Sweden’s Riksdag Fire

The leader of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Akesson (third from right), delivers a speech at the party’s election watch in Nacka, near Stockholm on September 11.

Sweden’s Riksdag Fire

What the new Swedish government means for the rest of Europe

It happened in Austria. It happened in Italy. Now, it has happened in Sweden. A far-right party became part of the government. As the Trumpet previously covered, a party with far-right roots won the second-largest number of seats in Sweden’s September 11 Riksdag (parliament) elections. The new prime minister, Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate Party, took up office October 18. Together with three other right-leaning parties, the Sweden Democrats (SD) are the largest party in the coalition.

Sort of. The Sweden Democrats’ ties to neo-Nazism are too unsavory for the three other parties. So, the other parties formed a minority government. The SD instead will provide confidence and supply. This means promising to keep the government afloat without actually being a part of it. But the Sweden Democrats are clearly the “power behind the throne” of the ruling coalition. “If we are going to support a government that we’re not sitting in, it’s going to cost,” said SD leader Jimmie Åkesson before the vote.

Cost it has. An agreement between the four parties outlines some of the new government’s policies. A lot of it looks like the hardline anti-immigrant, anti-Islam and tough-on-crime policies the SD promised voters. Sweden has struggled with rising crime and increasing Islamist terrorism in recent years. This is what led so many to vote for them. Many Swedes see what mass immigration from the Muslim world is doing to their society and don’t like it.

Much of the “Tidö Agreement” (named after Tidö Castle, where it was negotiated) is in hard-to-follow legalese. But notice the following excerpts:

  • A possibility of being able to deport gang criminals who lack Swedish citizenship without having been convicted of a crime must be investigated. …
  • Fighting crime is primarily the responsibility of the state and not the municipalities. The state should therefore take greater responsibility for young people who commit serious crimes. The responsibility for the most seriously criminal young people must therefore be transferred from the municipalities to the Correctional Service. …
  • The possibility of renting prison places in other countries is to be investigated with the aim of getting an agreement in place to rent prison places in comparable countries in Sweden’s immediate area in order to remedy the lack of places in Swedish penitentiary care. …
  • During the coming mandate period, Sweden must accept 900 quota refugees per year. [The current quota is 5,000.]
  • There is a big problem with extremism and Islamism among schools with a Muslim profile. The School Inspectorate must be instructed to increase its inspection of schools with a confessional orientation or an orientation that can be assumed to be run with problems regarding extremism and Islamism. As a rule, supervision must take place through unannounced visits ….

In other words, if the SD won’t be in the government, the cost for Kristersson is to implement the SD’s program for them. The SD gets what it wants for the country without even participating in the government. Its position makes it the minority coalition’s puppet master. As the New York Times wrote, “The three losing parties—the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals—will govern on behalf of one winning party.”

Much of what the SD is calling for is not particularly extreme. It sees the cause of Sweden’s terror attacks as a failed multicultural experiment. Its solution is an immigration overhaul. A lot of its changes could help Sweden’s problems with crime and radicalization. But a closer look at the SD’s history brings a bit more cause for concern.

The Sweden Democrats were formed in 1988. One of the party’s founders, Gustaf Ekström, was a corporal in Adolf Hitler’s Waffen-SS during World War ii. Another early leader of the party, Anders Klarström, formerly belonged to the openly neo-Nazi Nordic Realm Party (where party members wore brown shirts, performed the Nazi salute, and had security taken care of by skinheads). The party has tried hard to disassociate itself with this legacy and present itself as a respectable alternative to mainstream conservatism. But stories of SD figures making racist and anti-Semitic comments on social media still surface. In 2018, a low-level SD politician got into trouble for stating on social media that “Hitler was not wrong about the Jews.” Even the current leader, Åkesson, joined the party while it was still led by the neo-Nazi Klarström.

Islamic extremism is of course an important threat to counter. And nobody at the moment is envisioning the current government setting up concentration camps and book burnings. But it still is noteworthy to see how a party with clear far-right roots could become so normalized. Even in famously progressive Sweden.

Part of the reason why is the Swedish left often disparages anybody right of center as “fascist.” A common insult for Swedish leftists to throw at conservatives is “blue-brown.” (Blue refers to conservatism’s traditional color and brown to Nazi brown shirts.) This included the previous prime minister, Magdalena Andersson. Foreign Policy went so far as to claim that “the left’s negative campaigning helped the right win in Sweden.”

Calling their opponents “fascist” is a common talking-point among the left in a lot of different countries. “You call [all conservatism] fascist … and everything’s fascist,” said theTrumpet.com assistant managing editor Richard Palmer on the September 1 Trumpet Daily episode. “People have done a good job watering down the language so that it’s hard to find anything that’s really accurate to talk about these people as.” Mr. Palmer was referring to how the liberal use of the word “fascist” was helping legitimate fascism, like the fascist resurgence in Italy, appear more benign. In a related article, Mr. Palmer said that leftists “are helping cover up the rise of real fascism with their false accusations.”

Voters get so tired of hearing the word “fascist” so liberally used that, come election time, real fascists have an easier time appearing palatable. Instead of wearing a brown shirt, they have a suit and tie. Instead of tattooed thugs, they’re young, urban professionals. Instead of attacking Jews, they attack terrorism. In short, they seem normal. And once they get voted into office, stay for a few years, and do not start arresting journalists or enacting race laws, they seem even more normal.

Herein is the dark truth of the Swedish election: Fascism in Europe is becoming mainstream. Not only is it being normalized, but the traditional conservatives are willing to work with it—even if only from a distance—to form government. The stigma of associating with a neo-Nazi-rooted party is quickly disappearing. And you can be sure other parties in Europe with far-right connections are looking at what is happening in Stockholm and salivating.

This all then spawns questions: What happens when far-right parties become more established? What happens when they become the new normal? What happens when they get so entrenched in the political system they can start moving forward with some of their more radical programs?

Some of the government’s programs are intrusive. Deporting people for group affiliation instead of crime isn’t common in Western democracies. Neither is allowing the government to arbitrarily and without warning bust into schools. When the targets are terrorists and mafia groups, nobody is complaining. But what happens when less-threatening outsiders become targets?

The answer to these questions is obvious: nothing good.

To learn more, please read “Real Fascism Rising.” Also please read our editor in chief Gerald Flurry’s article on the same subject, “Fascism Reawakens in Italy,” from our November-December 2022 print issue.