Olaf Palme, 1964, on theory’s role in political and social change

“Politics, comrades, it is to want something. Social Democratic politics, it is to want to change because change provides promises of improvement, nourishes the imagination and energy, stimulates dreams and vision.

But naturally will must have a focus and a change must have a goal. We socialists are presumptuous enough to want something because the idea is the driving force of will, and we are bold enough to want change because change may make utopias into reality.

This is fundamental. Often we encounter the claim that ideologies are dead, that their capacity to pierce reality has decayed in withered phrases that could possibly be used to distort the perception of people, but that have lost their ability to innovate, initiate and stimulate. People rail against ideological superstition with a frenzy that would have blown Don Quixote’s mind and made his windmills leak.

To a certain extent, one can go along with this. The grandiose imaginations of the 1800s, their efforts to find a unified formula for explanation and a solution for all social problems have been corrected by an inexorable reality. Yet we are all strongly influenced by those ideologies, and we have much to learn from them. We cannot escape the allure of logic and symmetry, the thought’s stature and the imagination’s power of illumination that we encounter in their bold blueprints. We find an analysis of the social and economic conditions that remains viable to this day.

But we no longer believe in any unified theory. We cannot beat the scriptures and find absolute answers, and we experience ourselves not as participants in a destiny-bound process. There is no longer any absolute truth, but at least  two or three alternative truths, depending on the values assumed and how we interpret a complex reality. School children in communist states may rattle off quotations from Marx and Lenin with the same studious frenzy that our children recite hymn verses, and American industry associations may divulge writings that with basically the same narrow vision expound private capitalism’s gospel. For us, free debate has funneled into the place of nailed theses. Our fate is constantly asking questions and surely to try again, to doubt authority and distrust authority. Our responsibility is to deepen our knowledge, refuel independently and anchor our ideas in a personal conviction. It is perhaps less grandiose. But that is our freedom and our honor.

But the attack on ideologies is driven even further. Sometimes ideology is dismissed with a sigh of relief and deliverance. Finally, they say, we can free ourselves from “the dead hand of the past” and from “the suffocating hand of the future”. Finally, we can proceed to evaluate each issue on its own merits, for the special circumstances existing in each case.

We can be practical, realistic, and grounded. “All theory, dear friend, is grey. But the golden tree of actual life springs ever green,” we recite from Goethe’s Faust. Let us toss theory in the waste basket, let us value life.

Perhaps that can be hard hitting. I may dare to wreak havoc in response: when you remove the long direction of will provided by a foundation of theory and value engagement, you remove the emotional conviction, leaving cold, raw power and politics, as democracy fades to gray. Without theory, possibly one can make things a little better, but one can never change society. Possibly one can do something else, but one can never make something different. If you go ahead with the nose to the ground, without perspective, and without looking at a future that lasts beyond the next quarter, you can never do harm in society, and you are equally unprepared for the problems that the future offers. The historical experience clearly tells us that the ascendance of the practical man drives ideas out of the political arena, promulgating a vigorous decay of democratic policy.”

(To be continued, from P. 6 of “Politik ar att vilja” 1964.)

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The degrading dialectic of liberal toleration and conservative barbarity

“(Competitive) Games hold a special valence for Scalia; they are the space where inequality rules…(After modernism) the watermarks of privilege and privation are no longer visible to the naked eye; they must be identified, again and again, through struggle and contest. Hence the appeal of the game (which) offers the perfect marriage of the feudal and the fallible, the unequal and the unsettled” (Robin 2011: 140-141).

“‘To say that something is ‘essential,’ he writes, ‘is ordinarily to say that it is necessary to the achievement of a certain object.’ But games ‘have no object except amusement.’ Lacking an object, they have no essence. It’s thus impossible to say whether a rule is essential ‘All are arbitrary,’ he writes of the rules, ‘none is essential.’ What makes a rule a rule is either tradition or ‘in more modern times,’ the edict of an authoritative body like the PGA …”the twin poles of Scalia’s faith: a belief in rules as arbitrary impositions of power–reflecting nothing (not even the will or standing of their makers) but the flat surface of their locutionary meaning–to which we must nevertheless submit; and a belief in rules, zealously enforced, as the divining rod of our ineradicable inequality. Those who make it past these blank and barren gods are winners; everyone else is a loser” (Robin 2011: 142-143).

This is not just Scalia’s theory of rules, but the general conservative idealist theory of truth.

The sources of Scalia’s outsized influence:

1) Scalia’s self-confidence when professionally tolerated by liberal peers.

2) “he tells the power elite exactly what they want to hear: that they are superior and that they have a seat at the table because they are superior.”

3) Scalia reflects the spirit of the age.

4) “Scalia’s outsized presence in our Constitutional firmament” is enabled by “the patience and forbearance, the general decency and good manners, his liberal colleagues show him. While he rants and raves, smashing guitars and dive-bombing his enemies, they tend to respond with an indulgent shrug, a ‘that’s just Nino,’ as O’Connor was wont to say…Scalia preys on and profits from the very culture of liberalism he claims to abhor: the toleration of opposing views, the generous allowances for other people’s failings, the ‘benevolent compassion’ he derides in his golf course dissent…The conservatism of duresse oblige  depends upon the liberalism of noblesse oblige” (Robin 2011: 146-147).

From “Affirmative Action Baby,” in Robin, Corey. The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.

Another very recent example of conservative manipulation of liberal toleration for conservatism:

The British right cops to the conservative marketing ploy: “I’ve argued at the top levels of government, ‘Scrap the minimum wage.’ But then there’s a sharp intake of breath. Anything that looks like a return to the Dickensian workhouse raises hackles.

But I don’t want people working in sweatshops at 5p an hour. You should sell abolishing the minimum wage in positive terms, as providing young people with a first step on the jobs ladder, as a ‘jobs for all’ scheme.”

The uneven, degrading dialectic of liberal nicety and conservative barbarity both supports and over time erodes liberalism, which cannot say no to conservatism and its authoritarianism.

For contrast, see egaliberte, which distinguishes/discriminates and refuses, as illustrated in Janteloven (and its application in the Anders Breivik/Fjotolf Hansen case) and Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener.

It is also not to be overlooked that the liberal consensus has rarely bestowed socialism with the same indulgent tolerance it graces on conservatism. 2 cases in point: 1) In the Nordic social democracies, liberalism and socialism were in coalition, from the end of the 19th century to the early 1970s. Even there, the social democrats persecuted communists. 2) As well, the post-1956 Latin American socialist Left struggled to build a liberal-socialist alliance (see Greg Grandin’s history of Guatemala and Latin America).

Both cases are rare examples of lib-left coalition, largely shepherded by a conciliatory and pragmatic Left, and both coalitions were assailed by liberals (internationally, or in the case of Sweden, eventually domestically) who preferred to retreat into conservative barbarity–eg. the US consensus, which was wholly vicious against the 20th-21st century Latin American Enlightenment, pressing the coach drivers’ whip into conservative hands. Where Sweden, in the early 1970s, reached the endpoint of the liberal-socialist partnership–what to do with the excess profits: let capitalists keep them or socialize them?–again liberals forsook socialism and, in embracing capitalist rule, beat back a less-than-measured retreat into the arms of conservatism, recently resulting in the contradictory reification–via vilification/victimology– of immigrants, and the consequent state-sponsored gagging and shackling of labour.

I should think that liberals are not so much the avatars of toleration, as they prefer to self-proclaim, as people who are capable of recognizing a shared genealogy with the Right, as in, for example, the convergence of liberal absolute private property right with the conservative Might-Makes-Right principle. Considering that, perhaps Leftists ought to contain our celebrations of abstract toleration, and more closely attend to the contours and trajectories, the specification of tolerations. Both liberals and parts of the Left have been so proud to claim that fresh tolerations can change the course of human interests and history, if not transcend discrimination outright. Yet even “fresh” forms of toleration must always be partial politics and subject to instrumental manipulation. A cosmopolitan, multicultural embrace of immigration tends to translate directly, efficiently into the policy implementation and cultural affirmation of immigrant labour vulnerability, for example. To develop egaliberte out of a world of tyranny, we need to develop Jantelagen–boundaries on the Genius Boy–as well as the capitalist critique of Jantelagen. In capitalism, we just Let Boys Be Boys.

The (Leftist) point would then be to choose and to fight for a specified range of toleration that facilitates widespread freedoms, rather than, in social context, confers freedom upon a ‘chosen’ elite. We would foremost recognize the necessity of Left collectives within which we may sense and think together to choose key battles and strategies.  We could learn a lot from multivocal, rigorous historical research, rather than fanciful,  more-or-less authoritative narratives.

The Power and the Mediocrity of the Sign

In “What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland’s School Success,” Anu Partanen reveals capitalist Anglo-America’s elephant-in-the-room-sized blind spot, why its focus on competition and “excellence” results in diminishing performance in order to promote concentrated power and idealism.

The Finns (Per Sahlberg) on education reform that demands accountability from teachers: “There is no word for accountability in Finnish. Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.” In Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility.

The Finns (Samuli Paronen) on competition: “Real winners do not compete.” There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The driver of education policy in Finland is not competition amongst teachers and schools, policy forcing the ideal conservative conditions of bellum omnia contra omnes, but rather cooperation. School choice is not an issue, nor is putting education in the hands of the private sector and profit motive. This is in distinct contrast to America, Sahlberg observes, where “schools are a shop.”

The Finnish education reform goal was always equality and equity, never “excellence” or whatever conservative daydreams that word stands in for. “Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.” What the world dominated by conservative Anglo-american capitalist dogma still cannot face is that it is equality that most efficiently produces star performances and substantive excellence.

Tiger Moms’ genius boys in Shanghai and Singpore can put in 20-hour days of rote memorization and exhaustive cramming, and only manage to approximate in performance the Finnish children who are simply well cared for and supported by valued, independent, unionized teachers and their egalitarian society. Surely, the East Asian genius boys are better poster boys for conservative capitalist discipline; but just as surely they are inefficient…and 99% of these memorizers and crammers will never be able to write a non-plagiarized essay, that is, communicate independently, like humans can.

Why does egalitarianism more efficiently make excellence? The answer is right in front of our nose, right in front of our blind spot. It’s because in the inequality tradition, poor people are overwhelmingly, structurally prevented from attaining their human potentials, and, a factor that perversely torments conservative theorists much more, the rich enjoy the comfort of knowing that surrounded by throngs of shackled “competitors,” they can enjoy many a good old slack.

In such a conservative culture, it is the appearance and ideal of excellence that matters, because the sign unmoored is directed by and justifies power. To be chosen is a sign, necessarily imposed upon the material world. The grim “play” of signs, only ordered by the mystified, atopic distribution of power in a reified collective imagination (a world not made but given, or made by all because you cannot choose unfreely), is Anglos’ obsession, and the more people you can induce to submit to this obsession, the more human life chances are allocated by market power and the more absolutely necessary capitalism (or its feudal and slavery complements)  is for any life chance at all.

At or adhered to central nodes of global capitalist accumulation, Anglo-Americans are altogether too kind, too attentive to, too solicitous of the promotional, the unmoored sign, constantly mistaking it for the legitimate, autarkic limits of knowable (meta)reality. Our literature, for one example, is far too ready to believe that the con man is the true knower.

Distinguishing social democracy

Distinguishing social democracy:

Under left-liberal (as opposed to soc dem) regimes, organized labor does not participate in mid- to longer-range socio-economic planning. However, left think tanks can contribute mid- to long-range planning analyses.

Conversely, there are a variety of ways in which business leaders contribute to public policy formation, because business (public and private, but not cooperative) is regarded by the lib-left govt as the engine of growth.

This exclusion of cooperatives from the field of perceived contributors to growth indicates that lib-left govts may also be distinguished from social democratic govts by an assumption that growth is a product of “efficient” social-hierarchy-inflating organizational forms.

In lib-left regimes, labor views its role, and the liberal government views labor’s role as (often obstructive) ballast to economic growth initiatives that are seen as the natural concern of business. That’s labor’s negative role. It’s not a leadership role.

Labor’s positive role in capitalist democracy thus largely devolves to delivering votes to the left-liberal govt, because although the lib-left does not regard labor as a central social or economic policy resource, as opposed to conservative govts the lib-left govt will not actively try to break organized labor and it may implement those modest proposals of labor that do not impede the business-driven growth planning.

Hence, with a range of ruling (capitalist) political perspectives that always preemptively block information from labor (except what little leaks obliquely through the market), we repeatedly sink into crisis cycles–crisis of profit begets > capital deregulation and overmobilization, working class overregulation, demobilization, and dispossession beget > speculative bubbles/primitive accumulation beget > underconsumption crisis begets > further primitive accumulation, repeat. We fixate on the speculative bubbles moment in the midst of all this autistic failure, hoard wealth, and laud ourselves endlessly for being such top-notch managers and philanthropistes.

This is why for Rawlsianism to work, socialist politics and the communist horizon must be more highly valued, and even defended– by liberals.
As far as I know, this seeming impossibility has only been (temporarily) accomplished in Scandinavia and Minnesota. (While Latin America leftists tried to forge a left-lib coalition from scratch, the US destroyed this effort and enforced conservative rule in Latin America, see Greg Grandin.)

In “Right-wing Rawlsianism: A Critique” (forthcoming in Journal of Political Philosophy) Samuel Arnold argues that if liberals agree that agency is the essence of justice, then liberals have to pick which side they are on–because economic democracy fosters more agency than Trickledown provides.

Arnold’s is a clever detonation of a bridge from liberalism to conservatism, using some of the bridge-builders’ own ideal theory tools. (Particularly with respect to Rawls’ difference principle: A liberal justice-maximizing directive to choose the political-economic system that maximizes the least-advantaged group’s expectations for an index of primary goods that include income and wealth, but also status (qua capacity for agency in the workplace and self-respect in society).)

Upon deriving the optimal realization of liberal justice (agency) in workplace democracy, Arnold concludes (p. 32),

Milquetoast liberal egalitarianism is unstable: liberal egalitarianism must move far to the left in order to avoid being jerked far to the right.”

We need to keep heaping on the demonstrations that economic democracy fosters more agency than GDP/GNP tumescence.

For one example, insofar as political-economic systems can be said to have intentions, how plausible is it that capitalism does not intend to support social pathologies (Arnold, p.29)? Studies of primitive accumulation, the WEB DuBois tradition, socialist feminists, Harvey et al have a lot to say about how capitalism “intends to” (is built and maintained to) and does depend upon and support social pathologies. This approach apprehends the connection between economic (eg. workplace) tyranny and racism, sexism, colonialism, etc., for a powerpunch assertion that inequality is both fundamental to capitalism (even if it is shifted around across some social groups, over time and space) and fatally (from the perspective of justice) undermines agency (power to).

…& on the matter of historical-materialism’s putative incapacity to deal with difference (from a postmodern POV), from Arnold (p. 29):

Patriarchy, discrimination against the weak or the different, pressure to conform, and countless other social practices that prevent people from realizing their full agential potential: how long can these pathologies withstand the countervailing winds of a social democracy, with its democratic workplaces, its flattened division of labor, its robustly egalitarian public institutions?”

social progressivism and economic neo-liberalism

Sociologist John Gulick responds to an article on Japanese austerity politics:

“Also interesting here are the reform measures being backed by the international tutors of neo-liberal austerity. “Socially progressive” measures such as a more open immigration regime and a higher labor force participation rate for women are being proposed alongside the usual deregulatory, free trade, anti-welfare state nostrums. The Wall Street Journal editorial board really forces one to consider the homologies between social progressivism and economic neo-liberalism. (Yeah, these homologies will differ according to socio-cultural context.)”

My response to Aziz Rana’s nplusone article “Obama and the Closing of the American Dream” –the article claims that the American Dream has been reduced to advancement via educated professional status:

Well, I remember a study not but a few years ago that showed quite the opposite–regardless of whether their businesses survive, Americans have very little regard for education-based professional status. It’s not their dream. They just feel it’s not attainable, whereas thanks to teevee they can incredibly imagine themselves as Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Kardashiods, or a lotto winner. I don’t remember what that study was, but Michele Lamont got similar ethnography and interview data in her comparison of US v. French working class men’s attitudes.

If the American Dream is dead, it’s because we have conservative business policies in place of social democratic business-hudsbanding ALMPs and a policy bias toward quality work and full employment–and that means we have both tremendous incentives to flee a feudal labor market and a high rate of small business failure, reinforcing the options- and freedom-reducing conservative ideology benefitting the top 1% (and scattering Little King incentives below). If the Dream is dead, that’s how it died.

In other words, the causation behind the educated professional path remaining as an insufficient vehicle of social mobility–if you compare Anglosphere countries to Scandinavian countries– surely appears related to the Anglosphere’s characteristically conservative approach to managing the business and labor market policy landscape in such a way as to produce a high business failure rate and feudal workplace conditions.

If you don’t own capital, educated professional status is the one of the few strategies left that provide to the working class a hope of semi-comfort/semi-discomfort and demi-status. The other remaining strategies include patriarchal status (Perhaps that’s why so many women are getting higher ed degrees.), employment in a military, prison, or police institution, and of course deployment as a Conservative Expert or Agitator. In contrast to these latter remnant socio-economic strategies, to be an educated professional today requires enthralling levels of debt for the working class, and, often, insecure income. That debt combines with the disciplinary force of the steadily-growing army of the underemployed (and feudal workplaces); educated professionals today are thereby reduced to just another managerial (manhandling), retainer class. Being a retainer is not anyone’s dream; and it’s better to manhandle than to be manhandled, but it’s not autonomy  or any sovereignty.

Magical Rectitude:
Synthesizing observations on the coincidence of economic neoliberalism and ineffectual social progressivism, with Rana’s analysis of the educated-professional death of the American Dream, as well as observations on neoliberal adoption and diffusion in the professional sublcass

I would very much agree that educated professional status, as one of the last refuges of American-dreaming scoundrels (though it operates the same in other countries as well), requires under the circumstances a desperate careerism that causes the elaboration of both economic neo-liberalism and justificatory, superficial, myopic “social progressivism” (of the quality Nancy Fraser critiques).

The temporary neologism I’m using for this kind of neoliberal social progressivism is “magical rectitude“, because it requires professional, emotive marketing. But I’ll try to get back to Mills and see if he has a term.

I think Rana’s right in pointing out that that American Dream remnant–mobility through education and attaining professional status–when it’s all that’s actually left (aside from authoritarian employment and the reifying fantasies of winning the high-inequality society jackpot) to the working class, is part of a system of feudal social immobility and appropriation. Not least because in that very context, the activity of educated professionalism reduces to serving as either a retainer or a labor repressor/manhandler.

Today’s professionals don’t have the independence Gramsci observed in Traditional Intellectuals. Their work is subordinated to and tied up in economic neoliberalism. At the historic “neoliberal” moment Traditional Intellectuals lose all vestige of autonomy, they have to legitimize their fading middle income and status. To promote a political agenda of non sequiturs, they thus they feel compelled to marketing, to mystifying idealism, framing their captured work as though it were driven by an independent, professional, community-oriented altruistic impulse following a linear path of progress: Deunionization on behalf of the children. Labor market deregulation for the immigrants. Austerity for the immigrants and women. Academic proletarianization for the students and world’s poor. Oil imperialism for Muslim women and Arab democrats.* It’s all fairly transparent (translucent) marketing, sales on behalf of oligarchy. So today’s educated professionals appear contemptible (to the working class, to the elite, to each other) on numerous fronts, and from a social movements perspective they appear captured.

…I think, though, if you think about this sub-class and its co-dimming autonomy and status, especially compounded with its educational, etc. debts, there is a structural, material wedge between educated professionals and the 1% that can be worried to good effect. Hence, OWS.

Gulick responds:

“Degreed professionals are increasingly crowded on one side by neo-Taylorist efficiency experts, and by the cultural hegemony of the self-promotional PR/social media ethos on the other. (Mills was on to this 60 years ago, quite fabulously!) And they are both the administrators and the administered of this.”

* Managerial, professional neoliberal social progressivism has conservative coalition-building and legitimation functions. As compared to such professional neoliberal social progressivism, more properly conservative doublespeak seems to deal more in abstraction: Student debt for the principle of responsibility. Unfettered police powers for freedom. Enthralling women for freedom. No health care access for free commerce. The agenda-setting conservative abstractions are exclusionary and not designed to directly co-opt their victims, but rather to co-opt a protective layer of would-be Little Kings.

For further discussion, see:

Mills, C. Wright. 1951. White Collar: The American Middle Classes. New York: Oxford University Press.

Melville, Herman. 1857. The Confidence-Man.

Race, Militarism & Apartheid Allies

On Israel’s ideological and military support for apartheid South Africa.

Israel ousts Africans in 2018.

Israeli’s Racism “Outside of Language.”

 

The conflict between Israel and Sweden especially, though Israelis lump the Scandinavian social democracies together:

The Jerusalem Post has a whole official comms category, Racism in Sweden. It contains 14 articles dedicated to this topic. At the start of this series, it has a motivational guide for this Hasbara campaign’s participants, called Sweden and Israel: A Complex Relationship. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in the occasional corporate and social media flowering of arguments that social democrats, Swedes, and Scandinavians in general are racist Nazis, and I describe and quote it below. Israel has a massive Hasbara machine and massive motive for portraying Scandinavians as racist, reducing socialist, social democratic, Scandinavian, and especially Swedish international moral authority.

In 2016, the Jerusalem Post’s Daniel Schatz (a political scientist with successive appointments at Georgetown, Harvard and Stanford) outlined some of the features of the long-term conflict, arguing that Sweden has attempted diplomacy to reduce Israeli apartheid since Israel’s inception at the hands of the Anglo-American empire:

(A)s early as 1947…Swedish Justice Emil Sandström became chairman of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), tasked with presenting a solution to the Arab–Jewish conflict. The engagement continued in 1948 with Bernadotte’s legacy as the first UN mediator in the conflict, and Swedish diplomat Gunnar Jarring’s subsequent largely unsuccessful mission in 1967-1990 as the UN secretary general’s special envoy to the Middle East peace process. The Scandinavian country made a subsequent fruitless effort to initiate a dialogue between the US and the PLO through initiatives taken in 1988 and facilitated the so-called “Beilin- Abu Mazen Understandings” in 1994.

As the UN’s first official mediator, Folke Bernadotte had been working with the US’s Ralph Bunche, attempting to secure an Israeli-Palestine confederation, but backed by the UK, Israeli leaders rejected anything but total annihilation of the Palestinians, and the Zionist organization Lehi assassinated Bernadotte in 1948.  The assassins were not punished, and one became an Israeli Prime Minister.

Sweden’s de jure recognition of Israel was postponed until 1950 following Lehi’s assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte in Jerusalem in 1948…(But) in the two decades to come (1950-70), Stockholm came to express strong ideological sympathy for the Jewish state…the Nordic country became one of Israel’s major European supporters in the period leading up to the Six Day War.

This policy went through a radical change during the early 1970s with the rise of Swedish Socialist prime minister Olof Palme, which determined Stockholm’s position toward the Arab-Israeli conflict and its protagonists for the next quarter- century…He became the first Western prime minister to initiate direct contacts with the PLO in 1974, meeting with Yasser Arafat during a time when the organization was isolated…Stockholm soon became one of the major international supporters of PLO and was the only Western European country to vote with the Arab, Communist bloc and Third World states in support of UN General Assembly resolution 3326 (1974) and Security Council resolution 3327 (1975) which recognized Palestinian self-determination and the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians…Gradually Sweden became perceived as one of the Jewish state’s most vocal critics in Western Europe…”

You will note that Folke Bernadotte was assassinated by the Zionists in 1948.
Palme was assassinated in 1986.

Neoliberal Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson supported Israel between 1999-2000, and Persson was the first Swedish PM allowed to visit Jerusalem since 1962. Sweden facilitated two rounds of secret, high-level negotiations between Israel and Palestine in 2000. This attempt to reduce Israeli destructiveness with affirmation did not bring about any substantive difference in results, and Persson’s government was rejected by the voters for its neoliberalism.

The Swedish-Israeli rapprochement was nonetheless short-lived. Stockholm’s new minority government reverted to the Palme tradition in 2014 by becoming the first EU member state to recognize a Palestinian state, notwithstanding that some Eastern European countries had done so during the Cold War. The recognition – which in Sweden’s eyes aimed to further the peace process” added to the enmity after Sweden’s “housing minister had been arrested in 2010 by Israeli authorities as a participant in the Mavi Marmara” humanitarian aid ship that Israel attacked in international waters, killing 9 people, beating many others, and stealing personal belongings. Israeli newspaper comments sections overflowed with derisive allusions to Swedes “appeasing the Mozzis.”

In a May 18, 2015, the Jerusalem Press published an article explaining that Israel opposed socialism in Europe, on the grounds that it would interfere with apartheid and recognize Palestine. The article called for Israel to attack Sweden to discourage other “socialist” European countries from supporting Palestine–in particular its author was worried about a Labour government in the UK. The article named several peace organizations that Sweden sponsored within Palestine. In addition to the Church of Sweden sponsoring BDS (Boycott Divest Sanctions),

The Swedish government funds numerous Israeli and Palestinian NGOs through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the embassy in Tel Aviv, the representative office in Ramallah, and indirectly by outsourcing to Swedish aid organizations such as Diakonia and Kvinna till Kvinna.

In 2016 Swedish Social Democratic Foreign Minister Margot Wallström called for an investigation into Israeli sponsorship of extrajudicial killing. The Other Hot Mess of Imperialism, Israel responded to this proposal with its usual unfettered braying, bombast, threats, and strident demands to fire the offending Minister. As of 2018 Wallström is not, however, assassinated, and unlike in Anglo-America, where disloyalty to Israel is illegal, she is still able to do her work.

Unlike in Anglo-America, politicians in Sweden do not strive to outcompete each other to shove their faces under Israel’s ass. However, Israel still retains the power to oust less-central politicians in Sweden.

Social Democrats v. Fabians

Actually-existing Social Democracy:

 
 1914 Sveriges socialdemokratiska arbetareparti poster: 
“The Right’s Program is The People Under Militarism”

This is a link to Marxist.org’s August Palm (1849-1922) page. Features a biography of the Swedish father of social democracy, as well as five of Palm’s works and two photos.

August Palm

Marxists.org’s presentation of the Swedish social democratic reformist Hjalmar Branting (1860-1925).

Curiously, marxists.org features no mention of Rudolf Meidner, or even Gosta Rehn.

I think that’s because they have an implicit thesis that I’m going to counter.
(And oh yes, I am going to go all Belinda Robnett on them, and see if I can drag out the Scandinavian women bridge leaders.)

1936 Sveriges socialdemokratiska arbetareparti poster:
“Women, We Build the Future”

Fabians:

Despite the alarming paucity of Scandinavian social democrat mentions or works, there are 13 distinct (British) social democrat entries in marxists.org. Additionally, here is a link to Marxist.org’s Fabians page. No wonder Anglo-American leftists imagine that social democracy is British, with all the ineffectuality–and indistinguishability from liberalism–that implies!

The Contemporary Anglo-american “Social Democrat” View

Historian Jim Livingston identifies as a social democrat. He does not conceive of social democracy in the way that I think was originally strong in the Scandinavian tradition–where socialism or Marxism is the backbone of social democracy.

Rather, in Livingston’s view, socialism emerges from and complements capitalism. My hypothesis is that for social democratic approach to work, the social democrat cannot see socialism emerging from capitalism, but rather sees socialism historically emerging in the Enlightenment alongside the bourgeois revolution, and then being repressed by the capitalist order.

So Livingston’s not a social democrat in the way that Meidner for example was. For Meidner, markets were not an ideal distribution mechanism to be supported by socialist props; rather, social democracy is a transitional phase to be overcome. The point of a political-economy for Livingston it seems is how to get markets to work, as opposed to the more human-centered Epicurean tradition–how to allocate the flows of pleasures and pains (Marxist economists may not appreciate the hypothesis that Marx’s humanistic base cannot be jettisoned). H1: Effectively, for the Anglo-american social democrat, it comes down to the welfare of markets.

Livingston has a conception of conservatives, liberals and leftists (He cites both Obama and, by inference, American organized labor as leftist) that sees them all organically recognizing the need to embrace private investment in the mid-to-late 20th century wake of declining US-centered profits, rather than conservatives winning hegemony. Same goes with “the left’s” failure to promote a decoupling of growth & distribution.

H2:
I think, like all Anglo “social democrats,” Livingston has an ad hoc, short-range, Anglo-american-centric definition of Leftist, and does not have a valid grasp of what distinguishes the Left transhistorically. He claims that Right thought and Left thought are fluid, structureless, without boundaries. (H3: As distinct from a theory of hegemony and false consciousness.)

But he seems to be a very erudite, nimble, and thorough-going Anglo-american “socdem,” and he provides a stimulating window on a sophisticated version of that perspective. I’m interested because I think Livingston’s influences and assumptions and his formulation of social problems and issues may be quite representative (except in their erudite formulation and more complete logical-causal dissection) of the Anglo-american “social democrat” approach, and studying them is going to help me make certain categorical distinctions.

Livingston has written a highly-recommended history of the Fed (1986), and an unfriendly interpretation of American turn-of-the-20th century populism (1994).