Thursday, February 17, 2011

The crisis of Social Democracy in Scandinavia

The Swedish Social Democrats are currently in disarray. A party that alone held power virtually uninterrupted for most of the 20th century currently only has support of about 25-28% of voters.

I am not going to offer them advice how to recover, since I am their ideological opponent, and I myself would never trust advice from my ideological opponents to be in my best interest.

Most of the explanations offered for the meltdown relies on uniquely Swedish events and recent phenomenon. However the exact same thing happened in Denmark and Norway. Moreover, the Swedish Social Democrats have been slowly declining for decades, which was obscured by a couple of odd victories following the 1990s financial crisis. So most likely the explanation for the decline has a systematic component and is common to all three Scandinavian countries.

One explanation is reduced class-consciousness among the working class, who are also becoming a smaller share of the population. There is not much the Labour parties can do about this.

Another explanation is resistance of working class voters to immigration. The Scandinavian working class have been hit hardest by the adverse impact of non-western immigration.

* First, working class neighborhoods have turned into ghettos, forcing them to either move out or live with high crime, troubled schools and other negative social externalities.

* Second, unskilled immigrants put downward pressure on wages and employment.

* Third, immigration costs billions of dollars, which means less money over to welfare state services.

* Lastly, the immigrants don't have Lutheran work ethics and strong social pressure not to abuse the welfare state like the Scandinavians. Many non-western immigrants take full advantage of all the generous benefits, and some cheat if they can. This behavior has forced the Scandinavians to make social insurance payments less generous for everybody, and to introduce harsher controls. The unintended consequence is that a 55 year old Swedish working class women with health problems cannot get early retirement as easily as she could in 1985, because the system has become less trusting to everyone due to abuse.

Working class voters are also less likely to benefit from immigration in the form of cheaper services (working class Scandinavians cannot afford maids), and unlike the middle class they don't even pretend to enjoy Iraqi and Albanian cultural expressions.

Instead of reforming policies, the reaction of the Social Democrats to failed integration has been to ratcheted up pro-immigration propaganda. As a consequence, many of the working class feel abandoned by the Social Democrats, and are in turn abandoning them in favor of populist anti-immigration parties.

These graphs illustrate the development since the start of the Era of Social Democratic Dominance in 1936.

In Denmark the Social Democrats are expected to make a come-back in the next election. This lends support to my hypothesis, since the Danish Social Democrats have gone the furthest in giving up on multiculturalism and mass-immigration.


  1. The Social Democrats are losing voters in Finland, too. One rarely discussed reason for this is that their supporters are, on average, rather old, which means that during the four years between elections lots of them die, and the party is unable to recruit new, younger voters. It is estimated that 40,000-50,000 people who voted the Social Democrats in the 2007 parliamentary elections will have died before the April 2011 elections. In 2007, they got a total of 594,000 votes. I would think that the situation is not entirely dissimilar in Scandinavia.

  2. Good for Sweden. I'm not Swedish, nor do I have substantial ancestry from that area, but I'm happy that they're awakening and starting to demand leadership that will help maintain their demographic hegemony over their own real estate. An elite that seeks to elect a new people is an abomination.

  3. yes jlovborg same thing here, the Social Democrats are turning into a dinosaur party, with their strongest support among shrinking groups (such as small towns in the north). The only growing electoral segment are non-western immigrants, who strongly support the Social Democrats. Of course things can change quickly, a party can always come back by changing its strategy or even leadership.

    The only part of the left whose voters still have energy are the Green. Many middle-class Swedes are best described as left-libertarian, and are thus attracted by the SWPL identity-politics of Green party.

    The Green support open borders combined with expanding the welfare state.

  4. This phenomenon has been understood for a long time over here in Austria.

    Jörg Haider was a political entrepreneur who understood this potential earlier than others.

    He actually managed to cannibalize both, the social democrats as well as the christian democrats at the same time, which eventually lead to a clash and a split of his Freedom Party. There are now two right wing parties in Austria. The Freedom Party used to be libertarian on economic issues in the 80ies. It inherited the working class vote and got to be more pro welfare state populist than the social democrats themselves.
    The other party, the BZÖ (Alliance for the Future of Austria) is fiscally conservative, neoliberal and bourgeois.

    Election results in federal elections:

    But the German social democrats are struggling to, even without a right wing working class competition.

    The German political scientist Franz Walter has analyzed this in detail. The working class has shrunk. A significant portion of the social democratic base and especially among the upper ranks of the party are actually university educated white collar types whose parents and grand-parents used to be working class. This new left-bourgeoisie nevertheless identifies with the proletariat in some sentimental way and absurdly liken themselves to be anti-bourgeois.

    Even though the Austrian Social Democratic leadership understands all of this, they haven't been able to figure a way out of their dire situation. They have to triangulate between their immigrant base, their anti-immigrant working class base (including working class pensioners) and the left-liberal middle class. Whatever they do, a majority of their own voters will be pissed off.

    There is also a decline in the quality of leadership and intellectualism. Capable people who want to pursue a political career and intellectuals can see the writing on the wall and choose to stay away from this sinking ship.

  5. 1. Thanks for the reference to Franz Walter, I will look him up.

    2. "He actually managed to cannibalize both"

    Yes the same thing is happening in Sweden.

    3. It is very hard for me to sympathies with Jörg Haider.

    You can be opposed to non-western immigration for two reasons:

    One is that you rationally conclude that continued mass migration it is not in the best interests of current citizens, including the best interest of immigrant citizen. After decades of failed integration, There is a lot of hard evidence that could lead non-racist people to this conclusion.

    Another is that you are in fact racist, and irrationally dislike people from other races and ethnicities.

    Heider's strange statements about Nazism and his friendship with anti-Semitic Arab leaders makes me suspect him of having been in the second racist category.

  6. Haider was mostly a narcissist who wanted to be at the center of attention and assume the role of Robin Hood. It is difficult to ascertain what he actually believed because he changed his position on almost all issues multiple times, promised different things to different audiences, while always managing to appear principled and steadfast to his many admirers.

    Probably the only political idea which truly concerned him was to dismantle the entrenched two party proportional system in Austria. Austria used to be run like a big city machine in the US, only with two parties. Party membership was obligatory. Many Austrians were members of both mainstream parties just to be sure.

    Haider was on TV almost constantly from the late 80ies to the early Aughts and constantly gave interviews and speeches. Out of his enormous body of statements only a couple could be interpreted as sympathy for Nazi ideology or revisionism and half of those are out of context. To use these statements to characterize him is misleading.

    I used to vehemently oppose Jörg Haider because I feared that he would be an authoritarian Putin type leader who would oppress dissidents and critical journalists. He gave every impression that this was how he intended to govern. I was amazed when he chickened out when it would have been his chance to get into power (in 2000). I had been fooled by one of his many pretend personas.

    His ideology free yuppie acolytes let the christian democrats run the show and only cared about lining their own pockets.

    Immigration, which had come to a halt during the late 90ies, soared again and reached record levels while the center-right coalition was in power.

    So the correct answer to your question 3 (racist vs. responsibly concerned about immigration) is "none of the above".


    If you understand spoken German, you could listen to the presentation Franz Walter gave about his thesis in the Kreisky Forum:
    He is an entertaining speaker.

  7. This is a fantastic post. It seems the policies of the Social Democrats have been chipping away at Swedish solidarity. This is very bad for native Swedes and their unique socio-economic system.

    Your post supports my assumption that homogeneity-reducing immigration policy is bad for social democracy. As Robert Putnam put it, people in diverse societies "hunker down."

  8. ***You can be opposed to non-western immigration for two reasons***

    I wonder how many politicians don't oppose it because they fear being placed in the second category.


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