The right-wing Sweden Democrats, whom Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven previously accused of being a "Nazi, racist party" have given Social Democrats leader a taste of his own medicine by releasing a documentary about the party's Nazi past.
Aptly titled "One People, One Party," in a nod to one of the Nazi regimes best-known slogans, the film claims to tell the story of the Social Democrats "as it has been never been told before." In the film, which is replete with images of marching soldiers and swastikas, the authors dwell on such issues as state-sponsored anti-Semitism, forced sterilization and white supremacy, all of which doesn't sit well with Sweden's current image. Sweden carried out tens of thousands compulsory sterilizations on eugenic, medical and social grounds starting in 1906 and lasting until 1975, largely coinciding with the Social Democrats' rule.
Among other things, the film features overtly racist quotes about 'negroes' and 'Aryan pride' by prominent Social Democrat writer Bengt Lidforss, who advised against 'racial degeneration due to blending with low-grade breeds' and party newspaper Tiden from an era it was edited by future Social Democrat Prime Minister Hjalmar Branting, both iconic figures in Sweden.
The Social Democrats have acknowledged that the activities of the State Institute for Racial Biology, which was established in 1922 and existed until 1958, are problematic from a present-day viewpoint. The party has also admitted that anti-Semitism and the notion of racial supremacy were popular in Sweden throughout the 1930s. Nevertheless, Social Democrats party secretary Lena Rådström Baastad claimed that the fact that the accusations come from the Sweden Democrats are "absurd," national broadcaster SVT reported.
The documentary elicited polarizing reactions among politicians, scientists and ordinary Swedes alike. Jens Ljunggren, a professor of history at Stockholm University, dismissed the film as "insidious propaganda," while eight other researchers wrote that it "lacked a scientific basis." By contrast, theology doctor and researcher of ethics Ann Heberlein called the critical reactions "astonishing," stressing that the forced sterilization and racial classification of people cannot be denied. She also recounted the story of her own aunt, who was forcibly sterilized in 1962.
Researcher Jimmy Vulovic, a literary scholar with focus on propaganda research at Lund University, ventured that the documentary may become a tough weapon to dodge ahead of the upcoming general election.
"I believe many Social Democratic voters will be surprised by the existence of this kind of racial biological ideas that many Social Democrats propagated, as did an overwhelming majority in other groups," Vulovic told the newspaper Samtiden.
The movie "One People, One Party" has been produced by the newspaper Samtiden, which is owned by the Sweden Democrats and was funded with the party's support. So far, it has attracted close to 500,000 views on YouTube.