Swedes’ rising support for far right driven by sense of crisis in ideology, or Swedish culture
Published: Oct 19, 2022 07:16 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Ulf Kristersson, the new Swedish prime minister, announced the composition of the new government following elections. Judging from Kristersson's remarks, it is almost certain that Sweden's future foreign policies will be more inclined to be in consistent with those of the US and other European countries, including policies toward Russia-Ukraine conflict and China. Any problems that arise in relations between China and the EU will also be likely reflected in the relations between China and Sweden in the future.

A nation that insists on embarking on the "Third Way" now has begun to turn right. This is particularly notable when we observe the changes in Europe. In the 2022 Swedish general elections, the far-right Sweden Democrats surged to become the second-largest party. The party, founded in 1988 and with roots in neo-Nazism, has become a political force that can influence the future development of Sweden - this has reflected the changes in Swedish social thought.

Although the Sweden Democrats party is not directly participating in the cabinet this time, they will have a say in drafting any and all new laws, amendments to regulations, and budget decisions. They will also be able to place their own political operatives into government ministries to check up on the work of the other parties.

Anti-immigrant political forces in Denmark, Norway, and other Nordic countries have been on the rise in recent years, forming a trend of public opinion changes across Northern Europe. Against this backdrop, the Sweden Democrats party, which has an anti-immigrant stance, expanded and won more votes. In recent years, there has been a continuous wave of gang-related crimes in Sweden, many of which are related to the immigrant community. An increasing number of people are beginning to believe that "it's all the fault of immigrants."

However, behind the anti-immigration rhetoric is the "Swedish culture first" nationalist ideology. The Sweden Democrats party is steadfastly opposed to cultural pluralism, especially bicultural identity, emphasizing the need to spare no effort to preserve the purity of Swedish culture. The Sweden Democrats leader Björn Söder once said that minorities were not Swedish, as ethnicity and citizenship were two different concepts.

According to the Sweden Democrats, Swedes are either born in Sweden, or those immigrated to Sweden but actively identify with Swedish culture, choose to become part of Sweden, and are loyal to Swedish culture. 

This strong cultural conservatism will become an important reason for them to oppose the further promotion of European integration, to be anti-Russian, and to support a hard-line policy toward Russia.

In the elections, many Swedish voters changed their long-standing support for the Sweden Social Democratic Party not because they support the far-right policy choice. They changed because they feel the stronger and stronger sense of crisis in ideology, or Swedish culture. 

During the long post-war period, in which the Sweden Social Democratic Party was in power for most of the time, the party's insistence on the Third Way has made the Sweden a country with the highest social development index in the world, with per capita GDP remaining within the top 10 for the most of the time. Sweden, home to about 10 million people, is playing a leading role in not only Europe but also around the globe in areas ranging from employment, environmental protection, education, science and technology to social welfare and social stability. 

But in recent years, as globalization has continued to expand and accelerate, Swedes have felt being impacted, especially in terms of economy and social welfare.

This is in line with the overall state of development in Europe. Some European scholars have pointed out that the weakening of sovereign state functions by globalization is mainly manifested in the three aspects - security, currency and welfare.

In face of the shock, the Swedes are not giving up the "Third Way," but will take a step back to see if they could hold on to the achievement of the "Third Way." They believe, if they are the best, why can't they just stick around? That's why they voted for the right-wing. It is also one of the reasons why this country, which has not participated in a war for more than 200 years, finally decided to join NATO.

The rise of far-right parties in Sweden is by no means a positive signal for globalization. Taking political changes that have occurred in major European countries into consideration, such as the UK, Italy, and France in recent years, people are wondering where Europe is headed. This question will determine the future of Western civilization.

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina