Interview about Folkmakt

Folkmakt is a name I began to hear a lot about when I started researching the Swedish movement. Several people who I talked to had started in Folkmakt and then moved onto other things. It seemed to me that Folkmakt was one of the key elements in the Swedish movement’s transition from single issue campaigning and lifestylism to a more class focused perspective.  Several influential groups have come out of Folkmakt, among them Kämpa Tillsammans! and the left communist journal ‘Riff-Raff’. For these reasons I was very pleased to get an interview with a former member of Folkmakt, and current member of Riff-Raff. Many thanks to PH and A, for their help.

1. Why did you decide to set up Folkmakt in the first place? If it was due to some problems with SAC what were these specifically? And what caused you to break with SAC?

Initially Folkmakt (FM) was set up as a sort of discussion group within the Stockholm branch of SAC (i.e. the anarcho-syndicalist union), I think around 1991. Basically the people that organised the discussions were somewhat fed up with the lack of class perspectives within SAC, and also within the libertarian/anarchist milieu in general. The main target was, so to speak, what was identified as the “life-style anarchism”, where politics more or less functioned as some sort of a hobby and a sub-culture. This was also the time around which the crisis at the beginning of the 90s hit the country and, as always, especially the workers.

After a while the rumours spread among activists and anarchists (and some others now being hard to label) in other cities of Sweden. And it was proposed to meet and see if something like a joint project was possible and needed. People from at first Malmö and Gothenburg, knowing each other from the SAC, the anti-fascist movement, common anarchist experiences etc., met and decided to try to form a “proper” organisation. And it was also decided that some sort of publication was needed. There had been produced a few leaflets and a “discussion bulletin” with some texts and discussions and also translations of texts from other groups and persons, and some reproductions from for example a “councilist” magazine Rådsmakt (‘Council power’).

Even though there were no formal break with SAC, which formally would have been impossible anyway, due to the two different forms/organisations (SAC being an anarcho-syndicalist union and FM being at first a small informal group/tendency within SAC-Stockholm), the “hegemonic” tendency within FM – which initially was constituted by the people starting it in the first place – was very critical and fed up after many years of activities within SAC. However, some people remained members to SAC, and some even actively taking part in the organisational stuff.

The main critique, I would say, of SAC was it being a “minority union”, where the vast majority of the workers of by far the most workplaces belonged to LO and their local and trade branches [LO is the national union confederation of Sweden], and it was said to be better being a member of the same union as one’s workmates.

2. What was your relation to other left-wing/activist groups at the time, did you see any connection, or did you think that they were on the wrong track?

By principle I think most people involved in FM considered all left-wing and activist  groups as being more or less on the wrong track. However, on an individual level, and occationally on a group level, many people maintained their contacts to and also activities with especially the activists – not the least “socially”. But, which you mustn’t neglect, FM as an organisation, and also many individuals, mutually withdrew from and were “expelled” by the activists. Especially when it came to the relation to many (anarcha) feminists, who considered FM to be macho and sexist from the mere fact that the vast majority of the members of the organisation were men. And also, of course, because of FM’s strong emphasis on class, which for many activists, and the feminists in particular, could in no way be more important nor more fundamental than other “oppressions”, the male domination over females in particular. Not to forget, the “food issue” was important – since FM never considered vegetarianism being an important issue.

The (mainstream) left wasn’t that important for the organisation – except, perhaps, on an individual level, and perhaps when it came to intervention in the local (LO) union branches on workplaces etc.

3. Can you describe a bit the different political tensions within Folkmakt, between the ‘Class War’ influenced approach and more autonomist Marxist approaches. Were there other factions as well?

At first, at least when it comes to labeling oneself, the ideological tensions were between people (still) identifying themselves as anarchists and those more and more moving towards communism. I mean when it comes to mere labels. However, as always, the term communism is both obscure and ambiguous. Some were perhaps more libertarian communists, and more and more people tended to come closer to for instance council communism. But there were also those calling themselves communists being into national liberation issues, Palestine and (Northern) Ireland in particular. Some weirdos even labelled themselves Leninists.

If we leave aside the level of labels, there was this tension between the Class War-ite propaganda and attitude tabloid tendency that wanted to write for the workers (as “ordinary workers” would read, and talk) with a publication you could bring to the coffee room at your workplace and those more into council communism that became the tendency more interested in “un-populist” stuff such as longer and more theoretical texts. I think you could add those individuals more or less into autonomist Marxism (e.g. Cleaver) to the latter.

This tension was somewhat projected into what form of publication to produce – a tabloid or a magazine. Basically this was the main issue discussed over a long period of time, more or less during the last years of the organisation’s existence. In the end a small group (actually only 2 persons) started a “theoretical” magazine with the name riff-raff whose first two issues were presented as “the theoretical magazine of Folkmakt”, but after that it formally broke free of the organisation. A kind of tabloid was also published for some time.

4. What caused Folkmakt to break up?

Actually, it never broke up! It more or less faded out. I suppose there wasn’t enough energy left in the organisation for a proper break up. (When it finally ceased to exist I had already left the organisation myself.) Some 2 or 3 people tried as the end came closer to draw some sort of a political balance sheet by circulating a sort of a questionnaire to existing and former members of the organisation. Few people bothered to participate by answering the questions, and so in the end no real balance sheet could be drawn.

5. Do you think Folkmakt had a big influence on the movement in Sweden? What kind of things in particular were influential?

Apart from dress-code etc. 😉 Yes, and this is not only self-exaggeration, I think it had. Especially in the beginning. The constant and emphatically talk of “class” was actually very influential. And also, however much later, the theoretical magazine has been quite influential.

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~ by swedishzine on August 6, 2009.

2 Responses to “Interview about Folkmakt”

  1. i was thinking of a bit around folkmakt… many people in the movement percieved folkmakt as a tendency to just go to another subculture, ie. beer, soccer and pose:ish views on violence
    also there seemed to be a pretty macho at`titude overall in folkmakt. so it was not all flowers & happiness

    even if they did well to try to influence SAC from politics to class struggle. their paper was very good looking and easily taken up i think

    and what developed from it was very good also
    some of them were very pro-irish republicanism also

  2. you need to bold or unitalicise the Q:s. its all very confusing to read when its all in italics. interesting tho, even for a swede who has read most of the old FM issues.

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