Solidarita on economic, social and political situation in Czech republic

Oct 2000

Interview with the Russian anarchist paper "Autonomist" published by Autonomous Action

1) Two words on economic, social and political situation in Czech.

Well, the Czech working class has been going through a very difficult stage of capitalist development. An economic crisis which started in 1997 has brought to an end a period, in which protected national capitalist economy was constructed, and has accelerated an integration of the Czech economy into the global capitalist system. This, of course, means that traditional industries are going bankrupt and unemployment has rocketed to some 10%. Czech capitalists in troubles decided to go the "Russian way" and do not pay wages to their workers for months. For example, last Christmass about 130,000 workers were without any income. A public sector is suffering from a lack of money. Tens of thousands of railwayworkers and steelworkers are in danger.

And in a political context this new economic stage finished a period of rightwing governments, which were strongly linked with Czech industrialists and bankers. A new social democratic government has been in office since 1998 and has been introducing quite painful neoliberal measures.

> 2) Tell something about anarchism in your country.

In the Czech Republic anarchism had a comparatively strong tradition dating to the end of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century. But this tradition had been destroyed and buried by leninists since 1925. So, after 1989 Czech anarchist movement had to start anew. Its formation was indeed spontaneous, but it has taken it quite a long time to emerge from counter-cultural activities and gain a real organisational form and political contents.

Now, there are basicly three different anarchist organisations in our country. First, there is the Czechoslovak Anarchist Federation, which is a "synthetist" organisation. It seems to be decaying now very quickly. Second, there is the Federation of Social Anarchist, the Czech section of the IWA/AIT with some 30 members and pretty productive publishing activities. And third, there is the Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists - SOLIDARITA, which I personally belong to. We have got some 12 members and 50 supporters and publish a paper called "Solidarity". We also produced several publications on anarchism, but mainly we are very actively involved in industrial and other struggles.

> 3) We heard about squatters and antifascists in Czesch. What can you say?

Yes, there are still two squats in Prague. At the time when they were established they were, at least to a certain extent, political, but now they serve mainly as places for cultural activities. As for the Czech anti-fascists, they have organised themselves into the Anti-Fascist Action (AFA). A development of their political ideas has not been finished yet, but they are mostly anarchists, so it is very probable, that AFA is going to be a libertarian revolutionary anti-fascist group, consciously rejecting and fighting leninism.

> 4) And how working class struggle is going?

Well, as I have already said, working class is now going through a very painful period. So few months ago several major industrial struggles errupted against nonpayment of wages and mass redundancies. First these struggles had been evolving in trade unions, but because of an absolute pro-capitalist stance of the union leadership they had never got any further than to demonstrations, protest meetings, strike alarms and one hour warning strikes. Union bureaucrats had also been fighting only for recapitalisation of some companies in troubles, but not for jobs and wages, which had been the key questions for workers.

A big resentment among rank & file unionists and nonunionised workers in individual companies had led to a series of spontaneous protests and attempts at self-organisation. A pattern for working class spontaneity and self-organisation was set up by miners and machining workers, who challenged not only their bosses but also their union bureaucrats. Miners of the Kohinnoor mine formed the first strike committee independent on union bureaucracy and in this way succeeded at radicalising their local union branch leaders. They also staged the first occupation strike in our country. This way they inspired machining workers of CKD DS, who spontaneously picketed government offices protected by riot cops.

On this examples ORA-SOLIDARITA was able to elaborate its action programme for workers struggles and have intervened in two other industrial struggles. We have been at least partially successful. In two factories Workers Action Groups (WAG) were established by the most militant workers. In one of them the WAG strongly influenced by our ideas attempted at election of an autonomous strike committee and about 1,000 workers took part in a general assembly organised by the WAG. Unfortunately, this attempt was supressed by an alliance of the factory management and union leaders. Nevertheless, this action frightened managers, union bureaucrats and even the government, so they decided to silence these workers by fulfilling their demands. A president of the largest union confederation warned others who might like to follow this example, that he did not support them and that "anarchy had no place in our country".

In the second factory the WAG and ORA-SOLIDARITA organised a joint demo of some 300 workers and several successful meetings. But as this dispute had already been going on for too long and as the multinational, which owns the factory, was officialy declared bankrupt, a lot of workers got demoralised and simply started to look for new jobs.

It is very probable that there are further struggles to come and we hope, that we will be able to do even much more in popularising anarchist ideas of direct action and direct democracy.

> 5) Tell about your group. What you consider as platformism?

Well, ORA-SOLIDARITA is a political revolutionary organisation. This means, that we do not pretend to be a "revolutionary" union or do not want to become one. We are simply an organisation of anarchists, who joined their forces to be more effective in propagating anarchist ideas in all working class struggles and this way trying to build a self-managed working class movement based on direct action and libertarian anti-capitalism.

We base our politics on such documents as "Organisational Platform of Libertarian Communists" by Nestor Makhno, Peter Arshinov and Ida Mett, a manifesto of the Friends of Durruti group and "Manifesto of Libertarian Communism" by a famous French anarchist-communist Georges Fontenis. And these documents form a core of a so called "platformist" tradition within anarchism. Of course, we do not consider them to be a final word in a development of anarchist theory, but rather as a point of departure.

All in all, platformism means for us, that an anarchist organisation in order to be effective needs to have a common revolutionary programme and a common revolutionary strategy and its members need to agree on a voluntary self-discipline. A lot of anarchist believe that this means in fact a new centralised political party, but nothing can be further from the truth. A platformist organisation is a federation based on direct democracy and all its politics and activities stem from below. Members are allowed to have their own ideas and criticisms towards particular decisions and policies, but if they want to spread them outside of the organisation, they are obliged to clarify that these are only their own ideas and not organisation's ones. If an anarchist organisation wants to be effective it simply can not speak with two voices and confuse people with what we really stand for or do not stand for.

> 6) Was ORA-Solidarita a group, which organised throwing eggs to Madlen Olbriet?

Not exactly. It was a spontaneous direct action of two of our members, which was wholeheartedly supported by the whole ORA-SOLIDARITA. It was meant as a protest against US imperialism manifesting itself not only in wars against Iraq and Serbia, but also in transnational institutions of global capitalism such as the IMF, World Bank or WTO. This direct action was highly popular among Czech workers and got a lot of media attention through which we were able to make the public more familiar with upcoming anti-capitalist protests against IMF and World Bank in Prague.

> 7) Tell about role of Solidarita in actions againist IMF.

At the beginning ORA-SOLIDARITA was supporting an idea of Czech class struggle anarchists joining an umbrella organisation for the protests. We hoped that together we might be able to make it as anti-capitalist and libertarian as possible. But unfortunately we stayed alone in this effort, supported only by few comrades of Czechoslovak Anarchist Federation. Nevertheless, several members of ORA-SOLIDARITA joined the Initiative Against Economic Globalisation (INPEG) to open there a space for revolutionary anarchist ideas and organisational methods.

Besides this ORA-SOLIDARITA called for an independent and united class struggle mobilisation among working class people for S26 demos in Prague. Again, unfortunately only few local anarchist, radicals and libertarian anti-fascists were interested in particular practical actions. We also tried to mobilise anarchists internationally to either come to Prague or organise their own local protests. We asked anarchists coming to participate in Prague demos to form a "Red & Black" Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Block.

In our country we were organising anarchist infostalls, arguing for workers joining the protests, distributing special issues of our paper in front of factories, in which we already had some recognition and organising an international pressure on Czech unions to join the protests. At least in two huge factories we were able to gain a support of rank & file workers, who demanded a collective union participation to S26 from their union leaders. Of course, they refused.

I would say that those few Czech anarchist of all organisations, who were involved in this stuff, achieved quite a lot. There was a united, though a bit disorganised anarchist contingent of some 4 or 5 thousands people on S26, which effectively disrupted the IMF/World Bank conference. Also up to two 2,000 young Czech workers, unemployed and students joined the Prague demo. And thanks to international anarchist organisational efforts and direct actions we were able to at least reduce trotskyists and stalinists to a complete insignificance, if not those "anti-globalisation" reformers of capitalism from various NGOs.

Part of Solidarita's web pages