Jeśli rewolucja socjalna nie zniesie państwa nazajutrz po swym zwycięstwie, zwycięstwo to okaże się płonne, a wyzwolenie mas równie odległe jak i poprzednio.
Michał Bakunin

Workers' Initiative

rozbrat.org

Not without a reason, the birth of modern anarchist movement in Poland is said to be on 1st May 1983, when the group of the Movement for the Alternative Society took an active part in turbulent workers demonstrations. From the moment of appearing, after an almost 40-year break caused by the repression of communist regime, the anarchist was always connected with the workers' movement, on the one hand, and on the other and with counter-culture, that was heading to anti-militarism and ecology. At the turn of the 1980's and the 1990's, it caused an engagement of anarchists in movement of building trade unions, on the basis of objectors (in 1988 the regime, under pressure of protests, introduced the law of substitute national service). In that turbulent period of time (1989-1993) the anarchists were supporting and taking part in numerous workers' protests. However, those actions did not cause a creation of anarchosydicalist movement. After a several years' break - in the face of changed social and political reality - anarchist groups had to face the necessity of participating in the workers' movement which had weakened a lot in that period. In 1998 Anarchosydicalist Agreement was created, and three years later Workers' Initiative.

The beginning of Workers' Initiative coincided with the growing wave of workers' protests in Poland, the largest from the beginning of the 1990's. In 2002 Workers' Initiative and the Anarchist Federation from Poznan established many contacts with workers' groups not only from our town but also from all over the Poland. Active participation in workers' protests (among others in the most famous one, in Ozarow) and in workers' conferences organized by independent structures of workers' movement, allowed Workers' Initiative to associate lasting relationship with their struggle. Since 2002, we have been supporting workers' actions in H. Cegielski Co. Plant, in numerous hospitals, in Uniontex in Lodz. We have also organized solidarity actions with other striking crews. We have stood up for unionist rights (especially in Sulzer Chemtech Poland). We have organized actions against breaking workers' rights in McDonald's, and also in Japanese concern Bridgestone-Firestone. Together with Poznan's working crew form Goplana (at that time belonging to Nestle) we have organized an action of boycotting Nestle products. On the other hand, Workers' Initiative have tried to create a forum, where a discussion about current problems of unionist movement could be possible; that is how we actively participated in the movement of All-Polish Workers' Conferences. In September 2004, Poznan's group of Workers' Initiative brought up a formal trade union. Our trade union organizes workers. It is the instrument of protection of their rights in particular examples.

 

The general rules of IP:

1 | internal
The Workers' Initiative Trade Union is a voluntary organization, where my fate depends on your commitment and vice versa. None of the law articles are more effective than interpersonal solidarity and mutual friendship between us, both in the work and private life. We appreciate own initiative, communication skills, cooperation, assistance and direct criticism. IP is therefore a type of union that demand. We do not accept spying and dominance born out of lack of knowledge of others comrades, lack of skills or others' mistakes. Here is no place for passivity and trust that others will do the job for me.
In Workers' Initiative everyone is equal, regardless of functions we are performing, education and earnings. We understand trade union functions as a duty for the other man, not as a reason for the contempt and humiliation of others, or the possibility of sitting in the comfortable armchair under the wing of the management. We are independent of employers in our actions. A lot of IP local committies decided to not to use so-called trade union privileges, because they often became a reason for enslaving trade unions. We don't want trade union jobs, offices, phones, faxes from employers. We try to collect donations ourselves. We do not spend social funds on organizing holiday for workers. Trade unions working that way are too often actless. Their activists are getting used to comfort and it is hard for them to resign when are they bacame not interested in defending workers anymore. Our principles give us the advantage over bureaucratic unions, as employers do not know how many we are and who is involved in. They cannot reach us, cannot corrupt us, because we want nothing from bosses. The IP of course use the Labour Code, but treats it as the weapon, especially when employers victimise workers and trade unionists.

2 | external
Workers today are often unorganized, divided, have no contact with each other, are being intimidated and deprived of their faith in their own strength. Trade unions are losing their importance. Such a situation is beneficial for employers, who without any restrictions exploit workers, using the protection of the state administration and state coercive measures. Alliance (often of corruption character) between the political and economical power is aimed against all workers. Its purpose is to maintain social divisions. Rich, privileged in every respect minority has the property, the power and means of indoctrination, and is thriving and accumulating its wealth through the work of the majority. Such a hierarchical social structure is the cause of most problems experienced in daily life by workers around the world, affected by massive unemployment, reduction of wages, return to the slave labour, child labour, poverty and hunger.

The interest of bosses, of both transnational corporations and small enterprises, is to strengthen the existing order, which gives them freedom to exploit workers and local communities. The real change can come only when workers no longer believe that their employers, multicorporation owners and managers act in the interest of society.

We are struggling for regaining the control over our life, both in the places we work and live. We are struggling for a completely different world, because we are convinced that capitalism, like state socialism, can not be reformed. Deep social, economic and political changes are needed.

Our movement is also a response to extremely political corrupted and politically-oriented trade unions. We must reject the need for the leaders existence - too often they have betrayed the cause that they initially were fighting for. We are for grass-roots, direct democracy from below as a form of organising workers' protest. The goal of Workers' Initiative (IP) is not to supervise the struggle of workers but only to motivate them/us to independent struggle for the improvement of living conditions and liberation from oppression of any power.

We declare against political action and using workers' movement for political goals and current interests of political parties. We support involvement of workers' movement in local struggles aiming at restoring authentic self-governance. We regard essential the international solidarity of union and worker movement. We are in favour of direct action, especially demonstrations, strikes and boycotts as the most effective, but not the only weapon in the fight for labour rights and radical democratic society. We see that there is a great need to restore also the cultural autonomy of labor, as a counterbalance for mass-culture and a consumer lifestyle offered by it.

The Workers' Initiative is an alliance of all for whom workers' matters are close. We are a standing up for workers' rights, reffering in our activity and ideas directly to the tradition of anarcho-syndicalist movement. Those organized in IP undertake efforts to create the workers' movement based on the grass-roots and voluntary autonomy - the movement that would be able to go beyond the divisions between workers and be able to successfully struggle for their/our rights and for a full control of work places. By active involvement in protest campaigns, cooperation and by suppor for strikes we try to bring solidarity help and actively present our ideas.
IP is functioning on the principles of federation, i.e. voluntary organization of persons in which every participant has equal right to decide about affairs concerning him/her. Anyone who accepts the statements above can be an IP participant.

Some history

2002
At the beginning of 2002 IP involves into the protests against liberalization and flexibility of the Labour Code. The same year, activists from Poznan take part actively in the protests of workers from H.Cegielski-Poznan (HCP) plant demanding ceasing of mass dismissals. In 28 June 2002 trade unions from HCP (Solidarity and Solidarność'80) and IP organize together a demonstration across streets of Poznan, which is attended by nearly 1000 people, including a hundred activists of IP. When, on the wave of workers' protests, in July of 2002, an All-Polish Protest Committee is established (OKP). IP activists take an active part in its work, among others by founding a national coordinating office of OKP protest campaigns and establishing a website. In the summer 2002 OKP is organising several important protests in a dozen Polish cities, including demonstration attended by two thousand particpans in Warsaw. Finally, in autumn 2002, the Workers' Initiative actively supports workers protesting in a Factory of Cables in Ozarow near Warsaw (27-30 November 2002).

2003
In June of 2003 IP activists are getting in touch with representatives of the striking workers of Uniontex company in Lodz, who are defending their work place against shutdown. Unfortunately the strike is not succesful and the factory goes bankrupt . However new Uniontex is coming into existence on the factory ruins (in 2004), this time as the workers' company. An IP organization is set up in Uniontex. In December of 2004 the IP chairman in the factory is illegaly fired and previous managers of Uniontex take over the control. In the November of 2003 the Workers' Initiative organises protests against anti-workers politics of McDonalds. In November, for the IP call, worker activists are arriving in Poznań from a dozen or so work places and the first All-Polish Workers' Conference takes place (at first called 'the conference of the workers' protest'), which will become a begining of the wider cooperation of all sorts of pro-worker organizations and trade unions. Altogether, till 2007 six Conferences take place on different topics.

2004
In April of 2004 activists of the Workers' Initiative participate in a demonstration in Warsaw against the European Economic Forum that gathers 5 thousand people. In the June of 2004, during the demonstartion of more than 100 trade union activists from Goplana plant (Solidarity trade union) and the Workers' Initiative, IP calls for a boycott of the Nescafe coffee as a form of protest against mass dismissals and closing plants by the Nestle corporation. Solidarity actions - coordinated by IP - takes place in Bydgoszcz, Cracow, Warsaw and Szczecin. In Szczecin in one of supermarkets IP activists put stickers on Nestle products saying "Do not buy it!". In summer, a group of workers of H.Cegielski in Poznan has decided to set up the All-Polish Trade Union Workers' Initiative, which is registered at the end of August 2004. The first local comitees of IP are formed in Szczecin, Lodz and Silesia.

2005
In January of 2005, the Workers' Initiative from Poznan get engaged in the defence of workers Brgidgestone/Firestone. In summer of 2005 (July / August), the IP is one of initiators of the international solidarity actions with Polish workers fired by TESCO Ireland who struggled for workers' rights. Protests takes place in 8 cities of Great Britain (supported by TGWU) and in Ireland and several cities of Poland (among others Poznan, Szczecin, Warsaw, Gdynia).

IP becomes also one of the iniciators of Campaign for Seasonal and Emigrant Workers (www.sezonowi.org). On 23 September 2005, the Workers' Initiative and the Polish Green Network filed a complaint against the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in connection with granting the Kaufland Poland company a loan in the amount of nearly 160 million euros for the development of supermarket chains across Poland. A few days later in one of the Kaufland supermarkets in Poznan a protest takes place. Kaufland notoriously and systemically breakes workers' rights.

2006
In January of 2006 the Workers' Initiative joined the Committee for the Aid and Defence of Victimised Workers (KpiORP). The committee acts in the defence of union activists laid off for union activity: Krzysztof Labadz (KWK Budryk, August'80), Darek Skrzypczak (Goplana, Solidarity), Sławek Kaczmarek (Uniontex Lodz, Workers' Initiative), Jacek Rosołowski (Impel-Tom Kostrzyn, the Workers' Initiative). Numerous protest campaigns are being organised and at the beginning of the April 2006 demonstration with 1000 particpants takes place in Poznan. As a result of that pressure Labadz and Skrzypczak are restored to work. Jacek Rosołowski also wins a trial for compensation in the Labour Court (March 2007).

In June and August 2006, the Committee organizes a campaign in defense of the seasonal workers' rights in 100 Polish cities, and few weeks later in 50 cities of Poland. In October, KPiORP organizes a demonstration in Lodz defending Sławek Kaczmarek from IP, as well as generally for temporary agency workers. In April 2007 the Committee organizes next demonstration in Wroclaw against the IMPEL company, and among others against laying off Jacek Rosołowski and other IP activists by IMPEL TOM.

In the November of 2006, Gdańsk postmen connected with IP begin a wildcat strike, which is spreading through entire Poland. At that time, the Workers' Initiative is organising solidarity actions with striking postmen and coordinates contacts between various cities. A IP local committee is created in the Polish Post. In December 2006, from the IP inspiration a meeting of postmen from several centres took place in Poznan.

In June of 2006, H.Cegielski-Poznań workers belonging to IP organise a strike referendum on payrise. Out of the workforce of nearly 1600 people, 640 workers are in favour of the strike, however due to too low attendances (42%) the outcome of the referendum is not valid. In 2007 IP decides to change tactics. Numerous unofficial standstills are being organised at work lasting from several minutes to a few hours. In April, the IP calls for one-day strike - 90 percent of the HCP crew ask for the so-called "leave on request". There are also several demonstrations in front of the HCP managament seat. As a result, HCP workers gain payrises.

2007
In the February/March of 2007, the Workers' Initiative gets engage in defence of workers from the Greenkett Poland panel factory. The Spanish employer illegally fires two IP activists and unsuccessful tries to break the IP local commitee in the factory. In Kostrzyn in autumn the same year, IP is organising actions in support of nearly 90 hospital workers (mainly nurses) being laid off as a result of the privatization.

Today
At present the Workers' Initiative acts in the following cities: Poznan, Lodz, Szczecin, Gorzow, Kostrzyn, Zielona Gora, the Upper Silesia (Tarnowskie Gory, Miasteczko Slaskie, Bielsko-Biala, Raciborz, Rybnik), Warsaw, Gdansk, Cracow, Bydgoszcz. At four first cities IP offices are functioning. Smaller groups and IP sympathizers are active also in other cities. The union bimonthly publishes the "Workers' Initiative" newsletter and irregularly "Silesian Syndicalist" newspaper. We cooperate with radical trade unions from several countries of Europe, among others: IWU from Ireland, CGT from Spain, FAU from Germany, SAC from Sweden, CNT from France, ESE from Greece, IWW from Great Britain. As part of international campaigns IP among others has joined a boycott of the Coca-Cola corporation, which is responsible for murders of trade unionists in Colombia.

Contacts

Rozbrat squat
Pułaskiego Street 21a, Poznan, Poland see the map

Post send:

P.O. Box 5, 60 - 966 Poznan 31, Poland

Phone during the opening hours of the Anarchist library: (+48) 061 8484672

If you want:

- ask about Anarchist Federation, organize at Rozbrat a cultural orpolitical meeting, discussion, film screening etc.: write to fa-poznan@rozbrat.org
- visit us: write to baza@rozbrat.org
- play a gig: write to bands@rozbrat.org

Activity

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Publications

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The Anarchist Review, no.9/2009

Publications :: 19 maja ::

The Anarchist Review, no.9/2009

The magazine is published twice a year to present articles from the field of radical social critique and practice of alternative political concepts from Poland and abroad. The Editorial collective is part of the anarchist movement in Poznan, Poland; who are also engaged in other projects such as the Bractwo...

Więcej...

The Anarchist Review - Issue No. 8, 2008/09

Publications :: 13 lutego ::

The Anarchist Review - Issue No. 8, 2008/09

The magazine is published twice a year to present articles from the field of radical social critique and practice of alternative political concepts from Poland and abroad. The Editorial collective is part of the anarchist movement in Poznan, Poland; who are also engaged in other projects such as the Bractwo...

Więcej...

The Anarchist Review - Issue No. 7, 2008

Publications :: 13 lutego ::

CHAPTER: LATIN AMERICA – STRATEGIES OF DOMINATION, WAYS OF RESISTANCEJarosław Urbański "Slavery and a birth of the capitalism”Beverly J. Silver, Eric Slater "Revolution of Caribbean slaves at the turn of the XVIII and XIX century "Jan Sowa "Roots of inequalities. Significance of colonialism for the development of the capitalism”Maciek Wiśniewski...

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