söndag, september 10, 2006

Get out the core vote!

It seems like the Social Democrat party leadership gets things right now. Focus is on the voters that have been de-politizised during many years of politics in the centre-ground. It's about convincing those voters who think that the differences are small between the Social Democrats and the Alliance, and won't bother to vote on polling day.

Under the pressure put by the Alliance challenge, the Social Democratic party finds its way back to its roots. This has happened gradually during the last couple of years, but in the end of this heated election campaign the turn to the left is clearer than ever.

During the current crisis within Volvo, Persson has said that he wants the public pension funds to grab control of Volvo to avoid risk capitalists taking over. Only to be followed by the opposition leader Fredrik Reinfeldt, who is quoted saying that Volvo needs long term owners to avoid "exploiting capitalism". This is a very very special election campaign!

In the last week, the focus in the Social Democrat election campaign will be on the change of system that would be a result of a victory for the right wing alliance. In his speech in the Stockholm central station Friday, Göran Persson said that the Conservative policy to privatize hospitals would lead to that "those who pay best go first". He said that politics should be in charge, not the market, and that "politics mustn't be the cleaning lady of the market".

In Uppsala county, the Conservatives want to divide and partly privatize our university hospital, Akademiska sjukhuset. Börje Wennberg, Social Democratic chair of the county board, said:

To divide and perhaps sell parts of Akademiska sjukhuset would mean a drainage of the hospital. We won't accept that. University hospitals ought to be big and have a big range of specializations. The Conservative proposal is a threat to all the important things Akademiska stands for. It shall be the county that owns and manages the hospital, also in the future.

The most important campaign measures are not done in the media, though. During this election campaign, doorknocking has returned as a key campaign method. This is not only because of experiences from British elections, but it's an important factor behind its coming back to fashion. This week is plainly about getting out the vote, stressing the importance to vote to preserve and improve the Swedish model and to avoid a right wing change of system.

This is the closest election in Sweden in 25 years. Turnout will decide, and it's mostly Social Democratic voters who stay on the sofa on polling day. It's time to get out the vote!

1 kommentar:

Daniel Lundgren sa...

I know this argument very well, since I´ve heard it from you before. I have mixed feelings about it. First and foremost, programatically, swedish Social democracy is no longer a socialist movement, but rather a kind of leftist liberal movement. And words matter. Swedish social democrats might take a progressive stand on many issues, just like the british Liberal democrats might occasionally do, but nevertheless it´s no longer socialist, since it no more recognises the basic conflict between classes (Tidsignal nr 3, 2005).

Complainting about Gardell is just populist nonsense. Capitalism isn´t about being good or bad, neither is it about being swedish or foreign. The basic problem here is the weakness of the trade unions at the international level. Until they learn to cooperate efficiently, they will be subject to blackmail from multinational companies like Volvo, no matter who owns it. Since I´m no economist, frankly I don´t know whether structural economic reforms which strenghten labour through the makings of the state might be a real possibility even before trade unions really get together, but due to the international expansion of big business I very much doubt it. Making scapegoats of individual owners like Gardell might win some votes but it´s not a serious political argument.

True, we heard a lot of this talk about responsible national capitalism in the comparatively successful 50´s, even in the 70´s, when state-owned funds intervening in the profit-making activites of private business was a big issue, and again I admit I´m no economist, but anyway I believe that etatist solutions based on the nation-state which might have worked then no longer work. For one thing, the vanishing of the leninist/stalinist dictatorships leaves capitalism more or less free-floating, without threats or boundaries. Taming capitalism and making it useful is a classic social democratic strategy but does it really work today, in the sense that the nation-state can bring about decent living conditions for everyone today? Can it, by itself, put enough pressure on international capital? Think about it. Sweden is richer than ever and the economy booms, but where are the jobs?

If one would allow oneself to think in a theoretic manner and not only about winning votes, one might also ask oneself whether socialists always should try to save this obviously self-destructive capitalism from itself. Isn´t it about time to really discuss capitalism, not take for granted that it´s the only game in town.

One might sense some hope during this election campaign. At the suface, it´s tendencies are more leftist than for a very long time. The right-wing attempts to come across as moderate and socially responsible are in some ways a reminder of the
70´s. On the other hand: who really discusses the basic flaws of capitalism, except, perhaps, the Left party. To me, liberal consensus seems more overwhelming than ever, if you look beneath the surface. Social democracy has, for all practical purposes, accepted a society where one third of the population is just left outside. True, the Social democrats have seemed very leftist and progressive before this election, but it was the same ting, basically, before the last election, and after it, they were singing a different tune. If we talk substance, why should we trust that Social democracy won´t be leaning to the middle after this election also? The Green party has taken a substantial leap towards the right a n d Social democracy the last four years, and its members have been disciplined top-down, apparently in order to make them "trustworthy" as a parner in the government (just think about the interview with Peter Eriksson in SVT – he was so eager to make the right impression he rather obviously lied about the party´s position on a guaranteed basic income for every citizen).

My best guess is that if we get a left-wing majority after the election, Göran Persson will seem reluctant about letting in the Green party in order to please the grass-roots opinion in the party but then do what the nomenklatura in the party has accepted as a necessity and made some preparations for already: let the Green party in and leave the Left party out. It won´t be such a big deal to anyone among those who really matter in the parliamentary game, cynically speaking.

The Left party might break the liberal consensus in a way it didn´t some years ago, but on the other hand, I should think it´s difficulties to get heard in mainstream media is bigger than for a very, very long time. One might also add, that as soon as the party dares to talk about ownership in socialist terms, it´s being labelled as stalinist. (Some stalinist influences still undoubdtedly do remain in this party, but that´s a different issue). It´s a far cry, indeed, from the 70´s, when right-wing people had to explain how freedom could be compatible with the so-called market. Nowadays it´s always the other way around. This hasn´t changed for about 20 years.

Pooh...Good luck anyway! We need you!

Daniel Lundgren