How Fierce Will Clash between European Leftists and Conservatives Be?

Politics - March 14, 2024

The election campaign before the European Parliament elections will in many member states be a battle between Social Democratic left-wing parties and the new nationally oriented conservative parties. According to many observers, the latter have momentum and can win electoral success.

How do the Social Democrats intend to try to slow down the downward trend for the left in Europe? In Sweden, the Social Democrats have always been strong, and now a new tactic is applied there.

For strong Europe – in contrast to conservatives

Recently, party leader Magdalena Andersson (S / S&D) was featured in the leading interview program in public service, “30 minutes”. There she shocked the presenter by describing the Social Democrats as the party that most of all wants to make Europe “strong”. On a game board, each guest gets to place the own party on a scale from nationalist to EU-federalist.

Magdalena Andersson placed herself at the far end of the federalist edge – far more EU-federalist than the Liberals (RE).

But she consistently spoke of “Europe”, of making Europe strong, not of making the “European Union” strong.

The interview became bizarre because the presenter did not pick up on this difference and asked if the Social Democrats want to transfer more power to the Union in Brussels.

To that Magdalena Andersson replied: “no”.

She explained that she wants to make Europe strong by cooperating and “sticking together” to face challenges such as Putin’s Russia. The presenter should have asked if this topic is not more about NATO cooperation rather than the EU, but that question was never asked.

Why was she acting so confusing?

What Magdalena Andersson did, in my opinion, was to carve out her own version of the strategy that mimics their main political opponent: the Sweden Democrats (ECR).

When the party leader of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, presented the party’s top candidates in the EU elections, he repeated what he has said many times: “The Sweden Democrats are the most pro-European and most EU-critical party”.

For a conservative and nationally oriented party, it is easy to distinguish between “Europe” and “EU”. The former is about the rich diversity of national cultures and traditions that the European continent offers – including, for example, Great Britain. This civilization stands in stark contrast to the rather newly constructed European Union in Brussels, which with bureaucratic means of power tries to standardize all countries in the same shape and move power to an elite far above and beyond the people of Europe.

But the Social Democrats do not want to clarify this principled difference because they know that there is strong popular support for maintaining national traditions – contrary to the aspiration the Social Democrats are acting for in Brussels: “an ever closer union”.

Therefore, Magdalena Andersson is trying to confuse the debate so that the basic principles are not noticed by the voters. She instead uses the distinction “Europe” when she talks about positively charged words like “stick together” against Putin. And thereby trying to conjure up the image that the Sweden Democrats, when they criticize the EU, are actually for fragmentation and for Putin.

Pure Orwellian rhetoric

What the interview on Swedish TV shows is that the Social Democrats do not intend to have an honest debate about the substantive issues, but instead, in a postmodernist spirit, distort the words and their meaning beyond recognition.

But really, it is not something new, but rather an escalation. During previous election campaigns, the Social Democrats have always presented themselves as custodians of the Swedish model, of Swedish approaches and solutions. But once elected, their parliamentarians have joined the broad majority in Brussels who are taking every step towards more centralization of power that they can.

Aristotle stated that democracy must have a strong and close bond between the electorate and the elected, otherwise it does not work. The Social Democrats’ tactics in EU elections are a good example of how politicians who are far beyond the everyday lives of European voters can manipulate election campaigns to be about everything but the essentials.