"Al-Intiqad " interviews the Swedish intellectual and writer Jan Myrdal
|Monday, September 4,2006 00:00|
Myrdal, born in 1927, is one of the most renowned intellectuals and writers in Sweden in the last 40 years and is also an important voice in Leftist circles in Western Europe. Jan Myrdal has earned himself a name as a writer engaged in questions concerning the Third World, National Liberation struggles, anti-imperialism, as a vehement critic of the US so called ”War against Terrorism”, and also as a writer engaged on issues of freedom of speech and intellectual freedom. Jan Myrdal has written 80 books and countless of articles on this and other subjects and has on several occasions been confronted by the repressive forces of the Zionist thought police.
Jan Myrdal stems from a family who has made huge imprints in modern Swedish society: his father Gunnar Myrdal was a professor of International Economics, Minister of Commerce and a Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences in 1974 (sharing the so called ”Nobel Prize of Economics”). Jan Myrdal´s mother Alva Myrdal, on the other hand, was also a politician, top ranking UN diplomat and peace activist, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. The elder Myrdal couple were also something of the founding fathers of the visions of the Social-Democratic Party, the leading political party in Sweden.
It is a great honour to present Al-Intiqad´s exclusive interview with Jan Myrdal, where he to our readers speaks out on important current issues such as the Palestinian question, the imperialist schemes against the Middle East and the Moslem world, and the need to resist these strategies.
- AL-INTIQAD: Welcome Mr Jan Myrdal and thank you for this interview in Al-Intiqad.
I am now by this discussion trying to continue what I have tried to say at different conferences in Stockholm, Paris, Istanbul and in Jordan: the present conflicts are not a clash of civilisations, a war of cultures.
Let me be concrete. During the Istanbul Tribunal on the Iraq war Bush and Blair were found to be guilty of the type of crimes that were condemned in the Nuremberg Trials against the Nazi leaders. Both of these political leaders often talk about their beliefs and ideals; Bush is what is called a reborn Christian and Blair is said to have prayed before taking the decision to go to war. But their actions are not expressions of any Christian faith. If nothing else they are hypocrites.
Their war is not a religious Christian war against Islam. My late grandmother was a devout Christian. We have millions like her in our countries. These Christian believers are not enemies of your countries and your peoples, they are not the ones going to war.
Bush and Blair and their likes have an agenda which is very simple. Theirs is a struggle for keeping domination, for economic supremacy and for securing natural resources; in your countries specifically oil.
In this the present situation is not very different from earlier modern history during the 19th and 20th centuries. You in your countries as well as we in our countries must see it clearly, for what it is. We should not let us be fooled talking as if the policies of Bush were decided by his interest in ”human rights” or ”democracy” or his Christian religious beliefs. Because that is what it is not; it is a question of oil and power, economics and military might. Halliburton gets tremendous income from this war in Iraq as you all know.
This must be clearly borne in mind. Let me remind you that Cheney, the present vice president of the United States (and the former chief of Halliburton) in May 2001 presented a report on the oil security of the United States. According to Cheney the internal production would fall from then 8,5 million barrels per day to 7 million per day in 2020, at the same time consumption would increase from 19,5 million barrels to 22,5 million barrels. Securing these energy resources would have to be the top priority in the United States foreign policy. We all know - and you have felt it on your own persons - how these policies have been implemented. If you on a world map mark the 570 military installations of the United States you will see how they are clustered around oil reserves and pipe lines all over the world. Of course the leaders of the predatory United States try to cloud the issue. As the Moslem countries of the Middle East are rich in oil they try to mask their struggle for this oil in an anti-Moslem campaign or a ”war between cultures” (”a Crusade”, as Bush said or ”installing democracy and respect for human rights” as Blair could put it).
That campaign against Islam as a religion and Moslems as believers is a reality. It colours the mass media and the political discussions in our countries. It is used in internal politics against minorities in our countries in Europe (the people of the ”banlieus” in France for instance). That is why it is necessary for us through articles, discussions, conferences to show that it is a false ideology.
Let’s go back. If you go to the history books you will read about the wars of religion in Europe in the 16th, 17th centuries. True there was much talk of religion. In the propaganda the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus, the big Protestant hero from the North entered Germany for the sake of religion. But did he? Well, he said so, and he was a Protestant, he fought against Catholic generals but he did so in the pay of Cardinal Richelieu of France. That Catholic Cardinal used the Protestant Swedish king in his struggle against the Catholic German Emperor in Vienna. The truth behind that facade of a religious war is that it was a new phase of the power struggle for supremacy in Europe!
I’m saying this because we should be clear about the fact that it is not the Christians as such (the millions in Europe - and other parts of the world - who are believing Christians like my grandmother was) but imperial powers, who in their selfish interest are utilising different ideologies. They call it ”human rights”, they can talk – as the religious ultra-Right in the United States – about their religion, but in fact it is a question of profit, domination and natural resources.
This means that the common people in the West in reality have the same interest of peace and respectful co-operation - not predatory war - as those in your countries. It is up to us as writers and intellectuals to clarify this and go against the false consciousness.
Let me take another example to make this clear. Sweden has a rather small population, but we are sitting on 15 % of the worlds uranium resources. We have politically decided not to use this. The United States even once put great pressure on us not to develop our - at that time scientifically interesting - own atomic technology programme but to stay dependent on them. As I said in 1964: If Sweden tries to go her own way the United States and the Soviet Union will unite to bomb us!
But at a certain stage, the United States – when the oil resources are running low and their energy needs remain high - will surely try to grab these Swedish uranium deposits. Prospecting is already going on despite local protests.
If we do not accept to let the United States utilise our natural resources in their own interest and for their own profit but stand on our right to national independence and do not have prepared a real defence that can (like North Korea!) deter them the United States will surely try to get hold of our ore. They could use one pretext or another. For instance they could say that Sweden for more than seventy years has had a more or less middle of the road Social-Democratic government that according to them was lacking in respect for private property and that Swedes needed to be liberated into a true market economy. Or - as the uranium deposits are in the North - they could point out that the Same people (the indigenous ethnic minority in Sweden) is being oppressed and has to be helped by the United States military might to build an independent national state.
I say this because you must understand that you are not the only ones being subjected to their policies. Look at Yugoslavia! As long as the United States during the Cold War had use for Tito against the Soviet Union they supported Yugoslavia politically as well as economically and praised the Yugoslav state. When they had won that cold war they changed policy. It was in their interest - together with that of Germany - to divide the Yugoslav state. Divide and rule!
- AL-INTIQAD: By which strategies do imperial powers of today exert their control and dominance, indirectly by local agents or through direct rule, and by which slogans do they try to mask their dominative ambitions?
- JAN MYRDAL: In your countries as in our country there will always be certain groups who make a profit on imperialist domination. They were called ”Compradors” in colonial times in China and other countries. They were called ”Collaborators” in Occupied France. Intellectuals and businessmen directly linked to the ruling - colonial or occupying - power.
If you look at the colonial history of India you will see there was always a large segment of Indian society that was closely bound to British Imperialism and profited by it; feudal princes, mercenaries, bureaucrats, businessmen. This you have had in all your countries. These social groups still exist and we of course have similar groups too. In certain situations they can be extremely dangerous. Today they will probably dress themselves, more or less consciously, in terms like ”NGO:s for human rights” etc. The history of the break up of the former Soviet Union and the role of foreign funded ”human rights groups” is very enlightening.
As for human rights, you should remember that when the leaders of the West today talk about ”human rights”, the only human right they really care for is the right to property but not in the sense of individual property (a house, a savings account, a small shop) but of private control of natural resources and banks, monopolies, trusts. They are quite prepared to imprison and torture outside any legal framework as long as these their property rights are held sacred. Take their campaign against Cuba as an example. The leaders of the United States have never forgiven the Cubans that they lost the dominant United States suzerainty over Cuba (and that the brothels and gambling houses they owned there were closed down). But then you can look at the survival rate of Cuban children. The Cuban children live because the United States influence was abrogated (and their collaborators thrown out).
Which is the main human right? The main human right is the right to exist, the right to survival. You can see the horrors of the Neo-liberal agenda all around the world. See poor Russia – I was not very fond of the Soviet polices as you might know – but now the decline of population has become a real genocide! But the leaders of the West call the fate of the Russian people - how their common wealth was stolen by a handful of corrupt individuals, and the life expectancy of common Russians drastically fell - after the implementation of the market economy a triumph of Democracy and Human Rights!
One should thus be very careful with ”human rights”. They are valid in the struggle against torture and exploitation, illness and poverty, for the right to survive and for a decent life. These are human rights. But those who now more or less openly and consciously are serving imperial interests will today dress up their intrigues as ”Human rights”, ”Democracy” or whatever you have.
- AL-INTIQAD: Are not these so-called”human rights” issues very selective, that some people according to the West are more worth than others?
- JAN MYRDAL: Of course. If a struggle for reclaiming stolen agricultural land in some country in Africa leaves 10 White settlers dead that becomes a major human rights issue in the West whereas 100 000 dead African children are uninteresting; they are just a normality.
If you own the patent of a drug for a common deadly illness you make a tremendous profit. You keep the price up. You don’t allow cheap drugs that can make the children survive. If a country in the Third World begins to make the drug itself to save its population from illness and death the United States government screams against this crime and will use all the instruments in its power against this thieving country.
The very simple truth is that some small groups in the imperialist powers in the West (to which also countries like Japan and small predatory powers like Sweden have to be counted) profit from oppression and exploitation (both directly and through what is euphemistically called ”terms of trade”) in what is called the Third World.
In saying this I once more want to point out that you have to see the difference between the common people of our countries and the ruling circles.
- AL-INTIQAD: What is you perception of the question of Palestine?
- JAN MYRDAL: This is a very serious question. What did we on the Left in Europe say before and during the Second World War? What we at that time thought was that when the anti-colonial struggle got the British out of Palestine there would be a Palestine for the people of different religions Christians, Moslems, Jews – a unified Palestine – liberated from the British.
This is not what happened. The reasons for this are to be sought in what in legal terms is called a pactum turpe - a dirty political deal you could say - specially between the United States at the time, and the Soviet Union who both but for different reasons wanted to disrupt and supplant what was still the British Empire. Some leaders of what was becoming the Socialist camp had the strange illusion that a Zionist state would be them a socialist friend. The United States realistically counted on such a state to become a faithful beach head.
There is also something you in your countries have to understand. There was a cynical use of the latent anti-Semitism in Europe in order to create a mass emigration to Palestine. Jews who had survived the German persecution were in Western Europe held in camps for Displaced Persons in miserable conditions. There were shameful pogroms in Poland and of the 80.000 surviving Jews in Poland 30.000 had already a year after the end of the war fled westward to these camps. No country in Europe - and decidedly not the United States - wanted the multitudes in the camps of DP:s. Of the 335.000 Jews in Romania and the 200.000 in Hungary the majority were destitute and - despite official governmental phraseology - were being pushed out towards Palestine. These poor and oppressed multitudes were used as tools to open Palestine for mass immigration. It was an extremely cynical policy.
The result has been that the new state was not created as a post-colonial state for the population of Palestine - people of different faiths - but as an artificial and racially defined colonial and dependent entity whose original population was driven out. The Palestinian people became refugees or subjugated natives. Israel thus was made into a strange racist state in perpetual conflict and expansion. This is an extremely unstable situation.
It has already led to a continuing war in several phases. In 1967 when I, after the Six Days War, spoke on this at the protest meeting we held in Stockholm, I pointed out that this war could last for 100 years or more.
One should always remember that whatever we hope there are also negative possibilities. Six hundred years ago neither the people of what is now called Australia or of North America could envisage that they would (partly as south of what is now the border between Mexico and the United States and totally north of that border and in Australia) be exterminated. But they have been. The genocide in what is now Mexico was numerically one of the largest in recorded history. The genocide in what is now the United States next to complete. There it was carried on until the beginning of the 20th Century and there are now only small clusters left of the indigenous population.
We should keep in mind that the Palestinians too could be exterminated. A people can disappear. For certain groups in Israel - certain settlers for instance - this disappearance of the Palestinian people is an option. For cultural reasons there is in the United States also a traditional acceptance of such a genocide.
- AL-INTIQAD: How should the Palestinians react in the present to this situation?
- JAN MYRDAL: In this situation it is of course very important for them to make a very careful analysis of the whole situation. The struggle is necessary if they are to survive but struggle and heroism is not enough. Nobody can say that the indigenous population of what is now the United States - the so called Indians - did not struggle and did not conduct a heroic defence.
One difference is that there is now such a factor as international solidarity. The indigenous population of North America did not have strong neighbouring peoples. But the Palestinians do. Also there is a growing understanding in all our countries that what is happening to the Palestinians these last sixty years could happen to any of us. As John Donne said in 1622 - and Hemingway quoted in his novel from the war of the Spanish people against fascism - ”never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. Solidarity is one factor. But we all know its limits both in our countries and among the ruling circles in the Middle East.
Another factor is time and demography. The indigenous population in what is now the United States was sparse; they could be eliminated. South of the border the situation was different. The Palestinians are many - and they multiply like the indigenous population has done in Mexico and Bolivia. An entity such as Israel built on a race theory is not viable in the long run. In a hundred years - or two or three - it will crumble like the Crusader state or the South African republic crumbled. Not in the sense that the people living there will disappear; they will be assimilated as the remnants of the crusaders were assimilated and as the Afrikanders are being assimilated after their statehood vanished.
But for the moment the support for Israel in the United Nations and the European Union seems strong. Even Sweden co-operates militarily with Israel. But as this is against the interest and wishes of the majority of our people, we ought to be able to abrogate this. Thus there can be changes in European policies, there can be changes even in Israel. After all there are social and political contradictions in Israel that are apt to lead to a changing situation. Nothing is certain.
The main international support for the state of Israel comes from the United States. It is now using Israel as a beach head. But there is no friendship, no loyalty, no love, no eternal allies in international politics. If it would be in the interest of the United States to switch sides in the question of Israel - there are several possible scenarios - Israel would over night loose that support.
- AL-INTIQAD: How come Japan and Germany after the Second World War, when occupied, capitulated totally to the occupying power, offering no more resistance, even co-operating with the occupation force. This whereas the Moslem examples of occupied Palestine and Iraq are showing a fierce military and ideological resistance against the occupation power. On which grounds does this difference rest, on the ideology of the countries occupied, on historical factors?
- JAN MYRDAL: There is no similarity. The present struggle against the occupation forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine is like the struggle against the German occupiers in Europe, against the Japanese occupiers in Korea, China, Vietnam, Burma. That is these struggles were and are national liberation struggles. Often complicated of course - remember that the situation in Burma was very complicated.
- AL-INTIQAD: But why didn’t the people of Germany or Japan resist the occupation of their countries?
- JAN MYRDAL: The situation was - as I said - totally different. The people had been harshly repressed by the Nazi and imperial rulers. They neither wanted the Hitlerites or the imperial rulers back. At first they thus believed the Western phrases of democratisation. The ruling circles switched sides and thus kept their position as rulers. If you look back you will see that it is the same capital circles who are determining in Germany today as during the Nazi era. In Japan too; there the West even kept the war criminal Hirohito as an emperor. The old rulers and the occupiers also co-operated intensively; the whole United States space program was built by the Nazi specialists. The bacteriological warfare capability of the United States was more than reinforced with bacteriological experts from Japan. The United States did not - like the Soviet Union - bring them to court; they incorporated them and the results of their experiments (also on the tissues from Allied POW:s).
- AL-INTIQAD: What is your opinion on the present war in Iraq and the present attempts to occupy that country? What is the grand strategy in this scheme?
- JAN MYRDAL: The United States are trying to colonise Iraq and of course certain groups inside Iraq will collaborate with them, because it is profitable. But they are not stupid enough not to remember the French saying that one can use bayonets for much - except to sit on. They will thus try to instigate the ”Balkanization” of Iraq. It is in their interest that Iraq is divided at least into three states, maybe more. In the best of cases, from their point of view, those three states would be in continuous state of tension and maybe war, then their domination would be more or less complete. Balkanization is a method to rule.
I remember when I lived in India, United States officials we considered to be from the CIA - ”the Friends" as they were called - used to say that India could be divided into 16 states. China divided in 6 Chinese states (which explains the violent reaction of the Chinese government to the 1989 Tien-an-men demonstrations) and Iran could be divided into at least 5 entities. These United States officials called it a democratic possibility. But in reality it was a recipe for United States domination. Divide and rule. Create weak states. Client states.
Just now Washington is leading a new campaign against Iran. If they can invade Iran or once more engineer an overthrow of the Iranian government – like they organised the overthrow of Mossadeq once upon a time – they will do it. Not for ideals or for religion. Only for profit and oil! The reason why they are making such a fuss about the Iranian atomic energy policy is not just because they can fear that Iran is building an atomic bomb but because if Iran enriches its own uranium it will have a greater control over its own energy resources. (Compare with the situation in Sweden!)
I and Gun Kessle lived in Iran during the time of the Shah. We liked and respected the people and the culture but the United States influence was very strong and the social oppression very evident. We believed there would be a revolution at any moment. We were not alone in believing this. Also the Swedish ambassador - Ragnvald R:son Bagge at that time - believed so. But it took many years before it happened. One can never predict exactly what will happen even though one can see certain great lines, and you can also see lines of conflicts.
- AL-INTIQAD: Will other regional and international powers in silence just watch the United States implement its aggressive policies and expansionism in the region?
- JAN MYRDAL: Neither Russia nor China are happy about United States military bases in Central Asia. It is once more like when Russia and the British Empire were struggling over limiting the other’s sphere of influence in Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet. The empires were competing; the British at that time wanted to have the cotton and the trade routes, and Russia wanted trade routes down to the warm sea. This led to three British Afghan wars. The price the Afghan people had to pay was very high but in all three wars the British militarily lost. And at last - after the third war - the Afghan people managed to regain its full sovereignty.
The imperial ambitions that led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and then the United States invasion are similar. The popular struggle is also similar and I fully trust that the end result will be similar - but the Afghan people will once more have had to pay a high price.
But neither the tsar nor the British King-Emperor, Bresjnev and Bush had other motives than pure greed. The Afghans fought and the British gentlemen considered them uncivilised and cruel - but they won their independence.
- AL-INTIQAD: The phenomena of Hezbollah, the phenomena of Islamic resistance in general, how come the United States in its imperialistic ambitions has not met such resistance before?
- JAN MYRDAL: On Hezbollah I think that I in general can say that it is a broad based popular movement that managed to throw back the strong Israeli occupying army.
But there lurks a danger in your question. Hezbollah is valiant. But it is not the first popular movement against US imperialism. Remember the heroic Philippine armed resistance against the US imperialism after what is called the Spanish American war. Remember the Mexican Revolution. Remember the heroic Korean war against US aggression. Not to speak of the struggles of the South East Asian peoples. At certain times during the last century the US seemed ever-victorious but during later decades the US imperialists have several times been militarily defeated by a people in arms!
The Second World War was both a war between different imperial interests and of people fighting for their independence. In Europe the Norwegians, the French resistance, the guerrillas of Northern Italy struggled for their national liberation as do the Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans today.
Where there is oppression people will rise in revolt. The ideologies will be different according to the time and the history but if people are oppressed they will react and revolt and their struggle will be just.
Today in many countries of the world - especially in Asia - Moslem or Islamic ideology has become a driving force in the popular resistance against oppression. The situation and thus the ideologies were different for the patriots of Europe or China during the second World War. But then as now: To revolt against oppression is just.
I believe that you will ultimately prove successful. Imperialism will in the long run not be able to sustain itself. It conducts its wars on borrowed money. In the long run theirs is a no-win situation. Though the run can be long!
- AL-INTIQAD: You once said in a speech that if you cannot win outright over an occupation force, at least you should try to make the occupation uncomfortable for the oppressor.
- JAN MYRDAL: Yes, this is true. Let us take the reason why it is correct to struggle in a situation where it is not immediately profitable. You can take a simple situation from European history; during the Second World War, you had the ”Résistance” – de Gaulle and others – in France. They struggled with popular support but without strong military means. Then you had the really militarily strong Allied invasion in Normandy in 1944.
The United States had already printed occupation money for a France liberated by the Allies. France was going to become a minor European state under United States suzerainty. Then de Gaulle managed by nearly a ”coup” to re-establish the independent French state when the Allies allowed him to step ashore in Normandy.
After that de Gaulle and the Communists agreed that the population of Paris had to liberate themselves, in armed struggle. The Americans said that it was not necessary. The Allied armies would do it. But de Gaulle and the Communists organised the armed rising in Paris, many people were killed. One can say that if the Parisians had been sitting quietly on their bottoms they would have been liberated anyway by the Americans. Thus many would have survived. But in a subordinate France!
In the rising of 1944 many died, others were disabled, but the French liberated Paris by themselves and went on to fight against the German forces and France thus exists today as a nation.
- AL-INTIQAD: The Palestinians are fighting for a democratic state, also the Islamists envision that; a state with equal rights where Moslems, Christians and Jews can live. Israel is not for a democratic state. Should this be accepted? Should the Palestinians just capitulate to the stronger part and accept this Apartheid state?
- JAN MYRDAL: The decision what the Palestinian people should do must be in the hands of the Palestinian people. They can get support from abroad, also from us in Europe, but they have to decide.
The demand for a democratic state with equal rights where Moslems, Christians and Jews can live is one that before 1948 had strong support from the circles I grew up in. It still seems to me the only solution for a peaceful development in the region. But how to reach that aim, to decide which struggles that are necessary, must be for the Palestinian people to decide.
- AL-INTIQAD: How come it is the Islamists that today carry the torch of resistance against the world hegemony, against different forms of domination, imperialism and neo-colonialism?
- JAN MYRDAL: This is an important question. The United States imperialism has long been a direct threat to the interests of the peoples in different parts of the world. Take the Philippines as an example. The United States occupation was a focal point for the anti-imperialist movement a century ago. The indigenous Christians struggled against that. Mark Twain wrote about it (the United States soldiers tortured Christian priests in the same horrible way they now torture Moslems).
Now, due to a popular struggle the United States has had to leave their bases. The struggle still goes on. It has thus kept on for many, many generations under different slogans, partly armed, partly political.
In Bolivia the ideologies behind the struggle for liberation from United States imperialism have other roots. In many parts of Latin America the Christian Liberation Theology has - as Castro said - played a positive role against the rule of United States imperialism. All this can be analysed just as the behaviour of the different classes in society can be analysed. In many countries in what is called the Third World the middle class, the ”bourgeoisie”, they too want to have independence. So it is a very complicated situation.
It is evident that Moslem - Islamist if you want to express it that way - groups have taken the lead in large areas of the world. To a large part it is because important segments of the intellectual Left decayed as revolutionaries (their social background was often from the middle classes), became co-opted to the Compradore class and lost their legitimacy as representatives of the oppressed masses. But remember that the present Islamist movements conduct the struggle against United States imperialism for religious reasons. That has to be understood.
I’m of course not a Moslem and I’m not religious but I am not a liberal. I see religion as a very real and important force in society. If you go to Swedish history, you will note that the first popular democratic movements in the early 19th century were religious; Christian.
As I pointed out in Jordan, the whole structure of Swedish ”Folkrِrelser”, i.e. ”Popular Movements”, that have shaped modern Sweden, also the Labour movement, was formed by these religious movements of the early 19th century. Most Swedes don’t realise this today, but that’s another thing.
If you go back still further, to the period of the large peasant struggles in the 15th, 16th centuries, you will see that they were successful in Sweden, Switzerland and Northern Finland. That made our countries somewhat different from the rest of Europe.
But in Germany the peasant wars were religious movements. Take a great historical figure and democratic martyr like Thomas Müntzer; he was a leader of the peasant revolution. But he was so as a religious teacher. His translation of the Bible was of importance, it was there he found his truth which drove him to lead a revolution. If I had been suddenly transferred to the 16th century and gone up to Müntzer and said; ”Dear friend, I know that you are a peasant revolutionary”, he would have looked at me and said; ”No, no, no. I’m fighting for God!”
I want you as Moslems to understand that from the outside - as a non-Moslem - I can se the role of an organisation like Hezbollah as mainly anti-imperialist. I can say that this is an objective reality. But I know and respect that the motivation for the anti-imperialist stance of Hezbollah is religious; the Divine Word. To say this is not to denigrate religion in any way.
- AL-INTIQAD: The Zionists demand a humiliating capitulation for the Palestinians, Iraqis, Lebanese and the Afghans. To just capitulate and share the same fate as the North American native Indians – will not such a capitulation just give birth to even larger conflicts and wars?
- JAN MYRDAL: I don’t think the question of capitulation exists. It is not an option. You can say that many of the feudal rulers in India in the 18th, 19th centuries accepted the British rule. In the official propaganda the British ruled peacefully until they left India out of their own will. But that is a lie!
First the British got the big war of 1857– the First War of Independence – they struck back with sadistic mass-violence. Then there was a continuous popular struggle against British Imperialism. Gandhi was a very great historical figure. But the struggle of the Indian people was conducted by all methods - peaceful and violent. My first father-in-law was what the British seventy-five years ago called a ”Bengal Terrorist” and he had much to tell. Then in 1942 the ”Quit India” Movement was both strong and extremely violent. And why did the British five years later have to leave India, the ”Crown Jewel” of their empire? Because:
a) they had lost their investments during the Second World War,
b) in the Bombay Mutiny their fleet rose against them,
c) they had lost the control over their army. They were not able to sentence even the leaders of the Indian National Army that Subhas Chandra Bose - Netaji - had led in war against them. The British were not able to keep India without a bloody war - that they would lose.
But why did not the German people rise against Hitler? The reason is the same as why the British people did not rise against the empire builders or why only a fraction of the people in the United States rise against Bush and his imperial wars. It is a simple one; the German population had the best living standards in Europe during the Second World War. As the Nazi regime robbed all of occupied Europe and gave a small share of the plunder to the German people their protests against Hitler were muted. When it pours on the hen, it drips on the chicken!
Hezbollah like the Afghans and the Palestinians and the Chinese, Koreans, Indians and all others before them, can not put their trust in a change of heart among the oppressors and their kin.
The imperialists can give their own population certain benefits of imperial rule. As long as they do that they have a certain support. When the war goes bad, when, like during the Vietnam war the losses become too great, then the imperialists can be forced to retreat.
What will happen in Iraq? It depends partly on how great the losses - in men and dollars - for the United States will be. You could say that every dead GI increases the possibility of a retreat. But first they will try to get their willing allies do the dirty work (see Afghanistan). At the same time the United States will try to Balkanize, incite one group against another; if they can achieve a civil war between different groups among the people of Iraq, then the US could continue making profits and their troops could stay in their cantonments for a long time to come.
Mao, who was a clever politician, said that imperialism is a paper tiger, but one with real claws. One thing is to say that the United States domination is doomed, no tree grows up into heaven. Or to look to the economic side; an empire like the United States that lives on borrowed money will crash sooner or later. One day China or Saudi Arabia or Japan will have to refuse to take paper currency without real value. As yet they are afraid to make the international monetary house of cards tumble down. But sooner or later they will have to, to protect their own interests. But to wait for that can be a long wait.
Take the experience of my generation in Europe during the Second World War. We knew from December 1941, when Hitler could not take Moscow and had to retreat, that the Third Reich was doomed – but it took a long time, many years and millions of dead before the end came.
- AL-INTIQAD: The conflict is no more between Israel and Palestine, the wars that are being prepared against Syria, Iran and Lebanon have their basis in the fact that they support the resistance of the Palestinians and the Hezbollah. What are your views on these coming conflicts?
- JAN MYRDAL: The United States is forced by the very momentum of the struggle for energy resources and military bases to protect these, to continue the wars. On the other hand their military resources and their monetary base is already getting strained. It is touch and go. Which way the cat will jump is not self evident.
If the United States can blackmail the European Union to become a willing supporter it is of course possible that it extends the armed conflict to Iran and/or Syria. But it is easier to start a war than to end it.
I think they might be a little careful before they start a new war. They made a mistake in Iraq. They could tumble Saddam Hussein, but they have not been able to achieve a victory. If they extend the war certain people will get very rich in the United States, the Halliburton crowd, oil companies and armament industry, but many in the United States, among the pro-imperialists too, are already uneasy. This seems not the best way to secure profits. Also their present policies lead to ever increasing contradictions between the United States and powers like Russia, and China. Even those states of the European Union that recently behaved as servile client states are getting un-easy.
What we can do in our countries that is of course to increase the knowledge of this, to increase the solidarity, strengthen the Anti-war Movement.
- AL-INTIQAD: You have civil courage and say what most people dare not. Your engagement in these issues gives the Palestinians and other oppressed peoples hope. How come you are so engaged in these issues, and can you really work freely, or are they trying to restrain and censor your work?
- JAN MYRDAL: I might be stubborn. That is all. Like many in my generation in Europe I had to take a stand as a young man - a boy you could say - during the Second World War. Thus I had the good fortune to be branded as a ”red” by the Swedish Security Police (and the United States embassy) even before I was eighteen; this effectually stopped me from becoming a normal loyal and serving European intellectual - even if I had wished to be one. (Which I did not!)
What then happened was that I and my wife travelled and lived during several years from the fifties onwards in Asia - Iran, Afghanistan, India, China, Burma, the then Soviet Central Asia and later on in Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and North Africa - and as you can see from what we published our perspectives changed. Our book on Afghanistan from 1960 has now had its sixth edition in Sweden and has been of a certain value in creating solidarity with the Afghan people.
In certain periods - like the McCarthy years that also in Sweden were difficult - I had to be careful in order to get printed at all, not that I lied but I had to write in an ”esopian” manner. In other periods it has been easier. And Sweden has been one of the more open societies in Europe. I have only been brought to court once for not being careful enough in my choice of words. And we won against the government.
Of course it is possible to make a career in Sweden as in other countries by keeping your words in check. But it is not very fun. Presently for me it is very simple; when you approach 80 years of age and have a certain position there is not much they can do. Not that they do not try.
Four times they tried to throw me out of the Swedish PEN-club, the association of well tempered writers. But they were not successful. In the end I did not care and just stopped paying membership dues.
- AL-INTIQAD: Do you think that with the help of the Internet there has been a democratisation of the media, that via the Internet you also can spread the message? Will it break the monopolisation of information of the mainstream media?
- JAN MYRDAL: It is possible to use the Internet, but it is extremely difficult to know what is true and what is not true on the Net. I was checking something on the Net the other day. Suddenly I found a serious article stating that my parents had been Nazi agents and that I had written so! It is not only a lie, it is an idiotic lie. But someone might believe it.
When it comes to printed matter, you know that to fake a book is extremely difficult. You can check when was it printed, where was it printed. But on the Net you can never really check the validity of the statements. But of course I use it. With great care.
- AL-INTIQAD: Does democracy in Sweden work today?
- JAN MYRDAL: ”Democracy” is a dangerous word. It can be used to stand for anything. You have the democracy of ancient Athens where nine tenths of the population were slaves. At the same time we know what we mean by it.
Sweden is a country where there are large areas of independence and free speech. We also have traditions going back to our successful peasant wars of the Fifteenth century that still are of importance. But of course it would be untrue to say that people can decide. If we with a majority of 90% would decide policies against unemployment, for better care of the aged, for better health care that go outside the cold market rules our decision would be null and void because it goes against the rules of the European Union.
Do I like that? No!
- AL-INTIQAD: Is the regime in Sweden representative and legitimate, or is there a gap between the rulers and the people?
- JAN MYRDAL: The Swedish democracy has been developed in a plebiscitarian way, a little like Napoleon III, i.e. the elections are no real elections any longer but plebiscites. The choice stands between different shades of yes; between different state financed groupings. (Even for the former Communist party - ”Vنnsterpartiet” - the Party of the Left - contributions from members and sympathisers only constitute 5% of the party finances.) Remember that the population of France voted for Napoleon III, in the formally correct plebiscite before the war 1870. But as you can see from history - that says very little about the political sentiments of the French people at the time.
You can’t have a Swedish government sitting directly against the will of the people. On the other hand the government is since many years mainly a bureaucratic structure defined by market economy laws. The parties are politically very weak state funded structures with fewer and fewer members. Already some years ago, I heard a leading Social Democrat say that the Social Democratic Youth Movement is no movement, it is a queue – to get posts.
- AL-INTIQAD: You have called the present Swedish Prime Minister Gِran Persson a”municipal politician”. Could you explain this?
- JAN MYRDAL: A municipal politician in Sweden can be honest as such honesty goes he can try to do the best of the situation. But what he can do is always prescribed from above, by the rules of the game. Gِran Persson is not a man with great visions. He has also unfortunately got a hang up on Israel. That makes him differ from a predecessor like Olof Palme.
But this leads me to something that can explain Sweden:
Olof Palme was internationally important and interesting as a politician. Not that he and I always agreed. But he had a vision. But when you speak about Olof Palme and Sweden you have to remember three facts:
1) we all know that Olof Palme is dead,
2) we all know that he was murdered,
3) we also all know that there was no real police investigation.
After that we know nothing. Every explanation is a hypothesis. But that is not unique in Sweden. The greatest catastrophe in recent decades occurred the night of September 27 1994 when the m/s Estonia sank during a storm in the Baltic Sea and 859 lives were lost.
We know that Estonia sank.
We know that 859 persons died.
We know that the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden decided not to make any real investigation and to forbid any examination of the wreck. Anyone who tries will be liable to prosecution.
Why they reached that strange decision we do not know. Also this is Sweden! As Sweden is a free country there are meters and meters of books in the libraries and book-shops giving different speculative answers to both these mysteries. But the authorities have closed the door on any real knowledge either on the murder of Olof Palme or the sinking of Estonia. As far as I understand for reasons of state.
- AL-INTIQAD: If you were a leader of Hamas or the Hezbollah, how would you act?
- JAN MYRDAL: That is a very hypothetical question. Of course I feel that the victory of Hamas is important but:
a) I’m a Swede sitting in Sweden, I’m not a Palestinian. I have no real knowledge.
b) It is not for me - or anybody outside Palestine to give that kind of advice.
This is a matter of principle. If Hamas is a true representative of the Palestinian people they have to answer to the Palestinian people and not to well wishers from this or that continent however friendly! Still less of course to politicians in Israel, the United States or the European Union or even the United Nations!
The same goes for Hezbollah.
The question of international solidarity is in fact very simple. We formulated it during the war against US aggression in South East Asia:
This is a principle valid for our period. We must remember that this is a long historical period. Imperialism and its genocidal politics began a hundred years before I was born, I’m now 79, I will be 80 next summer. If I said that I hoped to see a decisive popular victory in my time I would be stupid. My grandchildren are around 30. When their great grand-children approach my present age it might be that they will se the end of this evil age!
February 3, 2006