Peoples' movements and protests




The Swedish environmental movements



In progress

Comments may be posted to the author


By Jan Wiklund


The Swedish environmental movements can only be understood against a backdrop of national and global popular politics in general. Sweden was, and is, an egalitarian society, for a long time dominated by popular movements and a populist imagery. And an environmental movement was formed at a time when the global ruling system and the global ruling class looked weaker than it had done for hundreds of years. Both these factors explain much of the startling beginning and the subsequent failures of the Swedish environmental movements [1].

Sweden was until a hundred years ago a country of independent family farmers, in an uneasy power balance with a strong bureaucracy. The modest prosperity of about half of them, together with the nearby British consumer society, then provided markets to a flurry of industrialisation, where the less prosperous of the farmers increasingly were drawn into the small industrial towns as industrial workers. Memories of egalitarian rural communities induced them to organise folkrörelser - democratic popular movements, to their own defence, of which of course the Labour movement was the most important. Swedish Social Democracy was theoretically heavily influenced by the German Labour movement, but in reality it was as much informed by Anglo-Saxon Liberation theology and cross-class temperance, both giving a quality of cultural self-improvement and hegemony-seeking to Labour. "We demand our human dignity back" is the refrain of the most popular Swedish Labour anthem, and "We build the country" was the catch-phrase of the Labour movement in the 30s. Organisation in trade unions approached 100% among wage-earners. Swedish literature in the 30s through the 50s was dominated by autodidacts writing about their working-class and small farmer backgrounds. The Labour party ruled the country from 1932 into the 70s, sometimes in coalition with the Farmer party. However, in spite of these remarkable strengths of the Swedish menu peuple, the influence of technocratic social engineers of middle-class background got more decisive as time went by.

The popular movements had interests in environment from the late 1800s. "Healthy industries" was the number two goal of Stockholm Trade Union Federation in the 1870s, after the eight hours day. And like in contemporary Europe and North America, popular health was a major concern of the liberal middle class, which resulted in subsidised health care, a national social housing programme, and sewage treatment into the smallest village already in the 50s, and the world's first national environment agency. Also, the urban middle class was as wary of its urban roots as its brethren internationally and began to organise nature conservation, which was easy in Sweden since there was so much nature to conserve in a country big as France with only a sixth of its population.


The beginning of post-war social movements - nuclear fallout and other poisons

However, these factors were of less direct importance to the birth of an organised environmental movement in the 60s. The labour tradition had been stuck in a state administration mould after its successful thrust in the 30s and 40s, and the nature conservation tradition seemed quite content with reservations in the far north. None of them counted any longer with lay people as serious participants in societal changes.

To find the immediate background of the environmental movement, we have to look into two other social movements.

The first of these was the surviving milieus of pre-war vegetarian/health movement people. This one had rather developed into a market niche of biologically produced food, but there were many once-active people that were eager participants of the emerging environmental movement. For them, a mix of personally healthy living and political responsibility seemed natural, and for the years to come they were often proponents of new issues (like nuclear power) as well as financiers of campaigns.

The other was the movement against nuclear armament. This trans-northern organising was carried out immediately after the second world war and into the 60s by people from three different social milieus: Labour party activists who were somewhat removed from the leading circles, social-christians of the Fellowship of Reconciliation or Service International tradition, and young people from the emerging youth subculture. Although perhaps the British or the German organising is better known internationally, peace movement organising in Sweden was much more successful. Labour party activists like Inga Thorsson succeeded through a combined internal and public tactics to get the government to abandon a nuclear bomb programme. The biggest peace movement organisation, Svenska Freds- och Skiljedomsföreningen, adopted a programme of abandoning the national defence altogether, and use the saved money for international aid. From 1965, the peace movement redirected its aims at stopping the Vietnam war. The Swedish pro-Vietnamese solidarity campaign grew to the biggest in Europe, and eventually in 1972 all political parties combined with 2,7 million Swedish signers (out of a population of eight) to urge the United States to leave Vietnam.

The inheritance from the peace movement to the environmental movement was twofold.

The social milieus were more or less the same. Many people came directly from the peace movement to the environmental movement. Others followed the same kind of itinerary, from youthful opposition to murky class-ridden society in general, to an idealistic, yet pragmatic movement for change here and now, just that the issue changed with the times. One important sector of the peace movements was however missing in the new environment turn -- the communists, due to their pro-technological bent.

But more important was perhaps that the social and political imagery was the same in both the peace and the environmental movement. The political traditions and repertoire of the peace movement -- demonstrations, signature campaigns, occupations of symbolical sites, but most important of all: social movement activities in a kind of opposition and critical solidarity with a sympathetic fly of the labour movement, and a pragmatic labour division between young radicals and middle-aged labour reformists -- was taken over rather uncritically by the environmental movement.

The focus of attention or imagery of threat -- spread of poisonous substances -- was a replica of the focus of the nuclear arms resistance: nuclear fallout. The aim of the nature conservation movement of the upper classes in the early 1900s had been setting aside reservations where no exploitation was permitted. But according to the mental framing that was formed by the anti-nuclear movement, this was inadequate. When the first environment alarms sounded in the mid-60s, about DDT and (in Sweden) mercury buildup in the biomass, demands of complete restructuring of the whole production process was a natural answer for many. Particularly some years into the 70s when "alternative production" became a catch-word that spread from the environmental movement into the trade unions.

I mentioned the movement against the Vietnam war. The environmental movement also emerged in an international context of successful liberation movements in the south. For about twenty years the global powerholders had been on the retreat -- they had been forced to acknowledge national independence in one southern colony after another, and sometimes even to acknowledge barriers to international trade and financial penetration. This was an enormous blow to the prestige of the international ruling class. And in the northern industrial countries, the labour movement began to regain from the weakness of the 20s and 30s, and raise strikes helped by the spread of Fordist production methods. Particularly for young people but also, in less degree, for people in general, the ruling class began to look somewhat decayed, old-fashioned and weak, unable to withstand the combined resistance from southern anti-colonial movements and domestic militant trade unions. Going into opposition seemed easy in the late 60s -- and victories seemed likely to strike for people who wanted to protect what was dear to them against infringements from different elites.


Early environment mobilisations -- dams and cars

The environment theme was raised from old health and nature movement residues. The Swedish Association of Nature Conservation had sparked an independent youth association in 1947, Fältbiologerna. They combined a kind of scouting life with nature observation, and they had a wide appeal as "unpolitical". They could see with their own eyes that strange things were happening and that media coverage of DDT and mercury was consistent with experience, and that global threats were visible locally. And thanks to them, Rachel Carson's message was grasped earlier in Sweden than in perhaps any country; Silent spring was first published in Swedish in 1963 and several editions followed afterwards.

The first contentious actions in 1966-67 however, were against dams. Internationally, movements against dams are usually run by offices in big cities, but the Swedish movement was directed by village people who were about to lose their fishing waters. They didn't get much help from national intellectuals, probably since their issue seemed somewhat odd beside the emission threats, but they built up a nation-covering network much of their own, that scored an almost total victory. Four big rivers were completely protected and very few dams were raised after 1970. On the other hand, their victory was one of the important factors behind the far-reaching Swedish nuclear energy programme that was adopted about the same time.

The next important strand of the movement was actions against car traffic and car planning. The first mobilisation I know of was against a traffic artery on the shore of the central lake in Stockholm in 1969-70 -- Norr Mälarstrand. This action was run by people in and around the tenant association and involved the shopkeepers of the district, and was a complete success. A little later another traffic artery was stopped a few kilometers further north by a much smaller local association who raised a pearl of a battle cry: "No more cars on Karlbergsvägen -- and nowhere else either". Thanks to their generous avoidance of narrowminded nimbyism they got so much support from Stockholmers in general that the politicians had to submit.

Although most mobilisations were not as successful as these, actions against urban redevelopment schemes achieved a kind of hegemony within the environmental movement around 1970. And the most hegemonic of all, of course, appeared in Stockholm, where a center of mixed use was about to give space to a planned central business district, and where the whole city was subordinated to a strictly hierarchic regional plan coordinated by motorways. Debates, demonstrations and mass meetings had begun to build up since the mid-60s, run by a combination of tenant associations and the cultured middle class, but without visual effect. Then in 1970, a group of mostly young people of the youth culture, with some activists from the Norr Mälarstrand/Karlbergsvägen groups, begun to fight for an outdoor park café, popularly known as "The Elms" -- the only café in Stockholm where you could stay the whole night and only order for a cup of tea. The struggle culminated in a nightly battle with the police in May 1971 and a complete military victory. The Labour government faced rising labour unrest meanwhile, and didn't dare to act too harshly if it was to retain its popular movement legitimacy. The redevelopment scheme in Stockholm came to a grinding halt in 1972-73 as the mobilisation programme spread, mainly organised by the youth from the Elms café battle grouped in the loosely organised Alternativ Stad. And during the first half of the 70s, every city had its "Elms battle" -- ranging from protecting forests against motorway schemes to protecting old homes against gentrification attempts.

Struggles against poisonous substances were more low-profile after the first mercury and DDT campaigns. Probably because there had been some legislation against them in the preceding decades, which led disaffected neighbourhoods to litigation through the courts instead of public manifestations and political campaigns. And the court way is less popular mobilising, more congenial with NGO or individual brilliance. The legal counsel in many of these lawsuits, the newsy and charismatic Björn Gillberg, came to dominate this branch, but was wholly unable to dominate or even influence the environmental movement. Instead, clashes between his technical and personalistic touch and the egalitarian social movement outlook of most activists came to give an increasingly anti-NGO turn to the environmental movement in the years to come.

Interestingly, when the UN Conference on the Human Environment took place in Stockholm in 1972, none of these focuses were in the foreground. This was the first UN summit where social movements were allowed into parallel conferences -- there were actually two of them: the semi-official Environment Forum and the outright oppositional Peoples' Forum.

The organizing power behind the opposition was, curiously enough, a group of young Theosophists inspired by Gandhian thoughts and with extensive global networks, and they were joined by the environmental movement in Stockholm. They succeeded in two things. The first was to expose the US government for harsh international critique for their environmentally destructive Vietnam War; this was thanks to the highly developed solidarity movement in Sweden. The second was to defuse the very exaggerated talk about a population bomb -- the southern contacts of the theosophists showed dramatically that the consumption bomb of the north was a much bigger threat to the environment. For building an environment movement, however, the conference was rather a missed opportunity, both globally and domestically [2].


High tide -- the anti-nuclear struggle

Instead, what made a mass movement of environment was nuclear power. Since the nuclear armament project was aborted in the 50s, and since hydroelectric dams were forbidden in the 60s, "peaceful" nuclear power was suggested as an alternative to both. In fact, the Swedish nuclear power programme was the one of the most ambitious in the world, second only to the French. Now, nuclear power is highly disturbing locally, and when a nuclear plant was localised to Bro at the west coast, local people there rose in 1970 and forced their municipality to join the opposition. In Sweden, the municipality can veto any building project within its borders (exceptions to this have been legislated since), and the government had to postpone further deployments and wait for analysis, as they expressed it. This gave a kind of legitimacy to doubts about nuclear power as such, and while politicians lay low and waited for clarification, the environmental movement and the power industry took the main scene. Particularly the Labour movement acted as an interested public, organised study groups on the subject, and invited the main contenders to explain their views. The environmental movement coalesced in 1973-74 around a programme of not only opposing nuclear power but also demanding a less energy-consuming society, based on public use and democratic development instead of mass-consumption, and Labour split into two factions.

The period running up to the referendum on nuclear power in 1980 was the high tide of the environmental movement in Sweden, as it was for the same reason in nearby Germany. Under the cover of "low energy society" lots of projects sprang up, in housing, in agriculture and in industry. The weakness of them all was that they implicitly trusted the popular nature of the Swedish reformist state and that the projects somehow should realise as a natural matter of course. Few of them gained a footing robust enough to survive the coming onslaught on the popular movements. But for the moment the movement culture flourished. And environmental legislation abounded. Even energy saving became fashionable; in fact the consumption rates approached closer to the movement's forecast of a reasonable development than to the government's expansionist views.

Yet, the biggest mobilization during this upsurge was not about nuclear power but forests. An important part of the "modernization" of forestry was introduction of aircraft-spread herbicides. This of course threatened local peoples' access to customary commons like berry and mushroom picking, and during the late 70s a locally organized tree-hugging campaign spread over the country; it is largely undocumented but participants estimate about 50-100 occupations. In the highly charged political climate of the time, the campaign was a complete victory, spreading herbicides by air was outlawed in 1979.

Meanwhile no decision about nuclear power could be taken without alienating some necessary pillar to the government. In 1978 the movement began to advocate a referendum to bring a solution, and in the wake of the Harrisburg accident Labour chief Olof Palme succumbed to the pressure and brought other parties with him.

The movement lost the referendum narrowly to a Labour-Liberal compromise alternative of "successive phasing-out after 25 years" with the Conservative alternative as a bad third. So far the whole nuclear power struggle seemed like a victory -- even the earlier proponents of nuclear power couldn't stand for it. But in reality the whole affair was a disaster, not only for the environmental movement, but for the whole peoples' movement culture.

Firstly, this was the first time the government technocrats with the help of trade union officials and export industry interests had openly quarrelled with a broad movement of labour party activists, and won. The lining up on the different sides, compared with the nuclear armament struggle in the 50s, clearly shows that something had happened in the meantime. For in the 50s, the activists had a lot of tacit support from top-ranking party people like the foreign minister Östen Undén and the ex-finance minister Ernst Wigforss, while in the 70s they had not. The social base of the Labour party was clearly moving from movement to upper middle class officials and technocrats. And now, this trend came out in the open. The implicit movement strategy of carrying the labour party with it was viable no more.

Secondly, and more serious, the sharpening of conflict showed that the environmental movement was not equal to the challenge. It had exhibited an astonishing skill in dealing with local conflicts and secondary matters. But when the struggle became the core political issue of the nation, it lost nerve. In the coalition of the anti-nuclear power campaign, the movement organisations increasingly bowed down to the two anti-nuclear power political parties they were allied to -- the center (or agrarian) party and the left socialists. For them, the prospect of an independent movement for a low-energy society was frightening; they wanted a regular top-down election-like campaign, and increasingly they got what they demanded. Not, I think, because of any inevitable balance of forces; the environmental organisations could easily have shamed them into line with the rest of the movement. But because of the implicit long term social movement strategy of not coming into too deep conflict with what they saw as "popular movement parties". The party leaderships however had no such qualms.


The unravelling of a model

Social movements generally grew weaker in the Northern world with the Kondratiev B-phase after 1973 and with the relocalizing of industrial production to the South. But this weakening was more marked in Sweden than in most northern countries.

To understand what was happening we must turn back to the conditions for the successful historical compromise of the thirties when the Swedish welfare state was so to say institutionalized. The world crisis had hit hard at the super-modern Swedish industry, and parts of it was willing to strike a deal with the militant labour movement about wage hikes and social wages to boost the consumer market [3]. Other partners of the deal were the farmers' movement and a strong "charity bourgeoisie" with Lutheran roots which dominated state and municipal administrations. With the industry in shatters it was fairly easy for the movement culture to get the upper hand, given its strong historical roots.

After 1945, however, industry recovered quickly. Since the Swedish industrial base was unaffected by the war it was used as a resource to rebuild Europe, and the once dominating home market industrial faction got an international scope which soon grew to a global one. It was now - the 50s and 60s - that Ericsson, Volvo, Saab-Scania and Electrolux rose to prominence. The political importance of a strong consumer market dwindled as the need for keeping the salaries "globally competitive" grew.

Meanwhile, the popular parties' long term in government shifted the recruitment base for leadership. The generation of the 30s were usually labour leaders of different kinds, who to some degree identified with their electorate even after many years in government. But as posts in Labour and Farmers' parties began to be sure avenues to power and status, they were pursued with increasing speed by middle class careerists who shared few of the concerns of the majority. So when industrial leaders began to break the deal of the 30s, there was no genuine wish in the popular parties to protect popular interests. I think one may even argue that they many times took the lead in dismantling the Scandinavian model and convert rights into markets, because that coincided with the interests of the state and party leaderships as persons.

We can thus see a classic case of changing opportunity structure - social movements were enfeebled because neither industrial nor public bosses needed them any longer. But I think there is more in it than that. I would like to contend that the environmental movement, and other Swedish social movements, made worse than necessary because we never understood the changing tide and went on exactly as if we lived in the 50s. In neighbouring Norway they did understand it, and kept so much of the strength of the social movement system that it is able to swing governments to this day.

In Norway, they had the great luck to have a head-on conflict between movement base and "movement party" leadership as early as in the 50s, when the Labour leadership joined the NATO despite strong opposition in the labour movement and other social movements. When the same Labour leadership, in concert with the business community, chose to join the EEC (as EU then was called) in 1972, there was much more awareness of the differing views between elites and movements than it was in Sweden in 1980, and an alliance of farmers' movement, trade unionists and the "new social movements" of the 70s were able to mobilize skilfully and defeat the proposition in a referendum, albeit narrowly. They repeated the feat in 1994. So while the Swedish movements lost its referendum, and an other one in 1994 also about the EU, and learnt that mobilization doesn't pay, their Norwegian counterparts learnt by their victories that it does [4].


Narrowing and widening of the popular base

The eighties thus was a period of realignment of forces. It was the time when, in Times of India's editor Shastri Ramachandran's words, "Sweden became a rich industrial country like all the others" (ToI 26.3.02). In other words, when neutralist, social movement based, reformist welfare state policies lost force and position to upper middle class based open class war. The Swedish environmental movement got increasingly marginalized, but succeeded all the same to lay some important foundations to the global justice movement of today.

To me, who lived through this bewildering time it seemed as if the early 80s was a completely dead period, politically. There were no struggles, no activity, no movement to relate to. Most people I had known in the 70s were gone somewhere. If there were local initiatives, I didn't hear about them. And shockingly authoritarian and narrow-focused NGO ways of thinking began to creep into the environmental movement.

Up to then, the ideological frame of the movement had been shaped by lay people in confrontation with mostly local environmental hazards, in an ad-hoc way that successively grew to a common mindset. The result was a flexible mixture of extreme radicalism and extreme reformism -- revolutionary and sometimes completely illegal methods were used to achieve modest goals, in a defiant assurance that popular consciousness of justice was quite as good as written law. Nobody would use any other word for the participants than "people" - not "environmentalists", not "ecologists". And "environment" as a concept was, as indicated above, very wide, and included access to a cultural community and a liveable neighbourhood as well as avoidance of health risks at a local as well as at a global level.

One can say that the participants in the 70s environmental movement were concerned about commons that were threatened by appropriation and/or destruction by commercial and political elites. Ideologies were constructed to fit these concerns. Some, of course, restricted their care to commons they used themselves ("nimbyism"). But in the political climate of the time even they couldn't help but being assets for a broader movement claiming the commons per se -- and generally they reciprocated this in a loose way, paying homage to the movement that made their own claims seem stronger.

After the defeat in the referendum, however, there was a split. Career paths were opened that needed justifications. A plethora of environmental offices were created during the 70s that insisted that administration was better than conflicts and that popular involvement was a nuisance if it went further than supporting officials. Academic specialization insisted that "environment" was something much more narrow than people had experienced, could be caught under the label of "ecology" and be ameliorated with technical fixes, alternatively only with a complete cultural sea-change out of reach for ordinary people. And a Green Party was founded by disgruntled local party activists who insisted that the environment movement was contrary to trade unions and farmer interests. All this wouldn't have been harmful, perhaps, hadn't the lay culture that had supported the 70s upsurge been shocked, shattered and humiliated by the defeat and unable to defend itself. As it was, "environmentalism" grew increasingly academic, elitist and un-popular.

Incidentially, this is according to Andrew Jamison exactly what happens when a social movement dies - some of the necessary parts of it are sterilized and pigeonholed into the regular power structures while the rest is repressed [5].

However, two new initiatives in the mid-80s did succeed to give life to a new environmental movement: European Youth Forest Action, and Motlänken.

European Youth Forest Action, EYFA, sprang out of an attempt by a small mining town environmental group to save a few mountain forests from exploitation. After consultation with other environment groups within the Environmental Federation they realised that their own forests were too insignificant to gather an interest with the wide national public. The Federation instead decided to raise a much bigger project: to save all forests in Europe, at that time threatened by acid rain.

This time was the only one I know of where environmental activists deliberately have decided to use outside brokers to launch a broad campaign. In this case the brokers were all the youth organisations they could think of, including those belonging to the political parties. Acid rain was big news at the time, and most youth organisations jumped at the band-wagon -- after a while the band-wagon was enough self-supporting to manage without the brokers and went on to create history, and incidentally save the forests the whole thing started with.

One important feat was to bridge east-west cleavages. EYFA included branches in east and west, and invited to big meetings in the east, where the most damaged forests were. For many in the east, the EYFA meetings were the first self-organising collectives they had ever seen, and the environmental organisations were the first in the east to break away from party control and remain tolerated. Another feat was to recreate the north-south dialogue. Increasingly, the once lively presence of the south in northern popular politics had shrunk down to one-issue aid associations with a rather charity-based outlook. EYFA succeeded in presenting a global view on environmental matters again to the northern public, and link over-consumption in the north to environmental depletion in the north and the south, and meanwhile knitting links to southern organisations that had been lacking, like for example the rain forest struggles but also movements for land reform.

Some of the EYFA activities in Sweden was directed against the logging industry, for example a mere threat of a European boycott of Swedish paper forced the industry to abandon logging in mountain forests for several years. However, the main activity of EYFA increasingly became resistance to motorways, as cars are quickly becoming the main pollutants in the north. And here the other initiative stands out. Motlänken -- "The Counter Link" - was also an initiative of the Environmental Federation from about 1987. It was directed against a project by the European Round Table of Industrialists, ERT: a motorway from Oslo to Hamburg, as a part of a gigantic trans-European motorway network. ERT is an association of the top few business corporations in each of the west European countries, which has also run a lot of other projects which have all been endorsed and taken over by the EU Commission. Motlänken did not only highlight the environmentally dangerous projects of ERT but also the socially harmful ones they were also championing, like social welfare cuts and dismantling of labour legislation.

Motlänken included the Environmental Federation, the Transport Trade Union, and a host of local west coast associations, but was ultimately unsuccessful -- in spite of widely supported tree-hugging actions in face of police and loggers. The auspices were promising: within the trade unions an opposition was rising against the same dangers -- but in the end the two were unable to meet. For the leftists in the trade union movement, environmentalists were of marginal interest, however powerful they were locally; instead of an unusual and exciting social movement alliance which would have relegated the leftists to some kind of equality with the environmental activists, they staked it all on a conventional party building project and failed completely.

So when ERT's projects were hammered through in Sweden a few years after, there were no longer any social actors there to stop them.


Merging into the global justice movement

However, participation in EYFA, with the contribution of Motlänken, made the Swedish environmental organisations a highly global actor, perhaps the most global actor in Sweden at that time (Sweden after 1980 is a political backwater in the world). It took part in the actions "50 years is enough" against the Bretton Woods institutions in 1994, managed by the Spanish environmental organisation Aedenat in cooperation with trade unions and solidarity organisations. It took part, alone of the Swedish, in the All-European unemployment protests in 1997, in other countries run by trade unions. It took part in creating Peoples' Global Action in 1998. All these initiatives were of crucial importance in forming the present global justice movement and spread it into Europe.

Meanwhile, it has sometimes a capacity to organise popular risings, like a fairly successful opposition against a 6 billion USD motorway project in Stockholm in the 90s. However, it is not the same broad-based movement as in the 70s. Increasingly, it consists of youth and/or long-time organiser networks with tenuous links with people in general. The rupture of 1980 has not been healed or supplanted.

There is a tendency for the focus of the environmental movement in Sweden to spread, under the impact of the global justice movement, to include all kinds of "commons" of which "environment" is only one. A sign, perhaps transitory, is that there is more talk about commons, and privatisation, in the FoE/Environmental Federation at the moment than about environment, and among the core active people there is much overlapping between traditional environment issues and recent privatisation/social issues [6].

To be sure, this is not a new phenomenon; as I said above there was already in the 70s a lot of overlapping between environment and other issues. The core organisation in the early environmental movement in Stockholm was for example an outgrowth from a youthful protest against commercialisation of Christmas. This is of course due to the fact that a movement has a social base, and the interest of this base is not one-eyed or driven primarily by ideology. For the moment, all commons seem threatened by corporation-driven globalisation, not only what used to be called environment, but also health and culture, and some people think there is a point in linking them in a common political thrust.

And besides, movements have to make use of the opportunities they have - to use the opportunity structure there is in society. In rich northern countries, much of the more direct environmental hazards have been exported to the south, and the concept of "environment" have been stuck in a technocratized language that gives little grip on it by social movements or lay people in general. And real environmental hazards like global warming are not primarily caused by environmental emissions but by a privatized lifestyle in a privatized society. So when "pure" environment issues grow increasingly global, national bones of contention grow increasingly social. Instead of contaminated air and soil, worries among common people turn around dismantled social systems and privatisation in the hands of the upper middle class. An environmental movement which can't adapt to these changes will simply disappear.

Social movements are not bureaucracies with fixed limits for their jurisdiction, but lay people trying to muddle through their own problems, using the ways they can. Social movements live from change and flux, and if environmental destruction can be prevented by new social inventions, so much the better.


[1] Very little is written about the Swedish environmental movement. Andrew Jamison: The making of the new environmental movement in Sweden, Lund University 1987, lays too much emphasis on the written sources according to my opinion. This article is mainly based on participation in the environmental movement since 1971 and its actions, campaigns, meetings and nightly chats, plus a serious attempt to think over it in the Social Movement Study Group.

[2] Tord Björk: The emergence of popular participation in world politics

[3] This version is built on Alf Johansson & Lars Ekdahl: Den historiska kompromissen som tillfällig maktallians, Häften för kritiska studier 2/1996.

[4] There is no literature at all about the successful Norwegian movements against the European project of Neo-Liberal Empire. But a speech by the campaign leader in 1994, Kristen Nygaard: We are not against Europe, at least exhibits their social rationale.

[5] Andrew Jamison: The making of green knowledge, environmental politics and cultural transformation, Cambridge University Press 2001. According to Jamison a movement, in this case the environmental movement, is among other things the growth of knowledge within the movement. A sure sign of "normalisation" and death of the movement is that sterilized parts of this knowledge is delinked from the movement and included in the regular knowledge system of society.

[6] One link is of course patent issues. Patents on life is a major issue in the environmental movement worldwide, and it is easy to stretch it to other cases of intellectual property rights. Another link is the street as a commons - the British environmental movement made the switch in the nineties when they fought against motorways and discovered that they not only infringed upon the commons of the air but also the commons of public space. See George McKay (ed): DiY culture; party and protest in nineties Britain, Verso 1998.


Published by Folkrörelsestudiegruppen: