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19 October 2022

Andreas Malm Q&A: “Sweden is the sickest country in the Global North”

The author and academic on Malcolm X, Swedish politics and being happiest in the womb.

By New Statesman

Andreas Malm was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1977 and is an associate professor of human ecology at Lund University. His research includes the role of the far right in the climate crisis.

What’s your earliest memory?

My father slamming the door behind him and my mother sinking to the floor crying.

Who are your heroes?

My first real hero, although I was 14 years old by then, was Malcolm X. Thirty years later it would be Adorno.

What book last changed your thinking?

Not one, but many: the older I get, the longer I work with the climate issue, the more I am drawn into psychoanalytical literature to make sense of how people live in denial. It has changed my thinking entirely. But when you read Freud, unlike Marx, you are also fed with insights into how you function as a person. During an ongoing period of private turbulence, this literature has become a lifeline to me, and the other day attachment theory offered just the keys I needed to understand one episode. I regretted not having immersed myself in John Bowlby long ago and immediately ordered his works. Life can be lived only through books.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Let me salute Marx, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky, Benjamin, Mandel, Bensaïd.

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Between 1917 and 1939, somewhere between Petrograd and Barcelona, when the end of capitalism was a real prospect.

What TV show could you not live without?

I admit to enjoying watching The Rings of Power with my children. Although at eight and three they are rather too young for it.

Who would paint your portrait?

Joe Sacco. That would be an honour.

What’s your theme tune?

I put my son to bed by humming “My Queen Is Albertina Sisulu” by Sons of Kemet, so perhaps that one.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

To quit the madhouse that is Swedish media and move into academia. I followed it. I can be physically in Sweden while having minimal contact with this repugnant, rotten, profoundly proto-fascist nation. For a self-hating Swede like myself, anglophone academia is freedom.

What’s currently bugging you?

That I remain shackled to what must now be the sickest country in the Global North: the only one where the dominant far-right party is the direct offspring of Nazism; the only one where such a party always increases its vote share. It is unbearable.

What single thing would make your life better?

The Sweden Democrats going extinct.

When were you happiest?

In the womb, I guess. After that, in the Jenin refugee camp during the battle in April 2002, in the Beddawi refugee camp during the war in 2007, in Cairo and Alexandria during the glorious days of the revolution of 2011-12. Nothing makes me forget my woes like a high-stakes struggle.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

Would I have to go back to journalism? How dreadful.

Are we all doomed?

If things continue like now, yes. Business-as-usual is operating just as usual, giving us ever more pipelines, oil fields, gas terminals, driving us at top speed into 1.5, 2, 3°C of global warming. Every second is the narrow gate through which the Messiah might enter.

“How To Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire” by Andreas Malm is published by Verso

[See also: Orhan Pamuk Q&A: “My frustrations and angers have made my life richer”]

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This article appears in the 19 Oct 2022 issue of the New Statesman, State of Emergency