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(en) Poland, Interview: Krzysztof Krol of the Polish Anarchist Federation by Pete Stidman Boston indymedia

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 23 Dec 2004 11:39:39 +0100 (CET)


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During a workshop on solidarity economics at the WoGan Decriminalizing
Resistance conference last weekend (November 12th-13th) I met K.
K., a member of the Anarchist Federation of Poland who resides at the
Rozbrat Collective in the Polish city of Poznan. Of the many participators
in that particular workshop only the two non-U.S. presenters seemed to have
practical solutions for working class people. While Americans talked of seed
exchanges, alternative currencies, and green investment schemes K. told of
his groups foray into radical labor organizing and a presenter from
Argentina's MST talked about a community center built by the community
itself geared around food production and education.

As the debate over the validity of alternative currencies roared on past the
workshop's scheduled time I pulled the labor-minded K. aside to get a
one-on-one interview.

Boston Indymedia: Could you describe what you are accomplishing with labor
organizing in Poland?

K. K.: I am from the Anarchist Federation of Poland (AF), this
group started in 1989. In every big city we have sections, ours is in
Poznan. It is a net of independent groups, autonomous, that exchange info
and also coordinate actions together. Most of the time we have two
all-Poland meetings a year and discuss our plans for the future. We started
the Workers Initiative (WI) with friends from my section; this is a group of
people from AF who are interested in workers topics and Anarcho-Syndicalism.
One month ago WI started an official workers union in Poznan it is 150
workers in this union from three factories in two places. There are also
members in other cities. I am not sure how many. These unions are made up of
disabled people.

BI: In how many cities is the AF involved in Labor organization?

KK: 5 sections, but AF has sections in 20 towns and cities.

BI: How much of the anarchist ideology is coming through in the organizing
itself? How is the Union structured?

KK: This idea of making a union started four years ago but at the start we
hadn't any base, and no contact with any workers. Our idea was to first get
some connections with workers and then after this maybe organize the union.
Now, in May, these workers proposed the idea of making a union to us. They
told us 'we don't want to be in any other union because they are not
democratic and that is not enough for us. We don't want to have a hierarchy
in our union.' They asked us to organize an anarcho-syndicalist union.

Our first quick step was to legalize the union. We did this using documents
from other unions with only a few changes. This made us an official union.
In a few weeks we will be meeting to really organize the structure, to do
this more downstairs without hierarchy. We will be basing this on
Anarcho-Syndicalist ideas on the examples of CNT of Spain and other examples
in labor history. We also see sometimes there are some bad things in old
ideas, some that are 100 years old. So we will not be strict in adhering to
these old models.

BI: One major part, following the historical goal of the CNT, would be
having the final goal of the union organizing be the creation of a worker
owned collective. Is that also the goal of your new organization?

KK: For us also, our longer vision is to use the union as a tool to organize
a free community. For sure our vision is taking the factory under control of
the workers. A second priority is organizing other things, other activities
around the union. Cultural activity. In Poland workers culture doesn't
exist. We had some worker culture after WWII but after this came communism
and everything became official. After the end of communism in 1989 no one
cared about the culture of workers. They proposed, just like the rest of the
world, television and consumption.

So we organize some cultural activities with workers, an exhibition of
photos, Football cups, some movie evenings with socially conscious movies,
sometimes we go to theatres because our friends own theatres and they like
to invite the workers for premieres.

BI: You were talking about workshops that you are doing in the workshop we
were in, do these involve more workers than just those in your union? And
did those come before the formation of the union?

KK: We have organized four conferences. The most recent was one week ago.
People come from all over Poland, there are workers, delegations from other
unions, members of anarchist groups and socialist groups and we also invite
Anarcho-Syndicalist unions from other parts of Europe. Last conference we
invited SAC from Sweden, CNG from Spain, and FAU from Germany. The
conferences make new connections and give new points of view to the people
who come. People also present the problems they have. We hold workshops on
practical things, like how to organize a good protest, how to write some
text to media, and other things.

BI: What was your first step in reaching out to the workers?

KK: First we had this group of people from AF. A few people were working,
some people were unemployed, some were students. We needed to make some
contact with workers. One friend proposed that we reach out to some workers
from a big factory that were in this more radical union called solidarity 80's,
a big union in Poland. It is made up of people from the Solidarity Union who
were fed up and split off to form Solidarity 80's.

We proposed to them some workshops. Our first proposal was "What you should
do after they kick you out from work, after unemployment." They told us they
didn't need this. So we took other steps, we printed flyers and gave these
flyers to workers at the factory gates, 6am when they go to work in the
morning.

When people from the solidarity 80's saw this flyer they thought this is
some good group, but it was us, the same people from before! Really they
didn't believe that we could do this thing.

BI: What were the flyers about?

KK: The flyers were about the economical situation and they layoffs that
were going on.

BI: Layoffs?

KK: Yeah, there was something about the local situation in the factory and
something about the global situation and how it was affecting Poland. "We
must react, you must react, we must react together." It worked very well.

After this it was very fast. We started organizing a few demonstrations and
thinking about strategy inside the factories. We started a paper inside the
factory. The title of this was "Initiative 80's" to connect Solidarity 80's
with Worker's Initiative. After this we started going to some factory
strikes. There were a lot of strikes in this time. For instance, one group
occupied the gates of one factory for 240 days. At another one at a shipyard
in the North of Poland a few thousand people would take to the streets every
day.

We went on the strikes during 2002 and 2003 and made some connections. These
people come to our conferences. One fabric factory on strike kicked out the
private management and started organizing a cooperative. We have very good
relations with this factory in Central Poland. Our last conference was in
this factory.

We also support people when they have cases in court. We give information on
how to do their defense. We have an open phone for workers. People can call
to us and ask about rules to workers law. There are very practical
situations that come up in a place of work, you must now how to play with
the boss because play with you he will. He won't explain to you how much is
possible. If you are stronger he stops scaring you.

BI: What are the other unions there in Poland?

KK: The biggest union is Solidarity with 750,000 workers. The second biggest
is the OPZZ with 720,000, a Communistic Union, more left wing than
solidarity, there is the All-Polish Federation of workers unions with
300,000, and then there are other little unions including specialized worker
unions, solidarity 80's and now WI. In Poland 14% of people who work are in
unions.

BI: Are all those authoritarian unions?

KK: Yes, this is the first Anarcho-Syndicalist union after WWII in Poland.
Five or six years ago a group of people in Warsaw started up a section of
the IWW but really it was a group of their friends and after a year or two
it was still just a group of their friends.

Other unions are very corrupt and hierarchical. A lot of high-ranking
members of Solidarity are in parliament, most of them also have connections
with big business. Sometimes they are the owners of smaller businesses, for
example if you are the boss of a big factory union, you may also own the
little sister of the factory that fixes all the electricity or cleans the
factory. This is normal in Poland.

Unions have a big influence on politics in our country but only tops of the
unions, not unions in the meaning of a social movement.

BI: You said that you live in a squat in Poznan called Rozbrat. Can you
describe it for people?

KK: It is a social center, people live in this place but also we have our
office, we have a library, we have anarchist archive, a place to publish
things, and this our place for the AF. I know the situation in the Czech
Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Poland. I haven't seen
anything as big. This is the biggest and the oldest squat in Poland. It is
ten years old. It is illegal, we pay for water and electricity but we don't
pay rent.

BI: What do you think is the best way for American Anarchists to connect
with what you are doing over there?

KK: Contact is good but this is normal and this is easy. It is not enough.
My idea is to have some practical cooperation. For example in San Francisco
I talked with AK press about publishing some stuff. Another example might be
to translate Indymedia movies into Polish and show them there. In Western
Europe other Anarcho-Syndicalist unions help Polish workers who come there
to understand their rights. There are thousands of possibilities to
cooperate. We must think about the future, to develop something, because now
what we are doing is not enough.

BI: Some of the Anarchist groups in America often have a sort of 'security
mentality' and seem to be scared of prosecution. They act as if the activism
they are doing is illegal. What do you make of the difference between groups
here and over there?

KK: Yes, I saw this a lot of times. It's because of the way our societies
are scared, so are anarchists scared because they are part of the society.
For sure there is some bigger influence of secret service in [the American]
movement than in Poland. For me, our power is that we are open and everyone
knows everything. I don't believe that radical people here [in America]
really do anything illegal. They aren't killing people. But at Anarchist
Black Cross from Jacksonville [Oregon] in every flier there are people with
guns, and I don't know for what. For me my view of Anarchism is a social
movement. Fights on the streets are OK, they are important for sure, but you
must build some structure, not only fight on the streets all the time.

People here they often talk to me only about fights. I have been in a lot of
fights here and there, big and little demonstrations. I know how it is and
most of the time it is the same.

If you are in black and you destroy some windows, for me, this is not
radicalism. The most radical thing is change of the people. Then hit the
streets, and then break some windows if you need to.

BI: Yeah, there's some confusion about the means to an end I think, people
might have the same vision of the end, but they can't envision the same
path. And then maybe they just get mad. And the press doesn't help us
either.

KK: In Poland we don't have really a big past of the movement. Really, most
of the people don't know what is this Anarchism. They see some information
on us and maybe it is some good information and they don't object that much.
Maybe they don't like this name Anarchism. They know that Anarchists from
Poznan help people from Chechen. We did a lot of protests against the war in
Chechnya, and they liked this. Most of the people in Poland don't like
Russia after the past. For example, occasionally driving down the street
some drunk will yell "ahhh 'free kafkas!' Anarchistas! I must go next time
on the demonstration!" Because they hate Russians you know? And they feel
that anarchism is good work.

Action is spectacular. But the work with unions is not spectacular. You must
go every day, sometimes very, very, very early in the morning. You must wake
up and you must go and you must talk with these people all the time and they
talk so many bullshits because they don't know everything. But you cannot
talk bad you must try and talk to them, try to explain something. I also
learn a lot from those people. But it's not easy and no one sees you doing
this.

When you see these people in the morning and you try to collect some money
because the next people might be fired with no work for two months and three
kids at home, no one sees this. Because this is not action, and this is not
spectacle. For me demonstrations are just like spectacle with the
situationalists. This is spectacle, this is play, this is only play. It's a
good symbol but if this is our target, to do spectacles, then I am out.

BI: That's a good note to end on. I can let you go eat lunch now.

KK: Thank you.

For more information in English about the Rozeblat collective and Worker's
Initiative you can follow the link below.

See also:
http://www.rozbrat.org


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