What happened in Gothenburg?
Statement by the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP)

For those who were not in Gothenburg during the recent meeting of EU prime ministers and receive information on it solely through the mainstream media, the events of June 15-17 appear to comprise two diametrically opposed components - on the one hand, a "successful" ministerial meeting that dealt with the future of not only the EU, but of "Europe", i.e. our future. On the other, violent destruction of parts of the city by "hoodlums".

However, there was in fact a third component, in the form of massive politi-cal demonstrations. These were the link that creates the context in which the EU ministers' decisions and the stone-throwing youngsters must be considered. But these demonstrations were ignored by EU politicians and the mainstream media? Why?

On June 14, more than 15,000 people demonstrated - peacefully - in Gothenburg against the imperialist "globalization" policies of the US govern-ment, under the slogan "Bush not welcome".

On June 15, more than 20,000 people demonstrated - peacefully - in Gothenburg with clear political demands- "Sweden out of the EU! No to the EMU!". This was the largest demonstration against membership in the EU that has ever been held during a meeting of the EU prime ministers.

On Saturday, June 16, more than 25,000 people demonstrated - peacefully - for "A different Europe". They protested against the militarization of the EU, against the Schengen agreement, which discriminates against refugees, against the EU's institutionalization of neo-liberal policies, and against the commodification of the public sector and the environment.

None of these popularly supported demonstrations were reflected in the mainstream media. None of the leading EU politicians paid any attention to the demands for democracy that were put forward. On the contrary, the leaders of the EU saw to it that they were physically and literally shielded hermetically against the people's opinions and demands. They kept to their agenda, oblivious of the people's protests.

The conflict did not of course begin in Gothenburg. Massive popular demon-strations have occurred during EU summit meetings in Maastricht, Amster-dam and Nice, and during other meetings where the representatives of inter-national capital want to determine the fate of the world, as in Seattle and Prague.

In every case, the political establishment refused to discuss the content of the protests.

Why do these protests arise during UN meetings, OECD meetings and e.g. conferences on AIDS or the global climate? The answer is clear - people are protesting against decisions that degrade the quality of life, decisions that are made by an unresponsive power-elite.

Basic lack of confidence
In decision after decision, the EU has shown that it is distancing itself from the interest and demands of the union's population. That is why the people feel a basic lack of confidence in the leaders of the EU, not only in Sweden, but throughout the union. People in all the member countries discover that they have no influence and that their interests are disregarded. The opposi-tion to the EU is rooted in the fact that the union is basically undemocratic. The rapidly growing supra-nationality that is displacing national sovereignty is not anchored in popular organizations or popular needs. On the contrary, it is restricting democratic rights and opportunities.

When a popular referendum in Denmark rejected the Maastricht Agreement, a number of meaningless "exceptions" were arranged and a new referendum was held.

A few days before the meeting in Gothenburg, the people of Ireland rejected the Treaty of Nice, and the leaders of the EU immediately demanded a new referendum. The message was unmistakable - for the rulers, a popular refer-endum within the EU is simply a farce. If the people vote against the deci-sions of the leaders, the referendum must be repeated until an acceptable result is obtained. The EU train rolls on, oblivious of the people's will.

Elections and referendums, which bourgeois politicians and ideologues have always praised as the core of democracy, lose their legitimacy and become ridiculous, as window-dressing that no one believes in. The elections for the EU parliament reflect the people's mistrust. Less than half of the eligible voters took part in the elections, and in some countries voter participation was only slightly more than 20 per cent.

With each new EU agreement that is decided by the leaders of the union, the distance between the ruling establishment and the people increases. The power-elite want to create a United States of Europe with a government that is not elected, a central bank that cannot be influenced by its citizens, and a standard of performance that is based on the rate of growth in the profits of major corporations. But the people want democratic and social rights as well as national sovereignty.

The power-holders in Brussels and the monopoly capitalists who stand behind them are purposefully following their agenda. All popular resistance to it is being swept aside with empty promises and false propaganda, or with violence by police, if needed.

The EU train has rolled on from free-trade zone to common agricultural poli-cy, to an inner market, a common currency, a common foreign policy and a common army that is called a "deployment force" and will fight anywhere in the world for the EU's interests. With every new decision by the leaders of the EU we come a step closer to the United States of Europe. Within this super-state, social gaps are widening and an elite is dismantling democratic structures.

The Swedish people - like the people in other EU countries - are being fed lies about a "project for peace" and greater influence. But reality tells its own story.

For example, a majority of the Swedish population is against membership in NATO. On the same day that this was confirmed by a demonstration of 15,000 persons in Gothenburg, the leader of NATO's most powerful nation announced that Sweden was to be given the status of a member of NATO. Our prime minister Göran Persson bowed and accepted the offer. The mainstream media and representatives of big business welcomed the oppor-tunity to profit from production of armaments. Could the contrast between the will of the people and the power-elite be any clearer?

While heads of government talk about greater prosperity and more influence for citizens, the EU member countries have lost their sovereignty, their democratic influence and their social rights. Were the Swedish people noti-fied of this when we were railroaded into the EU? Naturally not.

All the major parties in Europe, from the right to the social democrats, are now promoting the EU federation. There may be slight differences between them, but they all have the same goal.

Betrayal of democratic principles
The betrayal of democratic principles generates contempt for politics and politicians, and in the long run revolt as well.

When people perceive that their protests are ignored and concealed as in Amsterdam, Nice, Prague, Seattle and Gothenburg, when they perceive that the leaders whose decisions affect their lives hide behind walls and riot police - violence is bound to increase. Because violence is the only thing that the power-elite and the mainstream media react to.

The Communist Party of Sweden (SKP) is not in favor of violence. It does not give us more democratic power. It only gives the power-elite a chance to try to legitimize suppression of demands for more democracy. Historically, anarchists have often obstructed the efforts of Communists to persuade and mobilize the masses to take up the political struggle against the rulers of society. "Red terror" has never been a tool for the Communist movement!

But in our opinion the violence that now occurs during meetings of the EU and the WTO is not to be blamed on the young people who mistakenly resort to it in an attempt to obtain a response to their protests. The elite who consistently ignore democratic demonstrations and protests are the ones who are responsible for the violence.

After the events in Gothenburg, many people have indignantly complained that so many "hoodlums" have come to Sweden from other countries. The implied question is, what are they doing in our peaceful country? But those who pose the question forget that it was the EU government that held a meeting here. Decisions made behind the iron curtain in Gothenburg affect young and old in Denmark, Germany, Holland and Italy just as much as in Sweden. So the people who in one form or another expressed their dissatis-faction with the development of the EU did so on the basis of their rights as citizens of the union.

In recent days the elite have referred to "good" and "bad" demonstrators. But they have totally ignored the issues that the "good" demonstrators have raised.

It is easy to get the impression that the riots were welcomed by the govern-ment as an excuse for not discussing the serious, popularly supported dissat-isfaction with the EU.

This impression was reinforced by the police in Gothenburg,who despite all previous agreements with the leaders of the demonstrations made no efforts to tone down the atmosphere of revolt, but instead continuously provoked conflict.

It was obvious that the government had defined an overriding goal for the police - to ensure that the elite in the Gothenburg meeting would not witness the people's demonstrations against the EU. In order to achieve this goal, the police indiscriminately sacrificed the security of peaceful demonstrators who had nothing to do with the manifestations of violence.

For many thousands of demonstrators in Gothenburg, the only visible signs of the State were the riot police. In no case where demonstrators and police came into conflict had the latter made any attempt to establish or participate in a dialogue.

Instead, thousands of uniformed men incited violence using horses and dogs, created panic and gave an opportunity to groups who wanted to resort to violence.

During the major demonstration on Saturday June 16 "For a different Eu-rope", not a single policeman was in sight. And 25,000 demonstrators, both "good" and "bad" marched peacefully through the city bearing their banners.

By focusing exclusively on the occurrences of violence, the mainstream media did everything they could to inflame the atmosphere, and sided with the elite. Political analysis and objective reporting were conspicuously abs-ent.

And now voices are being raised in favor of tougher treatment for those who protest against political developments. Tear gas, water cannons, stun guns and border control are being discussed. But it does not require any great powers of analysis to understand that this is not a recipe for success.

For the more people are excluded from the EU's decision-making process, the more people are adversely affected by the EU's anti-democratic policies, the more people will joint the resistance movement. And the more often that real democratic influence is suffocated, the more the power-elite hide behind police and the military, the greater the number of those who try to gain a hearing through the use of violence.