A short biography of Nils Lätt, Swedish anarchist who fought in Durruti Column during the Spanish Civil War.
Nisse Lätt was born on 30th December 1907 and grew up on a farm at Kjula in the Södermanland in Sweden. He was one of five children. At the age of fifteen he joined the Merchant Navy. In the Basque Country he met some Spanish anarcho-syndicalists who spoke Esperanto, something which he also was learning. As a result he joined the Swedish anarcho-syndicalist organization Sveriges Arbeter Centralorganisation (SAC -Swedish Central Organisation of Workers) at an early age.
He helped found the Swedish Syndicalist Youth (SSUF) with Holger Carlsson in June 1930 which had 300 members. In 1934 he made contact with the Spanish CNT in Bilbao.
Following the Francoist uprising Nisse made his way to Spain on 31st December 1936, coming from Paris with other anarchists. He was furnished with a safe conduct provided by the Anarcho-Syndicalist Committee for The Defence of the Spanish Proletariat , whose seat was at 41 Rue De Belleville and whose secretary was Albert Ganin. He joined the anarchist militia the Durruti Column, fighting in its International Group.
In mid-April he was involved in a combat at Santa Quiteria (Huesca) in which he was wounded in the forehead by a grenade explosion. He was evacuated to a hospital in Tarragona. There he underwent an operation which he preferred not to talk about in later life. This involved the removal of his left eye without anaesthetic.
He wanted to return to the front after his recovery but was not permitted. Shortly after the May Days in Barcelona that year, he joined the agricultural collective of Fabara in Aragon. Because of his red hair he was known there as El Rubio.
Whilst in Spain he provided regular reports to the Swedish Syndicalist Youth newspaper Storm.
He appears to have returned to Sweden during 1938.
Nisse wrote about his Spanish experiences in the pamphlet brochure As Militiaman and Collective Farmer In Spain which appeared in 1938. He later produced another pamphlet in 1945 Workers of the Sea about his experiences in the Merchant Navy.
In these years he worked in forestry and construction. He was active in the Gothen burg SAC and distributed many anarchist books, pamphlets and newspapers through the movement in Sweden. In the late 1940s he regularly contributed to Syndikalismen, the organ of the SAC.
He opposed the reformist line that the SAC took in the 1950s. In the early 1970s he became editor and publisher of the anarchist magazine Brand. He retired in 1972. His house was a meeting place for militant syndicalists and anarchists.
Between 1972 and 1975 he translated Peirats’ book on the Spanish revolution into Swedish.
With the spectacular re-emergence of the CNT after the death of Franco, Nisse attended and spoke at the mass rallies in Barcelona in 1977.
He died on 14th January 1988 in Gothenburg. After his death A Swedish Anarchist Speaks, his posthumous autobiography appeared in 1993.
Roy Solino-Moreno from the Spanish exile community in Gothenburg recalled Nisse visiting the family home in 1961 when he was ten. He was welcome and popular among the Spanish community in Sweden who were overwhelmingly anti-Franco. Roy’s mother was starting to write a book on life in Spain during and just after the Civil War. In return for improving his Spanish, Nisse helped Roy’s mother to write the book.
Solino-Moreno’s first impressions of Nisse were of a “very nice and quiet man who seemed somewhat shy and a little awkward”. He was soon to be proved wrong. Nisse removed his glass eye which “scared the crap” out of Roy and his brother. Remarking on the school history book that Roy and his brother were studying Nisse mentioned the fact that chamber pots were emptied out of windows into the streets in the Middle Ages and indeed later. This produced paroxysms of delight in Roy and his brother.
“Nisse was amazingly well read, highly educated and has definitely influenced my view of the world and he brought a tremendous thirst for knowledge to me. Nisse said many, many times that one does not have to be stupid because you happen to be a wage-slave. …. He taught me to detest and react to injustice, violence and war.”
SAC biography of Lätt:
Biographical entry in Dictionnaire Internationale des Militants Anarchistes:
Entry on Lätt on Ateneu Llibertaria Estel Negre’s site: