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Pan-European extremism? Libertas, the LPR, and La Destra

Libertas is allying with the most right-wing forces in Poland, Italy, and Spain

Declan Ganley’s Libertas has formed an electoral alliance in Poland with the controversial Liga Polskich Rodzin (LPR), the League of Polish Families.

In March a spokesperson for Libertas told the Irish Times that Libertas “has never allied itself with political parties in Poland”.

However, information on the Polish Pastwowa Komisja Wyborcza (National Electoral Commission) website shows that almost one-third of the candidates running under the ‘Komitet Wyborczy Libertas’ (Libertas Election Committee) name in Poland are members of the far-right Liga Polskich Rodzin.

The words ‘członek Ligi Polskich Rodzin’ (‘member of the League of Polish Families’) appear after the names of 40 out of the 128 candidates on the ‘Komitet Wyborczy Libertas’ (KW Libertas) lists in Poland.

The LPR is a controversial, far-right, ultra-nationalist, xenophobic and alleg­edly, anti-Semitic party, former members of which have been linked to neo-Nazi ac­tivity. It campaigned against Polish mem­bership of the EU, describing the EU as a “centralised, socialist superstate”.

In 2006, Leokadia Zwiazek, assistant to LPR member and Polish MEP Maciej Gier­tych, was fired after she appeared in a video showing members of All-Polish Youth gathering around a burning swastika and chanting ‘Sieg Heil’. A song with the words ‘Stand up and beat this canting Jewish mug … Without mercy kill it, without scruples beat the evil’ played during the party.

All-Polish Youth is a youth political movement previously associated with the LPR. Roman Giertych, former leader of the LPR and son of Maciej Giertych, was its honorary chairman.

Maciej Giertych, an LPR MEP known for supporting creationists and claiming that “dinosaurs coexisted with humans”, caused controversy when he gave a speech in the European Parliament praising Span­ish dictator General Franco, “Thanks to the Spanish right, the Spanish army, its leaders, and thanks to General Francisco Franco in particular, the Communist at­tack on Catholic Spain was thwarted.”

Giertych published a booklet in 2007, Civilizations at War in Europe, in which he wrote of the “biological separateness” of Jews and claimed that Jews “form the ghettos themselves”. His booklet was con­demned by Polish MEPs who said that there was no place for “anti-Semitism, rac­ism, and xenophobia” in Europe.

Libertas previously cut links with the LPR after another former leader, Mirosław Orzechowski, was charged with drinking and driving.

His replacement, Wojciech Wierzejski, is now the lead candidate on the KW Libertas list for Kraków. [14] Wierzejski is known for his homophobic remarks. He said that if German gay activists, attending a rally in Poland were hit with a stick, they won’t come again”.

There are at least two other candidates on the KW Libertas lists who are known for controversial statements.

The first is Anna Sobecka, who broad­casts on ultra-Catholic Radio Maryja which is said to be openly anti-semitic and has been criticized by the Pope. [17] Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, head of Radio Maryja re­portedly accused Jews of greed and has been described as a “sort of a Goebbels with a collar” by the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

Sobecka once claimed that Krystian Le­gierski, a mixed-race Polish Green activist and businessman, was “a person who is not even partially of Polish nationality”, leading to a complaint to the Polish parlia­ment from Legierski.

The second is Ryszard Bender, the Polish politician and historian who said that Auschwitz was a la­bour camp rather than a death camp. Bender, a member of the Polish Sen­ate, previously claimed that Auschwitz was not a death camp, but a work camp: “Auschwitz was not a death camp, it was a labour camp… Actually, labor was not al­ways hard and not always were [inmates] annihilated”, he told right-wing Catholic Radio Marjya”.

Bender is the lead candidate on the KW Libertas list for Olsztyn. And both Bender and Sobecka appear on the KW Libertas lists, officially as ‘non-party candidate[s]’.

Meanwhile in Italy, Libertas has formed an alliance with L’Autonomia, a group of parties that have combined with Libertas to “run together” for the European elec­tions.

One of these parties is La Destra (The Right), led by Teodoro Buontempo who left Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance), successor party to Movimento Sociale Ital­iano, to join La Destra in 2007.

Buontempo was head of the Rome fed­eration of Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), a neo-fascist party set up in 1946 by supporters of Mussolini and the Italian So­cial Republic, the Nazi puppet-state set up in northern Italy during WWII.

In 1994, a gang of 200 Nazi skinheads marched through the northern Italian city of Vicenza shouting racist slogans and waving banners with swastika-like emblems. Mainstream political leaders expressed outrage, but not Teodoro Buon­tempo, 48, a self-proclaimed fascist elect­ed to Parliament in March on the ticket of the National Alliance, the successor to the party founded by followers of Benito Mussolini. In an interview with the Tu­rin daily La Stampa, Buontempo said, “I would send them into the midst of society to proclaim their values.”

The links between Libertas and far-right, ultra-Catholic conservative nationalists in Poland and Italy has caused a split in the small Spanish party, los Ciudadanos (the Citizens) which describes itself as “centre-left”, “non-nationalist” and in favour of “a secular state”.

Despite this, the party leadership de­cided to enter into an electoral ‘coalition’ with Libertas under the name ‘Libertas- Ciudadanos de España’.

Leading party members, and the majori­ty of Madrid members, have left in protest at its alliance with Libertas and almost 300 members signed a manifesto condemning the decision as a betrayal of the party’s val­ues and calling for it to be reversed.

Some remaining Ciudadanos mem­bers are defensive. A spokesperson for a branch of the party said, “in no case do we have anything in common with Libertas Poland”. Except for the fact of course that Ciudadanos is allied to Libertas, along with the LPR and La Destra.