”Only one thing could have stopped our movement. If our adversaries had understood its principle, and from the first day had smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement.”
– Quote attributed to Adolf Hitler.
On Saturday, December 8, anti-fascists gathered in Salem, outside of Stockholm, to protest the yearly Nazi parade there, which is officially a memorial march for a young Nazi killed in a youth row seven years ago. According to Swedish leftist website Motkraft, the anti-fascist demonstration, organized by the Network against Racism (NMR), numbered 1,250. This is a higher number than last year’s demonstration, and most participants were youth. Given the fear tactics employed by the government in the weeks and days running up to Saturday, the relatively high number of protestors present was a gratifying fact. Just days before Saturday, the Salem municipal authority launched a legal bid to ban all planned demonstrations there. It ultimately failed, and if the numbers given by Motkraft are correct, it’d mean the anti-fascists outnumbered the Nazis, whose protest, according to most news sources, gathered between 800 and 1,00 racists.
Just as in previous years, libertarian groups were highly prominent in the counter-demonstration. Activists from branches and sections of the Syndicalist youth, Antifascist Action and the Revolutionary Front had contingents present, as did about 150-200 Danish activists, joining the demo late after initially being held by the police. But anarchists were not the sole factor of the protest. Just at all previous Salem protests, REVOLUTION raised our red banner and took part in the day’s activities. The Committee for a Workers’ International youth were present, too, and flags from the Fourth International youth were also visible in the demo.
Unfortunately, most bigger left groups were not to be seen. Despite advertising the demonstration in their newspaper, and calling for sympathisers to join, the Swedish section of the Fourth International was nowhere to be seen. Neither were the Stalinist groups. Perhaps most outrageous of all was the absence of the Left Party and their Young Left. And even worse: They chose to join a much smaller anti-racist demonstration in central Stockholm instead, a protest for which they mobilised for without even mentioning the fact that one of the biggest Nazi mobilisations in the Nordic countries took place in the same day. The opportunist tactic of ”turning our backs on fascism”, used by some parts of the left, is a recipe for disaster.
However, two groups within the reformist left challenged their leadership’s passivity and joined the protests: the young social democrats from Malmö, and the Left Party students club from Stockholm. More Young Left and social democratic youth members should follow their example, and ask themselves whether their leadership’s refusal to confront the fascist terror really is the way forward.
When Nazis take to the streets, it’s the duty of all progressive and leftists to mobilise for counteractions, put up resistance, and, if possible, stop them. From our perspective, the choice between the reformist micro-protest in Stockholm city, and the militant counter-demonstration in Salem was one easy to make. Even though we’re critical of aspects of the anarchists’ tactics, and underline that anti-fascism must be taken to a mass basis, the Salem demonstration is where the most militant and decisive activists and youth are to be found each year.
This year, REVOLUTION didn’t take part in the mobilisation campaign as actively as before. This partly since we’ve been involved in the alliance formed against the right-wing government’s policies of cuts and neoliberal ”reforms”. We’ve also been the driving force in a campaign against rape, which has taken a lot of time and resources. Despite this, more people than last year joined our contingent. We were better coordinated, and more prepared for the planned activities. Besides members from our Stockholm branch, comrades from Katrineholm and Gothenburg joined us in the protests.
During the pre-demonstration rally, we sold our paper – with a clear, anti-fascist cover – and distributed a total of 800 flyers for the anti-rape demonstration organised Monday, December 10. When the march formed, we led chants against fascism and capitalism, for international solidarity and class struggle using two megaphones. We also led chants against the imperialist war in Iraq, a war breeding Islamophobia and reactionary winds that also strengthen racism and fascism.
Chants romanticising violence and bragging about assaulting the fascists were popular among the anarchist protestors. Naturally, we don’t oppose the tactic of confronting the fascists in the streets, but in this case, the slogans put people off rather than sparking any anti-fascist fervour.
When the demonstration came closer to the centre of Salem, two signal flares went off high in the air. On this signal, most of our contingent, along with hundreds of other protestors, broke from the main demo, in order to stop the police from sending people away in the pre-booked coaches waiting at the official end point of the demonstration. REVOLUTION members met up at a hill, from where we had a good view of the situation. Our group was soon to be joined by others. After a quick break for eating and drinking, we headed for the central area. At this point, civilian cops had arrived in the area around the hill, and started harassing people. Our plan was to make it to one of the nearby schools, where we hoped to meet up with other groups also going there. We sent out comrades to make sure the coast was clear, and, when the right moment came, the group moved.
After shaking the cops on several occasions, we made it to the school. Another group of twenty had made it there, but that was it. We decided to move closer to the Nazi demonstration, which hadn’t started yet. Our group continued through residential areas, often chased by the cops, who used thermal cameras and a helicopter to track us. The fun was over at around five pm, when our group got stuck at another school, where the cops trapped most of us. All in all, we were quite satisfied. Even though the Nazi march wasn’t stopped, the activities from the different groups on the move in Salem meant the Nazis had to stand around freezing a couple of hours longer than planned, before they could carry out their march under heavy police protection.
Delaying the march is probably all we can do with the current tactics and conditions. The police, who called in an extra 500 officers in order to protect the Nazis, didn’t face any serious problems arresting most of the activists in the group based, minor actions. It only took them a couple of hours. Smaller, non-coordinated groups of anti-fascists can probably not achieve more than disrupting the order for a limited amount of time.
We’re critical of some of the methods employed by activists. A real low was when firemen called in to put out a fire at a school struck by a smoke bomb were met with stone throwing. Letting the ends justify the means doesn’t mean one needs to throw all tactical thinking overboard. In principle, just about any action could be legitimised using the same explanation. The attack on the firemen illustrates the lack of insight amongst the anarchists on the need for winning the working class to the anti-fascist struggle. On the contrary, in every situation, anti-fascists must act in a way that strengthens the solidarity between us and the workers. This kind of activities won’t achieve that. We have a smiliar criticism of the turning over of people’s trash cans in order to build blockades in the residential area. Needless to say, blockades can be necessary, and we can’t satisfy all local residents of Salem when we’re chased by the police, and are trying to stop a Nazi march. But we need to act with the greatest consideration possible. Actions leading to destruction of residents’ property need to be seriously evaluated. Thoughtless actions are an illustration of the antisocial political attitude characterising activists who regard the current anti-racist movement as sufficient – despite our obvious isolation from the community.
On the other hand, caving in to the liberal propaganda against the anti-fascist movement won’t solve the problem of marginalisation. The mainstream right-wing parties purport to be opposed to racism and xenophobia, but won’t lift a finger to act when Nazis march on our streets. They’d like for the youth of Sweden to be as passive as they are. Their ”anti-fascism” isn’t worth a dime. As expected, bourgeois media followed through on this line, and the liberal and social democratic press were full of articles portraying anti-fascists and Nazis as twin ”extremists”. The march of the genocide advocates and murderers met with no protests from the establishment, and was described as simply a ”right-wing demonstration”.
We know the bourgeois parties take no interest in anti-fascism. We know the leaderships of the Young Left, of the Social Democratic Youth, won’t act to confront the fascists. And we know the racist police force, always on the side of the rich, can’t do it. We support militant action against the fascist threat. Direct actions from a minority can in many cases be entirely correct, as a way to hit our enemy where it hurts. But the Salem demonstration of 2007, as did the one in 2006, teaches us that we need to intensify our work to involve the organised working class in the kind of mass actions that are really necessary to stop the Nazi threat.
Smash fascism, forward to communism!
December 12, 2007