Last July, Elin Ersson, a 21-year-old Swedish student stopped the deportation of a 52-year old Afghan man who was set to be deported back to Afghanistan from Gothenburg Airport. She refused to sit down, which meant the plane they were on was unable to take off. She faced the contempt and, in some cases, anger of many of her fellow passengers but stood her ground firmly in defence of the man’s life, which, as she explained, would be in serious danger were he to return to Afghanistan.
Last year, the Swedish Migration Agency deported over 9,000 people whose asylum requests were denied. This same agency cynically designated Afghanistan as a “safe country” so it could start deporting Afghan refugees, unlike for example Syria and Iraq.
The Swedish government consisting of the Social Democrats and Greens, propped up by the Left Party, met the initial stages of the refugee crisis in 2015 with a lax border policy allowing asylum applications and optimistic perspectives for integration. This reflected the economic situation of a country that remained relatively unscathed by the crisis of capitalism, compared to many of its European counterparts.
But Swedish capitalism could not and cannot survive and thrive in isolation from other European markets, especially considering how reliant the economy is on exports to Europe. GDP growth has stalled from 4.2% in 2015 to 2.3% in 2017. In the past the Swedish capitalist class was periodically on the lookout for an influx of cheap labour, welcoming waves of migration from ex-Yugoslav countries, as well as the Middle East. This has allowed them to push wages down and justify squeezing the working class through precarious contracts and entry-level jobs that offer reduced pay and an utter lack of social security. But the protracted period of cuts and reduced government spending since the 1990s has turned things into their opposite.
Furthermore, the rise of the far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats has exposed the degree of anti-establishment discontent in Swedish society. As such, the economic situation has pushed the ruling class and their political representatives to find a scapegoat to direct all this anger at, thereby adding fuel to the rise of the Right. By blaming welfare cuts on incoming refugees and migrants, they have been able to obfuscate the truth that the Marxists in Sweden pointed out from the beginning: austerity in Sweden is not a product of the refugee crisis, it is the logical conclusion of the crisis of the anarchic capitalist system.
Bourgeois “democracy” today is a system willing to deport people en masse to countries where they will face intense economic hardship at best, and political repression and death at worst. Capitalism has bred a system where people only have value in society as long as they serve the bosses’ motive of making as much profit as possible, no matter the human cost.
While we applaud the bravery of Elin Ersson, and all activists who stand up to this brutal system at considerable personal risk – Ersson herself now faces prosecution and potentially incarceration up to 6 months – we cannot rely on the heroism of a few individuals. What is needed is a fundamental transformation of society. What is needed is a socialist revolution, to end the barbarism the capitalists perpetuate against us every day.
by Dora Dimitrova, UCL Marxists