Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme discusses his socialist political viewpoints with Studs Terkel in Sweden at the House of Parliament
BROADCAST: Nov. 5, 1973 | DURATION: 00:54:16
Studs Terkel interviews Sweden Prime Minister Olaf Palme at the House of Parliament. They discuss socialist political viewpoints and touch on a large variety of subjects. Major topics include work environment, working women, issues of ordinary people, industrialism, the post-industrial society, technology, and communities. Studs gives a short post script to inform listeners about the arrest of five journalists in Sweden, who were charged with exposing information about a secret police called the Information Branch. It was said that they jeopardized Sweden's security. At one point in the interview, a vote alarm sounded, and the Prime Minister had to break so he could cast his vote.
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Studs Terkel This is one of those delightful moments. I'm seated in the office of Mr. Olof Palme, the prime minister of Sweden. I was about to say the Oval Office. Mr. Palme is very gracious, indeed, to offer the time in the midst of his incredibly busy schedule. I'm certain that the leader of a country that is, perhaps, one of the most advanced in the Western world, and I'm thinking there are so many questions to ask you, first of all, thank you very much for the time you're offering and your hospitality.
Olof Palme It is an honor for us to have you as our guest. Your book has really been widely read in this country. And there are a number of epigones who tried to do the same with our experiences of the '30s and the '40s.
Studs Terkel On that subject--of course, I thank you very much. On that subject, I know it interests you very much, thoughts of the anonymous person, the ordinary man, people not heard from; you know this is where I work and I thought you, as the statesman of a country, are very interested in this, thoughts of ordinary people, this interests you very much, doesn't it?
Olof Palme Indeed, because the problem with politics is that you tend to be locked up in an office, whether Oval or not, and that you meet your colleagues, other politicians and administrators at no end, but that you lose contact with what you call the ordinary man, and, therefore, this is terribly important, and I'm grappling with a problem--it's insoluble. Somebody else figured out how much, how long time I would need to have a personal talk with every citizen of this country.
Studs Terkel Yes.
Olof Palme And that's impossible. And how should we do about it? You traveling around the country does a lot: to political meetings, political rallies. And we've experimented with some new forms. I found out that prime ministers go and see factories or offices, and they come there and they are met by a managing director or somebody and they're shoved around with prepared schedule and they see that, so we were experimenting with a new type, where I come seven o'clock to the factory or the hospital--
Olof Palme Yeah.
Olof Palme Yes, no managing directors, no, only with one representative the union. And then I spend the whole day in the factory and then I get ample time to see what they do and what they think. Mail is important. People, they don't write letters here as they do in the United States, but still they write letters. And I find that the letters from ordinary citizens, they don't concern so much the major political issues. Very often, they simply concern their own personal problems and they are just as entitled to get an answer on that as if they would write about the Middle East crisis or Vietnam or something else. In this way, we are trying to break up channels of communications. But the problem is in itself insoluble, you're doomed to a certain kind of isolation. You can remedy it to some extent.
Studs Terkel There is the problem of bureaucracy itself, the nature of the paperwork itself. But Doris--it's astonishing, your insights so similar to Doris Lessing, the distinguished British novelist, she was pointing out that leaders of states, particularly superpowers, but--see each other. They fly through the air with the greatest of ease as Saroyan heroes do, and they meet each other, as you pointed out, I believe, in one of your talks, one of your conversations, but they hardly see anyone else, so you try to solve this as best you can, in your way to meet the man or the woman on the street, the person working there. This is the key. I remember Dieter Strand, the very excellent Swedish journalist who was following you during one of your campaigns treks in 1968, and he saw you in the city of Avesta and there you were talking in squares, and to people, groups of 5, 6, 10.
Olof Palme And that I continue. It--the recent election campaign was one of the most stimulating experiences I've ever met because there was a joy in it and a warmth in the meeting with people, and every time the same experience. You have to hang on if possible for a while after your speech because then the people come up and talk to you about something you said or about their personal problems.
Studs Terkel This matter of personal problems, it's not a huge issue that the ordinary man is involved with at that moment. He's tired, and so it's not a question of Vietnam or a question of, in the United States it would be race, and you said this, a taxicab driver 60 years old took me to the Riksdag media this morning and he says, "Who are you meeting?" I said, "Meeting Mr. Palme." He said, "You tell him from me," he says, "That the age of retirement 67 is too long. I'm now 60, I'm going to be 65 soon. I've got four hard years ahead of me." And there again, it was a very personal thing, wasn't
Olof Palme Yeah. And he's right. The retirement is a very typical issue because you have had 67, we're lowering it now to 65. Some get it at 63, and we have the possibility of some to get it at 60 for medical reasons or if they simply have had the job where the strain has been so hard, like for instance woodcutter, so building work, that they say that this is. But people are so infinitely dissimilar. So the real problem is to find a method of having a pension retirement age that is suitable to every individual, because I meet very many who want, who say, "I'm only 72. I can't, I can't stop work. I want to have something to do." So what we are thinking about this to find a method of make it the individual's own choice when he wants to go into retirement.
Studs Terkel Aren't you're touching right there on the vitality in some people and the suddenness, this face in other societies, the suddenness of retirement, the shock of it, the traumatic effect, and you're saying that some at 72, they're Casals and Picasso in spirit.
Olof Palme Yes.
Olof Palme The metalworkers union here is very good proposal really, say why don't make the system of half retirement? That you start your retirement by working halftime, and then after some years you quit working halftime and you take your full retirement? Because very few people want the sudden break from one day to the other, especially about those in manual work. The suddenness is always, was often very shocking.
Studs Terkel Aren't you touching, I know this interests you very much, and interests me, this forthcoming book it's on work, has always interested you more than ever now with technology, computer, the feeling about work and its meaninglessness and meaning and from way, way back, you've been interested in this, haven't you. We've reached a certain stage now, haven't we?
Olof Palme Yeah, well, I have an opinion which some would consider Puritan or conservative. I've slowly come to a point where I dislike very much some sociologists and others who want to create this civilization of leisure and where that should be the central part of people's lives and where they always talk about compensating measures to make life bearable in spite of the work. As long as we can look forward, at least this century, work will play a central part in people's lives. And if work is dreary and hopeless, then the rest, it will color the rest of your life. And, therefore, the central issue of modern civilization is to make work meaningful and to raise sort of the standing of work. If we don't succeed to do that, we will not succeed in all our other endeavors, either.
Studs Terkel Of course, this is it, you are touching the core of it. What a man or a woman does for a livelihood has to be meaningful to him to her no matter how much play is involved, leisure outside, if that's meaningless. Didn't, isn't one of your mentors, Mr. Wigforss, years ago, see that as a possible problem back in the '20s, didn't he? Ernst Wigforss. Exactly
Olof Palme Exactly that. When he was 90, two years ago, I went down to congratulate him and he said, "Well, you know, I've made the same speech from 1910 onwards. I have basically the same speech. Thousands of them. And they all dealt with this problem of democracy and meaningfulness of work. And it isn't easy." We're making other experiments with work democracy and I went up to a state tobacco factory up north, and there we were making fairly advanced experiments. There was one older man who said, "Well, I'm almost 60. I'm a tobacco worker. My father and my grandfather were tobacco workers, too. And my grandfather, he had only two years of school and he had no education whatsoever. And he started when he was very young, but he had more to say on his work, in his work, than the young girls who come in here and have twelve years of school behind them because of the technological process. And then I talked to one of the girls, active in the trade union, active in the political youth organizations, she was about 21. And she said that, "Yeah I'm all for this. But I and ten other girls were sitting in the room and we are filling a tobacco called Borkum Riff, sold very much in the States, it contains whiskey. We're filling that in a plastic bag and measure that's all right and then send off. And this we do and whatever you do, with work democracy, this will be just as hopeless as before. To do this year after year, putting the same amount of tobacco in that plastic bag and send it off, she'll be all right because she's so active in so many other fields, she'll sit on the councils and she'll take part in investment decisions, she'll represent her comrades. But there are nine other girls.
Studs Terkel Yes. Now you're talking about, now we're coming to something else, aren't we, the nature of the assembly-line approach or technique. We--you know, in America, the United States at this moment, there's a great problem, absenteeism in many of the plants. The spot-welders in the auto plants as an example. Now, aren't attempts being made here in some of the plants in which a group of people, men and women, can see the product what they do and see it finished or the portion they're doing finished, beginning to end, because a man doesn't see the end of his work.
Olof Palme We have the same problems in our auto factories and absenteeism, and the management had a lot of explanations. It was the fault of the sickness insurance, it was the fault of this and that or what the government does, but they slowly came to the conclusion that it had more than that to do with the character of the work people were doing. And--
Studs Terkel By the way, the sound we hear in the background, just to make it clear to the radio audience, this means a vote is being taken, is that it? The sound. We're sitting in the House of Parliament here, the Riksdag, and this is the vote that's occurring, the audience acquainted with this, having watched Watergate hearings, United States, Sam Ervin often says, "We're going for a vote now."
Studs Terkel Of course. While Prime Minister Olof Palme has gone to vote, the majority isn't that large, I assume you get the humor of it there, it was a dead heat. It's 175-175, isn't it, in the Parliament? Now the Prime Minister has returned to our very informal conversation, might I say this is very refreshing, because I would find this very rare indeed, with shall we say high political figures in my country at this moment having this very informal on a variety of subjects. We're talking about work and the nature of it. And you mentioned industrial democracy. Does that subject came up a great deal, too, working men on the line or they're having a say or so in the operation of a factory where they are? I realize you're 95% private industry that should be
Olof Palme It doesn't matter because applies equally to state or private factories, because hierarchical problems are part of the same, but we made other measures, put in workers on the boards for the major companies now. But that solves only part of the problem, because it's still far away and, therefore, is that the closer you can bring work democracy to the actual workshop, the better it is, because then democracy becomes a reality, and not only a matter of choosing somebody to represent you. What we try to tackle is three things: Firstly and primarily, work environment, because we found that the--we started with a great environment drive, like any other country, we had this big Stockholm conference on the environment and so on. But when we dealt with the environment, we found that there were serious environment problems possibly you find in the workplaces. The health hazards, all the poisons, all the dangerous machines. The number of, and we made a very close investigational reality made by the different labor unions for their fields. Now when we try to improve work environment, it is by better laws and more research and all that, and more inspection. But the best method was to apply democracy, because nobody knows his environment better than the man who stands right in it. And, therefore, the idea is now that the sort of protective agents that are chosen by the working men should get much wider powers simply have the power to stop the machine that they consider dangerous. To be in on already the planning of a new factory and of the machinery and to have continuous consultation with management on work
Olof Palme Yeah. We have a new law that will be dealt with in Parliament in a few weeks' time which will give this democratic powers. That's the first stage, then we'll continue with stiffening up the laws.
Studs Terkel Of course, this raises another question, it's almost a philosophical question, one you had to face directly. With increasing industrialization of technology, there's always an attempt by those who seek a simplistic approach to go back, nostalgia, something here, perhaps we'll talk about that when I get back. The "Green Wave," so-called, the nostalgia for the simple life as though it were almost Luddite in nature, as though the machines could be destroyed. We have to face this reality, don't we?
Olof Palme Oh, very, this is a very great debating point, because our line is to defend industrial society as such. We have to keep it. Otherwise we can't progress. You can take it in three ways: either say we smash it all and we have the revolution, and you damn well know that the day after revolution, you have to start all over again with running of the same factories.
Olof Palme Yeah. The second is to go back to the society of the past, with the green wave which is a way of fleeing reality. The third way is to try to change it from within. And that is a long painstaking reformist way, and this we're trying to follow.
Studs Terkel Just to make the machine serve man, of course, this is what it amounts to, but to destroy the machine, again we come back to a phony kind of nostalgia, which you had to face, quite obviously, in this last election. That was a seeking, wasn't it? I understand the problem, as you do, obviously, hard-working people, tired, the machine doing things to them, and therefore someone says, "Let's go back to a pastoral life."
Olof Palme Yes. And he'll get the great appeal. Although, I mean, we managed the last election, I go around and find people that they think they won it, simply by the fact that we started from a real low point and we had this enormous attack finally to get the change of government here. And therefore it was, in a sense, a great defensive operation and sort of the attack failed with a thin margin, but it failed.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking of Olof Palme himself, and I think people listening and reading would like to know how he came to be. You studied the United States back in '48 and you went to Kenyon College in Ohio, and you hitchhiked. This goes back to you and your approach to humans, to people, you hitchhiked around the United States, didn't you, back then?
Olof Palme Yeah. That was a great experience because I had no money and had three months to stay in the United States and the best thing I could do was to go on the road. And I covered, I think, 34 states and the, I mean, I went to college and you meet your comrades, and it was a great year, too, but to break out of it all, and to make--meet so many people, I mean, the ones you hitchhiked with, a great variety, the flophouses where I lived, saw a lot of people, the buses I went with from time
Studs Terkel Asleep on the bus. I'm thinking about this approach, you see. Then it was also in those younger days a student there, you also saw people thinking about their own specific individual problems, not of cosmic things, and it's a way of getting at that, isn't it?
Studs Terkel Yes. Much easier. And many things easier, I'm thinking about you being the prime minister of a country that's in the middle. The word neutrality is used great deal, and the late John Foster Dulles said, "There's no such thing. You're with us or against us." Yet Sweden has been able to work between two, now three superpowers who have reached detentes, and that creates certain challenges, doesn't it?
Olof Palme Well, that doesn't, at times we are not particularly beloved because I'm all for this détente between the superpowers. But it has certain inherent dangers in it, that just carve up the world into pieces and then you keep quiet in your own [heart? half?]. And that the detente is sometimes made at the expense of the right of self-determination of identity of small nations. And if this danger shall be averted, you have to have a kind of solidarity of small countries. And, therefore, we have spoken quite a lot on problems like Czechoslovakia or like Vietnam or like Chile. And this doesn't make us very popular in there, but I think it's necessary.
Studs Terkel Is there, do you see this happening, you work with this duopoly or triopoly. You know, I think of--I come from Chicago, and so I think, without being disrespectful of these large powers, we have a syndicate in Chicago, you've heard of the Syndicate, now and then they carve up the turf, you see. This is carving up the turf. What about the small owner of enterprise in that area, say, the small countries? Is there a chance? Do you see more of an empathy openly between these smaller countries that recognize a common interest?
Olof Palme I think so. It will--they also have their national interests and they can be fearful, but I think they will recognize. We find with our relations with the Vietnamese, for instance, or with the same in Zambia, or our relations with Tanzania or with Chile at its time, that although our systems of government and our ideologies are very different, and the affinity between us and these have come very much from the fact that they know that we are also a small country and that we could not possibly have any strategic or military or large-scale economic interests within their area and therefore they are, the dissimilarities are large, but our similarities also large on this particular point, that we have no great powers, no great ambitions concerning the territories of other or the economy of other peoples.
Studs Terkel Yeah, I'm thinking, and even you recognize this in one of your conversations that I'd read, that in many ex-colonies now finding their identity, there are national liberation movements, so when big powers get together, it is to the interest, the big powers do, to sort of put down or ignore these national liberation movements in the name of status quo or law and order.
Studs Terkel There's another aspect, I know that you have many things on your mind and work to do. We think of women, women and men of Sweden as you know, liberated and, yet, there's a--I know there are women movements in Sweden, and your wife, I consider Mrs. Palme's active as a child psychologist, one of the problems I've heard discussed, we have spoken of the problems, child care. Invariably young couples when we speak of childcare as one of the great pressing problems. Say, Vietnam. While they were interested in that, they would say childcare.
Olof Palme Yeah. Well, this, I mean, the position of women is deplorable in this country like in many others. We reached some way, but still there are great injustices, and therefore I have this special delegation in my own office working with these problem, rights, equality for women. But when you come to child care, this is a larger problem and that I would express as follows. Well, we've been talking before here about the problems of industrial society, and we're dealing with that. At the same time we are running into the problems of what some people call the post-industrial society, so it's not a very good phrase. But anyway, I found that if we want to make a reasonable society where industry plays a smaller role than it does now in quantitative terms, at any rate, we have to build up the public sector. Before. It was a question of building the schools, the houses, the hospitals that we needed. The old, old Galbraithian balance, that we have to a large extent at least solved, but if you want to raise the quality of public sector, it's a matter of having more people prepared to serve other people, and to have more people because that you can never rationalize away. The human contact in the hospital. The human contact between the grown-up and a child, the human contact of an old pensioner sitting in his flat and waiting for his days end, you can never rationalize away the human being. And therefore the most, if you want to create more jobs but primarily a more meaningful society, you have to, and try to create more of a sense of community in society, you have to have more people to serve other people.
Studs Terkel Aren't you also saying something else, here, Mr. Palme, not unrelated to what we talked about, you talked about earlier, work, perhaps work should be redefined. That is, we always think, we think of work traditionally as man making things. Now, things are making things, technologically. Now, perhaps, work involve man and man, man and woman, humans what you're talking about. So, perhaps going to school might be considered work. Being a mother might be considered work in the most meaningful sense.
Olof Palme Exactly. And I remember there are some very promising signs among the youth of today, about 10 years ago we were discussing. We know that we are able, we will have to create much for old people's homes and a lot of care for old people for the simple fact that we get so many more older people because they live longer, and we were discussing how on earth are we going to recruit young people to do this type of work, to take care of 70 or 80-year-olds as their contribution to society. We are now finding that 10 years later youth are crowding the educational lines leading exactly to that type of work, that young people, they find this meaningful. And this I find as a very positive tendency in society. Because if instead of going out and be a marketing man or advertising agent or producing some things that aren't very important, say, "I will devote my life to looking after old people." This I find a very, very promising sign.
Olof Palme And then, I mean, it would be silly if politicians and for being afraid of public expense are being afraid of people's revolt against taxes would say that this is impossible, and often people say we have too many bureaucrats in society and somebody said, the newspapers said, "Every two minutes a bureaucrat is born." I said the fault of society is that we have too few people involved in serving other people.
Studs Terkel It's very interesting that very often you hear those who speak of welfare state, too much taxes, hardly question the amount of dough that is spent on a pack of cigarettes that goes toward, you know, advertising as a result of it, you know. Oh, this brand is better than that brand, which we know, of course, is a fiction. They hardly question fiction, but they worry about the truth. About the other aspect I knew interest you, Mr. Prime Minister, and that's as these young--I know a story, English sociologist told me this story. Two young girls went to help this old indigent woman somewhere in the countryside, and they discovered that she helped them, too. Her own life experience. They told about their personal problems, and she gave them great advice. It worked two ways. A question of old people finding their own sense of self-respect, too.
Studs Terkel Resuming the conversation with Mr. Olof Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden, just turned the tape over, and here's a machine. Here's a machine, now and then I think all machines are too much and, yet, this is very helpful indeed. You and I, our conversations. You were talking about?
Olof Palme Yeah. I said in my, as I said before in our conversation, my fairly isolated life. When I go out electioneering and had a lot of pensioner meeting, thousands of pensioners, old people. And that was a great experience because to talk to them, because you tend to classify, you have so and so many thousand pensioners in a given village, so and so many hundred thousand or so, so many million people and that they've become a quantitative expression of something. Old people. But in fact, I mean, all these old people are unique. Every one of them there has his unique experience of life, and his unique wisdom of life, and therefore, as individual personalities they are very fascinating. Although we try to treat them as an enormous, anonymous--
Studs Terkel As statistics. As statistics. This is it, isn't it? Really. Again we come back to your own approach, to your experiences whether hitchhiking in the United States or going to the industrial town of Avesta here in Sweden, talking to individuals, each one, not statistics. I guess this is one of the challenges to any leader of any country. You know? I realize you also overwhelmed by administrative details in the work you have to do, but how are you able to see them if leaders only could? Isn't that it? See individuals.
Olof Palme Exactly. I mean, a lot of these fantastic statistics issued by the Pentagon always. That was a dehumanization of the war and I've forgotten their phrases now to explain this, but in a way, and then that the bombing was done by people who never saw their targets, which made it completely anonymous. But Song Mi could never become anonymous. Then it became reality for individual human beings and that, finally I think, to many people made the war explainable. That was the significance of Song Mi.
Studs Terkel I think, perhaps, that metaphor, that horrendous metaphor, the B-52 bomber could be the symbol of everything, that is, the man, the distance, destroying people who he's never known or seen, as things. We come back now, outside war and the sphere of general--of life itself, industry and people who work there, attitudes of political figures toward those who are statistics of votes. This is a challenge of this last third. What would you see as the, before a few more questions, last third of the 20th century. What would you, what do you see as, we've talked about them, some of the key challenges that would face you?
Olof Palme One is to make the industrial society meaningful. Renew industry from within. Knowing that this is only part of the future. The other one is to create more of a sense of community in this approaching post-industrial society, whatever you want to do it. The third was to make people more engaged in their own life and the possibility to create their own lives and that they can only do. That's why I'm a socialist, because if you say you want to create your own life, your own future, this is never done by you yourself, it's always done together with other people in some way or another. And therefore, the spirit of egoism is very strong. It'll always be so. The spirit of communion, community, that's the one that has to be strengthened and, therefore, I'm a socialist, very simply.
Studs Terkel So, therefore, there could be a fusion of the two. The ego, which is healthy in all individuals, at the same time there must be a communal approach, that one does not live on an island. By the way, is this aspect also touched upon in your society? There's a growing hunger in the United States for local autonomy, that is in neighborhoods. Again, come back to--and, perhaps as people are able to control the part of their lives locally, they get to see larger issues bit by bit by bit. First of all their own sense of personal worth, [this to be there?].
Olof Palme We have that very much here, too. I've a double view of this. First place is healthy. That also endangers it, too, because it will be a neighborhood egoism towards other parts of the neighborhood or of the country. It's always a problem to have an overriding solidarity, otherwise you can't make a nations. And therefore, if this neighborhood participation is part of a larger sort of [solidarity?], it's healthy. Otherwise it can bring back the whole of the country into pieces.
Studs Terkel I see one of these dangers two ways. Both in my society, see, we want local control and, therefore, we'll keep the Blacks out, or whatever. And in your case I saw Thomas Cremer the other day, the ombudsman for the Lapp people up north, and he says their opposition to you up there in local communities who are--they--and control more right-wing people and they have an attitude toward the minorities, very similar to that of say, right-wing groups in my country who speak of control of neighborhood, etc. This is what you see. Well, overall thing would see them all common humanity.
Olof Palme Yeah. For instance, I mean, to state very, very simply, we by the national budget, we take a lot of money to pay for poor municipality, poor neighborhoods, so they can give service to their older people without horrible taxes. There is an almost equality operation, that one of the results is that the differentials in income in this country between different regions is considerably smaller than in other parts of Europe. If, for instance, the rich community of Jewish [home?] here would have to decide whether they will be prepared to pay something for the ones living up far north, who wouldn't get much money. But if you use the state as an instrument to create equality between neighborhoods, it's sufficient.
Studs Terkel Coming back to the matter of equality in the neighborhoods and come now to the question of equality and sex. Man and women. There's something interesting in Sweden here that people in the United States don't know about, that when a woman is working has a child, baby, she has six months' paid leave.
Olof Palme Yes.
Olof Palme Yeah.
Studs Terkel Instead
Olof Palme But they can choose. They can choose. If--and they separate, I mean, one can take three months and the other one the three next months. And same stay home and look after a sick child, have a new insurance that goes into effect the first of January. The husband can stay home and look after the sick
Olof Palme Yeah. Very little. But this is a democratic decision home, that as long as I do this type of work it simply is not possible to do a proper share of housework. Tonight I go home and look after the children.
Olof Palme Yeah.
Olof Palme Well, that's, that must be so and it's coming up more and more that we know that everybody has his personal life and that it's shared between different members of a family. And we have to arrange work so that this is possible.
Studs Terkel Before I leave you, Mr. Palme, and you've been most gracious. There's something that attracts me to you very much, and that is, there's an air of improv--but you have a plan, you work around--also you allow flexible--an air of improvisation, too, that life itself has astonishments, you know, and that you are prepared for that. You like jazz. See, that's why--Jazz. Jazz is improvisatory and you were a jazz fan. You have been a jazz fan.
Olof Palme Yes. Not much so, I wrote a little--I remember I worked as a journalist when I was young, and right after the war we'd been cut off from jazz during the war, naturally. I remember when the war was over and the first orchestras started coming here from the United States, that was a fantastic hullaballoo here. The first one who came was Don Redman, perhaps--
Olof Palme Anyway, he was the first, then came Duke Ellington and then came all the others. And when I was in the States, say, just to try to go listen to the people in New York, down in New Orleans, over in San Francisco. And I think just the improvisations in jazz attracts me very much. Although jazz people are having a very difficult time now, all over the world, because they are squeezed between commercial music, pop music, and rock. And rock.
Studs Terkel Although rock is influenced by jazz to some extent, but that's what you're saying in the squeeze, but I may be stretching a point here. As bad, perhaps, because I'm so interested and have been in jazz, and in what you do, that even your life as a statesman has to allow that air of improvisation to it. Of course there must be planning, but that air of improv--that is, you are not stiff, you are not a robot, you are not an automaton, and therefore things happen. And this is what I mean by the jazz approach.
Olof Palme I may be all these things, rather, but I think it's bad if politicians are, because we are for more planning as simply saying that we think that more of the planning has to be done by the democratic state instead of by private corporation. The planning will be done anyway, but this planning can't be rigid because then we run into trouble very
Studs Terkel Mr. Palme, ah, the sound, I hear it, it's not doomsday but that's on time. That's the clock. That's about a perfect windup. Is there--so many questions to ask you, any subject we haven't touched on you'd like to talk about or say something before we say goodbye for now.
Olof Palme No. Well, I hope--I spent much time in the United States. I'm very grateful to the United States for all the [impulses?] and all the wonderful people I've met. I hope the United States will recover, because all those who feel a sense of affinity to the United States and its people, they are actually very distressed. I was very shocked. Compared with my student days in America now, the deep split in society and therefore it's really important, also to us, that the United States recover and express that hope.
Studs Terkel I think it should be clear, perfectly clear to the audience that Olof Palme is a friend of the democratic impulse in the United States and it is the anti-democratic impulse to which he has objected, the non, anti-human aspect of a policy, but not to the people of the country and to its history, tradition. Thank you very much. "Tack" is the word. How can I say, what, "very much" in Swedish?
Studs Terkel [pause in recording] A postscript is in order here. A most untoward event happened in the Swedish journalistic history, contemporary history. Five journalists were arrested two days before the conversation I had with Prime Minister Olof Palme. This is the first time this has happened since 1940, and during World War Two, and the journalists were members of a paper called the "Folket i Bild". It's a radical newspaper that is subscribed to by its readers and owned by those who write for it. It's a paper which Jan Myrdal, the son of Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, is one of the founders, as well as [Sture Shelberg?], who wrote a book dealing with lives of ordinary Swedes in a town called Westeros, and it's a left-wing paper, but it's one that apparently exposed the existence of a secret police in Sweden called the IB, the Information Branch, and apparently it's been quite the scandal since this exposure. And one of the members of the staff of "Folket i Bild", which means "people in pictures," "Folket i Bild". One of them wrote a book and telling about this and apparently, according to the government, according to Palme's government, exposing secrets that may be dangerous to the security of Sweden. Palme assumed I was going to bring up the subject during the conversation. It's the big scandal right now in Sweden at the moment. Headlines in the papers. Five arrested for spying, and the journalists are all furious about the arrests, and editorials have been condemning the police for making these arrests. And all sorts of stories have been given. One story, and these are all, these are all unconfirmed tales. One is that this particular paper exposed the IB, the Information Branch of the Swedish police, that many Swedes did not know existed. It's almost though that the Congress voted funds for them, and didn't know of the existence of the particular group. One is that they had helped Israeli intelligence agents raid the Egyptian embassy and were furious at the exposure. This is a story now, just alleged, because the Arab nations would be furious and cut off oil from Sweden. Sweden use 80 percent of its fuel as oil, and you picture Sweden without oil in the wintertime. That is one of the stories. The story offered by Prime Minister Palme off the tape or he would have spoken on the tape, but I hesitated bringing the point. He assumed, by the way, this sounds complicated as I'm telling it, he assumed I would ask him this question on the tape because two nights before, I had a dinner with Ole [Olsen?], the chief editorial writer of the liberal paper the "Dagens Nyheter" who is a friend of Palme, in fact was offered a job as press secretary some time ago, and he wrote an editorial condemning the raid, as did all the newspapers in Stockholm, and that night I jokingly said at dinner with Olsen and with his colleague Svante Nycander, who does labor reportage for the "Dagens Nyheter", which is the most widely read paper in Stockholm. I says, "I feel just like I'm back home again. Sounds like back home." He repeated the joke to Palme, and Palme knew I was disturbed, as obviously anyone would by the fact that five journalists are arrested in the society I consider the most open in the Western world, Sweden, and he was rather angry at the reporters who were arrested. He's implying it was a tremendous irresponsibility on their part. Of course, Britain has--rather, Britain, Sweden has its own intelligence. It has to, he says, being a smaller country that is not part of a superpower. U.S. with the CIA, not part of a superpower, the U.S.S.R. with its N.K.G. (sic) Rather, its own and to exist needs some sort of defense. You know, Sweden is the fourth country in the world as far as defense expenditures are concerned, one more of the ironies involved. It's U.S., U.S.S.R., Israel, and then Sweden for defense expenditures. He says to maintain neutrality, one must at the same time be independent, too, militarily, and he says it is the nature, the implication--the nature of the outside world is so overwhelming that it indeed affects Sweden, too. He was explaining this by way of saying the reporters arrested were wholly irresponsible and, indeed, offer a great damage to the--well, there's a word again, "security" of Sweden. So the story is a very confused one indeed, and Palme is justifying the raid, and the journalists are indignant, furious, and bewildered generally speaking. I don't know who's in the right in this case, I'm a visitor here and I haven't the vaguest idea. All I know is it's an unprecedented event in contemporary Swedish history and, so this is by way of a footnote. The Prime Minister doesn't mind at all my saying this on the air. In fact, he had assumed that I would ask him this, but I had hesitated for what I felt were reasons of being a guest of the government. So that's how things are at the moment. More of this we'll find out anon. One other postscript. Olof Palme was saying that the journalists who were arrested were using the technique of bugging, that they were bugging governmental phones and the very idea was reprehensible. That they were engaged, even though they had assumed their motives were in the right, that they were right, he says no matter what their motives were, he says no matter what their motives were the technique they were using was reprehensible, that this is his accusation, that they were bugging even to expose a fact alleged or a fact they were doing that and he said--again, his anger was quite apparent at the people arrested. He said it might, indeed--the courts are independent of the government, there's an independent judiciary here, and it might indeed go hard for those who are arrested. As far as people on the street concerned, it's the world over many don't care too much. Some say, "Oh, just five journalists were arrested." But a young cab driver said, "Oh, those police. There they go again." He said, "The same the world over." And, so, there you have it. A problem at this moment facing Sweden, one of the ironies and you might add, as far as I'm concerned, one of the tragic ironies of this moment but we'll undoubtedly hear more of this case and its implications as time goes on. And another postscript as I start thinking of irony and absurdity and paradox and contradiction. My publishers, Norstedts, a very respected publishing house in Britain who put out the Swedish edition of "Division Street: America" and "Hard Times" are terribly worried about these arrests, because a couple of their writers are involved and, ironically, Olof Palme wrote the preface to the Swedish edition of "Hard Times". And, so, I find myself on the outside. At the same time bewildered and somewhat very much saddened, indeed, by this turn of events. And a slight correction: an addendum to an addendum to an addendum. Norstedts is a publishing house in Sweden, not in Britain.