About three weeks ago one of our subscribers re-posted a longish article by a Swedish Social-Democrat extolling the beauties of the Swedish "socialist" system. I hope that the readers realised that much of this post was based on nothing more permanent or material than the pious wishes of the middle class both in Sweden and around the world.
Would the world not be a wonderful place if such beautiful dreams came true. Would it not be brilliant, if the democratic governments could create job programs, finance guaranteed minimum incomes for all citizens, strictly enforce labor legislation, provide month-long vacations for all workers, set up workers' and youth job training, guarantee child-care, health-care and education for all, and so on, and so forth.
There is a small caveat, so tiny that I truly regret mentioning it: none of the Swedish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Canadian, etc. economic systems may be called "socialist" in any scientific sense. All are based on the unbroken historic development of these bourgeois nation-states; all are presided over by capitalist ruling classes (even where the actual governing party may call itself "socialist"); all these economic systems are fierce competitors within the capitalist world market, which dominates and subordinates the national markets; all of these state machines are dedicated to preserving and defending the economic and social interests of the capitalist ruling class.
The Swedish welfare state was a product of special and temporary conditions created largely by an event which dominated the XX-th century: the Russian Socialist revolution. Having thoroughly frightened the various bourgeoisies with the spectre of Communism, it forced a temporary retreat by the ruling classes of various countries. In Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and throughout Europe and North America after WW II, the ruling class was forced to grant extensive economic concessions to the working class. These concessions limited for a period the rate of exploitation of the working class. The Swedish bourgeoisie was able to grant them because of some special favorable circumstances: cheap energy, abundant raw materials (iron ore, coal, etc.) and proximity to European markets for these, specialisation in certain industries (shipbuilding, automobiles, glassmaking), and so on.
Most of these advantages have disappeared: shipbuilding and the auto industry have moved to Japan, Korea and other ever lower-wage countries; extraction industry is suffering because the sharply decreased freight costs enable Australian or South African producers to wrest control of the European markets. Internationalisation of production has dealt a body blow to all the special advantages enjoyed by Swedish-based manufacturers. The weak position of Swedish capitalists has already resulted in mass layoffs and the spiraling of unemployment rate from the usual 2-3% to 12-15% in the past few years.
In light of these developments, the Swedish bourgeois state is forced to claw back from the Swedish workers all of their hard-won economic and social benefits. On the political plane, this effort is couched in the form of budget cutbacks, deficit reductions, social benefit erosion, etc. The crisis facing Swedish capitalism is forcing the banks to take some highly unusual steps. Two weeks ago, the Skandia insurance and financial giant announced that "it was boycotting government bonds in light of the record budget deficit and fast-rising debt" (Financial Times, July 5, 1994, p. 20). Whatever the immediate intentions of Swedish financiers, they are ratcheting up the pressure on the state to take on and crush the Swedish proletariat.
Such changes in the conditions of class struggle are not limited to Sweden. The recent "Job Summits" in Detroit and in Europe found the leading capitalist politicians unanimous in the measures of class warfare they must take. A reading of the serious business press indicates that the following prescriptions will be applied universally throughout Europe, North America and Japan: destruction of high-paying unionised jobs, the gutting of welfare states, rationalisation and speedup on the assembly lines, delay and restriction of national pension, health, education systems, etc.
The recent mid-year reports from the OECD present a uniform prescription of draconian budget measures:
STOCKHOLM, June 30 (Reuter) — Credibility in Sweden's fiscal policy could be lost if necessary cuts in the state budget deficit are postponed, the OECD said on Thursday in its mid-year economic report. ….
Canada: Rising federal government debt -- net public debt is forecast to rise to almost 75 percent of GDP in 1994/95 -- has shaken investor confidence. With unemployment still high -- in May it was 10.7 percent -- consumer confidence may take time to recover, damping household spending, it said. Unemployment in Canada is forecast to remain in the double-digits in 1994 and 1995, well above the OECD average. ….
It is all the more urgent to unmask such "socialists" and "communists" as Miterrand in France, Murayama in Japan, Scharping in Germany, Goran Persson in Sweden, and all the other fakers. The writers to this forum should beware: lies and fairy tales about "Swedish socialism" or the Brazilian Workers Party or the ANC Freedom Charter will not go unchallenged.