About the 'Polish strike': position of Dywizjon 161

About the 'Polish strike': position of Dywizjon 161

Today in UK there is supposed to be a „Polish strike” takin place. It is an informal initiative started during discussion on Polish emigration internet forums and results from the dissatisfaction with antiimmigrant rhetoric of the british government and a feeling, that work of Poles living in UK is not being respected.

At the first glance it seems that our initiative of antifascist immigrants should support such a strike. There are many factors that decide against it though.

First of all, as a group following the notion that „working class has no nation” we think that any strike action limited only to one national group is not only ineffective, but also very often harmful, helping priviliged classes to divide workers instead of uniting them. By all means we support strikes, but only those aimed at improvement of ALL workers , doesn’t matter what is their country of origin, race, gender or other criteria.

Analysing motivation of many of the strike supporters we notice, that often it is not a workers solidarity that speaks through them, but sometimes it is a feeling of superiority. It is being proudly highlighted that they are here „not for the benefits”, incorporating themselves in the government campaing scapegoating people on welfare. At the same time in the very same community there was a significant lack of support for general strikes happening in recent years and some of them even acted as scabs. Basic factor here seems to be a complete egoistical motivation. We are not interested in any sort of connection with „away patriots” and initiatives dividing working class along national lines.

During the discussions about the subject of strike, opposition to the idea had been voiced by well knows to us organisation of nationalists in suits, Patriae Fidelis. Its leader trying to suck up to British politicians and big bussiness criticises not the idea of strike being limited to one nation, but the very notion of Poles participating in any actions of such kind. He explains that it gives bad example and we should all simply work hard, instead of protest offering action „Polish blood” ie. donating blood. It is a classic act of that clown Byczyńskiego and we are not surprised at all to see it, after all far right is a natural ally of capitalism.

We should also mention embarassing case that is a stance of part of Polish immigrant community. On social media there is no lack of opinions, that we should all sit quiet and simply be happy that somebody wanted to employ us. In such statements we see picture of servility towards the bosses, which fills is with an absolute disgust and which stance is unfortunately is not something uncommon amongst Polish emigration

Everybody needs to understand, that only way to success is a COMMON struggle of all workers. Organise yourself, unite, join militant trade unions, look around for good workers initiatives (we recommend for example https://workerswildwest.wordpress.com/ ) .

Dywizjon 161

https://frontlinews.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/o-strajku-polakow-stanowisko-dywizjonu-161/

Comments

akai
Aug 20 2015 13:58

OK, good enough points. Of course here there is no motivation to improve working conditions or deal with concrete workplace issues, just more against anti-immigrant attitude. So even a fuckin Prince businessman is talking about the strike like "we immigrant workers" - this is a national identification, not a class identification. There is no organization behind it nor very concrete demands addressed to concrete people ...

Chilli Sauce
Aug 20 2015 17:18

Yeah, thanks for writing this up. It's nice little insight into what's going on.

Few questions, though, are there any active organisations/voices within the UK Polish community - outside of yourselves, obviously - trying to push this in a more class direction? And what's been the response to those sort of argument in the Polish-language papers and Facebook sites? Finally, what sort of turnout is expected/happening?

Connor Owens
Aug 22 2015 15:26

Let's say that this wasn't a workers' strike, but rather a protest of Polish people in Britain drawing attention to how they are being mistreated. What would be wrong with that? Yet the moment they try to bring the economic dimension into it, all of a sudden it's "divisive" against the so-called objective material interest of "the class" (singular) in the eyes of those who can't let go of the Old Left view on social struggle; in which all more particular forms of struggle against domination and exclusion must be subordinated to workplace struggle.

Class is only slightly less of a fictional collective identity as nationhood is. At least in terms of this naïve notion of a shared class interest common to everybody who falls under the Marxian definition of a proletarian. The "Working Class (TM)" has no nation because it doesn't actually exist.

This workerist ideology is itself (ironically) quite similar to nationalism, as much as the former may despise the latter. Both try to impose a shared identity upon groups of people who are really very different, and claim that they all have a sort of joint interest insofar as they fall under that identity - the "Working Class (TM)"/Proletariat and nation respectively.

Malatesta pointed out back in 1906 that the idea of an objective interest common to all the working classes was less real than most socialists gave it credit for, and the divisions between segments of the working classes were more real than they gave them credit for.

I think the repeated changes in class composition and the inability of traditional syndicalism to achieve much since the end of the Second World War have proved this assessment at least partly right. - though perhaps not for the reasons Malatesta originally made that critique.

Ed
Aug 22 2015 21:42

Connor, I realise you've got a problem with what you perceive to be 'the Old Left', with 'Marxists', with outdated notions of 'class' etc etc. but you should really just take a moment to read what's actually being written (properly, not just skimming it for agreement or, more likely, opportunity for disagreement).

Dywizjon 161 wrote:
Analysing motivation of many of the strike supporters we notice, that often it is not a workers solidarity that speaks through them, but sometimes it is a feeling of superiority. It is being proudly highlighted that they are here „not for the benefits”, incorporating themselves in the government campaing scapegoating people on welfare. At the same time in the very same community there was a significant lack of support for general strikes happening in recent years and some of them even acted as scabs.

This is their take on the motivations of people within their community for taking part in this action. Are they wrong? Do you have better access to info on the Polish community in the UK? Do you speak even Polish? You say you support ethnic groups protesting against mistreatment by the government; but should that protest be at the expense of other groups, whether foreign or native (as Dywizjon 161 say it is)?

The maddest part is I might even be in slight disagreement with Dywizjon 161.. but the point is my issue is to do with the Polish strike itself whereas yours is just a proxy for you to further grind your axe against the 'Old Left notions of class' (just look at how much of your post is actually to do with the issue itself - not even all of your first paragraph ffs!)..

Juan Conatz
Aug 23 2015 08:38

I find this pretty disagreeable. I think its perfectly fine for particularily expolited or oppressed sections of the class to do things that directly address their issues. Should we be against the 2006 May Day general strike in the U.S. or Black Lives Matter because it mostly speaks to one racial or ethnic minority? Seems like old style CPUSA "colorblindness".

Connor Owens
Aug 23 2015 12:06

Ed

My comment is less about this specific strike - which I would still support, despite the few legitimate problems Dywizjon 161 wrote of - and more about the general knee-jerk reaction of a certain kind of audiance and poster here on Libcom, which signs on to that kind of working-class nationalism I talked about and insists that any more particular struggles (say, as Polish people against a xenophobic state which still exploits their labour) must be dismissed as "divisive" in favour of imposing an universalising identity upon them - as "workers" - that's really no less artificial a demarcation (in some ways) as national identity is.

I don't see how my above comment is any different from other people who often post something on an article and use the space to discuss a wider issue.

And that wider issue is especially relevant here as that's were I see Dywizjon 161 coming from in his analysis.

Akai's comment above is illustrative in this regard:

Of course here there is no motivation to improve working conditions or deal with concrete workplace issues, just more against anti-immigrant attitude

As if taking a stand against anti-immigrant attitudes were not a worthwhile goal in itself.

wojtek
Aug 23 2015 19:01

How does the descrimination that Polish immigrants experience differ to that faced by those from other A8/A2 countries?

Ed
Aug 23 2015 21:15
Juan Conatz wrote:
I think its perfectly fine for particularily expolited or oppressed sections of the class to do things that directly address their issues. Should we be against the 2006 May Day general strike in the U.S. or Black Lives Matter because it mostly speaks to one racial or ethnic minority?

While I agree with your sentiment, I think that what Dywizjon 161 are getting at is that the motivations for the strike are that Polish workers are getting picked on when there are other groups of workers who deserve to be picked on more, an attitude of 'people talk shit about Polish people but we work and pay taxes unlike Albanians' or whoever. So comparison to BLM wouldn't be an exact fit (unless it was called 'Why Aren't You Shooting Mexicans?' or something).

Fwiw, even under those circumstances I would/did (depending on how successful/real you thought it was) still support the strike. My feeling would be those attitudes are part of the complicated combo of ideas within our class/communities and Dywizjon 161 would do well do get involved in the strike to encourage the better aspects of it rather than stand aside completely (kind of like the Lindsey Oil Refinery strike that was a legitimate workers' dispute but, at least initially, expressed in nationalist terms)..

Steven.
Aug 26 2015 10:01
Juan Conatz wrote:
I find this pretty disagreeable. I think its perfectly fine for particularily expolited or oppressed sections of the class to do things that directly address their issues. Should we be against the 2006 May Day general strike in the U.S. or Black Lives Matter because it mostly speaks to one racial or ethnic minority? Seems like old style CPUSA "colorblindness".

yeah firstly what Ed said, secondly my understanding that with the 2006 strike, that was meant to be a strike of migrant workers in general, and it was called by workers, is that right?

This is very different, as firstly it wasn't a real strike in the first place, it was just something called by a Polish newspaper, and it wasn't something about exploited migrant workers in general, or even just EU migrant workers but just Polish ones.

Also there is an issue of scale here. Migrant workers make up about 13% of the US population, and 16% of the labour force, whereas Polish people make up 1% of the UK population. My understanding is that migrant workers as a group essentially staff large sectors of the economy exclusively, so a strike would have a real, noticeable impact. Whereas this is not really the case for Polish people in the UK, who apart from in some companies normally form a minority of a mixed workforce (and you would also think that at a majority Polish firm, the workers there would be less likely to want to strike against prejudice against Polish people)

Interesting anyway, I will chat to some of my Polish colleagues to see what they thought about it

gamerunknown
Sep 2 2015 22:37
Connor Owens wrote:
Malatesta pointed out back in 1906 that the idea of an objective interest common to all the working classes was less real than most socialists gave it credit for, and the divisions between segments of the working classes were more real than they gave them credit for.

Acknowledged by Marx at the close of the Third Volume of Capital.

Furthermore, Malatesta would write the following in 1921:

Malatesta wrote:
Now, it is a truth that history has made the proletariat the main instrument of the next social change, and that those fighting for the establishment of a society where all human beings are free and endowed with all the means to exercise their freedom, must rely mainly on the proletariat.

While I don't think that traditional neglect of domestic labour or snide treatment of the lumpenproletariat are warranted, I believe in an ineluctable conflict between employers and employed and consider any attempt to elide this antagonism as serving reaction.

Gregory A. Butler
Sep 6 2015 16:08
Quote:
my understanding that with the 2006 strike, that was meant to be a strike of migrant workers in general, and it was called by workers, is that right?

Wrong and wrong

It was a strike of Mexican immigrant workers, organized by Spanish language radio DJs, the directors of not for profit social service agencies that served the Mexican immigrant community and Catholic priests

Non Mexicans could participate but it was primarily oriented towards the specific issues of Mexican immigrants

Workers participated,but they didn't run it - that's one of the major reasons that no permanent unions or other worker organizations emerged from the rallies

Also, the primary slogan of the strike was (translated into English) Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote - the organizers primary focus was on pressuring the Democratic Party into fighting for Mexican immigrant rights

Chilli Sauce
Sep 6 2015 18:31

Greg, can you point me to a longer/more in-depth critique of the the 2006 May Day strike that argues along those same lines?

EDIT: That's not snark, I'm legitimately interested.

bastarx
Sep 7 2015 00:39
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Greg, can you point me to a longer/more in-depth critique of the the 2006 May Day strike that argues along those same lines?

EDIT: That's not snark, I'm legitimately interested.

Chilli, Hieronymous has made several lengthy comments on various threads here about the 2006 strike you could try searching for them or asking him.