The iconic image of Che Guevara found adorning students’ walls and t-shirts across the world could be banned in Poland under a government proposal to outlaw materials that incite “fascism and totalitarian systems”.
By Matthew Day in Warsaw
Last Updated: 5:27PM BST 23 Apr 2009
Poland’s equality minister, Elzbieta Radziszewska, wants to expand a Polish law prohibiting the production of fascist and totalitarian propaganda so that it includes clothing and anything else that could carry an image related to an authoritarian system.
Anybody found guilty could face a two-year prison sentence. Mrs Radziszewska said that the proposed amendment to current legislation “would help organisations fighting racism”.
The proposal, which could see the faces of some of the leading lights of communist history such as Lenin and Trotsky removed from t-shirts and flags, reflects a Polish view on communism far different from the rose-tinted and romantic images often found in the West.
After experiencing 40 hard years of communism, as well as the horrors of Nazi occupation, few Poles have qualms equating under law the inequities of Nazism and communism.
“Communism was a terrible, murderous system that claimed millions of lives,” said Professor Wojciech Roszkowski, a leading Polish historian and member of the European parliament.
“It was very similar to National Socialism, and there is no reason to treat those two systems, and their symbols, differently. Their glorification should be prohibited.”
He added communism had accounted for the slaughter of thousands of Poles in the Katyn Massacre while its gulags had consumed countless millions of victims.
The proposed changes, which have already reached the committee stage in the Polish parliament, also testify to Polish determination to ensure that with the passing of time nobody starts to view the country’s communist past with nostalgia.
In addition the Polish government hopes that tighter legislation will crack down on the trade in materials bearing Nazi emblems.
Markets in western Poland have profited from German neo-fascists buying Third-Reich memorabilia such as swastikas and pictures of Hitler that are prohibited under their own country’s stringent regulations.