Hands off the Workers!
About 300 people gathered to protest at the Warsaw City Council against its anti-social policies and various attacks on workers being carried out by budget cuts.
The main group of protesters were public transport drivers. The city decided to take away some benefits that they get with members of their family, which transport workers won in 1932. The drivers have threatened to strike.
The city made massive budget cuts in public transport this year. This follows last year's hug increase in ticket prices... which they had argued, was supposed to pay to improve the transport. Following the fare increase, fewer riders pay since it is too expensive. The results are higher prices, but less money.
Other protesters came for a variety of reasons like to protest the increased fees for garbage removal or other recent decisions. There were too many people in the council room, so chairs were set up in the hall, where another 100 or so people could watch. ZSP set up an info table and was its distributing newspapers, bulletins and leaflets.
One of the main reasons for the presence of ZSP was a continuation of the protest against dismissals and worsening working conditions in Warsaw schools. In talks with the workers and other protesters, we called for joining struggles of workers, without union bureaucrats and politicians.
The City called in dozens of city guards prepared for a riot to police the protesters.
ZSP Criticizes Mainstream Unions
One criticism is that the two main unions are involved with competing political parties and act in ways to control workers. They even discourage cooperation with each other - not to mention with radicals like the ZSP. There are many reasons why all workers who are affected by budget cuts should join together and strike, but the mainstream unions try to keep the workers apart. Bureaucrats from one union tried to convince teachers not to go to protest today whereas ZSP proposed that teachers support the transport workers and vice versa. Other activities were arranged for those protesting education cuts, parallel to the protest, to keep the people separate and under the control of their leaders. ZSP calls on the rank and file workers to move without the mediation and supervision of their union bosses.
Referendum to Recall President
People from various political parties and associations are gathering signatures to recall the highly unpopular President of Warsaw. One small sign about how people feel about the President is that the Prosecutor decided to drop a case against our Comrade for supposedly threatening to kill her on Facebook. (He didn't actually do that, but when the state wants to repress, it doesn't care about the facts.) City Hall asked for this prosecution, but didn't get it. The news hit the media yesterday and today we received congratulations from all sorts of people, usually commenting that they wish the woman really was dead.
We know that recalling one politician is not enough. But in this case, where people feel so mistreated, and politicians think they can do anything, it is important to see this as some sort of popular revenge and action against the hard neoliberal politics in the city. People usually have problems getting any changes, so they are discouraged. Today many people in the city had a bit of hope.
But we can't mix up hope and illusions. We warned people about how this initiative is being used by political parties, which just want power for themselves. We criticized all parties, power and the political system of representation in general. We also criticized some of the participants in this campaign for coming on to and trying to take over social struggles much too late. We mentioned, for example, how they failed to support protests against the price increase in transport when we were protesting BEFORE the increases, but started protests a year and a half later, when they were already implemented. These are just some populistic manoeuvres to trick people into thinking they support things which they didn't really support and which they can't do anything about.
Despite our criticisms, we still call for the President's head to roll. (In the figurative sense - of course. :-) They may be denouncing us to the Prosecutor's Office again already!) Using this fighting mood among different people, we will be out on the streets this weekend agitating!
In the meanwhile, during the City Council session, we learned from journalists (who might soon be fired and outsourced from their station) that the President called a press conference elsewhere at the same time. As we later found out, yesterday she decided to set up some emergency office. By signing some papers yesterday, she set into motion some procedure to quickly set up a center to "run Warsaw in an emergency situation" at the Crisis Management Office (police). This office is something which the President can start up in case of an emergency, threat to national security, in case of war, etc.
The President did not offer any reasonable explanation for setting up the emergency management center. In a written document signed by her, it reads that the center is opened "as an element of managing national security, in the event of ensuring the continuity of decision-making, for keeping security and order".
As we understand from sources in the media, workers at the emergency management center were given various secret instructions. These are considered confidential - probably also matters of "national security".
Members of City Hall, when asked by the media, claimed that the President isn't afraid of the situation and that of course, none of this has to do with the political situation in the City.