Kids, klezmer and black block- Gothenburg 30/9
I was asked to write a piece for the Swedish anarchist magazine Brand about the resistance against the Nazi march in Gothenburg 30/9.
The subject of the issue was joy and militancy, here you go!
One month of mobilization
How did we become that many?
We are everywhere
Everyone is here
Heden, that is
How did this happen?
With old fear in the body it's hard to feel any joy about
Folk musicians against racism, but today it's just nice
Some time has passed since 30/9: a fantastic outcome with over 15 000 anti-fascists, and a fucking disaster for the Nazis in NMR, the Nordic Resistance Movement.
The Nordic Resistance Movement is the largest Nazi group in Scandinavia, and operate in Sweden, Finland and Norway.
Beforehand they stated it would be the biggest Nazi demonstration since the Second World War in Sweden - instead they reached an all-time low with approximately 230 people.
In the weeks after, the bank accounts of NMR started getting closed down, several of them lost their jobs and have had problems keeping custody of their children.
The demonstration in Tampere, Finland was also a setback - will we look back on 30/9 as the day that broke NMR?
GAF, Gothenburg Anti-Fascist Front managed to organize a broad, large and successful manifestation in under a month.
Actually, the call was just for 1.5-hour long manifestation at the big field Heden. This framework made further resistance possible, and in fact it turned into an actual blockade of NMR’s attempt to march. Its estimated over 15 000 people took part.
I’m back in Gothenburg to speak with organizers: people who have been a part of the anti-fascist movement from the start and participants.
Our own documentation is important, of course this text only sheds light on some parts, but that doesn’t mean it is of lesser value because of that.
How is it possible to get such a huge amount of people out in the streets? Is there an anti-fascist subconsciousness in Gothenburg that played its part? Did they have a fun time, despite all the practical work and responsibilities?
How do we handle the victory?
On to the topic: joy and militancy!
I meet Stella, who has been a part of the anti-fascist movement in Gothenburg since the mid-nineties.
This was a time where extremely violent Nazis put their mark on the city: throwing molotov cocktails through the windows of the left community at night, and waiting by the door with baseball bats when people came running out, chasing teenage antifascists with axes around town, and so on.
Simultaneously, a strong anti-fascist movement was growing. The major body was made up of women in their late teens from the suburbs.
Gothenburg has also an old, strong communist tradition, more of the orthodox, authoritarian one, but parallel to that a stubborn Nazi movement.
These are factors that could have played their part to create a higher acceptance of mass militancy, when several people have encountered direct confrontation on a street level. Several bigger anti-fascist mobilisations also took place, such as a campaign to shut a white power record company down. A campaign that was successful.
So how does Stella think the history of the city has influenced what led up to the massive numbers participating?
- “We cooperate in the autonomous movement. We are, and were not, as dogmatic and rigid as for example the communists. We focused on cooperation, and tactics and strategy that were most efficient at that certain time. Broad agreements and coalitions have never been problematic for us, like for the extremely rigid political party-based left.”
- “NMR held a sort of ”trial-march” the week before the announced march. It was a huge tactical mistake. About 80 Nazis participated. They acted with self-confidence, but had totally misunderstood the situation. They have lived and grown in the crack created by passivity, made possible by the acceptance and normalisation of these extreme opinions. They have perceived this as support to openly parade Nazi opinions and symbols. On 30/9 they had signs with pictures of “criminals” - different politicians, celebrities and intellectuals they dislike. One had Emerich Roth on it - a old man who survived holocaust and is lecturing kids on it. He is highly appreciated and very well seen by people in common. Some of the people on the placards are almost looked upon as heroes. It's obvious they didn't have the support they believed they had. Also, the cooperation with “the book mass” (an alternative to the ongoing huge branch book fair, who opened up for the Nazi media “Nyheter idag” which is closely associated with NMR) and ETC (left publishing house, daily and weekly magazines) which took place at the huge plain Heden was very successful for GAF. The day clearly proved that when we are that many people who are convinced and acting collectively, there is no need for violence and riots. The fewer we are, the more force we need to use. Not because we like it, or want it, but because it's the only option at that point.”
- “We must not neglect the fact people have been aware something was going to happen since last year's book fair. The debate has been going on for a year's time, increasing the anti-fascist consciousness among people. And people remember the bombs: it happened so recently.” (The anarcho-syndicalist bookstore and meeting point “Syndikalistiskt Forum” and a refugee shelter were subjected to two bombings by members from NMR. A person cleaning at the shelter was badly injured.)
- “Militancy for me has been about taking back initiative, taking control over my own life, and facing my fears. To, no matter what, stand up and do the right thing. To defend us, when we are being attacked. To refuse, not back down. To work together. Being organized have given me so much joy and pride. I'm so thankful and proud over the years as a militant and what I learned! I regret nothing.”
Even him, the grumpy one
Mom and her pals
The pick up from last weekend
That nice Danish who had a spare balaclava when you were in Hamburg
The girl working at the convenience store, she said she was coming!
All the kids
And the sweet pea you haven't seen since summer
He almost died once
Today, more alive than everyone else
I don't get what's happening
It's impossible to get any overview here
But it seems like a dedicated bunch have raced away to make a blockade
Some have huge inflatable bath toys
Some are all covered up and motivated as hell
From one who are with the Nazis today:
They are not many
Not as in Falun
Hard to say, you know. 300? 400?
I also met with Erik and Andreas, two of the activists from GAF. They were involved in both the mobilisation on a local level and in northern Europe. On a daily basis, they are involved in for example the local anarcho-syndicalist union and the info shop Syndikalistiskt Forum. The people from forum did an amazing job putting together the Radical book fair during the weekend as well, with workshops, talks, food and lots of bookstalls.
I ask them to share their thoughts on the mobilisation and the overall plan of the day, and how their feelings are now, some weeks afterwards.
And of course, their thoughts on the topic militancy and joy.
- “I have the opinion there is no contradiction between mass mobilization and militancy. It was a clever strategy by GAF to set the level of militancy at a level where a maximum of people felt they could join, and still keep a confrontational attitude and practice”, said Andreas.
- “It has to do with an ideological standpoint as well: the working class has a basic anti-fascist attitude, by virtue of their class. People understand that fascism is bad for them”, Erik adds.
- “Yes, we worked under the thesis ‘everyone in Gothenburg hates Nazis’. Mass Media incited during the weeks before, and tried their best to scare people to stay at home. Afterwards, even the right-wing media persons had to turn their sails after the wind. The same columnist who two days before 30/9 wrote ‘Don't join the extreme left's stone throwing party’, commented the day after that ‘Gothenburg won’. Now, it's clear common people didn't care about what they wrote. The political parties had a manifestation the day before, and on the 30th there were also other gatherings in other places. But it was evident GAF’s level of militancy was what most people felt comfortable with”, says Andreas.
- “In this situation, it's smart not to describe possible scenarios with lots of violence. People in general won't show up if they think they risk being beaten up. The main goal for the mobilisation was to get all of Gothenburg on the streets, people who are not organised. The organised ones will come anyway. That also makes it important to not underestimate the role of mass media.”
- “And as stated earlier, people didn't care about the scare tactics depicted in the newspapers. We put trust in the expected anti-fascist intuition of the working class. It can sound a bit romantic, but it also turned out to be true. Thousands of people did tear down the fences, and jumped over in order to try and get as close to the Nazis as possible.”
- “Yes, and organized comrades took initiative within the framework of their organisations, and broke through and held blockades, like Allt åt Alla (Everything for Everyone) for example.”
- “When people showed up, and noticed the vibe was not at all as violent as media said, intuition took over. They jumped over the fences, and scuffled a bit with the cops in order to move forward. People, who when they woke up in the morning and put on their jackets didn't think they were going to be pepper sprayed ever in their life. If we during the mobilisation would have painted a picture of a situation of escalated violence, and, ‘If you have never been pepper sprayed before, think about this and this and this, because it could happen to YOU’. Ok, people in our part of the left who run this talk feel smart and cool, we “empower” people. But I believe that at this point we would have scared people off. Instead of them showing up and making their own decisions on how they want to act based on what they see, they don't show up at all. I guess you could talk about trust, that people make their own decisions in the situation”, says Erik.
- “No one is just ‘anti-fascist’. We are active in our neighbourhoods, workplaces and other different areas of interest. We are part of our communities and the society. That made a relatively radical network to run a mobilisation at this large scale possible. And then of course, you have a city that has the bombs fresh in mind.” Andreas is talking about the two attacks by members of NMR earlier this year. One against the activist bookstore “Syndikalistiskt forum”, another one against a refugee asylum. The last one injured a cleaner working there fatally.
- “There is a strong anti-fascist impulse in Gothenburg, but not a very strong anti-fascist left movement. But this time it was also evident the outcome was better, more fun and safer when we worked inclusively. It's hard to mobilise people to talk about political stuff when it's regarded as nerdy and strange as collecting post stamps for example. But when it's connected to people's everyday life as this was, and the access to your own city. I'm not head over heels about subculture. But I really like when we together are able to create norms. Like, you don't talk to police, you don't become a scab. You don't allow Nazis to march in the streets of your city. Creating solidarity is important.”
- “Then there were people who didn't respect our tactical agreements considering level of militancy. I didn't recognize the ones who threw stones as organised among us in Gothenburg, but they clearly were from the city. But it’s obvious there is a bunch of kids hating Nazis just totally, who haven’t been part of our tactical discussions. I can't help but wonder why we haven’t met before, do we have any common area of contacts? How can we communicate and cooperate in the future - because they seem to be the most enthusiastic anti-fascists? Kids in the suburbs here are forced to practice mass militancy on a daily basis. To practice solidarity and stick together. Of course, they hate Nazis - they are among the targeted.”
Come on, I don't understand what is going on
Where is it possible to break through?
Over there, an opening!
Fuck, the net is overloaded
I can't access twitter..
At the same time hundreds, thousands over at Heden are overturning the police fences
Helping each other coming through
with bicycles, strollers and walkers
Everyone wants to come as close as possible to the Nazis
Our city, not the Nazis
We are getting around
I’m so happy
I get to be with you
We’ve had each other’s backs
So many times, so many years
Once, we were hunted here
Now the street are ours
It's a carnival with boxing today
Kids, klezmer and black block
So much love and strength
Yom kippur today
I did quit dreaming
I don't remember when, it's more than a year ago
But after today it's not viable anymore
On the topic militancy and joy, Erik continues:
- “To be honest, I had great fun! As long as I´ve been active, I’ve been struggling with the fact I’m not good at violence. I find it really hard and scary. I don’t want to be a part of it, but understand that I have to. And of course, it is connected with this crappy male gender role, so of course I’m relieved when I can do other stuff. Not having to run around and have stomach ache. 30/9 gave me so much energy! It was good focus was not on confrontations with the police. Nazis were hunted down and got beaten up at 4-5 times in connection to the demonstration. Sympathizers who wanted to join the Nazi demo were chased off and couldn’t participate. The whole city was taken over by anti-fascists! There are the ones from Denmark, there is that comrade, here comes this family with small kids and granny to join the blockade, everyone is exchanging info all the time: good bushes to pee in, where is it possible to get through”. Andreas continues:
- “I’m not a violent person, I have really mixed feelings about militancy when it contains violence. Something I’ve been forced to escalate. Because I believe it's a necessary political strategy, if I ask it of others I should ask it of myself as well. I mean, I don’t find it fun at all to be bitten by police horses or be beaten up with batons - on the contrary it's tremendously exciting to see several thousands of people who refuse to follow orders by police for a bigger cause. So yes, I had great fun. In my opinion, we will be able to look back on 30/9 as a turning point. The Nazis are badly losing, on a general level. They really need those pictures where they appear to be well organized, able to use violence & disciplined. That didn’t succeed, instead they seemed silly and incapable. Also, there was a strong spotlight on them - who they are, where they work and so on. It works good to make it hard for them on a personal level. After this, several of them lost their jobs and one has lost care of his kid.”
New message from the Nazi demo: they are about 250
Kettled, pepper sprayed
They shall not pass
We are part of something bigger
That’s what we’re doing today
If we are capable of doing this
Then what is not possible
We’ll open the BB??
Throw APM out of the harbour
Giving the dockworkers back their jobs
Stop the deportations of
Get the world that is in our hearts
Out on the street, into our neighborhoods
At the tram
We start today
/ Dolores La Concha
Ps. On the same topic, check out the documentary, ”The Antifascists” on Swedish and Greek anti-fascism that was released on Youtube earlier this year:
Ps2 The release of Brand #4 2017 - Militant glädje will take place on December 28, 18.00 in Cyklopen, Stockholm
Check the event here https://gatorna.info/threads/release-brand-4-2017-...
Dolores La Concha