The aim of this study is to assess and analyze the image of revolutionary China in the eyes of Swedish left wing travelers and activists during the heyday of Maoism, and how these traveler’s and activist’s reports and texts were used to promote friendship activism with China. Of particular interest is how the euphoric view of China in the west, during the Cultural revolution, was promoted and also the reasons behind the Swedish Friendship Associations strong enthusiasm for this task.
The analytical approach is influenced by Bourdieu’s field theory and central concepts like cultural and social capital, with the foremost intent of studying the motivation behind The New Left quest for utopias and the creation of these utopias.
The empirical study is focused on the archive material of the Swedish-Chinese Friendship Association, SKF/SKVF, and the main Swedish Maoist party KFML/Skp, and on literature and press articles on China during the period 1952-1979, with emphasis on the years between 1966 and 1979.
Contributing strongly to the positive image of China that developed in the western world from the mid sixties onwards was the notion that the Chinese people were creating a new brand of socialism. The Swedish Maoist sphere and the Friendship Association continually produced friendship travelers reports on what was regarded, by the Maoists and friends of China, as a fully developed revolutionary example. The KFML/Skp and Swedish-Chinese Friendship association were, during the late sixties and the early seventies, very close in their respective interpretation of the Chinese Cultural Revolution as a democratic and grassroot-oriented political process.
Even in broader circles than the new left, China was during this period regarded as a most progressive third world country.
The Swedish-Chinese Friendship Association was, up to the mid seventies a natural part of the Swedish New Left movements where solidarity with China became a way of making an argument for a future Swedish socialist society. Friendship with China could on different levels provide various forms of social and cultural capital in the ongoing struggle for the precedence of interpretation in the left wing-field during the 1960s and 1970s period.
In the mid seventies the Swedish friends of China and the Maoist sphere rallied behind the Chinese foreign policy doctrine of the three worlds, (supermaktsteorin). Now the Maoists, and the Friendship Association defended the Chinese position that World War III loomed, and that the Soviet Union would be the most aggressive part in this war. Information about China which did not emanate from the Chinese network was regarderd by the Swedish Friendship Association and by the Maoist sphere as manufactured and directed by the political opponents of the People’s Republic.
The effort to be close to the Chinese network was in the Swedish Maoist and Friendship sphere thus as important during the late 1970s as during the most intense period of the Cultural Revolution, 1966-1969.
My conclusion is that the contacts with the Chinese carried some weight in these organisations and therefore had a defining importance for the leaderships position within the Friendship Association.
Another conclusion is that Maoism in Sweden did not disappear from the political arena foremost, as some debaters and historians have alleged, because of the end of left wing radicalization during the late seventies, or even as a reaction towards the by this time more obviously complicated Chinese politics.
Instead, the Friendship Association had for years invested in their trust in the Chinese leadership, and in the reciprocal but not necessarily equal exchange of favours, services and information. This trust, loyalty and conviction left the leading Swedish Maoist organisations and also the Friendship Association outside of the left wing socialist field in the late 1970s, and one can indeed also argue that the Maoists, and the Friendship Association actively stepped out of this arena as a part of their loyalty towards China.
When they disappeared from the field of left wing politics a considerable part of this field to the left of the traditional worker's movement also disappeared.
Because of the alignment with the Chinese policy – which involved creating the greatest possible goodwill for China within the Swedish establishment and also an alignment to the Chinese doctrine on the supposedly imminent World War III - the Maoists and the friends of China voluntarily excluded themselves from the Left Wing arena. Because of the increased traveling to China during this period, the Friendship Association continued to function, albeit not as a activist organization. The KFML/Skp however, was by this time, in a state of decline.
Lund: Sekel Bokförlag, 2008. , 354 p.