Always against the state? An analysis of Polish and Swedish radical left-libertarian activists’ interaction with institutionalized politics


Radical left-libertarian movements are often regarded as primarily seeking ways to accom-plish social and political change outside the framework of institutionalized politics. Previous research, however, has paid little or no attention to the question of these activists’ actual interactions with institu-tionalized politics, nor has it addressed the ways these interactions could be understood in relation to their overall strategies and ideology. This article therefore explores whether, and to what extent, such interaction actually occurs and analyzes the meanings and motives radical left-libertarian activists – from anarchist, autonomist, and anarcho-syndicalist groups – attribute to various types of political actions, ranging from voting and lobbying to protests and direct action. We furthermore compare activists in Po-land and Sweden, in order to scrutinize whether cross-country differences in “political opportunities” affects the activists’ political strategies and ideas about how social and political change can best be ac-complished. Contrary to popular beliefs and many activists’ own self-declarations, our analysis shows that radical left-libertarian groups do in fact try to achieve political change by interacting with institution-alized politics. While radical left-libertarian activists do in most cases prefer “direct action”, this article explores how a more complex relationship to institutionalized politics allows them to accomplish real and immediate changes at the grassroots level.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v8i3p845

Keywords: Social Movements; Radical Left-Libertarian Movements; Direct Action; Poland; Sweden


Antonów R. (2007), Pod Czarnym Sztandarem: Anarchiści w Polsce po 1980 Roku, Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego.

Brottsförebyggande rådet and Säkerhetspolisen (2009), Våldsam Politisk Extremism: Antidemokratiska Grupperingar på Yttersta Höger- och Vänsterkanten. Stockholm: Fritzes.

Brink Pinto, A. and J. Pries (2013), 30 November: Kampen om Lund 1985–2008, Lund: Pluribus.

Císař O. (2013), “Postcommunism and Social Movements”, in D. Snow, D. della Porta, B. Klandermans, and D. McAdam (eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Curran G. (2006), 21st Century Dissent: Anarchism, Anti-Globalization and Environmentalism, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

della Porta D. (2002), “Comparative Politics and Social Movements”, in S. Staggenborg, and B. Klandermans (eds.), Methods of Social Movement Research, Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 286–313.

della Porta D. and M. Diani (1999), Social Movements: An Introduction, Oxford: Black-well.

della Porta D. and D. Rucht (1995), “Left-Libertarian Movements in Context: A Comparison of Italy and West Germany, 1965–1990”, in J. C. Jenkins, and B. Klandermans (eds.), The Politics of Social Protest: Comparative Perspectives on States and Social Movements, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 229–272.

Ekman Jørgensen T. (2008), “Scandinavia”, in M. Klimke, and J. Scharloth (eds.), 1968 in Europe: A History of Protest and Activism, 1956–1977, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 239–252.

Graeber D. (2009), Direct Action: An Ethnography, Oakland CA: AK Press.

Haines H. (2013), ”Radical Flank Effects”, in D. Snow, D. della Porta, B. Klandermans, and D. McAdam (eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Howard M. (2003), The Weakness of Civil Society in Post-Communist Europe, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Jacobsson K. and S. Saxonberg (2013), Beyond NGO-ization: The Development of Social Movements in Central and Eastern Europe, Farnham: Ashgate.

Jacobsson K. and A. Sörbom (2015), “After a Cycle of Contention: Post-Gothenburg Strategies of Left-Libertarian Activists in Sweden”, Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest, published online 13 April 2015, doi: 10.1080/14742837.2015.1027763

Jamison A., R. Eyerman, and J. Cramer (1990), The Making of the New Environmental Consciousness: A Comparative Study of the Environmental Movements in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Jämte J. (2013), Antirasismens Många Ansikten, Umeå: Umeå universitet.

Katsiaficas G. (1997), The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Move-ments and the Decolonization of Everyday Life, Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press.

Kitschelt H. (1986), “Political Opportunity Structures and Political Protest: Anti-Nuclear Movements in Four Democracies”, British Journal of Political Science 16(19): 57–85, doi:

Kopecký P. (2003), “Civil Society, Uncivil Society and Contentious Politics in Post-Communist Europe”, in P. Kopecký, and C. Mudde (eds.), Uncivil Society?: Conten-tious Politics in Post-Communist Europe, London: Routledge, pp. 1–18.

Kuhn G. (2009), “Anarchism, Sweden”, in I. Ness (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Leach D. (2013), “Prefigurative Politics”, in D. Snow, D. della Porta, B. Klandermans, and D. McAdam (eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Marek P. L. (2006), Na Krawędzi Życia: Wspomnienia Anarchisty 1943–44. Kraków: Dąb.

McAdam D. (1996), “Conceptual Origins, Current Problems, Future Directions”, in D. McAdam, J. McCarthy, and M. Zald (eds.), Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures and Cultural Framings, Cambridge: Cambridge university press, pp. 23–40.

Moore, K., and B. Shepard (2013), “Direct Action”, in D. Snow, D. della Porta, B. Klandermans, and D. McAdam (eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements,

Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Mrozowicki A., K. Pędziwiatr, and P. Antoniewicz (2009), Alter-Globalism a la Polonaise: A Story of an Activist, Project Europe Rebelle, Paris: L’Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, Institut Hannah Arendt.

Newman S. (2011), “Post-Anarchism and Radical Politics Today”, in D. Rousselle, and S. Evren (eds.), Post-Anarchism: A Reader, London: Pluto, pp. 46–68.

Peterson A. (2001), Contemporary Political Protest: Essays on Political Militancy, Aldershot: Ashgate.

Petrova, T. and S. Tarrow (2007), Transactional and Participatory Activism in the Emerging European Polity: The Puzzle of East-Central Europe, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.

Polanska D. V. and G. Piotrowski (2015), “The Transformative Power of Cooperation Between Social Movements: Squatting and Tenants’ Movements in Poland”, City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action 19(2–3): 274–296, doi: 10.1080/13604813.2015.1015267

Romanska M. (2009), “Anarchism, Poland”, in I. Ness (ed.), The International Encyclo-pedia of Revolution and Protest, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Romanos E. (2013), “Anarchism”, in D. Snow, D. della Porta, B. Klandermans, and D. McAdam (eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Move-ments, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Sjöö I. (2011), Fackliga Fribrytare: Episoder från Hundra År av Svensk Syndikalism, Stockholm: Federativ.

Jesse E. and T. Thieme (eds.) (2011), Extremismus in den EU-Staaten. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.

Trägårdh L. (2007), “The ‘Civil Society’ Debate in Sweden: The Welfare State Chal-lenged”, in L. Trägårdh (ed.), State and Civil Society in Northern Europe: The Swedish Model Reconsidered, New York: Berghahn Books, pp. 9–36.

Urbański J. (2009), “Anarchizm – Kryzys i Transformacja”, Przegląd Anarchistyczny, no. 9/2009: 78–111.

Wennerhag M. (2008), Global Rörelse: Den Globala Rättviserörelsen och Modernitetens Omvandlingar, Stockholm: Atlas.

Williams D., and M. Lee (2012), “Aiming to Overthrow the State (Without Using the State): Political Opportunities for Anarchist Movements”, Comparative Sociology 11(4): 558–593, doi: 10.1163/15691330-12341236

Wright S. (2002), Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autono-mist Marxism, London: Pluto.

Załęski P. (2006), “Global Non-governmental Administrative System: Geosociology of the Third Sector”, in D. Gawin, and P. Glinski (eds.), Civil Society in the Making, Warszawa: IFiS Publishers.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.