Swedish and Finnish Commuters Take Direct Action for Free Public Transport


In Stockholm, Gothenburg and Helsinki commuters are taking the initiative in the fight for decent, free public transportation. Here Oisín Mac Giollamóir interviews Anna from the planka.nu campaign.

How did planka.nu start?

It started as a small campaign initiated by the SUF (Syndicalist Youth Federation) group in Stockholm after an increase in fare prices. We made posters and flyers and arranged mass protests in the subway. We also started "P-kassan" - the freeriding insurance. You pay a small amount to join the insurance fund after which if you get caught freeriding your fine is paid.

How is this campaign run and structured?

In the campaign we practice direct democracy in meetings, there is no committee where anyone has more power than anyone else.

What has been the reaction of the media and the state?

The reactions have been stronger than we expected, freeriding seems to be a very controversial method of engaging in politics. Maybe because it's so simple, everybody does it at least sometimes. I think that planka.nu focuses on this common phenomenon and that really scared the politicians. Some of the media loved us and at the same time other media refused to publish the website address www.planka.nu or even mention the word "planka". All the local planka.nu groups - Stockholm, Gothenburg, Östergötland and Helsinki have been reported to the police but freeriding isn't illegal so nothings happened.

Where do you see this going in both the short term and the long term?

So far we've been successful in bringing this issue from the bottom of the list of political problems. For years it wasn't even considered political and nobody wanted to talk about the relationship between social welfare, income and the ability to travel between city and suburbs, to work and to school etc. We're aiming for free public transport and we're still a far way from it. We've yet to see what we're going to do about it next.

What is the role of the SUF in this campaign? What advice if any would you have for others who are campaigning around the issues of public transport?

The only thing left over from the time when planka.nu was an SUF initiative are the anarcho-syndicalist values. SUF has no role in the campaign. The most important advice is definitely don't underestimate the media, don't be afraid of using it, and remember: You can do it! United we stand strong.

From Workers Solidarity 89 Nov/Dec 2005