Distant Magnets: Expectations and Realities in the Immigrant Experience, 1840-1930

By Dirk Hoerder; Horst Rössler | Go to book overview

the modernization of the capitalist world market, had been achieved in their native land since their departure. But they remained sceptical. Only gradually, and in general only after World War I, did classconscious workers remain in Sweden, even in difficult personal and economic circumstances, in order to struggle for better conditions and to build a socialist workers' movement. After the achievement of the franchise in 1918, the fight for workers' control and economic democracy brought about a Swedish way of social change. 62 The image of a humane society in America faded in the face of the compromises the American labor movement was making. By the 1930s, Swedish workers and small farmers had materially caught up with, and sociopolitically overtaken, their American counterparts.


Conclusion

The end of Swedish labor migration to America involved a significant change in collective behavior. Workers now made demands on the home government through their unions and through the political parties of the Left rather than putting the improvement of their competitive position at risk through migration. Capital -- which for its part enforced American methods of production on Sweden63 -- made the image of America in Swedish working life a Trojan horse for Taylorism. However, whereas the latter had been strongly opposed, for example, by the metalworkers' union in 1910, 64 it was accepted in the 1930s when capital and labor came to a corporate consensus. Because of the very adoption of American methods by management and by labor organizations, Swedish industrial wages became the highest in Europe. 65 Mass migration, with its tendency to create a labor shortage and its simultaneous effect on the qualifications of the workers remaining at home, contributed to the Americanization of the work process in Sweden. 66


Notes
1
For further bibliographical information, see From Sweden to America: A History of the Migration, Harald Runblom and Hans Norman, eds. ( Uppsala and Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 1976); for a recently published work on the early Swedish migration to America, see Reinhold Wulff, Die Anfangsphase der Emigration aus Schweden in die USA, 1820-1850 ( Frankfurt a.M.: Lang, 1987); for a short presentation and discus-

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