Jonas Algers talks about how his home and neighbours within Scandinavia are being torn apart by neo-fascist, neo-liberals and nationalists.
For decades, Scandinavia has been an example of what an egalitarian, open society looked like. Liberal immigration and high levels of equality and prosperity across the three countries were a model for left-wingers to demonstrate that their policies were actually possible. But over the last thirty years, perpetuated by the growth and influence of post-Thatcherite neoliberalism and Blairism within the Social Democrats, there has been a radical change, not only in economic terms but also in the ideological foundations, resulting in the spawning of far-right extremism.
The Swedish government’s failure to deal with inequality has become obvious. In this period of change, the country has seen the most rapid increase in inequality in the OECD group compared to other nations. Unemployment rates have risen to 7.5 per cent – a relatively high number for Sweden. Homelessness has increased rapidly and can now be seen even in the smallest of towns, like my hometown. For example, over Christmas, the homeless converged to live under a viaduct on a highway outside Gothenburg.
Since the Social Democrats turned their backs on the working-class in the hunt for the ‘big city centre voter,’ inequality has grown. People started looking for explanations as to why their welfare was cut back. This seedbed has made it easy for right-wing extremists to advance their positions and provide the ‘easy answers,’ blaming the liberal immigration that had been working for decades.
In Denmark’s general election in 2001 the Danish People’s Party (DPP) got 12% of the electorate’s votes, which made them the third biggest party. From then until 2011 they provided support to the Conservative government even though they were not a part of the coalition. Despite this, the DPP was able not only to reduce immigration but also to sway the opinion of the Danish people. Denmark is now the least welcoming country to foreigners in Western Europe according to research by the World Economic Forum in 2013.
When the Danish Social Democrat-led coalition won the election in 2011, expectations were high for reforms to increase equality. But the new government let down their voters and have continued along the path of neoliberalism. They have paid for it by a fall in polls, losing voters mainly to DPP and the radical left party, Unity List. DPP now polls as the biggest party in Denmark while Unity List is the most popular party in Copenhagen: a clear example of the polarisation of the Danish debate.
In Norway, the Social Democrats lost the last election to a coalition comprising of the conservative party, Right, and the far right party, Progression Party, a sister party to the DPP in Denmark. If anyone doubts the extremism of the Progression Party you should know that this is the party of which the terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, was an active member for years. When the Scandinavian Airlines magazine published an article about far-right extremism in Scandinavia, the Progression Party did not approve and forced the magazine to retract the article.
In the last six years, the neo-fascist party, Swedendemocrats (SD), have risen from about 3% to 13% in polls and are now the third biggest party in the country. Swedish politicians have this far stood up for liberal immigration and refused to give SD any influence over immigration policies. But the advent of a serious, far-right party in Sweden has thoroughly changed the political climate. Around Christmas, three mosques were allegedly attacked by arsonists, to the elation of several websites closely affiliated with the Swedendemocrats. Earlier in December, the party secretary of SD and Second Deputy Speaker of parliament, Björn Söder, claimed that Jews and the indigenous Samis were not part of the Swedish nation and that they should give up their Jewish or Sami identity to become Swedish.
While fascism has arguably changed since the 1930’s, not only by changing the uniform but also in accepting parliamentary democracy, the goal of a monocultural, homogenous nationstate is still the same. They still point out ethnic groups as internal enemies, or as Nigel Farage put it: “a fifth column”. UKIP are in the same European party group as the Swedendemocrats, while the Conservatives share party group with the Danish People’s Party.
Normalisation of these extremists has gone too far. Fifteen years ago it would have been unimaginable that such parties would have the political influence they have now. Progressive parties must make increasing equality a top priority and not be afraid to call the new parties for what they actually are, even if that is ‘fascist.’