Earlier this year, the legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger died at the age of 94. For nearly seven decades, Seeger was a musical and political icon who helped create the modern American folk music movement. In the 1940s, he performed in The Almanac Singers with Woody Guthrie, and then formed The Weavers. In the 1950s, he opposed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s political witch hunt and was almost jailed for refusing to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Seeger became a prominent civil rights activist and helped popularize the anthem, "We Shall Overcome." He was also a vocal critic of the Vietnam War and inspired a generation of protest singers. Later in his life, Seeger was at the center of the environmental and anti-nuclear movements. In 2009, Seeger and Bruce Springsteen performed Woody Guthrie’s "This Land is Your Land" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama, when he first became president. We re-air highlights from our 2013 and 2004 interviews with Seeger.
Former U.S. congressmember and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich speaks to Democracy Now! while in Sweden to observe the political festival Almedalen Week, which brings together people from all points on the political spectrum. Kucinich says the United States needs a similarly inclusive political process. "You come here and you see so many different political persuasions represented, and our politics back at home are monochromatic," Kucinich says. "We need to awaken those sentiments in America and one way to do it is proportional representation." On the crisis in Iraq, Kucinich says: "If we learned anything from our experience, it should be that interventionism is not the wave of the future." Kucinich served in the in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2013, and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012.
How Sweden's Feminist Initiative Party Became First of Its Kind to Win a Seat in European Parliament
In May, Sweden’s Feminist Initiative party won a seat in the European Parliament, becoming the first feminist party in history to do so. We are joined by the party’s co-founder, Gudrun Schyman, a former member of the Swedish Parliament. Schyman talks about the Feminist Initiative’s focus on climate change, anti-racism and connecting the violence in intimate relationships to the violence in international relations. "The patriarch structure is global, and it shows in all fields of society, in your intimate relations, in the labor market," Schyman says. "We have to ban violence, and we have to see that the role of violence is always control, always power."
As we broadcast from Almedalen Week, a unique political festival in Sweden, we are joined by Jonas Sjöstedt, Swedish chairperson of the Left Party and member of the Swedish Parliament. Sjöstedt describes the Left Party as a modern socialist, left-wing party with roots in the labor movement and a new focus on tackling climate change and privatization. "Sweden has become kind of an experiment for privatization, especially in the education system, in healthcare and the homes for the elderly," Sjöstedt says. "We want to ban all profit-making companies from these welfare sectors."
Sweden is in the middle of a "super election year" with elections taking place for the European Parliament, as well as local and national elections. After eight years of a right-wing government, our guest says the balance of power is set to shift to a red-green alliance between the country’s Left Party and Green Party. "There is a lot at stake for a lot of people," says Andreas Gustavsson, editor-in-chief of the daily Swedish newspaper Dagens ETC. He discusses key issues in the election, and recent protests against the Party of the Swedes, a neo-Nazi party whose members oppose immigration and have joined in fighting alongside fascist groups in Ukraine.
While the United States considered the African National Congress a terrorist organization, the Swedish government openly funded the group for decades. According to many accounts, Sweden was the largest single source of financial aid to the ANC. Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister, was assassinated in 1986 just a week after he gave a keynote speech at the Swedish People’s Parliament Against Apartheid in Stockholm. Rumors have swirled for years about the South African government’s involvement in his killing. Shortly after he was released in 1990, Nelson Mandela came to Sweden on one of his first foreign stops after being released from prison. During an address to the Swedish Parliament, Mandela thanked Sweden for standing in the "front ranks of the international forces that have fought against the apartheid system." On Wednesday night, one of Mandela’s closest associates, Ahmed Kathrada, spoke in the Swedish town of Visby, which is hosting the week-long political festival Almedalen Week. Kathrada spent 26 years in prison, including 18 years on Robben Island.
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After 2 Years of Confinement, Will Sweden Resolve Assange's Case? Swedish Foreign Minister Won't Say
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt refuses to address questions from Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman about the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted for questioning in Sweden on allegations of sexual offenses. Assange's attorneys recently asked the Swedish government to withdraw a warrant that has kept him confined in Ecuador’s London Embassy for two years. Assange has voiced fears he would ultimately be sent for prosecution in the United States if he were to return to Sweden. Assange’s attorneys say the warrant should be lifted because it cannot be enforced while Assange is in the embassy and Swedish prosecutors refuse to question him in London. Although Assange faces a warrant for questioning, he has not been formally charged. Fifty-nine international organizations have submitted reports to the United Nations challenging Sweden’s treatment of Assange. Speaking at the Almedalen political festival in Visby, Bildt refuses to address the case directly, calling it an issue for the Swedish judicial system, not its political one. We get reaction to Bildt’s comments from Assange legal adviser Jen Robinson, who also discusses the parallels between Assange and National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. "We are now seeing a trend of whistleblowers, publishers, journalists having to seek asylum and refuge in countries around the world because of their concern about prosecution in the United States," Robinson says.
At the Almedalen political festival in Visby, Swedish lawmaker Per Bolund joins us to talk climate change, national politics, Sweden’s response to global National Security Agency surveillance and the government’s standoff with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Elected to to the Swedish Riksdag in 2006, Bolund serves as the Green Party’s spokesperson for finance policy and is a member of the party’s board of directors.
While Sweden is known as the birthplace of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Peace Prize, many do not realize it is also one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers. Sweden is in fact the third largest arms exporter per capita after Israel and Russia. Swedish company, Saab, makes more than 50 percent of the weapons the country exports. While the Swedish government often takes a neutral position in international conflicts and offers assistance through peacekeeping missions and foreign aid, it has continued to send military equipment to regimes accused of human rights abuses, including Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Bahrain and Egypt. We speak with two guests: peace activist Martin Smedjeback, who has served three prison sentences for breaking into weapons factories and hammering on weapons meant for export, and with Anna Ek, president of Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, the world’s oldest peace organization. Ek says that while Sweden signed the global Arms Trade Treaty earlier this year, it has resisted incorporating anti-corruption provisions into the country’s own laws.
After Breaking Gender Barrier, Sweden's 1st Female Archbishop Leads Church into Climate Change Fight
At the week-long Almedalen political festival in Visby, Sweden, one of the major issues has been climate change and Sweden’s role in addressing the crisis. In May, the bishops of the Church of Sweden issued a joint statement calling climate change "the biggest common challenge ever faced by humanity." Sweden’s new archbishop, Antje Jackelén, is among those calling for scientists, politicians, cultural icons and religious leaders to work in concert to address the issue. Jackelén issued the call after making history as Sweden’s first-ever female archbishop. "As a church, we are part of a global movement," she says. "The question of justice is at the heart of the Christian Church."
Democracy Now! is on the road in the Swedish city of Visby, on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, during Almedalen Week — a week-long political festival perhaps unlike any other in the world. More than 25,000 people have gathered to hear political speeches and take part in seminars. Every Swedish political party is represented, from the Social Democrats to the Greens to the Feminist Initiative party, along with hundreds of other political organizations. We get an overview of the political situation in Sweden from Brian Palmer, a social anthropologist at Uppsala University. Palmer says progressive and Green candidates are expected to gain ground in Sweden’s election this September, and notes the country just became the first to send a militant feminist to the European Union. Sweden has a policy to grant asylum to anyone from Syria, and a recent study found attitudes toward immigrants are more positive in Sweden than in any other European country.
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- U.N.: Iraq Suffers Deadliest Month Since 2007
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- Right-Wing Activists Block Migrant Buses in California
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- Kentucky Same-Sex Marriage Ban Struck Down
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- "Cannibal Cop" Freed after Conviction Overturned
- 6 Los Angeles Sheriff's Officers Convicted of Obstructing Probe into Abuse
- Massive Pro-Democracy Rally Held in Hong Kong