From Jean Batiste Bernadotte To Carl Bildt. On The Meaning Of ‘To Play The Swede’ and Violations Of Sweden’s Neutrality Oaths –

Explaining the geopolitical shift of Sweden, from proud and sovereign country to self-made American client state; a development that constitutes one important background in the support of the Ukraine coup by the current Swedish government, and in the ongoing case of Sweden against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

When one and other journalist asked Thomas Bodström, the Swedish Minister of Justice, about his involvement in the infamous rendition of the Egyptians refugees to the CIA, the exposed politician shrugged his shoulders and pretended not to understand what the controversy was about. This behaviour is known in Spanish-speaking nations as “hacerse el sueco” (“to play the Swede”). The Spanish Academy has even a definition of it, which reads in Latin “Inscium, ignarum se simulare”, meaning “feign ignorance of, pretend not to understand”. [1]


By Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli, Berlin, 4 April 2014

 JanBatistaBernadotteThe plebeian soldier made general by the anti-monarchy French Revolution, became later a traitor to Napoleon and his French Army, to finally being adopted as “King” by the Swedes. He initiated the current “Swedish dynasty” (and the saying “To play the Swede”)

What is the origin of “playing the Swede”?

Although this popular saying is widely used in Latin America, its origins are in Spain and, according to the Real Academia Española, the term was first documented in 1841 after a theatre play, using the term in the script.[2] I have a theory of the origins, linked to the peculiar geopolitical behaviour of Swedish rulers.

By the end of the 1700s, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was a soldier of plebeian origin that became general in the popular ranks of Napoleon’s army thanks to the French Revolution. When the advances of the Napoleon Empire were challenged, and eventually stopped by the Entente of recalcitrant-conservative European royalties, Bernadotte’s loyalty to his country France and to his commander-in-chief Napoleon was put under scrutiny. It was a test that Bernadotte did not pass. “He feigned not to understand what was going on”.

The Emperor, eager to remove any such treason risk, ostracised the pompous plebeian Bernadotte with a second-rate honorific title as head of a tiny Italian village named Ponte Corvo (population about 5,000 at the time), in the province of Firisone [3] – one of the most remote locations from Paris. Bernadotte’s betrayal of Napoleon showed clearly when he abstained from participating with his troops in the battles of Jena and Auerstädt. Finally, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was removed as army commander for have ordered them to retreat, in violation of Napoleon’s orders, during the battle of Wagram.

Napoleon was nevertheless prevented from eliminating the treacherous general by more drastic means because Bernadotte had married Napoleon’s old love Désirée (sister of Napoleons brother’s wife).

In 1810 the opportunistic “neutral” Bernadotte was invited by the Swedish ruling elites to become the king of Sweden, which was then without a monarch.

Sweden balanced at that time between the Napoleonic and the Holy Alliance powers and saw in the ambiguous Bernadotte’s position a choice that could please Napoleon – by removing this thorn in his side– and at the same time pleasing England in view of the antipatriotic (anti French) behaviour demonstrated by French General Bernadotte. And this is the sequence of facts that Swedish historians love to ignore. Despite Sweden having signed a “neutral” pact in 1800 [4], when Denmark (also signatory of the Neutral pact) was attacked by the English Royal Navy the Swedes, who could practically see the events from a Naval base in Swedish territory, with a variety of excuses, did not go to help the Danes.

Were the Swedish rulers, behind the Neutrality declarations, being instead in “secret agreements on national security” with superpower England? Were such “secret agreements on national security” done in the same fashion as those exposed by WikiLeaks regarding the Americans? Or in the same vein as the secret collaboration of the Swedish government with the Nazi rulers of Germany during Word War II?


When things started to lean towards England’s victory during the Napoleonic wars, and there was no any longer need for a Neutrality masquerade, Sweden’s ruling class with their newly appointed plebeian king Jean Bernadotte [5] joined the North Atlantic Alliance and declared war on France in 1813. Was this not similar to Sweden’s behaviour after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was not any longer to be feared? As isn’t this similar to the timing for joining the military occupation of Afghanistan or later the military operations in Libya under superpower U.S. command?

Nevertheless, Bernadotte stabbed a final dagger in the back of Napoleon and his own French countrymen. But for the Swedish ruling classes – as royalist today as they were then – it was not about “Frenchmen” or “Napoleonic troops”, it was about representatives of a proletarian-wise spirit that is not about countries; it is about social class belongingness of the rulers and their profound dislike of equality.

Past and present

In fact, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ acting around the Neutrality stance follows in the present era exactly the same pattern: A) non-participation of the people (the issue has never been taken to national referendum); B) a policy dictated by ruling elites controlled by the economic-defined upper class of Sweden, the bankers, the finance world, the monopolies, the military industry and the Swedish oligarchy as a whole.

So-called “popular” parties, such as the Social Democratic or the Vänster (left) party (the former communists) do not really intend to remove the monarchy institution. Why would these parties let the recalcitrant rest of Swedish aristocracy reign on the geopolitical destiny of Sweden? One answer is alienation. The other is Swedish consensus.

Personally, as a Swedish citizen, I will not regard Sweden as a genuine democratic country until the institution of monarchy is completely abolished. Monarchist democracy as a form of people’s government is a contradictions of terms. The only answer to this absolute logic and human-rights contention is “to play the Swede”.

Geopolitical Neutrality serves best the interests of Sweden and of all countries in the world

Sweden is the country that only some decades ago – in the times of Olof Palme – was internationally acclaimed for its dignified stance on human rights for all, for opposing imperialist wars, and for a noble commitment for peace, fairness and justice. The trust of the Third world toward Sweden also made the trade between Sweden and these countries flourish. With it came the acculturation of values that enhanced human-rights positions in countries of the Third World. In my very first article on the “Assange case”, published 2010 in Sweden by Second-Opinion, I reminded that “every single Swedish institution, not only the government but also universities and foundations, have gained their international prestige and positive affection from their counterparts all over world based precisely in the notion of a neutral and pacifist Sweden.” [6]

But now Sweden seems to be neglected. The publication by WikiLeaks of the Diplomatic Cables on Sweden is not the cause. The cause is mainly to be found in the current foreign policy of Sweden.

Nevertheless, for the WikiLeaks revelations on Sweden, Assange would have to pay the costs in his human rights. Severe infringements on one’s freedom and civil liberties are a preposterous punishment.[7] I know that by own experience. But those transgressions against the man, whose Pandora-Box action initiated a whistleblowing process to the benefit of the people, and one never seen in history before, are unparalleled. Peoples in Sweden and through the world should be instead thankful. For WikiLeaks is a lifeboat for democracy.

From Neutrality to misconceptions

Concomitantly, many among peoples in the world have had to adjust their notion of Sweden as an independent and geopolitically neutral country – a perception historically grounded in the era of the intelligent and principled Olof Palme and long before the times of Göran Person, Thomas Bodström and Carl Bildt.

Parker - neutral SwePopular-culture illustrations of this drastic change are numerous; Quite recently, I snapped the following gangster-film dialogue in Taylor Hackford’s opus “Parker” (2013),[8] starring Jason Statham:

This happens in the middle of the film. The owner of a forgery-printing house, summing up his position of not wishing to take sides in the Chicago mob war, says to Parker: “I am neutral, I am Sweden”; Parker (Jason Statham) interrupts to correct, replying: “You’re wrong, (the neutral country) is Switzerland”.

Some Swedes misperceptions in doing a flawed copycat of “being American”

Contrary to the common belief outside of Sweden, particularly among many Americans, Sweden is not a “neutral” country, neither geopolitically or militarily, and especially not culturally.

When I characterize Swedish institutions and, specifically, the political and cultural elites – also from the “left” – of being culturally subservient to the Americans, I am not passing judgement on the quality of American culture. In fact, I myself, partly educated in the U.S., share much of the American people’s culture and values. But in my case, differently from most of the people in Sweden, which have not lived or culturally interacted in the US, I believe that I understand the real values beyond the superficial version that instead is commodified in Sweden.

Some people, including ministers in the governments of Reinfeldt and of Persson, repeat lines of films they saw and say “we love America”. Yet they do so without really grasping the essence of the founding values of America.

For instance, I don’t think that Americans would easily accept that members of their government would give away information of American citizens to a foreign power, and at the same time hiding such actions from Congress. But Swedes did, and do that.

Americans would never accept that an armed task-force of a foreign Intelligence Agency land an airplane in an airport in the middle of Washington D.C. and with the secret collaboration of the Washington D.C. Police, acting under orders of the Ministry of Justice or the State Department – but hidden from the public – kidnap political refugees who are under the legal protection of the U.S. – with the aim of transporting those refugees to a torture centre in Africa.

But Swedes do that, apparently. And no one gets punished for it when things are disclosed. That being a Swedish political-idiosyncratic behaviour that has made the international press perplexed, as I noted in my my book “Sweden VS. Assange”.

Further, many Americans make an issue of personal integrity, and they would get angry if the government spies on them. The majority of Swedes instead do not mind or not oppose if the government spies at them, as a recent poll run by the state-owned Swedish Television established.

Many Americans would die for their constitution; many Swedes don’t even care to make some politicians at the government accountable for infringement to the Swedish Constitution.

In fact, the differences between the two countries’ political cultures are countless. Would be enough to point out that the Americans came all the way to Europe to fight back the Nazis and open the concentrations camps to free the survivors of a systematic “racial cleansing”. Sweden instead collaborated with Nazi Germany, facilitated them the transport of over one million troops via the Swedish during the occupation of of Norway, and kept alive the Nazi military might with Swedish iron and other minerals. This, while the Americans – and the Italian partisans, the French, and particularly the Russians, etc. ­– died in the combats against the troops of the Nazi government of Hitler.

Storlien_1940_Tysk_transittrafik,_8,8_cmNazi train carrying artillery. At Storlien Station, Sweden.

Or that Sweden established the world’s very first Racial Research Institute, in Uppsala in 1922, which also has the record of being the world’s longest lasting Racial Research Institute; it was still functioning up to 1958, long after the fall of Nazi Germany in the mid forties. Among other activities, the institute had a sterilization program.

Even the chairman of the current government party, the conservative Moderates, uttered publicly “a Swede is a Swede and a nigger is a nigger”. [9]And the current Foreign Minister Carl Bildt completed, in support of the said Adelshon, “and a Swede is a Swede and a Jew is a Jew”.[10]

The crux is to understand whether the current Swedish leaders differ essentially in their understanding of humanity from those before who helped the Nazis. The current positions on the Crimea crisis assumed by the wright-wing government of Reindfelt (where its foreign policy is dictated by the extreme far-right and Russian-phobic Carl Bildt) after the fascist coup in Ukraine, may give a glance. Of course they will say, if asked, that they are helping the fascists in Ukraine. They will say that they do not understand the question. Or they will erase the name of the most conspicuous ones.[11] After all, that is the meaning of the saying “playing the Swede”, since Jan Batista Bernadotte’s “Neutrality” times.


References & Notes

[1] Diccionario de la Lengua Castellana por la Academia Española. Librería de D. Vicente Salvá, Paris, 1841. Page 587

[2] In “Corous Corde de la Rel Academia Española”. Referred by Fernando Álvarez (Stockholm, 2007), “Hacerse el sueco. Estereotipos culturales en el lenguaje popular español. File retrieved at “Archivo y Biblioteca-Chile en Suecia”.

[3] Jan Bernadotte lasted as “prince” of Ponte Corvo only during four years. Altogether, the Napoleonic era of Ponte Corvo was brief: it lasted only nine years before it turned back to its owner, the Vatican Church, in 1815.

[4] The pact was signed in in St Petersburg, where travelled Gustav From swedenHerman Lindqvis. ”Historien om Sverige. När rikets sprängdes och Bernadotte blev kung”, [The history of Sweden. When the kingdom was blown up and Bernadotte became king]. Norstedts, 1998. Page 149

[5] Then, in Sweden, he was given the name Charles XIV John.

[6] M Ferrada de Noli. “Assange buried the Swedish neutrality myth”, Second-Opinion, 8 Dec 2010

[7] M Ferrada de Noli. ”Mi Vida Con Miguel Enríquex. El MIR, Y Los Derechos Humanos”. Libertarian Books, Sween, 2014.

[8] Taylor Hackford (dir.), “Parker”, 2013. Produced by Les Alexander et al. Incentive Films et al.

[9] M Ferrada de Noli, ” “A nigger is a nigger and a Swede is a Swede”. Top leaders of Sweden’s main gov party stating position on Mandela’s struggle against apartheid”. Professors blog, 8 Dec 2013.

[10] M Ferrada de Noli, ” “A Swede is a Swede and a jew is a jew”, says Carl Bildt”. Professors blog, 10 Dec 2013.

[11] M Ferrada de Noli, ”How the Carl Bildt government converted a proud nation into a subservient US-puppet, and put Swedish national security at risk”. Professors blogg, 26 March 2014.


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