Sweden: Two weeks of protests against racism

“Organise common struggle”

In the two weeks since the elections in Sweden, tens of thousands have demonstrated against racism and right-wing policies. When u p to 10,000 people demonstrated on Monday 4 October, the day before parliament opened, the racist Sweden Democrats were clearly shaken. The CWI in Sweden has played a key role in these protests.

On Tuesday 5 October, the elected MPs went to celebrate mass in the church next to the royal palace. The bishop in charge, Eva Brunne, was clearly affected by the anti-racist protests and even positively mentioned Monday’s demonstration. The MPs of the Sweden Democrats then marched out of the church, in front of their beloved king and despite their praise for Christianity.

This caused a big stir in the media. On national public radio, Arne Johansson, from from Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna was invited to debate against one of the racist MPs as one of the organisers of the demonstration on Monday. “The Sweden Democrats marched out of the church, but we want them out of Parliament!” Arne said. He showed how the walk-out exposed the Sweden Democrats as racists since they reacted to criticism of racism.

The attempt s by the racist MP to smear anti-racists as being violent, were replied to by Arne:

“It is the extreme right that stands for political violence. 15-20 people have been murdered by them in the last 20 years. Our own party has been attacked 18 times in one and a half years”.

The election result, with the right-wing government re-elected and a racist party voted into parliament, showed a shift on the part of a certain layer in the direction of reaction. The encouraging protest movement since the election, on the other hand, shows how an apparent advance for the right can get a swift reaction from those with a strong belief that something has to be done to stop racists and the rise of the right. The character of this period is one of quite sharp polarisations and rapid developments in consciousness.

The protests were started spontaneously, by youth groups on Facebook. In the first protests, just a few organisations participated or intervened. Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna then contacted already existing networks, such as the September Alliance, which involves left organisations and trade union branches. We aimed for a joint demonstration – of the September Alliance and Facebook groups, as well as an anti-racist network. We wanted the demonstration to be against racism and its roots – the right-wing austerity policies of ruling parties. This was agreed at a joint planning meeting with 70 people from different organisations and groups.

The day of action, 4 October, started with a school strike early in the morning, with 150 participating in a protest outside the Riksdag (parliament). Among the speakers was Johanna Evans, chair of Elevkampanjen (School Students´ Campaign, part of ’International Socialist Resistance’).

At the main demo in the evening, 10,000 people turned up. The were about fifteen speakers, among them Sanna Tefke and Bilbo Göransson of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna, activists in Kommunal (Council Worker’s Union), the Left Party leader, Lars Ohly, representatives of Young Muslims and of the Syndicalist Union and Mattias Bernhardsson, newly re-elected councillor for Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna in Haninge (south Stockholm). There were also performers with songs against racism. Greetings were read out for example from the miner’s union in the north of Sweden.

The arguments against the right-wing parties and their policies and the weakness of the official ‘opposition’ in parliament were brought out by many of the speakers. “We must organise common struggle – for jobs, for housing and against racism,” said Mattias Bernhardsson.

Demonstrations took place in many towns on the same day. “The whole of Sweden – against racism!” was the headline in Aftonbladet, Sweden’s biggest daily paper.

The demonstrations have clearly shaken the racists, forcing them to complain about “a bad climate” after the elections. It has also warned the established parties against cooperating or giving concessions to the racist party. These parties, however, are now worried over this movement which is outside their control.

Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS) is working to establish ’School Students Against Racism’ groups in schools, as well as encouraging similar initiatives among students and in the workplaces. We are demanding that the unions discuss the issue and take part in campaigns against racism, for common struggle.

RS has actually got more media attention in the last two weeks than in the six weeks of our election campaigning. We managed to keep our five councillors with an increased number of votes. One of them, Mattias Bernhardsson, has now been on national television twice on the issue of how to deal with the racist party. At the demonstration on 4 October, RS members sold 425 copies of Offensiv, the party’s weekly paper and got 45 new paid subscriptions for the paper. We have many people interested in joining the party and have established two new branches in the last week.

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October 2010