Put your money where your ideology is...
September 23, 2007 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Their factory was shut down three months ago. After occupying it, and reorganizing along anarchist ideological lines, the workers of Bike Systems GmbH are attempting to resume production. Now's your chance to place an order for a bicycle from a militantly anarcho-syndicalist, worker-occupied, self-managed factory in Germany. (via)
posted by Arturus (50 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I dunno... maybe if they were Italian anarcho-syndicalists...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:52 PM on September 23, 2007


The bikes appear to be available in your choice of colours, as long as you choose red.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:54 PM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


How badass wouldn't it have been if this was about MCs and not bicycles:
Strike Bike - the militantly anarcho-syndicalist bike

That said, there must be a good reason why the owners decided to shut down the factory. The workers will pretty soon find out that it's simply not financially viable to keep the factory running.

The Swedish translation is horrible, and quite funny.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:56 PM on September 23, 2007


Welcome to the Anarcho-Syndicalist commune. All our anarchists are busy controlling the means of production, but your call is important to the will of the masses and we will answer it as soon as a motion has been raised and a ballot taken, unless Klaus destroys our phone by means of violent direct action of the proletariat.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:01 PM on September 23, 2007 [25 favorites]


The site is down.

Damn Anarchists and their low-bandwith plans!
posted by Ironmouth at 8:11 PM on September 23, 2007


I'd order one, ut riding only on the extreme left is far too nerve-wracking.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:15 PM on September 23, 2007


To get in contact with the staff and to take orders


No forms? You can't just order a bike online?

Sometimes I wonder if militantly anarcho-syndicalist, self-managed factories are run as efficiently as they could be.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:16 PM on September 23, 2007 [3 favorites]






Heh, we go all hipster quipster confronted with people actually doing something to take charge of their own lives. Makes a comical contrast with MeFi's usual hand-wringing about what can we do though? in a '"who stole my American dream" thread.
posted by Abiezer at 8:38 PM on September 23, 2007 [15 favorites]


But is the bike any good? How do I tell if the damn bike is any good?
posted by Justinian at 8:55 PM on September 23, 2007


Oh man, this is totally awesome. I'm totally sending this to a whole bunch of my friends.
posted by Kattullus at 9:03 PM on September 23, 2007


Supreme bicycles derive from a factory operated by the masses, not from some farcicial aquatic ceremony!
posted by maxwelton at 9:06 PM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


But is the bike any good? How do I tell if the damn bike is any good?

It doesn't matter. They're relying on the goodwill of left-thinking people to buy the things, not unlike the Adbusters blackspot sneakers.

This is why they might also be successful when the previous owners thought the factory unviable. They'll have their own ready-made niche market & brand distinction that didn't exist previously.

It should work well, as long as the consumers take to the concept of bikes with handlebars completely disengaged from the front wheels, for ideological reasons.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:11 PM on September 23, 2007


That's no left-libertarian bike there. That's a bike designed to be property, to be directed by an individual, perhaps at odds with the good of the proletariat. And having two types, male and female, only reinforces male hegemony.

Surely there is a fully anarcho-syndicalist bicycle design out there somewhere.

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, indeed.
posted by dhartung at 9:21 PM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


There's some serious false conciousness here. It'll be re-education camp for you lot if you don't shape up. Have you ever actually worked in an engineering factory? I used to. It was usually pressure from above that meant corners got cut and things went out the door not up to standard.
Do you think that people who build things suddenly lose all ability without a boss? The shoddy shite coming out of Soviet factories was in in a situation where there was still a boss, just the state instead of a fat Victorian in a top hat. Plus, these are german workers we're talking about here. The first meeting is probably arranging voluntary overtime to polish the ball-bearings individually or something.
There's plenty of well-run co-ops in the UK, and they're not all knitting wholewheat sandals.
You'll never have genuine political democracy without economic democracy.
posted by Abiezer at 9:31 PM on September 23, 2007 [7 favorites]


And having two types, male and female, only reinforces male hegemony.

Especially as the female bike frame is based on the reactionary concept that women always wear long skirts, even when doing something sporty like cycling.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:32 PM on September 23, 2007


Christ, how do you people even get all that cynicism out the door every morning?

Oh wait - maybe you don't. And maybe that's why you're getting in to a sarcastic froth on the internet over people making bikes, of all things.

(Thank you, Abiezer.)
posted by poweredbybeard at 9:44 PM on September 23, 2007


Really, really great stuff.
posted by stammer at 9:58 PM on September 23, 2007


poweredbybeard: this site is like a virtual psychological portrait of dorian gray for me. i expend all my sarcasm & snark here, so as to be all smiles & sunshine in the real world.

as for our german friends, best of luck to them, honestly. i've heard such stories a number of times, maybe without the anarcho-syndicalist aspects, of workers buying up factories & making a success out of them, when the owners have given up the ghost & sold up.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:00 PM on September 23, 2007


Are the bikes any good? I'll buy one if they are.

And. If they don't give any of my other sporting goods or appliances "ideas." I AM NOT AFRAID OF MAKING AN EXAMPLE OF THE TOASTER SHOULD IT GET UPPITY!
posted by tkchrist at 10:06 PM on September 23, 2007


And people wonder why labor unions get short shift in the USA.
posted by mochi crunk at 10:11 PM on September 23, 2007


Well, at least they aren't radical, militant, Austrians.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:12 PM on September 23, 2007


And people wonder why labor unions get short shift in the USA.

Nobody in the USA wonders that. We know perfectly well why.
posted by tkchrist at 10:17 PM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bravo for the workers.
posted by pompomtom at 10:19 PM on September 23, 2007


A good friend of mine has one of these excellent anarcho-bicycles. Made in the U.S. of A.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:48 PM on September 23, 2007


there must be a good reason why the owners decided to shut down the factory. The workers will pretty soon find out...

actually, forming self-managed cooperatives can be a financially efficient strategy for avoiding factory shut-down. first, the plant can operate without making the fat surplus a single owner expects. second, cooperatives reduce the expense of shop floor supervisors (by about 5/6 in the case of the northwest plywood coops). third, workers/owners, motivated by the possibility of profit sharing, are well-known to be more productive than other workers.
posted by ioesf at 11:27 PM on September 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Especially as the female bike frame is based on the reactionary concept that women always wear long skirts, even when doing something sporty like cycling.

These aren't sports bikes. If you use a bike as a primary means of transportation, it means that you need a lady's or at least a mixte frame if you ever wear skirts.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:54 PM on September 23, 2007


ioesf, any other good examples?
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:22 AM on September 24, 2007


Damn it these krauts are going to put the local radical bike shop out of business...
posted by aerotive at 12:58 AM on September 24, 2007


Heh, we go all hipster quipster confronted with people actually doing something to take charge of their own lives.

I thought we were an automomous collective...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:25 AM on September 24, 2007


Heh, we go all hipster quipster confronted with people actually doing something to take charge of their own lives.

See, the thing is: this is a totally cool idea, but with a completely inconvenient website that tells us nothing about the bike. As Justinian points out, we can't tell if the bike is any damn good. That's why these people make such easy targets for ridicule.

And generally, that's the thing that makes me distrust any company with an overt political philosphy right off the bat; if you're doing this for some other reason than trying to produce the best possible product for a reasonable price, what kinds of goods and services am I going to be getting?

The flip side of this, though, is that when I find a company dedicated to a high moral ideal that's also accompanied by outstanding products and services, I go nuts about them and rabidly tell everyone I know. As is the case with veganstore.com, where I got my "No Sweat" Chuck Taylor knockoffs.

Which have a motherfucking fist for their logo.

Which rules.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:54 AM on September 24, 2007


"there must be a good reason why the owners decided to shut down the factory. The workers will pretty soon find out... "

german indymedia has some background information about the demolishing of the factory by the texan investment company LoneStar and their competitor MIFA, the Mitteldeutsche Fahrradwerke AG, but I don't have the time to translate right now. Perhaps somebody else can...

Thanks for pointing this story out, I'm living in germany and haven't heard about it at all.
posted by kolophon at 5:17 AM on September 24, 2007


Very cool, thanks.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:23 AM on September 24, 2007


Greg Nog, if you cut out the middle man you can save 8 dollars.

No Sweat.

I haven't worn anything but No Sweat's for the past 4 years.
posted by cloeburner at 6:29 AM on September 24, 2007



ioesf, any other good examples?


Harley Davidson sort of went this route.
posted by drezdn at 6:33 AM on September 24, 2007


Oh, sweet! Thanks, cloeburner! I think I bought 'em from veganstore because unlike No Sweat, they still had stock in my size when I bought them. Although it seems they're sold out now. But apparently, more will be available in late October. So all right, then.

Anyway, they're totally comfortable, and -- as previously mentioned -- CLENCHED FIST LOGO, people.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:38 AM on September 24, 2007


actually, forming self-managed cooperatives can be a financially efficient strategy for avoiding factory shut-down. first, the plant can operate without making the fat surplus a single owner expects. second, cooperatives reduce the expense of shop floor supervisors (by about 5/6 in the case of the northwest plywood coops). third, workers/owners, motivated by the possibility of profit sharing, are well-known to be more productive than other workers.

i'd believe it, but i need scholarly references. got any?
posted by eustatic at 9:46 AM on September 24, 2007


Then they'll drive the people's truck around the people's countryside until they run out of the people's gas.
posted by electroboy at 10:39 AM on September 24, 2007


That said, there must be a good reason why the owners decided to shut down the factory. The workers will pretty soon find out that it's simply not financially viable to keep the factory running.

so wrong. for starters:

a factory that brings in just enough revenue to support operations, meaning, buy materials, take care of rent and upkeep, and pay workers, makes ZERO dollars for an owner.

from the owners point of view, he might as well shut down the factory. but from the workers point of view, they need a job, and so what do they care if there is a profit left over after operations for an owner, or even if there is an owner at all.

thats not to say that co-ops dont have problems, like if they cant make enough to sustain their operation. but removing owners/investors from the equation removes someone that needs to be constantly paid off for having made an initial capital investment... and this is often a good thing for the workers since it means they have to produce less to get by.
posted by mano at 10:46 AM on September 24, 2007


Sorry, I've been riding my militant agriarian socialist revolutionary people's bike for years now.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:46 AM on September 24, 2007


a factory that brings in just enough revenue to support operations, meaning, buy materials, take care of rent and upkeep, and pay workers, makes ZERO dollars for an owner.


Do you have any idea how much profit there is in a bike company? Not that much. Labor is usually the most expensive part of any operation. If you're making 10% profit per year, you're doing pretty well.
posted by electroboy at 10:52 AM on September 24, 2007


actually, forming self-managed cooperatives can be a financially efficient strategy for avoiding factory shut-down. first, the plant can operate without making the fat surplus a single owner expects.

Eyesroll... Start reading a book about economics...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 11:03 AM on September 24, 2007


To the people saying they don't tell you anything about the bike: are you missing this page? I am not a real bike person myself, so I can't really tell how much this tells you about the bike, but it's certainly something.
posted by Arturus at 11:12 AM on September 24, 2007


eustatic i'd believe it, but i need scholarly references. got any?

I'm too busy to follow up on this myself, but here's a mess of articles:
google scholar search on {northwest plywood coop}
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:14 PM on September 24, 2007


If you don't want a bike, how about a suit?

"In a six-story building across town [Buenos Aires], a no-nonsense female work force wrested control of the Brukman Textile Factory from its owners. Now as an employee cooperative, the factory continues to churn out fine suits for men."

From the same piece:

"When authorities dispatched armed guards to lock the facility down, the women mobilized a tent city that drew international attention and gave them the political education of a lifetime.

"I was a housewife, and this was my first job," Martinez says. "But neighborhood assemblies, leftist parties and the militant students inspired us. I learned about Marx and Trotsky, and workers' control."

'We Want Everything'

After years of legal maneuvering, the women acquired the factory and some of its old debts. They've doubled their salary to about $80 a week. Dishonest salesmen have cheated them. They still struggle to stay afloat. But Martinez says that old clients stayed loyal."
posted by rtha at 12:14 PM on September 24, 2007


yoyo_nyc: Eyesroll... Start reading a book about economics...

Are you going to back that up with facts and logic or are you just going to be a jerk?
posted by Kattullus at 12:18 PM on September 24, 2007


If I read the specs correctly, it's a 3-speed with a hub dynamo-powered front light. With the fenders, rack and the dynamo light, it sounds like a really good basic transportation bike for the money. (A new Trek Lime bike comes with a three speed hub, no light, no fenders and no rack with an MSRP $200 US higher than the Strike Bike.)
posted by cog_nate at 12:48 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


eustatic writes 'i'd believe it, but i need scholarly references. got any?'

No, but the Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative has been operating profitably since 1977. They've just opened their fifth or six branch, in Manchester.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:18 PM on September 24, 2007


Okay. The bike itself looks pretty good. The problem is getting one. If the website is any indication I simply do not trust them. These people get their shit together by December I will order one for my wife for Christmas.
posted by tkchrist at 3:34 PM on September 24, 2007


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