By its name, the award relates to the Lenin Peace Prize, which was given out in the Soviet Union from 1950 and acted as the opposite of various bourgeois awards in the West. Among the laureates are names like Pablo Neruda, Pablo Picasso, Nelson Mandela, Urho Kekkonen and Salvador Allende.
When Mandela accepted the award he said, “We are deeply moved by this occasion where we can at last receive in person the Lenin Prize.” The fact that a Swede like Artur Lundkvist in 1958 was awarded this prize was an expression of a broad humanistic and socialist view of culture, which in the present Swedish public arena is almost wiped out. With the Lenin Award we want to work to restore these values.
Sweden has a large, popular and rebellious cultural tradition, which in the 1900s was managed and passed on mainly by the labour movement in its cultural struggle. The results of this broad democratic cultural movement are today threatened or thrown into ruins. The Lenin Award has the task of highlighting a writer or artist in Sweden who, in the 21st century, continues to persistently and disobediently work in this tradition aimed at the authorities.
It is Jan Myrdal who, with his work, inspired the establishment of the Lenin Award. Regardless of the prevailing political and cultural winds, he has worked with novels, essays, drama, film, polemics, journalism and travel books with a persistent, conscious and consistent perspective from below. With this enormous width, he has demonstrated the possibilities and necessities within the cultural struggle in a way that will be decisive for the future. He has perhaps more than anyone else also put this cultural struggle rooted in Sweden in its global context and reported on the brutal consequences of colonialism and imperialism around the world, but also about the resistance this has created.