The rise of Swedish fascism

The rise of Swedish fascism

Right-wing parties are on the rise across Europe, and Sweden is no exception. The far-right and populist Sverigedemokraterna (the Sweden Democrats) now have representatives in both the Swedish and European parliaments, and their popularity shows no signs of waning as September's general election fast approaches.

The Nordic countries have always been presented as a fair, open-minded, and, in many cases, idyllic group of lands, with their unwavering belief in a strong welfare state and continual promotion of gender equality. Each nation boasts high-quality universal healthcare and an excellent education system that are readily available to all of their citizens, whilst, collectively, they arguably lead the way with regards to parental leave and childcare.

However, beneath the apparent fairness of the Nordic Model hides another side of the story, one of darkness and hate that seems at odds with the Nordic countries’ reputation for tolerance and good-will, and one that is piercing the heart of Sweden in particular.

Right-wing parties are on the rise in Europe, and Sweden is no exception. In the country’s last general election, in 2010, 55.02 per cent of the electorate cast their votes for right-wing parties, the highest percentage since 1928. Moderaterna (the Moderate Party), who ousted Socialdemokraterna (the Social Democrats) from power after twelve years in charge in 2006, increased their percentage of the popular vote to 30.06 per cent, an increase of 3.83 per cent from the 2006 general election. As a result, The Alliance, the coalition that they head, became the first Swedish right-wing government since 1908 to be reelected after a term in charge.

The 2010 general election also saw the far-right and populist party Sverigedemokraterna (the Sweden Democrats) win 339,610 of the nearly 6,000,000 votes cast, a huge 263,310 more than they had achieved just eight years before. The party’s strong showing has allowed them to enter parliament for the first time in their history, and they currently occupy twenty seats in the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament. Further to this, the Sweden Democrats have recently joined eight other parties in representing Sweden in the European parliament after success in this year’s European elections, in which they took home 9.9 per cent of the votes to gain two seats.

Far-right groups have been a consistent presence in the Swedish political underground since the early 1920s, with their high point coming in the municipal elections of 1934, when around eighty council members of Svenska nationalsocialistiska partiet (the Swedish National Socialist Party) were elected across the country. After a long period of mainstream political inactivity in the wake of the Second World War, neo-fascism grew stronger in the 1980s, culminating in the emergence of several new neo-Nazi organisations in the 1990s. The most notable of these groups was Nationalsocialistik Front (the National Socialist Front), who were replaced by the currently active Svenskarnas Parti (the Party of the Swedes) in 2009. The Party of the Swedes’ political program states that “only people who belong to the western genetic and cultural heritage, where ethnic Swedes are included, should be Swedish citizens”, as well as their belief that “all policy decisions should be based on what is best for the interests of the ethnic Swedes”. After winning 2.8 per cent of the vote in the 2010 municipality elections, the party currently occupies one of the seats in Grästorp Municipality.

The Party of the Swedes’ victory in Grästorp can be seen as a sign of the far-right’s re-emergence in mainstream Swedish politics, as is the 15.84 per cent of the vote that the Sweden Democrats won in Sjöbo in the 2010 general election. While neo-Nazi and white power skinhead gangs are fighting on the streets, far-right groups in suits have begun infiltrating the Swedish parliament, municipal governments and county councils via democratic means, and their prominence is predicted to rise.

In December of last year, the neo-Nazi group Svenska Motståndsrörelsen (the Swedish Resistance Movement) clashed with anti-fascist protestors in Kärrtorp, a suburb of Stockholm, where the militant and ultra-violent group have been protesting vehemently, painting swastikas on buildings and assaulting those that they consider their “enemies”. They are led by Klas Lund – a former member of Vitt Ariskt Motstånd (White Aryan Resistance), a similar militant neo-Nazi group that were active in Sweden between 1991 and 1993 – and the party were implicated in many serious crimes across Sweden in the 1990s, including the high profile murders of two police officers in Malexander in 1999. Current members of the Swedish Resistance Movement are also former members of the aforementioned National Socialist Front, who themselves have ties with the Party of the Swedes. The Swedish Resistance Movement’s influence has spread to both Norway and Finland, where Suomen Vastarintaliike (the Finnish Resistance Movement) and Den Norske Motstandsbevegelsen (the Norwegian Resistance Movement) are now in existence.

One of the most worrying aspects of the rise of the far-right in Sweden is the increasing prominence of young men in neo-Nazi groups like the Swedish Resistance Movement. A review conducted by the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter claimed that nearly half of the twenty-four members of the organisation that were arrested after the clashes in Kärrtorp in December were under twenty years old. Furthermore, one of the arrested members was a minor, and several had previously been convicted of various crimes, including “knife and gun crime, assault, drug offences, and hate speech”.

Mats Deland, a historian at Uppsala University, claims in the Dagens Nyheter article that the recent outbreak of nationalistic violence is the third of its kind, after the periods of 1991-92 and 1999, where large majorities of the Swedish Resistance Movement ended up in prison. Further to this, Deland says, the Swedish Resistance Movement are attracting members from underprivileged families and those from the fringes of society, with many of the arrested members proving to be “social outcasts”.

Away from Stockholm, the Scanian city of Malmö, where around a third of its residents were born abroad, has increasingly been seen as a hotbed of racism and ethnically charged violence. In March 2010, Fredrik Sieradzk, a representative of the Jewish community of Malmö, told the online edition of the Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse that approximately thirty Jewish families had emigrated from Malmö to Israel in the twelve months prior to his interview. The families cited anti-Semitic harassment and violence as their reasons for leaving the country. Then, in December 2010, the Jewish human rights organisation the Simon Wiesenthal Center advised Jews to express “extreme caution” when visiting southern parts of the country, due to the increase in anti-Semitic violence in Malmö. One of the most notable examples of ethnically charged violence in the city during that time was a string of attacks carried out by thirty-eight-year-old Peter Mangs between December 2009 and October 2010. All but one of Mangs’ victims had dark skin and “non-Swedish appearances”. More recently, members of the Party of the Swedes attacked several people who had attended a demonstration in support of International Women’s Day in central Malmö in early March 2014, leaving four people with serious injuries. According to eyewitnesses, Andreas Carlsson, a high-ranking member of the party, was seen attacking demonstrators with a knife.

Swedish citizens are set to head to the voting booths on September 14th to vote in the country’s next general election, and whilst the two main political parties, the Social Democrats and the Moderate Party, remain firmly in the lead according to recently-released opinion polls, support for the Sweden Democrats continues to grow. In a poll carried out by Statistics Sweden in November of last year, the far-right party’s share of the vote increased by 1.6 per cent between May and November, bringing their overall level of support to 9.8 per cent, putting them ahead of Miljöpartiet de Gröna (the Green Party) and making them Sweden’s third-largest party.

If, as Mats Deland claims, the recent outbreak of nationalistic violence is indeed the third of its kind, the worry now is that this one has successfully infiltrated the mainstream and could end up plaguing Sweden for many years to come.

Posted By

bencullimore
May 30 2014 14:04

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klas batalo
May 30 2014 15:10

anyone have any good primers on the swedish far left... i'm sorta familiar with SAC, SUF, etc but i'm wondering more about historical to contemporary histories outside of anarchism.

Entdinglichung
May 30 2014 15:49

a couple of Trotskyist, Post-Trotskyist and ML groups and their breakaway orgs who have or recently had a few local councillors in their strongholds (generally in smaller industrial towns), the former CP became euro-communist around 1970, today called VP (left party), leftwing social democrats, around 6% in the last national election, the Feminist Party led by the VP's former chairwoman recently gained one seat in the European parliament, .. the CP and later the VP itself had its strongholds especially among the woodworkers and mineworkers in rural and small town north Sweden and also in Gothenburg (car industry, shipyards, engineering) ... the CP suffered two major splits by forces critically of the Comintern control during the 1920ies where in both cases the majority broke with Moscow, most of those returned to the social democrats after a few years, the remains of the 2nd breakaway group became after 1939 nationalistic and pro-German

altemark
May 30 2014 18:16

Klas Batalo: I can't think of one from the top of my head, but perhaps asking the same question on the leftist_trainspotter mailing list would give some results?

Addendum to the (good, I think) article - the Sweden Democrats did very well for themselves at the polls, sadly. If more people had joined in during the protest wave against them in 1998 (and if the liberatarian workers' org's did their job), I think we would never had to deal with such a threat. The Green Party - whom I will never forgive for their responsibility in abolishing the Employee Protection Act at companies with 10 or less employees - polled way ahead of them though, winning almost 20% of the vote.

With the fact that Feminist Initiative got an EU seat, clearly stealing votes from a more authoritarian Left Party that still managed to attract more votes than before, we can safely say that Sweden is in thrown into a situation where there are both left and right-wing winds blowing up.

Edit: A starting point might be this quantitive list of Swedish left groups from 2005 tabulated by Swedish leftist sectologists/leftist transpotters (the pictures do not seem to follow along with the gtranslate version of the page, so I leave a link to the site in Swedish as well)

http://bit.ly/1mRnN0c (gtranslate)
https://web.archive.org/web/20050205003217/http://www.socialism.nu/sochi... (archive.org orig Swedish)

Cooked
May 31 2014 14:58

I'm by no means an expert (though swedish, if barely) and has been to lazy to really follow the current election but some thoughts below anyway. Hopefully someone with more insight will comment.

bencullimore wrote:
in 2010, 55.02 per cent of the electorate cast their votes for right-wing parties

I guess right wing is a relative term but I'd say they are more like moderate right liberals in the main. The conservative aspects seems to be a liability for these parties. The economic liberalism and a wish for change seems to have been the main attraction I'd say.

bencullimore wrote:
After winning 2.8 per cent of the vote in the 2010 municipality elections, the party currently occupies one of the seats in Grästorp Municipality.

Grästorp has a population of around 5600 so even though it's awful SvP got any votes anywhere it's a pretty small number of people that voted for them.

bencullimore wrote:
While neo-Nazi and white power skinhead gangs are fighting on the streets, far-right groups in suits have begun infiltrating the Swedish parliament, municipal governments and county councils via democratic means, and their prominence is predicted to rise.

The street activity although it has increased recently is no where close to the levels of the nineties. Their marches are actually very small compared to previous years.

Looking at the whole range of parties and groups the picture still not looking very good as even if there are the obvious animosity etc between groups they are in a way working as a whole. Pushing the racist right-wing agenda rather effectively. This neat segmentation in a spectrum from "not racist" in parliament to full-on insane sect seems dangerous and effective.

The Sweden Democrats normalizing anti-immigration talk whilst the more radical people flow towards Party of Swedes (SvP) or Swedish Resistance Movement (SMR). (The latter being a tiny sect) SMR act protection for SvP marches. If I don't misremember SMR have heritage from Sweden Democrats youth orgs as do most of these groups.

I left sweden in 2000 and moved back recently. The political climate has changed dramatically with Sweden Democrats in parliament but perhaps more importantly with the center right coalition in government. The latter are doing poorly now though and it seems as if there might be a shift "left"ward at the same time as the extreme right is gaining traction.

So no surprises considering the state of the world at the moment.

Caiman del Barrio
May 31 2014 15:30

Rather poor, sensationalist Vice video about the Revolutionary Front: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/vice-news/the-rise-of-swedens-far-left-militan...

Cooked
May 31 2014 19:48
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Rather poor, sensationalist Vice video about the Revolutionary Front: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/vice-news/the-rise-of-swedens-far-left-militan...

Working hard to up the drama in every situation. Revfront played well into that narrative.

After my time in London I understand how absurd peoples ideas about sweden are. Really the rose tinted specacles have turned into a giant pink bubble boy style sphere surrounding scandinavia.

This makes narratives of how bad things actually are quite attractive for both left and right. It seems almost all international stories about sweden either follow the utopian or disaster lines sometimes even switching randomly between them. It's something to look out for when reading about scandinavia as few seem unaffected by the myths.

klas batalo
Jun 1 2014 18:02

thanks for the tips on the left trainspotting stuff and that thing from socialism.nu i was trying to remember that site