The Drunken Brawl : Market Riots in Eskilstuna 1937 and the Fight for the Right to get Drunk

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The Drunken Brawl : Market Riots in Eskilstuna 1937 and the Fight for the Right to get Drunk

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Publication Conference Paper, other
Title The Drunken Brawl : Market Riots in Eskilstuna 1937 and the Fight for the Right to get Drunk
Author(s) Nyzell, Stefan
Date 2013
English abstract
In the autumn of 1937 the traditional autumn market was held in the industrial city of Eskiltuna. The city had deep roots in the artisan culture as a place of manufacturing since the 17th century, but had become a leading place for industry during the 19th century, with a large population of workers. A working class culture promoting respectability was very prominent, not least within the organized social democratic working class movement. The Soclal Democratic Party (SAP) hade gained power in Eskilstuna even before the equal suffrage reforms of 1919 and continued its more or less unopposed rule inte the 1930s (and onwards during the whole of the 20th century). In 1937 the SAP hade been in power nationally as well since the elections of 1932 and was launching an ambitious welfare program, building "the peoples home". The social democratic welfare program was centered around the scientific field of social engineering, and a part of that policy was the state ordering the lives of its citizens on a very hig degree. What happened in Eskilstuna during the autumn market of 1937 can be seen a a reaction against this in some ways very opressive policy. A strict regulation of alcohol cosnumtion existed, leading to a thriving black market. In both the artisan culture and the working class culture alcohol hade been an integral part, something that the respectable aspect in the latter culture was trying to disciplin. Before the market the police in Eskilstuna was expressing concern about the alcohol related disorderly conduct that usually manifeted at these events, and stated that the forces of order would take a strict view on those found all too drunk for their own good. But when a couple police officers acted on this arresting a young drunken worker found in the market the whole thing exploded. What followed was a riot, were workers at the market initially tried to free the arrested men with violence, and later several hundred workers gathere at the city square tried to storm the central police station, aiming to free all there arrested for drunkeness during the evening. This was of course met with violent repression by the police, and in the aftermath led to trials at court for those accused of participation in the riots. What is interesting in the market riot of 1937 is that there essentially was an expression of very old repertoire that was performed in the relatively modern welfare state. It was a reperoire that the respectable social democrats in the city had a very hard time to explain, in the end stating thait was not actions by workers at all, but by juvenlies and farmhands from outside the city (while all accused in court were workers from the city proper).
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) contention
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION
Note Workshop Popular Culture and Protest Repertoires in 20th Century Europe, COSMOS (Consortium on Social Movements Studies), Florence, May 27-28, 2013.
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