Stockholm Riots

stockholm

Stockholm is burning

Stockholm is the only Nordic city to end up in the top ten lists of the EU’s richest regions. On ESS’s statistical list (European Statistical System, Euro stat), which is based on purchasing power-adjusted GDP since 2010, where the index is the EU average – 24 500 Euros or around 200 000 Swedish Krona – Stockholm is found in 9th place with 168 percent.

Following the same track, the Economist recently published a special report: “Special Report: The Nordic countries, Northern Lights” [i] glorifying the socio-economic solution delivered by the Swedish bourgeoisie compared to other western countries and their socio-economic managerial measures in the course of the last few decades:

“The Nordic countries are reinventing their model of capitalism… The final caveat is about learning from the Nordic example…”

This story about the Swedish miracle can be found in countless media forms and apparatus globally and regionally if you want to pursue it further. Of course the bourgeoisie internationally wants to demonstrate clearly and loudly how much it appreciates the success of its family member in dealing with the major political and economic problems of our time since the post-war reconstruction period which had sustained the cycle of capital accumulation came to an end in the 1970s. The Economist briefly views this Swedish achievement in the following terms:

“Sweden has reduced public spending as a proportion of GDP from 67% in 1993 to 49% today. It could soon have a smaller state than Britain. It has also cut the top marginal tax rate by 27 percentage points since 1983, to 57%, and scrapped a mare’s nest of taxes on property, gifts, wealth and inheritance. This year it is cutting the corporate-tax rate from 26.3% to 22%.

Sweden has also donned the golden straitjacket of fiscal orthodoxy with its pledge to produce a fiscal surplus over the economic cycle. Its public debt fell from 70% of GDP in 1993 to 37% in 2010, and its budget moved from an 11% deficit to a surplus of 0.3% over the same period. This allowed a country with a small, open economy to recover quickly from the financial storm of 2007-08. Sweden has also put its pension system on a sound foundation, replacing a defined-benefit system with a defined-contribution one and making automatic adjustments for longer life expectancy.”[ii]

The Historic Background

The difficulty the capitalist world has had in counter-acting the falling rate of profit globally since the early 1970s has appeared mainly in the shape of “the free market economy”. Thatcherism and Reaganomics, at least in the Western capitalist world, as the expression of liberalization of market forces, started to address the very basic problems or challenges within the capitalist mode of production internationally and nationally: by attempting to keep up competitiveness and profitability. The economic outcome of conducting this kind of reform, as history has proven, resulted overall in downsizing and closures in traditional and service industries.

Swedish capital, considering its size and role on the international capitalist market, had to follow the general tendency within the capitalist world, e.g. de-industrialization and so called “free market” mechanisms in its own way. After three decades of a number of continuous austerity programs, shrinking the welfare state and other socio-economic policies to deal with the problem of competitiveness and the falling rate of profitability of Swedish capital and its international activities, the outcome of this well-designed bourgeois process and its devastating effects are more concretely felt where the weakest sectors of the proletariat is organized and structured in the belly of the modern city of Stockholm: in the suburbs. Of course not all the suburbs, but those housing areas that were initially planned for sectors of working class characterized by low wages and an immigrant labor force. Suburbs such as Husby, Rinkeby, Tensta… as a part of the Million Program. [iii]These housing schemes from the 1970s were left behind in the last 3 decades of pure capitalist economic policy to improve competitiveness and maintain the profitability of capital activities.

Subsequently, the effects of decades of decline and deterioration in living standards which led to rising levels of poverty unimaginable by Swedish standards are demonstrated by:

  • A high level of unemployment: the unemployment rate has been between 27-28% for years 20011-2013, and this includes the whole youth unemployment (15-24 year olds). However when the youth with immigrant parents or background are considered and who normally live in these suburbs, the rate must be much higher than 28% (there is no specific survey data for this sector of unemployed) [iv].
  • The housing question: the same affordable housing project as the Million programs of the 1970s was never planned again in order to provide housing for the new generation of low wage workers coming from these suburbs. Furthermore, poor or non-maintenance of these suburbs plus an almost uncontrolled increase in the number of residents is another key factor in the decline in living standards for residents of these areas.
  • Unavailable or poor quality of social services: the constantly reduced service quality within education, health, social services – and culture.[v]

Thus, high unemployment for the entire labor force in these suburbs, plus the housing issue and reduced service quality has gradually transformed these workers’ residential areas since the 80s into today’s modern ghettos.

Thus we should not be surprised when residents of Husby compare the place with Afghanistan. [vi] As any youth with unemployed parents, poor educational results and coming from these suburbs [vii] must know by heart, any possibility of entering the labor market, if it is not zero is very difficult. In a society divided by insoluble contradictions of exclusion, segregation, racism and Islamism as attributes generated within the existing order, to have a normal life by having a normal job and a normal existence is an unreachable dream for the younger generation of proletarians, specially for those who are trapped in the modern ghetto structures of capitalist urban planning such Husby, Rinkeby or Rosengård in Malmö.

A Tale of Two Cities

Depending on which outlook one chooses to view from “Stockholm the capital of Scandinavia” (Stockholm Business Region Development) the pictures can be very confrontational. For the bourgeoisie, the troublemaking suburbs, such as Husby, Rinkeby, Tensta… which have been created by capitalist urban planning since the end of the 1970s, are not supposed to be considered as a part of magnificent Stockholm. Or as angry armed policeman put it, when confronting the youth riots they are places for: “rats, tramps, Negros…” [viii]

However this is a tale of a city from a capitalist point of view: where the rightwing government since 2006, and of course in continuity with the previous leftwing one, i.e. the SDP, which introduced a series of socio-economic programs or intensified already projected ones, by downsizing of welfare structures, as a general globally established procedure as a counter tendency for the falling rate of profit.

From a proletarian standpoint we can clearly observe the existing social hierarchy and a new enhanced version of capitalist class society in terms of antagonistic labor-capital relations, or antagonistic proletarian and bourgeois class structures.

In this context, the tale of Stockholm is about existing class society, with extensive misery and poverty portraying, at least, daily life of this part of the working class structured in those almost abandoned suburbs, where the lack of any future prospects and profound socio-economic disadvantages generate the dark environment of a lumpenproletariat with criminality and violence as preconditions for living, attached to these places.

Moreover, due to the absence of a proletarian class perspective and class struggle, the class hatred and dissatisfaction among this younger generation of proletarians can be exploited by all kinds of anti-proletarian ideologies from rightwing to leftwing-oriented organizations of the ruling class, including racists, anti-racists and Islamists…

Hamid Moradei28 May 2013

Footnotes:

[i] The Economist, Feb 2nd 2013

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] The housing shortage was a burning political issue in the early 1960s. In Stockholm the waiting list stood at over 100,000 and waiting for a home could be up to ten years. In 1965 Parliament adopted a housing policy program with the goal of building a million new homes in a decade: From the book, The Million Program in Stockholm. See also en.wikipedia.org

[iv] SCB: Statistiska centralbyrån: http://www.scb.se

[v] Dagens Nyheter: May 26

[vi] Dagens Nyheter, May 20 2013

[vii] SALSA Database: SALSAV is a statistical model that compares grade results for municipalities and schools.

[viii] Expressen May 22

Thursday, May 30, 2013

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