STRIKE BACK! Evaluation on tactics and strategy.
On August 25th we were part of creating a platform for activists from different unions, students, grassroots organisers, activists from the other Nordic countries and many more - to express and protest against the proposed restrictions on the right to strike.
We managed to create a space where members of the unions who’s leadership betrayed them and agreed on restrictions could meet, speak freely, network and move forward together with a wide part of the radical left. This accomplishment cannot be understated. At the same time, there were significant issues with our intervention in the streets as part of the blue finger during Strike Back. This is our evaluation of the day.
We have taken time to evaluate both with representatives in ARNA, as well as within the local groups in several rounds. We have quite different perspectives on the events depending on our position and role within the greater Strike Back protest. We believe this is one of our strengths. In the end we have many common conclusions and common ground through our multiple views. We try to be as transparent as possible in this text, but of course some practical things cannot be discussed openly. However, these are generally of less important political character than the ones we describe here. Openness and ability to reflect and discuss publically is a strength and a must for any collective movement. Thus, we invite reflections and criticism of our text and look forward to developing the points we raise here.
To set up for a win - strategy
We were part of initiating Strike Back and our choice in doing this event as a mass action with an open plan was crucial in achieving success. We would not be able to create this large gathering of people without this concept. People are not scared away by action. Rather, it's the opposite. People mobilize for action in far greater extent than they do for other events.
The mass action concept allowed us to reach out to people outside of our movement, and without it we would not been able to succeed in this. At the same time, our strategy shaped and also limited the possibilities for action and created some of our tactical issues. One example of this is the division made, for practical reasons, between the organising of the fingers and the main event. See more on this below.
A positive note is that we once more brought 200-300 people in our organized trips and mobilized several hundred more to our intervention. This capacity is a cornerstone of why we organize together. We hope that we can expand and work with more groups both who might join us or team up for specific actions so we can mobilize even more people. We also hope to see a greater experience with this form of mass intervention in other left-wing structures since our entire movement would benefit from it.
These mass mobilizations are important for us since they grow our connections locally as well as transnationally. The idea that mobilizing to events like these is somehow contradictory to local base work is shown as false, once more. If anything, they accelerate it. New activists come into the movement, get experience in the streets, feel what it is like to have collective power and start to organize and work even harder when they return to everyday politics.
On an international level the Finnish, Norwegian and Danish groups mobilized their trade unions in support of Strike Back and through this also built local connections in their cities. In Sweden and Denmark we are more capable of mass interventions right now than in Norway and Finland and our actions in Sweden can serve as an arena for this aforementioned experience-gaining that might not been possible in just one nation. Inside ARNA we also come closer to one another, bridge differences between countries and traditions and form a collective internationalist politics that we couldn't do otherwise.
We knew that in doing events such as these we generally accomplish many of our goals beforehand and this was true in Strike Back as well. We blockaded the city to a great extent before the day even began: throughout all of greater Stockholm there were warning signs of traffic disruption and logistics workers in our circles were told to just sit and wait in garages with their vehicles. We don't know the exact impact this had on the logistics of capital or the circulation of people who went shopping, the distribution of goods and workers going to workplaces and so on, but it certainly was important and effectful. We forced the police to become a blockading finger for us, just as we knew they would because they had no other choice since we would be free to do whatever we liked if they didn't.
Don't wait - get going together
We came into Strike Back with the idea that we, as wage workers ourselves, have a right to act. We're not waiting for anyone else to act for us. The threats against the right to strike is a threat to us.
In this, we politically reject any idealization of workers aristocracies which lies behind ideas that we "need to wait for the unions" or the Dock Workers in Gothenburg or whatever other group of workers. This is not to say that we should ignore strata of the working class such as white manual male workers. Indeed, these were present at Strike Back and made an enormous impact with their powerful speeches and condemnations of the trade union bureaucracy.
What we are trying to say is that we don't see ourselves as an 'unmarked subject' (as some feminists say) with all the right answers who have to trick the working class into joining our little club and as something utterly different from some romantic image of the working class. We are not a subject, and the working class an object. Instead we understand our position as workers of different kinds and we attempt to reach out to and unite working people through realizing both our position and theirs. This is an imperative political point. You can't wait to act, but acting alone is no option either.
On being blue - tactics
We were the main structure which organised the blue finger which had the aim of blocking logistics around Stockholm central station. As stated above, we were succesful on a larger scale but there were many problems with the finger. Before the finger had taken off there had been instances of police repression against our structures which caused some issues for us. There was also further problems in our structures that we cannot go into detail on in a public text but which restricted our original possibilities for action.
Our waiting period on the square was too long. This was a situation we early on said we were absolutely not going to get ourselves into but which occured anyway due to inflexibility and communication errors. This caused tiredness and frustration, as well as making ourselves prime targets for surveillance. The positive in this situation was that other participants in the larger gathering got time to acclematize themselves to our presence which calmed nerves and formented trust that might otherwise be damaged.
When we began to set off from the square our structures quickly collapsed due to a mass of reasons. One was that we were unable to form a coherent front and structure inside the finger due to miscommunication and the sudden rush down the street which further divided our structures. Along with police attacks against the finger this led to a situation of uncertainty and chaos. We had originally intended to do action at several points that was made impossible due to those problems and beacause of this, we followed the original plan to dissolve rather quickly. We believe that this was a mistake and that we should have improvised further action.
Our analysis is that there are several reasons for why things occured the way they did. One of our major considerations is lack of experience on different levels. This was our first mass action as ARNA, though we have participated and acted together in G20 in Hamburg (https://www.infoarna.org/g20-eva) and the anti-Nazi demonstration in Gothenburg (https://www.infoarna.org/arna-calls) in September 2017 we did not organize structures on the ARNA-level in the streets. Our evaluations from these events is that we should have done more joint action in order to achieve maximum power and this is one reason why we organized the way we did in Stockholm.
We also believe that we lack experience as an entire movement since the last few years has seen a marked drop in mass militancy. The solution to this problem is to organize mass interventions more and to evaluate and self-criticize (which we are happy to say that we have done internally) in order to do better.
Our action also became what it did due to the finger strategy. It is normal practice when we use this strategy for police to target one finger and leave others, and we were more or less prepared for them to target us. The strategy of dividing into fingers allows some fingers (in this case the yellow and red ones) success, while others (the blue) often have major problems. Our failure thus created the capacity for others to act which is positive for the overall action.
This is an image from the future
Beyond this sort of experience with mass action our analysis is that we ourselves, along with media, police and the movement as a whole, still don't quite understand what we are or how we act. When we set out to do Strike Back we wanted to blockade the logistics of capital in order to create material damage. We had set ourselves out to attempt a new style of politics to both connect to other workers and movements, but also to actually achieve something.
We said that we would avoid black block outfits and standing in lines against cops in fruitless attempts to push past them. However, this is exactly what happened when our structures collapsed. Ironically, this is exactly what gave Strike Back some media attention (which was a major goal), and we salute the comrades who did these and other actions. In the media they were also not sure of what to call us: "an unknown group dressed in blue" and "strike demonstrators" or "Revolutionär Kommunistisk Ungdom" (a Marxist-Leninist youth league also organised in Strike Back). As organisers, we only realized afterwards that we had focused so much on our structure and organising an activist intervention that we had forgotten to organise food or entertainment that might have made things more bearable for people exhausted in the streets.
What do these disparate things mean together? It means that we are something that is not yet born. We - as a movement - are not sure how to be, and how to act, the logistics blockade. We know very well how to be things such as antifa or a black block, how to be feminists in meetings or how to be workplace organizers, but we don't have a common way of being the logistics blockade. Neither does media have a term for this new social antagonism, of being in the streets to blockade logistics for social struggle and workers interests. We believe that we are just on the verge of a breakthrough here, of birthing a new way for social movements to fight. Nothing is more promising.
Nazis, fuck off
A few words about the Nazis as well. We see our focus on Strike Back, rather than reacting on the Nordic Resistance Movement's (NRM) demonstration, as the correct one. Fascism is the organized threat to the working class, the outmost example of bourgeoisie class dictatorship. They are a threat to us because they threaten our structures, our events and even our lives. However, they could never harm or cancel an event like Strike Back physically. It is only the left-wing which can, through abandoning it's structures and events, do this for fascists. Anti-fascism is a necessity, but we must concentrate on our own agenda which is to push class conflict in society forward.
Because of Strike Back NRM were banished to a tiny square away from everything. This gave them a terrible turnout and a situation bad enough that they refused to start their march. This shows that if we are a strong, proactive movement just our very presence in the city will push away fascists.
Of course, NRM managed to take the media spotlight that day which was their goal, and the press was happy to give it to them. Our reason for doing Strike Back before the Swedish election was to push the question front and center in Swedish society but due to media attention on NRM no politicians had to answer questions about the strike law, and no newspapers went in-depth on Strike Back. This is another example of how fascists work in the interests of the employing class.
Towards a general strike from below!
In our call to Strike Back we called for a general strike from below. This is still our vision, of mass-scale workers insubordination and revolt. In this text we have analyzed some of the important lessons we learned from Strike Back. Now is the time to start looking towards the future. The strike law will be pushed forward and it is our duty to win this fight and then move on to new ones. We do not hold all the answers but we are clear on a few points: we need to get going together, to join up with workers of all kinds and unite in practical mass action. We need to create a general strike from below and overthrow capitalist domination of our lives not just for the right to strike but because we want a better life and a better society. It's time to strike back again.
/The Autonomous Revolutionary Nordic Alliance