Social Democrats Hunting for Future

Politics - March 4, 2024

The Swedish Social Democrats were once one of the world’s most successful parties. They ruled unthreatened for 44 years and became almost synonymous with Sweden, both in the country and abroad. Now they are lost in time.

The secret was that party leader Per Albin Hansson (b 1885- d 1946) rejected radicalism, i.e. war between the classes in society and international solidarity. Instead, he copied the ideas that a Swedish conservative, the political science professor Rudolf Kjellén, had developed and called “the people’s home”.

Shock in the first election with universal suffrage

This solution was the answer to the fact that the Social Democrats lost the first parliamentary elections after universal suffrage. The losses came as a shock to the party. Now that the working class was allowed to vote, they still did not choose to give the socialists the majority.

For the reformed socialists, democracy was not an ideology in itself, but only a tool to come to power, without revolution and bloodshed. And in the 1920s it turned out that democracy did not give the socialists power. What to do now?

After the radicals had broken away and started a communist party, Per Albin Hansson knew that he could get the party on board with even less radical politics in order to achieve success in general elections.

Since then, winning elections and reaching government power has always been an overall goal, more important than substantive politics, for the Swedish Social Democrats.

Here, the Swedish party differs from its sister parties in Europe, which put a radical agenda ahead of maximum support in the electorate.

Historical speech about “the people’s home”

It was in 1928 that Per Albin Hansson gave one of the most important speeches in modern Swedish history. He described “the people’s home” (folkhemmet) that the party would now build.

– The foundation of the home is commonality and empathy. The good home knows no privileged or disadvantaged, no favorite and no stepchildren. There one does not look down on another, there no one tries to gain an advantage at the expense of others, the strong does not oppress and plunder the weak. In the good home there is equality, consideration, cooperation, helpfulness. Applied to the great people’s home, this would mean the breaking down of all social and economic barriers, which now divide citizens into privileged and deprived, into rich and poor, Mr. Hansson said.

So: Instead of class conflict, consensus was to be sought. Instead of Marx’s international solidarity of the proletariat, all concentration would be to provide welfare for the Swedish workers.

On this program, the Social Democrats ruled the country from 1932 to 1976.

Go radical again?

But now the party has big problems. It is true that they are at the level of 35 percent of the electorate, but at the same time they are worried that the red and green support parties will not be enough to reach the majority in the upcoming elections.

Therefore, since losing power in 2022, there is a feverish search for a new political narrative that can attract voters.

As a conservative, it is interesting to note that the debate within the Social Democrats seems to drift more to the left. Once again, leading analysts are talking about class war. About having to put certain groups before others.

Even more interesting is that it is being discussed whether the party should make the migrants the new underclass that the party should fight for.

In the party’s own newspaper Aktuellt i Politiken, AiP, the political editor writes under the heading “Breaking segregation is the great class struggle of our time”. Here, the old story about people’s home are not included, but demands that the party should fight for an underprivileged group, against other groups. The other groups include, remarkably enough, Swedish workers. So here the Social Democrats discuss taking battle AGAINST the ethnically Swedish working class.

It is a clear step in a radical direction when Social Democrats in a leading position talk in the same terms as communists. And that the proletariat they intend to fight for are migrants who speak poor or no Swedish.

Class conflict on the bases of ethnic background

The editor talks about this radically new course in light of the fact that a total of 27 percent of the Swedish population now has a foreign background. Here we can once again state that Social Democrats see democracy more as a tool to reach power, than a value and lifestyle. The proportion with a foreign background is now so large that one could become their voice in politics.

This is completely contrary to the idea of the people’s home, where consensus across class boundaries is the goal. One reason for abandoning this old concept of success is that the voters who give priority to the conservatively shaped “people’s home” have already left the Social Democrats for the Sweden Democrats.​

But is it really a path to success to start pursuing class struggle along ethnic lines? Sounds dangerous to me.