In Sweden, rents aren’t set at landlords’ whims but through collective bargaining with the tenants’ union. The system is a reminder of Swedish social democracy’s once-great reformist measures — but also how vulnerable they are in an age of neoliberal counterreforms.
Anton Ösgård is a PhD student in urban sociology at Uppsala University in Sweden.
The Social Democrats’ 2019 election win fed hopes that Denmark would move away from extreme measures that strip migrants of their valuables and criminalize minority neighborhoods. Yet since then, the Social Democratic government has continued this offensive — with recent calls for a “zero asylum” agenda that will push refugees into endless purgatory.
Sweden’s longtime refusal to impose a general lockdown has seen it portrayed as an alternative “model” for coping with the pandemic. Yet death rates in its care homes have been appalling — and as a scandal that broke last month highlighted, much of the blame lies with the breakup and privatization of the country’s once-mighty public services.
It’s been over three decades since Swedish prime minister Olof Palme was assassinated outside a Stockholm cinema, and Swedish police have still never found the killer. The vast array of theories explaining the killing are a reflection of Swedes’ ongoing fascination for Palme — but also highlights how many enemies he made as prime minister with his bold internationalism.
From South Africa’s ANC to Chilean socialists, in the 1970s, liberation movements around the world had few greater allies than Swedish prime minister Olof Palme. He used high office to speak out for the oppressed abroad — and to build an internationalist movement in his homeland.
Denmark’s “ghetto plan” promises harsher policing of districts with high unemployed and ethnic-minority populations and selling off the public housing where they live. The Social Democrats’ shameful policy shows that anti-immigrant chauvinism isn’t a way of defending the welfare state — it’s an instrument of privatization.