March 23, 2024 - 8:30am

In the run-up to Sweden’s 2022 election, the centre-left Social Democrats released a campaign film in which party leader and then prime minister Magdalena Andersson seemed to reminisce about the homogenous and close-knit Swedish society of the Eighties. This week, the party took a further step along the same path when Kurdish-born MP Lawen Redar, head of a newly formed policy group on “cohesion”, gave a major interview to Sweden’s leading newspaper.

Building explicitly on the work of Pascal Bruckner, a French critic of multiculturalism, Redar remarked that belonging is contingent on more than a formal citizenship. “It is not enough to be Swedish on paper,” she said. “You have to be Swedish in your heart.”

Sweden’s political Left and Right seem almost to have switched places on matters of national identity and globalism. Responding to the country’s Nato entry last month, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who heads the ruling centre-right coalition, has spoken of Sweden having finally “come home, geographically, emotionally and in terms of values” into the Atlantic grouping. Even prominent figures within the nationalist and anti-establishment Right-wing Sweden Democrats party have now fully embraced the Atlanticist creed.

The Social Democrats, meanwhile, seem to be rediscovering the concept of home in a more nationalist context. In a public address earlier this month about Sweden’s Nato accession, Andersson explained that her government launched the candidacy to the international alliance two years ago to protect “the country we love”.

On immigration and integration, having identified with a radical open-borders policy in recent years, the Social Democrats are moving fast. Swedish liberals and mainstream conservatives alike used to believe that immigrants could, and indeed should, retain their cultural identity as long as they were active in the labour market. The weakness of this argument was already revealed over twenty years ago when, in 2002, an economically well-integrated Kurdish immigrant murdered his daughter in one of Sweden’s first honour killings. Yet now the message from Lawen Redar is one of cultural and moral assimilation, and an expectation on ethnic-based loyalties to “fade away” in favour of national sentiments.

The Social Democrats are thus reconnecting with the party’s early traditions. When Redar says, “We are going home, to our people’s home,” she is echoing the nationally-oriented social democracy of the Twenties and Thirties, which co-opted the concept of a cohesive and egalitarian “people’s home” from conservative thinkers of the day, proclaiming: “Sweden for the Swedes — Swedes for Sweden!”

The party is currently ideally positioned to do just this, since its main competitor for male working-class voters, the Sweden Democrats, has become gradually more aligned with its government partners. The Right-wing party shares the centre-right’s inclination to refer to Sweden not as a country, but instead as a “social contract”.

What Redar, lamenting her lack of a family grave plot on Swedish soil, professes to love is not a technocratic agreement between individuals but rather, to paraphrase the socialist patriot George Orwell, her country, Right or Left.

Translated to a British context, the Social Democrats are embracing the politics of “Blue Labour”, a programme described by its chief architect, Maurice Glasman, as infused with “sadness and loss” for the national community. As Britain’s Conservative government sheds support in “red wall” Brexit-voting areas, Keir Starmer may find himself joining his Swedish colleagues in singing a bluer note.

Johan Wennström is a Research Fellow at the Swedish Defence University, currently writing a book about Sweden’s stay-behind network during the Cold War.