Peoples' movements and protests




How do we contribute to an intelligent dissident opposition?





by Jan Wiklund



Intelligence is not something that exists in a person's head, argues Johan Asplund in his book Genom huvudet - problemlösningens socialpsykologi (Through the head – the social psychology of problem solutions). It exists in an interaction between several people.

This is of course why some environments appear more intelligent than others. Not because the people there have anything special, but because there is a tradition to draw on that raises the discussion - and the practice that is readily followed - to heights not found elsewhere. Admittedly, some environments may emphasise discussion and others practice. But what they have in common is that little effort is wasted on nonsense.

To take a related example, doesn't the Swedish government of the 1930s seem more intelligent than that of the 2010s? And to take another example: doesn't the prehistory of the economic collapse of the 1990s, as depicted by Torsten Sverenius, seem rather stupid in retrospect compared to how the crisis of the 1930s was handled?

And it cannot be due to the individuals involved?

The question then is how to create an intelligent environment.

Per Nyström (who was part of the intelligent environment in the 1930s) explained the high standard of the government of the time by the fact that it included people who had been hardened by being movement activists in fierce conflicts. And George Orwell explained the low standards of the English upper class of the 1930s as having a thick cushion of money between themselves and reality and therefore not needing to know what anything was like. Both comments point to the same thing: you need some practice to understand something.

They may have a problem with money stuffing in the financialised upper class, but the rest of us, who would like to change the way society is run, lack practice.

We suffer from a lack of direct contact with conflict: strikes are few and short, occupations are rare, and we are not even spoilt by sustained political campaigns
aiming to win on a concrete issue. Instead, we flock to Facebook and similar modern versions of tribal tables in cafes. And because the opposition there is not of a very high quality, our own arguments deteriorate - and worse, the ideas are never tested in practice and corrected. The opposition becomes, as Orwell put it in another article, "retired", i.e. has long since given up hopes of winning and taking responsibility.

So to the question of how to sharpen the system-critical opposition, posed by several authors on this blog, I would like to answer one thing: challenge in order to win.

It is almost irrelevant which questions you challenge. If you think you can win in a big and life-changing issue, you should take it, if you think you can only win in a small but still important for you, you should take it. The important thing is the purpose: that it is not just about your own good conscience but about victory.

Such challenges can only be made by collectives that are directly concerned. Rarely by large organisations, they come afterwards. Never by political parties, they have a function to fulfil when the challenge already exists, to make state policy out of it. Which is part of the magic of it all: it helps make the intelligent environment big because many people have to take the initiative to make it happen.

Winning the small issues whets the appetite for bigger ones. And - which is the other part of the magic - if you take a fight and lose in good order, without internal betrayals and without obvious blunders, you will at least be stronger, more powerful and more intelligent than if you never even tried.

And the nature of a challenge is almost embarrassingly simple: it is to create disorder. When the administration is no longer running smoothly, a response of some kind is required from the powers that be. Strikes, occupations, boycotts - or in older times, tax revolts and bread riots - create disorder in the calculus of authority and therefore require an action of some kind.

If the group creating the disorder is weak and disorganised, and concessions are unthinkable, order can certainly be created through repression. But if the group creating the disorder is reasonably strong and well organised, and concessions are possible, this is always the preferred option of those in power, because it is cheaper in the long run - unless the power is impoverished.

In the age of digital coffeehouse discussions, this old truth tends to disappear.

Communication is all very well, but there must be something sensible to communicate about.



Published by Folkrörelsestudiegruppen: