We're pissed off - Priama akcia (IWA Slovakia) leaflet for the union demonstration against government austerity measures

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Oct 17 2010 19:36
We're pissed off - Priama akcia (IWA Slovakia) leaflet for the union demonstration against government austerity measures

Priama akcia handed out this leaflet at the demonstration against government austerity measures organized by the biggest union confederation on 12th October 2010 in Bratislava. It was the third union action in the autumn preceded by around 1500 strong demos in Košice (1st October) and Žilina (8th October). Over 5000 unionists met in the capital. PDF of the leaflet in Slovak can be downloaded from the English section at PA website.


Government measures can not make us feel otherwise. But we will not whimper. It is important to realize what situation we are in and what can be done.

The point of demonstrations against reforms

Unions refused government austerity measures and came up with their own demands. They organize protests in order to show their strength, and improve their position at tripartite meetings. They did the same during the government of Dzurinda*. However, the protests (including a one-hour general strike in 2003) totally failed because they were not a threat to the government and the employers. The referendum** they organized to demand early parliamentary elections only confirmed the failure. What is about to come now?

The reality of capitalism

Government says the measures should improve the prospects of Slovak economy so we all can finally have a better life. But in the recent 20 years we have learned that cuts and crises are a normal part of capitalism and we suffer the most.

There is a permanent conflict between the needs of the owners and of the workers. Every time we rely on the bosses and politicians, and we stay quiet and hope that they will take care of things on our behalf and fulfill what we ask for, it ends up to our disadvantage. If we are lucky, they throw us a few bits, but at the same time their profits and reserves get bigger. And ours get thinner. They want us to work more under more control and our existential problems, mortgages and loans do not concern them. In this situation we should demand the maximum, regardless of supposedly bad situation of the companies.

We are not and do not want to be in the role of bosses or politicians. They solve their problems for their own benefit, and we should do the same. We should claim higher wages, more advantages, meeting of our needs and a life in dignity. The bosses have it thanks to our labor. All we have is what we get by fighting for it.

If pressure, then in the form of direct actions

The union leaders know very well that the demonstrations alone will not suffice. Successful direct actions in Myjava, Kolárovo or Hencovce*** have shown that the real strength of the workers lies on the workplace level. If it is lacking there and is not a result of collective actions of workers, then it is questionable, what power the big union actions will have and whether the unions will be able to organize more radical actions, for example more than a one-hour or one-day general strike.

The power of the employers is at the workplace. It is here that their profits and our wages are generated. Here we have to be active and create a real pressure and at least partially compensate the negatives we face.

By organizing and direct actions (strike or other form of paralyzing the workplace) we can win our own demands, higher wages and other advantages regardless of approved austerity measures and the success of big union actions. Governments come and go but our fate is always influenced mainly by our strength at the workplace.


Whether to organize officially or unofficially is a matter of discussion between people at each workplace. From every conflict in which the workers get together, ideas and lessons emerge that we should share. We, Priama akcia, attempt to create a network of fighting workers who will:
•> look for effective solutions to the conflicts at workplaces and outside them,
•> share problems we deal with and experiences (also internationally),
•> regularly exchange information,
•> create a seed of such economic, social and political organization of society, which fulfils the needs of society, not the needs of state and capital.

Priama akcia


* Dzurinda was prime minister of the neoconservative/neoliberal ruling coalition government in 1998-2002 and 2002-2006. The coalition introduced several antisocial reforms and tried to decrease the power of unions and pluralize the tripartite system.

** In 2003 the unions organized several actions against the government. Practically all of them failed and the union leaders started to look for purely political ways of exerting their power. In October 2003 they issued a call for referendum which took place in April 2004 but was not valid (less than 50 percent of all voters participated). From the end of 2004 till March 2006 there was an internal discord among the leaders of the Confederation of Trade Unions (KOZ), the bigger of the two union confederations with some 300 000 - 330 000 members, concerning open support of one political party in the 2006 elections. It was resolved in March 2006 when 5 of the trade unions signed an agreement with social democrats SMER-SD which bound the unions to promote voting for SMER-SD among their members. This was the first time after 1989 when a union ratified open coalition and cooperation with exclusively one political party.

*** All three strikes were organized by the most numerous and radical union OZ KOVO (which is part of KOZ). It has around 70 000 members, many of them from metal industry. The strikes took place in 2007, 2008 and 2010 respectively. In Kolárovo and Hencovce they took a form of occupation strikes where main gates of the factories were blocked. All three succeeded to different extents in fulfilling the demands the union proposed.