Dramatic images unfolded in the Polish capital city of Warsaw on Wednesday, as Polish farmers blocked streets in a protest against globalism and poor government policy. The protesters donned yellow jackets, left pig carcasses on the streets, and burned tires, straw, and apples.
The protesters demanded country-of-origin product labeling, a greater representation of Polish goods in supermarkets, and greater protection of Polish agricultural products from foreign competition. Among other things, the farmers are upset by the handful of foreign-owned supermarket chains that have monopolized the food market in Poland and poor foreign policy, which has cut off foreign markets to which Polish farmers traditionally export to, like Russia.
The protest was organized by AgroUnia, a grassroots group of farmers led by Michał Kołodziejczak, a young and charismatic farmer. In the past, Kołodziejczak was associated with the conservative “Law and Justice” ruling party, PiS, according to Onet, and has taken part in a number of protests, including protests against wind farms. But since then, it has become clear that he has become disillusioned with PiS, with their trade policy toward the EU and Russia, and their lack of action on public policy issues important to Polish farmers.
Kołodziejczak himself has been compared to a number of past populist Polish politicians, ranging from Andrzej Lepper, a Christian nationalist and agrarian politician who died in 2011, to Wincenty Witos, one of the founding fathers of the modern Polish state and the founder of the Polish People’s Party, PSL. However, when pressed by the media, Kołodziejczak has refused to run for public office, instead stating that he prefers to lead an outside pressure group.
AgroUnia feels betrayed by both Poland’s conservative “Law and Justice” ruling party, PiS, and the once-populist left-wing Polish People’s Party, PSL, a party which farmers traditionally supported in the past. Both parties, they claim, are responsible for the loss of Polish sovereignty to the European Union and the foreign monopolization of supermarkets in Poland.
AgroUnia itself is not an anti-European Union organization, though it could be described as a “Euro-skeptic” group, due its opposition to EU agricultural subsidies and multinational corporations taking over the Polish market.
A relatively new organization, AgroUnia has not shied away from taking radical action to protest the government. Over the past few months, they have blocked roads by dumping cabbage and apples on highways, though the protest on Wednesday represents their most radical action yet.