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Sweden Analysis

Thought provoking analyis and account of EU/Bush Protests. Take it with a grain of salt though. The author(s) are likely Trots. Still worth a read.
What happened and what next for anti capitalist movement
Gothenburg - this is what (social) democracy looks like!

Abetarmakt, Sweden
LRCI International Secretariat
18 June 2001

The brutal police repression dealt out to demonstrators in Gothenburg, from 14 to 16 June, marks a turning point in the anti-capitalist movement.

Any illusions that our movement can develop and move towards realising its goals in a context of playfulness, humour and non-violence were rudely shattered.

Despite the Swedish government's claim that it would set a "Gothenburg model" for peaceful protest based on "negotiations" and "dialogue" between the police and demonstrators the state forces acted from the outset to suppress democratic rights, break all the agreements they made with the organisers, and used violent repression— up to an including the shooting of three demonstrators.

Their aim from the outset was plainly to weaken, disorganise and disperse the movement from the very start.

The president of France, the German chancellor and the British prime minister were totally complicit in this resort to brutal repression. Indeed in all likelihood they were its prime instigators when they by criticised plans of the Swedish government and called for the strongest measures to "defend" their summit against unarmed and at the outset entirely peaceful demonstrators.

On the morning of 14 June— before the start of the 10,000 strong anti-Bush demonstration, riot police laid siege to the convergence centre before ANY action had taken place. Several hundred people were preparing defensive materials there for the march to the congress centre the next day. The raid was clearly designed to stop those best prepared to protect themselves against police violence.

They militantly defended themselves—White Overalls, Swedish AFA and international Black Block anarchists and comrades from the Swedish section of the LRCI led several attempted breakouts. These failed because of numbers and the relative scarcity of protective equipment.

Against the strong resistance of the dominanting force in the leadership of the anti-Bush demo—the Swedish Left Party (ex-CP) LRCI comrades, with the support of CWI and IST members won several thousand people to march from the anti-Bush demo to the occupied convergence centre.

By distracting the police the demonstrators allowed between 30 and 40 people to escape. This showed the strength of mass action. Several hundred people from the Black Block who broke away earlier from the demo to face the police at the convergence centre were unable to achieve much beyond trashing a few cars and throwing stones.

However the forces involved were still insufficient to raise the siege and the police stormed the centre and arrested all those who were not able to escape.

Batons, dogs, whips and. . . . . . bullets
On 15 June the Swedish police stopped the march against the summit after a few hundred meters. Up to this point not a blow had been struck nor a stone thrown at the police. Suddenly the demonstration was attacked on its flanks by riot police using enraged dogs— which bit and mauled dozens of demonstrators (and some of their own handlers).

Then they charged it with mounted riot cops, lashing out with batons and whips. Despite brave resistance from the demonstrators—armed only with banner poles and stones— the cops split up the demonstration and forced people back into the main street to the assembly point and than into the broad main avenue of central Gothenburg.

Then the so-called riot then followed. In essence it was the formation of barricades against the police advance from the chairs and tables of the street cafés which line the street.

Some smashing of shop and bank windows clearly served no defensive function but was understandable as a reaction to the unbridled aggression of the riot police.

Anyone who condemns the "violence" of the demonstrators, faced with dog bites, batoning and trampling by horses is— leaving aside consistent pacifists willing to suffer brutality in the name of their principles— a wretched apologist of the state's "right" to treat its citizens how it wills. No democrat—let alone a socialist or anarchist— could condemn such resistance. Self-defence is no offence!

Things clearly got out of hand from the point of view the Swedish police - i.e. they instigated a full-scale riot in a central entertainment and commercial area, it is clear however that they wanted a confrontation with the movement, that they were seeking a pretext for a violent clamp down on all forms of effective protest.

In the afternoon lots of protestors, organisers etc. were arrested in the streets and individuals chased by the cops. These arrests overwhelmingly did not occur during the fighting. In the evening the cops— and some fascist thugs— provoked the street party into another confrontation which culminated in the shooting of three demonstrator, one of them still in hospital in danger of his life.

This itself is a historic escalation of the violence, especially in Sweden where no similar action by the state has occurred since 1931 and where a long reign of social peace followed the election of a Social Democratic government in the 1930s. Again it is an attempt to intimidate, split and weaken the movement.

This attempt will fail. The inflicting of martyrs on a progressive, militant, advancing movement—as for example the Kent State University students in the USA in 1968— will only increase the militancy, scale and determination of our movement. Once the initial media-induced frenzy about destruction of property abates broader and broader masses of young people and workers will see the ugly face of the corporate state, unmasked.

In the evening, they encircled a few hundred strong peaceful protest against the shootings for hours, before arresting dozens of them.

Later that night anti-terrorist squads raided a school where 200 or so people were sleeping armed with machine guns and radar directed pistols. They made the expelled people lie face down, spreadeagled on the rain soaked ground, outside the school, before a number of arrests were made.

During all these raids more than a thousand demonstrators were arrested—detained for six hours—photographed though most were released without charge. Others were deported. Dozens have been rushed through quick trials for "breach of the peace", many without the presence of any lawyer or legal support. Some await trial on more serious charges. A campaign must be waged for their immediate release.

What are they frightened of?
The scale of repression in Gothenburg represents an organised violation of the civil rights of Swedish and European citizens. It shows clearly is what "fortress Europe" is becoming.

It is not only a fortress against the poor and oppressed of the "outside world"—the main subject of the demonstrations. It is also going to become a prison house for Europe's own peoples too—especially when they try to assert their democratic rights.

The social democratic German chancellor Schröder commented: "There cannot be any dialogue with these desperados". These infamous words should be burned into the consciousness of the millions of workers who voted for him. This man is a hardened agent of global capital, not any kind of democrat, let alone a socialist. So too is Blair, Chirac or Persson.

They are now setting out to make the actual "Gothenburg model" a permanent feature of European life. They want to organise a continent-wide state of siege whenever people try to assert their democratic rights on an international level.

They want to extend their bans against "football hooligans" to "political troublemakers" and ban travel to international protests. A conference of EU-interior ministers will now co-ordinate police logistics for this purpose. In Brussels they will create a permanent bunker in which the meetings of the arrogant EU-leaders will take place—free from disturbance by their subjects.

Genoa will be turned into an enormous prison for its own people from the 18 July onwards and the German, Austrian and French borders be closed.

Why has Gothenburg become such a culminating point? The main reason is clear. For years we see the growth of an international anti-capitalist movement. We see mass protests in the semi-colonies, mass strikes, occupations of land. We have seen demonstrations of young anti-capitalists, immigrants, militant trade unionists, anarchists, socialists and communists - all joining in mass protests against global capitalism and its institutions.

This international movement is an undeniable reality and it is a real threat to the bosses and their governments. That is the reason why they are now starting to criminalise its activists, to try to isolate the most radical parts of it from the broad masses. The imperialists are terrified by this development.

They fear that as becomes better organised, as develops links with the working class an open anti-capitalism will come to the fore in workers movement. That is why they want to abort this movement now, why they want to destroy as much as they can now. That is why the bourgeois governments are calling to restrict or cancel elementary democratic rights, why they call for more and more repression.

This is a declaration of war on the movement - and we must organise NOW to repel this attack by all the governments of global capital, irrespective whether they are staffed by "Socialists", Liberals, Greens, Conservatives, and whether they incorporate the far right—as in Italy and Austria— or not.

Gothenburg proves again that every government in a capitalist state is serves the interest of the ruling class - irrespective whether or not it does so in the name of "dialogue" or "confrontation".

That is why every the whole workers movement, why every student, why all oppressed and exploited must rally for a international campaign to defend and win our right to demonstrate, to organise and our right of free movement.

The lessons of Gothenburg—political
How could the police succeed in splitting up the anti-capitalist demonstration after only 15 minutes, in arresting and deporting hundreds?

Firstly, the leaderships of the mass unions and the social-democratic parties refused to organise contingents to Gothenburg at all. But even the ones who supported or organised the demonstration on the 16 June, like the Swedish Left Party, did there best to keep the anti-capitalists separated from the mass of workers and students. They sought to isolate those who wanted to break through the police barriers to make their protest known.

Reformist alliances like ATTAC and the Gothenburg Network strove to prevent demonstrators doing anything to approach the EU leaders fortified venue.

The Network, dominated by the Swedish Left Party held a large 10,000 strong march on the Friday evening that went nowhere near the conference centre and concentrated on "get out of the EU" slogans.

The Left Party leader, Gudrun Schyman came out with a statement which could have been drafted by Gerhard Schröder or Chirac. On the march on the 16 June she explicitly defended the police, saying "The police had a very hard job to do against these troublemakers, who only want violence for the sake of violence just like football hooligans." Again an infamous remark, with which she should be branded for life!

Why do the refomist leaders rush to clear themselves of the blame apportioned by the capitalist media for any fightback against the state? Because refomism is mental enslavement to bourgeois public opinion. It is a systematic trimming of "socialism" to what the capitalists will allow. Reformism genetically lacks a backbone. It must be driven out of the workers' movement.

The leaders of Attac , more honourably put the main blame on the police for the violence but did not overtly defend the demonstrators.

Sincere democrats— let alone revolutionary socialists should refuse to be cowed by the millionaire media shrieking about "anarchist violence". We do not "condemn the violence"—even the mistaken acts— of those resisting the organised and massive violence of the state which preceded and provoked that of the demonstrators. We condemn the violence of the state which violated our democratic rights.

Of course we take no responsibility for the looting of shops and private acts of destruction which have no political meaning. But these were utterly peripheral, whatever the media says.

Misleaders like Schyman must take the main responsibility for keeping the workers movement separate from the anti-capitalist youth, not the smashing of shop windows. Our criticism of the latter is not only that it is an inadequate revenge on the state and the bosses in itself but that it makes the work of the Schröders and the Schymans more easy.

Schyman's words also shows the political bankruptcy of the national centred "Out of the EU" movements. It only takes an international movement which threatens the capitalists in all countries - and these EU-critics side with their governments and EU imperialism.

We do have to prevent the media, the bourgeois parties, the official labour leaders from isolating, criminalising and effectively outlawing our movement. We have to launch a massive campaign to defend the democratic rights that Schröder, Blair and Co. are targeting— the right to assemle and demonstrate, the freedom to travel from one country to another.

But the key way to avoid isolation is to turn to the rank and file of the workers movement, to involve them in our actions, to patiently win them to militant tactica. Isolation of a small militant vanguard is obviously what the EU autocrats are abou. But we shall not fall into their trap.

The European imperialists have demonstrated that the creating of a European imperialist superstate, able to stand up one day to the USA the world superpower deadly serious project for Europe's corporate capitalists. They are not prepared to accept any form of sustained or effective protest against this.

The German and Austrian foreign ministers could not hide their irritation at the "failure" of the Irish government to deliver a "yes vote" in return for the largess they feel they have showered on Ireland over the last decade. They demonstrated their understanding of "democracy" by arrogantly demanding that the Irish government "turn around" this vote as soon as possible.

But the fight against the undemocratic and bourgeois European institutions cannot be won be defending one's own "independent" capitalist state. It must be done by fighting for the extension of democratic and social rights throughout Europe, by fighting against the racist sealing off of the EU.

The democratic aspirations of the masses have to be united in a struggle for a European wide constituent assembly. The election and convocation of such and assembly and every step against the capitalists must serve a means to organise the working class in base organisations on a European level, to unite it in struggle and as a bridge to a European revolution, a united socialist states of Europe based on workers councils and militias to replace the un-elected and uncontrollable repressive state machines of the capitalists.

Gothenburg was a turning point for the anti-capitalist movement because it demonstrated the need for a political step forward. The reformist leaders showed their true face by denouncing the arrested protesters, not the cops. But their biggest service to the corporate capitalists is that through their stranglehold of the labour movements—unions as well as reformist parties they can block the unity of the majority of the working class with the radical young workers and students.

As we have seen in Quebec and Seattle, the protests were most successful, when the anti-capitalists and the unionised workers were united in action. In Europe—because of the historic roots of "socialist reformism" we have not yet succeeded in making such a breakthrough. In the mobilisations for Genoa we must do so. We need greater numbers and these can only come from mobilising the unions —from below—as well as radicalised young people.

The Lessons of Gothenburg—strategy and tactics
But even numbers alone will not be enough. We need organised numbers clear as to their aims. We need a democratically recognised leadership of the actions including all the political, social, trade union, environmentalist, anti-fascist, anti-racist organisations, parties, groupings.

Above all we need an organised defence of our demonstrations against police attack, one capable of helping the mass forces to break through police lines and guard against police agent provocateurs. But this means challenging not only the reformists, but also the many of the individual-anarchist sentiments within the present movement.

The tactics of non violent direct action (NVDA), those advocated by Ya Basta!, and also of those of the Black Block all have the disadvantage of fetishising one particular tactic, one particular form of struggle against all others.
Worse they pursue their chosen fetish even when it obviously disrupts and disorganises the task of winning sufficient mass forces so that their weight can be used to full effect.

Only thus can the confidence and horizons of the workers and youth involved be raised. In one sense they are parallel to the reformists (and some self-proclaimed revolutionaries) who fetishise the peacefulness and legality of mass demonstrations.

Both NVDA as well as the property smashing of the Black Block are an ineffective way to actually stop any determined repressive state apparatus. NVDA - whilst useful as a tactic sometimes - always presumes a high degree of restraint in the use of violence by the state itself. This is a vain hope agenda and after Gothenburg and it will be even more so in Genoa. As a principle NVDA therefore is a cul de sac.

The same is true for the post-modernist symbolic pushing of Ya Basta! and the White Overalls. Their public, media-seeking preparations, their disavowal of even defensive violence, their tactical visibility and relative immobility, all mean this is only a hyperactive, and rather élitist form of NVDA.

Once the state is no longer embarrassed to block frontiers, raid convergence centres, arrest anyone in a white overall and confiscate their equipment this novel tactic will be seen as a passing fad.

The danger is that those who had illusions in it will turn to fetishing violence as they once festishised non-violence.

The Black block anarchists, antifascists and autonoms, whatever their street fighting skills and undoubted courage are usually not able to break through solid police lines, and they cannot build links with the mass of the working class who are repelled by wanton smashing of property. This is not only because of longstanding reformist prejudices but because they (correctly) cannot see what use it is.

Still less is their festishised strategy of street fighting with the cops able to undermine or destroy capitalism. They confuse a few police casualties and the destruction of some private property with destruction of the state and a social system.

Their intentions may be good, and it is not accidental that they attract many radical youth, but force, like "peaceful" mass protest has to be directed in a way that consciously achieves its goals. It has to be done in an organised way if it is not to rebound upon its initiators.

Where Now?
Berlusconi's response has been contradictory. At first he threatened repression to ban the Genoa protests. He has said that the city will be sealed off for four days. The G7 leaders will be accommodated in battleships moored in the harbour!

The Borders of Italy will be sealed! The he promised to conduct a dialogue with the protesters and respect the right to demonstrate.. Unless the Italians and European anticapitalist and labour movement mobilises on a massive scale these "democratic" promises will be honoured in the "spirit of Gothenburg".

There will be a strong tendency for the reformists and liberals in the anticapitalist movement to run for cover, suggesting that "discretion is the better part of valour".

Certainly we can rely more on their discretion than their valour. WE need to press on with our plans for a huge mobilisation to go to Italy for the G7 summit. We should try in every way possible to evade the Blair-Schröder-Berlusconi blockade.

This will require cunning as well as bravery. The maximum number must try to get through but in any case WHEREVER WE ARE STOPPED IS GENOA. And there we must demonstrate, try to break through, discus s amongst ourselves and agitate amongst local workers and youth.

Those of us who cannot take the time or do not have the money, needed for international travel can TURN OUR OWN CITIES AND TOWNS INTO GENOA for the duration of the summit. Comrades in Italy could demonstrate in every major centre, win their countries militant workers to mass strike action, warn Berlusconi and his fascist infiltrated government that they had better not lay a finger on their social rights.

Let's show that if they violate our rights in one place by sheer force of numbers of police and weaponry it springs up with renewed forces in a dozen, a hundred places. Nor will this be an empty gesture or "protest politics" . It will strengthen the movements of the working class, the oppressed and exploited worldwide for the struggle against global capitalism, against the lays-offs and privatisations of the multinational corporations and their obedient states.

The arrogant rulers of corporate Europe have thrown down a challenge to us. They have declared a holy war on our movement. We take up their challenge without fear or hesitation.

Messrs Blair Schröder, Chirac and Berlusconi— you are ripping off the democratic mask of your European project. Well and good. It will help us to expose you for what you are—first to the young workers and intellectuals of the continent whose "hearts and minds" you say you seek to win for your "European project". Then to the millions of workers who voted you in to office, thinking they could protect their jobs and social gains.

Without resorting to petty nationalism we shall turn the hearts and minds of millions against you and your system. And these millions will organise and act against you. We shall organise an international movement powerful enough to unleash a political and economic class struggle that will sweep you and your "Third Ways" or "Neue Mitte" into history.