The EU elections and opinion polls show that the right-wing government in Sweden is very unpopular and likely to get hammered in the upcoming elections.
The Social Democrats are at 35%, the Left Party at 8% and the Greens at 8%. Even the Feminist Initiative Party is on the verge of getting into parliament. There is a clear left trend in public opinion which is even recognized in the bourgeois media.
The right-wing coalition won the last two elections, which is unusual in a country where the Social Democrats have been in power for all but 17 years since 1932. For a period, the government managed to hang on, partly due to promises of income tax cuts, partly because the economy has done relatively well, but mainly because of the right-wing reformist policy of the red and green parties. The Social Democrats, in particular, refused to put up any serious fight against the attacks carried up by the government and fought pressure by the trade unions to promise to restore the cuts that had been made.
The situation is now changing. The government is universally disliked; in the latest opinion poll by SCB (the official Swedish statistics agency), the government coalition parties only have 37% of the vote. Even the white collar workers, the main supporters of the bourgeois parties, are feeling that the price of the tax cuts was too high. In TCO, the largest white collar union federation, the coalition parties get 35%, down from 48% two years ago.
Many children of white collar workers are unemployed and have to live with their parents because of lack of money and housing. Pensions, sick pay and unemployment benefits have been cut in real terms. After the disastrous “free” school policy that the conservative government of 1991 implemented, segregation in schools is increasing and the quality is decreasing as hedge funds are plundering the education budget. The lack of housing is acute in the big cities and university towns. Competition for school and university places is getting tougher because the jobs are so few. Many young people get headaches, stomach illnesses or depression because of stress. The use of drugs and narcotics is increasing.
Mass unemployment is now permanent in Sweden. 8% are officially unemployed but without all the public programmes and education projects for the jobless or early retirement, the real figure would be closer to 20%. The regional gap is also increasing. In the north, and also traditional industrial towns, unemployment and social problems are bigger than in the larger cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.
No wonder that many workers and youth feel that enough is enough. The recent spate of racist attacks is a warning sign, especially as they are being covered up by the state and the media. The ruling class, feeling the ground shifting under their feet, is seeking support among the most backward, racist layers of the population. The public participation of Swedish fascists in the Ukraine events had a further radicalising effect. There have been big demonstrations against the fascist violence. 15,000 marched in Malmö two months ago and 20,000 in Kärrtorp last December; this in spite of the prevarication of the leaders of the Social Democrats, the trade unions and, to some extent, the Left Party.
However, the main attention of the working class is on the political front. The Left Party is campaigning for the banning of profits in healthcare and education. The Social Democratic leader Löfven, who only last year was actively campaigning for profits and manoeuvred against a ban at the party congress, has been forced to promise to curtail the freedom of the “free” schools for fear of losing even more votes to the Left Party. Also the Green Party, who previously was an adamant supporter of the “free” schools, has moved slightly to the left on the question and now oppose profits.
The Green Party is a petty-bourgeois formation which has traditionally taken an anti-union and pro-business stand on many questions, including employers’ national insurance contributions, employment rights in small businesses and privatisation. They only have 5% among blue collar workers and their support base is among the academics (17%), white collar workers (12%) and the un-unionised (10%). These layers see the party as part of the left and vote for it because they are looking for an alternative to the Social Democrats on the left. Although its leadership has many times threatened to join the right-wing parties in a coalition, they know that they would get completely destroyed in the next election if they did so.
The Social Democrats like to use the Greens as an excuse for carrying out anti-union policies and do not want to join in a government with the Left Party only, as that would force them to show their hands. In fact, the party leadership has for a long time attempted to forge alliances with right-wing parties, but has refrained, fearing a revolt of the rank-and-file.
The three parties now poll over 50% of the votes, which is likely to translate into a comfortable majority, unless Feminist Initiative gets in. Among the youth this is even clearer. The Left Party is supported by 9% of the 18-24 year olds and 11% of the 25-34 year olds. The Social Democrats are not so popular, and only get support from 29% in both categories, but the Green Party gets 18% and 14%. Feminist Initiative is likely to poll around 8-9% in this category. If you count all these parties together, that makes a vote of 66.5% for the left among the 18-24 year olds and 61.3% among the 25-34 year olds. This is a massive vote for the left-leaning parties among the youth.
The right-wing Sweden Democrats have been unable to break through the 10% barrier. In spite of all the attention they've been given by the press, the party's progress has been halted for now. This effectively puts the dreams of a renewed right-wing government to shame.
The mass actions that have been carried out against the Sweden Democrats and the fascists show that the youth are ready to fight and are looking for a lead. Both the Social Democrats and the Left Party have insisted on opposing anti-fascist self-defence and on the need to “protect the democratic rights” of the racists and the fascists. This is not what the working class need or deserve at this time.
It is clear that there is a massive radicalisation taking place among young people but rather than being channelled through the workers' parties, petty-bourgeois formations are picking up votes. This is the inevitable consequence of the reformism of the Left Party, not to mention the Social Democracy. The Left Party does not stand out as a clear left alternative to Social Democracy. If it had, it would have picked up far more votes, as it did in 1994-1998. A socialist programme, including demands for a plan for public jobs and education, a six-hour day, increased pensions and benefits, jobs and housing for everybody and nationalisation of the big banks would have won the ear of the youth and the older layer would not be far behind.