The Reds and Karl Marx Institute
Dear Comrades of the Anti-Fascist and Anti-Imperialist United Front!
On the part of The Reds and the Karl Marx Institute, we would like to present a report on the important news from Poland in September 2023.
On 1 September, a picket organised by the Polish Teachers' Union (ZNP) took place in front of the building of the Ministry of Education and Science. Crowds of participants protested against insultingly low salaries, pathologies in the education system, and the deepening 'reforms' pushed by Education Minister Przemysław Chernk. The petition by the participants of the ZNP picket called for, among other things, the modernisation of the curriculum, decent treatment and higher salaries for school employees, and an end to the progressive ideologicalisation of schools. The teachers' protest was also supported by trade unions from other sectors, including transport, culture and mining. The issue is all the more urgent as there is a huge shortage of teachers in Poland. Head teachers are already forced to teach two or more subjects at the same time due to a lack of teachers willing to work for the salaries on offer. More and more teachers are not working in their learned profession.
On 9 September, a protest of people with disabilities and their carers took place in front of the Presidential Palace at 15:00. The life of People with Disabilities in Poland is living in a country that is definitely not adapted to their needs, full of architectural, economic or legal barriers - systemic in general - from the appallingly low level of social benefits to the inaccessibility of polling stations. The hard and indispensable work of caring people, for which they should above all be appreciated with a decent wage, is often a job for a pittance. Successive bourgeois governments in Poland - including the current one - did not give a damn about the needs of people with disabilities and those caring for them, and allocated the absolute minimum of funds from the state budget to them. We live in a capitalist system where there will always be money for financial support and relief for capitalists, as was the case, for example, with the anti-crisis shield. There will always be money for pay rises for politicians who serve the interests of capitalists, above all the big ones - as happened two years ago. There will always be money for propaganda television, there will always be money from the budget for the militarisation of our country, feeding the budget of, for example, the American armaments industry. There is a conviction in our society that people who have devoted their lives to socially necessary professions such as caring, or those working in health care, welfare service or education should work for a cause - and that they have no right to protest, that they apparently do not need to make a decent living and earn a decent wage. This can be seen with every protest by nurses or teachers who, when they walk away from their duties as part of a protest in the fight for better pay, are showered with an avalanche of slander - that how dare they leave their charges, patients or pupils. According to this anti-worker propaganda, people in these professions should never protest, never go on strike, and any change to their pay or working conditions for the better should be through docile whining, wishful thinking and patient waiting. The government is taking advantage of this fact, and putting money into their salaries that is less than any minimum needed for a stable life - just look at the salaries of nurses, teachers, people caring for people with disabilities or people working in social services. People with disabilities and their carers have to put up a heroic fight for every penny of support and pay - and support should flow to them from all progressive quarters, especially socialists.
On 15 September, a huge protest was held in Warsaw by employees of the broadly defined budgetary public sector - local government officials, employees of ministries, employees of Social Assistance Centres and Care Homes, employees of the prosecutor's office and courts, civilian employees of the uniformed services, people employed in psychological-educational counselling centres, employees of the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS), the National Labour Inspectorate, employees of cultural and art institutions, psychologists, and eventrade unionsassociated with the lignite mining industry! Metal workers, steelworkers, light industry workers, cement workers and heating workers, among others, stand in solidarity with the protest of budget workers! The "March of Anger on the Prime Minister's Office" was attended by several to several thousand workers - it is safe to say that this is one of the largest labour protests of the last few years. Budget workers showed their interprofessional unity and strength - and this is also an inspiration for the rest of the industry. The march started on Parade Square, then moved to theparlament buildingbefore ending in front of the Prime Minister's office. The bourgeois government ofPolandhas not only failed to meet the demands of budget workers to date, but also, in planning next year's budget, is assuming raises of a ridiculous 6.6% for budget workers and an additional 5.7% increase from the salary fund, which will not cover all workers. This is not only a spit in the face of the workers, but also an attempt to divide the budget workers and break down their solidarity - so as to turn the workers who did not get the additional wage increase and those who did get it against each other. Meanwhile, budget workers are demanding an indexation of the average annual salary increase of 20% from 1 July 2023 and 24% from 1 January 2024, to compensate for the accumulated inflation so far. This is not an increase in the common sense, but simply an equalisation of wages in line with rising prices, which should be carried out without mercy in order to keep the real wage at the same level. In order to have the effect of a real wage increase and raise wages to a level that makes any kind of stable living possible, wage increases should far exceed the figures mentioned in the march's demands. At the moment, their salaries are close to or equal to the minimum wage, and often even lower than the minimum wage. In addition to the tragic situation of the budget workers themselves, this state of affairs results in staff shortages and thus an unbearable overload of duties. People who are not familiar with and are not interested in the situation of budget employees see only the "tip of the iceberg" in the form of slower administration or other public services such as health care. Of course, they take out their frustration on budget employees. Successive ruling teams from different sides of the bourgeois parliament have saved on the salaries of budget employees, just as they have saved on the social welfare system. The trade unionists are aware of this, announcing that they will remain vigilant especially during the elections - and, regardless of who wins, will resume their protests if their demands are not met.
On 16 September, a picket was held in front of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw as part of the Mahsa Day Global Rally (16 September 2023 marks one year since the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by the Iranian morality police).
22-25 September - screenings of the Polish film "Green Border" were met with protests from right-wing circles due to the depiction of violence by Polish border guards against migrants from the Middle East and Africa on the Polish-Belarusian border.
27 September - tenants' strike in Łódź - a protest against cuts to the Łódź City Council's budget for maintenance of the municipal resource. The Łódź Tenants' Association organised a protest in front of the City Council building in Łódź to publicise the problems of people living in state flats - it is very common for people to be placed in flats that are overgrown with fungus and/or have a leaking roof. At the same time, attempts to carry out renovation work on their own end up with fines running into thousands of zloty’s (polish currency) for making changes to the flat not included in the contract. People in crisis of homelessness also spoke at the protest, sharing their stories of how they had often lost their homes as a result of fraud by flat owners, landlords or developers. The protest ended with a ceremonial carrying of a draft civic resolution to the City of Lodz Office, with the aim of obliging the city authorities to increase the budget allocated to the maintenance of public housing.
29 September - anti-racism picket in Warsaw - a protest against racist government propaganda and far-right propaganda in general - targeting refugees, people locked up and dying on the Polish-Belarusian border, as well as migrant workers. The picket gathered dozens of people and was combined with a leaflet action. The picket was organised by the Trotskyist organisation Workers' Democracy, and in addition to the Reds and the Marx Institute, the Parliamentary Left and the Parliamentary Green Party also took part.
30 September - tenant march in Warsaw - a protest by the tenant movement, attended by the Reds and the Marx Institute, organised by the Warsaw Tenants Association and the anarcho-syndicalist trade union Inicjatywa Pracownicza (Workers’ Initiative). The protest was against the current situation on the housing market in Poland, the lack of state housing construction and its concentration in the hands of the private sector - this state of affairs results in ever-increasing rental and purchase prices of housing, impunity for landlords and widespread housing hunger in Poland. The capitalists associated with housing are present and represented by every party in the bourgeois parliament, hence the persistent lack of municipal housing in Poland for many years.
1 October - a march organised by the Civic Coalition (KO/PO - the second political force in Poland after the ruling party - the economically neoliberal Christian Democrats). The event was called the 'Million Hearts March' by the organisers, which was supposed to reflect the scale of the event. However, according to the police officers who secured the event, around 60,000 people came to the march. Civic Coalition politicians, however, insist that more than a million people came to the march. It is worth pointing out that, despite everything, the high turnout of 60,000 present by Polish conditions is due to the fact that CC, using its party budget, hired several hundred buses to bring its party members and supporters from all over Poland to the capital to conduct a demonstration of strength against Law and Justice.
"Today a great change is taking place. It is a signal of a great Polish revival. Some people today fled the capital, they didn't want to see you, but today the whole world is looking at Warsaw" - CC leader Donald Tusk said at the march.
To give context to the above speech, by 'the whole world is watching in Warsaw', Donald Tusk referred to the fact that the US media aided CC's media efforts to give the event the status of 'a nationwide uprising of supporters of the Civic Coalition against PiS'. PiS is often compared in CC and US propaganda to the communist party PZPR in an attempt to equate communism with the opposite of democracy and human rights.
The grain crisis in Poland continues. The Polish government decides to impose an embargo on agricultural goods from Ukraine - wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower. In response, the Ukrainian government announced an embargo on products from Poland, as well as a complaint to the World Trade Organisation. For Poland's part, the bourgeois government in its official propaganda speaks of protecting the interests of Polish farmers - and protecting them from the uncontrolled influence of cheaper Ukrainian grain. In practice, the blame lies entirely with Polish capitalists buying grain illegally from Ukraine, which only passes through Poland in transit. The grain buying companies are directly linked to the Polish government and the ruling party. Farmers are pressing the Ministry of Agriculture to disclose the list of companies buying grain from Ukraine. Thanks to a journalistic investigation, three of these companies - which have obvious links to the government and to one of the opposition parties - have been reached. The Ministry of Agriculture, claims to have a list of companies buying grain from Ukraine, and has been promising for several months to publish the list of companies - but cannot do so for the previously mentioned reason. Hence the growing frustration of farmers, the culmination of which - and the full impact of the agrarian crisis - may come this autumn, during or after the elections. We are expecting the farmers' protests and we are keeping an eye on their situation - we will try to take part if possible.
The incumbent national-conservative ruling party is still in the lead (over 32-35% support - depending on various polls). It represents the interests of Polish capitalists managing state-owned companies, as well as American capital. It has the overwhelming support of the poorer layers of the working class, concentrated outside the big cities, as well as some industrial workers.
Further on, with support of 26-28%, the neo-liberal Civic Coalition - the largest opposition party. It represents the interests of the Polish petty bourgeoisie, big capitalists linked to European capital, and European capital itself. It has the support of the majority of Polish small capitalists, as well as part of the better-off working class concentrated in the big cities (mainly the working intelligentsia).
Next, with support at 10-9% each from three parties - the Third Way (centre-right, centre-liberal), the Left (bourgeois parliamentary left, centre-left) and the Confederation (quasifascist, far-right, nationalist, neoliberal).
The Polish government's visa scandal.
The case is ongoing, so for the time being we are explaining in general terms.
Both the ruling party and the largest opposition party - and, of course, the far-right Confederation - are using anti-immigrant rhetoric, due to the shifting of the masses in Poland to the right side of the political scene. On the other hand, Polish capitalists need cheap labour, which they are quietly drawing to Poland from Belarus, Ukraine, but also from Georgia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and the Middle East.
A "scandal" has recently erupted over irregularities in the granting of visas to immigrants from Africa and Southeast Asia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cash-for-visa_scandal.
Above all, our solidarity lies with all foreign workers. The culprits are the Polish capitalists and the Polish bourgeois government, which, under conditions of corruption, first plunders workers from Africa and Southeast Asia by selling visas to Poland - and consequently to Europe - for huge sums of money. Some of the workers are cheated and it turns out that, despite paying the bribe, they cannot go to Poland (see the protest in Uganda, mentioned in the Wikipedia article) and the rest will go to Poland and Europe, where they will be subjected to even greater exploitation and oppression than Polish and European workers, they will be employed for starvation wages, lower than the official minimum, they will be employed illegally - in the sense of having no labour rights whatsoever.
Efforts are under way by the national-conservative ruling party to erase the last vestiges of the People's Republic of Poland from public space. In doing so, they are supported by the Institute of National Remembrance, which was set up specifically for this purpose. This month saw the decommunization of the Ludwik Waryński Primary School in Łódź (Ludwik Waryński - co-founder of the first ever Polish political party and also a party with a Marxist profile - the Social Revolutionary Proletariat Party). - will be renamed after the Honorary Citizens of the City of Łódź. It is worth mentioning that one of the Honorary Citizens of the City of Lodz is the director Roman Polanski, a particularly controversial man who in the late 1970s was accused in the USA of raping a thirteen-year-old girl; he did not live to see the verdict due to hiding in France from extradition. An annually renewed campaign is currently underway, entitled 'Chase the Bolshevik from the Monument', involving the promotion of materials calling for the demolition of monuments to the Red Army and the renaming of streets bearing the names of communists, socialists and, even more broadly, people associated in any way with a left-wing slice of Polish history. Above all, far-right organisations are involved in the campaign - the All-Polish Youth (Młodzież Wszechpolska), a neo-fascist youth organisation that unofficially educates some of the political cadres of the party currently in power in Poland, is particularly active in this field. The local population repeatedly resists such actions - the political motivation of such resistance is debatable. According to the narrative of the locals themselves, the main motive for the resistance is the politically unmotivated opposition to having to replace property address boards for a fee - and in the case of monuments, these are considered part of the tourist landscape, especially in smaller towns. As The Reds and the Karl Marx Institute, we are trying to counteract this trend by, for example, collecting signatures in favour of naming one of the passages in Lodz after Michal Kalecki, a socialist economist who was one of the architects of Poland's centrally planned economy during the People's Republic of Poland.