Review: Ekot från Amalthea (Reverberations of the Amathea bombing)

Despite the book being swedish language I chose to write my review in english, and the reason is the topics discussed are not isolated to Sweden; rather the opposite – violence as a method to make things happen is as prevalent today as it was back in 1908, when the bombing commemorated by this book occurred.

The first part of the book reiterates the happenings and circumstances of the event. For those who are not familiar with it the political climate back then was harsh, with employers trying to get the most of their ancient rights while the workers started to claim decent working conditions. Strikes were common, and in some cases strike breakers were imported from other countries. In this particular case english workers had been shipped to Malmö, to load and unload ships while the local workers were on strike. Three young workers, all with what today would be called syndicalist leanings but then members of the local socialist club, decided to scare off the englishmen. They planted a bomb on the ship where the english workers lodged. Unfortuneately one strike breaker died, and the man identified as the main instigator – Anton Nilsson – was sentenced to death. He was later granted amnesty, and lived to be 103 years old, still holding on to his original ideas and values.
This first part of the book is fairly uncontroversial, as it often is when you’re looking at events far enough back to form part of history rather than of today.

The second part of the book looks at what is happening today, using the Amalthea bombing as a backdrop or for comparison. This part is more controversial, and different authors offers different views and insights. Some talk about how the trade unions have to revise their methods and views; others talk about what brought this situation; yet others report from the inside of movements that have been branded as ‘violent’ even when the members don’t think they are. What they do seems to agree on is that we’re entering a time of change, of old paradigms being replaced by new one’s, one’s we’re not yet quite sure of what they are.

I’m a bit ambivalent on that part. People who’re part of a movement often think their own time is the height of tension, of conflict. Some of the authors represented in this small volume think so about the 90’s, or the 00’s, just as I thought so about the 80’s, and so on. But however that may be it is clear that it’s the employers, not the employees, who owns the initiative and this book offers some thoughts on that fact. Unassuming, in all it’s modesty, but nevertheless an odd star on a heaven marked by the libertarian hegemony.

(I actually met Anton Nilsson, back in the 80’s. He was still proudly holding on to his and anyone’s right to use violence in the face of oppression. I somehow think he was co-opted, not forced really but not wholly aware of how the radical left used him as a role model, either, parading him as proof not only the young thought violence valid. In retrospect I think it kind of sad.)

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