Polish government accuses Warsaw art venue of ‘training anarchists’ with social justice workshops

Polish government accuses Warsaw art venue of ‘training anarchists’ with social justice workshops

9 June 2020
Text: Melania Parzonka

Polish officials have accused a Warsaw art venue of “training anarchists” after it held a programme of workshops for political activists.

Interdisciplinary cultural institute Biennale Warszawa held the event, Urban Tactics, in November last year. It was part of a series of workshops on the history and tactics of nonviolent protest called The Collective School of Anticapitalism.

But controversy flared last week when the Polish Vice Minister of Justice, Marcin Romanowski, announced that he’d request a legal investigation into the workshops. He also accused the Mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski — who is running as an opposition candidate in Poland’s upcoming presidential elections on 28 June — of breaking the law and propagating “totalitarian methods” by donating public funds to Biennale Warszawa. “These leftist activities resembling 1968 can only be described as ‘totalitarian’. This is neo-communism,” Romanowski said on the public television broadcaster TVP.

Romanowski’s claim followed several tabloid articles denouncing the workshops, as well as a press conference by two MPs demanding the director of Biennale Warszawa to step down. Both MPs said that the “extreme left that wants to promote urban tactics should not receive public funds.”

The controversy is the latest in a series of accusations that the Polish government has brought against cultural institutions and figures, including theatres, art museums and the Nobel prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk, who was deemed an enemy of Poland.

Biennale Warszawa said that information on its work had been “manipulated”. “The information about Biennale Warszawa’s activities is manipulated to an absurd degree, especially when it comes to integrating the subject of our anti-violence, anti-fascist and anti-racist activities within the context of the events unfolding in the USA,” a spokesperson told The Calvert Journal.

Dozens of cultural figures have signed an open letter in support of Biennale Warszawa, while Warsaw City Hall has also condemned what it described as a “smear campaign” against the institution.

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