This interview is also published in Finnish. We, the editors have added some links to make it more informative. Are you part of an anti-fascist movement abroad that could be of interest to readers in Finland? Contact us on varistoimitus [at] riseup.net!
Since far-right movements and political trends extend across borders, anti-fascists must also have an international understanding and perspective on our local fascists. Finland is geographically a part of the Nordic countries, which all share cultural and political traits but also have many differences. The most common denominator when discussing the Nordic far-right is of course the Nordic Resistance Movement, a National Socialist organization that is outlawed in Finland but legal in other countries. Like most European countries, the Nordic countries also have a populist right-wing presence in the parliaments although their success and opposition vary in every country.
To learn more and spread awareness we have interviewed anti-fascist researchers in our neighboring countries. Last year we made an article about Redox in Denmark and now the turn has come to Sweden´s research collective Garm. Sweden has a long history of research and journalist investigation of the far-right. For example in the 1990s founded Expo foundation educate the public about these issues, and Antifascistisk Aktion publish lots of material focusing on fascist activists. In this rich field the Garm collective recently began publishing their analyses of the Swedish far-right
Hi! Can you tell our readers shortly about the origins of Garm, when and how you were founded and your background? Why is anti-fascist research and journalism important?
Garm was created from the remains of the old journalist collective Researchgruppen in October 2019. The date we re-launched the group was 12th of October which is 20 years after the murder of antifascist Björn Söderberg which had big impact on antifascist research in Sweden. The people in the group have a bit different background but we all come from an activist background. We have seen over the years the importance for the anti-fascist and leftist movement to make sure we have as much information about the fascist and Nazi-movement for us to defend ourselves.
Why did you found an independent group with the exclusive focus on investigating the far-right instead of doing this within other anti-fascist organizations? Are there some pros or cons to organizing independently from other political work as you have done? Does this for example make it easier to work with mainstream media etc.?
When we were Researchgruppen we focused on all kinds of research and all of the members did not come from an activist background. As Garm we have focused more again on the far-right. We do activist work in other organizations and focus the research work in Garm. We work together with other leftist organizations and share our work when needed and inform them if we get information that they are targeted by right-wing media or in other ways in the interest of fascists. This also let us build an network of people we get information from.
Yes, it does it easier to work with the mainstream media and it makes it possible to spread our articles. We have worked with every big media in Sweden and also done a few for TV and that is due to our good reputation.
How has the far-right in Sweden changed during the time you have been active? Has the changes within the far-right affected how you are able to work?
The far-right is always early adopters with all technology which means they were early with homepages, early with podcasts etc. In the 90s the far-right in Sweden was largely a street-based movement and the last 5-10 years they have moved more and more online. They try from time to time to take back the streets but always end up focusing on their online presence. The work we do have changed, both technology-wise but also what groups to focus on. The Sweden democrates was a street-based organization in the 90s and now are a party in which ~18% of the voter support. In 2000-2010 there were a big number of fascist and national socialist groups on the streets with Fria Nationalister, Svenska motståndsrörelsen, Nationalsocialistisk front (NSF), Blood & Honour, Nordisk Ungdom etc, now it is only Nordiska motståndsrörelsen (Nordic Resistance Movement) left.
In the Nordic countries, the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) has gone from being a strong coordinated organization to losing members, getting into legal problems and becoming increasingly inactive these last years.What is their situation right now in Sweden?
They have lost a lot of members since their failed election in 2018 and the split with Nordisk Styrka in 2019 but also members after that. Most of the younger members have left. According to defectors several members were critical that they were not allowed to attack militant antifascists back and left due to that. This year is election year in Sweden which means all political activities increase but so far we have not seen any increased activity by NRM. They have said they will stand in the election but not focus on the election. Due to their member loss they have focused on doing actions that give them attention from the press and less handing out of leaflets.
What about Nordisk Styrka which was a splinter group from the NRM? What kind of group are they and what is their situation?
NS was completely quiet during 2021. They are saying that the focus on internal work with physical exercise and having their own places for working out. They were hit by the pandemic and they have not done much. They are a small group of dedicated people but we do not expect them to do any public actions. 2022 is a election year in Sweden so we might see something from them but it will most probably be small actions which will focus on getting as much attention as possible. They also claim to be working on several books that they will be released but that is yet to be seen.
How do you see the political situation in Sweden today? Is the far-right strong on the streets or in parliament?
The far-right is strong in the parliament and the whole election will be around how big the Sweden Democrats (SD) gets. If they are bigger than the classic right party Moderaterna we might see a Prime Minister from SD. The center right choose last election to work with the left wing majority just because the right wanted to work with SD. The biggest problem in Sweden is both the classic right and the Social Democrats taking after SDs anti-immigration politics. Everybody wants to be SD to disable their support but it only makes them stronger. We will also see the far-right trying to be on the streets but we do not expect to see any big demonstrations of actions. NMR will try and get attention during the election year together with Alternativ för Sverige (Alternativ for Sweden, a splinter group from SD). But NMR is too weak to have any real street presence.
You have written about the far-right media environment in Sweden. Could you tell about this and also if you have ideas how to counter it from anti-fascist perspective? Can it be said that one reason behind Garms working logic is to counter the ascendancy of influence the far-right has been able to carve out for itself on the internet (websites, platforms, forums) by exposing and naming their often anonymized key authors and influencers?
Since the far-right has moved online we have changed our focus as well. The last few years the far-right have focused on creating media and to be eligible for support from the state. This has created an environment where they have the possibility to have full-time reporters. We have seen that a lot of older actors that has worked with doxxing the anti-fascist movement has come back to work with these far right media. A small number of fascists have focused a lot on doxxing anti-fascists and we have exposed their ways of working to counter them. Just like the anti-fascist movement in USA we have seen that the most important work is to work against fascist media and not let them spread their lies and doxxing without anybody exposing their methods and actors.
Are there similar patterns or developments among the far-right in other Nordic or European countries, or is Sweden unique in some aspect?
Sweden has been unique in the sense that we have a party that was founded by Nazis that has 17-20% in the parliament. Lots of other countries has far-right parties in their parliament but they usually come from a right-wing populist background and not a pure Nazi background like SD. Sweden used to have a huge scene for White Power music in the 90s and early 00s that also were unique. NMR exists in all the other countries (even though they are forbidden in Finland but they work with the remains) and are the leaders which also makes Sweden unique in the sense that they are leading all the organizations in the Nordic countries. We also see that organizations like Dritte Weg in Germany and Patriot Front in the US copy how NMR organize themselves, they have a presence on the international scene as well.
In what position is anti-fascism in Sweden? Has there been new developments or directions in recent years?
We are not in the position to answer on what the status for the anti-fascist movement in Sweden since we are a bit decoupled from them. What we can see is that the research part of the anti-fascist movement has stepped up a lot the last few years and they do a lot of good work. Our view is that they have focused on that and also have a big focus on the defectors from the far right movement which has helped. I think that focus is new and it has been a good choice to focus on.
When needed the anti-fascist movement can still arrange and gather big counter-demonstrations, like in Göteborg 2017. They have also been affected by the pandemic and we have not seen any demonstrations for 2 years but when we go into the election year we expect to see counter-demonstrations against the fascist mobilization during the election year.
When it comes to anti-fascism, what do you consider to be the threats and possibilities in Sweden during the coming years? Is there a probability that NMR will be legally prohibited, like in Finland?
There is a proposal to forbid membership in NMR, not forbid the organization it self but just membership (which in effect would be the same thing). Most of the parties (except the Left party) support this proposal. We see a lot of problems with this and that if SD and the other right parties will win the election they will also try to forbid memberships in anti-fascist organizations. When it comes to anti-fascism since the Nazi movement has moved off the streets the anti-fascist movement also has moved online. There are several successful projects like Nazispotting which is working great. As before we also see repression against antifascists and the Security police always step up their focus against anti-fascist activists during election year when they get higher funding for this. After two school attacks in Sweden the last few months by young people interested in Nazism and also two NMR activists are in jail waiting to be charged for the possession of explosives we expect the police to highly focus on Nazis.
What channels are Garm using to spread information?
We mainly use Twitter and our homepage (in Swedish). We write articles about bigger events/stuff but we also use Twitter to publish information quicker and that is of less importance. Twitter is a good tool for that.
Can Garm be supported economically and how? Provide a link if you want.
At the moment that is not possible. We like to be free to do what we want so we funded it ourselves and with research material we provide to mainstream media. Thanks for the question though.