An article from the UK based anarchist journal, Black Flag on the 1999 murder of a Swedish syndicalist by fascists.
Björn Söderberg, a veteran union activist in the Swedish syndicalist union, Sveriges Arbetares Centralorganisation, SAC, was murdered by fascists on the evening of October the 12th. Söderberg, in his forties, was shot three times outside his apartment in the Stockholm suburb of Sätra. One shot was directly through the head.
He had recently played a crucial role in exposing a well-known fascist, Robert Vesterlund, at his workplace in southern Stockholm. The fascist had won the confidence of his work-mates and had been elected as the local union steward. Upon being exposed however, the fascist was removed from his union position and later left the union. In subsequent newspaper articles Vesterlund was quoted as saying "It's time to get tough." Since then, Vesterlund kept close tabs on Söderberg, amongst other things obtaining his passport photo (by law, a public document in Sweden).
Vesterlund's fascist career began in the youth organisation of the fascist parliamentary party Sverigedemokraterna (the Sweden Democrats). He recently joined the notoriously violent Swedish nazi group, Ariska Broderskapet (Aryan Brotherhood). Vesterlund was also involved, though never questioned by the police, in a car-bombing incident in June 1999, in which an anti-fascist journalist and his eight-year-old son were badly injured. The police have arrested three fascists suspected in connection with Söderberg’s murder.
The SAC held demonstrations across Sweden in memory of Söderberg and against fascist violence on Saturday the 23rd of October. The same day, fascists bombed the SAC-owned house Joe Hill Gården in Gävle. As well as being the offices of the local federation of SAC, the house has great symbolic value as the birth place of Joe Hill. (Joe Hill left Sweden and emigrated to the United States where he earned a name for himself within the ranks of American syndicalist union IWW-Industrial Workers of the World). No one was killed, but parts of the house were demolished.
The demonstrations were, with a few exceptions, organised by the Swedish syndicalists, though other groups such as the large reformist unions, bolsheviks and other leftist organisations gave their support. Demonstrations ranged from 20,000 people in Stockholm, 6000 in Gothenburg, 3000 in Malmö, down to the hundreds in small towns like Borås and Luleå. In all, 25 cities and towns throughout the country saw demos. The Syndicalist Youth federation, SUF, criticised attempts in certain places to tone down the political content of the protests as going "directly against the views held by Björn Söderberg, in whose memory they were holding the manifestation, and against the principles of syndicalism!" The SUF added, "The fascists of Sweden understand that the Swedish syndicalists and workers movement as a whole are the only threat they have to take on seriously."
The most brutal fascists are involved in the NSF (National Socialist Front) and Combat 18. Sweden is also one of the largest exporters of "white power" music. The murder comes against a background of increasing fascist attacks on both anti-fascists and the police. However, according to AntiFascistisk Aktion, "the Swedish State continues to portray anti-fascists and extra-parliamentary activists as "public enemies no.1", while remaining docile in the face of repeated fascist violence." They draw the logical conclusion: "we shall be forced to defend ourselves. The best defence is a good offence."
Originally appeared in Black Flag #219