“We are dedicated to social change”: SI News Service meets Sweden’s Left Party

Photo: Notwist/Wikipedia Commons
This Saturday is the anniversary of the founding of the Left Party. We spoke with Party Secretary Aron Etzler to find our more about the party, their history and values.

Could you firstly talk a bit about the party’s founding and how it came into being?

We’re a socialist party and we began in 1917. Feminism and women’s rights have a been major component for many years – since 1996. We were the first eminent party  for women’s rights and you could say one of the world’s first feminist parties.

Broadly speaking when party was formed, there was a big struggle for an equal right to vote and 1917 was also a year of hunger due to World War I and the economy. Huge demonstrations, campaigning and conferences took place, addressing that critical situation. 

Our party formed because we were thrown out of the Social Democrats – it was mainly Social Democratic Youth League since they most wanted change. When the youth are rebelling nowadays, they usually find home in our party.

What differentiates the Left Party from other parties?

We are dedicated to social change. We want to create a society that is just for all and an economy that works for all. As a strongly democratic party, we believe democracy should be enlarged and that people should have more of a say since political decisions concern their future. 

Our ambition to transform society is bigger than most other parties. Change is at the core of our party – it is natural to change. For example, we became a feminist party because we realised it wasn’t enough just to be socialist. It’s a huge process to go through this change. People get angry and people fight against it. 

No one else wants to talk about change and the fact that they may have been wrong before – they sweep it under the rug, but society changes!

Describe a typical Left Party voter…

Our supporters are both men and women – I would say it was more or less equal. Many of our active members are pretty young. So altogether, a bit younger, maybe a bit less economically affluent. 

Our support is growing in larger cities, so Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. This could be connected to people moving in from the countryside.

What would you say are your core values?

Justice and equality. Equality in terms of gender, economics and people from different backgrounds. This is our driving force and what makes people want to join Left Party. People who want to change Sweden and the world.

What would you consider is your most important policy/value?

People value things differently. We want people to be free and equal and this can’t happen if there’s a class divide. It takes a lot to create a just society.

Describe a typical day…

As the Party Secretary, I prepare meetings, talk to different members in different parts of the country, I give advice on how to handle coalitions, and solve local problems.

What are your main priorities ahead of the 2018 election?

Our priorities have a lot to do with our core values. We want an economy that works for all. The class divides in Sweden are bigger today than they have been in many years, which is a tragedy! One of the best things about Sweden is that we try to be as equal as possible – it’s what we’re famous for. 

There is a huge ecological challenge. Other countries should not shy away from their responsibilities. 

The gender gap still exists, and this is very important. Women, when they die are 3.6 million SEK poorer than men! You can also see the difference when women become pensioners. It’s a shame that Sweden has such poor pensioners, but it seems to be a  tendency in most Western European countries. The economy is dependent on market forces but this makes for inequality. 

Closing borders doesn’t solve anything. We have a major choice in Europe – we can either scapegoat fallen people or help them and solve problems – which is at the core of our society. 

I have sympathy for Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, and Bernie Sanders in the US. These candidates have similar programmes to the ones we have. Because of this we have a lot of connections to people in the US and Britain which is an unusual situation! For them, Sweden is beacon of justice and equality, and when we look into our history, we can be seen as active driving forces for things like same sex marriage and women’s rights. We should take some credit for this!

Could you talk about the Left Days event? What is it and what’s the purpose?

It’s sort of like a big festival. There are seminars, concerts, speeches and social activities. We expect this year around 1200 people. It has been a growing event – when we began we maybe had 300 attendees. 

This year, there will of course be a focus on the election and our 100 year commemoration. We will reflect on the differences between then and now. 

The audience reading this consists of international students here in Sweden on scholarships from the Swedish Institute. If they should remember one thing about the Left Party when they return home, what should it be?

Change is natural but you also have to fight for it – it won’t always happen on its own. Don’t sweep things under the rug, we have to accept that at one time it was bad! It is natural to bring up these things and discuss them. And it’s ok if we do something bad, however we do not have a time machine, we can’t change the past but we can draw conclusions from it. 

We proudly talk openly, and acknowledge that we did things that didn’t work out or supported regimes that weren’t democratic. We can draw a parallel from our party. Before we became feminist, we were a patriarchal party in a patriarchal society. We became less oppressive. 

We are not perfect but we can always be better.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #454545}
p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #454545; min-height: 15.0px}
p.p3 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #454545; min-height: 14.0px}