Sweden: Thousands of Gothenburg anti-racists hugely outnumber far right rally

Neo-Nazis attempt to exploit street gang violence fails

More than 1,000 anti-racists (2,000 according to the daily newspaper, Expressen) gathered in a public square in the working class suburb of Kortedala, Gothenburg, on Friday 6 April. The demonstration took place on the initiative and under the banner of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (Socialist Justice Party CWI Sweden), which invited several anti-racist groups and networks to participate.

The anti-racist protest was in response to a rally called by a Swedish neo-Nazi party which aimed to exploit a brutal assault of 61-year old man by a youth gang.

The week-long campaign leading up to 6 April, received massive media coverage. Members of RS were interviewed in all main newspapers and radio channels, on three TV channels and during a weekly debate programme on public service television. The Chair of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna in West Sweden, Kristofer Lundberg, debated with Håkan Linnarsson from the Social Democrats, the party that controls the local council and which is responsible for cuts in school numbers and youth schemes.

Kristofer was interviewed on the same day on radio and TV4 news. Stefan Berg, Chair of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna Gothenburg, was interviewed on two main TV news programmes.

Fight fascist activity and fight cuts

The 61-year old victim of the brutal gang assault has been in coma for four weeks. The fascists blamed immigration policies and “multi-culturalism” for the violence. In reply, our campaign highlighted the need for anti-fascist activity but also about the need to struggle against cuts and for jobs and housing.

Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna took up the issue of youth gang violence long before the neo-Nazis announced their rally. We distributed thousands of flyers in Kortedala and Bergsjön, demanding more resources, including better housing, for the economically and socially run-down working class suburbs of Gothenburg. When we heard about the planned neo-Nazi protest, we produced new leaflets calling for a counter-demonstration, under the slogans, ‘End youth violence; Stop racism and Nazism; For more resources to the suburbs!’

RS is also to the forefront of a battle in nearby suburb over cuts at a school. Our party organised protests, together with teachers, parents and youth. One protest meeting against the cuts, held on our initiative, was attended by 350 people. The youth gang behind the violent attack on the 61-year old is from this suburb, called Angered. We pointed out that it is big cuts in the poor suburb that is responsible for creating the desperation and deep alienation amongst some youth, including 14-16 year olds, which has led to the conditions that are a breeding ground for terrible gang violence.

Neo-Nazi rally a complete failure

The week-long anti-racist campaign produced results. The neo-Nazi rally, which police said would gather about 100, was a complete failure; because of our campaign, not more than 20 fascists, from across the country, turned up. Four of their National Democrat sympathizers from Gothenburg hide behind the police and their Swedish flag lay forlorn on the ground, waiting for buses to take them home.

Early in the morning of 6 April, 30 members of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna gathered for a ‘pre-meeting’ to discuss security and the day’s coming events. At 11 am, we erected two stalls and started to hand out flyers about the demonstration. At 12:30, the demonstration started with the rapper, Bigry Mac, who performed two songs that were met with loud applause. Then Stefan Berg, Chair of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna Gothenburg, spoke: “The anti-racist movement must go, hand in hand, with the fight against right wing policies – with clear slogans against cuts and political attacks. We can explain the roots of racism and simultaneously disrupt its ultimate representatives in the neo-Nazi movement. But the struggle against Nazism is not only anti-fascist demonstrations, even though you cannot exaggerate the importance of zero tolerance against racism. As important, are protests against the right wing neo-liberal experiments, such as closing down schools, cuts at youth centres and libraries.”

The anti-racist demonstration was a great victory. But it did not happen by itself – it required hard work. Members of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna went to the housing areas, workplaces and three youth centres. They talked to local youth about what it takes to stop gang violence and the importance of not letting the racists and neo-Nazis exploit anxiety following the tragic assault.

Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna handed out thousands of flyers and participated in numerous media interviews. But, above all, the successful counter-demonstration on 6 April was due to the influence and roots Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna has in the working class district of Kortedala. Even the police commented on the large turnout of local people. Gothenburg Chair, Stefan Berg, lives in Kortedala and the party’s local office, for many years, was in the area.

The large anti-racist demonstration also knock holes in the myth, which some within the anti-racist movement and the Left constantly repeat, that broad and big demonstrations are achieved by lowering the political banner (‘de-politicization’) and by also not putting forward a clear class perspective.

Housing crisis

Another reason for winning local support was due to Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna, over the last two weeks, carrying out an intensive campaign over housing – highlighting high rents, lack of renovations and private speculation.

Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna demand council administration of all mismanaged flats and a massive and climate-friendly renovation of these big housing areas.

The struggle against youth gang violence needs to take account of the unemployment facing young people in the poor suburbs, as well as discrimination and harassment from police. To remedy this, preventive action is needed, including properly funded and resourced leisure centres and youth facilities whose staff can help vulnerable young people.

Far right groups like the National Democrats have nothing to offer the working class. The National Democrats are part of the right wing agenda against working people, as can be seen by their policy of restrictions on trade union rights, and promotion of policies that would increase women’s oppression and homophobia.

Every rally the National Democrats organises is a threat to the rights and safety of others and must be combated.

Fascist thugs drive car at socialist

After the 6 April counter-demonstration, neo-Nazi thugs in a car tried to run over Kristofer Lundberg (Chair of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna in West Sweden) – not once but three times! – before fleeing the scene and swerving dangerously between cars and mounting a pavement. Police hunted the car down using a helicopter and two fascists were arrested.

If the anti-racist protest had not taken place, the number of potential victims of far-right violence would probably have been high.

In another act of retaliation following their humiliation, fascists published RS members’ names, home addresses and profile pictures on the internet.

But the fact is that the National Democrats failed, for the fourth time since 2004, to hold a meaningful demonstration in Gothenburg. Other fascist groups that tried to build a base of support in Gothenburg were also met with protest action and met stinging defeat. Last Friday’s counter-demonstration shows that the anti-racist tradition in the city remains strong, partly thanks to the role of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna.

Racism can not be ignored to death, it must be fought!

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April 2012