Far right makes gains in Swedish elections

In 1994, 15-year-old Jimmie Åkersson went to a neo-Nazi party. Today he brought this party into the mainstream. The Swedish parliamentary elections on September 11 gave the far-right Sweden Democrats, led by Åkersson since 2005, more than 20 percent of the vote with worrying results. The party is now the second most popular in the country, holding more seats than any other party.

In previous elections, the Sweden Democrats had been excluded from agreements to form a minority government. Now with more votes than any of the traditional conservative parties, the party could play a crucial role in forming the next coalition government while negotiations on its composition take place.

In recent decades, the Sweden Democrats have tried to revamp their image. The party has banned the wearing of Nazi uniforms in its gatherings and changed its logo from a flaming torch to an illustrated flower. She has remained nationalistic and xenophobic, as ex-party secretary Björn Söder proves. During his time as Parliament Minister, Söder told the Swedish newspaper in the affirmative Days Nyheter that he wanted “to create a society with a commons [Swedish] Identity” — what he argued in 2018 excludes Jews, Muslims and Indigenous Sami.

The Sweden Democrats have put law and order, racism and Islamophobia at the heart of this election. The party has publicly supported house searches and deportations of migrants, and has threatened to deport entire families for being unemployed or “anti-social”. Åkersson has taken up the slogan ‘Make Sweden good again’ and one of the party’s advertisements on Stockholm’s metro cars reads ‘Welcome to the migration train. You have a one-way ticket. Next stop, Kabul”.

The far right has also made worrying gains among workers in recent years by blaming migrants for deteriorating health care and worsening conditions for pensioners. Of the members of the Swedish Labor Union, 25 percent reportedly voted for the Sweden Democrats – more than for any other political party.

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The rise of the Sweden Democrats reflects an ongoing trend across Europe for far-right parties to enter the mainstream. The popularity of Italy’s far-right Brothers of Giorgia Meloni in the run-up to the Italian elections and the continued significant support for Marine Le Pen in France show a frightening pattern that oppresses workers’, left-wing, migrant and oppressive rights.

However, support for the outgoing Social Democratic government has dwindled and the last two elections have been the worst since universal suffrage was introduced in 1921. Dissatisfaction with the status quo and the political establishment is widespread. The right-wing neoliberal course of the social democrats has created space for the far right to disingenuously present themselves as defenders of workers and build support within sections of the working class.

Privatization has been on the agenda in Sweden since the mid-1990s. Electricity, healthcare, elder care and education were all opened up to private profit while real wages stagnated. The Social Democrats, who have been in government for 20 of the last 28 years, have been responsible for a significant part of this neoliberal offensive.

When forming a government in early 2019, the Social Democrats signed a deal with the Center Party and the Liberal Party that allowed the Social Democrats to keep the government in exchange for implementing the economic policies and budget of their right-wing coalition partners. In it, the Social Democrats largely restricted the right to strike, raised the retirement age and abolished price regulations for new apartments.

The cooperation of the social democrats with the free market right was politically discrediting in the eyes of many workers. That’s what Rainor Melander, a worker and member of the Social Democrats, said to investigative journalists at the daily newspaper Updrag Granskning that his first reaction to the agreement was: “How the hell could I go to my work colleagues and tell them to vote for the Social Democrats now?”

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In recent years, neoliberalism and inequality have only increased. Swedish workers face a rapid deterioration in their standard of living. They have suffered the sharpest drop in real wages this year since the 1993 economic crisis, according to Scandinavia’s largest bank, Nordea. The Stockholm Chamber of Commerce estimates that electricity bills for 1.1 million Swedish households will total just under $12,000 between October and March. The Swedish newspapers To express and Gothenburg Post have reported scores of pensioners being forced to live without heating and showering down to once or twice a week to make ends meet.

Despite its reputation for well-funded government services, Sweden today has a two-tier healthcare system. Workers often rely on private health insurance from their employers, and those who do not have access to private health care are putting up with increasing wait times for essential surgeries and appointments. The system was at a breaking point before the pandemic and is now in perpetual crisis. newspaper calculations Days Nyheter show that nurses and midwives in just five Swedish hospitals worked 1.8 million hours of overtime in 2020-21.

While working-class life has deteriorated, the Social Democrats have shifted the blame to migrants and refugees and accepted Sweden Democrat concerns about “the integration problem” and law and order. They have increased police powers and imposed permanent restrictions on refugees entering the country. In doing so, they have made migrant workers more precarious and vulnerable.

Social Democrat Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman has proposed plans to prevent “ghettos” by imposing caps on the number of migrant and economic residents in an area – a policy that would require the dispossession of thousands of migrants and the poor. This policy was defended by the recently resigned Prime Minister, Social Democrat Magdelena Andersson Days Nyheter in an interview: “We don’t want Chinatowns in Sweden, we don’t want Somalitowns or Little Italys”. This rhetoric does little to dissuade workers from the extreme right, instead lending legitimacy to the extreme nationalism and bigotry of the Sweden Democrats and normalizing their positions.

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The parliamentary claim of the supposedly anti-capitalist Left Party prevents a real alternative. The Left Party gained some popularity for opposing anti-strike laws and calling for a vote of no confidence in the Social Democrats in their attempts to deregulate rents. But they have since made it clear that being part of the Social Democrat coalition government is far more important to them than fighting attacks on workers, migrants and the oppressed.

The leader of the Left Party, Nooshi Dadgostar, has emphasized her willingness and willingness to compromise with the Social Democrats and the parties to her right in recent months. said Dadgostar Days Nyheter that she is “learning to give things away” and that her party is “not making ultimatums.” Swedish social democracy has not only failed to challenge the inequalities of capitalism, but has defended and entrenched them, providing fertile ground for the far right to broaden support for their regressive policies.

Building a radical left is necessary to offer a genuine alternative that identifies capitalism, and not the most oppressed in society, as the real cause of growing poverty and crisis. As capitalism plunges into ever deeper crises, we desperately need a left that can channel anger at the status quo into opposition to the right and the system that produces it.

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