Wednesday 29 September 2010

Critical of Warsaw Union Farce

ZSP took part in the labour demonstration held by the mainstream unions in Warsaw on September 29. In the last days, it published critical statements of the farce and gave an interview on TV criticizing the mainstream unions. It called on some small unions and independent workers to attend and form a radical blok.

Unfortunately, people expected called that they would not attend at the last minute. For some it was due to bad weather but we also heard that in at least one case, local union bureaucrats said that only Solidarity or OPZZ members were invited and could march in the bloks. (ZSP was actually invited to officially attend, but did not answer the invitation. In the end, it was the only independent union (of well over 5000 in Poland) to attend this demo.) The radical blok was thus modest but miners and ZSP joined up later. Some of these miners were ones who ignored the union leadership in 2005 and rioted with anarchists in front of the Sejm, eventually forcing the politicians not to make drastic changes to their pensions. The miners wanted again today to escalate the protest but at every step we were foiled by the union bureaucrats.
The demo was guarded by 400-500 police, mostly protecting the office of the Council of Ministers. Firecrackers and other objects started to fly in the direction of the Office. The union leaders and "protest police" were screaming the whole time that workers mustn't throw things at police officers "who are our fellow workers who just last week were protesting themselves". Nevertheless, when we went by the office with the miners, it sounded like a war zone, smoke rising in the air.

Next, one would expect that things would start burning, the radical workers would take their sticks and some clashes would start. There were very few radicals ones on this protest - only a few miners and shipyard workers from Gdynia. Solidarity seemed to have decided not to bus in those types of workers and instead there were large groups which we have never seen before, like from the Social Security Office or foresters. Furthermore, we later learned that people were not allowed to bring certain protest material - like tires which shipyard workers usually burn in the streets. It seems that the bureaucrats were intent on holding the calmest protest in Europe.

Still, the miners were looking to have some clashes only the demo was not stationary and we had to move past the office. So, since it was early in the demo, we figured we would go around, circle back and then there would be the clashes. Only by time we turned to circle around, the demo was already over. The bureaucrats quickly closed the event and started coralling the workers to get back into buses - only about an hour or less into the demo. One can only assume that they did this on purpose and once the official organizers told this to the police, they started to push the workers towards the buses in order to open the street again. Some people wanted to go to the Presidential Palace, but the union leaders were yelling that the buses had to leave and they wouldn't wait for people to get on them. Most of the workers were disoriented and nothing else happened.

Thus we witnessed, literally, the worst large union demonstration in the capital in many, many years.  People travelled for hours to get to Warsaw, only to march past the office of the Council of Ministers once, for less than an hour and listen to a few uninspiring speeches. The farce was a complete low point for the unions.

About 10,000 attended, almost all from out of Warsaw. There were luckily more rank and file workers than we had expected and some number of unemployed.  The ZSP leaflets went  in minutes and  many workers expressed support for the call to strike and dissatisfaction with the union leadership. Despite the crap demo, we tried to make contacts with new people and hope some will visit our internet sites or read our publications.

In the meanwhile, some of our comrades were in Brussels at the union demo. Our comrade called and told about how the delegates from Solidarity there were asking the police to get rid of our comrades, who had joined in a black bloc. In the end, many of the people who the comrades were marching with were arrested. We still have no news of their release.