Get ready for a summer of protest.
The Tolerance Parade, and the counter demonstration by Polish far-rights groups, have received official permission from Warsaw’s local authorities to go ahead on June 10.
The capital’s streets promise to be busy this summer.
Doctors are continuing their strike action for higher pay. Currently earning 70% of the national average wage, medics have had enough. Opinion polls show that 59% believe the government to be the cause of the protracted dispute.
Miners – a group of workers who were part of the labour aristocracy under communism – have seen redundancies and real wage reductions ever since the fall of communism. Whole communities have been decimated as a result of the pit closures. Last year - after some of the most violent protests the capital has ever seen – they managed to secure a pay deal with the previous ex-communist SLD government. Now they want more. The Polish coal industry has increased profitability recently, so the miners want a piece of the pie. But they are not the aristocrats they once were.
The police are also getting restless, as are arms industry employees.
Students, outraged by the appointment of far-rightist Roman Giertych as education secretary, have been taking to the streets in protest and are promising to keep up the demonstrations over the summer months.
And now the centerpiece of the campaign against homophobia next Saturday. Last year, the then mayor of Warsaw and now President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, refused to even grant permission to the Parade, though simultaneously giving his permission for the counter demo to go ahead (Kafka would have loved that!).
So the fact that it will be legal this year is progress, of sorts.
Poland missed out on the civil rights movements that the west experienced in the 1960s. Communism bottled up any social discontent. When democracy came the proverbial can of worms opened. It’s taken some time to fester but reactionary groups have been gaining some strength (both in and outside of the government) and issues such as gay rights have created a fault line between Polish tradition and Polish modernity.
While the miners and doctors protests are primarily about economic resources – and we wish them luck – rights of sexual minorities and the fight against xenophobia are about basic freedoms. Poland is beginning a move towards modernity but rights have to be won, not given.
The weather forecasts predict a cool summer (bugger!) but politically it’s going to be a long hot summer ahead, folks.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Posted by beatroot at 6/03/2006