Monthly Archives: October 2015

Cases of character assassination: Vidal and Strindberg

When establishment intellectuals are disturbed by progressives and have to deal with factual, intelligent and witty individuals to whom they have no substantive rebuttals, they far from seldom react by attacking character. That’s what happens when Jennifer Senior reviews a biography of Gore Vidal (1925-2012), written by Jay Parini. And she starts right on in the opening paragraph:

“By virtually any metric, Gore Vidal was a difficult man. He had a skyscraping ego. On a clear day, you could see his grudges forever. He had an almost fathomless capacity for envy; he could be gratuitously cruel even to friends; a vein of paranoia pulsed through his politics.”

The review is printed in New York Times (Oct. 18, 2015), a paper with which Vidal had an old history. When he published The City and the Pillar in 1948 the entire decent intelligentsia almost got a collective stroke. The reason: he presented a male homosexual relationship in a novel, something no one had dared until then. The New York Times’ literary editor promised not to read any more books by Vidal, let alone review one. This blockade by the Times and others ultimately forced Vidal to put the novels aside and start writing movie scripts for Hollywood, just for a living (this “mishap” not mentioned by Ms. Senior, naturally).

One would think that the Times had something to beg Vidal of forgiveness for, given that the future (as usual) proved the progressive part in the conflict right. But no way! The flagship among newspapers must stand tall! Vidal for his part was pouring fuel on the flames by regularly saying about the Times in interviews: “It’s a very bad paper!”.

The review in NYT reminded me of other character assassinations, that insidious and craven habit among reactionaries. In Sweden we have a monumental example in the treatment of our – without comparison – greatest author, August Strindberg. Though now being dead for a century his plays appear continually on stages all over the world. To the 100y commemoration of his death last year our right-wing government contributed only a pittance to the many arrangements carried out (to compare with the many millions the Norwegian government spent for the celebration of their literary giant Henrik Ibsen).

Strindberg, like Vidal, was a progressive, and his satirical wit left the bourgeoisie fuming. Early in his career he literally had to escape his country with his family to live for a long time on the continent. After years abroad he was charged with blasphemy for joking about the profane origin of the wine and wafer for Communion. The charge was allegedly instigated by the queen and blasphemy considered a pretext for the real crime: the mild (and not chargeable) eroticism in the edition of short stories in which it was to find. Strindberg was forced home to appear in court, but fresh winds had blown in his country and he was greeted as a hero by the young generation, and quickly acquitted by the jury.

About the book on trial Strindberg said that it would be read in elementary schools in the future. In that, and in almost everything bad and atrocious he was accused of in his days, the future has exonerated him. Eventually progressives are mostly proven right because their thinking is directed forwards, into the future. Conservatives, on the other hand, are people who intensively work to preserve the same things that their fellow believers in previous generations just as intensively worked to prevent. Thus in the long run, they are mostly wrong.

Sweden joining NATO? More fuel on the fire?

The Ukrainian conflict has given the Swedish reactionaries a God-send opportunity to revive the dear old Cold War, demand more money to the military and insist on Sweden joining NATO. Russia has finally become a threat to our existence again; we’re back in the good old days! Never mind that Russia hasn’t the conventional military resources necessary to harm Sweden in any way and of course nor the slightest intention or motivation to do so. It doesn’t even want any part of Ukraine (except the thoroughly Russian Crimea, where a large military base threatened to be captured by NATO).

There is still a slight majority of Swedes not wanting a NATO membership, but the propaganda machinery works on all cylinders to change that. After a public debate recently on the subject one propagandist (in Dagens Nyheter) dismissed his opponents with the ironic sentence: “There is obviously a kinder universe where there is no need for NATO. I wish I had a visa that allowed me in there”.

That self-delusion is breath-taking; most universes must be kinder than NATO’s, as we learn from scanning just briefly over the records achieved by this military alliance. During its relatively short existence one or more members of this organization has accomplished a number of things, such as:

  • waging numerous illegal, immoral and horrible wars with millions of innocent people killed
  • overthrowing a large number of democratically elected governments, usually because they wanted to implement some social reforms to help ordinary people and the poor
  • replacing these overthrown governments with dictators, often military ones, sometimes of more or less Nazi character
  • supporting other dictators economically, militarily and politically – as long as they obeyed orders, not bothering if they tortured and harassed their populations
  • subjecting a country like Cuba to more terrorist attacks than any other country has suffered
  • training and equipping death squads in vassal states to kill politicians, union leaders, priests and anyone else with the wrong kind of ideas

Let’s save some space and halt there. If this happens to be the flip side of the coin, what about the positive achievements by NATO that this journalist considered self-evident?

We learned already in school that NATO was established to counter the “Soviet empire” and its ambition to conquer the whole world. We have had some scholars trawling through Lenin’s voluminous writings to find a sentence revealing the Communist goal of spreading over the entire globe. (There was of course no need to distinguish between Soviet foreign policy and Lenin’s speculations in the philosophy of history.)

“The Russians are coming!” vindicated all the horrible actions that NATO countries undertook. The fact that the Russian crimes against other nations, at least before the attack on Afghanistan, were completely insignificant compared to NATO’s was easily concealed.

During the first Cold War every sane person realized that the Soviet Union had no interest whatsoever to move beyond the borders of the Warsaw Pact, and no capability to do so. The threat faced by the whole world was that of nuclear obliteration, a horror that sooner was enhanced by NATO expanding its power. That “the Russians are coming” was a fake pretext for the existence of NATO was bluntly revealed by its own leaders when the Soviet Union disappeared. Instead of then dissolving NATO, it was enlarged and expanded!

NATO-countries once created the mujaheddin that later procreated into even tougher Muslim groups who like Frankenstein’s monster turned against their creators. Then with a couple of meticulously brainless wars the whole Middle East was set on fire and we got the ultimate terrorists, IS (and subsequently today’s flood of refugees over Europe).

For every terrorist killed ten more are enrolled, nowadays from every corner of the world. It means that there is no permanent solution to the problems to be achieved by violent means (Russia is wrong there too). A giant reconciliation is the only way out. The way to get there is nowhere in sight today. Probably we will have to await a totally intolerable situation before anything can turn around. But the human capability to use the brain has historically achieved the most unbelievable things, and everything is possible!