March 8, 1914|
|Died||November 18, 2002(aged 88)|
|Occupation||Writer, teacher, editor, translator|
|Known for||Anarcho-syndicalist journalism, translation, and activism|
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Britta Gröndahl (March 8, 1914 – November 18, 2002) was a Swedish writer, French language teacher, editor, translator, and anarcho-syndicalist. A well-known libertarian labour militante, she remained active in the movement well into her old age. She dedicated a major part of her life to the Swedish syndicalist movement, being particularly active in the Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden (SAC), where she rose to become the union's first International Secretary (1968—1972) and engaged herself in practical solidarity work for the then-underground anarcho-syndicalist movements on the Iberian peninsula. She also played an important role in revitalizing the Swedish Syndicalist League of Women, which, up until then, had been relegated to a relatively minor role by the male-dominated movement.
As a writer, she contributed with journalistic pieces in SAC's weekly, the Arbetaren, later also becoming an important figure for the Swedish New Left and a regular contributor to the main theoretical journal of the Swedish anarchist movement, Frihetlig Socialistisk Tidskrift ("Libertarian Socialist Magazine"). Over the years she published several books; biographies, historical reports, and theoretical works, all of which had a major influence on the Swedish syndicalist movement, and thanks to her translations of works by Michel Foucault she made a lasting imprint on the larger social debate.
Life and career
Britta Gröndahl was born to right-wing accountant and local politician Hans Maartman and his wife, Dagmar Tideman, who hailed from a more proletarian type peasant background. In 1931, Gröndahl was one of the few women to get a grammar school degree in Latin, but despite this, she never went on to fulfill her dreams of studying Political Science, as this was not considered the appropriate thing for a woman to do. After further pursuing her language studies instead, she eventually met the cellist and son of a foundryman, Gustav Gröndahl, whom she married in 1936.
The cellist had a great influence in her taste in music, and their circle of friends was at the time almost exclusively made up of musicians. But her interests were not exclusively with music and literature. In the 1950s she started getting thoroughly acquainted with the history of libertarian socialism, and at the end of the decade her first book was published, a biography of the French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, subtitled "Socialist, federalist, anarchist". Thanks to this and later studies on the Industrial Workers of the World and writers such as Simone Weil, she soon came to be regarded as a serious-minded and thorough historian and journalist.
After being taken on by other leading lights of the anarcho-syndicalist movement in Sweden – people like Helmut Rüdiger or the then secretary-general (of both the SAC and the International Workers Association) John Andersson, as well as Augustin Souchy, a German anarchist refugee who spent time in Sweden during WWI and eventually ending up in Mexican exile and often visiting Sweden – Gröndahl travelled to Spain for the first time in 1962. This was a country where the libertarian socialist movement was deeply rooted in the popular classes, and she eventually came to play an important role as a link between SAC and the libertarian unions now operating underground in both Spain and Portugal. In her memoirs she relates how she, amongst other thing, acted as a courier, smuggling large sums of money into Francoist Spain in order to turn them over to the clandestine Confederación Nacional del Trabajo.
Later she worked as a correspondent for Arbetaren in Paris during the May 1968 events in France, with her reports on the emerging 'anarchist-marxist' movement contributing to rekindling the anarchist spirit of Swedish youths and students. As the International Secretary of the SAC, her home was often open to anarchist refugees from countries such as Italy and France. In 1974 she witnessed and reported on the Carnation Revolution in Portugal.
During the 1970s she mainly dedicated herself to working as a free-lance translator, a trade which she had already practiced for 10 years during the '40s and '50s. Especially important among her works during this later period was Swedish translation of The History of Sexuality. Aside from the works of Michel Foucault, she also translated six books by Marie Cardinal as well as many of the adult comic albums written by Claire Bretecher, all published in Sweden during the 1980s. She continued covering the foreign anarchist press in a column in Arbetaren well into her retirement. Later on, only her ill health prevented her from taking part in the Stockholm anarcho-syndicalist May Day celebrations.
- Här talar syndikalisterna (1973)
- Parti eller fackförening? (1975)
- De ideologiska motsättningarna i den spanska syndikalismen 1910-36 (1981)
- Herre i eget hus - om självförvaltning i Spanien och Portugal (1982)
- Frihetlig kommunism i praktiken (1986)
- Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: socialist, anarkist, federalist (1988)
- Äventyrens år (1994)
- Vahlquist, Staffan. "Britta Gröndahl, 1914–2002", in the Swedish Lexicon of Translators
- Obituary by Inger Raaby, printed in Dagens nyheter on December 12, 2002, and in Arbetaren, 2002:48Dagens Nyheter
- Article on the Yelah.net text archive (31/12 1994)
- Lindblom, Per (2014). Anarkosyndikalismens återkomst i Spanien - SAC:s samarbete med CNT under övergången från diktatur till demokrati