Sweden – Where liberal left is right

Mona Sahlin - Current leader of the center "left" Social Democrat party which has lead the dismantling of the Swedish welfare state over the past 40 years.

Sweden is regularly held up as a model of social democracy, equality and of a “cradle-to-grave” welfare state. But while it still has a welfare state and level of equality that’s ahead of most countries, the truth is that it has been in terminal decline for the past 40 years. The astonishing thing is, this decline has happened under a liberal center-left government – the Social Democrats – who have been the ruling party in Sweden for all but 13 of the last 78 years. It is their failure to stand-up for working Swedes that has seen the country shift even more to the right in this year’s General Election. While many liberal-left Swedes are outraged at the success of a racist far-right party in this year’s election, they show little outrage at this right-wing attack on their society by liberal-left wing governments since the 1970s.

Sweden’s social democracy and welfare state reached a peaked in the 1950s and 60s when unemployment reached virtually zero for a while and it was considered one of the richest countries in the world. Since the 1970s however, Sweden’s welfare state has been subject to a series of vicious attacks by successive center-left Social Democratic governments which have failed to stand-up to corporations and international right-wing organizations such as the IMF and OECD and aggressively applied pro-corporate neo-liberal economic policies ushered in by the Reagan and Thatcher eras and which still continue today.

In the 1990s, after an economic crisis which saw unemployment reach 40% bringing the Swedish economy to its knees, the Swedish government commissioned a study into the state of its famous welfare state entitled Welfare in Sweden: The Balance Sheet of the 1990s. It provided a damning indictment of the performance of the center-left Social Democrat party:

Over the last decade, the most noticeable change was the increase in the proportion of the population that encountered various kinds of disadvantage and ill-health. Negative psychosocial working conditions and short-term employment became more common. Progressively larger groups suffered financial difficulties and low incomes. In the health field, we find a significant decline in specific areas, especially as regards mental well-being. In the area of chronic disadvantage, the number of long term social assistance recipients increased significantly.

The report pointed out that public service workers saw their wage levels fall continually and around 60,000 lost their jobs to private contractors. Immigrant areas became more segregated. Higher fees were introduced for child, elderly, health and dental care. Almost 20% of elderly people who needed home support did not apply for it anymore because it was too expensive. 12% less was spent on teachers as fewer and less qualified teachers were employed to teach ever increasing class sizes. And since 1997, social security was no longer linked to inflation and housing support was removed for single people over 28 years of age.

As the new millennium arrived, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) felt these cuts hadn’t gone far enough and were outraged in particular that in their eyes, too many Swedes took sick leave from work. In a 2002 report, they concluded that there wasn’t enough workers in Sweden because too many were signed-off sick:

The Swedish government spends 113 billion Skr ($12 billion) per year, or 16 percent of the national budget, on sickness and disability payments. The surge in sickness absenteeism and continued high levels of disability retirement have eroded the labour supply.

Perversely however, they acknowledged that the huge cuts in government spending had been mainly responsible for creating high levels of sickness and absenteeism saying:

It is possible that cuts in fiscal expenditures during the second half of the 1990s led to a rise in work-related stress, particularly in the health and education sectors.

The center-left Social Democrats agreed with them that sick Swedes had it way too easy and planned to cut central government spending on sickness and disability benefits in half by 2008 through an Orwellian sounding scheme called “The programme for a humane working life.” They never got the chance however.

Completely disillusioned with the Social Democrats, Swedes abandoned them in the 2006 election paving the way for Frederik Reinfeldt and his center-right Moderate party to form a government with other center-right parties (including one party called “Center” Party which launched a campaign of hate against Swedish workers at the 2010 election called “Fuck Facket Forever” – meaning effectively “Fuck Swedish Workers Forever” since Facket is the biggest workers union in Sweden). Naturally, Reinfeldt’s Alliance government not only continued the public spending slashing of the Social Democrats but accelerated it. Today, claiming sickness benefit in Sweden has been made as difficult and humiliating as possible leading to cases such as this where a woman who was declared unfit to work for the rest of her life by 5 different doctors, was turned down for sickness benefit by the Swedish government.

There is virtually no opposition to this dismantling of the Swedish welfare state in the mainstream Swedish political system. One party in Sweden – The Left Party – has in the past rejected at least some of this path that Sweden is taking. But the Social Democrats have refused to even consider entering into a deal with them unless they water down their principles and accept that Sweden “has to” carry out even more more major public spending cuts – which the Left Party have more or less agreed to. Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin calls this “responsible economics”. What she means however, is that perpetual large cuts to public spending are responsible to the needs of capital and big business in Sweden, not to the social and economic needs of Swedish people.

Only the Trade Unions in Sweden offer any kind of voice for working Swedes nowadays. One Trade Union leader, Ylva Thörn, summed-up the failure of the liberal left in Sweden when she said: “The typical working class feels left out. People with low wages and women need to feel that a better alternative for them exists.” It is precisely this alienated state of the Swedish working class that Thörn talks about which has seen working Swedes turn increasingly right-wards in search of solutions in the 2010 election. While the center-right Alliance looks almost certain to retain power, early indications are that the Sweden Democrats – a far-right party which wants to expel large numbers of immigrants from Sweden – has won almost 6% of the national vote. That’s almost the same percentage of the vote as the Green Party won in a country that’s one of the most environmentally conscious in the world.

Many people on the liberal left who consider themselves Social Democrats will no doubt bemoan this rise of a racist far-right party in Sweden. But they don’t see that Sweden has already been under a right-wing attack from the left for the last 40 years. This is in large part because they are subject to intense subtle propaganda by the mainstream corporate media which perpetuates the illusion of a vibrant left and right debate in Sweden while expressing liberal outrage at the racism of the far right. But while working class Swedes feel that they can’t turn to the Swedish political left to solve their problems anymore, the popularity of those parties on the right that offer scapegoats and oversimplified solutions to the failures of the liberal left will only increase.

16 thoughts on “Sweden – Where liberal left is right

  1. This post is a real eye-opener. One is so used to thinking of Sweden as a progressive paradise (especially in comparison to the unexistent social programs in the US), that it escapes one’s notice when things start falling apart. This is so sad.

    Thanks for this great article!!

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  3. One big problem is that Swedes have become welfare junkies. No matter what bad luck they might have, they always expect the state to provide a safety net in every situation, and without any loss on thier own part.

    With marginal taxes approaching confiscation, there is little incentive to try to achieve better from your own work. What the state doles out from other peoples’ money is more important to most voters than what might remain of a wage rise.

    There are huge tax wedges. Imagine you own a company and have a private car you use at work, for compensation from your company (highly regulated, so you can’t sneak any profit past the taxation that way) and need to have it re-conditioned at a price of, say 1600 SEK. Then you are paying all of it out of your pocket, with taxed money. Your company needs to make twice that, 3265 SEK, in gross profit before it reaches your pocket. The company pays a salary tax and you pay income tax. You will not hire someone else, you will do it yourself. A job is lost in the car reconditioning business.

    If you have a company car, however, the cost of getting the car reconditioned is a deductible cost in the company, and 20 % of the price that is VAT and also deductible. We are down to a net price of 1280 SEK. If you would clean the company car yourself, to save the money and put it in your pocket, about 30% goes off as salary tax in the company, we are down to 896 SEK, which will be taxed a minimun of 30% (higher if you are doing well and the state tax has kicked in). You will get a measly 627 SEK for a half to a days work to clean, vacuum and wax your car. You let the company pay.

    Swedes are DOI people to a high degree. Building supplies stores are full of amateurs buying stuff to improve their homes. Hiring for it is too expensive, unless you can get it done tax free on the black market. All from skilled workers to highly trained professionals are doing things that others would do much better.

    The whole high tax system with a large proportion of transfers, money going from citizens to other citizens and back to themselves as well, has cemented itself into society. So when elections come, the parties all try to make the sweetest promises of how much you will get from others’ money. Everybody tries to forget what money of yours is going to others. In this respect, both blocs are very much the same. The Alliance has won power by triangulating themselves as close as they can to the Social Democrats, while still pretending to be different.

    Sweden just cannot afford this system anymore. Maybe it would be possible if people were less of welfare junkies and did not abuse it so much. Like Social Democrat Anna Ardin who is now on “sick leave” due to a case of bad sex. Disgusting and and spineless.

    I don’t like to generalise, but anyone who knows Russia understands that a long period of tsarism, followed by communism has made the Russian people a nation of cheaters. Cannot blame them, though. You had to beat the system to survive in those days. Now the system has changed, but the mentality remains. Same thing has happened in Sweden on a smaller scale, and abusing the system is very common.

    Sweden just cannot afford it anymore.

    You say, admin, that the 50s and 60s were the golden ages. True, because of windfall gains after the war. Sweden had an intact industry ready to produce to a world that was screaming for goods. Inflation ran high and my parents’ generation basically turned their costs over to coming generations. You bought a house in the 60s and 70s, borrowed money, and the interest was tax deductible against your income, so no problem. The loan itself would just be eaten up by inflation and a few years later you could borrow more money for consumption. All paid by the government in principle. Affordable due to the high growth in industry and very close cooperation with the trade unions. Peace in the labor force, everybody happy, nobody notices the built-in flaws in the system.

    Turning now to the issue of the fascist party SD getting seats in the parliament. You mention the greens vs. SD. “That’s almost the same percentage of the vote as the Green Party won in a country that’s one of the most environmentally conscious in the world.” There is a very scary similarity between what happened with the greens and what I am sure will happen with SD. The greens reached the paliament through a single issue, environmentalism, which was then promptly adopted by every party. They are all saying now that they will not cooperate with SD. Bull shit!!! They will. SD will polish off their edges a bit and will get some bones thrown at then in “small” issues, and bit by bit their sick ideology will become accepted or at least tolerated by all.

    The previously established parties have failed to deal with the integration of immigrants, who Sweden need because Swedes are too lazy and complacent, an that has paved the way for xenophobic views, which will now become mainstream. Now that the vermin is there, it is going to be virtually impossible to smoke them out again. Sorry Sweden, another innocense lost.

  4. BTW, I think your heading should have been:

    Sweden – where no right liberal is left.

    Because liberalism, in its classic pure sense, is totally dead in Sweden. Integrity issues are not on the agenda at all, which the poor result for the PP proves.

  5. Celsius,

    By your long post, it seemed that you are not too excited about this election win. The Reuter news has this to say:

    “(Reuters) – Sweden’s election result looks set to cause short-term damage to the crown and unsettle debt investors on Monday, analysts said, as markets grapple with the implications of a weakened ruling coalition.

    Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt declared victory for his center-right coalition, but his four-party alliance fell just short of a majority after a far-right party gained seats in parliament for the first time.”

    Here, in the U.S., the election is a farce as they have stolen the elections due to the diebold machines. Al Gore should have been the rightful president. However, I feel my vote is wasted if they are going to cheat. I am a Conservative, but today, there is no difference between both parties.

    The world is going to be landing on its knees with Socialism. U.S. is experimenting soon as they have outsourced the jobs, financial disasters and fraud, the war cost, and unemployment has been caused deliberately so people have no choice, but go socialist.
    It would be a difficult transition as America believed in free market and capitalism. I agree that Sweden has made some people lazy and idle mind is a devil’s workshop. They think only of sex and rape, lol.

  6. Nicholas/admin, I take from your analysis a narrative that we’ve watched playing out in many other places over the last, say, twenty years (at least).

    Part of it has to do with weakly “liberal” governments (the Swedish SocDems, Blair’s New Labour, Liberals in Canada, Clinton in the U.S. — anyone who decided to do “the third way”) beginning to cut away in the 90s at what had been well-functioning public systems. That worked well for their finance ministers, which is always the spin they can put on it, but it meant that real life got tougher for ordinary people in more and more ways.

    But then comes the puzzle. Voters seem determined to shoot themselves in the foot almost. Instead of reacting against the politics of what was being done (the cruel cuts), they just voted against whoever had been in power, which has tended to mean that they move rightwards. So the right takes over in each country and begins cutting even more radically, making ordinary life even tougher, and yet the right seem able to convince voters to keep moving further and further right.

    Myself, I do not understand this. The process is not so far along in my country as in Sweden, but we can see that a strengthened Conservative party could well destroy a pretty good health-care system, eg, just out of neolib ideological conviction.

    The weakly “liberal” parties sold us all out, and now they don’t know how to catch up to the rampant right wing. It’s happening everywhere, and it’s very worrisome. I don’t know how we get through to citizens, to help them to understand that they’re headed in the wrong direction if, for example, Emilie’s story is what moves them.

  7. @Clarissa, Thanks for the comment. Of course, Sweden has indeed implemented many progressive social reforms that put the USA to shame and it’s right that its welfare state is often held up as a beacon of what’s possible. But that image of Sweden is become rapidly outdated as the liberal left and right in Sweden destroy them in the name of neo-liberalism AKA “responsible economics” – responsible to corporate interests, not the needs of Swedes that is.

    Celcius,Thanks for the thoughtful comment. It’s interesting to have a Swede’s perspective, especially an insightful one like the one you’ve given.

    One big problem is that Swedes have become welfare junkies. No matter what bad luck they might have, they always expect the state to provide a safety net in every situation, and without any loss on thier own part.

    We have to be careful here to distinguish those who are on welfare because of increased workplace stress and job insecurity and those who are “welfare junkies” as you say. I can appreciate that the traditional “cradle-to-grave” welfare system has perhaps created an over reliance on the state by Swedes to take care of them. But there are always people that abuse a welfare system in any country. Do you think the majority of Swedes that resort to the welfare system are abusing it though? That is precisely the argument that Reinfeldt and the Alliance have used – that “lazy” people are abusing the system, therefore everyone that uses the system must suffer. Seems a bit heavy handed.

    With marginal taxes approaching confiscation, there is little incentive to try to achieve better from your own work.

    But what’s changed in Sweden then? It’s always been the case that the very rich in Swedish society pay a very high proportion of their tax in wealth. While they may not have been over the moon about it, it seems that they were happy to do so for decades of Social Democratic rule because they saw it as for the greater good. Do you think this mentality has changed due to corporate mainstream media and government propaganda that Swedes are somehow “sponging” off the system? Or as a result of mass immigration, is there not the feeling of “Swedishness” and “Folkhemet??” needed for the rich to accept such high taxes?

    Swedes are DOI people to a high degree. Building supplies stores are full of amateurs buying stuff to improve their homes.

    I’m not so sure it has anything to do with Swedes being a nation of DIY experts. I think the plethora of people improving their homes is due to the amount of “home improvement” “pornography” on Swedish TV. Where do all those home improvement shows come from that are all over Swedish TV? England, where property speculation has become a national hobby because it’s seen as a way to make money when you sell-on the property. Although Sweden doesn’t have the ludricrous home improvement religion than Brits have, it’s getting that way because property in major areas has gone through the roof in value and the current property bubble is seen as one way to make a lot of money if you “pimp-up” your home.

    The Alliance has won power by triangulating themselves as close as they can to the Social Democrats, while still pretending to be different.

    Exactly. “Nyt” Modertarna under Reinfeldt is absolutely no different to “New” Labour under Blair. Both just made a few cosmetic changes, claimed to be “New rejuvenated parties”, copied the government that was in power to get themselves elected and then sold-out the nation as soon as they got power. It’s called marketing.

    Sweden just cannot afford it anymore.

    I’m always very suspicious of this argument because government always seem to have enough money to bailout the rich i.e. corporation but say they can’t afford to bail out people. If Sweden just cannot afford a welfare state anymore, why is it that it can afford to bailout huge corporations like Volvo and Saab to the tune of $3.5 billion? Then there’s the multi-billion dollar 1990’s bank bailout when Sweden had it’s own “mini” financial crisis and the welfare state was also being slashed. Not forgetting of course, the no strings attached 1.5 trillion Kronor put on the table by the government for Swedish banks in the current financial crisis. And of course, then there’s Princess Victoria’s multi-million dollar wedding paid by the state ;) I think we have to be careful not to believe too much corporate media/government propaganda about “welfare for the poor being too expensive” and focus on the welfare for the rich that’s booming.
    I acknowledge that Sweden’s “golden years” were very much down to their “neutrality” during the war when the rest of Europe was ruined but Sweden continues to enjoy a high degree of wealth compared to many other countries of it’s size and population and is still home to some of the world’s biggest corporations – although I’m not sure how many of them are paying tax there ;)

    They are all saying now that they will not cooperate with SD. Bull shit!!! They will. SD will polish off their edges a bit and will get some bones thrown at then in “small” issues, and bit by bit their sick ideology will become accepted or at least tolerated by all.

    I wouldn’t be surprised either. SD will employ an expensive PR agency, clean-up their image, kick out a few of their extremists and become “respectable” and therefore acceptable by the mainstream parties. However, I think there’s also a strong possibility that the Moderates will work with the Social Democrats – their policies are so similar nowadays (like Labour and Conservative in the UK) why not make the marriage complete? Come out of the closet and into the open. Or would that shatter the illusion of a functioning democracy too much in Sweden?

    The previously established parties have failed to deal with the integration of immigrants,

    They’ve failed to support working people full stop. But immigrants especially – suburbs such as Rinkeby, Tensta and Kista in Stockholm are like immigrant ghettos. The government house them all in the same areas as if they were trying to create ghettos. Why not spread them out like a civilized society?

    Because liberalism, in its classic pure sense, is totally dead in Sweden. Integrity issues are not on the agenda at all, which the poor result for the Pirate Party proves.

    Agreed. Liberalism, conservatism, socialism. The meaning has been sucked out of all of them in Western democracies. All we are left with is a state-coporatism that is more reminiscent of fascism than any of the above. I used the word “liberal” left to distinguish it from a genuine left alternative. Liberalism as it is defined today, is one of the biggest barriers to any kind of progress or awakening to true realities in Western societies.

    @Siboni and GeorgieBC, Thanks for the comments.

    @skdadl, Good comment:

    But then comes the puzzle. Voters seem determined to shoot themselves in the foot almost. Instead of reacting against the politics of what was being done (the cruel cuts), they just voted against whoever had been in power, which has tended to mean that they move rightwards. So the right takes over in each country and begins cutting even more radically, making ordinary life even tougher, and yet the right seem able to convince voters to keep moving further and further right.

    I think a lot of the blame lies in the corporate mainstream media. You have to understand that mainstream media outlets are very powerful and very rich organizations. It is their institutional role to protect power. If you believed the liberal Swedish media for example, this year’s election was fought out between two parties with radically opposed agendas. The truth is, the agree on almost everything i.e neo-liberalism and privatization. The interests of profit over people. As the saying goes, propaganda is to liberal democracies what the bludgeon is to a dictatorship. Anyone that remotely suggests a left wing agenda will be ignored, laughed at or at least smeared. A man called Lars Ohly is head of “The Left” party in Sweden. It’s not exactly extremely left wing but from what I understand, he’s been largely ignored by the media, or smeared as a “communist” by both opponents and corporate media. Celsius can probably tell you more about him than me though and I might be wrong.

  8. I read the news of Swedish election today. The Center-Right should work with far right, because of immigration policies and others. Now, that U.S. and other European nations have waged war in Iraq and other regions, they have acquired their wealth in terms of oil and other bank assets. This might be an incentive for Sweden to give refuge for these poor destitute as the European nations might hand out funds to Sweden in return for their amnesty. This must be done rightly so!

    If the Europeans such as Britain, Germany, and the U.S. do not provide the funds, Sweden should demand as the NATO has wrecked their nation! I have travelled to many countries and I find that Muslims are peaceful people by far as long as you do not convert them to other religions. Provocation is always dangerous and should be limited.

  9. Thanks, admin, it is self-enlightening to have this discussion, because I challenge my own perceptions and try to re-examine the roots of them. I am an expat just as you are, since five years. And it is the second time I live abroad. In addition, my work keeps me travelling a lot. I have worked in 35 countries so far and in some that not many people go to, on nearly every continent. I have spent an average of 50-70% of the time on the road for the last 15 years or so. It gives perspective. I am sure you feel similar.

    Not all Swedes are welfare junkies, but too many. Even fewer abuse the system, but too many. And when ordinary people, plus politicians and other people that should be role models are caught cheating time and again it comes to the point we are at now. I mentioned Ardin who is clearly abusing the system right now. Does anyone care? Is it dicussed or even mentioned in the news? Not at all! No reaction whatsoever! People have started thinking that if they can do it, so can I, and why should I be the one who is just paying? We have been numbed to complacency about such things. Do the Swedes deserve a welfare system? Yes, in general. But the perception is we don’t. And the problem is that it is getting worse, so at some point we won’t.

    The case that came up before the election about the woman who was truly too ill to work but was denied benefits was mostly an error of judgment, I think. It was not a question of sick leave, but she should have been given a sick pension. Rigid people handling it, is my guess. (The conspiracy theory that it was done to discredit the government also exists. Probably to far fetched.)

    Speaking of which, I have myself seen some pretty awful abuse of that, by the government itself as well as the individuals. I have found Swedes in resorts abroad having a real good time on sick pension who I can tell would obviously be able to work with ‘something’ at least. Young people, forever in state care. You see, when it is time for elections, improving unemployment stats are important for a government to be able to show off.

    Rich people have not really suffered in Sweden, and they know it. Good productivity has made up for the high taxes to a degree, and they were always able to find loopholes to avoid taxes. The richer you are, the easier it is. If you run your own business, like I did for ten years (without getting rich, though), you learn that tax planning is crucial to survival, like it or not. But it is true that rich people have always been complaining, through a media that is largely controlled by other rich people. So the tax system that was supposed to create equality and justice has partly failed and partly succeeded. If you look at Gini coefficients for Sweden during the three last decades of the last century you will find ups and downs, but a flat trend. No change. So what people are afraid of is that we are just sharing a smaller pie just as (un?)equally as before (except for the REALLY rich), at least a smaller pie than it could have been. I don’t know for sure, it would take a lot of research to figure that out…

    So whether Sweden can afford this system or not, may just be a matter of time.

    The bank bailouts had the same mechanisms as in the US and elswhere. There was a degree of blackmail there, because of the scary prospect of a total financial meltdown. You can’t afford to, but can’t afford not to either, so you have to. The protection of the currency in early 1990s was stupidly run though. But recently there was one bit of good news. There was a bank called HQ Bank that catered exclusively to rich people that had its permit revoked, instead of a bailout. Rich people need to understand that high gains require high risks and that the risk cannot perpetually be rolled over on the state. I enjoyed reading about that!

    DIY (don’t know where DOI came from, silly me). I think you are right to a degree, but it is also a question if the chicken or the egg came first. Home improvement is not the only things Swedes do themselves, rather than hire for. People make a calculation and find they can’t afford hiring, and out comes the tools. The tax system must be a part of it in my opinion.

    We agree about the “-isms”. Liberalism has been high-jacked.

    I am not sure about the “immigrant ghettos”, though. They exist, but it is also a question of immigrants wanting to live together. We should not expect a kurd to come to Sweden because he wants to become a Swede. I think he still wants to be a kurd, but not a dead kurd. And you cannot spread people out by force either. I think it would work fine if the immigrants had jobs and incomes and a hope of a better future. Then you might see ethnic Swedes wanting to move in with them ;-) They sure have the best grocery stores, because they will not put up with second grade stuff like Swedes do. The social problems in those places are not because there are immigrants living there. To say that would place you among SDs voters, I think.

    Personally, if I were to move back to Sweden one day, I could live with high taxes, I could live with a crackling welfare system on the brink of collapse, but I would find it hard to accept the dismounting of civil liberties that is happening without much fuss, and could definitely NOT accept Sweden becoming a racist country again. Yes, again! There were a whole bunch of nazis in Sweden back then, and we even had a “racial biology institute” that forcefully sterilised “unfit” people, like gysies and prostitutes. And ALL parties at the time were in complete agreement about this. Hitler was not the pioneer about this stuff, we were first! The institute was founded in 1922…

    The full monty is here (http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statens_institut_f%C3%B6r_rasbiologi) in Swedish, but there is a smaller one in English if you click on the left. If you want, you could probably translate the Swedish version. As an appetiser, I cut and pasted this into a translator:

    “Det torde helt enkelt ligga så till, att de nordiska stammar, som bildade indoeuropéerna, varit skarpt medvetna om sin psykiska och fysiska överlägsenhet och ej tolererat någon uppblandning. (…) Ett inslag av zigenarblod även i stark utblandning verkar ofta rent förstörande på individens moraliska (mindre dess intellektuella) halt. (..) Pro primo kan tyvärr rashygienen knappast komma mycket längre än att den håller de värsta graderna av urartning någorlunda tillbaka.”

    If I gobsmacked you good people before, how about this, with a bit of my editing in brackets:

    “It would just be so, that the northern tribes, who formed indoeuropéerna (indo-europeans), was sharply aware of his (their) mental and physical superiority, and not tolerating any adulteration. (…) One element of zigenarblod (gypsy blodd) also in strong blending often seems purely destructive on the individual’s moral (less its intellectual) content. (..) Pro primo rashygienen (racial hygiene) unfortunately can hardly get much further than that it is (holds) the worst grades of degeneration somewhat back. ”

    Surprised? We have some pretty awful old traditions in Sweden AND I DON’T WANT THEM BACK!!!

    (And that, Siboni, may eplain why I am not “too excited” about the election result…)

  10. @Celsius, Well I’m sure all that travel has given you a very interesting perspective on Sweden which has been valuable to the debate both here and on Assange. Also perhaps explains why you’re so very comfortable speaking English.

    I mentioned Ardin who is clearly abusing the system right now. Does anyone care? Is it dicussed or even mentioned in the news?

    I suppose part of the reason is that they can’t reveal her identity can they? But it’s interesting, you open an English newspaper and all you read is “Asylum seeker or single mother with 15 kids sponging off government driving around in Ferrari living in Kensington. And yet in Sweden this is very uncommon but I don’t think it’s because “sponging” off the state is accepted in Sweden. I think it’s because no shame is seen in it. In the UK, there has been so much propaganda that it’s seen as almost shameful to be on welfare. But there’s very little coverage of corporate welfare – the welfare that the public provides in bailouts and subsidies for corporations. In my mind, it’s just another example of the corporate mainstream media protecting it’s corporate pals and shifting the blame onto people. However, I have no doubts at all that you’ve encountered Swedes abroad sponging – I’ve seen it myself but I don’t think everyone should suffer as a result. By the way, I guess you heard the woman who was denied a sick pension has now had her application officially rejected by the Swedish gov:

    http://www.thelocal.se/29150/20100921/

    The bank bailouts had the same mechanisms as in the US and elswhere. There was a degree of blackmail there, because of the scary prospect of a total financial meltdown.

    Agreed. But time and time again, the bailouts are no strings attached gifts to the corporate community. If the Social Democrats had on iota of leftist thinking left in them, they’d at least insist on certain restrictions and compromises as a condition of the bailouts – even nationalization – but they don’t. The HQ bank you quote is heartening and I guess shows there is still some difference (or at least there was in the 1990s) between Nordic and Anglo-Saxon political thinking. I think much of that difference has evaporated now though.

    I am not sure about the “immigrant ghettos”, though. They exist, but it is also a question of immigrants wanting to live together.

    I’m just comparing Sweden to the UK. While in the big cities, there are ghettos of immigrants – especially London – but on the whole, I think they’ve been spread out more although I think the UK has a longer history of anti-fascism than Sweden which is why far-right parties haven’t done as well. I did know about the sterilization program of the Social Democrats in the 1970s and it is absolutely shocking – perhaps officially shatters the myth that Sweden were “neutral” during the war (as you know, they willingly stepped aside to let the Nazis invade Norway amongst other things). There was clearly a lot of Nazi thought running through the political classes and I’m sure they learned a lot from the Nazis.

  11. Really informative piece, Nicolas. I didn’t know Sweden had turned quite as extreme as you have explained. Democratic Socialists like myself now have few places left to hold up as models of how things can be!

  12. I should add I don’t think Sweden has turned extreme with this year’s election although that’s what the corporate media would have us believe. As I wrote, it’s a process that’s really been going on for the past 40 years, symbolic of the political left all over the Western world, and has reached something of a low point in Sweden with this election. I also think Democratic Socialists can find inspiration elsewhere nowadays – South America is probably the most inspiring place on the planet right now. If the people there can overcome the overwhelming odds they face, then people surely can in the West. It’s just a matter of taking committed action.

  13. Hi maisy, Sorry for the delay in responding on this. Thanks very much for this link. I read the report with great interest plus I checked out the Nordic News Network website which is also very interesting. Are you familiar with the work of the author Al Burke?

  14. Just a historical note about sterilization programs in the West generally a century ago, in response to Celsius:

    Bizarre and hateful though it seems to us now, a century ago there was great interest among progressives everywhere in what was called eugenics, the medical engineering of a “healthier” population. In North America, many feminists and socialists/social democrats supported, eg, sterilization programs for the “unfit,” particularly people with mental illnesses, and that remained true until the Second World War, when the Nazis shocked people into recognizing what the logical progression of such theories could mean. It’s easy to see how such theories could also be used against racial and ethnic groups and marginalized classes of people like impoverished women, and depending on country, they were. I would never argue that prejudice and discrimination have gone away, but extreme expressions of it like eugenics have come to be regarded, at least in my country, as beyond the pale.

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