Capitalists against Markets: The Making of Labor Markets and Welfare States in the United States and Sweden

By Peter A. Swenson | Go to book overview

11
FROM SOLIDARISM TO
SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

Industrialist and employer leader Sigfrid Edström was visiting the Riksdag one day in spring 1934 to discuss with Per Albin Hansson, the Social Democratic prime minister, a matter affecting ASEA, Sweden's leading electrical engineering company. In his diary, he recalled the following:

As I was leaving the room he called me back, asked me to sit down and continue our conversation. To my surprise the Prime Minister expressed the view that industry ought to have better representation in the Riksdag. In jest I answered: “Can you give me some votes so we get a Riksdagsman in?” P. A. smiled. We won't get far that way, he said, but one can imagine other solutions. I promised him I would think about the matter. 1

Hansson's prodding, Edström recounted, soon came up for discussion in the “Directors' Club”, through which the five leading engineering firms coordinated strategy for pursuing mutual economic and political interests. Discussion led ultimately to the founding in 1938 of the Institute for Industrial Research (Industrins Utredningsinstitut, or IUI), to sponsor research and shape public opinion about industry's interests. It was financed in part by SAF, the employers' confederation. That organization, together with the Directors' Club, the Swedish Engineering Employers' Association, and ASEA—Sweden's “General Electric”—was also chaired by Edström. 2

Relations between Sweden's pre-eminent industrialist and its Social Democratic prime minister possibly approached the level of friendship and respect achieved between fellow employer statesman Gerard Swope of GE and President Franklin Roosevelt. In the following years until his death in 1946, Hansson enjoyed great confidence from other leading Swedish industrialists, too.

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