Friday 14 April 2023
08.30 - 10.30
Contention in the Welfare State - Social Movements in 1980s Sweden
Victoriagatan 13, A252
Fredrik Egefur :
‘The Winter Palace’ in Malmö – Subversive Activists, People’s Home-anarchists or Just a Slightly Radical Cultural Association?
The Winter Palace (Vinterpalatset) was an anarchist venue/ association that was part of Malmö’s left wing/alternative environment 1987-1989, with premises down in the port area. The venue was home to ran pub and café activities, arranged concerts, public lectures and movie screenings, broadcasted radio, published fanzines, and more. The idea ... (Show more)
The Winter Palace (Vinterpalatset) was an anarchist venue/ association that was part of Malmö’s left wing/alternative environment 1987-1989, with premises down in the port area. The venue was home to ran pub and café activities, arranged concerts, public lectures and movie screenings, broadcasted radio, published fanzines, and more. The idea was that the proceeds would be used to build a southern Swedish center for anarchist propaganda and political struggle. However, this did not always turn out to be the case, and the extensive mix of cultural activities are probably more remembered in the city today.
Even though the Winter Palace (WP) claimed influence from the Danish and European squatters, its’ own operations were conducted in a property based on a legal demolition contract with the city of Malmö. Some confrontations did take place with the police or authorities, but nowhere near as many as was standard by similar groups in cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam. The Winter Palace, though, was otherwise very focused on a pacifist, non-violent, agenda with roots from the 1960’s and -70s progressive movements. When the contract finally expired in 1989, the activists left the premises without conflict.
In the early 1990s the far-left environment changed, in Malmö as well as in the rest of the country. A more militant group led a long squatting action in the north parts of town, which ultimately was forcefully evicted by the police. Apparently, a generational shift had taken place. In that perspective, the group who ran The Winter Palace, with mixed ages – several of the activists were closer to 30 than 20 years old, and some even older – could be seen as a bridge between the progressive movements in the 1970’s and the younger and more militant autonomous movement that evolved in the 1990’s.
The purpose of this article is to investigate how the European squatting wave during the early 1980s influenced an activist group in Malmö, Sweden’s third biggest city, and analyze how they acted during the years of the Winter Palace’s existence and compare and discuss it in relation to other activists in other cities. I will argue that the activists clearly identified themselves as a part of this international trend, but that the choices they made on how to conduct their protest repertoire also came to be influenced by a national political praxis that maybe differed somewhat from similar countries. I will also discuss the generational aspect, and the critique against the Winter Palace.
The article will build on three main kinds of sources. First, and mainly, The Winter Palace's archive, which contains interesting documents such as minutes of meetings, correspondence with authorities, fanzines/pamphlets, posters, et cetera. Second, articles from niched magazines, such as Total-Brand or Magazin April, who occasionally covered the Winter Palace. Third, I have recently conducted semi-structured interviews with three of the leading activists. The three includes the association's first chairman and two other activists who regularly wrote in the above-mentioned magazines about WP. (Show less)
Jenny Jansson :
Actors behind Contention: Welfare State Related Protests in the 1980s
The 1980s has often been described as the neoliberal decade, an era characterized by a new societal analysis. Criticism against Keynesianism and Social Democracy came to entrench the public debate in Sweden, famous for its strong labour movement. In the centre of this debate stood the welfare state. The ... (Show more)
The 1980s has often been described as the neoliberal decade, an era characterized by a new societal analysis. Criticism against Keynesianism and Social Democracy came to entrench the public debate in Sweden, famous for its strong labour movement. In the centre of this debate stood the welfare state. The core of neoliberal ideas – the primacy of the market forces and individualism – inevitably leads to the conclusion that the state should withdraw and shrink. Thus, the welfare state becomes a contested and central arena. This was also evident in the Swedish ‘neoliberal turn’ of the public and political debate of the 1980s.
Main proponents of the new societal analysis were the Employers' Organization, and the conservative party, that became the primary voice for neoliberal ideas in the parliament. But also the Social Democratic Party (SAP), was affected by the new ideas. In the 1980s, for the first time, a (small) party faction, led by the minister of finance, claimed that the welfare state had become inefficient and needed reforms: the welfare state should not expand further but be made more efficient.
These new ideas of welfare state reform were driven by a political elite and had little support among the grassroots. The trade union movement rejected all talk about cutbacks and privatisations. Among the Swedish citizens, the welfare state enjoyed a general, strong and stable support in the 1980s. However, citizens had started to perceive the welfare state as bureaucratic. The general public did not want a smaller welfare state, but a welfare state that better adjusted welfare state services to citizens’ individual needs.
Altogether, the welfare state was contested in the 1980s, and we expect that these contested ideas of the state of the Swedish welfare state and its future led to significant public contention.
Prior studies have not systematically examined the contentious collective action – protests – related to the Swedish welfare state discussion of the 1980s. Therefore, this paper will describe and analyse who mobilized protests related to the welfare state in the 1980s, what claims were made by these actors and which diverse forms of protest they used. The focus on the mobilizing actors is particularly interesting given the discrepancy between the elite driven public debate and the public opinion about the welfare state. Many groups would have had motives to protest, but who really did?
In the chapter, we first describe prior research about protest mobilisation and the actors who are expected to mobilise welfare-related protests in Sweden. This is followed by a short overview of how the data used for the analysis has been collected. The empirical section provides a general analysis of how different actors – the trade union movement, proponents of neoliberal reforms and client groups – mobilised the Swedish welfare-related contention in the 1980s. (Show less)
Markus Lundström :
When Anarchism Met Punk
This paper outlines how repertoires of contention became altered and extended, enacted and revived, in the Swedish 1980s when anarchism met punk. It shows how the meeting between the Swedish anarchist movement, and the subcultural punk scene, fostered a breeding ground for new forms of activism, a hotbed that regenerated ... (Show more)
This paper outlines how repertoires of contention became altered and extended, enacted and revived, in the Swedish 1980s when anarchism met punk. It shows how the meeting between the Swedish anarchist movement, and the subcultural punk scene, fostered a breeding ground for new forms of activism, a hotbed that regenerated political repertoires buried in the social soil – like pyrophile plants sprouting through a wildfire. The paper exhibits how the anarchist periodical Brand [Fire], published on a regular basis since the late 1800s, was rebranded through anarcho-punk aesthetics and increasingly synchronized with the repertoires of contention signatory to the broader autonomous movement in Europe. Hence, the anarchist politics of direct action prompted in the Swedish 1980s a revived struggle accompanied by the disorderly rebelliousness of punk. This ideological dialogue with the past gave birth to the disobedient temporality of prefiguration. When anarchism met punk, the paper concludes, the radical struggle against hierarchy and for freedom was not primarily a political goal located at the horizon of time, but rather a politics to enact, to prefigure, a desirable future already in the present (Show less)
Hannes Rolf :
The End of a Performance? Swedish Rent Strikes in the 1980s
Even though it is a mostly unknown part of Swedish history, rent protests have an old history. There are accounts of collective rent protests and rent strikes in Stockholm during the 19th century. As the tenants´ movement grew and became more formalised during the first half of the 20th century, ... (Show more)
Even though it is a mostly unknown part of Swedish history, rent protests have an old history. There are accounts of collective rent protests and rent strikes in Stockholm during the 19th century. As the tenants´ movement grew and became more formalised during the first half of the 20th century, rent protests increasingly came under the control of the tenants´ unions, using it as leverage for enforcing collective bargaining. The 1930s saw a high level of tenant militancy, but the level of militant action calmed down during the rent control period from 1942 to 1968. After this, a surge of rent protests during the 1970s followed, which continued well into the 1980s. As a part of this contention, performances such as petitioning, rallies and public meetings were held. But there were also many planned and sometimes also performed rent strikes taking place in several places all over Sweden. This chapter highlights the rent contention of the 1980s and offers an attempt at explaining why the rent strike performance apparently ceased to be a part of the contentious repertoire of Swedish tenants after the 1980s.
The empirical material used in the study is mainly various newspaper articles, a sort of source material that often has been used in historical research on labour conflicts. These come both from the daily press, accessed through the press database Svenska dagstidningar and from other movement-related newspapers from the smaller tenant activist networks and groups. Other documents used are biographies and organisational documents such as pamphlets, programs, meeting protocols and annual reports. (Show less)