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Malmo – The Cradle of the Labour Movement


In the beginning of the 19th century Malmo was still a small town, but the population grew steadily in connection with the industrialization in the second half of the 19th century.
In the 19th century, when the Sound once again became a link between Scania and Zealand, the opportunities to get impulses from the continent via Denmark, was opened again. Important ideas, which marked Europe in the middle of the 19th century, were liberalism, nationalism and socialism. Liberalism and nationalism were part of the ideas of Scandinavism, but even socialism had a Scandinavistic mark in the Sound region.

The Proletariate
In Scania and Sweden, where the industrialization came late, there was even before the breakthrough of the industrialism, a proletariat, which consisted of workers from the old agriculture and the farming proletariat, which was formed in connection with the agricultural revolution. These farm workers worked on the large estates and were paid in kind. They had a small home in a farm workers wing, which was a terraced house with one-room flats. In the country as well as in the growing cities poverty was great in the 19th century and Stockholm was in the middle of the 19th century one the poorest cities in Europe. Farm workers and working men had no way of making demands on the employers.
Farm Workers´ wing
Farm Workers´ wing

The Industrialism of Malmo
Malmo was industrialized and urbanized to a great extent between 1860 and 1900, where the population was more than tripled. Large industries were founded. Already in 1840 Frans Fredrik Kockum had founded a mechanical workshop, in which railway cars were built in the 1850´s and in the 1870´s shipbuilding began. In 1966 the Malmo wool factory was founded, which became one of the largest textile factories in the North. The Malmo Mill from 1881 became Sweden’s largest producer of wheat flour and Malmo Assorted Chocolates (Mazetti) grew to be one of the largest in the business. In 1890 The Scanian Cement Ltd started a cement factory in Limhamn. The main railway was finished in 1864 and Malmo had a railway station area, which was the largest in Sweden.
Malmo´s Harbour in the 1880´s
Malmo´s Harbour in the 1880´s
Kockum´s Factories
Kockum´s Factories
Malmo Station
Malmo Station

Cooperation over the Borderline
The improved communications across the Sound caused emigration to increase during the 19th century. This was particularly evident in the Malmo-Copenhagen region, which had the largest populations. Almost 2500 Malmo inhabitants emigrated to Denmark in 1840-64 and more than 1000 Danes moved to Malmo in 1841-64. The newly established links across the Sound certainly had great importance when it came to the influence of new ideas and the daily contacts were many, which also were important to the development of the labour movement in southern Sweden.
Therefore it is not strange that strikes and conflicts erupted almost simultaneously in Copenhagen and Malmo. In the 1860´s and 70´s unions were formed in Scania and among the first were the cork cutters, the tobacco workers and the glovers. The Danes influenced the forming of the unions both ideologically and practically. When there were conflicts in Copenhagen it was important that the Scanians showed solidarity and were not tempted to go to Copenhagen because the wages were higher there. The higher wages in Copenhagen could also during industrial peace tempt more workers to go to Denmark and thus press the wages. And therefore the principles of equal pay on both sides of the Sound became an objective for the cross-frontier collaboration.
At first the unions were not necessarily linked to socialism, but were partly formed by the liberalistic ideas´ of better development and the extended right to vote. The man, who started to join the labour movement with socialist ideas in Denmark, was Louis Pio and Harald Brix, who started the weekly paper “Socialisten” in 1871. In Sweden August Palm was the pioneer and his political agitation started in Malmo, to where he had returned after spending12 years in Germany and Denmark. In these countries he had found his socialist conviction.

Palm – the Speacher
November 6th 1881 Palm delivered his first speech in Malmo. The subject was, “What do the socialists want?” and this became the start of his long agitator activity. Like a revivalist he tried to wake up the Swedish working classes and make them see that socialism was the right way to go in order to obtain justice and improvements. And the workers were not always easy to wake! Palm had finished school at ten and had no academic education. In spite of this he became an orator and his listeners were fascinated by his commitment to the socialist cause.
Palm was not always allowed to speak in the halls of the establishment and was often referred to hills and slopes. Priests, factory owners, landowners and the middle classes, were frightened, but industrial and farm workers sought out his pulpit. Unflaggingly he travelled all over the country. In Stockholm he founded the newspaper “Socialdemokraten”. In the first issue (9/25 1885) a battle song was published, written by a farm worker’s son, Henrik Menander, who was an old friend of Palm. Palm had heard Menander sing the song, and now he wanted to publish it. (“Arbetets söner” was actually sung for the first time on a boat trip on the Sound August 2. 1885.)
”Arbetets söner, sluten er alla
Till våra bröder i Syd och i Nord!
Hören I ej, hur mäktigt de skalla
Ut öfver världen, befrielsens ord?
Ur den förnedrande
Träldomens grift
Upp till en hedrande
Ädel bedrift!
Oket med påskriften: ”Bed och försaka”
Länge oss nedtryckt i mörker och nöd;
Människovärdet vi fordra tillbaka,
Kämpa för rättvisa, frihet och bröd.
Icke naturen hårdhänt har dragit
Gränser, som skilja fattig och rik;
Hjärtlöst har makten under sig slagit
Alla dess håfvor, rofdjuret lik.
Mot den förödande
Guldkalfvens stod
Kämpen med glödande
Känslor och mod!
Käckt mot förtrycket ett värn vi oss dana.
Fältropet genom nationerna går:
Sluten Er under vår enighets fana,
Fällen ej modet, och segern är vår!”

Malmoe – the center
When working with the “Social-Demokraten” Palm was joined by three young committed socialists, Hjalmar Branting, Fredrik Sterky and Axel Danielsson. They were all between 20 and 25 years old when the 36-year-old Palm settled down in Stockholm in 1885. They were well educated, while Palm was almost hostile towards person with an academic degree. It could be said that he despised the intelligentsia. Both Branting and Sterky were raised in families that belonged to the upper classes. Axel Danielsson was the son of a workingman, so Palm was especially fond of him. Branting wanted to intellectualise socialism, which Palm of course opposed, but Branting won and took over the paper. Palm faded into obscurity behind Branting, but continued his life as an agitator. Axel Danielsson left Stockholm and settled in Malmo, where he started the newspaper “Arbetet” in 1887. He stayed in Malmo for 13 years.
August Palm
August Palm
Axel Danielsson
Axel Danielsson
The Newspaper 
The Newspaper 
The Bricklayers´ Union
The Bricklayers´ Union

Danielsson – without fear
Axel Danielsson´s move to Malmo had great effect for the labour movement and the development of socialism in southern Sweden. In “Arbetet” the movement had a medium, which engaged and frightened people. The brave Axel Danielsson wrote in such a way that the middle classes hated him and the workers loved him. Under the signature Marat, he made a lot of enemies because of his sharp and terse style. Danielsson was not afraid of anybody and in connection with a trial against the prison director in Malmo this was evident.
The prison director had raked together 4.704 kroner and 8 øre by selling sacks, which the inmates made. Almost 5000 kroner was a lot of money in those days. The prison director was suspended for six months, which Danielsson thought was ridiculous and in “Arbetet” he attacked the constitutional state. For this attack Danielsson was sentenced to one year in prison (1888). This was the beginning of a persecution of Danielsson and he was subject to more charges, among them a charge for blasphemy, when he interviewed God in his newspaper. In all Danielsson was in prison for 18 months. (Not only Danielsson, but also Branting and Palm were sent to prison for what they said and wrote)

Danielsson – the Reformer
When Danielsson came out of prison he started to work more and more for socialism on the ground of reformism, i.e. that the ideas had to be carried through lawfully and not through revolution. This pragmatic policy had many people reproach him for disassociating himself from the pure Marxist doctrine. This made Danielsson bitter. But one man understood his greatness. August Strindberg wrote in his blue book: “He never knew how great he was; he thought he was despised, he lived in despondency and humiliation, but underneath he was feared and admired”. Later a great deal of those who slandered him took on Danielsson´s pragmatic socialism.
Danielsson was never nice to himself, neither mentally nor physically and he died early at a sanatorium in Elsterberg in Germany the day before New Years Eve in 1899. He was 36 years old. His funeral became a great manifestation. The streets of Malmo were laced with workers from Kockum, the wool factory and from all of Scania. A fifteen-year-old Malmo boy remembers this day. His name was Per Albin Hansson.
Malmo´s importance as a workers´ city was consolidated when the city had the first Peoples´ Park in the country and the term “The Peoples´ House” was used for the first time about the “Peoples house in Malmo in 1893. These common rooms were created so that workers and their families had a place to meet. The landlords of the halls did not always welcome the labour movement as tenants.

©  Øresundstid 2009