Opening the Door to the Far Right

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1662 ... September 8, 2018

Opening the Door to the Far Right

Petter Nilsson

The sociologist Walter Korpi once quipped that "the revolution will not come to Sweden through armed struggle but by consulting all concerned parties." He meant to suggest that nothing in Sweden is done hastily or unilaterally, but only through due process and consensus. For a long time, this held true. Sweden has had long periods of stability, mostly ruled by the Social Democratic Party (SAP) mounting gradual reforms.

But Sunday’s election suggests a different picture. Amid the decline of the center-left and the rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats, no party or coalition can expect to win a majority. The vote will likely be followed by days of frantic maneuvering to construct a stable government... that can limit far-right influence.

For the last four years, Sweden has been governed by a minority coalition between the Social Democrats and the Greens, which has depended on the Left Party’s external support to help pass its budgets. But the long-term tendencies that produced this weak administration have deepened further.

This is particularly shown by the current electoral campaign’s focus on immigration, a once-minor issue that is now top of the agenda after health care and education. Its prominence has grown in recent years, as deeper transformations in Sweden’s welfare state helped destabilize its political order.

Long one of the world’s most equal countries, Sweden now has one of the fastest-growing class divides of any industrialized state. It has hardly been the greatest victim of the crisis; overall, growth is still good, and Sweden still has better welfare than most.

Yet recent transformations mean that sections of the working class, especially in rural areas, have a distinct sense of being left behind. They have increasingly turned toward far-right populism, directing their anger not toward class politics but against immigrants and "the establishment."

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