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BayCityProgressive Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-18-07 11:16 PM
Original message
Is Sweden Socialist?
Edited on Sun Feb-18-07 11:18 PM by BayCityProgressive
I have seen lots of debate on the left over whether or not Sweden is socialist. When I think of socialism, I think democracy, human rights, eradication of poverty, running the economy for people, and environmental protection.Sweden definately has the most most extensive welfare state in the world. Universal healthcare, non-profit hospitals, social security, free education, and all kinds of other perks like allowances for students. They also, have had a very left wing foreign policy. Their focus at the UN has been to stop arms deals and proliferation and highlight human rights abuses.They have supported national liberation movements like the liberation movement in Vietnam and the ANC in South Africa. The country was nuetral in the Cold War. Over 80% of workers are members of labor unions. They also have one of the most egalitarian income distributions in the world, almost everyone is middle class. This is due to very high and progressive taxation.

The only argument I ever see for Sweden not being socialist is that most business is in private hands (although some is publicly owned). I don't really buy this. Every business in Sweden has to allow 2 workers on their executive board to watch for worker's interests. They also have so many pro-labor laws and regulations that you have to wonder if many companies are private in name only. Sure, a person can start or buy out one of these businesses...but in most ways the state dictates how they are run. I would agree that Sweden isn't completely socialist, but I do think they definately have a socialist orientation and are moving in that direction. The Social Democrats and Left Party have governed the country almost without interuption since World War 2. Even the "right wing" parties are probably to the left of our democrats.
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MannyGoldstein Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-18-07 11:27 PM
Response to Original message
1. Define Socialist
I don't think that you can say that a country is, or is not, socialist - rather, I believe that they lie on a spectrum. Sweden is more socialistic, the US is less.

As to the Swedish Right being to the left of our "Democrats" - EISENHOWER, a Republican President, was far to the left of today's "Democrats"!
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IntravenousDemilo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-18-07 11:39 PM
Response to Original message
2. The Swedes have realized that capitalism is good only if it's properly regulated.
BTW, here in Canada, even OUR Conservative party is to the left of the Democratic party, and we can in no way be considered socialist, no matter what O'Reilly and Buchanan say.

The US is just unrelievedly right-wing in general, that's all, and what would be considered "socialist" in the States is only seen to be that way through a filter of unrestrained capitalism, and that paradigm doesn't work with the other 5.7 billion people in the world. In most places, "liberal" is considered moderate, but not in the US, where any political thought that is to the left of Attila the Hun is considered dangerously communistic.

So to answer your question, yes, in the American political spectrum, Sweden would be considered "socialist", but not really anywhere else. And we non-Americans outnumber you, so you really should be following our model.
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1932 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-18-07 11:52 PM
Response to Original message
3. Socialism has nothing to do with state ownership of the means of production
It's communism that includes the idea that the economy should be centrally controlled by the government, which owns all the means of production.

And sweden is not communist.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 06:08 AM
Response to Reply #3
8. Yes it does
OED: A theory or policy of social organization which aims at or advocates the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, property, etc., by the community as a whole, and their administration or distribution in the interests of all.

Chambers: a political doctrine or system which aims to create a classless society by removing the nation's wealth (land, industries, transport systems, etc) out of private and into public hands.

Merriam-Webster: 1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

Or see: http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=define%3Asociali...
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deutsey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 08:28 AM
Response to Reply #8
11. There is "Democratic Socialism"
Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democraticallyto meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.

http://www.dsausa.org/dsa.html
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1932 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 08:54 AM
Response to Reply #8
13. Take a close look at the definitions
and the part you left out from OED.

Socialism is about regulating the unfettered marketplace. Communism is about state ownership of means of production.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 09:09 AM
Response to Reply #13
15. So although I supply copious references to public ownership of the means of production
you're still claiming it has "nothing to do with" that at all? Give me strength.

The second definition I left out from the OED: "A state of society in which things are held or used in common." What's your point?
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1932 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 09:29 AM
Response to Reply #15
16. My point is that communism's central tenet is state control & ownership of the
Edited on Mon Feb-19-07 09:52 AM by 1932
means of production.

Socialism's central tenet is that society works for the common good.

There are all shades of socialists, but, especially in Sweden and Europe, socialism isn't about ownership of the means of production.

In the original post, the poster is measuring Sweden's commitment to socialism by the one standard. It's way off the mark.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 11:07 AM
Response to Reply #16
17. I'll point you to Clause 4 of the old Labour Party constitution
"To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service" source

That's not a communist party; it's a European socialist one. Ownership of the means of production is very important to socialists - as opposed to social democrats.
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1932 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 01:53 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. "OLD" is operative word
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JVS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 02:05 PM
Response to Reply #19
21. Which means that social democrats are deviationists and not truly socialist
Edited on Mon Feb-19-07 02:05 PM by JVS
They're the DLC of the socialist movement or Socialist in name only.
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1932 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 02:32 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. No. It means that political identities and ideas about politics evolve.
Labour dropped that part of their platform when they almost completely disappeared in '83-'84. People who worked in factories didn't believe the state should own the means of production and centrally control the economy. So social democrats let communists in the UK adhere to that political belief and socialists in Europe and the UK started believing something else, which was that the government should regulate the marektplace so that very very large parts of the population can live in dignity and enjoy their one chance at life on this planet.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 03:32 PM
Response to Reply #22
24. Labour dropped it when Blair, a non-socialist, took charge in the 90s
He hates socialism. That's why he called his ideas "the third way" - neither socialist, nor conservative.

Here's what he said at the Labour 2001 conference:

Our economic and social policy today owes as much to the liberal social democratic tradition of Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge as to the socialist principles of the 1945 Government.

http://www.australianpolitics.com/news/2001/01-10-02b.s...


Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge were all members of the Liberal party. In contrast, the 1945 government nationalised coal, steel, the railways, and healthcare. To Blair, socialism is nationalisation.
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JVS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 06:57 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. Yes. SPD has also dropped it since disavowing Marxism at Bad Godesberg in 1958...
and if not then, definitely by putting through the neoliberal Gerhardt Schroeder.
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JVS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 06:58 PM
Response to Reply #22
26. One man's selling out is another man's evolution
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 11:20 AM
Response to Reply #3
18. State ownership of the means of production is, in theory, a defining part of socialism
In practice, most democratic socialist countries have a mixed economy.

I would say that the Scandinavian countries are heavily influenced by socialist principles. As they are not one-party states, they are not *always* 'socialist'. Sometimes they have socialist governments and sometimes they have conservative governments. Most, I believe, have socialist governments more often than not. Their mainstream conservative parties would probably generally correspond to the Democrats in the United States; and I don't think that they ever have governments that correspond at all to American Republican governments. My knowledge may be a bit out-of-date, however.

I have not been to Sweden, but I've been to Norway a couple of times. I was very impressed by it, and referred to it as 'the land that Thatcherism forgot'.
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1932 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 02:39 PM
Response to Reply #18
23. Two books I've read recently -- Parker's Galbraith bio and Stiglitz's second
Edited on Mon Feb-19-07 02:41 PM by 1932
last book -- explain the political-economic debates over socialism vs capitalism vs communism and, unless I'm way off base, as I remember them, they both point out that communists believe that the government should centrally control the economy (and they explain how poorly that has worked, due to the fact that the decision makers in communist countries are too far removed from the marketplace to make efficient choices). They both describe socialism as being more concerned with regulating the marketplace to ensure that inequalities and exploitation can't take place. They describe capitalism as being most concerned with maximizing profits regardless of how much inequality it causes (and how much that inequality determines who has power over whom).

I'll say it again, state ownership of the means of production is the sin qua non of communism and not of socialism, especially from the mid 20th century on. Successful socialist countries today recognize that it's not the interest of the state to decide whether a factory makes shoes or soup in any given year.
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Solo_in_MD Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 12:16 AM
Response to Original message
4. They have also moved right or at least less socialist as of recent
and are triming some social programs due to cost
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intaglio Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 01:27 AM
Response to Original message
5. Sweden is Socialist - not Communist
It has heavy taxes funding pensions, health services, welfare programs, education etc
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pinto Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 01:36 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Kudos Sweden. I, for one, favor taxation to fund government support of national
health, education, welfare and safety.

:patriot:
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Toots Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 08:39 AM
Response to Reply #5
12. But after their "heavy taxes" the average person still makes more than the average American
Plus they have National Health Care and Free Public Education. Their standard of living is much higher than the USA and their education level is also much higher. When compared with the rest of the world the USA does not come in first place in very many areas...Selling implements of death and destruction we are number one though...
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 01:42 AM
Response to Original message
7. I think that to decide if you like such an arrangement or not
You would really have to live there.

It sounds so good on paper, but we are pretty enmeshed in our training as little capitalists
(even though we may think we aren't)

I lived in Norway in 1979 and never quite got over the fact that there was a state-approved brand of yogurt and a state approved brand of cheese. Whereas we had far too many choices at the local grocery store, they had far too few.

Now I wish that I had stayed there and become a citizen - but at the time various things about life there seemed stifling.
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rman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 06:21 AM
Response to Original message
9. It has socialist components
Primarily solid tax-funded social services.

In the US to the state "dictates" how corporations are run - just less so than in Sweden.
Thank heavens corporations have not yet completely been deregulated.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 06:37 AM
Response to Original message
10. It's a Democrat Socialist country
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librechik Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 09:06 AM
Response to Reply #10
14. good one--and I want everyone to respond in this way to rude folk
who demand of us liberals if we are "socialist"

I say yes, Ia am a Democrat(ic) Socialist! I believe government should run things like health care, the army (NO HALLIBURTON) and oil resources.

They hate the word "Democrat" so much that it causes them to shrivel up and blow a away--even though they were trying to insult me with a "Red Scare" term!"

They're working up to it, they almost are calling us commies again!
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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 01:57 PM
Response to Original message
20. Sweden is a social democracy, but it is also capitalistic having
a healthier economy than ours, I believe. The only thing I don't care for is that they seem to have too many government nanny laws for my liking. I like the government having social safety nets but don't care for them telling their citizens what to put into their bodies.
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-19-07 07:18 PM
Response to Original message
27. Sweden is not a socialist country. It is a social democracy with capitalism as its underpinning.
Edited on Mon Feb-19-07 07:28 PM by Selatius
Capitalism here is regulated. There is still private ownership of capital, but there are also strident regulations on what you can do to labor and what you can do to the environment. There are socialist elements in their economy as well, such as subsidized higher public education and universal health care. This would make them a mixed economy.

They may or may not be introducing more socialism into their mixed economy, but I generally avoid applying the socialist label to something that already has an apt term to describe it:

Namely, social democratic.

There has not been state-level examples in socialism in world history as far as I know. The closest example were the libertarian socialist communes that covered large swaths of the Spanish countryside during their civil war, but they were short-lived and were eventually destroyed by Franco's fascist forces.

Sweden and the US are both mixed economies. The difference is that Sweden lies closer to socialism and generally fights for its workers better than America does.

If Sweden wants to move even closer to pure socialism, then they should set up a ministry to help organize new co-op firms and buy out existing firms to be reorganized into co-ops. The size of the firm doesn't matter, although I suspect most co-ops will be relatively small, as small businesses generally are the engine of the economy. With time, more and more firms will be in the co-op sector.
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