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Jan Myrdal’s speech 2015

About the struggle in the superstructure of society

Now when we are going to pay tribute to Mikael Wiehe and Sara Beischer for their efforts it is the seventh time we gathered for an award ceremony here in Varberg Theatre. It is high time to speak in principle. For their work and significance are part of a great whole.

It was not a first-time discovery when young Karl Marx wrote that the ruling thoughts, the thinking we now say, are the thoughts of the ruling. It has always been known. But he expressed it clearly; he who has the economic power has the ideological power. The aging August Strindberg sharpened the wording when he wrote that the upper class was able to rule by virtue of its power over the law of thought itself. What was contrary to its interest was made unthinkable. However, she is moving. Not only the earth around the sun but the prevailing thinking is constantly broken and changed, and so the just recently ruling, too, tumble out and away. We know that too.

That is what this seventh award ceremony is about. People who in Sweden in their creation have fuelled the course of events, those who make up the necessary salt to speak with Matthew 5:13. That there is no limited and ideologically uniform group is evident as soon as the names so far are mentioned:

Mattias Gardell, Roy Andersson and Kajsa Ekis Ekman, Maj Wechselmann and Martin Schibbye, Sven Lindqvist and Jenny Wrangborg, Maj Sjöwall and Gabriela Pichler, Jan Guillou and Eija Hetekivi Olsson, Mikael Wiehe and Sara Beischer.

Nor can you call them some kind of Jan Myrdal faction. If the laureates agree with me and my work is uninteresting; some have directly polemicized against me. It is crucial that they all in different ways are part of a long tradition of artistically innovative and intellectually liberating works. So, I take two steps back to give an overview and perspective. It is now exactly five months since I at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie gave the lecture that the university in its invitation had called: “The intellectual and the power. Sweden and the public lie”. You can listen to the lecture in French at the Jan Myrdal Society´s website. It will be published in Swedish in the April edition of the Finnish “New Argus” and it will be possible to read in its entirety on New Argus´ and the Society´s websites. That it is printed in Finland is because there is no room here for such a long and intellectual text outside the official correctness the University of Caen calls “the Swedish official lie”. That was also my point in the text and therefore it has been discussed in France. In Finland, the text can be printed. Politically, there has often been a harsher climate there, but at the same time a traditionally greater intellectual openness than in Sweden. Think of Finland’s importance for artistic modernism in the Swedish language.

In order to work consciously with words, images, music and film within what can be called the superstructure, one must, as I have said for several years, constantly keep in mind what Paracelsus pointed out in 1527; since everything is constantly changing, it is necessary to know the age of time. There are determinant events in our Swedish history that explain why we as Swedes have been able to be scientifically, mostly technologically, leading, but at the same time, with a few important exceptions, almost incapable of human scientific re-thinking of public interest. In this, even today, communities with more severe social conflicts are leading; such as France or India but especially the United States. Despite both its character of leading imperialist power and its corrupt political system, its media world steered out in deceit, a large part of its population is on drugs, believes in ghosts, is convinced that the earth is flat as a pancake and is obsessed with ideas about race, there is a number of, though often small, scientific institutions that perform finer and for us on this side more important research than anything here in Sweden.

This Swedish intellectual backlog is causing us difficulties. After all, it is not a kind of arrogance when we who have lived “abroad”, as it is called in Swedish or who have grown up and been educated in countries with a deeper cultural consciousness, often feel as if we were forced back to primary school when trying to reason. Just think of the public gripe in the media about the names of the awards we present today. Those who holler may adorn themselves with titles such as editor or professor or MP. They are merely ignorant, uneducated and in this, also without normal self-understanding.

Look at the turmoil caused by us referring to Robespierre and Lenin. Outside of Sweden, it is possible to discuss them and their historical as well as current significance in principle also with ideological opponents. They know that Robespierre’s words about society’s obligation to provide for all its citizens (with taxes) prefigured what social democrats and left-wing bourgeois sought to realize during the post-war wave of “welfare policy” in Britain, France and even the Scandinavian countries. But even more important is that also ideological opponents there realize that their bitter struggle for the 1789 formulation of “Human Rights” in their media, in the United Nations and world politics against countries that have liberated or are liberating themselves from imperialism goes back to the bitter struggle against Robespierre’s “Human rights” in 1793.

Robespierre’s timeliness is evidenced by the fact that he is addressing democratic demands that have not yet been realized in our developed capitalist states, as well as prefiguring liberation demands in the colonized and oppressed world as formulated in Sun Yatsen’s “The Three Principles of the People”. Today, Robespierre’s words are a weapon against the class-oppressive “Human Rights” of the false market liberals.

To clarify this, I quote from Robespierre’s Human Rights of 1793 some of the things that are different from and goes beyond the 1789 declaration:

“ART. II. Fundamental human rights are the right to provide for the preservation of one’s own existence, as well as freedom.

ART. X. Society is obliged to provide for the bread and butter of all its members, either by providing them with work or by guaranteeing means of subsistence for those who are unable to work.

ART. XIV. The people are sovereign: the government is their work and their property; the public officials are their assistants. The people can replace their government and set aside their representatives at any time they wish.

ART. XXII. All citizens are equally entitled to participate in appointing the people’s representatives and in the forming of the law. ”

Lenin’s work and historical figure is also not unknown or deformed by knowledgeable opponents in the United States as it is by mediocre Swedish professors. I give you five basic examples:

The organizational principles he formulated more than a hundred years ago enabled the Russian Social Democratic Party, unlike officially powerful parties such as the German, to become capable of action. In its historical era, the Bolshevik Party thus became style-forming.

Among the then prominent socialist politicians, it was Lenin who realized the weight and complexity of the national issue. Unlike Rosa Luxemburg, he therefore emphasized the Swedish socialists’ position on Norway’s independence in 1905 as exemplary. In the summer of 1917, it was he who in the program of the Bolshevik Party pushed that the nations oppressed by tsarism had full right to enforce national freedom. In practice, he demonstrated this when Finland completely freed itself from revolutionary Russia.

Before World War I, he was not the only socialist who saw the war coming. But he belonged to the very small group of socialist leaders who, when the mass murder war had started, did not fail, did not become a chauvinist, did not become a coward and adapt. He was not alone. There were a handful of others like Eugene Debs in the United States and Dimitar Blagoev in Bulgaria. But Lenin was the one who, in theory and practice, was able to draw the most effective conclusions of the fight against the war.

Unlike other socialist parties of the time, Lenin realized the revolutionary power of the poor peasants, and thus managed to make the political demands that first enabled the revolution and then enabled its defence in the bloody fight against domestic reaction and the intervention of 14 foreign states. Thus, Lenin came to lead the twentieth century’s second great victorious peasant revolution; the Mexican was the first and the Chinese the third.

Within the socialist parties of the Second International, there was no uniform struggle against colonialism. Many of its leaders advocated imperialistic policies and colonial oppression. Racism was in their blood while formulating theory. Lenin was not only anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist, as in the case of the peasant movement, he also realized that the broad anti-colonial mass movements were strategic allies in the fight against world imperialism. Thus, his views and formulations became the starting point for the successful anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements after his death.

But within academic Sweden, few people now, as well as in the past, understand this. However, the traditionally relative academic intellectual misery in the country has not been directly matched and reflected in the arts. The relationship is more ambiguous. I’ll show and explain.

Look back at what we after Georg Brandes call “the modern breakthrough”. Then, a hundred and fifty years ago, literary creation in our peripheral countries was elevated to European world level. But not only did it come from a peripheral environment, which was described as miserably retarded down on the continent. The authors themselves, such as Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg belonged in form and problem formulation to an earlier generation but were thrown up and past the prevailing literary developed modern. The same was true for the contemporaries in the great Russian literature. Out of the Tsarist misery they emerged, the critical democrats, the great satirists, the realistic narrators and took over the European scene. However, this is typical. It is enough to look at the significance of Latin American or Nigerian literature for us here and now.

In our own newer literature, we can observe another distinctiveness when what we, a bit improperly, call proletarian literature, despite general disinterest and in some cases direct opposition from many of the great movement’s officials, took over leadership and readers from a more bloodless academic art literature. This large group from Martin Koch and Moa Martinson to Ivar Lo-Johansson, and on a parallel track Vilhelm Moberg, reached and without overall political control ideologically shaped a popular mass audience, which during the so-called reform period in Sweden from the thirties to the seventies socially enforced uniquely great democratic advancements.

These awards and the library we are now building in Varberg have a definite purpose in the current situation. We know the financial and organizational difficulties our public libraries, museums and cultural institutions are dealing with. We are well aware of how the so called media market and cultural market are being transformed and what we are trying to do is to develop in practice what with a slightly romantic sixties expression could be called a liberated cultural area where it should be possible to reach the knowledge that, despite everything that´s being said about the Internet, has become difficult. This means that we are forced to return to earlier forms of organization.

The fact that we, Gun Kessle and I, decided to donate the very large library of 50,000 volumes and the collections we acquired during travel and work around the world was largely due to a traditional leftist view of what Olof Palme, among others, called “Culture’s Right of Public Access”. It must be freely available. My parents had also given away and tried to free their texts from copyright. In my case, in the fight against the perverse seventy-year rule under which completely unknown great-grandchildren shall own and dispose of my work, I have managed to convince Project Runeberg to publish my texts for everyone to use.

To enable this library, Henning Mankell and Lasse Diding have among other things provided a property, many have made and are making donations, many volunteers, librarians, archivists and university people not least, work unpaid to catalogue and now also repair and bind. Almost 20,000 volumes have already been catalogued. 27% of these are not found in any other Swedish research library. This applies to both art and politics. From India, China and Mexico among others. Just go to Libris and search: bibl: (Jm). This autumn, I hope the library will open to both general readers, young people not least, and those who need to read and research in what is otherwise difficult to access.

If the library is one leg, these awards are the other. They shall contribute to increased opportunities for a culture I, with a beautiful word, call refractory. The jury will talk about the laureates, but I would like to say something personal. Because it is in songs that people have expressed their feelings and beliefs for millennia, we know that. A lot of art poetry has been preserved. Much of it has a high quality. But these songs of the peoples have rarely been preserved, some words and expressions echo in proverbs and sayings, others we can read about in such things as the papal bulls that condemned people’s singing. Yes, we have surely heard that Wat Tyler’s people asked, “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?” But what they sang in the militia 634 years ago during the great uprising against the authorities and the impoverishment as they marched towards London we know not. What I want to say with this is that Mikael Wiehe is not only part of a very long popular tradition of what the authorities in their legislative texts derisively called players, but that today as the players around Wat Tyler he contributes to shaping a people’s consciousness despite the interest of the ruling class.

Similarly, Sara Beischer writes texts about a reality and a human experience in which many can view themselves as in a mirror and thus become clear to themselves.