New chairman for Ordfront

On Saturday the cultural organization Ordfront voted in a new chairman - and is now hoping that the appointment draws to a close a lingering period of bad publicity.

Ordfront is one of Sweden’s largest independent, nonprofit cultural organizations, with about 30,000 members. It owns and manages a publishing house and a magazine and runs a schedule of courses.

The mixture of nonprofit ideology and straightforward business practices has not always been easy, and the two have come to a head in a recent battle that at times looked like a huge family feud – with all the attendant name-calling and bruised egos.

Some time ago, an editor at Ordfront’s magazine, Björn Eklund, published an interview with publicist Diana Johnstone – who among other things questioned the reality of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and the massacre in Srebrenica. The interview was remarkably clear of critical questions on Eklund’s part, and the fallout was significant: in Dagens Nyheter he was publicly likened to a holocaust denier, 5,000 members left Ordfront – and in the end he lost his job. To many, it seemed that he had been silenced.

The membership of Ordfront split into factions, and the business practices of the organization were called into question – at the heart of matter was the problem of workers’ rights in an organization run by democratic means. To complicate matters, Eklund’s union sued Ordfront for unfair dismissal from his post, and the organization further split over how to deal with the problem.

Last weekend Ordfront held a special members’ meeting to vote for a new chair; the leading candidates were standing chair Christina Hagnér and Stefan Carlén, who disapproved of Eklund’s dismissal.

The meeting lasted six hours and included sixty speakers. Carlén left the winner.

In an interview with Dagens Nyheter, Carlén hoped that the entire debate in and around Ordfront could be laid to rest.

“It was, you know, a bullshit debate,” he told Sweden’s largest newspaper.