8M POLAND : The wave of the movement is receding, let's prepare for the next one
In the autumn of 2020, Poland was shaken by a mass movement against the abolition of the right to abortion in case of foetal malformation. In the face of resistance, the conservatives decided to wait until the movement ran out of steam. In January, two months and a half after the 100,000-strong demonstration in Warsaw, the decision finally came into effect.
by Tiphaine Soyez, Rosa Polska
Within a few hours, and despite the freezing cold, demonstrations were held in major cities. But they were not the beginning of a new wave. The phenomenon of spontaneous demonstrations in small provincial towns and working-class neighborhoods, observed in autumn, did not recur.
The state of mind is not that of a definitive defeat. Certainly there is a certain demoralization among some of the activists, but the main reason why the movement has not resumed is that it does not know how to continue.
Instead of galvanizing the troops and mobilizing, the leaders of the movement (OSK) are turning away from the struggle. While chanting "we will not go underground," they put emphasis on an organization, Aborcja bez Granic (Abortion Without Borders), which can provide clandestine abortion.
No doubt this NGO will save lives. In its early days, the Rosa Campaign in Ireland also provided illegal means of abortion, with the "abortion buses" and the "abortion train”. But this was part of a relentless campaign in working-class neighborhoods to fight for the legalization of abortion. It was by this means that the referendum could be won in 2018.
On the contrary, the OSK leaders propose clandestine abortion as a temporary solution pending the election of pro-abortion cadidates. They approach career politicians and members of parliament and ignore the aspirations of the grassroots.
A "citizens' project" has been launched - a petition for a bill to legalize abortion to be discussed in parliament. This has been attempted in the past, and parliament rejected the text without even discussing it. Again, in order to pass this law, the petition would need not only the necessary number of signatures, but also the support of a struggle that would put pressure on the members of parliament.
Without proper leadership, the movement became dormant, its energy dissipated. But it could erupt at any moment, for example if a tragedy occurs because of these conservatives who hate women.
The ban on abortion and the "clause of conscienceness" (the fact that doctors can refuse to perform abortions even in cases provided for by law) have dramatic consequences. Women have lost their lives or got a disability because doctors lied to them about the medical state of their pregnancies to prevent them from having an abortion. Others find themselves in terrible precarious conditions following unplanned pregnancies and see their life plans ruined. "Hell for women" is one of the most popular slogans of the movement, and one also hears "the PiS has blood on its hands".
Hell for LGBTQI+
Poland is hell for LGBTQI+ people too. About a quarter of the territory has been declared a "LGBT ideology free zone" by local politicians. Homophobia is officially encouraged and homophobic attacks are common. This summer, LGBTQI+ rights activists were harassed by police while the obscurantist organization Ordo Iuris carried out an odious homophobic campaign with impunity.
Ordo Iuris had already initiated the bill to ban abortion in 2016. In February 2021, they attacked again with a project called "Yes to the family, no to gender!” The aim is to withdraw Poland from the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe convention against violence toward women and domestic violence.
Instead, Ordo Iuris proposes a text that reaffirms the ban on same-sex marriage, prohibits "excessive state intervention" in the family, and encourages the role of women as mothers in the home. All of this while stirring up the spectre of "gender" and spreading homophobic nonsense.
Their theses would be laughable if the Polish regime were not under the influence of this lobby, and if this lobby did not have enormous financial means to spew its venom. Socialist feminists must fight not only against these attacks, but also leave no space for LGBTQI+phobia in the left (where transphobia insinuates itself with the "TERF" ideology).
Let's prepare for the next stage of the struggle
Even if the movement marks a pause for the moment, a drama caused by the anti-choice policy, or yet another PiS provocation, could revive the movement.
Last fall, through our Rosa Polska campaign, we said that a general strike was possible or necessary to win the right to abortion on demand and free of charge. To build this general strike, we called for the formation of democratic strike committees that would organize the movement from the bottom up and give it real leadership.
At present, the atmosphere among the Polish working class is no longer conducive to a general strike with the right to abortion as a central demand. The moment when a movement retreats can be frustrating and demoralizing. But the analysis of the struggle, which is constantly discussed and updated, makes it possible to overcome this state of mind, and to use this calmer period to prepare for the next rise of the movement. Thus Rosa Polska is organizing a public meeting on March 13 to invite all those who share our feminist socialist standpoint to join our campaign to build a working class wing to the abortion rights movement.