Swedish socialists endorse plan to collectivize industry
Sweden is headed for a further heavy dose of socialism if the Social Democrats win next year's election, as now seems likely. At its annual congress last week, the Social Democratic Party called for:
* The setting up of wage-earner funds to collectivize private industry.
* Higher taxation to support the welfare state.
* Still-tougher measures against tax evasion.
The Social Democrats are now fully committed to the idea of wage-earner funds in which a percentage of worker's wages will be allocated to collective funds used to buy shares in private companies, gradually taking them over.
The boards of these funds will be composed of trade union officials and politicians, democratically elected. There will be 24 funds -- one for each local authority area in Sweden. Martin Meyerson, an economist with the Federation of Swedish Industries, estimates that the funds could take over all major private industry in Sweden in five years.
However, Social Democratic leader Olof Palme dismisses such talk as "scare propaganda." He says the Social Democrats are prepared to negotiate with industry as to the formation and scope of the funds. He said the funds will not destroy the market economy in Sweden and that they would lead to increased industrial democracy.
Exactly how the funds will work must now be decided by a special party committee.
"You give us the mandate to introduce wage-earner funds and we'll do the job, " the party's economic spokesman, Kjell-Olof Feldt, told the party congress to cheers from the delegates. He described the fund proposal as "simple and robust."
"We believe it will function as part of the mixed Swedish economy," Mr. Feldt said. "You can now give the starting signal for the long march to economic democracy."
The proposal was approved unanimously.
Commenting on the decision of the congress, the conservative daily newspaper Svenska Degbladet said it "paved the way for the greatest political fight in Sweden since the war."
Prime Minister Thorbjorn Falldin, who heads a center-liberal minority coalition government, went on television to warn of the dangers of the decision by the congress.
Mr. Falldin said the funds would bring drastic changes to the Swedish economy at a time when it could not afford them. He said he was not surprised that the Social Democrats wanted to take over the means of production -- that was part of the socialist creed: but he was surprised that Mr. Palme should be annoyed when other people pointed this out.
However, disenchantment with Falldin is running high and all public opinion polls put Palme and the Social Democrats well ahead in the early run-up to next year's election.
When it came to taxation, Social Democrat shadow-chancellor Feldt said the party could not stand by watching the erosion of Sweden's welfare state. The nation must be prepared to pay for welfare in the form of higher taxes, he said. Swedes are already among the highest-taxed nations in the world.
Tax inspectors, who already have the power to inspect citizen's bank accounts , will be given sweeping new powers if the Social Democrats form a government.
Tax evasion and high taxation were two factors influencing voters in the 1976 general election in which the Social Democrats lost power after 44 years.