Party (PiS) have added anti-genderism to their repertoire of “Others” which Poland defines itself against. Hungary has done much the same (Paternotte and Kuhar). In the context of post-Soviet Hungary and Poland, to be anti-Marxist has a real political weight to it, much the same weight that being Catholic has in Poland. Thus, the labelling of Gender as Marxist not only plays on a well-established historical dark period in Polish history it gives legitimacy to the PiS party.

Works Cited

David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-19.

Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 566–588.

The Hitler Bell and a small German town’s missteps in trying to re-contextualize their past.

The Hitler Bell should be silenced and moved to a space where it can be preserved in the proper context, like a museum.

By Bing

Over the past couple of years, there has been heavy debate about whether monuments to controversial historical topics, like the Confederacy, should be altered or removed and if doing so would be “erasing history.” In 2017 Herxheim am Berg, a small village of around 700 in southwest Germany, became a focal point in this ongoing discussion when it was brought to public attention that their church belltower contained a bell with Nazi-era inscriptions. The bell had Hitler’s name, a swastika, and the phrase “ALLES FÜRS VATERLAND” (everything for the fatherland) inscribed on it. The ensuing controversy raged for quite some time and even resulted in a former mayor resigning after arguing that removing the inscription would alter the bell’s sound. In February 2018, the town’s council decided in a 10 to 2 vote to keep the bell in place, a decision that was reportedly met with applause.[1] The village council concluded that removing the bell would be “fleeing from an appropriate culture of remembrance,”[2] instead, they decided to put up a plaque and keep the bell as “an impetus for reconciliation and a memorial against violence and injustice.”[3]

                The actions taken by the Herxheim town council were the wrong ones. While their wishes to keep the bell intact to preserve it for history as an artifact from 1934 is reasonable, the way they have chosen to memorialize it and their decision to leave it in its original context are deeply problematic. They show that there are still people who have positive feelings of Germany’s National Socialist past, resist re-examinations of their history, and do not understand the effects and implications of public history.

                One of the reasons to keep the bell was due to the resistance shown by Herxheim’s citizens. Take, for example, former mayor Roland Becker, who resigned after making positive comments about the actions of the Nazi regime. He said that he is proud to have a bell with those inscriptions on it because, “when you talk about these things, you have to see the whole picture, and say yes there were atrocities, but there were also things he introduced which we still use today.”[4] He backtracked after that statement, insisting that the statement came from a conversation with an elderly village resident and not his own opinion. While he said this to protect himself, it reveals that his constituents are at least partially motivated to keep the bell because of lingering positive feelings towards Hitler and the Nazis. In cities like Berlin, the constant re-examinations of Germany’s history are impossible to ignore.  Unfortunately, it seems like this critical re-examination is not important in Herxheim. As Becker himself said, “some of the new citizens who moved here later on might not know about [the bell], but the majority of the [town’s] inhabitants have known that this bell is hanging here.”[5] That the bell was known by the older generations and long-time town residents, but never addressed even amongst Germany’s de-Nazification and critical self-examination of its history, speaks volumes. The town’s residents listened to the bell ring every fifteen minutes for the 70+ years since the fall of Nazi Germany, content to leave it as a semi-secret but ever-present reminder of those years.

The bell tower where the “Hitler bell” continues to hang between two other church bells. Out of public view like this is no way to have a memorial.

                The way that the council decided to memorialize the bell is misguided—context matters. If the intent of keeping the bell is to preserve history, it should be in the proper context. Statues and public monuments like this are supposed to provide the community around them with a sense of collective memory and influence their feelings about the subject of the memorial. This bell was created to commemorate the greatness of Adolf Hitler and the fervent nationalism of the 1930s. Without a doubt, those who originally installed it did so for the purpose of it ringing out in support of Hitler and his ideas for generations to come. Leaving this bell in place allows it to serve the same function it was created for, and every time it rings, it is still ringing for the ideals it was meant to represent. No matter what plaque they put in the church, leaving it in place makes it a touristic destination for any neo-Nazi’s who want to see a remainder of the Third Reich still performing its duty.

                The bell would be much better memorialized in a museum or another spot on church grounds outside the bell tower. This has been done with other historical bells, like the liberty bell, allowing for preservation and encouraging historical reflection. Other churches in Germany with similar bells have done so,[6] and it shows a much greater understanding of the politics of memory than the actions taken by the Herxheim town council. They were happy to keep it hidden away for years, but it is public now, and the way they treat it sends a message about their relationship to its history. Leaving the bell in place to keep ringing shows that there are still those who, while they admit Nazi atrocities are wrong, are content letting nostalgia and underground support for their fascist past simmer below the surface. The bell and the past that created it may be hidden away from public view, but they are still there to be heard if you listen.

[1] “Herxheim: ‘Hitler-Glocke’ Bleibt Hängen,” Der Spiegel, February 26, 2018, sec. Panorama,

[2] Isaac Stanley-Becker, “Rewriting History or Attending to the Past? Monuments Still Confound Europe, Too.,” Washington Post, August 19, 2017, sec. Europe,

[3] “‘Hitler Bell’ to Remain in German Church as a Memorial,” BBC News, February 27, 2018, sec. Europe,

[4] Justin Huggler, “German Mayor Resigns in Row over Nazi Bell,” The Telegraph, September 7, 2017,

[5] Margaret Evans · CBC News ·, “Church Bell Inscribed with Hitler’s Name Prompts Soul-Searching in German Town | CBC News,” CBC, September 14, 2017,

[6] Deutsche Welle (, “German Church Replaces Controversial Nazi Bell | DW | 29.09.2019,” DW.COM,

F.C. Barcelona: When a Football Team Becomes the Voice of Catalonia’s Independence


In his official presentation earlier this week, Xavi Hernandez, the new coach of the superpower club F.C. Barcelona, stated: “Visca Barca y Visca Catalunya!” (Long live Barcelona and long live Catalonia).

While Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous community of Spain, why exactly did Xavi associate the well-being of F.C. Barcelona with Catalonia’s? What is the reason behind this seemingly overt political declaration? The answer lies in the club’s complicated history with its struggle for independence against a dictatorial regime. As a result of that history, “Barca” became a source of Catalan pride and a true symbol of resistance.

The club was founded in 1899 by Hans Gamper, who changed his first name to Juan after being seduced by the city of Barcelona. Barca quickly became successful in the following years, but politics soon got involved.

In the 1920s, the dictator Primo de Rivera was ruling over Spain, and the Catalans were never big fans of the central government. Noticing the sense of identity people took from supporting Barca, Gamper changed the official language of the club from the royal Castilian Spanish to the Catalan language. In 1925, when the crowd booed the Spanish national anthem before a game, de Rivera made his move and forcibly removed Gamper from office, who fell into depression and killed himself in 1930.

The years of the Spanish civil war were particularly painful for Barca as well. In 1936, the president of the club Josep Sunyol was murdered by pro-fascist because he supported Catalan independence. This episode is central to the memories of Catalans and Barca supporters. Today, with “Spain suffering economically and calls for independence on the rise, the club’s position as a nationalist symbol could grow ever more important alongside its triumphs on the pitch”.

Even today, it is not unusual to hear political chants in Camp Nou, Barca’s home stadium. Indeed, at precisely 17:14 of a game, you might hear the crowd shout “Independencia! Independencia!”. The timing here is very significant, for it was in 1714 that the Catalans lost a crucial war against the kingdom of Castille and signaled the beginning of their definite subordination to the central government.

F.C. Barcelona is thus a symbol of anti-fascism and democracy. Its tumultuous relationship with the central government in Madrid resulted in the club’s political significance. Its motto “Més que un club” (more than a club), has a heavy meaning and represents well Barca’s bond with the Catalan quest for independence.

F.C Barcelona’s business structure itself is a glimpse into the Catalan view of government. Unlike other big European clubs like Paris, Manchester, or Chelsea, which are either owned by rich Qatari statesmen, Saudi statesmen, or wealthy businessmen who call all the shots, Barcelona is owned by 143,000 members, who make decisions about the club through a democratic process:

“The club is an example to be followed,” Barcelona member Marta Ferre said. “We, as members, have the right to decide about our future, and the residents here in Catalonia want the same thing.”

Even players like Gerard Piqué publicly voiced their support for Catalonia’s independence, which caused him to get booed by fans of the Spanish national team. All of this points to the political role that F.C Barcelona plays in Spain. As the club reached unprecedented success in the last two decades, its vitrine of the Catalan struggle attracted even more supporters. Fans of Barcelona all around the world feel a connection with the club’s history. As I fan of this club myself, I know what I am talking about. At a young age, I got caught up in the rivalry with Madrid, the “King’s club”. This is the sort of thing you cannot escape if you decide to embark on this journey. Barcelona is Catalonia, and even you are only attracted to Barcelona’s sports results, you will inevitably get to see the politics involved.

Today, F.C. Barcelona is in the middle of a huge sporting and financial crisis. The appointment of Xavi as head coach is seen as the dawn of new age. The expectations are extremely high for this former player, who reached legendary status as he lifted virtually every trophy he possibly could. Xavi is considered to be the one who will re-establish the famous Barcelona way of playing, which used terrorized the biggest teams in Europe. The desperate quest for a strong identity on the pitch reflects this need for a “Barcelona exceptionalism”. In other words, the strong sense of distancing themselves from the mainstream and uniquely asserting themselves. This is what the Catalan struggle has been about: a fight against the establishment in hope of realizing a dream that would echo in the four corners of the world for generations to come.  

France’s Anti-Vaccination Movement

Alison Miller

The Gateway Drug to Populism – The Anti-Vaccine Movement

France has a long history tied to the modern vaccine movement, and a population that is heavily skeptical of vaccines of all kinds. Despite being the home country of one of the fathers of vaccination, a recent survey of French citizens showed that 33% of the French population surveyed do not believe in the efficacy of vaccines.

It might be easy to blame the export of the American anti-vaccine movement as solely responsible for France’s anti-vaxx dilemma, but France has been perfectly capable of brewing their own anti-vaxxers. The movement has incorporated imported American ingredients (the use of the English “Big Pharma” versus a French translation) with French anti-elite practices and anti-vaccine watershed moments, including health scandals from 1991, 2009 ,and 2010, and of course the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is a transnational movement, however, and much like populist ones, there are fundamental elements found in every version that are then adapted to particular locations. Issues of bodily autonomy, anti-intellectualism, and anti-elitism are found in every anti-vaccine movement, but these are flexible enough to fit right into French culture where flexibility is needed.

Populism and Vaccine Hesitancy

Given the similarities in populist and anti-vaxx movements ideologies, its unsurprising that early research finds close correlation between them. While anti-elitism and anti-intellectualism have already been mentioned, these groups often both include conspiracy theory, as well as creating in and out-groups, and, in extreme cases, resorting to violence.

The similarities also include blaming immigrants for national failures. This includes when the Front Nationale’s David Rachline placed the responsibility for the 2017 resurgence of preventable diseases at the feet of French immigrants, an argument against a new law the French government put forward calling for more mandatory childhood vaccines. Marine Le Pen herself waded in, reusing one of the anti-vaccine movement’s most frequent quips about vaccination, “nous connaissons assez peu les conséquences à long terme” as a retort against the bill. Both figures ignored the real cause for the outbreak (erratic and insufficient vaccination rates among the European population) in favour of creating a new anti-immigrant narrative.


COVID-19 has unsurprisingly exacerbated the anti-vaccine issue, as government mandated lockdowns, masks, and vaccines spark populist demonstrations in France. The anti-vaccine movement primed people to engage in these demonstrations, as the anti-vaxx movement had already introduced people to many of the same ideas present in both movements. The degree to which there is cross-over at these events is evident in the presence of far-right nationalist groups, including France’s version of UKIP – Les Patriotes.

These anti-vaccine and anti-vaccine passport demonstrations have also drawn on another populist fall-back: Anti-Semitism. Signs with anti-Semitic visuals, as well as the use of the yellow star the Nazis forced Jewish People to wear to identify them, and comparisons of vaccine mandates to the Holocaust and the Nazi occupation of France have all sprung up as part of the backlash against the Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

Despite the demonstrations and threats of violence, 76.6% of the French population is now vaccinated, a substantial step up from the concerns in January 2021 of the short-comings of the vaccination programme. This has taken effort at a lot of different levels, including television appearances promoting vaccination by President Macron, government vaccine mandates, and grass-roots level groups such as Les Vaxxeuses working anonymously on Facebook to promote accurate vaccine science.

Covid vaccination centres vandalised in France - BBC News

Image courtesy of BBC News

Piłsudski’s Poland: The Role of Collective Memory in Far-Right Nationalism

M. Guthrie

As November 11th approaches, with it comes not only the history of great personal sacrifice and trauma – but also that of deeply ingrained nationalism. This legacy pervades current European relations, with nationalist movements taking hold in a number of countries. What has been widely recognized as a solemn occasion, one which signifies the signing of the Armistice and the end of the First World War, has since become a source of ideological contention.

Poland’s recognition of November 11th presents itself as an interesting outlier of sorts. Serving as the nation’s Independence Day following occupation during the war, the day serves as a reminder of the importance of the Polish national identity and independence – though has been taken to rather extremist lengths. In particular, the annual Polish March of Independence has drawn all sorts from the woodwork, inadvertently making it what has been deemed as “one of the largest far-right gatherings in the world.”

Poland court approves far-right ′independence march′ in Warsaw | News | DW  | 08.11.2018
Far-right supporters march on Polish Independence Day. Image sourced from:

Amassing tens of thousands of participants, the event attracts far-right extremists not only from Poland itself, but from all corners of the globe – coming together to support their fellow nationalists. Frequently dissolving into violent clashes, the March has become a deeply unsettling event rife with hatred towards those who do not meet the values of the unified Polish identity.

However, the Polish government has done little to contain the event in recent years – even amidst growing concerns regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from attempts to ban the March by the Polish court, as well as recent comments made on Twitter by Warsaw’s mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski (who deemed the gathering as “an unlawful assembly,”) the general response surrounding the event has been lukewarm.

Though given the nation’s overarching sentiments surrounding issues such as the refugee crisis, immigration, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, perhaps this is unsurprising. The presence of such ideological beliefs within Poland’s government has allowed far-right thought to flourish. For this reason, November 11th serves as far more than just a celebration of national history and achievement, instead coming to represent the deeply ingrained nationalistic tendencies at play within the country.  

So, independence from what exactly?

Each year, crowds flock to Piłsudski Square in the nation’s capital to commemorate not only the end of the First World War, but also the end of occupation by the Central Powers – Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Free from this external intervention, Józef Piłsudski was named Temporary Head of State in 1918, going on to re-establish Poland as the independent nation-state it is today.

During his five years in office, Piłsudski worked to establish a stable house of governance, the Seym (or Sejm), developed and revitalized the national military, and established a number of allies – developing connections with Lithuania and the Ukrainian Peoples’ Republic (now Ukraine). Piłsudski even went on to serve in the nation’s best interest in the years following his retirement. Suffice to say, Piłsudski has maintained his position as a central figure in the nation’s history, serving as an inspiration for nationalists to pin their ideologies upon.

A person sitting at a table

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Piłsudski (fourth from left), Head of Polish State from 1918-1922. Image sourced from:

With this historical origin in mind, it is unsurprising that swathes of the population have continued to uphold the strong sense of identity and ideals established by Piłsudski and his successors – with President Andrzej Duda evoking the memory of Piłsudski in a recent statement.

“We can safely say that those victors who not only regained the Republic of Poland for all of us, but who were also able to defend it in difficult moments, are still a model for all Polish soldiers, for Polish officers, and I do not hesitate to say – for all Poles.”

Breaking or Building Barriers?

While there had been some debate as to whether the event will happen this year, it appears that organizers fully intend to push on with the March –  going against government regulation and fears regarding rising COVID-19 numbers. Violence clashes with police are to be expected, as in previous years the Independence March has dissolved into chaos that has injured officers and members of the public alike. In 2020, far-right extremists reportedly set fire to a housing complex after seeing a pride flag hung in the window.

Far-right extremists espouse hate at a rally in Poland. Image sourced from:

Perhaps most worrying is that there is a demonstration for women’s rights set to take place along the same route – presenting an even further threat to Polish women, whose bodily autonomy has already become the subject of much debate after a near-total ban on abortion.  

Despite aforementioned attempts to stop this year’s Polish March of Independence, President Andrzej Duda and the Polish Government (in both their inaction and ideology) have ultimately allowed the nation’s far-right perspectives to run rampant, further advertising vicious ideologies of nationalism and extremism to the broader public.