As Hugh correctly pointed out, the article from the Internet
Anti-Fascist/LA Times that Charles posted was a typical piece of crappy
journalism -- even on its own bourgeois terms. Purporting to be an in-depth
political analysis of recent 'critical' developments, featuring 'strategic'
interviews with 'key' observers, it offers nothing more than a set of
sweeping, superficial, unhistorical generalisations designed to present
Sweden as a special case, somehow different from other imperialist states,
a line incidentally long propounded by Henwood.
Hugh covered most of the points I would have wanted to make (far better
than I could have done) and there is little useful coment I can add.
However, a breakdown of the results of the last Swedish general election
should put paid to the article's preposterous assertion that "the vast
majority of Swedes array themselves among parties firmly on the political
Distribution of seats by party in the Swedish Riksdag (parliament).
Moderate Party ('Tory'/neo-liberal): 82
Christian Democrats (Conservative): 42
Centre Party (Farmers' party, Conservative, pro-environment): 18
Folk Party (Liberal, pro-business): 17
Total for the 'non-socialist' bloc: 159
Social Democrats: 131
Left Party (Former CP): 43
Green Party (presently aligned with the 'socialist' bloc but capable of
collaborating with any party prepared to push some of its policies): 16
Total for the 'socialist' bloc: 190
Total number of seats: 349
Source: The National Tax Administration (Riksskatteverket)
I don't have the figures to hand but the results of last years' elections
to the European Parliament were a disaster for the 'parties of the left' in
Sweden as elsewhere, with the Social Democrats giving their worst showing
at a national election ever.
Despite the restoration to 'health' of government finances (by dint of
continued systematic dismemberment of the social welfare system) and vague
promises of "new proactive welfare measures" (see Hugh on this below),
current polls show no sign of increasing support for the Social Democrats.
At 11:22 1999-11-19 +0100, you wrote:
>Charles B (in the article he forwarded) and James F (in his remarks on the
>reactionary bourgeois cultural icon Ingmar Bergman) highlight the strong
>streak of right-wing reaction in Sweden.
>I'd like to comment on some of the statements in the article from the
>Internet Anti-Fascist/LA Times that Charles posted.
>> A HATE CRIME THE SWEDES COULDN'T IGNORE: KILLING OF CLERK
>>WHO PROTESTED NEO-NAZIS SEEN AS WARNING CALL THAT ANYBODY COULD BE TARGET
>It wasn't a hate crime so much as a political crime against a left-wing
>>STOCKHOLM--No one here took much notice of the hundreds of hate crimes
>>against immigrants over the last few years that besmirched the image of
>>Sweden as a bastion of tolerance and serenity.
>Most people have tended to interpret them as emotional, psychological
>aberrations -- hate crimes -- and not political crimes. As for Sweden's
>*image* of tolerance and serenity, that's just what it has been, an image.
>And one that's been polished and maintained by outsiders more than by
>Swedes themselves -- the welfare paradise of the third way, a reformist
>utopia has been needed as a copout from the revolutionary socialist
>transformation of capitalist society. Hence the bleating by Havel in Prague
>and others about the Swedish model -- a model that was already dead and
>being buried when the Stalinist regime collapsed in Eastern Europe and the
>Soviet Union and the lack of a revolutionary working-class leadership
>allowed the workers states to be hijacked by capitalist restoration.
>>Nor did many here rise up in anger over the execution-style slayings of two
>>police officers who foiled a bank robbery by neo-Nazis in May, or the car
>>bombing a month later that seriously wounded an investigative reporter who
>>had been documenting this country's white supremacist movement.
>"Rise up" gives the wrong impression. There is too much sympathy for the
>police in Sweden as it is. Not on the left, but in public opinion. But the
>bombing of the reporter made a lot of people very angry -- especially at
>the off-handed attitude of the police in easing off protective measures in
>relation to the threats against the reporter.
>>But when a mild-mannered warehouse clerk was gunned down in his Stockholm
>>apartment last month after protesting the election of an avowed neo-Nazi to
>>the board of his trade union, Swedes got the message that any open-minded
>>person could be an enemy or a victim of racist radicals.
>Bjoern was not so much mild-mannered as likeable, radical and determined.
>(I've got a picture of him carrying a banner I can send as an attachment
>to anyone interested.) The message was not that "any open-minded person"
>could be targeted but that any determined unionist who took a stand against
>the Nazis could be targeted.
>>"Bjoern wasn't an anti-Nazi crusader. He was just an average guy who did
>>what any decent person would have done, which is to stand up and confront
>>something that is wrong," said Anna-Clara Bratt, editor of the Arbetaren
>>labor journal. "Almost 90% of Swedish workers are trade union members, so
>>his murder served as a warning call that anyone could be next."
>He wasn't an average guy, he was a syndicalist union organizer, a local
>workers leader. The argument that he did something "any decent person would
>have done" is neither here nor there -- actions of this kind are rarely
>spontaneous expressions of moral fibre.
>The high level of union organization is important here, though. But the
>threat is not to ordinary union members -- yet. It's to organizers and
>people who take the initiative to speak up for their fellow-workers.
>And Arbetaren is not a labour journal. It's an anarcho-syndicalist paper
>with a heavy cultural slant. The fact that "arbetaren" means "the worker"
>>Before Soederberg's slaying, Bratt said, Swedes tended to avert their eyes
>>from the ugly assaults and harassment of immigrants and refugees, who now
>>make up as many as 1 million of Sweden's 8.9 million residents.
>"Swedes" were just as divided in their response after the killing as before
>it. There is a groundswell of support for immigrants and radicals among
>ordinary people in Sweden that rarely makes the headlines, as Bob M can
>testify and often has, as opposed to the louder and more visible
>anti-immigrant, anti-radical lobby.
>>Since 1995, there have been at least four slayings of foreigners attributed
>>to neo-Nazis, and police have investigated hundreds of racially motivated
>>attacks each year, said Margareta Lindroth, deputy director of Sweden's
>>SAPO security forces.
>The only interest the secret police have in this is to use the Nazi threat
>as an excuse to home in on the socialist left under the cover of vague
>"anti-democratic" charges. Of course, certain of the Social-Democrats want
>the secret police to stop the Nazis targeting them, but hey, no pain, no
>>Sociologists and historians attribute the recent surge in neo-Nazi violence
>>to desperation among a small but powerful minority that has come to realize
>>that it cannot penetrate the established political parties and win converts
>>to its anti-immigrant and racist message.
>That is, political desperation (a petty-bourgeois characteristic) using
>methods of individual terrorism. The lack of party penetration is related
>to the groundswell of popular anti-authoritarianism I mentioned. Since the
>culture of a lot of party political life in Sweden is bureaucratic and
>authoritarian, the whole picture is full of contradictions -- a bit like
>the antics in England in relation to the election for a Mayor of London and
>Ken Livingstone's candidacy for the Labour Party in which a huge popular
>majority of Londoners wants the man as mayor, and a huge preponderance of
>machine politicians led by Blair himself is trying to smash him using every
>bureaucratic and authoritarian trick they can.
>>Unlike in Austria, where the ultranationalist Freedom Party won the
>>second-largest number of votes in parliamentary elections last month with
>>toned-down rightist rhetoric, the vast majority of Swedes array themselves
>>among parties firmly on the political left.
>This is utter nonsense. "Left" from the perspective of Los Angeles perhaps,
>but nowhere else. What Swedes want in general is a welfare state with
>progressive health, retirement, education, housing and employment policies,
>the way it was from 1950 to 1975-80. They're being screwed by all the
>parliamentary parties including the ex-CP Left Party. Most of the parties
>use "social caring" rhetoric, but none of them deliver on it.
>>"Neo-Nazi activists today realize there is no way they can ever arouse the
>>Swedish masses. The majority of Swedes will never get behind the national
>>socialist banner of racial revolution," said political scientist Matthias
>>Gardell, a University of Stockholm professor who has written extensively on
>>Sweden's racist radicals.
>This is unhistorical. The Swedish petty-bourgeoisie (including the
>intermediate wage-earning officials, supervisors and specialist groups) is
>just as likely as anywhere else to fall for radical Bonapartist solutions.
>The thing is, that Sweden has a long tradition of unionism and collective,
>social solutions to counter-balance the individualist rhetoric of fascism,
>and more importantly the actual petty-bourgeoisie is very small, so the
>lumpen-proletarian and (more predominantly) lumpen-bourgeois elements of
>thuggery in the Nazi movement need a complete vacuum of working-class
>leadership if they are to develop any mass base. The response of the
>official working-class leadership (unions, so-called socialist parties,
>etc) to the massacre of Bjoern Soederberg indicates that in this respect at
>least there is no such vacuum -- yet.
>>Like other analysts, he estimates the number of neo-Nazi activists at no
>>more than a couple thousand, of which perhaps 50 are believed to be
>>willing to carry out serious crimes. But their relatively small number and
>>fragmentation make them all the more dangerous, he said, because being
>>marginalized intensifies their "paranoid view of themselves as white
>>warriors facing extermination."
>A revolutionary socialist party with these numbers would have a much
>greater impact on society than the Nazis (for "willing to carry out serious
>crimes" substitute "willing to devote their lives completely to the
>cause"). Paranoia is not a political position.
>>The Internet allows Sweden's racists to form bonds with U.S. white
>>supremacist groups, emboldening the Nordic extremists by giving them the
>>sense of belonging to a broader community, Gardell said. Sweden also has
>>become the international production and marketing center for racist music
>>cassettes and CDs, whose sales on the Internet help finance the extremists'
>>activities, he said.
>Even the nationalists are internationalists these days. And note the
>inter-imperialist tie-up and division of labour.
>>But Gardell believes that Sweden's radicals made a tactical error in
>>attacking Soederberg, because the 41-year-old clerk's slaying inspired the
>>first broad anti-racist backlash. Tens of thousands took to the streets
>>across Sweden late last month to demand a government crackdown on neo-
>>Nazis. Some political parties have called for a ban on public activities
>>by racists and nationalists and a formal prohibition against membership in
>>organizations openly espousing fascism.
>The masses demonstrated (very passively) to show their support for Bjoern
>and to show a united union and political front against the Nazis. An
>important aspect of the demonstrations was the fact that for the first time
>all four strands of the union movement in Sweden -- the blue-collar LO
>federation, the white-collar TCO federation, the academic/graduate SACO
>federation and the anarcho-syndicalist SCO federation (to which Bjoern
>belonged) -- collaborated in organizing a large-scale national protest
>The demand for a "government crackdown on neo-Nazis" is not what was put
>forward except perhaps by a few individuals. The big mainstream union
>guns, if they raised any demands at all, demanded a crackdown on
>"anti-democratic" groups -- and we all know what that means, systematic
>harassment and attacks on the revolutionary left.
>>A recent poll by the SIFO Institute published in Dagens Nyheter, a
>>prominent daily newspaper here, showed 69% of respondents backing a
>>criminal ban on right-wing extremism--the first hint of majority support
>>for free-speech restrictions in modern Sweden.
>Another reflection of the popular groundswell I mentioned. What the
>political establishment will transform this into is another matter.
>>But most leftists and liberals, who have controlled the power structure for
>This ridiculous formulation is referring to Social-Democrats and centrist
>>argue that a ban would do little more than drive the extremists
>Big deal -- they're already underground. Occasionally they push their
>snouts up into the air to test the temperature.
>>"We already have laws against murder and bombing. We think the laws are
>>sufficient; they just need to be practiced," said Ulla Hoffmann, a member
>>of parliament from the Left Party. "What is at issue is free speech. If we
>>start by forbidding Nazis to talk, the next ones silenced will be the
>>Communists and other leftist parties."
>She's half right. The state can always forbid anyone it wants to do
>anything -- the problem is enforcing it. There's no automatic connection
>between a ban on Nazism and a ban on Communism etc -- unless the ban is
>formulated in vague terms like "anti-democratic aims" and fails to specify
>right-wing extremism in concrete terms.
>>What national leaders need to do to fight the neo-Nazi resurgence, Hoffmann
>>said, is to guide the country through a long-overdue confrontation with its
>>World War II role.
>>Although Sweden ostensibly remained neutral during the war, officials have
>>conceded over the last decade that the country supplied Germany's Third
>>Reich with iron ore for its munitions factories and allowed Nazi troops to
>>pass through Sweden en route to attacks on other countries.
>True enough. And under cover of "neutrality", Sweden helped the imperialist
>USA and NATO spy on the Soviet Union workers state. Sweden is an
>imperialist state, let's never forget it.
>>Hoffmann and Hannele Peltonen of the Syndikalisterna, a trade union
>>umbrella that covers Soederberg's shop, tie the rise in right-wing
>>extremism to a distorted self-image of Swedes as innocents
>The problem is that Swedes in general have no idea as to why the country
>became so prosperous after World War II or why it was able to set up a
>fairly well-developed bourgeois welfare state. The ideological reflex of
>this was a nationalist view that somehow Swedes were more enlightened,
>liberal and efficient than everyone else (the conscience of the world
>syndrome). The fact that Sweden enjoyed marginal benefits (like Titoist
>Yugoslavia) by playing off the Great Powers against one another, that it
>had undamaged industries (like the US) that had benefited from war
>production, that the bourgeoisie was ready as in other imperialist
>countries to make huge concessions just to survive in the face of the
>powerful revolutionary upsurge coming out of the war -- these things are
>hardly ever mentioned (with the exception of the industrial setup, which is
>rarely dealt with in any sensible context).
>>and to flagging
>>financial support for schools and social services. The latter, they said,
>>enhances the impression among nationalists and conservatives that
>>immigrants represent competition for pieces of the shrinking public pie.
>The dismantling of the welfare state is just as much a mystery to Swedes in
>general as was its construction. The question of immigrant competition for
>resources is not just a question of national distribution of a reduced
>national budget and slashed employment opportunities, but also one of
>international division of labour, international and national reserve armies
>of the unemployed, and international solutions to the problems of an
>imperialist world system.
>>"There are a lot of right-wing people working inside police and military
>>organizations," Peltonen said, suggesting that their sympathies for some of
>>the neo-Nazi causes explain why existing laws prohibiting threats against
>>ethnic groups or incitement of violence are seldom applied.
>True enough. This should have been elaborated to reflect on the repressive
>and reactionary nature of the bourgeois state.
>>Syndikalisterna's offices in the town of Gavle, about 90 miles north of
>>Stockholm, were bombed a week after the suspects in Soederberg's death were
>>arrested, suggesting that a dangerous rear guard in the radical right
>>remains at large and active, Peltonen said.
>The bombing was done the night before the nationwide demonstrations in a
>completely misjudged attempt to scare people off demonstrating.
>In England the fascists in the East End of London were hounded into
>insignificance by militant demos targeting their head offices and
>aggressive marking. Anti-fascists do this to some extent in Sweden -- most
>Nazi demos are outnumbered by counter-demonstrators and need the cops to
>save their skins.
>In general, however, the fascist threat is always alive under imperialism,
>so there will be no let up till the system is changed. And it's a political
>threat, not a psychological one, so socialists will have to take the lead
>in opposing the growth of fascist currents, or no-one will.
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