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Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Oct. 10, 1996
issue of Workers World newspaper
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Editorial

The Olof Palme murder: who covered it up?

The crimes of apartheid against the peoples of southern Africa have been well known to the world for a long time. They were swept under the rug by the imperialist partners of the racist state for many years. But the glorious struggle of the South African, Namibian Mozambican, Zimbabwean and Angolan masses finally forced them into the open.

Yet even now, the revelations of former secret police agents testifying before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Johannesburg can shock and enrage. Eugene de Kock, head of a police hit squad, provided grisly details about how his agents deliberately massacred whole families of those opposing the apartheid system. In the late 1980s, Dirk Coetzee, de Kock's predecessor as senior officer in the police murder unit, also confessed to some of the same crimes after he defected.

Now both men have added a new admission to the public record of apartheid's murders. They say that the 1986 assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was part of an operation called "Long Reach," carried out by a unit of the South African secret police headed by Craig Williamson. Williamson admits he was involved in three other murders. But denies this one.

Palme was shot to death on a Stockholm street one week after he spoke at an anti-apartheid rally reportedly attended by Williamson. Swedish police admit they had leads to the South African police at the time.

According to the Swedish news agency TT, Coetzee said that 80 or 90 South African agents participated in planning Palme's murder.

Let us assume this is true. Certainly, these fanatical racists would have had no moral qualms in murdering the outspoken Palme. But it raises a bigger question.

An operation so big could not be kept a secret from the international intelligence community, nor from those elements in the Swedish bourgeoisie closest to the police agencies.

What was their attitude toward Palme? Would they have insisted that his murderers be apprehended, or would they have agreed on a cover-up?

We can only speculate. But other factors, besides Palme's role as a vigorous bourgeois opponent of apartheid, must have weighed heavily.

In 1986, the capitalist ruling classes of Britain and the United States were solidly behind the slash-and-burn policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Social programs won in mass struggles 50 years earlier were on the chopping block. Sweden was considered the extreme example of the "welfare state"-a capitalist country with comprehensive medical care, subsidized housing, high wages and low unemployment. Palme's Social Democratic Party had never expropriated the bourgeoisie, but through social programs paid for by hefty taxes on the rich they tried to redistribute the wealth more evenly.

Imperialism tolerated and even cultivated social democracy when many of Europe's workers were attracted to the more revolutionary alternative of the communist parties. But with the retreat of the communist movement and the sweeping move to the right begun by Thatcherism, Swedish social democracy began to be regarded with hostility by the bourgeoisie everywhere. Not long after Olof Palme's death, the Social Democrats were defeated and Sweden joined the long list of countries where the workers' gains were hacked away.

Shouldn't the working-class organizations of Sweden be playing a leading role in pursuing this investigation, with the power to take it to the top and find out who might have ordered a coverup?

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww@wwpublish.com. For subscription info send message to: ww-info@wwpublish.com. Web: http://www.workers.org)

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