Jan Myrdal, Communist clown prince of the Swedish elite

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Jan Myrdal

Over the last couple of days we’ve been surveying some of the biggest Communists on the Swedish literary scene. We’re talking names like Jan Guillou, Stieg Larsson, and Henning Mankel.

One might get the impression that these people all write crime fiction. Not true. Jan Myrdal (b. 1927), who’s been called “Sweden`s most rebellious writer” and who during the 1970s was one of its most influential intellectuals, is famous, rather, for his novels, memoirs, and travel writings.

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Gunnar Myrdal

His parents were both immensely famous, especially in their homeland. Gunnar Myrdal, an economist and politician who served as Sweden’s Minister of Trade, taught economics at the University of Stockholm, and wrote a book, An American Dilemma:  The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, that influenced the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. In 1974 he shared the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics with Friedrich Hayek.

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Alva Myrdal

Alva Myrdal, a sociologist and politician who played a major role in shaping the Swedish welfare state, served as a Member of Parliament, held a high-ranking position in UNESCO, was Sweden’s Ambassador to India, Burma, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and, with Mexican diplomat Alfonso Garcia Robles, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. By that point, as Jay Nordlinger wrote in his history of the Nobel Peace Prize, Alva was “the doyenne of Scandinavian social democracy, which is practically to say, of Scandinavian political culture.” Both Myrdals were big on moral equivalency – routinely equating the U.S. and USSR and priding both themselves and their nation on showing no favoritism toward either side in the Cold War. 

But social democracy wasn’t good enough for Jan Myrdal. Deciding at age 15 that he was a Communist, he left school, broke off communications with his family, and “became a drifter.” At first a member of the Swedish Communist Party, he later left it and joined a Maoist group.

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Robert Faurisson

Throughout his career, his specialty has been standing up for mass violence in the name of totalitarian Marxism. He’s defended the millions of murders committed by Stalin and Mao and gone to bat for a Nazi genocide denier, Robert Faurisson, saying that “much of what Professor Faurisson writes is probably true.” For his own part, he’s vigorously denied the Cambodian holocaust. In 1978 he was part of a group from the Swedish Cambodian Friendship Association that visited Cambodia at Pol Pot’s invitation. They took a two-week Potemkin-village tour and dined with Pol Pot himself. “We met only the well-fed people,” a colleague who was also on that visit later said. “There were no soldiers, no prisons, and certainly no torture on display. There were, however, cities with no people.”

Pol Pot i den thailandske jungle. (Udateret arkivfoto).
Pol Pot

Myrdal was impressed, though, and returned to Sweden full of acclaim for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Even after it became clear that his host had committed one of the greatest genocides in human history, and other Western intellectuals who’d praised Pol Pot expressed the deepest remorse for having done so, Myrdal refused to back off from his words of praise – or to acknowledge the reality of the Cambodian genocide. Writing in 2006 in Aftonbladet, one of Sweden’s largest papers, he denied the genocide; appearing in 2012 on SVT, the government TV channel, he denied it again.

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Enver Hoxha

He was also a great fan of Albania at a time when it was a totalitarian autocracy and more hermetically sealed than any other nation on the planet, excepting North Korea. In 1970, Myrdal and his then wife, Gun Kessle, wrote Albania Defiant, a love letter to the country’s dictator, Enver Hoxha, and his Labor Party. Albania, they wrote, is an “eye-opener about a possible alternative” to Western democracy,” a nation marked by “social revolution, economic progress and general enlightenment.” When an Albanian priest spoke on TV about Hoxka’s execution of his country’s intelligentsia, Myrdal called him a liar and recalled his grandfather’s comment that “we should hang the last priest with the intestines of the last capitalist.”

More tomorrow.

 

The 20-year-old scourge of Brazil’s stooges

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Dilma Rousseff

In recent days we’ve been observing how Brazil – which, a few years ago, looked as if it was on the verge of becoming a prosperous, developed First World-style nation – has rapidly declined, during the presidency of Dilma Rousseff, into an economic disaster zone. Meanwhile, the most massive corruption scandal in the country’s history has brought down one member of her administration after another. In the months after her re-election in October 2014, Rousseff dropped from an 80% to an 8% approval rating. Millions are now calling for her impeachment.

Among the most prominent of them is Kim Kataguiri, who turns 20 years old today.

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Kim Kataguiri, with a laptop reading “Less Marx, More Mises”

Just over two years ago, when he was an obscure college student, Kataguiri attended a history class in which the teacher attributed Brazil’s economic success – which would soon evaporate into nothingness – to the welfare-state policies pursued by Rousseff and her predecessor (and Workers’ Party colleague) Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva.

That just seemed wrong,” Kataguiri said in an October 2015 interview with Time Magazine, which named him one of the year’s most influential teenagers. To Kataguiri – a grandson of Japanese immigrants – it was obvious that Brazil’s growth was a result of “the commodities boom and our relationship with China.” In recent years, China had become Brazil’s #1 trading partner, with the value of trade between the two nations climbing from $2 billion in 2000 to $83 billion in 2013.

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The Free Brazil Movement’s logo

Kataguiri responded to his teacher’s sunny socialism with a You Tube video in which he spoke up for the free market. The video went viral. He followed it with other videos, in which, as Yahoo News has reported, he and a group of like-minded friends, who call themselves the Free Brazil Movement, “often don wacky costumes and dress up as political figures such as Fidel Castro.”

The Free Brazil Movement’s positions are clear. It calls for the introduction of a free-market system, with lower taxes, a smaller government bureaucracy, and complete privatization of publicly held companies. It also demands the impeachment of Rousseff, whose Workers’ Party Kataguiri (now a college dropout) views as “the nemesis of freedom and democracy.” His heroes? Politicians Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher, and economists Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ludwig von Mises.

 

As Brazil’s economy faltered, and then, with terrifying rapidly, spiraled down into the dustbin, Kataguiri and his movement became increasingly popular. On March 15 of last year, when over a million Brazilians attended anti-Rousseff rallies, Kataguiri spoke to an audience of 200,000 at a protest in São Paulo.

CCbJYzSWgAAfp64Pointing out that he had himself “emerged through the Internet,” Kataguiri told Time that he has

a great hope that the internet can have a serious effect on the political world and can bring change. It can improve knowledge, participation and transparency in politics. Now, politics in Brazil looks very bad. Everyone steals. But I have hope that in 20 years things can be different. I have hope that our generation can change the ways things are done.

Václav Klaus: “champion of liberty” turned Putinist

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Václav Havel

In its brief history, the Czech Republic has had two presidents in a row named Václav. Both have been men of extraordinary substance. Václav Havel was an eloquent playwright and courageous dissident who, in a single profoundly perceptive essay, “The Power of the Powerless,” written in 1978, explained to his people, then suffering under the yoke of Communism, how totalitarianism works – and how individuals who consider themselves weak, terrified, and alone can contribute to its overthrow and help bring about their own liberation. Millions of citizens of Czechoslovakia and other Soviet satellites who read Havel’s essay (circulated by samizdat) and took his words to heart played an active role in the fall of the Iron Curtain. When Czechoslovakia won its freedom in 1989, Havel was as inevitable a choice to become its first president as George Washington was to become the first president of the United States. (Indeed, the National Assembly selected Havel by a unanimous vote.) When Slovaks decided they wanted their own country, splitting Czechoslovakia in two, Havel ran for and was elected president of the Czech Republic, a position he held until 2003. (He died in 2011.)

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Václav Klaus

Internationally, his successor, Václav Klaus, has been overshadowed by Havel. But Klaus, who served as president from 2003 to 2013, was also admirable in many ways. Havel was a poet; Klaus is a trained economist – a student of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and admirer of Margaret Thatcher who knows how markets work. While Havel supported the European Union, which he viewed as a means of keeping the peace in Europe, Klaus considers it an all too Soviet-style superstate run by arrogant political elites who don’t understand economics, aren’t answerable to the electorate, and want to have their fingers in every pie – who are driven, that is, by a compulsion to control, to regulate, and to tax. Havel was sympathetic to Nordic-style “market socialism”; Klaus is a strong enthusiast for free markets, period. If Havel was a hero to liberals everywhere, Klaus made a worldwide name for himself as an outspoken libertarian.

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Klaus: from Thacherite…

After he left office, however, it didn’t take long for Klaus’s international luster to start fading. Named in March 2014 a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute – perhaps the most respected libertarian institution – he was cut loose by Cato only months later. “The alleged reason for the split,” wrote James Kirchick in a December 2014 article for the Daily Beast, “is the former Czech leader’s slavish defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, as well as his hostility to homosexuality and cozying up to figures on the European far right.”

Slavish defense of Putin? Could this “champion of liberty,” as Cato’s president had called him, really have thrown in his lot with the Russian thug?

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during his meeting with Armenian President Serge Sarksyan in Yerevan December 2, 2013. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin (ARMENIA - Tags: POLITICS) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
…to Putinite?

Alas, yes. On February 21 of last year, noted Kirchick, “Klaus took to the website of his foundation to question Ukraine’s very right to exist as a sovereign country.” He called it an “artificial entity.” In May, Klaus commemorated the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s World War II victory by visiting the Russian Embassy in Prague with what Kirchick described as “a bevy of aging Czech communists and old KGB informants.” At a July conference, Klaus “railed against ‘unilateral pro-Western propaganda’ and offered to help divide Ukraine based upon his own experience in the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia.” In September, speaking to free-market economists at an event hosted by the Mont Pelerin Society, Klaus brought up the subject of Ukraine on his own, blaming the “Ukraine problem” on the US and EU and absolving Putin of blame. At a conference sponsored by the Russian Foreign Ministry, he said the following about the cold shoulder he’d gotten from Cato: “The US/EU propaganda against Russia is really ridiculous and I can’t accept it.”

More tomorrow.