Logistics weaves together capitalism across the globe, integrating its means of dominance and power over the working class and attempting to ensure that business continues as usual. This role of logistics is nowhere clearer than in the current struggle in Gothenburg, Sweden, where right now a large-scale labor dispute has pulled in the employers‘ confederation, large parts of the labor movement, and the government – almost all of whom are attacking the workers in the dock.
The conflict is based on the Swedish Dockworkers‘ Union’s (SDU) fight for their right to represent the workers – of whom they organize 85% – rather than the Social Democratic minority union which the employers, APM Terminals, favours. The conflict has been going on for about a year, with SDU going on short localized strikes and denying management the use of overtime. APM Terminals have answered with a lockout of workers, and are now threatening to lay off 160 workers from the harbour and explicitly barred the SDU from participating in negotiations concerning these lay-offs. The lay-offs are caused by „lack of work“ (one of the grounds to terminate in Swedish labor law). Bizarrely, it is the employers who are right now causing this through the lockout (which now has lasted five weeks) rather than the workers who have only struck for a few days at most, but this shows how APM Terminals desires long term profits over short term ones.
This had three profound results: the first is that most workers believe that the lay-offs are just a means to first fire and then re-hire their workers on precarious contracts. The second is an attempt by the employers to destroy or weaken the SDU. The third is that large Swedish companies, such as the clothing store Lindex, have been disrupted by the industrial action and needs to get their goods to their stores and have instead routed their goods through Rotterdam, Malmö and, pertinently, Hamburg. It is this last point which has caused the „lack of work.“
Six out of ten containers that come in and out of Sweden pass through the Gothenburg docks. It is a vital part of Swedish capitalism. For this reason the Social Democratic party have announced an investigation into a proposal to limit the right to strike, attacking the SDU explicitly. They openly link arms with the employers to ensure „Swedish competetiveness and Swedish jobs“ (Ylva Johansson, Minister for Employment) The proposed changes to the law would mean a grave blow to free unionism and the right to strike in Sweden.
When we go to blockade the harbor in Hamburg we want to make it clear that the strike in Gothenburg is inherently tied to logistical networks which connects to the Hamburg harbor and to global capitalism. We want to highlight the struggle in Sweden but also move beyond it. Capitalism uses logistics to ensure profits (like Lindex), to attack workers (like APM Terminals), or to ensure power over the class (like the Social Democrats). But we can use these logistical nodes to attack logistical hubs and to support each other beyond nation states and other divisions that plague our class. No matter where capitalism runs well be there, so we say:
From Gothenburg to Hamburg – no safe harbours for capitalism! #hamburgcitystrike