August Palm, father of Swedish Social Democracy
In my very first post on Swedish Social Democracy, I stated that it was closely related in spirit to the Lassalle wing of the German Social Democracy that Marx and Engels viewed as adapting to Bismarck’s welfare state reforms, which turned out to be a velvet glove concealing an iron fist. It turns out I was on the right track.
From Herbert Tingsten’s “The Swedish Social Democrats”
A document that [August] Palm published in his newspaper The Peoples Will (Folkviljan) in November 1882 is often characterized as the first Swedish social democratic program. It was said to have been adopted by a small organization known as “The Swedish Social Democratic Workers’ Federation,” which Palm had founded in Maimo. In reality, the program was an almost uniform translation of the Danish Gimle Program adopted in 1876, which was, in turn, derived from the German Gotha Program of 1875. Palm’s translation was poor, in some instances inaccurate; the various details in its formulation cannot be interpreted as expressions of specific ideas. This summary will not consider words or phrases that are obviously products of ignorance or misunderstanding.
The following sentence introduced the program: “Labor is the true source of all wealth and culture, and all the returns thereof should accrue to him who performs the labor.” The tools of labor are the monopoly of capitalists; the surplus produced by labor should revert to the workers. Salaried labor should be abolished. Production unions should be established through state subsidies to lay the groundwork for the solution of The Social Question. These unions should be so organized “that the socialist organization can develop through collective work.” The program set up a series of demands that were to be implemented even “under the present capitalist rule”: progressive inheritance taxes, abolition of indirect taxation, which weighed heavily upon the masses, abrogation of the ordinance regarding the treatment of vagrants and the defenseless, the establishment of a standard working day, prohibition of the use of child labor in factories, which jeopardized the children’s health, regulation of sanitary standards in workers’ housing, factories, and other places of work, the workers’ right to administer “without government intervention” funds for sickness and relief benefits, state care for the ailing, the aged, and for those disabled through accidents at place of work. In the autumn of 1885 the Social Democratic Union in Stockholm worked.