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..



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


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.


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?


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.


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.

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
one musn’t do (that)
not good
hadelätten da da
That’s what I said
that wasn’t good

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 …


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.

Somebody else on radicalism and activism within SAC

•December 8, 2009 • 1 Comment

Found this interesting quote from Altemark on SAC’s history from an old thread on Libcom. It’s interesting because it ties the decline of SAC’s influence to changes in the Swedish economy and the social democratic compromise. What’s also interesting is his analysis of a pendulum effect between SAC being used for political activism in times of low struggle, and being used as a tool for workplace organising in times of increasing struggle.

“What is happening in SAC is not so much a radicalization such as a shift of focus in what kind of activity the activists devote themselves to. And of course also the political climate. Some short talking points:

In the 50’s and 60’s the largest trade union confederation, the social democrat LO had cemented the fact that sweden now was one of the most highly unionized countries in the world.

Saltsjöbadsandan reigned supreme. In 1938 LO and the swedish employers association (SAF) met in the town of Saltsjöbaden. The result was one of the most important definite manifestations of social democrat class compromise – Saltsjöbaden spirit. The core idea of the scandinavian model was very successful and the swedish welfare state “worked” for a couple of decades, yadda yadda

LO agressively worked to outmanouver the minority union SAC were it still had influence. LO and SAF were really up to some dirty tricks in this campaign, and much of SAC:s energies were tied up in trying to counter this. The Saltsjöbaden agreement also resulted in a highly formalized set of rules to handle workplace conflicts, and SAC was forced to divest its energies to fighting in the courts

The industries in which SAC traditionally had a sizeable share of the workers organized (mining, forestry, stonecutting) gradually lost their importance in the swedish economy. The industrial federations soon came to often just be names on a paper, formally still existing but mostly as old-timers comrade clubs.

As many movements do when times are harder, SAC came to focus more on politics than workplace struggle. Until the end of 60’s this new ideological debate often equalled reformist trends focusing on visions of cooperative businesses rather than general strike and revolution.

Now the reofrmist trend began to fade out somewhat with the appearance of wildcat strikes and increased militancy of workers in general. The continual drop in membership which had been going on since the late 30’s was broken. This did not automatically lead to SAC being a serious option for most working people

As I understand it, the revitalization attempts were carried on by small groups of workers within SAC, small struggles never without opportunity for generalizing into other areas of the workplace. SAC in the eyes of most regular joe’s & janes was often of some kind of leftist political organization, perhaps with some faint idea that SAC was the “good” kind of socialists, thanks to strong anti-stalinist and antifascist stance of earlier times. This situation persists to this day.

In the 80s SAC continued to be used as a platform for general political activism, mainly peace, anti-nuclear & environmental movement. SAC was now down to membership in the 20 000 area. In 90s the globalization movement was a common theme in activities

It is true that workplace struggle is an question more and more SAC members try to work constructively around – not being satisfied merely being the lone syndicalist at the job (even if this is very common still).

This trend seems to have cohesed into the idea of “the union reorganization project”, championed by “the new directionists” (nyorienterare) in the late 90s. They react against the tendency of “legalism” that is the legacy of the era when SAC fought for it’s life, trying to win in the courts and set legal proceedings against SAF and LO

Living in Sweden means getting the thought of the ombudsman directly in the mother’s milk, and SAC has not been immune to this. Self-activity has suffered, and the membership often relied on salaried negotiators in the smaller and larger industrial disputes that SAC in fact fought during all those years.

Some of this is talked about in this article from arbetaren on the SAC congress in 2002:

Hm, I think perhaps trying to explain all these problems and new developments within SAC in just one post is a little self-defeating. It is worth discussing for sure. It is a small union now, with around 8000 members. But perhaps the possibilities to become a fighting alternative are greater now than for several decades – if the positive trends within SAC can be capitalized on and generalized.”

Class struggle and storytelling

•November 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I read last night an interview with Alan Moore, an anarchist who has written some of the best comics of the recent past, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell. He discussed a little bit about the importance of story telling for radical movements, a theme which has come up here before, in my discussion of Kämpa Tillsammans’ use of the ‘workplace story’ as an organising tool.

I wrote:

“While traditional workers’ inquiries tend to be quite formal, often involving questionnaires and formal interviews, the members of Kämpa Tillsammans  chose instead to document their own (often humorous) work experiences, draw lessons from them and publish them on the internet. They deliberately chose the medium of story-telling because they wanted workers to engage with the stories in a way that is not possible with formal surveys. Kim Muller of Kämpa Tillsammans explains that they wanted to change the popular idea of what it was to be a worker; workers do not communicate with each other via “written pamphlets or leaflets but by talking and storytelling”, thus stories provide a far better way to develop a new workers discourse than dry analysis and documentation.”

Alan Moore had a similar point to make, although unsurprisingly, he made it far better:

“I think that if you actually examine the relationship between real life and fiction, you’ll find that we most often predicate our real lives upon fictions that we have applied from somewhere… Inevitably, we are to some extent creating a fiction every second of our lives, the fiction of who we are, the fiction of what our lives are about, the meanings that we give to things. So to some degree, stories are at the absolute center of human existence”

(in Mythmakers and Lawbreakers – anarchist writers on fiction, published by AK Press)

In my piece, I was counterposing the practice of workplace storytelling with that of the more formal workers’ inquiries, promoted by the Italian autonomia tendency. Many of the Italian autonomia writers were academics, and thus a rigorously formal inquiry into the ‘objective facts’ of workplace organisation and working class struggle in the big industrial plants  was a natural enough path to take, (This approach was mirrored more recently in Kolinko’s ‘Hotlines‘ inquiry into class composition in call centres). Kämpa Tillsammans’ approach was more subjective, they wanted something which was fun for workers to read and talk about. Workers swap stories and jokes all the time in the break room and on the shop floor, who would pass on an academic text or a piece of sociology?

Thus stories could be a much more useful organising tool – as well as passing on experiences and ideas, they carry implicit moral overtones, heroes and villains, which in turn justify militant practices and rebellion. Looking at stories in this way, as intrinsically related to our experience of daily life, has much in common with the trend in sociology towards ‘social constructionism‘, which places focus on the ways that social reality is created by groups and individuals. It’s no secret that bosses and companies do all they can to create a narrative of work that promotes responsibility and hard work. This typically takes the form of lectures and videos about ‘company values’, underscored by pathetic staff perks and bonus schemes. The success or failure of this attempt will have a big effect on the workplace collective, will workers identify their interests with the company and follow their narrative, or will they develop their own of subversion and rebellion?

New SAC statement of principles – updated

•November 6, 2009 • 1 Comment

Updated – Spotted a bit of inside info on libcom.org

“Mattias Pettersson is the new editor of Arbetaren. He hasn’t started yet but I think it will totally change the way the paper works!

ATM: Half the paper consists of articles about climate change, The rest of the paper consists of equal parts of queer/gay/gender articles, Palestine/Israel/Hezbollah, theater/performance art and workplace/union/struggle articles. The paper often reports in a negative way about SAC workplace struggle and SAC internal affairs. Lot of reporters have been able to use it as a tool to launch their own projects and books for their careers to take off with negative effects on the paper and movement as a whole.

Future: The paper is going to focus more and more on workplace struggle and union reporting. It is also going to involve activists more and get a network of activists involved in creating articles and ideas for the paper. The idea is that we members of SAC locals should be able to spread the paper on our workplaces or even sell them in public without feeling ashamed about the material. No one I know actively sells the paper to people since they are not satisfied with the content and the crowd it is targeting (the red-wine and beret left).”

Too much SAC stuff in the last while… Hope to get some reports from Vår Makt up soon though, and an interview with a Piratbyrån member is in the works. Anyway, here is the newly updated SAC statement of principles. According to one SAC member:

“The old statement of principles was bloated and patched up from the half-reformism of the 60s through radicalization of the 70s to the peace/enviromental movement of the 80s to the introduction of feminism in 90s etc… it really served no practical purpose in the state it was in. The new one is politically sound, can be used as a basis for developing practical decisions and you can use it for handing potential joiners as well… never really worked as any of those in a long time.

New SAC Statement of Principles 2009

1. THE WORKERS OF THE WORLD are exploited in the capitalist profit-driven system of production. Under capitalism, the means of production have been monopolized by a few. They have therefore the social power to acquire all the wealth created. At the same time we, the overwhelming majority, are forced to work without power over the business, and for a wage which does not correspond to the value of what we produce. Where capitalism is allowed free range, violence and destruction are following in its wake, as well as a ruthless exploitation of natural resources that threatens the human environment and living conditions worldwide. From these circumstances arises the class struggle, in which the workers can only rely on their own actions.

2. SYNDICALISM is not primarily an ideology but a tradition of struggle among workers. We are driven by our desire for freedom and socialism. We nourish a dream that one day we will put an end to wage slavery. By building up industrial workers’ organizations, with the workplace as a starting point, we can mitigate the effects of capital’s exploitation and the state’s coercion, in order to finally overcome this inhumane economic and political system which gives all the good things in life to the exploiters.

3. DESPITE THAT THE WORKING CLASS today, as well as in history, is layered and fragmented in many ways, for example by industry, trade, legal status, gender, ethnicity, age, and employment status, SAC thinks that all workers have basic common interests. Therefore, the SAC consists of Local Union Confederation (LS) that organize all workers regardless of trade. As all workers have common interests, an organization that brings together all workers are needed. Through our organization we combat divisions within the working class and increase our collective power. If we are to hold together as workers, this requires us to act in solidarity. SAC understands solidarity as a common struggle for common interests.

4. THE EXPLOITATION OF THE WORKING CLASS takes different forms depending on where in the social hierarchy the work or workers are located. Heavily exploited groups of workers are employed to lower the standards of more established workers’ groups and migrants and the unemployed are used to press down wages. Women’s work is often valued less than men’s. This affects the workers’ mutual relationships in the workplace and creates tensions within the working class. The interests of heavily exploited group must be given decisive impact in the fight. No form of discrimination or subordination can be tolerated. SAC is a feminist and anti-racist organization.

5. IN SAC, WE BELIEVE unreservedly in the working class’, that is, our own, strength and skills. We do not need the blessing of power to give legitimacy to our fight or justify our existence. We know that neither libertarian socialism nor organization will be possible if we do not believe in our own ability. SAC believes that the workers must organize themselves free from any outside interests, like those expressed by the state and employers. SAC is an anti-authoritarian organization and sees direct action as the means to change society and our living and working conditions.

6. OUR POWER IS BASED on the way we organize ourselves. For a union to achieve maximum impact, it must be free from any interests outside of their members. In order to achieve maximum impact, the union must be organized in a federalist manner, which means self-determination in own affairs and cooperation on common issues. Centralism, bureaucracy, and other authoritarian forms of organization weakens unions. Our inner strength is derived from the principle that those affected by a decision should also be those who have taken it, and that all elected representatives are directly recallable. To avoid division in the workplace, and between trades, a powerful union must be organized industrially. Unions organized by trade are an anachronism. A powerful union must further more have the will to fight. A powerful trade union must also have the ambition to win their battles.

7. IN THE PRODUCTION OF GOODS and services, the workers have the power needed to change society. The social power of the working class is latent in the production process. Therefore the workplace is our premier venue for organizing. The labor market which provides the framework for the workplace struggle, must also be an arena of battle.

8. WE WORKERS HAVE NO FATHERLAND, our living conditions are intertwined with our sisters and brothers throughout the world. Global solidarity is a prerequisite for the liberation of the working class. SAC is opposed to all violence used by governmental and supranational institutions, as well as paramilitary groups, in order to maintain capital’s world order. SAC believes that workers always have the right to defend themselves against such violence.

9. SAC’S GOAL IS libertarian socialism: a society that is no longer divided into ruling and dominated classes; a society that no longer consists of exploiters and exploited; a society free from state coercion. In libertarian socialism, production is governed by society’s needs, which gives work meaning. The workers control the organizing of production, which gives the work content.

10. WE HAVE A BIG TASK ahead of us. But we know we can organize and win victories. We are fighting on our own merits, we struggle where we live our lives, so simple and so obvious it that. Only thus can we develop the self-responsibility that is the foundation of free socialism.