How can organizers change their workplaces and, in the long run, build labor unions to change society as a whole? Rasmus Hästbacka of the Swedish SAC delivers some food for thought and action.
Hästbacka has written three articles about syndicalist vision, strategy and movement building which appear on the ASR website. In a fourth article, he relates these themes to making plans for action in individual workplaces. Thus, the articles start off on the macro level of class struggle and move down to the micro level on the job. Read the fourth article on the union site Organizing Work.
With inspiration from the Labor Notes book Secrets of a successful organizer, Hästbacka divides workplace organizing into four phases: (1) Mapping and personal conversations, (2) Making an action plan, (3) Collective action and (4) Evaluation. He also underlines the importance of a formal union structure. Such a structure is necessary for workers to be able to make and implement democratic decisions and bridge the ups and downs of activity and commitment.
A Swedish version of the fourth article is available in the union paper Arbetaren. All articles draw from Hästbacka’s book (free online) Swedish syndicalism – An outline of its ideology and practice.
“Solidarity means that we stand up for one another and expect something from each other, even if we don’t like the other very much or even understand each other.”
— Frances Tuuloskorpi
Syndicalism is a movement of labor unions that aims for a vision beyond both capitalism and the nation-states. In two previous essays, Rasmus Hästbacka touched on this vision and strategies to reach it. The following essay concludes with recipes for rebuilding the labor movement.
A vision is pointless without strategies to reach it. Strategies are pointless without a movement that can pursue them. At least in Europe and North America, we need to “bring back the movement in the labor movement,” to quote Labor Notes. Continue reading
“Those who work in the mills ought to own them, not
have the status of machines ruled by private despots.”
— The Mill Girls of Lowell, 1845
Syndicalism is a movement of labor unions that aims for a vision beyond both capitalism and the nation-states. The syndicalist SAC—Central Organization of Workers in Sweden—neither advocates armed struggle to reach the vision nor revolt through a general strike. So, what do Swedish syndicalists propose? Rasmus Hästbacka addresses this question in the second in a series of three essays.
ASR is presenting this series in the spirit of debate and an exchange of ideas across national borders. We do not agree with every formulation. The SAC’s evolutionary approach is, we believe, unique in the international syndicalist movement. It is certainly possible to fetishize the general strike, transforming it into an idle fantasy that serves as a substitute for the day-to-day struggle in the workplaces for workers’ control and better conditions. But this is to violate the very essence of syndicalism: its emphasis on building revolutionary unions that battle for better conditions today while building the capacity and power to take over the industries and bring them under workers’ self-management. Continue reading