“Mood of shock at Conservative election night”, reported Svenska Dagbladet. “The mood fell like a rock”, wrote Dagens Nyheter about the Social Democratic one. The two parties lost 75,000 and 51,000 votes respectively from the catastrophic results they got in 1999.
Instead of the predicted recovery for them, a four-month-old party, Junilistan (the June List), took 14.4 per cent and got three MEPs. This party appeared to be the most EU critical party - a dark horse challenging both the social democracy and the conservatives. It walked straight into a vacuum and became the third most popular among workers. Its biggest support came from pensioners.
The June List got a lot of attention in the media, where their leader kept repeating, “Two million voters agree with us”.. He was referring to the strong No victory in the referendum on the euro of 13 September last year. But is this really a party in line with the attitude of workers and youth?
44 per cent of its voters want Sweden to leave the EU, according to exit polls. But, “Yes to EU membership” is the first point on the platform of the party. The third point is: “Yes to the single market of the EU”.. Neither of these slogans is particularly ‘EU critical’.
The June List was initiated by some economists who are against the euro, but not against the economic policies of the EU attacking workers’ conditions. Their basis is a section of the Swedish capitalists. The party leader, Nils Lundgren, is a former chief economist of Nordea, the main bank in Sweden and Finland. Number two, Lars Wohlin, was chief of the Central Bank. A third, Birgitta Swedenborg, is a leader of a neo-liberal think-tank.
Individual capitalists finance the June List, some of them even billionaires, like the former boss of Trelleborg, Rune Andersson.
The June List is clearly a bourgeois party, with limited criticism of the EU. How did they manage to win support among workers and EU opponents?
The Left Party and the Green Party did nothing to expose the June List. On the contrary, it was these ”No to the EU” parties that opened the door to the new party. In the campaign for the referendum last year, Nils Lundgren was given a leading position in the official No camp. He was described as both a Social Democrat (he was a member of the SPD) and a leading economist. The position of the Left Party was that the No campaign had to be united (i.e. a piece of old Stalinist popular frontism). Jonas Sjöstedt, the leading Left Party MEP, even publicly apologised for a statement where he spoke in favour of breaking the Stability Pact of the euro-zone.
The No establishment thought this had secured the victory in the referendum. They never realised that the No vote was founded on the discontent with neo-liberalism, cuts and widening social and economic gaps in society.
Left and Green
Straight after the referendum the Left Party and the Greens returned to full cooperation with the Social Democratic government. Their agreement to cuts being decided in parliament for councils and health authorities lowered the support for both the Left Party and the Greens.
So, when Nils Lundgren launched the June List, it appeared to be the continuation of the referendum’s No camp. To vote for them became the second best way of punishing the establishment.
The most common way of protesting was not to vote at all. Only 37 per cent voted, the lowest turn-out in Sweden ever and the lowest turn-out of the fifteen ‘old’ EU member states.
The Left party lost more voters than the Social Democrats and the Moderates - 85,000, compared to 1995. But because of the low turn-out it still had 12.8 per cent. As a proportion of those with voting rights, however, the Left Party had 4.7 per cent, the Social Democrats 9.1 and the Moderates 6.7.
The Social Democrats’ top candidate, Inger Segelström, claimed that a low level of knowledge was the reason for the low turn-out. A leading academic, Olof Ruin, said the EU does not receive the attention it deserves. The government spokesperson, Mona Sahlin, stated that the result included no criticism of the government.
All three are wrong. Probably no one avoided voting because the issues were too ‘complicated’. The criticism expressed was directed against both the government and the EU, against the kind of policy of worsening conditions for workers’ families that has been going on for 10 to15 years. A higher profile on EU issues is therefore no salvation for the establishment.
The established parties have lost their roots, particularly the Social Democrats. This election was their worst since 1911 (before the right to vote existed for women and workers). The Social Democrat leadership does not even control roughly one third of their ‘normal’ number of voters who voted for them this time. An EU critical candidate, number 31 on their list and heavily attacked by the leadership, got so many personal votes that she will be one of their five MEPs.
”It is difficult not to understand the European election as a class election”, a leading academic, Tommy Möller wrote in Dagens Nyheter the day after the election. He pointed to the fact that less than one worker in four voted in 1999. His conclusion is that this year’s election has, “Contributed to an increase in the gaps between citizens”.
”The search for the missing election campaign”, the daily newspaper, Aftonbladet, wrote on 9 June. They found, “Phlegmatic politicians on deserted streets that failed to awake interest from voters in a hurry passing by”.. In Farsta, south of Stockholm, the Christian Democrat, Stefan Attefall, ”Was getting no response at all. At one moment, the only thing you could hear on the deserted square was youth from Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) selling papers”.
A possible consequence of the election result will be for the parliamentary parties to portray themselves as more EU critical. As with the June List, their ‘criticism’ will not touch any of the class issues (privatisations, trade union rights etc), but rather they will be demanding that the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) should have a bigger say. Already this spring, the Swedish Prime minister, Göran Persson, tried to win the support of the least conscious EU opponents by attacking the rights of immigrant workers. The risk of nationalistic arguments being used by all parties has definitely increased after this election, in Sweden and around Europe.
”Since the referendum last autumn, several of the basically EU positive parties have developed a significantly more EU critical position, and it is likely for this tendency to be further accentuated”, Tommy Möller also wrote in Dagens Nyheter.
The June List will disappoint its voters. First, however, it will have a honeymoon period, particularly if the EU summit in Brussels agrees to a constitution and the June List campaigns for a referendum in Sweden. That would provide a platform that could last until the parliamentary elections in 2006, if the June List still exists by then and decides to stand.
The June List, with only 10-15 members and presence only in the EU parliament, does not have to be involved in the coming health cuts, privatisations etc, and can therefore avoid being exposed for a while. Subsequently, more and more of its voters will find out their real policies, and understand that this party have no alternative to the general political course, and does not even want to change the course.
To say “No” to the EU of today is not enough to stop the policies of capitalism and its politicians. We need a socialist alternative for workers, linking the resistance against cuts with workers’ struggles in Europe and globally. What is needed is new workers’ parties, with socialist programmes and a mass base, in Sweden and in Europe.
cwi campaign in Sweden
The most important target of the election campaign of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (cwi Sweden) was to build and extend the party. The results on this field mean that we have passed the test. Over the last four weeks, we have recruited 23 members in 10 different cities and the party has spread out into new regions. In the same period, we got 229 new subscribers for our weekly paper, Offensiv, 26 of which are on standing orders through the bank.
We knew all the time that we would get a low vote, but still we increased our vote to 2,087 votes (0.08%) compared to 1,430 votes (0.05%) in the EU elections in 1999. This is also higher than in the parliamentary elections in 2002 –1,519 votes. The latter was at the same time as we got 3,000 votes and three councillors in Umeå and 1,500 votes and two councillors in Luleå.
There are many reasons for us getting a low vote. Even among our supporters, several did not vote. The most important feature was the low turn out. The highest turnout in the country was in Norrköping, where we had one of our best results, especially since we have few members there. Another problem we faced was just distributing our ballot papers. We had to do it by hand at 8am on Sunday morning to more than 5,000 polling stations nationally. It goes without saying that we only managed to reach a minority of them.
In the council elections in 2006, we will have opportunities in more cities than Umeå and Luleå. Even the votes below show there is now a potential in several regions.
Best councils (votes)
- Stockholm 348
- Gothenburg 241
- Umeå 200
- Luleå 147
- Norrköping 115
- Eskilstuna 75
- Södertälje 65
- Skellefteå 63
- Piteå 53
- Boden 52