Friday 20 March 2009

Practical Approach to the Crisis: An Appeal to Share Information and a Presentation of Activities of Priama akcia – IWA/AIT Slovakia

In November 2008 Priama akcia started to monitor the effects of the financial crisis on Slovakia. We hope our activities will inspire others to do similar things in their countries. We started with our first activities in November 2008 and the second phase was launched in February 2009. In addition to leaflets, posters and a questionnaire, we have also set up an online discussion forum which is unique because of its working class perspective, and created an interactive online map which illustrates how many people were or are planned to be made redundant since October 2008 (also where and by what firm). We have also written or translated articles linked to the crisis and posted them on our website (e.g. about temporary agency workers, direct actions, and more).

We would like to appeal to all the IWA-AIT Sections and Friends to share and spread the information about:
* the actions of the workers against the consequences of the crisis
* their activities concerning the crisis
* spheres hit most by the crisis in your country (regionally as well as industrially)

PRIAMA AKCIA’s “We don’t intend to be the ones who will pay for the crisis!” ACTIVITIES

1st phase (November 2008 – January 2009)

In the last couple of months we have seen more and more feverish attempts of state governments and international organizations to “solve” the financial crisis. Several quite important meetings took place in USA, EU, and on the national level. Bail-out packages, stronger regulation, and other measures have been proposed in order to save capitalism.

And what has the anarchist response to the crisis been so far? As for Priama akcia, we have come with the aim to use the crisis to build and maintain a network of contacts, through which we can exchange information and experiences about the consequences of the crisis (such as people being made redundant or workers’ struggles). This network could also constitute a basis for future meetings, discussions, and concrete solidarity actions.

In November 2008 Priama akcia prepared:
* Leaflets (an excerpt of the leaflet is translated below), which we spread mostly in trains as travelling is also a good opportunity to read.
* Posters, which we place mostly around bus and train stations and plan to use also around factories hit by crisis.
* Questionnaire, which is part of the initiative of FAU (German section of IWA/AIT) and German Wildcat collective. It is currently placed online at our website (in Slovak). We can translate to English on demand. The questions are aimed at understanding the effects of the crisis in regions, workplaces, etc.

We have also asked people to post these information wherever possible (websites, forums, blogs, profiles, MySpace, hi5, Facebook, etc.).

2nd phase (since February 2009)

The key idea in the second phase is the participation of all the people we could reach. We have suggested a number of activities in which they could take part.

At this point, social networks are the most important thing that we have and can actively use. Family, friends, acquaintances, people we meet from time to time, people from different regions – they can all help or at least pass the information further via their social networks. It is vital to spread the information to everyone we know. This way we can get information from all over the country and maybe other countries as well.

There are several ways to reach the aims put forward in November 2008 (see above):

1) Contacting people who were made redundant or those threatened to lose their job
The idea is to form and maintain local contacts with these people. There are several means to achieve this, mainly spreading the information using social networks. This way we can get information about their situation, asking them to fill in our questionnaire, or other possibilities listed below.

We also wrote about best ways to approach people who we don’t know very well (how to begin, what to ask, how to explain why we are trying to get the information, etc.).

The purpose of collecting and connecting workers experiences is not “theoretical” but practical. At the same time we are able to find out how the employers and unions respond to the crisis (How do they act towards employers? What do they say to justify job losses? Who is being made redundant first? What do they offer? Are they doing anything to prevent the consequences of the crisis? What do they tell the workers? How are the workers treated and how do they respond to it? etc.).

2) Filling in the questionnaire (initiative of Wildcat and FAU, see above)
Since November we have received several dozens of questionnaires and we are waiting for more to come. We have also prepared a text version of the questionnaire, which can be printed out and given to people without Internet access, and sent to us by post or e-mail.

3) A map depicting all the areas where people were made redundant
After several weeks of processing the information from mass media about people being made redundant in Slovakia we have come up with an online map at which is to be updated regularly. More than 15 000 people (0.57% of around 2.65 mil. working population) have lost their jobs since October 2008, and this number is expected to grow. People can help us updating the map by sending their information. The map is not 100% accurate because the media do not cover all the job cuts (e.g. agency/external workers are rarely mentioned) and there are job losses that occur without a direct link to the crisis. The map can also be used to promote our activities (it can be placed on web-sites, used as a signature on various online forums, etc.).

4) An online discussion forum about the crisis
We have created a web forum, which aims at provoking discussions about the situation in the workplaces, situation of those who were made redundant, and possibilities to help each other and solve the problems in a way that will benefit the workers. Theoretical discussions about the causes of the crisis, deeper political and economic context, and the consequences for the workers are also welcome. The forum can also serve as an archive of information (articles from mass media, etc.).

5) Spreading the information about our activities via posters, web forums, banners, MySpace/Facebook profiles, etc.
It is vital to use as many information channels as possible, mainly alternative media and social networks that we have. We have updated the poster (which can be placed in the surrounding area of a company that plans or has made some workers redundant or close to crowded places, such as bus and train stations, etc.) and are currently working on a new leaflet/bulletin. We have also prepared a couple of online banners (promoting the questionnaire and the forum). They can be placed on a website, used as a signature, added to a MySpace/Facebook profile, etc. The same goes for the map.

6) Asking for help with translations of foreign articles and interviews
There have been strikes and other activities against the consequences of the crisis in the world. They represent experiences of workers, and can be an inspiration the current situation. There are some valuable articles waiting to be translated, and people can help also with that.

7) Instant messaging
Instant messaging is a quick and effective form of communication. Therefore we have created not only an e-mail account, but also an ICQ and jabber account and a Facebook profile.

2008 LEAFLET (excerpt)
Our main aims in the situation of crisis is creating a network of contacts, which could lead to:

• Exchange of information about the consequences of the crisis
• Exchange of experiences from conflicts in workplaces or elsewhere
• Future meetings, discussions and solidarity actions

Certainly this is just one of the possibilities. However, it is vital to start relying on ourselves.

Let’s mind our own “business”
No one promised us anything in this crisis. No one will give us a generous compensation if we lose our job. We will get only what we fight for. On the other hand, the banks and businessmen are being saved by the state.

Some of us will turn to the unions for help, others will rely on the solutions proposed by the politicians, yet others just accept grudgingly whatever comes and think that there is little we can do about it. However, some might start solving their problems (not only) in the workplace together with their colleagues.

Politicians, bosses and bankers mind only their own business. And that is what we should be doing as well, minding our own “business”. Our problems will not just disappear, no matter how, when or even if the system is saved. They will remain here, provoking our discontent and the effort to solve them ourselves.

That is why we have to be informed about each other’s situation, maintain contacts and help each other. We hope that this crisis will be a huge incentive to do that. No one else will solve the problems according to our needs and interests. Only we ourselves.

English section of Priama akcia website:
E-mail: info(at)priamaakcia(dot)sk

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