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Jan Myrdal’s speech 2009

About knowing the age of time

That the jury chose Mattias Gardell was a good choice. His intellectual work is part of the great liberating tradition; das grosse Erbe, that we about sixty years ago expressed ourselves in polemic against the Nazism and other reaction that marched to the beat of yesteryear’s drum.

The fact that the choice triggered an anti-intellectual gust of mud against both Mattias Gardell and me from the compliant company of everything from the newly appointed Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy to the general rabble of plump bloggers was not surprising. That’s the way it usually is. For example, read my “The Full Dozen” from the early eighties or “A Fifties” about what it was like sixty years ago.

But it gives me a reason to discuss work and attitude to life apropos “knowing the age of time”. The choice of words is deliberate. It comes from Paracelsus. In a good sense an ambiguous – facing both backwards to the mysticism of the Middle Ages and forward to the social and intellectual revolutions – researcher, writer and social reformer from the early sixteenth century.

Anyone at the Stockholm City Museum browsing through street life photographs can immediately see when they are taken. That is 1948! That’s 1962! You can tell by the length of women’s skirts! The fashion reveals the year. (It is in itself overdetermined; the changes are determined by social events that can be examined.) For art and architecture, it is the same. They have been determined by time and place. Elias Cornell said of architecture: “Show me a photo of a building in Europe and I can date the building within the decade and say its location within a perimeter of ten miles.”

It is the same with texts. Give me a reasonably coherent text from the last centuries. (Correct the spelling etc. so it does not immediately let itself be decided.) I should be able to say when, where and in what context it was written.

Vision is also time-bound. It has surprised me that those interested in art do not ask simple questions such as: When did early Romanesque become visible again as art? and why the new visibility? Or made simple experiments. Goethe was fascinated by the art of antiquity. But he saw with the eyes of his time (those of Winckelmann) and those who visit his home and see what he brought with him from Italy can see which ones are forgeries. Not because we are more knowledgeable but because our view has changed from his then to our now. The originals themselves endure, but that´s why the replicas now stand out as sore thumbs.

Hegel expressed this in 1820 in the foreword to the ”Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts”:

“Everyone is a son of his time, just as philosophy is its time summarized in thinking. It is just as foolish to imagine that any philosophy goes beyond its own time as that an individual takes the leap out of his time, takes the leap over Rhodes. If his theory really goes beyond that, then he builds himself a world as it should be, of course it exists but only in his own sense – a soft matter, which lets itself imagine everything desirable.”

This quote also explains what ordinary members of the Swedish Academy and bloggers are unable to grasp that neither Marx nor Lenin (both Hegel readers) ever engaged in utopias. (That most critics in their writing also fail to understand that Marx – as Hegel and anyone who works in that tradition – does not define but develop, is also a part of their general lack of education.)

But while it is not possible to take the leap out of one’s own time, one can – like Hegel himself – act with words far beyond one’s own time and its limits.

In addition, it is possible not only to find out the determining social reasons for variations in skirt length (and the use of bra) without seeing one´s own time and not be condemned to its limits. To go into other times as well – 1820s or 1930s, for example – and analyse them intellectually honest. Thus, also in a way other than through the counterpropaganda of the time to understand what gave the reaction of the 1820s and the 1930s fascist great (even underclass popular) support.

That this does not belong to the usual has to do with the determining, that the ruling thoughts in all times are the thoughts of the rulers; thoughts serve.

Twenty years ago, I was responsible for France’s official exhibition in Sweden for the bicentenary of the Great Revolution. The exhibition that then went around the country (and also in Iceland) was the only official which, like the French exhibitions in 1889 and 1939, clearly took a stand for the Revolution. Yes, in the catalogue I also discussed the Terror much like Mark Twain in his time and pointed out that Robespierre’s human rights from 1794 formed the theoretical basis for both Folkhem (the People´s Home) and Sozialstaat. It became the only exhibition with that focus – for after that the towards profitable anti-communism turned Furet had become determining and the official intellectuals faithfully sang his tune.

Thus, from the general to the concrete. The political scandal and the pitifully serving judicial racket around the so-called Enbom gang sixty-seven years ago are no longer of political interest today. So, the truth is allowed to creep out. Not only journalists such as Tomas Bresky, but also a professional military officer like lieutenant colonel Stellan Bojerud have once again gone through the affair in which six people were sentenced to prison in 1952 – two of them to life imprisonment and forced labour.

In “Army Museum Yearbook 2005” as well as SvD, Norrbottenskuriren and the book “The Lifetime Lie”, lieutenant colonel Bojerud has presented his material. He has had access to everything. As acting head of the Department of War History, he was commissioned by the head of the Swedish Defence University General Major Karlis Neretnieks through acting head of department Lars Ericson to conduct an investigation (FHS: 21952: 61314) which would then be approved by him and supplemented by professors Gunnar Artéus and Kent Zetterberg and the department director at the intelligence and security department, Major Lars Ulfving. In this investigation, Bojerud had access to the previously classified appendices to the verdicts, material from the Military Intelligence and Security Service and the secret archives of the military staffs concerned.

His conclusion is clear. There was no espionage. The convicted were convicted of crimes that were never committed. His writing becomes very hard. About the evidence cited in the secret appendices, he writes:

“If state prosecutor Werner Ryhninger himself believed in this nonsense, I do not know, but apparently, he did, because he called for life imprisonment – for some completely useless newspaper clippings and a broken water pump!
The alternative that SäPO and Ryhninger realized that Fritjof Enbom was a phony, but deliberately sacrificed him and his comrades as pawns in the ‘Cold War’ is almost unbearable to imagine.” (“The Lifetime Lie” p. 119)

“I believe that state prosecutor Werner Rhyninger misled the court when he claimed that experts asserted that Fritjof Enbom with his radio could reach all over Europe, when in reality it was completely unusable. /…/ Werner Rhyinger’s voice vibrated with indignant pathos of a kind that characterized Joe McCarthy’s speeches at the Senate hearings in Washington. Both were children of their time – the era of communist scare.” (p. 172)

I have written about the Enbom affair before. I was there. Lilian Ceder became pregnant in my bed in the summer of 1944 (though not with me). I was good friends with Arthur Karlsson. “The revealer”, Jan Lodin, I knew ever since 1949. He had then tried a coup in Clarté. He was so dangerously false and scheming that Gunnar Heyman and I, on behalf of SKU in Gothenburg, travelled up to Stockholm to try to convince the party to quickly break all contacts with the “peace friend” Lodin before he could do any damage.

We, on our edge, did not have access to the then classified “evidence”, but we knew it was an organized show trial. (At the National Library of Sweden, order: Knut Olsson. “The Enbom process. Facts of the case.” Arbetarkultur 1952, Clarté No. 1-2 1953 “The Documents of the Enbom affair”.) The corrupt state powers sought to prevent discussion. Newspapers that questioned the false legal process were convicted of breaching the press law and when Gustav Johansson in Parliament sought to raise the issues surrounding Enbom, the serving politicians immediately intervened:

“Here, for the sake of their political opinions, lots of citizens have been singled out in the press as spies and serious criminals without even having reason to take them into police interrogation.
At this point the speaker was interrupted by Mr SPEAKER who remarked. Now, Mr Johansson has to end his speech. You are once again returning to the same thing I previously warned you about.
Mr. ANDERSSON in Dunker. Mr Speaker, I have no reason to say anything about the previous speaker’s speech other than that here in the Chamber we all know on whose orders he stands here and speaks, and apart from his own party comrades, there probably won’t be anyone who believes what he says…
PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE. No. 70 SECOND CHAMBER 1952. Thursday, November 6, 10 am P. 7-8 ”

That spring of the Enbom trial, Sven Danvik and I discussed if the Workers’ Magazine, in plain text, should write what we learned directly from the source about the shootdown in the Baltic Sea. That is, what lieutenant colonel Bojerud in his book expresses as follows:

The shootdown of a Swedish Signals Intelligence plane type DC3, with which the Defence Radio Agency (FRA), in collaboration with NATO, conducted interception across the Baltic Sea directed at the Soviet Union.” (P. 145)

We concluded that the newspaper would then be prosecuted and convicted – something it would not pull through with its weak economy.

And what is it like today?

Well, that the official Werner Rhyninger deliberately committed a crime in the office – the serious crime known in Germany as Rechtsbeugung – in order to, in what he considered to be the politically higher interest, sentence innocents to prison, yes to life imprisonment, and that Dagens Nyheter’s political editor dr. Leif Kihlberg (who – as I have written before – was deeply involved in the campaign) succeeded in moving his mission as juryman so he could sit and, for reasons of domestic political expediency, convict innocents to life imprisonment and forced labour while writing his misleading editorials to deceive the public who had not been allowed to see the unsustainability of the evidence, belongs to the same bourgeois state normality as that the high ranking jurists in the United States recently wrote guidelines in order for subordinates to be able to torture opponents without punishment.

And how about Tage Erlander – a prime minister who, as Gunnar Adler-Karlsson revealed, unconstitutionally had tied up Sweden in a trade war against the Soviet Union – did he let the cat out of the bag when he claimed in the United States that Enbom had harmed the Swedish Communists more than he had damaged the Swedish defence?


We are shaped and bound by our time, but we are not necessarily bound to participate in its great public lies!