Letter FromnStockholmnby Allan CarlsonnThe Ants and Elephants ofnSwedish PohticsnIn February, I returned to Sweden afterna 15-year absence, and discovered a veryndifferent land. In 1976, Americans werenviewed with suspicion. We carried the immediatenlegacy of the Vietnam imbroglionand a vague reputation as “protofascists.”nThese were the heady early days of PrimenMinister Olaf Palme. The Swedes were,nas always, polite, but they were more thanna little haughty as citizens of a ruggedlynindependent nation, in solidarity with intemationalnsocialism and the Third World.nIn 1992, an American strides the streetsnof Stockholm as a kind of king, or conqueror.nWith communism dead, and thenSwedish economy in a swoon, capitalismnis triumphant, and America looms as thencenter of the world, the protector of thenNew World Order. Swedish youth in double-breastednsuits crowd around, wantingnto hear about the wonders of Americanncommercial television or the latest conservativengossip from Washington. Evennthe Social Democrats are humble andnself-deprecating, ever willing to shine annAmerican’s ideological shoes. Only innStockholm could I appreciate the utternmystification of James Baker and GeorgenBush (the Swedish tabloids label themn”the world’s most powerful men”), whonmust experience in spades the samenfawning adulation whenever they stepnbeyond the American border. With thenworld as our oyster, they have to ask, howncan the voters possibly respond to thenSirens’ song of “America First”?nMost Swedes have given up on thendream of splendid neutrality and then”middle way.” In retrospect, the whole notionnof Swedish autonomy rested on socialistnchutzpah. With foolish courage, thenSwedes sought to organize the “nonalignednstates” behind their leadership.nThe Soviet Union and the United States,nthey reasoned, equally threatened Swedishnsovereignty. Gunnar Myrdal, Dag Hammerskjold,nand Palme wandered the globenCORRESPONDENCEnas prophets of a better world order basednon secular moralism and a planned economy.nAlas; these dreams are all now in ruin.nSweden has been in a home-grown depressionnsince 1989, with little likelihoodnof renewed growth before 1994. A hugenpublic sector (taxes gobble up 57 percentnof the Gross Domestic Product), stranglingnwork rules, high inflation, low workneffort, and fleeing capital have destroyednthe old certainties. “The Social Democratsndidn’t know when to stop,” goes the standardnexplanation. A smaller number citenthe consequences of 60 years of welfarenstate incentives on notions of personal responsibilitynand family integrity. Amongnall Swedes, confidence in state-directednsolutions is at a 20th-century low. Exceptnfor the aging denizens of the Left Partyn(formerly the Gommunists), everyonenbelieves that “only the market can savenus.” It is also clear that the very logic ofnthe Swedish “third way” rested on thenwondrous gift of the Gold War, with itsnwarring blocks of “Marxists” and “capitalists”nleaving plenty of room for rhetoricalnand policy maneuvering. The end ofnthe Soviet Empire, it seems, has been asndisorienting for Swedish socialists as itnhas been for American conservatives.nSweden’s big political event came lastnSeptember, when the Social Democratsnsuffered a stunning setback at the polls,ntheir vote total falling to 37.6 percent, anlevel unseen since the I920’s. At the localnhustings, they fared even worse; onlynone out of ten Swedish municipal andncounty councils are now under socialistncontrol. In a nationwide straw vote of highnschool students, the socialists won onlyn16 percent. These results have shakenntheir confidence, with odd but interestingnconsequences. An acquaintance of ^nmine who works for-the Labor MovementnArchive, tending the papers of Brantingnand other socialist heroes, despairednover cutbacks in government and partyngrants. I asked what the response hadnbeen. ” Well, we’ve had to put a price onnour services, create a marketing strategy,nand sell our work to the individual tradenunions. And we’ve started a fund-raisingnprogram.” Alas, a specter still haunts Europe,nbut it has a vaguely Austrian countenance.nNonetheless, the electoral reversal ofnnn1991 was not enough to stimulate a fundamentalnrethinking of other SocialnDemocratic positions regarding “rights,”n”equality,” and “solidarity.” The SocialnDemocrats’ historic triumphs in the 1930-n68 period came in large degree as the partynwrapped itself in the regalia of “nation”nand “family.” Their social program originatednin “population policies” designednto “save the nation” through support ofnmotherhood and large families. In the latenI960’s, though, the party reoriented itsnmessage around radical individualism, anderivative of left-wing feminism thatnshattered lingering attachments to premodernnsentiments. Anders Isaksson,nSweden’s most thoughtful Social Democraticnjournalist, sees no sign of change:n”equality” and a regime of “rights” mediatednthrough the state, he told me,nhave irreversibly triumphed.nThe election brought to power a Center-Rightncoalition government composednof the Moderates, the GhristiannDemocrats, the People’s Party (ornLiberals), and the Genter Party. Winningn21.9 percent of the vote, the Moderatesnplaced the 42-year-old Karl Bildt innas prime minister. Glosely tied to thenSwedish Employers Confederation, thenModerate Party resembles our Republicans.nIndeed, one right-winger describesnBildt as “a young, Swedish Bush,” boundnpolitically to international business interests,nlacking other deeply held politicalnprinciples, and born to parents innthe public sector. His office is peoplednby former associates at TIMBRO, annAmerican-style think tank which has enjoyednuncommon success (the socialistsncomplain bitterly about TIMBRO’sninfiltration of the universities). ThenBildt team dresses snappily, admiresnthe United States enormously, and looksnwith pleasure at the new order takingnshape in Washington and Brussels.nThe Moderate Party’s first goal is thenintegration of Sweden into Western Europe.nAs Olof Ehrenkrona, Bildt’s chief ofnstaff, puts it, Swedish nationalism nownmeans “a seat at Brussels.” Bildt also envisionsnan informal linkage to the Americanndefense umbrella, partly throughna United Nations under the effective controlnof the U.S. State Department (as duringnthe Persian Gulf War). A sense of destinyndrives the Moderates. Their mentornJUNE 1992/41n