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Carl-Göran Ekerwald’s acceptance speech

The holy feeling of revolt

This text “The holy feeling of revolt” is written as an attempt to somehow reciprocate the magnificent award that I received today through Lasse Diding.

Among Muslims there is a word “sakha” which means selfless generosity. It is unusual. It is considered to pave the way for a happy future. Jan Myrdal’s big prize manifests the generosity of man. In Persia, newlyweds usually invite strangers to their home for dinner to prove to heaven that they have “sakha”, the generosity. My family was thus invited to the home of an unfamiliar newlywed couple in Kermanshah. The wife’s female relatives sat on the floor and watched as we celebrated with the bride and groom. – It was solemn – you got a glimpse of a human trait that belongs to eternity. It slams the door on avidity and greed.

The most famous anarchist of the 19th century was Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876). Here in Sweden, he became famous. Charles XV received him in audience. Ever since the field marshal’s time under Napoleon, the Bernadottes have had a soft spot for left-wing radicals. The German philosopher Fichte’s portrait decked the field marshal’s wall – Fichte who asked the question “What are academics for?” By implication if they don’t want to abolish society’s injustices. Fichte – one of the revolutionary spirit’s finest!

It is Bakunin who declared man’s “feeling of revolt” to be “holy”. Vilhelm Ekelund quotes it warmly. And of course, a “no” is more holy than a “yes”, because a “yes” is a concession, offers no resistance. Lets everything remain as it is.

A “no”, a “revolt” – so much riskier. And yet, given the vulnerability of humans to animal instincts on the one hand and remorse on the other, how necessary a “no” must be. That explains its holiness. The feeling of revolt is unassailable because it is man’s strongest protection.

Sometimes you hear that it is during puberty that the feeling of revolt first rears its head. – In my case, the feeling of revolt hit me hard when I was five years old!

It was Christmas 1928. We rented four rooms and a kitchen upstairs from the farmer Erik Sundkvist in Änge in Offerdal’s parish. – Offerdal in Jämtland on the border to Norway.

The Christmas tree is decorated. In the ceiling garlands of red crepe paper. The Christmas smorgasbord is dished up, the ham is breaded. Mum and I are walking around and waiting for Dad, who is down at Sundkvist’s to wish a merry Christmas with a litre of schnapps.

I am full of expectation. The Christmas presents are under the tree. It was today that Jesus was born and laid in a manger. I had seen the manger in Sundkvist’s stable and hoped that Jesus had avoided the tongue from a horse or mule.

We are waiting for dad. Mum lights the candles on the table. And then he comes. Finally.

A child immediately sees if either parent is under the influence of alcohol. It cannot be hidden. The essence of the parent has been greatly changed by the liquor – cooler, more metallic. The child suddenly sees this transformation. Dad has become estranged.

On the Christmas smorgasbord, beer and schnapps are poured into glasses. I get soda in my glass.

Now the party will begin. But I already have a nasty feeling of my dad’s estrangement. Why isn’t he as usual? He talks a little slurred and loudly and laughing about his visit to the bottom floor. Of course, the Christmas schnapps had to be sampled.

Now dad is going to cut the Christmas ham. He fumbles with the large slicer and suddenly it slides out of his hand and onto the floor.

And now it comes.

I can’t stand this. This does not suit me. Enough is enough. And this on the long-awaited Christmas Eve itself!

I get down from the chair and put the bib on the table and go on my way.

As I write this, I am soon to be 99 years old. The memory from the age of five is still almost physically perceptible today.

This revolt of the child was completely spontaneous. Unpremeditated. It was not the mind that revolted, it was the reflex of the conscience or “soul”. It is here – lo and behold! – the “taste” that decides. This situation is so unpleasant to be present in – now I’m leaving. It is anarchistic. No consideration is given to the consequences.

When Vilhelm Ekelund once had a beer in the restaurant on the ferry to Helsingör, there was someone playing the accordion. A couple got up and danced. They were probably a little drunk and both danced “lewdly” in a way that was offensive to everyone. What works in private becomes provocative in public. After a while, Ekelund had enough of this dance. He took an ashtray and threw it at them, whereupon the dancing ceased.

My revolt was short-lived. Dad stood up, took me harshly by the arm and led me back to the table. The mood gradually lightened up. As a Christmas present, I got a tin car. I drove around with it.

In the evening when I was going to bed, mum said; “That you dared to do that to dad! You have to be careful.”

Ever since this childish revolt, I have noticed the holy revolts of others, Vilhelm Tell, Olaus Petri, Engelbrekt, Voltaire, right up to Gramsci and Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.

But it is a Russian nobleman of Jewish birth that I am particularly attached to. I had been five, he sixteen, a high school student at the grammar school in Kazan in 1887. The Tsar had his brother Alexander, who had been involved in a plot against the government, hanged. And now the sixteen-year-old swore an oath that he would not give up until he had taken revenge on the Tsar family and raised the blood-red banner on every town hall in Russia.

Vladimir Ulyanov, who took the name “Lenin”, is a fabulous example of the element of surprise in the course of history. A young high school student turned one of the world’s largest empires, Russia, upside down. It took its time. Lenin was 47 when he moved into Smolny and began to rule the Soviet Union.

– O –

The tsar’s authoritarian violent regime that does not hesitate to use physical violence – and even does so with some pleasure through mock executions (Dostoevsky!) – what revolt is victorious in the face of such an opponent?

The answer is the rebel who emanates from conscience, soul, and love. All this “which physically does not exist” crushes the autocracy and those in power.

It is Paul who in First Corinthians 1:28 formulates this fortunate order here on earth: “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.”

Quoting the Bible in this political context is natural because Lenin was inspired by the Bible reader Leo Tolstoy. And it is Georg Lukacs – the communist – who states: “Die Bibel ist eine Fibel des Aufstands … The Bible is the ABC book of the revolution.”

Is there a need for examples? In Mark 11:15: “Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.”

Cf. Andreas Baader who was so disgusted by the consumerism of the wealthy that he set fire to Frankfurt’s largest department store in 1969.

The Russian Tsar’s counterpart in Israel – the Jewish upper class – explicitly declared: “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” (Luk.23:5) The word “incite”, “commoveo”, “anaseiå” is the word the authorities use for the rebel’s agitation. It must be stopped before “the whole nation perish” (High Priest Caiaphas, John 11:50).

The rebel’s response is to revile the authority: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.” (Luke 6:24-6:25).

The rebel Jesus sent out 72 disciples to go from village to village and enlighten the people about the utter futility of asking the clergy and authorities (“elders”) for advice, because these serve only their own interests. And here it comes to conscience.

The disciples, the 72, would not go around as well-paid consultants. No, they would go barefoot, always without money or food. Jesus promised them much beating. They would be flogged and killed – but remain jubilantly happy because they served their neighbour in the best possible way. They would “bring down rulers from their thrones but lift up the humble”. (Mary’s song of joy, Luke 1:46). Before the court, never speak prepared – but from the heart.

William Butler Yeats summarizes the task of the 72 disciples. It was to overthrow those in power, both religious and political, in order to introduce a social order conditioned by everyone’s personal conscience – that is, everyone’s relationship with God – He who does not exist physically but only as “spirit”. –

What Jesus preached was that “the kingdom of God is near” – so near that it is within every human being. “Go into yourself” – there you will learn everything you need for this earthly life (Luke 11:52).

Jesus’ message to the Israeli authorities was decisive: “The prevailing legal order in the country is detestable. Away with it! And away with religion! It is only human inventions and impositions.”

That Jesus was executed cannot be surprising when viewed from the point of view of the Roman governor or authorities. Power wants peace in the country.

As for religious laws and rites – Judaism invokes the patriarch Abraham, Jesus’ own ancestor, it is the “God of Abraham” that Paul worships. – Then it is worth noting: Abraham lived 500 years before the Law of Moses – the Ten Commandments – and 2000 years before the Gospels. Abraham was a “hanif”, that means a “friend” of God. Abraham lacked religion in the sense we put into the word.

– O –

Lenin’s strange and powerful revolt is inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s pamphlets. The very spirit of these widespread texts is found in compressed form in Tolstoy’s diaries. It is not Marxism – but anarchism!

If you go to 1890, when Lenin was twenty years old, Tolstoy writes explicitly: “The anarchists are right in everything! Private property must be banned. Everything must be owned collectively.” (1890 5/8, 4/13, 11/16)

The battle between the lower class and the upper class must go on. Endeavour to raise capital – look at the ugly snout of greed. People who live on what others have slaved away in hard work – they live a shameful life. The church is an institution that misleads people away from conscience. (8/19 1890) Tolstoy was excommunicated by the Holy Synod.

These diary entries form the basis of the pamphlets. Tolstoy is indeed an instigator, on behalf of his irrepressible feeling of revolt.

That the Swedish Academy did not give Tolstoy the Nobel Prize, despite objections from both Selma Lagerlöf and Strindberg, can be understood considering Tolstoy’s explicit sympathy for the anarchists. For the bourgeoisie, this was a moral faux pas – it must fail! – The Soviet Union is Lenin’s answer.

– O –

When Finland asked for an armistice in September 1944, it was Finland’s ambassador to Sweden, Georg Achates Gripenberg, who negotiated with Madame Kollontai in Saltsjöbaden – Stalin’s representative. He succeeded after the Finnish government made communist leader Yrjö Leino minister of the interior and head of the police. When the agreement was concluded, two Finnish communists came to Gripenberg and asked him to arrange for them to meet Stalin. Through Kollontai’s mediation, the two were invited to the Kremlin.

They met with Stalin, and he wondered what they wanted to know. They asked; “What is the very essence of communism?”

Stalin replied: “It is to make man better!”

He gives the answer that Lenin would also have given. It is the message from Tolstoy and from the “ABC book” of the revolution.

The meaning has a religious connotation. The Russians were not secular. The message from Lenin received a response.

But when Gorky tried to persuade Lenin to cooperate openly with the Orthodox Church because there was basically an ideological kinship, Lenin refused and on the same grounds as Tolstoy stated: The Church takes people away from the core of the rebellious spirit – the conscience.

Gramsci says that all politics have a private background. Lenin had private reasons for overthrowing the Tsarist family. And he has the ideal contract between thought and feeling that Lukacs1 praises: live as you think. Nina Björk’s texts are examples of this ideal contract between reason and emotion.

No dreams of an empire were part of Lenin’s thinking. He unconcernedly gave Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine the freedom to decide their own destinies. His last letter to Stalin: “Don’t use coercion alone – try voluntariness too!”

Finally, we disapprove of male excessive violence. How then did Lenin behave? Lukacs? Karl Marx? Sartre? Should they be ashamed. I think Lukacs answers for all of them when he says: “Everything I did was done so that I would be approved by Gertrud” (his wife, the doctor Gertrud Bortstiber.) None of them would have published a text that the beloved disliked, Jenny, Krupskaja, Gertrude, Simone.

1 Regarding the Lenin-Lukacs connection: Lenin demanded daily radio contact with Bela Kun’s communist-led government in Budapest in 1919 – Lukacs was one of Bela Kun’s closest associates in the Politburo.