Socialism: The Swedish Model
In the mid-nineteenth century Sweden was a poor, overpopulated, predominantly agricultural country, lagging far behind Britain and Germany in both industrial and political development. It was not until 1866 that the old Riksdag (Parliament) of the four estates of nobility, clergy, burghers and peasantry was replaced by a two chamber assembly, the higher chosen indirectly on a franchise designed to secure the representation of the aristocracy of birth and wealth, and the lower directly elected on a franchise sufficiently narrow to exclude most workers in the towns and almost all but landed farmers in the countryside. During the agricultural depression of the 1870s and 1880s there was massive migration externally to North America and internally into the rapidly developing Swedish industries, particularly forestry and the iron industry, the latter to meet expanding German demands for high grade ore. Swedish agriculture was not labour intensive, with well-established family farms alongside a great mass of peasantry. But, unlike the peasants depicted by Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, the Swedish peasants were not akin to ‘a sack of potatoes’ incapable of representing themselves. On the contrary they were educated and had a tradition of self-organisation and independence in relation to those in authority. The peasant and small farmers played an important role in the struggles for electoral reform which resulted in an extension of the franchise in 1907.
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Notes and References
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