• Sweden's news in English
 

Why Sweden should cherish pupils who blocked Sweden Democrat

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!

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
Sweden's Ericsson sues Apple in patent spat
Photo: TT

Sweden's Ericsson sues Apple in patent spat

Swedish telecoms group Ericsson announced Friday a lawsuit against US tech giant Apple claiming that its technology was used in iPhones and other wireless devices despite a lapsed licencing agreement. READ  

IN PICTURES: Swedes in 'ring of peace' protest
Photo: TT

IN PICTURES: Swedes in 'ring of peace' protest

Up to a 1000 Swedes turned out to form a human shield around Stockholm's synagogue on Friday as a protest against extremism. Here are some images from the event. READ  

Swedes in 'ring of peace' synagogue protest
Photo: TT

Swedes in 'ring of peace' synagogue protest

A human shield of up to a 1000 Swedes staged a protest against extremism outside the Stockholm synagogue Friday in response to the Copenhagen shootings earlier this month in which two people died. READ  

Swedes to form 'ring of peace' at synagogue
A ring of peace around a synagogue in Oslo. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/NTB scanpix/TT

Swedes to form 'ring of peace' at synagogue

UPDATED: Hundreds of young Swedes were set to form a 'ring of peace' around a synagogue in Stockholm on Friday afternoon, in a show of solidarity two weeks after Jews were among those targeted in a pair of deadly shootings in Copenhagen. READ  

Sweden raps 'brutal' Assyrian abductions
Assyrians citizens during a sit-in for abducted Christians in Beirut, Lebanon on Thursday. Photo: TT

Sweden raps 'brutal' Assyrian abductions

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has slammed the abduction of Christians in Syria earlier this week and pledged to keep supporting communities affected by the ongoing fighting in the Middle East. READ  

Escalator return stalled in Swedish capital
Commuters using some of the stationary escalators in Stockholm. Photo: TT

Escalator return stalled in Swedish capital

Commuters in Stockholm are set for more frustration next week, with 39 escalators set to remain switched off at some of the city's busiest underground stations, following an accident a fortnight ago. READ  

Copenhagen shootings
Third arrest over fatal Danish terror shootings
The window of the Copenhagen cultural centre where one man was shot. Photo: TT

Third arrest over fatal Danish terror shootings

A man has been arrested for "complicity" in the Copenhagen shootings that killed two people earlier this month, with the Swedish artist Lars Vilks among the presumed targets of the attacks. READ  

Swedish firm to fund huge Danish wind project
Vattenfall's Stockholm office. Photo: TT

Swedish firm to fund huge Danish wind project

A massive new offshore wind farm off the west coast of Denmark is being built by the state-owned Swedish company Vattenfall, it has emerged. READ  

Copenhagen shootings
Sweden artist talk halted after Denmark attacks
Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Photo: TT

Sweden artist talk halted after Denmark attacks

A planned lecture at Sweden's Karlstad University by the controversial Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, the presumed target of the terror attack at a cultural event in Copenhagen earlier this month, has been scrapped by organisers. READ  

Surprise growth spurt for Sweden's economy
Sweden's economy is growing faster than expected. Photo: TT

Surprise growth spurt for Sweden's economy

Sweden's economy grew more than expected at the end of last year, with GDP rising by 1.1 percent between the third and fourth quarter, according to new figures from Statistics Sweden. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Super cute sloth twins charm visitors to Swedish zoo
Lifestyle
Meet Sweden's first woman chef to win a Michelin star
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: February 26th - March 5th
Accelerated for Ice Music
What is Bob Dylan's guitarist doing in northern Sweden?
Features
How well do you know Sweden's top celebrity couples?
Blog updates

27 February

Editor’s blog, February 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Our most read story this week got picked up by global media from Al Jazeera to..." READ »

 

18 February

The mysterious -s, part 2 (The Swedish Teacher) »

"-s expressing “each other” (reciprocal verbs) You have most likely used this form of the verbs..." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Are company boards 'too white' in Sweden?
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: February 25th
Technology
Sweden is dubbed second most 'digital' nation in European Union
National
Why more Swedes want a sex change
National
The return of Sweden's Ace of Base
National
Why has Julian Assange's case been going on for so long?
National
'21' or 'IS'? Swedish police confuse birthday with Islamist extremism
National
Spring has sprung in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Ängelholm
National
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
Business & Money
Ten Swedish start-ups you haven't heard of (yet)
National
Is Sweden home to the world's oldest living cat?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The life and career of Fredrik Reinfeldt
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Estelle through the years
National
Why are Swedish Jews worried?
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
Gallery
People-watching: February 19th-22nd
National
'Racist' bird names banned in Sweden
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Nobel prize to go under hammer
National
Swede named 'Fanny' banned from getting UK loyalty card
National
Spotlight on the Swedes that could be funding Islamists
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Gallery
People-watching: February 18th
National
Is a chocolate crime wave sweeping across Sweden?
National
What we know about the Copenhagen shootings suspect
National
Danish Ambassador: 'We'll live our lives the way we always have'
National
What does this '90s pop act have to do with a former minister?
Lifestyle
How to embrace Sweden's creamy semla bun tradition
National
Did this Swedish hotel really refuse a gay couple?
National
Why are so many escalators down on Stockholm's Metro?
Gallery
Property of the week: Kungsbacka
National
Can Zlatan's tattoo stunt help end world hunger?
Gallery
People-watching: February 14th
Lars Vilks
National
Who exactly is controversial Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks?
Lifestyle
VIDEO: How to tackle Sweden's bizarre mating rituals
Sponsored Article
'Immigration is critical' for Stockholm’s future
Lifestyle
How to make traditional Swedish blackberry pie
National
What the weak krona means for expats and visitors to Sweden
National
What's in a Swedish meatball?
National
Spotlight on 32 Swedish Isis fighters killed in Syria and Iraq
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

1,007
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