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1 April 2009

Sweden: Socialist councillor viciously assaulted by Nazis

ON SUNDAY 22 March, Mattias Bernhardsson, who is a city councillor for Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS - CWI, Sweden) was the victim of a brutal, planned assault by a group of Nazis. The attackers, armed with a knife and knuckledusters, followed and then set upon Mattias near his home in the working class district of Jordbro, at around 7pm. Their blows were aimed at his head and face., (CWI, Sweden)

"They tried to kill me," said Mattias, who was rushed to hospital but is fortunately not gravely injured. He managed to disarm the assailant wielding the knife and by landing some punches himself, scared the attackers away. They ran to a getaway car, where at least one other assailant was seated.

"It's obvious it was Nazis behind this attack," said Mattias, who has received many threats in the past because of his consistent work against the deportation of refugees and against racism and fascism. 29 year-old Mattias is one of two RS councillors elected to the city council in Haninge, a suburb of Stockholm, in 2006, with the party's anti-racist campaigning work an important factor in this victory.

Jordbro, where Mattias lives, is a solidly working-class district with a high proportion of residents born outside Sweden. RS got the third highest vote (of nine parties elected onto the city council) in Jordbro.

RS has responded to this extremely serious attack, in an area where the Nazis do not dare to show themselves openly, by calling for a demonstration on 26 March.

Community's revulsion

The daily paper Svenska Dagbladet reported on 24 March: "In Jordbro, Mattias Bernhardsson is a well-known figure. Jeanette Saliba, who works in the local tobacco shop, had tears in her eyes when she heard what happened. 'He is great. He thinks in the right way.' she says."

The paper makes the point that in Jordbro, one voter in ten voted for RS. "Everyone with citizenship votes for them and it's because of him. He speaks about the future", says Ali Mirza. Veronika Johansson, who knows Mattias, said she was shocked by the news: "He has stood in this shopping centre, speaking out against racism and other things".

This is the most serious recent attack in a chain of attacks by the fascist groups in Sweden. Several RS members in Stockholm and Gothenburg have been injured in the last three years. Just one day before this attack on Mattias, he and another RS member, Joel Eriksson, were attacked by a group of Nazis after an anti-war demonstration in central Stockholm.

The attack on Mattias, as an elected city councillor, has been a major item in the national media. By appearing in numerous television interviews just hours after this attack, Mattias has helped to expose the real nature of these 'Swedish nationalists' and the threat they pose to all those who dare oppose them. He has also demonstrated that working-class representatives will not be intimidated.