For the Love of Olof Palme, Don’t Let Swedish Neutrality Die in Vain

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I get the feeling that Vladimir Putin finds himself quietly confessing this mantra a lot lately in his private moments away from whatever the fuck passes for a politburo in plutocratic Russia. On long car rides home to his dacha after another carefully choreographed rally in front of working-class Russians paid to pretend he’s cool for an hour. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Staring at his lifeless dead fish eyes in the mirror in a vodka fog after another restless night’s sleep. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I’m the cool Voz, he tells himself, the one who swooped in shirtless on a gallant steed to save the Third Rome from another American Century of humanitarian imperialism and shock capitalist Disneyfication. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It wasn’t supposed to be this way!

Well, how the fuck did you think it would be, Voz? After two months of de-nazifying Kiev by giving NATO’s Nazis a run for their money, shelling the Orthodox Christ out of more Russian speakers in 7 weeks than Azov did in 7 years, the only thing Putin has to show for his crimes are skyrocketing sales for Raytheon and a readymade PR campaign for NATO that Madeline Albright would have joyfully clubbed half a million Iraqi babies for, Satan rest her soul. Now Putin is left with no other choice but to retreat to the only battlefield he can win back in the Donbas, largely because the middle-aged communist tire salesmen of Donetsk have already won it for him.

There is a reason why even NATO-hating anti-American zealots like me apposed this Fitzcarraldo-esque quest from the drop and it isn’t just my monastic opposition to any kind of initiatory violence. It’s because it’s fucking stupid. It should have been obvious to anyone with their head separated from their lower intestines that this is exactly what America wanted. Why else would they dump so much treasure into a money pit like Ukraine and give a bunch of swastika festooned antisemites rocket launchers that they’ll probably aim at El Al the week after Mariupol stops burning? Love? No, because it’s a trap you moron. They already tried this successfully on your precious Soviet Union in Afghanistan back in the eighties and now that America’s own rusted hulk of an empire is hitting the skids they settled on a Hollywood-style reboot, and you fucking fell for it. Ukraine was never going to be a real member of NATO but now Sweden and Finland will be and in here lies a tragedy stacked on top of a tragedy al a mode.

After decades of resisting Washington’s rapacious advances and drunken pick-up lines, Scandinavia looks ready to sell out their neutrality to NATO before the summer thaw hits the taiga. Both Sweden and Finland’s prime ministers have issued a joint statement on their intentions to officially court the Alliance and polls show a thin majority of both of their citizens supporting the controversial move for the first time in recorded history. That’s another 830 miles for NATO to play nuclear peek-a-boo with on a border close enough to hit the roof of Putin’s dacha with a goddamn reindeer turd. But this isn’t just a tragedy for Russia or for the hoodwinked neighbors they savaged in vain. This is a tragedy of massive proportions for Scandinavia, especially Sweden, who has steadfastly avoided lynching themselves with a single military alliance for more than 200 years. The last time they even so much as loaned a motherfucker a Mossberg was when they aided Finland in fighting off Stalin back in 1940.

Neutrality is baked into the very foundation of what it even means to be Swedish. It defines the very roots of their democracy. Back in the 17th century, Sweden was a fucking menace just like us. One of the bloodiest empires in Europe. But all this conquest really earned them in the long run was a heaping helping of karma. After King Gustav insisted on sticking his dick into another East-vs-West hornet’s nest by jumping into the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden got stung hard and lost a third of its territory to Russia including the traumatic conquest of their brothers in Finland that would last until 1917. The Swedes said enough. They overthrew Gustav in a coup in 1809 and vowed to never be lured by the siren song of empire ever again. On this rock, Sweden built a society devoted to the Lutheran values of charity and social justice that has made them the envy of American hippies for decades.

Nobody embodied this legacy better than Sweden’s prince of peace, Olof Palme, who served as the nation’s prime minister from 1969 to 1976 and again from 1982 until his death in 1986 as well as serving as the leader of Sweden’s dominant Social Democratic Party for nearly twenty years. Olof wasn’t just a pacifist; he was a fucking pacifist with attitude who wasn’t afraid to flip off both Washington and Moscow at the same damn time. He railed against Brezhnev for crushing the Prague Spring in 1968 and then turned around and pissed off Nixon bad enough to have him recall America’s ambassador in 1972 after the young prime minister marched shoulder to shoulder with North Vietnam’s ambassador against the bombing of Hanoi and publicly compared America’s savagery in Indochina to that of the Nazis in Treblinka.

But Olof Palme didn’t just piss off America and Russia with his antiwar antics. He made mortal enemies among the Champagne socialists in his own party and across Western Europe by calling them out on their privileged bullshit posturing and declaring his solidarity with the oppressed classes of the Third World that they couldn’t be bothered to see in the rearview mirror of their Saabs. He was the only Western European leader of his era to declare solidarity with Palestine. He was the first to call out South Africa’s apartheid regime and he went time zones out of his way to support doomed left-wing populist governments like that of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and Salvador Allende in Chile.

When NATO thugs helped Augusto Pinochet to crush Chilean democracy in 1973, Palme rescued some thirty thousand refugees from being executed by CIA-trained death squads in the nation’s soccer stadiums by ferreting them through the Swedish consulate in Santiago. He even became the first Western head of state to visit Cuba after the unforgivable revolution, lighting up with Castro and giving a speech praising the Cuban people for their courage to stand tall against the giants in Washington. Olof Palme proved that neutrality had nothing to do with cowardice, quite the contrary, it was about taking a principled stand against empire in any form and I’m not the only one who believes that this may have gotten him killed.

Olof Palme was assassinated on the streets of Stockholm with a single gunshot while walking home with his wife from the cinema one chilly Friday evening in February 1986. He wasn’t accompanied by a single bodyguard and his killer has never been captured. A local junkie and ex-convict was convicted for the murder in 1988 but he was acquitted a year later due to a lack of evidence. The case was only formally closed in 2020 when the prosecutor in charge of the 34-year-old investigation declared a longtime witness, Stig Engstrom, who had conveniently died in 2000, to be the killer, again without a lick of solid evidence. Detectives and lawyers who had slaved for decades over the case were beside themselves. It almost seems like some very powerful people in Sweden don’t even want to investigate the assassination of a dearly beloved national hero and perhaps that’s because his blood may be on the hands of some people shockingly close to home. His blood may also stain the jackboots of the very alliance that Sweden now drags their pride across Olof’s grave to be a part of.

You see, America didn’t win the Second World War. The Soviet Union didn’t either for that matter. Fascism was put in its proper place in hell by a ragtag coalition of civilian communist partisans across Europe and after jumping in at the last minute to take credit for their victory, America devoted itself entirely to their extinction. This was the real reason NATO was created, not to block the invasion of the continent by the battered Soviet Union that could barely stand after Stalingrad, but to colonize Europe by crushing the leftists who saved it.

America did this by eagerly teaming up with what was left of the fascists the partisans defeated and launching a secret war against the left in Europe in tandem with the CIA called Operation Gladio, a so-called stay-behind-mission in which NATO built secret armies of crypto-fascist terrorists across the continent and supplied them with caches of bombs and machine guns. The CIA used these contacts to infiltrate radical organizations on both the left and the right who they then provoked into committing horrific acts of mass violence like bombings and assassinations to justify NATO’s continued existence as well as harsh security laws that would render its critics powerless. This included the assassination of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978 and I believe it may very well have also included the mysterious assassination of NATO’s most articulate critic Olof Palme in 1986.

During the long and often labyrinthine investigation into the assassination, it was revealed by one Lars Christiansson, the press manager of Palme’s bitter rival in the Moderate Party and future prime minister, Carl Bildt, that none other than his aforementioned boss had maintained close ties with Gladio agents for years. This checks out with the memoirs of former CIA Director William Colby in which the veteran Cold Warrior candidly bragged about setting up stay-behind-armies throughout Scandinavia even without the consent of their neutral governments, all for the glory and power of America’s European colonialists in NATO.

Even if they weren’t directly responsible for the assassination, does this sound like an organization that you would want to be a part of? Does this sound like an alliance worth flushing a two-hundred-year legacy of anti-imperialism down the fucking shitter for? As a committed anarchist, I have plenty of reasons to disdain Olof Palme myself. I generally see his brand of social democracy as doing little to correct the power imbalance which keeps the poor subservient to the upper class. But goddammit if I don’t admire the man’s devotion to world peace, a devotion he was willing to die for. The man deserves better than to see his nation sold into prostitution to the sick creatures who may very well have had him killed, the same people, might I remind you, who set up Ukraine to be slaughtered as well by empowering new stay-behind-armies like the Azov Battalion to provoke their violently reactionary neighbors to the east.

Mark my words, if Sweden and Finland make the foolish decision to entrust these soulless gangsters with keeping their people safe from Vladimir Putin, he won’t be the only one waking up in a Yeltsin-esque fog of vodka and thermo-nuclear fallout, telling himself in the mirror, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. There is no imperial solution to an imperial problem. For the love of Olof Palme, don’t let Swedish neutrality die in vain.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.