Below is an overview of the betrayal of the Swedish Social Democrats since the Second World War against tha Estonians, the Latvians, and the Lithuanians based on a web article by Andres Kueng (1945 – 2002), an author, politician and famous fighter during the Cold War for liberty and independence for the Baltic States.
After the Second World War almost no social democrats could be seen on the Baltic barricades. Even during these decades some politicians supported the Baltic demands for freedom – among them party leaders like Conservatives Jarl Hjalmarsson and Carl Bildt and Liberals like Bertil Ohlin and Per Ahlmark.
Others kept quiet, not least an otherwise internationally committed politician like Olof Palme.
In the parliamentary foreign policy debate on March 16, 1983 Olof Palme accused the members of the Moderate party of …”returning to that crusading spirit aiming to ‘liberate’ Eastern Europe that prevailed in conservative groups in the West during the Cold War. According to this view one of the systems has to perish and neutrality must be immoral.” During that same debate Palme accused the Moderates of constituting a “danger to the safety of the Swedish security policy.”
The next year Palme declared in a speech to the social democrat party congress: “We are not involved in anti-Sovietism”. But since the Soviet state was the first state to be built on Communism, which in its turn meant a permanent, more or less acute threat against the peace and freedom of the rest of the world (and its own), convinced democrats should have found it equally natural to be “anti-Soviet” and “anti-Communist” as it was to be “anti-Nazi” and “anti-Fascist”.
Palme also warned against painting “devil’s pictures” and resorting to “persecution of the Soviet Union”.
In his first speech as chairman of Folkpartiet (the Liberal Party of Sweden) on October 1, 1983 Bengt Westerberg stated that:”Nothing could be more beneficial to the sake of lasting peace than the replacement of the Communist Soviet regime by a democratic government.” When Westerberg reiterated his belief in the connection between freedom and peace in a speech to the party youth organisation in January 1986, one of Palme’s collaborators, the former under-secretary of State Sverker Aström, protested and was supported by his successor Pierre Schori, an extreme leftist official in the Palme administration.
At a number of other occasions leading Swedish social democrats have criticized other politicians and creators of public opinion. During the parliamentary foreign policy debate of 1988 the then social democrat foreign policy spokesman, Sture Ericson, surprisingly attacked his collegue in the parliamentary foreign policy commission, the then Moderate MP and later party secretary Gunnar Hökmark. Hökmark had submitted a motion and written a column for a few rural papers where he argued in favour of extended links between Sweden and the Baltic states and Swedish support for the Baltic fight for freedom. The social democrat spokesman declared that Gunnar Hökmark’s opinions constituted “foreign policy madness” and “craziness that the extreme moderates naturally cultivate in the hope that it will win them a few votes from Balts in exile in the autumn elections.”
When representatives of the Popular Fronts of the three Baltic states became more and more explicit in their demands for full independence, both social democrats Sture Ericson and Pierre Schori declared that the Baltic popular fronts did not put forward this demand. In a later interview Schori added that he did not want to “contribute to any separatism there”. He and other social democrats, among them the Foreign Secretary Sten Andersson in a famous interview in the television news program Rapport on November 2, 1988, admonished the Balts to “not push it to much” and not be “impatient” (as if fifty years of genocide and oppression weren’t long enough). They should instead “co-ordinate” and co-operate” with Moscow. Easy to say, but can anyone imagine the same kind of admonitions to other peoples fighting for their freedom and national self determination?
Many people probably also remember the statements Sten Andersson made during a roundtrip in the Baltic states and Mosow during the autumn of 1989. Attention focussed on the message that “Estonia is not occupied”, a message that forced the Estonian head of government Indrek Toome, at that time a member of the Communist party, to openly renounce his Swedish guest’s claims. In Moscow Andersson said that the Soviet central power had to retain control over the use of natural resources, this despite the fact that the “singing revolution” in Estonia originated in the fear that the Soviet power would increase phosphorite production 40 times and thus destroy large parts of Estonian land, air and water.
In the short run Sten Andersson’s statements meant a setback for the Baltic fight for freedom.
Why did it take so long for the social democrats to dare beeing frank about Communist oppression in the Baltic states? And why the constant warnings and admonitions to the Balts to be careful and not push it? Why this impression of unease and discomfort rather than of joy and hope, when neighbours were in the process of liberating themselves from Communist oppression?
Some social democrats – and other “leftists” – have been unwilling to support the Balts because their cause has been regarded as “right wing”. The longing for freedom of an entire people should obviously not be regarded or depicted as a question of left or right. And educated persons should be able to make political decisions on the basis of what is right or wrong, not on the basis of who happens to say what. But all to often the importance of being seen “in the right company” is greater than the importance of supporting the right causes.
Important was the naiveté concerning Communist leaders in the East, from Stalin to Gorbachev, of the Swedish Social Democrats. Stalin‘s deputy foreign secretary, Vysjinskij, had become infamous for his role as prosecutor in the Moscow trials of the thirties, at which time he called the accused Communists “crazy dogs” that had to be exterminated. After the war he said that Raoul Wallenberg, one of the few Swedes who with his life had fought the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century, had not been imprisoned by the Soviet Union. When Wallenberg’s half brother and others met with foreign secretary Undén they questioned the Soviet explanation. “What?” Undén exclaimed. “Are you saying that mr Vysjinskij is a liar?” When the answer was affirmative, the otherwise very cool Undén became livid. “This is atrocious,” he sputtered, “totally incredible!” But the incredible part was that the highly educated foreign secretary found it so hard to doubt his Communist collegue. And Vysjinskij had been playing a double-game all the way from the Moscow trials to the Nazi-Communist pact and the subsequent Soviet occupation of our neighbour Latvia, an operation he personally supervised on Stalin’s behalf.
When the Balts demanded independence the Central Committe of the Soviet Communist party, lead by Gorbachev, threatened the Balts with renewed genocide. Gorbachev also sent Soviet security forces to attack unarmed civilians in Vilnius and Riga in January 1991– something he had done earlier in for example Baku and Tbilisi.
The Balts could not understand that a Communist leader, one who had let his troups use shovels and bayonets to beat unarmed women and children to death in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi in April 1989, only six months later could be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Georgian lifes were regarded as less important than his letting go of Eastern Europe.
The Polish minister of Culture said in a column in the Swedish daily Expressen that Sweden had gone too far towards socialism. Leaders of the Baltic Popular fronts, including social democrats, wanted to expand their contacts with Sweden in various ways but they feared the socialist contamination that might come of it.
Furthermore the “Swedish model” hardly could be hailed as a “golden compromise” between capitalism and Communism if Communism was to disappear from the political map of Europe. The Swedish social democrats would no longer constitute the hoped-for role model of the “third road” if a political abyss were to open to the left of them. Some people might be reluctant to stay in the movement that remained close to the abyss.
Finally, the Social democrats feared that the showdown with Eastern Communism would make people in the West aware not only of the inhuman qualities of dictatorial socialism but also of the weaknesses of democratic socialism. Even a firm democrat like the then prime minister Ingvar Carlsson wrote in a book called “Vad är socialdemokrati?” (What is social democracy) as late as 1983 that the means only – not the goals – constituted the difference between social democrats and Communists. In this book Carlsson also said:
“The Soviet Union as well as the other Eastern European countries have accomplished a rapid industrialisation and has a high GNP. There are many objections against the system in these countries but they do prove that capitalism is not the only system that is able to produce material wealth.”
Also many socialists and others did not support the Baltic fight for freedom might have been that they did not think the fight could meet with success. The moral position was made dependent on political probabilities. When at last success seemed to be possible and eventually probablethe Balts won support even from their fiercest critics and sceptics.