13 June 2019 will go down in history as the date when Poland, eventually, joined the coterie of authoritarian states. States that deprive their citizens of fundamental democratic rights like freedom of speech, thought and scientific inquiry, and penalise them for their views. On that day, the Polish Lower House of Parliament (Sejm) passed the bill updating the Penal Code, changing the wording of Article 256 – which now includes a prohibition on propagandising communist ideas. This is now punishable by prison.

“From Saturday 27th of April, the ZNP (Teachers’ Union) suspends the national strike. It suspends it, but it does not end it! I shall add: Starting today, we are entering a new, much more important period.” With these words, Sławomir Broniarz, the leader of the ZNP, has bent to the pressures of bourgeois public opinion and put a lid on the cauldron of struggle that has been developing over the past three weeks. For this, the government representatives in the dispute, led by ex-PM Ewa Kopacz, thanked him warmly.

The Polish teachers’ strike, which started on 8 April, marks a fundamental change in the situation in Poland, once hailed as the success story for the transition to capitalism after the collapse of the Stalinist regime in 1989. The class struggle is back on the agenda. Now the greatest teachers’ strike in Polish history has entered its second week and is becoming the catalyst for the pent-up anger of youth and workers.

The spectre of a national strike of teachers has been looming over Poland for some time now. But despite the lukewarm attempts by the right-wing PiS government to alleviate the situation with half-hearted concessions, the strike date has been set for 8 April. This day will definitely go down as an important event in the history of the National Teachers’ Union (ZNP, formed in the course of the 1905 revolution), and perhaps of the Polish working class as a whole.

A wave of deep consternation shook Poland on Sunday 13 January. A well-known, liberal politician and mayor of the major coastal city of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, was stabbed on stage in front of hundreds of people. He died in hospital the following morning. Adamowicz, who had been the city’s mayor since 1998, was taking part in the biggest annual charity event, the Great Orchestra of Christmas Aid, as he was stabbed in his chest repeatedly by a raving terrorist. Many are in a state of disbelief, as this is widely considered to be the most serious political assassination since the murder of Polish President Gabriel Narutowicz in 1922.

The Polish government and the European Commission are locked in conflict over proposed changes to Poland’s Supreme Court. The EU is considering taking the unprecedented step of stripping Poland of its voting rights within the Union as punishment for infringing on the rule of law. It has also threatened to cut EU development funds for Poland unless the rule of law is protected.

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