Dissertation Abstracts

The Dynamics of Extreme-Right Protest in Poland, 1989-2012

Author: Platek, Daniel , dplatek21@gmail.com
Department: Institute of Sociology
University: Polish Academy of Science, Poland
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: extreme right , social movements , political mobilization , protest event analysis
Areas of Research: Social Classes and Social Movements , Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Historical and Comparative Sociology


The general aim of the project is to explore how the Polish far right movement mobilizes to turn against its opponents and how it expresses its political claims. I would like to demonstrate how the process of collective mobilization is constructed by social actors mounted in a specific political and social context. The research project involves the creation of a data set consisting of a range of extreme-right protest events from 1989 to 2012, in order to gain an overall view of right wing collective action in Poland. By tracing the trajectory of extreme right-wing protest events, I will address the following research questions: 1) How has the structure of protest mobilization changed during the 23 years of extreme right-wing movement activity in Poland? 2) How has the range of political repertoires used during the protests evolved over time? 3) What forms of protest were dominant during certain periods of time? 4) Against whom were the protest events directed? And, how did movement participants select slogans and symbols to name their enemies and to determine their political objectives? 5) Under what conditions were Polish far right social movements revived and what contributed to their growing strength? The systematic research of the dynamics of collective action by the extreme right requires detailed information about protest events in the structural context of political and social change in Poland after 1989. The analysis of the main features of protest events is central to this study, because the existing literature does not provide sufficient insights about the basic characteristics of the extreme-right social movement dynamics in Poland. Moreover, there is a need to extend our analysis to much more conventional (institutionalized) forms of claim making, because today, protests have become more sophisticated. Social movements are sometimes more likely to make press releases and gain direct access and visibility for their claims instead of mobilizing mass public demonstrations. For a long time, the only visible form of far right mobilization was the celebration of national holidays and other forms of regular protests which implied incidents of violence into the streets. Years later, it seems that its protest forms have taken on a more discursive form which includes campaigns, press releases, meetings, leaflets, performances, public statements, public speeches, and marches.

The investigation is guided by the following general hypothesis. From the beginning of the Third Republic, forms of extreme right-wing collective action adapted to the changing cultural and social context. In the mid 1990s, collective actions started to take on more moderated forms; the movement reorganized its structures and formed coalitions with political parties; its claim-making has become a much more accepted form of political expression than direct actions. There was a changing also in a thematic and symbolic scope of collective actions: extreme-right movement took much more “positive” slogans and symbols (political proposals and counter-proposals) to express their discontent and to turn against its opponents. At the same time, according to the research conducted in Western Europe, the scale of violent acts initiated by the extreme right-wing movements has remained constant. I hypothesize this will be the same in the case of the far right movement in Poland over the course of its 23-year existence. That is, I hypothesize that although there will be increasing institutionalization of collective actions, there will not be a significant decrease in the movement's violent actions.