Friday 27 May 2011

Protest at City Council against Raising Prices

On May 26, members of ZSP and the Tenants Defense Committee protested the city's plans to raise prices for public transport, rent in municipal housing, water and sewage. The council was interrupted for a while by the protest until we agreed that we would like to hear the criticisms of the proposals from the opposition. We were invited to present four people to officially speak at the council, one on each topic. We also wanted to hear the opinion of Solidarity since there was a big functionary and one union rep also present. But they were not invited to speak and, although we protested, their written opinion was not read aloud in the session, meaning that we were the only people from society allowed to publicly express our opinion officially. (!) This is because they know that they will hear our opinion anyway - through the microphone on the podium, or through the bullhorn - they will not shut us up. They did try though; many city guards were brought in, expecting our protest and these were new people (as we suspect the city was not happy with the failure of the old ones to stop us). When we interrupted the session and were making speeches on the bullhorn, they tried to stop us, but we refused and managed to stay.

The ZSP of course opposed these price rises, which disproportionately hit the working poor. After the city raised rents 200-300% two years ago, we became involved in the tenants movement, founding an organization with neighbours and we later called for a rent strike. Although this is carried out only on a small scale, it is a thorn in the side of the city administration and we promised that new rent increases will encourage more people to go on strike.

ZSP has also been involved in the issue of public transport. In Wroclaw, the comrades conducted a campaign for free public transportation, urging people not to pay. They were surprised when this campaign inspired a serious public debate on introducing free public transportation. Such an option has been introduced in some cities around the world but we were surprised that it was taken up by anybody in Poland, since it runs so counter to the turbo-liberalism of most Polish politicians. Here in Warsaw we also support this idea, however we have not had any public campaign in this respect. This also may change. The discussion on transport alone lasted more than 5 hours, mostly criticisms of the plans. In the end, the vampires from the ruling neo-liberal party, who are in the majority, adopted the raises, although they lowered the proposed prices on some types of tickets. The raises however reach up to 100% on some, which will make the price of public transport higher in Warsaw than in many European cities where people earn a lot more money. We argued to the city that, despite putting more and more controllers, this will cause many of the working poor to ride without a ticket, because they simply will not be able to afford this and that we would try to organize days without tickets where we would encourage people to act in solidarity against the controllers, which sometimes happens already, but much too rarely.