Left Party Condemns Violence in Gothenburg

The Left Party strongly condemns the violence and terror which targeted Gothenburg the 14 -16th June 2001. The Left Party has always opposed violence as a method of political action.  It is neither a sign of radicalism nor of socialism to smash windows, to throw paving stones or to attack the police.

The Left Party was one of the organisers of the big marches taking place on Friday June 15th in the evening and on Saturday June 16th in the morning. We participated in the preparatory work for both these marches with the specific objective of ensuring that they should be carried out in a peaceful way. Once the vandalism had taken place, the Left Party within a matter of hours condemned the violence, calling upon the marchers to disassociate themselves from all forms of rioting. We participated in both these large and orderly marches against the EU/EMU and against globalisation, taking our share of the responsibility to act as guards, making sure the demonstrations would proceed peaceably and with dignity. This we succeeded in doing. The violence did not place in connection with these two big marches for which preparation had been progress for a long time. The Left Party condemned the perpetrators on its home page www.vansterpartiet.se on June 16th, 18th and 19th.

In the context of these events and the debate they have triggered, it is essential that we continue to defend the right to take part in public demonstrations and freely to express opinions. These are inalienable democratic rights and we must reject all attempts to limit or to abolish them with reference to what happened in Gothenburg. Several  leading conservative and liberal leaders have during the past few days accused the Left Party of being directly responsible for the havoc that was wreaked. This is to take advantage of an unhappy situation for Gothenburg and for Sweden  in order to score cheap points in the domestic political debate. What we now need to do is to co-operate as widely as we possibly can against terrorism and methods of violence.  We must stand together in defence of the rule of law and the legitimate right of the police to use force in special circumstances. At the same time, we stress that such force must always be justified and never become assault.

We believe that prohibiting the use of masks must come up for discussion, not least in the commission of enquiry now being set up by the government. We do not consider it to be part of a democratic pattern of behaviour to wear masks when publicly expressing opinions. We take it for granted that the Left Party and representatives of the democratic EU-critical opinion will take part in the work of the commission. Its tasks should include enquiring into methods exercised by the police and the extent of their authority, besides studying the experience gained in other countries, especially Denmark. Alternative ways of dealing with threats of hooliganism must be found in order to prevent situations such as those in Gothenburg from arising once again. An escalation in the arming of the police is not, however, the best solution, as we see it.

In trying to reach an understanding of how all this could happen, we must not forget the following background. In Sweden there is  a widespread scepticism with regard to the EU. It reflects the fact that people see a United States of Europe gradually taking shape. In spite of a great many people making their voice heard in rejection of this development,  the process of change steadily proceeds regardless, a development towards Sweden joining the Euro, towards the militarisation of the EU and the abandoning of Swedish neutrality, which still has strong popular support. The right of asylum has been severely restricted, road transport all over Europe is increasing heavily to the detriment of the environment, animals are transported long distances for slaughter under unworthy conditions and our food is produced with chemical methods of agriculture. Our daily lives are full of stress and we are swamped with messages promoting consumerism and competition.

There is growing radical criticism of the whole system, not least among young people. Priority is given to the free movement of capital and goods, not to the well-being of  individuals. People see limousines transporting politicians to summit meetings behind sealed doors, where no insight is afforded. Many people feel strongly that their opinions are completely disregarded by the EU leadership. The Union project is far removed from the political ideal of  progress firmly rooted in wide popular support. As the distance increases between those elected and the people, frustration also grows. This development must be considered seriously.

Nevertheless, Gothenburg also came to symbolise dialogue. Sweden was the first member state to attempt a dialogue between the public and the EU-leadership. On the one hand there was a continuous dialogue between the police, the municipality and  the organisers of the marches. On the other, there were seminars and debates in various fora in Gothenburg, run by many organisations, amongst them Attac. The Prime Minister and government ministers also took part. These activities provided successful examples of discussions on the pros and cons of EU-membership and the current development of the Union. It is of paramount importance that the dialogue be continued. Democratic influence must susbstantially increase. Professional marauders must be isolated, but we have a common responsibility to continue the dialogue with young people in their vicinity. Neither money nor stones should be allowed to shape the future.

The Executive Committee of the Left Party  

Spectre, which has always enjoyed a friendly relationship with the Vänster (Left) Party, would criticise this statement, not for what it contains, but for what it leaves out: criticism of the violence of the police. We would welcome readers’ views on this and on the events at Gothenburg in general.