The New Totalitarians: A Terrifying Portrait Of An "Ideal" Society That Has Destroyed Democracy (1980) - Roland Huntford

The New Totalitarians is a 1971 book by British author Roland Huntford. Huntford analyzes the political and social climate of early 1970s Sweden, and argues that it resembles a benevolent totalitarian state in the mould of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The main thesis was that the Swedish government relied less upon the violence and intimidation of the old totalitarians than upon sly persuasion and soft manipulation in order to achieve its goals. The influence of the state and official ideology were the most visible in the most private of matters, where little or no consciously “political” control had stretched before.

At the time, Sweden was a nation controlled by the Social Democratic Party of Sweden, which had ruled the country's government for over 40 years. Huntford argues that this had led to the complete dominance of socialist thought at all levels of the government, including the bureaucracy and the judiciary, which were all controlled by a powerful interconnecting network of Social Democratic labour unions, lobby groups, and partisan organizations. He also points to the fact that these networks made it very difficult for non-socialists to achieve any position of real power in Sweden, but noted that few Swedes seemed to view this massive politicization of their state with any concern.

The New Totalitarians also analyzes Swedish society in a broader historical context, arguing that since the country bypassed the feudal system and has always been a very centralized state, Sweden never really developed a civic culture that champions individualism like other countries of Western Europe. He thus argues that the country's political culture and institutions are very much the product of a unique socio-political context, and thus not applicable to otherwise comparable Western nations.

At the same time he analyses how sex was being “politicized” by design from above. The changes in the sexual behaviour of the Swedes was a matter of official direction. Sex had become the vicarious passion of a society trapped in boredom and “engineered consent”.

Book Reviews

Skewering the "Scandinavian Model"

This book made a huge impression on me when I read it as a young socialistic liberal in my mid 20's still enamored with the much-touted "benevolent socialism" of the "Scandinavian system". Huntford, a historian best known for his work on polar exploration, took a polemical detour with "The New Totalitarians" to write a blistering critique of the Swedish system, which he derided as soulless "soft totalitarianism" more akin to Huxley's Brave New World than the Stalinist monstrosities in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union at the time. Scathing and unsentimental, Huntford painstakingly and angrily documents how the Swedish system, which was presented unequivocally by most on the Left as proof positive that "socialism works", did little more than create a sterile, spiritually barren society populated by a docile, hyperconformist populace. With the "Swedish experiment" now seemingly in the final stages of unraveling as it reaches increasingly bizarre and cartoonish extremes in its reach for egalitarianism while simultaneously being assaulted with massive waves of unassimilable Third World immigrants, this book is proving to be not only prescient, but also timely as well. It's too bad that it is out of print with the available copies seemingly only available for a vastly inflated price, but a copy should be available from a decent university library.

 More Prophetic Than Orwell

Roland Huntford's "The New Totalitarians" is a book far more prophetic than George Orwell's "1984". Written several decades ago, Huntford's book has accurately foretold the kind of "soft totalitarianism" that is overtaking the west today. The Swedish model is that of a heavily taxed, bureacratic, totalitarianism in which "consensus" is achieved by ostracisizing dissenters, establishing unlegislated but very real thought and speech boundaries, compelling everyone to think alike and behave alike and discouraging individuality at every opportunity. The situation has been made much worse by the blossoming of a psychopathic feminist movement with idiot females misdefining every concept from "rape" to you name it. The average Swede literally lives in a mental strait jacket.

The same thing is happening outside of Sweden where Swedish socialist tax and regulate everything from finance to thought and behavior now flourishes everywhere. This was just getting started in Huntford's day but now it is on a rampage. Read the book - and tremble for the future.

The Real Sweden 

A brilliant book. Huntford's insights have come to fruition and not just in Sweden, but in Scandinavia at large. The heart of the question becomes, what is the proper balance of freedom and individual thought vs. security provided by a government which takes over those responsibilities. Huntford maps how this happened in Sweden, how the Swedes over centuries, have been lulled into sleepwalking and what they have lost in the process of giving up the living of their lives to a "benevolent" bureaucracy making life's decisions for them. A great read and never more appropriate than the present, as the Swedish government mandates an immigration policy with which most Swedes are unable to cope. 

The Brave New Sweden

Huntford explains why Sweden is Huxley's Brave New World by looking at various aspects of the Swedish society from history, housing to culture and education. The only problem I have with this book is the lack of proper references, often quotes were referenced without names being attached. But it is still quite a shockingly revealing book overall.  

What the fuck is wrong with Sweden?” is a question I’ve been asking myself time and time again over the past several years. I’ve been following Sweden’s policies regarding immigrants from 3rd world countries, and I just couldn’t see the rationale behind what was going on. Clearly, the Marxist force was strong with Sweden, much stronger than I imagined.

I desperately needed an answer, because it was evident I had a false understanding of what Sweden was about. 

This book has given me enough information to finally understand what drives Swedes, and the framework with which they are able to rationalize their policies. Assuming Huntford’s observations are indeed true, the way that the Swedish society has been built and the way that the average Swede’s mentality has been conditioned, leads me to believe that Swedish cultural identity is about to be replaced within decades (unless something extraordinary happens, that is).

First, Sweden – a short profile: A country run by bureaucrats, guided by the tenets of Marxism, who rule over a population that is exceptionally conformist. A population that is conditioned to group-think, extremely averse to conflict, and very obedient. A governmental infrastructure that is capable of controlling many aspects of a citizen’s life, beyond those that western democracies are accustomed to.

Now, here are some fun tidbits from the book (read the book for much more in-depth analysis):

"Reflection of life outside, school is obsessed with the question of eliminating the non-conformist and the man away from the crowd. To remain outside the group, is the sin against the Holy Ghost, and immense pains are taken to round up the independent and the unwilling. Personal initiative is not encouraged, unless it benefits the collective. Individualism is not admired."

"To argue is to break the consensus, to rock the boat, and hence to jeopardize the balance of things. More than that, it is generally taken as a threat to feelings of security. Consensus, on the other hand, is worshiped as a guarantee of security, and confrontation is therefore regarded as suspect."

"Indeed, in Swedish law, as it was beginning to take shape at the end of the 1960s, crime is defined not in terms of moral depravity or ethical wrong but purely and simply as asociality. It is not the act, but its asociality that is the crime. It is not a long step to the belief that asociality by itself is a crime, and therefore a kind of mental illness."

"To judge solely by its mass media, Sweden appears to be run by a tolerant dictatorship. Press, radio and TV show a remarkable similarity, as if guided by some Ministry of Propaganda. Criticism of the government there may be, but it is almost exclusively confined to administrative trivialities, and covered by the formula: 'First you decide on your goals, and then you discuss the means. There is no other discussion.' Almost never is there questioning of political fundamentals, or critical examination of the institutions of the State. All the media seem to be of one mind, advocating the same consensus, professing the same slogans, always, it seems, following the convolution of some party line. They give the impression of existing, not to question authority, but to avoid disturbing the public peace of mind; not to criticize, but to indoctrinate with a certain point of view."

Anyhow, I recommend this book to those who found themselves baffled by Sweden. Many mysteries will be solved and you’ll find a new appreciation for not living in Sweden.

(Sources: Amazon, Goodreads.)