The Internet Anti-Fascist: Tuesday, 16 November 1999
Vol. 3, Number 94 (#358)
A HATE CRIME THE SWEDES COULDN'T IGNORE: KILLING OF CLERK
WHO PROTESTED NEO-NAZIS SEEN AS WARNING CALL THAT ANYBODY COULD BE TARGET
Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times -- 14 Nov 99)
STOCKHOLM--No one here took much notice of the hundreds of hate crimes
against immigrants over the last few years that besmirched the image of
Sweden as a bastion of tolerance and serenity.
Nor did many here rise up in anger over the execution-style slayings of two
police officers who foiled a bank robbery by neo-Nazis in May, or the car
bombing a month later that seriously wounded an investigative reporter who
had been documenting this country's white supremacist movement.
But when a mild-mannered warehouse clerk was gunned down in his Stockholm
apartment last month after protesting the election of an avowed neo-Nazi to
the board of his trade union, Swedes got the message that any open-minded
person could be an enemy or a victim of racist radicals.
Three gunmen fired six bullets into the head of Bjoern Soederberg on Oct.
12 after the warehouse worker for an office supply company disclosed to
newspapers that the man elected to represent his union shop, Robert
Vesterlund, was the publisher of two racist periodicals and participated in
white supremacist rallies.
Vesterlund had been forced to resign before the shooting, for which three
neo-Nazis in his inner circle have been arrested and charged.
"Bjoern wasn't an anti-Nazi crusader. He was just an average guy who did
what any decent person would have done, which is to stand up and confront
something that is wrong," said Anna-Clara Bratt, editor of the Arbetaren
labor journal. "Almost 90% of Swedish workers are trade union members, so
his murder served as a warning call that anyone could be next."
Before Soederberg's slaying, Bratt said, Swedes tended to avert their eyes
from the ugly assaults and harassment of immigrants and refugees, who now
make up as many as 1 million of Sweden's 8.9 million residents.
Since 1995, there have been at least four slayings of foreigners attributed
to neo-Nazis, and police have investigated hundreds of racially motivated
attacks each year, said Margareta Lindroth, deputy director of Sweden's
SAPO security forces.
Attacks such as those on the police officers and journalist likewise were
brushed off by most Swedes as occupational hazards.
Sociologists and historians attribute the recent surge in neo-Nazi violence
to desperation among a small but powerful minority that has come to realize
that it cannot penetrate the established political parties and win converts
to its anti-immigrant and racist message.
Unlike in Austria, where the ultranationalist Freedom Party won the
second-largest number of votes in parliamentary elections last month with
toned-down rightist rhetoric, the vast majority of Swedes array themselves
among parties firmly on the political left.
"Neo-Nazi activists today realize there is no way they can ever arouse the
Swedish masses. The majority of Swedes will never get behind the national
socialist banner of racial revolution," said political scientist Matthias
Gardell, a University of Stockholm professor who has written extensively on
Sweden's racist radicals.
Like other analysts, he estimates the number of neo-Nazi activists at no
more than a couple thousand, of which perhaps 50 are believed to be
willing to carry out serious crimes. But their relatively small number and
fragmentation make them all the more dangerous, he said, because being
marginalized intensifies their "paranoid view of themselves as white
warriors facing extermination."
The Internet allows Sweden's racists to form bonds with U.S. white
supremacist groups, emboldening the Nordic extremists by giving them the
sense of belonging to a broader community, Gardell said. Sweden also has
become the international production and marketing center for racist music
cassettes and CDs, whose sales on the Internet help finance the extremists'
activities, he said.
But Gardell believes that Sweden's radicals made a tactical error in
attacking Soederberg, because the 41-year-old clerk's slaying inspired the
first broad anti-racist backlash. Tens of thousands took to the streets
across Sweden late last month to demand a government crackdown on neo-
Nazis. Some political parties have called for a ban on public activities
by racists and nationalists and a formal prohibition against membership in
organizations openly espousing fascism.
A recent poll by the SIFO Institute published in Dagens Nyheter, a
prominent daily newspaper here, showed 69% of respondents backing a
criminal ban on right-wing extremism--the first hint of majority support
for free-speech restrictions in modern Sweden.
But most leftists and liberals, who have controlled the power structure for
decades, argue that a ban would do little more than drive the extremists
"We already have laws against murder and bombing. We think the laws are
sufficient; they just need to be practiced," said Ulla Hoffmann, a member
of parliament from the Left Party. "What is at issue is free speech. If we
start by forbidding Nazis to talk, the next ones silenced will be the
Communists and other leftist parties."
What national leaders need to do to fight the neo-Nazi resurgence, Hoffmann
said, is to guide the country through a long-overdue confrontation with its
World War II role.
Although Sweden ostensibly remained neutral during the war, officials have
conceded over the last decade that the country supplied Germany's Third
Reich with iron ore for its munitions factories and allowed Nazi troops to
pass through Sweden en route to attacks on other countries.
Hoffmann and Hannele Peltonen of the Syndikalisterna, a trade union
umbrella that covers Soederberg's shop, tie the rise in right-wing
extremism to a distorted self-image of Swedes as innocents and to flagging
financial support for schools and social services. The latter, they said,
enhances the impression among nationalists and conservatives that
immigrants represent competition for pieces of the shrinking public pie.
"There are a lot of right-wing people working inside police and military
organizations," Peltonen said, suggesting that their sympathies for some of
the neo-Nazi causes explain why existing laws prohibiting threats against
ethnic groups or incitement of violence are seldom applied.
Syndikalisterna's offices in the town of Gavle, about 90 miles north of
Stockholm, were bombed a week after the suspects in Soederberg's death were
arrested, suggesting that a dangerous rear guard in the radical right
remains at large and active, Peltonen said.
Police contend that the suspects in the Soederberg killing were linked with
the National Socialist Front of Karlskrona, the country's largest openly
neo-Nazi group with an estimated 400 members.
RIGHTWING QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
For those who believe that fascism is only a thing of the past
It's time to begin thinking about how we racists are going to party at
12:00 January 1, 2000. Pigs will be spread pretty thin. So many people will
be shooting firearms in the air that one pointed horizontally won't alert
too much attention. Will niggers and spics tear up Sout' Central again?
Where will most Jews be at the stroke of midnight? And is there enough
"national security?" to protect every one of the ZOG's precious, loyal
sheeple? Please send your ideas about how we should go about arranging this
party of ours.
-- Ax Curtis
The Nationalist Observer (Nov 99)
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