“I am now more optimistic about social democracy than I have been for a very long time.”
Former Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson (86) visited the Swedish Social Democratic party party Reformisterna this weekend, which has set the goal of reforming and renewing the Social Democrats. Carlsson has seen most of it through a life in politics. Also that his own Social Democratic party has quickly clawed its way to power through near-self-defeating political compromises.
Carlsson, who started his career at the side of Father Tage Erlander in the 1950s, was asked the question: What would Tage have done? Before answering, he said he thought Erlander would be sad to see a Sweden where the economic and social differences increase – and increase so sharply. It contradicts everything he did as a politician, Carlsson said. But Erlander fluctuated greatly in his belief in the future. He could wake up depressed and lay down as an optimist after a day of political struggle. A bit like it does in our own time, it fluctuates.
There is room for a social democratic grand slam in the north with government power in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway at the same time.
But, Carlsson said, it is important to look up and look beyond the destructive neoliberalism. The political direction, which from the 1980s has displaced politics and released markedly free, must be seen as a valley of waves in modern history. There are better times ahead for social democracy, Carlsson said. The Social Democrats fought for democracy with the right to vote for everyone, and Folkhemmet was built. Now new, great things await, the legend believes.
Perhaps it is the case that social democracy can return to old heights in Europe. That it is the basis for optimism. The jury is still out when it comes to the German Social Democrats’ progress and election victory. Was it a personal choice that the Reds ‘chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz’ was the least under, or was it a real comeback for social democratic politics and ideas? In any case, it is likely that the SPD, with almost 160 years of history, will once again form the core of a government, and of German politics, after I had supported aid to Angela Merkel’s centristism for a number of years. With the leader jersey also comes opportunities.
However, a support of 25.7 percent is not a political crime, the mandate is weak and it has hardly happened that a coalition in Germany will rule with such a small party in the lead. And political compromises may want to do with the Greens and not least with a liberal center party that has had a youth. It is a bit like standing in Carlsson’s own party. No country in the world is more associated with the Social Democrats than Sweden, but Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s project has gained a lot of credibility from the Social Democrats. The compromises have been painful, and on his watch, private care and school have had good years, and the gap between groups in society has improved. The party team Reformisterna is a direct answer to this.
It is not a challenge since the Social Democrats were written off. Too many steps to the right led to a lack of justification. After all, right-wing politics is, after all, better on the right of the Social Democrats. And in the wake of the refugee crisis and terror, it was never linked to right-wing politics as payment. But when challenges ahead are social inequality and just green change, voters can gain confidence in other ideas. Especially in the Nordic countries, the Social Democratic movement has shown its resilience and its position as a safe haven for most people. With Jonas Gahr Støre in the direction of the Prime Minister’s office, which is located almost one to a Social Democratic grand slam in the north with government power in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway at the same time. It is reminiscent of a completely different time.
Men it is new Times. The Nordic social democracies are much more fragile than they were. Jonas Gahr Støre’s victory came after further reduced turnout. And in Denmark, many will think that it can hardly be called social democracy. Author Eskil Halberg wrote on Tuesday in Danish Information that «the only thing left of the social democracy is identity-political labor fetishism». If you look more closely at the latest progress of social democracy, he writes, you see «A fragile and discouraged picture – not least in Denmark».
A pattern constantly seems to emerge. The parties are no longer eagles, but rather big brothers in political coalitions in landscapes that are far more fragmented and rapidly changing even in the post-war period. The electorate is shopping for solutions in the short term. Everyone and no one is a Social Democrat. Our own Støre will take on the role of big brother now, but it cost no less dominantly than its predecessor, pater family Jens Stoltenberg.
It is fragile in many other countries as well. The British Labor is struggling, despite Boris Johnson and a now demonstrably catastrophic Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn took the party to revolutionary fringe and made a crisis choice. The successor Sir Keir Karmer gropes back towards the center, and will give his national meeting speech on Wednesday. Better opportunities to mark oneself even further in British chaos, one must look for challenge. In France, the Socialist Party is down with a broken back after the very unpopular President François Hollande. His successor Benoit Hamion won six percent of the vote in the 2017 presidential election. In the same year’s parliamentary election, the party imploded. 279 representatives of 577 were reduced overnight to 30. But a new green arrangement on politics and an international social change of mood, it may be the stage for revenge when the French have to choose next year. It does not look bright in Spain either. Here the Social Democrats lead a weak government. In the reeds, the right-wing forces of Vox and Partido Popular are awake.
Carlsson may be right. Only the perspective is far enough. Much is now in place for social democracy to grow in the future and regain credibility after swallowing away right-wing politics for decades. The Social Democrats have got an ace to play that people understand. No to inequality and yes to a fair distribution of resources. Now it’s just for Støre and his like to make politics out of the slogan «Well, it’s ordinary people’s turn». And take advantage of the height at the top of the wave.
Stay up to date. Get a daily newsletter from Dagsavisen here