Tuesday, April 03, 2012


Zwiazek Syndkalistow Polski (ZSP) is an anarcho-syndicalist union in Poland.  Me, I am on the other side of the divide.  As an autonomist Marxist I have many things in common with their outlook, but do not consider myself either an anarchist or a syndicalist.  That said, I am much closer to both then most "communists."  For example, neither anarcho-syndicalist or autonomist Marxist have much good to say about the whole vanguard party thing.  Both believe that it is the class which must be in the lead itself, not its well intentioned representatives.  

Anyway, I don't have time for some long introduction here...you will survive that, I know.

Below are two articles.  The first is from the ZSP blog site and recounts an action earlier this week.  The second is from the Aotarora Workers Solidarity Movement and is a surprisingly candid interview with a ZSP member about the group.

Demonstration against Privatization of School Cafeterias

Today we demonstrated against the privatization of  school cafeterias in Warsaw. Both parents and cooks participated in the demo. The cooks talked about how the catering companies offer jobs on trash contracts and in the areas where the jobs are done by outside service providers, there is an extremely high turnover. They suppose that the workers are used a short time on temp contracts and changed. One cook complained that she has been working over 30 years and now is at risk of losing her job. She is over 50 and noted that it is very hard for women like her to find other work. Parents complained on the other hand about increased costs and the increased likelihood that the private companies would try to save a lot of money by serving smaller portions, serving leftovers or using worse ingredients in the food.

Both groups complained that the city spends money on stadiums, fountains and bonuses for bureaucrats while cutting costs on education and the needs of children, passing on the expenses to working people.

We marched with the Educational Accord and Democratic Students Association and various other groups came to lend their support.

ZSP has also propagated the idea of the possible collectivization of these school kitchens, which normally employ 3-4 people and could be self-managed. Some parents and cooks like this idea and we will see if they decide to pursue it. We offered support if any workplace decides on this, with a view to not working as a capitalist business, but as a real collective.

Interview with the Polish ZSP

An AWSM member recently conducted an interview with the Zwiazek Syndykalistow Polski (ZSP), an anarchosyndicalist union based in Poland, about their activities and the class struggle in Poland.
The ZSP is an anarchosyndicalist union in Poland. Can you tell us a bit about it, when did it form and has there been similar organisations in Polish history? Where has it drawn inspiration from?
ZSP was formed in 2007 with a small group of people from a few cities and has been growing ever since. Before the war there was an anarchosyndicalist movement in Poland but it was smashed by the Nazis and then by the communists. ZSP was formed because of the need to have such a group in Poland now.
What is the membership like? Where in Poland does ZSP exist and does the group seem to be growing since forming?
There are different people. Recently more young people started joining as well. The two biggest groups are in Wroclaw and in Warsaw, but there are also groups in Szczecin and regional groups in Silesia, Mazovia and in Mazuria. Now some individual members are popping up and trying to form groups in new cities. There is also an education section which is spread around Poland.
Is there a high level of class consciousness in Poland and a strong working class movement?
Class consciousness? Not really. The irony of living in a post-communist country is that, since many people rebelled against the system, people developed a very strong pro-capitalist mindset.
The working class movement exists, although not as strong in some places. Union membership is comparatively high in Poland, but this has traditionally been in the budget sector and state-run or formerly state-run factories and in heavy industry. But high union concentration does not always mean that the workers are involved in any struggles. In some cases, the unions actually prevent the struggles from happening.

What are the main problems for workers in Poland and what is the current focus of the ZSP?
Poland is Europe B. This means that wages are quite low here and working conditions are bad. There is relatively high unemployment and people are expected to really overwork to make ends meet. Then there is the constant threat of losing one’s job or being replaced by somebody who will work cheaper. These are usually people from the countryside or foreigners but they can also be, for example, students.
Right now, ZSP would like to grow as an organisation but also to participate in some real workplace conflicts and get practical organising experience. So our focus is to reach out to working people in various ways: to inform them of their rights and struggles, to help when they have conflicts and encourage them to action.
Judging from the ZSP website, there appears to be a lot of activity, particularly picketing workplaces. Is the ZSP generally very active and is this having an effect?
In the two larger groups, yes. The level of activity is partially related to the size of the groups and the experience it has had.
I think anybody considering anarchosyndicalist activity and workplace organising has got to have a sober look at reality: it is possible to have an effective campaign, but not every campaign is, and some can be, but only after a long period of building and doing consistent work.
This means that, yes, we have had some victories and have helped in numerous concrete cases. The majority of our campaigns bring some results, even if not completely what we were demanding. On the other hand, there have been a few things which haven’t brought any result yet. But we look at the latter also positively because it is about trying, not giving in to the bosses, giving them a headache when they do something wrong, showing opposition and getting the word out about these problems. And that’s the thing: sometimes the effect is not that you win demands but that other workers hear about it and maybe realise their rights were violated or feel encouraged to fight also. And it is sometimes the case that the negative attention scares the business that are violating workers’ rights and they stop - at least for a while.
ZSP has an Educational Section currently holding weekly actions outside schools, can you tell us about that and how its going?
Now there is a break in the summer. Basically, this was to inform students and teachers about the processes involved with the commercialisation of education - something generally supported in Poland. One of the results is that education workers have become largely aware of how their rights and working conditions are changing and some have invited us to lecture on the topic at universities. In some cities, the most precarious workers, doctoral students working as lecturers, have organised or are organising themselves in networks - some are in ZSP. Students have not been too responsive though.
What is the Bologna Process?
It is a process which is implemented slightly different in different countries belonging to the Council of Europe. Basically, it lays our ideas and guidelines for making education a more commercially viable product and for getting education to serve the needs of the capitalist labour market.
Does the ZSP face the problem of police repression or attacks from fascist or others? How is this dealt with?
Rather no. Although of course from time to time some of our members are arrested at something.
The worst things fascists do is spam our webpages.
Many Polish workers have moved to neighbouring countries in western Europe in recent times in search for better wages. After the financial crisis, it has become harder to secure work abroad. Has this changed the situation for workers in Poland and what is the result?
Good question. Some Polish workers moved to different countries which before were less attractive. Others have come back to Poland and, in some areas and jobs, this has depressed wages.
Do you see the class composition and society in Poland as fertile ground for anti-capitalist revolutionary struggle?
The mentality of people is currently quite conservative and right-wing. The class composition is not the only thing that determines whether the ground is fertile.
What are some of the long-term political and organisational goals envisioned by ZSP and its members?
As mentioned before, one of the first priorities is to expand our organisation so that it can function in more places and simply do more. The size of the organisation in part will determine our goals. We concentrate now mostly on short-term goals and of course, we never know what conflicts will appear on our door. But if we’d say anything about the long-term, of course we would like to be an organisation which can fight abuse in the workplaces and which would encourage people to self-organise in a truly grassroots manner.
Like most people of our tendency, of course we would like to overthrow the capitalist system, etc. etc.; we will never give up this dream, but for now, in order to go forward, we like to concentrate on building up in areas where we and the working class in general are weak.


Czary kapturek said...

Thanks for the article. I've become aware of ZSP through being part of the anti-fascist protest in Katowice last week, as well as Manifa here in Wrocław. A lot of work is needed in Poland, as to add to the traditional prejudice against the left-wing and/or anarchists, we have the hangover of the communist state years. That ZSP managed to work with cooks is a very positive sign.

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