Sweden: No criminalisation of Gottenburg protesters

Throughout Europe the clashes around the Gothenburg EU summit have been utilised to unleash a propaganda barrage against the growing anti-capitalist movement in general and socialists in particular. Completely wild and undefined accusations of being "anarchists", "hooligans" etc. are being hurled around indiscriminately against anyone who dares to challenge the rule of the giant corporations.

After the EU/EMU Gothenburg summit.

After Gothenburg – No criminalisation of anti-capitalists!

CWI protesters in Gothenberg

A concerted attempt is being made to link anti-capitalism with destruction and vandalism in an effort to criminalise the opposition to capitalist globalisation. Already many protesters were detained for no reason or refused entry into Sweden. 

Threats are now being made to impose generalised travel restrictions on anti-capitalists and socialists. While defending the "right" of capital to move freely around the whole, the EU is preparing to try to stop the free movement of its opponents. It is clear that the new right wing Berlusconi government will, under the guise of "stopping violence", try to prevent the protests planned against the Genoa G8 summit.

The hypocrisy of the EU leaders is shown in their attitude to Putin, the Russian President. Any damage done to Gothenburg is in no way comparable with the Russian military’s devastation of Grozny, the Chechen capital. The bombing of Grozny back into the Stone Age has not prevented European leaders, along with US President Bush, from seeking deals with Putin. British Prime Minister Blair immediately condemned an "anarchist travelling circus" for being responsible for the violence in Gothenburg. Blair has never condemned Putin in such language, but then for capitalists "business is business", likewise Blair has made no comment on the Swedish police shooting unarmed demonstrators.

The European Union summit exposed the government leaders’ inability to prevent the deepening of the gulf between themselves and the general population. The Irish referendum vote against the Nice Treaty was simply ignored. As far as the EU leaders are concerned ordinary working people cannot be allowed to get in the way of the business agenda. German Chancellor Schröder best typified the leaders’ arrogance when he said that the Irish people would have to vote again in order to accept the Nice Treaty. But Schröder does not simply ignore foreign peoples; his government is also turning a blind eye to the opposition of the majority of Germans to the euro currency. Again and again all the EU leaders show that, in practice, their policies are for the benefit of the big companies and the rich.

Many of the populations in the countries applying to join the EU hope that entry is the way to dramatically raise their living standards and secure their democratic rights. But the opposition from some EU leaders to setting a time table for entry and the proposed limits on the freedom of movement of labour, but not capital, are indications that these hopes are, in reality, illusions.

One of the spectres at the EU summit was the rapidly worsening economic situation in Europe. While the summit was taking place the German press reported on the "helplessness" within the Berlin government as the economy deteriorates barely a year before a general election. The day after the summit ended a jump in European inflation to its highest level for eight years was reported; at the same time there are daily reports of the mounting problems in the US economy.

This is the background against which the EU governments’ spin-doctors have launched their propaganda offensive against the growing anti-capitalist movement. Politically they want to discredit the opposition to both the bosses’ EU and capitalist globalisation.

It is clear that in the immediate run up to the Gothenburg clashes there was no sign of the "open dialogue" which the Swedish police promised the demonstrators. Instead there were provocations. On Thursday June 14 the police first built a wall of nearly 100 metal shipping containers around, and then invaded, the Hvitfeldska Gymnasiet school where anti-capitalist protesters had been allowed to stay. The following day, Friday, saw the police using dogs to split, and then encircle, part of a peaceful "anti-capitalist" march.

These provocations succeeded in goading a small section of the protesters to react by attacking buildings etc in central Gothenburg. While fully understanding the anger felt, smashing shops, cafes and restaurants is not the method of Socialists. It hands propaganda weapons to the ruling class, helping it to attack activists and introduction new repressive measures. Already there is talk of limiting the freedom of movement for protesters between European countries.

Socialists work to build an organised mass movement which can take from the capitalists their ownership and control of property to enable it to be collectively owned and used to meet humanity’s needs, instead of the ruling classes’ profits. This is our aim, not the destruction of property.

The brutality of the Swedish police, something not seen since the workers’ struggles of the 1930s, is a warning of how some sections of the bosses will want to deal with opposition in the future. If demonstrations, strikes or other protest actions are attacked clearly there is a right for self-defence, something which the workers movement in every country has had experience of.

In recent years, most countries have not seen the workers’ movement seriously challenging the neo-liberal attacks first launched in the mid- 1980s. This has resulted in many of today’s young people not seeing that, potentially; capitalism’s main opponent is the working class.

The Committee for a Workers’ International is committed to helping in the rebuilding of a fighting, socialist workers movement which can sweep away capitalism, not simply protest against its inequities.

The CWI will continue to campaign for:

  • A mass anti-capitalist protest in Genoa
  • Defence of the democratic rights to demonstrate and travel
  • An end to state and police provocations
  • Building the anti-capitalist movement and convincing its activists that socialism is the alternative.
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