CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Swedenrnby Allan CarlsonrnThe Nationalism of Jan MyrdalrnJan Myrdal, the brooding bad boy ofrnSwedish letters, agreed to meet with mernon a Sunday afternoon, at his home nearrnthe village of Mariefred. I went to askrnthis iconoclastic celebrant of China’srnCultural Revolution (Report From a ChinesernVillage), merciless public critic ofrnhis famous parents Gunnar and Alvarn(Childhood), and author of 70 otherrnbooks (including Confessions of a DisloyalrnEuropean) about nationalism andrnmodern Sweden. In my own volume onrnhis parents’ role in shaping the Swedishrnwelfare state in the 1930’s, I had notedrnGunnar Myrdal’s “mild” nationalism.rnBut I was unhappy with my characterization,rnfeeling I had missed somethingrnimportant. I hoped Jan Myrdal mightrnhelp solve the puzzle.rnHeavy snow was falling when I arrived,rnand the narrow country road provedrntreacherous. Gun Kessle, artist, photographer,rnand Myrdal’s companion forrnseveral decades now, stood at the door,rnwaving to warn me about the sharp dropoffrnto the lake below. Then Myrdal,rndressed in German hunting knickers andrna heavy Norrland sweater, strode out intornthe snow, a character out of Strindberg.rnHe guided me into his cottage, paintedrnthe Falu red common to the Swedishrncountryside. We sat in a room with pinernpaneling, pine ceiling and floor, and hernwaited for me to start. I asked about thernremark in his book Childhood that anyonernwanting to understand Sweden’s SocialrnDemocrats, the architects of thernfamed “Middle Way,” would do betterrnto read Rudolf Kjellen than Marx. Hisrneyes lit up. “Yes, of course,” he said, andrnhe sprang to a circular stairway that ledrnto his vast library below. Soon he returnedrnwith a 1909 essay, “Nationalismrnoch socialism,” by Kjellen.rnThis professor of geography at thernUniversity of Lund pioneered the idea ofrngeopolitics and was among the firstrnthinkers to advocate a “national socialism”rnunifying Sweden’s economicrnclasses, as opposed to the “international”rnproletariat socialism of Marx. As anrnundergraduate, the story goes, GunnarrnMyrdal had fallen under Kjellen’s spell,rndeeply impressed by his commitment tornGod, king, and soil; his opposition torndemocracy and equality; his advocacy ofrneconomic autarchy; his attention to thernhealth and fecundity of the Swedishrnpopulation as the literal “body” of thernnation; and his embrace of a program ofrnold-age pensions and social insurancernthat would bring peace to the warringrnSwedish classes. (In this period, the 21-rnyear-old Gunnar Myrdal would writernsuch memorable passages as: “Democraticrnpolitics is absurd and it is irresponsible.rn. . . [W] omen’s entrance ontornthe political field turns the masses stillrnmore to the mass, increasing their susceptibilityrnto suggestion and sinking furtherrntheir sense of judgement—if that isrnpossible. Indeed, one might even ask ifrnthis increase in [the masses’] suggestabilityrnmight not have an erotic coloration.”)rnGunnar Myrdal reportedlyrnshowed particular interest in Kjellen’srn1916 book The State as a Life-Form,rnwhere the author argued for the literalrntruth of his title.rnBut Kjellen, I said, is widely regardedrnas a precursor to the German Nazis, thernfirst architect of the Lebensraum justificationrnused by the Germans in WorldrnWar II. Could his organic statism reallyrnbe Gunnar Myrdal’s quiet inspiration?rnJan Myrdal responded by another bolt tornthe library downstairs. He returned withrna copy of Our Fatherland and Its Defense,rnthe 1930 edition of a book given to eachrnnew Swedish soldier. He showed me thernsection on “Var folkstam,” or “OurrnTribe,” which openly declared the racialrnsuperiority of the Swedish people.rn”Racism was official state policy in Sweden,”rnhe said, and I noted that the latern20th-century mind relishes the distortionrnof the past, including a denial of therntruth that national socialism took manyrnforms in the 1930’s. But he replied: “Ofrncourse, Gunnar could never be a realrnNazi. He couldn’t stand the discipline.”rnAnd he told the story of how his father,rnon seeing a door marked “No exit,”rnwould invariably stride boldly through,rntelling his children: “Such rules are notrnfor Gunnar Myrdal!”rnGun Kessle joined us, bearing thernobligatory coffee and cakes. I askedrnthem both about Sweden’s pending applicationrnto join the Common Marketrnand what this might mean to Swedishrnidentity. Myrdal again dashed to the libraryrnand returned with the 1720 text ofrnthe Swedish peasants’ memorial to theirrnnew king. At the end of a ruinous warrnagainst Russia, the peasants asked theirrnsovereign to impose no more foreignrnmasters over them, specifically citing thernGermans and the French. And understandingrnthat in war it is always the peasantryrnthat pays dearest in blood and treasure,rnthey urged their king to securern”peace .. . peace . . . peace.”rnThat sounded like Sweden’s modernrnneutrality policy, I said, and his eyesrnsparked: “Exactly! And that is what is atrnstake in the E.G. question.” Myrdal outlinedrnthe course of what he calledrn”Swedish specificity,” which deliberatelyrnkept this land to the north out of steprnwith the Continent. Sweden’s longrncommitment to autarchy at home—including,rnin this century, homegrown automobile,rnairplane, and defense industriesrnand a heavily subsidized farmingrnsector—grew out of a fear of being swallowedrnup by a “great power” to the east,rnsouth, or west. “Small nations can trustrnno large nation,” he said. “Remember, itrnwas Olof Palme who argued in the latern1950’s for a Swedish A-Bomb.” Publicly,rnthis future socialist prime minister worriedrnabout the Russians. Privately, hernworried about the Germans.rnSo what did they think of Carl Bildt,rnthe youthful, conservative prime ministerrnof Sweden who has placed union withrnEurope at the heart of his political program?rnThere was a strange silence.rnThen Myrdal said: “Bildt, like everyonernin his social class for a hundred years,rnseeks to turn Sweden over to the Germans.”rnGun Kessle hissed: “Bildt is arntraitor!”rnMyrdal explained that like every smallrncountry Sweden cannot trust “the internationalrncommunity.” “Will the Italiansrnreally come to our aid if the Russiansrnagain start to march?” He sneered atrnthe United Nations and its phony legalrnframework and promises. The U.N.rnConvention on Human Rights, he said,rndirectly threatened the historic rightsrnand equalities of Swedes, such as the ancientrnGermanic concept of “everyman’srnright” of access to privately held forestsrn40/CHRONICLESrnrnrn