• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Why Sweden should cherish pupils who blocked Sweden Democrat

The Local · 28 Mar 2014, 09:29

Published: 28 Mar 2014 09:29 GMT+01:00

On Tuesday March 25th around fifty students from the Globala Gymnasiet school on Södermalm in Stockholm blocked the entrance to their school to prevent a representative of the Sweden Democrats’ youth division (SDU) from taking part in a political debate at their school. Since then, these students have been called undemocratic by many of the nations’ media.

In an editorial in one of Sweden’s leading newspapers, Dagens Nyheter, Susanna Birgersson even writes that ”the only hopeful element was that 550 students did not participate in the blockade”. She sees the students as immature children obstructing the democratic process.

I believe the students were doing the exact opposite. They were mature citizens voicing their legitimate concerns and protesting in the face of a real and imminent threat to our democracy. Here are three reasons why Birgersson is wrong and why Sweden should be proud of these young people. 

In her piece, Birgersson argues that SD is not an anti-democratic party since it operates within the democratic system and the party does not propagate violence or revolution. This is a fundamental flaw in the definition of ”anti-democratic parties”.

Whether a party is anti-democratic should not be judged by its methods, operations and guidelines but by its goals, actions and intentions. If we hold equality and religious freedom as important democratic values, one cannot avoid the conclusion that the SD is an anti-democratic party, even if it operates within the boundaries of our democratic playing field. 

The second argument is that ”if we start closing doors for one party, what legitimacy do we have as a democracy and how can we be sure we do not start closing the doors for others”.

This argument is a naive misjudgement of the corruptive powers of anti-democratic forces. Germany – with its experience dealing with this matter – has formulated the answer to this argument in the concept of Streitbare demokratie.

A democracy that can defend itself against corrupting influences from within. This includes clear restrictions on the freedom of speech (for example you may not deny the Holocaust) and the fact that a number of articles of the constitution are made ’untouchable’. They cannot be amended, not even by qualified majority or unanimity in the parliament.

Germany has experienced first hand the danger of being naive and has therefore armoured its fundamental democratic values and principles against the corrosive influence of anti-democratic parties functioning within the system.

The third argument is that the students, by blocking the entrance, made it impossible for SDU to play its part in the democratic system. The propagators of this argument confuse two fundamentally different areas and players in the political debate: politicians and civil society.

I strongly believe that every politician has a fundamental moral obligation to enter into the debate with extreme-right parties.  I do not believe in a cordon sanitaire, which allows the SD(U) to play the victim role. These parties should always be exposed for what they are, which is parties without solutions. And for that, political debate is necessary.

But these were not politicians, these were students. And as students they have a different role to play in our societal debate. And by blocking the entrance to their own school the students spoke out.

They did not say that SD(U) should not be allowed to play its role in parliament and they were not trying to limit SD(U)’s democratic rights such as the right to free speech.  What the students said was: ”Not here! We will not allow you to use our house, where we feel safe and secure, as a platform for your message of hate and polarization.”

That behaviour is not anti-democratic; that is active citizen participation. That is the core of our democracy!

Was it effective? I don’t know. Were there other methods the students could have used? Undoubtedly. Do I believe in tackling the debate head on? Absolutely!

Story continues below…

But I also believe in the power of young people standing up for what they believe in. It is from these students that we must take heart. The rhetoric of the extreme right is one that escalates by nature.

If no one draws a line in the sand, our society will gradually become accustomed and numb, accepting xenophobia and racism as an inevitable part of our daily reality. But the students at Globala Gymnasiet showed us there is still time to turn the tide.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: ”He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” The students did not cooperate and I for one am proud of them.

Ruben Brunsveld (Twitter: @RubenBrunsveld)

This contribution has been written in a personal capacity. The author is Head of Business Development at Enact Sustainable Strategies and Founder of the Stockholm Institute for Public Speaking.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedish premier pledges 5,000 'emergency' jobs
Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, speaking in Gothenburg. Photo: TT

Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, speaking in Gothenburg, announced a initiative to create 5,000 new 'emergency' jobs for new arrivals to the country.

Sweden's king celebrates 70th birthday
King Carl XVI Gustaf joins in with a rendition of All You Need Is Love with the Tensta Gospel Choir and their leader Cedwin Sandanam. Photo: TT

But Norwegian royals stay at home after deadly helicopter crash.

'Disgusted' Swedish boxer retains world crown
Badou Jack (right) catches Lucian Bute with a right-hand. Photo: TT

Badou Jack drew bout but kept World Boxing Council title.

PLO seeks apology over Sweden Eurovision flag ban
Sweden was the first EU member state in Western Europe to officially recognise the State of Palestine. Photo: TT

First it was the Basques...

Brussels attacks
Swedish terror suspect 'dumped bomb in toilet'
Osama Krayem. Photo: Facebook

Belgian media report that Osama Krayem tried to dispose of the explosives before carrying them onto the Brussels metro system.

Eurovision 2016
Regional politicians hit out at Sweden's Eurovision flag ban
Lots of flag-waving at Eurovision. Photo: AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson

Spanish politicians have criticized Swedish Eurovision organizers after a regional flag was banned alongside that of Isis from the competition in Stockholm.

Eight charged over shooting at Gothenburg restaurant
People leaving flowers at the scene of the fatal shooting last year. Photo: TT

The attack last spring left two people dead in one of the most high-profile shootings in Sweden in recent years.

Swedes want answers from Russia after Nato warning
Russian T-14 Armata tanks make their way to Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in May. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

UPDATED: What exactly does Russia's foreign minister mean when he says his country will "take action" if Sweden joins Nato?

Two historic shipwrecks found right in central Stockholm
Divers looking for a ship in central Stockholm. Photo: Anders P Näsberg/Statens maritima museer

Another two shipwrecks dating back to at least the 1600s have been found in central Stockholm.

Alicia Vikander scoops lead role in new Tomb Raider
Alicia Vikander poses at the Scandinavian terrace during the 68th Cannes film festival last May. Photo: Jean Christophe Magnenet/AFP

The next Lara Croft will be a Swede.

Sponsored Article
Kista: The best office space in Sweden?
Analysis & Opinion
Why Sweden's fretting about Brexit
Sponsored Article
Why international researchers love to call Malmö home
National
INTERVIEW: Swedish police officer 'beat me up and used racial slurs'
Gallery
People-watching: April 27th
Blog updates

29 April

Editor’s blog, April 29th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Relations between Sweden and Russia went from slightly strained to full-on James Bond this…" READ »

 

18 April

A day as a guard (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Life as an Ambassador. Driven around in the Jaguar. Visits all planned so you go straight…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
‘Life in Stockholm’s suburbs is better than people realize’
National
Öresund bridge border checks net record number of drink drivers
Sponsored Article
'A huge waste of resources': how to fix integration
National
Swedes bid farewell to iconic Volvo
Gallery
Property of the week: Enköping
Gallery
People-watching: April 22nd-24th
Sponsored Article
'A sustainable Sweden must embrace diversity'
Politics
Could Brits in Europe stop Brexit?
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
National
The first official picture of Sweden's new royal Prince Alexander
National
Sweden's Sami reindeer still live in the shadow of Chernobyl
Sponsored Article
Sigtunaskolan: 'The best of what Sweden has to offer'
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 20th
Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
National
Why was a Nazi flag hoisted in a Swedish town on Hitler's birthday?
National
How did Sweden's deputy PM get in trouble over New York comments?
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 16th-17th
Sponsored Article
'I may work at a Swedish company, but we’re global'
Culture
Sweden finally axes historic dancing ban
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: Stockholm's secret dating scene
International
Have you phoned Sweden yet?
Sponsored Article
'Swedes must realize only soft power can defeat radicalism'
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 13th
National
Is booze going up in Sweden?
National
How Sweden's fake 'smombie' traffic sign is being used for real
Culture
Sweden's Tarzan drops trousers
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 9th-10th
Sport
Zlatan wants to be new 'Rambo'
National
Swedes in a huff about giant TV penis
3,236
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se