Swedish author Stieg Larsson is world famous as a result of his “Millennium series” trilogy of crime novels, all published since his death in 2004.
Less known is that Larsson was also a long-time activist and socialist, who worked as an editor for the anti-fascist Expo magazine. This history is sketched below by Hakan Blomqvist, editor of the Swedish revolutionary socialist paper Internationalen from 1979 to 1999.
It is reprinted from US socialist magazine Against the Current.
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Stieg Larsson came to support the Vietnamese liberation struggle in 1968, when he was only 14 years old.
He joined the Communist Workers League (CA), the Swedish section of the Fourth International (an international grouping of Trotskyist organisations) around 1974 in the northern town of Umea. There, he distributed the party’s paper for soldiers — Red Soldier — among the conscripts in his infantry regiment.
After completing his military service, he worked at a paper mill and later as a postman.
In 1977, he went to Eritrea to deliver money collected by the party and solidarity groups to the Marxist-oriented Eritrean People’s Liberation Front liberation movement.
During his stay with the guerrillas, he helped train women soldiers in handling mortars, a skill he learned in the army.
Back in Sweden, he and his companion Eva Gabrielsson moved to Stockholm where they joined the northern branch of the party in the capital. He carried out ordinary party work and began his trade at the Swedish press agency TT, where he worked with graphics.
In the late ’70s he also started writing for the party’s weekly journal Internationalen. During the ’80s he wrote many well-researched feature articles about US imperialism, right-wing extremism and fascism.
He also contributed with articles on cultural and scientific matters — his first feature was about French science fiction writer Jules Verne.
Together with Eva and other comrades he was active in the Grenada-Swedish friendship association, and wrote about the 1979-83 Grenada revolution in Internationalen.
In 1982 he went with a group of comrades to Grenada to experience the revolution.
When the Coard faction organised its coup d’etat against Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and Washington invaded, he interviewed solidarity activists, who were in Grenada, by phone from Sweden.
During the early 1980s, after years of left-wing hegemony in the streets, Swedish racist and fascist groups became active. In 1984, inspired by the British Anti Nazi League, members of CA worked with others to organise Stop Racism and counter-mobilisations.
By 1985, Stop Racism had become a national organisation; Stieg was active in this broader organisation. Together with other CA members, he developed contacts with the British ant-fascists and their journal, Searchlight.
He contributed to Internationalen and the journal of Stop Racism. I think it was during these years he developed the idea of a Swedish Searchlight — becoming the Expo project in 1995, which he started with other former Stop Racism activists.
The fall of the Berlin Wall, together with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the “Eastern bloc” brought a dramatic shift in the political and ideological climate in the 1989-91 period — and of material realities.
The 1991 Swedish general elections led to the first right-wing victory since 1928. Carl Bildt, head of the victorious conservative party, became prime minister.
For the first time ever, a racist, populist and anti-immigrant party, New Democracy, was elected to parliament.
This was followed by an upsurge of street racism with the so-called Lasermannen (The Laser Man) as its most horrible expression: He was a cold-blooded killer who used a laser aim to shoot immigrants in Stockholm.
The year of Lasermannen (from 1991-1992), the right-wing turn in politics, together with the vanishing of the workers states in Eastern Europe made some CA comrades take new decisions.
For Stieg, who since moving to Stockholm had concentrated on fighting right-wing extremism and racism — both in his articles and in his practical work — the decision was to concentrate on the issue where he thought he could make a difference.
He was very active, together with other journalists, in writing books about the threat of right-wing extremism.
Stieg never formally left CA, which became the Socialist Party in 1992, but his membership dues were paid less frequently and then stopped altogether.
With a declining membership, the northern Stockholm branch was dissolved. In that context, Stieg’s membership came to an end.
I have read an inaccurate article on Wikipedia saying that Stieg actively left the party in 1987 because he “didn’t want to defend socialist regimes of a dubious democratic character”.
This is ridiculous, both in relation to chronology and to political content.
The CA never defended the Stalinist regimes, but on the contrary was active in supporting — including through clandestine work — the democratic and working-class opposition in the East.
We were allied with Charter 77, KOR, Solidarnosc and the clandestine unions of the Soviet Union.
Stieg’s last article for Internationalen in 1989 expressed the strong hope for a democratic socialist development in the Soviet Union and internationally, a hope we all shared. The headline was: “Glasnost in the streets of Moscow — like a warm wind.”
Stieg was continuously active in Stop Racism. But the organisation, which was democratic, non-violent and oriented towards mass action, suffered a decline as a younger generation oriented towards direct action, including physical fights against fascists.
Stop Racism had vanished by the mid ’90s. Stieg was occupied with Expo, in which anti-racists of different political colours cooperated.
We still met in anti-racist work, he always kept contact with comrades in Sweden active in the anti-racist movement. He now and then contacted Internationalen for information and an exchange of views.
We would sometimes ask him for advice and sources of information for articles we were planning. Shortly before he died, he invited me up to the Expo office for a chat.
Stieg was in some ways a “product” of our movement (of course without diminishing his subjective history, development and other influences) where he learned to combine a revolutionary socialist perspective with democracy, feminism, antiracism and internationalism.
He was educated in study circles on revolutionary Marxism with the books and pamphlets of Ernest Mandel, Trotsky, Lenin, Marx and Rosa Luxemburg.
I never heard of him abandoning his socialist ideals — but he was never a “Marxist teacher” (although he contributed to debates around issues such as Grenada and the Falklands/Malvinas war).
He was a socialist “digging” journalist who came to concentrate his efforts on exposing right-wing extremism, imperialism, racism and fascism.
That’s how we knew him, and remember him.