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Sweden: Ahead of the election, we need a new, revolutionary workers' party

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The election campaign is now entering its feverish final stages. Wherever you turn, there are promises and threats from smiling politicians, and in workplaces and homes the question is raised: who to vote for, then?

No matter how the general election ends and what government formation it ultimately results in – if indeed any stable government can be put together at all – nothing indicates that the election results will mark a decisive break in the series of defeats and demoralisation that have characterised the labour movement and the left in recent decades. The responsibility for this lies primarily with the leadership of the Social Democrats and the Left Party, who have faithfully trudged to the right in their vain attempts to "show responsibility" towards an economic and political system that is fundamentally hostile to the working class. Therefore, the Social Democrats in particular have undermined themselves and indirectly helped, for example, the Sweden Democrats.

The Left Party
Many who are dissatisfied with right-wing politics see what they want to see in the Left Party right now - a party that is fighting. The reality is really the opposite. Behind the confrontational attitude towards the Social Democrats that the party has shown from time to time during the past term of office hides a marked shift to the right from the Left Party's leadership and it began even before Mehmoosh Dadgostar took office.

If there is one thing the Left Party has been clear about since the last election, it is how much they want to be seen as a government-capable party whose policies should in no way be considered offensive by parties such as the Social Democrats and the Centre Party. At the rhetorical level, among other things, on May Day in Stockholm in 2018, Jonas Sjöstedt praised the positive developments in Sweden, citing some small measures the Left party had managed to get through here and there. These in themselves should not be despised, but they do not define the political and social situation in Sweden for working people.

The truth is that Sweden is becoming a tougher class society with each passing year with permanent high unemployment, a hopeless housing situation for everyone without fat wallets and contacts, chaos and fraud instead of services in health and social care and education as a result of privatisation hell (with fatal consequences during the pandemic), suburbs in decay where gang crime is only one of the problems, normalisation of racism and chauvinism in the wake of the Sweden Democrats' successes, racial profiling, and cop violence and violence against women and children, to name just a few problems.

So, the situation is not positive for the working class and it is constantly getting worse. To claim the opposite, as the Left party has done in order to show itself loyal and reliable to those in power, is in a political sense really criminal. It means actively opposing the necessary resistance from below.

Dadgostar took over from Sjöstedt and continued and even deepened the right-wing course. She has made it clear that the Left is a party that is good for business, and even has the best policy for growth and entrepreneurship. In an attempt to resurrect the Keynesian corpse, she has had meetings with capitalists and discussed how the state (taxpayers in this case) can step in and benefit certain activities in the same way as during the post-war boom.

At the same time, she has repeatedly distanced the party from everything remotely related to socialism or even nationalisation, often in violation of her own party programme. Her repeated statements along these lines make it clear that this is not unfortunate wording, but a well-thought-out strategy on the part of the party leadership. It is about adapting the rhetoric to reality – it has been a long time since the Left Party had any honest claims to anything that could be called socialism.

Ahead of the election, the Left Party has made it clear that it would like to be in the same government as the Centre Party. No self-respecting socialist should be able to even conceive of such a thought. Extreme liberal parties such as the Centre Party are there to be fought. Given this objective, it is then logical that the Left party did not fight a single point of the January agreement until the issue of market rent was raised through an investigation.

In the election campaign, it portrays itself as cocky and rebellious, citing the fight against market rents. But those who think that the party at last came to its senses are sorely mistaken. It was not about starting a fight against right-wing politics. On the contrary, the party leadership realised that they would not achieve the long-awaited alliance with the market fundamentalists, no matter how much they accepted the role of a doormat, rather the opposite.

With its total surrender in the January agreement, the Left signalled that the bourgeois parties could do whatever they wanted, including publicly insulting the party, and still count on its support. In the end, the Left leaders decided on a different tactic to achieve their coveted goal. It took an irreconcilable parliamentary battle on a concrete issue to show that the January agreement parties actually need the Left.

The Left Party's project is to fill the political vacuum after the Social Democrats stopped pursuing Social Democratic politics. That requires the Party to stand slightly to the right of the Social Democratic Youth League, vintage 1980. Dadgostar has been clear that she wants to pursue a policy for the good of capital but, within that, the workers should also receive a small percentage.

The message before the election is that the Left Party is prepared to accept a far-reaching right-wing policy, as long as they can from time to time to throw their members and voters some scraps from the table. This horse-trading, and not class struggle, is the Left Party's answer to the class war from above that wants to take Sweden back a hundred years, to a society where the worker should stand with cap in hand and bowed head in front of an arrogant boss.

A success in the election would give the Left a slightly stronger hand, to use as leverage to get the Social Democrat leaders to accept them as full-fledged partners and bring them into government, the Left leadership's strategic goal since at least the days of Lars Ohly. It is unlikely that they could achieve this, instead they will be allowed to continue to be a support party without influence, much like now. Even if they are successful, this would hardly change much. It is very unlikely that the parliamentary situation would change so much that a Social Democrat-led government would no longer depend on the market fundamentalists in the Centre party. That would, of course, exclude any policy in the interests of the workers – regardless of whether the Left could win a small reform here or there.

Struggle from below
What is needed is struggle from below, in the workplaces, streets, schools and communities. This is not the Left's direction, although there are members who sincerely wish it. For example, there were undoubtedly Left Party members at square meetings in the campaign against market rents, but this was not as a result of party policy. After the vote of no confidence in Löfven, the Left Party boasted about how many new members they had gained. They often do, without it ever making the party more visible. If these new members were ever to be mobilised on the streets, a completely different pressure could be created.

Moreover, the fight against right-wing politics, for our trade union rights, for the necessary climate change and, by extension, against the entire capitalist system, will require more than we saw in the fight against market rents last year. We need a consistent fight against right-wing politics and its defenders, even when these are bureaucrats who formally belong to the labour movement, in workplaces, in the trade unions, the tenants' association, schools, neighbourhoods and streets – and we do not just mean small square meetings.

A fighting Workers' Party
We need a fighting Workers' Party to lead and organise such a struggle. The Social Democrats, and the Left Party too, are not the kind of party we need – they are instead obstacles to this fight. The Social Democracy has been happy to pursue right-wing politics for many years now, and the Left has shown itself submissively willing to accept this right-wing policy, as long as they get through some small reforms. Over decades this has not generated any opposition capable of challenging the party leadership. If we want to beat back right-wing politics and advance the positions of the working class, it is necessary to create a new workers' party, a fighting, revolutionary workers' party. To anyone who is serious about fighting right-wing politics, we say: come along and help build such a party.

This is our main message in the run-up to the elections. What is needed is a real, fighting alternative that can change the situation, not parliamentary manoeuvres and 'willingness to cooperate'. Which party you vote for is secondary in relation to this.

Critical support
In every parliamentary election since 1994, Arbetarmakt has applied critical support to both the Social Democrats and the Left Party. Calling for critical support for the reformist, bourgeois workers' parties has been a way of saying to their base: we do not believe that these parties will be able to lead any real struggle for improvement, but as long as you believe they can, you should organise yourself to change the parties and replace their right-wing and compromise-minded leadership. For those who believe that their party is able to fight a real battle, such a test may be needed for them to conclude that a new alternative must be created.

At the same time, today, there are no alternatives to vote for. There are left-wing groups that are standing in parliamentary, regional or municipal elections, but they are too small to be relevant, and have policies in which we have no confidence. In the process of building a new Workers' Party, some of these groups may be included, but at the moment we see no reason to call for a vote for them.

The only other options are to vote blank, or to boycott the election. A call for a boycott of elections has been resorted to by the revolutionary movement when there has been a serious opportunity to question its legitimacy, or to replace it with alternatives such as workers' councils. We don't have that situation today.

Calling for a blank vote is a possibility, it would be a way of saying: there is no alternative in the election, we do not care how things go, and neither should you. Given its willingness to be humiliated, instead of seriously mobilising to fight, as the Left Party has shown, we can understand those who react in this way.

However, we maintain that a critical vote is the best option. This time, there is joy within parts of the left that the Left Party has finally put its foot down, and a belief that they have now shown that they really are a serious alternative. Unwarranted, as we think that is, those who really believe in the Left party should at least demand that they really take issue with right-wing politics.

Our call this time is a critical vote for the Social Democrats and/or the Left Party – but we stress again that what is really important is the direct struggle in workplaces, streets, schools and residential areas, and to build a new, fighting and revolutionary workers' party. In relation to this, which party class-conscious workers and revolutionaries vote for is entirely secondary, and we call on all socialists, all those who loathe right-wing politics and all those who want to defend the working class to break from both the Social Democrats and the Left Party and instead help build this party.