Palme's Legacy 15 Years On

STOCKHOLM: Olof Palme, Sweden's then Prime Minister, was assassinated 15 years ago on February 28th. His death shocked millions everywhere. The murderer has still not been found, at least he has not been convicted. The crime was an attack not only on Palme, but on democracy itself.

Murdered, Palme is now part of history. But history is something that must be freely analysed, not silenced out of deference. So, as we recall Palme's assassination we should also remember how he behaved and what he represented. What, for example, is Olof Palme's legacy in foreign policy?

Palme was a powerful, eloquent critic of the US and the war in Vietnam. He cursed Soviet oppression in Czechoslovakia and General Pinochet's murders in Chile. Because of these stands, Palme has often been portrayed as a consistent adversary of tyrannies. But this is not quite true. In fact, Palme systematically refrained from criticizing many oppressive regimes and, indeed, embraced some of the cruelest dictators, or at least tried not to offend them.

Do not "vilify" the Soviet Union, said Palme, Chairman of Sweden's Social Democratic Party for 17 years and Prime Minister from 1969-1976 and, again, from 1982-86. Do not engage in "anti-Soviet agitation" or "the business of anti-Sovietism," he declared in 1984, a typical neutralist stand in Palme's Sweden.