Neoliberal policies have brought down the Swedish government

By Sergio Galarce

The result of the last general election on September 9, 2018, in which no party achieved the necessary majority to form a government, led to negotiations in which two political “blocs” disputed government through alliances. After several months of negotiation, the Social Democracy (S), the Ecologist Party (Mp) and the bourgeois parties Liberaler and Center (L and C) emerged as an alternative to the Conservatives (M), Christian Democrats (Kd) and L, who abandoned the “progressive” boat at the last minute under the pretext of marginalizing the extreme right (Sd). The platform of the agreement in January 2019 (Januariavtalet) for the conformation of the new government led by the S was based on 173 programmatic points.

The left-wing party Vänsterpartiet (V) was faced with two options: either to accept the formation of a government by the conservative bloc, thereby also opening the door to the xenophobic and racist extreme right, or to accept with its abstention the alliance of socialdemocrats, the greens and the two bourgeois parties that describe themselves as the “center”. V was divided, an important part of the party did not want support for the alliance headed by S but finally, to stop the extreme right’s access to the government, it decided not to vote against it but with the explicit condition of two “red lines”. The first was the rejection of the modifications to LAS, the labor plan, The Employment Security Law. The second measure that was rejected was that of Marknadshyror (Rent at market prices). The Left party was very clear, if the governmental alliance led by S legislated on these two programmatic points, the “red lines” would be crossed and in that case V would withdraw its base of support from the government.

For two years the alliance led by the Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfven essentially dedicated itself to applying a recipe in neoliberal terms that fundamentally affected all the activities of the public sector. The pandemic brought with it economic restrictions and the government implemented a policy of economic support to the capitalists of thousands and billions of crowns, even when large companies showed no losses, which led to the managers of large companies getting even higher profits. All the previous talk that there was no room in the budgets to meet the needs of the workers disappeared overnight. This is just one example of the policy carried out for two years by Löfven & Co.

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The first “red line” that the government wanted to cross, at the explicit request of the employers, was the significant deterioration of the Employment Safety Law which led part of the unions not controlled by the Social Democracy (initiative of the Volvo workers based in Umeå, in the north of Sweden) to launch a campaign (Budkavlen) against the government’s maneuver. The government simultaneously put pressure on the bureaucracy of the union federation (LO) to accept the attacks on workers’ rights. It rarely happens, but the LO leadership rejected this, so the social democracy increased the pressure and finally managed to get two LO federations and the employee federation (PTK) to agree behind the LO’s back that they were willing to support the measure of the employers articulated by the government. That law was about to materialize in parliament when the government tried to cross the second “red line” imposed by V: the complete freedom of rent prices in which the owners of the construction industry had the upper hand.

This led to a movement of tenants promoted by activists of the left and grassroots Social Democrats who for a year have raised the slogan Nej till marknadshyror (No rising rents). V could not help but support this movement, which grew causing severe headaches to the ruling alliance. V repeatedly asked the government to step back from this neoliberal measure because otherwise they would be forced to present a motion of no confidence to the government. In mid-June V gave the government 48 hours. If it did not withdraw the bill on the rent hike, the government would be brought down, and that day came. The nationalists and populists of the extreme right rushed on the motion of censure and proposed it themselves hours before V’s deadline to the government elapsed. But that is a question of form. The truth is that the parliamentary left demonstrated on this occasion consistency between what it had said and what it finally did. It should be noted that the new general secretary of Vänsterpartiet is Nooshi Dadgostar, a young racialized activist who has led the party for a few months. Last minute maneuvers were useless to try to make V appear as the cause of “chaos” and of going hand in hand with the extreme right. Social Democracy has once again demonstrated its policy of increased adaptation to neoliberalism and its consequent evolution towards the right, leaving the workers it claims to represent to their fate. It is therefore not uncommon for a majority of the LO members today to be willing to vote for the populists of the extreme right, who in practice have acted as opposition to the government that has just been freed from its functions. For its part, V, the main actor in this government crisis, has said that it will not abandon 3 million tenants to their fate and that is the reason why it decided to bring down the government on June 21 regardless of who supported that measure. What happened is historical, never before in Swedish parliamentary history has a prime minister been brought down as has just happened with the Social Democrat Estefan Löfven. Within a week it will be known if the prime minister proposes a round of negotiations to form a new government or if he calls new elections within a period of three months stipulated in the constitution. V is ready to critically support a new government headed by Social Democracy as long as it completely withdraws the “marknadshyror” proposal. But regardless of what lies ahead, V has declared that the party will never vote for a government led by the conservatives and even less when it means that this presumptive government would have the support of the extreme right.