Sweden: Radical mood at VSF student congress

On 31st October–1st November the left student union (VSF) in Sweden held its 7th congress in Rågsved, south of Stockholm. The VSF has a close relationship with the Left Party and its youth organisation, the Young Left. Among other issues discussed was the idea of declaring the VSF a revolutionary socialist organisation.

On 31st October–1st November the left student union (VSF) in Sweden held its 7th congress in Rågsved, south of Stockholm. Delegates from all around the country, representing the local organisations gathered to celebrate the organisation's 10-year anniversary and to determine policy for the next few years.

The VSF organizes students at the universities for a “socialist, feminist and anti-racist policy”. Their roots are in the labour movement to the left of the Social Democrats. They have a close relationship with the reformed communist party, the Left Party and its youth organisation Young Left. The VSF is present in all the major universities in Sweden and has delegates to most local student representative assemblies.

One of the biggest debates at the congress was concerning a motion that put forward the idea of the organisation declaring itself a revolutionary socialist organisation and that the final goal should be the “a classless society free from racism and oppression of women – communism”. In the debate, the differences between reformism and revolution were discussed, and members of the national leadership told the congress that the difference is not about the attitude towards reforms, but that reformists stand for a class collaborationist perspective and the revolutionaries for class struggle.

John Lyshag from the Gothenburg branch welcomed the discussion and emphasized that the motion is only the beginning of a further discussion about the ideas of Marxism and what it means in reality to be a revolutionary. In the debate the financial crisis was a recurring subject. Several of the delegates directed hard critics against the way the established labour parties (Social Democrats and the Left Party) are handling the economic crisis and argued that that revolutionaries should give a socialist answer to the crisis of capitalism. The motion was passed with only a few votes against.

Another discussion at the congress was about the role of students in the labour market and their relationship to the labour and trade union movement. The VSF believes that there is an opportunity for a strategic alliance between workers and students on the question of an increase in the student grants (regulated by the government) and better labour rights, because low incomes for students and insecure employment undermine the wages for all workers.

At the same time the VSF agreed that cooperation with the big trade unions should first of all take place at local level with the rank and file who are in opposition to the leadership policy of class collaboration.

The congress also passed four statements. One demanded an increase of students’ income and one, in the context of mass dismissals from Volvo, demanded the nationalization of the company. The VSF considers the nationalization of Volvo to be the correct policy to save jobs and prevent the sackings. If the government takes it over as an active owner, they could make strategic investments into the production of environmentally friendly cars. If nothing is done the dismissals at Volvo will threaten the jobs of thousands of workers at all the companies that supply parts to Volvo, and tens of thousands of workers in other branches of related industries.

The VSF congress took several steps in a positive direction for the organisation and the mood was one of healthy optimism and a belief in the possibilities for the left to organize people to fight against the economic crisis. The crisis of capitalism will change the mood and raise the consciousness and make more and more people question the economic system. The next period will be turbulent, both in Sweden and the rest of the world. If the VSF are able to exploit the opportunities that arise, a rapid growth of the organization is to be expected all over the country.