Per Albin Hansson

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Per Albin Hansson
Per Albin Hansson - Sveriges styresmän.jpg
Per Albin Hansson
Prime Minister of Sweden
In office
24 September 1932 – 19 June 1936
MonarchGustaf V
Preceded byFelix Hamrin
Succeeded byAxel Pehrsson-Bramstorp
In office
28 September 1936 – 6 October 1946
MonarchGustaf V
Preceded byAxel Pehrsson-Bramstorp
Succeeded byÖsten Undén (acting)
Minister for Defence
Minister for War between 10 March – 30 June 1920
In office
10 March 1920 – 27 October 1920
Prime MinisterHjalmar Branting
Preceded byErik Nilsson
Succeeded byCarl Gustaf Hammarskjöld
In office
13 October 1921 – 19 April 1923
Prime MinisterHjalmar Branting
Preceded byOtto Lybeck
Succeeded byCarl Malmroth
In office
18 October 1924 – 7 June 1926
Prime MinisterHjalmar Branting
Rickard Sandler
Preceded byCarl Malmroth
Succeeded byGustav Rosén
Personal details
Born(1885-10-28)28 October 1885
Malmö, Sweden
Died6 October 1946(1946-10-06) (aged 60)
Stockholm, Sweden
Political partySocial Democrats
Spouse(s)Elisabeth Fryckberg

Per Albin Hansson (28 October 1885 – 6 October 1946) was a Swedish politician, chairman of the Social Democrats from 1925 and two-time Prime Minister in four governments between 1932 and 1946,[1] governing all that period save for a short-lived crisis in the summer of 1936, which he ended by forming a coalition government with his main adversary, Axel Pehrsson-Bramstorp. During World War II, in which Sweden maintained a policy of neutrality, he presided over a government of national unity that included all major parties in the Riksdag with the exception of the Communist Party.[2] Forging the Social Democratic grip on Swedish politics that would last throughout the century, Hansson left an astounding legacy on his party as well as creating the idea of Sweden to become "Folkhemmet", "The People's Home".[3] This remained intact until the early 1990s, including a strict policy of neutrality, a wide-stretching welfare state through parliamentary legislation, and reformist social corporatism rather than Marxist socialization of the means of production. Following the war, Hansson formed a Social Democratic cabinet enjoying absolute majority in the Riksdag before succumbing to a heart attack on his way home from work late at night on 6 October 1946.

During Hansson's fourteen years as Prime Minister of Sweden, a wide range of reforms were realised, such as subsidised dental care,[4] income-tested child allowances for invalidity pensioners and widows, maternity allowances through voluntary sickness insurance, and a 1935 law that introduced state subsidies for the construction of apartment houses for families with three or more children, combined with housing allowances for families with more than two children living in these houses.[5]

Early life and career[edit]

The birthplace of Per Albin Hansson

Per Albin Hansson was born in Kulladal, a neighborhood in Malmö, Sweden, on 28 October 1885.

One of the first professional politicians of Sweden, Hansson participated in the creation of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth in 1903 and presided over it as its chairman in 1908–09, a period in which universal suffrage and proportional representation was gradually to be enacted for all Swedish males by Conservative Prime Minister Arvid Lindman, later a rival of Hansson. Influenced generally by Karl Kautsky's views on socialism, Hansson succeeded Hjalmar Branting as editor of Social-Demokraten in 1917 and was appointed his Minister of Defence in Sweden's first Social Democratic cabinet in 1920, following a Liberal-Social Democratic coalition enacting equal suffrage for men and women (in effect as of the 1921 election). Per Albin Hansson held this office in all of Branting's three cabinets between 1920 and 1925 (years which saw eight governments), performing numerous cut-backs on the military budget. Upon Branting's death in 1925, Hansson rose to be embraced as chairman of the party. His legitimacy remained under dispute, however, and only in 1927 did he become the head of the Riksdag faction, before having been confirmed undisputedly as Branting's successor in a 1928 congress.

Upon losing power to Carl Gustaf Ekman's pro-prohibition Liberals in 1926, Hansson worked from the opposition bench and, although heading what was to remain the largest party of the Riksdag to date, faced a major setback upon cooperating with the Communists in the infamous election of 1928. Hansson's party did poorly as a result, and not until the 2010 election would the Social Democrats and the Communists (the latter changed its name, in 1995, to the Left Party) would the two parties run in tandem again.

In opposition to the Conservative – though equally pragmatic and staunchly anti-fascist – Lindman cabinet, Hansson pressed for the introduction of a welfare state rather than wide-scale nationalizations. He called his vision Folkhemmet ("the People's Home") in a Riksdag debate in 1928.

Following the fall of Ekman in 1932 due to a corruption scandal involving the recently deceased industrialist Ivar Kreuger, the Social Democrats made gains, which altogether gave them 104 Riksdag seats and 41.7% of the popular vote. Though this left them short of a majority, they benefited from the inability of the Liberal parties (themselves unable to form a single faction until 1934), the Conservatives and the Agrarians to form a stable administration of their own. This inability gave Hansson his chance. He courted and eventually obtained support from the Farmers' League, through promising an agriculture policy favoring the interests of the League (kohandeln), although he stopped short of giving League parliamentarians any cabinet posts.

In June 1936, the combined efforts of the Liberals, the Conservatives and the Agrarians brought the Hansson-led government to an end and ensured Hansson's own resignation as Prime Minister. Following Hansson's departure, League chairman Axel Pehrsson-Bramstorp was able to form a three-month "Vacation Cabinet". That lasted until the elections in September, which saw a rise in support of the Social Democrats. This time Hansson invited certain League members into the cabinet, and Pehrsson-Brahmstorp therefore became Minister of Agriculture. The administration enjoyed a substantial parliamentary majority that lasted until 1939.[citation needed]

World War II[edit]

Following the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, Hansson declared strict neutrality and called for the formation of a broad coalition government involving all major parties under his leadership, which was realized in December except only the pro-Stalinist Communist Party and its short-lived pro-German splinter faction, the Socialist Party.[6] Alone in Europe save for Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland and the Vatican, Sweden maintained neutrality throughout all World War II, but like the mentioned countries, cooperated and traded with both sides. Winston Churchill claimed that Sweden during World War II ignored the greater moral issues and played both sides for profit, a criticism mimicked in criticism towards Sweden's policy towards the German occupation of Denmark and Norway upheld partly by transportation reinforcement through Swedish territory, sanctioned by Hansson's cabinet.[7]

The German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, Operation Barbarossa sparked an ultimatum known as the Midsommarkrisen by the government of Nazi Germany to Hansson's cabinet, demanding some military concessions, including German troop transports on Swedish railways in order to support Germany's ally Finland. Political deliberations surrounding this ultimatum have been dubbed the "midsummer crisis", which ultimately, allegedly following King Gustav V's decision to resign should the concessions not be made, fell out in favor of the Axis. The 83-year-old king formally (although having not directly intervened in the government's policies since 1914) had the powers to appoint his own cabinet, and his open intervention in the issue was seen as a threat to the stability of the government and, given the ongoing war, to the sovereignty of the nation.

Recent research by Carl-Gustaf Scott argues however that there never was a "crisis" and that "the crisis was created in historical hindsight in order to protect the political legacy of the Social Democratic Party and its leader Per Albin Hansson."[8]

To get the steel required by the German Ruhr and Upper Silesia industry, Germany was, in 1939–1940, dependent on shipments of Swedish iron ore, since access to the supplies from the mines in France, the traditional supplier, were cut off until the invasion of France. In 1939–1940 the Allies tried various ways to stop the shipments of Swedish ore, for example by mining Norwegian territorial waters.

In effect, the main political priority was to avoid direct war engagement of Sweden during World War II. Following Germany's setbacks around 1942–43, Sweden was no longer seriously threatened by an invasion from Nazi Germany and subsequently rolled back most of its concessions.

Death and political legacy[edit]

Following the surrender of Germany, Hansson wanted to maintain a Social Democratic-led coalition government of all non-Communist parties. However, he failed to achieve this as a result of strong opposition within his own party which favoured a radical reformist agenda following the war. Hansson reluctantly agreed to a single-party government. He had abandoned his early revolutionary and strictly anti-militarist views in favor of social corporatism, class collaboration and a reformist agenda involving few nationalizations but stable armed forces in order to secure neutrality. He died from a heart attack in Stockholm on 6 October 1946 while stepping off a tram at the Ålstens Gård station. He was succeeded as party chairman and Prime Minister by Minister of Education Tage Erlander, who held both offices concurrently until 1969, completing most of Hansson's legacy. Per Albin Hansson, seen often as the most successful Prime Minister in Swedish history, is interred in Norra Begravningsplatsen in Stockholm.

In popular culture[edit]

In the Swedish television movie Four Days that shook Sweden – The Midsummer Crisis 1941 from 1988, he is played by Swedish character actor Ernst-Hugo Järegård.

In the World War II Grand Strategy game Hearts of Iron IV made by Paradox Interactive, he appears as Sweden's leader.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sweden" (in Swedish). World Statesmen. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  2. ^ Swedish Encyclopedia "Bonniers Lexikon", 1960s, known as "the Apple", vol 6:15, article "Hansson, Per Albin", column 837 "Han ombildade dec. 1939 regeringen till en även folkpartiet och högern ommfattande samlingsministär, som fungerade till juli 1945. Genom försiktig utrikespolitik sökte han bevara Sveriges neutralitet"
  3. ^ Swedish Encyclopedia "Bonniers Lexikon", 1960s, known as "the Apple", vol 6:15, article "Hansson, Per Albin", column 836–837 "Partiets målsättning skulle enligt Hansson (1928) vara att göra Sverige till ett 'folkhem' ".
  4. ^ Lenski, Gerhard Emmanuel (1984). Current Issues and Research in Macrosociology. ISBN 9004070524.
  5. ^ Growth to Limits: The Western European Welfare States Since World War II Volume 4 edited by Peter Flora
  6. ^ "Socialistiska partiet - Uppslagsverk -".
  7. ^ Winston Churchill – The Second World War. ISBN 978-0-7126-6702-9
  8. ^ Carl-Gustaf Scott, "The Swedish Midsummer Crisis of 1941: The Crisis that Never Was" Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 37, No. 3, 371–394 (2002) (SAGE JOURNALS ONLINE)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Sweden
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Sweden
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the
Swedish Social Democratic Party

Succeeded by