The elections in Sweden on 14 September were a catastrophe for the ruling right-wing coalition government. The red-green "opposition", however, was close to giving away its election victory. The racist right-wing Sweden Democrats doubling of votes caused shock and anger. In the simultaneous council elections, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) was able to keep its two council seats in Haninge (south Stockholm) and as well as two seats in Luleå (north Sweden).
The election result was yet another expression of an increasingly polarised Sweden and reinforces an already deep political crisis. Fighting racial divisions and right wing policies of all sorts must now escalate.
Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden)
Our election campaign focused on the two councils where we have seats, plus Gothenburg. During the campaign, we raised what the party has achieved in numerous local campaigns and struggles, as well as a clear internationalist and socialist programme. We organised several protests and demonstrations against local cuts and against racism.
In the six week campaign, we sold over 4,500 election manifestos (no other party sold their literature). We recruited dozens of new members and have more new members on the way.
Our votes in council elections:
Haninge: 1308 (in 2006 - 1248, in 2010 - 1464)
Luleå: 1848 (in 2006 - 1862, in 2010 - 2211)
Gothenburg is not yet counted.
The 2014 votes are, so far, preliminary and will increase a little.
This is a very good result, despite a slight drop in number of votes and our loss of one seat in Luleå (going from three to two councillors). The campaign was fought in a situation of rapidly shifting moods amongst the voters.
The elections in 2014 are primarily a loss for the right-wing alliance of four parties that have formed the government since 2006. Never before have the four traditional capitalist parties had such poor election results. Combined, they are below 40% and lost an equivalent of the voters of the city of Gothenburg, compared to the 2010 election – around 470,000 fewer votes.
All four alliance parties lost votes and the leading party of them, the Moderates, are close to their disastrous 2002 elections, which led to a new party leadership and the project "the New Moderates", including calling themselves "the new workers’ party".
The Christian Democrats have had their worst election in 20 years, and the Liberal Party continue to decline. The Centre Party also lost; despite the pro-capitalist press in the final stages of the election campaign did everything to support the party and its leader Annie Lööf.
On election night, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt announced his resignation as both prime minister and leader of the Moderates. The following day, Finance Minister, Anders Borg, announced he is leaving party politics.
The election left the project of the New Moderates in shreds. Other right-wing parties may also see a change of leadership following the election results, and the Alliance can now crack open.
This year’s election took place against the background of a dramatic change in public opinion - against the government and right-wing politics. Eight years of Reinfeldt was more than enough. For a long time, the opinion polls pointed towards a clear victory for the Red-Green opposition (the Social Democrats and the Green Party, with the support of the Left Party). The Green Party, in particular, looked set to repeat the success they achieved in the European elections in May, this year.
But the closer the election loomed, the smaller became the Red-Green lead. There are several reasons for this. The main reasons are the lack of a struggling and lively labour movement and the established parties turning to the right and becoming more or more similar. The latter was manifested in that this year’s election campaign, which was perhaps the most ‘smoothed-over’ and the most Americanised - primarily focused on television commercials and appearances.
Despite the sometimes harsh language used by the government and the ‘opposition’, they used caveats like "we basically have a consensus" and can agree.
The official election campaign and media coverage lacked mention of all issues key to the working class: privatisations, welfare without profit, the future of education, the health care crisis, government jobs initiatives, working hours and conditions, attacks on the sick and the unemployed and penalty taxes on them and pensioners’ conditions, as wells as the climate and environmental crisis.
The Social Democratic leader, Stefan Löfven, would rather appear as a collaborative technocrat, making bargains with right-wing parties, as an end in itself, rather than act as an opposition leader.
When Fredrik Reinfeldt tried to blame changes in state revenues for less funds for welfare, increasing numbers of social democrats remained silent.
In the official social democratic election campaign, it was as if the grotesque income and wealth disparities did not exist.
The red-green alliance did not put forward any anti-capitalist policies or suggestions that could be interpreted as wanting to take some of the billions that the super-rich, large corporations and banks are sitting on.
There is no lack of resources and money but to utilise them for the benefit of workers demands something different than the Red-Green’s pro-capitalist perspective and allegiance to austerity budget discipline – it requires struggle for socialist policies. The Left Party’s efforts to distinguish itself as the uncompromising opponent of profits being made out of the welfare system collided with the party leaderships’ overall goal of being invited into a new government.
The government parties all lost votes:
Moderates 23.2% (30.0% in 2010), Centre Party 6.1% (6.6%), Liberals 5.4% (7.1%), Christian Democrats 4.6% (5.6%)
The opposition parties’ vote hardly changed: Social Democrats 31.2% (30.9%), Greens 6.8% (7.2%), Left Party 5.7% (5.6%).
The racist and right-wing populist Sweden Democrats increased from 5.7% to 12.9%.
The Feminist Initiative party got 3.1% (0.4%) but did not reach the parliamentary threshold of 4%.
The Sweden Democrats
Due to the weak Red-Green opposition, the Sweden Democrats (SD) were able to make gains using a mix of populism and racism. Although the SD voted with the last government in seven to eight votes out of ten, they tried to present the party as opposed to the government, alongside attacks on an alleged "mass immigration" costing "too much".
Despite its neo-liberal tradition the Sweden Democrats gained support from voters who are strongly opposed to profits in schools, and those disgusted with the Social Democrats declaring they will not reverse privatisations. According to a survey, the teachers’ union opposition to profits in schools was strongest among Left Party and Sweden Democratic supporters.
The Sweden Democratic forward march is due to the fact that political consciousness still lags behind, along with volatile public opinion and the confusion the political establishment’s march rightward has created. The SD has been profiting from the growing gap between working people and the elite.
This political confusion was reproduced in a conversation I had during the election campaign in Haninge. I met a man who said, "I think that social democracy has gone too far to the right, that’s why I vote for SD ". The SD is perceived as a party that challenges the Establishment, even though the party is part of the same establishment. It is an unhappy alliance of voters who switched to SD, with a big share coming from previous Moderate voters.
The Social Democrats managed to just barely reach an election result that exceeded the 2010 election disaster. The preliminary figure was 31.2% compared to 30.9% in 2010. Their crisis is shown by the fact that after eight years of right-wing rule, their result that is almost four percentage points lower than in their election defeat in 2006.
A weakened Social Democracy will now try to form a government with the Green Party, which has also gone back since 2010. They can only form a new government and get proposals through with support of several other parties.
If it becomes possible to form such a government, it is a gateway to a broader coalition. But this not likely soon. On election night there were signals from at least the Liberal Party that cooperation is possible. Even the Left Party leader, Jonas Sjöstedt, spoke about the possibility of wider cooperation to isolate the SD. As expected, the social democrats said no to the Left Party participating in a new government but want them as a supporting party in parliament.
It is too early to predict how the next government will look. Fear of going into fresh elections and government crises is a factor that tends to create new blocks. To this should be added that shock over the Swedish Democrats’ electoral success, despite the large anti-racist protests and many revelations made about the SD’s racism, initially strengthens the illusion that SD can be pushed back if the other parliamentary parties cooperate.
Such cooperation in support of right-wing policies will not stop the SD but may, as in other countries, after a time, lead to one or more parliamentary parties saying the time is ripe for a rapprochement with the SD. This is shown for example in neighboring Nordic countries. In Denmark, the Danish Peoples’ Party was for ten years a key partner with a right-wing government and formed its migration policies. In Norway, the conservative party is in government with the Progress Party. This government combines attacks on labour rights, new anti-immigrant policies and attacks on abortion rights.
Neither ‘isolation’ nor ‘cooperation’ can stop the SD or arrest the economic, social and political crisis that creates the dissatisfaction that racist right-wing parties make gains from. Another risk from the SD’s doubled election results is increased activity by violent neo- Nazi sects. Whatever the established parties now say, they will not be averse to reaching towards the Sweden Democrats and will be prepared to tighten anti-immigrant policies.
During the election night, the former Centre Party leader, Maud Olofsson, said other parties must "listen to the SD voters," which can only be interpreted as having to build new and higher walls against refugees.
The struggle against racism is a fight against right-wing policies. The stricter refugee policies introduced since the late 1980s was part of the Social Democracy’s rightward march and ‘bourgeoisfication’. Since then, governments, whatever their political colours, have restricted the right of asylum while the Swedish political establishment has been striving to build the EU’s ‘Fortress Europe’.
Workplaces must be a crucial bulwark against the Social Democrats, with unions joining anti-racist struggles and fighting for Swedish collective agreements to apply to all workers, including migrant workers.
While the SD increased strongly in the polls, there is a widespread desire to stand up against racism, sexism and class inequalities. This was reflected in the right-wing alliance’s electoral defeat and the change of government. And also by the example of the Feminist Initiative (FI) coming close to getting into parliament. The FI is seen as a new feminist and left-wing challenge. It was elected onto 13 of the 21 councils the FI stood for. Amongst the 18-21 age group, the Left Party and Feminist Initiative won considerably more votes than the Sweden Democrats.
The election campaigns by Rättvisepartiet Socialisternas (CWI) in Haninge, Luleå and Gothenburg, showed that clear socialist policies can gain support.
Instead of resignation, continued grassroots campaigns are needed more than ever - for non-profit welfare, secure jobs and so on. The elections results can lead to an intensified struggle for a new workers’ party, with a socialist programme. This can offer an organised and united struggle and a programme against capitalism, right wing politics and racist divisions - for jobs, prosperity for all and sustainable development.