This weekend saw five hundred members of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement take to the streets of Gothenburg. Liberal politicians unsure of how to crush the group once and for all, without destroying freedom of speech, should seek the answer on the other side of the divide: the parliamentary far-right
The scenes of neo-Nazi scuffles with counter-protesters and police this week came not from Charlottesville but Gothenburg.
On Saturday the ultra-far-right Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) faced battles with the police after some of its members protesting in the city deviated from an agreed route, leading to the 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”, and 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.
But of course this does not mean that the NRM will never again take to the streets- far from it- and without police protection their uncontrolled presence in the future will be of increased danger to the general public, both physically and in terms of the spread of their detestable ideology.
The NRM has always been a threat to Nordic democracy. Founded in December 1997 by former White Aryan Resistance member Klaus Lund 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 Corneliu Codreanu and even establishing training camps in Swedish forests for its new recruits. In 2016, just as the group was legalised for the first time, it was rumoured that the NRM had become a terrorist organisation after multiple bombings at a refugee centre in Gothenburg left one person receiving life-threatening injuries and three men with ties to the NRM in prison. And, while more mellowed (all things are relative) Nordic populist parties: the Sweden Democrats, Norwegian Progress Party, Danish People’s Party or the True Finns have all entered mainstream politics with a strong foothold, it should not be forgotten that, through proportional representation, the NRM do in fact hold one seat in the Swedish Riksdag.
Naturally, as UKIP would dismiss ultra-far-right action from the English Democrats or BNP, the Sweden Democrats were swift in their denial of any ideological links to the NRM’s march on Saturday. But with their own roots in the post-war Swedish Fascist Party, and currently in the process of fending off allegations of sex crimes among their members, one wonders if the Swedish Democrats can justifiably hold significant moral high ground here. Furthermore, there is no doubt that parties such as the Sweden Democrats with solid political influence do not go nearly far enough in distancing themselves with more hard-line, and thankfully at this stage smaller groups, such as the NRM. Those voting for a populist party are unlikely to distinguish between the NRM’s Fascism and the anti-immigration, Eurosceptic policies of the Sweden Democrats.
“Those voting for a populist party are unlikely to distinguish between the NRM’s Fascism and the anti-immigration and Eurosceptic policies of the Sweden Democrats”
As the growth of established parliamentary populist parties continues to rise, public awareness of groups such as the NRM will too; it is for this very reason that the group was legalised in 2016, as this coincided with a populist breakthrough in national governments, and why, after the horrific attacks committed by Anders Breivik in 2011, many saw Breivik’s views as synonymous with the Norwegian Progress Party’s.
Now, as the events of this weekend showed, along with numerous other marches across Scandinavia this summer, it is the time for mainstream far-right parties to change their tune. And fast. I have no absolutely no sympathy with the politics of parties such as the Sweden Democrats, but it is clear that now they hold at least some of the political strings, it is only they who can put a stop these obscene demonstrations of hatred.
While many of their views may be shockingly xenophobic, they, I am sure, like me, have no sympathy for such outright displays of support for ethnic cleansing. It is clear that the severely uneducated and deeply polarised members of ultra-far-right groups will never listen to different, Liberal viewpoints, nor to our attempts in crushing their displays, always blaming it as a crushing of freedom of speech. But perhaps they will listen to those with similar, if more mellowed, opinions.
It is certainly worth a try.
For more on Scandinavia’s far-right parties check out my article Fending Off the Nazis, to be found in the ‘Editor’s Own’ section