To Friends of Freedom Everywhere:
This is the old, old story repeated once more. The workers, without any other means at their disposal than their own organization and solidarity, on one side, and the employers, armed with all the powers of government and money, on the other.
In 1908 the dock workers of Sweden either struck against intolerable working conditions or were locked out by the ship owners, I do not now remember which. As both the workers and the bosses were well organized and prepared for war, a terrible struggle soon followed. The solidarity of the Swedish workers being developed as perhaps nowhere else, it became practically impossible to obtain strike breakers to take the jobs of the men on strike. The result was that shipping and foreign commerce were almost paralyzed. The workers were jubilant.
But this could not continue. When the ship owners could not get strike breakers from within the country or from any of hte Scandinavian countries, they began to look for them elsewhere. They advertised and searched everywhere. Finally they succeeded in recruiting several hundred jobless and miserable creatures at some of the English seaports. These were shipped in a vessel called the Amalthea to the city of Malmo, one of the southernmost ports of Sweden.
This action aroused the community to such a degree that these strike breakers could not be put ashore for fear that violence would be used against them. Besides, no one in the city would have served them a meal or rented them a bunk over night. Consequently this gentry had to be kept on board a vessel in the harbor. During the day they worked at the docks under protection, and at night they were brought back to their floating quarters.
In the meantime the organized Swedish dock workers walked the streets, they and their families starving. It was under these circumstances that three young men, Nelson, Roseberg and Stern, not even members of the dock workers’ union, decided that something must be done to get these strike breakers away from the shores of Sweden.
And this is what they decided to do:
In the loneliness of the night, under cover darkness, these men, the oldest of whom was not yet twenty-four, equipped themselves with a dynamite bomb and in a small boat approached the Amalthea, which lay anchored in the harbor with its cargo of strike breakers, and placed the bomb on its deck, lit the fuse and departed. An explosion followed, killing one strike breaker, slightly injuring a few and badly frightening all.
The entire machinery of the law was now put into motion. Nelson and Roseberg were sentenced to die, and Stern to life imprisonment. Later Nelson and Roseberg were
pardoned, and given life terms also.
According to their own statements the men did not intend to blow up the ship or to kill any of the strike breakers, but simply to frighten them so that they no longer would remain at work. Be that as it may, these men cannot by any fair-minded person as dangerous criminals who should be kept in the dungeons for life. The enlightened workers of Sweden at this time feel that these men have suffered enough and are demanding that they be released. Not only the workers, however, but also other humanitarian people have made this cause their own. Professor Knut Wicksell, a prominent scientist, has written a very interesting pamphlet on the subject in which he shows the injustice and brutality of any longer torturing them in the prison.
It will, however, require great pressure to get them released. The labor movement in Sweden is at this time in a state of stagnation, and a few enthusiastic and hopeful ones have to carry the whole burden. Help from all over the world is therefore needed to fight this case to a successful conclusion. Friends of liberty everywhere should, therefore, do their part to get these victims pardoned. For they cannot possibly be considered as anything else than victims of capitalistic law and oppression—and their own courage and manhood. Yet it will be necessary to ask that they be pardoned. But such petitioning does not, of course, imply an admission that they are criminals. It is, moreover, necessary for judicial reasons.
The prison conditions in Sweden are worse than perhaps anywhere else, with the exception of Russia. The Swedish Socialist August Palm, who has studied prison conditions in America, says that American prisons are veritable paradises compared with those of Sweden. Those who have been incarcerated in American prisons or studied the conditions there will then understand what it means to a young person to be doomed to spend the rest of his life in a Swedish penitentiary.
All help coming from America or elsewhere will be appreciated by the comrades in Sweden. Petitions are now being sent by a committee composed of members of the I. W. W. in Chicago to progressive unions and radical organizations all over America. These petitions should be signed and returned to the committee. Also those who wish to cooperate may send petitions and resolutions protesting against the continued incarceration of these men directly to Sweden, addressed to
Statsminister Karl Staff, Stockholm, Sweden.