The Radical Right in Sweden

Organizational manifestation and mobilization chances of movements and parties

Diploma Thesis, 2007

106 Pages, Grade: 2,0




1. Introduction: Relevance of the topic and purpose of the paper
1.1 The current state of research
1.1.1 The theory
1.1.2 State of research on Sweden and Scandinavia
1.2 Terms and definitions

2. The actors and their relevance in this paper

3. Analytical Model: Why and how the Radical Right exists?
3.1 Concept on RR’s organizational manifestation (Minkenberg)
3.2 Second model: Rydgren’s approach
3.3 The Synthesis

4. Analysis of the case
4.1 Historical tradition and political culture
4.2 Conflict patterns
4.3 Presence or absence of societal strains
4.4 Availability of a potent master frame
4.5 Agenda setting ability, politicization of new issues, elite allies, access to mass media
4.6 State’s capacity and propensity for repression
4.7 Degree of convergence in political space
4.8 Relative openness or closure of the institutionalized political system

5. Conclusion



illustration not visible in this excerpt

1. Introduction: Relevance of the topic and purpose of the paper

The research on the Radical Right dealt marginally with Sweden in comparison to other European cases such as Germany and France. That was caused, among other things, by the fact that Sweden is still a negative case in terms of successful Right wing parties. The assumption in this particular case was negatively derived from a party research perspective. However, the social movement research shows another picture when it comes to Radical Right phenomena below the surface of party organization. The Radical Right movements in Sweden are rather strong and in some cases tremendously well organized.

Obviously, there is a certain gap between these two perspectives. This is not caused by contradicting findings of both research traditions per se. It is rather an outcome of the specific range of each research tradition and the empirical bipolarity of the case. While the classical party research states a negative case in terms of successful parties, the research on social movements and milieus highlights a picture of traditionally strong and vital Right wing forces below the perceptional focus of party research. A research on the whole phenomenon, including both party level dimension and movement level dimension and their interacting mobilization conditions, has not jet been done.

It is the aim of this paper to fill this research gap by focusing on the Swedish case and by combining both party and social movement research in order to understand and possibly explain the above-described bipolarity more deeply than it has been done separately before. In doing so I can hopefully supplement to a more complete picture on the Swedish party landscape, especially the phenomenon of a continued absence of an established RR party while at the same time movement type organizations enjoy a relative strength.

Sweden ranks among the most advanced democracies worldwide and the transformation from a classical industrial society towards a post-industrial society can be stated as accomplished. Following the ‘pathology’-model of Scheuch and Klingemann (see 2.2) and Minkenberg (2003) Sweden features a mobilization potential for the Radical Right. Moreover, the country also provides Political Opportunity Structures (see 2.2) that act as positive for the Radical Right. Following the current assumptions of the research, political entrepreneurs should have successfully targeted this mobilization potential. But, despite a number of attempts, that is not the case.

The distinctiveness of the case is also caused by an almost unique war and post-war history. Being officially neutral during WWII Sweden managed a tuff tightrope walk between the Alliance and Nazi Germany. The country did not witness a clear historical cut in the aftermath of WWII. Compared to European countries that actively participated in the war, especially on the side of Nazi Germany, there has never been a systematic political and juridical refurbishment. In the aftermath of WWII the Radical Right appreciated a certain freedom: Apart from politics on a national level there have been a number of various activities (Lööw 1998, 2004). Given this particular situation, the development and current situation of the Swedish RR can be explained partially. Therefore, the historical tradition and the political culture will be of particular importance in the later analysis.

There was a short-lived exception in the early 1990s. While Denmark and Norway already faced the formation of a specific Scandinavian type - meaning a ‘milder version’ (Kitschelt 1995) - of Radical Right parties in the early 1970s the Swedish counterpart of this progress parties failed in both finding a unifying party leader as well as gaining popular attention and support. Also later attempts of the Radical Right to launch more successful parties failed to escape electoral marginalization. Noteworthy is the way of recruitment and formation of these parties. All of them are rooted in the movement level of the Swedish Radical Right.

There is just a singular example where a party arose not directly from the movement level: Ny Demokrati (New Democracy) had a short guest play in Swedish parliament from 1991 to 1994. As fast as they came up by a populist and unconventional rally, just as quickly, they have been revealed as unsubstantial and unable for parliamentary work. After losing public and voter support, internal struggles led to the downfall and the disappearance of the party.

In contrast to the Swedish party level, the movement level is characterized by an ongoing vitality. As pointed out above, Sweden provides a singular historical framework for a post-war Radical Right in which it was possible to maintain activity. Even though voices were toned down after Germany’s defeat, the Swedish Radical Right was organized tremendously well. Besides a number of militant extremist groups, a bigger number of the Radical Right was organized in Parties, movements, clubs, networks and foundations.

However, all these activities were more or less bound to existence below significance to party politics or greater public attention. This invisible border between party level and movement level is a major research focus of this work. On one hand, all attempts of the movement type organizations to break through the surface into the party level failed. On the other hand, the most extreme types below the party level organized a vital ideological exchange with the North American Extreme Right, played a key role within the European Extreme Right propaganda production (print, non-print, music, etc.) and showed signs of terrorist militancy (bombings, public threatening, assassinations).

The gap between the relative success of the movement type and the party type Radical Right (RR) in Sweden is highly under-researched. There have been several contributions to the vital activities of the Swedish RR below the visible party level (Bjørgo 1995, 1997, Lööw 1998, 2004). And there have been earlier contributions to the reasons why the party type RR never managed constant escape from electoral marginalization (Rydgren 2001, 2002). How is it possible that a rather vital movement type Radical Right never managed the step out on the party political arena? It is the task of this paper to understand the causes of the constant failure of the Swedish RR to establish permanently on a national party level by escaping electoral marginalization and gaining agenda stetting ability in the political and public sphere. The actual interest in this question comes into focus by the relative success of the party type RR in Norway and especially in Denmark, both assumed as relative similar cases (Betz 1994: 42-44, Kitschelt 1995: 121- 158). I am going to show that even though the three core countries of Scandinavia are relatively homogenous and similar in many aspects, Sweden is different in some key conditions which become visible by taking into account the historical framework (see chapter 4.1): The Swedish case can be seen as a singular empirical example for the development of the post-War Radical Right. There are just a few countries in Europe that feature these specific similarities with Sweden. Portugal is one of the few examples in which an established Radical Right did not emerge. But then, the surrounding conditions of Portugal and Sweden are too different to draw any relating lines between these two cases. Thus, it makes sense to analyze the Swedish case isolated in a first step. A subsidiary comparison between the Scandinavian countries, however, seems fruitful in order to clarify the distinctiveness of the case compared to its relative similar Scandinavian neighbors.

The task of the following chapter is to present a critical overview on the relevant research. Thereafter, the utilized terms will be defined and adapted concepts will be presented. Then, I am going to present the analytical model employed in this paper.

Though, we will not leave out a short review on the current state of research as a framework derivation of definitions, concepts and theory in chapter 1.2. This is essential in order to position the utilized definitions and theories on the landscape of Radical Right research. I start from a broader perspective and will then sharpen the focus to a case perspective.

When it comes to highly politicized issues, as the Radical Right certainly is, definitions and the sharpness of theory and concepts are always rather pluralistic and weak. The pluralism is a consequence of different research traditions (geographical, methodological) that deal with a highly politicized phenomenon such as the Radical Right. The weakness of most of the terms, concepts and explanations is a product of ideologically motivated, but rather non-scientific contributions, to the public debate. Therefore, a whole listing and classification of those definitions, theories and concepts would not contribute to the effort of this paper and is probably worth its own research. Even limited to the scientific debate, there are e.g. 28 scientists using 58 different terms (Ignazi 2003: 23). This perfectly illustrates the pluralism within the debate on the Radical Right. Furthermore, it causes the imperative need for a careful definition of the utilized terms and the concepts they are based on. I will pursue this need in chapter 1.3.

Chapter 3 addresses the question of what analytical model will be utilized. It is basically an attempt to employ the theoretical concept developed by Minkenberg (2003) and the model developed by Rydgren (2002, 2005).

Rydgren essentially developed a conceptual framework that fits to the empirical case Sweden. This framework is again based upon the earlier conceptual work of Lipset, Rokkan and Tarrow, but also Betz, Ignazi, Inglehart, Kitschelt, Perrineau, and Minkenberg. Besides the theoretical and conceptual match, Rydgren provides essential insights to the Swedish party level dimension, which will be applied in this thesis.

1.1 The current state of research

1.1.1 The theory

In contrast to case studies on Sweden, the research on the Radical Right of other cases enjoys overwhelming numbers of contributions, which are consequently complex and pluralistic in their perspectives and research focus.

Thus, I am not going to give an overview of all those contributions to the research. For an extensive state of research please refer to Minkenberg (1998). Concerning the size of this paper I will instead focus on those contributions that dealt specifically with the relevant issues in this work.

The general research can be divided into two broader historical periods, each with their specific ideological characteristics: Firstly, there is the research on fascism, right-wing totalitarianism, authoritarianism and National Socialism until the end of World War II as a landmark from when these concepts were politically discredited in Europe. Aside from the large-scale historical scientific analysis of that particular period, a number of socio-psychological analyses have been done on the concepts and ideologies that characterized that period of time. Especially these works covered the continuity of the concepts and ideologies after WW II within more or less marginal milieus, movements or party type organizations. In order to distinguish these electorally relatively impotent ideologies from the latter on more successful ideologies of Radical Right-wing Populism, we subsume them under the term: ‘old Right’. Secondly, there is the research on the Radical Right phenomena in the later post-war period (beginning in the early 1970s and including the Europe-wide heydays in the early 1990s). We classify that as the research on the ‘new Right’.

Although it might imply that the time for the old Right evaporated by the end of WWII, the ideology remained especially in the movement level. This is, as we are going to examine, of particular importance to the Swedish case where the old Right worked as an ideological and personal transmitter to the new Right. On one hand, it is obvious that the importance and success of the old Right ideology within European political thinking declined to a margin after WW II. On the other hand, the new Right was able to gain greater success mostly expressed through electoral performance, memberships, agenda setting ability or general public support.

The second part of the research literature is of more importance to our work because it is foremost focused on the post-war phenomenon of the RR as well as concepts towards the dichotomy ‘old Right’ and ‘new Right’. It is as such more relevant for the debate on the contemporary RR.

The following work is based on the theoretical core and definition of the RR imparted by Minkenberg (1998). Following von Beyme’s call for a combination of both party and movement research we are hopefully able to ground the research question on the hypothesis of Minkenberg about the anti-proportional conditions among movement and party level. Consequently, there is an existential need for utilizing both the movement research as well as the party research.

1.1.2 State of research on Sweden and Scandinavia

This chapter will deal especially with the state of empirical research on Sweden and/or Scandinavia itself. I will briefly introduce the main researchers and their contributions to the study of Scandinavian Right-wing Radicalism. This is essential for two reasons. Firstly, for an overview on three questions: What has been done already? (Fields of covered research and empiric) How has it been done? (Case studies and comparative studies) And what insights comprised the research? (A distinctive negative case) Secondly, to position the key question of this paper within the research that has been done already.

The Swedish RR was not of the greatest importance to the scientific community dealing with RR as a phenomenon neither on a party level dimension nor on a movement level dimension. A reason for that may be the relative absence of any RR party for decades with just a short guest-play of the Ny Demokrati in the early 1990s. However, the situation changed in recent years. A number of scientists started to deal with the Swedish case (Andersen/ Bjørglund 2000, Betz 1994, Bjørgo 1993, 1995, Cinell et al 1999, Eatwell 2004, Hederberg 1994, Rydgren 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005a 2005b, Ignazi 2003, Larsson/ Lodenius 1991, Lööw 1998, 2004, Peterson/ Stigendal/ Fryklund 1988, Skagegård/ Hübinette 1998, Nilsson 1998, Widfeldt 2004). Their works contributed to a more complete and a sharper picture of Scandinavia’s and especially Sweden’s RR landscape including both movement research and party research. Yet, a systematic combination of both research traditions in order to provide an even more complete picture of Sweden’s RR is still missing.

Nonetheless, the work already done provides strong arguments in terms of empirical material as well as theoretical and conceptual backing. In the following we are going to review not just works on the Swedish case in particular but also works covering the whole of Scandinavia or works including Scandinavia in a comparative work. For several reasons it makes sense to analyze Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden, Norway)(1) as a political relative homogenous case as a whole. Researchers that have done have not necessarily analyzed Sweden as a single case but in the composition of its neighbors Denmark and Norway.

First of all, I have to state that the research on any kind of Swedish RR activities, whether movement related or party related, started rather delayed compared to other European cases. This is caused by two major reasons.

Firstly, party research has a long tradition. But it was often preoccupied with the research on successful RR parties. Research and analyses on the failure of such parties is still rare. Preliminary to this argument is the pure fact that in contrast to other European countries Sweden was free of any electoral significant RR party. Secondly, the movement research as an autonomous scientific tradition within social sciences is fairly young compared to the classical party research. Again, if it existed for a longer period of time the Swedish movement type of the RR would become surely the target of systematic and theory-backed research. The absence of that more systematic and comparative research does not mean that the movement type activities were left out of focus. On the contrary, a number of publications are available. Some of these works are great examples of investigative journalism and therefore of enlightening character. However, they do not necessarily follow a specific scientific concept or theory. Even if they are weaker in theory, they provide strong empirical insights.

Stieg Larsson and Anna-Lena Lodenius contributed to the research with a detailed empirical work “Extremhögern” (Larsson/Lodenius 1991). This historical approach casts light on the Swedish RR, its relations to the international scene, and its action potential such as violence. Given the date of publication, it only deals with the non-parliamentary forms of the RR. However, the work provides a detailed and enlightening picture of a number of Swedish RR actors including organizations as Bevara Sverige Svenskt (Keep Sweden Swedish), Sverigepartiet (Sweden Party), and Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats). The value of that work is definitely in the historical approach, which draws an almost complete picture of the RR landscape in Sweden until the end of the 1980s and the exposure of personal linkages between Swedish, European and international RR actors. The value of the work is the revelation of organizational and personal linkages among these countries and Sweden. As Rydgren points out, the transfer of ideology and master frames can be highly relevant in explaining success or failure of RR actors (see chapter 4.2).

The empirical backing of assumptions concerning the movement-type organizations poses naturally practical problems with data collections and statistics. Even if statistical data (e.g. official statistics about types of hate crimes) is available, it is rather a feat to connect this kind of quantitative data to a specific organization. Apart from incidents where the perpetrators of violence confessed themselves to an organization, it is always a tightrope walk to directly connect empirical data on RR violence (as a type of political action) to a specific organization (as the initiator or organizer of that action). However, the attempt to draw a line between organizations on one hand and statistics on the other, is not completely hopeless as Larsson and Lodenius (1991) demonstrated.

One of the most prominent names within the research on Scandinavian and Swedish RR is Tore Bjørgo. He usually focuses on political terrorism and in general extremist groups and has contributed a tremendous number of publications on the extreme movement and milieu level forms of the RR. An early article on the Scandinavian based white power organization Vitt Ariskt Motstånd (VAM, White Arian Resistance) was published in 1993. It covers a history of that organization including linkages to other relevant organizations and parties. Another strong empirical focus lays on the ideology and the strategy of using a wide range of primary sources including structural and functional analysis of the organization. The process of recruitment and disengagement in extreme right groups is a poignant issue in his following 1998 and 2000 publications. Another aspect in his party editorial works of 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, and 2005 is the violent form and the terrorist form of right-wing extremism. Bjørgo has become a major data supplier to a number of researchers dealing with the RR in Scandinavia (Heitmeyer, Rydgren). While completing movement research on the Scandinavian RR it is impossible to leave out the works of Bjørgo.

Hans-Georg Betz (1994) offered a more comparative work on a party level dimension. He therefore just touched on the cases of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. As already mentioned in 2.1.1, the value of Radical Right-wing Populism in Western Europe is the theoretical approach and the systematic analysis of a wide range of indicators usually connected with the RR. Regarding the theoretical value of Betz’ work, there is a certain weak point that comes into focus with the slightly elaborated definition of the utilized terms. Concerning the empirical value of his work, Betz provides some basic information on the founding conditions and success of the Danish and Norwegian Progress Parties. The lag of success of the Swedish version of a Progress Party remains out of focus. Instead, Betz highlights the success of the Swedish Ny Demokrati (New Democracy) that was founded and made it into Parliament in 1991. However, as the work is more of theoretical and comparative character, dealing with a number of European cases, but not focusing too much on single cases, the analysis especially on the Swedish case is rather limited. It utilizes some common arguments that are usually related to explanations of the emergence of Right-wing Radicalism. One of his major arguments, the massive process of economic, political, and societal transformation (“global change”) is just partly applied to the Swedish case of a long lasting lack of existence of a RR party. However, he relates the emergence of Ny Demokrati with the tremendous economical decline Sweden had to face during the 1980s and the first part of the 1990s.

Herbert Kitschelt’s The Radical Right in Western Europe (1995) offers a theoretically more advanced approach toward a European comparison. Additionally, he offers a more elaborated work (a whole chapter) on Scandinavia. The hitherto unique description of the Scandinavian type of the RR as a milder version compared to other European cases is a sign of a more sophisticated analysis that contributed to a more differentiated view on the different types of Right-wing Radicalism. He, for example, is not equaling the Scandinavian types of parties with the more radical French or Belgium type. “ Within their own party systems, the Denmark and Norwegian Progress parties represent extreme positions, but they are unlikely to be viewed as extreme by the standards of continental European politics.” (Kitschelt 1995: 121) However, even Kitschelt’s work has a major focus on the ‘positive cases’ Denmark and Norway, while leaving behind the ‘negative case’ Sweden. Betz and Kitschelt were aware of the emergence and in Kitschelt’s work of the fall of Ny Demokrati (New Democracy) but they did not include this Swedish Progressive party ‘latecomer’ in their work. That may be caused by the hitherto time proximity between the case emergence and publication of both works. However, both works, especially the one offered by Kitschelt, are of importance to our theoretical setting.

Karl N. Alvar Nilsson (1998) offered a more comprehensive work. Comparable to Lööw (1998, 2004) he systematically analyzes the Right-wing Radicalism in Sweden. Starting historically in the post-war era with the remained Nazi-organizations Nilsson presents a complete picture from 1945 to 1995 including the entire number of important actors (organizations and individuals) on the movement level dimension and their linkages to each other.

The importance of that work is surely the comprehensiveness in terms of history, inner relations, and of the RR dimensions: the movement level dimension (including extreme and moderate types) and party level dimension (including the ‘distrust-parties’)2. When focusing particularly on Sweden for an analysis of the contemporary RR, Nilsson’s work can offer a wide range of empirical and historical material.

One of the standard works on Swedish RR is without a doubt Heléne Lööw’s Nazismen i Sverige 1924 – 1979 (2004) and Nazismen I Sverige 1980 – 1997 (1998). These two volumes offer a remarkably complete and systematic work on Swedish right-wing parties, movements, milieus, and even important individuals and their links to each other as well as their links to the Scandinavian, European and world scene. The distinctive value of that work is foremost – as mentioned – comprehensiveness in terms of history, starting already in the inter-war period 1924. This is of particular importance when analyzing the role of Swedish actors during and in the aftermath of WW II, taking into account the official neutrality of the Swedish government and the – among other aspects – missing juridical, political and public review of the past. Deriving from that rather unique post-war situation, Lööw is able to give reasons for the extraordinarily strong movement level and even the high standard of organizational structures. An additional value of these two volumes is the analysis of ideology and the various forms of expressions, such as rhetoric, violence, and symbolism. Both Nilsson (1998) and Lööw (1998, 2004) were of tremendous importance to this work. Both are undoubtedly a must-read for a comprehensive and historical approach towards Swedish Right-wing Radicalism.

A work edited by Bim Clinell, Stieg Larsson, Hans Lindquist, Anna-Lena Lodenius, Heléne Lööw, and Marina Taloyan (1999) offers an issue-oriented perspective on Swedish Right-wing Radicalism. Starting theoretically, it addresses the old-right/new-right dimension and applies it to Sweden. Another focus is the importance of media for the RR, analyzing the relationship of RR organizations and the official media as well as the several attempts of RR organizations of creating an own media market. A special focus within that context is the usage of the Internet and the importance of the Internet as a powerful infrastructure for international cooperation and exchange. A further focus is devoted to the most extreme forms of Right- wing Radicalism including Extreme Right-wing terrorism (cf. also Bjørgo 1995, 2005). A last highlight is a rather unconventional, but nonetheless highly interesting chapter, which presents an analysis of the activities of Right-wing and populist parties on a municipal and county level.

Considering the relative absence of a RR party on national level, the analysis of the electoral successful RR parties on a regional level is of particular importance to accomplish a comprehensive analysis about the absence of a national player.

Piero Ignazi (2003) addresses the “Extreme Right Parties”(3) of Scandinavia among a number of other European cases in a particular chapter. In all three Scandinavian cases (Denmark, Sweden, and Norway) he is generally following the arguments of Andersen and Bjørklund (2000). Albeit Ignazi is presenting these arguments within a European context, he is not going beyond the work already done by Andersen and Bjørklund in the case of Scandinavia. And he is leaving out the more comprehensive works of Bjørgo (1995) who in contrast to Ignazi (2003: 157) is stating a strong movement level dimension and Rydgren (2001, 2002) who is analyzing Sweden as a negative case on the party level dimension.

Jens Rydgren (2001, 2002, 2005b) has offered the latest systematic work on the Swedish RR. Apart from an input on the research about the Danish RR populist parties (2004) he also contributed to the theoretical discourse on the emergence of Right-wing populist parties in Western Europe (Rydgren 2005a) as well as on the logic of xenophobia (Rydgren 2004) from a sociological perspective. He was the first to question the absence of a Radical Right populist party (Rydgren 2001, 2002)4 and the first that analyzed the Swedish case on a comprehensive and theoretically advanced level by using a model combining political opportunity structures and the diffusion of what he calls ‘the new master frames’ that basically contains the concepts around the ‘old politics – new politics’ cleavage. In 2005 Rydgren published “From tax populism to ethnic nationalism: Radical Right-wing populism in Sweden between 1988 and 2004”: A comprehensive conclusion of his former work and a new fusion of his arguments. It is very likely the standard piece on the Swedish new Right and a perfect supplement to the work done by Heléne Lööw (1998, 2004) before. While Lööw deals more with the movement, non- parliamentary type of RR, Rydgren is presenting the party, parliamentary type of RR. He systematically combines the terms Right-wing populism and tax populism, both elementary terms for the analysis of the short-lived Swedish case of the new Right: Ny Demokrati. Not leaving it with the disappearance of that party he offers an answer to the question “Why has there been no successful Swedish RRP party since 1994?” (Rydgren 2005b: chapt. 5). Although Rydgren has almost always presented works on a single case (e.g. Sweden, Denmark, France), his starting point was of a comparative nature. Even as he shared a common observation about the emergence of Radical Right Populist parties all throughout Europe, he was the first to ask why the Swedish situation seemed to differ so tremendously from its European counterparts. Considering the time of his publications (from 2001 on) he was also the first to offer a theoretically advanced explanation of this ‘failure’. The value of these works is the focus on Sweden as a negative case:

“Y et, there is a tendency to draw too heavily upon positive cases, that is, countries in which RRP parties have succeeded in becoming electorally significant, while ignoring negative cases, i.e. countries in which no electorally significant RRP parties have emerged […]. Still, in comparative analysis negative cases are as important as positive cases.” (Rydgren 2002: 28)

As demonstrated above, most of the researches are case studies, focusing more on the party level dimension, and nominally focusing on the movement level dimension. Very few works included both party level dimension and movement level dimension in their analysis of the phenomenon, which I have identified in the introduction as a research gap.

1.2 Terms and Definitions

The number of relatively good terms and definitions on the Radical Right is rather high in both scientific and public debate. In fact, even the same terms are often based on different concepts. That is mostly caused by the focus of the specific research (e.g. case research on a specific country vs. comparative research, research on different levels of the phenomenon such as milieus, movements, parties etc., and research that emerged from different research traditions) as well as the scientific background. Terms that are often utilized in a more or less equivalent meaning are ‘Extreme Right’ (Peterson 1998, Bjørgo 1995, Ignazi 1996, Merkl 1997, Schain 2002), ‚Radical Right’ (Kitschelt 1995, Minkenberg 1998), and ‚Radical Right-wing Populism’ (Betz 1994, Taggard 1996, Andersen/ Bjørglund 2000, Rydgren 2001, Fennema 2004). Other terms that are related to the Radical Right (e.g. far right, fascism etc.) are not too common in contemporary research today and are mostly expressions that are related to national debates, national legal terms (Lööw 1998), or research without theoretical embedding (Skagegård/ Hübinette 1998).

This chapter addresses the different terms, their related conceptual frameworks, and how they are utilized in this paper.

The framing term Radical Right (RR) is used as an expression to cover the whole range of the phenomenon (see figure 1-B). I will basically follow the framework of definition given by Minkenberg (1998), since it covers the phenomenon equally on both movement and party level dimension. Furthermore, it harmonizes with the framework of definition brought to the scientific debate on Sweden by Rydgren (2001, 2002, 2005b). Following Minkenberg, the RR is a political ideology, which is based on a populist and romantic ultra nationalism. It therefore tends to oppose liberal democracies and their values on which they are based: freedom and equality as well as individualism and universalism. A public mobilization by RR movements is basically the result of huge and intensive modernization of western industrial societies (Minkenberg 1998: 33).

Within the scope of the term Radical Right are two more terms we are going to employ. They can be described as two opposite poles within the Radical Right spectrum: The Extreme Right (ER) and the Radical Right Populism (RRP). While the Extreme Right is the extremist version within the RR, the Radical Right Populism (also Radical Right-wing Populism) is the most moderate version within the RR. Both terms can be located on a one- dimensional scale of Right-wing Radicalism. This ‘mild - radical’ dimension positions the Extreme Right (ER) on the more radical side, outside constitution and anti-democratic while the Radical Right Populism (RRP) is positioned on the more mild side, inside constitution and critical towards democracy (see figure 1-A). In the following figure of Rydgren, -given the respective political ideology - the RRP can be equivalent to the Anti-political- establishment opposition, while the ER can be equivalent to the Antidemocratic opposition.

Figure 1-A: Position of the RRP on a center-periphery scale (Rydgren 2005c)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Radical Right-wing Populism is mainly a product of the vast economical, social and political changes resulting from the intense waves of modernization of Western democracies and are therefore more used in connection to new right phenomena. Similar to the Left with its new left- libertarian parties, the Right was able to benefit from these macro-level changes. And similar to their left-libertarian counterparts they distanced themselves from their ‘old politics’ ancestors. The term itself is based in party research and especially in the research on the new Right. It deals with parties whose emergence Europe has witnessed in recent decades during the shift from modernization to post-modernization. They are recognized as a new party family that can be subsumed under the term: Radical Right Populism (RRP). Following the set of definition given by Rydgren the RRP consists of a “d octrinal and rhetorical core of ethno-nationalism or regionalism (which implies and ardent xenophobia), authoritarian views on socio-cultural matters (e.g. law and order), and political and cultural populism” (Rydgren 2002: 27).

This RRP concept claims to be transferable to a variety of cases. Since we understand the work of this paper as a first step towards a comparative work there is a need of a relative country-independent concept. Additionally, it harmonizes with the setting of definition and theory mostly used within the Swedish scientific debate on the RR.

The term itself consists of three core concepts: radicalism, rightism, and populism. As the term has become of heavy use it is important to define not only the whole term but also all three of its partial concepts individually.

Following Betz the RRP parties are radical because they reject the established socio-cultural and socio-political system as they propagandize free markets and the reduction of the state role. However, they are not openly anti- democratic. Betz marks them as Right-wing by their rejection of individual and social equality, their opposition to the social integration of marginalized groups, and their appeal to xenophobia. The populist aspect of the RRP parties is their “unscrupulous us e and instrumentalization of diffuse public s entiments of anxiety and disenchantment and their appeal to the common man and his allegedly superior common sense.” (Betz 1994: 3-4). Though, the term populism has been used in a rather abusive way it is necessary to define it clearly. And as Betz’ concept of populism is indeed rather compact we follow the distinct framework given by Rydgren (2005c). He distinguishes between populist ideology and populist strategy. The defining features of populist ideology are a clear anti-position towards representative democracy, a conception of ‘the people’ as a harmonic and homogenous group (Taggard 2000: 3) on one hand, and of the ‘elite’ or ‘establishment’ as fundamentally dissimilar from the people on the other. In this ‘two poles’ concept of society, the party is the third actor in between these two representing the voice of the people (Rydgren 2005c: chap. 1, p.1). Rydgren stresses also the importance of the rather theoretical nature of that concept. In other words, populist ideologies seldom exist in their pure form. Yet, concrete cases of these parties vary from the theoretical ideal. Nonetheless, there are common characteristics.

The populist ideology views democracy different from the Extreme Right (ER). It defines itself inside democracy (Betz 1994: 4) and therefore “s eeks political legitimacy by professing to present the voice of the people” (Rydgren 2005c: chap 1, p.2). The populist seeks to represent ‘the people’ and articulate their mistrust of ‘elites’ or ‘establishment’ such as government institutions, political parties, government administration, universities, and the media (Canovan 1999: 3). Again, as the ‘establishment’ is seen as corrupt and devoid of the “common sense” the institutions that represent the ‘establishment’ are seen as being distanced from ‘the people’ (Rydgren 2005c: chap. 1, p.2). Resulting from that position, populists generally advocate more for direct democracy rather than representative democracy (Rydgren 2003: chap. 6).

The populist idea of ‘the people’ is – as we have seen – important to the ideology. Rydgren argues that (resulting from the notion of a homogenous and ‘monolithic’ group) it is automatically implied that certain groups have to be excluded. In the case of RRP parties, they adopt an ethno-nationalist view on the concept of ‘the people’ (Rydgren 2005c: chap.1, p.3). Following Rydgren and others, the result of such ideology is the systematic exclusion of ethnic minorities, feminists and gay societies (Canovan 1999:5, Taggard 2000: 92).

The populist ideology offers a concept of political economy that is against centralization, division of labor, class thinking, mass production, globalization, and ‘economistic’ reasoning (Rydgren 2005c: chap. 1, p.4). According to Rydgren, populists see all of these elements as a threat to ‘the people’ and their ‘former integrated lives’. Additionally, these characteristics are associated with the ‘elite’ or ‘establishment’, who act contrary to the interests of the people.

A core characteristic of populist ideology is anti-intellectualism. Which essentially means the tendency of populists to advocate for simplified political policies arguing that a major part of the political issues are, in some ways, simpler than the ‘elites’ present them to the people (Rydgren 2005c: chap.1, p.5, Taggard 2000: 97). It is therefore, to a certain extent, a content oriented anti-establishment ideology.

The populist strategy is mainly characterized by an anti-establishment position. As pointed out above, the common synopsis of the populist ideology is the opposition towards an establishment or elite. This strategy enables a populist party (e.g. RRP) to position itself as an opposition in between the establishment and the anti-democratic opposition (see figure 1- A, Rydgren 2005c: chap. 1, p.5).

What seems remarkable is the capacity of RRP parties to turn old Right ideologies into new Right ones almost without transporting the old stigma of being racist. This party family positions itself in between the ER and populism. Being both ethno-nationalist and xenophobic they are based on an ethno-pluralistic doctrine. This doctrine can be understood as a substitute of the old Right concept of race (Rydgren 2005c: chap. 1, p.7). Leaving out the concept of superiority of a certain race, it now propagates the separation of races in order to keep the specific cultural characteristics that are applied to different ethnicities (Minkenberg 1997).

According to Rydgren, especially the RRP parties of Scandinavia fit almost perfect with the ideal of a populist party as outlined above. However, other RRP parties may differ to a greater extent from that ideal. Futhermore, it is important to notice the universalistic aspect of populism in general. It is not naturally connected to the Radical Right but often visible in the rhetoric of new emerged parties seeking for electoral gain or established parties trying to escape from decreasing electoral tendencies.

As pointed out by several authors (e.g. Kitschelt 1995), there is a specific notion of the Scandinavian type of RRP parties that distinguishes them from the continental European type. The early tax populist progress parties of Denmark and Norway (Kitchelt 1995: 121) but also the regional RRP parties of Sweden (Skånepartiet, Sjöbopartiet) fit almost perfectly to the ideal populist ideology (Fryklund 1989, Peterson 1988). However, the most prominent RRP party of Sweden, the Ny Demokrati (New Democracy), had a more neo-liberal approach toward its populist ideology (Rydgren 2005c: chap. 1, p.7). In that sense the radical aspect was especially relevant (Betz 1994: 3).

To make the actual RRP-position more visible, it is beneficial to place it on a one-dimensional scale within two poles: Firstly, the ‘government’-pole and secondly, with the maximum distance to government alignment, the anti- democratic opposition (see figure 1-A). While the anti-democratic opposition can be described as revolutionary and “outside the system”, the closest opposition to government is the parliamentary opposition, or “anti- incumbent-opposition”. In between is the space for an “anti-political- establishment opposition” as the RRP is. As stated above, this type of opposition is willing and able to act within the constitutional borders, either in the parliament or outside parliament.

While the concept of Radical Right-wing Populism is devoted to the moderate forces within the Radical Right, the Extreme Right (ER) constitutes around the pole on the opposite side. It is the most extreme form of the contemporary RR. Its characteristics are extremism, militancy, anti- democratic conviction, acceptance of violence as a legitimate way to reach political goals, and a general “outside the system” position. In order to define the Extreme Right, Bjørgo (1995: 3) quotes Heitmeyer by marking the ER as an ideology that considers a natural inequality between people and accepts violence as reasonable political articulation. Additionally, he suggests a cluster of notions as ER characteristics: “Aut horitarianism, anti-communism / -socialism, anti-liberalism, militant nationalism, racism/xenophobia/anti- Semitism, intolerance towards minorities, Golden Age myths, a particularist (as opposed to universalist) morality, and the notion of violence as a creative and cleansing force” (Bjørgo 1995: 3). Minkenberg offers a more open and threat- oriented definition that is capable of including also variations of Bjørgo’s cluster. It underlines especially the anti-democratic character and by this means the “outside the system” position as well as the negation of the state- monopoly of violence as they do not accept the state as legitimate. Following that concept, any political effort or force and any party that does not accept, act against (including unlawful and violent action), and work for the destruction of a constitutional order may be labeled as Extreme Right (Minkenberg 1998: 34).

Unlike Ignazi (2003: 157) or Kitschelt (1995: 121) one of our hypotheses is the actual strength of the Swedish ER within the movement level dimension. In order to give proof to that we are going to employ an argument dealing with the most extreme form of the ER: Right-wing terrorism. This specific form of the terrorist phenomena is not entirely new to Sweden. However, the heydays of the term since 9/11 make it indispensable to give a clear definition on the term and its specific offshoot, the Right-wing terrorism.

Heitmeyer refers to the particular difficulty to analyze Right-wing terrorism. The definition of the concept and the classification of violent activities are the main objectives of that research. Especially the classification of violence is not as unproblematic as probably suggested. The level of violence is not only an objective matter of a vertical scale but in fact dependent on a number of rather subjective perceptions (e.g. the direct victims, the indirect victims, the public sphere including the political public, the perpetrators, the perpetrator’s sympathizers, etc.). In completing a classification of violence one always faces the problem of measuring these particular perceptions in an appropriate way. We are going to utilize the concept of Heitmeyer: “… right- wing terrorism is a product of political interaction and the radicalization of other forms of threat-based right-wing attitudes and behaviour, such as opportunity- dep endent violence by (youth) gangs, subcultural violence (such as that of skinhead groups), organized party-political Right extremist violence, and religiously oriented right-wing extremist group violence.” (Heitmeyer 2005: 142)

Since I also refer to two broader ideologies of the RR I am going to employ the concept of division between the old Right and the new Right. This concept basically identifies a cleavage within the RR, dividing ideologies, organizations, parties, etc. into an old Right and a new Right. While the old Right mainly sticks to ideologies that were discredited with the defeat of the third Reich, the new Right distance themselves from this older generation by creating an ideology that was more attractive for a larger part of the population. By that strategy the new Right was able to gain significant electoral success while the old Right did not have electoral appeal that anywhere close to the that of the new Right. The organizational structure tends to differ as well. The old Right usually do not go further than informal network structures, underground and movement type organizations.

Examples of organizational structures that have left the movement level and entered the party level are rather few. The new Right, however, tends to organize more within the party level dimension. Consequently, it is possible to state that the old Right tend to organize rather in the non-party and non- parliamentary level while the new Right tend to organize rather in the party and parliamentary level.

The cause for the tendency towards that organizational difference might be both internal and external. An internal cause could be the very ideology and the related strategy of old right organizations. Often both are rooted outside constitutional borders. It is not its political goal to seek representation through classical party competition. Consequently, a party level organization is simply not favorable. An external cause could be the level and efficiency of state repression. Given the mostly ER ideology an old right organization has, these organizations are more likely to become the target of state repression, the more conventional the organizational structure is. Consequently, even from that point of view, a party level organization is not favorable.

The new Right, however, was not just a simple reaction on the impotence of the old Right. It was rather a reaction to the new left, which emerged within Western Democracies during the times of vast modernization in the 1960s and 1970s. This general shift in society and not just in politics is described and analyzed by innumerable researchers5.

To sum up, the old Right/new Right distinction will be of particular importance to this paper as I am going to analyze the political opportunity structures (POS) as a possible promoter for the RR. The old Right, in the case of Sweden, appears to organize largely as movement type, while the new right mostly organizes as party type. The POS does not appear equally to the old and new Right. They are not able to utilize them in the same way. Especially, both the POS during the late 1980s and Sweden during the early 1990s have been advantageous to the new Right or the RRP parties.

Figure 1-B: The Radical Right and its sub-categories

illustration not visible in this excerpt


1 We define Scandinavia as a political, cultural, and historical relative close and homogenous region, consisting of the core countries: Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. It is a more narrow term to what is additionally included in the term Nordic countries: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Åland, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Jan Mayen, Svalbard, and Greenland.

2 The Swedish scientific discourse on RR parties subsume the rather Right-wing populist parties as ‘distrust-paries’: Framstegspartiet (Progress Party), Centrumdemokraterna (Center Democrats), Skånepartiet (Scania Party), Sjöbopartiet (Sjöbo Party), Ny Demokrati (New Democracy), Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats). See also chapter 2.

3 Ignazi is using the term “Extreme Right” instead of Radical Right and vary in that matter from the terminology we are using. In contrast to Ignazi’s parlance we are using the term “Extreme Right” to name particularly the most extreme forms of Right-wing Radicalism. Following the concept of Minkenberg (1998) the Extreme Right is just a part of the Radical Right. See also chapter 2.2.

4 In 2001 Rydgren presented the paper Why not in Sweden? Interpreting Radical Right populism in the light of a negative case at a ECPR Standing Group on Extremism and Democracy meeting and published it in 2002 as R adical Right Populism in Sweden: Still a failure, but for how long?

5 One of the most prominent names is Ronald Inglehart who stamped the terms modernization and post-modernization (Inglehart 1997). Along this cleavage of modernization and post-modernization I position the old politics and the new politics. The old politics are characterized by an immanent social group cleavage or class cleavage, dividing the old Right and old Left. The new politics are characterized by an issue group cleavage, dividing the new Right and the new Left. In-between these two cleavages lay the main cleavage of Ingelhart’s model: The material and postmaterial cleavage, which cut across the Left and Right into old and new. However, that does not necessarily reflect the actual development of these two classical political spheres. It is more likely to state that the shift from old to new politics was rather a reaction on the new issues that appeared in public debate. As already stated, this developments and their impact on political actors are worth own research. For this paper it is important to emphasize the shift from the old politics cleavage to the new politics cleavage. Furthermore, the model gives explanation why the different RR actors in Sweden are not too eager for collective action or coalitions of any kind. By introducing the old Right – new Right cleavage we can divide the RR landscape. There is a certain tendency that especially the ER tend to use original or modified versions of old Right ideology, while naturally the RRP utilizes new Right ideology. Within that spectrum there is also the tendency that RRPs tend to organize more as a party while the opposite pole of the RR spectrum, the ER, is more eager to organize below the party level dimension. This is caused by the tendency of being outside constitutional border and their revolutionary character. Certainly, the political strategy of an organization that is anti-democratic does not fit with the organizational form of a party, made to go through the ‘system’ for gaining political power. It is rather a strategy that uses other forms of organization in order to reach their specific goals. However, the old Right is not bound to non-party organization per se. It is more an indirect cause that relates old Right actors to those kinds of organization acting on a movement level dimension or even below. Since most of the West European democracies suffered from the ideology that caused WW II, it is often illegal or outside constitution to organize an openly old Right ideology as a party. Ergo, most of these actors are bound below the party level dimension by legal cause. In Sweden the old Right was not too much target of judiciary after WW II. However, the old Right ideology was without any appeal to the Swedish electorate whose national identity was closely related to the one political force that dominated Sweden during the 20th century: Social Democracy.

Excerpt out of 106 pages


The Radical Right in Sweden
Organizational manifestation and mobilization chances of movements and parties
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)  (Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
1320 KB
Diese Arbeit wurde im Sommer 2007 beendet, zu einem Zeitpunk, an dem eine erstarkende parteiförmige Rechte erkennbar wird. Die Reichstagswahlen 2007 und deren Relevanz für den Forschungsstand sind hier noch aussen vor.
Sweden, Radical Right, Extreme Right, mobilization
Quote paper
Stephan Redlich (Author), 2007, The Radical Right in Sweden, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: The Radical Right in Sweden

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free