Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 October 2007

Workers' struggle and political instability sends Polish government into meltdown

THE POLISH government has imploded. The ruling Law and Justice Party has decided to end the long drawn out demise of its coalition. Elections are scheduled for 21 October.

Karl Debbaut, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

Law and Justice, headed by the president Lech Kaczynski and his identical twin brother, prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, swept to power two years ago on an 'anti-communist', 'anti-corruption' platform. They raced ahead of the neo-liberal Civic Platform by making populist promises and declaring that they were in favour of building a 'social' Poland and opposing privatisations.

They subsequently formed a coalition with Self-Defence, a populist party with its main base in the countryside headed by Andrej Lepper and the ultra-Catholic, reactionary League of Polish Families.

Internationally this coalition hit the headlines when Law and Justice witch-hunted anyone with ties to the former pre-1989 Stalinist regime and attacked the behaviour of the other coalition parties. The League of Polish Families, which has now lost almost all of its support, attracted ridicule for such acts as seeking an investigation of Teletubbies, a children's TV programme, because one of the characters 'might be homosexual'.

Economic growth

The Polish economy has been growing over the last two years and is probably the reason why, what was dubbed "the accidental coalition" in the international press, lasted for as long as two years. Average growth per quarter was between 5.5% and 7.4%.

This growth has allowed the government to postpone the neo-liberal projects it had on the table. The privatisation of the mining industry and the further destruction of the steel industry have halted for the moment due to rising exports to Asia and China in particular.

Money from the European Union (EU) has helped agribusiness in the countryside and the boom of meat and agricultural exports to the German market has been greater than expected. Commentators predict that a further 67 billion from 'Brussels' will flow into Poland.

However, this does not mean that the present, or the future, looks rosy for millions of Polish workers and youth. Unemployment has remained stable at 15%, with 25% for the under 25s. In some of the more remote regions of Poland, unemployment stands at 30%.

This high unemployment persists even when a wave of emigration, of young people especially, has created shortages of skilled workers on the labour market. The Gdansk shipyard cannot find any welders and the Polish government has started a campaign to bring plumbers back to Poland. This campaign is centred on nationalist values instead of offering better wages and living conditions to bring people back.

The government's search for immigrant labour in Belarus ended in embarrassment when it was revealed that Belarus workers in the health sector and construction workers are on higher wages than in Poland.

There is also a growing disquiet in capitalist circles about the upward pressures on wages and the growing militancy of public-sector workers. By importing cheap labour the bosses hope to protect the high profits business makes in Poland and keep wage rises in check. Although wages rose in the last 12 months by 12.5%, wages in the public sector have lagged behind and low pay and widespread poverty persist.

A recent survey shocked the public when it became clear that, for one out of every three children in Poland, lunch served by the school canteen is the only meal in a day.

'Satanic nurses'

In June 2006 nurses were involved in a nationwide protest and strike movement. The aim of the movement was to make an agreed 30% wage rise permanent and thus avoid a sudden drop of 30% in their wages. 20,000 health workers took part in a 'White March' in Warsaw. One of the main slogans was: "We want to work here not emigrate".

When the prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczysnki, refused to meet them they set up a tent village outside his offices. The village kept growing until there were hundreds of little white tents. Steel workers, miners and ordinary Warsaw residents came by to express their support and solidarity, bringing donations and gifts such as food and drink to support the struggle.

The movement rocked the government and when some of the nurses started a hunger strike the prime minister declared that the strike was inspired by 'Satans' and that the nurses were not on hunger strike but "merely skipping lunch".

Other public-sector workers have since joined the strike wave in Poland. One of the most notable strikes was one by bus drivers in Kielce against the privatisation of the local public transport. The workers went on strike for 17 days defeating attempts by the council to bring in scab labour by occupying the depot. Workers chased away the private security guards hired by the council.

Eventually the council had to count on the quislings of the trade union bureaucracy. The council agreed not to sell the company to private contractors but sold shares to the trade union Solidarnosc (Solidarity) and to individual workers instead.

This is a partial victory but also a highly risky strategy for the workers themselves. To help close the deal the Solidarnosc leaders called in the help of the local priest who acted as a mediator in the strike.

"History does not put bread on the table"

The political instability in Poland, like in other East European countries, flows from the disastrous social situation created by the reintroduction of capitalism. As a result we have seen a succession of weak governments losing authority and support as they introduce ever more neo-liberal reform.

You can understand the sentiment of Karol Guzikiewickz, the local trade union leader at the Gdansk shipyard, when he says: "History does not put bread on the table". The Gdansk shipyards are hailed as the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union in 1980 and the movement of the workers against Stalinism. Solidarity began by posing the question of workers' democracy and real socialism. However, elements in it that favoured capitalist restoration gained the upper hand.

Today, of the 17,000 workers employed at the shipyard in the 1980s only 3,500 remain. The EU is demanding the privatisation of the shipyard and the closure of two of the three 'slipways', where ships are constructed.

What after the elections?

Law and Justice and the Civic Platform party are neck-and-neck in the opinion polls. It is most likely than no-one will be able to form a stable government. On the left it seems unlikely that the Democratic Left Alliance can make a comeback. It has made an alliance with a split, also neo-liberal, from Civic Platform and is in favour of speeding up privatisation.

The Polish Labour Party (PPP) has got a base in Silesia and a direct connection to workers through the trade union August '80. However, its support across the country is limited and it still has to struggle to build its structures and influence to be able to play a national role.

The next leaders of a coalition will want to make decisions like the privatisation of the Gdansk shipyard, supported by both main parties but not carried out because it would be extremely unpopular and further privatisation of the coal mines.

The trade union leaders of OPZZ (the former Stalinist union federation) and Solidarnosc have declared that they agree with privatisation on the condition that another referendum is organised and the workers vote in favour of privatising. In the last referendum on privatising the mining industry 97% of the miners voted against it.

The rising tide in militancy is a sign that Polish workers are eager to fight for their share of wealth created. To effectively struggle they will need to not only move on the trade union front but also engage in politics by building a democratic, fighting workers' party flying the banner of workers' rights, international solidarity and democratic socialism.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 17 October 2007:

National Health Service Cutbacks and privatisation kill

National NHS demo

The vultures are circling ever closer

10,000 march in Sussex

Swansea fights the cuts

Rally for Socialism

Postal dispute

Exposing Royal Mail's lies

Postal workers waiting to assess Royal Mail deal

Fighting Royal Mail management's attacks

Solid unofficial action in East London

National Shop Stewards' Network meetings

Daylight robbery in Scotland!

Save Bolsover Post Offices

Socialist Party Marxist analysis

Brown's blues

International Appeal

Students on trumped-up charges

Socialist Students

Scrap fees for all students

National Shop Stewards Network

Young workers and students need to get involved

"You've got to stick together"

Stop the placement rip-off now!

Campaign for a New Workers Party

Tony Benn evades the issue

Trade Union Freedom Bill

Trade Union Freedom Bill: Banishing Thatcher's anti-union legacy?

Working longer hours for less pay

Socialist Party women

ITV2 - making a good deal out of women's bodies

International socialist news and analysis

Workers' struggle and political instability sends Polish government into meltdown

Australia: Liberals v Labour - no choice for working people in election

Socialist Party news and analysis

Children's homes at risk of buy-outs


Home   |   The Socialist 17 October 2007   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleLeeds Socialist Party: Political turmoil in Poland

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleSlave labour at Sports Direct

triangleSocialist Party national women's meeting


triangleSouth London health bosses' cover-up

triangleBrexit deal no solution to Tory rifts

triangleSave our NHS

triangleSchool staff strike against privatisation





Trump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian conflict



A world in crisis, ripe for revolution



Trump's tax plan: Robin Hood in reverse



Irish capitalist state: rotten to the core



Fighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle



Trump's tax attacks



Australia: massive yes vote for marriage equality



Zimbabwe: Mugabe gone - but his regime remains in power



USA: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis



US: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis



Sweden: 'Revolution2017' success



Spain: Madrid rally celebrates October revolution



US: Minneapolis Socialist chimes with voters



Ireland: rail workers demand share of 'recovery'



Ireland: dangerous ideas for the ruling class

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle16 Dec Blairite council 'all ears' to rich property developers

triangle16 Dec Arriva bus drivers' action wins pay rise

triangle14 Dec Stop the rotten redevelopment plan, demand residents

triangle13 Dec Six months on - still no justice for Grenfell

triangle13 Dec Movement growing against fracking giant Ineos

triangle13 Dec Totnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

triangle13 Dec Trump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian...

More ...

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

triangle21 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Socialists and the National Question

triangle6 Jan Socialist Party national women's meeting

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice