Left Party (Sweden)

Left Party (Sweden)

name_english = Left Party
name_native = Vänsterpartiet
chairman = Lars Ohly
foundation = 1917
ideology = Socialism, Feminism
international = Nordic Green Left Alliance
european = New European Left Forum
europarl = European United Left - Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL)
colours = Red
colorcode = #ed1c24
headquarters = Kungsgatan 84, Stockholm
website = [http://www.vansterpartiet.se/ www.vansterpartiet.se]

The Left Party ("Vänsterpartiet") is a socialist and feminist political party in Sweden, from 1967 to 1990 known as the "Left Party - Communists" ("Vänsterpartiet kommunisterna"; or VPK).

On welfare issues, the party opposes privatizations. Moreover, the party opposes Swedish membership of the European Union and advocates increased public expenditure.

From 1998 to 2006, Vänsterpartiet was in an arrangement with the ruling Social Democrats and the Greens and until 2006 supported the Social Democratic minority government in the Swedish parliament, as well as in many of Sweden's counties and municipalities.

The Left Party is a member of the Nordic Green Left Alliance.



1917 Revolutionary fervour engulfed Sweden. Riots took place in many cities. In Västervik a workers council took control of day-to-day affairs. In Stockholm soldiers marched together with workers on May Day. In the upper-class neighbourhood of Stockholm, Östermalm, residents formed paramilitary structures to defend themselves from a possible armed revolution.

The "Social Democratic Left Party of Sweden " (SSV) was founded following a split in the Social Democratic Party. The new party was mainly founded by the youth league under the leadership of Zeth Höglund. SSV was a broad-based socialist party, encompassing many leftist tendencies.

In 1919 SSV became a founding member of the Communist International. A small section of the party left in protest.


In 1921 in accordance with the 21 theses of the Comintern, the party name was changed to "Sveriges Kommunistiska Parti" (Communist Party of Sweden). Liberal and non-revolutionary elements were purged. They regrouped under the name SSV. In total 6000 out of 17000 party members were expelled.

In 1924 Zeth Höglund, the main leader of the party splits. Höglund was displeased with the development in Moscow after the death of Lenin, and he founded his own SKP, independent from the Comintern. Around 5000 party members followed Höglund.

On January 23-January 24 1926, SKP organized a trade union conference with delegates representing 80 000 organized workers.

In 1927 SKP organized a conference of "De Arbetslösas Landsförening" (National Association of the Unemployed), and called for the abolition of the Unemployment Commission (AK).


Under Sillén's leadership the party adhered to the 'Class against Class'-line, denouncing any co-operation with the Social Democrats. Sven Linderot, a dynamic young leader, become the party chairman.


The infamous Ådalen shootings of unarmed demonstrating workers took place in 1931. This development lead to increased labour militancy and new life to the crisis-ridden SKP.

In 1936 the Spanish Civil War began. SKP and its youth wing sent a sizeable contingent to fight in the International Brigades. In total around 500 Swedes took part in the brigades, out of them the large majority were communists. A third would never return to Sweden. Simultaneously, an extensive solidarity work for the Spanish Republic and the people of Spain was organized in Sweden.

During the 1930s the party was rebuilt, as the Kilbom-Flyg party crumbled, the party base was enhanced. By 1939 SKP had 19 116 members.


The 1939-1945 Second World War was a difficult time for the party. The party was the sole political force in Sweden supporting the Soviet side in the Finnish Winter War, which was frequently used as a pretext for the repression against the party. The party supported Soviet military expansion along its Western border. On July 26, Ny Dag, the main party organ wrote; "The border states have been liberated from their dependence of imperialist superpowers through the help from the great socialist worker's state". [The executive editor of Ny Dag, Gustav Johansson (also a long term Communist MP) concluded after a trip to the occupied Baltics states in 1940 that: "I have seen three countries, that in the past used to belong to the worst reactionary terror countries of Europe, transformed into free Soviet republics through a peaceful revolution." Both quotes found in [http://www.rel.ee/swe/kommunism_och_baltikum.htm Küng, A.] ]

Moreover, the party supported the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Central Committee adopted a declaration in September 1939, which read; "The ruling cliques in England and France have in fear of Bolshevism, in their badly hidden sympathy for Fascism, in fear of workers power in Europe, refused to enter into an agreement with adoptable conditions for the Soviet Union to effectively crush the plans of the warmongers. They have supported the refusal of Poland to accept the Soviet help. The Soviet Union has thus, in clear accordance with its consequent politics of peace, through a non-aggression pact with Germany sought to defend the 170-million people of the first socialist state against Fascist attacks and the bottomless misery of a world war." [Arbetar-Tidningen, nr 36, 8-14 September 1939, cited in 14:e nordiska konferensen för medie- och kommunikationsforskning. Kungälv 14-17 augusti 1999. [http://www.jmg.gu.se/fsmk/papers/oden.html]

When Germany invaded Norway in April 1940, SKP took a neutralist stand. In an article in Ny Dag, the German take-over in Norway was described as a "set-back for the British imperialism". [Ny Dag, April 1940, cited in [Vänsterpartiets fastigheter betalades av Sovjet och DDR http://www.folkpartiet.se/upload/50315/v%C3%A4nsterpartiets%20fastigheter.pdf] ]

Following orders by the German legation in Stockholm, several repressive measures were taken by the Swedish government against the party. The main publications were effectively banned (they were banned from transportation, meaning it was illegal to carry the SKP newspapers by any form of vehicle). Key cadres of the party and youth league were detained in camps, officially as a part of their military service. In total 3500 persons were interned at ten different camps, the great majority of them were communists. [http://vasterbottensinitiativet.skelleftea.org/document/2005/04/29_1.html] Many party activists went underground, including the party chairman. A complete ban on the party was discussed in government circles, but never became effective. [Karl Molin. "Hemmakriget - Om den svenska krigsmaktens åtgärder mot kommunister under andra världskriget." (1982) ISBN 91-550-2785-7]

In 1940 the office of the regional party organ in Norrbotten, "Norrskensflamman", was bombed. Five people, including two children, were killed. This constitutes the bloodiest terrorist act in modern Swedish history. One of the main culprits behind the attack, Paul Wretlind, was a regional leader of the Liberal Party in Stockholm.

During the war the largest co-ordinated police action in Swedish history took place against the party. 3000 policemen took part in raids on party offices and homes of party members all over the country. However, the raids failed to produce any evidence of any criminal activity of the party.

The party actively supported resistance struggles in Norway and Denmark. In northern Sweden, party-affiliated workers stole dynamite from mines and smuggled them to the Norwegian resistance. In other parts, the party gave shelter to antifascist refugees.

As the military fortunes of the Third Reich turned sour, the party regained a strong position in Swedish politics. In the parliamentary elections of 1944 SKP got 10.3% of the votes.

In 1945 there was a nation-wide metalworkers strike, led by SKP.

In the 1946 municipal elections SKP got 11.2% of the votes. Party membership reached its historical peak, 51 000. These developments, along with developments in the international arena and new Soviet policies of peaceful co-existence, led the party to initiate a readjustment of its role in Swedish politics. The electoral gains strengthened the perception that the party would be able to come to power within the parliamentary framework. Likewise the idea of a 'united front' with the Social Democrats gained ground in the innerparty debate. The trade union policy of the party was changed towards a less conflictive position towards the Social Democracy within the trade union movement. These changes met with some resistance in the party ranks.

However, the onset of the Cold War became a difficult challenge to the party. The electoral gains of the postwar years would not last long. The prime minister Tage Erlander declared the intention to turn 'every trade union into a battlefield against the communists'. [http://www.arbetarmakt.com/mp/nummer1/artikel3.pdf] Communists were purged from the trade union movement. However, the party continued its development of the united front strategy.


In the 1952 parliamentary by-elections elections in Jämtland and Kristianstad the party had decided to withdraw their lists, in order to ensure that the Social Democrats would not lose the elections. The party leadership argued that communists had to make an effort to "ensure a labour majority in the Riksdag". Moreover, the two concerned counties were electoral districts where it was highly unlikely that any communist MP would be elected. However, the leftist minority within the party (led by Set Persson) saw the new line as a capitulation to the Social Democrats.

Another issue concerned the youth league. The party took an initiative to create a broadbased youth movement, looking at similar developments in countries like Finland. In 1952 Democratic Youth ("Demokratisk Ungdom") was founded as a broad youth movement, parallel to the existing Young Communist League of Sweden. The hardliners saw this as dilluting the political character of the youth movement.

An issue of high symbolic importance was the decision of the party to promote joint May Day rallies with the Social Democrats. Yet another issue was the decision of the party to give financial support to the "labour press", which was essentially in the hands of the Social Democrats.

In 1951 Hilding Hagberg was elected party chairman.

The intraparty polemic reached its peak at the 1953 party congress. Persson fiercely exposed his criticism, particularly towards the new party chairman Hagberg, whom he branded as an opportunist. Persson was in turn accused of being an egoist, and of wanting to divide and damage the party. Criticism was delivered towards Persson by Knut Senander and Nils Holmberg, who said that Persson had to be held accountable for lack of political orientation and anti-party actions. Interestingly, both Senander and Holmberg were considered as being part of the leftist section of the party, but on this occasion they appeared as the most firebrand defenders of the party line. Only a handful of delegates defended Persson, and those who did clearly highlighted that they did not fully share Persson's critique of the line of the party leadership. In a highly emotional conclusion of the debate, Persson declared his resignation from the party in a speech to the congress. After his departure a purge was carried out against Persson's followers within the party, out of whom several were expelled.

When Joseph Stalin died the same year the party organized a memorial function, which was addressed by C.H. Hermansson.

When the Hungarian revolt broke out in 1956, internal party debate surged on what stand the party should take. In the end, the party leadership chose to support the official Soviet line.


In 1964 C.H. Hermansson was elected party chairman. Hermansson came from an academic background, unlike previous party leaders. Hermansson initiated a change in the political direction of the party towards Eurocommunism and Scandinavian Popular Socialism.

Ahead of the 1967 party congress a heated debate take place. Several distinct tendencies were present. One section wanted to transform the party into a non-communist party, on the lines of the Danish SF, and thus proposed that the party should change its name to "Vänsterpartiet" (Left Party). Another section, largely based amongst the trade union cadre of the party, wanted to maintain the communist character of the party and the fraternal bond to the CPSU. The former party leader Hagberg, who was associated with the pro-Soviet grouping, tried to launch the name "Arbetets Parti" (Party of Labour), as a compromise. The party leadership came up with another compromise, and the party name was changed to "Vänsterpartiet Kommunisterna" (VPK, Left Party - the Communists). VPK continued on the Eurocommunist course, but with a loud pro-Soviet minority grouped around "Norrskensflamman". In addition there was a small pro-Chinese group led by Bo Gustafsson and Nils Holmberg, that left the party to form KFML at the time of the congress. The youth wing broke away, eventually forming MLK.

In 1968 VPK was the first Swedish party to publicly condemn the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia. The party organized a demonstration outside the Soviet embassy in Stockholm, which was addressed by Hermansson. This disapproval of Soviet aggression was an exception among the Western communist parties. The party line on Czechoslovakia irritated the pro-Soviet minority.

In the municipal elections of 1968, VPK received 3,8% of the votes, the lowest electoral result of the party in the post-war era. Lacking a functioning youth and students wing, the party was unable to capitalize on the international surge of youth radicalism.

At the onset of protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam, VPK launched the Swedish Vietnam Committee. The Committee raised the demand 'Peace in Vietnam' and appealed for all-party unity on the issue. The Committee was rapidly outmanoeuvered by the United FNL Groups (DFFG), and organization led by KFML that was actively supporting the armed struggle of the FNL. Soon, VPK left the Swedish Vietnam Committee and many members became active in DFFG.


In 1970 the youth wing was refounded as "Kommunistisk Ungdom" (KU).

In 1972 the party shifted towards a more leftist position with the adaptation of a new party programme. The neoleninist tendency emerged as an important section of the party.

In 1975 Lars Werner was elected party chairman. The runner-up candidate was Rolf Hagel of the pro-Soviet group. Werner was elected with 162 votes at the party congress. Hagel got 74 votes.

In February 1977 the pro-Soviet minority left the party, and founded APK. The founder of APK took with them the newspaper "Norrskensflamman" and two MPs (Hagel and Alf Löwenborg). Between 1500-2000 VPK members joined APK. [Intelligence reports reveals that the pro-Soviet minority had direct consultations with the embassies of the Soviet Union and GDR prior to the split. However, it appears that both the CPSU and the SED had urged the group to preserve the unity of VPK. [http://www.regeringen.se/content/1/c4/04/47/e60b2a92.pdf SOU 2002:93] , p. 247-251]

At the party congress in 1978 a section of the party proposed the adoption of a 'Manifest for Democracy'. The proposed text included several passages which criticized on the human rights situation in Eastern Europe. The delegation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, attending the congress as a fraternal delegation, lodged a formal complaint and threatened to withdraw from the congress. In the end the Manifest was not adopted by the congress.


In 1980 VPK was active in the "No"-campaign in the plebiscite on Nuclear Power.


In 1990 VPK changed its name to "Vänsterpartiet" ((v), Left Party) and ceased to be a communist party.

In 1993 Werner resigned. Gudrun Schyman was elected party chairman.

In the 1994 parliamentary elections the party receives 6.2% of the votes. The prolonged electoral crisis of the party was thus ended. The influence of the party started to grow, especially amongst the youth. In the same year the party was active in the "No"-campaign in the plebiscite on joining the European Union.

Having passed through a period of severe crisis, the party began to regain public support during the mid-1990s. In retrospect, the main factor behind this shift was not caused by the party itself but by the fact that the Social Democrats had moved considerably towards the right during the preceding years, which had alienated much of its traditional votebank.

At the 1996 party congress, the party declares itself as feminist.

In 1998 the party did its best parliamentary election ever, getting 12% of the votes nationwide. Following the elections the party entered into an arrangement with the Social Democrats and started to support the government from outside.


In the 2002 parliamentary elections the voteshare of the party dropped to by 3% to a total of 8.3%. Simultaneously the Social Democrats regained 3%.

In 2003 Schyman resigned following tax irregularities. Ulla Hoffmann took over as interim leader.

The 2004 party congress elected Lars Ohly as the new party chairman. In the end of the year Schyman left the party, becoming a parliamentary independent. Lars Ohly originally called himself a communist, but retracted that statement later.

In the same year, a two-part documentary on the party was broadcasted on the SVT show "Uppdrag Granskning". The documentary focused mainly on the international relations of party during the post-war era. Following the broadcast, debate surged once again concerning the relations of the party with the ruling parties in the former Socialist Bloc. [The author of the documentary was Janne Josefsson. The background material of the documentary consisted mainly of VPK publications. The new information presented in the documentary consisted partly of anecdotes of Werner's informal relations to the GDR embassy and an individual party member's meetings with the GDR embassy and the KSČ during the 1970s. Nevertheless, the documentary had a significant impact in the public debate.]

On July 19, 2006, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter revealed that former top spy Stig Bergling had joined the party.

In the September 2006 election, the Left Party got 317,228 votes (5.8%; in 2002: 8.4%) and therefore 22 Riksdag seats (previously 30).


During its history, there has been several splits of various significance:
*1919: a group opposed to joining ComIntern leaves the party.
*1921: a group refusing to go along with the name-change to SKP is expelled. They form their own party, called SSV.
*1924: Zeth Höglund splits, and forms his own SKP.
*1929: Leader Karl Kilbom and the majority of the party are expelled by the Comintern. Kilbom forms a parallel SKP.
*1956: Set Persson forms the Communist Labour League of Sweden.
*1967: Pro-China elements form KFML.
*1977: Pro-Moscow wing breaks away, forms Workers Party - Communists

Election results

% of votes by year:

Parliamentary elections 1973-2006

Voter base

Below is a table based on surveys conducted by Göteborg University concerning the profile of the voters of the party. Numbers indicate the percentage of that particular sector that voted for the party. The entire report can be found at [http://www.valforskningsprogrammet.pol.gu.se/PDF/SCB%20Rapport%202002%20svenskt%20valjarbeteende.pdf]

Party Leaders

*Carl Winberg, 1917
*Zeth Höglund, 1917, 1919-1924
*Ernst Åström, 1918
*Karl Kilbom, 1918, 1921-1923
*Nils Flyg, 1924-1929
*Sven Linderot, 1929-1951
*Hilding Hagberg, 1951-1964
*C.-H. Hermansson, 1964-1975
*Lars Werner, 1975-1993
*Gudrun Schyman, 1993-2003
*Ulla Hoffmann (acting), 2003-2004
*Lars Ohly 2004-

ee also

*Ung Vänster
*Vänstern i Svenska kyrkan
*Jonas Sjöstedt
*Referendums in Sweden



* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/696.htm Blekinge Folkblad (1943-1957)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/706.htm Bohustidningen (1946-1948)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/714.htm Borås Folkblad (1943-1957)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/735.htm Dalarnes Folkblad (1917-1925)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/736.htm Dalarnes Folkblad (1940-1956)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/774.htm Folkviljan (1942-1957)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/40.htm Folkviljan (1980-1989)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/793.htm Gästriklands Folkblad (1921-1922)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/844.htm Hälsingekuriren (1919-1923)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/874.htm Kalmar Läns-Kuriren (1923-1942)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/997.htm Norra Småland (1918-1923)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/1012.htm Norrlandskuriren (1922)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/128.htm Norrskensflamman (1906-1977)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/1057.htm Piteåbygden (1920)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/613.htm Röda Röster (1919-1930)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/1079.htm Skånes Folkblad (1918-1922)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/1097.htm Smålandsfolket (1940)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/1393.htm Örebro Läns Arbetartidning (1940-1956)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/1394.htm Örebro Läns Folkblad (1919-1920)]
* [http://www.kb.se/nl/titlar/1412.htm Övre Dalarnes Tidning (1917-1920)]


*United States Department of State - [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2880.htm Sweden]

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External links

* [http://www.vansterpartiet.se/ Vänsterpartiet] sv icon
* [http://www2.vansterpartiet.se/val/upload/lang/engelska.pdf Election material in English]

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