Murder boosts Sweden's democratic campaign
The murder of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh during the Swedish Euro referendum brought a new intensity to the democratic campaign. It was cynically used by the bourgeoisie to denounce the 'attack on democracy and the open society'. All the political parties of the bourgeoisie, from right to left, agreed to stop the campaign and called for a vote in memory of Lindh.
The 82% turnout was the highest in any referendum so far. It was also slightly higher than in the elections for the last parliament. While the bourgeoisie showed a national consensus to 'defend democracy' (despite the fact that the murder seemed not to have any political motives, probably being the act of a disturbed individual), it was still obvious that the ruling class was divided on the Euro. But the bourgeoisie was able, in the wake of the murder of one of its most prominent politicians, to show a united face in the referendum to mobilise the working class in the defence of democracy. In other words, to defend the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
Why was there a majority against the Euro? The leading factions of the bourgeoisie, like the bosses' union, and leading capitalist companies like Ericsson and Volvo were for the Euro, as were the main figures in the Social Democratic Party (SAP), like Prime Minister Persson, Foreign Minister Lindh and Finance Minister Ringholm. However, even inside the government there were divisions which cut through the whole SAP, as well as inside the union apparatus where there were forceful critics of Sweden joining the Euro.
The Centre party, which traditionally has roots in the agricultural sector and was for Sweden joining the EU in the referendum of 1994, was also against joining the Euro. The other right-wing parties were for the Euro, even if there where strong minorities that were against.
The result of the referendum must be seen as a set back for the leading factions of the bourgeoisie, which had underestimated the strength of the 'no' campaign. The 'no' campaign has continued since the 1994 referendum, focussing on the myth that all the cuts in the welfare state were due to joining the EU. Attacks on the working class
The fact that many workers voted 'no' should be seen as an expression of discontent with the long period of attacks on the social wage in Sweden. The left has been in the forefront of the attacks on workers' living conditions. This is most clearly shown in the cooperation between the Green party, the former CP, and the SAP in government, which relies on the other parties to continue as the party at the heart of the state apparatus. The attacks on workers' living conditions have been skilfully organised, mostly on a local and municipal level, mostly by the left parties, but partly by the right wing party protesting against the 'red-green coalition'.
In fact the attacks on workers have been so efficient that Sweden is admired by the bourgeoisies of France and Germany which have had difficulties in undertaking the 'structural reforms' that have already been achieved in Sweden.
The reason why the attacks on workers have been so effective in Sweden can be explained by a number of factors. There has not been a frontal attack on workers' pensions as in France; it has been phased in on a step by step basis. This was accelerated after the financial crash in Sweden in the early 90s, when workers in Sweden suddenly faced mass unemployment. The attacks have also been dispersed across a number of sectors.
The bourgeoisie, and particularly the left, have diverted the dissatisfaction in the working class with electoral campaigns that focus on democracy as a way of channelling discontent. Before the summer the bourgeoisie also used a strike organised by the unions in the municipal sector, which was drawn out and fragmented. This was a lesson to all workers on how not to fight, staged by the unions for workers in the public sector to let off steam. This was effective despite there being a certain loss of confidence in the unions when the strike was seen to lead nowhere, leaving many workers disappointed about how the strike was run. Strategies of the Swedish bourgeoisie
The fact that the bourgeoisie used the referendum in its democratic campaign against the working class does not contradict the fact that the bourgeoisie was divided over the Euro. This division, particularly inside the SAP, has its roots in changes at the economic and imperialist level.
The bourgeoisie had a huge shock in the early 90s when it could not defend its currency (which was tied up in the ERM); the Reich bank increased the interest rate to 500%, and big parts of the banking sector collapsed, only to be saved by the 'lender of last resort', the state. This gave rise to a very sceptical attitude to a fixed rate for the currency. Devaluations have always been the medicine of the Swedish bourgeoisie when it was in crisis, but they have led to an extreme devaluation of its assets and the selling off of big companies like Volvo and Saab to American capital, and with major pharmaceutical companies being integrated into big American capital.
The growing financial turbulence of the 90s drew a part of the bourgeoisie towards the Euro. But the leading faction delayed its change of policy too long, a change from distancing itself to an attitude of searching for cooperation because it needs to improve its position with the prospect of future financial storms. The leading circle in the SAP did not want a referendum, because it knew the difficulties in controlling the election campaign, as well as the advantages the 'no' side had gained. In parliament they could easily get a majority. But most of the SAP wanted a referendum.
On the imperialist level, throughout the 20th century, Sweden always had an attitude of trying to stay out of trouble for as long as possible. It avoided entering into alliances with other powers unless it was absolutely necessary in order to stay out of conflicts. For example, it was close to Germany during the Second World War, exporting significant quantities of iron for the German war effort, and allowing German troops to advance on Norway and Finland through Sweden. The Swedish bourgeoisie laid the rails for German imperialist adventures. The rapid desertion of a former ally faced with defeat was clearly demonstrated in the switch from Germany to the side of the Allies at the end of the war. The success of this policy formed the basis, after the war, of the myth of Sweden's 'neutrality'. It helped the western bloc as an infiltrator and agent in the so called 'progressive movements' of national liberation, which in fact concealed the battle between the American and Russian imperialist blocs. Since the dissolution of the blocs, Sweden's imperialist role has decreased, with the tendency for each country to fight for itself, and the difficulties Sweden faces in playing off other powers against each other. The complete lack of an independent policy in relation to the US offensive after 9/11 was shown in outright apologies for American imperialism. It was only with the open opposition to the US by France and Germany that Persson and Lindh showed a more 'independent' face and fell in with the critics of the American adventure in Iraq. Both Lindh and Persson tried to play a more significant role in Europe, getting closer to France and Germany. One example of this was Lindh's open critique of Berlusconi over the new European constitution. The desire to join the Euro is part of a tendency toward establishing closer cooperation with other European countries. What does Lindh's killing show?
There is no doubt that the former Swedish foreign minister was an effective defender of Sweden's imperialist policy. There did not appear to be any fraction of the bourgeoisie that objected to Anna Lindh, despite the differences over the Euro etc. Who benefited the most from her murder? On one level the bourgeoisie was able to use it to mount nationalist and democratic campaigns and increase the turnout in the referendum, but it also lost an important member of the government, who had been expected to succeed the current Prime Minister. There do not appear to be any real political motives within the bourgeoisie for the killing of one its leading members. It also looks unlikely that a foreign power would have been interested in killing Lindh, not even Berlusconi with his hurt pride and loyalty to the US.
A murder like this does show one aspect of social reality. We have seen one of the vilest media campaigns, at least by Swedish standards, against an innocent man, with his whole life exposed, not only in all the major evening papers, but also in the more 'serious' daily papers. No detail has been left unpublished, no speculation has been too far-fetched or obscure. The events have confirmed the status of the media as a bunch of lying hyenas, prepared to fill their pages with anything, no matter how scurrilous. And a completely corrupt police force has leaked intimate details of the investigation, as well as all kinds of speculation, to the press, whose rights are defended with laws 'protecting the free press', or for the 'protection of media sources' etc.
We have also seen how the psychiatric care system in Sweden has collapsed, partly through the constant cuts in this sector, and this has rebounded on the architects of this 'reform'. People are locked up, abandoned to live on the streets, to get addicted to drink or drugs, to commit suicide, or even to kill others in their moments of despair. It seems likely that the man who is currently accused of killing Anna Lindh needed psychiatric care, which he had been repeatedly refused.
As the furore was beginning to die down, the SAP government put forward a package of tax increases in new budget proposals directly hitting the living conditions of many workers. At the same time there has been a rash of announcements of new cuts in the public sector on the municipal level, sacking a new round of workers in the 'welfare system'. The attacks of the bourgeoisie continue.