Feature

Poland: Jail time for wearing a Che shirt?

Last week, the government amended the penal code to outlaw the display of communist symbols, said Marek Domagalski in Rzeczpospolita.

Marek DomagalskiRzeczpospolita

Is Poland going too far in banning communist symbols? asked Marek Domagalski. The Polish constitution already forbids the endorsement of “the totalitarian methods and practices of Nazism and fascism,” including displaying the swastika. Last week, the government amended the penal code to outlaw the display of communist symbols, such as the hammer and sickle, as well.

Critics worry that the law is so broadly written that it could give prosecutors the right to close down organizations and websites that are deemed so far left as to amount to an endorsement of communism. And some say it could even give the government the power to “prosecute someone for selling those T-shirts with the likeness of Che Guevara,” the icon of the Cuban Revolution. Already, anti-communist civic groups are planning to use the new law to force the renaming of streets and towns named for communist activists.

Sure, the law provides an exception if communist symbols are used for artistic or educational purposes, and not with the “intent of spreading communist ideology.” But who is supposed to rule on the intentions behind the use of a symbol? The government. Sounds ominously like totalitarianism to me.

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