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
1999. Pictures are from the
1999. Pictures are from the Medborgarplatsen square in Stockholm, overflowing with 20,000 mourners. This was also a rare show of unity, probably being the first time since the Second World War the LO confederation felt compelled to stand shoulder to shoulder with their politically independent counterpart. Even today, they refer to Björn as "trade union leader" in their communications - not the grass-roots syndicalist he in reality was.
Manifestation in Malmö, 1999.
Every year since 1999, the SAC and other anti-fascist groups gather on the Day of Civil Courage to celebrate the memory of Björn, and the recipient of the yearly Björn Söderberg Prize for Civil Courage (a worker or group of workers nominated as having acted in the spirit of Björn)
A nice rendition of Bella Ciao by the Stockholm Anarcha-feminist Choir (01:30 in)
Music at the La Mano memorial to the Swedish Spanish Civil War volounteers
Flier for manifestation in the city of Norrköping
Speeches in Gothenburg
Manifestation in a smaller Swedish city
Announcement of the Söderberg Prize for Civil Courage
Older flier about events on 12th October around Sweden
Thanks for this altemark
Thanks for this altemark
Yeah, altemark, thanks for
Yeah, altemark, thanks for that. It would be great if you could edit in the photos to the above article (by uploading the images and embedding them) for future reference
Ah, I didn't realize I could
Ah, I didn't realize I could edit the article. Will upload for future-proofing
Yesterday was 20 years since
Yesterday was 20 years since Björn was murdered. More people than usual at the March in Stockholm.
Since 1999 the 12th of October is known as "The Day of Civil Courage", and every year the SAC hands out a Civil Courage memorial prize to worker(s) who have been nominated as having acted in the spirit of Björn. This year the person honored was Anna-Karin, a healthcare worker who highlighted long-running workplace safety risks at her workplace, long-ignored by the majority business union.
Together with the regional workplace safety rep of Stockholm LS she managed to force the management to take notice that more than 50% of the workforce felt "scared to die every die I go to work", with even more having suffered various injuries and bruises from interactions with clients. After doing this, the bosses tried to victimize Anna-Karin but failed, and the Swedish Work Environment Authority has cracked down on them. However, the workers are not yet rid of the bullying and incompetent boss - but the struggle has only just begun - "Sometimes anger is a productive force", Anna-Karin summarizes in an interview with the SAC magazine Arbetaren