POLAND: Interview with comrade from Rozbrat collective, Poznan
Poland has a vibrant squat movement with many squats established throughout the country. The oldest squat is Rozbrat, created in 1994 in Poznan, a city in west-central Poland. The squat was established in an old disused warehouse, in a deserted industrial complex. Since 1997, the Anarchist Federation began their activity at Rozbrat. It is a self-organized space that acts as a centre for independent/alternative culture, spreading independent thought and building social consciousness. Like many squats in Europe it has been organizing around the housing crisis and wide-spread evictions of tenants from their homes by banks and speculators, which often leaves people homeless. This is an interview with a comrade from Rozbrat to find out more about their activities and their struggle.
Can you introduce Rozbrat squat its main activities?
Rozbrat is the oldest existing squat in Poland and one of the oldest in Europe. Rozbrat Collective was created by a group of people who work to repair and develop Rozbrat squat. We organize events and benefits, such as gigs or movie screening, which are dedicated to the local community but also to anarchist activists and their/our friends. As Rozbrat Collective we participate in local social struggles too, and always support people against the power of capital and politics. Sometimes we have problems with the law or police, but our struggle is rather successful. Many people co-operate with us in our activities including some politicians and technicians (when we need technical support etc.) Some artists from Poznan help us too.
What is the origin of the tenant movement in Poznan/Poland?
In Poznan we have a huge problem with evictions. Banks buy the buildings and try to remove people from their homes with very high rent or through actions such as burning or flooding the floors or bathrooms. It looks illegal and dangerous, but according to the law it is permitted. We support tenants with their struggle against evictions and we use a broad range of tactics. These include organizing talks, making blockades or other forms of physical resistance. Sometimes the tactics we use are illegal, but we always get agreement from the tenants.
Our tenants society is called Wielkopolskie Stowarzyszenie Lokatorów. It began by organizing people from Piaskowa street, who were evicted from their houses and had problems with locals burning and flooding their homes. Our first step was to support them to organize. The case which got the most media attention was the case of Stolarska street, where a home was evicted which housed many elderly people. It was justified by using the language of “repairing the building” but the tenants took the case to court. Both local and national media have highlighted this struggle and supported both the tenants and us, the activists who engage in this conflict.
What is the role of anarchists in this movement working with tenants and how is public opinion in regards to the anarchist movement?
Anarchists are the driving force in this movement. We talk with tenants and try to organize radical resistance against private property and speculators who sell buildings from tenants. As anarchists we organize blockades against evictions and much more radical forms of resistance too. We organize demonstrations, place posters around town, talk with lawyers and with media. We often write about the problems tenants face, which is part of our struggle for a better world, where housing is a right and not a commodity. We accompany tenants to their meetings with lawyers to discuss their living problems with rent or water. It is a political problem because rich people don’t have a problem with evictions and the police support evictions. We always coordinate our actions with the tenants. A part of public opinion is against us, because they think that private property is the most important thing, even holy, so they support the speculators who buy buildings from the tenants. But the majority of people and public opinion likes us and supports our struggle. They even like anarchists too. Some people think there are good and bad anarchists. The good ones are those who support the poor against capital and the bad are the ones that destroy private property and fight with police. They are seen as hooligans. Sometimes people don’t know that anarchists are active in the tenant movement, or they don’t want to know.
What is the Worker’s Initiative and how does Rozbrat collective engage with it?
Inicjatywa Pracownicza (the Workers Initiative) is a trade union. It is a general trade union, not only for anarcho-syndicalists. Not all activists from the Workers Initiative are anarchists, although we have red-black flags. We support and organize people who work in small firms, or who only have part-time work, and therefore don’t have the right to organize in larger unions. Some of the larger unions are conciliatory. We are radical and support all forms of strikes and some political protests, including antifascist and anti-capitalist actions. We also have lawyers and fight in court cases. Rozbrat Collective supports the Workers Initiative for political reasons and some of the activists from Rozbrat Collective are activists of the Worker’s Initiative too.
Does the squat face conflicts with the city’s authorities, the police? Do the city’s residents express their support for the squat or does it face threats?
We face conflict with the authorities. We try to organize people against power and politics, those who have ruined their homes and places of work. We often write about political corruption and police brutality, expose their lies and try to build resistance against them.
People from Pozan support us. They think that Rozbrat is a social movement and that this is very important in a democracy. Some of the conservatives and far right movements criticize us for our struggle and forms of resistance. But we don’t care and our struggle continues. Investors fear us, because they think that anarchists are violent and have the support of society. So far we haven’t faced the threat of eviction ourselves, at the squat.
Is their a joint struggle between collectives in Poland and also in other countries?
Yes, it exists. We visit and reach out to other collectives and participate in joint struggle against states and capital. We do joint activities with other Polish collectives such as Syrena, Przychodnia and Kopi from Germany. They face a similar struggle and similar problems. Our movement is also international so we often do demonstrations and actions together and coordinate.
For more information on Rozbrat squat (in English): http://www.rozbrat.org/our-activity/157-rozbrat-squat