Från Ådalen till finanspakten

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Med anledning av första majfirandet i Irland var jag inbjudan att inledningstala till en visning av Bo Widerbergs Ådalen 31. LO på Irland anordnade det hela. En intressant och roande utmaning. Jag gjorde mitt yttersta för att binda ihop det som varit med det som är. Eftersom det hela ägde rum på engelska förberede jag ett tal. Ingen idé att låta det somna in i datorn. Delar det därför med den som vill läsa.

”In the history of all societies there are formative moments. Events which separate a “before” from an “after”. These formative moments have a collective mind. They belong to everyone and affect everyone, directly or indirectly. And as trade unions, representing the collective interest, we often find ourselves at the centre of these formative moments.

All societies have symbolic and historical events which reflect the beginning, or the end, of deeper changes of the public ethos or the self understanding of the society.

Such events can be dark and ominous, like the Kristalnacht inGermanyin November 1938. But they can also be promises of a new and brighter future, like the fall of theBerlinwall in 1989.

Great formative moments are often violent tragedies for the people directly involved. And I believe that you, here inIreland, have had more than a fair share of these kind of formative events in your history.

The events that took place in Ådalen in 1931, portrayed in the film you’re about to see, are such a formative moment inSweden.

The events in Ådalen was not only a tragedy, which took the lives of five young Swedes. It is an event that separates oldSwedenfrom modernSweden.

Ådalen symbolises the end of the rule of the privileged and rich class. It is the beginning of the welfare state. Ådalen galvanised the working class. The wrath and anger born through these events lead to a landslide victory for social democracy in the elections in 1932.

Sweden before Ådalen was a strongly divided class society. Inequality and income gaps where huge. Bank executives, for example, had an income 200 times the average industrial worker.

The capitalist system was being questioned, as in many other European countries at the time. The economic crisis was almost unimaginably deep.

Unemployment in the sawmilling industry was almost 65%, in the quarrying industry 45%, in the mining industry 25%. The metal industry workers were considered privileged with only 20% unemployment. In short – it was a catastrophe. Social unrest was just around the corner in the beginning of the 1930s.

The political answer to the economical crises was austerity. It was the only solution according to the conservative government. The employers wanted to solve the crises by cutting down wages. This strategy was also supported by the conservative government. It would even send military forces to support the employers. The medicine to cure the economic crises was the self healing powers of market forces. Does this sound familiar?

The people in Ådalen suffered tremendously in the economic crisis in 1931. They were heavily dependant on the sawmill- and paper industry. At the core of the conflict was a demand by the employer to cut wages. All work in Marmaverken was under blockade. Strike-breakers, scabs, were called in to do the work. The events that took place are portrayed in this film you’re about to see. 

The events in Ådalen became a symbol of a capitalism in extreme crisis. It is an example of what political inactivity can provoke. It is an example of what can happen if all other options are closed. It is an event with importance today.

Change would come to the people in Ådalen. But it came to late for some. It came to late for those who lost their lives in spring time 1931.

The election victory for the social democrats meant change. It put an end to the devastating conservative financial policy of austerity. Social democracy had a program for stimulating the economy. Unemployment benefits were raised. Large investments in infrastructure and housing were introduced. Employment on basis of the going rate in collective agreements were supported.

The basic idea was stimulation and circulation of money. The very same ideas proposed by Keynes a few years later.

It is interesting, and maybe significant, that you have chosen to show this film today. The situation inEuropetoday bears a number of resemblances with the situation in 1930s. The holy trinity among politicians inEuropeseems to be austerity, deregulation and liberalisation.

I don’t know how many different measures of the same kind conservative governments inEuropehave proposed since the beginning of the economical crises. Europlus pact, the six-pack, the two-pack and most recently the fiscal pact are the most important examples. They all bear the mark of a free market ideology. Austerity, deregulation and liberalisation.

The Czech author Milan Kundera once wrote that “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”. I believe that the director of Ådalen31, Bo Wideberg, would have liked that quote. The film was meant to honour the struggle of man.

As we are living through a formative moment of the European Union. Let us not forget past struggles and mistakes. The struggle of man against power continues.

 Thank you for listening!”

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