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(en) Sweden: Reorganisation in focus at SAC congress

From Mikael Altemark <altemark@home.se>
Date Thu, 26 Sep 2002 10:14:33 -0400 (EDT)


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This article was published in issue 39/02 of Arbetaren, weekly paper published
by SAC - the Syndicalists since 1922. 
*****
There seemed to be a consensus around the project of union reorganisation, even
though perhaps the younger generation was the more energetic part, and the
concept was present in most discussions, above around the union programme which
was passed with some changes. 

- The programme will be the basis of at least 15 different fliers and will
stimulate discussions in syndicates, sections and LS [Local Coorganisations],
Arwid Lund answered the delegates who questioned its value. 

The programme starts with analysing the capitalism of today, continues with
raising down-to-earth demands and is finishes with sketching strategies for the
SAC. During the lively discussion of it around Thursday noon a total of 18 men
and 6 women did statements and closer to 80 per cent of the contributions were
made by men. 

The delegate for Umeå LS, Hans-Ove Nordmark, called the programme ?backwards,
vague and wimpy?. 

- A union programme must come out of the attitude that ?we are doing the work,
and we will get paid for it - everything now!?. It shouldn?t be about ten per
cent here and there, he said. 

- But the balance of power are not like that today and because of this we need
steps. The programme points at a floor to start from, answered Rasmus Hästbacka,
of Umeå LS. 

The later?s campaign and one-man strike against individual wage-setting at the
pharmacy-company in Umeå served as a model for the congress, were a broad unity
was felt that this is a question which from now on will be a priority for the
SAC. 

- Kommunal [Union connected to the Social Democratic LO confederation organizing
public service-employees] has taken a stand for individual wage-setting on the
central level while only 16 per cent of their members are for it. Because of
this it is very interesting that we have brought up the question, said Linda
Wagenius from Malmö LS. 

The work will amongst other things get a boost by SAC producing study material
on individual wage-setting. 

Apart from this priority some other clear tendencies could be seen in the talk
about ?union reorganisation?. One is the will that the workplace struggle as
much as possible should not rely on the juridicial. In the new union programme
the demand is raised the AD [Swedish equivalent to the NLRB] should be closed
down and a conference is to be held where ?the reformist formed labour rights
code? will be problematisized. Another strong tendency is that SAC will leave
everything that?s organisational chauvinism behind it. For example the new union
programme advocates cooperation outside of the SAC with coworkers and ?wildcat?
or informal methods of struggle are brought to the forefront. The third and most
obvious streak is that the reorganisation is directed at lessening the
importance of the LS, and radically strengthening the industrial organisation,
which stagnated during the whole post-war period. 

According to the union programme this will happen in three steps: first
prioritise building of sections at workplaces and regional industrial
syndicates. Then form industrial committees on national level, which after time
will be formalised into full-feathered federations. An industry which will be
central is the publicly financed sector. 

Also in the election of the officials the reorganisational tendency was clearly
visible. With the whole of eight candidates for the job as editor of the
Syndikalisten [SACs internal publication] the questioning of them seemed a
little like a party-leader debate. Some promised cut down in costs, one a mobile
editorial staff, most a close cooperation with union grassroots. In the end the
delegates elected Torfi Magnusson of Stockholms LS, who had profiled himself
with making the paper have a very clear class-struggle orientation, which he
wanted to see as a hub in the reorganisation. 

A new negotiator-secretary was not elected, when only one of the delegates voted
for the only candidate Ingela Drenska while 47 said no. Lena Barrow explained
that she is prepared to hold the post until a successor has been elected by the
SAC members through a referendum. 

A totally new and expanded Working Committee was voted for, with Kent Forsgren
(Stockholms LS, Rås Lennström (Sandvikens LS), Arwid Lund (Stockholms LS), Bert
Mårtensson (Östervåla LS) and Lillemor Norling (Fruviks LS) as regular members. 

Propositions on changes in the statement of principles led to several debates of
ideological nature. Sandvikens LS wanted to make it clearer that syndicalism is
revolutionary and that the general strike is the only way to the social
revolution, an idea which according to some delegates was a dated idea. 

- To dramatically put up the dramaturgy of the social revolution is unnecessary,
said Rasmus Hästbacka from Umeå LS. 

- The start of the social revolution is what you do at work next Monday. The
metaphor about the general strike is locking us up! said Jona Elings from
Stockholms LS. 

At the same time this summers one-day general strike in Spain as an example that
the parade-action of classical syndicalism really is possible. 

- Both general strike and social revolution are fundaments in syndicalism, but I
can?t find the words in the declaration of principles. SAC is suffering from a
ideological hollowing-out and it is time that we do something about it, said
Örjan Bergsten, Göteborgs LS. 

The result was that the committee which will oversee the declaration of
principles will deal with the issue. 

The wording ?the struggle against sexism is of the same priority and importance
as the class struggle? was removed. Instead the sentence ?SAC considers all
people of equal worth and is against every form of oppression?. Among the women
who have driven feminism inside the SAC the views on the change were split. 

- One could think that the change means that feminism is toned down, but it is
just the opposite. It is a consequence of the realization that women?s struggle
is class struggle and not something which needs to be put against each other,
said resigning secretary Hannele Peltonen. 

On the other hand several persons pointed out that the feminist realizations
have had very limited impact in reality. The congress decided to commit
study-activities in the question and an evaluation of the impact of feminism is
to be done. 

When other unions give notice of conflict SAC will from now on give notice of
sympathy-actions, something that earlier has been the work of every LS for
itself but still has been taken care of centrally sometimes. A little minority
of mostly LS of the northern parts of Sweden voted no and reserved themselves
against the decision, while they considered the central notice-giving as
contrary to the local self-determination. The advocates pointed out the
importance in that the notice arrives in time and that LS still have the right
to cancel notice. 

There were also proposals on centralisation of the dues-accountal system. Today
this is handled by each LS, but a big problem is that many smaller LS are bad at
accounting. But the views were not unanimous on if a centralisation would free
up local activists from paperwork, which was hinted at in some proposals. 

Many of our smaller LS exist only on paper and an administrative measure will
not solve the problem. I don?t understand that we keep on upholding a structure
which is that. Perhaps we should do like LO did in the 50?s: merge them so that
we get lively and strong units, said Björn Mohlin of Gävle LS. 

The question ended up a compromise: the possibilities of a centralised
accountal-system will be subject of an inquiry, remitted to LS and after this
decided on through referendum. During this time SAC will offer the LS who can?t
handle it themselves a self-cost service. 

However, the congress voted yes to a reorganisation of the ombudsman-activity,
after the debate had made the opinion swing around. Successively all SAC
ombudsmen will go from being tied to a geographical area to being national
ombudsmen, elected by all members and stationed in Gothenburg, Stockholm and
Gävle. 

Lena Barrow, retiring negotiating secretary and responsible for the suggestion,
means that working alone should be avoided to better the working environment for
the negotiators and that SAC in the long run should work to place more
responsibility on voluntary negotiators. 

- The ombudsmen should rather be more like competence-banks rather than
workhorses running around and negotiating smaller matters. Then they will be
used in the best way, says Lena Barrow to Arbetaren. 

- The proposition should be seen as a expression of the will that the local
self-activity won?t be totally dependent on the ombudsmen, even if their
expertise will be used as long as the Swedish labour codes look like they do. 

DECISIONS IN SHORTNESS 

* The study organizer stays 

An international secretary is a job which should be prioritised before the study
organizer, that was the view of amongst others Malmö LS. 

But the congress decided with a large majority to keep the study
organizer-office. Dirk Grosjean was later re-elected to the office. As earlier,
the general secretary will hold the head responsibility for SAC:s international
work. 

* New publishing house editor elected 

SAC:s publishing company Federativs will continue as before, as the congress
voted no to the proposal to abolish the office of publishing house-editor. New
editor is Christer Forsberg - a native of Gävle, a troubadour and literary
critic. He will commit Federativs to getting out cheap pocketbooks and isn?t a
stranger to publish fiction. 

* Printing press will not be sold 

Federativs Printing Press Inc., which is owned by the SAC was subject of a
relatively long debate. Stockholms LS, Malmö LS and some others wanted to sell
partly because the ownership means an economic risk and the printing-industry is
stagnating, partly because they were of the view that a union shouldn?t be
owning capitalist companies. 

The fact that the SAC has let the anarchist magazine Brand get printed by
Federativs when it was threatened by prosecution of criminal agitation was held
forward as an example of a important defence of free speech. A large majority
voted no to selling of the company. 

* Lars Hammarberg is voted General Secretary 

SAC:s new face and responsible for the work of the office is a 32-year old
mailman from the Stockholm suburb Skärholmen. Lars Hammarberg was voted to the
position of SAC:s new General Secretary by a large majority, the post which
before the congress was just called Secretary. 

* I am practically inclined rather than a theoretician, he said when he and the
two other candidates Arwid Lund and Liv Marend were questioned by the delegates. 

Lars Hammarberg has been organised in the SAC since 1988, is head of the
syndicalist working section at the postoffice in a district of Stockholm and was
stand-in ombudsman this summer. In his application he stresses the need for
working syndicates and federations to stop the flow of members through the SAC. 

* Some debate on Arbetaren 

Arbetaren was not a hot a topic as during earlier congresses, perhaps because
there weren?t any proposals to close down the paper. Editor-in-chief Anna-Klara
Bratt was not challenged by any candidates and was re-elected by a large
majority. 

The new policy-statement about the goals of Arbetaren was accepted without any
major differences from the earlier one. 

* International Cooperation 

Since many people temporarily work outside the country, Sandvikens LS motioned
that SAC should state in it?s declaration of principles that those who are part
of syndicalist unions in other countries but works for a short period of time in
Sweden should have the same right of support as members of the SAC. The proposal
fell after delegates argued that this should be a question to be decided on
locally, but several LS reserved themselves. 

* Discussion about police 

Even if a large majority voted no to a motion written by Ronny Stansert who,
with the Spanish syndicalists as role models, wanted that the SAC should not
organise policemen, the question led to a thorough principial debate. 

Heléne Draheim of Östersunds LS meant that she was ambivalent. 

* One of our more active members is a police officer. At the same time there is
a point, because some professions will always be the tool of the elite to put in
against demonstrations and strikes, she said. 

* There are many professions who can come into conflict with their views and in
a way also have a violent function. This is probably a conflict we will have to
live with, said Anna Fröding of Uppsala LS. 

Also in the future LS will also take a stand on which professions they want to
organise. 

by Rasmus Fleischer, Transl. Mikael Altemark


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