The rise of nationalism

All over Europe, East Asia and North America, Nationalism is growing. In Sweden, the third largest party amongst the youth are the xenophobic and formerly fascist Sweden Democrats. The Green Party and the Sweden Democrats are fighting on the national scale on who should be the third largest of Sweden’s 8 parties. While the Green Party commands a lead for the third place amongst those born in the 70’s, the Sweden Democrats are comfortably winning amongst those born in the 80’s and 90’s.

Why?viking_fan_medium

I would argue that the comparative failure for the Green Party to get on the drum in terms of youth politics is due to a failure to correspond how their policies could matter to the issues that are important to youths. In Sweden, unemployment lies around 7-8% persistently, and almost 25% of the youths are unemployed. If you are unemployed and low-educated, you will have a problem entering the labour market. Imagine that you and four-hundred other people are hunting the few low-qualified jobs that pop up then and then. It also affects your ability to get housing, especially as the population has increased with over one million since the 1990s (and most new building projects are middle class rather than working class-focused, meaning that youths moving out could stand in lines for years waiting for an affordable place to live in.

With a lack of pro-active initiatives to give people access to a working labour and housing environment, there is no surprise that those affected by the lack of policies or solutions in these areas would look for ways to reduce the population growth, even if it means tougher immigration laws.

Combine that with the stupid, self-defeating, alienating and bizarre policies undertaken by various local public officials regarding Swedish or western cultural heritage, and people become offended. This obsession with symbol issues which pervades through parts of the bureaucratic establishment for unclear reasons is slowly producing a backlash, a generation for which the most rebellious thing is to watch Astrid Lindgren films, eat Kalles Kaviar, hoisting the Swedish flag and listen to Sabaton and Raubtier. In the 1990s and early 2000s, that kind of patriotism was associated with the most backward countryside holdouts – but nowadays it seems to be mainstream, and pervade deeper into society.

The Greens do still have an edge in one area. The youths who are voting on the Greens tend to be more socially conscientous, have a higher degree of knowledge about poverty and sustainability issues and have a higher likelihood to engage in the Green Youth and later the actual Green Party. But Democracy is ultimately an exercise in numbers, not in the quality of the engagement. The recent scandals with the Sweden Democrats could actually even endear them more to the youths working for them.

I would say that the main problem why the Green Party fails to attract support is that they have been “too rational”. Triangulation is the most rational vote maximising strategy, and since 2002, the Greens have successfully employed that to move from the fringe to the mainstream. The mainstream, however, is not static, and future voters tend to identify themselves in opposition to the preceding generation. For example, the Baby Boomers identified themselves in opposition to the Greatest Generation, and brought the Civil Rights Era and Sexual Revolution. The yuppies of the 1980’s defined themselves in opposition to the hippies of the 1960’s, and the young adults of the 1990’s and 2000’s (gen x-ers) were generally more focused on social justice once again. In Sweden at least, it seems like the rebellious thing today is a form of “revolutionary conservative trolling”, marked by such communities as Flashback and news like Avpixlat. The Green Party is not considered hip, it is considered mainstream, and therefore not as “cool” for youths to identify themselves with it.

The Swedish cultural and political establishment is largely composed of Baby Boomers. Therefore, there have been a focus of rebellion against gender roles, patriarchy, christianity, hetero-normativity and traditional bourgeois national symbols such as the monarchy. What they have forgotten is that they are the establishment today, and the reaction is a weird situation where the rebellious thing is to become a christian conservative monarchist. I am certainly not saying that is any form of progressive development. I am just saying that it is the reality of the counter-identity that is formulated more and more. One of the reasons for being anti-establishment is to become something that “the adults” cannot approve of. If you draw a dick on the head of a photo of the Swedish Prime Minister, you can get an expo at a museum or arts gallery. If you draw a traditional national-romanticist painting, you evoke an uproar and become “the black sheep“. And one of the points with evoking controverse is to become the black sheep with the establishment.

To win support amongst the youths, the Green Party has to:

– Become more edgy and more hip. Youths generally mistrust establishment politicians.

And more importantly…

Access the issues of housing and employment in a believable manner.

– Communicate all of that in a “good” way.

Personally, I did actually expect that Gustaf Fridolin would help to increase the support of the Green Party above 10% and possibly up to 15%. The reason why the success of the Greens was stalled is probably that it isn’t 2002 any more and Gustaf Fridolin, who was an edgy rebel in the early 2000’s, nowadays is like any young politician. At last, he has not become Captain Obvious, like Annie Lööf. Of course, very few people care for politicians that doesn’t have any ideas on how to improve the things that matter.Lowenzahn_in_Mauerfuge

The Green Party has become a very blueish type of Green Party, which is sad. But yet, they have an orientation (internationalist, pro-sustainable) which is agreeable and should be supported. Their ideas are not bad, but they are not the best at advocating them and connecting them to the issues people feel for in everyday life. In contrast, nationalists like the Sweden Democrats have no solutions on any of the major problems today. They don’t even see those problems. That is not due to them having a bad programme, but rather a bad ideology. Nationalism, an ideology which is centred around the reveration of the nation, is probably the worst ideology you can have if you want to address global problems. Therefore, the loss of the youth to the far right – which is not only a Swedish phenomenon – represents a large and growing challenge for progressives.

Enrique Lescure,

Sequence of Relations Director,

the Earth Organisation for Sustainability

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