by A swedish kind of death
Mon May 19th, 2008 at 10:48:53 AM EST
On the Salon Socialism diary an exchange between Migeru and DoDo prompted me to look up the class background of swedish Soc Dem leaders. Here is the exchange:
However, even in Europe, the direction of socialism for step-by-step reforms through the parliamentary route, e.g. Social Democrats, historically favoured policies building up a wide middle-class. Myself, I think the self-defeating nature of this project could have been seen on the onset: the have-some will have a tendency to defend what they have, and hope they will rise further, thus a significant part will end up supporting the have-mores against the have-nones. Worse, when the party leaders themselves rise up the social ladder, there will be a tendency to view issues and weigh their importance from their current (or hoped-for even higher) position. (And to those who'd protest: a tendency of course doesn't mean that everyone is incapable of social solidarity, only that that realising [apparent] class interests is the easy route.) Thus to a large extent I view the current doldrums of the European centre-left and the plague of Third Wayism as a logical consequence of core Social Democrat strategy from at least 60, but perhaps 120 years ago.This is the elephant in the living room of left politics, isn't it? The European Social Democrat and Labour parties are morphing into social-liberal parties partly through generational replacement of the successful working-class leaders of 30 years ago with their middle-class scions.
Yet, discussing the present-day middle-class is worthwile even from a Socialist perspective. I will state an idea others indicated in a stronger way: with the collapse of the Eastern Block, the wide middle-class has "done its duty" for the upper-class, maintaining it is no longer felt as necessary: thus the wealth capture from above, thus the stagnating or reduced middle-class incomes, thus the erosion of the middle class and the growth of the new underclass: the service class.
I think it is appropriate for middle-class "liberal professionals" to be "left" but they probably shouldn't lead the left.
And here is the list:
Looking at leaders of the swedish Social Democrats the picture is more complicated then a generational shift in leadership:
Claes Emil Tholin
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1896-1907
Class background: Working class
Prime minister: No
Notes: Was a tailor. Was not elected by party congress but appointed party leader by the executive council.
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1907-1925
Prime minister: 1920, 1921-23, 1924-25
Class background: "High Bourgeoisie" ~ lower upper (father was a principal, mother was noble)
Notes: Same primary school as the king, spent his inheritance (a small fortune).
Leader for the Soc.Dems: No
Prime minister: 1925-26
Class background: Middle (father teacher, later member of parliament for the liberals)
Notes: Not really interested in party leadership, filled in after Branting died while serving. More famous as minister of foreign affairs 1932-36, 1936-39.
Per Albin Hansson
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1925-1946
Prime minister: 1932-1936, 1936-1946
Class background: Working class (father was a brick layer, mother was a domestic aid)
Notes: Fabled for keeping his working class morals, according to one tale his wife returned govermental pencils after he died (he died while serving as prime minister).
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1946-1969
Prime minister: 1946-1969
Class background: Middle (father was a teacher, mother probably homemaker)
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1969-1986
Prime minister: 1969-1976, 1982-1986
Class background: Upper (father was president of insurance company, mother noble)
Notes: Hated among much of the swedish upper class as a class traitor. Only swedish prime minister to have been murdered.
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1986-1996
Prime minister: 1986-1991, 1994-1996
Class background: Working class (single mother, textile worker)
Notes: Has after ending his political career worked for the UN as well as leading the investigatory commission after the Gothenburg riots in 2001.
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1996-2007
Prime minister: 1996-2006
Class background: Working class (father, construction worker)
Notes: Has made a much noted class journey and built his own mansion. Now well-paid consultant for private enterprise.
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 2007-
Prime minister: Not yet
Class background: Middle class
Of course, this is looking only at the person at the top, a thorough study would include at least the executive council of the soc. dem. party, but that would take quite some time.