Beyond Brexit and Lexit


The idea that remaining within the EU will automatically provide benefits and resolve problems is a kind of magical thinking. It has ultimately proved dangerous with the evidence being the systematic rise of far Right parties, austerity, a limited system to save and integrate immigrants or prevent the wars or economic disasters which accelerated immigration. Nevertheless, citizens can mobilize nationally via their states and put pressure on the EU. If anything the Brexit vote clearly shows contingency vis-à-vis the European Union.

By Jonathan M. Feldman


The basic problems at hand are the following. First, part of Cosmopolitanism is associated with an anti-racist, pro-migration set of policies. Call that progressive or Left Cosmopolitanism. Second, part of Cosmopolitanism is associated with using migration, free movement of capital, and globalization to break the power of unions and reduce living standards. Call that reactionary or Right Cosmopolitanism. The two are related and partially overlap. In theory, a solidarity system would strengthen the former at the expense of the later, but these systems can’t come from traditional trade union approaches (other than organizing the unorganized) and don’t naturally or necessarily occur within the European Union Framework. Some elements of identity politics and new social movements are perfectly happy with the synergies between Left and Right Cosmopolitanism. They engage in bad faith.

Second, part of Nationalism is associated with racism, xenophobia and the embrace of national capitalism and capitalists. Call this Reactionary Nationalism. Third, part of Nationalism is associated with managed trade, regulations, industrial policy and using the state to control or limit capitalism, advanced public services and needs. Call this Progressive Nationalism. The two are related as even some far Right groups call for national controls over who controls and owns industry. Yet, a nationally-owned industry can sell out its workers just as well as a foreign-owned industry (sometimes the foreign-owned industry is better able to preserve jobs). Some elements of the so-called Trotskyite left engage in a de facto rhetorical alliance that profits from the synergies between Left and Right Nationalism. They too engage in bad faith.

The Political Scarcity of the Left versus Reconstruction


The limits of Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism as paradigms are self-evident, even as each potentially has progressive elements to them. The bad faith illustrated above is part of the problem. Each element of bad faith is based on the politics of scarcity in the political accumulation of capital (be it economic, political or media capital). What is needed is an agenda to support: a) solidarity, b) the disarmament and alternative foreign policy regimes that would limit wars, arms exports fueling them, and hence a fair share of migration, c) the promotion of a sustainable society based on coalitions linking labor, environmentalists, immigrants, the children or grand children of immigrants, peace groups, and some elements of socially responsible businesses, and the progressive elements of the welfare state among other parties, d) economic democracy, media democracy and political democracy based on the ensemble of power that links networks of cooperatives, citizens’ controlled banks, face to face deliberative and media networked forms in a kind of local political space that is integrated regionally, nationally, and internationally, and e) the progressive integration of consumption and production, in which cooperative forms of each sustain one another. Yet, remaining or exiting the EU does not automatically produce these.

The alternative agenda discussed above is what we mean by “Economic and Social Reconstruction.” It is an agenda that embraces economic reconstruction and new forms of democratic engagement based on the use of political organizing, media organizing, the use of a political canvassing system, study circles, and a series of new institutions be they cooperatives, peoples’ universities, alternative banks, consumption federations and multi-product firms making needed alternative energy and mass transportation systems. Reconstruction requires new spatial arrangements, alternative planning regimes and a political engagement with these.

A Plague on Both their Houses


Is Brexit automatically Social and Economic Reconstruction? No, it is not. It is a political platform which far Right groups can easily exploit resulting in a political vacuum generated by leaving the European Union, unless we are talking about the Scottish response which is not Brexit but Scotenter, the Scottish entry into the European Union on its own terms. Does this mean that nationalism is automatically bad? No, as I already indicated there are progressive elements to nationalism in the form of managed trade, (national) industrial policies and the like. The problem is that Brexit involves an unholy alliance between reactionary and progressive Nationalism that basically represents a faustian bargain. It is a faustian bargain because exiting the EU does not automatically promise wonderful things as the political and economic elites can just as well embrace neoliberalism within the EU as outside of it if there is no Social and Economic Reconstruction. Does this mean that leaving the EU does not provide theoretically advantages? No, it does not mean that. Yet, when you Brexit without Social and Economic Reconstruction you basically engage in magical thinking that in my opinion is dangerous, even as I respect elements of the Brexit position.

Is remaining within the European Union automatically Social and Economic Reconstruction? No it is not, it is a political platform dominated by transnational corporations, political elites and forces of neo-liberal capitalism. The idea that remaining within the EU will automatically provide benefits and resolve problems is a kind of magical thinking. It has ultimately proved dangerous with the evidence being the systematic rise of far Right parties, austerity, a limited system to save and integrate immigrants or prevent the wars or economic disasters which accelerated immigration. These wars were partially triggered by U.S. militarism but received some assistance from various EU nations (via arms exports, cooperation with NATO, or reactionary foreign policies that would likely exist with or without the EU).

As we can see, either side of this debate can engage in magical thinking. Either side can claim elements of logic to their side, but neither really can promote the high road for Europe or the global community.

Can we argue that the EU facilitates Social and Economic Reconstruction? There are some research programs within the EU that can do this, but in actuality the constraints placed on independent national state actions are highly problematic. There should be demands placed on the EU to make changes.

Can we argue that the EU cannot be reformed ever and is a dead weight on progressive social and economic alternatives? Can we argue that the EU blocks Social and Economic Reconstruction? There is some truth to this position perhaps, but it may confuse a discursive, political, economic and media space with the forces that control this space. Thus, assuming that an institution like the Democratic Party is always militarist, global capitalist, and the like when the Bernie Sanders campaign showed how to contest who controls that space reveals a kind of dialectical quality to such spaces. Yes, the EU was an elite project and the Democratic Party was not simply an elite project. Nevertheless, citizens can mobilize nationally via their states and put pressure on the EU. If anything the Brexit vote clearly shows contingency vis-à-vis the European Union. Please note this is not necessarily a progressive contingency, with the probability for that enhanced by Social and Economic Reconstruction. Also note that the Sanders campaign (or the Left in cooperation with it) could have done far more to promote Social and Economic Reconstruction as outlined here.

As exiting does not necessarily lead to Social and Economic Reconstruction and could very well empower the far Right (if it had not done this already), one can’t easily argue that remaining in the EU changes the balance of forces within the EU. Even if the elites want to keep the EU as their vehicle does not mean that it is impossible to create alternatives to that vehicle. If the Left really had its act together, pressed seriously for Social and Economic Reconstruction, and mobilized in a variety of ways and then failed to reform the EU, then it would make sense to promote a Lexit, a left-exit to the EU in which the Left dominated the discourse around exit and the creation of an alternative pan-European if not global network supporting Social and Economic Reconstruction. Yet, the Lexit forces of today skipped that stage, engaging in a kind of opportunistic alliance with the far Right. This opportunism was based on some reasoned arguments and a gloss over the failures of the British Left to systematically engage in Social and Economic Reconstruction.

The Detractors and Follow Up Analysis:

More Dead Ends?


I now apply the above ideas by reviewing just two articles related to this whole debate. Let us start with Elliot Murphy’s, “Another Tamriel is Possible: Brexit Proposals vs. Solutions” as published in Counterpunch. Murphy writes that “virtually the entire British political elite is in favour of remaining in the European Union. Aside from a handful of Tory careerists like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove who see a disagreement with David Cameron’s leadership as a way to secure their own position within the party, the forces of reaction and business across the wingspan of British politics are flocking to support the EU.” I am not sure what Murphy’s point is here. The balance of the elite are also against forms of racism, does this make their position less valid? And, Cameron’s attack on London’s new mayor was a kind of racist attack, but hardly consistent with the EU’s line or hardly opposed by embracing the very forces aligned with Islamophobia.

Murphy writes “a vote to Leave would pull the EU in a considerably less neoliberal direction, likely benefiting other European countries – not to the mention the global South, in particular Africa, which has enjoyed a fundamentally exploitative relation with the EU since its inception.” I don’t see any evidence for this whatsoever. It is clear that the Brexit vote potentially pushes the EU in a progressive direction, but not necessarily so. Certainly, it is not so without Social and Economic Reconstruction, in any meaningful extent. Britain enjoyed a long history of imperialism and neocolonialism without the EU if Murphy cared to notice.

Murphy criticizes the AEiP movement as follows: “When Michael Chessum, a major organiser of the pro-Remain ‘Another Europe is Possible’ (AEiP) movement, is questioned about what concrete ‘changes’ he would like to see in EU, he simply dodges the question. Chessum’s behaviour generalises. To my knowledge, not a single supporter of Remain has presented a satisfying answer to the question of how we are supposed to go about reforming the EU.” The answer, however, is rather straightforward. One builds up structures and power outside the EU and applies pressure to the UK state and EU. If after trying to build up such structures and power, reform becomes impossible you have at least three options: a) demand concessions if you gain control over the UK state, b) exit if after gaining power or control over that state, you fail, c) use the base of power you accumulate through Social and Economic Reconstruction to strike the best deal with the EU possible, inside or outside the EU. So, the answer is relatively straight forward. Again, one can consider the endless possibilities associated with the New Economy Virtuous Cycle that usually exceed the imagination of the political left. When the Brexit folks embrace this agenda, then please let me know.

Murphy’s critique of Yanis Varoufakis, Ed Rooksby and trade union leaders in Britain all point to the same failure of imagination by both this group and Murphy himself. So, the failure of imagination is quite ubiquitous. Murphy may understand this as when he writes: “It is not as if another EU is inherently unreachable, but rather that without any posited, realistic steps to achieve it, the hopes of the Remain camp will quickly dissolve after June 23rd, no matter which side wins.” He continues, “Concrete solutions are lacking, then, as it is no good for the Left camp of Remain to simply point voters in the direction of Owen Jones columns and Caroline Lucas YouTube videos instead.”

Murphy continues, “the foundational pro-austerity, market liberalisation principles of the EU are established by the same treaties, which can be modified only by a unanimous agreement by all 28 member states.” This might be true but then we saw how Cameron was able to gain some concessions from the EU despite one state being up against a number of other EU states. What if it was not Cameron, but a Labour Party Prime Minister backed by a transnational social movement? Could he have gotten more concessions? Capitalism with or without the EU represents barriers. Leaving the EU does not eliminate capitalism or Neoliberalism, it just creates a different arena to fight within. But, the fight must be had and is not triggered or generated automatically by Brexit.

Let us now turn to Murphy’s analysis of Noam Chomsky’s arguments: “The Left Remain camp have also recently been galvanised by Noam Chomsky’s tenuous support for their cause, with Owen Jones and AEiP posting quotations of the professor’s brief statements on the matter. Chomsky’s reasons for supporting Remain are extremely weak and don’t stand up to much scrutiny. His reasoning is as follows: The racist Right is in favour of Leave, therefore we should Remain. But the racist Right is also in favour of Remain. Chomsky’s logic seems to be as follows: If P, therefore Q, so why not Z?” Here Murphy engages in bad faith. He does not understand that the discursive moment is largely tied to a right-wing anti-immigrant agenda tied to a reaction to austerity. They are linked. It does not matter that the number of voters supporting exit far outnumber the far Right voters. Why? Because the Far Right has triggered a larger discourse which mainstream parties, particularly on the Right, react to. The media embrace and legitimize large aspects of the Far Right discourse and that influences far more persons than the number of Far Right voters. This discourse is based on the coupling of anti-austerity with Brexit. This coupling is made possible by the failures of the Left as exploited by the Right. Brexit does not decouple anti-austerity and anti-racism. This is Chomsky’s larger argument which Murphy buries.

It is true that a racist and anti-immigrant vote is not the sole driver of the Brexit campaign and many hurt by austerity had what they felt to be good reasons for voting against the EU. Rather, as Billy Bragg explains, this was certainly true and just as true was the fact that the Far Right are net gainers from Brexit. The coupling of anti-austerity and racism is based on the “Socialism of Fools,” or more charitably a kind of false promise that a victory over austerity necessarily simply follows by beating the horse of Reactionary Cosmopolitanism.

Murphy continues by suggesting that Obama’s opposition to Brexit does not mean that a Brexit vote would leave Britain more subordinate to US power. Here again, his logic fails him. First, Obama and the U.S. military industrial complex are not quite the same thing. The former is less powerful than the latter. Obama’s whole election and administration accommodated this power. So, it may be that Obama wants the UK in the EU to bolster something economically (or US blocking a closer Chinese alliance with the UK that would also make the UK that more military dependent on the US) whereas the military industrial complex would gain from Brexit. Look at Germany, economically aligned with Russia on gas pipelines, military aligned with NATO. UK remains in NATO but is outside of EU in Brexit. So, Brexit could benefit the US militarily but not economically, with Obama himself being more concerned with the economic implications. In any case, it is something of an open question and Chomsky is not necessarily wrong.

Murphy correctly points out limitations to the EU: “State aid to declining industries, along with renationalisation, are not permitted by current EU laws (under directive 2012/34/EU), and any mildly progressive government which managed to get elected in 2020 would be hindered from the outset by the EU. Considerable reforms of the energy market would also be illegal under EU directives 2009/72EU and 2009/73/EU.” This is true, but in Sweden the government created a somewhat significant pharmaceutical R&D center for displaced technical workers from that sector and the EU did not block that. The EU did not block the wind energy cooperatives that exit in Sweden either. So, the EU is hardly blocking all the elements of a research-linked industrial policy or progressive aspects of energy policy. Thus, Murphy is correct to point these things out but can’t explain why the Danes who are in the EU have a vibrant wind production sector and thousands of green jobs, whereas UK green job production in some areas is less impressive. Rather, he selectively cherry picks the worst case arguments but leaves out the necessary counterfactual arguments.

Murphy continues to provide negative examples, but does not think them through logically. For example, he writes: “McDonnell’s plans for People’s Quantitative Easing? Outlawed by Article 123 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.” Does the EU prevent a progressive bank like JAK bank in Sweden? No. Does the EU prevent the organization of millions of left voters to patronize and support this bank? No. Does the EU prevent unions from organizing their members to patronize JAK and use it as a bank to extend industrial cooperatives? No. Over and over, we see how the EU despite its great limitations becomes for Lexit or Murphy the fulcrum of all (or most) of the Left’s failures when it is the Left itself which is most to blame. Or, how Brexit was to be a necessary condition for success, but Brexit’s reactionary pitfalls are papered over.

Here is another Murphy argument: “The series of anti-trade union laws introduced in Britain over the past few decades? The EU has no qualms with these whatsoever, showing no interest in providing even modest forms of protection for workers.” Yes, but this simply shows how British Neoliberalism can thrive even without the EU, thank you very much! Murphy seems to acknowledge as much: “Given the sheer dominance of the traditional forces of international finance on both sides of the mainstream debate, talk of a Lexit or a Left Remain become highly misleading: There will be only a ‘Rexit’ or a right-dominated Remain – at least in the short term.” Murphy acknowledges Chomsky’s arguments later on (creating a puzzling inconsistency): “Brexit will likely boost the anti-immigrant Tory, UKIP and Labour base in the short term.” Nevertheless, he quickly runs over to magical thinking: “Yet over the coming years it will permit a future Labour-run Britain to implement mildly social democratic reforms much more easily, to be otherwise hindered by the EU’s strictures – that is, if Corbyn goes on the offensive and exploits the Tory’s weaknesses to a greater extent than he currently seems willing to do. A Corbyn-led Britain (or at least a Corbynite-influenced Labour Britain) outside the EU would be free from the direct influence of the European Central Bank, which is legally committed to favour deflation and stagnation over growth. Government aid to failing industries is barred…” What if the far Right is empowered at the expense of Lexit? How does Brexit politically empower Corbyn to do anything? There is no natural or logical connection here because this is thinking by non-sequitor.

Recent evidence suggests that Brexit led to divisions in the Labour Party, but only time will tell. Brexit encouraged a revolt in the Labour Party by what some consider the Tony Blair wing of the party, although others point to poll data that suggests that Labour gained at the expense of UKIP and the Conservatives. If UKIP and the Conservatives lost support because of a backlash against Brexit and/or the immediate economic fallout of Brexit, then greater Labour support for these reasons hardly bolsters the case for Brexit. A wave of racist incidents followed Brexit as documented by The Washington Post and The Guardian, which reveals far right opportunism but also the ways in which the discursive space is exploited even if UKIP’s poll numbers decreased. These shifts and turns in British politics might be explained by the lack of political understanding of what the European Union even is, even though voters for Brexit suffering from austerity certainly reacted to that.

We have reason to suspect the non-sequitor when Murphy later writes: “leaving the EU would by no means result in immediately significant changes or wins for the European Left.” The next sentence is telling, “but it would crucially open up an entirely different kind of debate from the one inevitably resulting from a Remain vote (especially given the bizarre fixation of the Remain campaigns – including AEiP – solely on the virtues of the EU, and not its considerable shortcomings). In addition, it would lead to the kind of debate in which leftists would no longer feel compelled to recycle myths about how David Cameron is somehow ‘better’ on immigration issues than Boris Johnson.” What is the problem with Murphy’s logic here? He confuses a discursive shift with the generation of an alternative media platform. Unlike the U.S., with its network of community and Pacifica or radical radio stations, the U.K. lacks any such equivalent. The BBC is under pressure from the Right, further constraining that space. The country is littered with reactionary tabloids. A few bright spots, like The Guardian and The Independent, are often outgunned in media power. Here we see clearly the magical thinking which conflates discursive openings with the hard work of Social and Economic Reconstruction.

Murphy still engages in the kind of bean counting approach to measuring the far Right’s power which I have already criticized. Let us look at one example: “The sight of Johnson trying to lead an increasingly fractured and rebellious party, forced into a number of substantial retreats, would be nothing less than a gift to the entirety of the UK Left.” Here is a confusion between individual politicians and personalities and the larger framework of far Right discursive power. As I stated, the far Right leverages power by its own numbers and by its effects on the other Right parties and (I can now add) by the politics of scarcity, i.e. the Left does not have a comprehensive integration policy for immigrants (linked to cooperatives, efficiency in skills trading and skills banks, facilitating self-organization and the like), and the role played by mass media. While Johnson himself might find problems in ruling the conservatives, that does not mitigate all these other advantages of the far Right. The Brexit victory will be leveraged effectively by a larger network of forces that is far larger than just one politician.

Murphy turns to arguments by Baroness Jenny Jones, a prominent Green Party member, in a Fabian Society essay, “A Fork in the Road.” She writes, “Personally, I fear [the EU] is unreformable…And latterly I’ve been horrified too by the deep influence of big business – corporate lobbyists outnumber NGO lobbyists by 15-1. What chance is there of tough progressive action on poverty or the environment.” This is a very important and interesting argument, but applied to Brexit, it leaves many questions unanswered.

First, does the Left in the UK do everything it could do to increase its political, economic, and media power leverage? No, it does not. It does not create a radical media space to challenge entrenched corporate interests. It does not link its consumptive power to generate cooperatives on the production side whose profits could be used to patronize this media.

Second, by failing to accumulate such power, it does not allow itself to advance a progressive agenda within the potential of its power accumulation trajectory inside or outside the EU.

Third, leaving the EU does not change the balance of power with big corporate lobbyists in any significant way. More tedious and specious mind-numbing logic. Murphy concludes, “a vote for Leave isn’t just a vote against the neoliberal forces of the Troika: It is also a vote against our own ruling classes.” No, it is a vote against the preferences of your ruling class, but it does not and will not defeat them; it will only displace the battles you have with them to new terrains, new terrains where you will lose the battle without Social and Economic Reconstruction.

Paul Mason and Brexit.2


Paul Mason wrote a kind of political obituary for the the UK’s links to the EU in “Britain is not a rainy, fascist island–here’s my plan for ProgrExit,” published in The Guardian. The gist of this article is that the gig is up, i.e. it’s too late to put the pieces together again of a now fragmented British romance with the EU. Mason writes, “We must prevent the Conservative Right using the Brexit negotiations to reshape Britain into a rule-free space for corporations; we need to take control of the process whereby the rights of the citizen are redefined against those of a newly sovereign state.” Mason calls for making the most of the fait accompli of exit: “we can and must fight to place social justice and democracy at the heart of the Brexit negotiations. I call this ProgrExit – progressive exit. It can be done, but only if all the progressive parties of Britain set aside some of what divides them and unite around a common objective.”

While Mason is clearly one of Britain’s most sophisticated analysts of political and economic affairs, there are a few questions one might want to ask about this article.

First, one can ask whether or not Mason understands the limits of majoritarian democracy. Mason writes, “Labour must clearly accept Brexit. There can be no second referendum, no legal sabotage effort. Labour has to become a party designed to deliver social justice outside the EU. It should, for the foreseeable future, abandon the objective of a return to EU membership. We are out, and must make the best of it.” If 48 percent opposed Brexit, the acceptance of the 52 percent who supported are hardly representative of all opinions. In Social and Economic Reconstruction the logic is not based on majorities but critical minorities who attempt to convince and influence majorities. Siding with 52 percent is hardly a sufficient response.

Second, while Mason is correct that the Left has to put its spin on things, we have an interesting situation in which the real winner is the far Right. After all, both the Conservative and Labour Party leaders opposed and UKIP embraced Brexit. Therefore, embracing Brexit objectively aligns one with UKIP’s agenda even as you scramble to come up with a Left response to UKIP. Rather than force something that UKIP has to respond to, the Left’s immediate thought is to react to what UKIP helped set into motion. This means that a Left response is going to partially be reactive, no matter how “proactive” it may seem in design or intentions.

Third, Mason calls for early elections, but here he appears to put the cart before the horse. I have already suggested that political mobilizations without media and economic mobilizations will always be limited affairs. Rather than get the Labour Party on a track to create and implement such comprehensive mobilizations, Mason wants to rush Labour into an election. I don’t understand the logic of such thinking at all. Labour could be organizing the public through town meetings and an ad hoc virtual town hall system of cities using the Internet and progressive media such as exists in the UK. He need not have an election to do this.

Fourth, Labour is in a bind if Brexit leads Scotland to leave the UK. Mason writes, “Labour – which cannot govern what is left of the UK alone, once Scotland leaves – should accede to [proportional representation].” If Scotland’s departure weakens the Left’s political power or possibilities of a political majority within the UK, I don’t see that the natural war of position” as being the electoral route. Rather, to repeat again and again, the natural war of position is in the organization of an alternative economic and media space as well as through a system of direct democracy. Does the UK even have a labor radio network like WINS, the U.S.-based radio network? How does the Left mobilizing for an election or putting a progressive spin on Brexit lead to the creation of such institutions? Answer, they don’t lead to this of necessity.

Finally, while Mason is correct that Scotland is on its way out of the UK or is likely to leave, the real questions for us should rather be the following (none of which Mason takes up): (a) If Scotland leaves the UK, can the new Scottish state create a progressive bank which is aligned with the cooperative banks of Mondragon and banks like JAK in Sweden? Could this bank be used to leverage the creation of cooperatives in Scotland and the balance of the UK? (b) If Scotland creates cooperatives that are part of large networks, could these federations start organizing sustainable industries and work in the areas abandoned by transnational capitalists in England, Wales or Northern Ireland? (c) Can Scotland create a Left broadcasting network similar in format to RT (Russian Television) or Al Jazeera which broadcasts progressive programming into the UK and competes with the BBC from the Left? Are we just going to view Scotland’s decisions as some sort of political variable and leave out all the important questions related to economic, banking, and media power?

Conclusions:  The Short-Term, Medium-Term and Long-Term Solutions are the Same


Brexit or Lexit, either way you slice it, we have a victory for the far Right and only a theoretical opportunity for the Left of the UK or Europe. The same magical thinking that always puts a progressive gloss on everything the EU does finds analogous thinking in the magical thinking that assumes that Brexit translates into a stunning defeat for Neoliberalism. Rather, Neoliberalism, simply can shift its attentions to ruling the UK without the EU. There is no substitute for the primitive accumulation of the economic, media and political capital necessary for Social and Economic Reconstruction. Remaining in the EU or exiting the EU does not automatically produce such power accumulation systems on behalf of democratic impulse, autonomy, and the creation of a sustainable society. The Right and Left each search for short cuts. The far Left is totally naive about their capacities and ability to control or manipulate the situation because their deconstructive discourse about the EU is largely divorced from a reconstructive discourse. The far Right have shown themselves clever in manipulating or setting the agenda for the mass media and large electoral blocks by marrying anti-austerity with racist xenophobia. The far Left may try to fantasize itself out of its objective alliance with this unholy marriage by projecting things that they hope they can do, but probably will never accomplish without a far more radical program that they themselves hardly (or ever) embrace.

In summary, staying in the EU or exiting it does not or did not produce the necessary outcomes in and of itself. The far Left commits a tactical error by aligning themselves objectively (but not subjectively) with the far Right. They can’t produce any meaningful anti-imperialist, anti-militarist, or anti-austerity agenda simply by leaving the EU. Either way you look at it (a radical alternative outside the EU or a reformed EU which accommodates reconstruction), you need reconstruction and the agenda outlined in this essay. And guess what? The Left fails over and over and over to give us the discourse we need, with a few notable exceptions.

Media och rekonstruktion

Reconstruction as a Solution to the Problems of Media Content and Form

I teorin skulle en politiker idag kunna titta på den ojämna fördelningen av makt mellan idéer och besluta sig för att stödja de idéer som är mest populära vid det givna tillfället. Kontrollsystemen som politiker hålls ansvariga genom blir svagare i ett samhälle som präglas av byråkrati och där fackföreningar och andra institutioner försvagats. Massmedia har till stor del  stöpts om i enlighet med rådande passiviserande mekanismer, det vill säga ett fåtal medieaktörer dikterar villkoren för en passiv massa. Men hur kan media användas för att demokratisera och förbättra samhället?

Av Jonathan M. Feldman,
översatt från engelska av Salvador Perez och Sanna Lind

Media är organiserat i en hierarki som en del kommunikationsteoretiker kallar en kommunikationskedja med publiken i botten, eliterna högst upp och journalisterna i mitten. Mediehierarkin manifesteras som tydligast under kriser och andra sorters nyhetshändelser som ger upphov till intensiv mediebevakning. I Sverige utgör dags- och kvällstidningarna en av de viktigaste informationskällorna för människor. År 1990 uppgav 87 procent att de läste en morgontidning minst tre dagar i veckan och 35 procent läste en kvällstidning minst tre dagar i veckan. År 2014 var dessa siffror nere på 58 respektive 10 procent. Under 2014 läste 38 procent en morgontidning på nätet och 27 procent läste en kvällstidning på samma sätt. SVT:s tittartid har minskat från 43 procent till 35 procent från 2002 till 2007. Under denna tidsperiod har också Sveriges Radios lyssnarandel minskat från 52 till 48 procent. År 2014 var SVT:s TV-tittare 35 procent i förhållande till TV4s andel på 30 procent. Under intensiva perioder av politiskt fokus kan SVT nå ungefär en miljon tittare, till exempel såg 949 000 på partiledardebatten den 6 oktober 2013 mellan 20.00 och 21.00.

Ubåtsjakten under 1980-talet utgör i likhet med politiska valvakor ett exempel på en period av intensiv mediebevakning. I det här fallet nådde det sin höjdpunkt då den sovjetiska ubåten U137 gick på grund vid marinbasen i Karlskrona år 1981. Den intensiva mediebevakningen ledde till en mer militärt präglad nyhetsrapportering och grundade sig i en logik som kopplade samman en aktuell händelse (ubåtar i svenska vatten), ett inramningssystem (framing system) med kontinuerliga expertutlåtanden i media. Delar av den här logiken kan förklaras på följande sätt:

“När händelser eller kriser av militär karaktär upptäcks finns det en institutionaliserad mekanism för att göra händelser till föremål för säkerhetspolitiskt intresse och sätta dem på dagordningen. Det är skälet till att upptäckten av utländsk ubåtsverksamhet omedelbart hamnade på agendan som ett ”nytt” militärt hot i fredstid under 1980-talet. Marinen och underrättelsetjänsten var redo, och gav snart en enorm mängd information om dessa aktiviteter; det rapporterades om att mer än 500 incidenter under 1980-talet sannolikt var ubåtskränkningar.” (Johan Eriksson, “Agendas, Threats, and Politics: Securitization in Sweden”, 1999)

Stycket berör dock inte den nyckelroll som en del politiker antog när de utnyttjade hoten för att realisera sina egna politiska ambitioner. De blev politiska entreprenörer; de försökte mobilisera den allmänna opinionen kring en offentlig fråga som de har mer eller mindre kunskap om. Ubåtsjakterna gynnade exempelvis de borgerliga partierna, särskilt Moderaterna, och för Carl Bildt innebar ubåtsjakterna ett politiskt genombrott.

Experter, politiker och journalister

Det akademiska systemet utbildar många journalister och aktivister i sociala rörelser och kan därmed bidra till att forma inramningssystemet på sikt medan experter, ofta med anknytning till akademin, ger information som flödar genom hela kommunikationskedjan. Media och politiska entreprenörer använder ofta selektivt experter som de anser vara legitima. Den avgörande roll som urvalet av experter kan spela illustreras av olika nyhetshändelser och hur expertens legitimitet formar inramningen av händelserna. Den svenska militäranalytikern Niklas Granholm som arbetar på FOI (Totalförsvarets forskningsinstitut) utgör ett intressant exempel. Under sommaren 2015 var Granholm det viktigaste inslaget i artikeln ”Ryska ubåtsövningen skickar tydlig signal” i Svenska Dagbladet. Granholm hävdade att Ryssland planerade en militärövning i Arktis med tre nya kärnstrategiska ubåtar som skulle sända ”en tydlig signal om att Ryssland är på väg mot nytt globalt inflytande.”

Den här inramningen är baserad på centrala aktörers olika uttalanden, och dessa aktörer består framförallt av militärexperter och politiska entreprenörer. Vi kan börja kartlägga processen genom att undersöka följande data. Först och främst var Granholm den enda källan i den tidigare citerade artikeln. För det andra visar en Google-sökning genomförd 17 oktober 2014 att kombinationen av ordet ubåt och Granholms namn ledde till 616 träffar medan ”Niklas Granholm” gav 2490 träffar. Med andra ord är sökningen ett tecken på att mycket av Granholms medienärvaro är knuten till diskussionen om ubåtar, närmare bestämt 24,7 procent av Google-träffarna. Det är inte förvånande eftersom 33,6 procent av hans närvaro är knuten till Ryssland. I själva verket är en betydande andel av medierepresentationen av olika anhängare eller motståndare till svensk utrikespolitik knuten till omnämnanden av Ryssland eller ubåtar (tabell 1 appendix i pdf-fil).

Tabell 1 (pdf) visar att vissa anti-Nato eller antimilitaristiska talespersoner har vad som skulle kunnas kallas för en rimlig grad av mediemakt, men nyckelrepresentanter som ordföranden för Svenska Freds och Skiljedomstolen hamnar i medieskuggan av representanter för utrikespolitiskt status quo. Tabell 1 visar tydligt att rollen som expert och politisk entreprenör vanligtvis innehas av samma person. Politiker, regeringsmedlemmar, kulturarbetare och aktivister måste i regel utgå ifrån samma inramning som porträtterar Ryssland som ett hot eller potentiellt hot. Det gör det mycket svårt att få utrymme till att formulera alternativa omvärldsanalyser som bygger på andra antaganden. Ibland har politiska entreprenörer som Hans Blix legitima meriter medan vi i andra fall förväntas anta att entreprenören har den nödvändiga expertisen. Värdet av en viss expertis är givetsvis relativt, men vissa politiska entreprenörer har djupare förståelse och mer kunskap om vissa frågor än andra.

Det bästa sättet att illustrera problemet är att undersöka i vilken utsträckning vissa termer associerade med en genomgripande syn på utrikesfrågor dyker upp i den offentliga eller akademiska diskursen. Av tabell 2 (appendix pdf) framgår att externa hot mot Sverige har mer representativ makt än en genomgripande utrikespolitik som skulle göra att Sverige verkade för avspänning. Till exempel har sökordet “förtroendebyggande åtgärder” och ”Ryssland” ungefär 9 000 träffar medan sökningar relaterade till Ryssland som hot har från 23 000 till 28 000 träffar. Tabell 2 visar också att Sveriges nära handelsförbindelser med Ryssland har mindre medierepresentation än Ryssland som potentiellt säkerhetspolitiskt hot. Den betydelse handeln med Ryssland har för svensk säkerhet nämns nästan aldrig i den akademiska diskursen.

Den nyckelroll som akademin spelar för att reproducera eller forma systemet kan inte förstås till fullo förrän vi undersöker hur legitimiteten hos flera institutioner har förändrats och att vissa institutioner förfogar över större förtroende hos allmänheten än andra (tabell 4 appendix pdf). Allmänheten har generellt inte stort förtroende för kvällstidningen Expressen och trots att förtroendet är större för regeringen och riksdagen har även det sjunkit de senaste fem åren. Allmänheten har däremot förhållandevis stort förtroende för svensk radio, tv, dagstidningen Dagens Nyheter och, allra mest, det högre utbildningssystemet. Allmänheten har inte bara större förtroende för dessa tre institutioner, nivån har även varit konstant över tid. Detta gäller trots att institutionerna bevisligen reproducerar en medieideologi som filtrerar bort det som utmanar status quo. Akademiska källor (representerade av Google Scholar) och andra källor (representerade av Google där träffar oftast drivs av återanvändningen av information från nyhetskällor) tenderar att underrepresentera en mer kritisk utrikes- och säkerhetspolitisk diskurs. I den akademiska diskursen får nyckeltermer relaterade till externa hot mer uppmärksamhet än hur Sverige skulle kunna minska internationella spänningar och militarism genom att reducera den egna vapenexporten eller genom att främja förtroendebyggande åtgärder. Märkligt nog negligeras handeln med Ryssland som en faktor som formar svensk utrikespolitik, och ryska hot behandlas utan större hänsyn till handelns förmildrande effekter. Även om Sveriges handel med Ryssland minskade under 2012 och 2013 var Ryssland Sveriges 13:e största exportmarknad och 7:e största importmarknad (år 2013). Det mest anmärkningsvärda är att Sverige är en av de tio största utländska direktinvesterarna i Ryssland. Enligt den ryska centralbanken var svenska direktinvesteringarna i Ryssland 15,8 miljarder dollar till och med den 1 januari 2013.

Möjligheterna till ett nytt medieutrymme

Det finns flera begränsningar i både de stora massmediernas makt och i sociala mediers alternativa legitimitet. Först och främst har digitaliseringen förändrat hur många som tar del av nyheter. Denna sorts förändring ändrar inte nödvändigtvis tidningars makt, men det förändrar var de hittar sin publik. För det andra rör sig de yngre tittarna bort från TV-formatet. Under 2014 la 57 procent av personer i åldrarna 16 till 65 sin tittartid på TV-formatet men i spannet 16 till 29 var siffran bara 36 procent. Mer generellt tittar allt färre på TV, särskilt i koncentrerad form. För det tredje har yngre personer mindre förtroende för vissa etablerade TV och radioinstitutioner än äldre, men de har fortfarande förtroende för annan etablerad media som SVT, SR och Dagens Nyheter (tabell 5 appendix pdf). För det fjärde har förtroendet för sociala medier bland unga, till skillnad från äldres (65-74 år) förtroende till samma medium, en tendens att sjunka snabbare än förtroendet för etablerade medier (tabell 6 pdf). En sannolik förklaring är de rapporter som briserade år 2014 om att tusentals konton associerade till Microsoft, Google, Facebook och Yahoo har fått sina data överlämnade till amerikanska myndigheter var sjätte månad som ett resultat av hemliga domstolsbeslut. Den amerikanska underrättelsetjänsten så kallade PRISM-program samlar upp data från mestadels icke-amerikanska internetkommunikationer.

Att unga potentiellt rör sig bort från de etablerade massmedierna och  sociala medierna öppnar upp möjligheterna för engagemang i en medieplattform som ännu inte existerar. Möjligheterna och begränsningarna med en ny medieplattform kan analyseras med hjälp av två medieteorier. Faserna i massmedier kan förstås genom att först uppmärksamma två av de senare faserna i utvecklingen av TV:n. I centrum-periferi-modellen finns det inte längre ett monopol för offentlig TV. I början av 1990-talet började en rad hybridkanaler dyka upp som erbjöd ”all-round-program” men som också liknade public service (TV4 till exempel). Dessa förändringar innebär att det nu är svårare att bibehålla en normativ programpolicy eftersom tittarna själva kan sätta ihop sina egna tablåer som mycket väl kan skilja sig från majoritetens. Dessa mynnar ut i skapandet av nischade program. Utöver det ser vi en guldålder för demografisk ”targeting” vilket innebär att kanaler nu lägger avsevärda ansträngningar på att identifiera stora homogena subgrupper bland tittarskarorna. Denna centrum-periferi-modell blev dominerande under 1990-talet, även om det fanns en betydande rörelse bort från centrum – i Sverige de fem stora: SVT1, SVT2, och de kommersiella kanalerna TV3, TV4 och Kanal 5.

En annan mediemodell är ”upplösningsmodellen” som utmärks av extrem fragmentisering. I detta skede har mediecentrum disintegrerat och tittande är spritt över en myriad av kanaler. Det finns inga kollektiva tittarmönster som kan ses i tid eller rum och tittare delar bara sina tittarupplevelser med andra sporadiskt. Denna modell förutspås vara på plats när ”digitaliseringen är fullt implementerad och det digitala multikanalsystemet är operativt och använt.” (Anna Edin, “Times Have Changed: On the Relationship Between Swedish Public Service Television and the Viewing Public”, 2015) Vid denna punkt i utvecklingen finns det inte längre en ”majoritetspublik”. Upplösningsmodellen ligger fortfarande i framtiden även om trenden mot fragmentisering redan är stark.

Problemet med prognoser av det här slaget är inte att de inte fullt ut skildrar troliga förändringar i leveransplattformar. Problemet är snarare att de inte skildrar potentialen i en tillbakagång till en tidigare modell där allmänheten sökte ett mer aktivt förhållande till att skapa innehåll och forma medienätverken. Sådana nätverk kan fylla det vakuum som skapats av fragmentiseringen. Därtill misslyckas dessa prognoser med att förklara populariteten hos en rad hårt mediebevakade event såsom välgörenhetsgalor eller Melodifestivalen. För det andra kan bakgrunden till möjligheterna och begränsningarna också delvis ses i politikens medialisering, ett koncept utvecklat av Jesper Strömbäck. Han har formulerat en teori i vilken media vinner makt mot både mellanmänskliga kommunikationer och politiker och därmed etablerar sig som ett agendasättande system relativt oberoende av båda. Media blir därmed mindre känsligt för politiker och politiker blir mer känsligt gentemot media. Vad som saknas i det här perspektivet är att det misslyckas med att förklara hur medieinstitutioner kan förlora legitimitet, hur face-to-face kommunikation kan kombineras, och hur legitimitet och idéers ursprung kan spela en viktig roll. Det är här som rekonstruktiv media kommer in i bilden.

Rekonstruktiv media

Idén bakom rekonstruktiv media är att media kan bli ett verktyg med vilket det är möjligt att omforma samhället genom demokratiska principer. Kontrollsystemen som politiker hålls ansvariga genom blir svagare i ett samhälle som präglas av byråkrati eller i ett politiskt system där fackföreningarna och andra institutioner försvagats. Även massmedia har byråkratiserats när den stöpts om i enlighet med rådande passiviserande mekanismer, det vill säga när ett fåtal medieaktörer dikterar villkoren för en passiv massa. Sociala medier som alternativ till denna modell kommer att nå en återvändsgränd på grund av flera faktorer som innefattar: användandet av mediekommunikation som ett substitut till face-to-face dialog, den potentiella innehållslösheten i sociala medier som ett återanvändningssystem för intellektuellt innehåll som utvecklats någon annanstans, och spridningen av kommunikation som ett potentiellt svagt svar på både politikers och medias koncentrerande makt.

Det rekonstruktiva alternativet kan förklaras på följande sätt: tyngdpunkten ligger på förhållandet mellan politiken (regeringen/staten), media och en mobiliserad grupp medborgare. Medan Strömbäck diskuterar vad som är eller inte är antingen politiskt eller drivet av media gör han inte skillnad mellan vad media förmedlar och organiserar och vad som förmedlas och organiseras av ett nätverk medborgare. I boken Communication Power skriver Manuel Castells att ”om du tänker annorlunda kommer kommunikationsnätverk fungera annorlunda under förutsättningen att inte bara du, men även jag och många andra väljer att bygga nätverken som omger våra liv.”

Det grundläggande problemet som illustreras ovan är separationen av kunskap och makt, där kunskap är djupgående analyser och idéer om omfattande problem och där makt är förmågan att stödja medvetenhet, förverkligande av idéer och implementering av reformer. Vi kan därför definiera det rekonstruktiva projektet på följande vis. Först och främst är innehållet i media lika viktigt som dess form. Studiecirklar kan spela en nyckelroll genom att analysera sociala problem och sedan presentera djupgående lösningar för allmänheten. I ovanstående exempel skulle det involvera att främja idéer som att skapa civila alternativ till vapentillverkning, skapa jobbstegar till kvalificerade jobb för marginaliserade grupper och att länka samman grön teknologi till kooperativ som tillverkar energisystem lokalt. Information genereras av grupper som använder media snarare än tvärtom, att media använder grupperna. Om man elektronisk länkar samman flera sådana grupper kan de utbyta idéer. Poängen med att ett sådant system är att det bygger på interaktion och delaktighet snarare än att några få aktörer förmedlar nyheter till en passiv publik. Idag väljer media att iscensätta idén med en gemenskap genom att sätta ett dussin människor som har de valt ut i en studio. Istället skulle media kunna användas för att länka samman grupper och människor som kommunicerar med varandra i realtid.

För det andra betyder inte oberoende från staten samma sak som att utnyttja det oberoendet för massmobilisering. Om en grupp som organiserar en händelse som de kan utforma och styra både vinner medias uppmärksamhet och organiserar sina egna medier för att koppla händelsen över flera utrymmen (definieras av båda platserna och distributionskanaler) blir media mer beroende av gräsrötternas mobilisering. Castells skriver: ”Det faktum att politiken i huvudsak utspelas i media betyder inte att andra faktorer […] inte är betydande för att avgöra resultatet av politiska tävlingar. Inte heller innebär det att media är makthavare […] de är en arena för maktackumulering.”

För det tredje, makten som styr vad media säger och gör är vanligtvis antingen politiker eller medieproducenter/ägare av mediekoncerner. När politiker anpassar sig till massmedia börjar media att styra innehållet. Det innebär att media inte längre reflekterar vad en politiker säger utan sätter själv agendan. Ett exempel på detta skulle kunna vara debatten om svensk utrikespolitik där det grundläggande antagandet om ett ryskt hot mot Sverige etablerats under veckor, månader och år av svensk nyhetsrapportering. Debatten är alltså upplagd från början och kan ofta begränsa utrymmet för vad en politiker kan säga. Som tabell 1 (appendix pdf) visar kan politiker, politiska entreprenörer eller intellektuella skilja sig åt i vilka idéer de förmedlar beroende på vilken diskurs de företräder. Men tabell 2 (appendix pdf) visar tydligt att det finns en ojämn utveckling och representation av idéer; vissa idéer anses vara bättre än andra idéer.

Alternativet till båda är utformandet av ett medborgarnätverk som drivs av en social rörelse. Det skulle kunna leda till att när en grupp politiker har större mediemakt och kontroll över information och beslutsfattande känner sig media tvunget att reproducera eller relatera till det.

Det behövs studier och analyser av vad staten, till skillnad från massmedia, reagerar på. En politiker skulle i teorin kunna titta på den ojämna fördelningen av makt mellan idéer och helt enkelt besluta sig för att stödja de idéer som är mest populära vid det givna tillfället. Med detta som bakgrund kan vi se Moderaternas senaste positionsändring i frågor som migration och tiggeri som ett möjligt svar på konkurrensen från Sverigedemokraterna. Alternativt kan vi se att allmänheten, på grund av en ojämn fördelning av makt mellan idéer, beslutar att stödja parti X som blir mycket populärt. När ett annat parti, säg Y, försöker tävla med X, betyder det att de enbart reagerar på politik eller media? Det rekonstruktiva alternativet utgår ifrån att det existerar en tredje möjlighet, det vill säga att en grupp kan förespråka och organisera sig runt och stödja idéer som finns längre ned i hierarkin men som är knutna till genomgripande lösningar.

Flera modeller visar hur det är möjligt att kombinera sociala medier med faktisk handling. Dessa modeller inkluderar exempelvis Occupy-rörelsen och arabiska våren, som byggde på mekanismer som Twitter och Facebook, och Global Teach-In den 25 april 2012 som byggde på kommunikation via e-post, en webbsida och interaktiv datorbaserad kommunikationsmjukvara. Problemet med Occupy-rörelsens horisontella karaktär visade sig vara ett ganska svagt inre pedagogiskt utbildningssystem. På grund av det började rörelsen att fokusera på taktiken att ockupera parker och andra offentliga platser istället för att formulera alternativ politik och upprätta nya institutioner.

Medieforskare utgår ifrån att allmänheten antingen är konsumenter av massmedia (som radio och TV) eller användare av sociala medier. Den tidigare tenderar att betona ägandestrukturer, beslutsfattningsbyråkratier och en organisationsform där innehållet är skapat av få men förmedlat till många. Den senare tenderar att betona den ytliga kontrollen användaren av sociala medier har över sitt eget Twitter eller Facebook-konto. Den senaste NSA-relaterade skandalen började ifrågasätta denna ytliga kontroll och det ledde till förlorad legitimitet. Problemet kvarstår dock att det är skillnaden mellan den förra och den senare typen av media som ofta leder till centraliserad kontra decentraliserad ytlighet. Det är givetvis möjligt att föra fram ”djupt” innehåll på nätet och sociala medier. Problemet är att det mest sofistikerade innehållet kräver förhållandevis sofistikerade mottagare. Dessa mottagare är ofta få till antalet och begränsade av den strukturella ytligheten i universitetssystemet och i de sociala rörelserna. Termen strukturell ytlighet innebär att aktörer som i teorin främjar upplysning egentligen gynnar ytlighet. Denna ytlighet uppstår genom en så kallad ersättningseffekt där en idé som låter radikal ersätter en som verkligen är radikal. Radikal betyder i sammanhanget något som angriper ett problems grundorsaker.

Gapet mellan intellektuella och genomgripande lösningar har dokumenterats av flera analytiker. De hävdar att det inte bara är tillräckligt att peka ut eliter eller etablissemanget som vilseledande. Istället kan den oppositionella vänstern själv vara inne på fel spår. Kort sagt dras många intellektuella till idéer högt upp i hierarkin. Detta fokus på populära koncept ger de intellektuella en följarskara, forskningsmedel, berömmelse, möten med politiker och så vidare. I ett sådant system avancerar den enskilde intellektuelles makt, men inte nödvändigtvis kunskap eller lösningar. Den klassiska brytningen mellan intellektuella och allmänheten analyserades av C. Wright Mills i The Sociological Imagination. Där argumenterar Mills för att intellektuella bör blottlägga strukturer snarare än att enbart redogöra för abstrakta idéer eller empiriskt drivna banaliteter. Alternativen kräver: (a) identifiering av orsakerna till problemen, (b) utveckling av djupgående lösningar och planer, (c) skapandet av maktmekanismer för att främja lösningarna med, och (d) nödvändiga kontrollsystem, väldesignad implementering, feedback-system och översikt.

Beyond Public Racism

Beyond Public Racism and Deconstruction

While the campaign launched by various activists against the SD posters in the subway was an important first step in trying to reform this society, there are limits to this initiative and its political language which are important to describe. The activists have to be given much credit for broadening the understanding of the limits of SL’s policies. Ultimately, this campaign was an important counter-reaction to the repressive tolerance of public racism, but a broader kind of discourse is needed to transform SL, challenge SD, and ultimately remake Swedish society.

By Jonathan M. Feldman


The racist and demagogic poster campaign aimed at Swedish tourists and centered in the Östermalm undergound station is part of a larger problem which is the repressive tolerance of Sweden’s political elite towards not only racism, but the inequality in media, political and economic power. Groups like the peace movement, anti-racist organizations, environmentalists and mass transportation advocates have less power. Even when these groups are granted access to the media, media representation proves insufficient for sufficiently accumulating power to address underlying problems. While parts of the elite have tried to represent a decent and fair Sweden, the actions of SL (Storstockholms Lokaltrafik) and its apologists reveal a rather indecent Sweden. SL is the transport agency running the greater Stockholm collective transportation system. The larger problem, however, is not just racism in Swedish society and inequality in the distribution of resources, but also the ideological system of repressive tolerance and displacement which also supports militarism and perpetuates myths about democracy and equity. Simply put, repression is tolerated and tolerance becomes perverse as the language of rights, lawyers and judiciaries is used to legitimate a system that cannot properly police its own racism.


While the recent campaign against the posters launched by various activists was an important first step in trying to reform this society, there are limits to this initiative and its political language which are important to describe. The activists have to be given much credit for broadening the understanding of the limits of SL’s policies and actively helping to challenge these policies and SD propaganda. Ultimately, this campaign was an important counter-reaction to the repressive tolerance of public racism, but a broader kind of discourse is needed to transform SL, challenge SD, and ultimately remake Swedish society.

This discourse involves an exposition of the links between Swedish mythology, militarism and racism, each tied to a concentration of media, political and economic power in the hands of the Swedish power elite. This elite sustains its power by filtering out larger realities and justifying itself in the name of established laws, democracy, free speech and sometimes even gender equality, even if that sometimes involves using women to help sell military products to developing nations. We also see that one key problem is that ethics takes the form of an investment in the mainstream corporate society which helps to regulate advertising, even when such corporate-financed regulators potentially find fault with SD’s campaign. The background issues show us how the political and cultural elites’ language of free speech, free commerce and openness is also tied to both militarist and racist cultures.

Even when an investment form of ethics (to be described below) is not applied, the Swedish legal system and politicians who help shape it have been largely ineffective in limiting the political trajectory of the racist far right or even continuing racist attacks. The impression one has is that the far right recedes when economic times are good and when the integration system works. Given new economic developments, expanded immigration and the limits of the current integration model, racism and xenophobia are on the rise. One key problem is the unemployment which contributes to SD’s vote share and power. The other is the absence of a discourse supporting policies that would link immigrants to higher qualified jobs, particularly for persons with immigrant backgrounds who don’t come to Sweden with advanced skills. The families of such persons also potentially risk marginalization, even if second generation Swedes can do better on the labor market. This discourse about integrating such new Swedes into the higher qualified labor market is not an important part of the immigration debate, existing only at the margins. Nor do we see a significant debate about de-industrialization and how that might affect the rise of both SD and the limits of economic equality. While newspapers like Dagens Nyheter have shown linkages between SD’s rise and layoffs from companies, they don’t really explain what could be done about this. If one wants to know why highly educated persons also support SD, one has to consider the logic of displacement explained below.

The Logic of Displacement


The political, economic and cultural elites of Sweden can be defined by: the top politicians, the heads of various agencies and their lieutenants, the heads of corporations and trade organizations, the leading newspapers of the country, the large mass media outlets, the dominant discourses in the university system, and a core group of spokespersons who repeatedly show up in public media commentary. There have been past investigations of this power structure and some have called for a new study of the power elite. In any case, the elite have created and sustained very powerful displacement systems vis-à-vis Sweden being: a) militaristic and b) racist. By “displacement” I mean a system which pushes something to the sidelines by emphasizing something else in its place, i.e. Sweden as anti-militaristic and anti-racist. I will use selected examples to illustrate a larger phenomena at work. It is true that these elites do not work in entirely the same way at the same time. There is no one homogeneous consensus that works that same way among all people at the same time. Nevertheless, clear patterns emerge in history regarding what can best be referred to as “sins of omission.” In an earlier study, I have thoroughly documented these sins when it comes to Swedish foreign policy.

Mainstream Society and Displacement


These displacements work in the following fashion. First, the mainstream society covers up its own dirty laundry by using the language of “objectivity,” law, bureaucratic procedures, and ignoring or aborting the language of morality, critical engagement, sociological principles concerning racism or militarism, or the historical legacy of a Sweden which partially tolerated its own indigenous Nazi movement and anti-Semitism or ties to German defense contractors (within limits). In the academic system, there is a refrain among many academics to strive for “objectivity” and to reveal various competing intellectual positions. This is partially desirable but usually what is ignored is the greater media and representational power of orthodox and liberal elite opinion. Also, pure objectivity is impossible as every choice to use a book, article or film in a course necessarily involves a point of view regarding what should be included and excluded and what the standard of objectivity is, e.g. does showing “both sides” assume that there are only two sides, when the number of different opinions is much greater than two factions, with great heterogeneity within the Left as well as Right. Another thing that is ignored is the soundbite culture that dilutes and marginalizes more complex arguments in the mass media.

Sometimes the worst aspects of racism and arms exports are addressed by half measures, or measures which limit but do not obliterate the cancer of anti-Semitism, racism, objectification of minority groups and militarism. The cancer then resurfaces and expands, particularly when it can be joined to the host of economic crises and scarcity politics or economic opportunism tied to profit making (see below). The language used by politicians to defend this system sometimes centers on law and procedures. Yet, these laws often reflect the accumulation of political power by persons who sweep problems under the rug. Or, in some cases the architecture of really existing laws turns out to be insufficient to address racist problems, hence it functions as a kind of alibi system. At different periods in its history, Jewish activists concerned with Nazis or anti-Semitic practices in Sweden have tried to put pressure on the country. Among such activists in places like the United States, or holocaust hunters in Israel, the repressive tolerance of Swedish elites is not accepted and often condemned. This phenomena is echoed in the fact that elite outlets like The New York Times are not bound by the moral and political code of Swedish nationalism, having their own American nationalist code to abide by. This shows up in the history of Times coverage of Sweden’s immigration and foreign policies.

Kristoffer Tamsons, the Chairman of the Traffic Committee of the Stockholm County Council, the group that is responsible for overseeing SL, argued: “when it comes to political advertising, it is our fundamental laws, the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, which controls what gets said and appear in public space.” These “fundamental laws” have sustained repressive tolerance, tied to a political system that continually substitutes law for moral judgments tied to any critical thinking. The failures of the Swedish legal system to irradicate anti-Semitism should be proof enough for the interested reader. These failures are not just evident in the problems of Jews in contemporary Malmö, but also extend to the history of Jews in 20th Century Sweden.

Sweden never accommodated the worst aspects of an indigenous Nazi presence, although it did create great leeway for various anti-Semitic activities. This is made clear in a study by Heléne Lööw, called “Incitement of Racial Hatred,” published in the Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Crimonology and Crime Prevention, Vol. 1, Issue 2: 2000: 109-129. When it came to anti-Semitism, “there was no legislation on the incitement of racial hatred during the period between the two world wars,” although anti-Semites, racists and National Socialists were “sentenced for calumny or disorderly conduct for what today would be considered as incitement of racial hatred” (Lööw, 2000: 109). The case of Einar Åberg, a well-known anti-Semite, illustrates how the legal system did not quite tolerate yet made possible his activities. In 1942, Åberg was prosecuted for anti-Semitic calumnies and utterance. The police court, however, rejected this prosecution, leading the prosecutor to appeal to the Stockholm Court of Appeal, which then “changed the sentence to a fine for disorderly conduct.” In the period between 1941 and 1945, Åberg “was sentenced on nine different occasions and fined for his anti-Semitic agitation” (Lööw, 2000: 110-111). Sweden was also not terribly cooperative of efforts to hunt down living Nazis during the period from 1986 to 2002. In sum, the system has a tendency to make adjustments but leaves the larger problems in place.

The ability to act against the posters in legal terms suffers because of a displacement system that limits the political cultural capital within the Swedish population. Because the racism found in the posters was based on coded language, the Justice Ministry decided after the protests that no laws were broken. Also, the Justice Ministry might want to ban political advertising by any organization whose origins are based on the concerted organizing activities of Nazis, but de-Nazification in Sweden did and does not involve a sufficiently deep educational process, e.g. aspects of Swedish culture that may have facilitated the rise of the Nazis in Sweden is considered less important than expositions on the Holocaust. Of course, education about the Holocaust and other genocidal actions is important, but education against the Holocaust has been used to displace other significant education related to Swedish actions, responsibilities, and the history of its far right.

When making proclamations about its advertising policy SL does not address the Nazi origins of SD, although its treatment of SD is consistent with the pattern of repressive tolerance documented by Lööw. The key forces which limit, resist or challenge the accompany system supporting repressive tolerance include scandals and direct action as well as long-term lobbying or social movement campaigns. For example, the Social Democratic government and Swedish parliament admirably called for limiting arms exports to dictatorships. This comes against the backdrop of scandals tarnishing Sweden’s reputation because of potential or actual weapons transfers to countries like China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand. Here we have a victory, but what will be displaced is the problems caused by arm sales to countries like South Africa, a country with massive poverty and thus where arms sales represent an opportunity cost against equitable economic development.

Displacement and Swedish Social Movements


Second, even oppositional movements can directly (if sometimes unconsciously) engage in sins of omission even as they gain victories. Anti-racist and anti-militaristic movements exist on the margins, building on an historical legacy which can be seen in various ways, for example the anti-racist protest in Stockholm which took place August 4th against a series of political posters designed by the right-wing Swedish Democrats. The protest can be seen in the first photograph above, directed at the posters or political wall paper depicted in part in the second photograph. The protest aimed to challenge the normalization of racist opinions represented by these posters. The posters use coded language that make allusions to poor Roma who are forced by economic necessity to beg for money and food in more affluent European countries.

Amie Brammie Sey, one of the organizers of the protest, was quoted in Dagens Nyheter as follows: “We are many who reacted strongly against the new SD advertising in our underground, where beggars —who everyone knows are mainly Roma—are portrayed as parasites in our society. We turn towards the normalization of racism and wonder about where SL puts limits on these activities. It is completely incomprehensible.” The problem is that this normalization is comprehensible and this comprehension is what is displaced by elements of the Left’s own discourse. The comprehension is based on the larger logic of repressive tolerance and mainstream morality which conceals as much as it reveals as I will also demonstrate below. Thus, the Left has a language which sometimes in limited in its ability to describe what is actually happening.

This is a generalizable phenomenon. Social movements like the Swedish peace movement have focused on limiting arms sales to dictatorships as an important tactical argument. While they have noted the economic costs of arms sales to countries like South Africa, some of the peace movement’s rhetoric has not sufficiently addressed these costs. These costs are thereby displaced. A related issue is that by opposing arms exports to dictators and not saying much about civilian economic conversion of Swedish defense firms, the cutback in arms exports that the peace movement has proposed risks a backlash effect. As defense companies lose sales and fire workers, these companies and workers may mobilize against the political incumbents backing arms sales regulations. Or, the companies may simply expand their military operations in another country. With disarmament and economic conversion, such military commitments would be reduced. General and complete disarmament reduces all military markets, conversion creates new economic opportunities for firms and workers in the civilian market. The spread of militarism and possibilities for alternative civilian planning are thereby displaced by a narrow focus on ending Swedish arms exports to dictators.

What the Swedish peace movement and Swedish politicians making these reforms gain, the military industry workers and citizens in potential countries in which their state gets weapons from different suppliers potentially lose. Of course, the Swedish decision on arms exports is a victory, but the limits to the current design of educational campaigns prevent even further victories. In contrast, by understanding the language and logic of displacement, we can achieve more comprehensive victories.

Using Social Movements as Tools to Defend the Status Quo


Third, these marginalized movements concerned with racism and militarism are expropriated by the majority society as a kind of alibi. The alibi takes the form of propaganda to cover up or displace the mainstream society’s very own militarism, racism and attempts to normalize the far-right. This kind of substitution system where bad and good are equated (or can easily be substituted for one another) is part of the logic of equivalences spelled out long ago by Herbert Marcuse. The logic of equivalences treats all public opinion the same, whether it be liberal, fascist, racist, or anti-racist. Everything is treated as being the same, although the mainstream society tries to marginalize the most direct forms of fascism and racism, it clearly accepts its “softer” variants as demonstrated by SL’s granting space for SD’s continuing wave of propaganda campaigns. The Ministry of Justice’s recent decision also embraces soft forms of racism A very superficial notion of democracy and “free speech” guides politicians who find more complicated understandings of power, militarism and racism inconvenient to their larger agendas of staying in power by promoting the lowest moral common denominator. The far right in turn has skillfully used the electoral and mass media systems for its own ends.

Thus, while the Left often enters into even mainstream debates, outside of these debates its ability to frame the larger context in which such debates are understood by the mass public is limited. One reason for these limits is that the Left often uses a kind of insurrectionist rhetoric which the mass media has trained itself to filter out. While the Left could make more legitimate sounding argument about cooperatives and creation of new institutions, instead it bashes the existing system. It is not wrong on moral grounds to bash the system, but it is meaningless verbiage if meaningful institutional designs for alternatives does not accompany the bashing. Sometimes, as in the August 4th protest, the blunt rhetoric that the system is irrational, racist, etc. is warranted. Yet, the inability to use sustained economic power to create an alternative media framing system makes Left appearances in the mass media a double-edged sword. Until persons marginalized by ethnicity, gender, class or (most importantly) ideology are given their own autonomy (or greater representational power) in news programming, we can expect that the debates organized by the mass media which let the Left in will partially broaden the discourse while potentially narrowing the scope of proactive action. One piece of evidence for this position is that the far Left parties usually get far less than ten percent of the vote. The Collapse of the Swedish Left can be seen in an analysis of the share of total votes received by the Feminist, Green and Left parties combined as a proportion of the total votes received by the Swedish Democrats. What the data I have collected show is that the combined vote total of the three left parties went from 4459% of SD’s total in 1998 to only 122% in 2004. Is somebody asleep at the wheel? Yes. These statistics can be explained in part by the Left’s political language, with these limits also a part of Swedish political methodology (only the Left’s variant of the mythology). Many Left intellectuals who understand these realities respond by being depressed, not breaking the taboos within the Left, or simply try dance their way around a political mythology that provides at best incremental change.

The Displacement Cycle: From Repressive Tolerance to Clean Hands Branding


Let us first examine how the system works with respect to questions of militarism. The cycle of displacement begins with the elites playing first the card of repressive tolerance and that hand is played over and over until the scandals or political pressure produce a new synthesis. The new synthesis is clean hands branding which combines reform and Swedish nationalism, but does not question the control over economic decision making of the larger, global institutional base of militarism that is the alleged trigger for reforms.

In the case of the peace movement, the Left’s rhetoric about the limits to arms exports to dictatorships is used to justify the newly reformed status quo that may end up limiting such exports. This victory (associated in part with Left or peace movement discourse) will displace other questions of militarism, economic planning, and the concerns of victims of militarism tied to arms exports from other countries. Therefore, we have to both acknowledge the victory in a potential reform in Swedish arms exports policy and also the limits of this victory. Sweden emerges with cleaner hands, but the global system is continually defined by dirty hands. Sweden sets an example for the world, but the example is not one of how a country promotes the conversion of defense industries to civilian production. We see a kind of clean hands branding which leaves in place the larger institutional power of militarism.

With clean hands branding, we solve an immediate problem which is how Sweden or some other organization no longer engages in the most publicly illegitimate form of behavior that causes the public to become angry or causes the state/organization to lose legitimacy. Yet, while Sweden or the organization having their legitimacy threatened get their reputations partially restored, the larger problems are swept under the rug. In the case of the arms export crisis, the larger problem is global militarism and the need for national examples of how to take national military assets and convert them into civilian-serving pursuits. In the case of the racist SD poster campaign, the larger problem is SD’s growing political power and the foundations for that power. In each case, clean hands branding is a victory, but if the victory makes people complacent it is not a sufficient victory for addressing the larger problems. In one case, the Swedish state looks better but the dictators getting weapons get them from somewhere else. The larger problem is not solved. In the other case, the racist posters are swept clean and SL looks better, but the larger problem of institutionalized far right power accumulation is not solved.

The potentially new Swedish policy on arms exports and the removal of SD’s posters from the Östermalmstorg underground station are also victories which potentially form the basis for new victories. We saw the collapse of repressive tolerance and a fighting spirit among protestors to expose its bureaucratic champions. This collapse and spirit create positive precedents for further reforms and are not simply negative developments. I am not engaged here in a far left, nihilist analysis. Rather, I am trying to create a new political language that would promote more thorough or deeper political victories. I don’t believe actually existing political parties and social movements do a very good job in promoting this language. The reason is that critical intellectuals, political parties and social movements tend to be separated, in part for reasons specified by C. Wright Mills as well as because of the limits of what often passes as postmodern analysis. Mills not only pointed to the divide between intellectuals and sources of power. He also showed why the university system tended to produce intellectuals who were stuck in accepted or popular intellectual fashions or paradigms. Ironically, Michel Foucault himself examined displacement systems (although not like I have done), but this part of his work has not been extended.

Left activists and intellectuals are often limited in their ability to promote political innovations. There is a kind of implicit escalator clause within the Left such that if one says things the Left wants to hear, then it gets escalated. There must be a demand for an idea before there is a supply. The Left has its own definitions of popularity which often put style over substance, even or especially a radical brand which lacks a radical content. This emptying out is how capitalism colonizes the formal aspects of the left, such that a radical sounding language can have very little actual radical contents. There is a secondary gain from this manipulation of language, it follows the logic of popularity contests everywhere, i.e. there is nothing organically linking the Left to critical thinking. In contrast, the Left might figure out how to produce ideas for which there is not yet a demand, analogous to supply push innovations.

A Case Study in Media Displacement: The Microscope as Refraction

The Blow Up Analogy


Given the continuing crises associated with racism, the environment, the distribution of economic wealth, and militarism, a deeper understanding is needed regarding how social movements, the Left, the media and the Swedish power elite interact with one another. When things are put under the microscope, our very analysis of them can be misleading as various philosophies of science and Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow Up suggests. The media’s treatment of the anti-poster campaign is instructive. On August 4th, 2015, SVT’s leading news program broadcast at 9:00 pm, Aktuellt, burried the story in a short report, although the local Stockholm news goes far deeper. The webpage for the the program, accessed on August 5th, strangely portrays the campaign as if it is the lead story (see photo below). TV4, in contrast, led with the anti-poster protest and placed it higher on its media agenda. TV4 also showed footage of protestors tearing down posters. The journalistic routines focus clearly by putting the posters under the microscope and linking the protests to the posters (as seen in the photograph below). The larger questions about how the society allowed these events to transpire are usually never addressed. The problem of SD’s growing power advantage over the Left electorally is not addressed, nor how SVT’s relatively uncritical view of SD helps promote SD. Thus, SD, SL, the media, and to a certain extent the Left, all are complicit in the logic of displacement (with the Left the least guilty and often in the forefront of resisting the worst aspects of the displacement system). The image of the camera focused on the posters is the perfect metaphor for a media system that conceals as it reveals; this is the essence of the logic of displacement.

By August 5, Aktuellt did better and organized a debate on the poster campaign as part of its coverage. The debate raised important questions about who can afford to organize poster campaigns and whether the posters promoted racism. Yet, the larger questions of the long history of moral inversion that lies behind the poster campaign was not actually addressed. SD’s growing power in comparison to the Left was not addressed.

These debates rarely provide any historical context so that each new controversy that is debated seems like a new or ephemeral event. The mass media loves topicality and usually this love involves a repression of historical analysis. Unfortunately, the Left is often taken up by this same topicality love as it is partially shaped by the media spotlight. The anti-poster campaign is not exactly a campaign to eliminate the foundations of SD’s power, even if it is a good stepping stone for such a movement. Yet, this stepping stone will probably not function well unless the Left’s political language changes. The mass media will probably not assist this language transformation, although news outlets like Arbetaren, Etc., Ordfront, Sveriges Radio, and others could play such a role. If an intellectual argument is too complicated or profound, it rarely has a place on Swedish TV.

The Advertising Ombudsman: Morality as an Investment Process


On August 5th, SVT also provided coverage of the decision-making by the Advertising Ombudsman’s office called RO (Reklamombudsmannen), in which Elisabeth Trotzig is the ombudsman. According to the webpage, RO is “a self-regulatory organization founded by the industry.” The organization was established after politicians began to threaten the advertising industry with harsher laws concerning, for example, sexist advertising. RO is supported financially by various companies and Trotzig suggests on Aktuellt that the SD’s campaign could be considered problematic. She also said in 2010 that she hoped her agency would be “self-financed.” It is remarkable that an ombudsman’s office to regulate advertising is supported by funding from the very companies which in theory it should and could be regulating. The RO webpage states: “A well-functioning self-regulation requires that companies take responsibility for a high ethical standard in advertising. Reklamombudsmannen is funded on a voluntary basis through an annual fee from advertisers, advertising agencies and media.” The webpage also says: “Contribute to a high ethical standard…Any company can contribute to RO and the fee is related to the companies’ annual media spending, according to TNS SIFO’s advertising measurements. Minimum fee is SEK 10 000 and the maximum fee is 70 000 per year.” Ethics takes the form of an investment that clearly not everyone can afford. This kind of “self-policing” suggests a clear conflict of interest, e.g. how does the financing structure influence directly or indirectly who is hired to work for this organization? Yet, RO’s decisions are represented by Aktuellt as part of the legitimate institutions to consider when assessing how moral judgments are made with respect to political posters. The news program may have contained an implicit criticism of RO (that is hard to tell), but the key thing is who gets invited to the party. Clearly there is a need for a more enlightened and proactive version of RO.

SL’s commercial (capitalist) logic in granting advertising space to erstwhile Nazi groups is mirrored in moral policing that is backed by private investment monies. The anti-poster protest focused in part on the system of racism and the for-profit orientation of SL. This organization has used what should be public space to support a campaign organized by the Swedish Democrats against public begging and implicitly the Roma people living in Sweden. SD’s political support, however, is not simply based on racism, but also on failed economic policies of the established parties, something recognized by many of the speakers. Nevertheless, none of the August 4th protest speakers spelled out a comprehensive program for challenging SD. Instead, the synthesis or reaction to these racist posters (or wallpaper) was either to offer anti-racist chants or to tear them down, leaving in place the constellation of forces which allows SD to recruit members, accumulate funds, and further promote its political program. One exception is that some on August 4th spoke of legal challenges to these posters, but the SD poster campaign very much plays a role similar to the Confederate Flag in the United States, i.e. the posters are just the tip of the iceberg, albeit a rather offensive tip with a significant public display function.

Disrupt the System or Organize an Alternative Basis of Power?


The tearing down of the posters was a kind of victory against this display function which nevertheless sidestepped the larger challenges of: (a) forcing SL to directly revoke the posters on political (as opposed to technocratic security) grounds and (b) the legitimacy which these posters and SL’s repressive tolerance policy have conveyed on SD. This legitimacy was thereby left in tact by activists doing what was actually the responsibility of SL and the County Council which governs them. Incremental ad hoc actions against SL are also part of the logic of the Planka movement which attempts to defund the public transportation system through individual actions of refusal to pay for it. The basic idea of Planka is that public transportation is too expensive, so direct individualized attacks on the system are expected to transform it. Planka has tried to also broaden its outlook to promote alternative transportation modes, but they really should figure out how to mobilize the hundreds of thousands of actual transportation users instead of alienating many of them.

One of the speakers said the SL must be disrupted if they failed to revoke their racist policies. Here we have a key problem, i.e. what happens when an important public utility is hijacked by narrow public or private interests and suffers from an under-financing by the national government? Do we rebel against this entity or attempt to resocialize it? Resocialization involves deeper strategies of expanding popular control rather that rebelling against the control system.

The individualized or even collective rebellion against SL leaves in place the larger decision-making structures, ownership patterns and monopolies of service provision. This system is responsible for not just racist media projections but also systematic incompetence, e.g. it has been unable to properly organize the signalling system on the newest light rail line. Instead, we should turn SL into a cooperative owned by the state and its users and governed by academic experts, citizen elected representatives, cooperative owners, and administrators vetted by the public. Cooperative owners of a new SL must be given more power because the leading politicians who now supervise SL now are closely tied to Sweden’s automotive industrial complex. Shares in a new SL should be distributed relatively equally and controlled by a trust, so that no one user accumulates an ownership share that is too great and so that shares are not sold out to narrow, private interests. Users can accumulate shares in part based on deductions from their contributions to their own monthly SL cards.

It would have helped if the speakers at the demonstration made a comprehensive list of the names of the persons actually running SL or the politicians who are ultimately responsible for SL’s managers. As is typical of much Swedish so-called “hard left” rhetoric, the scale of focus is microscopic (posters) or macroscopic (capitalism, racism), with the meso level decision-making structures usually ignored. The larger framing system here represents a combination of syndicalism, the logic of absenteeism and consumer boycotts (exit options), which does not take aim at the local power structure (through voice) but merely attempts to sabotage it. Such exit options are one form of power, but will never lead to the systemic accumulation of power via elections, dominance of the airwaves and formation of companies.

The far right has made significant inroads into the first two means and what will this politics of exit accomplish when the far right begins to organize the economy locally as well? If SD manages to achieve 15 to 20 percent of the vote without directly organizing economic power, is it unreasonable to think that their organizing economic power will not get them an additional 10 percent or more of the vote? Does the Left have a strategy in response to SD’s political innovations, i.e. beyond reacting to their next move?

Of course, tearing down the posters was a rational response to a system of bureaucracy, repressive tolerance, and liberal objectivity which rationalizes away racist and repressive discourse in the name of “free speech,” commerce and “legal procedures.” This logic of legality, bureaucratic regulations, and free commerce is precisely the same approach used to rationalize away both arms exports to dictators and the larger phenomena of the Swedish military industrial complex. Thus, the problem at hand is much larger than racism, SL, or SD for that matter. Some of the speakers recognized the complicity of the larger parties, but the language of eliminating racism is partially a necessary but hardly a sufficient discourse for limiting the power of the larger institutions that actually project racism.

Yet, it should be noted that the politicians were put under pressure and began to discuss a possible rethink of their political advertising policy as a response to: a) the protest taking place on August 4th, and b) the collective movement to rip down the posters. Thus, disruption potentially works by putting pressure on bureaucrats who want to restore a continually changing version of what they define as “normalcy.” The metaphor of a wind up toy robot that propels forward and continues on its path until pushed in a new direction seems apt. Thus, the safety criteria the were used to end this specific poster campaign are very much linked to a robot that does not want to tip over although if blocked could simply propel itself somewhere else. We have a kind of robot psychology encased in flowery language about democracy which is marred by the larger system’s historical record of arms deals with German defense contractors, indigenous Nazis, and White Power music exported across the globe.

As SL does business with SD, whose origins lie in the Swedish Nazis, German militarism and pan-European racism, it is not difficult to understand that SL is itself part of this larger logic supervised and orchestrated by political, economic and cultural elites. The larger institutions that project racism are tied to the mass media, the educational system, the class of owners and job organizers, and the politics of scarcity in which immigrants and people of color are set up as the cause of contemporary economic difficulties. The Latin Kings in their song Krossa Rasismen (“Crush Racism”) have a line that goes: Latinos, araber, afrikaner och turkar i massmedia alltid utpekade som skurkar (“Latinos, Arabs, Africans and Turks are always depicted as villains in the media”).

Eliminating racism, like eliminating war, requires alternatives to the existing system. While many speakers spoke against capitalism, they hardly operationalized how they would eliminate capitalism, i.e. this kind of discourse amounts to a form of “name calling” and “deconstruction,” which in its worst forms (not necessarily present at the demonstration) effectively simplifies issues to get an expected affirmative response from an audience.

The demonstration also replicates a kind of hierarchical politics, which the Occupy Movement tried to move beyond by taking a protest moment and turning it into an ongoing teaching experience and space for democratic engagement. This hierarchy is a long-standing convention in the Swedish political Left and is hardly new or unique, although it is somewhat obsolete. The protest was effective, however, in galvanizing a counter-pole to mainstream society’s complacency with patently offensive, racist demagoguery so in this sense was a partial victory. Many of the speakers represented new Swedes, who are marginalized by some parts of the Swedish Left. The mass media in their coverage of the poster campaign did give such persons representational power, but only within the confines of statements related to the poster campaign. Much of the media did not reproduce the most radical sounding statements of the speakers at the protest; they were filtered out as being inconvenient for the dominant frame, i.e. a localized incident regarding SD’s posters and SL’s policies.

The educational (and parts of the racist monitoring) system promotes racism by treating it largely as an ethical breach or a problem of cultural attitudes. Even when academics discuss racism as part of a larger system of economic or political power, they rarely connect that representation of systemic power to ideas about organizing a counter-power. Such counter-power requires the design and promotion of new media, political and economic institutions. This in turn depends on reconstructionist and utopian thinking, not deconstructionist and dystopian critiques of the system as racist, capitalist or sexist, i.e. vocal complaints. Therefore, radical sounding language—like mass media reports—conceals as much as it reveals. As SD has more quickly accumulated power, the superficiality of the Left (while impolite to discuss in certain circles) represents a dangerous intellectual vacuum.

The Case of the Vietnam War, Swedish Militarism and the Plight of the Roma


Another way to understand the larger system of displacement is to examine Swedish cultural elites’ view of Sweden as a peace loving country. Exhibit A is an exchange of letters between a U.S. businessman who visited Sweden and reacted to its opposition to the U.S. genocidal venture in Vietnam. The next three photographs represent the letter of the businessman which appears in a museum exhibit currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm (summer 2015).

The most interesting part of this letter by Hendrik C. Gillebaard, President of the Holland Import Company, is not his ranting about “Swedish” anti-Americanism and his support for the tragic Vietnam War, but his argument that Sweden can not honestly face its own treatment of the Roma people, i.e. Swedes are hypocrites because they too are racists, not just Americans. The response of the Swedish Consulate General in Houston to Gillebaard’s letter is rather interesting. The Swedish official writes, “Virtually everybody in Sweden abhors war. Most Swedes are critical of the U.S. engagement in Vietnam.” His letter in response to Gillebaard is reproduced below.

The Swede’s letter is certainly accurate as a critique of most of Gillebaard’s aguments. Note the following key points, however. First, nothing is said about Sweden’s treatment of the Roma people. Second, Swedes’ formal opposition to the Vietnam war is addressed, but not Swedes’ support for the war in Vietnam. This took place in two ways. First, some Swedes actually served in Vietnam in support of the American side against the Vietnamese people. Second, Swedish weapons were used against the Vietnamese by Australians who got Swedish weapons after Sweden broke its own embargo. At one point, Sweden attempted to ban weapon sales to the U.S., but this did not prevent the Swedish military contribution to the forces fighting against Vietnamese liberation. While Olof Palme spoke against the Vietnam War in public demonstrations, this is not the only side of Swedish realities. Yet, this is the side of things many want to represent. In contrast, the Swedish artist Öyvind Fahlström (whose artworks are now on display at the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art) shows in a piece not part of the current exhibit that Swedish realities are filled with contradictions. He exposes the myths of “Swedish neutrality” and reports on how radical journalists in Sweden have written about how Sweden cooperated with foreign spy agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency. Fahlström has largely been forgotten or is largely unknown to the younger generations of Swedes, although one has to give credit to the Swedish Museum of Modern Art for trying to revive interest in this important artist. Fahlstöm’s work shows how the display function can be used to convey a richer intellectual content.

The Unfortunate Continuing Hegemony of New Left Ideology in the Swedish Left


We now come to one of the more controversial aspects of our story, at least controversial for parts of the Left. I have tried to show that SD growth is part of an emergency which the present Left trajectory cannot hope to stop. I have shown that the Left’s very language limits its ability to promote comprehensive change are reverse the power of SD. Yet, behind the Left’s discourse are Left institutions and political myths. While parts of the New Left embraced reconstruction, the dominant part of that movement settled for a rebellion against the system and favored deconstructionist rhetoric. There were currents in the New Left supporting cooperatives then and now, but the hegemonic New Left position became part of a trajectory linked to deconstruction, identity politics, resistance and rebellion.

The larger problem is that the dominant discourse of Fahlström’s era and that of today is one that seems to be defined by various closures. First, there are the reactionaries in the Swedish Democrats who correctly point to the failures of existing parties, but are unable to offer anything but a dumbed-down version of solutions through racist and demagogic scape-goating. They blame immigrants, refugees and poor Roma for European, Romanian and Swedish failure to properly absorb them. The money spent for just one JAS military fighter could be used to create business cooperatives for Roma that could be carried back to their home countries, but no leading politician has ever raised such an idea (at least in a way that would be noticed). The Left political parties which resist military spending increases don’t connect issues very well, somewhat obediently following the mass media’s preference for treating every problem as atomized and separate. I have already shown how trying to explain the connections by speaking about “capitalism” is not very useful because the Left does not have a language that shows how to limit, get rid of or even systematically reform capitalism.

Second, there is the mainstream society which refuses to offer a systematic economic alternative to the status quo defined by deindustrialization, globalization, and class polarization. This constellation has closed off opportunities for many Swedes even as it enriches others. The cultural elites don’t really challenge the larger economic system even if they champion the fight against the symptoms of these problems. To a certain extent, racism is a long standing problem in Sweden and can’t just be reduced to economic problems. Yet, the displacement of economic inequality and an inequality in economic power by a discourse of anti-racism is clearly and similarly problematic.

Third, there is the “loyal opposition” which opposes the first and second groups, but has usually been unable to speak the language of policy alternatives and social innovations. The constituency of the Feminist, Left and Green parties (together with supporters) is something on the order of one million persons, more than enough to build a movement and process to re-organize the Swedish economy on far more democratic lines. Instead, the discourse of the Left is often simply anti-racist or anti-capitalistic, but not sufficiently reconstructonist, i.e. it is not a discourse that operationalizes how to build new legal, media, economic and political institutions, but seemingly rebels against the far-right and repressive tolerant status quo. Rhetoric that bashes capitalism as an evil system amounts to a kind of Freudian “talking cure” or a kind of magical thinking in which saying words produces systemic transformations. This talking cure is only natural in a Left society in which cultural framing has gained ascendency over radical economic language. So-called “Marxists” and “Anarchists” who do not address the meso level of power discussed above, further contribute to the intellectual vacuum. They are politically innocuous even as they rant about capitalism and the like.

It is not a coincidence that those embracing what sounds like a radical position gain entry into the Left’s own version of a cultural elite, its own voices and celebrities whom we hear from over and over again, and who seem to have mis-educated or misled the new generation of activists. Among this group, the New Left and reincarnations of the political styles of previous Left protest groups seem hegemonic. One can debate the fine points about the advantages or disadvantages of the Feminist, Green, Left and Social Democratic Parties. However that debate ends, the most important fact is that SD is collectively kicking their ass in the electoral arena as seen in the data presented above.

The Left does not seem to understand that it has its own hegemonic, filtering and propaganda systems embracing a dysfunctional political mythology. If the New Left (the environmentalists, anti-racists and anti-sexists) challenged the Old Left (the Communists, Socialists and Social Democrats), is it any surprise that we need a new movement that challenges the New Left itself (or its legacy)? In many ways, the Swedish Left (like counterparts elsewhere) seems to resemble the movie scripts of V for Vendetta or Equilibrium, scripts in which there are “good guys” and “bad guys.”

The Left is tied to a version of Millenialism which seems to be a kind of recycled (yet in many ways inferior) copy of Christianity but framed with Socialist, Feminist or Anarchist logos in which operational interventions like: a) cooperatives, b) media accountability organizations, c) civilian conversion of defense firms, d) new budget priorities, e) industrial policy, f) cooperative or green public procurement, etc. are nowhere to be found. These alternatives are often unpopular in rhetorical discourse because no one knows about them, particularly in the younger generation. These discourses rarely have any peer buzz and can’t be tied to political fashions.

Fewer persons in the younger generation know about them because of the ways in which the university and academic system have marginalized the economic reconstructionist discourse. It is an intentional marginalization in which radical lite trumps a deeper understanding, creating an intellectual vacuum which the far right has been rather successful in filling (if power accumulation is the measure). I’m not saying that racism, the gender system, and capitalism are not promoting the very problems I analyze. Rather, I am saying that this intersectional approach (which usually leaves out militarism which is reduced to some other problem), is hardly sufficient for challenging SD or building counter-power. There are some movements tied to alternative banking and environmental transformation that go deeper, but they remain isolated from the mainstream Left discourse.

A kind of diluted or pseudo-anarchism which involves rhetorical bashing of the system (rebellion and revolutionary sounding rhetoric), actually displaces real, transformative if not revolutionary anarchism of the variety which once thrived in Spain. Perhaps this is the byproduct of a Left Party whose origins lie in the Communist Party and not the anarchist movement. Or a syndicalism centered on trade union power and not economic democracy defined by consumer and producer cooperatives. Or even the university which likes to label things rather than remake society. Or a reflex action against a mainstream stupidity among those who are emotionally satisfied and are perched at the highest rungs of the economic, political or cultural ladders. Or foundations and educational institutions that recycle intellectual conventions and support intellectual inbreeding.

This hegemony of the 1970s-era New Left, recycled by various left movements in Sweden (like the mirror copies in the United States), contributes to a now failed trajectory which continually recycles itself. The recycling is successful because the now dated and incomplete rhetoric of the past fits nicely as a deconstruction of the far right racist and/or mainstream repressive tolerant society. Unfortunately, just as the racists and mainstream repressive tolerant “silent majority” displace larger truths, so too does the “loyal opposition.” For example, reactive resistance and identity politics are no match for far-right ideologies that show connections among diverse issues, albeit in the completely wrong way.

This cultural and political log jam must be broken as the relative success of the far right exposes the political weakness and inabilities of this opposition. One promising development is criticisms of the Left Party’s anti-racist strategy as a failure by two activists in the party, Abe Bergegårdh and Anders Jarfjord. They diagnose the failure and try to ask deeper questions. One question which should of course be asked is how the “New Sweden” or Swedes with immigrant backgrounds can move beyond being just potential victims or champions of anti-racism, to constructors of a new set of institutions that would more fully democratize Sweden. At the rhetorical level, the loyal opposition supports a more fundamental conception of democracy, even if this conception is not very well articulated. The August 4th protest wisely asked us to rethink what actually existing democracy in Sweden really means. In terms of protest rhetoric, there were certain advances over the norm, despite the obvious limitations.

Who is Immediately Responsible? From the County Council to SL as a Prime Countractor to Nazi-Originating Parties and the U.S. Media-Military Industrial Complex


The politicians who are ultimately responsible for the advertising policy of SL are the members of the traffic committee of the Stockholm County Council (ordinarie ledamöter i trafiknämnden, Stockholms läns landsting). I have reproduced the list of these persons below, together with their contact details (see Appendix I below). At the very least a campaign should be organized to identify those supporting the policies permitting the current advertising policy of SL and then one should work towards the defeat of these candidates and their political parties. One should also direct protests against the political parties that sustain these advertising campaigns, rather than simply against SL. The Social Democratic Party at least has gone on record against these policies, although they still support the use of the public space for political advertisements. Given that these political advertisements offer very little useful information, my own view is that such political advertisements should be removed from the public space. As it is SL states that it can not treat the political parties differently in its advertising policy, so it should then treat them the same by keeping their superficial political discourse out of the mass transit system. This newer, alternative policy alternative was not supported by the Social Democrats in their critique of SL.

On August 5th, SL decided to stop SD’s poster campaign at the Östermalmstorg underground station for security reasons. These reasons were based on how those standing on the escalator dividers trying to take down the posters could hurt themselves or other passengers. Nevertheless, a report in Dagens Nyheter noted: “discussions are ongoing between the company Clear Channel who provide advertising space in the subway and the Sweden Democrats on the continuation of the ad campaign.” The Left Party also criticized SL’s advertising policies. SL said nothing about how its support for a poster campaign with a group linked to the Nazis might be bad for Swedish security.

The Clear Channel company, based in the United States, helped organize rallies in support of the disastrous Iraq war. As a report in The Guardian explained then: “They look like spontaneous expressions of pro-war sentiment, ‘patriotic rallies’ drawing crowds of tens of thousands across the American heartland. In a counterpoint to anti-war demonstrations, supporters of war in Iraq have descended on cities from Fort Wayne to Cleveland, and Atlanta to Philadelphia. They wave flags, messages of support for the troops – and also banners attacking liberals, excoriating the UN, and in one case, advising: ‘Bomb France Now.’ But many of the rallies, it turns out, have been organised and paid for by Clear Channel Inc—the country’s largest radio conglomerate, owning 1,200 stations—which is not only reporting on the war at the same time, but whose close links with President Bush stretch back to his earliest, much-criticised financial dealings as governor of Texas. The company has paid advertising costs and for the hire of musicians for the rallies.” In sum, SL which does business with these people is part of the extension of the profit-making system for the war culture.

The Clear Channel company and SL also get money from Electronic Arts, the company that promotes video games in which the user is invited to drop napalm on Vietnam. As a web announcement states clearly: “Grab your M-16, ready the Napalm, and prepare to enter some of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War.” In other words, SL has entered into contracts with a key part of the U.S. media-military-industrial complex as well as making deals with a political party whose origins lie in Sweden’s indigenous Nazi movement. SL’s relationship with Clear Channel has been discussed in the media, with a focus on the former’s long-term commitment to the latter. An article in Dagens Media shows how the American media giant has corporate opponents or competitors within Sweden, i.e. the basis for an interesting alliance or dialogue.

SL’s public space is now used to embrace video games which basically support the Vietnam War, an irony which very few seem to notice, given Swedish elites’ previous identification with rhetorically opposing that war. If the public space were to convey useful information about politicians, then the mass media might contribute by vetting statements by politicians through a committee of academic experts, rather than simply allowing journalists to play the key role of ideological, ethical and political gatekeepers. In this role, the mass media have proven as incompetent as SL, as they have provided a sounding board for SD.

The broader Left might wake up, pool their money, and actually run intellectually-rich and deep advertisements as an alternative to the status quo. For example, could not large numbers of persons at the demonstration on August 4th have donated money towards an alternative poster campaign? Couldn’t this be easily accomplished by donations from the thousands of persons in attendance? Yes, but that idea is not part of the current political language of the loyal opposition. The dominant narrative is about the evils of SD, SL, capitalism, unfairness, justice, etc., but rarely about how to build tactics that create alternative means of projecting power.

Such alternative advertisements could call for a new governance system to run SL, to promote cooperatives and new media platforms that would challenge the cultural, economic and political elites with meso level reconstructive reforms. Or perhaps a poster campaign to support a new media accountability organization against racist and militarist advertising, i.e. a left alternative to the mainstream RO? Such truly radical ideas are actually far more subversive than Left complaints about capitalism and racism or the tokenistic appearances of the peace movement in the mainstream media itself.

Försiktighetens tid är förbi, klimatkrisen kräver radikal politik

Av Salvador Perez

Tidigare i veckan presenterades en alldeles färsk FN-rapport om hur det går för världens klimatarbete. Rapporten som på engelska heter ”Emissions Gap Report” kommer årligen och handlar om utsläppsgapet. Med det menas gapet mellan den politik som förs i världens länder avseende att få ned de utsläpp som påverkar klimatet och vilka utsläppsminskningar som bedöms krävas för målen i Parisavtalet, det vill säga maximalt 2 graders ökning av den globala medeltemperaturen och allra helst enbart 1,5 graders uppvärmning, jämfört med förindustriell tid. Rapporten räknar också på utsläppsgapet om alla länders klimatplaner förverkligas och vad som krävs för 2-gradersmålet respektive 1,5-gradersmålet.

Vad rapporten kommer fram till är nedslående. Med den politik som först i världens länder är vi på väg mot en global ökning av jordens medeltemperatur med 3,7 grader. Ländernas klimatplaner är helt otillräckliga för att nå målen i Parisavtalet. Enligt rapporten måste de globala utsläppen minska i en takt av 7,6 procent årligen under tioårsperioden 2020 till 2030 om vi ska klara av att hålla uppvärmningen till 1,5 grader. För att klara det mindre ambitiösa målet på 2 grader krävs att de globala utsläppen minskar i en takt av 2,7 procent. För att sätta siffrorna på de nödvändiga årliga utsläppsminskningarna i ett perspektiv har utsläppen istället för att minska faktiskt ökat med i genomsnitt 1,5 procent per år det senaste årtiondet, enligt rapporten. Sedan början på 90-talet, då klimatförändringarna först på allvar började uppmärksammas i FN-sammanhang, har utsläppen vuxit med totalt 70 procent. Det är ett misslyckande. Dit vi är på väg, mot 3,7 graders uppvärmning, är en fullständig katastrof för hela mänskligheten. Om det finns inga tvivel.

För att fortsätta på samma spår måste några saker göras tydliga. För det första bör den som tror att klimatförändringarnas följder är något abstrakt eller något som ligger långt fram i tiden tänka om. Klimatförändringarna kan redan idag räknas som en orsak bakom sådant som skogsbränder och torka. Australien plågas just nu av bränder. Tidigare i år uppmärksammades bränder i Amazonas, bland annat i Brasilien och Bolivia. I Kalifornien förefaller omfattande bränder numera som ett normaltillstånd. Världsarvstaden Venedig har i veckorna drabbats av svåra översvämningar. Årligen beräknas över 20 miljoner människor tvingas fly på grund av väderrelaterade risker. Det är betydligt fler än som flyr på grund av våld och konflikt. Världen över drabbas de allra mest utsatta.

Till klimatförändringarna kopplas numera också olika säkerhetsfrågor. Värt att nämna i sammanhanget är att USA:s försvarsdepartement i en uppmärksammad redogörelse inför kongressen daterad år 2015 varnade för de globala säkerhetsrelaterade följderna i klimatförändringarnas spår. Enligt redogörelsen bedöms klimatförändringarna få stora konsekvenser för USA:s nationella säkerhetsintressen. I samma anda ställde sig nyligen 64 amerikanska tidigare toppmilitärer sig bakom en rapport som beskriver klimatförändringarna som ”århundradets största utmaning.” Den slutsatsen är i sig inget nytt men intressant är att rapporten starkt manar till politisk handling från Trump-administrationen. Rapporten föreslår bland annat tillsättandet av en central enhet i Vita Huset vars huvuduppgift är att hantera klimatförändringarnas säkerhetsdimensioner. Därtill föreslås liknande förändringar USA:s många säkerhetsorgan. Att de mäktigaste institutionerna i världens enda supermakt ändå erkänner och tillskriver klimatförändringarna sådant betydelse säger något, särskilt när det ställs i kontrast till Vita Husets politik på området. Trump-administrationen inledde i november formellt inlett processen att ta USA ut ur Parisavtalet. Den Washington-baserade tankesmedjan som står bakom den tidigare nämnda rapporten heter ”The Center for Climate and Security”, vilket i sig är ett tecken i tiden. I sammanhanget ska också nämnas att den amerikanska försvarsmakten sammantaget pekas ut som världens enskilt största klimatbov. Enligt en beräkning släpper den ut mer än 140 länder men viktigt att ha i åtanke är såklart att problemets själva orsak är djupare än så, det är militarismen.

För att återgå till den tidigare nämnda FN-rapporten visar den med tydlighet att den politik som förs i världens länder är långt ifrån tillräcklig, vi är på väg mot 3,7 graders uppvärmning med nuvarande politik och till och med om länderna förverkligar sina nu aktuella klimatplaner är vi illa ute. För att klara målen i Parisavtalet krävs istället att ambitionerna stärks med 3-5 gånger jämfört med aktuella, och då ska sägas att också det är osäkert. Det är en sak att sätta ett ambitiöst mål och en helt annan sak att förverkliga det målet. Det är långt ifrån säkert att de länder som har de mest långtgående ambitionerna och där förutsättningarna för att nå dem är som bäst faktiskt gör det.

Ett exempel på det är Sverige. I Sverige finns sedan länge en hög grad av medvetenhet om miljöfrågor i stort, både hos beslutsfattare och hos befolkningen. Det finns sedan några år ett tydligt, brett och växande klimatengagemang och frågan finns närvarande nästintill överallt i den allmänna debatten, i stort och smått. Utöver det har sju av åtta riksdagspartiet ställt sig bakom en bred överenskommelse om klimatpolitikens långsiktiga inriktning, det vill säga det som kallas det klimatpolitiska ramverket. Däri finns bland annat det långsiktiga klimatmålet som innebär att Sverige senast år 2045 inte ska ha några nettoutsläpp av växthusgaser till atmosfären, för att därefter uppnå negativa utsläpp. Det innebär konkret att utsläppen av växthusgaser från Sverige ska vara minst 85 procent längre år 2045 jämfört med 1990. Regeringens budskap har sedan 2015 varit att Sverige ska bli ett av världens första fossilfria välfärdssamhällen och detta är också något som regeringen varit flitiga att marknadsföra utanför landets gränser. Den nya berättelsen om Sverige ska vara den om modernitet och fossilfrihet och inte minst ska Sverige fortsatt visa att ett land kan kombinera ekonomisk tillväxt med minskad klimatpåverkan. Det är vad regeringen och i stora drag nästan hela det politiska etablissemanget säljer in till oss i Sverige och internationellt.

Hur går det då i ljuset av detta? Utsläppen ökar eller minskar i varje fall inte i den takt som är nödvändig för Sverige att nå sina mål och för Sverige att vara den internationella förebild landet vill vara eller vill framställa sig själv som. Vi är långt ifrån den årliga minskningstakt vad gäller utsläppen som krävs, 5-8 procent enligt Klimatpolitiska rådets senaste rapport. Dagens politiska styrmedel bedöms vara helt otillräckliga för att ta oss mot målen. Det är självklart ett misslyckande.

Att Miljöpartiet sitter i regeringen och därigenom kan utöva påtryckningar på Socialdemokraterna som överlag är helt nyvakna till klimatfrågan har säkert gjort någon skillnad, men den är konstaterat otillräcklig vad än företrädare från Miljöpartiet vill göra gällande. När Miljöpartiet presenterade miljö- och klimatsatsningarna i den budget de förhandlat fram tillsammans med Socialdemokraterna, Centerpartiet och Liberalerna gjordes det med motiveringen att det är en historiskt stor miljö – och klimatbudget. Självklart kan inte enbart Miljöpartiet ställas till last för att Socialdemokraterna och de två övriga partierna sätter politik bakom den retorik de haft i valrörelsen men regeringen som helhet måste ändå kritiseras. Lite tillspetsat kan sägas att regeringen förbereder skatt på plastpåsar samtidigt som myndigheten Exportkreditnämnden enbart förra året garanterade affärer inom kolutvinning för 347 miljoner kronor. Mellan åren 2014 till 2018 ställde samma myndighet ut garantier till fossila projekt i andra länder till ett värde av 5,8 miljarder kronor, enligt en rapport från Naturskyddsföreningen. Allt detta medan våra statliga pensionsfonder, AP-fonderna, fortsätter att investera miljardbelopp i världens största fossilbolag, trots att nya regler ska förhindra detta. Nyligen stoppade också Försvarsmakten en stor vindkraftspark till havs i södra Sverige som förberetts i tio år med motiveringen att parken skulle kunna störa verksamheten på ett skjutfält i närheten. Enligt en ny rapport från Naturskyddsföreningen om framtidens hållbara energisystem har Försvarsmakten i praktiken veto över byggprojekt på en yta motsvarande halva Sverige. Klimatmålen och Sveriges höga svansföring får inte ihop med vad som faktiskt händer, det duger inte.

I det globala samfundet finns i mångt och mycket krisinsikten, men den omsätts helt enkelt inte i politisk handling. Otaliga toppmöten lede sammantaget till väldigt lite konkret och istället kan sammankomsterna för en utomstående lätt uppfattas som en konstant världsturné för valfritt musikband med ett enormt stort följe. Många finns besvikelsen från klimattoppmötet i Köpenhamn i december 2009, med andra ord år sedan. Det toppmöte som inleds i Madrid idag, den 2 december, väntas dra tusentals människor i olika funktioner. Mötet beskriv som ett ”mellanmöte” inför det ”riktiga” mötet om ett år, då i Glasgow. Jag misstänker att det finns en påtaglig trötthet bland vanligt folk för den här typen av mega-evenemang som ett toppmöte är. Det faktiska utfallet från sammankomsterna är allt för ofta en besvikelse, det går inte att komma ifrån. Som exempel hölls tidigare ett i år ett klimattoppmöte i New York. Mötet hade namnet ”Climate Action Summit” och inför mötet betonades vikten av ordet ”Action”, det vill säga handling och inte prat. Inför mötet var budet från FN:s generalsekreterare Antonio Gutierrez att bara de politiker som lovat komma med konkreta åtgärder fick lov att tala inför församlingen. Med facit i hand blev mötet en stor besvikelse. Det mest minnesvärda med New York-mötet blev istället Greta Thunbergs allvarsamma tal, inget annat.

Mer uppmuntrande är, i min mening, kunskapsläget och teknikutvecklingen. Vi känner i stort till vad som behöver göras och vi har i stort också de tekniker som krävs. Det finns hyllmeter med text om hur vi kan få ned utsläppen, inte minst i energisektorn, och teknikerna för detta finns tillgängliga och de är numera reella alternativ, inte minst ekonomiskt. Ett skifte från fossila bränslen till förnybar energi för framställandet av el kan tillsammans med en elektrifiering av industriprocesser och våra transporter få ned utsläppen rejält globalt. Det räcker förstås inte hela vägen, men det ger hopp och visar en väg framåt. Till det måste läggas till, tyvärr, negativa utsläpp i någon form och givetvis mer djupgående samhällsförändringar som föranleder ett helt annat förhållningssätt till naturen än idag. Allt sammantaget är den situation vi försatt oss i resultatet av ett trasigt sätt att organisera våra samhällen och över allt annat ekonomin. Vi måste som de unga i klimatrörelsen och andra politiska rörelser såsom ekosocialisterna utgå från en stark systemkritik och göra upp med de drivkrafter som ytterst sett lett oss hit.

Det var det om den tekniska utvecklingen. Då återstår de politiska ljusglimtarna. Vilka är det eller finns de överhuvudtaget? Parisavtalet är givetvis en framgång men har visat sig vara skört och det har ännu inte, som jag varit inne på ovan, fyllts med det innehåll som motiverar segerruset från 2015 då det kom till stånd. Alla nordiska länder har numera väldigt ambitiösa klimatmål. Finland vill bli klimatneutralt redan 2035, 10 år innan Sverige, men vägen från ett ambitiöst mål som ger rubriker runt om i världen till att det faktiskt blir verklighet är något helt annat, det är något vi aldrig får glömma när länder och inte minst företag passar på att lova det ena och det andra på klimatområdet. Så sent som igår röstade EU-parlamentet för att utlysa ett klimatnödläge, en markering av sakens allvar som delvis är tänkt att ge råg i ryggen inför toppmötet i Madrid. Det måste förstås, som allt annat, fyllas med konkret politik. I sammanhanget ska nämnas att den nytillträdda ordföranden för EU-kommissionen, Ursula Von der Leyen, i sitt tal till parlamentet i samband med omröstningen om kommissionen betonade att EU ska visa ledarskap i världen för att skydda klimatet. Sedan tidigare är det också så att EU mellan 2021-2027 kommer att investera motsvarande 400 miljarder kronor på åtgärder som på olika sätt bidrar till att minska klimatförändringarna. I USA, som annars får mycket negativa rubriker i klimatsammanhang för Trump-administrationens politik, visar delstaterna ledarskap. Kalifornien står på sina sätt i frontlinjen och slåss med näbbar och klor mot den federala makten i Washington för en mer progressiv politik på miljö- och klimatområdet. För de demokrater som vill bli partiets presidentkandidat är någon form av klimatpolitiskt program helt och hållet nödvändig för den egna trovärdigheten gentemot väljarna. Green New Deal, en offensiv klimatpolitisk agenda, är numera vardag i det politiska samtalet i USA. I Europa gick de gröna partierna framåt i valet till EU-parlamentet tidigare i år i vad som beskrivs som en Greta-effekt.

Avslutningsvis har vi brittiska Labours valmanifest som beskrivs som det mest radikala politiska program som lagts fram i en stor europeisk ekonomi på decennier. Valmanifestet är späckat med klimatpolitiska förslag, en egen brittisk Green New Deal för den som önskar.

Må alla krafter i universum gå Labours väg. Vi behöver det.


Image by NiklasPntk from Pixabay

Is a Swedish Green Conversion Possible?: The Strengths and Limits to the Left’s Response

By Jonathan M. Feldman

The Politics of Climate Change: Sweden’s Response

Sweden is often regarded as an environmental pioneer but the country’s emissions have increased in key sectors. The 2019 Socialist Forum held in Stockholm’s ABF building addressed the urgency of climate change and the left’s response to the climate crisis. This essay analyzes one panel discussion there to raise general questions about the state of Swedish left thinking on the environmental crisis.  I use this discussion to explore both the strengths and weaknesses attached to such thinking.  While noting important steps forward attached to new social movements and ideas to link labor and environmental movements, I point to four key problems with the way the left frames or acts on ecological questions and suggest ways to overcome these limits.

On November 23rd of this year Green Party spokesperson and Vice Prime Minister Isabella Lövin and author and university lecturer Andreas Malm led the discussion “We Must React!”  Lisa Pelling, the moderator, is a political scientist and research director at the Arena Idé think tank.  The panel discussion was part of the annual Socialist Forum held at ABF in Stockholm every year.  I begin this essay by reviewing the arguments made by Lövin and Malm.  My main conclusion is that while parliamentary action by environmentally oriented parties may be necessary but not sufficient, even ecological social movement action which pushes all parties is necessary but not sufficient.  What is missing is an analysis about why the far-right side of the spectrum has grown while the left has not and a discussion of the ability of the left to sufficiently organize and expand its resources.  The right has the power to limit if not block the necessary systemic changes which both Malm and (to a lesser extent) Lövin say they want.

Pelling, the moderator, began by asking whether the environment movement should point to the dangers facing us from climate change or instead focus on positive examples of sustainable development.  The latest United Nations study warns: “Even if countries meet commitments made under the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world is heading for a 3.2 degrees Celsius global temperature rise over pre-industrial levels, leaving to even wider-ranging and more destructive climate impacts.” Lövin began by stating that “we do have not time to lose,” political pressure must be placed on all political parties. She continued by stating that while we are 100 percent certain of what science tells us and positive forces promote a green conversion, there are forces working in the opposite direction, such as companies tied to fossil fuels worth billions of crowns “fighting for their survival.” She said these companies support war in the Middle East and produce other types of problems.  Lövin argued that something must be done to address that concentrated political power because these companies will do everything they can to survive.

Lövin said that when it comes to the climate crisis, “it is not enough to talk about alternatives if people don’t see it is an emergency.” The problem, however, according to Lövin is that some people are more afraid of green conversion than climate change itself.  She referred to psychological research suggesting that people are won over by positive examples and by implication not necessarily by negative ones. Lövin argued that a green conversion can be promoted without a lot of economic casualties.  Several Swedish industries are making or planning to make a green transition and these industries strongly believe that they can do what is ecologically necessary without sacrificing profit. Many companies are convinced that a green transition makes them more competitive in the marketplace than otherwise or at least believe a green transition is feasible.  Winning over industries and green conversion are necessary for addressing the concentrated political power of fossil fuel industries and their allies.  Thus, Lövin basically said, “when we have industry behind us, things happen.”  In sum, we need a concrete politics which shows that change is possible, backed by social movements that contribute to social change.

Andreas Malm argued that peoples’ anger represents a key mechanism promoting proactive social change advancing the environmental movement is.  He pointed to an article in the journal Nature Climate Change about this topic. The article by Daniel A. Chapman, Brian Lickel and Ezra M. Markowitz, “Reassessing emotion in climate change communication,” was published in December 2017, in Volume 7 of that journal. The authors write:

Anger, for example, is often considered a destructive emotion causing aggression, but in fact anger only rarely leads to aggression toward others. These links certainly exist, but operate in complex ways moderated by the context in which the emotional experience unfolds. Contrary to a simplistic view of anger as destructive, research shows that anger is typically the emotion most strongly associated with motivating individuals to rectify social injustices.

Malm pointed to the Extinction Rebellion and Friday for Future movements as involving such anger and useful as counter-movements, even if they have various limits.

Lövin argued that overfishing in the Baltic Sea long went on because politicians did not react. For that reason, she welcomes Greta Thunberg’s recent refrain “how dare you” which questioned political elites for their failure to act quickly and substantively to address environmental problems. Yet, she argues that when politicians act, they can then produce the needed changes.  Whereas Malm emphasized that “politics changes when people are in the street,” Lövin argued that if the majority of parliament represented by parties don’t have it in their DNA to systematically address the ecological crisis, we will “go over the cliff.” Therefore, it is costly if not “dangerous” to abandon political contestation in parliament as doing so amounts to “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”  In other words, deconstructing existing parties as limited is not an excuse for abandoning parliamentary contestation.

Lövin’s statement led Malm to emphasize the limits to political parties—even if not especially the Green Party.  By way of background, the Green Party’s parliamentary vote share decreased from 6.9 percent in 2014 to 4.4 percent in 2018.  The party reached a membership peak in 2014 with 20,214 members, which reduced to 10,719 in 2017.  Malm argued that the Green Party collapsed in the 2018 election because it failed to fulfill a commitment to close coal mines in Germany owned by the Swedish government through the state-owned energy firm Vattenfall. Instead Vattenfall sold them off, causing a political scandal which damaged the Green Party severely. A report in Reuters before the sale explained that this ownership transfer “would reduce Vattenfall’s electricity output by about 30 percent, but also cut its carbon emissions by about 70 percent, making it one of the greenest utilities in Europe.” At this time, Sweden’s Greenpeace affiliate “said the plants should have been shut down and said the sale was a catastrophe for European climate policy and tarnishes Sweden’s environmental reputation.”  Malm said that Vattenfall should have immediately closed the mines. Due to political bargaining coal will only be phased out of Germany by 2038, a timeline criticized by both Malm and Lövin.

Malm noted that Germany’s slow withdrawal from coal incentivizes the nation’s ecological movement to escalate its tactics. In October the Clean Energy Wire reported how the Extinction Rebellion in Germany had launched “two weeks of blockades and acts of civil disobedience by occupying two main traffic intersections in Berlin.” Malm said that the ecology movement should support dismantling of coal, not systems tied to offsetting damage through the purchase of emissions credits. He noted that Spain is phasing out coal. In a news story E3G explains that the reduced profitability for coal power generation in that country led Endesa, a utility company, to announce in September 2019 that it would  “retire two additional power plants in 2020, which had previously been intended for life extensions.” By 2020, a total of 83 percent of Spain’s existing coal capacity was “set to be retired.”  The European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) reforms have encouraged these changes in Europe.  Malm argued that Sweden still imports oil and that the country’s climate politics is significantly limited by “business as usual.”  As can be seen in the figure below published by, Sweden imports thousands of short tons of coal year after year (Figure 1).  A November 25 report in Carbon Brief  noted “continuing increases in coal generation in south-east Asia,” but that “global electricity production from coal is on track to fall by around 3% in 2019, the largest drop on record.”

Figure 1: Swedish Coal Imports in Thousands of Short Tons

Svensk import av kol

Source: EIA as cited in

Malm said that the Swedish Greens also collapsed electorally because they abandoned their policy of being more generous to immigrants. Instead, the Green Party supported closed as opposed to open borders after the so-called “migration crisis.”  As a government website explains, these changes took place in 2015 when the Swedish government attempted to limit migration.  One official reason was “to be able to provide for those already in the country.”  The closures involved making it more difficult to enter Sweden without a valid passport or official identification document.  The legislature made it more difficult to gain a residence permit and reunite with family members. For example, “of the around 35,500 asylum seekers [who] got a decision from the Swedish Migration Agency in 2018, 11,000 (32 per cent) were granted asylum in Sweden, compared with 27,000 of 66,500 (41 per cent) in 2017 and 67,000 of 112,000 (60 per cent) in 2016.” In sum, “Sweden went from having the EU’s most generous asylum laws to adopting the minimum EU level.”

Lövin side-stepped the migration question, saying that the party lacked the tools to control the disposition of the mines.  Instead, she argued that the costs of emissions have now increased substantially thanks to EU ETS reforms.  These reforms were promoted by the Green Party and other Swedish political interests more generally. Furthermore, Lövin argued that the Green Party could not promote the fight against coal because they are a minority party in the ruling government coalition dominated by the Social Democratic Party in cooperation with the Center and Liberal parties.  She agreed that “anger is useful.”  A larger problem is that planetary conditions are bad, but politicians deflect responsibilities. The planet is being used “like a garbage dump” and the environmental movement must show that this practice is wrong.  Lövin pointed to the dangers of a self-serving variant of nationalism.  She argued that Donald Trump’s arguments against systematic climate change agreements are based on the idea that environmental regulation helps China and hurts the United States.  The Swedish variant of this thinking is that Sweden’s climate footprint is like a drop in the ocean, so it doesn’t matter what individuals do.  Lövin countered that this misguided approach fails to oppose moving down the wrong path and fails to oppose setting a bad example.

Lövin pointed to both legislative and industrial good examples taking place in Sweden. On the political front, Green Party successes have included “climate change legislation,” a “flight tax,” and many other reforms which both limited emissions and contrasted to the years of passivity of “the Alliance,” i.e. the coalition of bourgeois parties led by Fredrick Reinfeldt from October 2006 to October 2014.  Sweden’s “Climate Act and Climate Policy Framework” was adopted in 2017.  This legislative project codifies Sweden’s “long-term target” for having “zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest.” The Climate Act and Policy Framework, including the target, is backed by all but one party in the Swedish Parliament, the Sweden Democrats (SD).  The disagreements related to this initiative primarily focus on which policies will be initiated, particularly energy policies that might be used to reach the long-term target of “net zero emissions” by 2045. Some might argue that Greenhouse Gas Emissions declined between 2006 and 2014 under a right-wing government. Others can counter that the easiest emissions reductions were made then.

On the economic front, Lövin pointed to SSAB’s green conversion as a good example.  This company, a global steel maker, has been responsible for 10 percent of all emissions in Sweden.  Now the company plans to convert from using coal to using hydrogen gas in steel production.  SSAB reports that in 2016 the company, LKAB (the state-owned mining company) and Vattenfall “joined forces to create HYBRIT—an initiative that endeavors to revolutionize steel-making.” HYBRIT is the name of the initiative that replaces “coking coal,” the traditional method needed for “ore-based steel making, with hydrogen.” The Hybrit initiative will lead to “the world’s first fossil-free steel-making technology, with virtually no carbon footprint.”  Lövin also notes that prices for emissions in Europe are now going up because of the EU ETS reforms.  These reforms will further boost green conversion in Europe and support companies already trying to convert such as SSAB and others. The Green Party and many Swedish companies both see a global competitive advantage in being the first movers towards green conversion.  Therefore, these companies see green conversion as a benefit rather than as a burden.   In sum, Lövin argued that the Green Party has been and is an indispensable political force in setting the conditions for Sweden on the path of green conversion.  Furthermore, without such conversion both Sweden and the world won’t achieve the necessary climate targets.

Linking the Labor and Environmental Movements

Lisa Pelling pointed out that about a third of Sweden’s wealth is controlled by the top 10 percent of the population.  Wealth concentration, she argued, provides a foundation for linking the labor and environmental movements to address these issues simultaneously, a linkage made by Green New Deal proposals in the United States and similar efforts elsewhere.  Pelling’s argument about wealth concentration is confirmed in a report by Mike Bird in Business Insider on October 14, 2014 explaining that “the celebrated social-democratic nations of Scandinavia have some of the highest wealth inequality in Europe.”  Credit Suisse explained these findings in their Global Wealth Report.  Thus, “the top 10% of wealth holders in…Norway, Sweden and Denmark…hold between 65 and 69 percent of those nations’ wealth.”  In other words, “Scandinavian inequality on this measure” is “significantly above British, French, Italian or Spanish levels.” Germany and Austria which “come a little closer” are “still behind,” with Switzerland being the only nation reaching “higher levels of wealth inequality.”  One reason for this inequality, not explained by Pelling, was that Scandinavians often get resources like pensions, health and housing provided by the state which diminishes the public’s need for a certain degree of savings.

Andreas Malm agreed with Pelling’s view that a Green New Deal was possible and useful.  He argued that the climate crisis is above all driven by the production and consumption for and by the rich and not the average person or the poor, both in Sweden and globally. Malm therefore used class and justice criteria to inform his vision of the green transition.  He also argued that the environmental movement should appeal to the working class’s material interests.  He believes that “the best” model for joining these interests can be found in the British Labour Party’s political program.  Among other things that program has advocated:

  • Nationalizing the postal and rail industries
  • Massive taxes on the oil industry
  • Opposing petroleum-based transport
  • Financing green conversion
  • Free broadband services
  • Higher pay in the public sector

Malm argued that this plan has received extensive support by the British labor movement and goes farther than either the Swedish Green or Left parties have gone in comprehensive ecological planning.

Lövin said that workers in various carbon-producing sectors like energy and transport don’t actively oppose a green conversion, but they must see that such a change is in their interest.  She argued that social questions and ecological solutions must be joined.  She noted that companies like Volvo were slow to introduce electric cars when they already had these available for many years. Malm countered by asking why companies like Volvo were not nationalized if they have been slow to react to needed green conversions.  Lövin responded by saying that such a policy measure would be possible if green interests controlled more than half of the parliament—which they don’t.  In any case, Lövin rejected the politics of scarcity (and implicitly zero growth discourse) by arguing that “we don’t have to go backwards and live a worse life,” but in contrast “we need to live a better life.”  This improved life can be achieved with improved public transport, more clean energy, vegetarian diets and other such changes.

Lövin’s intervention led to the question of whether a green conversion was going to cost the average citizen more.  She addressed this point by arguing that it should cost the rich more and weaken their control.  Without an economically equitable solution, green and working peoples’ interests can more easily diverge.  Therefore, Lövin advocated a “redistributive politics.”  Malm agreed with that assessment, supporting what he called old-fashioned Social Democratic policies.  These policies must, according to Malm, include guaranteed workers’ employment if their jobs were eliminated during a green conversion.  If conversion leads to job loss, workers losing jobs should be guaranteed alternative employment. Malm suggested that capital flight, defined as businesses closing operations or moving jobs to other countries, will aggravate working class resistance to proactive measures. In other words, dirty industries can use what some in the U.S. have called “job blackmail.” Malm said the provision of public mass transit, alternative energy and nationalization of industries can provide measures of security for working people.

After Pelling asked about needed improvements in public services, Lövin agreed that Sweden should strengthen municipalities’ capacities to address sustainability demands (which might include needs related to recycling, alternative energy and local infrastructure to support clean transportation).  Malm said capitalists have used their power to weaken public services and oppose green conversion.  Politicians have presented voters with false choices such as between improved schools or improved public transportation.  Thus, he argued ecological activists should attack such capitalists’ power.  After Malm pressed Lövin about whether Greens would advocate this strategy, she replied that the Green Party supported “solidarity with all people around the world,” with future generations, and with the ecosystem including animals.  The Green Party, she said, was working daily to address the climate crisis.

Malm placed less faith in political parties than in social movements like the Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future.  He said that these movements explain why political parties in the United Kingdom, particularly the Labour Party, now propose more proactive and systemic ecological policies.  Malm said social movements have been the key to social change and would have to play a central role if Sweden ended up later with a bourgeois government.  In other words, protests are an essential way to influence both Green and non-Green parties.

Lövin acknowledged the lag in political parties’ actions. She pointed out that Malm was earlier than most in showing the need for comprehensive ecological change. Malm’s book, published in 2007, was entitled, “It is our firm belief that if nothing is done now it will be too late.” Lövin said that when the Green Party was founded (in 1981), ecological concerns that now dominate today’s debate were already clearly in focus.  Lövin made the point that other political parties, including those to the left, were very late in adopting any kind of systemic ecological policies, particularly with respect to the climate crisis. She also implied that her party’s cooperation with the Social Democrats has presented difficulties because the Greens are a junior partner without enough leverage.  The Green Party has therefore found it difficult to advance climate politics as the Social Democratic Party places more emphasis on non-ecological priorities.


Four Key Limits to the Swedish Model and Swedish Discourse

The Cultural Lag

The limits to the Swedish model and present Swedish discourse related to social change can be seen in at least four key areas.  First, if we have on the order of ten years to prevent major cascading tipping points related to climate change, then we must investigate the mechanisms blocking rapid political change.  Yet, we see many areas where the Swedish left has moved slowly to address climate change, despite its obvious successes. While Fridays for Future was a key Swedish “political innovation,” we nevertheless have seen slow development in important elements of the country’s ecological discourse.  The lag between current realities on the one hand and the Green Party’s original ambitions and Malm’s agenda in 2007 on the other points to the existence of a “cultural lag.” In his 1957 essay, “Cultural Lag as Theory,” the American sociologist William F. Ogburn argued that such a condition exists “when one of two parts of culture which are correlated changes before or in greater degree than the other part does, thereby causing less adjustment between the two parts than existed previously.” Thus, Ogburn showed that while “the atomic bomb was produced in two and on-half years…a decade later we have developed no defense against the atomic bomb, nor have we made an adjustment in the dispersion of urban populations or in controlling atomic energy or in agreeing to ban the atomic bomb.”  In the climate change case, we have a similar “ticking time bomb” in which companies, political parties and social movements have proven insufficient to solve the underlying problem.

This lag raises the question as to what has been going on politically in Sweden for the last forty or so years. John Bellamy Foster explains that “the phrase Green New Deal took hold in 2007 in a meeting between Colin Hines, former Head of Greenpeace’s International Economics Unit, and Guardian economics editor Larry Elliott.”  Based on my past communications with him, Malm was clearly interested in a Green New Deal ten years ago (if not earlier). A few weeks after I organized the national Green New Deal conference in Stockholm (March 9 and 10, 2009), Peter Eriksson and Maria Wetterstrand, the Green Party spokespersons at the time, wrote about the topic in Dagens Nyheter on March 29th of that year.  In fact, Lövin herself was a participant in that conference as was Eriksson.  The Green Party has long campaigned on the theme of “modernizing Sweden” through green investments and that has slowly happened, but not on a systemic level. The Marx 2019 conference gave some attention to the Green New Deal as well, but it was hardly a dominant theme in that event several weeks ago (October 25-27).  The focus was on “the climate and capitalism,” but it is probable that capitalism will not end in time to limit the arrival of severe ecological tipping points.  One suspects, however, that if the U.S. or British lefts were not presently taking up the Green New Deal, neither would the Swedish left.   In sum, while the idea of a Green New Deal has been floating around Sweden for ten years, the uneven commitment to this idea further underlines the cultural lag.

One thing that seems certain is that ideas developed elsewhere, decades ago, in other countries have now been rebranded as new considerations when entering Swedish discourse. Malm correctly points out the resemblance of these ideas to old Social Democratic conceptions, yet those older conceptions did not have environmental criteria as foremost considerations. For example, the argument about job blackmail organized by dirty industries was made as early as 1982 by Richard Kazis and Richard L. Grossman in the book, Fear at Work: Job Blackmail, Labor, and the Environment.  At the same time, Seymour Melman addressed the need to provide alternative employment for defense workers when military installations were closed or employment reduced because of military budget cutbacks or disarmament agreements. Melman argued in 1988 that conversion should involve legislative changes like “advanced planning” to support alternatives, “advanced notification of contract termination,” “mandatory occupational retraining,” “community adjustment planning,” “income maintenance during civilian conversion,” “relocation allowances,” “a national network for employment opportunity,” and “capital investment planning by government” in the book, The Demilitarized Society.  Closer to home Inga Thorsson, a leading Social Democratic politician and peace activist, championed conversion and associated retraining programs. While the old Social Democrats certainly considered proposals like Melman’s, the majority faction also developed nuclear and defense industries at the expense of the alternative energy (wind power) and (to a lesser extent) the mass transit industry.

One way in which social innovations occur is by promoting diversity through immigrant groups (noted by Peter Hall in his book Cities and Civilization) or by empowering a new leadership group (as I have documented in my research on firms).  The Swedish Left is assumed by many to be a cosmopolitan entity, yet it is strange how insular it actually is.  At the Socialist Forum I spoke to one left intellectual with an immigrant background and he told me the meetings are the same “year after year” and that if one went back ten years the same things as were said then are said now. Events tend to feature the same speakers year after year.  If anything, this year’s event had considerably fewer international speakers than in years’ past suggesting that the Swedish left has either fewer resources or has become less cosmopolitan.

Nationalization is Insufficient

The second key limitation to Swedish discourse on ecological matters concerns an over-confidence in the state and government administration.  One thing that we know for certain is that while the left in Sweden has asked for the state to have more resources, with some now backing nationalization in the United Kingdom and Sweden, the right has consistently questioned the efficiency of the state and its programs and policies and favors the market.  Therefore, if the left wants to give municipal governments more resources and use the national state to take over industries, one should know if these various scales of state power have the necessary competence.  This is true even if “the state has been an underappreciated driver of growth and innovation,” as economist Mariana Mazzucato argues. The basic question is whether and how power and knowledge can be integrated in various organizational forms that promote sustainable innovations and outcomes.  These organizational forms can be private (in the case of cooperatives) or public (in the case of a revitalized and modernized public sector).

If the state lacks competence and is given power to organize economic activity, then political scandals and a potential legitimacy crisis may result and potentially disempower the regime responsible for that activity. In the U.S. anti-ecological forces in the Republican Party made successful and unfair use of the failed Solyndra alternative energy firm supported by the Obama Administration. Therefore, an essential pre-requisite for increased state intervention into the economy (including nationalization) would be the development of capacities within state personnel so that they can organize any economic activities that they are responsible for.  For example, public service workers should get training in management and engineering if they are to oversee and run state-owned businesses.  Yet, current Social Democratic policy is that the state lacks competence in key areas and must defer to the wisdom of corporate managers (even when managers clearly lack wisdom or engage in malfeasance, as in the hidden fees that periodically have been introduced by Scandinavian Airlines).  The idea that government workers should receive improved training and capacities development is not a question high on the Swedish political agenda, however. In addition, any government run industries would have to address questions of accountability to workers, consumers and the public.  In other words, blaming the rich or taxing them won’t automatically lead to improved accountability systems.  Poll data shows that one of the most important reasons why the British public has supported nationalization is that many there believe organizations “should be accountable to taxpayers rather than shareholders.”  Yet a redistributive politics without competence may simply empower unaccountable bureaucrats and change the unaccountable management team from a private to a public one.

The Swedish discourse on environmental transformation usually leaves out a discussion about the role of a revitalized democracy in speeding up that transformation or promoting its competence.  There is a Swedish democratic green conversion movement, but their engagements are on the periphery of both mainstream and mainstream left discourse.  In Britain, the National Organisation for Local Economies (CLES) promotes democratic control over the economy in a way that does not depend solely on the proclivities of national states and parliamentary majorities. For example, CLES’s “The Manifesto for Local Economies” reads: “In policy terms every single local authority needs to pass a local Green New Deal. As a subsidiary of the national Green New Deal movement, the local Green New Deal will spell out how each place will need to respond to this challenge by 2030, including how they are to contribute through local industrial strategies, planning, regeneration and the role of anchor institutions.”

The first democratic question that can be asked is whether nationalization per se will deliver the speed and competence required for a green transition.  The basic problem remains that neither nationalization nor the market guarantee responsibility or accountability in service performance nor delivery.  In Sweden, we have seen failures in administration of airlines (SAS), hospitals (Karolinska) and real estate companies (Akademiska Hus), but successes in the alcohol monopoly (Systembolaget), space industries (Swedish Space Corporation), and administration of healthcare (although now that success is plagued with problems).  In any case, the dominant Swedish debate is usually between the market or the state, sidestepping advantages to the direct public control over the economy through cooperatives, workers’ control, and a supporting banking and technological system to maintain that control (as in the Mondragon Industrial Cooperatives).  No Swedish politician says much about how state programs are designed and how to improve consumer and worker power vis-à-vis public bureaucracies. The Green Party talks abstractly about “decentralization,” but there is no  active public consumer accountability movement.  SVT’s Uppdrag Granskning program is constantly doing the work of the government authorities in exposing malfeasance in corporate and government organizations.

Social Change Mechanisms beyond Social Movements

The third limitation to present Swedish discourse is that it begs the question of how parliamentary and social movement power both are dependent on other kinds of interventions.  In order to address the concentrated political power of polluting industries and their parliamentary allies one must also address alternative social change mechanisms.  The discussion between Lövin and Malm raises the question of how and whether a green faction could gain control over the Swedish parliament.  Malm argued that social movements could influence parliament, but not how the political capital could be gained to support nationalization.  By implication, he may assume that nationalization is advanced by green social movements promoting the British model.  Yet, this formulation does not address how social movements themselves may be dependent variables. A British YouGov poll in May 2017 showed that 65 percent thought the postal system should be run by the public sector, for the railways the figure was 60 percent but for banks only 28 percent.

The need to think beyond nationalization and into the question of social movement design has been addressed by British leftists. In an essay entitled, “Revolution,” published in New Left Review in 1960, E. P. Thompson asked whether Britain’s nationalization of steel and chemicals, the so-called “commanding heights of the economy” would leave “the mass media, with its surveillance over the means of communication, information, controversy, in the hands of irresponsible oligopolists.”  Thompson argued that nationalization was not “the only alternative to private ownership,” with changes in ownership amounting to a kind of social revolution which begged the question of a cultural one. G. D. H. Cole, supported what he called “guild socialism” as an alternative to nationalization as a vehicle for controlling key economic sectors in the United Kingdom.  Cole argued that a shift out of state control could take place in a mixed system. The economy would not just be divided between large public and private actors, but also involved accountability mechanisms more directly under citizen control. As Paul Hirst explains in the book Associative Democracy, “Cole sought to transform the division of state and civil society, reducing the power of the central state and increasing the scope of middle-range institutions of social governance, subjecting them to democratic control.”  Such middle-range institutions not only promote accountability of private and public actors, but also include exactly the organizations which can affect the quality and extent of social movement participation, e.g. cooperatives, town meetings involving face-to-face deliberation, study circles, folk high schools, etc.  One of the most positive developments in recent years is the Extinction Rebellion’s call for citizen assemblies to directly address climate problems, like a kind of “shadow state” system, similar to the general assemblies of the Occupy Movement, which took place even earlier during the 1960s era New Left, and were linked to intellectual deliberation in the Global Teach In.  These ideas have echoes in classical Greek democracy, the American Revolution and anarchist Spain. Therefore, one limit to social movement re-design is the cultural lag.

The Far-Right Challenge to Ecological Transformation

The fourth limit to Swedish discourse on ecological transformation concerns how the far-right has been able to quickly and systematically accumulate political power to limit the scope of what Green political tendencies might accomplish.  Thompson’s emphasis on the cultural dimension is highlighted by the ascendancy of the far-right Swedish Democrats (SD) in Sweden.  In the September 2018 parliamentary election, SD received 17.5 percent of the vote.  According to a poll conducted by Swedish Television (SVT) SD’s share of voter support had increased to 21.5 percent in November 2019, making SD the second largest party after the Social Democrats (whose share of voter support slipped from 28.3 percent to 26.0 percent during this time).  A Dagens Nyheter/IPSOS poll for October 2019 said that SD was favored by 23 percent of the population. An even more recent poll shows SD supported by 25 percent of the population.

Essentially more than one in five Swedish voters (if not one in four) favor a political party established by Nazis, something made possible by their normalization in the larger society. This ascendency returns us to E. P. Thompson’s concerns for culture and cultural transformation. The November 2019 Novus poll showed that 14.1 percent of voters in total supported the Left and Green parties and 28.6 percent supported SD and the Christian Democrats (the two parties furthest to the right). The left share was less than half of the further-to-far-right share. A more recent poll shows the Left and Green parties with 14 percent, but SD and the Christian Democrats with 32 percent. The Christian Democrats have followed SD’s lead and are becoming yet another right populist party when it comes to issues related to migration and preservation of “Swedish culture.”

In some ways, SD has been Sweden’s most innovative, even if most unethical, political party. One simple way to oppose SD is for state and regional authorities, backed by social movements, to promote local economic alternatives in the regions where SD is strongest. CLES in the U.K. provides clues on how to advance such alternatives. The idea that local alternative economic models could challenge SD is hardly new, however, but again we see a cultural lag—an inability to take up ideas that are more than nine years old. The regions where left parties dominate governments could be pooled into a green procurement and joint development network to organize jobs, develop cooperatives, and support a pro-active green bank promoting alternative investments.

Cornelia Fraune and Michèle Knodt explained the larger importance of the rise of the far-right in an article published in Energy Research and Social Science (September 2018), “Sustainable energy transformations in an age of populism, post-truth politics, and local resistance.”  They write that “populism, especially right-wing populism, and post-truth politics indicate rising political polarisation on climate and energy policies.”  In “The legitimation crisis of democracy: emancipatory politics, the environment state and the glass ceiling to socio-ecological transformation,” Ingolfur Blüdhorn has written in Environmental Politics (2019), that the current crisis has neither led “to the end of capitalism” nor to “any new social contract for sustainability,” but rather “to the installation of right wing (coalition-) governments that have launched a head-on attack to the eco-democratic project and the cosmopolitan sprit of emancipatory social movements and political parties.” Blüdhorn cites others who speak of “a great regression” and “the politics of unsustainability” which “appears to be even more deeply entrenched than before.”

The right-wing populist parties represent a challenge to sustainable energy transformations because they advocate political positions at odds with mainstream parties. In fact, Blüdhorn writes that such parties “blame mainstream political parties and elites to subordinate the national authority and national interest in international cooperation in the context of climate change policies.”  These parties believe that “climate-change-related policies such as the transformation of national energy systems to low-carbon are only legitimate if they benefit the nation and their core people directly or even exclusively.”  While Lövin and Malm underscored the need to win over voters to the economic or social benefits of a comprehensive ecological program, they said far less about how far-right parties like SD gain power.  A Gothenburg University study showed that 48 percent of those on the left and only 8 percent of those on the right thought a higher carbon dioxide tax on gas was a very good proposal in 2018. The same report found that 61 percent of those on the left and only 17 percent of those on the right thought that investments in an ecological society was a very good proposal even if it meant low to no economic growth.  In total 46 percent thought this a good proposal and 26 percent a bad proposal, however.

Conclusions: The Need for Economic and Social Reconstruction

The four problems enumerated above are partially related to a common phenomenon, i.e. the limits to the paradigmatic framing of both New Left era and post-New Left Green parties and social movements and how they analyze problems.  While the Green New Deal discourse partially echoes back to the movements in the United States and Sweden during the 1930s, the conditions which led to this original political innovation are often neglected.  The original New Deal was not simply based on a social mobilization from below, but also involved a response to an economic collapse.  Both Blüdhorn and Trump reveal that a non-sustainable economic accumulation drive can be marshalled to promote right-to-far-right parties if not keep them in power.  Thus, while a Green New Deal could overcome the economic opportunity costs of ecological transformation, an abstract plan in itself might not compete with the actual wealth and power manipulated by the non-ecological industrial complex.  A moral campaign at this point has not sufficiently won over enough persons to limit the fast growth of the far-right—even in Sweden, although the recent Danish election reveals that Social Democratic-led immigration limitation can be married to a pro-ecological discourse.  Malm clearly did not want to go down the Danish anti-immigration road, arguing that the Swedish Green Party lost because of it.  Yet, what interests Greens and the sizable far-right block in Sweden are clearly not the same things (often enough).

The “bubble” is a cultural trend of the 2010s in which society has been divided into groups of persons with common political proclivities and cultural preferences (with dominant groupings isolated from one another).  Like the right, the left is often in its own bubble. This bubble defines both cultural lags and an insufficient interest in what motivates those voting for and supporting the far-right.  Even if we were to ignore the far-right, we would still have to address how globalization (or capitalism) hurt both workers and the environment.  Yet, nationalism assumes electoral power to nationalize that doesn’t presently exist. Again, we therefore should look at factors that accelerate the power of social movements to influence politics.  Malm may think that social movements becoming more radical will do that, but if he uses “anger” as the key intermediate variable we are left to ask how the right rather than the left has been more effective in mobilizing that anger in the electoral arena.  The Danish political scientist Rune Møller Stahl  argued in an interview with U.S. journalist Doug Henwood that “the Greta effect” helped the left bloc in the recent Danish election, however. Yet, there is no significant post-Greta bump in the Swedish Green party’s numbers (perhaps for reasons Malm has stated); the latest poll shows this party with support from only 5 percent of the population.

An alternative to bubbles and over-reliance on both parties and social movements requires that we analyze the very design of social movements themselves.  Thinkers like Paul Goodman, Seymour Melman and Barry Commoner were scholar activists who lived in the U.S. and asked precisely this sort of question.  They argued that social movements themselves had to be reconstructed and redesigned.  For example, Melman and Commoner believed that ecological movements should join forces with peace movements and vice versa. In an era in which the dangers of nuclear weapons grow more severe, one would think that such linkages would be obvious.   The linkage is self-evident when the monies used for bloated military budgets come at the opportunity cost of ecological investment, yet the linkage is not made because in some circles it is easier to question the existence of capitalism than the Swedish military budget.  One could argue that the abstract idea of “socialism” is more popular than the notion that we should convert military firms to produce clean energy and mass transportation technologies. Melman and Commoner also understood how social transformation involves mobilizing elite forces from above, in the political mainstream, as well as activists and trade unions below.

The Green Party manages to roughly address such linkages but is unable to promote power accumulation systems outside the state.  As a result, the party is left to be dependent upon larger or more conservative political parties.  In contrast, social and economic reconstruction places far more emphasis on meso level institutions like cooperatives, study circles, folk universities, networks of consumers, and citizens’ banks to leverage social change.  Another panel at the Socialist Forum did address this kind of thinking, but that approach was not well integrated into the discussion involving Pelling, Lövin and Malm.  In any case, the reconstructionist approach argues that both political parties and social movements are strengthened by their interaction with these meso level institutions which can also include alternative media networks.  Now, part of the far-right call for abolishing public media which only exposes the vulnerability of a Swedish left which vicariously lives off mainstream media institutions and social media networks controlled by elite interests.  Interestingly, the British Left is in a similar predicament having no equivalent to Pacifica Radio, Democracy Now and the Real News Network (three U.S. examples of radio and televised broadcasting mechanisms on the left and independent of state and corporate control).

The creation of such alternative media forms is an essential part of any social and economic reconstruction program, but having such media is no guarantee that the necessary media content will follow.  For example, in Sweden there is a slow return to Green New Deal discourse, but even less debate as to the question social scientist Jon Rynn addresses in “What a Green New Deal Should Look Like.” As John Bellamy Foster explains “unlike the Green Party’s New Deal, the Democratic Party’s Green New Deal Resolution…does not directly oppose financial capital or U.S. spending on the military and empire.”

In conclusion, the Swedish left should be more self-reflective of older ideas and ideas which don’t match its current portfolio of thoughts about what is relevant. Perhaps the new social movements will transform the left’s political, media and economic imagination, but there is no guarantee that this will happen.  A key problem is that the left often reproduces the elite society’s point-to-mass communication system in which deep interaction with the audience is discouraged.  The Socialist Forum embraced a 45-minutes talk and exit the room approach which sidestepped audience participation (apparently viewed as obsolete).  This format was the epitome of hierarchical communication flow, suggesting a key design flaw when it comes to pushing the frontiers of innovation and reflection outside the bubble.  The marketing efforts of left entrepreneurs here do capture the marketplace aspect of the original Greek forum, but not quite the engaged democracy and critical thinking which defined classical Greek democracy.

Intervju med Ingalill Bjartén och Madeleine Göransson

En gråmulen söndagseftermiddag i mitten av november träffade SCISER Ingalill Bjartén och Madeleine Göransson på Solidaritetshuset på Södermalm för en intervju. Ingalill och Madeleine är båda aktiva inom Socialdemokraternas kvinnoförbund, S-kvinnor. De har nyligen gett ut en ny bok om fredsarbetet och de har varit starkt drivande bakom att S-kvinnor numera kommer driva frågan om nedrustning och omställning samt inrättandet av ett fredsdepartement – något SCISER kommer att följa med glädje. Här följer intervjun med Ingalill och Madeleine.

Salvador Perez

Berätta lite om er själva och era politiska engagemang. Som jag förstår det är ni båda partipolitiskt aktiva.

Ingalill Bjartén

Mitt politiska engagemang började när jag var 17 år ungefär. Det var då jag började bli intresserad av fredsfrågorna och jag gick med i Svenska Freds-och Skiljedomsföreningen. Mer specifikt började mitt partipolitiska engagemang i VPK, som dagens Vänsterpartiet hette på den tiden.

Efter att ha varit ute och rest och bland annat bott i Spanien, Marocko, Tyskland och en kort vända i Danmark så kom jag tillbaka och hamnade i Lund där jag började på universitetet. Jag var mycket engagerad i flyktingfrågan, då jag hade många vänner från Sudan, Eritrea och Mellanöstern. På detta viset skapade jag ett brett kontaktnät. Framförallt så väcktes ett livslångt intresse och engagemang.

Efterhand lämnade jag VPK och hamnade i Socialdemokraterna,i första hand genom att jag blev involverad i den lokala kvinnoklubben i Hjärup. Såsmångom fick jag flera olika förtroendedrag i Staffanstorp och blev vice-ordförande i Hjärups kvinnoklubben.

Jag hade mina socialistiska idéer i grunden och jag förde över de på Socialdemokratin, och det var en nagel i ögat i på många. Socialdemokraterna hade väldigt svårt att förstå detta, de hade helt enkelt inte tänkt i socialistiska banor. Jag samlade in pengar till Nicaragua bland annat.

Sedan kom jag in i S-kvinnor distriktsstyrelse 1988 och där blev jag snabbt vice ordförande och ansvarig för de internationella frågorna. Jag blev kvar där till 2009 och var mycket engagerad framförallt i Palestinafrågan. Jag lämnade uppdraget som vice-distriktsordförande för S-kvinnor i Skåne i samband med turerna kring Stoppa matchen-kampanjen vars syfte var att markera gentemot Israels agerande under Gazakriget 2008-2009.

Madeleine Göransson

Mitt politiska engagemang började i Socialdemokraterna i Kungsbacka kommun på 90-talet. Det var min pappa som inspirerade mig in i det politiska arbetet, han har så länge jag kan minnas alltid varit engagerad både fackligt och politiskt för ett solidariskt och jämlikt samhälle fritt från orättvisor. Därför har han alltid varit en förebild för mig.

Efter ett tag blev jag invald som ersättare i förskole och grundskolenämnden, det låg mig närmast i intressebarns utveckling och utbildning-vilket är en viktig grund i samhället. Det är där fredsfrågorna börjar enligt mig. Om vi inte ger barnen rätt resurser från början kan det leda till utanförskap, arbetslöshet, psykisk och fysisk ohälsa vilket i sin tur kan leda till konflikter i hemmet och samhället där våldet är en utav beståndsdelarna.

År 2012 flyttade jag till Österlen där jag fortsatte med mitt politiska engagemang.  I samband med det träffade jag Ingalill och gick med i en studiecirkel som hon startade med fokus på kvinnor, fred och säkerhet. Det var i samband med det jag blev ytterst medveten om att jag ville arbeta med fred, internationell solidaritet och jämställdhetsfrågor i politiken.

Efterhand blev jag invald i S-kvinnor i Skånes distriktsstyrelse med ansvar för de internationella frågorna, vilket är mina hjärtefrågor. I den rollen anordnar jag bland annat fredskonferenser, föreläsningar med fokus på i kvinnans roll i säkerhetspolitiken, skriver debattartiklar, med mera. I augusti i år var jag ombud på S-kvinnors förbundskongress i Malmö där jag var en utav de som drev på ett bifall för en motion med namnet “Från vapenexport till omställning till civil produktion och inrättandet av ett fredsdepartement.”

Salvador Perez

Vi fortsätter med den bok ni nyligen har gett ut tillsammans. Berätta lite mer om boken och bakgrunden till den.

Ingalill Bjartén

Det började med att vi började skriva lite debattartiklar som blev publicerade, både i Dagens Arena, ETC, Miljömagasinet och så vidare. I debattartiklarna protesterade vi mycket mot vapenexporten och NATO-övningar i Sverige, till exempel den stora övningen Aurora 17 i Syd-och Västsverige. I samband med den övningen skrev vi en uppmärksammad debattartikel där budskapet var att “vi vill inte vara med och leka kring.”

Under hela min tid i S-kvinnor skrev jag om att stoppa vapenexporten och var engagerad i den frågan. Jag var bland annat ute och pratade mycket om vapenexporten, på seminarier och liknande. Då talade jag mest om varför vi skulle stoppa vapenexporten men jag hade inte ännu någon idé om omställning av försvarsindustrin från militär produktion till civil produktion. De idéerna kom jag i kontakt med först för några år sedan.

Madeleine Göransson

Förutom det Ingalill säger så är det viktigt för mig att förmedla, sprida kunskap i de här frågorna så att alla kan ta det till sig, vi behöver fler som vill engagera sig, desto starkare blir opinionen och trycket på ett tankeskifte. Vapenexporten ökar från år till år likaså försvarsbudgeten. Det är orimligt och det förebygger inte konflikter nationellt och internationellt, det underminerar utveckling enligt mig, det bygger faror mot demokrati, mänskliga rättigheter, inte minst mot kvinnor och barn. Vi behöver en fredsminister och ett fredsdepartement för att lägga mer tyngd på fredsfrågorna, nedrustning, forskning, integration, konfliktförebyggande arbete på flera nivåer-nationellt och internationellt, vi behöver fler människor i fredsarbete, fler kvinnor i fredsförhandlingar bland annat för de frågor som rör dem själva och samhället i stort. Det om något borde vara ett mål för en feministisk regering. Det är en stor målkonflikt med den feministiska utrikespolitiken och vapenexporten.

Salvador Perez

I boken finns en motion till S-kvinnors förbundskongress i Malmö som var i augusti i år. Den motionen handlar om att ställa om från militär produktion till civil produktion och inrättandet av ett så kallat fredsdepartement. Berätta lite mer om den motionen.

Ingalill Bjartén

Jag började med att nämna och lyfta Inga Thorsson och berätta att om att hon gjort en statlig utredning på 80-talet just om omställning från militär produktion till civil produktion. Trots att utredningen var ett gediget arbete stoppades den bara undan.

Jag satt själv och läste den förra sommaren och bestämde mig då att fortsätta på Inga Thorssons bana och fullfölja hennes resonemang. Därför skrev jag den motion som finns i boken. I motionen argumenterar jag för att det är dags att vi ska ta tag i det idégods Inga Thorsson lämnade efter sig och att det inte räcker med att minska vapenexporten och granska de länder vi exporterar vapen till. Istället ska vi verka för att vapenexporten upphör helt, det genom att ställa om från militär produktion till civil produktion.

Ett förslag som jag har är att bygga räddningshelikoptrar istället för Jas Gripen, till exempel. Bakgrunden till det förslaget är de skogsbränder vi haft i Sverige de senaste åren. Då fick vi hyra in eller låna italienska flygplan eftersom vi inte hade de resurserna i Sverige. Det var ungefär samma situation under Estonia-katastrofen. Då hade vi också väldigt ont om räddningshelikoptrar. Det är samma teknik som kan användas för räddningshelikoptrar som för att bygga stridsflygplan, så det ligger inte så långt ifrån.

Förutom räddningshelikoptrar finns ett stort behov av robotar som kan röja minfält. Det ligger så mycket landminor och trampminor över hela världen, i Vietnam finns fortfarande väldigt mycket minor. Det finns alltså behov att fylla.

Salvador Perez

Vad händer nu med motionen nu? Jobbar S-kvinnor med den här frågan nu?

Ingalill Bjartén

Den här motionen kom till S-kvinnors kongress i augusti, och då gick igenom helt med övervägande majoritet.

Madeleine Göransson

Nu väntar ett vidare arbete med motionen i riksdagen.

Salvador Perez

Hur gick debatten om motionen?

Ingalill Bjartén

Förbundsstyrelsen ville bara besvara motionen men inte anta den. Maj-Britt Theorin, Madeleine och även andra S-kvinnor argumenterade väldigt passionerat för motionen. Debatten om motionen finns att se på S-kvinnors hemsida.

Salvador Perez

Den uttalade ambitionen med den här motionen är som jag förstår att Socialdemokraterna till slut ska driva en politik för nedrustning och omställning från militär till civil produktion.

Ingalill Bjartén

Och att de ska tillsätta en utredning liknande den Inga Thorsson gjorde på 80-talet, och att de ska ta den på allvar den här gången.

Salvador Perez

Samtidigt så vet vi att S-kvinnor bara är ett av många förbund i Socialdemokraterna. Nu finns det alltså beslut på att S-kvinnor ska driva den fråga som förbund inom Socialdemokraterna. Hur ser du på möjligheterna för S-kvinnor att påverka och få med andra förbund att ställa sig bakom nedrustning och omställning som fråga och få moderpartiet att anta en sådan politik.

Ingalill Bjartén

Socialdemokrater för tro och solidaritet är en annan S-förening som driver frågan om att stoppa vapenexporten och att ställa om produktionen. S-studenter driver också frågan. Vi har också fått stöd från enskilda personer inom S.

Madeleine Göransson

Jag hoppas att förbundet driver frågan hårt nu. S-kvinnor behöver trycka på mer kraftfullt överhuvudtaget när det gäller vapenexporten och vapenindustrin, jag säger det igen-vi behöver ett tankeskifte. S-kvinnor har historiskt sett gjort mycket för fred, internationell solidaritet och nedrustning. Vi behöver än mer driva på både partiet och regeringen om ett tankeskifte vad gäller vapenindustrin och vapenexporten som bara ökar. Dessutom är det ett stort frågetecken att regeringen inte har signerat kärnvapenkonventionen i FN. Som det ser ut nu finns det inget underlag i riksdagen för en ratificering.

Vi ser tyvärr ett närmande mot NATO bland annat i försvarsbudgeten och samarbetet i och med värdlandskapet och det ger mig kalla kårar. Det är en motsättning i feministisk utrikespolitik. Resurser som istället hade kunnat användas till välfärd, klimatfrågan, fredsforskning, integration-konfliktförebyggande arbete-allt det som skapar konflikter och utanförskap i ett samhälle om det inte fungerar. Resurser som hade gynnat fred, demokrati, mänskliga rättigheter, kvinnliga rättigheter nationellt och internationellt. Vi behöver ett fredsdepartement med en fredsminister.

Salvador Perez

De etablerade fredsorganisationerna i Sverige, bland annat Svenska Freds, jobbar mycket frågan om vapenexport men de jobbar mycket mindre eller ingenting alls med frågan om omställning från militär till civil produktion. Varför tror ni att det är så?

Ingalill Bjartén

Jag tror inte att de har tänkt tanken bara, jag tror inte det. Birger Schlaug som tidigare var aktiv i Miljöpartiet är ute och föreläser just nu och han använder argument som jag har min bok, vad vi kan göra istället för Jas Gripen och att vi kan göra en civil produkt mot minor. Delar av Miljöpartiet och delar av Vänsterpartiet är intresserade av dessa frågor men det är framförallt vi S-kvinnor som driver frågan.

Salvador Perez

I boken finns den här idén om fredsministrar och fredsdepartement. Kan ni berätta lite mer om den iden, bakgrunden och också hur det skulle fungera praktiskt.

Ingalill Bjartén

Tanken är att ha en fredsminister i varje land i världen som ett komplement till utrikesministern. Fredsminstern i varje land ska också ha ett eget departement, ett fredsdepartement. På så sätt kan utrikesministrarna syssla med de frågorna som de är bra på, som relationer med andra länder, och fredsministrarna kan i sin tur gå ut och upplysa i skolorna. De kan också föra fredsfrågorna i regeringarna och parlamenten och de kan också analysera läget från ett annat perspektiv när det blir oroligheter med ett annat land, så att det inte blir så att alla svar blir på eventuella problem blir militära, till exempel att skaffa nya vapen.

Madeleine Göransson

Fredsministern skulle också få ansvaret att göra en omställning från vapenproduktion till civil produktion. Fredsforskningen skulle få ett större fokus och mer hade gjorts i fredens namn. Jag tror att om vi hade haft en fredsminister med ett fredsdepartement så hade Sverige undertecknat och ratificerat kärnvapenkonventionen i FN. Klimatfrågan är också i allra högsta grad en fredsfråga, en brådskande sådan. Målet ska vara konfliktförebyggande arbete nationellt och internationellt, diplomati, dialog och inte bygga murar med försvarsallianser där dessutom kärnvapen är inblandade. Vi behöver avspänning, mindre militarism, våld, hot och upprustning mellan och inom stater. Vi ser historiskt att det inte är lösningen. Patriarkala maktstrukturer har  präglat säkerhetspolitiken i världen vilket inte gynnar fred och utveckling.

Salvador Perez

Sista frågan. Mitt intryck är att fredsfrågorna i alla fall i Sverige har hamnat i skymundan. Det är andra frågor som är mycket mer ute i ljuset just nu. Till exempel ser vi en stark mobilisering i befolkningen i stort, men särskilt bland unga, i miljö-och klimatfrågan. Hur får man till en liknande i fredsfrågorna som i miljö-och klimatfrågorna.

Ingalill Bjartén

Man kan ha en liten Greta som börjar att prata om fredsfrågorna. Mitt barnbarn skrev till den dåvarande regeringen när hon var 7 år. Hon var jättearg för att det var krig och för att vi sålde vapen. Hon skrev på sitt sätt att “jag vill att du ska skrota alla vapen”, och hon fick svar också. Jag tror att en sådan ungdom kan börja mobilisera andra ungdomar.

Sen så är både freds och klimatfrågorna väldigt närbesläktade. Det gäller migrationsfrågorna också, eftersom krig orsakar migrationsströmmar. Krig har också en miljöpåverkan, jordbruk och liknande blir ofta helt söndertrasat vid krig vilket leder till svält. Det här är inte något som bara drabbar i utlandet, vilket är något man annars kan tro. Militärens övningar också i Sverige orsakar stor miljöförstörelse, till exempel i Norrbotten där olika militärövningar stör djurlivet. Vi ska komma ihåg att det inte bara är den svenska militären som är däruppe och leker krig, det är också NATO-styrkor, vilket är något flera fredsaktivister uppmärksammat och mobiliserat mot.  Ett annat mycket allvarligt exempel är nedsmutsningen av Vättern, en stor dricksvattentäkt. Det är en skandal som inte får tillräckligt med uppmärksamhet. I förlängningen utarmar också ständigt ökade försvarsutgifter välfärden. Det är anmärkningsvärt att vi ska lägga ned pengar på kanoner när sjukvården och kommunerna i landet går på knäna.

Madeleine Göransson

Jag håller med Ingalill om att fred och klimatfrågan är släkt med varandra.

Det är viktigt att börja med barnen och ungdomarna,att hemma, i förskolan, skolan diskutera och utbilda i demokratifrågor, mänskliga rättigheter och så vidare. Konfliktförebyggande arbete, hur vi ska möta varandra på ett fredligt sätt istället för att kränka använda sig utav våld. Det är oerhört viktigt att det finns tillräckligt med resurser till barns utbildning och utveckling, de är vår framtid. Då har vi kommit en bra bit på vägen.

En levande kultur är också viktig som kan och vill förmedla de här frågorna inom musik, teater, konst osv. Det är viktigt med förebilder som barn och ungdomar kan ta till sig, som kan ge dem hopp och tro om en bättre värld att leva i utan våld, kränkningar, hot, rasism, främlingsfientlighet. Kultur förenar människor och bygger broar till nya insikter och kunskap om oss själva och andra.

Naturligtvis kan S-kvinnor stärka musklerna än mer i fred och nedrustningsfrågor, driva opinion, nätverka med civilsamhället, förmedla kunskap, skriva motioner, vara eld i baken på partiet eftersom vi är en fristående organisation.

Civilsamhället behöver också mer resurser för att ha möjlighet att kunna anställa fler till att arbeta med fredsfrågor på olika plan.


Avvakta med slutsatserna efter mötet mellan Trump och Kim Jong-Un

Av Salvador Perez


I onsdags förra veckan träffades USA:s president Donald Trump och Nordkoreas högste ledare (i klartext: diktator) Kim Jong-Un i Singapore. Ett huvudsyfte med mötet var att bygga relationer mellan länderna och därmed försöka förmå Nordkorea att ge upp sitt kärnvapenprogram. För den totalitära regimen i landet utgör  kärnvapen en garant för att få vara kvar vid makten. Dessutom är kärnvapen ett förhandlingskort gentemot det internationella samfundet och grannländerna. I ett internationellt system som alltjämt präglas avskräckning, inte minst med kärnvapen, har länder med tillgång till sådana vapen trumf på hand.

Inför toppmötet hade president Trump, i vanlig ordning, berättat för alla att han, “den fria världens ledare”, fått den hårdföre diktatorn till förhandlingsbordet. Avgörande för veckans möte i istället ett annat ett toppmöte: det mellan ledarna i Syd-och Nordkorea i slutet på april.  Att ledarna för Syd-och Nordkorea träffas är mycket ovanligt, men det förekommer. I vilket fall som helst var toppmötet i april historiskt. En uppmärksammad scen från toppmötet var när Kim Jong-Un vänligt tog Sydkoreas president Moon Jae-In i handen och för några sekunder förde honom till “fel sida” av den 38:e breddgraden – det vill säga in på Nordkoreanskt territorium. Jag har det nästintill inpräntat på näthinnan eftersom jag var i Sydkorea när det hände. Scenen mellan  ledarna varvades dygnet runt i alla tv-kanaler. Några menade till och med att det kanske var början på en återförening, ett enat Korea, vi fick se.

Veckans möte i Singapore var också historiskt. Ingen amerikansk president har tidigare träffat en nordkoreansk ledare. Ledarna undertecknade ett drygt tvåsidigt dokument. Det ska ses som en avsiktsförklaring. Dokumentet innehåller, som många också uppmärksammat, inget konkret – bara att länderna ska ha fortsatta samtal. I bästa fall är mötet och avsiktsförklaringen början på mer normala diplomatiska relationer. Sådana kan lägga ett lock på Nordkoreas behov av att att hävda sig militärt i närområdet. Det tjänar alla på. Mer normala diplomatiska relationer kan också påverka de militära övningarna USA håller i Nordkoreas närområde. Om USA kan ha ökad förståelse för hur de och sina allierade spelar i händerna på den nordkoreanska regimen är bra för alla – regionen är en krutdurk. Glädjande är också att Kina verkar gett sitt medgivande till att USA närmar sig Nordkorea (inget som berör Nordkorea händer utan Kinas medgivande – det är Kina som brukar hålla regimen om ryggen). Detsamma gäller att Japan, en annan spelare i regionen, är med på tåget. Enligt uppgifter vill landets premiärminister Shinzo Abe träffa Kim Jong-Un. Som jag nämnde har Sydkorea startat igång processen, därför  förtjänar och bör landet också vara i förarsätet i det som kommer. Allt annat är ohållbart.

Så långt är saker och ting på banan. Viktiga möten har ägt rum. Spelare i regionen har närmat sig varandra. Alla förstår allvaret i att ha en regim som den i Nordkorea runt knuten. Regimen signalerar någon slags förståelse för omvärlden. USA verkar vara beredda att bjuda tillbaka. Det som stör mig är snacket om att Trump, i och med mötet i onsdags, kan förtjäna Nobels fredspris. På kvällsnyheterna i TV4 menade någon, på fullaste allvar, att Nobelkommitten kommer att ha svårt att förklara sig om de väljer bort Trump.  

Jag vet inte om det är människor eller medier som söker rubriker eller inkomstbringande klick. Likväl är det beklämmande. En kärnvapennedrustning på koreanska halvön skulle vara stort och den person som på riktigt lyckas få till stånd en sådan förtjänar alla fredspris i världen. Ändå är sanningen att vi vet mycket lite om vad Trump och Kim Jong-Un kommit fram till.

Mer än något annat är Trump en person som söker efter uppmärksamhet och ett möte med Kim Jong-Un var ett enkelt sätt att få det. Trots att Trump har ett minst sagt komplicerat förhållande till pressen vill han inget hellre än att bli omskriven och därigenom odla sitt kändisskap Med Trump i Vita Huset liknar presidentskapet och politiken i Washington en dokusåpa. Därför är den internationella politiken, och därmed också situationen på den koreanska halvön, är ett sätt för Trump att odla sitt ego. USA:s närmaste allierade har sedan länge tröttnat, men hittills försökt hålla god min. När EU ställer rättmätiga krav på att Trump-administrationen ska ta hänsyn till gemensamma intressen biter Trump tillbaka. Som New York Times (för övrigt den tidning som stått i fokus för Trumps hatkampanj mot pressen) observerat gör Trump “fiender av sina vänner och vänner av sina fiender.”

Bli därför inte förvånade om Trump förstör allt med en tweet – till exempel för att vända bort uppmärksamhet när det knackigt på hemmaplan (exempel: Mueller-utredningen). Bli inte heller förvånade om Trump träder in i ett rum med generaler (han älskar sina generaler) och säkerhetsrådgivare och träder ut ur rummet med en helt annan idé om USA:s strategi för Koreahalvön och regionen. Den som tar det här med ett fredspris på allvar måste också ta in att Trump kastat både kärnenergiavtalet med Iran och klimatavtalet från Paris överbord. Att andra parter i Iranavtalet, bland annat Tyskland och Frankrike, gör stora ansträngningar för att rädda det säger allt om hur viktigt avtalet är för stabilitet i regionen. I fallet med Parisavtalet och ambitionerna i det står stora delar av civilisationen på spel.

Nobels fredspris till Trump? Nej tack!

Den finska vapenexporten: trender, aktörer och alternativ

Av Jim Hagström


Den årliga vapenexporten från Finland har enligt den fredsfrämjande tankesmedjan SaferGlobes utredning fördubblats under perioden 2002 – 2016. År 2003 exporterade Finland vapen för 49 miljoner euro (ca 490 milj. kronor), och år 2016 uppgick summan för vapenexporten till 133 miljoner euro (ca 1,3 miljarder kronor). Oroväckande är också vilka länder Finland har börjat exportera vapen till. Tidigare gick exporten i första hand till EU-länder men de senaste åren har exporten riktats mot det alltmer politiskt instabila Mellanöstern. År 2016 gick 63 procent av exporten till Mellanöstern, vilket är en gigantisk förändring från 2013 då bara 1% av exporten gick till regionen. År 2013 markerar ett brytningsår varefter Finland börjat öka sin export till Mellanöstern. Detta överensstämmer också med SIPRI:s senaste rapport som visar hur den globala vapenexporten ökat till Mellanöstern som ett resultat av det ökade antalet konflikter i regionen. Efter det mystiska dödsfallet av den finländska affärsmannen i Uganda, som hade i uppdrag att marknadsföra den statligt ägda vapentillverkaren Patrias produkter, har debatten om vapenexporten blåst upp igen. Kritik har framförallt riktats mot att exporten sker till icke-demokratiska länder som kränker mänskliga rättigheter.

Till de länder som de senaste åren fått köpa finska vapen hör bland annat Förenade Arabemiraten. År 2016 köpte landet 40 stycken bepansrade transportfordon av statliga Patria. Ett annat finskt företag, Sako AB, levererade några år tidigare skarpskyttegevär till Förenade Arabemiraten och Turkiet. Debatt uppstod när det framkom misstankar om att gevären används av turkiska militären gentemot kurderna i den Turkisk-Kurdiska konflikten. Dessutom kunde gevären säljas med enbart försvarsministerns tillstånd eftersom det var frågan om en ekonomiskt mindre affär. Exemplen tyder på en mer tillåtande vapenexportpolitik än tidigare. Därtill är vapenexport till Förenade Arabemiraten kontroversiell med anledning av landets inblandning i kriget i Jemen. Finland har en ambition och en självbild av att vara en fredsfrämjande nation. Med det som bakgrund bör vapenexporten till Mellanöstern ifrågasättas. Några nyckelfrågor är också varför Finland exporterar vapen till tvivelaktiga länder, vilka aktörer som är för och emot vapenexporten samt hur den finländska vapenexporten kan ställas om.  

Den nuvarande regeringens politik gällande vapenexport bör ifrågasättas mot bakgrund av den humanitära katastrofen i Jemen. Att vapenexport till Mellanöstern ökat, trots de konflikter och spänningar som präglar regionen, vittnar om en mer tillåtande exportpolitik. Tidigare var det otänkbart med vapenexport till länder som kränker mänskliga rättigheter. Ett klart exempel på detta är exporttillståndet till Turkmenistan år 2015 då samma tillståndsansökan tre år tidigare inte godkändes. Statsminister Juha Sipilä (Centerpartiet) och försvarsminister Jussi Niinistö (Blå framtid) har förnekat en förändrad exportpolitik, men före detta utrikesminister Erkki Tuomioja (SDP) hävdar att tillstånd för vapenexport numera ges lättare. Enligt Tuomioja är det försvarsministeriet som står bakom en mer tillåtande exportpolitik. Den förre utrikesministern, numera i opposition, menar att nuvarande regering borde återinföra en mer strikt politik gällande vilka länder som får ta emot finska vapen. Tuomioja får stöd av Martti Koskenniemi, jurist i internationell rätt, som i en intervju med tidningen Helsingin Sanomat, motsvarande Dagens Nyheter i Sverige, hävdat att en policyförändring är tydlig eftersom Finland tidigare inte exporterat vapen till diktaturer i Mellanöstern. Koskenniemi hävdar också att vapenexporten till Mellanöstern bryter mot Finlands lagstiftning om export av försvarsmateriel samt mot EU:s och FN:s bestämmelser om vapenexport. Den policyförändring som skett bör också förstås mot att det nationalistiska partiet Blå framtid (tidigare en del av Sannfinländarna) sedan 2015 suttit i regeringen, och posten som försvarsminister och ett flertal poster i försvarsministeriet. Blå framtid beskrivs ofta som ett populistiskt parti med en konservativ värdegrund och en realistiskt betonad utrikespolitik. Partiet lägger stor vikt på det militära och förespråkar ett starkt nationellt försvar.

Förutom regeringen, vilka andra krafter är det som styr den finländska vapenexporten? Olli Isotalo, VD för Patria, har under flera tillfällen förklarat att deras verksamhet inte kan upprätthållas enbart med en försäljning till den finländska marknaden. År 2016 utgjorde exporten utomlands 41% av företagets omsättning. Frågan om Finlands försvar kan upprätthållas utan vapenexporten, samtidigt som denna export bidrar till ökade oroligheter i Mellanöstern, är viktig – särskilt för de som förespråkar mer begränsad eller avskaffad export. Som så ofta räcker inte enbart moraliska argument till att uppnå en förändring, något som framgick tydligt i det senaste presidentvalet i januari 2018. Då pläderade presidentkandidaten Tuula Haatainen (SDP) för ett stopp för vapenexporten till Mellanöstern. Eftersom vapenexporten vanligtvis inte är en stor fråga bland befolkningen och i valrörelser föll Haatainens uttalande snabbt i glömska.

Finländarna ser i regel enbart vapenexportens positiva sidor i form av en ökad inkomst till samhället, och som en växande arbetsgivare. Därför måste de som är motståndare till vapenexporten också föra en diskussion hur vapenexporten kan trappas ned eller upphöra helt utan att samhället eller arbetstillfällen drabbas negativt. Det innebär alltså att argument baserade på moral, som att det är felaktigt att exportera till länder som inte är demokratiska eller som kränker mänskliga rättigheter, måste kompletteras med argument som synar vapenexportens ekonomiska aspekter. Tyvärr är argument baserade på moral dominerande bland de som arbetar för fred och nedrustning. Ett exempel kommer från organisationen Fredsförbundet som samlar fredsaktörer i Finland. Fredsförbundet fördömer vapenexporten till Förenade Arabemiraten och anser att den borde upphöra omedelbart. Förbundets verksamhetsledare Laura Lodenius har kommenterat Patrias ambitioner att utöka exporten till Qatar genom att säga att staten borde motsätta sig att ge tillstånd till sådana områden. Även här argumenteras det mot vapenexporten enbart med moraliska argument. Problemet är att exportförespråkare enkelt kan peka på de ekonomiska fördelarna med att Patria utökar sin marknad. Eftersom exportaffärer innebär att Patria anställer fler finländare och hämtar pengar till statskassan blir Fredsförbundet en aktör som ger intryck av att vara negativt inställd till arbetstillfällen och exportintäkter. Det är svårt att få stöd för en sådan linje, inte minst eftersom den förödelse finsk vapenexport orsakar är svår att förmedla till gemene man. Därför måste vi fråga vad det finns för alternativa sätt att argumentera mot vapenexporten till Mellanöstern?

Allra bäst är argument för en civil omställning av vapenindustrier, till exempel för statligt majoritetsägda Patria. Aktörer som arbetar för fred och nedrustning måste kunna påvisa hur industrierna kan tillverka för Finlands försvar men samtidigt minska behovet av export. Ett sätt är att aktörer i vapenindustrin uppmuntras diversifiera sin tillverkning att stå på två grenar: en militär och en civil. Den finska staten och andra offentliga aktörer eller sammanslutningar kan underlätta en övergång till civil produktion genom att binda upp sig att köpa de samhällsnyttig produkter som industrierna åläggs att tillverka. För de som ryggar tillbaka vid tanken på den typen av statlig styrning av ekonomin bör det understrykas att staten i högsta grad styr och skapar förutsättningar för vapenindustrin idag.  

Finlands vapenexport utgjorde 0,3 % av den totala varuexporten på 51,8 miljarder euro (ca 518 miljarder kronor), och bara 0,06 % av landets BNP på 216 miljarder euro (ca 2160 miljarder kronor) år 2016. Som måttstock kan användas Sveriges vapenexport som samma år utgjorde 0,8 % landets totala varuexport på 1295,3 miljarder kronor. Tar man i beaktande vapenexportens betydelse för BNP och utrikeshandeln, skulle en omorganisering av vapenindustrin vara lättare genomförbar i Finland än i Sverige. Finland har tidigare varit i täten inom telekommunikation och IKT (informations- och kommunikationsteknik). Ett alternativ är att de resurser vapenindustrin lägger beslag på, inte minst de mänskliga resurserna i form av ingenjörer med mera, med fördel kunde omdirigeras till att återuppbygga telekommunikation och IKT- industrin. Cleantech är också en sektor som växer kraftig i Finland, vilken skulle gynnas av det tekniska kunnandet inom vapenindustrin. Ett exempel på växande företag är Visedo AB, som nära till fördubblat sin omsättning varje år sedan 2013. Visedo AB arbetar med att elektrifiera bland annat båtar och anläggningsmaskiner, och bidrar således med ekologiskt hållbara lösningar för transportindustrin. Näringslivets forskningsinstitut har dock uttryckt oro för att Cleantech-företagen inte får tillräckligt med finansiellt stöd, varpå de riskerar att förlora mark i den globala konkurrensen. Ett fokus på nyskapande teknologi och innovationer inom dessa framtidsbranscher skulle i det långa loppet kunna hjälpa Finland mer än vapenexporten. Det stöd som går till att främja vapenexport skulle kunna fokuseras på att stödja små och medelstora företag som arbetar inom IKT eller Cleantech. Sådant stöd skulle kunna ge företagen möjligheten att växa sig större, anställa fler, och på sikt minska arbetslösheten som ligger på höga 8,8 %.

Vid en granskning av den årliga försvarsbudgeten framkommer att ca 483 milj. euro (ca 4,8 miljarder kronor) av den totala försvarsbudgeten på ca 2870 milj. euro (ca 29 miljarder kronor), går till inköp av nytt krigsmateriel. Av Patrias omsättning på 489,9 miljoner euro (ca 4,9 miljarder kronor) år 2016 utgjordes 41 % av försäljning och vinster i utlandet (i detta ingår även reparation och service av tidigare sålda produkter). För att hjälpa företaget re-branda sig kunde staten använda en del av sin försvarsbudget för att hjälpa Patrias omställning av vapenproduktionen. Som första steg kan den produktion som är riktad till Mellanöstern ställas om, och då detta visar sig lönsamt kan större delar av produktionen ställas om.

Således kan Finland rikta kunskapen inom vapenindustrin, som för tillfället skapar mycket moralisk barlast i utbyte mot liten ekonomisk nytta, till industrisektorer som bidrar till en hållbar utveckling samt långsiktig ekonomisk tillväxt – utan den moraliska barlasten. Den oroväckande trenden med ökad export till tvivelaktiga länder bör brytas och förändras nu då vapenexporten ännu utgör en liten andel av landets BNP. Det finns alltså bra möjligheter och politiskt manövreringsutrymme att ställa om vapenproduktionen. Beslutsfattarna borde inse hur ett fokus på framtidsbranscher kan komma  att bära mer frukt och bidra till bättre säkerhet än vad vapenexporten kan göra.

Konsten att smyga in högre försvarsutgifter

Av Salvador Perez


Den 7 november förra året tillkännagav regeringen att Sverige har för avsikt att köpa det amerikanska luftvärnssystemet Patriot. Efter tillkännagivandet riktades kritik mot att valet föll på Patriot. En del av kritiken handlade om att regeringen inte bör köpa ett system från ett amerikanskt företag, Raytheon, som är djupt involverade i utveckling och modernisering av USA:s kärnvapenarsenal. En annan del av kritiken handlade om att regeringen i första hand valt Patriot för att knyta närmare relationer med USA och, framförallt, Nato. Som helhet var kritiken mot Patriot viktig och korrekt. Däremot saknades en annan, minst lika viktig, analys: vad Patriot kan komma att innebära för försvarsutgifterna.

Direkt efter regeringens tillkännagivande kunde vi på flera håll läsa om försvarsminister Peter Hultqvists oro över att “det nya försvarssystemet kan bli en gökunge som tränger undan annan försvarsverksamhet.” I en ledare i Wermlands Nya Tidning stod det att Patriot “kommer att kosta en hel del, och därför måste regeringen också skjuta till de extramiljarder som krävs för att inte övriga försvarsbudgeten skall undergrävas.” I Expressen argumenterades det för att “Hultqvist behöver leverera ännu en sak – nya stålar” och på ledarplats i Dagens Nyheter stod, i ett resonemang som liknar de ovan: “Försvarsbudgeten ligger kvar på miserabla 1 procent av BNP. Natos mål till 2024 på 2 procent är rimligt. Där borde också Sverige landa.

Jag menar att köpet av Patriot mycket väl kan ses som ett sätt att, ytterligare, låsa in försvaret i en position av underfinansiering inför nästa överenskommelse om försvaret eller inför nästa planerade försvarsbeslut. Centralt för den analysen är att försvaret redan står inför andra omfattande inköp, bland annat nya Jas Gripen och ubåtar. Det är mycket möjligt att de politiska partier och andra intressenter som ställer sig bakom för växande försvarsanslag, i och med köpet av Patriot och andra system, skapar en situation där de kan peka på att försvaret har köpt in system som inte kan användas till fullo för att försvaret saknar ekonomiska medel. I samma veva kan samma krafter, som vanligt, argumentera för att försvaret, även med de nya systemen på ingång eller på plats, inte kan “försvara hela Sverige.”

Låter det konspiratoriskt? I början på december förra året, alltså en månad efter tillkännagivandet om Patriot och i tid för att sätta tonen inför rikskonferensen Folk och Försvar i Sälen, kunde vi i Svenska Dagbladet läsa om att överbefälhavare Micael Bydén kräver mer pengar till försvaret. I artikeln kunde vi läsa: “Nya Gripenplan och nya ubåtar äter upp hälften av det utrymme som finns och det blir inte mycket kvar till annat. Inte minst som det nu även blir ett mångmiljardköp av nytt medelräckviddigt luftvärn. I slutet av januari rapporterade Sveriges Radio att FMV, det vill säga den myndighet som fått i uppdrag att förbereda köpet av Patriot, begärt in en offert som kan innebära att köpet går på så mycket som 25 miljarder kronor – det vill säga mer än dubbel så mycket som de 10 miljarder som tidigare angetts.

Förespråkare för högre försvarsutgifter brukar peka på att det just nu råder samstämmighet i riksdagen om att försvaret behöver stärkas. Därutöver tävlar riksdagspartierna över hela den politiska skalan om att visa handlingskraft och bygga trovärdighet i försvarsfrågan. Ett sätt att göra just det är att, i utspel, närmast buda om hur mycket mer pengar försvaret borde få. Riksdagspartierna har, mer eller mindre unisont, ställt sig bakom en beskrivning av det säkerhetspolitiska läget som kräver att Sverige rustar upp försvaret. Mediedebatten kretsar också kring hoten mot Sverige, vilket gör sitt för att driva på folkopinionen för ett starkare försvar.

Det som äger rum i och med köpet av Patriot och andra plattformar till försvaret kan mycket väl ses som att riksdagspartierna och andra intressenter med inflytande i detta politikområde försäkrar sig om mer anslag oavsett hur folkopinionen ser ut inför nästa förvarsbeslut om några år. Därför att något att hålla i minnet är att folkopinionen kan skifta. Om så sker förändras också den demokratiska legitimiteten för ytterligare anslag. Något som kan påverka folkopinionen är en förändring i ekonomin eller, med andra ord, konjunkturen. Det är inte osannolikt att skattebetalares vilja att lägga mer offentliga medel på att upprätthålla och köpa in fler plattformar till försvaret kan förändras vid en allvarlig lågkonjunktur utlöst av bolånebubblan.

I händelse av ett sådant läge kan aktörer som vill ha högre försvarsanslag, till exempel den inhemska och/eller internationella försvarsindustrin från vilken försvaret och därmed staten (alltså vi skattebetalare) köper materiel effektivt argumentera för att försvaret inte kan ha nya toppmoderna stridsflygplan, ubåtar eller luftvärnssystem som inte kan användas fullt ut (vara fullt operativa) för att försvarets ekonomi är begränsad. I det läget kan det mer eller mindre vara öppet mål för dessa aktörer att trycka på för högre försvarsanslag för att Patriot eller andra projekt inte ska “tränga ut andra viktiga saker” eller “ordinarie försvarsverksamhet.” En talande fundering som uttrycks i Sveriges Radio om Patriot  är: “får man råd med nya sockor?”

För de aktörer som arbetar för fred är det viktigt att hålla ett öga på hur inköp som Patriot kan komma att påverka försvarsutgifterna på kort och lång sikt. Liksom Sverige  rör sig många EU-länder mot högre försvarsutgifter. Också EU-projektet militariseras. Mot bakgrund i en gemensam fiendebild av Ryssland läggs grunden för en samhällsfarlig dynamik där ökade försvarsutgifter och militarisering riskerar att tränga ut satsningar på välfärden. Det är angeläget för aktörer som jobbar för fred att ställa satsningar på vapenskrammel mot satsningar på samhällsbyggande. För nödvändig ekologisk och social samhällsomställning behövs koalitioner mellan sociala rörelser och organisationer.

Texten bygger på och är en uppdaterad version av ett debattinlägg i Miljömagasinet nr 1, 2018.

Fredsrörelsen – en maktspelare i egen rätt?

Sista samtalet i panelserien “Att rekonstruera fred – samtal kring nya perspektiv på fred, säkerhet och framtidens fredsrörelse”

Den säkerhetspolitiska debatten äger inte rum i ett vakuum utan påverkas av vilken världsbild som förmedlas av olika samhällsinstitutioner såsom universitet, tankesmedjor och media. Inom dessa institutioner pågår en ständig maktkamp mellan olika aktörer och intressen som kämpar för att rama in världen i enlighet med sina ideologiska övertygelser. Kännetecknande för en demokratisk samhällsdebatt är pluralism – närvaron av olika röster och perspektiv – men frågan är hur pluralistisk den säkerhetspolitiska debatten är i Sverige idag. Hur påverkas fredsrörelsens arbete av maktspelet inom media och i hur stor utsträckning måste fredsrörelsen förhålla sig till antaganden som att upprustning är nödvändig, Ryssland är ett reellt hot eller att svensk neutralitet är beroende av svensk vapenexport? Att fredsrörelsen arbetar mot vapenexport, kärnvapen och upprustning är förmodligen vida känt men vilka visioner arbetar man för? Parallellt med vad som skulle kunna beskrivas som ett demokratiskt underskott i den säkerhetspolitiska debatten har fredsrörelsen svårt att locka till sig unga människor och profilera sig på ett sätt som får genomslag utanför fredsaktivisternas kretsar. Hur kan en modern fredsrörelse förena strategi och vision och hävda sin röst i mediebruset?


Lars Ingelstam, akademiker och aktiv debattör inom samhälls- och säkerhetsfrågor

Jonathan Feldman, docent i ekonomisk historia på Stockholms universitet


Micaela Wannefors, ordförande SCISER


Stockholms Fredsförening

Stockholms Centrum för Internationell Social och Ekonomisk Rekonstruktion (SCISER)

ABF Stockholm

Datum och tid: Torsdagen den 25e januari kl. 17:30 – 19:00

Lokal: Sveavägen 41, ABF – Palmesalen


17:30 – 18:00 Introduktion och paneldeltagarnas presentationer

18:00 – 18:30 Modererad paneldiskussion

18:30 – 19:00 Q&A

OBS! Panelen kommer att föras på både svenska och engelska

Fri entré, obligatorisk anmälan görs via denna länk:

Länk till Facebookevenemanget 

Seymour Melman and the New American Revolution: A Reconstructionist Alternative

By Jonathan Feldman


On December 30, 1917 Seymour Melman was born in New York City. The 100th anniversary of his birth helps bring his intellectual legacy into focus. Melman was the most significant reconstructionist thinker of the 20th Century, championing alternatives to militarism, capitalism, and social decay by advancing a systematic counter-planning program for disarmament and economic democracy. His legacy remains of critical importance because today the United States is currently a society in which the economic, political and cultural systems are spiraling into an abyss. Economic and social reconstruction is the idea that planned alternatives to the incumbent mechanisms for organizing economic, political and cultural power exist in alternative institutional designs and matching systems to extend these designs.

The economic realities are well-known, defined by an economic system in which the richest 1% of the population controlled 38.6% of the nation’s wealth in 2016 according to the Federal Reserve. The bottom 90% controlled only 22.8% of the wealth. This wealth concentration is well-known and is linked to financialization of the U.S. economy which is matched by deindustrialization and the decline of the “real economy.” Melman analyzed this problem tied to Wall Street hegemony and managerial attacks on worker’s power in his classic 1983 study Profits without Production. Here Melman illustrated how profits –and thus power—could be accumulated despite the decline of industrial work and manufacturing. In fact, the rise in administrative overheads associated with the over-extension of managerial power actually helped reduce both the competiveness and competence of U.S. firms.

In politics, the Republican Party has emerged as a Trojan Horse society, helping to defund the welfare state and advancing the aims of the predatory warfare state. The 2018 defense bill signed by President Trump allotted about $634 billion for core Pentagon operations and allotted an addition $66 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. More money was available for troops, jet fighters, ships and other weapons, even though there are millions of U.S. citizens living in poverty (40.6 million in 2016). Melman addressed the problem of the enduring post-war militarism of the U.S. in perhaps his most famous book, The Permanent War Economy, first published in 1974. The subheading of that book was “American Capitalism in Decline.” This economy emerged as way to consolidate the military largess bestowed on aerospace, communications, electronics and other war-serving industries, not to mention universities, military bases and associated institutions serving the military economy. This corporatist system, linking the state, corporations, trade unions and other actors was described by Melman in Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War, a 1971 book which showed how the state was the top manager who used its procurement and managerial power to direct these various “sub-managements.”

In culture, we see the reign of post-truth politics, in which politicians knowingly lie in order to advance political objectives and ideology makes facts irrelevant. A report by David Leonhardt and colleagues in The New York Times found that “in his first 10 months, Trump told nearly six times as many falsehoods as Obama did during his entire presidency.” The problem, however, is that the underlying system of U.S. governance has been based on many bipartisan myths. Melman’s career was based on trying to uncover such myths.

One such myth embraced by both the Republican and Democratic Parties was the idea that military power can be used without any limits. In Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. tried to defeat guerilla operations in which the opposing military was embedded in civilian zones. Attacking such areas deflated the U.S. military’s legitimacy with the projection of military power undermining U.S. political power in the region being attacked. In Vietnam, the U.S. lost politically and a backlash against that war triggered a domestic revolt. In Iraq, the toppling of Hussein pushed Iraq into the Iranian orbit, a country which is nominally a principal adversary of U.S. elites. In Afghanistan, the U.S. continues to fight its longest war with thousands dead and “no end in sight.” When it comes to terrorism, Melman saw terrorist actions as tied to alienation, individuals cut off and remote from social integration. Clearly social inclusion could remedy such a situation, but economic decline and an absence of solidarity simply compounded terrorist threats (whatever the diverse origins).

Another key myth was the ability to organize and sustain a “post-industrial society.” A report in Industry Week (August 21, 2014) noted that between 2001 and 2010, the U.S. economy shed 33% of its manufacturing jobs (about 5.8 million), which represented a 42% decline when controlling for the increase in the workforce. After controlling for increased in the working-age population during this period, Germany lost only 11% of its manufacturing jobs. While scholars debate whether trade or automation and productivity is more significant in causing such job loss, automation in a nation state serving to protect the domestic organization of work will clearly preserve more manufacturing jobs than others. In fact, the integration of automation and cooperative workforces can preserve jobs, a point made by Melman in his last great work, After Capitalism: From Managerialism to Workplace Democracy. Melman’s support for the domestic anchoring of jobs through proactive investments in civilian infrastructure including sustainable forms of alternative energy and mass transportation also belied the associated myths of globalization and free markets—both of which failed to automatically yield a proactive welfare state responsive to maintaining full and sustainable employment.

Alternatives to a Society Spiraling into Abyss


Melman believe in a revolution in thinking and acting centered on the reorganization of economic life and the nation’s security system. He believed the core alternative to economic decline was the democratic organization of workplaces. He favored the Mondragon Industrial Cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain as the exemplary model for such an alternative. These cooperatives went beyond the small scale, and potentially vulnerable, stand-alone “socialism in one firm” model of local cooperative enterprise. Mondragon has networks diversified lines of businesses, not only creating a more resilient system in the face of reduced demand in particular sectors, but also promoting the potential for job ladders such that workers could be more easily transferred from one job to another when job loss struck. Mondragon combines a technical university, development bank and cooperatives in one integrated system.

Melman believed that both political and economic decline could be reversed by vastly scaling back the U.S. military budget which represented a gigantic opportunity cost to the national economy. The other side of the $1 trillion military budget was a vast development fund which Melman believed could be used to modernize the U.S.’s energy and transportation infrastructure and reinvest in other areas of economic decay self-evident in collapsing bridges, polluted waterways, and congested transit systems. He linked urban under-development and deficits in ecological remediation to wasteful military budgets.

The program for demilitarization required four key elements, outlined by Melman in The Demilitarized Society: Disarmament and Conversion. First, he championed a comprehensive program for general and complete disarmament (GCD) in multi-lateral disarmament treaties of the sort favored by President John F. Kennedy and described in his famous June 10, 1963 American University address. Rather than have so-called “rogue states” disarm, all nations would coordinate their military budget and military power projection systems. In contrast to proliferation reduction strategies which beg the question as to why countries like North Korea would pursue nuclear weapons (to defend against a U.S. military attack). This was a program for not only nuclear but also conventional weapons reductions.

Second, disarmament treaties would be linked to a program of military budget reductions and alternative civilian investments. These reductions could pay for needed infrastructure improvements, including the need to rebuild mass transit and energy systems, a theme taken up by Brian D’Agostino and Jon Rynn in a series of studies. Alternative government investments in needed civilian areas could provide the alternative markets needed to help transition military-serving investments into more useful civilian activity.

Third, the conversion of military factories, bases, laboratories and affiliated institutions like universities could provide a way to recoup wasted resources and provide a security system for those threatened by military budget reductions. Conversion involved advanced planning and reorganizing workers, engineers, managers and technology. For example, at one point in the post-Vietnam War era, the Boeing-Vertol company (which made helicopters used in the Vietnam War) successfully produced subway cars used by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).

Finally, disarmament would also have to provide for an alternative security system which would maintain security even during a period of declining global military spending. Melman supported a kind of international police force useful in peacekeeping and related missions. He recognized that the multi-year disarmament process would still leave in place defensive systems as more offensive systems were initially scaled back. Melman recognized that Britain’s unilateral disarmament campaigns were political fiascos which made the left an easy political prey to the political right. In contrast, the GCD approach still left room for comprehensive cutbacks without the political fallout associated with claims that states were left vulnerable to attack. Verification and inspection systems would insure that cuts could be made safety and any cheating could be detecting by states attempting to conceal weapons systems.

Ideology and the Power to Plan


Where did the power come from to demilitarize the economy and change the degenerate state? Melman believed that workers’ own self-organization through cooperatives provided an essential mechanism to create the primitive accumulation of economic power which would have a significant political spin-off effect. He believed that once cooperatives reached a certain scale they would act as a kind of lobbying system to redirect the political culture to more productive and sustainable pursuits as opposed to predatory, militaristic and ecocidal ones.

The biggest obstacle to economic and political democracy lay not in technical or economic barriers, however. In a series of studies published in the 1950s, like Dynamic Factors in Industrial Productivity and Decision-Making and Productivity, Melman showed how cooperative firms could actually be more productive and efficient than normal capitalist enterprises. One reason was that workers’ self-management lessened the need for costly managerial supervision. Another reason was that workers’ had direct knowledge of how to marshal and organize the shop floor, whereas managers’ knowledge was more remote and hence less operational. Workers learned by doing and had the knowledge to organize work, but an alienating system blocked such knowledge as workers were blocked from decision-making power even though workers was “responsible” for their work.

If workers could organize economic power on a grassroots level, so too could communities directly organize political power on a local level. Thus, Melman convened “The U.S. After the Cold War: Claiming the Peace Dividend,” a May 2, 1990 national town meeting in which dozens of cities rallied in face-to-face meetings to cut the military budget and invest in needed urban and ecological investments in a peace economy. Political democracy in this case was extended by a radio network broadcast over Pacifica and dozens of affiliated stations.

The key barrier to extending democracy lay in the educational system and social movements which had failed to embrace the legacy of self-management and economic democracy. Trade unions, while necessary for advancing workers’ interests, had become focused on narrow pay or social benefits schemes. They often divorced themselves from questions regarding how work was actually organized. Melman believed that peace movements, while opposing senseless wars, had “become safe for the Pentagon.” By being remote from the culture of production, they did not realize the simple fact that producing and selling weapons generates capital and power, thereby requiring more than a reactive protest system to Pentagon capital accumulation. In contrast, the founder of Mondragon, José María Arizmendiarrieta Madariaga, realized in the Nazi bombing campaign of the Spanish Republic that technology had become the source of ultimate power. The other side of Picasso’s Guernica was a system in which workers themselves could control technology for their own use, providing an alternative to capitalists and militarists monopoly over technological power.

Ultimately, through his prolific publishing career, activism with trade unions and the peace movement, and continuing dialogue with scholars and assorted intellectuals, Melman held out hope that critically informed knowledge could promote an alternative system for organizing power. Although he recognized how universities had become servants to both the Pentagon and Wall Street (and indulged in growing administrative overheads and extensions to their managerial control), Melman still clung to the belief in the power of the idea and alternative formulation to established wisdom. The Trump presidency has falsely marshalled the lessons of the U.S.’s economic and political decline. Today’s activists would be wise to embrace Melman’s ideas to fill the power vacuum in the wake of the administration’s legitimacy crisis and movement reactive malaise. “Resistance,” the movement’s hegemonic meme, is not reconstruction.


Jonathan Michael Feldman studied under Seymour Melman at Columbia University and worked with him to establish the National Commission for Economic Conversion and Disarmament in Washington, D.C. Feldman can be reached on Twitter @globalteachin.


Den svenska vapenexporten: ekonomisk lönsamhet eller moral?

Andra samtalet i panelserien “Att rekonstruera fred – samtal kring nya perspektiv på fred, säkerhet och framtidens fredsrörelse”

Den svenska fredsrörelsen har under en lång tid fokuserat på vapenhandel och vapenproduktion och dragit uppmärksamhet till det paradoxala i att Sverige betraktar sig själv som fredsmäklare men samtidigt exporterar vapen till diktaturer och länder som kränker mänskliga rättigheter. Kritiken bemöts ofta genom att hänvisa till nuvarande lagstiftning som reglerar svensk vapenexport, till Sveriges förmåga att försörja sitt eget försvar och till försvarsindustrins betydelse för svensk ekonomi. Här uppstår i regel ett dödläge mellan två olika positioner där moraliska argument i grova drag ställs mot ekonomiska. Men stämmer det att det svenska försvaret och den svenska ekonomin är beroende av vapenexport? På vilket sätt kan omställning och diversifiering av militära företag skapa en väg ut ur dödläget?

Agnes Hellström, ordförande i Svenska Freds- och Skiljedomsföreningen
Valter Mutt, riksdagsledamot och tidigare utrikespolitisk talesperson för Miljöpartiet

Salvador Perez

Stockholms Fredsförening
Stockholms Centrum för Internationell Social och Ekonomisk Rekonstruktion (SCISER)
ABF Stockholm

Datum och tid: torsdagen den 30e november kl. 17:30 – 19:00
Lokal: Sveavägen 41, ABF – Palmesalen

17:30 – 18:00 Introduktion och paneldeltagarnas presentationer
18:00 – 18:30 Modererad paneldiskussion
18:30 – 19:00 Q&A

Fri entré, obligatorisk anmälan görs via denna länk:

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Dagens hotbilder: från Ryssland till klimathotet

Första samtalet i panelserien “Att rekonstruera fred – samtal kring nya perspektiv på fred, säkerhet och framtidens fredsrörelse”

Dagens samhälle konfronteras med många problem och frågor som fordrar en stark och dynamisk fredsrörelse. Både på ett nationellt och ett internationellt plan identifieras olika typer av hot men säkerhetspolitiken präglas i stor utsträckning av hotbilder som anses kunna bemötas med enbart militära medel. Vilken påverkan har det på hur vi pratar om fred, konflikt och säkerhet? I den mediala och politiska debatten ägnas Ryssland stor uppmärksamhet och det sätts en stor tilltro till att Nato och andra militära samarbeten ska bidra till en säkrare omvärld. Samtidigt blir klimatförändringarna allt påtagligare även här i Europa. Inom den akademiska världen har begreppet mänsklig säkerhet delvis fått stå som symbol för en mer genomgripande syn på säkerhet som inte enbart fokuserar på militära aspekter. Med det som bakgrund – vad innebär det att vara en opinionsbildare inom fredsfrågor idag? Är det möjligt att föra en säkerhetspolitisk debatt utan att koppla samman fredsfrågor och miljöfrågor?

Johan Hassel, ordförande Global Utmaning
Jaime Gomez, Utrikespolitiskt talesperson FI

Micaela Wannefors, ordförande SCISER

Stockholms Fredsförening
Stockholms Centrum för Internationell Social och Ekonomisk Rekonstruktion (SCISER)
ABF Stockholm

Datum och tid: torsdagen den 26 oktober kl. 17:30 – 19:00
Plats: Sveavägen 41, ABF-Hedénsalen

17:30 – 18:00 Introduktion och paneldeltagarnas presentationer
18:00 – 18:30 Modererad paneldiskussion
18:30 – 19:00 Q&A

Fri entré, men anmälan är obligatorisk och görs via denna länk:

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