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(en) Poland, article for brand - An Anarchist View from Poland: Priorities, Projects and Problems

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 1 Apr 2005 10:24:40 +0200 (CEST)

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The anarchist movement in Poland has many faces and therefore there may be
many perspectives on what needs to be done and how best to achieve it.
Sometimes these ideas are rather divergent and ocassionally even
incompatible. It is growing ever more difficult to talk in terms of
"anarchism in Poland" without getting into gross oversimplifications or
generalizations which may not be true of all tendencies in the anarchist
movement. Further, my point of view and increasingly that of our group has
seemed to grow divergent from the path of much of the anarchist movement
so let the reader be aware that this "anarchist view from Poland" may be
untypical of the average anarchist approach.
Like most anarchists, we have long and short-term priorities and we
realise which things may be attainable or not in the near future.
Some of our priorities are the result of existing problems and vacuums in
society and in the anarchist and radical movements. In Poland, there is
not a very good traditional of grassroots activism in many areas of social
(There are some exceptions such as citizen's environmental projects and
some areas of education.) Due to this lack of activism, people often find
ourselves at a loss when they would need to organize, for example, an
anti-eviction campaign or a community-based long-term project or direct
action. Where there is a lack of activism, anarchists may play an
important part in trying to encourage it and offering help, for example with meeting
spaces, campaigning know-how, etc.. (Where there already is activism, the
situation is worse because there are sometimes corrupt NGOs which prefer
to pretend to organize and pay themselves salaries than seeing people
organize themselves.) Thus many anarchists find it a priority to integrate
themselves with the people in their neighbours and, if there is an anarchist space, a
squat, social center, etc., to use it sometimes for helping to enpower
people around them.
Our group currently would not like to play the role of "organizing the
community", but to help encourage and facilitate people's efforts to
organize themselves, which is a big difference. We would not like to
repeat the mistakes of some groups by acting in this role of leadership because,
ultimately it just creates a small group of adherents who do not really
organize themselves but look for leadership. For us, it is an absolute
priority to break out of this activist models as in Poland many groups
tend to revolve around one or a couple of "activists" who act as center and who
"create" movements around them which ultimately break down when they
either burn out or when they take their role of leader too seriously and piss
people off.
A priority for us thus becomes trying to implement not only anarchist
ideals of direct democracy but to help facilitate participation for people who
find it traditionally difficult to integrate into the movement or to
in it fully. This means creating a space where people from outside of
subcultures do not feel alienated or like they do not fit into a clique.
This means trying to avoid concentrating on the types of activities that
are more appealing to men and creating an atmosphere where women to not feel
intimidated by macho authoritarian male posturing. This means trying to
listen to people and encouraging them speak and participate without
feeling like they are not "expert enough". This means not creating an atmosphere
of leaders and followers but friends, comrades and neighbours on equal
One of our big priorities thus is trying to activate portions of society
that anarchist traditionally fail to appeal to.
Another priority for us is to increase the level of discussion in the
movement and the knowledge of issues, theories and practice. To this end,
we are greatly interested in publishing, in discussion, seminars, meetings
and the like.
Of course the ultimate priority is to discredit the myths of capitalism,
statism, religion and other hierarchical and exploitative mindsets in our
society and offer ideas for alternatives.
The topic of priorities leads into our projects. We opened an infoshop
almost 4 years ago in Warsaw and currently we are moving into bigger and
better premises. This is because we would like to have more space to
invite local people to meet with us, eat dinners, watch films and we would like
the space to be used for community activism and for selling the organic
produce, homemade wines and other goodies that people from our collective make.
We need more things to sell in terms of anarchist literature. We have a few
publications, some sporadical, some more regular such as "Podaj Dalej" (Pass
it On), "Pani na Ulicy" (Women to the Streets) or No Borders bulletin.
Women to the Streets in the only publication in Poland aimed at women workers.
It has a anarchist point of view but also some more general advice and
articles. Currently we are planning on expanding it and making a large
national campaign to distribute it. We plan to also start a neighbour
radical paper.
People in our group are working on lots of different projects, ranging from
ecological practices and campaigns to internet campaigns, from tenants
groups to anti-religious activism, from campaigns to support local markets
and peddlars to collecting material help for refugees. This year we have
several things planned, but probably the main one will be getting the
Infoshop running and playing a role in community activism. Some of us have
a long-term goal of doing more organizing amongst women and precarious workers
and we will be targeting certain firms such as Avon where not only was there
an interesting recent labour dispute with contract workers but which also
is located across the street from the new Infoshop. Our group has some
precarious workers and if we manage to attract a few more we will have done
something totally unique in Poland. Further, we want to help disseminate
information about bad employers and run some image pollution campaigns. We
have already run a few campaigns highlighting the working conditions at
several places and we would like to continue doing this and eventually
reach more people with the message that they shouldn't be silent about the
exploitation they are suffering.
Another project that some people are working on involves helping orphans and
children from bad families. Some people from our group are involved in this
type of social work with youth and would like to open a social center in
the country for youth where they can live and interact in a healthier, more
libertarian atmosphere.
Finally, we are very interested in alternative economics, cooperatives and
alternatives to wage labour. For this reason, we want to encourage people
to help each other so that the precariously employeed people can make some
small self-run production or cooperative business as a means of escaping
wage slavery. This is especially important as we don't want to support
certain things like GM foods but would rather see some friends produce and
be able to sell organic foods they produce, etc. etc. Also, besides the
normal exploitation, some of our members experience age discrimination where
the capitalist system does not want anybody to start a job who is too close
to pension age so being able to support themselves is a priority we'd like
them to be able to achieve. Our idea is that we can help each other in
different areas of cooperation plus promote more socially-responsible
Besides these long term goals, we want to participate in some upcoming
one-off projects like the Anarchy Bus idea which will be moving through
Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia in the late summer
and early fall.
Some of the problems we face were mentioned or touched upon above. These
include both problems in the society and in the anarchist movement.
In terms of societal problems, one great one is that people are poor and
there is high unemployment. And many people work twice as hard as they
should, especially as employers expect people to do more to keep their
This means that some people have little time for activism. In addition, the
conservative society focused on the nuclear family model and, besides many
people having children at a relatively young age, life outside the home is
neither supported by social models nor the norm for many people with
children. Many activists fell into this category and disappeared totally
into the home as they had children and families and this is partly the fault
of social norms, partly their own mentality and partly the fault of the
anarchist movement not to create groups which can accomodate these
peoples' needs.
The general fear of society and conservative mood causes us some problems in
the public's perception of what we do and willingness to engage. We suppose
anarchists in many countries know this feeling. The biggest problem is a
sort of social apathy which is partly the heritage of the communist system
and a lack of grassroots traditions.
One of the biggest problems we have thus is common to activists around the
globe: how to attack the system which seems so all-encompassing and
untouchable? How can we help people feel enpowered to create change and
what's the best way to work towards creating anarchist groups, networks
and societies?
Besides societal problems, we face many problems which are also known around
the world to a greater or lesser extent. For example, how to motivate people
and help anarchists stay motivated over a long term.
It seems that many people in the movement now have fixated on images
large-scale, media-oriented events and have been caught in the spectacle and
no longer understand that the most important thing is not creating a media
event. Many anarchists in Poland echo the complexes in the society at large
in comparing themselves to the outside and feeling that "nothing good is
possible" in this country. Polish anarchist squats are flourishing in some
parts of Western Europe while they can hardly exist in some parts of Poland
due to either the inability to get over this psychological barrier or to
accomplish what seems like a tougher task.
The key is that we have to work on implementing our ideas in the here and
now as far as possible. Unfortunately, this is where we part company with
some other anarchists as some people prefer to "externalize the
They always see the problem as systemic, something external to themselves.
While the fact is that the problems we have are systemic, we also know that
sometimes these ideas are used to avoid people making concrete changes in
their own lives: they are always organizing others, waiting for the
revolution but ultimately not willing to ascribe to the idea that the
personal is political.
In some groups, the model of authoritarian figures is prominent and at times
there is great abuse of collective process, of collective property, etc..
It is pehaps the worse problem as the people who say something about this are
usually mobbed, yelled at, etc. and the movement in general turns a blind
eye to it collectively; everybody knows about it in private but nobody wants
to do anything about it. Or sexism. Or Ageism. Mostly the people with the
big mouths and authority continue to deny any of it exists so there is a
lot of work to do on this front.
Finally, the problems of differing strategy, in the context where authority
and leadership exists means that some people who consider themselves
leaders in some group or strategy make a type of competition which sometimes
manifests itself in a counter-productive way. Right in the middle of this
mess come opportunistic communist and left sects and even international
groups looking to lend solidarity but in reality becoming the butress of
some people's leadership games.
These problems inside the movement seem even more pressing than those
outside because we see the need to work on ourselves first and manage to
create a revolution in social relationships amongst ourselves; we need to
do this before we talk to the world about making a non-hierarchical society
or implementing direct democracy, self-management, etc..
Laure Akai

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