On May 14, it is 75 years since a demonstration in Lunde near Kramfors in Ångermanland ended in tragedy after military opened fire on the demonstrators, killing four participants and one bystander. The demonstration was the culmination of a prolonged and embittered industrial conflict affecting several factories in the area.
The deaths had a significant impact on Swedish society at the time and raised the question of what role the state and especially the military should have in industrial conflicts. Today’s received wisdom is that the conflict was between workers and industrialists and that the state interfered by allowing strikebreakers to perform the work affected by the conflict. In contemporary Social Democratic mythology, Ådalen is the symbol of righteous Social Democratic struggle against the market economy and the bourgeous state.
A more careful inspection of the happenings suggests a more complicated picture. The labour movement in Sweden experienced deep conflicts between Social Democrats and Communists during this period and the political affiliation of the striking workers was far from obvious. In the investigation following the events, the representatives for the labour movement (including the later Foreign Minister Östen Undén) also took a cautious stance in the criticism of the civilian and military officials involved in the process leading up to the killings.
And as a recent report noted: The ban on the domestic deployment of military only came into force in the early 1970s. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Social Democratic government considered Communist riots a sufficient threat to allow the possible deployment of military forces against civilians.
All of which leads us to the celebrations of the 75 years since Ådalen 1931. In 2001, the leader of the Left Party participated in the jubilee as a speaker but earlier this year the local branch of the Social Democratic Party announced that the event would be reserved for Social Democrats and TUC representatives.
Commentators suspect that the Social Democrats on the national level fear that Lars Ohly would bring controversy into the celebrations by criticising a recent proposal from the Justice Minister, allowing the deployment of military forces in the event of civil unrest or terrorist attacks.