Sweden and Utopia – divorce proceedings now in full swing

Sweden and Utopia – divorce proceedings now in full swing

by Tom Gallagher
article from Friday 17, August, 2018

THE FUTILITY of Sweden’s fifty-year bid to be a progressive superpower was perhaps well captured by the helpless reaction of Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to serious public disorder on 13 August. After masked assailants in different cities and towns set 80 cars on fire, he went on radio and demanded: “What the hell are you doing”. 

Few are in any doubt that the perpetrators sprang from a parallel society that has grown up as mass migration from various global warzones occurred in the last thirty years. Increasingly well-armed gangs have emerged composed of determined young men with family origins in places like Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. There are growing areas where their influence eclipses that of a demoralised and poorly staffed police force. They seek glamour not only by committing daring crimes but by sympathising with militant Islamic causes. 

In tandem, religious leaders are imposing Sharia law in migrant communities and some instruct the Swedish authorities that the time has come to give this and other Islamic practices formal recognition.  Mr Lotven was sticking grimly to the narrative that there was still a Swedish melting-pot and that the car-burners were merely letting off steam rather than belonging to a large segment of society that has scant respect for the Swedish state, however benevolent it has treated them.  Language barriers and labour laws make it hard for these newcomers to enter the world of regular employment. 

Idealists such as Sweden’s iconic former Prime Minister Olof Palme did not envisage that opening Swedish doors to millions of refugees and asylum seekers would, within little more than a generation, plunge Sweden into crisis. They did not prepare themselves for such a challenge, which is so often the way with idealists.  In many parts of the country, public services such as schools, medical facilities and the police are in retreat because of their inability to cope with a bewildering range of challenges.    

The malfunctioning of the state and an increasingly fragmented society is finally detonating an earthquake in Swedish society. After domination by the Social Democrats and then a period of consensus between the left and moderate rivals, a new party seems set to break-up the cosy cartel.  

The Sweden Democrats have found a growing space through articulating the concerns of many ordinary Swedes as a failed experiment in multiculturalism has disrupted their lives. The party is led by 38-year-old Jimmie Akesson (pictured) who is from a small town in the very south of the country. This low-key, deliberate figure has promised to restore law-and-order and put an end to naive virtue-signalling by an elite that has shown scant knowledge of the problems of the world and the dangers they pose to Sweden if chronically mishandled.   

Akesson lacks the panache of a Matteo Salvini and has little time for the demagoguery of a Marine le Pen. His party is perhaps more accurately seen as national conservative and faces a much smaller far-right rival, the Alliance for Sweden. Although formally allied to the British Conservatives in the European parliament, much of the Swedish media (along with the BBC) harp on the neo-Nazi origins of the party at a time when Akesson and most of his colleagues were too young to be active in politics. This treatment was never given to Joschka Fischer, the former leader of the German Greens who is today viewed as a statesman despite much earlier having been involved in violent street protests.    

Arguably, it was the decision, a dozen years ago, of the Moderate Party Prime Minister Fridrik Reinfeldt to liberalise immigration procedures, making it hard for the authorities to bar entry to refugees who had arrived from conflict zones, which shattered the Swedish model. In 2015, 160,000 people were taken in, nearly two per cent of the population.  At the end of that year, the deputy Prime Minister, the Green politician Asa Romson announced, with tears in her eyes, that Sweden’s borders would now be closed. There was no more space. 

The character of the main Swedish cities is being altered by the unregulated influx. In 2017 individuals of foreign origin comprised 49.4 per cent of the population of Malmo, 37.9 per cent of Stockholm’s and 39.5 per cent of Gothenburg’s. It is perhaps the logical outcome of a process in which giddy elites drunk on incoherent notions of transforming their society, decisively grew estranged from its customary path of evolution.    

It looks as if some in the legacy parties are learning the errors of their ways but it is probably too late to stem the haemorrhage of votes by re-embracing Swedish values.   Too many politicians drawn from the word of left-wing campaigning and third sector activism have a track-record of depicting Sweden as a bastion of white privilege.  This is the Sweden that lacked colonies and has been at peace for two hundred years. The dominant view was that if anyone needed to make the sharpest adjustment in coming to terms with a fully-fledged multicultural society, it was the ethnic majority.   Nobody in power has ever explained what were the qualities they had for accomplishing such a tricky feat of social engineering that involved weaving a harmonious synthesis out of groups with very different moral codes and social customs. Disorders, which have increasingly punctuated the last five years, have relentlessly exposed the mediocrity of the elite.   

Dissenters were punished by being denounced as malcontents and banished from the media and the public stage. But this proved increasingly harder after the Sweden Democrats obtained 12.4 per cent of the vote in the 2014 general election. The SD held the balance of power and if the centre-right had accepted Akesson, it would have been able to govern. Instead, the centre-right agreed to allow the socialist bloc to rule even though it lacked a majority.    

With the SD expected to obtain over 20 per cent in the election due on 9 September, a formal coalition of the Social Democrats and the Moderates cannot be ruled out. But it is only buying time for a bankrupt establishment.     

The left parties now have a shrinking electoral base. Working-class men have shifted over in large numbers to the SD. Women and immigrants are the mainstay of the left. Tensions may well ensue, threatening the unity of the Social Democrats, given the incompatibility between the feminist world view and many of the newcomers who political horizons remain bound by religion.   

Much of Swedish society has grown to fear and mistrust those who peddle utopian causes. The damage they have wreaked on the fabric of Swedish society is immense. A more realistic and hard-headed approach to governing may prevent a complete social breakdown.    

The Sweden Democrats have some if not all the answers. They are in closer touch with mainstream voters than many of their rivals. It remains to be seen if the stark challenge posed to Sweden’s future viability will persuade another non-socialist party to form a government with them.     

Tom Gallagher is Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Bradford where he taught European politics. Among his 15 single-authored books are ‘Europe’s Path to Crisis’, Manchester University Press 2014.  His twitter account is @cultfree54

Picture by News Oresund (20170707_Almedalsveckan SD Jimmie Akesson_0284) [CC BY 2.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



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