Scandinavia and Socialism

August 28, 1968

Report Outline
Three Kingdoms of Northern Europe
Sweden: Country of the Middle Way
Situation in Norway and in Denmark
Special Focus

Three Kingdoms of Northern Europe

Trend to the Center in Scandinavian Politics

The dominance in Scandinavian countries of political parties committed to democratic socialism—a dominance already shattered in Norway and Denmark—is seriously threatened in Sweden. Sweden has had Social Democratic governments for an unbroken period of 35 years, but losses of party strength in provincial and municipal elections during the past two years have raised the hopes of opposition parties for victory in this year's election of a new Riksdag (parliament). Sweden's voters go to the polls on Sept. 15.

Decline of the fortunes of democratic socialism in Scandinavia's constitutional monarchies began in 1965 when Norway's Labor Party, which had been in power for more than 30 years, was turned out of office by the voters and replaced by a coalition of center and right-wing parties. Social Democrats had held power in Denmark for more than 14 years, and had had a hand in governing for 33 of the 38 years since 1929, when the government was forced to resign in December 1967. The election that followed in January 1968 brought a center-right coalition into power in Copenhagen, as had happened earlier in Oslo.

American and other commentators on the verdicts of the voters in Norway and Denmark concluded that Scandinavians, having had a try at socialism, were disillusioned with it. However, such a conclusion was based on two doubtful assumptions—(1) that socialism, in the traditional meaning of the term (government ownership and operation of basic industries and services) had actually been tried in Scandinavia; and (2) that the electorate, in voting against the Social Democratic and Labor parties, had repudiated the programs instituted by those parties.

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