A few days ago, a ruling by the Polish constitutional court placed an effective ban on all abortions in Poland. In response, the country erupted into spontaneous mass protests (despite the Covid-19 assembly ban), occupations and blockades, all of which have been going on for several days now, in large towns and small, on the streets, and in the churches. Today, the call went out for a nation-wide strike. The arguably largest protest movement in Poland since the 1980s is predominantly led by women, but people of all genders are lending their support. We would like to send out the following message to the feminist strikers and wish them every success:
To the strikers in Poland,
We stand behind you, united in solidarity. While we can’t join you in person, we are with you in spirit. There is so much happening so quickly right now, and we are doing our very best to keep up with all the most important developments. We are in contact with our Polish sister union “Inicjatywa Pracownicza” (IP), as well as other LGBTIQ+ activists and feminists. Everyone we spoke to so far gave a euphoric account of the overwhelming outpouring of rage on the streets, summed up by the slogan “This is war!” You have succeeded in organising large spontaneous strikes without even the benefit of broad union support (one exception being the strike call given by IP). We were already very impressed by the spontaneous wave of strikes in Poland during the “Black Protest” back in 2016 (at that time, international travel was still an option, while today the pandemic sadly prevents us from joining you). Since then, we have seen an increasing number of anti-feminist attacks on women’s rights, especially since the Polish government cast “LGBT ideology” in the role of public enemy number one. So we are delighted to hear from our friends that this movement is no longer “just” about access to abortion, but also about the conservative PiS party’s right-wing government policies in general (some of the more popular slogans being “Fuck PiS” and “Piss off”). It is about transphobia, homophobic family policies, religious affairs, sexualised violence, the health system, precarious work etc.
We have so much to learn from you in terms of political strike action – and there is so much we want to learn.
As a union committed to class struggle, we too believe in the efficacy of strike action as a tool for change. Our goal is to improve working and living conditions for everyone and to build an emancipatory society free from capitalism, patriarchy and racism. For us as wage earners, striking, i.e. withdrawing our labour, is the most powerful form of leverage we have at our disposal if we want to bring about societal change.
As a feminist union, we are committed to the view that the conditions of unpaid labour (giving birth, caring duties, the manufacture and performance of an acceptable sexuality, affective labour, housework, etc.) are working conditions. That reproductive rights are workers’ rights. And we will not tolerate any attempt to take these rights away. But let’s be honest, life under capitalist and patriarchal conditions has always been pretty shit. And frankly, we’ve had enough: we’re not taking this shit any more!
Our problems aren’t that different, and we’re not going to let national borders stand in the way of mutual solidarity. The fight against anti-feminism, just like the fight against nationalism and fascism, must transcend the borders of nation states. We thank you for your courage. Our struggles are closely linked – your strike is our strike. May it be successful, and may it achieve more than just a simple return to the status quo.
We would like to take this opportunity now to wish you all the strength you will need in the future to face the inevitable backlash. If you have any suggestions as to how we can support you from here, please let us know.
International Committee of the Freie Arbeiter_innen Union (FAU), 28.10.2020
- A guide to political strike action (or “non-traditional” forms of industrial action) by the IP (in Polish): https://ozzip.pl/porady-prawne/item/2696-strajk-kobiet-jak-mozesz-wziac-w-nim-udzial
- International Manifesto: “Our Strike is Essential! Together with Polish Women for Freedom of Abortion”: https://www.transnational-strike.info/2020/10/28/our-strike-is-essential-together-with-polish-women-for-freedom-of-abortion