Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 15, 2015

Sweden’s Children

Filed under: Sweden — louisproyect @ 7:01 pm

From “The Swedish Experiment in Family Politics: The Myrdals and the Interwar Population Crisis” by Allan C. Carlson:

The Myrdals also pointed to population pressures from outside. The risk was high that a depopulating country like Sweden, with rich natural resources and a strong pension system, would attract foreign peoples. While migration from Scandinavian neighbors would be acceptable and even desirable as a positive step toward Nordic integration, the Myrdals thought it more likely that prospective immigrants would come from elsewhere: Southern and Eastern Europe or Africa and Asia. Such groups were difficult to assimilate and posed a threat to Sweden’s own cultural heritage. The Myrdals also emphasized the problems for the labor movement that this influx of immigrants, willing to work for a cheaper wage, would cause.”

The Myrdals’ “mild nationalism” and ethnocentrism represented a dramatic break with the internationalism that had marked Democratic Socialism. While their later work and reputations are largely based on “internationalism,” their population work was distinctly oriented toward Sweden. This could be seen as but another example of the abandonment by many interwar European intellectuals of historic doctrine, as they dug in to weather the economic and political crises swirling about Europe.” Indeed, this unilateral focus on Swedish self-sufficiency could be seen in Gunnar Myrdal’s general work. For example, in a 1935 speech on the farming crisis he stated that “Agrarian policies must first and foremost involve a monopolization of the whole home market, and within this monopolized home market must be built price and market policies that raise profitability.”14 Aversion to immigration, moreover, could be dismissed as merely another example of organized labor’s aversion to “cheap labor” as producing “cheap men.”

Yet such explanations are less than adequate explanations for the Myrdals’ reluctant, apologetic confession of a “mild Swedish nationalism.” The world war, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Great Depression wreaked havoc with socialist internationalism. The new alternative, national socialism, took more than one form in the 1930s.

While the Myrdals never abandoned their commitment to democracy, they did cast their lot with ethnocentric nationalism. For Alva, the conversion may have been largely tactical, a way of selling her feminist socialism at an emotional level. For Gunnar, though, an almost tribal devotion to the Swedish “folk” drove him in a new direction. As his speeches over the next four years would make clear, he held a true passion for “Sweden’s children.”

Under the rubric of “quality-oriented” policy, the Myrdals described forced sterilization as a necessary option. While affirming, from a “race-biological viewpoint,” the equality of genetic material among all Swedish population groups, they added that a genetically inferior (mindervardighet) substrata existed within the population: the insane, the mentally ill, the genetically defective, and persons of bad or criminal character. With the German nazi program again as foil, the Myrdals stressed that their category of targeted individuals was drawn from all population and social groups. The reproduction of this inferior stock was undesirable, since offspring ran a strong risk of hereditary damage to health and intelligence. Because the government would be called upon to support genetically damaged children, the Myrdals concluded that the state had the right in limited cases to force sterilization on individuals. The guiding assumption should be to resort to the process only in recognized serious cases of illness and defect and only among those incapable of “rational decisions.” Where individuals were capable of reason, voluntary sterilization should be actively urged. Failing this, free contraceptives and eugenic abortion should be made available.

* * * *

From “Stieg Larsson: the Real Story of the Man Who Played With Fire” by Jan-Erik Petterson:

One feature of the extreme Right in Sweden is that, despite the weakness of its popular support, it is remarkably well represented among the elite and ruling classes: among scientists, academics and high-ranking military officers. It was not just theorists like Kjellen and Molin who were in the vanguard in formulating ideas which then became prevalent in the Third Reich. Herman Lundborg, the world’s first professor of eugenics, was part of the trend as early as 1910, and founded the Swedish Society for Racial Hygiene. A decade later he managed to get more or less the entire Establishment behind him when he set up a Swedish racial research institute.

The National Eugenics Institute opened in 1921, with Lundborg at its head, and became well known for its large-scale field-research projects on the Swedish people. He and his colleagues travelled all over the country, photographing, measuring and making notes. The subjects of this research, seeing no harm in it, were allocated to racial groups on the basis of their physical constitution, skin colour, hair colour, shape of cranium, cranial circumference and so on. And there were few who doubted its scientific validity. On the strength of his findings, Lundborg pursued a vigorous campaign for an active population policy, including compulsory sterilization of undesirables, such as Lapps, Gypsies and vagrants. If this were not implemented, the fusion of the races would escalate and culture would fall into decline: `Sexual urges would intensify, immorality, hedonism, vice and crime break out and leave their mark on society. Sooner or later it would lead to discord, dissent, riot and revolution’ (according to an article in Svensk Tidskrift in 1921).

One reason for the rapid and widespread support for Lundborg’s theories was that there had been a deep-seated belief since the mid-nineteenth century that the Germanic peoples of northern Europe were related and that Sweden was their original home. So when the Nazis stepped forward and began talking of restoring the honour of the German nation and defending the Nordic race, many Swedes were willing to listen. And these were not so much Swedish Nazi party members as influential individuals in politics, the civil service, the business world, the military, the police, even the royal family. Some of the greatest admirers of Germany before and during the Second World War were to be found in the Swedish military. When Hitler celebrated his fiftieth birthday in the spring of 1939, he was congratulated by a Swedish delegation of high-ranking officers led by the future supreme commander Olof Thornell. They were accompanied by the openly Nazi Carl Ernfrid Carlberg and Henri de Champs as representatives of the Manhem Society (a patriotic Scandinavian association named after Olaus Rudbeck’s seventeenth-century book of Gothicist speculations) and the Swedish-German Association, who also presented Hitler with a gift, a statuette of Charles XII, which he is said to have much appreciated.

1 Comment »

  1. For what its worth, the girl depicted with Himmler is his daughter “Puppi” who is still living and who has spent her life tirelessly building the Neo-Nazi far right and shamelessly apologizing for and extolling the legacy of her father and the Third Reich. She was particularly active in Latin America, where her work bore bitter fruit.


    Comment by Sue Sponte — July 17, 2015 @ 3:41 pm

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