By Philip Baillargeon
The Swedish Democrats are not who you think they are. Likely, you were imagining a center-left political group similar to the Democratic Party of the United States. This party does exist in Sweden, but they are called the Social Democrats. Earlier in September, the Social Democrats received close to thirty percent of the vote in the national election, which is their lowest number in the last century. So who are these Swedish Democrats, coming out of seemingly nowhere and capturing close to twenty percent of the vote?
In fact, this far right party’s rise is not all that surprising. Left siding parties have been falling in the polls across Western Europe ever since 2008, spurred on by a right wing populist movement that has been responsible for events like Brexit in the United Kingdom. Sweden is one of six countries out of the European Union’s twenty-eight to still have a center-left governing party.
The Social Democrats are still popular in Sweden, being one of the first parties in Sweden and lasting since 1902. Their logo is a blue flower. They’re relatively new, founded in 1988 after a split in right wing parties. But beneath that flowery logo and flowery language lies a history in white supremacy and supporters Nazism, both of which the party rejects today. But, it is important to consider just how far the party has come from this anti-minority sentiment, if at all.
“Keep Sweden Swedish”, is their tagline. It is written in the native Swedish of course, as most of the party refuses to accept any other language. It is the nineties, and some of the founding members of the party say that they admire the tactics used by the Nazi Party of Germany to gain power. And to be fair, the United States Democrats were the party of white opposition to desegregation.
However, Lyndon B. Johnson was a Democratic president who passed the Civil Rights Act, and is the party of the first African-American president, so there is a clear demonstration of their evolution there. At its founding, more than 60 percent were linked in various ways to the Nazi movement. By 1994, four out of ten candidates were also linked to the Nazi Party in some way. That went up to fifty percent in 1998, when the party started to deny allegations and claimed there was no Nazi influence in their politics. Even today, fifty candidates were identified by Expo magazine as being linked to Nazism, with city council candidates using the Nazi forum Nordisk to discuss Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. Not all Swedish Democrats are Nazis, but there are Nazis in their party. Some have been removed. Some have not.
Their policies mostly focus on anti-immigration legislation, as have many right wing movements in Europe. They argue that immigration brings an undue burden onto native Swedes, and true integration cannot be achieved, therefore, they should not have to accept immigrants. They also state that immigrants are changing Swedish culture and wish to sponsor a form of voluntary deportation, in which they would pay hefty sums for immigrants to return to their home country. They wish to take away any funding for festivals celebrating cultures other than traditional Swedish practices, and only just recently dropped a proposal for a Burka Ban for Muslim women. They want only nuclear families, with no adoptions by same-sex couples, single parents, or those unrelated to the child. Yet, they claim they are against the “Islamization” of Sweden because it would, “… violate the rights of sexual minorities”.
So, the Swedish Democrats are not a party of racism specifically, however, they have had a history of racist members. The Swedish Democrats do not support Nazism, but many of their members have associated with Nazis. The Swedish Democrats are not Islamophobic, but they are anti-immigrant and worry about the “pollution” of Swedish culture. The Swedish Democrats are not homophobic, but they wish that children only be raised by a man and a woman. They are the third most powerful party in Sweden. Only time will tell what they do with it, but, by their track record, it is not hard to see the country they want to create.