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
a response by Rasmus Hästbacka, member of the Umeå Local of SAC
In a previous article I made a distinction between three types of organizations: narrow cadre unions, broad popular movement unions and networks of workplace organizers. I hope that we in Sweden will develop the syndicalist SAC as a popular movement union (or, if one prefers the term: open class organization). Such a union can also build various forms of cross-union cooperation: forums, groups and networks of workplace organizers. Continue reading
by Gabriel Kuhn, published in ASR 84
Rasmus Hästbacka has written an interesting article titled “Greetings from Sweden: A dual-track syndicalism?” Rasmus cites a few texts that I have written, some of them together with comrades from Sweden and Germany. I interpret Rasmus’s article as an invitation to continue the debate about the future of the SAC and syndicalist unions that find themselves in a similar position. My response reflects my own thoughts and not necessarily those of the comrades I have collaborated with. Continue reading
by Bill Barry, ASR 83 (2021)
No organizing campaign is ever really a failure, and the Amazon campaign in Bessemer, AL, is a perfect example. The campaign was started by the workers who wanted something that so many other Covid campaigns ignored – UNION RECOGNITION; so even though the union “lost” in the distorted structure of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the lives of everyone involved – in the warehouse, in the community and hopefully across the union movement – were changed. This was the most exciting campaigns to come out of Covid, one enormous location for the most powerful boss, where all the numbers about union interest became a workers’ movement, and not just a hopeful statistic. Continue reading
A slightly condensed version of this article appears in ASR 83 (Summer 2021)
In 2022, the Swedish syndicalist union SAC holds a congress. Some say that SAC is at a crossroads. But what exactly are the choices? In the following essay, Rasmus Hästbacka argues that the choice is between building a popular movement union or a “revolutionary” cadre union. Hästbacka believes in a popular movement that progresses on dual tracks, i.e. a movement that builds both syndicalist sections and cross-union cohesion among workers.
The Swedish labor market has recently been highlighted in Anarcho-Syndicalist Review and on the Counterpunch website. Two articles concern the anti-strike law of 2019 and a new strategy for collective agreements that SAC has developed. Two more general texts on the future of syndicalism have been written by Gabriel Kuhn and Torsten Bewernitz on the Counterpunch website, and by Gabriel and Frederick Batzler in Anarcho-Syndicalist Review (issue #79, 2020). The new collective agreement strategy is being tested (at the time of publication) by warehouse workers at Ingram/Zalando in Stockholm. More such experiments await. Continue reading