Archive for November 25, 2015

Tears over Sweden’s closing of the door as Palme’s ghost looks on

It’s raining here in Malmö. It’s cold and damp and it gets dark early.

But for many of those travelling across Europe to get here, the cold, dark days are only beginning.

Yesterday the Swedish government announced that they are to yet again tighten controls on asylum seekers and those seeking refuge from the violence of Islamic fundamentalists, whom, in the wake of Charlie Hebdo and the Paris attacks, we supposedly all stand united against.

But it is here, in the self-proclaimed “humanitarian superpower” that is Sweden, that the limits of our European sense of solidarity are laid bare.

Perhaps naively, Sweden has continued to accept refugees at an astounding rate, while the rest of Europe coldly looked on.

Complaining of the financial burden of helping men, women and children fleeing from the most appalling violence, the rest of Europe – which had no problem instantly finding billions and billions of euros to bail out banks for the losses caused by their boundless greed – didn’t flinch.

The Swedes lost the humanitarian stand-off.

There would be no compassion.

There would be no solidarity.

There would be no bailout for the victims of the wars they didn’t start.

Instead, there would be closed borders and ID checks and limited rights of residency, more layers of anguish and uncertainty heaped on people who only desire safety and security.

All the while, the “christians” of Europe gear up to hit the shops in an orgy of spending to celebrate the birth of a Middle Eastern man born in a stable his parents found themselves sleeping in because there was no room at the inn.

The irony is utterly lost on them.

Yesterday’s announcement by prime minister Stefan Löfvén and vice premier Åsa Romson was probably one of the hardest political statements either has ever had to make.

A Social Democrat and a Green respectively, it goes against everything that their parties supposedly stand for.

And yet there should be no sympathy for them.

Romson’s tears were genuine, but they help no-one but herself.

True, the costs of 190,000 people coming to this country this year alone are astronomical.

True, the job of integrating them into one of the most segregated societies in Europe will be enormous.

True, it is easier to close the borders rather than to keep fuelling the fire of the opposition racists in the Riksdag – and not just the brownshirts of the Sweden Democrats.

I know it is anathema in modern politics, but sometimes you actually have to stand up for what you believe in, however uncomfortable that might be, rather than simply abandoning your principles at the first sign of hardship.

But this is what Europe now demands.

Syriza’s pleas for economic justice were ignored as they were brow-beaten into neoliberal compliance.

Ireland’s meek acceptance of the pillaging of the resources of its people is another fine example.

Sweden’s desire for social justice were equally ignored, and now they too are forced to tow the line that ensures that the rich stay rich, and the rest are left with their noses pressed against the glass.

Before dawn on Monday morning I found myself walking past the spot where Olof Palme was gunned down by an unknown assassin almost 30 years ago.

The reason many of you reading this recognise his name is because Palme wasn’t afraid to stand up for his principles internationally, famously and publicly taking the Americans to task for the Vietnam War.

His murder remains unsolved due in part to the fact that he had so many enemies – men and women of principle often do.

His ambition was to build a Swedish “people’s home”, a place of safety and security and dignity for all – his own mother arrived in Sweden as a refugee in 1915, so needless to say his vision included them as well.

Like Palme himself, that noble vision is now dead, as conspicuous consumption replaces compassion and sharing and solidarity are abandoned in favour of the European status quo.

Sweden, the Social Democrats and the Greens now face an existential crisis of the kind not seen since Palme’s murder – if it is not to stand up for the weakest in society, then why exist at all?