Revolution Sweden: Brave antifas in Salem 2006
Six years ago in December, a young skinhead was killed in a fight in Salem, outside of Stockholm. Ever since, Nazis from Sweden, Scandinavia, Northern Europe and the rest of the world have used this event as an excuse to gather for an annual ”Salem march”. While the march is ostensibly held in memory of Daniel Wretström, the killed skinhead, its real function is to give the Nazi movement a chance to show off a united façade, and to push their case for hatred and a fascist terror regime forward. If the Nazi movement is allowed to march undisturbed on the streets, they will just become stronger and stronger, and immigrants, leftists, union activists, gay people – everyone who’re their enemies, will be attacked. Therefore, the Swedish and Nordic left have organized counter-demonstrations every year. This was the case also in 2006. The Swedish Revolution group joined the preparations and the demonstration, this year organized by the Network Against Racism (NMR). Here’s their report.
It’s hard to estimate exactly how many antifas that came out for this year’s demonstration in Salem. But it was probably around 1,000. While the bourgeois press in an obvious lie talks about ”a couple of hundred participants” in the counter-demonstration, people from the anarchist website Motkraft gave numbers of 1,161 in our demo and 940 for the Nazis, who’ve gone back after internal fighting since last year.
The crowd was to a large extent a young one, and besides the more experienced activists from organizations like the Swedish syndicalist trade union and Antifascist Action (AFA), flags from the Danish TUC could also be seen, and a lot of what seemed like unorganized activists and youth were there. After handing out copies of our flyers for a while, Revolution joined the march as it left, with our banner, saying ”Stop the Salem march! Smash racism!”, and new Revo flags. Amongst the chants we used were ”Blacks and whites, together against the rich!”, ”No fascists on our streets”, ”One solution – Revolution”, ”The cops of today protects the Hitler of tomorrow” and ”Smash capitalism, the roots of fascism!”.
Attempts of setting up a blockade
When we arrived to the place were the young Nazi Daniel Wretström was killed six years ago, which’s also the final destination for the Nazi march, people in the demonstration stopped to set up a blockade against the Nazis. A representative from NMR declared that they would continue along the original demonstration route, finish up in the city centre of Salem, and that the blockade was not anything they’d planned or would take part in. The majority chose not to join NMR, and some people started linking arms. Thus, NMR left with a small amount of people, while another part of the demo, people who neither joined NMR nor the blockade, was soon pushed by the police to the Salem city centre.
Revolution had received information on that the blockade would take place, and decided to participate in it as actively as possible. Revo members immediately started linking arms together with other activists, and several comrades took charge of rapidly collecting our flags and the banner, in order to not lose this at a possible split-up of the groups. Overall, we think ourselves and many others acted disciplined in what was planned as a non-violent blockade of the place. When a couple of activists assaulted a police car, several in the blockade voiced their protests, in order to avoid unnecessary provocations.
Brutal cop violence
Abroad, even some leftists can sometime be found to believe in the myth that Sweden is a social democratic paradise, and, as an effect, that Swedish cops would be ”nicer” or more democratic than their colleagues in other countries. Anyone who believe that, would’ve seen this myth brutally smashed in what followed next.
The blockade became the blank check the cops needed to lash out and attack the demo. Photographers covering the event were chocked by the cops’ violent rampage, something that unfortunately wasn’t reflected in the eventual press coverage. Bravely, a group of adults, carrying signs saying ”Adults standing in the way”, broke the police barrier to stand in the front of the blockade. However, this did little to stop the brutal attack that was to come.
The cops baton charged the demo and mounted police ran right in to people in order to create a situation of terror and panic. When we managed to hold back against this with the human chains we’d formed, the cops changed their strategy and started using their riding crops and riot sticks against us. To spice things up a bit, they also maced us in an incredibly aggressive way. KILO, the Swedish cops’ demo squad/firm, consisting of a couple of experienced fighters, seemed to’ve been given free reins against the activists. Macing people from point-blank and overusing their clubs, this group of cops seemed to have an internal culture where maximum humiliation of us antifascists was the main target. The KILO cops had extra fun taking an activist away, rough up the activist’s nose and put sand and dirt in the mouth of this person. Others were strangled while police pulled at their eyelids in order to mace the most sensitive and painful places in the face.
A number of the participants in the demonstration were injured. At least one person had to find a hospital after being ran into by a police horse, and several others had injuries after being hit in the face and head with riot sticks. Most got off with bruises, wounds, bleeding noses, et cetera. Luckily, the Revo activists got off quite lightly, even though many of us got maced, ran into by horses, and baton charged. The organizers with first aid kits and eye drops to relieve the pain from the mace were mostly appreciated.
The events of the day show that the parts of the young left engaged in antifascism have learned a lot about the importance of sticking together, and many activists showed true courage in rough situations. Despite the violent cops most of us kept calm, and acted thereafter.
Smaller groups continue to cause trouble
Still, the police had the upper hand, and evidently this caused the bigger group to split up. Instead, smaller groups scattered, chased by cops. While around a hundred people went on with buses, another hundred activists set up an antifascist road block. Several cars carrying Nazis going to the march were lucky enough to pass the block and got roughed up good, with stones crashing through the car windows as they left. This didn’t go on for long, until the cops came around and chased us away again. Yet again smaller groups scattered in different directions. After some time, the cops managed to stop people in most places, in total 101 were taken in. Four were arrested. At this time, the Nazi march was four hours late, maybe mostly due to someone sabotaging a railway switch, causing a train packed with Nazis. But the activity from the smaller groups surely caused some of the delay as well.
This year, a large part of the left didn’t take part in the Salem mobilizations. Already on the planning stage, Ung Vänster, the left-reformist Young Left, said that they intended to organize their own manifestation in central Stockholm, no matter what anyone else said. A couple of religious and non-political organizations also setup their own demonstrations in Stockholm at the exact same time and place as the NMR demonstration, despite earlier promises not to compete with the Salem demo. Unlike the Danish TUC representatives, the Swedish TUC participated in the Stockholm city demo rather than the NMR one in Salem. However, they didn’t build for the demo at all, and the 90,000 kronor (€10,000) they used for their demonstration didn’t go to any rank and file work. On the preparatory meetings, there was no discussion on how to use the demonstration to build a real movement. The result was what one could’ve expected: Around 250 people, mostly activists or bureaucrats, came to the ”wide” demonstration in Stockholm city, and could listen to liberal and social democratic politicans give the usual ”black or white, we need to respect all human beings” talks. The idea is to clean antifascism from any politics, and that this will lead to a wider and more popular antifascist movement.
The need for class politics…
Needless to say, this won’t work. If one tries to take politics out of antifascism, it’ll be much harder to explain to workers and youth just how important it is that they come out and protest. In order to fight the growth of fascism and racism, it’s important to understand it as a class issue. If the leadership of the Left party, the Young Left and the TUC had used their positions to really build for the protest amongst the rank and file, and as a part of this pointed out how this struggle relates to the struggle against the general growth of racism, the racist populist Sweden democrats and the present racist and anti-worker policies of the bourgeois government, we’d been a lot more for sure. In that case, the blockade could’ve been successful, and the Nazis could’ve been stopped. Instead, a couple of hundred youth managed to keep the cops back for an hour or so.
Thus, the Nazis could march largely because of the passivity amongst the leadership for the aforementioned left organizations. Members of organizations that doesn’t do more than preaching abstract humanist moral values and demanding ”mutual respect”, must put pressure on their leadership and force them to engage in the struggle.
But NMR, too, had a somewhat non-political approach. While this year’s flyers did make a connection between the class issues and antifascism, the stickers and posters used were much vaguer. The sole speech held at the demo gathering was to a large extent non-political.
…and proper organization
A lot could be said regarding the organizational field. The tactic of having small groups acting in a pretty unorganized and spontanist fashion can only lead to limited success. We participated in these groups ourselves, and weren’t alone in feeling unprepared on how to act. One lesson to draw is that preparations and co-operation is important in order to make this tactic more successful. If this was impossible to organize, one could at least have discussed strategies, meeting points, printed maps, et cetera. Saying this, we’re happy we took part in the build-up for the demonstration and the blockade. Yet again, the day’s event shows that there’s a layer of antifascist youth taking the lead in these kinds of events. They haven’t been scared away by propaganda scare tactics or police violence. This group must be organized to build a better foundation for mobilizations in the future. In other words, we’ll continue the antifascist and antiracist work, with emphasis on organizing youth in the suburb schools. And we’ll continue to call for wide class mobilizations against Nazi demonstrations as well as the racist bourgeois government.
The struggle against fascism isn’t anything that can be successful within national barriers. Therefore, we’re eager to work alongside with youth from other Nordic and Scandinavian countries, and in our international organization, Revolution. We call on all young leftists and antifascists in the Nordic countries and beyond who share our goals to contact us in order to fight fascism and capitalism together with us.
One solution – revolution!