Report

The Nordic Resistance Movement

Nordic Resistance Movement

Sweden’s leading right-wing extremist group: Violence, Antisemitism and International Connections.

Executive Summary

Acknowledgements: Contributing authors to this report were Jonathan Leman and Morgan Finnsiö of Expo Foundation, Stockholm, a valued ADL partner in the fight against extremism.

The fanatically antisemitic Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) is the Nordic region’s leading and most dangerous right-wing extremist group.

Over the quarter-century of its existence, the NRM has built up a transnational, hierarchic organization with paramilitary and cult-like elements and a strong emphasis on violence.

The NRM has a long and bloody history of armed attacks on private citizens, minority groups and democratic institutions. It poses an ongoing and serious public security threat.

With its array of media outlets and broadcasts, the NRM wields an outsized influence on the global white supremacist movement, maintaining alliances across Europe and inspiring groups in the United States.

While banned in Finland in 2018, the organization operates freely in its home country of Sweden and across the Nordic region.

The NRM’s membership is in a current state of decline, but the organization remains active, dangerous, and a threat to Jews, people of color and political opponents.  Nordic governments must act to contain this threat.

Introduction

The Nordic Resistance Movement was founded under the name National Youth (Nationell ungdom) in 1997 by a small but ambitious group of hardline right-wing extremists. Over the next quarter of a century, while other groups have come and gone on the Swedish far-right scene, the NRM has evolved and expanded into a complex transnational organization with hundreds of members, thousands of sympathizers and an influence that extends far beyond the borders of Sweden and even of Europe. Pursuing its openly stated goal of overthrowing the Nordic democracies, it has inspired American white supremacists, forged ties with German fascists and trained with Russian paramilitaries. Its members and sympathizers have carried out violent attacks on members of the public, on Jewish properties, on political opponents and asylum seekers (whom they term “traitors to the people” and “race aliens”) across the Nordic region – all in the name of its antisemitic war of resistance against “the global Zionist elite.”

Three aspects have set the Nordic Resistance Movement apart from other groups in the right-wing extremist milieu in the Nordic region and elsewhere in Europe: (1) an avowed and fanatical Nazi ideology, coupled with a declared goal of revolution by any means necessary; (2) a strong emphasis on violence; and (3) a bureaucratic organizational structure, which has evolved to maintain the group’s coherence even as it has expanded to encompass all of Scandinavia.

These characteristics and the notoriety they have given the NRM explain the staying power of the group within the mercurial Swedish extreme-right milieu. This report aims to cover these dimensions while providing a general overview of the group.

Nordic Resistance

 

Profile

The Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) is a violent, transnational, right-wing extremist organization espousing revolutionary Nazism.  The NRM is based in Sweden where the majority of its members reside, but also has smaller and partly autonomous branches in Norway, Denmark, Finland (where the group has been banned since 2018) and Iceland. The group, which is rigidly hierarchical, exhibits both paramilitary and cult-like elements.

While active members number around 200, it draws on the support and sympathy of several thousands across the Scandinavian region and influences an audience of many more thousands across the entire Western world through its array of propaganda outlets.

The explicitly stated political objective of the NRM is to carry out a revolution to overthrow democracy and replace it with a Nazi dictatorship to encompass all of Scandinavia and the Nordic region. The group has declared it will not rest until its banner flies atop the parliaments of the Nordic countries, and the revolutionary objective is the premise and motive for all of the NRM’s activities and operations. Once they have established their dictatorship, the organization will direct the government to identify and cleanse the state’s territory of so-called “racially alien” (rasfrämmande) and “Volk-hostile” (folkfientliga) elements.

The organization’s primary symbol is the Tiwaz rune, which was used as an emblem in the Third Reich, and its chosen banner and uniform colors are green, white and black, modeled after the historical Romanian fascist group, the Legion of the Archangel Michael.

Ideology

The NRM is explicitly Nazi, espousing what it calls a “national socialist worldview,” with Hitler’s Third Reich serving as an aspirational model. Its ideology centers on antisemitism, so-called biological racism, reactionism (“traditionalism”), eco-fascism and conspiracy beliefs. The group’s name refers to its belief that it is fighting a war of resistance against “the Jews” and their supporters for the survival and victory of the “Nordic race.”

Inspired by classical antisemitic works including The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Nazi German propaganda, the group describes Swedish and Nordic society as fundamentally corrupted by “Zionist influence” and claims that most of the world is under direct economic and military occupation by “the global Zionist elite,” sometimes referred to as “ZOG” for “Zionist Occupied Government.”  For the NRM, as for other antisemites, “Zionists” is interchangeable with “Jews.”  

In the antisemitic worldview of the NRM, the “Nordic race” is being suffocated, poisoned and corrupted in a subtle war of extinction waged by Jews, for whom the governments and institutions of the modern world – and even the religion, ideology and culture of mainstream society – are mere instruments. Thus, systems like democracy, liberalism and socialism are all seen as destructive Jewish inventions that are unnatural and harmful to “Nordic” people and must be done away with. The group has vowed to take back power “by all available means.”

The NRM asserts that Nazism is a “biological” ideology that is in tune with nature’s laws. People whom the NRM does not identify as white are classed as “race aliens” (rasfrämlingar) who must be eliminated or expelled. Anti-racist activists, journalists, civil servants and politicians of all democratic parties are considered “traitors to the Volk” (folkförrädare) who will eventually be executed.

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Organization

In Sweden, where the organization has its central and strongest branch, the organization is divided into eight regional divisions, or “Nests” (nästen), covering all of Sweden.

Nest 1 comprises the counties of Stockholm, Uppsala and Gotland. Nest 2 comprises Västra Götaland and Halland. Nest 3 comprises Skåne and Blekinge. Nest 4 comprises Västernorrland, Jämtland and northern Gävleborg. Nest 5 comprises Dalarna – where the group is headquartered – as well as Värmland and southern Gävleborg. Nest 6 comprises Västerbotten and Norrbotten. Nest 7 comprises Jönköping, Kalmar and Kronoberg. Nest 8 comprises Södermanland, Västmanland, Örebro and Östergötland.

The NRM’s strength and rate of activity varies greatly from region to region and from period to period.  The NRM branches in Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland divide their countries into Nests. Norway is believed to have six Nests, Finland eight, and Denmark at least two. Each Nest has an appointed “Nest chief” (nästeschef) and is in turn divided into local units (kampgrupper) for NRM cadres and “member groups” (medlemsgrupper) for more casual members, each of which has its own appointed commander.

The organization is directed by its supreme leader, a position held since 2015 by Simon Lindberg. The leader’s immediate subordinates consist of a set of executive “realm councils” (riksråd) for each country in which the NRM has a branch and a “Council of the North” (Nordenrådet). Each realm council appoints three principals in the respective country: a head of administration, a head of propaganda and a head of operations.[1] Of the realm councils, by far the most important is the Swedish council, chaired by Lindberg, and which currently includes Pär Öberg, the head of the organization’s political division, Fredrik Vejdeland, the group’s chief ideologue, and Robert Eklund. The “Council of the North,” which functions as an executive branch for transnational matters, consists of two representatives from each realm council.

Membership

In 2015, 133 active NRM members were identified, 83% men and 17% women, with an average age of 35.  Almost half of active members had been convicted of crimes, and over 60% of those convictions were for violent crimes or weapons offences.

A follow-up investigation in 2018 identified 281 active members, more than double the membership from just 3 years earlier, and with a lower average age of 31.

The most recent demographic study found 196 active NRM members, a significant decrease in numbers, and a slight increase in average age to 35.   The gender balance remained constant at 83% male and 17% female, as did the conviction statistics.

History and Strategy

The struggle demands more than words.

— Motto of the Nordic Resistance Movement, engraved on its knives.

In 1995, a group of youths from the Stockholm district of Bromma formed the organization Independent Young Nationalists (Oberoende unga nationalister), which in 1997 was renamed National Youth (Nationell ungdom).

IYN/NY were inspired by the more respectable forms of organized racism of the day – such as the far-right Sweden Democrats Party (formed in 1988) and their precursor, the racist political campaign BSS – Keep Sweden Swedish (Bevara Sverige svenskt).

The new youth organization saw the Sweden Democrats party as an ally, and the Sweden Democrats, in turn, had a positive view of them. The party gave a small but symbolically important financial contribution to the group as they were starting out.

At the same time, National Youth was positioned to become one the few remaining alternatives in the Stockholm region for many far-right extremists who, during the first half the decade, had been active in VAM – White Aryan Resistance (Vitt ariskt motstånd).  VAM was a loose network of violent extremists, inspired by the US-based neo-Nazi network of the same name, best known for their use of violence and a string of armed robberies, but which had become dormant.

In 1997 Erik Hägglund became leader of National Youth, taking it in a more radical direction in order to distinguish it from other right-wing extremist movements.  National Youth members considered themselves the elite of the movement, who strove to create a “strong and healthy youth, a youth liberated from the deficiencies of the materialistic society” through “spiritual training” and outdoor activities.  New members were vetted thoroughly and interviewed before they were allowed to join[2].

The same year National Youth launched the magazine The People’s Tribune (Folktribunen) whose content reflected the group’s radicalization. The prior message of “democratic nationalism” was replaced with a message of “race revolution.”  Readers were introduced to the American white supremacist leader and ideologue William Pierce, whose novel The Turner Diaries had functioned as a model for a wave of right-wing extremist terror in the United States in the 1980s.  At that time, Pierce led the National Alliance, then the largest neo-Nazi group in the US.

In 1997 the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska motståndsrörelsen), SRM, was formed as an extension of National Youth. SRM began as a small elite group and National Youth became its youth wing.

Increased capacity and rising aggression

The documented activities carried out by the SRM more than doubled in 2009 compared to the previous year, and a Finnish branch of the organization was established.  SRM leaders encouraged members to use the elections of 2010 as an opportunity for publicity stunts and attention-grabbing confrontations. One day the group held a demonstration outside the Swedish parliament featuring a banner with a noose, accusing parliamentarians of being “traitors to the Volk” who should be executed.  In 2011, the SRM set up a Norwegian branch, making the group active in three Nordic countries.

In the following years, SRM activists in the Stockholm region become notorious for knife violence and assaults. The organization sold knives on their website that were engraved with the organization’s symbol and the phrase: “The struggle demands more than words.”

In 2013, the Expo Foundation documented a sharp increase in activities by the SRM, indicating significant growth. It is the period 2014—2016, however, that would prove pivotal in the evolution of the group, which had now more consistently begun to call itself the Nordic Resistance Movement. Three key developments in this period set the stage for the group’s ascent to a position of hegemony in the Swedish and Nordic extreme right-wing movement: the acquisition of two municipal council seats in general elections; the collapse of the Party of the Swedes; and the replacement of Klas Lund as the group’s top leader by Simon Lindberg.

In the elections of 2014, the SRM exploited an obscure election-rule technicality to claim two municipal council seats in the small towns of Ludvika and Borlänge, despite not having campaigned.  The far-right Sweden Democrats party had inadvertently allowed write-in candidates on their tickets, and SRM took advantage of that. The election of two overt Nazis from a militant extremist organization caused national outrage.  For the SRM, this quasi-coup meant a wealth of local and national media attention that they profited from.  The group announced the creation of a new “parliamentary branch” with one of the newly elected councilors, Pär Öberg, as its head. The Swedish Resistance Movement formally changed its name to the Nordic Resistance Movement, and a formal political party was registered in July 2015.

NRM supplanted the Party of the Swedes (SvP) as Sweden’s main white supremacist organization, after SvP failed to win a single council seat anywhere in the country despite actively campaigning.  SvP swiftly spiraled into decline, and the party announced its formal dissolution in May of 2015. Their collapse would prove a boon to the NRM which, presenting themselves as a stronger, more uncompromising and street-oriented alternative, picked up many of the SvP’s former members and sympathizers.

Later that year, Klas Lund resigned as leader of the NRM and was replaced by Simon Lindberg. Under Lindberg, the group began to pursue a new, more expansive and public-facing strategy, which can be summarized as aiming to maximize growth, public visibility, and polarization. Digital propaganda outlets such as podcasts were multiplied, physical propaganda operations were intensified, and recruitment was redoubled, with recruitment standards relaxed significantly.

A process of structural consolidation coincided with the change in leadership, whereby the branches of the group in other countries were more clearly organized in a single transnational entity. In 2016, marking that evolution, the group declared on its website that “the Swedish Resistance Movement is dead, long live the Nordic Resistance Movement!”

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A strategy that backfired

For a few years after the 2014 elections, the strategy appeared to work as intended.  The NRM’s membership increased and the extent of their activities expanded significantly. Their aggressive presence in streets and squares garnered them media attention, which in turn fed their recruitment efforts and boosted their stature in the white supremacist movement. The conviction of three of their members in 2017 for a series of bombings in Gothenburg – and the revelation that two of the men had received combat training by fascist paramilitaries in Russia – did nothing to slow their growth or restrain their operations. In 2017, the NRM formally proclaimed the existence of a branch in Denmark in addition to those in Sweden, Finland and Norway.

With their strength at its peak in 2018, the NRM’s growing confidence led them to run in the Swedish general elections in that year, pushing their rank-and-file hard to campaign across the country in the run-up to the vote. Their increased presence among the general public during the campaign precipitated a number of violent incidents across the country, including NRM members kicking a woman in the stomach, beating a 16-year-old boy, and aggressively disrupting the activism of minority rights groups.

The NRM, somewhat unrealistically, envisioned significant results in the election.  Its leader, Simon Lindberg, saw political representation in the county of Dalarna (where the write-in candidates had succeeded) as “guaranteed.”  In fact, the NRM received only 2,000 votes nationally, just 0.03% of the vote, and they failed to hold on to their municipal council seats in the Dalarna towns of Ludvika and Borlänge. The poor result stood in stark contrast to the grandiose ambitions pronounced by the group’s leadership prior to the election. The NRM had lost face, and the wisdom of Lindberg’s strategy – and his legitimacy as leader – were called into question.

About half a year after the failed election campaign, the NRM was convulsed by an internal coup.  Some of the group’s most prominent members issued an ultimatum to the group’s leadership that Lindberg step down and Klas Lund be reinstated. The ultimatum was refused, and as a result, Lund and his faction left the NRM and formed a splinter group – initially composed of some 40 members – named Nordic Strength (Nordisk styrka).  Since its founding in 2019, this new group has kept a very low profile and plays no significant role in the Swedish white supremacist movement.  Lindberg maintained his grip on the NRM, but with three of its regional divisions decimated and three Nest chiefs gone, the group was immediately weakened.

Antisemitism

Before, we spoke a lot more about peoples instead of races and we often used code words for Jews. Today we attack this issue head on. Like a homing missile we explain that multiculturalism and mass immigration are created by Jewish power and nothing else.

— Fredrik Vejdeland, “The Resistance Movement – 20 Years of Revolutionary Struggle,” 2018

The Nordic Resistance Movement sees the world through a prism of antisemitism, and they link any issue to the belief in a global Jewish conspiracy. Their rallies, leafleting campaigns, podcast recordings and online activism are all focused on promoting virulent antisemitism.  

The antisemitism of the NRM is expressed both in abstract and in more direct terms, such as in a 2015 speech when the group’s leader, Simon Lindberg, railed against “the ones orchestrating the genocide [against white people], that is to say the hook-nosed self-appointed elite … they are laughing all the way to the bank.”

According to the NRM and other white supremacists, a person is “awakened” when the “race issue” and the “Jewish Question” are grasped. Holocaust denial is important for the final stages of this radicalization process. Accordingly, a common topic among white supremacists is how to radicalize right-wing populists who support the Sweden Democrats party and convince them to support the Nazi NRM. Emil Hagberg, at the time a leading activist, elaborated on the matter in an NRM podcast in 2015:

The SD [Sweden Democrats party] is hardly the final destination when it comes to radicalization in a nationalist direction. And it is not a secret that we are radicalizing people from the SD. We are the ones who receive all the supporters of the Sweden Democrats who want to know the underlying causes of why white nations are in the shape they are in. Any person with a brain realizes that people with a thirst for knowledge will sooner or later end up at Nordfront [the NRM’s website].[3]

As one example, NRM launched a campaign, called #JewsGaveUsTheMuslims, against a news site with ties to the Sweden Democrats.  The site, Avpixlat (“Unpixelated”), produced Islamophobic and anti-immigrant content, and the NRM encouraged its activists and supporters to write comments there based on the antisemitic myth that immigration is part of a Jewish plot to destroy Sweden: “The majority of the articles published by Avpixlat are about Islam, therefore it is relevant to inform about who, exactly, have given us these Islamists.”[4]

Similarly, Pär Öberg, the NRM leader who had won a seat in the municipal council in Ludvika via the write-in campaign, expressed his opposition to a proposal for a refugee center, saying it would serve the “cynical mass immigration industry” orchestrated by “Zionist globalists” with “a plan to eradicate our people.”

In 2017, the small Jewish association in Umeå was forced to leave its facilities after a number of incidents of intimidation involving swastikas, NRM stickers with pictures of Adolf Hitler and threatening messages reading “we know where you live” were plastered on the Jewish community center.[5] Attempts were made to find new facilities and restart the association but in May 2018 the Jewish community decided instead to disband it.[6]

In July 2019, the Israeli embassy in the Finnish capital Helsinki was vandalized. The glass door was shattered and Finnish NRM stickers and a banner with a swastika were put up around the entrance of the building. This incident was the latest in a string of at least 15 acts of vandalism against the embassy since the beginning of 2018, despite the fact that administrative actions to ban the NRM in Finland had begun in March 2017.[7]

On November 9-10, 2019, the anniversary of the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, coordinated attacks against property carried out in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. Yellow Star of David stickers were put up in various locations; swastikas were sprayed on the walls of synagogues; and at the Jewish cemetery in Randers, Denmark, 84 gravestones were spray-painted or overturned. NRM activists in Scandinavia had been ordered to “anonymously attack Jewish targets” by the leader Simon Lindberg.[8] 

On Yom Kippur, in September 2020, the NRM carried out a similar coordinated antisemitic campaign, this time primarily with posters throughout Scandinavia to “draw the attention of the Nordic people” to the “thousands of years of structural Jewish racism, and plans for world domination through letters in the Talmud, the Bible and various rabbis’ interpretations of these.”[9] NRM members also held a rally with antisemitic signs outside the synagogue in Norrköping in Sweden.

Around Passover in March 2021, the synagogue in Norrköping was once again targeted by NRM, this time with signs and dolls symbolizing dead children. The signs read: “Today marks the beginning of the Jewish passover, celebrated every year in memory of the israelites’ murder of tens of thousands of newborn babies in Egypt” and “Tens of thousands of babies have in our time been murdered under the Jews’ occupation of Palestine. Organize in the struggle against zionism!”[10]
 

Nordic Resistance

Activities and Methods

The Nordic Resistance Movement’s activities and operations can generally be classified in the following categories: physical propaganda distribution; combat-related training; ideological indoctrination, recreation and other internal activities; rallies and marches; special actions and attacks; youth outreach; and digital propaganda, media production and broadcasting.

The relative prevalence of some of these types of activities is indicated by the table below, showing a sample six-and-a-half-year period of activity by the NRM in Sweden.

Nordic Resistance

* Preliminary data covering January—June only.

Physical propaganda distribution

Physical propaganda distribution refers to occasions when NRM members, organized into one or more local units, travel to strategically targeted localities and put leaflets in the mailboxes of residential areas, put up posters or stickers in public spaces, or hang banners or flags in conspicuous places.

Nordic Resistance

Physical distribution of propaganda represents a major share of the NRM’s organized activities and is considered to be of special importance by the group.  As such, this type of activity is known as “primary activism” (basaktivism).

Typically, the propaganda material carries the name or symbol of the group or its website, along with whatever slogan or messaging campaign the group is currently focusing on. Usually, the messaging will be militant, menacing and sometimes inciting violence towards people targeted by the group – such as a picture of a noose and a slogan to the effect that “traitors to the Volk will be executed.”  Typically, the distribution of propaganda in a locality will be extensive enough to be conspicuous to anyone living in or passing through the area.

Invariably, the operation is documented and afterwards publicized in the form of a grandiose “action report” (kamprapport) on the NRM’s website.

The purpose of these propaganda distribution operations is manifold.

Apart from the obvious effect of getting the NRM’s name and their message out to ordinary people, it is a means of marking an area as their turf.

The often violent and threatening imagery and messages are also designed to demoralize and intimidate the people the NRM considers its enemies and targets – members of minority groups, local politicians, journalists, minority rights activists, and others who are typically cognizant of the NRM’s proven capacity for violent attacks.

Physical propaganda distribution is also a way to signal the NRM’s presence to local sympathizers or potential recruits, encouraging people to contact them or visit their propaganda outlets.

In recent years, members of the NRM have performed this class of activity almost daily at one or more locations across Sweden’s 290 municipalities. In 2020, there were 1,232 such operations, representing roughly 70% of the NRM’s activities that Expo was able to document that year.

Nordic Resistance

These frequent operations are a way for the NRM’s leadership to continuously mobilize and assert their authority over their members and to fuse them ever more closely as organizational units.

Lastly, these operations are useful to the Nordic Resistance Movement for digital propaganda purposes, for both internal and external consumption, in the form of “action reports” published on the NRM’s website. These reports are a way for local sections of the NRM to showcase their activity to other sections. They are also compiled and tallied by the leadership of the organization at the end of each year to boast of how many operations the NRM has carried out, and to determine which local divisions of the organizations have performed better than others. In recent years, under the maximum visibility strategy adopted by the group in the period 2015—2018, this practice has been an important incentive for the NRM to maximize the number of such operations.

Combat-related training

In 2020, the NRM organized 185 gatherings for local units to carry out strenuous physical exercise, engage in martial arts training, practice hand-to-hand combat, knife-fighting, or paramilitary tactics in anticipation of street violence, riot situations and encounters with law enforcement or with political opponents. NRM training sessions may involve anything from individual body-building exercises to physical sparring or practicing exposure to mace and tear gas. The premise of all such activities is the NRM’s explicitly stated doctrine of the necessity of overthrowing democracy through violence.

Nordic Resistance

Indoctrination, recreation and other internal activities

The NRM regularly organizes sessions to indoctrinate its members, in the form of lectures, study circles, viewings of propaganda films, and other means to steep members in the doctrines, ideology and worldview of the organization and to anchor them ever more firmly in the group’s beliefs. Literature used for such purposes ranges from well-known fascist “classics,” such as For My Legionaries by the WWII-era Romanian fascist leader Corneliu Codreanu, to manuals and doctrinal texts written by the ideologues of the NRM itself. Films viewed by the NRM in such sessions include the Swedish-produced antisemitic propaganda miniseries, Europa – the Last Battle, which praises Hitler and claims that Jews started both World Wars, and Dennis Wise’s revisionist film, Adolf Hitler: The Greatest Story Never Told. Speakers who give lectures at such events are often NRM propagandists and visitors from other geographical divisions or higher echelons of the organization.

The NRM also organizes recreational events where members gather primarily to socialize.  Sometimes these events are done in combination with activities such as hiking, and on less physically demanding outings, the families of NRM members including children will often be brought along. These recreational activities reinforce the cohesion of NRM members, raise morale, and provide a social life that may not otherwise be available to NRM members who have been ostracized from general society because of their Nazism.

Rallies and marches

A rally is when NRM members take up a stationary position in some public place in order to confront the public with their presence and their propaganda.  Sometimes this can be as simple an operation as staying at an overpass displaying a large banner with NRM slogans. More typically, rallies involve somewhere between half a dozen to a dozen members who assemble at some busy public location in a town or city, where some members act as flag-carriers, some as guards, some as videographers and some attempt to hand out fliers or leaflets to passers-by. Larger rallies may feature a leading figure of the NRM giving a public speech surrounded by his subordinates acting as guards.  However, the term “rallies” is here used broadly and may involve as few as three or four members of the NRM.

Nordic Resistance

It is not uncommon during NRM rallies for members of the public – or, more rarely, local organized antifascists – to express their disgust with the group, attempt to grab and throw away their leaflets, or otherwise confront them. Such situations can quickly escalate and are innately dangerous for the public, since members of the NRM are taught and trained to respond with brutal violence to such disruptions, and typically do so.

One of the most extreme cases of violence in connection to an NRM rally occurred in Helsinki on September 10, 2016.  As NRM members were holding a rally at a public square and handing out leaflets, a passer-by spat on the ground in front of them and called them “racist clowns.”  Seconds later, NRM member Jesse Torniainen came running and kicked the man in the chest.  The victim fell backwards onto the concrete, where a pool of blood formed around his head. He died in the hospital six days later, and Tornianen was convicted of aggravated assault three months after that.  Tornianen was subsequently named “Activist of the Year” by the NRM’s top leadership.

Marches refer to rare major rallies organized in the form of a column marching from one point to another, typically through a city or major town. Marches involve hundreds of NRM members, many of them uniformed and armed with shields and spear-like flags.  Many sympathizers may also join the members for the march. Such marches usually take place once or twice a year, often on May 1, Labor Day in Europe.   The NRM justifies its Labor Day marches by claiming to be the true champions of the workers of the North.  Organizing marches on May 1 is also meant to provoke further outrage and attention, since the NRM and what it represents are seen by the rest of society as antithetical to the labor movement, for whom the holiday is a powerful tradition and the occasion for its own major rallies all over the country.

Nordic Resistance

Marches are important to the NRM for several reasons. They constitute a show of force and provide a spectacle of classical fascist aesthetics – militaristic, disciplined, hyper masculinized and intimidating.  The marches are meant to impress both their own members, sympathizers in the Swedish far-right milieu, potential recruits among the public, and foreign allies and counterparts. They also draw the public’s attention through media coverage, a high priority NRM goal.  

Sometimes the NRM will also organize “flash rallies” that have not been announced in advance, in which only active members participate.  Such sudden events never involve more than a hundred people.

Digital propaganda, media production and broadcasting

In 2012, the NRM – then called the Swedish Resistance Movement – launched the website Nordfront (nordfront.se). Nordfront has served as the group’s primary outlet, featuring a steady stream of propaganda messages, news items about current events written from a Nazi ideological perspective, communiques from the organization’s top leadership, content portraying the Third Reich in a positive light, Holocaust denial, “humorous” items with antisemitic satire and mockery, notices about newly published episodes of the NRM’s many podcasts, reports about the group’s recent activities across the country and requests for donations.

On several occasions, the website has published material that has been found to be in breach of Swedish law, resulting in convictions for the website’s legally designated publisher, a position held by different people over the years, including some of the NRM’s key leaders. Criminal content has included images of swastikas and pictures of Hitler and incitement of hatred towards LGBTQ people. The penalties for these illegal publications have been fairly light.  A 2018 conviction for 61 cases of incitement resulted only in fines and a suspended sentence for Nordfront’s designated publisher at the time.  These punishments have not deterred NRM from continuing the same activity.

In 2020, the NRM launched a new website, Motståndsrörelsen (motstandsrorelsen.se), to serve as the organization’s new official website, where “action reports” and other information directly pertaining to the group’s operations, tactics and strategies are now published. This website has versions in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic and English.

Nordfront has remained in operation much as before, but without the operational content, claiming to be an independent and nonpartisan (yet “nationally socialist”) news site.

Podcasts represent a key development in the NRM’s digital propaganda.  In 2015, the group launched its first podcast.  Since then, it has created four web TV shows and fourteen podcasts, most in Swedish, some in other Nordic languages and two in English.  Altogether, the NRM produces about 200 episodes a year, many of them hours in length.

Most notable of the podcasts are Radio Nordfront, the oldest with over 200 episodes, and Nordic Frontier, an important English-language propaganda outlet that allows the NRM to advertise itself and speak directly to foreign sympathizers and allies. Nordic Frontier has featured several notable American white supremacists as guests, including representatives of the Traditionalist Worker Party, the Right Stuff, the National Justice Party and the Patriot Front, and individuals associated with the 2017 Unite the Right rally.[11] Such dialogues provide valuable opportunities for the NRM to network with and learn from foreign counterparts, and to disseminate their own message.

While the group’s official Twitter account has been shut down, individual key members of the NRM maintain accounts on Twitter, and the group continues to attempt to set up new NRM accounts. Facebook and Instagram have also acted against official NRM accounts.

On YouTube, the organization published propaganda until 2018, when the platform closed the NRM accounts. At least one former ranking NRM member, in an account of his radicalization process, has stated that watching the NRM’s propaganda videos on YouTube, showing them clashing with police, impressed him as a young teenager and encouraged him to seek out and join the group.

From 2015 to 2020, the NRM maintained both Swedish and Russian-language accounts on the Russian social media platform VKontakte – both of which have since become dormant –and currently maintain an English-language account on the American right-wing social media platform Parler.  Visitors to the NRM websites are directed to NRM accounts on the far-right microblogging network Gab, the video hosting platform Odysee, and the encrypted group messaging app Telegram. On the latter platform, the NRM maintains group chats in Swedish, Norwegian and English where members interact with sympathizers, many of whom are anonymous, and where virulent propaganda is posted. Posts glorify extreme-right violence and terrorism and contain explicit imagery and rhetoric, such as illustrations of people being shot at point blank range and rants that urge the killing of politicians in government.

Special actions

Special actions are planned acts that go beyond the routine operations and activities of the NRM. There are three main kinds of special actions: so-called “spectacular” actions, “autonomous” actions and organized attacks.

Spectacular actions refer to conspicuous events designed by the NRM to draw as much attention as possible, usually through some form of provocation. A recent example includes the NRM using powerful light projectors to project Holocaust-denying messages (such as “the Holocaust is a fraud”) onto the wall of a synagogue in Malmö on the night before the start of the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism in October 2021. In 2018, NRM members protesting outside the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm threw powerful firecrackers over the embassy’s fenced wall. An NRM member was charged with assault for injuring an embassy employee, but was acquitted. The organization openly claims responsibility for such events and boasts of them for propaganda purposes.

Other actions, however, may be more violent and put the NRM and its members in more serious legal jeopardy. In such cases, the organization carries out the action in a clandestine manner and does not formally claim responsibility.  Instead, the organization reports on such incidents in its propaganda outlets, saying they were carried out by “autonomous national socialists” or that it was an “autonomous action,” in other words, an action unaffiliated with the NRM and not sanctioned by it. This tactic, however, is a merely to avoid criminal responsibility, and the NRM will often gleefully signal, albeit informally and in coded language, that they were in fact responsible for such actions.

A notable example of an “autonomous action” was a transnational campaign of antisemitic vandalism throughout the Nordic region in 2019 on the night of the anniversary of the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom. In the trial in Denmark of two of the Nazis who had targeted Jewish cemeteries, institutions and residences, evidence was submitted by the prosecutor that offered a glimpse into the transnational hierarchy and mode of operation of the NRM. A message sent through the encrypted messaging app Signal from a regional leader of the NRM in Denmark to his subordinates read:

Important information. There has been a directive from Simon Lindberg, all Nordic countries come together for a pan-Nordic operation on between 8 and 9 November. We are to anonymously attack Jewish targets. We are after Jews or businesses owned by real Jews /…/ Your assignment next month is to find out whether there are any Jewish targets in your areas. This is top secret information.[12]

Immediately after the wave of vandalism, the NRM’s website began to publish documentation of the crimes in a way that made clear the organization had been involved, but formally denied responsibility for them.

A third type of special action is physical assaults.  While rare, assaults victimize both the direct target and the target’s community.  The most extreme such case was in 2013, when some 40 NRM members allegedly made a sudden armed attack on hundreds of peaceful protesters in Kärrtorp. Other notable cases include the 2012 attack on the public community center in Ludvika and a series of attacks at voting centers in the Stockholm region on election day in 2014, where the NRM stormed one and vandalized it amid shouts of “Long live the Resistance Movement and smash Zionism!”[13]

Youth outreach

For the past few years, the NRM has had difficulty attracting younger members, despite mounting campaigns that target youths for recruitment. Past campaigns have included efforts to start up formally independent youth organizations such as the association Revoltera (2019) and the martial arts club Bellum (2021), and regional propaganda campaigns with tailored messages and slogans targeting schools and other places frequented by younger people, such as “Swedish Youth Strike Back” (2020) and “Proud White Youth” (2021). These efforts, however, have so far yielded minimal results.

Violence

Strike first and strike with full force /…/ Continue using violence against your opponent until you are certain he is incapacitated /…/ The attack must not cease until the opposing group has scattered and fled. Once this has occurred we can return to inflicting further damage on fallen opponents.

— The NRM’s internal bulletin Budkavlen, no. 6, “The Psychology of Combat”, 2004. The text remains in use as an instruction manual for NRM cadres.

The NRM is a violence-oriented organization. Members are taught that the organization’s long-term goal is the overthrow of the Nordic democracies, that armed struggle is necessary to achieve this goal, and that they are all that stands in the way of the genocidal obliteration of their people. They are taught to maximize their capacity and readiness for physical confrontations, encouraged to dehumanize their targets, instructed to use pre-emptive, brutal and disproportionate force against opponents, and trained in the use of close-quarters weaponry. They are also indoctrinated to glorify and admire the war criminals and mass murderers of Fascist movements. The ethos of violence extends to the family life of NRM members – the organization instructs its members to “teach their children to view themselves as weapons” in the political struggle.[14]

Police and the Security Service describe the NRM as having a culture of fetishizing guns. Many NRM members have legal weapon licenses, which the police in recent years had begun more actively to review and revoke.  However, the Swedish Supreme Court recently ruled that membership in NRM is insufficient grounds for gun license revocations, putting a halt to this practice. On several occasions, NRM members and sympathizers have been convicted of stealing, stockpiling and sometimes manufacturing both guns and explosives.  One such cache, discovered in 2015, included 500 kilos of dynamite.[15]

At least two NRM members have undergone paramilitary combat training in Russian camps as part of the Partizan program, organized by the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM). Anton Thulin and Viktor Melin, were trained in a Partizan camp in the outskirts of St. Petersburg in the fall of 2016, and then went on to carry out a series of terror attacks in and around Gothenburg over the next months, for which they were convicted.  They targeted asylum seekers and a leftist political group, attacking them with homemade explosive devices. During their trial, the prosecutor argued that the Partizan program had enhanced their capacity for violence. RIM and its leaders were later designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists by the U.S. State Department, and the justification for the designation referred to RIM’s training of Thulin and Melin.[16]  There have been recurring efforts by lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to persuade successive administrations to designate the Nordic Resistance Movement itself as a foreign terrorist group.[17] [18]

While evidence suggests that the NRM members involved in the bombing campaign were acting of their own volition and not at the request of the organization’s leadership, the terrorists and their actions in Gothenburg were clearly products of the organization, its ideological indoctrination, its obsession with violence and its combat training.

With its systematic use of violence, the NRM has built a reputation for danger and brutality. The Swedish Security Service and extremism researchers refer to this intimidating quality as “violence capital,” by which the NRM intimidates its targets even when the organization is not actively attacking them. When they plaster streets and lamp-posts with images of nooses and threatening messages, and when they appear in force, brandishing their flags and shouting slogans through megaphones at the central square of a small town, they terrorize the local community and have a chilling effect on civil society. These threats are not seen as idle and they have achieved results.  In response to intimidation campaigns, a local politician in a smaller Swedish town decided to resign from the municipal council, and the Jewish association in Umeå decided to close down permanently.[19] The Swedish Security Service’s assessment is that the NRM has both the capacity for terrorism and the intent to commit crimes against the country’s constitutional order.

The NRM has developed a sophisticated approach to violence in order to operate openly and within the law, while maintaining its “violence capital.”  The rhetoric of NRM leaders and the organization’s official documents follow the tradition of classical Fascism, glorifying violence, armed struggle, aggression and hypermasculinity.  The leadership is careful though, to remain within the current interpretations of Swedish constitutional law when issuing orders. NRM members are never publicly ordered to carry out illegal assaults. Instead, NRM members are urged to practice “self-defense.”  They are instructed to carry concealed weapons when they deploy for public activities and to physically “discipline” people they encounter if they think it is warranted.

Unofficially, however, the NRM does order its members to carry out attacks, as has been illustrated by the above-mentioned case of the vandalization campaign against Jewish targets across the Nordic countries in 2019, and the earlier storming of an election center, attack on a community center in Ludvika and attack on a crowd of protesters in Kärrtorp..

The threat of violence from the NRM is not limited to its members.  As the NRM constantly produces online propaganda that incites violence, they are likely to have inspired lone actors who sympathize with NRM’s malign beliefs. The content of this propaganda is virulently antisemitic, racist, homophobic and transphobic, and tends to dehumanize any individual or group that the NRM considers a target. Research shows that such systematic dehumanizing rhetoric lowers the threshold for perpetrators to commit and justify acts of violence.[20] Such attitudinal and ideological diffusion has been identified by the Swedish Security Service as a factor contributing to the terror threat emanating from right-wing extremism, including from lone actors who may be unaffiliated with the NRM but may sympathize with the group’s aims and beliefs, or may simply find the propaganda and the incitement it contains to be persuasive enough to act upon.

Law enforcement efforts against NRM

The NRM in Sweden operates in a relatively unrestricted constitutional and legal environment as compared to many other European countries. It exists legally as a registered association and political party. Its members are free, as private citizens, to apply for public services such as demonstration permits when organizing protests and marches or to apply for the use of municipal buildings in which to carry out combat-related training. In theory, despite being monitored as an extremist group by the Security Service, the NRM is presumed to be entitled to the same treatment as any other Swedish legal association or party.   Should the NRM ever receive more than 2.5% of the vote in a national election, it will even qualify for public funding for political parties.

Nordic Resistance

The Swedish Security Service (Säkerhetspolisen, SÄPO) and the Swedish Police Authority, both subordinate to the Swedish Department of Justice, are the key agencies responsible for counteracting violent extremism in Sweden. The former is tasked with protecting national security and democratic governance, a function that falls under the purview of its “Counter-Subversion” branch, and therefore tends to assume a leading role in countering extremism. Other parts of government and the police tend to defer to the SÄPO’s expertise.

The SÄPO has a long-standing assessment that violent extremism in Sweden takes three forms: the autonomous leftist, the radical Islamist and right-wing extremist.  The SÄPO identifies the NRM as a part of the right-wing extremist milieu, but only rarely makes public its assessments or analyses of specific organizations. However, the agency stated in 2018 that the NRM is “one of the actors in the [right-wing extremist] milieu that we monitor, on the basis that they possess the intention and the capacity to commit crimes with the purpose of altering the societal [constitutional] order,” and that the SÄPO’s “assessment is that this is an organization which has the capacity to commit … serious crimes that could be classed as terror attacks.”[21] In 2019, the agency reiterated that the NRM “has the capacity to commit crimes that could be covered by current anti-terror legislation.”[22]

In 2016, the National Police Board in Finland petitioned the government to proscribe the NRM in that country, setting in motion a court process that allowed an interim ban in 2018, and then an indefinite ban, approved by the Supreme Court in 2020.[23]

In Sweden, where the constitutional and legal situation differs from that of Finland, proscribing the NRM has proven far more politically contentious. In 2019, the Government of Sweden appointed an all-parliamentary committee to produce a legislative proposal to criminalize racist organizations.[24] Ultimately, however, the committee delivered a proposal to criminalize participation in the activity of groups that through systematic criminal activity persecute protected minorities, rather than prohibit racist organizations themselves. Experts have expressed concern the committee’s proposal will prove “toothless”, both in general and in terms of affecting the NRM.[25] No action has been taken to date on the proposal.

In 2018, following criticism from the Swedish National Audit Office that the Security Service and Police Authority were failing to consistently share intelligence with each other, the two agencies launched the joint effort “Redex” with the stated purpose of “reducing” the extremist milieux in Sweden.[26] To date, no report or assessment has been published showing what results, if any, this project has had so far. An internal Police Authority review, published by the Office of the National Police Commissioner in November 2019, found key flaws in the Police’s work to counter violent extremism, including a failure to follow the Police Authority’s own guidelines for this work, a lack of monitoring of global developments that may impact violent extremism locally, a lack of monitoring of online spaces related to violent extremism, and a “lack of coordination between the different branches of activity of the work being done” to counter extremism.[27] The review issued a number of recommendations to resolve these problems and suggested a follow-up review in 2023.

In recent years, police have begun more frequently to review and to revoke gun licenses issued to members of the NRM.  Because such decisions are often classified, it is difficult to assess the extent of this practice. However, in 2019, an NRM member appealed the police’s decision to revoke his gun license and confiscate his weapons, leading ultimately to a Supreme Court decision in June 2021 that such revocations cannot be based solely on the basis of membership in the NRM.  That decision effectively put a halt to gun license revocations by police.[28]

Since 2019, the SÄPO appears to have more actively used administrative processes to expel foreign nationals in Sweden on the basis that they constitute “threats to public order and security.”  While this approach was initially used against radical Islamists, on at least two occasions in 2021, three foreign nationals who were NRM members (two active and one former) were expelled to Russia and Estonia.

After an NRM march through Gothenburg in September 2017, a prosecutor indicted several participants in the rally for incitement, based on hateful messages and Nazi symbolism they had displayed on their signs and uniforms. The indictment represented an innovative interpretation of that law, which had previously been applied to individuals for specific acts, not to individuals in a group for collective behavior. A successful conviction would have had the potential to expand the use of the law against incitement to prosecute other NRM members in similar public rallies and activities. However, the court found the NRM defendants not guilty, and the Court of Appeals upheld that verdict in December 2018, closing that particular legal avenue indefinitely.[29]

A series of bombing attacks in the Gothenburg region were perpetrated by three members of the NRM in the winter of 2016—2017. The men were ultimately convicted for their crimes but they were, controversially, not prosecuted for terrorism.  That decision drew criticism from terrorism experts and prompted the Interior Minister to admit that anti-terror laws may need to be amended,[30] [31] a legislative process which is currently underway.[32]

New legal challenges may arise in the future, but for now, the NRM continues to operate openly and legally across most of the Nordic region, with the exception of Finland.​

International Ties

Our struggle is also a global struggle that actually concerns all the white peoples of the world. Even though the most important thing, of course, is that we achieve the support we need at home and that we win over our own people here in the North, we also view it as part of our responsibility to be able to influence nationally-minded organizations around the world in a healthy and radical national-socialist direction.

— The NRM, “Where is the Nordic Resistance Movement in five years? Eight concrete objectives,” 2019

Consistent with Swedish right-wing extremist tradition, the Nordic Resistance Movement has an international outlook. The organization is transnational by its very nature, having multiple branches in different countries, and considers the Nordic region to be its natural theatre of operations. However, the NRM considers the wider global stage to be a key arena for its struggle. The organization interacts in a number of ways with ideological counterparts across the Western world. These interactions and contacts have financial, practical, ideological, prestige, geopolitical, law enforcement and security implications.[33] This section will focus on the NRM’s international connections beyond the Nordic region.

The NRM interacts with extremists from a wide variety of countries. In a report commissioned by the German Federal Foreign Office focusing on transnational right-wing extremism, the Expo Foundation noted that:

[i]n 2016, NRM hosted guests from Norway and Belarus in Sweden. /…/ From June 2016 to February 2019, NRM made at least nine visits to Germany, three to Bulgaria, one to France, one to Belarus, one to Czechia, one to Italy, and one to Hungary, meeting with various European [extremist right wing] actors. /…/ In recent years, individuals with origins or backgrounds in … Finland, Germany, Armenia, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Iran, Norway, Russia, Spain, and the United States have figured in NRM circles in Sweden, some as visitors, some as residents who support or participate in NRM activity.[34]

Furthermore, the NRM has in the past maintained ties to the late Eugène Terre’Blanche’s paramilitary Boer Nationalist organization Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) in South Africa. The group has also had friendly and key relations with the Russian paramilitary group Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) since at least 2012. However, two countries are of particular interest to the NRM: Germany and the United States.

Ever since fascist parties first started to form in Sweden in the 1920s, Germany has been a primary international focus. A 2016 investigation by the Expo Foundation found that a preponderance of the NRM’s foreign contacts were with German extremists, either in Germany or Sweden. The NRM visited the German party NPD’s youth wing in 2000, participated in a march in honor of Rudolf Hess in 2003, and sent a delegation to visit the German Nazi terrorist Manfred Roeder in 2009.

In 2003, Jürgen Rieger, a wealthy leading member of NPD and organizer of the annual Rudolf Hess march in Wunsiedel, Germany, provided an estate in the Skaraborg region of Sweden to the NRM (then called the SRM) for use as its new headquarters.

The NRM has forged particularly strong ties with the Nazi group the Third Path (Der III. Weg), a group that broke away from the NPD in 2013.  The two groups have maintained friendly relations since at least February 2017, when the NRM’s top leader spoke at a Third Path demonstration in Germany. Earlier that month, an NRM representative participated in a Third Path march commemorating the bombing of Dresden. In 2019, the NRM’s leader met with the founder of the Third Path in Helsinki, during the annual far-right Independence Day rally. In 2020, the NRM’s top propagandist gave a speech at a Third Path rally in Berlin.[35] The organizations trust each other to the extent that a member of the Third Path served as an NRM unit commander in Gothenburg during 2017-2018.

The NRM’s connections to the United States do not entail as many physical meetings, but still show important relationships. As ADL noted in a 2019 report, “European and American adherents [of white supremacy] are learning from each other, supporting each other and reaching new audiences.”[36] This dynamic aptly describes the NRM’s interactions with American counterparts. As one example,

[a]t the deadly “Unite the Right” rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the summer of 2017, one of the organizers, leading white supremacist Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), told an interviewer, in response to a question about their methods of organizing: “[We are] primarily following the European example of [Greece’s] Golden Dawn, the Nordic Resistance Movement, and other groups that are really at the vanguard of nationalist organizing in the world.”[37]

Another example is the Folkish Resistance Movement, an Arizona-based neo-Nazi group active in five U.S. states.[38] In 2021, an NRM member claimed in the group’s Telegram channel to have spoken with members of the American group who said they are “directly inspired by the NRM.”

The NRM reaches English-speaking audiences primarily through its key podcast “Nordic Frontier,” which has over 200 published broadcasts. Nordic Frontier has a history of hosting and featuring American white supremacist figures and influencers, including Alan Balogh, a long-time white supremacist who is a former member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and current member of the National Justice Party, a virulently antisemitic white supremacist political group formed in August 2020 by several well-known leaders in the alt-right movement.  Other prominent white supremacists interviewed on Nordic Frontier include Warren Balogh, a white supremacist from Pittsburgh who serves as the Secretary of the National Justice Party; Christopher Cantwell, who operates “Radical Agenda,” a white supremacist Internet radio show/blog; Matthew Heimbach, a former leader of the defunct neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party, who has claimed that he left the white supremacist movement; Tony Hovater,  a neo-Nazi from Ohio who was a founding member of the Traditionalist Worker Party who now serves as National Justice Party Chief of Staff; Augustus Sol Invictus, a white supremacist and alt-right activist who has been involved in several extremist groups, including the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights and the Proud Boys; Joseph Jordan, aka Erik Striker,  a white supremacist and member of the National Justice Party who has written for a number of white supremacist sites, including the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer and The Right Stuff; Jason Köhne, a white nationalist podcaster and vlogger known online as “No White Guilt;”  and Thomas Rousseau, the leader of Patriot Front, a white supremacist group whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them and to no one else.[39]  More recently, Robert Rundo, leader of the Rise Above Movement, a California-based white supremacist group whose members believe they are fighting against a “modern world” corrupted by the “destructive cultural influences” of liberals, Jews, Muslims and non-white immigrants, and “Coach Finstock” of the white supremacist Full Haus podcast have also been featured on the program. The NRM has also given extensive airtime to leaders of the National Justice Party and of Patriot Front, which visited the NRM in Sweden in 2019, and has frequently highlighted by the group’s propaganda outlet, Nordfront. 

These exchanges benefit each side by providing mutual learning experiences in propaganda and operational tactics.  In other words, they make all participants “smarter” in their extremism.

Conclusions

The NRM remains dangerous and influential.

The NRM has faced challenges since 2018, including an election fiasco, a major organizational split and the proscription of its branch in Finland.  While its membership has also declined, the organization is no less dangerous.

Following prior splits and downturns, the NRM re-emerged strengthened. With nearly 25 years of continuous existence, their staying power is proven, owing much to the strict, centralized structure that the organization has always maintained. And while the branch in Finland has been hamstrung by the legal ban, it is unlikely the organization will be banned in Sweden.

The NRM may revert to the more violent patterns of mobilization it exhibited in the 2010-2014 period, when its focus was not to broaden its appeal, but to strengthen its leadership within the white supremacist milieu and bolster its reputation as the most daring and hardline group on the scene.

The NRM is expected to continue radicalizing both its own members and the wider circle of consumers of extreme right-wing propaganda, increasing the risk of lone-actor terrorism. The NRM will continue to foster extremists within its own ranks who may later break away from the group and form their own independent networks or become rogue actors such as the perpetrators of the 2016-2017 Gothenburg attacks.

While the 2019 split was a heavy blow to the NRM, the organization has grown its international stature and gained prestige in the transnational right-wing extremist movement. The group continues to exercise an influence on its counterparts around the world through its array of podcasts and media outlets.

Fostering cadres and doubling down on antisemitism

Following the failure of its strategy of maximum expansion that it pursued from 2014-2019, the NRM is now likely to re-focus on its core activity: fostering a group of violence-oriented and fanatical members who can be depended upon to carry the organization forward in the long term. To this end, the NRM will attempt to consolidate its current membership and recruit those with an aptitude for the organization’s draconian discipline and hardline beliefs.

The NRM has made antisemitism the centerpiece of its propaganda and its activism, which gives it an enduring appeal in the white supremacist milieu, particularly for those looking to support the most radical and hardline group. The NRM will continue to function as an engine of antisemitism within the white supremacist movement and the broader far-right, seeking to radicalize others by exposing them to antisemitic ideology as a “key theory” that is able to explain everything and to incorporate every other strand of far-right extremist thinking.

The NRM’s goal to rebuild its “violence capital,” together with its strong emphasis on antisemitism, highlights the risk of an increased threat to the Jewish community in the Nordic region and particularly in Sweden.

The NRM in the election year 2022

Recommendations

The following actions are recommended to counteract the NRM.

  • PUBLIC TRANSPARENCY: Swedish government agencies, in particular the Security Service, should publish data and other information related to violent extremism and constitutional subversion in Sweden, analogous to the practice of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution.  Two decades ago, the Security Service published annual reports detailing its assessments of groups and actors within the right-wing extremist milieu as well as statistics of crimes related to national security. This practice should be resumed so that scholars, civil society, NGOs and foreign observers are able to assess both the nature and extent of violent extremism in Sweden and the progress of the work of government agencies in countering such extremism.
     
  • MULTILATERAL COOPERATION: Right-wing extremism, of which the Nordic Resistance Movement is a prominent example, today constitutes a global movement and a transnational threat. Governments must develop and deepen multilateral cooperation to counter this threat on both the political and administrative levels. It is no longer sufficient to consider violent right-wing extremists as the concern and responsibility only of the countries in which they are based.
     
  • ADMINISTRATIVE MEASURES: Swedish authorities and officials should adopt a strategy of maximizing the use of administrative measures to curb the influence and restrict the operational capacity of the Nordic Resistance Movement and its members.  Every opportunity to counteract the organization’s activities should be explored across the broad range of Sweden’s government on both national and local levels. Swedish public officials, from municipal administrators to regional police chiefs to national tax agents, have an array of decision-making powers at their disposal that are currently under-utilized with regards to curtailing the NRM’s operations. Examples include prioritizing the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by NRM members and associates,  auditing their commercial operations, reviewing and revoking their gun licenses, denying them permission to use municipal facilities, preventing their foreign allies and associates from entering the country and deporting those who are already present. All such legal administrative measures should be identified and proactively used to the full extent of the law to reduce the Nordic Resistance Movement’s operational capacity.
     
  • POLITICAL LEADERSHIP: Swedish political leaders should create the political conditions for tougher action from law enforcement and other public authorities by making clear and forceful statements about the need to act against the Nordic Resistance Movement and other white supremacist groups.  

Endnotes

[1] Magnus Ranstorp, Filip Ahlin and Magnus Normark, ”Kapitel 5. Nordiska motståndsrörelsen – den samlande kraften inom den nationalsocialistiska miljön i Norden”, in Magnus Ranstorp and Filip Ahlin, eds., for the Center for Asymmetric Threats and Terrorist Studies at the Swedish Defence University, Från nordiska motståndsrörelsen till alternativhögern. En studie om den svenska radikalnationalistiska miljön, Försvarshögskolan, 2020, p. 154, https://www.fhs.se/download/18.aa44b1740d51053bc784/1599031490867/ Fr%C3%A5n%20Nordiska%20mot-st%C3%A5ndsr%C3%B6relsen%20till%20alternativh%C3%B6gern%20-%20en%20 studie%20om%20den%20svenska%20radikalnationalistiska%20milj%C3%B6n.pdf [2021-12-01]

[2] Quotes in this chapter are taken from various Nordic Resistance Movement publications and propaganda materials kept in the archive of the Expo Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

[3] Radio Nordfront #15 (2015).

[4] Redaktionen, “Operation på Avpixlat: #JudarnaGavOssMuslimerna”, Nordfront, 14 January 2015, https://archive.md/HXgTm [2021-12-17]

[5] Evelina Lindfors, “Efter hot från nazister – judiska föreningen lägger ner “, SVT Nyheter Västerbotten, 2 September 2017, https://www.svt.se/nyheter/lokalt/vasterbotten/efter-hot-fran-nazister-judiska-foreningen-lagger-ner [2021-12-17]

[6] Kalle Holmberg, ”Hotad judisk förening i Umeå ger upp”, Dagens Nyheter, 5 June 2018, https://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/hotad-judisk-forening-i-umea-ger-upp/ [2021-12-02]

[7] Itamar Eichner, “Israeli embassy in Finland subjected to relentless anti-Semitic attacks”, Ynet News, 25 July 2019, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5557304,00.html [2021-12-17]

[8] Jenny Strindlöv, ”Svensk nazistledare pekas ut: beordrade stor attack”, Expressen, 22 October 2020, https://www.expressen.se/kvallsposten/krim/svensk-nazistledare-pekas-ut-gav-order-om-den-stora-attacken/ [2021-12-02]

[9] Redaktionen, “Motståndsrörelsen önskar en mindre glad Yom Kippur – aktivism i hela Norden”, Motståndsrörelsen, 27 September 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20201102070214/https://xn--motstndsrrelsen-llb70a.se/2020/09/27/motstandsrorelsen-onskar-en-olycklig-yom-kippur-aktivism-i-hela-landet/ [2021-12-17]

[10] Redaktionen, ”Dockor upphängda vid Synagogan i Norrköping”, Nordfront, 28 March 2021, https://archive.ph/uYmpX [2021-12-17]

[11] Megan Squire & Hannah Gais, ”Inside the Far-right Podcast Ecosystem, Part 1: Building a Network of Hate”, Southern Poverty Law Center Hatewatch, 29 September 2021, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2021/09/29/inside-far-right-podcast-ecosystem-part-1-building-network-hate [2021-11-11]

[12] Jenny Strindlöv, op. cit.

[13] Linus Sunnervik, Erik Högström and Michaela Möller, ”Vallokal i Stockholm stormades av nazister”, Expressen, 14 September 2014, https://www.expressen.se/nyheter/val2014/vallokal-i-stockholm-stormades-av-nazister/ [2021-12-16]

[14] Magnus Ranstorp, Filip Ahlin and Magnus Normark, op. cit., p. 159.

[16] Nathan A. Sales, “Designation of the Russian Imperial Movement,” Remarks, U.S. Department of State, 6 April 2020, https://2017-2021.state.gov/designation-of-the-russian-imperial-movement/index.html [2021-11-11]

[17] Emily Birnbaum, ”Democratic lawmakers press for white supremacist groups to be labeled foreign terrorist organizations”, The Hill, 16 October 2019, https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/466064-dozens-of-dem-lawmakers-press-state-department-to-designate-white [2021-12-02]

[18] Phil Stewart, ”Biden administration pressed by lawmaker to label white supremacists overseas as terrorists”,  Reuters, 9 April 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-extremism-slotkin-idUSKBN2BW1KQ [2021-11-11]

[19] Kalle Holmberg, op. cit.

[20] Lisa Kaati et al., ”Digital Battlefield”, Swedish Defence Research Agency, 2019, https://www.foi.se/en/foi/reports/report-summary.html?reportNo=FOI-R--4813--SE [2021-12-02]

[21] Martin Jönsson, ”SÄPO: NMR har förmåga till terrorattentat”, Sveriges Radio, 22 Februari 2018, https://sverigesradio.se/artikel/6892355 [2021-12-16]

[22] Ahn-Za Hagström, “Nordiska Motståndsrörelsen – till åklagare i Göteborg, Dnr. 2017-17260-456,” Swedish Security Service memo to the Swedish Prosecution Authority, dated 24 June 2019, Expo Foundation archive: Göteborgs tingsrätt, 2019, p. 4.

[23] Ingemo Lindroos, ”Polis och forskare ser konkret effekt av förbudet av nazistiska NMR - pengakranen stryps och medlemmarna blir färre”, Svenska Yle, 27 October 2020, https://svenska.yle.fi/artikel/2020/10/27/polis-och-forskare-ser-konkret-effekt-av-forbudet-av-nazistiska-nmr-pengakranen [2021-12-16]

[24] Government of Sweden, ”Förbud mot rasistiska organisationer, Dir. 2019:39”, Regeringskansliet, 2019, https://www.regeringen.se/rattsliga-dokument/kommittedirektiv/2019/07/dir.-201939/ [2021-12-16]

[25] Daniel Poohl, ”Ett tandlöst lagförslag”, Expo, 5 June 2021, https://expo.se/2021/05/ett-tandl%C3%B6st-lagf%C3%B6rslag [2021-12-17]

[26] Morgan Finnsiö, ”Sweden”, in Violent Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism – Transnational Connectivity, Definitions, Incidents, Structures and Countermeasures, Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Germany, November 2020, p. 113, https://www.counterextremism.com/sites/default/files/CEP%20Study_Violent%20Right-Wing%20Extremism%20and%20Terrorism_Nov%202020.pdf [2021-11-16]

[27] Swedish Police Authority, “Tillsynsrapport 2019:4. Lokalt brottsförebyggande arbete mot våldsbejakande extremism”, Office of the National Police Commissioner, November 2019, p. 4, https://polisen.se/siteassets/dokument/tillsynsrapporter/tillsynsrapport-2019-4-valdsbejakande-extremism.pdf/download?v= [2022-02-10]

[28] Josefine Julén, ”NMR-medlem får tillbaka jaktvapen”, Jaktjournalen, 30 June 2021, https://www.jaktjournalen.se/nmr-medlem-far-tillbaka-jaktvapen/ [2021-12-17]

[29] Hovrätten för Västra Sverige, ”Hovrätten ogillar åtal för hets mot folkgrupp vid NMR:s demonstration i Göteborg den 30 september 2017”, Sveriges Domstolar, https://www.domstol.se/en/nyheter/2020/12/hovratten-ogillar-atal-for-hets-mot-folkgrupp-vid-nmrs-demonstration-i-goteborg-den-30-september-2017/ [2021-12-17]

[30] Jonathan Berntsson and Daniel Olsson, ”Expertens kritik: Nazisternas bomber bör vara terrorbrott”, Expressen, 9 June 2017, https://www.expressen.se/gt/expertens-kritik-nazisternas-bomber-bor-vara-terroristbrott [2021-12-17]

[31] TT, ”Åtal för Göteborgsbomber kan ändra lagen”, Aftonbladet, 12 June 2017, https://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/a/AK8Bn/atal-for-goteborgsbomber-kan-andra-lagen [2021-12-17]

[32] Morgan Finnsiö, op. cit., p. 109.

[33] For a more detailed discussion of the significance of such contacts, see Morgan Finnsiö, op. cit., pp. 113—116.

[34] Ibid., pp. 114—115.

[35] Nicholas Potter, ”The Pan-European ’Ikea Fascism’ of Nordiska Motståndsrörelsen”, Belltower News, 6 January 2021, https://www.belltower.news/nordic-resistance-the-pan-european-ikea-fascism-of-nordiska-motstandsroerelsen-109787/ [2021-11-18]

[36] The ADL, quoted in Morgan Finnsiö, op. cit., p. 114.

[37] Morgan Finnsiö, op. cit., p. 113.

[38] Southern Poverty Law Center, ”Extremist Files: Neo-Nazi”, Southern Poverty Law Center, 2021, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/neo-nazi [2021-12-15]

[39] Megan Squire and Hannah Gais, op. cit.