Social Democrats ‘must reject Big Brother’

Social Democrats 'must reject Big Brother'
Sweden's government has voted through its controversial eavesdropping law. Now its time to make sure that Mona Sahlin rips up the legislation if she wins the next election, argues Social Democrat Catti Ullström.

During the last few weeks, every Swede has been talking about this new law called the FRA law or Lex Orwell.

The law, which will make it legal for the state to read our e-mails, listen to our phone calls and survey our every movement on the internet, has resulted in the biggest backlash yet for Sweden’s conservative/liberal government. Support of the government is dropping, even amongst really liberal voters.

The political opposition in the parliament voted against this Lex Orwell, though the parliamentarians from the biggest opposition party, the Social Democrats, did stay very silent during the FRA debate.

Before the last Swedish elections (2006), the Social Democratic government at that time wanted to propose a law very similar to the one the current government will now implement. The Social Democratic Big Brother track record is definitely not something we can be particularly proud of.

Within our party though, there are many of us who oppose this law as well as other sorts of Big Brother reforms. It is for this reason that I, like many others, welcome the recent statement by our chairwoman Mona Sahlin who announced a few days back that a future Social Democratic government would abandon Lex Orwell, at least in its current form.

It is this last part that prevents me from jumping out of my chair with joy. Sahlin is not specific about how a new government would change the FRA law, and it could mean that she intends going back to either the original proposal made by the last Social Democratic government, or something very similar.

I welcome Sahlin’s statement, and I hope that her intentions really are to abandon Lex Orwell. But as long as we are not sure, we have to keep on struggling to get a clear statement.

In 2009 our party will hold a major congress. Those of us who are Social Democrats against Big Brother should work together to ensure both that the FRA law becomes an issue at the congress and that the entire party is made of Social Democrats against Big Brother.

Only then can we be sure that a change of government would also mean a change in Big Brother policy.

Catti Ullström is a member of the Social Democratic Students of Sweden where she is coordinator of the organization’s Burma project. She blogs [in Swedish] at