Poland as a case study in the history of the anti-ACTA protests

People in Poland went to the streets to protest ACTA because they had the experience of communism – said Glynn Moody at the international IP and the Public Interest conference in Rio de Janeiro.

Moody described the events in Poland as a turning point in the battle against ACTA, citing Michał “rysiek” Woźniak.

The history of the anti-ACTA movement tells us how to show civil disobedience. It all starts in the Internet where people share information and rally towards a common cause. Thanks to the Internet and sending hundreds of  thousands of e-mails to the government and the parliamentary representatives the Poles were able to make the authorities listen to their voice and change the attitude towards the ACTA agreement. The NGOs had an important part to play – partially due to the fact that they organized some of the actions undertaken, but most notably because of their expertise and constant communication with the government. Poland became an example for people all around Europe to use social media as a mean to organize themselves and take to the streets. Apart from that they started sending e-mails to their representatives in the EU parliament to demand them to vote against ACTA. One might say that it was Poland that made Europe avoid the agreement.

Comments all over the world notice the fact that apart from Poland other post-communist societies were active during the protests. However that theory might be far-fetched. We are proud that we can hear positive remarks about Poland and the ACTA case even in Brasil, but we think that a comparison between the ACTA protests and the heritage of the pro-democtratic movements (notably the Polish “Solidarność”) is not accurate. The relation comes to mind quickly and looks like great PR but is very far from the truth. The leaders of the protests did not take part in anti-communist protests, they were not subject to repression, they weren’t jailed. Needless to say that hat’s for the best. However there are even more differences: the anti-ACTA protests are a sign of the change in social movements that are becoming more and more post-political (one could clearly see that in the strong commitment to the “no logo” rule), non-hierarchical (no formal leaders, just networks). It was also technology that attributed to this change.

But it’s much more important to point to the series of events that took place in the beginning of 2012 than to history, which Woźniak does. But it’s also very important to understand the fact that the protests had a very strong anti-government background with the dominance of activists with a right-wing political alignment.

But letting go of the analogy to history is much more important because focusing on the past blurs both the real changes that took place and the understanding of the fact that it was a new and unique event. The Poles did not use the methods they applied during the era of the “Solidarność” civil rights movement – they created frames for a social movement of the XXI century. The youth simply caught up using facebook and went on to organize a protest. One of the organizers of the 15-thousand march in Kraków, Kuba Danecki (born 1989) – who now works at Centrum Cyfrowe – said “I was actually surprised how many people came to the Main Square. We just called people in using facebook.”

But the real challenge for all of us is to understand how to replicate the success of the Polish anti-ACTA struggle in the fight against other threats to civil rights in the digital world.