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Party of Carl Bildt Late in Recognising Mandela
Frequent use of the 'N word'.
STOCKHOLM (Rixstep) — 'A world in deep grief', tweeted Carl Bildt last night. But the solidarity of Carl Bildt's Conservatives with the struggle of Mandela has been wobbly.
'Their party was the last one to understand Mandela's importance', says Anders Sannerstedt, political scientist at the University of Lund, Sweden.
When Sweden in 1979 implemented trade sanctions against apartheid South Africa, Nelson Mandela had already been in prison for 17 years.
Six years later in August 1985, the then-leader of the Conservatives, Ulf Adelsohn, got in trouble. At a visit to a Swedish mine in competition with South Africa, he said:
'If we boycott products from South Africa, those poor niggers down there will be out of work.'
During a Q&A with high school students a few weeks later, Carl Bildt tried to explain why his colleague's remark wasn't racist:
'You could also say a Swede is a Swede and a Jew is a Jew.'
Late to Wake Up
Bildt later explained what he meant:
'There are Jews who are Swedes, just as there are niggers who are Swedes, and they've made important contributions to Swedish society.'
'That it's been a long time waking up for the Conservatives is very clear', says political scientist Anders Sannerstedt, who remembers the incidents.
'That wasn't one of Adelsohn's better sound bites. But there were others who also expressed themselves in strange ways, amongst other a member of the Centre (Farmers) Party who traveled to South Africa, returned home, and told everyone that the black people had a good life. He was later forced to resign.'
Should Have Switched
According to Sannerstedt, the Conservatives should have at least changed their position when Mandela was released in 1990.
'And I think that things changed in general when Mandela's political agenda began in earnest in connection with talks with the white regime and de Klerk. When the process of democratisation started to be successful, it should have been clear to all those involved where things were headed. And Carl Bildt was one of those who should have known.'
Three years later in September 1993, then prime minister Carl Bildt and finance and foreign minister Ulf Dinkelspiel wrote their proposition that the law against investments in South Africa should be repealed.
Branded a Commie
But the hostile attitude of some within Bildt's party lasted even longer.
After word of Mandela's passing yesterday evening, the Conservative MP Maria Abrahamsson wrote on her blog:
'When I was hired on in the middle of the 1990s as a jurist at the party's parliament chancellery, there was one occasion I let slip that Mandela was my big idol, and I was called a communist by my older party colleagues. Things were different back then.'
Ulf Adelsohn says he can't believe anyone would have said such a thing to Abrahamsson. And about the commotion about his own statement from 1985 he says:
'I went against my own party line on the boycott of South African goods already in 1967. It's just ridiculous that 18 years later people call me a racist and use that in an election campaign. That had nothing to do with my views.'
Parties Have No Regrets
Anders Sannerstedt says it's rare political parties express regret.
'Individuals can come crawling, but not parties. It's only in Japan where it's customary. What they'll do instead is to claim that they've 'misjudged' something.'
Ulf Adelsohn does not agree with Sannerstedt that the party of Carl Bildt woke up too late.
'That political scientist is probably a social democrat.'
Carl Bildt's Conservatives, going under a number of different names over the past 90 years, have consistently opposed every major social and political reform since the 1920s, including the right for women to vote, abortions, the 40-hour work week, and universal health care. The list is endless.
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