Sweden Recent History Part 3

1960s Continued growth.. and crisis signs

In the economic field, the 60s became a repeat of the economic recovery in the 50s. The high cycles remained stable – with the exception of a few shorter periods. The Social Democrats dominated the decade politically, despite their reforms showing clear signs of waning. The initiative was now focused on reforming the education system. Reforms in lower education had already started in the 50s. Now it applied to higher education such as high school and higher education. However, neither in this area nor in the cultural policy, the party managed to formulate a policy with the same impact as in corporate policy. The background to the focus on cultural and educational policy was the belief in, that a massive expansion of the education system could raise the level of education of the working class and the lower social classes. But it turned out that the purely quantitative approach to “equality through education” largely failed.

The new education system broke well with a number of outdated civic education ideals, but these ideals were replaced by rationalization and efficiency ideas drawn from business and government bureaucracy. The result was that the Swedish education system – at least at a higher level – was weakened and intellectually starved compared to other European industrialized countries.

Despite the failing education policy, the Social Democrats managed to maintain parliamentary stability. This was mainly due to the fact that the mobilization of the working class in the pension struggle continued to give the party support. It was also found that the central fund system that the pension reform encountered was a useful credit tool for maintaining the international position of the Swedish specialized industry. The large pension funds functioned as a compulsory accumulation, which was organized by the state. Money from these funds could be transferred, directly or indirectly, to an industry sector that was experiencing major investment problems due to its rapid technical development and increasing competition on the world market.

The “key” to the success of the Swedish business sector remained structural rationalization and specialization, although at the end of the decade there were some signs of the negative side of this policy. Despite extensive state aid, the Swedish shipbuilding industry was only able to maintain its international position in rapid technical development.

According to listofusnewspapers, for Sweden, in the late 1960s, political progress for the left was marked in the same way as in the rest of the western world. Developments in Vietnam and South Africa suddenly opened up a new perspective for the younger generation. The brutal imperialist repression of the Third World gave rise to a comprehensive movement of solidarity. The methods and ideals of this movement made it quite clear that the ideologies were not dead. In addition, the 1968 May revolt in Paris revealed that modern capitalism continued to have problems that could only be solved through continued repression. The events in Prague in August the same years confirmed the suspicion that the tolerance framework in the socialist world was no greater than in the capitalist western world.

The events revealed the new Swedish left’s ideological uncertainty. An uncertainty that the Left has since been unable to transcend. The anti-imperialist solidarity movement failed to take the step in an active critique of welfare capitalism. It was pulverized to atoms in the attempt to formulate a comprehensive policy. The 1970s largely brought the new left wing in Sweden back to old positions, and it was largely organized in the old Communist Party, which in 1967 had been renamed the V√§nsterpartiet Kommunisterna (VPK).

1970s Crisis

In the 70s, the capitalist boom of the 50s and 60s turned to times of crisis and recession. The specialization that had previously created the extensive progress for Swedish industry now turned out to be a trap. The failing market fundamentals and strong international competition led to huge cost increases. This problem could not be solved through the Social Democrats’ classic stimulus policy.

At the same time, the growth of state bureaucracy had created increasingly widespread dissatisfaction with the centralization and bureaucracy policy – a development blamed for by the Social Democrats. Social democracy was eventually forced into a more defensive position. In environmental issues, and in particular in the nuclear expansion, a blind growth policy was pursued, which further reinforced the impression of a stagnant movement that was caught up in the political “state sense” ideology. During the 1976 election campaign, the bourgeois parties were able to exploit this discontent, defeating the Social Democrats for the first time in 44 years, and being able to form government. The leader of the Social Democrats throughout the period, Tage Erlander took the consequence, retired and gave way to the party’s young hope, Olof Palme.

From the outset, bourgeois politics lacked an alternative to social democratic politics. In major issues such as environmental and energy policy, it focused just as heavily on state action as the Social Democrats had done, even though it was more of a financial hardship than of political will. In the 1979 election, the Social Democrats failed in the attempt to regain government power. In doing so, they revealed their own lack of renewal, for the defeat was not due to the strength of the bourgeois parties.

Sweden Recent History 3