Friday 26 June 2009

Protest at the Iranian Embassy

ZSP took part in the international day in solidarity with repressed unionists in Iran. We made an exhibition about the unionists and displayed it outside the embassy.

Amnesty International also decided to hold a picket at the same time, although more generally against repression - not particularly about the unionists. From the left side there were also members of Workers' Democracy.

For more information about what is going on with unionists in Iran, see: Read more!

Press Conference on Housing Question

June 25, members of the Warsaw Tenants' Association and the Tenant's Defense Committee (in which some members of ZSP take part), held a joint press conference on the Housing question, recent events and planned policy of the City of Warsaw.

Much of the press are ostentatiously boycotting the issue. However we did manage to get some press and radio coverage and get interest for an investigative report.

Among the various points of the conference where the following posulates:

- that there should be civic control over public housing expenditure
- that more resources be allocated to public housing and the income levels be raised to qualify
- that people should be allowed to live in abandoned buildings

There were also many criticisms of various practices and policies. (Perhaps a report should follow.)

The activists stated that they will take more radical action in the near future and will take all measures possible to block evictions or to find vacant housing for those who were evicted. Read more!

Thursday 25 June 2009

Warsaw - Capital of Homelessness 2010

June 24 the Tenants' Defense Committee and the Warsaw Tenants' Association held a demonstration under the City Hall against the city's housing policy. The demo was a response to the city's continued attack on tenants which included a recent rent hike of 200-300% and taking the topic of the city's new housing policy of the agenda of the last city council meeting where members of the two organizations were to speak.

The amount of public housing available in the city is becoming smaller and smaller due to reprivatization of public housing and letting many houses fall into such a state of disrepair that they literally start falling down on the tenants. At the same time, the demand for public housing is growing. The ideologues of the ruling party believe that people should be able to find housing on the private market, but they seem oblivious to the fact that housing costs more than in many European cities and the overwhelming majority of people have neither the creditworthiness to buy a flat, nor enough money to rent one at the exorbitant rates charged by local landlords. As a result of property speculation and gentrification, many are driven out of the city and into the suburbs or nearby towns for lack of any affordable housing options.

At the same time, many politicians have been able to buy up property owned by the city, state or former state-owned enterprises at a fraction of their value.

The City is always trying to raise its prestige by blowing money on lavish events like European Congresses, Euro 2012 or whatever and is also trying to get elected to different titles such as the European City of Culture. The city is trying to gentrify the whole downtown and fill it with ritzy shops and cafes that few can afford and to convince the world that it is a rich city. But we say that Warsaw will probably become the European Capital of Homelessness by next years since evictions are bound to increase and people have nowhere to go.

We think that, in order to prove this point, there should be a homeless city set up outside City Hall. Unfortunately there have been violent thunderstorms in town, so we couldn't even stay one night this time - although at least a couple of symbolic housing structures were set up. We also agreed that the President of the City needs to get a certificate honouring the city as the Capital of Homelessness and we vowed to deliver it to her and make sure it is on the walls of City Hall.

Tomorrow is a press conference of the two organizations on the problem and what we are demanding. Demands of the organizations include stopping reprivatization as long as the city does not have housing available for all people who will be displaced and who are already waiting for housing, cancelling the rent increase and civic control over public housing expenditures.

Some photos are here:
Read more!

Saturday 20 June 2009

Bologna Process Information Events

Members of ZSP went leafleting at various events 19-20 June. June 19 was the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Bologna Declration. The leafleting event was meant to interest people in the Process and get exposed to an alternative point of view. Quite of number of people went to the anti-Bologna pages on the leaflets those days, so we believe that it was rather informative. Unfortunately there isn't much student activism in Warsaw but we did run into people who had read about the conference we did and knew about activities around Poland, so the word is getting out. Read more!

Friday 19 June 2009

Tenants' Protest at City Council

Members of the Tenants' Defense Committee and Warsaw Tenants' Association were to speak at the City Council meeting June 18. The city is about to adopt a new resolution on public housing and there is much to criticize in it as there are many points not beneficial for tenants. Last month tenants protested at the meeting and the Council had promised to deal with these questions during the next session.

Members of ZSP of course know that the promise of a politician means nothing and that the most important thing is creating grassroots movements. If these movements are strong enough, they can possibly win some reforms or concessions on the political level and, although we are generally critical of reformist politics, in the case of such real issues as whether people will be homeless of not, we can support making pressure on the politicians for such reform. But we have no illusions about what the politicians are capable of.

Tenants were not allowed to speak at the City Council this time; the point was taken off the agenda. The politicians had a convenient pretext: some other groups showed up to protest at the City Council and the place turned into something of a circus with a couple of hundred protestors trying to get in. They closed off the entrance to the meeting room, but many of the tenants were in the room. In the end, the Council decided that they would talk about the issue of real estate development in a city park - but not about the housing issue. The tenants were furious. There was about 15 minutes of yelling, protesting, etc.

Tenants decided on making more protests in the upcoming week at a response to this treatment. We proposed that a homeless city be set up in Warsaw in the near future. Read more!

Tuesday 16 June 2009

ZSP Statement on the Educational Strike in Germany and the Bologna Process

ZSP supports the Educational Strike in Germany taking place from June 15-19 and is planning an information action on June 19 on the 10th anniversary of the Signing of the Bologna Declaration. Our support for the struggle against the commercialization of education doesn't mean though that we support the preservation of educational institutions as they exist now.

The Educational Strike in Germany is ony one of many action against changes in the financing of education and other sectors. Protestors are against changes which put profit above people and which restrict access to education, making it even more limited to the already priveleged parts of society. Introducing commerical aspects to education adjusts it to the needs of capital, but not to the needs of students.

People are also protesting against the tendency of the state to reallocate public funds meant for a wide group of society. These changes will also have a negative effect on the working conditions of teachers, doctoral candidates, professors and other scholars and educational workers. Many of them may find themselves on the edge of precarious employment a some will lose their jobs.

We support the struggles of students and teachers who do not support systematic changes which would cause the gap between the rich and poor to increase. The growing barrier betwen them will increase the structural causes of poverty and declining living conditions of many working people, including educational workers.

Many of the changes introduced throughout Europe in the field of education are concentrated arond the vision drawn by the initiators of the Bologna Process. Although we are against the assumptions of this Process, we do not believe that the Process itself is the main cause of the problems. The deeper roots of the problem are connected with capitalism and the role of education as a tool to create elites and mould individuals in accordance with the values of the class society.

We do not agree with some of the social-democratic positions which are often stated by some opponents of the commercialization of education. Among these are that "education should be run by the state" or "the university must be maintained in its current form". As in many other fields of life, it could be that maintaining the current system is better than that future which the neoliberals have prepared for us. That doesn't mean however that we are in favour of supporting the status quo. The university already is a tool for creating elites, hierarchy and conformism. The poor's access to education is often fictional. Educational institutions are a tool of social indoctrination.

For us, education is rather a constant process than an institution. Education does not have to be connected to diplomas, careers and the needs of the labour market. Our vision is education open for all - but really for all, not just for a small group of people who can afford it and for fit into the conformist model of hierarchy and marks. The model of education we want is based above all on cooperation, on sharing knowledge according to libertarian principles.

We call on all proponents of libertarian education to take part in the protests and to use the occasion to open discussion on models of education which do beyond both the neoliberal and social-democratic framework.

Union of Syndicalists (Poland)
June 15, 2009
Read more!

Foucault Seminar

One of the members of ZSP Warsaw was a speaker at the so-called "Foucault Seminar" in Warsaw. The topic was tactics of resistance. The discussion was, as usual, quite interesting. Read more!

Sunday 14 June 2009

Tenants' Page

The tenants' struggle is continuing. You can check out the new web page (In Polish) Read more!

Monday 8 June 2009

Boycott Elections

As usual, we called for a boycott of elections. Leaflets were distributed in Kraków and Warsaw calling for the boycott and explaining the basic idea of anarchism. Stickers were also put up around the city. Many people were quite interested. However this year we didn't make any protest in front of polling stations due to other committments and the fact that we were quite sure that most people wouldn't be voting anyway. And we were right.

(On the banner: Our dreams don't fit in your ballot boxes.) Read more!

Sunday 7 June 2009

Education, Capitalism, Reproduction of Social Class and Student Protests

On June 6 a conference was held in Warsaw entitled "the Bologna Process: Adjusting Education to the Needs to Capital". The conference was quite a rare event in a country where, as participants in the conference noted, widespread commercialization of higher education went on without the social reaction which accompanied such changes in so many countries in Europe and around the world.

There were several reasons for including the theme of the Bologna Process in the title. The first is because many mass student protests around Europe crystalized around this theme since the commericalization of higher education, along with many other reforms being criticized by students, has gone hand in hand with the Bologna Process. The Process is also an integral part of the Lisbon Strategy. With both the Bologna Process and the Lisbon Strategy, the propagandists of the EU and local neoliberal politicians have been conducting an information campaign which presents both these strategies in an overtly positive light, focusing on only certain aspects of these strategies and presenting them with a slant meant to positively incline people towards them and to discourage people from looking deeper into what else these strategies actually entail. The world of the Lisbon Strategy is thus a world where "career breaks" are presented as wonderful opportunities to rest from a job and do something more exciting and rewarding instead of as structural employment. "Flexibilty" and "mobility" are presented as desirable attributes for the modern, well-adapted worker and student in an attempt to obfuscate the real nature of precarity. Thus the desire to more deeply examine what the ideology behind the Bologna Process really entails and to open up a space for critical discussion.

As it turned out, for those who made presentations or lead discussions at the event, all activists from the radical anarchist or radical libertarian communist movement or the libertarian left, points of opposition actually go much deeper than just the Bologna protest.

The first presentation, made by members of ZSP (Union of Syndicalists), analyzed the Bologna Process in a deeper context. Although the Declaration which lays at the foundation of the process does not implicitly include points such as the privatization of educational institutions, the larger ideological realm of the Process assumes wide-scale commericalization and every local implementation of the Process introduces more and more reform motivated by the logic of capitalism and the adjustment of education to the needs of capital and class society. Various points of the process and its implementation were analyzed, in particular the ideas of education management and "effectiveness" as determined by the needs of business, not by the needs of people in general. The needs of business and creating the labour market it most desires have come to replace the idea of the overall good of society; when speaking of society's needs, the ideologues of the system always mean the former.

Next there were presentations by two groups which have been active in universities, protesting, informing, inspiring student activists as well as activism on a broader scale: "Reclaim your Education" from Wroclaw* and OkUPE from Gdansk.

(* This group pointed out that they originally did not give a name to their group, but since they called their website "Reclaim your Education", everybody started callling them that.)

The Reclaim your Education group got together a few months ago and was clearly inspired by mass student protests in Europe. (Many of these protests and statements made by radical students were published on the anarchist portal CIA and were followed with great interest.) They noticed how there was a good level of class consciousness among radical students and in many cases good cooperation between labour and students. Something like this is totally lacking in Poland and the people from Reclaim your Education was eager to put this topic out for discussion and awareness raising in Wroclaw. They found that, besides a few radical students and educational workers, some other activists were eager to join forces, including people from the magazine "Recykling Idei", ZSP and squatters. Even somebody from the local labour party was supportive. The activists held a number of discussions and lectures in Wroclaw and also put up a few information tents, at the university and in the main square of the city. There they were able to talk with people and found a lot of public sympathy. For those more interested, you could get an old copy of "Recyling Idei" devoted to the question of education.

One activist of Reclaim your Education also described how you can introduce topics like paid education and the class divisions that it enhances or new ones it creates as a launching point for more discussion on class and capitalism in general. Participants in the conference also discussed the lack of awareness and passivity amongst students and how to approach people and encourage a radical departure for the dominant ideology.

The presentation by the group OKUPE was also very interesting. OKUPE is an acronym which means "Open Committee to Free Educational Space". This group has been very active on a number of issues related to democratizing and liberating the university and has done also a lot of happenings on topics specific to the Unversity of Gdansk. For example, when the university built a fence around it, the group did some protests, happenings and discussions on the idea of public space, noting, for example, that local residents who had previously used the campus space now were treated as intruders. (Especially since the campus installed security cameras everywhere.) OKUPE thus has been reacting to real situations and events on the campus and putting them into a larger social context. They have also been building up contacts, exchanging experience and coordinating with other radical activists around the world.

Next was a presentation by ZSP and the informal anti-Bologna group in Warsaw about how the Bologna Process is being implemented in different countries and how students are protesting, what challenges they face, what methods these use to organize and what effects they could get. Of particular interest were the radical student postulates and the plenum used in many places. People were also glad to hear about student protests organized just a day or two earlier by anarchists and libertarian comrades from Ukraine.

Finally was the radical philosophical part and discussion, kicked off by a talk made by our comrade from ZSP Szczecin provocatively entitled "Education - Opium of the Intellectuals". Then things started getting a little more radical and some rough arguments with the more leftist audience occurred.

Some of the points brought out were still comfortable for the audience, as they included analysis of the class reproductiion from a safe intellectual position, this safe position being always descriptive rather than prescriptive, and which included references to theorists respected in the intellectual world of the left (ie Bourdieu or Bauman). Of course more radical ideas then were unleashed, questioning instutionalized education in and of itself. In terms of theory, there were quite a few references to people such as Illich or Ferrer and Kropotkin and there was quite hard criticism of the division of labour and the idea that intellectual pursuits, citizenship, leisure and work are separate functions of life, permanently divided in functions and allocated to individuals who, as work, perform one function separately from others. The culture of meritocracy and efficiency was criticized as most often working against the interests of equality and the development of a larger portion of society to more well-rounded individuals, more able to engage in various aspects of social life, to explore and develop their human potential and to live in more harmonious relations with the people around them.

Beside this, there was also some critical reflection on the demands of some student protestors which were categorized as being essentially social democratic in nature. There was some discussion on how to go beyond such social democractic demands. People pointed out that too often some intellectuals approach the issue of the commercialization of education from the point of view that what was before was OK, that the values of the traditional university were a paragon of virtue in comparison to the values of commercialized education with must conform to market demand. The anarchists pointed out that the traditional university was full of hierarchy, class reproduction, bourgeois assumptions, the creation of elites and was not the utopia for intellectuals which some nostalgic intellectuals have painted it to be. It is not for us to try to conserve the value of the existing university, because the institution itself has little value to us.

Besides students and doctoral students, there were high-school students and a couple of professors/teachers at the conference, plus one presenter from ZSP who is none of the above (but just personally decided the system was crap and dropped out years ago and became a critic of institutionalized education).

The participants in the conference thought there were lots of interesting presentations and discussions and there are discussions about repeating the conference in at least the different hometowns of the participants in the fall. Everybody is hoping that such events will raise awareness and start discussions and that maybe the seeds for a future radical student movement will be laid. Some years ago in Poland something like this sprang up amongst high-school students, but it died down and when they went to do university, most of them completely stopped any student activity. Many students feel they exist in a vacuum and some who would otherwise be interested are probably discouraged by the general apathy they see around them. The participants in the conference are hoping to break this apathy.

It was pointed out that June 19 is the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Bologna Declartion and that students in Germany will be protesting and striking that week so it would be a good time to hit the streets and campuses in Poland with another information event.

More information about the initiatives involved in the conference can be found on the following web pages (in Polish):
http://zspwawa/ (English)
Read more!

Friday 5 June 2009

Education, Capitalism

Tomorrow is the conference "Bologna Process: Adjusting education to the needs of Capital" organized by ZSP in Warsaw. Besides the members of ZSP from Warsaw and Szczecin, other groups will take part in the conference such as the "Reclaim your Education Group" from Wroclaw, the "Open Commitee to Liberate Educational Space (OKUPE)" from Gdansk and the Initiative Against Paid Studies from Krakow. It will be biggest and maybe most important event about this topic so far in Poland. As yet, there isn't protest movement against commericalization of studies and only these groups have made some local actions to raise awareness about this subject.

Probably surpise for liberal students who will come will be radical discussion by led by Oskar from ZSP in Szczecin and ideas of speakers from ZSP Warsaw who claim that free education for small group of elites is not enough and criticize the system of education from anarchist position. Read more!

Demonstration in Krakow

On June 4 1989, Poland held elections which marked the end of the era of the People's Republic of Poland. Grand ceremonies were held in many cities. Prime Minister Donald Tusk had wanted to hold a large international event in Gdansk but was afraid of massive (and perhaps violent) demonstrations by shipvard workers who lost their job due to an EU decision. They had demonstration recently in Warsaw and there were violent clashes with the police. Tusk decided instead to hold the event, attended by many foreign heads of state, in Wawel Palace in Krakow. Anarchists went there to show him that he could run, but he can't hide.

Besides the anarchists, a group of tenants showed up. They have been protesting and organizing in Krakow for more than a year now. The night before, they had a picket at the Sheraton hotel where VIP guests were staying. They also picketed on the main square in Krakow before the demo.

Anarchists had slogans like "Without Us Their is No Democracy" and "Enough Compromises - the Class War Continues". They marched though the city to Wawel where there were some speeches. In newspapers given out, anarchists called for a boycott of elections and for direct democracy.

Some photos are on CIA, with links to other photos and videos:

(On our banner: Enough compromises! The Class War Continues. This is a clear reference to the history of 1989, when the leaders of "Solidarity", already devoid of their rank and file masses, sat down with the government at the Round Table and negotiated a pact which basically divided up power between elites. The idea of compromise also relates to the position of the unions compromise away workers' rights in "social partnership" instead of participating in class struggle. Read more!

Monday 1 June 2009

Starbucks Picket

An interesting Starbucks picket was planned yesterday as it was also the last day of one of the last legendary local cafes in Warsaw which was forced out by an incredibly high rent increase. A march was planned down the block from the cafe to Starbucks with a coffin to symbolize the death of the cafe. Unfortunately, a storm broke out.

ZSP has prepared information for the workers of AmRest restaurants (Pizza Hut, KFC, Starbucks and a couple of others) about basic workers rights, safety in fast food restaurants and unions. It has also translated some small films about the situation at Starbucks in the US which were on the Stop Starbucks site. Read more!