Before the EP-elections, I was interviewed by Open Democracy‘s Adam Bott about the situation regarding the Swedish far right. The headline was ”Not polished enough! Have Swedes had enough of the far right?”:
It has been a difficult spring for the Sweden Democrats (SD). Campaign posters have been defaced and torn down. Postmen have refused to deliver the party’s leaflets. Teenagers have barricaded their schools against it. For every person who has come to listen to the town-square stump speeches of the leader, Jimmie Åkesson, ten have come just to turn their backs. His national workplace photo-opportunities tour turned into a farce, when employees boycotted or sabotaged the events.
In the interview, I am very critical about today’s safe-guarding of Swedish democracy :
Henrik Arnstad is a journalist and historian specialising in the study of fascism. His most recent book, Beloved Fascism, is a short ideological history of the movement from Mussolini to the present day. We met because I want to understand better the resurgence of the Scandinavian far right. Why have these movements grown so strong across Europe’s most prosperous, peaceful and egalitarian societies?
Arnstad is clear: “We let our guard down. We had a certain image of ourselves in Scandinavia. Since the war the Germans have always been on guard but we thought social democracy had inoculated us. So when these ideas began to appear we told ourselves it couldn’t really be racism—it must be something else.”
It has been argued that the rise of xenophobic politics demonstrates the incompatibility of the Nordic welfare state and mass immigration: one can have openness or solidarity but not both. This claim is made by both liberals and conservative left-wingers, though they draw opposite conclusions.
Arnstad does not agree: “I would say that immigration in Sweden is mostly a success story. In a globalised world with an open, export-oriented economy you always have this influx and turnover. Of course the first generation never completely integrate. When I was growing up in the 70s—the racists like to pretend it was homogeneous back then, like hell it was! In my neighbourhood there were Finns, Greeks, Yugoslavs—that’s all forgotten now.