Why did Sweden turn Right-wing?
Freddie Sayers spoke to Ivar Arpi to learn more about Sweden's new government
Swedish politics’ Rightward shift has dented the country’s image as the spiritual home of the liberal Left. Indeed, such was the success of Sweden’s Right-wing coalition that the New York Times proclaimed that “Sweden is becoming unbearable” on the day of the election.
Much of this nervousness can be put down to the growing influence of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. While not directly in power, the party’s political support for the Right-wing coalition means that they can exert pressure on their more moderate counterparts to reconsider Sweden’s experiment in mass immigration.
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UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers sat down with independent journalist Ivar Arpi to discuss exactly what Sweden’s drift to the Right means. A well-known commentator in Sweden, Arpi has used his blog, Rak höger or ‘Straight Right’, to advocate for much tougher immigration policies in the country. He argues that the wave of refugees and asylum seekers that entered the country in 2015 — mostly Afghan or Syrian — had a destabilising effect on Swedish society. This year, there have been 47 fatal shootings — equal to last year’s record — and just a few weeks before this election, a 5-year-old and her mother were shot at a playground.
Sweden’s historically homogenous population now looks very different from 20 or even 10 years ago. According to state statistics, 25% of the population and upwards of 40% of people under 50 are foreign born or have foreign born parents.
Arpi is clear that past assimilation efforts in Sweden have, in most cases, been a success: “50% of doctors are foreign born or educated in another country. […] Their kids are going to Swedish schools, they have a Swedish education. And they’re fully integrated.” But after 2015, integration failed because Sweden let too many refugees in. “We are becoming more like Lebanon and Brazil,” he says.
Certain neighbourhoods, or ‘vulnerable areas’ as they are described by Swedish authorities, have seen disenfranchised immigrants cutting off from wider Swedish society, struggling to find jobs or to learn the language. In Arpi’s words, “People are getting stuck in these areas […]. There are no native Swedish speakers in the schools. There is no contact with wider society from these areas. And in these areas, criminal gangs have taken control over large parts of society and people are captives in those parts.”
For the Swedish voter who watched rates of gun violence skyrocket in recent years, confronting crime was a central issue in this election. When asked about the violence in Sweden, Arpi acknowledges” “It’s not Brazil. It’s not, you go to a favela, or you go to Baltimore, it’s not the same. But the grenade violence and the bombs are on the same level as Mexico. People are bombing in the central Uppsala, and they’re bombing and they’re shooting into regular apartments in affluent areas […] We have kids who are being killed at the playground because the criminals in Sweden are so reckless in their violence and they have automatic rifles. And that’s new.”
Arpi says that the unlikeliness of radical change has led to a kind of national ennui: “There’s a profound sadness in the whole of Swedish society. People are very pessimistic.” But still, he has hope that the new government can offer solutions, despite hand-wringing from the media: “If you ask the Left-wing, it’s 1933, in Germany, and if you ask the Right-wing we are in 2022, finally starting to rise to the challenge.”
Really good interview. Excessive immigration is always a bad idea. Every nation has the right to survive without being invaded by hordes of immigrants or refugees. For smaller countries like Sweden, this is even more important.
Freddie is way off the mark when he claims that Germany’s large refugee intake has been a success. While the situation may not be as bad as in Sweden, Germany too is paying a price for its liberal immigration and asylum policies. For one thing, housing supply is under extreme strain. I’ve been trying to move for two years and cannot find a suitable apartment within my budget. In my native Ireland (which has also experience mass immigration over the past 20 to 25 years), the housing situation is even worse.
Here in Canada (155 years as a “country”) we have a long history of welcoming newcomers (or not). To disregard the difference in motivations of groups ensures failure. We have apartheid here in Canada, and a portion of our Aboriginal/Native population does not feel integrated, still. On the other hand, massive amounts of Sikhs, Vietnamese boat people, Poles, Ukrainians, and Nigerians have blended seamlessly in. Chinese, on the other hand, have a large diaspora that has no interest in being Canadian, and Somali groups seem to struggle. It’s not racist to look realistically at the situation, and make policies that will benefit both the host country and the refugees or immigrants. A waiting period that allows host countries to select out criminals seems like a common sense proposal. Diversity is not strength, homogeneity of society can be based on race, but also could be religion, or a love for Western civilization, a love for democracy, a willingness to work to support yourself. That harmony is necessary for a functioning society. There are two sets of immigrants in Canada – those sponsored by citizen groups who raise money, help find housing, jobs, and support, and those sponsored by govt who are dumped in a hotel, hooked up to govt assistance, and forgotten. Guess which group achieves integration, independence, and language skills?
For the left wing it’s 1933 anytime a right of center party gains power. Idk why anyone listens to their hysteria. It’s totally about preserving their own power.
Who would have thought that people, mainly from the Middle-East and of a particular religion, would fail (refuse) to integrate. Does anybody know where this has happened before? While these “refugees” were marching north through Europe I watched (on the UK TV) an interview with two of them (somewhere in Scandinavia) and In perfect English they said “We don’t want to register, we just want our money”. Nuff Said!
Then they will have to be repatriated by ANY means possible. It’s a Darwinian imperative is it not?
Freddie reminds us that he is, at heart, a metro-liberal, airily expounding the joys of multicultural London – where happy, happy youths stab, shiv, and shoot each other in interestingly diverse and colourful ways, in ever-increasing numbers, night after night.
It won’t do. Our culture is being wrecked, or infrastructure is being swamped, our kids’ schools are being intimidated, our social unity is being ruined and our safety, and that of our women and children, is compromised on a daily basis, by millions of migrants who never intended to assimilate, and never, ever will.
And the gain? Absolutely nothing. The supposed financial gains are cooked figures. Along with the questionable increase in GDP attributable to these freeloaders, lies the unquestionable decrease in per-capita productivity. And that’s before we consider all the above.
Get real Freddie, and others.
The ‘gain’ is in the number of voters for the Labour party. Blair’s goal from the start. Surely we all understand that?
If you want to bandy around the word “extreme”, then the previous government was extreme, not the currrent one. The previous government were in denial that there were no-go areas and when there were riots that could not be ignored, they blamed Swedish society and engaged in gesture politics, such as handing out free iPADs to rioting-age yougsters in the areas where the rioters lived. To make matters worse, until shortly before the election, the previous government could see no problem with continuing the high level of immigration.
During the Cold War, the UK used to expel an appropriate number of Soviet diplomats whenever a spy ring was uncovered. Sweden should try expelling an appropriate number of rioters when the riots happen.
Unlike the Soviet Union, ‘rioters’ do not answer to a single hierarchical organisation. If, say an American killed someoneby driving on the wrong side of the road, would you deal with it by expeling ‘an appropriate number of Americans’?
I take it that your are referring to Anne Sacoolas killing Harry Dunn and then claiming diplomatic immunity. If there were a large number of such cases, then my answer to your question is yes, I would tell the US embassy that they have to reduce the size of their diplomatic corps.
Maybe that was a bad example. Anne Sacoolas was a diplomat too, yes. A better one? Would you say that in response to the Rotherham scandal, Britain should have expelled a large number of random Muslims?
I don’t think that expelling a random group of Muslims would be a good idea. But we have, here in Sweden, riot clubs. These are people who travel around Sweden, wherever they think that a protest might turn nasty — and the subject matter of the protest doesn’t matter — looking for an opportunity to pillage. I’m for making such people persona non grata in Sweden, and expelling them if we can. Those we cannot legally chuck out, we need to put in jail.
That does make sense. It merges back to the general problem of how/whether/when to expel foreigners that are convicted of crimes, and how to write the laws so that they work in an acceptable manner. A hard thing to get right, maybe, but definitely a legitimate approach.
Not random ones but definitely the guilty ones! As it is, we spend more time and money moving the victims than the perps of the grooming gangs!
The NYT writing that Sweden is becoming unbearable: well I don’t know about anyone else, but that irony really made my weekend.
Was the previous Swedish Gov’t described as “left wing”? Does Unherd regularly call the German Gov’t “left wing”?
I have been noticing this also – the frequent use of colored language to signal disdain in various ways. Politer forms of “deplorables” or “white supremacists”. I wonder if they are even aware of it? Like an unconscious tic? Or maybe a form of crossing themselves?
If you want to see the future a nation and national identity destroyed by the twin bulldozers of multiculturalism and mass migration, look no further than Canada.
Utterly lost, Canada now comprises a hodge-podge of people barely tolerating each other and held together merely by their shared desire to ‘make money’ and a nanny/police state.
Canada’s future will be bloody ethnic fighting as the groups blame each other for the economic failure and hopelessness. Only the most brutal and predatory will prosper. The only bright opportunity: underground small arms dealing.
Freddie, you obviously still believe in Santa Claus. Have you not read “Prey Immigration, Islam and the Erosion of Women’s Rights” by one of your own contributors, Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Those of strong cultural and religious beliefs will never accept someone else’s view point. That is why we have “ghettos”, they don’t want their women to learn the language or integrate or get a job. They want lots of children and they will take over our politics and laws.
Interestingly, those politicians from ethnic minority background in Liz Truss’s cabinet agree with this.
The framing of this interview, IMVHO, is 180 degrees out of phase with what brought me – an American – to Unherd in the first place. I’d venture that a majority (or large minority) of Americans do not see the NYT as any mainstream, middle of the road publication. A recent poll revealed 84% of American view corporate media as a threat to democracy and a plurality of that group saw it as a major threat. Why am I hung up on that little tidbit? There is nary a major news organization in the US that does not define any person or idea to the right of regime orthodoxy as “far right”. I acknowledge that there are significant differences in how Americans delineate left vs right compared to our friends across the Atlantic. For much of my life I thought it was a good thing that Europe viewed political movement on/toward the right with trepidation. But terms like Fascism, left/right, racism, white supremacy, etc… have been hijacked and weaponized against citizens that hold various ideas. What are these radical ideas? That nation-states might have actual borders, that the family is still a great way to organize civil society, that the speech which needs protection is the speech that offends, that religious faith is not a mind virus, that science is a method and not a consensus, etc… If these are “far right” ideas then I look forward to them being reclaimed and/or promoted on both sides of the pond. (Bully for Sweden – if it wasn’t for the Swedes we’d lack a control group.)
Ah but not everyone is equal – especially in the land of free. NYT and others are supported by those who have money and power. If you did a weighted average with wealth of the people who support different media organisations, NYT would be a lot more mainstream than if you just took a poll.
So long as open borders make the owners of assets rich their media will continue to pretend that its opponents are driven by bad faith.
I think there’s a little more to it. I think of it as a power struggle between liberalism and democracy. For all the touching talk about equality and liberty, liberalism is ultimately an elitist ideology that’s used to wielding power in the interests of the enlightened few. Any concession to illiberal populism sets a dangerous precedent of what’s next to come. So, even relatively small issues get blown out of proportion in the culture wars.
I am afraid that I now think that the desire to think positively no matter what has not served anyone well. Please can we now be allowed to discuss issues realistically without being tarred ‘far-right’ ,’right wing’ or worse?
Listening to people like Freddie just radicalises me further. Like so many, he is in denial. Ivar gets it.
“But the grenade violence and the bombs are on the same level as Mexico.”
I’m shocked by this comment, and find it difficult to believe. And ok we don’t have many guns in this country, and access to bomb making materials is monitored, but with the level of knife crime and murders here, I wonder if we could be compared to somewhere like Mexico?
See the Wikipedia article on detonated grenade attacks in Sweden.
There were more than ONE HUNDRED in 2019. (Sorry, I don’t know the Mexican stats.) There are also attacks using improvised explosive devices. Earlier on, the grenades were used by the immigrant drugs gangs to scare other gangs in turf wars and there were few injuries or deaths. But the government and the police turned a blind eye, so more recently, the bombers and the shooters, have been much more cavalier in the use of their weapons, injuring and killing more innocent people.
Thanks Peter. Just amazing.
Arpi is clear that past assimilation efforts in Sweden have, in most cases, been a success: “50% of doctors are foreign born or educated in another country. […] Their kids are going to Swedish schools, they have a Swedish education. And they’re fully integrated.”
Now that is what I would like to hear more about. So Sweden managed a high-immigration policy successfully until 10 years ago, when they overdid it? Such a policy is actually possible? It would be hard to find someone from either side who could make a dispassionate analysis (official Sweden notoriously refuses to collect statistics by ethnicity, lest they inflame racist opinion, which makes it kinda impossible to check how successful their policies actually were). But please, Unherd, if you could find someone? If nothing else it would generate a lot of clicks and debate.
Statistics Sweden used to collect such things for crime. But in the 1989 the right wing government decided that such things should be collected by the Justice Department, instead. So we got Brå which collects the stuff, but doesn’t release reports very often. see: https://bra.se/bra-in-english/home/about-bra.html
also worth reading
https://www.thelocal.se/20180508/why-sweden-doesnt-keep-stats-on-ethnic-background-and-crime/ (from 2018)
However, I think the age of ‘just hiding this under the rug’ is over. Between left-wing aca demics (who want to find out if people of various ethnic groups are being discriminated against) and right-wing academics (we have some) (who want to document why open borders is a bad idea), there is nobody who wants secrecy to ‘keep from inflaming racist opinion’ — the right already won the election, so that ploy didn’t work if its real goal was to keep power away from the right. And the Social Democrats kept talking about ‘our failed immigation policies’ and ‘the failure of integration’ all through the election cycle, so they are not buying into ‘see-no-evil, all-is-fine, pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain’ either.
When it comes to the violent racist end of the spectrum, hiding matters only makes things worse, because the people there generally think that things are even worse than they are, and that this is the reason that people are hiding things. Not providing statistics made it possible for successive governments to not get around to dealing with problems they refused to admit existed, which may have been reason enough to withhold them.
Thanks for expanding on my rather semi-informed, throwaway comment.
“50% of doctors are foreign born or educated in another country.”
What does this actually mean? If 10% were born abroad and educated in Sweden and another 40% born in Sweden then attended foreign medical schools, it would satisfy the conditions above.
What’s happened to the other article on Sweden? It received what I believe the young people refer to as “ratio” in the comments. Down the memory hole!
Thank you – it’s encouraging to hear such thoughtful analysis. The recent election result alarmed many in Britain, but SD’s concerns chime with frightening stories I hear from my colleague in Malmo – himself a Swedish-born child of invandror from the Middle East.
Arpi’s tale is of hubris: Swedes over-confident of their legendary ability to take in strangers. He resists Sayers’ demand for optimism. He is no far-right populist peddling fast fixes; it will take decades to deal with the consequences. But perhaps Sayers misreads Scandinavian phlegm: pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.
Sayers proposes optimism about the future is mandatory. Much as air’s capacity to hold moisture varies with temperature, a society’s capacity to absorb strangers depends on its optimism about the future. Thermo-industrial civilisation has started its inevitable decline; optimism about the future cannot be based on expectations of consuming more. This does not bode well for the forecast billion climate refugees. We need to find a new basis for optimism.
Amazed that the single greatest religio-cultural source of Swedish immigration strife is never named: it is anti-integrationist Islam! Clear for all to see but some western perverse faux politeness (or is it fear?) refuses to name it. And Freddie portrays himself as the epitome of superior civility: “Isn’t all this Swedish concern an exaggeration?” Well, Freddie, come back to us when your wife or sister has been raped by such immigrants and your male cousins beaten up by an immigrant gang. Then question the exaggeration of citizens angry their government failed its first obligation of protecting its own people.
One might be surprised Unherd hasn’t covered this matter before, but maybe it has. I reckon I have been reading about it for years,
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