Frontpage of Riding the wave by Torkil Lauesen
Frontpage of Riding the wave by Torkil Lauesen

About the book

Riding the Wave : Sweden’s Integration into the Imperialist World System by Torkil Lauesen. Published in 2021 by Kersplebedeb, Canada, 249 pp.

Buy the book at Kersplebedeb LeftWingBooks.Net or at a bookshop.

Pagenumbers refer to the pages in the book.

Online:

Contents, Introduction, Bibliography and About the Author can be seen online – see links below in Contents. The text on the backside of the book, see below the contents.

Se also interview with Torkil Lauesen about “Riding the Wave” at Manifestoring Podcast

Note from the author

In common English usage, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and several other smaller islands are often considered part of Scandinavia. For the purposes of this book, however, the term refers only to the countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. These three countries emerged as king-doms in the period between the 10th and 13th centuries, and then became one kingdom—the Kalmar Union—in 1387, under Queen Margaret I of Denmark. Sweden was part of the union until 1523, when it became independent. Up until 1808 Finland was a province of Sweden. Norway was part of Denmark until 1814, when it entered a “personal union” with Sweden, with a common foreign policy and king. Norway became fully independent in 1905.

Over 10 million people live in Sweden today (compared to 5.3 million in Norway and 5.8 million in Denmark), and the three largest Swedish cities are Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö.

Today one in five inhabitants were born outside of the country.

The gross household income in International PPP$ in Sweden is the third highest in the world (behind Luxembourg and Norway) at $50,514 ($18,632 per capita), as compared to $43,585 ($15,480 per capita) in the United States—or $1,080 per capita in South Sudan and $1,320 in Liberia, countries which (as we shall see) are not as distant from Sweden as one might assume.

Contents

Introduction . . . 7

Sweden: National and Historical Context . . . 11

Early colonialism and the slave trade . . . 13
Imperialism without colonies . . . 18
From emigrants to settlers . . . 21
German imperialism and the “Congo Conference” in Berlin . . . 29
How industrial capitalism came to Denmark . . . 35
How industrial capitalism came to Sweden . . . 41
A revolutionary beginning and a breakthrough for reformism . . . 44
The birth of the welfare state . . . 52
Getting rid of Lenin . . . 60
The civil war in Finland . . . 62
Swedish capitalism in the interwar period . . . 65
The Stockholm School of Economics . . . 69
The division of power . . . 73
Imperialism and the split in socialism . . . 75
The split in Sweden . . . 77
Sweden and Nazi Germany . . . 81
The Swedish far right . . . 85
Sweden in the American World Order . . . 88
Swedish neocolonialism . . . 91
Patrice Lumumba and Dag Hammarskjöld . . . 95
Olof Palme . . . 106
A capitalist path to socialism? . . . 111
Capitalism under pressure . . . 119
The neoliberal breakthrough . . . 121
Neoliberalism in Sweden . . . 124

The Global Perspective and Sweden’s Role Within Imperialism . . . 129

The new global division of labor . . . 131
Global production chains . . . 134
Labor arbitrage . . . 137
The happy and sad smiley curves . . . 139
The global distribution of value . . . 144
Sweden’s position in globalized capitalism . . . 147
H&M . . . 151
IKEA . . . 154
Lundin Petroleum . . . 155
Swedish imperialism in the Baltic . . . 158
The Swedish arms industry . . . 160
More than their chains to lose . . . 164
Pensions . . . 168
A nation of rentiers . . . 170
The hourglass society . . . 171

The Global Perspective: Geopolitical Developments and the Crisis of Neoliberalism . . . 173

The political crisis of neoliberalism in the Global North . . . 175
The crisis of neoliberalism and the rise of China . . . 179
Spontaneous rebellion . . . 186
Rivalry . . . 187
The position of Scandinavia in a multipolar world system . . . 190
The climate crisis . . . 194
The multiple crises of capitalism . . . 199

Current Situation and Prospects . . . 205

The current political landscape in Sweden . . . 207
Right-wing populism . . . 208
The left . . . 210
Toward a transnational anti-systemic movement . . . 214

Bibliography . . . 219
About the Author . . . 249

Tables and Figures

Table 1. Industrial Disputes in Sweden, 1932–1936 . . . 80
Table 2. German Imports of Swedish Iron Ore,1933–43 . . . 82

Figure 1. Real Wage Rates of Labourers in Stockholm and of Male Agricultural Labourers in Sweden, 1732–1914 . . . 49
Figure 2. The Distribution of the Global Industrial Labor Force, 1950–2010 . . . 133
Figure 3. Average Hourly Compensation in Manufacturing, 2017 . . . 137
Figure 4. The Smiley Curve . . . 140
Figure 5. How Wage Levels Influence Value and Price Formation in the Global Economy . . . 140
Figure 6. Employees of Transnational Swedish Companies, 1990–2018 . . . 150
Figure 7. Employees in Swedish Companies in Sweden, 1996–2018 . . . 150

Backside

The Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden, are capitalist welfare states which provide high standards of living and social security for their nation’s citizens. Sweden is regarded as progressive; it is often evoked as a showcase of “capitalism with a human face,” when it is not being described as outright “socialist.” These are the accomplishments of the Social Democratic Party, supported by the strong trade union movement. However, such claims only make sense if one takes imperialism out of the equation.

This book tells another story, about how Sweden rides on the wave of colonialism and imperialism, how it was integrated as a core-state in global capitalism, and how the Swedish “people’s home” has been paid for by value transfer from global production chains stretching throughout the Global South. This is also the story of Social Democracy and how the struggle in the Second International between two lines — one reformist, nationalist, and pro-imperialist, the other internationalist and anti-imperialist—remains relevant to this day.

Lauesen recounts Sweden’s failure to establish colonial territories of its own, leading it to find its place as a junior partner first to Germany and then to the United States. Sweden’s complicity in settler colonialism and the slave trade is examined, as is its intervention in Finland’s Civil War, its profitable trade relations with the Third Reich, support for Belgian colonialism and genocide in the Congo, involvement in exploitative mining operations in Liberia, the rise and decline of the Social Democrats, and much more. An overview is also provided of specific Swedish corporations, from the Kreuger Group to IKEA and H&M, as well as the historically important Swedish arms industry and Swedish imperialism in the Baltic region. All of these are examined within the context of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, with particular attention paid to the crisis of neoliberalism and the rise of China. Lauesen insists that in order to understand the history, nature, and prospects of Sweden we must adopt a global perspective.

Om forfatteren / About the Writer

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Aktivist og forfatter, Medlem at Internationalt Forum.