Protest storm in defence of young activist
Bilbo Göransson, who this Spring initiated the appeal that led to the big demonstration on 18 September, is threatened with expulsion from his trade union. On 11 December, he received an official letter explaining that his union, Kommunal, is investigating a request for his expulsion. Activists around Sweden are protesting against this threat.
The formal basis for the investigation is claimed to be a request from a member of the SSU (the social democratic youth), who joined Kommunal only in May this year, Anton Bergsmark. This notorious individual accuses Bilbo Göransson of having used union resources when mobilising for the 18 September demonstration against the neo-liberal government’s anti-working class programme. The leadership of Kommunal was against the demonstration since it was not under their control and was clearly left wing. They are closely linked to the Social Democratic party that was in power from 1994 to 2006.
Bilbo Göransson, who is 21 years old, is the youth organiser of the biggest branch of Kommunal, section 28 in Stockholm, with 9,000 members. He is also part of the negotiating team for the union in his local area. In June, Bilbo launched a campaign against temporary work schemes for young workers and was on the front page of Kommunal’s national newspaper.
In May last year, he initiated an appeal for a mass demonstration against the government’s attacks. This appeal, agreed by his branch, laid the basis for the rank and file ‘September Alliance’ which has more than 50 organisations affiliated, among them many local unions. This alliance organised the demonstration with 6,000 participants on 18 September. It was a big success and put pressure on the national union leaderships to also call some action, including a lobby of parliament on 19 December.
The Kommunal leadership in Stockholm put a lot of pressure on the local unions not to participate on 18 September. Bilbo’s branch voted not to be the official organiser, but to mobilise for the demo. Despite this, Bilbo is now accused of mobilising young members from his branch to go – something all trade unions should have done. The second, unfounded, charge is that he has used different demands on wages and working hours from the unions’ official ones.
The badly concealed purpose behind the union leaders’ action is to silence and scare left-wing union activists off organising further initiatives. The union bureaucracy fear an increased influence from Bilbo and other members of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) as well as from other left wing and rank and file activists. The fact that Bilbo is supposed to reply before 28 December is another sign of the union leadership’s aim to make it harder for him to defend himself.
So far, a number of union activists and members have protested. The web-site of Kommunal’s newspaper published an article explaining the case. The two key miners’ leaders from the north of Sweden, Harry Rantakyrö and Thomas Nilsson, have sent protest letters. They wrote: “Trade unions are and should be fighting organisations; never forget that”.
Strong support for Bilbo in his branch.
“Our branch committee has, after the accusations, taken collective responsibility for the things Bilbo is accused of and therefore they should expel the entire committee if Bilbo is expelled”, says Monica Calderon, member of the branch committee.
Nejad Khahiri, who received strong support from Bilbo in a conflict with his employer, is strongly upset over the accusations that Bilbo is not loyal to the union: “The most loyal person regarding the union is Bilbo… When I first tried to contact the union, I was sent to different places, but Bilbo contacted me directly when he heard about it. He has shown loyalty towards the members”.
The attack against Bilbo comes in a time when the unions in Sweden are in crisis. More than 170,000 workers – seven per cent of the membership – have left the unions this year. Union fees have increased drastically as a result of the right-wing government’s attacks on unemployment insurance, which is administrated by the unions. So far, the response from the union tops has been conciliatory, even inviting the employers’ federation to new talks about restraining the right to strike.
The need for fighting and democratic trade unions is urgent, and that struggle starts with defending Bilbo Göransson against expulsion.
- Drop the investigation relating to Bilbo Göransson immediately.
- No to his expulsion from Kommunal.
- Use the union’s strength to fight the right-wing government.
Public sector union members who are angry at this treatment of a union militant are asked to send protest letters to Kommunal before 28 December.
Addresses for protests and solidarity letters:-
Copies to: firstname.lastname@example.org.