Sweden’s September elections were historic for all the wrong reasons. For the first time ever, a Nazi party, the misnamed Swedish Democrats (SD), won seats in parliament. On the back of a vicious anti-immigrant campaign they nearly doubled their vote from 2006—from 2.93 to 5.7 per cent.
It was also the first time that a right-wing government won a second term since World War II.
Sweden is famous for continually electing social democratic governments, but this time the right-wing bloc, the Alliance, is back for a second time and will form a minority government.
The Alliance is talking about dealing with the Labor-like Social Democrats and the Green Party on issues like immigration and refugees, but they may rely on the Nazis to pass some legislation.
The election also saw the Social Democrats vote sink to an historic low of 30 per cent.
Their campaign was criticised by many on the left for not proposing a progressive alternative to the right’s program of cuts to deal with the economic crisis. Their leader, Mona Sahlin, could not say whether the Social Democrats would reverse the neo-liberal attacks pursued by the Alliance, claiming: “we can’t answer that question, because we don’t know what the situation will be like when we take over”.
The Alliance have put the axe to unemployment insurance and health insurance and pursued privatisation. The gap between rich and poor in Sweden has risen under their watch. But the Social Democrats pursued similar attacks in the past. By not rejecting the logic of austerity, they allowed the Nazis to pretend they had a solution and benefit from the discontent.
The SD talk about unemployment, crime, schools, healthcare, and pensions, but their solution is cutting immigration by 90 per cent and putting “Swedish people” first.
One of their advertisements showed burqa-clad women dashing in front of a Swedish pensioner to grab state benefits. The SD was formed by representatives from Nazi organisations. They have targeted much of their racism at “Muslim culture”, often disguised as a defence of feminism and human rights. They claim not to believe in biological racism. But the only difference is they have substituted the idea of inferior races for inferior cultures.
Their gutter politics took the whole election to the right, as the mainstream parties competed for racist votes.
The Centre Party and the Moderates, both part of the Alliance, proposed an outright burqa ban and a burqa ban in schools, respectively.
The Moderates also proposed a Swedish language test for immigrants, and one Moderate complained she was, “concerned that Muslim schools threaten to become a natural recruiting base for future suicide bombers.”
Many thought the Left Party was in with a good chance to increase their vote, but suffered due to running with the Social Democrats.
The Left party wants to cut funding to private schools, get troops out of Afghanistan and fund public services, but their message didn’t get through because their platform was subsumed into the Social Democrats’. They received 5.6 per cent of the vote, very close to their result in the previous election.
Rise of the right
The rise of the SD shows how racist and far right groups can grow as a result of the economic crisis in Europe. As governments pursue austerity, they are picking immigrants as their scapegoats. Many far-right groups are riding on the mood.
In the Netherlands, the Freedom Party is running an anti-Muslim campaign, a Nazi is likely to receive 20 per cent of the vote for mayor of Vienna, Austria, and in Hungary the right-wing Jobbik party has gained a parliamentary foothold and is demanding permanent internment camps for the Roma.
French President Sarkozy, is forcibly deporting the Roma (see page 14).
But the racists can be forced back. After the results came in, a teenager organised a protest on Facebook in a matter of hours that drew 6000 to the streets of Stockholm, chanting slogans like “crush racism, now!” and “no racists on our streets!” There were angry mobilisations in Malmö and Gothenburg.
Many of the SD’s election rallies were shut down by counter protests.
There is plenty of fuel to fire the resistance—and with the Alliance announcing that they will pursue a renewed program of privatisation, it is urgently needed.
There is a stark choice for the people of Europe—stepping up the united, working class fight against the cuts and pushing the cost of the crisis onto its makers in government and business, or the settling in of racism and reaction.
By Amy Thomas