It was last Saturday at the 40th congress of the Swedish Social Democratic Labour Party (SAP) in Örebro, Central Sweden, the Party Chairman and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (61) said that poor people must dream big. It was fairness in party, politics and people’s minds that had made it possible for ‘someone like me’, as he termed it, to reach high in life. It was big dreams and hard work, and growing up and living in a land at a time when poor people, too, were given opportunities; the institutionalised, structural hurdles were being dismantled.

Today, I write about the role of political parties, using SAP as an example. A few weeks ago, I told the story about an ordinary working class couple who were typical of those who built modern Sweden. Last week, I wrote about some ordinary working class men who became party leaders and PMs in the land before and after WWII. They didn’t come from the top, but from amongst ordinary, working class people; they were given a chance to use their extraordinary talents, in a collective party culture.

Such stories are important to tell; they encourage people everywhere to dream big and to work hard. We are reminded that it is not the rich who build the land, nowhere; it is the masses with their labour, sweat and ideas. The rich should also be brought onboard, through innovation, taxation and direct support of government policies, investing in new technology and infrastructure, for that benefit ordinary people. The rich cannot be happy and free until all are free, Nelson Mandela and other real leaders taught us. This was true when the apartheid regime was ending in South Africa in the early 1990s. It is still true when the class differences make poor men and women not getting a fair share of the wealth and resources of their land, and not fair pay for their work. Then all suffer.

At the SAP congress in Sweden last weekend, PM Stefan Löfen spoke about this, stressing that not even in one of the world’s most democratic and egalitarian lands, Sweden, and not anywhere in the world, is the class struggle over. Today, inequality is growing in many countries, and new groups, immigrants and refugees are often at the bottom. The PM drew attention to the importance of every woman and man having the right to decide how to live their lives, who to marry and love, what education to take, and so on. He stressed that there is no honour in denying a woman, or a man, to make his or her own decisions – which would benefit themselves and also their parents, family and community. Every child and youth wants to make their parents and people proud and happy. Let us listen to them, not only ourselves, said the PM, recalling, too, that earlier it was poverty that hindered choices in what was then a deeply segregated Swedish class society. Today, there are other reasons for inequality, but even financial ones, he said.

Some who need help today may also come from remote areas within Sweden, and some may belong to the small group of the Saami or Lappish indigenous people of Sweden and the neighbouring countries; the discrimination of them is now almost gone, but it was high time. Furthermore, there are now other groups, who need attention and help: children of jobless families, single mothers and fathers on drugs, people with temporary or chronic mental challenges, and people just with a ‘hole in the CV’, as well as others who have fallen or are at risk of falling outside the mainstream and good society. Help is also required when the technological change require workers to re-fill knowledge and skills or change career, which the PM also spoke about.

The Swedish conference took up many other key issues beside education; climate change was one. Cooperation with EU and beyond in that field was emphasized, also since there is an upcoming election of EU delegates in the members states in May. Another important field was how to hinder further growth and influence of the right-wing extremist parties. Many said they were worried. SAP holds the government now, in cooperation with other centrist parties. As always at a Social Democratic Labour Party’s meeting, equality and work issues were debated throughout. In future, the technological change will lead to a different work sector, new qualifications and flexibility will be required. It was emphasized that Sweden should lead in shaping the future of the modern world, and it will be important to invest more in research and innovation.

Democracy support, efforts to stop the extremist right, the ‘blue-brown’ groups, as the chairman of the Confederation of Labour Unions (LO), Karl-Petter Thorwaldson, termed it, is essential in Sweden and Europe. Education and social change opportunities for all are key aspects of this, as a feeling of all-inclusiveness is the way to fight extremism. Dreams must become reality, not only for the bookish clever, but for all. And when one has reached high, the jobs must be safe and job-change and widened qualifications must be possible also when one is 50, not only when 20. In the party programme, it was said that the Social Democratic Party should be like a permanent campaign for change, development and inclusion. But then young people must be members of political parties, including the largest party in Sweden, the Social Democratic Party, but today the membership is declining. That is unfortunate for political change. It is important that political parties are considered as modern as social media among the youth. The parties must change to be attractive, and it is not possible to imagine democracy without active political parties, unions, interest organizations, civil society organizations, media, and an active, civilized debate about change in everyday life. Poor people must dream big – and dreams must come true. Then the political parties, indeed the SAP party in power, are doing what they are meant to do.