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Olof Palme

Olof Palme, early 1970s

In office
14 October 1969 – 8 October 1976
Monarch Gustaf VI Adolf,
Carl XVI Gustaf
Preceded by Tage Erlander
Succeeded by Thorbjörn Fälldin
In office
8 October 1982 – 28 February 1986
Monarch Carl XVI Gustaf
Deputy Ingvar Carlsson
Preceded by Thorbjörn Fälldin
Succeeded by Ingvar Carlsson

Born 30 January 1927(1927-01-30)
Stockholm, Sweden
Died 1 March 1986 (aged 59)
Stockholm, Sweden
Political party Swedish Social Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Lisbet Palme
Alma mater Stockholm University College,
Kenyon College
Signature

Sven Olof Joachim Palme (About this sound Olof Palme ) (30 January 1927 – 1 March 1986) was a Swedish politician.

Palme was the leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party from 1969 until his assassination in 1986. He was also the Prime Minister of Sweden twice during this period, heading a Privy Council Government from 1969 to 1976 and a cabinet government from 1982 until his death. Palme's murder was the first of its kind in modern Swedish history and had a great impact across Scandinavia.[1]

Contents

Early life and education

Palme was born into an upper-class, conservative family in Östermalm, Stockholm, Sweden. His father was of Dutch ancestry and his mother, Freiin von Knieriem, was of Baltic German origin. Despite his upper class background, his political orientation came to be influenced by Social Democratic attitudes. His travels in the Third World, as well as the United States – where he saw deep economic inequality and racial segregation – helped to develop these views.

On a scholarship, he studied at Kenyon College, Ohio 1947–1948, graduating with a B.A. in less than a year.[2] Inspired by radical debate in the student community, he wrote a critical essay on Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. Palme wrote his senior honor thesis on the United Auto Workers union, led at the time by Walter Reuther. After graduation he traveled throughout the country and eventually ended up in Detroit, where his hero Reuther agreed to an interview which lasted several hours. In later years, Palme regularly remarked during his many subsequent American visits, that the United States had made him a socialist, a remark that often has caused confusion. Within the context of his American experience, it was not that Palme was repelled by what he found in America, but rather that he was inspired by it.[3]

After hitchhiking through the USA, he returned to Sweden to study law at Stockholm University. During his time at university, Palme became involved in student politics, working with the Swedish National Union of Students. In 1951, he became a member of the social democratic student association in Stockholm, although it is asserted he did not attend their political meetings at the time. The following year he was elected President of the Swedish National Union of Students.

Palme attributed his becoming a socialist to three major influences:

  • In 1947, he attended a debate on taxes between the Social Democrat Ernst Wigforss, the conservative Jarl Hjalmarson and the liberal Elon Andersson;
  • The time he spent in the United States in the 1940s made him realise how wide the class divide was in America, and the extent of racism against black people; and,
  • A trip to Asia in 1953 had opened his eyes to the consequences of colonialism and imperialism.

Political career

In 1953, Palme was recruited by the social democratic prime minister Tage Erlander to work in his secretariat. From 1955 he was a board member of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League and lectured at the Youth League College Bommersvik.

In 1957 he was elected as an MP (Swedish: riksdagsledamot).[4]

Olof Palme held several cabinet posts from 1963. In 1967 he became Minister of Education, and the following year, he was the target of strong criticism from left-wing students protesting against the government's plans for university reform. When party leader Tage Erlander stepped down in 1969, Palme was elected as the new leader by the Social Democratic party congress and succeeded Erlander as Prime Minister.

Palme became, alongside Raoul Wallenberg and Dag Hammarskjöld, one of the most internationally-known Swedes of the 20th century, on account of his 125-month tenure as Prime Minister, fierce opposition to American foreign policy, and assassination.[5][6]

His protégé and political ally, Bernt Carlsson, who was appointed UN Commissioner for Namibia in July 1987, also suffered an untimely death. Carlsson was killed in the Libyan terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988 en route to the UN signing ceremony of the New York Accords the following day.

Palme was said to have had a profound impact on people's emotions; he was very popular among many on the left, but equally detested by the right.[7] This was due in part to his international activities, especially those directed against the United States, and in part to his aggressive and outspoken debating style.[8][9]

Policies

Olof Palme at Norra Bantorget, May Day 1973

As leader of a new generation of Swedish Social Democrats, Olof Palme was often described as a "revolutionary reformist".[10][11] Domestically, his socialist views – especially the Social Democrat drive to expand Labour Union influence over business – engendered a great deal of hostility from more conservatively inclined Swedes. Shortly before his assassination, Palme had been accused of being pro-Soviet and not sufficiently safeguarding Sweden's national interest. Arrangements had therefore been made for him to go to Moscow to discuss a number of contentious bilateral issues, including alleged Soviet submarine incursions into Swedish waters (see U 137).

On the international scene, Palme was a widely recognised political figure because of his:

All of this ensured that Palme had many opponents (as well as many friends) abroad.

On 21 February 1968, Palme (then Minister of Education) participated in a protest in Stockholm against the US involvement in the war in Vietnam together with the North Vietnamese Ambassador to the Soviet Union Nguyen Tho Chan. The protest was organized by the Swedish Committee for Vietnam and Palme and Nguyen were both invited as speakers. As a result of this, the USA recalled its Ambassador from Sweden and Palme was fiercely criticised by the opposition for his participation in the protest.[12]

On 23 December 1972, Palme (then Prime Minister) made a speech in Swedish national radio where he compared the ongoing U.S. bombings of Hanoi to a number of historical atrocities, namely the bombing of Guernica, the massacres of Oradour-sur-Glane, Babi Yar, Katyn, Lidice and Sharpeville, and the extermination of Jews and other groups at Treblinka. The USA government called the comparison a "gross insult" and once again decided to freeze its diplomatic relations with Sweden (this time the freeze lasted for over a year).[12][13]

Despite such associations and contrary to stated Social Democratic Party policy, Sweden had in fact secretly maintained extensive military co-operation with NATO over a long period, and was even under the protection of a US military security guarantee (see Swedish neutrality during the Cold War).

Asked about Palme, former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once answered that he usually disliked the people he agreed with and liked the people he disagreed with, adding dryly: "So Palme, I liked - a lot".[citation needed]

Assassination

People mourning Palme where he was assassinated in Stockholm 1986

Security had never been a major issue, and Olof Palme could often be seen without any bodyguard protection. The night of his murder was one such occasion. Walking home from a cinema with his wife Lisbet Palme on the central Stockholm street Sveavägen, close to midnight on February 28, 1986, the couple was attacked by an assassin. Palme was fatally shot in the back at close range. A second shot wounded Lisbet Palme.

Police said that a taxi driver used his mobile radio to raise the alarm. Two young girls sitting in a car close to the scene of the shooting also tried to help the prime minister. He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival at 00:06 CET the next day. Mrs Palme's wound was treated and she recovered.

Deputy prime minister Ingvar Carlsson immediately assumed the duties as prime minister and as new leader of the Social Democratic Party.

Two years after the event, Christer Pettersson, a small-time criminal and drug addict, was arrested, tried and convicted for Palme's murder. Pettersson's conviction was later overturned on appeal to the Svea Court of Appeal. As a result the crime remains unsolved and a number of alternative theories as to who carried out the murder have since been proposed.

Notes

  1. ^ Nordstrom, Byron (2000). Scandinavia Since 1500. University of Minnesota Press, pg. 347. "The February 1986 murder of Sweden's Prime Minister Olof Palme near Sergelstorget in the middle of Stockholm's downtown shocked the nation and region. Political assassinations were virtually unheard-of in Scandinavia."
  2. ^ Kenyon College Web page
  3. ^ Hendrik Hertzberg, “Death of a Patriot”, in: Idem, Politics. Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004 (New York: The Penguin Press, 2004) 263-266, there 264
  4. ^ Elected as an MP
  5. ^ Time: Sweden's Olof Palme: "Neutral But Not Silent"
  6. ^ Castro Praises Swedish Achievements
  7. ^ Einhorn, Eric and John Logue (1989). Modern Welfare States: Politics and Policies in Social Democratic Scandinavia. Praeger Publishers, pg 60. ISBN 0275931889 "Olof Palme was perhaps the most 'presidential' Scandinavian leader in recent decades, a fact that may have made him vulnerable to political violence."
  8. ^ "Han gödslade jorden så att Palmehatet kunde växa", Dagens Nyheter, 25 February 2006
  9. ^ Olof Palme: the controversy lives on, The Local, 27 February 2006
  10. ^ Dagens Nyheter 2007-01-23
  11. ^ "Detta borde vara vårt arv" by Åsa Linderborg, Aftonbladet 2006-02-28
  12. ^ a b Andersson, Stellan. "Olof Palme och Vietnamfrågan 1965-1983" (in Swedish). olofpalme.org. http://www.olofpalme.org/ingangar/tema/vietnam/. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  13. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBObl3-IGmU The speech

Bibliography

  • Antman, Peter; Schori, Pierre (1996), Olof Palme : den gränslöse reformisten, Stockholm: Tiden, ISBN 91-518-2948-7 
  • Arvidsson, Claes (2007), Olof Palme : med verkligheten som fiende, Stockholm: Timbro, ISBN 978-91-7566-539-9 
  • Åsard, Erik (2002), Politikern Olof Palme, Stockholm: Hjalmarson & Högberg, ISBN 91-89080-88-2 
  • Björk, Gunnela (2006), Olof Palme och medierna, Umeå: Boréa, ISBN 91-89140-45-1 
  • Ekengren, Ann-Marie (2005), Olof Palme och utrikespolitiken : Europa och Tredje världen, Umeå: Boréa, ISBN 91-89140-41-9 
  • Elmbrant, Björn (1996), Palme (2nd ed.), Stockholm: Fischer, ISBN 91-7054-797-1 
  • Fredriksson, Gunnar (1986), Olof Palme, Stockholm: Norstedt, ISBN 91-1-863472-9 
  • Gummesson, Jonas (2001), Olof Palmes ungdomsår : bland nazister och spioner, Stockholm: Ekerlid, ISBN 91-88595-95-1 
  • Haste, Hans; Olsson, Lars Erik; Strandberg, Lars; Adler, Arne (1986), Boken om Olof Palme : hans liv, hans gärning, hans död, Stockholm: Tiden, ISBN 91-550-3218-4 
  • Hermansson, Håkan; Wenander, Lars (1987), Uppdrag: Olof Palme : hatet, jakten, kampanjerna, Stockholm: Tiden, ISBN 91-550-3340-7 
  • Isaksson, Christer (1995), Palme privat : i skuggan av Erlander, Stockholm: Ekerlid, ISBN 91-88594-36-X 
  • Kullenberg, Annette (1996), Palme och kvinnorna, Stockholm: Brevskolan, ISBN 91-574-4512-5 
  • Larsson, Ulf (2003), Olof Palme och utbildningspolitiken, Stockholm: Hjalmarson & Högberg, ISBN 91-89660-24-2 
  • Malm-Andersson, Ingrid (2001), Olof Palme : en bibliografi, Hedemora: Arbetarrörelsens arkiv och bibliotek, ISBN 91-7844-349-0 
  • Östberg, Kjell (2008), I takt med tiden : Olof Palme 1927-1969, Stockholm: Leopard, ISBN 978-91-7343-208-5 
  • Östergren, Bertil (1984), Vem är Olof Palme? : ett politiskt porträtt, Stockholm: Timbro, ISBN 91-7566-037-7 
  • Palme, Claës (1986), Olof Palme, Helsinki: Kirjayhtymä, ISBN 951-26-2963-1 
  • Palme, Olof (1984), Sveriges utrikespolitik : anföranden, Stockholm: Tiden, ISBN 91-550-2948-5 
  • Palme, Olof (1986), Politik är att vilja (3rd ed.), Stockholm: Prisma, ISBN 91-518-2045-5 
  • Palme, Olof (1986), Att vilja gå vidare (2nd ed.), Stockholm: Tiden, ISBN 91-550-3224-9 
  • Palme, Olof; Richard, Serge; Åkerman, Nordal (1977), Med egna ord : samtal med Serge Richard och Nordal Åkerman, Uppsala: Bromberg, ISBN 91-85342-32-7 
  • Palme, Olof; Dahlgren, Hans (1987), En levande vilja, Stockholm: Tiden, ISBN 91-550-3225-7 
  • Palme, Olof; Hansson, Sven Ove; Dahlgren, Hans (1996), Palme själv : texter i urval, Stockholm: Tiden, ISBN 91-518-2947-9 
  • Palme, Olof (2006), Solidaritet utan gränser : tal och texter i urval, Stockholm: Atlas, ISBN 91-7389-219-X 
  • Peterson, Thage G. (2002), Olof Palme som jag minns hono, Stockholm: Bonnier, ISBN 91-0-058042-2 
  • Strand, Dieter (1977), Palme mot Fälldin : rapporter från vägen till nederlaget, Stockholm: Rabén & Sjögren, ISBN 91-29-50309-4 
  • Strand, Dieter (1980), Palme igen? : scener ur en partiledares liv, Stockholm: Norstedt, ISBN 91-1-801351-1 
  • Strand, Dieter (1986), Med Palme : scener ur en partiledares och statsministers liv, Stockholm: Norstedt, ISBN 91-1-861431-0 
  • Svedgård, Lars B. (1970), Palme : en presentation, Stockholm: Rabén & Sjögren, ISBN 99-0110911-6 
  • Zachrisson, Birgitta; Alandh, Tom; Henriksson, Björn (1996), Berättelser om Palme, Stockholm: Norstedt, ISBN 91-1-960002-X 

See also

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Gösta Skoglund
Minister for Communications
1965–1967
Succeeded by
Svante Lundkvist
Preceded by
Ragnar Edenman
Minister for Education
1967–1969
Succeeded by
Ingvar Carlsson
Preceded by
Tage Erlander
Prime Minister of Sweden
1969–1976
Succeeded by
Thorbjörn Fälldin
Leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party
1969–1986
Succeeded by
Ingvar Carlsson
Preceded by
Thorbjörn Fälldin
Prime Minister of Sweden
1982–1986
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