Sweden: The Wildcat Strike on the Commuter Trains Shows the Way Forward

On Monday, April 17, the train drivers on the commuter trains in Stockholm went on a wildcat strike. The strike was already announced on the Saturday before, where it was also announced that it would last until midnight on Wednesday 19 April. The goal of the strike was said to be to keep train guards on the trains, something that the company that runs the commuter trains, MTR, wants to abolish. In this they also have the support of the Stockholm Region's politicians, who are ultimately responsible for the commuter transport – they simply need to save money. The strike is the first major one of its kind in Sweden for a long time, an estimated 150-200 drivers are involved, which has led to approximately 80% of the city's traffic being suspended. It has made a great impact in the media and support seems strong. A support collection has been made for the strikers, which in just a couple of days brought in SEK 1.8 million, organised by the “Workers' Solidarity Association” (Förbundet Arbetarsolidaritet).

But there are some question marks. Why not, in these times of high inflation and a cost of living crisis as a result, raise the wage issue? Another thing to think about is how the conflict is communicated from the strikers: the train guards must keep their jobs and are needed to not make the workload too great for the train drivers. But mostly they have focussed on safety issues for the passengers. This may be true, but at the same time it becomes a sign of weakness that the workers cannot fully fight for their own interests. Neither have appeals been made for sympathy strikes or other actions to broaden the demands in a way that could strengthen the struggle. For example, there has been a small strike among taxi drivers in Umeå, but no signs of solidarity and common slogans have been seen.


What is above all impressive and important about this strike is the degree of self-organization where, at a general assembly on Friday, April 14, they elected their own strike committee and prepared the strike. As we see it, it is imperative that we organize our own struggle outside the unions. We can only rely on our own strength. This is obviously also how the train drivers see it, and that is why they have developed such an impressive degree of self-organization. This has also been a strike that has aroused interest and expressions of solidarity in broad layers, as the strike fund of 1.8 million shows.

We must spread the struggle to build a better balance of force

There are several lessons that can be learned from this struggle that also have general validity for most other struggle situations that the working class will be confronted with. We cannot of course predict whether the strike will succeed or not but it is difficult for an isolated group of workers fighting in isolation from other sectors to bring the strike to victory. In any case, if the strike is about more than a couple of kronor per hour. There are several examples of this in history. Perhaps the most familiar is the miners' strike in Britain in the mid-1980s. The miners were highly motivated and militant, and had defeated government attempts to cut wages and jobs in 1974 and 1981. But the government had learned from the previous strikes and made it harder for other workers (like rail workers) to give solidarity (since coal was now moved by private road haulage) whilst other unions (especially the steelworkers' union) isolated the miners from potential solidarity with other workers. The miners themselves thought they would win again and fought regular battles against the police, but after over a year in which the strike had little material impact they were forced to capitulate and the industry was decimated. The strategy of the lone mighty strike carried to victory in solitary majesty was now no more than a dream. What we must do today is to spread the struggle to several groups of workers and other sectors. When there are many of us from several sectors, we can develop a new dynamic and a better balance of forces, the bourgeoisie begins to fear and our chances of pushing back the attacks increase significantly. We can only achieve this if we broaden the demands to include issues that have general validity and with which other workers can identify. It is clear that in this situation when the central agreement gave 7.4% in 2 years while inflation is around 10% per year, the salary issue is central for most workers who are then threatened by a considerable real wage reduction. Therefore, we should consider putting this issue on the agenda in order to spread the fight.

We are of course aware that spreading the struggle is a big step, but it is nevertheless a necessity to be able to carry the struggle forward and to be able to repel the attacks and savings of the bourgeoisie. But since this is a big step, a start could be to try to start discussions in this direction and if possible start informal struggle committees to bring forward such ideas and prepare the struggle and when possible make leaflets, etc. As we see it, self-organization and the spread of the struggle are the main points. This is the way forward for the struggling working class and we must begin to take the first steps on this path. However, these first difficult steps will not be sufficient if the most combative sectors of the class do not link their struggle to the perspective of destroying capitalism.

Franz and Josef, ICT Sympathizers in Sweden


Images: ”long live the wildcat strikes, don’t touch my train guard" poster from a solidarity meeting for the train drivers (left), "the union betrayed the drivers" placard from a picket line (right).

Friday, April 28, 2023


An interesting and encouraging report from our class brothers in Norway where their struggles are the same irrespective of the nationality of the strikes. The only thing missing from the report was that there is no mention of the idelogical and practical importance of communism as the alternative to capitalism. There is the need to go beyond the immediate struggles by workers and raise communism as our objective of all struggles against this decrepit capitalist system.

I thought it informative, maybe not worded like an agitational leaflet, which it is not, but a good reporting of events. The last line raised the necessity of abolition of capitalism. Where I hesitate is the question of revolutionaries raising specific wage demands. Not that this would be wrong coming from workers, but from revolutionaries who are aware of the destination, so to speak, I have my doubts. Not sure, maybe I am too black and white here.