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.

 

A peace prize for…Mugabe?

Zimababwe's President Robert Mugabe chants Zanu PF slogans with supporters gathered at the Harare International Conference Centre in Harare, Wednesday May 3, 2000. Mugabe launched the Zanu PF's election manifesto which bears the slogan "Land is the Economy and the Economy is Land". (AP Photo/Christine Nesbitt)
Robert Mugabe

Human Rights Watch has called his record “abysmal.” He kidnaps and beats journalists, steals foreign-aid money, and tortures and kills political opponents. He demonizes gays and whites. But, as we’ve seenpreviously on this website, Robert Mugabe has his share of admirers in the U.S. Current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio took part in a 2002 reception in his honor – this at a time when Mugabe, in one reporter’s words, “was already well into his campaign of terror and murder in Zimbabwe.” So did current New York State Assemblyman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther who actually organized the 2002 Mugabe tribute and who today still views Mugabe as a “shining example of an African leader.”

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Liu Xiaobo

Now it’s clear that Mugabe has fans on the other side of the globe, too. In October, he was selected as this year’s winner of Confucius Peace Prize, which was cooked up five years ago as China’s answer to the Nobel Peace Prize after that distinction went to dissident writer Liu Xiaobo. The latter is still in prison in his homeland, being punished for the crime writing a pro-freedom manifesto.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu attends a meeting of indigenous communities in Caracas February 21, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (VENEZUELA - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY)
Rigoberta Menchú

Now, no prize is 100% reliable. The Nobel Peace Prize itself is well known for its highly spotty record. In his admirable history of the prizes, Jay Nordlinger notes that Betty Williams, who won in 1976, is no peacenik when it comes to George W. Bush, whom she’s expressed a desire to kill. Laureates Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchú, and Nelson Mandela were all fans of Castro; laureates Emily Greene Balch, Arthur Henderson, Linus Pauling, Séan MacBride, and (again) Mandela all praised the Soviet Union. 

But the Confucius Prize, which purportedly exists to “promote world peace from an Eastern perspective,” makes the Norwegian Nobel committee look almost like a pantheon of infallible geniuses.

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Peace laureate Vladimir Putin

In 2011, the trophy went to none other than Vladimir Putin. As one observer, an ethnographer, documentary filmmaker, and writer named Jin Ge, noted, this award came along at precisely the moment when massive crowds were gathering in Moscow to protest against Putin. Why was Putin chosen to receive the peace prize? The Chinese explained: they admired his support for Muammar Qaddafi, his criticism of Western intervention in Libya, and his “iron wrist” response to Chechen independence activists.

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Jin Ge

“You might wonder,” wrote Jin Ge, “how ‘Iron Wrist,’ Putin, Qaddafi, and Peace fit together.” Jin explained: in the view of Communist Chinese officials, “War only happens between countries, violence against your own people does not count. To protect ‘sovereignty,’ killing is justified. Human suffering is a small prize to pay to achieve the goal of harmony, stability and unity.” As for Qaddafi: “Putin, Qaddafi and Confucius are in the same camp because they are perceived as anti-West. Since the West (together with Japan) is conceived as the archenemy of China, anything opposite of what they interpret as Western is good. If the West criticizes Putin and Qaddafi, then these two guys must be good.”

With these kind of criteria, who else has won the Confucius Peace Prize? We’ll get to that on Monday.