An email to Noam Chomsky on his 86th birthday:
My warmest congratulations to you on your birthday! I sincerely hope that you will have an enjoyable day, which you deserve more than anyone. Your contributions to progressive development for mankind are unmatched, as are the wonderful inspiration you give to many, many of us who want to work for the elimination of unnecessary deficiencies of our societies. Like Galilei and other great minds demonized by the powerful of their times, you will one day be recognized by all as a leading thinker in manâ€™s whole history.
I wrote you a few lines one year ago, telling about the neoliberal deterioration in Sweden since at least 2006. You asked me if there was something written in any of your languages on the matter. My answer bounced, since your were travelling, so I can say now that I havenâ€™t come across anything of what you asked for. Our intellectuals and scholars usually work within the system, producing the customized texts, molded after the requirements posed at them. There are many more independent, competent thinkers in USA, and they are allowed much more space in media.
I can think of just one clear-sighted writer published in English, Jan Myrdal (son of the Nobel economist Gunnar Myrdal, who in 1928 wrote a fundamental critique of neoclassical economics). Jan Mâ€™s translated works on Swedish matters are from the 60s and 70s, when he was a central figure in the left-wing movement. He is now 87 and still very active, but ostracized and exiled to marginal, dissident papers. His latest book in English is about the Naxalites in India.
Our â€œintellectualsâ€ of international fame are caricatures like Johan Norberg, who earned his credentials with a book titled â€œIn Defense of Global Capitalismâ€. There seem to be some shortage of neoliberals capable of writing a whole book, so Norberg became a kind of celebrity in the US (and in Egypt). He is now a freelance writer and blogger, connected to the Cato Institute as a fellow.
To the morning coffee I now read, among others, New York Times on the web and find it to be an enlightened and versatile paper compared to its Swedish counterpart, Dagens Nyheter. Particularly now, with the conflict in Ukraine, DN appears in comparison to be a provincial, propagandistic and warmongering rag. To obtain insights not heard of here we have furthermore The Nation magazine and a host of other well informed US websites. On the other hand we donâ€™t have the opposite extremes like your worst neocon talk show hosts, religious fundamentalist congress members, fanatic climate deniers and their compatriots (but perhaps rather that than the one-dimensional conformity we suffer here).
There is not much new to report on the Swedish neoliberal front. The core of our welfare state is admittedly still there, but the right-wing government succeeded to stab some rather ugly wounds into the body of the caring society. We had an election in September in which the Social Democrats together with the Left and the Green parties barely became the largest fraction. But our ultra-right, xenophobic party (The Sweden Democrats) doubled its number of voters, thus becoming kingmaker in Parliament. Since none of the others wanted to have anything to do with the xenophobes, and yet wouldn’t cooperate over the aisle, a government crisis was inevitable. Thus a new election will be held in March next year.
Our neoliberal government since 2006 managed to privatize and deregulate some parts of key sectors of the welfare state, such as pre-schools, schools, pharmacies, health centers, hospitals, nursing homes and the like. Robber capitalism was invited into the system and a number of scandals followed. Even the mainstream press reported on the scandals and people got furious. In polls the government parties were practically destroyed. Still they won the elections in 2010, for the same reason as in the US (in your words): elections in our democracies are not won on issues but on imagery. And our whole media apparatus is nowadays in the bourgeoisie playing field. The Social Democrats have only some small countryside papers left.
Just one example of the neoliberal stranglehold on politics is peopleâ€™s view on profits in private welfare corporations. Two polls have been taken, both with the same result: 90 percent of Swedish voters want either a total ban on profits or a ban on dividends paid to shareholders. Of those who vote for the Social Democrats 99 percent want such restrictions. So when the new leader of the Social Democrats, Stefan Lofven, had been installed he immediately and strongly declared that there would be no changes in the present system, thus challenging 99 percent of his own voters. Why, one could ask. Well, he probably knows where the real power lies, and what the media had done to him had he said anything different.
We have in other words a lot of work to do and we try to do what we are able to. In that effort your dedication is our inspiration, together with your wisdom and unbelievable knowledge. I simply want to thank you for all that, and for what your work means for me personally.