1990s >> 1995 >> no-1093-september-1995

Class Struggle in Poland

On May 26,  160 busloads of people came to Warsaw from the Katowice district and staged a demonstration. The demonstration consisted of 10,000 miners and steelworkers, who were joined by striking workers from the Ursus tractor factory near Warsaw.

The demonstration was organised by the Solidarity trade union with the aim of drawing the government’s attention to the problems facing Upper Silesia. They demanded measures that would create new jobs, a pro-family tax system and the appointment of a government commission to look into affairs affecting Katowice province.

The demonstrators assembled outside the Council of Ministers Office and threw bags of burning coal dust burning rubber boots, heavy machine nuts and eggs at the police, who were standing behind barricades. Firecrackers exploded constantly. Slogans were shouted such as “Down with the ’commies’”, “Smash them with their hammer and sickles”. An effigy of the prime minister sporting a Star of David was burned with shouts that both government and opposition figures should be sent to Israel.

When the demonstrators, who were armed with pick handles, overturned the barriers, the police used their truncheons. Water cannons were also used by the police with both police and demonstrators injured in the biggest demonstration since 1989. The prime minister Oleky believes that Solidarity leaders were behind the strike fuelling discontent, with Lech Walesa basing his presidential election campaign on such issues.

However, true as this maybe nothing can go off. as in this case, with so much venom and violence without discontent already being there. At the moment Poland is going through a period of social tension, while many workers just cannot make ends meet. But memories are short. Solidarity was voted out of office for much the same reason as the current government is so unpopular.

The former Communists were returned promising to slow down the privatisation programme because it was adding to unemployment and now the call is the other way round. Now we have the novelty of a right-wing trade union attacking a left-wing government. Who, besides socialists, would believe such a thing could happen? It seems that Solidarity are pretty naive in believing, now that they have experienced private capitalism, that it can work in working class interests. The phrase from the Ursus tractor factor workers that was shouted at a minister “Israel is yours. Ursus is ours”, only shows how great the naivety is. Whether a minister is sent to Israel or not, it will not make the slightest difference to the Ursus factory workers — the Ursus factory will no more belong to them than any part of Israel will belong to the minister.

Anti-Semitism and Russophobia are not far under the surface in Poland. For many Poles anything that is not good or whatever they don’t like, is either Russian or Jewish. These sentiments must go. Poles should realise that the vast majority of Russians and Jews are very much the same as the vast majority of Poles, with not much else of worth but their ability to work. Their common enemy is the capitalist system, and the governments—right and left—that oversee the exploitation and misery of the working class.

D. Szczescie