Saturday, April 27, 2019

How Democracy Unravels: A Case Study

This article conveys the experiences of a Swedish member of parliament, and his account of the serious political violence that is rapidly becoming normal that country. 

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As I explained on Monday, Europe is in a state of political, social and economic decline that I cannot see will turn around. To make matters worse, there is a level of political violence in Europe, tolerated, accepted and sometimes even condoned by government or established political party structures. 

That violence has now eaten itself into the daily life of politics in many parts of Europe, and in at least a couple of countries it is beginning to have a destabilizing effect on the political structure itself. While it is hard to gauge where the French Yellow Vest movement is going, it has begun to affect French politics in a way that may not be for the better of the country.

In other countries, street activism has gone more violent. Germany is a case in point, where violence between political extremes have turned many cities into temporary battle fields.

However, Sweden again stands out. On one side, the Nordic Resistance Movement - an openly Nazi organization - have made a show of force in recent years, with activism bordering organized storm groups and propaganda dispensing despicable, openly racist rhetoric. 

On the other side, there is the so-called Antifa movement that has taken to the streets with a level of violence far beyond what the Nazis rise to. It is not only the quantity of Antifa violence that is worrisome, but also their dedication to attack established, democratic political parties, their elected officials, activists and members. 

I am no stranger to political activism. In the 1980s I was part of the anti-Nazi movement in Sweden. Back then, scores of Nazis were taking to the streets around Europe, and there were many of us who were determined to stop them. Our means, however, were always peaceful. We never crossed the line of violence. Never, ever. 

Our adversaries did - multiple times - but we prevailed. 

In the '90s, the left in Sweden and across Europe turned gradually more violent. In the past 20 years this has gotten gradually worse, to a point where this left is now part of the forces that threaten - even actively erode - democracy and peace.

To illustrate the gravity of this problem, I am republishing a story told by Mr. Mattias H Karlsson, one of the leading members of the third largest party in the Swedish parliament. This party, the Swedish Democrats (SD), is critical of unlimited immigration but has no un-democratic agenda. None whatsoever. They are, in almost every way, a clone of what the Swedish social-democrat party was 50 years ago. 

I do not support the SD - I am a libertarian - but that is neither here nor there. The point with republishing his story (which I have translated from Swedish) is to show what passes for tolerable political activism in Europe today, especially in a country that is already in an emerging state of systemic political and economic instability. 

You can find Mr. Karlsson's original piece on Facebook. Toward the end of it, in a passage I did not translate, he also explains how Antifa is being not only tolerated but actively supported by the Swedish government. This makes his story a case study of how democracy unravels in a country that most Americans would consider the pinnacle of prosperity, stability and peace.

With that, here is Mr. Mattias H Karlsson, member of the Swedish parliament:
Threats, hatred, violence… Throughout all my adult life this has been my reality. It has been something I have had to get used to and almost started thinking of as normal. 
The worst period was during the first ten years of my politically active life when we were completely left without police protection, and when neither government nor established media care the least whether we lived or died.  
I have personally experienced barbecuing outdoors a nice summer evening, listening to music, when a minivan suddenly shows up and ten or so black-clad men in masks jump out, equipped with rods, baseball bats and the like, and start running toward us with the intent to beat the crap out of us, maybe even kill us.I have been beaten unconscious by men like those, armed with iron rods. 
I have been sprayed with tear gas in the face so I lost vision and barely could breathe for a couple of hours. I have been at a dinner with fellow party activists when all windows were suddenly shattered and tear gas grenades thrown in, so that everyone had to run, throwing tables and chairs around in panic. 
I have been at political events where the windows were shattered and rocks and rebars were thrown at us, injuring people badly enough to need an ambulance. I have given speeches at public rallies where smoke grenades and acid-filled canisters were thrown at me and my friends. 
I have held the hand of an 18-year-old girl, a party member, while she was drifting in and out of consciousness and we did not know if she would live or die before the ambulance would get there.I have participated in debates where the venue has been stormed by men in masks who started breaking up furniture and trying to assault as many as they could. 
I have been surrounded by black-clad, masked men who waited for me outside my work when I was an employee of the city hall in Malmö, explaining to me that me and my family would pay a gruesome price unless I quit immediately and terminated my political activism. I have heard the mother of my children scream and cry in panic after having been forced to see friends be attacked with iron rods, axes and knives. I have seen an old, seriously ill woman be kicked down the stairs by a hoard of masked men. 
I have been on the phone with a friend after he and his fiancee were beaten badly by brass-knuckled attackers on their way home from a restaurant. I have spoken to a friend who barely escaped two men armed with knives as they chased him and tried to kill him.I have been on the phone with a young, single mother while she is sitting in her bathroom, hugging her crying child right after her windows were shattered and fireworks were fired into her home, and she did not know if they would break down the door and storm in. 
I have spoken to a fellow party activist who, while crying, let me know that he was giving up and leaving politics after, having the third incident in a short period of time where someone had driven an axe into his door while leaving death threats on the walls of his house. 
I have talked to a party activist who miraculously survived an attack where he was stabbed 27 times. I have spoken to another member of our party who, while handing out leaflets in public, was beaten unconscious after which the assailant dropped a rock, weighing several pounds, right onto his head.I have read reports from the police of how they were able to stop a massacre in the nick of time by finding buried bombs, set to go off during a rally, and of how they arrested masked men on the roof top of a building, getting ready to firebomb one of our political rallies. 
And so on. 
Almost all this violence comes from Anti-Fascist Action, AFA [also known as Antifa]. This is an organization that has been classified by national counter-terrorism police as a threat to national security. This is an organization that has turned several of our cities into battle fields and attacked police. It is an organization that as renounced democracy. It is an organization that, after a 17-year-old kid whose opinions they disliked, had had his throat slit and died, paraded with banners in public and a picture of a tombstone with the words “One Down - We’ll Get the Rest!” This is an organization that at other events have displayed pictures of brass knuckles and the words “Nurture your hatred of politicians”. This is an organization whose members have attacked people with axes and tried to burn people alive. 

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