Balance-sheet of Bush's visit to Gothenburg

Mykael Nyberg reports from Gothenburg

Three shot and many arrested. That is the spectacular result of the EU Summit meeting in Stockholm and the visit of US president George W Bush.

Sweden is in shock. Not since 1931, when army units opened fire against striking workers, has anyone been shot during political demonstrations in the country.

The Swedish government had planned to use its half-year chairmanship of the EU Council of Ministers to make the Union more popular in Sweden. After the 1994 referendum, when social democratic leaders, supported by monopoly capital, managed to get a "yes" vote for membership in the EU by a tight margin, a lot of people in Sweden have felt cheated. Promises made during the pro-EU-campaign have not been held.

The continuing resistance against the EU makes it hard for the government to follow the leading capitalist states in Europe into the European Monetary Union (EMU). It also makes it difficult to further develop military ties with EU/NATO countries in Europe.

Prime minister Goran Persson therefore wanted to make the top meeting in Gothenburgh a showcase for the European Union. He hoped to marginalize those demanding a Swedish withdrawal from the EU by promoting a dialogue with groups more positive to the so-called European project. Among these groups were organizations criticizing neo-liberal policies and finance capital, but not even supporting resistance against the EMU, an instrument which institutionalizes the dictatorship of banks and big business over economic policies. Loosely affiliated with this political stream were also young anarchists wanting to smash capitalism by direct action and resisting most concrete demands against the EU for fear of promoting "nationalism". They claim they are against the capitalist state, but fail to see how this state is strengthened by the European great power alliance.

"Peaceful dialogue -- not confrontation" was the slogan of the government. At the same time, though, politicians had let loose forces in the police working in a different direction. Through secret police co-operation in the Europol, the beginning of a European FBI, Swedish police chiefs have learned more repressive and heavy handed ways. These methods were practiced from the very beginning of the Gothenburgh meeting.

Thursday morning the 14th of June, just as the US president arrived, police forces surrounded a school in Gothenburgh, where young activists, invited by the city council, had spent the night and were preparing political seminars. Police officers claimed they wanted to arrest and disarm some violent hooligans among the activists, but by their provocative action they drove several hundreds more into the hands of the most short-sighted anarchists, eager to start a fight but without any mass support. Three days of violent clashes between stonethrowing youngsters and lots of policemen with horses, dogs and batons followed.

Late Friday night a couple of policemen started shooting and a 19 year old boy was seriously wounded. A police helicopter was in the air day and night surveying the events, and an army of journalists and photographers followed every clash on the streets. Press coverage concentrated completely on the violence, and politicians got an opportunity to demand tougher laws and more weapons against demonstrators.

The Gothenburgh meeting was clearly a PR-disaster for Goran Persson, but, overlooked by the media, it was also a silent victory for popular resistance against the policy of following the great powers of Europe and the US. Three well-organized and disciplined mass demonstrations marched through the city during the EU meeting. Each brought together 10.000 to 20.000 participants, which is very good by Swedish standards. (The whole country has only 9 million inhabitants.)

The first demonstration was a well deserved welcome for the US president. "Go home, Bush!", was the message. The two others were directed against the EU and EU policies. Most important politically was the Friday demonstration, organized by the Swedish No to EU-movement. The government had hoped, and media had speculated, that it would be the last breath of the EU-resistance. In fact, despite the clashes during the day, it got a huge following, probably the biggest of all the demonstrations.

During his visit to Gothenburgh president Bush promised Goran Persson that Sweden, home of the Bofors company, would henceforth be regarded as a NATO-country in weapons-export policies. This was another proof of the ever tighter bonds between the Swedish government and the great powers. 20.000 demonstrators, however, demanded a return to Sweden's former policy of neutrality and non-alignment.