Friday, November 27, 2009

Poland Bans Communist Symbols

A Che Guevera t-shirt may be chic fashion elsewhere, but in Poland it could get you busted.

Poland's President Lech Kaczynski has signed into law on Nov. 27 legislation that criminalizes the possession, purchase or propagation of material containing communist symbols. Fines and even up to two years of prison could be meted out to lawbreakers.

The legislation was introduced by the rightwing Law and Justice party, which Kaczynski helped create. It beefs up existing legislation banning the propagation of Nazism or other totalitarian systems.

Critics, many on Poland's left say the legislation is too broad and vague and does more to violate human rights rather than protect them. Enforcing it, critics say, will be next to impossible.

The law highlights how even twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, eastern Europe is still struggling to come to terms with its communist past.

Hungary passed a law in 1994 banning symbols of communism, like the hammer and sickle -- along with the swastika -- as "symbols of tyranny." Rightwing politicians in the Czech Republic have tried to ban the Communist Party. In the European parliament, delegates from eastern Europe have called for banning Communist symbols to match an EU ban on Nazi signs.

Der Spiegel Online has a nice piece on the Poland law here.

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