ISSN 2451-2966


Igor Stokfiszewski

The Workers’ Movement in the Campaign for Democratizing Culture and for Political Democracy


The author, giving an account of efforts conducted since 2009 in Poland by artists who strive to improve the workers’ lot and welfare and the quality of political democracy, tries to defend four propositions. 1) The process of aspiring to make the arts more democratic must lay greater emphasis on arts institutions than it has done to date. This field must be regarded as essential if the struggle for democracy in the arts is to be successful. 2) The workers’ movement (its trade-union incarnation included) plays a key part within the institution and where the creative work of individuals and arts organizations converge. 3) The foundation of unique trade unions is vital if democratic goals are to be attained (not every trade union has a positive impact on real democracy). 4) Democratic movements of the present day must acknowledge that the workers’ movement (including the trade-union movement) is an integral part at the forefront of the struggle for social and political democracy, to a greater extent than they have done thus far. The author defends these propositions by analysing the conduct of groups and organisations such as the Winter Holiday Camp, the Civic Forum for Contemporary Art and Workers’ Initiative National Trade Union campaigns such as ArtStrike (2012), the campaign for the democratization of the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw (2013–2014), the campaign establishing the Agreement on Minimum Pay for Artists (2014–2015), We, the Precariat (2015), and the campaign in defence of the Polski Theatre in Wrocław (2016–2017).


democracy; democratic culture; precariat; workers’ movement; trade unions; public culture institutions.

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Igor Stokfiszewski

(1979), activist, dramatist, researcher, participant and initiator of actions in the areas of political and social theatre, community theatre and engaged art. He has collaborated with the Łaźnia Nowa Theater (Nowa Huta, in Kraków), the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards (Pontedera, Italy), with the German collective Rimini Protokoll, and with artists Artur Żmijewski, Paweł Althamer and Katarzyna Górna. In cooperation with directors Wojtek Klemm, Bartosz Szydłowski and Agnieszką Olsten, he has staged performances based on plays by authors including Bertold Brecht, Heiner Müller, Sławomir Mrożek and Olga Tokarczuk. Author of Zwrot polityczny [Political Turn] (2009), editor of Culture and Development: Beyond Neoliberal Reason (2017), co-editor of the collections Jerzy Grotowski – Teksty zebrane [Jerzy Grotowski: Collected Papers] (2012), Built the City: Perspectives on Commons and Culture (2015), Kultura i rozwój. Analizy, rekomendacje, studia przypadków [Culture and Development: Analysis, recommendations, case studies] (2016). A member of the Political Critique team, of the European Alternatives board of trustees,  an activist in the trade union Workers' Initiative and in the DiEM25 political movement. Since 2013, with Jaśmina Wójcik and others, he has been conducting social and artistic actions in post-industrial spaces of the Warsaw district of Ursus.