A planned trip to Poland by the leader of the French fascist Front National (FN), Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been called off.

For years, Le Pen has been the role model for leaders of the Polish extreme-right and it has been a dream of every would-be führer of the radical nationalist camp to host a prestigious visit by him to the Polish parliament. In May 2001, the dream was almost fulfilled, but internationally coordinated anti-fascist protests and the fear of trouble during his planned visit scuppered the trip.

The invitation to the French fascist leader came from the newly formed right-wing nationalist Alternative Social Movement which consists of several MPs who split from the ruling AWS (Electoral Action Solidarity) alliance. The new grouping (which also uses the label Ojczyzna - Fatherland) is led by Michal Januszewski. His right-hand man is Tomasz Karwowski, also a member of parliament.

The two men went to France on 25-29 January 2001 and met with members of the anti-European Union de Villiers party as well as with FN members. Impressed at what they saw, they declared their willingness to join Euronat, the FN's fascist international setup, and enthusiastically invited Le Pen to come Poland in April.

Then, it all started to go pear-shaped, the visit being first postponed till May and then cancelled thanks to effective counter-action by the international anti-fascist movement. Representatives of human rights and anti-racist organisations from thirteen European countries mobilised by the Polish anti-fascist "Never Again" Association, published a joint protest at Len Pen's visit to the Polish parliament.

"No respectable democratic political groups can cooperate with Le Pen's racist and xenophobic party," said the statement issued by the thirteen organisations. The joint declaration also recalled how Le Pen lost his seat in the European Parliament after being convicted of punching a female rival candidate during his 1997 election campaign.

The international protest made headlines and when it became was clear that further anti-fascist protests would follow Le Pen±s arrival, the trip was shelved The Polish far-right leaders, finding themselves placed in an unexpectedly embarrassing situation by the national media, threw the towel in.

To put a brave face on their defeat, they then attempted to play down the French connection. Nevertheless, Le Pen's deputy Bruno Gollnisch still arrived in Warsaw for "political talks" but his visit was kept exceptionally low-key and it is now more than likely that, after this humiliation, Le Pen himself is no longer keen to visit Poland.