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(en) Boston IMC: Interview with Polish Federacja Anarchistyczna

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(Class Against Class smash_rich_bastards-A-yahoo.com)
Date Fri, 19 Nov 2004 16:22:02 +0100 (CET)


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Interview: Krzysztof Krol of the Polish Anarchist Federation by Pete Stidman
During a workshop on solidarity economics at the WoGan
Decriminalizing Resistance conference last weekend
(November 12th-13th, Worcester, MA) I met Krzysztof
Krol, 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
Krol told of his groups foray into radical labor
organizing and a presenter from Argentinaís 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 workshopís scheduled
time I pulled the labor-minded Krzysztof aside to get
a one-on-one interview.

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

Krzysztof Krol: 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 hadnít 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 Ďwe donít want to be in any other union because
they are not democratic and that is not enough for us.
We donít want to have a hierarchy in our union.í 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 doesnít 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 80ís, 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
80ís.

We proposed to them some workshops. Our first proposal
was ďWhat you should do after they kick you out from
work, after unemployment.Ē They told us they didnít
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 80ís saw this flyer
they thought this is some good group, but it was us,
the same people from before! Really they didnít
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. ďWe
must react, you must react, we must react together.Ē
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 ďInitiative 80ísĒ to connect
Solidarity 80ís with Workerís 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 wonít 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 80ís
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 havenít 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 donít 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 Ďsecurity mentalityí 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. Itís 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 donít believe that radical people here
[in America] really do anything illegal. They arenít
killing people. But at Anarchist Black Cross from
Jacksonville [Oregon] in every flier there are people
with guns, and I donít 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, thereís some confusion about the means to an
end I think, people might have the same vision of the
end, but they canít envision the same path. And then
maybe they just get mad. And the press doesnít help us
either.

KK: In Poland we donít have really a big past of the
movement. Really, most of the people donít know what
is this Anarchism. They see some information on us and
maybe it is some good information and they donít
object that much. Maybe they donít 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 donít like Russia after the past. For
example, occasionally driving down the street some
drunk will yell ďahhh Ďfree kafkas!í Anarchistas! I
must go next time on the demonstration!Ē 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
donít 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 itís 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. Itís a
good symbol but if this is our target, to do
spectacles, then I am out.

BI: Thatís 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 Workerís Initiative:
http://www.rozbrat.org


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