Sweden: New network struggles against right-wing policies

‘Women’s Struggle against the Right’ organises demonstration on International Women’s Day

For this year’s 8 March, a new network has been set up in Sweden called “Women’s Struggle against the Right”. Its first task is organising a demonstration in Stockholm for International Women’s Day.

The main slogans of the demonstration are: “No to privatisation – abolish RUT (a tax reduction for those employing maids!); safe and permanent jobs; universal welfare; no profit from women’s bodies; scrap sexism; international women’s solidarity and global justice.”

After more than four years of right-wing government in Sweden, equality is being pushed back in many areas. Tax cuts have increased the income gap between women and men to 1,000 Swedish Kronor per month (€100). Now the employment gap is the largest in 20 years, with 230,000 more men than women having jobs – a poor record for a government that claims to stand for "jobs-first".

Work opportunities for all, universal welfare and efficient public sector functioning, provide the basis for achieving genuine equality. When good state provisions for health, the elderly and children were established in Sweden, it was as a result of women’s and workers’ struggles. These resulted in reforms that increased women’s economic and social power. But today everyone is required to solve more and more problems on an individual basis.

Close to 100,000 residents in Stockholm County got a tax deduction for employing household services last year. This has increased the class divide among women. Those who can afford to have someone cleaning their house get a tax refund while this kind of domestic employment is often insecure and poorly paid. Instead resources should be invested in expanding elderly care and child care to those who need it.

Sanna Tefke, youth secretary in Kommunal (Council Workers’ Union) Branch 26, is a member of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) and one of the initiators of the March 8 demonstration. "Privatisation of health care in Stockholm has gone so far that in many districts there is no publicly-funded care to choose from. Millions of Kronor of tax-payers’ money go in profits and dividends to private owners.

“’Women’s struggle against the Right’ was needed to give 8 March more sting. We need to rebuild a fighting movement that can respond to the counter-revolution being carried through. We feel that the existing 8 March arrangements are too vague and soft."

Another issue being taken up is men’s violence against women. Maria Rashidi from the Society for Women’s Rights told us: "Every day I meet a woman who has been much abused by her husband. Victims of male violence are often not treated seriously by police and social services. Women in the asylum process are the most severely affected. Many have to move every month and are being exploited as cheap labour. Women working in restaurants, for example, can have to sleep over at their workplace where they have to wash dishes for 20 SEK (€2) per hour.

“I get two to three calls a week from women who have been abused as ‘mail-order wives’. There should be a special shelter for such women. On 8 of March  it is important to note the progress women have won globally but also to recall that, through struggle, we can achieve much more." 

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March 2011