Friday 18 December 2009

Attempt to Block City Budget

An attempt to block voting on the City Budget until the city agreed to reassign 100 million zloties to pay for repairs to public housing, which was promised last year, failed. Security was too tight and there were too few people. A couple of members of ZSP and KOL made the awful mistake of chasing after one politician who was avoiding us and wound up in a different wing of the building were we were prevented from leaving and returning to the council. Only a couple of people were left in the council and, although the process was heckled and disturbed, it could not be blocked.

The politicians had intense pressure to correct the situation. (We exposed how they attempted to reallocate money earmarked for housing purposes to politician's salaries.) So they tried to both save face - and not give in to us at the same time. (They tried to take the stand like "we don't negotiate with terrorists" and avoid seeming that they give in to our demands.) Half of what we were demanding was reassigned and left politicians, who gave bullshit speeches about how they care about social issues, tried to make special references to the Praga neighbourhood where KOL was born. (It's activity has long spread out of the neighbourhood though.) In particular, they also know that one of the founders of KOL is a unionist from the local hospital which is fighting for public funds and, to our great surprise - because hospitals are being merged, have their subsidies cut, etc. - the city decided to make a rather large investment in this hospital. ZSP has contact with unionists from the hospital and has condemned the situation there. So they try to put us in a situation where we should be grateful for this, and suggest to the media and create public opinion that we are too "demanding".

Still investments in public housing are going to be far from satisfactory.

They have other tricks as well to manipulate the public opinion. The city agreed to make more investments and added 2 billion zloties to spending plans. But to cover this, they will try to take a loan from the World Bank and have decided to emit obligations. They wanted to take this loan from the World Bank and we criticized this. There were also politicians who agreed. So they found a great pretext to take this loan: they need to make investments for social programs. And we shouldn't criticize it, since this money will go on social needs! But this is a complete manipulation because there was enough money in the budget - only the bureaucrats started reallocating it for bullshit and then they had the nerve to pretend that, out of the goodness of their heart they allocated this "extra" money.

Journalists who create the public opinion with the way they present news, already know that the politicians lied to them many times this year. Despite this, many of them did not understand that the politicians did not increase the budget for social needs - except in the case of the hospital, where they really put in money that nobody anticipated. The budget is extremely complicated to understand and is actually composed of 18 borough budgets, each one about 200 pages long. Almost nobody has read the budget in its entirety. It is decided by votes of approval in committees and from the boroughs. For example, each borough has an education budget, so there is an education committee which reads only the education budget and approves or ammends it. For this reason we understand that even the people like journalists who were outraged by our revelations about the housing budget, are not able to come quickly to any conclusions and the overall impact of these decisions.

It is not that we are so interested in the co-management of the budget, but in practice we prefer that the city give money to the hospital than to ridiculous investments which only benefit yuppies. And this is what happened to a certain extent because the program which the city actually cut funding to was the "promotion of the city" campaign, which largely included funding to make the Praga neighbourhood more attractive for artists and yuppies as part of its gentrification program. If they weren't 100% convinced earlier, certainly the crowd of Praga residents who wanted to lynch the local borough president for wasting public money on a rubber statue meant to promote the neighbourhood struck some fear into them. The borough president, who ran away from the residents the night before, also quickly exited the city council hall after entering and seeing members of KOL. Unfortunately, some people, including myself, could not resist the temptation to go after the guy, which was a huge mistake in terms of the protest. But it provided some action and tension at the meeting.

We are trying to encourage people to be interested in and to understand how politicians waste our money as a way to undermine them in public opinion. This is only a small step in fact in the long-term project of presenting ideas about the anarchistic self-management of society. We need to promote the idea that people themselves can manage their own needs better than politicians. The current situation, where people pay taxes and then have no real idea where this money is going, is no good. Most working class people know that they are being fucked, but they don't know many details and rarely articulate concrete demands in terms of public spending.

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