Remembering Olof Palme:“For us democracy is human dignity. And human dignity is political freedom.”

The world is currently seeing an erosion of democracy as human dignity is being sold out to capitalist ambitions.

Olof Palme

Olof Palme was a Swedish democratic-socialist Prime Minister. He was also a revolutionary. Olof Palme was assassinated on Feb 28th, 1986 on a street in Stockholm. The mystery of who killed Olof and why has not been solved and the perpetrator continues to be at large.

Olof Palme and his wife were walking home from a night out in Stockholm, Sweden. They had no body-guards around them as Palme believed in being a people’s representative, and thus he did not want to separate himself from the public. On the busy roads of the city, as the couple walked home, a man shot Olof Palme, killing him instantly.

Palme was the Prime Minister of Sweden at the time of his death and was known as a revolutionary reformist. He challenged capitalism in Sweden with his focus on expanding the power of labour unions, increasing social security, and solving housing problems amongst other initiatives. He wanted to build a welfare state which provided basic necessities to all.

One week before his death, Palme had made a speech condemning apartheid at a meeting of the Swedish People’s Parliament Against Apartheid in Stockholm, which was attended by ANC leaders Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki.

He also challenged imperialism abroad and was known as an internationalist. Palme supported anti-capitalist movements in Sweden and human dignity efforts across the globe. Olof Palme funded the African National Congress and was an outspoken critic of apartheid. He had echoed the statement that a system like the apartheid could not be reformed; it can only be abolished. He believed, and rightly so, that the entire world was implicated in the continuance of this system and only if the world decides to speak out against apartheid the system will be abolished.

 

Olof Palme
Palme meeting Cuban President Fidel Castro

Palme was also one of the only western leaders to support the Cuban revolution. He had visited Castro to show support to the revolutionaries and heavily criticised Batista’s regime. He was often critical of the US’s imperialist ambitions and denounced authoritarians’ rules like Pinochet’s regime in Chile. The US had frozen its ties with Sweden due to Palme’s open critique of the US regime. He was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam war and said that Vietnam was being punished in order to humiliate the nation and submit to the US by force. He called the bombings in Hanoi despicable and compared it to the bombings at the Nazi extermination camps in Treblinka. This resulted in harsh criticism by the US against Sweden.

After Palme’s death, the egalitarian capitalist structure started to fall at its seams. Currently, the country is racing ahead to become one of the least egalitarian countries in the world, with respect to wealth disparity. Palme’s focus on health and housing has definitely been side-lined for Sweden’s capitalistic endeavours.

Palme reinstalled faith in democracy. He proved that leaders of the world were accountable to its people and have to speak out against the brutality, violence, and torture of the oppressed around the world. Political figureheads must work towards demanding better working conditions, pro-poor policies, and stand with the oppressed.

Palme has said that human dignity is political freedom and democracy is human dignity. The world is currently seeing an erosion of democracy as human dignity is being sold out to capitalist ambitions. India has seen a wave of pro-capitalist and anti-people policies that push marginalised groups be it Dalits, Muslims, Sexual minorities towards further oppression. Political freedom is under threat and has been so for years. Politicians in the country have either engineered this or have been silent about these policies. Further, rather than condemn the Human Rights violations across the globe the country has invited leaders from these oppressive regimes to dine with them.

What we need is a leader with Olof’s vision, a socialist-democratic revolutionary who will lead Indian towards the path of progress that is inclusive of all of its people and not for a few.

 

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