I chose to write this article in English since there are so many variables that coincide between the political contexts regarding the US Election, Brexit and the Swedish political debate.
Two days ago Lars Lindström wrote an article in one of Swedens most renown liberal newspapers, Expressen, that read: “Many don´t know that they are fascists or racists”.
According to Lindströms reasoning many people are so politically unaware that they cast votes to populists and right wing extremists out of ignorance and that the historical judgement will be severe. It is not hard to see the unspoken reference to the German election of 1933 and the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism.
Sure, there are, let us be honest, many people that are less than interested in political matters and are quite willing to cast their vote over just about anything. But that stands equally true regarding those who vote for neoliberal or left wing alternatives as well. Some people are not interested, some are ignorant and lack adequate insight in political matters to actually be able to make a deeper analysis of what they are being told and some are outright fascist and racist and quite aware of that. However in a true democracy you are entitled to have your political views regardless the reason. As long as you don´t break the laws that reassure other people their rights. Here is where things in practice gets somewhat tricky. There is in practice a difference between what the law stipulates and how the principals of these are adhered to. Sure enough, you can vote for Donald Trump, for Brexit or for the right wing populist Sweden Democrats (SD) without being arrested. Still in many people´s eyes you may still be viewed as a pariah, as a second class citizen due to your political views.
The morale indignation in the Swedish press after the last election in which the right wing populist Sweden Democrats got 13% of the votes was thorough. Even more so since SD ended up in a parliamentary balance of power, which however was bypassed by an agreement, the so called Decemberöverenskommelsen, between the Government and the opposition that the latter should lay down their votes in order to make SD politically irrelevant in the Parliament. It is true that SD stems from an outright xenophobic movement, BSS – Bevara Sverige Svenskt, Keep Sweden Swedish. However the growth of the party can not be explained simply by the notion that the Swedes all of a sudden have become more racist or xenophobic. It is more a matter of discontent with the political elite, an establishment that seems to have lost contact with the ordinary blue collar population. Things really doesn´t get any better when the establishment now is enforcing a stricter policy when it comes to migration issues, something that SD has been a fierce proponent for all the time, at the same time as SD and their voters are being continuously demonized as deplorables, in order to use Hillary Clinton´s word for the supporters of Donald Trump. In a highly criticized article also publicized in Expressen, one of Swedens most well known journalists, Cecilia Hagen, wrote: “How can we get rid of human brown rats?” after a heated public debate between the conservative MP Hanif Bali (M), himself born in Iran but an outspoken critic of the current paradigm, and the President of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg, a close friend of many prominent socialists.
The same demonizing rhetoric was often used regarding those who supported Brexit, not seldom branded as egocentric xenophobic nationalists regardless if this was case or a matter of sound criticism of the ever more politically expanding European Union and the democratic decifit.
With an increasingly less solid welfare state, the highest taxes in world and per capita the highest immigration in the world ordinary citizens are rightfully concerned what will happen with the cohesion of the Swedish society. However it is more or less impossible to be critical within the establishment. Political correctness rules supreme within the various liberal parties, all which are to some extent to be considered neoliberal today, as well as the two socialistic parties and environmentalists. The latter, although today having only around 4% of the voters support due to several political crises, have defined the political paradigm in Sweden ever since the last liberal government struck a deal with them regarding immigration policies. The current socialistic government, in which the Greens are part, have however been forced out of necessity to enforce stricter border controls in the face of levels of immigration that could not be handled. One of the party leaders of the Greens at that time, Åsa Romson, even cried on national television when the decision was announced.
Things haven´t improved for the Greens either since numerous scandals have plagued the party. Revelations involving party members with islamistic inclinations have been made. In one instance even a cabinet member, Mehmet Kaplan, having contacts with the Turkish fascist movement The Grey Wolves have caused the Greens to plummet. Even though there have been numerous scandals regarding SD, in which party members have used racist slurs, revelations of background in the early far right and soon, the party seems to increase among voters. In Yougove polls the party has been the largest Swedish party on several occasions. Personally I think it it quite safe to assume that people are less inclined to actually admit where they stand in other polls due to the social stigmata that being an open supporter of SD bears. This was also true to some extent in the US Election where Hillary Clinton was destined to win a landslide victory according to mainstream media. Furthermore it is safe to say that many of those who would vote for SD not necessarily agree with all of the party’s views. They are not voting FOR SD, they are voting AGAINST the establishment, just as many did when casting their vote for Trump instead of Hillary.
The modus operandi in todays political climate to stigmatize your opponents character rather than the issues is wholly counterproductive and rather acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Words like racism and fascism have become so commonplace, especially when identity policy seems to become increasingly accepted among mainstream parties, leads to water down the true meaning of these words to the level that they loose their significance. In Sweden it has been the outspoken agenda not to have any dealings whatsoever with SD. This stems from an approach initiated by among others Ali Esbati of the Leftist Party, formerly known as the Communists, since according to him any form av dealing with SD would legitimize their agenda. The “official historian” of the Socialdemocratic Party, Henrik Arnstad, has also been a keen supporter of this stance. However Arnstad, not having a degree can hardly be considered a scientist although he is given this status by the government. On contrary, having been academically debunked and still be considered as credible by the Government in accordance by the logic of saying the right things really is more counterproductive than what it does good. There are some very competent scholars in Sweden in this field, for instance Helene Lööw, that are far more credible. However, he who controls history controls the present. It is with these eyes one should view Henrik Arnstad. Having a degree in both Politicial Science as well in History myself I could however never bear myself to entitle the latter as a historian, especially since he claimed that neighboring Finland took part in the Holocaust.
Although I do not sympathize with SD myself I am deeply concerned about the political climate in today’s Sweden. What feeds SD is not the party itself, it is the arrogance among the establishment that does. The utter unwillingness to address the issues and the demonizing of political opponent´s character and views, regardless if it is justified or not. However to adress the issues would be to admit that the establishment has been wrong. The prime minister, Stefan Löfvén, however admitted that: “-We have been naive!” when the Government last autumn was forced to enforce stricter border control when tens of thousands of refugees were arriving in Sweden every week with no control whatsoever. However in Sweden it is considered somewhat positive to be naive, that shows that an individual has the right set of values, even though his actions results in things going tits up. This gives a moral carte blanche. Among many ordinary people this is however judged as outright hypocrisy and this explains why many are willing to cast their vote for SD, even though the party is viewed as pariah. But that does not necessarily means that the voters are racist or fascist. They are simply feed up with a seemingly never ending spiral of political correctness and arrogance. I know people that have political views that cover the entire field, personally I find that enriching, and I know for sure that the people that I know that vote for SD are not racists and even less fascists. But they are fed up with political correctness.
When I read Lindströms article in Expressen it was far from difficult to understand where the popular discontent and disbelief in mainstream media in today’s Sweden come from. The utter arrogance that reaks from the establishment for anything but their own set of values. There are more than just neoliberal and socialist ways of seeing upon democracy, the state and not least the nation in both the geographical but also the social and political senses. Being a liberal conservative or a social conservative does not equal being a xenophobic racist or a fascist. Nor being a nationalist for that matter, if we see to the issues concerning Brexit. Nationalism encompasses a vast field, from a sound assimilating patriotism to xenophobic militant ultranationalism. However modus operandi for today´s neoliberals and historically for socialists is to define nationalism as something that never can be labeled as positive.
So when people like Arnstad, Hagen and Lindström are iron branding Swedish voters that disagrees with socialistic or neoliberal views by defining them as ignorants, racists or fascists it’s all about conquering the historical narrative in order to define today´s “truth”. And the same is true when Hillary Clinton defined Trumps supporters as deplorables and when mainstream media defined the supporters for Brexit as xenophobes. The arrogance and the political correctness are the biggest threats towards democracy, the free thought and the free speech today. The words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall is according to my views a political constant that we never can deviate from: “-I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”