2016 saw a surge in neo-Nazi activity in Sweden: here's why

Lee Roden
Lee Roden - [email protected]
2016 saw a surge in neo-Nazi activity in Sweden: here's why
The Nordic Resistance Movement march in Falun on May Day. Ulf Palm/TT

2016 was a record year for neo-Nazi groups in Sweden, with over 3,000 activities carried out by them according to Swedish anti-racism foundation Expo.


Expo's annual report on the activity of white supremacist groups documented 3,064 instances of activity by them last year, the highest number since the foundation started to carry out the yearly studies in 2008.

The explanation for the increase can be found in people being absorbed into the particularly active Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM), according to Expo researcher Jonathan Leman.

"There has been a consolidation. Before there were always far more different actors within this white supremacist area, several competing organizations. But when the Party of the Swedes (Svenskarnas Parti) dissolved in 2015 they weren't replaced, which meant things fell into the NRM's lap," he told The Local.

"That meant that during 2015 and continuing into 2016, the NRM has absorbed more of the ground. It's the most fanatical of these neo-Nazi organizations: they have a requirement for their members to be active, with propaganda-spreading an important part of that. So when the organization absorbed more people, it also meant an increase of overall activity as a result."

READ ALSO: Anger in Sweden over neo-Nazis' May Day march

Propaganda-spreading is the most common form of activity, according to Expo, with flyer distribution, handing out stickers and other visual forms of propaganda accounting for 80 percent of overall activity. With 2,759 instances of activity in 2016 the NRM dominated, and according to Expo they are at the extreme end of the spectrum.

"They're at the most extreme end of this white supremacist area. There's a lot of crime associated with them, they have a relationship with violence. We carried out a study last year that showed around half of them have been convicted of some kind of crime, and about a quarter convicted or indicted for violent or weapons crimes in 2015 alone," Leman noted.

"What has happened is the most radical organization has become the most dominant one. On social media meanwhile people come into contact with people who are openly racist, and it can be a meeting with that world, meaning there's a certain normalizing of Nazi ideas and an overlap between the xenophobic and Islamophobic world around the Sweden Democrats, and the openly racist, white supremacist organizations. We can see people being radicalized as a result."

In its study Expo only included "groups that had a race-nationalist starting point. Which is different from the more cultaral-nationalist starting point SD for example have," Leman noted.

On Thursday, Sweden's parliamentary parties released a joint statement asking the hosts of the annual Almedalen politics week not to allow NRM to rent a space at the event.

The parties decide who is allowed to take part in the official programme of events, and decided NRM would not be allowed to participate in it, but it is up to hosts Gotland municipality to decide whether they will be allowed to rent a space.


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