Sweden Democrats Raise Unsettling Questions About the Past: Are the Progressives Regressing?

The Sweden Democrats (SD) have become the latest far right party to make significant gains in a European election, scoring 18% in the recent vote that has seen the country’s two main coalitions fall short of a majority.

SD leader Jimmie Akesson on election night

‘Either we stay with a decent democracy or we choose another path’ said Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lovren, as the anti-immigrant SD preyed on the electorate’s fears of a rapidly changing society.

From one of the most homogeneous nations, Sweden’s generous immigration policies, high acceptance of asylum seekers, and low indigenous birth rate have changed the ethnic and religious make-up of the country.

The SD has tapped into frustrations over immigration

Since the late 1970s, in particular, refugee immigration from war zones and impoverished states abroad has rocketed. This once fit in nicely with Sweden’s political image, often held-up as the epitome of Social Democracy operating at its finest.

Yet the reality now is that about 15% of Sweden’s population was born overseas and another 10% have foreign born parents. Understandably, this radical demographic change has unsettled some of the natives.

The Swedish population has become increasingly diverse in recent decades

But whilst the SD has to an extent capitalised on these fears, its prospects for altering the political landscape appear slim. For a start, neither coalition – one centre-right and the other centre-left – is willing to include the SD in government. Then there is the small matter of Sweden’s history.

Whilst the SD has its roots in fascism and white supremacism, it is not a neo-Nazi movement and Sweden has typically been free of extremist political groups. At least, none have caused much of a political tremor.

More disturbing, and perhaps something that remains ingrained in the minds of some Swedes, is the government’s tacit support of the Nazis during World War Two (WWII).

Technically neutral during the conflict, it is not an overstatement to say that the Swedes were a substantial contributor to the German war effort. Hitler’s regime was reliant on Sweden for a huge proportion of its iron ore, which arrived at German ports in Swedish ships. Swedish miners were even exempted from the draft so that production for the Nazis would face minimal disruption (Judt, 2005, p.84). Simultaneously, Wehrmacht troops were given free transit through Sweden during their forays into Norway.

Nazi riflemen transiting through Sweden in 1940

The Swiss have received considerable scorn for their role in playing financiers to the Nazis, their unscrupulous banking system siphoning the ill-gotten gains from persecuted Jews and re-directing them to Hitler’s ministries. For the Swedes, criticism has been rather muted.

Of course, the alternative for the Stockholm government was hardly appealing. Risk war with the Nazis? Cosy up to the Soviets after their invasion of Finland? Acquiescence is understandable, although a certain complicity is undeniable.

Perhaps a collective guilt has prevented its people from dabbling in right-wing politics in the past? Is this now changing through a younger generation with no memories of the war in their immediate families?

Tough questions and even tougher decisions undoubtedly lie ahead for the Swedes, as they do for the rest of Europe. With continental economies still not fully recovered from the Great Recession, and rapid demographic change proving an insurmountable challenge for some governments, citizens are necessarily concerned.

It often needs a rising tide of populism to prompt decisive action. How will Sweden’s politicians – oft lauded for their progressive and fair social and economic agendas – decide to respond?

Lovren’s Social Democrats are no longer the undisputed power in the land

Embrace the legitimate concerns of the SD voters? Or band together and carry on as before in the hope that the far right quickly fades away?

Needless to say, the ‘good old days’ will take some recapturing.

Historical Source

Judt, T. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005)


Not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy Name give glory: the Knights Templar and the KTI

Recent attention has been turned towards the so-called Knights Templar International (KTI), a Christian militant group based in the UK. Advocating a strong backlash against what they see as increasing Muslim influence and infiltration, the KTI is purportedly led by the shady Jim Dowson, labelled by some as the ‘most influential’ far-right campaigner about.

It is contentious how influential Jim Dowson and the KTI are becoming
The KTI has apparently developed a large following on social networks, supported by generous donors, promoting a virulent anti-Islamic policy of struggle and renewal against the ‘Muslim threat’ in Europe and the USA.
This has included sending military and logistical equipment (such as armoured vests and army radios) to vigilantes in  Kosovo who are defending their nascent state’s borders against the impending ‘invasion’.
Additionally, through online publications and snappy videos, KTI is spreading inflammatory material across various online forums, whilst tapping into talk shows hosted by sympathetic nationalists and evangelists. All the while, the seeds of discontent are being sown within and between communities.
As one analyst comments of Dowson’s involvement in KTI:
“It is the front group that he set up, [to defend] Christianity from these barbaric hordes of cultural Marxists, homosexuals, Muslims and any number of individuals or organisations that he doesn’t like,” he claims. 
Dowson first came to notice as the founder and funder of the right-wing Britain First
What’s in a name?
The Knights Templar – more formally the Poor-Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon – were a Catholic military order most prominent in the 12th and 13th centuries.
An international charitable organisation, with a formidable albeit small military wing, the Knights Templar were synonymous for wearing white mantles emblazoned with a red cross, a symbol adopted by their present-day namesakes.
A charitable cause
Ostensibly formed to protect the Christian pilgrim routes to the Holy Land that proliferated after the victorious First Crusade, the Knights Templar quickly gained powerful and wealthy patrons throughout the ecclesiastical establishment and royal courts of Europe.
In 1139 Pope Innocent II issued a papal bull exempting the order from following local laws (including the payment of taxes), enabling a massive increase in their influence. As compensation, new Templar members swore a vow of poverty, dedicating their lives to the defence of Christendom.
The Seal of the Templars
The Templars soon created a support network for Christian soldiers fallen on hard times and a financial organisation that would impress many modern conglomerates. They also took responsibility for protecting Christian religious sites in the Holy Land, particularly in Jerusalem.
Some minor parallels can be seen with KTI. The organisation uses membership fees to fund a support network allowing provision of equipment and resources to fellow strugglers, whilst stylishly spreading digital information warning their comrades of the devilish designs of the infidel.
Its members likely also see themselves as defenders of a Christendom that for many disappeared decades ago.
A fighting force
Most people who have heard of the Knights Templar immediately think of their military role in the Crusades. Whilst soldiers only made up a small proportion of their membership, they were a well-provisioned and effective fighting force, shock troops made up of heavily-armoured knights atop their warhorses putting the fear of the Christian God into the Muslim enemy.
A Templar Knight is truly a fearless knight, and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armour of faith, just as his body is protected by the armour of steel. He is thus doubly armed, and need fear neither demons nor men. (Bernard de Clairvaux, 1135)
The Knights Templar played a key role in the Battle of Montgisard
The KTI does not possess such an overtly militant posture…yet. No doubt some of its more vehement supporters are inspired by the medieval precedent set by the Knights Templar but herein lies the point as to why a militant approach will fail for the KTI.
A religious militant order is a medieval idea. Whether one subscribes to the theory of a contemporary Muslim invasion of the Christian lands or not, any military issues will not be resolved by an eclectic band of vigilantes, racists and crackpots.
The Knights Templar’s existence was a relatively fleeting one. In perpetual decline after the Christian defeat at the Battle of Hattin in 1187, they were eventually disbanded by Pope Clement V in 1312.
Accusations continued to swirl that Templar practices were laced with obscure superstition, even heresy, whilst their financial prowess incited jealously among the elites. With the Muslims ascendant in the Holy Land once more, and the old crusading zeal dormant for the time being, the order saw a swift fall from grace. Several knights were even burned at the stake in France.
Knights about to be burnt at the stake
A concern or a joke?
It is easy to dismiss groups such as the KTI as a deranged and irrelevant fringe, deluded fantasists propagating a mythical community reborn.
Yet despite their current absence from the mainstream, the KTI’s leadership have been smart in associating themselves with the Knights Templar in the sense that they have created sense of destiny amongst their flowering  membership.
As the coffers continue to fill, their message will resonate with the disenchanted and the disenfranchised, those whose governments have not addressed the legitimate concerns engendered by large-scale Muslim immigration. These peoples lives have been irrevocably disrupted by out of control immigration and poor integration, unaided by tepid and confused political policy. They should not all be written off as fascists, even if some of the latter have infiltrated their ranks.
That the Knights Templar was a short-lived organisation – in spite of its patronage, wealth and international networks – is irrelevant, for a lot of damage can be wrought by the inspired and devout in a short space of time. That is why the Templar name has survived the long centuries whilst those of other orders are left locked in the minds of the historians of medieval history.
By disseminating an historically-inspired propaganda message of valedictory defiance, the KTI is tinkering with the Zeitgeist across Europe and the USA, where a powerful, if still unorganised, right-wing network is waiting in the wings.
KTI followers in Bulgaria
As long as the message remains linked to history – absent some of the detail – it will carry a potency whose inspiration could prove dangerous.