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What a new report tells us about far-right extremism in Sweden

The Local Sweden
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What a new report tells us about far-right extremism in Sweden
Members of the extreme-right Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) at a demonstration on May 1st, 2022. Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

Sweden's 'racial ideology' movement carried out more activities last year than in 2021, and viewed the Sweden Democrats as a party representing its interests to a greater degree, according to a new report from the Expo Foundation.


Increase in activities between 2021 and 2022

Last year, racial ideology groups in Sweden carried out 1,791 activities, compared to 1,487 the year before. Expo believes this increase is due to right-wing extreme groups carrying out campaigns in multiple parts of the country in the run-up to the September 2022 election.

"This means new challenges for authorities and municipalities which work to prevent violent extremism," said Jonathan Leman, researcher at the Expo Foundation and one of the writers behind the report.

This is the first time the number of activities carried out by these groups has risen year-on-year since 2018, which was also an election year. Last year, activities were at their lowest since 2011.

The figure for 2022, although still an increase on 2021, remains lower than the figures for each year between 2012 and 2020.

The graph below, from Expo's report, shows the number of activities carried out by groups within the racial ideology movement between 2008 and 2022.


These activities include the following: 

  • Activities to prepare for fighting, such as organised forms of physical or fight training under the premise that it is necessary to use violence as part of the political fight
  • Manifestations, demonstrations and marches
  • Indoctrination, which it describes as lectures, study circles, viewings of propaganda films and similar, aimed at influencing the ideology of those attending
  • Social activities aimed at building or strengthening the extreme-right community
  • Spreading of propaganda, such as organised meetings to spread posters, stickers or similar in public areas
  • Concerts with racial ideology themes and content
  • Occasions where groups following racial ideology are active in church politics or municipal politics

A full list of all activities, as well as the group they were carried out by and the area of the country they were carried out in, is available in the report's appendix.

Positive relationship with the Sweden Democrats

Although election attempts by the racial ideology movement to win seats in the 2022 election failed, the movement responded positively to the election result, regarding the Sweden Democrats' positive election result as a "step in the right direction", the report states.


The parties on the extreme right blame this on difficulties convincing Sweden Democrat voters to vote "for a more radical alternative" in what seemed to be a very close election, as well as extreme-right voters voting tactically for the Sweden Democrats to ensure a change of power occurred.

However, the report states, "the door to the Sweden Democrats is ajar" for the extreme-right parties, who, it claims, see the Sweden Democrats' election success as "a move forward for the entire racial ideology movement".

The report also outlines a number of ways in which the Sweden Democrats have reportedly opened the door to members of the extreme-right movement, as well as an increase in "extreme-right rhetoric from [Sweden Democrat] party leadership" with a tweet shared by high-up Sweden Democrat party members Richard Jomshof and Björn Söder of "a racist cartoon of Islam as a trojan horse" in April 2022 as one example.

Morgan Finnsiö, also a researcher at Expo, who co-authored the report, warns that there could be an increase in political violence from individuals in the extreme right movement if they are disappointed by the Sweden Democrats.

"Last year, we were brutally reminded of political violence motivated by extreme-right views, not least through the murder of Ing-Marie Wieselgren during Almedalen Week in Visby, where the perpetrator was clearly influenced by the ideas of the extreme-right movement," he said.

"If the racial ideology movement experiences disappointment over the fact that the Sweden Democrats' influence [on the government] has not led to great enough changes, there could be a risk that certain individuals in the movement will want to resort to political violence."


Future of the racial ideology movement

The report also makes a prognosis of how the racial ideology movement is expected to develop throughout 2023. It expects that the number of activities carried out by the movement will drop, but warns that this does not necessarily mean that the movement will become less influential. 

It predicts that the spreading of pro-Russian disinformation by the extreme-right and groups spreading conspiracy theories will continue throughout 2023, and that the extreme right will try to influence the Sweden Democrats.

At the same time, it predicts that media linked to the the racial ideology movement will claim that the Sweden Democrats are being undermined by the "deep state", which it describes as "a conspiracy theory that Swedish civil service is has been infiltrated by political opponents which will do everything to sabotage things for the Sweden Democrats".

Finally, it predicts that transphobia will be "one of the extreme right's themes" in 2023.


Difficulties attracting young people to traditional groups

The report states that the movement is finding it difficult to recruit young people to traditional membership and activist groups, with the extreme right trying to "ride the wave" of "misogynist, hypercapitalist influencers" such as Andrew Tate who offer self-help to young boys and men and try to influence them with their views.

This is not proving successful for the extreme right, the report states, writing that these groups have found it difficult to "attract the new generation of anti-feminist boys and men".

It warns that extreme-right fighting clubs like Gym XIV in Värmland offer these individuals a "more convenient way to participate in the racial ideology community".

It also warns that activists from groups peddling conspiracy theories, including some individuals who have previously been active in the now-disbanded Frihetsrörelsen anti-vaccine group, share conspiracy theories on social media under the guise of alternative health or self-help, often aimed towards young people.

It adds that the transnational community of the extreme right and the racial ideology movement also offers young people the opportunity to pick and choose between different ideas and individual issues, as well as working digitally. This requires less loyalty and engagement than with traditional groups, which, the report states, the young generation appears not to find as appealing.


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