Stockholm gleams in the autumn sunshine with that pride in beautiful streets, public transport, fine buildings and open spaces that proclaim the value of citizenship from every paving stone.
The usually quite federalist Toynbee even describes what makes us to anti-EU at the same time as she highlights the flexibility in the Swedish system:
How does the Nordic model work? It supports open markets and job flexibility, with all the restructuring employers need to shake out their workforce to match changing demands. But that only wins the backing of strong unions because of the generosity of the benefits safety-net to cushion frequent, unsettling change. This pact between state, employers and workforce is the magic ingredient. Lavish public services and benefits are no add-on: they are the secret to economic success. Cut back the social provision and the edifice totters, which is why the Swedish left is so anti-EU, wary of any supposedly Anglo-Saxon move to interfere.
But the best part of Toynbee's article is yet to come. It's about the current situation:
The Swedes seem to lack self-confidence, intimidated by global neocon warnings. Despite their strong economy, they worry. Will globalisation strike? Can it be navigated if it does? Where Sweden and other Nordics should boast of an economic model far more successful than the rest of the EU, they seem to be losing their nerve in these the most successful societies the world has ever known. If the Swedes vote the right in they will be like people with vertigo who so fear falling they decide to jump and be done with it. The right has no particular answer to future forebodings, but it is always good at spreading alarm. When the left loses its optimism, it risks losing office.
It's time for the now congressing Social Democrats to realise at least three things:
- We are winners! Many have spoken about our soon-coming parting, but they have been wrong. We have survived and prospered while others have failed. Today, we see the news that the German SPD just appointed one of Schröder's hardest critics to party secretary, caousing party chair Müntefering to resign. The Brownites in the UK are looking north for inspiration. Swedish Social Democrats are loved all over the world, as a beacon of solidarity and equality.
- The Swedish right doesn't like our country. The neo-liberal ideologist Johnny Munkhammar writes in a reply to Toynbee that she's wrong about Sweden's condition. This "black-painting" of Sweden has been described by the TCO international secretary Kjell Rautio in an op ed in SVD recently. He asks who Swedish Enterprise want to serve by arguing internationally against what even The Economist and Financial Times are realising - that the Nordic model is working? And what can be added here - who are Swedish Enterprise serving when they are paying the European court costs for Laval i Partneri who tried to build a school in Vaxholm to stavation wages? How do they help Swedish companies by out-competing them through social dumping?
- The only big threat is ourselves. The threat is that we don't realise ourselves how strong we are if we connect to the core values of the Nordic model. I think a big reason for the Social Democratic understatement of themselves is that so few who are doing the thinking for the leadership really understand what the Swedish model is all about. Swedish universities - especially the economics departments but also many politics departments - have been Sweden-bashing for decades. The people who have graduated from the big universities without having a good vaccine in terms of working class origin and/or a background in the labour movement have had the false instinct that Europe and the US is better than our backwards and obsolete corner of the world. Therefore, the government have got bad advise for years. Hopefuylly, this is now getting better, but I hope it's not too late.