On Logistics

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We have translated the text “von der Kriegkunst des Kapitals” (Capital’s Art of War), written by Theorie-Organisation-Praxis (TOP), one of the groups that constitutes the German-Austrian …Ums Ganze-alliance in order to initiate a discussion on logistics and technology in the Swedish radical movement. The English version of TOP:s text can be found here. We have also translated the text as a part of the mobilization to the G-20 summit in Hamburg in July. We believe that attacking logistics by blockading Hamburg’s harbour is a path beyond the symbolic politics and the political spectacle that characterized the summit protests of the early 2000’s by intervening in a concrete material situation. Our hope is that a discussion on logistics may create an opening for a reorientation of the autonomous movement both here and abroad. We will be hosting a number of open meetings in different locations around Sweden, for example at What’s Left Summer Camp in June, the 21/5 during the Cultural Political Week at Smålands Nation in Lund and in Denmark as a part of Konferensen om modstanden mod G20 (Conference for Resistance Against G20) as well as other events to present and have a deeper discussion of these ideas. We hope that you can take part in these meetings or comment the discussion concerning logistics in writing, preferably in your groups, to further develop and add depth to the strategic discussion in Sweden and internationally. Our text is best understood after reading TOP’s text.

Weapons

TOP argue in their text that logistics have fundamentally changed capital, dislocating the work process from factories in the core countries which undermined the proletarian power that the traditional labour movement had built up. This is the case in Sweden as well. We have previously argued for the need to find weapons that work in our current material situation. Attacking logistics is one possible such weapon. Finding mods of action with real material consequences for capital is the only way we can build a successful social movement. TOP writes: “Logistics can also be disrupted on purpose, for example by blockades of supply-infrastructure. It can be disrupted even by those who are usually not working in logistics but are still immediately affected by its impacts.” Logistics are both that which binds together but at the same time is the weak link in modern capitalism. Small, local disruptions cause chain reactions along the whole of the geographically dispersed network of distribution and production.
The most clear cut examples of the use of these strategies are in the USA (here we are thinking the highway blockades utilized by #BlackLivesMatter and the same strategy on May Day 2011 in Portland) and France (During the Lois Travaille movement but also earlier during the movement against the CPE reforms in 2006). It is also when we have been mobile and dynamic around transport hubs (often because we have been close to them during actions by coincidence) that we have been the most effective during Swedish antifascist mobilizations, such as the actions in Salem 2006-2007 or during certain occasions in the blockades against the Sweden Democrats (SD) in Malmö 2010-2014. Our most fatal failures have been in attempts to act against well prepared police forces holding static positions, for example during later blockades against SD or the demonstration against SD’s national conference in Lund. To paraphrase Sun Tzu: we need to avoid the enemy’s reinforced positions and attack it at it’s weak points. We need to be fluid and mobile and we need to not be obsessed by specific times and places (like the beloved classic: attacking the fence between us and the Nazis). We need to transform time and place into an advantage instead of it being our weakness. A logistical focus will give us this advantage. Beyond the purely tactical lies a deeper political dimension in the understanding of and focus on logistics. Our role as revolutionaries is always to smash divisions between people, between women and men, between workers in different work places or between nationalities. Logistics allow us to go beyond the local and localism and, through the transnational nature of logistics, create links between people across borders. Logistics are therefore also concrete and material, something that directly affects the world around us and can allow us to move beyond symbolic politics.

Nordic Logistics

In Sweden, and to the best of our knowledge the same goes for the rest of the Nordic countries, logistics are central to the type of high-tech and global capitalism that the Swedish bourgeoisie, including capital’s left wing – in Sweden represented foremost by the Social Democratic party but also the Left and Green parties – are attempting to employ as a material strategy to aid Swedish capital against competition on the global market. Yesterday’s industries such as Volvo have to a high degree been outsourced, those that remain are first and foremost specialized detail works. Our own town, Lund, is a good example of global of global logistics with a conglomeration of companies like Tetra Pak, Ericsson and Alfa Laval. These all have to an uneducated workforce (i.e. no college education) to a certain degree e.g. in their storage warehouses, labour that is an absolute necessity for production due to the central role of logistics, but the central components of the work force are college educated workers with intermediate class positions such as engineers.
At the same time there are many interesting struggles in other aspects of logistics, outside the realm of production. Three things come to mind: the dock workers in Gothenburg, the railway strike in Skåne 2014 and the many conflicts at Kastrup (Copenhagen airport) the past few years. These three groups are heterogeneous and there struggles are about different issues and sadly we can’t go into detail here. That being said, the results show that all of these groups of workers have a certain ability to create economic damage, for example SAS (a commercial airline co-owned by the Nordic countries) seems to have gone through a complete reorganization to be able to lash out against the successful struggles which different groups of workers at Kastrup have waged. Interestingly enough it is the dock workers and to a certain extent the railway workers (we have no deep knowledge of conditions at Kastrup) that look and act in the style of the the classic labour movement, where the ability to fight successfully due to their position in production bestows, to a certain extent, a historic self-understanding and strength which motivates them to act more like classically red labour unions. The railway strike and work stoppages at Kastrup at the same time shed light on another problematic, the risk of alienating certain parts of the working class through actions that affect them. There are parallels in other countries. In 2010 Finnish dock workers were on strike for almost two weeks, and met huge resistance from the employers. The Finnish employers organization EK painted a propagandist picture of economic collapse and depression since the strike effected the whole “societal economy” (i.e. capitalism) and it was said to have created damages for over one hundred million Euros for every day the conflict lasted. When the London metro workers strike the right wing and the employers squeal about how frightful the worker’s actions are for commuters. We have to carefully investigate the logistics networks we intend to  intervene in and avoid accidental harm caused to other sections of the working class as far as possible. There is also a dimension where repression comes into play, as actions in certain parts of airports for example, can be seen as terrorism.

Reading Capital’s Art of War

There are some parts of the text that we feel should be developed further. The authors bring up the fact that different accidents can create great damage for capital. We also think that we have to understand that capital in and out of itself as something that often fails, makes mistakes and at times works against itself. An example of this is Citytunneln (“The city tunnel”) in Malmö, a project that cost eight and a half billion SEK (circa 850 million euro) to shorten the trip between Malmö to Copenhagen by ten minutes. This to cut short the arcing time of goods and people by creating a common labour market in the Öresund area. On a superficial level this is a clear example of capitalist rationality. The problem is that constant cutbacks in railway maintenance going back to the 1980’s (one of the reasons for the strike in 2014) has weakened the reliability of the Swedish railway complex, which together with the bottleneck built into Citytunneln due to there only being two single tracks have created constant delays in railway traffic. Moving on, the (recently semi-abolished) border checkpoints between Sweden and Denmark have meant that the commute time between the countries has at least doubled, destroying the common labour market. We believe that this shows something important about how irrational capital can be and how different fractions of the bourgeoisie try to stabilize the conflicted nature of capitalism, and how they very often fail. Such instances of failure and collapse don’t necessarily mean that we win. The role of oil for logistics is crucial, without (relatively cheap) oil the chains of distribution would cease to be. Securing supplies of oil and other fossil fuels motivate states to, on the one hand wage war like in Iraq, on the other trade with groups like IS and then ignore abuses in oil rich and cooperative dictatorships like Saudi Arabia. Environmentally the central matter is the exploitation of new sources of fossil fuels, like fracking and similar, in the case of Norway exporting oil for the sake of the treasury, even going so far as to drill for oil in the arctic despite warnings that it will will exacerbate climate change. Without the exploitation of nature and political/military power logistics chains and modern capitalism would cease to function. This being said we are deeply impressed and inspired by TOP’s text. We hope that you will enjoy it as well and that we can develop new strategies and tactics based on logistics. The G20 summit is for us an experiment on how this can be applied, we hope to see you there shoulder to shoulder with us. In closing we wish to join TOP in saying: Workers and Non-Workers of the World, Unite in Counter-Logistics!
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