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Sweden: Historic Vote Routs The Political Establishment
"THIS IS the most humiliating defeat ever for the economic and political establishment in Sweden," - TV political analyst K G Bergstrom.
On 14 September, history was made in Sweden. Never in an election or a referendum in this country has the distrust against the establishment and big business been so clearly expressed as in the referendum over the Economic and Monetary Union/euro.
Per Olsson, Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna, CWI - Sweden
The No victory was bigger than anyone could have expected. The majority was almost 15%.
The No vote got 56.1% compared to 41.8% for Yes.
It was workers, women and youth who overwhelmingly voted No. Over 65%, maybe 70%, of the members in the trade union federation, LO, voted No.
66% of those between 18- and 21-years voted No, and so did 58% of women. (Among men there was actually a majority for Yes.) Over 81% voted.
The tragic murder of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh had made the outcome less certain. The Yes campaign did gain from the sympathy that followed the murder but the change wasn't enough to swing the result.
The message from ordinary people to the ruling class was clear-cut - 'we do not trust you any longer'. It was a revolt particularly of the low paid.
The No campaign had a left-wing trademark. There was no major chauvinist/racist party, like Front National in France or the Danish Peoples Party.
The decisive No victory will cut across the attitudes of wait-and-see and even resignation which followed the betrayal by the trade union leadership of the council workers' strike in May.
Both this strike and the anti-war movement played an important role in shaping the attitudes before the referendum.
The outcome of the referendum is an important political and moral victory which will also have repercussions in other countries.
In both the countries where a vote has been held on the euro, the result has been No: Denmark in the year 2000 and now Sweden. It is likely that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair will cancel the plans for a referendum during the life-time of the present parliament.
JUST LAST year the Yes vote parties in Sweden gained over 80% of the votes for parliament. In this vote they got little more than 40%.
For the capitalists, it was never only a question of the euro or the krona. They saw Economic and Monetary Union membership as a way of achieving a policy "which is less socialist", in the words of the chief of Scania, Leif ...stling.
By "socialist policies" he meant "too high taxes and a too big a public sector which is not competing on the market" (Svenska Dagbladet, 4 July).
The big companies spent hundreds of millions of Swedish krona on the Yes campaign. Their cost per voter was actually higher than the money spent by George W Bush in the presidential campaign in the year 2000.
The Yes campaign had money, dominated the media and, according to their campaign chief, Birgitta Ed, had "75% of the MPs, managers and other influential organisations".
The distrust against the capitalist establishment was decisive. A No vote was a way of expressing protest against top-down rule, against broken promises and growing social inequalities.
The final result is an enormous political defeat, particularly for Social Democratic Party (SDP) prime minister Persson but also for other Yes parties, not least the Christian Democrats.
The LO leadership says they are not surprised that at least 65% of trade union members voted No. Yet they had ignored this opinion and had drawn up statements for the Yes campaign along with with private and public employers.
The official neutrality of LO was a smokescreen. If the trade unions were more democratic, then the LO leader - Wanja Lundby-Wedin - would now be well on her way to being replaced.
When people do not vote as politicians want, then the issues are said to be too "complicated". The timing was also wrong, because of the crisis in the eurozone.
But no-one can say when the economies in France or Germany will ever become an argument for Yes.
The Yes campaign further claims that the result was rooted in some kind of Swedish tradition of feeling against Europe. But that does not explain why the youngest voters, and even more the school students, are overwhelmingly on the No side.
The No vote is not a conservative "don't change anything". It is actually a cry for change, whereas the Yes vote was in favour of more of the same neo-liberal policies which we already have.
Overall, the result is a clear vote of no confidence against the whole of the EU and the EMU, which will have an effect in the whole of Europe.
This workers' victory should be used for renewed struggle against the impending spending cuts in Sweden. The coming struggles are part of the process towards forming a new mass workers' party needed for the struggle for a socialist Sweden in a socialist Europe.
In The Socialist 20 September 2003: