Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info
“Let’s set healing fires for our dead. Let’s light up authority and domination so it burns as brightly as our friends immense heart. Let’s never forgive the world that took him from us, and never forget the ways he touched us. Ai Ferri Corti.”
– a card distributed at the funeral of our accomplice Vlad
Vlad would have turned 26 today if he was still with us. For those who weren’t fortunate enough to have met him, know that he was fucking solid.
In an effort to feed the flames of his contributions to our shared struggles, we’d like to refocus on a text that we know was deeply inspiring to him, initially published in Avalanche: a journal of anarchist correspondence.
I cut through time as if with a knife. We’re hanging out in a park, watching friends play basketball. Vlad is vividly recounting how impacted he was by this text from Sweden, between fiddling with his pants and drags on a cigarette. Only a complicit grin is needed to communicate its obvious relevance to our context.
As the years pass, we invite you to contribute to a tradition of combative memory – a gift of rebellion and refusal every February 22nd, for yourself and for Vlad. Without falling into the authoritarian trappings of martyrdom, we can bring the memory of our dead into the present through attack.
You are alongside us in every act against authority, my friend.
September 2016 – Sweden
Let the fire spread, is a text written under significant circumstances, concerning the late summer and early fall unrest in Sweden and Denmark this year (2016). We, the authors, are comrades who grew up and lived most of our lives in different Scandinavian countries but who were not there as the events unfolded. As has already been shown in the text Social tension and anarchist intervention in Sweden in Avalanche issue 2, the social tensions in Scandinavia and most of all in Sweden are not something new. And sadly enough, the lack of initiative and even ability to analyse and imagine something else and new among many comrades in the Nordic countries, also is not something new. When the fires once again started to spread between cities and neighbourhoods and even countries, we all agreed that we just could not let this pass without a single anarchist attempt to intervene. This time, the most commonly used method of attack used by the rebelling individuals was to set cars ablaze, which in comparison with the rioting and group attacks of the past years, is something very easily reproducible for a small group and even for an individual, which in itself presented a good opportunity to reintroduce other perspectives and terms but most of all, an imagination of a different way of fighting than the ruling one. The ruling one being very society-friendly and humble; rude and uncompromising only when it is sanctioned by the state. In the end this text is, besides a deficient analysis and a proposal, an attempt to spread another imagination and ideas of what it means to fight authorities, to fight this society, which in its obvious absence left comrades to a defeatist retreat during recent years. We decided to translate the text from the originals in Swedish and Danish to English, on the one hand to let international comrades know that what UpprorsBladet wrote in 2014, still is an ongoing reality in Scandinavia, and on the other, to let our ideas and way of intervening be debated or criticized by comrades closer to our ideas. As this introduction text is written, beginning of November, the text has been widely spread – from hand to hand as well as online – but with the coming of colder winds and snow, this wave of unrest must be considered as over or at least cooled down. However, we hope that our text might provoke another mindset and other discussions for the next wave to come.
Let the fire spread – an analysis of the last months car burnings in Sweden and Denmark and a proposal for intervention
The last months, something which belongs to the everyday life of the Swedish suburbs, has sprawled like a weed in the garden of social peace and has come to take the shape of a nameless and apolitical revolt. The simple act of setting fire to a car has, precisely for the reason of its simpleness, let itself be reproduced in small towns as well as bigger cities, on both sides of the Öresund, in segregated areas as well as in central, rich and well-integrated ones. Everything from single incidents to (what seems to have been) co-ordinated actions throughout the city. From society the response came from police, fire departments, media, politicians and random experts, who made statements and promised or proposed a serious amount of actions; actions which do not only serve to stop the car burnings but more generally increase the repression against those who do not want to toe the line. With this text we aim to create a modest analysis, followed by a more determined proposal for an intervention in this conflict between anonymous individuals and society. An anarchist intervention without any place for politics or negotiation. The way we see it, all we have got to lose in this, is the comfort that kept us from burning the first car.
Chronology and the problem with media
It has been hard to keep up with these events as they have developed. As soon as one has tried to put together a chronology for a better overview, new events have unfolded – on the part of society as well as its antagonists. For us, it is also clear that the greatest source of information that we have and have had, has been official media reports, as other ways of communication have lacked. So with the words of some comrades in mind: “The millions of words and images that fill the screens and (toilet)papers are not an echo or reflection of reality, they form an integral part of the creation of that reality, of the imposition of the morals, rules and logics that permit the existence of the State,” (*1) it is not without self-critique that we use this information. This information has obviously already come in handy for politicians and good citizens, according to the quote above. So even if this information serves our enemies, we will use this information with the aim of overthrowing those who created it. We do not know what has been going on in the sphere of social media but take it for granted, that these so called tools have not been used to analyze and spread these actions, with the aim of expanding the situation to a social revolt. If it is only the case that the media would have hyped and sensationalized these events, which allegedly happen all the time, with the same intensity(*2), this does not change the fact that these actions – the car burnings as well as the numerous attacks on cops and other uniforms – in themselves carry with them revolt and the potential for social revolt. Therefore, it is hard to know where to draw the line between what belongs to this specific escalation and what belongs to a more broad and constant social tension. We do not want to hijack the actions of different individuals, just to confirm our ideas; to project our longing for an expanded revolt on individuals and actions, that carry their own reason, meaning and will. So even if it is hard not to involve events like the organized attacks on cops and other officials in Kronogården, Trollhättan, or the ones that unfolded in Södertälje or Örebro, we will stay with the car burnings. In part because of their intense sprawl during the last months and in part because they do entail a very simple and reproducible method for attacking normality. In the first two weeks of August, the news sites and magazines were filled with headlines like “16 cars were burned in 5 hours,” “Minister of Justice: ‘damned fed up’ with the hooligans,” “20 cars burned last night,” “The government calls for heavier punishment for the car burners,” followed by a daily repeated: “More car burnings last night.” In connection to this, experts in sociology, firefighters, cops and people who got their cars burned were interviewed. The cops desperately promised to and did engage with a more intensified presence in the affected neighbourhoods – without any greater success. In Ronneby, however, the cops were a bit more realistic as the chief inspector on duty made the following statement: “We are short on officers right now, it’s vacation times and all, so I cant promise any additional patrols in the area,” in connection to cars being burned three nights in a row in the small town. In reaction to this, the municipality decided to hire security guards to patrol the streets instead. Between the 1st of July and the 17th of August this year, the fire brigades in each city reported 134 car burnings in Stockholm, 108 in Malmö and 43 in Göteborg. Throughout 2016, up until the middle of August, 154 cases of car burnings were reported in Malmö alone, where in several cases it concerned more than one vehicle. In the first week of August it was estimated to have burned seven cars per night in the city area of Malmö. In the first weekend of August a cop car was set ablaze, as the patrol was responding to some reported disturbances in an apartment. With its epicentre in Malmö, according to media coverage, the car burnings spread to several other cities. In the night between the 16th and the 17th of August a car fire in Norrköping led to the complete destruction of twelve cars and additionally at least seven cars were damaged. Meanwhile there were continuous reports of car burnings in smaller cities like the aforementioned Ronneby but also in Skara, Varberg and Borås as well as in bigger cities like Stockholm, Linköping, Göteborg, Västerås and Södertälje. In the middle of August the car burnings spread to Denmark, where cars were burning several nights in a row. In the night of the 20th of August ten cars were set aflame. Since then it has continued with varying intensity, in different areas of the Danish capital like Christianshavn, Amager, Nørrebro, Valby and Vestegnen. According to media, there has been at least 50 cars burned in the area of Copenhagen, between the middle of August and the middle of September. The cops did not hide their suspicion, that the fires might have been inspired by the situation in Sweden and immediately started investigations to catch the agitators and calm down the situation. In the media they called out for witnesses and the cops went through an extensive amount of video material from CCTV in the affected areas. Pictures and description of a suspect was made public and after several anonymous tips, a person was arrested and locked up the 24th of August, suspected of having burned ten cars and of havingattempted to burn another 23. This, however, did not stop the fires, that continued in different places around the city. Also the stinking wannabe-cops, the SSP:s (a co-operation between school, social services and the cops, that has as its aim to keep an eye on and prevent kids from committing crimes), increased their activities because of the car burnings and reinforced their numbers in the streets in certain neighbourhoods, as to prevent the youth to be inspired by the fires. Every night in the first week of August, the Malmö cops engaged with a helicopter in the hunt for the car burners. The 11th of August, obviously not for the first time, this helicopter was being pointed at with a green laser and for this two youngsters were arrested later that night. The cops interrogated them, with the hope of a connection to the car burnings but the two detainees were released the next morning and apparently leaving the cops without any leads. The 15th of August, according to the press, a 21 year old person was arrested at a traffic control in Rosengård. The cops claimed the car to be full of gasoline canisters and a hammer for breaking windows. The person was released on the 18th of August, as there were no legal grounds for incarceration but the suspicions remained. The same day the cops presented a new action to be taken in their struggle against the car burnings. For the first time in Sweden, drones would now be used by cops, primarily to hunt down the car burners. The drones will, according to the cops, guide the reinforced MC-patrols and plain clothes officers on the ground. The proposal came from and will be carried out by the NOA, the cops National Operative Unit, and the equipment will be supplied by SAAB (a company whose production for the military market most likely will find additional “civil” uses, other than just drones for hunting car burners).
The response from society
To increase our understanding of the whole situation but also to see where one can find possibilities to extend these acts of revolt towards insurrection, we want to have a closer look at the circus that society kicked off as a reaction to the unrest. It is interesting at a first glance, to see how the burning of cars continues to spread in silence, while the media, politicians, cops, experts of all sorts and active citizens compete to be the loudest and most condemning one concerning these events. In the silence the actions speak for themselves and would they be left in their silence, all you hear is the fire crackling, no more explaining would be needed. But the silence is dangerous and brooding for the ruling order. The best remedy against silence is of course to make noise, talk and distract, to take over the power of definition. In Sweden they talked about failed integration and vandalism, while in Denmark they initially talked about pyromania, i.e. the burning of cars was declared as a disease. An assumption that was soon abandoned, as the “suspected pyromaniac” was detained and the car burnings still continued to spread. The discussion then went into a direction more similar to the Swedish one, with focus on juveniles. In the first case the act (of burning a car) is isolated and said to be an act limited to poor youth with a migrant background, which makes it harder for others not fitting into these categories to identify with the actions. In the other case the act is pathologized. I.e. if you identify with these actions, you ought to consider yourself sick, a pyromaniac, which, with the power of social shame, causes a distancing in most people. The same actions, the same silence, confronted with a lot of noise from society. In Sweden these discussions have had time to develop further than in Denmark and the ruling politicians have proposed harder punishments, not just for the car burners but to hit two birds with one stone, for the whole social category of juveniles. The proposal would, when carried out, mean that on-call courts are established, that the ankle monitor is allowed to be used in younger ages and that the surveillance measures in probation convictions against juveniles would be intensified. The political opposition calls for more cops and for a return to the former, recently changed, police organization. Sociologists are warning about the negative consequences of harder punishment and propose instead to increase the presence of the cops in the streets, as this allegedly was the reason for the de-escalation in the similar situation in Sweden some ten years ago. Circling around the rotting carcass of these discussions, we find the silent vultures. They who, with their businesses, profits from the car burning and foremost from the societal circus surrounding it. The drones of SAAB has already been mentioned but we also have the insurance and security companies. In several articles in for example the Swedish Radio, the public is informed about how the “traffic insurance” is not enough on its own, to cover the cost in case of a car fire but the car must be at least “half insured” to cover the damages. One does not have to have studied at a business school to understand the economic value for the insurance companies, in such a well-meant and informative article. Especially when it is followed up by articles where spokespersons from insurance companies are reassuring that the insurance for the people living in the affected neighbourhoods will not be raised or different than in less affected neighbourhoods. In places like Ronneby, where the cops left their uniforms in the closet and are chilling somewhere else, the municipality decided to hire a security company, to instead have security guards patrolling the streets.
In connection to riots or mass actions like the ones in Örebro and Södertälje
In two Södertälje suburbs, two nights in a row, youngsters were building burning barricades and attacking buses as to lure the cops to them. When the cops arrived, they attacked them with stones and fireworks. One of the nights, a stone broke the front window of a cop car, sending a cop with a damaged eye to the hospital. In the Örebro neighbourhood, a bigger amount of masked individuals gathered and moved around in the area. Setting a laundry-facility on fire, also to lure the cops to them, and then greeting the cops with molotov cocktails, rocks, fireworks and golf sticks. Extra guard patrols from different companies are called in as foot soldiers next to the cop cavalry. Security companies that, through the last years so called “refugee crisis”, has experienced a new Klondike-era for their businesses. Companies that, enriched with experiences of beating up people of colour, gladly continues with this – the Department of Migration now substituted with the cops, for the guards to step in for, and the refugees substituted with car burners, in their role as moving targets. These vultures remain vultures, only as long as they are allowed to work undisturbed, as long as they can keep a distance between themselves and the dramatic centre of these events. Just like in an ecosystem, they fulfil an important role in the maintenance of the societal system and contribute to choke the brooding revolt. In the social peace, every break means a possibility for revolt and insurrection; the break is in itself not seldom a conscious act of rebellion, however limited to one unique individual and one unique situation. The break uncovers the conflicts that the social peace otherwise covers. What we in our everyday lives choose to swallow, in terms of submission, is spit out and all the words about us living in “the best of bad worlds,” about “that’s just how it is,” etiolates in the face of the obvious discontent with the lives we are forced to live in this society. A burned out car might not feel like the starting signal for a social revolt but at the same time that is exactly what it can be. What it can become. It can at the same time be a single individuals attack on the social peace, on the social order, as it can be a sabotage of another individuals function in the maintenance of the same. This we see as factors, independent of the fact that it goes down with intention and with a wish for revolt or if it happens out of boredom, for some cash or for a personal vendetta. The social peace, where the state claims the exclusive right of mediation and population control, does nonetheless, with or without the intention of the assailant to overthrow the society, get attacked when a car is burned. In the normality that we are all expected to reproduce, there is (still…) no space for burning cars. Even less for burnings car without a clear and graspable reason, that almost freely spreads over great distances and regions. When this spreads as it has done during the past months, it is impossible, even for the people in power, to ignore the existence of a social conflict. What they instead try to do, is to isolate the conflict to belong only to a small discontent and untamed group – with whom the majority, as already mentioned, should not have something in common. It becomes a matter for the police, for the politicians and the sociologists. The state tries to make the matter intelligible and manageable in its role as mediator. It tries to make it into a matter and a conflict between the authorities, with its loyal specialists, and a group of “badly integrated youth”. Thus not what it actually is: individuals like you and me in conflict with the life we are forced to sustain under these circumstances.
From anonymous revolt to apolitical insurrection
“This crime is very hard to investigate. We don’t see any patterns and we don’t have any suspects. We need all the help we can get,” – Malmö cop Lars Forstell. We are not only interested in the car fires that are sweeping across Sweden and Denmark because they carry the spark of rebellion, but also because they offer us another way of understanding insurrection, because their apolitical character gives us a hint about a different tactic. The car fires are an uncontrollable attack on society, because they are spread all over the territory which the state controls and are not focused on specific symbolic targets. They are simple to reproduce anywhere and any time, and it is impossible for the police to be everywhere at the same time. Political movements are fixed on the idea of gathering a movement or a certain category of the exploited in front of a symbolic aim in the belief that if enough people are gathered, power will be forced to change. In reality, these methods are easy for the state to control, because it is not so difficult to gather the repressive forces in specific places with a predetermined date. Even anarchists who actually criticize this perception of struggle continue to reproduce this logic. Why all the demonstrations to symbolic targets surrounded by heavily equipped police? Why always be a step behind the state and the police? The car burners show the way to a different form of conflict with the state. Constant, uncontrollable, flexible and destructive. Here it is the police who are lagging behind. Sure, car fires will not be enough to overthrow the existent. But they do open up, in the Scandinavian context, a new way of understanding insurrection, and gives inspiration for different tactics for our struggles. They give us a springboard that we can use in our individual revolt in the leap towards a social insurrection, and that is, one must say, more than political movements have created in Scandinavia for a very long time. Speaking of political movements, the struggle around the partly occupied house Rigaer 94 during the past half a year showed how the car fires can be used as a method, but also showed their limits, which might be interesting to shortly consider. (*3) In the struggle around Rigaer 94 it was, in our opinion, the same factor which caused the rapid and intensive diffusion, that also became the reason why the conflict was not expanded beyond concerning only anarchists and autonomists. This factor was the limiting of the struggle to the house and local area. Compared to Scandinavia, Germany is full of autonomists and anarchists, of whom many joined in on the promise made by comrades to cause 10 million euro of damage – some because they identify with Rigaer and act in solidarity, others because they are constantly looking for new events to react to, and found one in this. Which leads us once again to have a conflict between a small group of easily categorized individuals (anarchists and autonomists) and the state, with the rest of society as spectators and commentators. The conflict thus came to circle around a symbolic target, which gave the state at least a hint about where to send its repressive forces, and made it easier to handle and predict. Most other people who could have an interest in burning cars or otherwise revolt against society, do not have an obvious point of reference in Rigaer, or in the subculture in which it is based. Presumably even less when people start saying that they are political, or that burning cars is a political act. As long as the point of departure is something which only a few can refer to, then it remains a duel between these few and the state.
This escalation which have taken place in Sweden and Denmark will probably die out as repression hardens and advances. It will probably reignite in a couple of months, or in a year? And then die out again. Provided that we do not attempt to expand and strengthen it with our own acts, ideas of and longing for freedom. It is neither guaranteed to succeed nor doomed to fail. Only one thing is certain, and that is that as long as we remain passive spectators or commentators, we are guaranteed the existence which we so intensely despise. If we have criticisms towards how some have acted during this escalation of car fires, then let us act in accordance with our ideas, and in that way show what we propose and what it means in practice. Especially if we wish something else from other rebels. A car belonging to a proletarian was burned and it disturbed you? What keeps you from going at a SAAB office, security cars or insurance company? If you think that one cop car was too little, see to it that more will go up in flames. It is not through passive nagging that our ideas can spread and their consequences be multiplied, but through action and consistent honesty towards ourselves. If we want to realize our ideas and dreams, then we have to take them and ourselves serious. By questioning traditions of struggle which have not moved us closer to our dreams, but rather to society. By searching for inspiration wherever we see revolt, and not just where we see people following political manuals. If we share ideas, it means a constant hostility towards this society. It means exposing oneself to uncomfortable social situations. It means risks. Such as the risk of losing the privileges granted to you by the order you claim to despise. It means embracing and being embraced by the unknown and all the fears that come with it. It means trusting yourself and your ability to meet that which awaits beyond the break with normality. What is it exactly that have kept you from burning a car or from building barricades in the streets and attacking the cops when they arrive? Whatever your answer may be, it is not a obstacle for you to find your own way to act in this conflict.
Into the Unknown
We want freedom, and the way we see it this is incompatible with this society, well, with every society that deprives the individual of its power and self-determination. Thus is the destruction of this society, with its inherent authoritarian mechanisms, essential for us to be able to usurp what we want. As our point of departure is the everlasting now – neither deadlocked in a Marxist determinism nor consumed by a capitalist future investment of our energy and our dreams – and we want to live in anarchy now, not tomorrow or in a year, but now, our ends are closely interwoven with our actions. In other words: in anarchy we do not want to negotiate with authorities of all kinds, but attack them and in the worst case defend ourselves against them. So why would we negotiate with them now? In anarchy we do not want to organize ourselves in masses and pursue politics. So why would we do this now? Especially since history taught us that this serves the survival of society rather than the struggling individuals… We want to see the revolt spread without leaders and stagnating aims. We want to spread our revolts and see them become an insurrection together with other individuals athirst for freedom. To, at all, be able to get there, an expansion of the conflict that lies before us is clearly needed. So, how can a conscious expansion of this conflict take shape? Our goal is not to be able to count as many members as possible, in some sort of organization or movement, neither is it to put forth some demands for change or to be “strong enough” to be able to negotiate with or about the power. Our goals are, as has already been stated, as easy as they are hard to realize – freedom through revolt against those who deprive us of it. Thus can neither success nor expansion be measured in the number of participants in an uprising or if “normal people” sympathize with us or not, but in the quality of our own experiences, how our lives changes and where they take us. If a million people takes to the streets but in essence are only seeking a new leadership, a new shepherd, this is in every way a defeat. But if I in the right moment attack the right object, publish the right text – where right is a relative term, which can be underpinned by clear analyses of situations – or I enter new comradeships or meet new accomplices, and thereby new possibilities open up for me and others to prolong, deepen, strengthen and enlarge the extent of the personal and the shared revolt, then I can talk about a success – with myself and my surroundings as a benchmark. So, in this case the most obvious way to enter into the conflict, is first and foremost to take to the streets ourselves. For who are we to talk about all this, without having our own practical complicity? But to broaden the space for us, for our ideas and revolts, we should also identify the most active counterinsurgents and profiteers of this situation, as well as transforming them into obvious targets. The cops are already obvious in their role but not SAAB who supply them with drones and other equipment, neither are the insurance companies, the security companies and the politicians, using the situation to strengthen their power. Depending on the area in which you live, you for sure have your local authoritarian structures to identify and fight, whether it be a group of salafists, a racist hunting team, a neighbourhood watch or democracy loving social workers. It can be worth keeping them in mind, before running into them in the heat of the moment. All of the mentioned companies have nationwide offices in every bigger urban area and do have, just like the politicians, “names and addresses”. To point these out, to attack and to, with our own words, explain why this happens, is also to point out the structures of society and their relation to our existence in submission. Which could contribute to a more libertarian character of the revolt. More or less every enemy you can imagine in this society has a car. Nazis, politicians, CEO’s, cops, judges, screws and so on. Not everyone but most have cars and as we already have said: if someone’s choice of a car to burn has disturbed you, it is not hard to reproduce this act of revolt, but with an outcome that enriches your life.
This is all just scratching the surface, a hint of the possibilities that obviously has been neglected by comrades. Nevertheless, it is here we see the possibility for ourselves and those we consider to share our ideas with, to act and to expand this conflict. We have written this text to call for, that the revolt and the own ability to act is taken seriously. The insurrection and the social landscape is filled with contradictions and there are no simple recipes to fight a successful struggle against the world of authorities; we just simply have to try. But the first step must be to realize that there are already rebels that have set the torch of revolt ablaze, that have created a social tension where we can find thousands of ways to act if we want to. Not as followers or leaders that are to show the way to the real anarchist insurrection, but as accomplices in the destruction of the existent, with our own ideas, aims and actions. In this leap into the unknown, we have no guarantees for defeat or success, but we do at least have the possibility of that, which today is impossible: a world without authorities and rulers… so let the fire spread.
“We will destroy laughing, we will set fires laughing…”
(*1): Text, A few notes on media and repression, published on solidariteit.noblogs.org, on the 23rd of August 2016
(*2):https://sverigesradio.se/sida/avsnitt/786141?programid=2795 (Media was in this specific radio show criticized for having created a false picture and that the sprawl of car burn-ings should have been exaggerated and even somehow fuelled by media reports. This critique is just like the actual media reports based on statistics and full of contradictions.)
(*3): In order to not lose focus, we leave a deeper analysis for another moment, but there is plenty of information on e.g. contrainfo.espiv.net for anyone on wants to dig in.