Anna Rzymska, from the Revolutionary Left Current in Poland, reported on the situation of the labour movement and the left in Poland at the international meeting organised by the AWL in Paris on 18 June.
Currently, we have a Social-Democrat government, until the next elections on 25 September. The Social-Democrats are ex-members of the Communist Party.
The right will win a majority at the next parliamentary elections in September. Four years, the Social-Democrats had the support of 40% of the population but now two of the biggest Social-Democratic parties will only just scrape the five per cent necessary to get representation in Parliament. All that is the result of an anti-working-class policy carried through by the Social-Democrats.
At the end of 2004, 20% of the economically active population was unemployed. According to the official statistical agency, of 38 million Poles:
- 23 million get no more than the minimum wage;
- Four million, that is, about 10%, get only the minimum necessary to live; they are only just above the poverty level;
- Seven million live in total poverty.
The two trade union organisations, OPZZ (the former Communist union) and Solidarnosc, are passive. The number of strikes is very low. The employers do not respect the labour law, neo-liberal though it is, because they know that any case brought under the law will drag on for years.
In many economic sectors, in supermarkets for example, the eight-hour work day is not respected. Even though the unions are legal, anyone setting up a union in a private firm will be sacked. About two million workers suffer delayed payment of their wages.
Corruption characterises the unions in Poland. The union leaders in a workplace will sometimes get more than the other workers, as well as having other privileges. They gain this status by giving information to the bosses and helping them sack workers.
The revolutionary left and the alternative-globalisation movement are very weak in Poland, but they exist. Generally, the demonstrations of the anti-capitalist left in Warsaw can get a few hundred people. The biggest such demonstration ever organised, during the European Economic Forum of April 2004, had four thousand people.
The organised anti-capitalist left includes about two hundred people, not counting the Polish Communist Party, which is in fact an organisation of retired people who are active only for their party and never take part in demonstrations. There are also about two hundred anarchists, who cooperate with the anti-capitalist left on demonstrations.
The anti-capitalist left is composed of:
- The New Left;
- Workers’ Democracy;
- The Revolutionary Left Current.
The New Left is an organisation centred around an ex-MP, Piotr Ikinowicz, and his personality gets it media coverage. It has about 60 members, half of them in Warsaw. It is the only organisation to have an office, but it does not have a publication.
Workers’ Democracy is an offshoot of the British SWP. It is the only organisation to have full-time political workers. It has about 50 members, half of them in Warsaw. As everywhere with the organisations of the SWP, Workers’ Democracy is not a democratic and pluralist organisation, and does not cooperate with the other organisations of the revolutionary left.
The Revolutionary Left Current has 30 members. The problem is that there is only one active cell, ten people in Warsaw, the other members being dispersed in ones and twos. It includes both orthodox Trotskyists and partisans of Third Camp socialism.
It publishes a magazine, Dalej (Forward), of about 30 pages. The magazine has a good reputation, but unfortunately has no fixed schedule of publication. 600 copies were printed of the last issue.
The Revolutionary Left Current includes many academically qualified people, and from that it gets an image as an “intellectual” organisation. However, it is not just academics.
One of the members of the Revolutionary Left Current has been a trade union activist for
many years in one of the biggest car factories in Poland.
The Revolutionary Left Current organises leaflet distributions and public meetings, for example in April with members of the peace group Marhaba from the Middle East.
We believe that the Fourth International is the biggest international organisation of the revolutionary left, and also the most realistic, with a real intervention in workers’ struggles; for that reason one should try to develop a dialogue with its members.
We think there should be more coordination between “Third Camp” groups. We are open to different types of cooperation, like translating texts in Polish, promoting petitions, and public meetings.