Januar 9, 2023 –
Von Autonom Organisering
Von Autonom Organisering
We are writing this text as a response to the increased amount of repression that has mainly been directed at the environmental movement and various leftist spaces in Sweden. The text aims to give a deeper understanding of what repression is, how it works and how we can respond to it. We have, unfortunately, a long and hard experience of repression and we have made many mistakes throughout our political lives. This is an attempt to give others the chance to avoid making the same mistakes.
This text was written to a Swedish radical left audience and concerns examples and analysis based on this. We don’t propose ourselves as experts nor of this text as the end-all, be-all of texts on repression. It is translated due to an interest by international comrades and we hope that it will serve to inspire English-speaking people.
The text is based on input over many years from other comrades. You know who you are. Thank you.
Part 1: The State
Repression is the political process that aims to neutralize political movements by various means. Since capitalism constantly creates opposition against itself which undermines its existence it requires an institution to ensure that capitalism survives and is maintained. This institution is the state whose main purpose is repression. This is embodied primarily in the police but also in the military, courts, prisons and security services, etc. In addition to these “hard” institutions, repression can also work through social services, mental health care, universities and research centers, authorities, the media, etc.
Why then does repression occur? When we act to create a different world, such as shutting down environmentally destructive infrastructure or clearing our streets from fascism, repression is mobilized to maintain bourgeois normality. This normality, with all its violence and destruction, is not a problem for the state. In contrast, radical groups are a huge problem as they threaten the state and capital. Repression therefore serves a basic political function.
Understanding repression in this way means that we do not accept it on a political level. The opposite of this is the attitude of shrugging your shoulders (“what did you expect to happen?!) which fundamentally accepts and normalizes repression which has plagued the extra-parliamentary left’s analysis and therefore also the opportunity to build effective counter-strategies.
A related problem is the notion that sometimes appears, especially in the more naive parts of political movements, that the state could have done or been something other than it is. This attitude is expressed, for example, in the attempts to convince the police during actions that one is doing the right thing and that they should let one go, or in believing that it is possible to convince the police to allow or even join a blockade.
Part 2: How Does Repression Work?
As we write in the introduction, repression is expressed in many different ways. On the one hand, there is a part with arrests, house searches or violence against demonstrations and protests. There is also another part of the repression that we can see in for instance media coverage, reports about “extremism” or in politicians’ tweets. The latter aims to define political movements and enable further repression.
Recently, we have also seen an increasing repression against leftist spaces with the help of “technical” paragraphs where social environmental committees, fire protection, etc. are drawn in to make our open spaces operations more difficult. This is an importation of repressive techniques from the police’s work against criminals and shows how repressive laws and techniques used in one context are often transferred to be used in entirely new ones. Therefore, we must always understand repressive new laws, such as those in Tidöavtalet* (the Tidö Agreement), as part of increasing state power that will also affect political movements sooner or later. In a similar way, repressive techniques and strategies are often imported from the global south to the global north.
Repression is not only legal but also has non-legal forms: it is the threat of the cops in the police bus or the lies of the prosecutor. Repression is not about legality, but about power. The most advanced forms of non-legal repression are to be found in fascism.
Although the purely physical consequences of repression can be severe, often a bigger problem is the mental and social ones. Repression works by splitting and dividing us. In our political context we are still living with problems caused by repression almost a decade ago. Nothing is more important than identifying and counteracting such divisions when they occur and preferably before.
One of the most basic forms of division is between good and evil protesters. This ploy can be usefully studied before any major militant protest where the police and press do everything to provoke such divisions. The fact is that the Swedish police’s basic concept, Särskild Polistaktik (Special Police Tactics), is based on precisely creating differences and divisions between demonstrators.
A related part is the feeling of individualization, of being isolated and powerless. This often comes with a good dose of paranoia. Without a political understanding and collective strategy against repression, repression is individualized and internalized. When we talk about internalization, we mean partly the tendency to excessive paranoia but partly also the collective naturalization of repression, i.e. to assume that repression is something natural, inevitable and basically unproblematic.
We therefore mean that in such situations it is individuals who bear the problems themselves, often with anxiety and with the consequence of new splits in groups due to the fear created in the collective and the stress the groups expose themselves to. In worst case, talented activists quit altogether and strong groups fall apart. This often takes a while and is not an instant process. The seeds of repression are sown and only emerge later. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the final collapse of the Revolutionary Front.
Part 3: What Should We Do?
Basically, we have to understand repression as political: this is work that we do when we talk to each other, analyze the situation and think about countermeasures. It is a collective work. We must always avoid the individualization of the problems, the question of whether someone is to blame or whether an action was good or not is not interesting. The important thing is to understand an attack on a comrade or a collective as an attack on all of us, even if we do not share the politics of an individual or collective in everything. Here are a couple of examples of counter strategies that we have used with success:
– Build a communal solidarity. Write statements of support, send money, take over important political work a collective participates in, hold a support event or take a solidarity photo.
– Spread the word in your community. Out in the public is often the easiest and best way to respond to repression. Go public with condemnations of contact attempts by the Security Police, organize demonstrations against the attacks on our spaces, write about the arrests on Gatorna.info or contact the mass media.
If it is not possible to be public then it should be immediately rewritten in closed and secure channels. Often we also find out about more incidents or similar events when we do this, in addition to seeing a clear change in the attitude of the victims compared to when we silence it and keep it to ourselves (which in itself is a sign of internalization of the fear, the repressive agencies know very well what they have done themselves, but when the paranoia sets in, we do not act logically).
– An important part of being public and political with the repression is the possibility of what we can call political judo. In judo, the opponent’s own strength is used against themselves. In the same way, we can build a strategy against repression. All over the world, the repression has been what created massive protest movements, in Iran, the USA, Russia, France, etc. Call for help, ask for money, mobilize, radicalise. The repression gives us an almost too obvious opportunity to demonstrate the problem with state and capital and to mobilize.
– Never underestimate empathy, a good internal culture, a feminist approach against machismo – basically being good comrades. When repression comes, people get hurt. Do check–in rounds, write support in SMS‘, take over comrades’ tasks, step up if it affects the most active activists, or provide financial support. We only have each other.
– Finally, prepare yourself both in calm periods and before major actions. Dedicate special meetings to the repression where you can also firmly encrypt your data, discuss your security problems, fears, feelings, internal culture, etc. Create routines for police contact. If there isn’t an ABC group in your city, start one. Read this text. Invite us to talk!
Autonom Organisering New Years 2022/2023
*Tidöavtalet is the political agreement between the right-wing parties and the fascist Sweden Democrats which serves as a basis to rule Sweden. It is focused heavily on repression with tougher sentences for crimes and so on.
Zunehmende Repression, fehlende Strategien? Der Versuch einer Einordnung und Kritik des bestehenden Umgangs mit Repression Gegen Repression, Polizei und Patriarchat! Fight Repression! Einladung zur Podiumsveranstaltung am 17.10. zur staatlichen Repression nach G20 [S] Kundgebung und Veranstaltung – Gemeinschaftlicher Widerstand gegen Repression Gipfel der Repression: NQ Gudrunstr. muss schließen Repression gegen die Hafenarbeiter*innen in Genua Pandemie, Verfassung, Repression – Was wurde aus der Revolte in Chile? Gemeinsames Thesenpapier gegen die Repression – Weg mit §129/a Hausdurchsuchungen bei Anarchist:innen in München – Die Repression setzt sich fort. Save the date! Fight Repression! Am 20.10 auf die Straße! Diskussion: Repression im Rahmen von Interkiezionale-Aktionen Die Isolationshaft und die Geschichte der Repression in Spanien | Teil 12