With UKIP all but wiped out last Thursday, worries about the rise of a British Far Right have been dispelled. In Scandinavia, though, the problem shows no sign of going away…
The UK’s snap General Election last Thursday saw the UKIP all but wiped out, with no seats in Parliament and a decline of around 10.8 per cent in the popular vote. Their leader, Paul Nuttall, promptly resigned. Elsewhere in Europe, populist leader Geert Wilders failed to enter mainstream Dutch politics during an election in April and France’s Marine Le Pen gained less than 35 per cent in the second round of their presidential election last month
In Scandinavia, sadly, the threat of a far-right uprising shows no sign of going away. While the shock victory of Donald Trump can be blamed on inherent American inequality, what theory can be given to explain the ever-increasing appeal of anti- modernist parties in a region home to some of the happiest and most egalitarian nations on Earth?
While UKIP is Conservative in their economic and social outlook, Norway’s Freedom Party, the Danish People’s Party and the Sweden Democrats all share a strong belief in maintaining the welfare state and cutting austerity. These parties want to take Scandinavia back to the time of the homogeneous society; one that could support itself in a small community, free from the threat of unknown foreigners and their unknown principles.
The Fremskrittspartiet (Freedom Party) entered government after the 2013 general election. Unlike the DPP and Sweden Democrats, the Freedom Party has often been described not as extreme-right, but neo-liberal. Mebers of the centrist parties, even centr-right prime minister Erna Solberg, have been quick to dispurse claimes that they are in league with foreign anti-immigrant parties.
But Anders Breivik’s sickening actions on 22nd July 2011 brought a dark web of hard-line racism irreversibly to the surface. This mentally ill Oslo man doubled his country’s annual homicide rate in one day, killing eight people in a car bomb attack near the prime minister’s office in Oslo and shooting a further sixty nine at a youth event on the island of Utøya.
While after the attack Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called for unity and openness, when many others in his position may have called for all-out war on the individual’s followers, the fabric of Norwegian society is still recovering from the exposure of Breivik’s 1,500 page manifesto and the terrifying number of its followers. One Norwegian, responding to an article in The Guardian newspaper about a Danish theatre’s production on the theme of Breivik’s massacre says that “while most Norwegians are not racist, some hold deeply troubling views. Norway needs to ask itself some very serious questions about why the world’s worst single-man gun atrocity happened here, in this apparently peaceful and harmonious country.” Islamophobia was uncovered from Facebook to blogs. One of the worst anti-Islamic websites, ‘SIAN’ (‘Stopp Islamiseringen av Norge’, claims to have 10,000 Facebook followers.
In 1990 the European Values Study canvassed 16,000 people in sixteen countries with the choice of ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ to the statement: ‘I don’t like to be with people who are different from me in terms of their opinions, values, and so on’. 43 per cent of Swedes agreed, an astonishing response when compared to the 10 per cent that agreed in the other Nordic countries. In fact the designers were so sure that there had been some statistical error that they repeated the experiment, but again 41 per cent of people agreed.
In 2015 alone Sweden accepted over 160,000 asylum seekers to a population of just under ten million (before 2015 the average had been stable at around 100,000 a year). The contempt for which Swedes hold these immigrants is clear: as of March 2017, 23.9 per cent of people would vote for the Sweden Democrats, doubling their results from the 2014 election and making them Sweden’s second largest party.
The Sweden Democrats were founded in 1988 from the Sweden Party, which had its roots in Swedish Fascism and white supremacy. The new party continued to use its old slogan, ‘Bevara Sverige Svenskt’ (‘Keep Sweden Swedish’), and adopted the torch of Britain’s Fascist party, the National Front, as its logo. This continued virtually unhindered until 2006, a year after its current leader, Jimmie Åkesson, and his relatively moderate ‘gang of four’ took up the reins. Mikael Jansson’s, leader during the nineties, attempted to disperse some of its Fascist imagery, banning the wearing of Nazi costumes and expelling some the party’s more radical members. But however hard the Sweden Democrats try to distance themselves from their Nazi heritage, until the last election in 2010 the Sweden Democrats were even denied advertisements in newspapers and refused interviews on public television they were so extreme.
The Danish People’s Party (DPP) was founded in 1995 by Pia Kjærsgaard, who led the party until 2012 when she passed the baton to its current leader, Kristian Thulesen Dahl. Unlike the Sweden Democrats, who received virtually no attention for around twenty five years, the DPP entered the political scene only seven years after being founded, lending support to the Liberal-Conservative coalition that formed after the 2001 election and lasted for ten years.
Like the Sweden Democrats, the DPP is fundamentally anti-Islamist. Kjæsgaard was known to spout such phrases as “there’s only one civilisation and it’s ours” or “Muslims cheat, lie and deceive”. She still talks frequently of ‘de mørke’ (‘the dark people’). Also like their Swedish neighbours, the DPP have also seen an incredible rise in their popularity over the last five years, increasing from around 12 per cent of the vote in 2011 to becoming Denmark’s second largest party in the 2015 election, where they grossed almost 21 per cent of the vote.