Swedish harbour workers declare boycott of Israeli goods

•June 3, 2010 • 2 Comments

Notification of a blockade on Israeli ships and Israeli goods
The Swedish Dockers’ Union has today notified its intention to enforce a blockade on all Israeli ships and goods coming from or destined to Israel that are handled by its members. The blockade will enter into force on Tuesday June 15 at 00.00 hours and it will last to Thursday June 24 at 24.00 hours.

The reason for this blockade is the unprecedented criminal agression against the peaceful convoy Ship to Gaza. Several peace activists were murdered by Israeli commando soldiers and the other participants were detained without any justification.

The Swedish Dockers’ Union, which supports Ship to Gaza, wants through this measure to protest against the Israeli government’s violation of international law by agressing a convoy of peace activists and emergency supplies to the population of Gaza, which is suffering an equally illegal blockade.

The Swedish Dockers’ Union demands that those responsible for this outrage be brought to justice, that Israel pays respect to international law and that the blockade of Gaza be lifted immediately.

The Swedish Dockers’ Union calls on other trade unions and organisations to take similar initiatives and calls for a general blockade of Israeli goods until the rights of the Palestinian people are guaranteed and the blockade of Gaza is lifted..

http://www.hamn.nu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=216:varsel-om-blockad-av-israeliska-fartyg-och-israeliskt-gods&catid=38:nyheter&Itemid=110

It was us on the shopfloor that cancelled the firings!

•March 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A cleaned up machine translation of a blog post from Euromaintbloggen, the blog of the EuroMaint workers who have just won an important victory against management plans to replace all permanent contracts with temporary workers. I have tried to clean up the phrasing, but there are still some ropey parts. If anyone has any suggestions for improvement, please fire away. I’ll be posting up a few more of these in the next few days.

It was us on the shopfloor that cancelled the firings!

Congratulations to all of us permanent employees! Today Euromaint let slip the surprise news that they were cancelling the withdrawal of all permanent contracts . Officially, they claim that it was not necessary due to “increased orders”.

The strange thing is that it has never before been claimed that the redundancies were due to decreased orders. Management had decided that the redundancies would take place in order to turn the workshop into a “project organization”. Two weeks ago the central negotiations with SEKO (the workers’ union) ended in disagreement. The redundancies still stood and meetings concerning the redundancies took place.

Whats really happening behind the scenes is that all the employees are starting to organize themselves. It’s absolutely boiling from below on the floor. It is us employees who are preparing ourelves to do something about it. The management thus understands that the game is over.

Team EuroMaint are for the moment cancelling the go-slow that was supposed to start March 29th. Those of us on permanent contracts must not forget all our colleagues who are still stuck in temporary swamp. At present, over 50% of our fellow workers are employed in temporary work. The staff should continue to drive the demand for more and more colleagues to get a permanent job and thus a secure environment.

Euromaintbloggen will definitely live on. Following the announcement today, however, the blog will not be updated quite as often as it has been the last two weeks. We will also try to expand ourselves to include more workshops in the country.

But again. Congratulations comrades!

Team EuroMaint (TE)

Victory for Wildcat Strike at EuroMaint Rail

•March 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

Kim Muller posted the following on Libcom, it’s a rather good example of how effective workplace blogging can be as tool for workers organising action outside of the traditional union structure. I’d be interested in learning more about how the workers publicised the blog to their co-workers. I’m starting to look at the blog now and will post up some translations in the next few days.

In december EuroMaint Rail took a step previously unheard of in Sweden. They annonuced that they would fire ALL their 91 employees in Malmö and reemploy them from temp agencies instead. The union (SEKO) wanted the politicians to do something about it, or negotiate it in the collective agreements now in march. In late february, nothing had (of course) happened.

At the factory, there was total chaos as the actual EuroMaint employees and people from six different temp agencies worked side by side. At the end of february faceless employees started up a blog for the shopfloor workers and called out for action to stop the lay-offs. The blog soon become widespread among the workforce and the 8th of march they annonuced that as soon as the dismissal letters were handed out a wildcat strike would start. Plans for go-slows and the “run the plant backwards” was also announced.

Just three days later the company annonuced that there will be no lay-offs as suddenly “orders went up”. And today, after 4 more days, the CEO was fired. Spirits are high right now, but as the same time the union “claims the honour” and the blog is written off as critizing the union work. The founders of the blog themselves doesn´t claim the honour but instead mean that the wild pressure from the workforce is what made the difference.

This win was important, not just for the EuroMaint Workers. But also because many, both capitalists and the workers movement, was looking to see what would happen. If the company would have succeeded, it is very likely that many more would have followed.

A thematic history of the Swedish radical movement since 2001

•March 16, 2010 • 1 Comment

These are the notes I prepared for a talk I gave to a meeting in Copenhagen a few weeks ago. The context of the talk is some discussions about reorganisation on the radical left in Copenhagen. I was asked to give a talk about how the radical movement has developed in Sweden over the past ten years or so, with the assumption that some of the developments should perhaps be emulated over here. My approach was not to give a historical dissection of the period, but to look at some of the main themes that I think are worth emulating.

The talk was generally well received and there was some interesting discussion about why a similar shift towards class struggle had not also taken place in Denmark. I argued that the pre-existence of the SAC (a syndicalist union) in Sweden had made the shift towards class struggle a lot easier. The lack of a radical trade union structure in Denmark makes it very difficult for many radicals to stomach working heavily with the social democratic trade unions, and starting trade union activism ‘from scratch’ is a very difficult prospect for inexperienced left wing activists. A member of the audience also made the point that the radical left in Denmark have been very focused on combating the highly racist turn that there has been in Danish political life. I think that there may also be a lot of truth to this. Of course, these hypothetical questions can never be satisfactorily answered, at the end of the day, we have to relate ourselves to where we are, rather than where we would like to be.

Anyway, without further ado:

An activist’s history of the Swedish radical movement since 2001

Introduction

Disclaimer: I am not a historian – this is a rather selective history.

So why is some Irish guy here talking to you about some things that happened in Sweden? Well, the reason I got interested in the Swedish movement when I first started reading about it and meeting Swedish activists was that I saw a movement that had managed to develop a practical orientation towards the type of struggles that affect the vast majority of people. In my experience, activist movements in many countries tend to be interested in projects and issues that only affect a relatively small number of people. While these projects might in themselves be very valuable, the ability to develop a large scale social movement around fringe issues is highly limited. And I don’t think you can create a new society without a large scale social movement.

The Swedish movement’s development over the last few years is interesting because it has moved from being a movement focused on single issue campaigns and spectacular actions to a movement rooted in people’s everyday life. I think that the Danish activist movement is in a similar trap of only prioritising single issue campaigns and not tying them in to issues that affect the vast majority of people.

The anti-globalisation movement

Around the turn of the century, the radical left wing in Sweden was very engaged in the anti-globalisation movement. This movement saw capitalist globalisation as involving an ongoing war against humanity. Institutions such as the IMF and the WTO enforced an ever increasing capitalist control over society, plunging millions into poverty. Activists in the Global North made connections with activists and social movements in the Global South, creating a feeling of a global movement against injustice. Despite the slogan ‘think global, act local’, the main practice of the anti-globalisation movement was confined to symbolic actions at summits of world business and political elites, such as the WTO meeting in Seattle 1999, the G8 summit in Genoa 2001 and the EU summit in Gothenburg 2001.

It was the experience of this EU summit at Gothenburg that marked a significant turning point in the development of the Swedish radical left. A massive series of actions and demonstrations was met by huge police repression and violence including the shooting of one demonstrator. At the end of the summit, many activists were forced to ask themselves: what had they actually achieved? This in turn led to a process of theoretical and tactical re-thinking.

Theory…

A lot of this theoretical thinking focused around discussions of what capitalism is. Many participants in the anti-globalisation movement had been anti-capitalists, but the failure of capitalism to crumble after an endless series of summit protests had led to a few questions, among them, what is capitalism? And, how should we fight it?

So people started looking at analyses of capitalism, they became particularly interested in Marxist analyses, especially those of a branch of Marxism called ‘autonomist Marxism’.

Now I don’t want to go into a long discussion about the theory of autonomist Marxism, but there are a number of things that are important.

  • Capitalism is a social system based on labour, waged and unwaged. Profit is made through exploitation of labour at the workplace, but this profit depends on exploitative relationships throughout the society, including unwaged labour in the home (childcare, cooking etc) and relationships such as racism and sexism.
  • Capitalism is a system that is constantly changing. Workers struggle for higher wages and better conditions force capitalism to change and this change influences the way that workers struggle on both a practical level (what tactics are used) and a political level (the ideological character?). For this reason, the traditional left wing often seems like it is out of date and useless – because it is basing its ideology and tactics on past rather than present struggles.

Now these are nice ideas, but what do they mean on a practical level?

Tactics…

Well first of all, if the basis of capitalism is labour, then we need to take activism based around waged labour and unwaged labour (e.g. housework) a lot more seriously than was done under the anti-globalisation movement.

This recognition led to a large influx of activists into the SAC (a syndicalist union – i.e. a union that is based on direct action instead of negotiation, that is democratic and under the control of its members) and into other forms of workplace activism. This influx of activists had a big influence on the SAC, which had been previously going through a bit of a low period. The new energy from activists from the autonomous movement helped kick off a process of reform and re-energisation that had a number of results. First, SAC became a lot more bottom up, meaning that a lot of the full time positions were removed and more power was given to the people involved in workplace conflicts to control them.

Second, there was a recognition that recruitment was not the most important goal of conflicts. Even if there was only one member in the workplace she or he should focus first and foremost on developing a strong solidarity with her or his co-workers. This solidarity should be the fundamental basis of struggles against the boss. Only after a strong workplace collective was formed was there reason to talk about joining the union.

SAC wasn’t the only place where workplace activism took place, some workers believed that it was more important to be in the same trade union as their co-workers: rather than being the “only syndicalist at the workplace” it was important to use the trade union structure as a means for influencing their co-workers, and building up their consciousness. Other activists believed that trade unions could only have a negative influence on workers struggles, and it was necessary to organise outside them in order to develop struggles.

Secondly, if capitalism is constantly changing and if the struggles against capitalism are constantly changing, then we need to pay a lot more attention to our own experiences in order to figure out how capitalism is organised now, and where the struggles against it are located. How are our workplaces organised? How does our boss keep the workers divided? How do I and my workmates fight against the boss and the work? So, what you have is a lot of people investigating their work and their role in the labour market.

People started blogs, wrote articles and told stories about their specific situations, whether it was as students, temp workers, unemployed workers, factory workers or whatever. The important point was that people started looking at their own situation as something very political – instead of saying: “Well, I can’t be active right now, because I only have a temporary job, or I’m unemployed, or I’m studying, etc etc…” , They said, “What is political about my current situation? How can I make my situation better? How can I make contact and connections with other people in the same situation?”

Thirdly, another tendency was to look at the forms of resistance that people are taking throughout the society and develop them. This recognition led to a few interesting initiatives, among them Piratbyraan (the Pirate Bureau) and Planka.nu, a campaign for free public transport.

Piratbyraan emerged out of a recognition that internet piracy was an extremely common form of anti-capitalist struggle. People everywhere were actively engaged in ripping off the capitalist class, in putting their own desires before the needs of profit. Despite the implicit political content of the act, digital piracy lacked a political context. Piratbyraan was formed to develop this context, to promote piracy and develop an identity around it. The most successful initiative of Piratbyraan was The Pirate Bay which combined technical support for piracy with an attitude and identity that created a politicisation of sorts for digital pirates, placing piracy within the context of a struggle against corporations.

Planka.nu was an initiative that sought to develop the already widespread practice of fare dodging on public transport, and give it a more overtly political context. To do this, they created a form of collective insurance whereby fare-dodgers could pay a small amount into a fund every month, and those who were caught could have their fines paid by this fund. They combined this with propaganda and media campaigns, for example creating videos showing people how easy it was to skip fares, and encouraging people to do it themselves.

What is interesting in both of these initiatives is that they begin with a recognition of some activity as a form of anti-capitalist struggle. They then tried to make these activities public and to create a political context for them. By doing so, people who had previously done these activities in an unconscious way could begin to see the political content in them, begin to see themselves as a movement of sorts, and begin to have some common voice and activity within the society.

Summary

The Swedish radical movement has undergone a broad tactical shift in recent years. From the spectacular activism of the anti-globalisation to a movement that is based on expanding and deepening everyday struggles inside and outside of the workplace.

3 morals:

  1. We need to base our struggles in everyday reality, on problems that affect most people, not on abstract issues. We can look at our own experiences and our own needs as the starting point for collective action. Student activism around SU (student wage in Denmark) or cutbacks for example, or unemployed workers organising could be good places to start.
  2. We need to make our tactics relevant and easily adopted. Tactics such as large demonstrations or symbolic direct actions might be good for getting media attention once off, but it is generally only a small minority of society that will participate in such actions. Tactics like fare dodging or internet piracy are easily adoptable. You don’t need to be an experienced activist to use them, you can just do it.
  3. We need to move away from seeing resistance and struggle as something that is only done by a small part of society. Nearly everybody in society is fighting in some way, but often this way is unconscious and undeveloped. We need to recognise the forms of resistance that already exist and we need to stop seeing activists as an enlightened minority with ‘the right ideas’.

Swedish Communist sing song

•March 2, 2010 • 3 Comments

Here is a fun song from 1970s Swedish prog commies ‘Nationalteatern‘ (the National Theatre).

Song translation and explanation below. By users LolTheForce on SongMeanings.net

Nationalteatern (The National Theater) – Kolla kolla (Lookie lookie)

If you’re born amongst proletarians and deal
with narcotics and if you’ve already been
punished once then it’s easy to get caught
now and then

I want to feel Free, free, free
It’s my philosophy, phy, phy (NOTE: This rhymes in swedish <.<)
Lookie, lookie, can’t
you see I’m a nice guy
Even if I’m in jail today
you’ll have to agree that
that’s not where I wanted to go.
NO!

I’ll get a job, first chance I get.
Leather armchair and my own phone.
When I get out of here,
silly me, was
thinking that I was strong,
but I ended up in a park
and made my living from selling … (NOTE: Here you’re supposed to realise that they mean “selling drugs” because it rhymes in swedish (park, knark))

(NOTE: Most of the chorus is gibberish and doesn’t mean anything)
Hadelätten da da
umpapa
one musn’t do (that)
not good
hadelätten da da
umpapa
That’s what I said
that wasn’t good
umpapa

What an idiocy, cy, cy
to sell a load, load, load
Lookie, lookie
I have myself to blame
even if i don’t like the locale that much
you’ll have to agree that
it serves a purpose
The warden makes an exampel
breaks a guy
put a label on him.
So when I get out of here
my heart aches
like a dagger thrusting into it
when you meet some people
and fiddle about with a real ……… (NOTE: I have no idea what they mean here)

Hadelätten da da …

But if you’re honest instead
and keep working in the thief’s society
and if you’re miserly enough
you’ll become a millionare in due time
provided that …

You get out of here at all
Just take a loan from the bank
Move to Skanör,
make your living as a factory director
and live until you … (NOTE: Here they mean “leva tills man dör”, which means “live until you die”)

Okay, okay, kay, kay
Take a look at me, me, me
Lookie, lookie,
I’m already labeled for the rest of my life
Even if I might be set free someday
you’ll have to agree that
it’s not overreacting.
Easy to be dilligent, hard-working and decent
I might as well drive straight into the creek
So when I get out of here
in a stolen Amazon (NOTE: a type of Volvo car)
I’ll spend the first day
barging into the city
and let loose like … (NOTE: Let loose like hell)

Hadelättan da da …

*END*

There ya go.
Basically it’s a song about getting in jail and then being marked for life even after you did you time. You get out in society again but for all people care you’re still a criminal.

Malmo’s problem areas – a journey in the upperclass jungle

•February 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The following text is from Förbundet Allt åt Alla, a group of  anarchists, communists, and immigrants, in Malmo, Stockholm and Gothenburg. The ruling class safari is a bus ride into the rich areas of Malmo, with tour guides, matching t-shirts, and plentiful photo-opportunities. As an action, it fits into a general tactic of the radical left in Sweden to play off ‘class hatred’, using hatred of rich people to help form a common identity as a rebellious working class. This tactic is not something I’d ever seen before coming to Scandinavia, and I’m still not convinced of its usefulness. Anyway, the text is a machine translation with some corrections, but there were a few things I wasn’t sure about, so if anyone can help me with corrections and comments, please feel free.

Safari in the upperclass jungle

Safari means ‘journey’ in Swahili. The word was previously used about tourists who went to Africa to hunt big game but the meaning today has more to do with observing and taking pictures of the surroundings. A certain type of outfit is also associated with safari, practical khaki, hat, binoculars and camera.  A safari park is a zoo-like commercial tourist center where visitors can drive their own car (or bus) within a confined area and observe wildlife. But a safari trip does not need be limited to nature, why go to so much trouble when you can go around the corner in your own town?

"Now entering the protected area..."

We went on an urban safari in our very own upperclass jungle, Fridhem in Malmo. In order not to risk scaring away some of the rare inhabitants, we all dressed in neutral t-shirts. We took our cameras with us to immortalize the moment in the segregated reserve. A handful of guides had been studying for some time the lifestyles that the people of this district exhibit and were very helpful in describing the surroundings to us.

Taking a stroll through the reserve

But why just go to Fridhem? During the wave of urbanisation that Malmo and the surrounding area went through during the late 1800s many poor people moved from rural areas into the city. The villa area of Fridhem was built as a result of poor sanitary conditions that arose. Factory owners and directors moved to a new tidy neighborhood that suited the contemporary ideal of being close to nature and was also far away from those who supplied them. The new town was conveniently located west of the city’s emerging factories, thus on the side to which the smoke and pollutants tend not to blow. Even today, the area fills the same function. They try to stay away from what they consider to be dirty. Behind high walls and private security companies they still live and profit from other people’s work.

Few of us have previously been permitted to see most of the area, except as poorly paid labor for household services. The physical distance is not very far but the social distance is even longer. This social distance is deliberately created. Those who settled there would then still remain distanced from the rest of the city’s inhabitants, they have no interest in being integrated.

Posing at a typical ruling class dwelling

To draw some facts. In the nearby area of Bellevue, in many ways similar to Fridhem, the inhabitants have nine times more space per person than, for example Möllevången. As said, residents in Fridhem still earn money from the work of others and take much of the taxpayers’ money because they live in such low density. Take, for example, 75 meters of a street in Möllevången with one four-storey building on each side. In these houses live, probably a conservative estimate, about 150 people in each house (ten apartments per floor, which on average is three bedroom apartments with four people in each). That is equal to 300 people on a 75-meter distance. At Bellevue or Fridhem or Västervång there are about three house plots on the same stretch with about three people in each household, ie nine people in total. Yet both require the same street maintenance, snow removal, deicing and cleaning. In addition, the water and sanitation in both streets. To this should be added telecommunication and power lines. 300 people share the street on Mollevang, nine people are sharing the street on Fridhem. What a drain on society? And how big is their environmental footprint, with petrol-guzzling 4x4s and huge houses with ten rooms to be heated? Who can afford to draw on natural resources?

Tour shirt

There are many segregated areas in Sweden’s large cities. But this is not at all talked about. To show the real problem areas in Malmö, we organized a bus tour, our safari. We were surprised that the people themselves want to confine themselves like animals in a cage, but did not let it stop us in our quest to tick odd species such as a stockbroker [perhaps finance-shark would be a better translation here - ed] off our lists. Although the hunting instinct made itself felt, we chose this time to stick to the camera and telling good anecdotes about the residents. To sum it was a nice day trip to the higher animal’s castle as we warm heartedly recommend others to do! Do not forget to bring coffee and cake with your class hatred.

And now for something different: Feminist porn manifesto

•February 27, 2010 • 2 Comments

In a departure from my traditional fare of cloth caps, Converse and class struggle, here is a 10 point manifesto for feminist porn, written to accompany the Swedish made collection of short films ‘Dirty Diaries’. ‘Dirty Diaries’ is a collection of 12 short porn films directed by 13 different female directors. It was released in September last year.

1. Beautiful the way we are
To hell with the sick beauty ideals! Deep self-hatred keeps a lot of women’s energy and creativity sapped. The energy that could be focused into exploring our own sexuality and power is being drained off into diets and cosmetics. Don’t let the commercial powers control your needs and desires.

2. Fight for your right to be horny
Male sexuality is seen as a force of nature that has to be satisfied at all costs whihle women’s sexuality is accepted only if it adapts to men’s needs. Be horny on your own terms.

3. A good girl is a bad girl
We are fed up with the cultural cliché that sexually active and independent women are either crazy or lesbian and therefore crazy. We want to see and make movies where Betty Blue, Ophelia and Thelma & Louise don’t have to die in the end.

4. Smash capitalism and patriarchy
The porn industry is sexist because we live in a patriarchal, capitalist society. It makes profit out of people’s needs for sex and erotica and women get exploited in the process. To fight sexist porn you have to smash capitalism and patriarchy.

5. As nasty as we wanna be
Enjoy, take charge or let go. Say NO when you want, to be able to say YES when YOU want.

6. Legal and free abortion is a human right! Everyone has the right to control their own body. Millions of women suffer from unwanted pregnancies and die from illegal abortions every year. Fuck the moral right for preaching against birthcontrol and sex information.

7. Fight the real enemy!
Censorship cannot liberate sexuality. It is impossible to change the image of women’s sexuality if sexual images in themselves are taboo. Don’t attack women for displaying sex. Attack sexism for trying to control our sexuality.

8.Stay queer
A lot of opposition to erotica is homophobic, and even more transphobic. We don’t believe in the fight between the sexes but in the fight against sexes. Identify as any gender you want and make love to whoever you want. Sexuality is diverse.

9. Use protection
“I’m not saying go out an’ do it, but if you do, strap it up before you smack it up.” (Missy Elliot)

10. Do It Yourself
Erotica is good and we need it. We truly believe that it is possible to create an alternative to the mainstream porn industry by making sexy films that we like.

 
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