Today is the day of the Swedish general election. Usually Swedish elections pass pretty unnoticed in the British press, but this one is arousing unprecedented interest there due to the rise of the extreme right-wing, anti-immigration, Nazi-origin Sweden Democrat party (Sverigedemokraterna, or SD), currently standing at around 20% in the polls.
The internet is on fire with dire warnings. One contributor to a ‘British Expats in Sweden’ site I follow has just posted this:
I am making contingency plans. Everything goes on a pallet at work, then I just up and leave with the same suitcase, laptop and the clothes I stood up in back in December 2013. Once back in England, I shall pursue every politician until every last Scandinavian has been ejected from the UK. It’s my experience that Swedes (and I am generalising) when they are angry about something are more dangerous than 1930’s Germans. I would not put anything past them. Take some advice from Q from James Bond … “Always have an escape plan”.
Or is that a joke? – On the other hand there are those mocking the ‘scaremongers’. Don’t worry, they say, Sweden is a civilized democracy; you’ll be OK.
Some of you seem to be describing Sweden as some Middle-Eastern totalitarian society if the SDs are to gain power. Well, Sweden is NOT that. and regardless of the outcome, Brits are and always will be welcome in Sweden. So please people, calm down, wind in those necks and let Sweden do what it needs to do.
There are two things that need to be said about that. Firstly, the writer – on the same Facebook thread – seems to be only concerned with his own situation as a foreigner there, rather than with the repercussions of an SD success on the Swedes. Isn’t that a bit self-centred? Imagine someone saying that to a Brit about Germany in the 1930s: ‘don’t worry, you’ll be alright.’ – Secondly: he’s very wrong about Sweden being fundamentally different from other liberal countries in this regard. Many of the nations that fell to fascism in the 1930s had been comparatively liberal before then. As was the USA before Trump; or, if you like, Britain before UKIP. Liberal and democratic regimes can easily flip. Those of us who know our pre-War history can spot the parallels between then and now. Always keeping a suitcase packed may be a tad alarmist; but ignoring the warning signs is the height of irresponsibility.
It’s not only the Sweden Democrats who want to destroy Swedish liberalism. Right-wing Americans, of course, always have. Sweden undermines their whole premise of government: that it’s only the unfettered free market, harsh punishment and the Christian religion that make a country prosperous and virtuous. Sweden’s general contentment despite having none of these advantages is difficult for them to swallow. For years American Rightists have been trying to persuade their compatriots that despite appearances Sweden is really a very sick and tyrannical place, as evidenced in its Nordic Noir detective novels (mostly, incidentally, written by socialists, now dead, who would turn in their graves if they knew their work was being taken in this way); illustrated in several of Donald Trump’s public and libellous outbursts about Sweden – for example https://bernardjporter.com/2017/02/24/rinkeby/; and analysed in a recent New York Times op-ed (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/06/opinion/how-the-far-right-conquered-sweden.html), and in several books, one of which – Kajsa Norman’s Sweden’s Dark Soul. The Unravelling of a Utopia, due out at the end of next month – has just fallen through my letter-box for me to review. In Sweden some are starting to lay the blame for all this hostile propaganda on the activities of Russian hackers and trolls (are those the right words?) on the internet – with one of Russia’s foreign policy aims, of course, being to undermine democracy wherever it’s found. The Social Democratic middle way – which describes Corbyn’s position in Britain too – is coming under enormous threat from every direction. Sweden’s collapse, as the last liberal domino standing (I thank John Field for that metaphor), would be the greatest prize.
Or perhaps Sweden’s Dark Soul will persuade me otherwise. I haven’t read it yet. In the meantime, I’m posting this now in order to get it out before the results of the Swedish election are announced in a few hours. They may give us a clue.