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Swedish Anarchosyndicalist Youth Federation, "Free Ride Now!"

From the International newsletter of the SUF, Jan 005

"Free Public Transport!"

An Introduction to Planka.nu*

Swedish Anarchosyndicalist Youth Federation

* The word "planka" is swedish slang meaning something like "free riding" (a
verb). "Nu" means "now". A fair translation of Planka.nu would therefore be
"Free Ride Now! "

The campaign Planka.nu has more than any other syndicalist practice during
the last years drawn attention to itself and generated debate. What has
organized free riding to do with syndicalism? That is what we will try to
sort out.
For those of you who have missed what this has been about, a short resume:

Planka.nu was started by SUF in Stockholm and has recently gotten
subsidiaries in Gothenburg and Helsinki. The goal is free public
transportation, which certainly isn't an unrealistic demand. The Stockholm
underground is already financed partially by taxes, but many politicians
would for ideological reasons want to raise the prices and lower the
taxes. The method used by Planka.nu has been widely debated. To encourage
free riding and running the P-kassa, a kind of solidarity fund that is
open for everyone who pays a fee of 100 SEK (about 10 euro) per month. The
fund then pays the fine of 800 SEK for those who get caught.

In Stockholm the P-kassa got started when the price of the monthly pass
was raised to 500 SEK in the autumn of 2001 and right now it has around
700 members. The subsidiary in Gothenburg hasn't been around as long as
the one in Stockholm but has yet gotten well over a hundred Gothenburg
inhabitants to join by paying the monthly fee at the Syndicalist Forum
(anarchosyndicalist social centre and local union office of the SAC in
Gothenburg). It's generally young people who join the fund, but the over
all response has been overwhelmingly positive. There are plenty of
middle-aged single mothers with lousy economy who have been joining and
that are thankful for the initiative.

We are not only demanding a fare free subway. We are making the subway
fare free by making it easier to free ride. This is called autoreduction.

In the autumn of 1974 hundreds of commuting workers in Turin noticed that
the bus tickets had drastically become more expensive. They wouldn't take
it and instead printed their own tickets that were sold by the trade union
at the old price. Soon this first wave of autoreduction had stopped the
price increase in the whole region. This form of struggle spread and
workers started autoreducing their electric bills. Autorediction
committees collected the electric bills, putting the trade union stamp on
them, and then cutting the price to half before the fee was paid.
Housewives as well as trade union organized workers at the electric
companies were important participants in this explosive struggle that was
heavily condemned by the communist party. The grassroots was later run
over by the trade union management, which after an agreement with the
government started to fight the unruly autoreduction movement.

There are syndicalists that have questioned what tax financed public
transportation has to do with trade union struggle. The connection becomes
apparent however if you look at what consequences increased fares have on
the workplaces: when it becomes more expensive to live it becomes harder
to be unemployed or employed by the hour; we have to work more, generally
forced to have to accept lower paid jobs and perhaps also keep a low key
at work.
The struggle for free use values, commons, for things to be free of charge
-- public transportation, healthcare, culture, leisure activities and the
likes -- are linked to the struggle at the workplaces. The time we spend
travelling to and from the job should be considered as part of the working
day, even if it is unpaid. Public transport is a part of the "social
fabric" and reduced travel costs (as well as reduced costs of other kinds)
as well as higher wages are important parts of the class struggle. Just as
a strike in a workplace is a way of forcing a company to pay higher wages,
free riding should be seen as a fare strike to force politicians to lower
the prices. There is simply no other option if people refuse to pay. If we
however obediently continue to buy monthly passes even though they're
already way to expensive, the prices will continue to increase.

The counter argument that free riders make it more expensive for other
travellers is common but incorrect. It simply doesn't work that way in a
partially tax financed monopolized market -- quite on the contrary a fare
strike is an efficient way to limit the price increase. Besides; public
transportation financed by fares is an insanely waste of resources --
tickets, ticket lines and controls cost at least a half billion SEK a
year, only in Stockholm. That is clearly money that could be used for
better purposes than making life miserable for poor people. Fare free
public transportation would mean a considerable redistribution reform: a
considerable number of people would benefit economically from a small tax
raise replacing the ticket system, while a small group of high income
earners would lose.

The goal for Planka.nu is to make the public transportation into a common,
something that is free for all to use. It isn't just an economical issue,
but also a cultural one -- we want to obstruct the privatization of what is
often referred to as "the public space" and we do not think that a society
of increased control is the way to go. The task of making the subway into
a common also feels particularly important when we hear about how the
police have been present at ticket raids in the Stockholm suburbs with the
purpose of finding and deporting "illegal" immigrants and violence by
security guards in the subway is increasing almost on a daily basis.

Contact Planka.nu at:


Email: stockholm@planka.nu