This weekend five hundred members of neo-Nazi group the Nordic Resistance Movement take to the streets of Gothenburg. Perhaps liberal politicians unsure of how to crush the group without destroying freedom of speech should seek an answer on the other side of the divide: the parliamentary far-right…
Scenes of neo-Nazi scuffles came this week not from Charlottesville, but Gothenburg. On Saturday the ultra-far-right Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) faced battles with police after protesters deviated from an agreed route, leading to arrests of both NRM demonstrators (including their leader, Simon Lindberg) and counter-protestors. Unlike Trump, the Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, was quick to criticise the Fascist march, saying that “democracy has a right to defend itself”. The arrest of their leader led the NRM’s spokesperson, Pär Öberg, to say that it was likely “the last time” the group will seek police permission to demonstrate. This of course does not mean that the NRM will never again take to the streets. Far from it. They will return and, without police protection, their uncontrolled presence will be of increased danger to the general public, both physically and ideologically.
“The NRM will return and, without police protection, their uncontrolled presence will be of increased danger to the general public: physically and ideologically.”
The NRM has long-since threatened democracy. Founded in December 1997 as the ‘Swedish Neo-Nazi Grouping’, the group soon grew to become a pan-Nordic movement (although the Danish wing has since been disbanded), distributing leaflets that praised Adolf Hitler and even establishing undercover training camps in the forests of Sweden. In 2016, just as the group was legalised for the first time (they now even hold a seat in the Rikstag) it was rumoured the NRM had become a terrorist organisation. Multiple bombings at a refugee centre in Gothenburg confirmed this, leaving one person with life-threatening injuries and three men in prison.
Naturally, as UKIP dismiss the ultra-far-right English Democrats or BNP, Sweden’s mainstream populist party, the Sweden Democrats, were swift to deny once more all links with the NRM. But with their own founding firmly rooted in the post-war Swedish Fascist Party, and currently fending off allegations of sex crimes among their members, one wonders just how long they can hold the moral high ground. The Sweden Democrats (with forty nine seats in parliament) do not go nearly far enough to distance themselves from other hard-line, and, thankfully, smaller groups like the NRM. Indeed, voters are unlikely to distinguish between the NRM’s Fascism and the anti-immigration, Eurosceptic policies of the Sweden Democrats.
“Voters are unlikely to distinguish between the NRM’s Fascism and the anti-immigration, Eurosceptic policies of the Sweden Democrats.”
As populist parties rise across Europe, so does awareness of hard-line groups like the NRM. It’s for that reason the group was legalised in 2016, as this coincided with a populist breakthrough in national governments, and why, after the horrific attacks perpetrated by Anders Breivik in 2011, many saw Breivik’s views as synonymous with those of the far-right Norwegian Progress Party’s.
While I have no sympathy with the politics the Sweden Democrats, it is clear that now they hold at least some of the political strings and are, however disturbingly, seen as sisters of the NRM, it is they who can calm their obscene demonstrations. It is clear that the severely uneducated and deeply polarised members of ultra-far-right groups will never listen to different, liberal viewpoints, and blame attempts for reason as a crushing of their freedom of speech. But perhaps they will listen to those with similar, if more mellowed opinions. Those of the populist parliamentary parties.