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”A whole segment of critical debate is erased (…)” describes editor and critic Kim West in an article in Kunstkritikk where he writes about the outrage that hit Sweden on Friday (December 12th).
The coalition of Liberal-Conservatives is cutting the support for the rich variety of cultural journals in Sweden by around 80%. This means a whole art form is being closed down and killed. In one stroke of the red pen. No other European country has done the same.
This is possible due to the dramatic development in Swedish politics the last few weeks where the Sweden Democrats decided to vote for the opposition party’s budget, instead of the ruling left-wing coalition’s budget. This meant that the government’s budget didn’t win the election in parliament and therefore has to rule on the opposition party’s budget in waiting for the new election on March 22 2015.
And apparently the coalition of Liberal and Conservatives now take the chance to fulfil cuts of 365 million SEK in the cultural budget. 15 million SEK of these are being cut in one area specifically: cultural journals. The support for this area is 19 million SEK in total today, cutting 15 million SEK of these leaves 4 million SEK left.
This means that a whole sector is sentenced to a sure death.
Cultural journals are already living on the economic edge. Editors, writers, and critics are getting very low payment for their articles. These people are magicians who have dedicated their time to make sure that critical journalism and quality texts are still produced. The wide variety of critical and intensifying perspectives have been a pride in Swedish democracy. The Liberal-Conservatives showed on Friday how easily this could be ruined.
This is also done in a time when the media crisis is being discussed (just lately in three articles in the daily Göteborgs-Posten), newspapers are closing down their cultural pages, and critical and culture journalism is being severely threatened.
These times calls for action!
Sign this petition just to start with: Rädda Kulturtidskriftsstödet (Save the support for cultural journals).
Shock-waves are going through at least 87% of the population in Sweden that did NOT vote for the Sweden Democrats. A new historical political situation started already in the last election four years ago, but was fortfied 2014 with a rasist party as the third biggest political party in Sweden.
The Sweden Democrats is the only political party with quite a thorough cultural policy and it has one name: cultural heritage. Swedish cultural heritage.
In 2010 we saw what this could mean in practice when a Sweden Democrat argued in the regional parliament of Västra Götaland (West Sweden) to take away from the cultural plan anything that had to do with multicultural or intercultural work.
Yesterday the big news was a tweet from a top Sweden Democrat politician, Kent Ekeroth, concerning the evening paper Expressen and the refusal to let them in to cover their election night. Other media let Expressen use their reports instead and the Sweden Democrat politicians was to know that media coverage can’t be stopped. The reply from Kent Ekeroth was in a tweet saying ”haha. In time we will”.
This is what the reality will look like if this political party get to take the decisions.
In Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland political parties with less tolerance towards immigrants are growing in popularity.
In an article in today’s daily Dagens Nyheter (April 9 2011) you can see that sympathies for Fremskrittspartiet (Norway), Dansk Folkeparti (Denmark), Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden), and Sannfinländarna (Finland) are growing in popularity.
In Sweden, Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats) got seats in Parliament in the last election 2010 (and in Finland Sannfinländarna are expected to get into Parliament in upcoming election on April 17). Ever since, Swedish politicians have had different strategies and theories of how to handle the situation and not give these nationalists any power. With mixed success.
In an article in Eskilstuna-Kuriren on March 28, you can read that it is shown by research and practice that if the other political parties meet nationalistic parties’ hostility towards immigrants with other arguments, they loose and the nationalistic parties gain votes. It is said to be built on the assumption that immigrant hostility is stronger among voters than among our political representatives and when an argument is met with another argument, the questions become more housetrained. These thoughts are now being backed by a working report by Quality of Government Institute at University of Gothenburg, which is pointing in the same direction (download paper below).
A better strategy to meet the nationalistic arguments would, then, be to do the opposite. Instead of trying to burst an argument or point-of-view with a better argument, just meet it with silence.
At the conference Kulturens roll i samhällsutvecklingen (The role of culture for social progress) last Friday (April 8, 2011) representatives from the 49 municipalities in Region Västra Götaland were invited together with civil servants and some cultural organizations to discuss just that: The role of culture in local and regional development. Proud political representatives showed examples of cultural projects and its effects for their local community. Everyone was movingly in agreement of the role of culture. And the need for arms-lengths distance between politicians and artistic content.
But in the region we still have in memory the discussion on the first meeting in the Regional Parliament held on November 2, 2010, where Sweden Democrats argued to take away a whole chapter of text in Kulturplanerna 2011–2012, the Cultural Plans of coming two years, concerning the importance of intercultural dialogue and how the region should work with issues like ethnicity, human rights and crossover cooperation with the aim of building understanding and knowledge instead of prejudices. This should, the Sweden Democrats argued, be erased from the document.
Their suggestion was voted down, but interestingly two persons from one of the largest parties, and one of the parties at the moment in Swedish Government, Moderaterna (Conservatives), voted together with the Sweden Democrats.
This is the everyday practice of political work. And shows how thoughts from the Swedish nationalstic party, with a background in neo-nazism, is slowly sneeking into the political arena and decisions.
Read former post on Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Time to guarantee artistic freedom.
Download the working report from Quality of Government Institute, University of Gothenburg, wwwqogpolguse_working_papers_2011_5_dahlstrom_sundell.pdf.
The day after the Swedish Election to parliament on September 19, many Swedes woke up in chock.
For the first time, a racist party had managed to get seats in the parliament. The Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in neo-Nazism, had gotten 5.7% of votes (4% is needed for parliament) and were about the same size as the other small parties in parliament.
For Sweden this was new, although our neighbours Norway and Denmark have had racist parties in their parliaments for some years, something that follows a European trend in politics at the moment. In Denmark Dansk Folkeparti is as big as around 13%, the third largest party in the country.
The Sweden Democrats holds the balance of power. The Alliance, the cooperation between Moderaterna (Conservatives/Moderate Party), Folkpartiet (Liberal Party) and Centerpartiet (Center Party), is in minority, which means to get decisions through; they have to find allies in one of the other parties.
Discussions have gone warm on what this means in reality and how members of parliament should act to completely shut out the Sweden Democrats from any political power. In this, all parties have agreed. The Sweden Democrats should be kept away from political influence and met with what they are: A party building politics on people’s ethnic and cultural background.
This only works if the traditional parties and their members have a clear idea of where they stand in their political act. That they wash their own dirty linen, so to speak.
In Region Västra Götaland, at the first meeting in the Regional Parliament held on November 2, we saw what this means.
After about five weeks of negotiations, the political alliance leading the region was formed. Socialdemokraterna (Social Democrats), Vänsterpartiet (Left Party) and Miljöpartiet (Green Party) form a minority governance together with Sjukvårdspartiet, a one-question party focused on medical care, as a balancing power. Still, together they hold only 74 seats, for majority 75 seats are needed of a total of 149. The Sweden Democrats holds 7 seats.
On the discussion on Kulturplanerna 2011–2012 (Cultural Plans), Patrik Ehn, a Sweden Democrat, argued to erase a formulation describing a trend of Europe becoming more and more racist and the fact that Sweden have a racist party in Government. But instead of suggesting to erase this specific sentence, the whole paragraph from the end of page twenty-nine, starting with the headline (my translation) “Region Västra Götaland wants to develop intercultural pedagogic”, to the end of page thirty, should, he argued, be erased from the document.
The paragraph Patrik Ehn urged being taken away is describing the importance of intercultural dialogue and how the region should work with issues like ethnicity, human rights and crossover cooperation with the aim of building understanding and knowledge instead of prejudices.
In the voting, 139 members voted to keep the paragraph, ten voted to erase it from the document.
Sweden Democrats acted as expected. They voted against and also asked for a two minutes break to leave a written reservation. The unexpected act was performed by some of the others. Of the ten members voting to erase, three were members of Moderaterna (Conservatives). Three members of the largest of the three ruling parties in Sweden voted with the Sweden Democrats.
It does give a scary indication of what we have in front of us.
Download the Kulturplanerna 2011–2012 here: underlag-till-regional-kulturplan-101022.pdf. See the clip from the first meeting in the Regional Parliament on 2 November 2010 from the discussion on Kulturplanerna here.
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