Jan Myrdal’s small prize – the Robespierre Prize amounts to 25,000 SEK and should reward a young Swedish writer or artist, who operates in a critical spirit. The award was established in 2010 as a complement to the bigger Lenin Award.
When the young Jan Myrdal in 1940 was forced to Sweden against his will, he was strongly influenced by his American democratic experiences. He brought with him not only the obvious anti-fascism, but also the revolutionary tradition of the American people. It was Mark Twain who had taught the young Myrdal to distinguish violence from violence when he wrote in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court of the Great Revolution in 1789 in comparison to the thousand years of terror proceeding it: “what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break?”
It is in this spirit Myrdal has always claimed the right to oppose injustice and the right to rebel against oppressors. That is also why it is important that, against all kinds of reactionary history counterfeiters, Maximilien de Robespierre and his military defense of the achievements of the Revolution are remembered. When Swedish liberals were still freedom fighters, they celebrated the legacy of Robespierre. Today, in this and other freedom issues, they have renounced their legacy. Robespierre was the one who, in his proposal for Human Rights, not only questioned the holy property rights of the upper class, but also demanded that society be responsible for the citizens’ right to work, housing and schooling. This along with his demand for real democratic elections and the possibility for the people to dismiss corrupt politicians and officials at any time makes his name well suited for an award to young writers or artists who work in a democratic tradition against the authorities.