The Fall of Swedish Social Democracy 

The Swedish Social Democratic Party dominated Swedish politics for most of the 20th century, fundamentally shaping Swedish society for decades to come. They successfully battled the vast unemployment of the 30s depression, opened up education for the masses, built a social safety net that’s been the envy of the world. All while building a successful industrial state that reaped vast rewards in post-war Europe.

“words such as equality and solidarity have been replaced by job creators, big business and choice”

This party is no more. As of yesterday there’s not much social democracy left in the Swedish Social Democratic Party. Party leader Stefan Löfven, a former union leader, and party secretary Carin Jämtin announced their willingness to build a coalition that includes parties currently in the right-wing coalition “The Alliance” — specifically naming the Centre Party and The People’s Party. A move widely seen as moving towards the middle, and in some regards even to the right. Once again they are making moves to freeze out the more progressive Left Party, just as former party leader Mona Sahlin tried to do before the 2010 election.

Party leader Stefan Löfven. Photo By: Jens Ohlsson.

Since the economic crisis of the 90s the Social Democratic Party of Sweden has steered heavily towards capitalism, introducing numerous “market-friendly” reforms such as opening up the health care and education sector to private entrepreneurs, allowing them to make profits made up of the Swedish tax payer’s money. Lately there have been several scandals where venture capitalists have involved themselves in the education sector for quick-fix profits while cutting corners in providing quality tutoring for their students — and later simply bankrupting the business when it was not profitable enough, leaving counties to deal with students.

A poll, conducted by Novus Opinion, shows that the vast majority of Swedes want to either simply outlaw profits within the welfare sector or regulate them — surprisingly even Alliance voters want such reforms. In fact only 12 percent of voters, according to the poll, want to allow profits in tax-financed operations while 31 percent want to outlaw it and 53% regulate them by requiring such profits to be reinvested.

Despite this broad public support only one party in parliament, The Left Party, aggressively fights the venture capitalists while the Social Democrats only want to tighten quality control, leaving profits untouched.

This is just one of many rightwards turns in the past 20 years of Social Democracy in Sweden. In debate articles traditional words such as equality and solidarity have been replaced by job creators, big business and “choice”.The party has also announced its support for the current right-wing government’s lowering of corporate tax rates, and has in retrospect accepted their costly tax cuts that have largely benefitted the already wealthy.On other issues, such as stricter regulation of financial markets, the breaking up of banks and the secretive trade negotiations between the US and European Union, they remain largely silent. Add to this yesterday’s announcement signaling another rightwards turn, and their continuing strategy of isolating the Left Party that once was their primary supporter while in government, and there’s not much Socialism left in the Social Democratic Worker’s Party of Sweden.

Swedish Social Democracy as we once knew it is no more.

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