Monday 25 May 2009

Surprise at "Cafe Surprise"

20 years ago in a cafe named "Surprise" on Constitution Sq. in Warsaw the Solidarity Campaign Office was located. June 4 marks the 20th anniversary of the first "free" elections in Poland after the fall of the PRL and all around Poland, events are being held to commemorate this date. On Constitution Sq. in Warsaw, the city, together with some organizations, opened up a mock cafe "Surprise" with photographs from this period. They are also gathering material now for an anti-communist "Museum of Communism". Today was the opening celebration which was to be ceremonially opened by the President of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz. ---- Waltz, who is one of the leaders of the ultra-liberal Civic Platform and who is responsible for introducing rent hikes and speeding up reprivatization processes while doing nothing to improve the city's housing policies, has been called "Queen of the Slums" by the Tenants' Defense Committee. There have been a number of protests in front of City Hall, but the "Queen" does not want to meet with tenants. So tenants will have to follow her public appearances and meet her.

Members of the Tenants' Defense Committee and the Warsaw Tenants' Association went to protest at the event. Gronkiewicz-Waltz cancelled her appearance, afraid to be met by the protest.

Members of the tenants groups pointed out that in 1989, one of the postulates of Solidarity was to cut down the time people had to wait to get an apartment. The situation in housing has not improved since then and has only gotten worse, with buildings being sold with tenants, illegal evictions and forcing people to live in substandard and dangerous housing. Besides speaking about this situation, there were some reminders to the guests of the event, which included many prominent Solidarity activists, about what the values of the original Solidarity were and how much Poland has departed from them. People were told that social struggles are still alive, that they didn't go away with the fall of communism, as some would like to think, and they do not belong in a museum. (A reference to the attitude of some former activists.)

The demo being a surprise, it was not legalized and there were a few "discussions" with the police and a few of the museum activists who found protesting to be scandalous. Luckily, this attitude was only held by a few people, mainly former hippies, who still had long hair and proved to be the most uncool pricks going: probably they were only students or artists then, fighting for the right to get more rock concerts, not for the social rights of the workers. Some of the legends of Solidarity on the other hand came and spoke to the tenants.

Some anarchist and left activists from Union of Syndicalists and Left Alternative are active in the two tenants groups and take active part in these demonstrations.

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