Left Party (Sweden)

Left Party
Abbreviation V
Leader Jonas Sjöstedt
Founded 1917
Headquarters Kungsgatan 84, Stockholm
Youth wing Young Left
Ideology Democratic socialism
Political position Left-wing
European affiliation Nordic Green Left Alliance
International affiliation None
European Parliament group European United Left–Nordic Green Left
Colours Red
21 / 349
European Parliament
1 / 20
County councils[1]
116 / 1,597
Municipal councils[2]
750 / 12,780

The Left Party (Swedish: Vänsterpartiet, V) is a socialist[3] and feminist[3] political party in Sweden, founded in 1917 following a split from the Swedish Social Democratic Party. The party has had many names throughout its history. In 1917 the party's name was Swedish Social Democratic Left Party (Swedish: Sveriges socialdemokratiska vänsterparti, SSV). It became the Communist Party of Sweden in 1921, the Left Party-Communists in 1967, and adopted its current name in 1990.

On welfare issues, the party opposes privatizations. Moreover, the party was against accession to the European Union and still wants Sweden to leave the European Union,[4] advocates increased public expenditure, and attempted to get Sweden to join the Non-Aligned Movement in 1980, but it did not succeed.[5]

From 1998 to 2006, the Left Party was in an arrangement with the ruling Social Democrats and the Greens. Until then it also 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 and its single MEP sits in the European United Left–Nordic Green Left parliamentary group.



The Left Party claims that Sweden does not have social equality in regard to gender. The party thus advocates the creation of a specific Minister of Social Equality, as well as to introduce the teaching of "feminist self-defence" in high schools.[6] Feminism as a concept was introduced in the party program in 1997, but it believes that it has always worked to strengthen women's rights. Feminist theory has grown into the party since the 1960s, when the women's movement gained a theoretical basis beyond Marxism. The Left Party opposes prostitution and supports the Swedish Sex Purchase Act.[7]

Immigration and integration

For newly arrived refugees, the party want to establish "special employment assistance". Furthermore, it advocates improving the quality of language teaching in Swedish for immigrants.[8]

Foreign policy

In regards to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the party supports a two-state solution based on the 1967 border. As well as opposing Swedish membership of the European Union, It calls for the freezing of EU trade agreements with Israel, ending Swedish military cooperation and arms trade with Israel and a general consumer boycott of Israeli goods to put pressure on Israel.[9][10] Its stance towards Europe is eurosceptic.[11]


First Communist Party group in the Second Chamber of the Swedish parliament in 1922. Standing from left: Viktor Herou, Verner Karlsson, J. P. Dahlén. Sitting from left: Karl Kilbom, August Spångberg, Helmer Molander, Carl Winberg.


In 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 (Comintern). 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 Communist Party of Sweden. Liberal and non-revolutionary elements were purged. They regrouped under the name SSV. In total 6,000 out of 17,000 party members were expelled.

In 1924 Zeth Höglund, the main leader of the party during the split from the Social Democrats, left the party. Höglund was displeased with the developments in Moscow after the death of Vladimir Lenin, and he founded his own Communist Party, independent from the Comintern. Around 5,000 party members followed Höglund.

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

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

1929 caricature in Folkets Dagblad Politiken, illustrating the Kilbom-led party as a mighty cruise ship and the Sillén-led party as a small rowboat lost at sea.

In 1929 a major split, the largest in the history of the party, took place. Nils Flyg, Karl Kilbom, Ture Nerman, all MPs and the majority of the party membership were expelled by the Comintern. The expelled were called Kilbommare and those loyal to Comintern were called Sillenare (after their leader Hugo Sillén). Out of 17,300 party members, 4,000 sided with Sillén and ComIntern. Conflicts erupted locally over control of party offices and property. In Stockholm the office of the central organ, held by the Kilbommare, was besieged by ComIntern loyalists. In Gothenburg fist-fights erupted in a clash over control of the party office. Effectively, the Kilbom-Flyg factions continued to operate their party under the name of Socialist Party, soon renamed Socialistiska partiet. Notably, they took with them the central organ of the party, Folkets Dagblad Politiken. SKP started new publications like Ny Dag and Arbetar-Tidningen.

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 led to increased labour militancy and gave 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, of which a large majority were communists. A third would never return to Sweden. Simultaneously, an extensive solidarity work for the Second 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 Second World War (1939–45) was a difficult time for the party. The party was the sole political force in Sweden supporting the Soviet side in the 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 26 July, 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".[12]

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."[13]

When Nazi 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 British imperialism".[14]

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. Many party activists went underground, including the party chairman. A complete ban on the party was discussed in government circles, but never became effective.[15]

Wartime SKP election poster against the transit of German troops through the formally neutral Sweden.

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 financial supporters of the group 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. 3,000 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 nationwide metal workers' 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'. 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 in Jämtland and Kristianstad the party decided to withdraw its 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 broad-based 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 diluting 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.


VPK poster demanding abolishment of VAT on food, a high-profile issue of VPK during the 1970s and 1980s.

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 Nordic 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 Socialistisk Folkeparti (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 Left Party - the Communists (VPK). 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 Communist Party of Sweden (KFML) at the time of the congress. The youth wing broke away, eventually forming Marxist-Leninistiska Kampförbundet (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 out-manoeuvered by the United FNL Groups (DFFG), an organization led by KFML that was actively supporting the armed struggle of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam. 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 Arbetarpartiet Kommunisterna (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.[16]

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.


New logo adopted in 1990

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 received 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 declared itself to be feminist.

In 1998 the party obtained its best-ever result in a parliamentary election, 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 by 3% to a total of 8.3%. Simultaneously the Social Democrats regained 3%.

2002 electoral poster

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 broadcast 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.[17]

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). In the 2010 election, the party got 5.6% of the votes (334,053 votes) and 19 seats.

On 7 December 2008, the Social Democrats launched a political and electoral coalition known as the Red-Greens together with the Left Party and Green Party. The parties contested the 2010 general election on a joint manifesto, but lost the election to the incumbent centre-right coalition The Alliance. On 26 November 2010 the Red-Green alliance was dissolved.[18]

On 6 January 2012, the party congress elected Jonas Sjöstedt as the new party chairman since Ohly had announced his resignation.


During its history, there has been several splits of various significance:

Election results

Parliament (Riksdag)

Percentage of votes by year:

Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Government
1924 63,301 3.6 (#6)
4 / 230
Decrease 3 in opposition
1928 151,567 6.4 (#5)
8 / 230
Increase 4 in opposition
1932 74,245 3.0 (#6)
2 / 230
Decrease 6 in opposition
1936 96,519 3.3 (#6)
5 / 230
Increase 3 in opposition
1940 101,424 3.5 (#5)
3 / 230
Decrease 2 in opposition
1944 318,466 10.3 (#5)
15 / 230
Increase 12 in opposition
1948 244,826 6.3 (#5)
8 / 230
Decrease 7 in opposition
1952 164,194 4.3 (#5)
6 / 230
Decrease 3 in opposition
1956 194,016 5.0 (#5)
6 / 231
Increase 1 in opposition
1958 129,319 3.4 (#5)
5 / 231
Decrease 1 in opposition
1960 190,560 4.5 (#5)
5 / 232
Steady 0 in opposition
1964 221,746 5.2 (#5)
8 / 233
Increase 3 in opposition
1968 145,172 3.0 (#5)
3 / 233
Decrease 5 in opposition
1970 236,659 4.8 (#5)
17 / 350
Increase 14 in opposition
1973 274,929 5.3 (#5)
19 / 350
Increase 2 in opposition
1976 258,432 4.8 (#5)
17 / 349
Decrease 2 in opposition
1979 305,420 5.6 (#5)
20 / 349
Increase 3 in opposition
1982 308,899 5.6 (#5)
20 / 349
Steady 0 in opposition
1985 298,419 5.4 (#5)
19 / 349
Decrease 1 in opposition
1988 314,031 5.8 (#5)
21 / 349
Increase 2 in opposition
1991 246,905 4.5 (#7)
16 / 349
Decrease 5 in opposition
1994 342,988 6.2 (#5)
22 / 349
Increase 6 in opposition
1998 631,011 12.0 (#3)
43 / 349
Increase 21 in opposition
2002 444,854 8.4 (#5)
30 / 349
Decrease 13 in opposition
2006 324,722 5.9 (#6)
22 / 349
Decrease 8 in opposition
2010 334,053 5.6 (#7)
19 / 349
Decrease 3 in opposition
2014 356,331 5.7 (#6)
21 / 349
Increase 2 in opposition

European Parliament

Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
1995 346,764 12.9 (#4)
3 / 22
1999 400,073 15.8 (#3)
3 / 22
Steady 0
2004 321,344 12.8 (#4)
2 / 19
Decrease 1
2009 179,222 5.7 (#6)
1 / 18
Decrease 1
2014 234,272 6.3 (#7)
1 / 20
Steady 0

Party leaders

See also



  1. "2014: Val till landstingsfullmäktige - Valda", Valmyndigheten, 2014-09-28
  2. "2014: Val till kommunfullmäktige - Valda", Valmyndigheten, 2014-09-26
  3. 1 2 Claire Annesley (11 January 2013). Political and Economic Dictionary of Western Europe. Routledge. p. 225–. ISBN 978-1-135-35547-0.
  4. Szczerbiak et al (2008), p. 183.
  5. Utrikesutskottet betänkande 1980/81:UU12
  6. Feminism Archived August 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. "Sweden's Prostitution Solution: Why Hasn't Anyone Tried". justicewomen.com. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  8. Integration Archived August 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Israel och Palestina Archived August 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. Befria Gaza - Bojkotta Israel! Archived November 30, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. Szczerbiak, Aleks; Taggart, Paul A. (2008). Opposing Europe?. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-19-925830-7.
  12. 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 Küng, A.
  13. Arbetar-Tidningen, nr 36, 8–14 September 1939, cited in 14:e nordiska konferensen för medie- och kommunikationsforskning. Kungälv 14–17 augusti 1999.
  14. Ny Dag, April 1940, cited in Vänsterpartiets fastigheter betalades av Sovjet och DDR
  15. Karl Molin. Hemmakriget - Om den svenska krigsmaktens åtgärder mot kommunister under andra världskriget. (1982) ISBN 91-550-2785-7
  16. Intelligence reports reveals that the pro-Soviet minority had direct consultations with the embassies of the Soviet Union and East Germany prior to the split. However, it appears that both the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Socialist Unity Party of Germany had urged the group to preserve the unity of VPK. SOU 2002:93, p. 247-251
  17. 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.
  18. Stenberg, Ewa (26 November 2010). "Det borde bara ha varit vi och S". Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved 21 January 2012.

External links

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