Olof Palme’s Archives
By Stellan Andersson,
Labour Movement Archives and Library, Stockholm
- This is a slightly revised and shortened version of an article previously published in Arbetarhistoria No 75-76, 3-4/1995, p. 24-36 and in Olof Palme i sin tid. Samtidshistoriska frågor 1, Södertörn University College, Huddinge, 2001, p. 65-95.
- The entire article in Swedish, including footnotes: Stellan Andersson: Olof Palmes arkiv.
The Labour Movement Archives and Library in Stockholm (ARAB) store a unique historical documentation for those who want to study the Swedish and partly also the foreign and international labour movement and its role in the development of society during the 20th century. In addition to the literature and periodicals, the stocks of political, trade union and other organizations’ archives, there are more than five hundred archives from individuals who have been or are active in the labour movement, including all the Social Democratic Party’s chairmen from Hjalmar Branting, which are of extremely great interest. One of the most important is that of Olof Palme.
Olof Palme, the Swedish Prime minister and Social Democratic Party leader was assassinated on his way home from a visit to the cinema in Stockholm late Friday evening on February 28, 1986. On Monday morning, March 3, Undersecretary of State Ulf Dahlsten phoned from the Cabinet Office wondering if and how we at ARAB could help take care of Olof Palme’s archives. The government decided to grant additional funds for the work and appointed an Olof Palme archives advisory group, consisting of the Ambassador Hans Dahlgren, the Director-General Ulf Larsson, Olof Palme’s assistant Ann-Marie Willsson, and as a representative of the family Joakim Palme, which would help to collect the material stored on various quarters from the party leader and individual Olof Palme. Important to observe is that what was classified as public documents, namely those concerning Olof Palme’s role as Prime Minister, did not follow the documents delivered to ARAB, those files are conserved in the Government archives at the National Archives (Riksarkivet). The Head for Legal questions at the Cabinet Office Johan Hirschfeldt and Archivist Rune Hedman at the Cabinet Office administration were assisting in making the necessary assessments in case there was any doubt.
During the spring of 1986 most of the documents that now are parts of Olof Palme’s archives were delivered from the Cabinet and from Bommersvik, the conference centre of the Social Democratic youth organization, SSU. Later documents from the Social Democratic parliamentary group’s secretariat were added. Some series of Olof Palme’s speeches from 1969-1976 were already stored at ARAB as well as some documents delivered in the autumn of 1976 from the then Prime Minister’s Office, and documents transferred and arranged in connection with the work of Tage Erlander’s archives. Near related to the Olof Palme’s archives, the collection of condolences etc. received from all parts of Sweden and from abroad to the Social Democratic Party, the local branch of Social Democratic Party in Stockholm, the Cabinet Office and the Palme family were also transferred to ARAB. Later received material on Olof Palme has been added to a special collection of biographical documents.
A different kind of work
The experiences from the processing of extensive personal archives at ARAB in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, as those of Alva and Gunnar Myrdal, Hjalmar Branting, Tage Erlander et al., were of course important for the method, which came to be used when ordering and indexing the documents in Olof Palme’s archives. The size of the material, which should be processed (when finished close to 1800 boxes or 140 running metres), the demands from many people to quickly find information asked for, as well as the general mood after the murder, caused it still necessary to work in a slightly different way. When an archive normally is arranged and indexed, it is enough to present the different types of documents in series and specify the number of boxes in each. For each box is then noted the documents’ time interval – first and last year, sometimes with a brief note about the content. With the material in large personal archives the requirements are different: to be able to find the information it may be necessary to index the single documents in detailed records: index of speeches, index of letters etc. In 1985 we had received the first PC to ARAB. We were therefore quite clear that if we without a reasonable delay would cope with the task of organizing and indexing the documents in the archives of Olof Palme, we must use our computer. Working with the aid of a computer, new requirements for organizing the work (speed, efficiency, etc.) and how to index the various documents, were demanded.
The documents in Olof Palme’s archives have as far as possible been kept together in the form they had when they were transferred to ARAB. The series of articles, speeches, interviews, letters, etc. found in the collections were often deposited in different kinds of files and binders or were saved in collectors with corresponding descriptions. In
some cases a careful assembling of documents relating to a particular issue has taken place, but as a rule letters, clippings and other background material related to, for example, a manuscript have had to remain in their file. The interconnection of documents relating to a particular issue that exists in different series can be made with the help of the registers in the computer. As always when it comes to personal archives the removing of documents must be extremely careful. In Olof Palme’s archives only double copies of speeches, etc. have been eliminated. Those who want access to documents in Olof Palme’s archives, first have to orient themselves in the inventory (archive no 676) and in the additional catalogues that are available in “forskarexpeditionen” [research desk and reading room] at ARAB.
The documents in Olof Palme’s archives have been structured in six main sections with different sub series:
1. Personliga handlingar [Personal documents]
1.1 Tidsplaner [Calendars]
2. Egna verk m.m. [Own works, etc.]
2.1 Minnesanteckningar, protokoll m.m. [Notes, minutes, records, etc.]
2.2 Böcker, broschyrer [Books, brochures]
2.3 Artiklar m.m. [Articles]
2.4. Tal [Speeches, Addresses]
2.5 Pressmeddelanden, uttalanden, kommunikéer. [Press releases, statements, communiqués]
2.6 Intervjuer [Interviews]
2.7 Utskrifter [Transcriptions]
3. Korrespondens [Correspondence]
3.1 Diarier [Catalogues, Ledgers]
3.2 Brevsamling [Letter collection]
3.3 Gratulationer på 50-årsdagen [Congratulations on 50th anniversary]
3.4 Intervjuförfrågningar [Requests for interviews]
4. Handlingar rörande Olof Palmes verksamhet [Documents relating to Olof Palme’s activities]
4.1 Biografiskt material [Biografical documents]
4.2 Handlingar ordnade efter ämne [Documents arranged by topic]
4.3-4.5 Förarbeten till Tage Erlander [Preparatory to Tage Erlander speeches, etc.]
4.6 Författningsfrågan [Documents on the constitution]
4.7 Brandt Commission
4.8 Övrigt [Other]
5. Samlingar [Collections ]
5.1.1 Ljudband [Audiotapes]
5.1.2 Videoband [Videotapes]
5.1.3 Filmer [Films]
5.2 Klippsamling [Clippings]
5.3 Bildsamling [Photos]
6.1 Gåvor [Gifts]
6.1.1 Tavlor, föremål [Paintings, objects]
6.1.2 Böcker [Books]
6.1.3 Skivor [Discs]
6.2 Utmärkelser [Awards]
As an annex to the inventory of Olof Palme’s archives is an Appendix: “Documents from the Cabinet Office 1966-1976.” Kondoleanssamling [Condolences] and Biograficasamling [Biografica] are presented in separate inventories. Below, I will explain the scope and content of the various sections and series and briefly illustrate and discuss the material.
… Ideas and proposed names of ministers…
In section 1. Personal documents there is just one series: “Calendars”, which includes seven boxes with ordinary table calendars for the period 1964-1986 of Olof Palme and his secretary. These are records of planned meetings, petitions, times for interviews, travels, speeches etc. Rather often we at ARAB are asked if Olof Palme kept a diary as Tage Erlander, his predecessor, did, which unfortunately is not the case. In an interview by Kerstin Matz at New Year 1983 at Harpsund, the Prime Minister’s estate, for Expressen, Olof Palme told us that during the election campaign of 1982, he was given a yellow notebook in which he “during the formation of the new government wrote down all the ideas and proposed names of ministers … It is not kept at Harpsund because it is simply finished. But I got a couple of new small black ones from Mattias [Olof Palme’s youngest son] as a Christmas gift, so I intend to continue with this practice. In the little yellow one was not only prospective members of government, but all kinds of things that I had to remember; phone numbers to call, food that must be purchased home, thoughts and ideas alternately.” The rumours on these notebooks explain all the questions about diaries, but these notebooks were not in the Olof Palme’s archives.
Section 2. “Own works, etc.” include such papers, which in the first instance are documenting what could be called “public actions”, material containing the messages Olof Palme performed in public in form of speeches, articles and interviews. In the first sub series 2.1 “Notes, minutes, records, etc.”, which include only a couple of boxes, are, however, such acts as at the closest would be comparable to the content of diaries. There are notes by Olof Palme mainly from the 1950’s, when he was an assistant to Tage Erlander, for example, the notebooks from discussions at Harpsund and Bommersvik in 1954 and 1955. Notable are those from the negotiations with Chrusjtjov and Bulganin in Moscow in April 1956, when Erlander visited the Soviet Union, shortly after the famous XXth party conference, where Chrusjtjov made the conditions of Stalin’s times known, and advocated a “peaceful coexistence” with the West. Immediately after the Soviet visit Olof Palme told about his impressions in a speech before the Strångsjö and Ändebol’s local branches of the Social Democratic Party. Many years later, when he met the foreign ministers Shultz and Gromyko at the Stockholm Conference in 1984 Olof Palme was referring to the visit in 1956 and said that he did knew the Soviet Union’s foreign minister since nearly thirty years.
90 % of the manuscripts are in Swedish
The most voluminous series in this section is 2.4 “Speeches”. Manuscripts to about 1,300 speeches have been preserved in 120 boxes from November 1953 [“National Independence Movements in Asia and Africa”] to the last one on February 24, 1986 [Statement in Östersund]. Most of them are now available at www.olofpalme.org.
How many speeches Olof Palme delivered during his working life is very difficult to establish. Only a small number of manuscripts are preserved from the 1950’s, when Olof Palme was the Leader of Studies in the youth organization SSU. “My previous speeches are, however, hardly preserved for posterity in a legible condition. It was usually a kind of lectures at training courses and conferences - the environment was not such that I was standing in a rostrum and solemnly read aloud from a manuscript. The lectures were held in a reasoning way, why I just used main points or a disposition as support.” Also from the 1960’s onwards, there are major gaps, which the bibliographic work of Olof Palme’s published works showed. For example, only slightly more than a quarter of the approximately 400 speeches Olof Palme held in the Swedish Parliament, are preserved as manuscripts. A review of Clippings (series 5.2, see below) also shows that there are a large number of speeches referenced that are not found as manuscripts. During the 1976-1986 period, especially during the election campaigns in 1979, 1982 and 1985, Olof Palme’s assistants recorded his speeches with the help of a portable tape recorder on audio cassettes to document what was said (series 5.1.1, see below). Most of these speeches cannot be found as manuscripts. Trying to make an assessment gives as result, that Olof Palme held up to 100 speeches each year during his 30 most active years, a total of around 3000. Of these he held more than 90% before a Swedish audience, from the parliament through various organizations congresses, the social democratic party, workers communes to small associations and clubs. And it was not just to the workers’ organisations he spoke: the scout movement, wholesalers association, fairs and meetings of all kinds were attended by Olof Palme as a speaker. In addition, many greetings and inaugural speeches are represented, from welcome speeches to foreign guests to the opening of new bridges, and all kinds of exhibitions. The speeches Olof Palme held to international forums can be exemplified by the Nordic Council, the Socialist International, various social democratic party congresses in other countries, the United Nations, other countries’ parliaments, the World Council of Churches, NATO, the Council of Europe, Foreign Press Association, Club of Rome, Bilderberg, IALHI, Council of Foreign Relations and foreign universities.
… brilliant scripts
Thus Olof Palme at many times spoke without a script. He talked about his speeches in an interview by Lennart Hyland in 1984: “Mostly, I speak without a script, I’m so interested in the language, I have perhaps only one, two, three main points. Then, it will be stammering and jerky, but on the other hand, I get a completely different touch with the audience and they can control what I say a little bit. I can never read the same speech twice. I would never be able to do that. But when I speak without a script, I can do the same speech many times as they will never be alike.” In the same interview, he talked about the role of the speechwriters: “I was, of course, a speechwriter for Erlander and I put my whole soul and spirit in making a brilliant script; then he started his speech and when he came around to page two and a half, he got an idea and threw the manuscript… but it was brilliant.”
The above illustrates two fundamentally important and sometimes discussed issues: the value of the manuscripts and role of the speechwriters. First: there is in the whole archive a great potential to make comparisons with the scripts and the way the speeches were held, for example, with the help of the recordings that exist. Also speeches, which later were published, were sometimes printed from transcripts of the recordings from the congresses of the Social Democratic Party, the Trade Union Confederation, and various other organisations. It is then possible to compare the scripts with the printed versions. Often, as we then can see, it is primarily in the introductions that Olof Palme deviates from the scripts by making a personal comment to a breaking news story, such as at the Swedish Factory Workers Trade Union’s Congress in spring 1981: “Yesterday I would have been in Tehran for discussions on the current situation there. But I had to postpone the journey, because our local mullahs here in Stockholm have made a mess of our domestic political situation. It is impossible for me to leave the country. One of the advantages of this was that I got the opportunity to come to this Congress.” Or when he, like Erlander, “got an idea”. Some spontaneous statements that have become famous are therefore not included in the manuscripts to the speeches: for example, “Satan’s murderer” or “Dictatorship’s cattle” from 1975. Other statements, which at the performance appeared to be completely spontaneous, the archives show to have been well prepared. One such example is from the Party leaders’ election debate on television, 17 September 1982, when Olof Palme on Thorbjörn Fälldin stubbornly repeated claim: “Admit that you are a socialist Olof Palme!” replied: “I am proud and glad to be a democratic socialist. I became that when I travelled around India and saw the appalling poverty, contrasted with the immense wealth of a few; when I travelled around the United States and saw what in some ways was even more degrading poverty; when, as a young man, I saw at first hand the lack of freedom and the oppression and persecution in the Communist states; when I visited the Nazi concentration camps and saw death lists with the names of Social Democrats and trade unionists”. In the background material to this debate this statement is conserved as a draft “I am a Socialist - and proud of that!” dated 15 September 1982 by a close associate to Palme: KL (Kjell Larsson).
How was a manuscript by Olof Palme made? In many cases, there is a thorough hand-written draft by Olof Palme. Perhaps the most famous of his speeches, the so-called “Gävle speech” at the Christian Social Democrats of Sweden Congress in 1965, you can follow it from the first hand-written draft, which was made at Fårö during his holiday the last week of July, via a typed draft of 27 pages to a finished stencil on 14 pages. The speech has since then been published in many different publications. Not to mention the so-called Christmas statement on 23 December 1972 on the U.S. bombing of Hanoi. On the back side of a proposal by Anders Ferm made on 22 December, you can find Olof Palme’s hand-written original script, which, after extensive phone consultations, he then read out on radio and television and distributed via TT as a press release. Sometimes Olof Palme dictated his manuscripts to speeches and articles. Often he was sitting down with his co-workers - speechwriters - and outlined the design of a speech.
That brings us to the role of the speechwriters: the speechwriter had to work out a draft after the received guidelines, and then Olof Palme and other employees read and commented it. Many new versions were made, sometimes with important additions “which provided the reasoning a deeper dimension” by Olof Palme himself. The speechwriters’ drafts are almost always signed: AF, RS, JK, and so on. Ulf Larsson, one of Olof Palme’s close associates writes that Olof Palme put in a lot of “interest and work in his speeches. It was in them he developed what he considered to be important in the political debate. Writing a speech was therefore an important deal for several of the members of his staff: two or three of them had this as a primary mission, others contributed with a basis or through reading. He had, as a rule, specific ideas on the structure and design, significant time was spent on writing and reviewing - page for page, just as the financial plan. He appreciated if the authors were able to contribute with quotes from literature - political or fiction – but they were often pouring out of his own head. His speeches did play a large role in the political debate. It was his way to put an issue on the agenda, not least important for a party without a dominant press.” The last version of a speech was in advance copied in large numbers and distributed to the representatives of media, with carefully specified time for the earliest permissible publication. Finally, you can see that in the manuscripts Olof Palme had in his hand during his performance, he made further amendments and additions by hand up to the end.
Some speeches were of such importance that Palme called them “Portal speeches” and those could be worked with for a very long time. For example, the foreign policy speech before the Paasikivi Association [Paasikivisamfundet] in Helsinki on 1 June 1983 was a speech of this kind. Later he said: “We worked with this speech during three months.” Examples of other speeches, which Olof Palme spent much time and effort with, were the address to Gunnar Sträng at the Social Democratic Party Congress in 1981 and the memory speech to Tage Erlander at midsummer 1985. To the general policy, foreign policy and other debates in Parliament, to election campaigns and major debates, a large background material of facts were made, which could in different ways later be included in the proposed speeches and replies.
I therefore advocate that the speeches to which there are manuscripts in a way can be seen as expressions of a much more conscious designed content than that of the freely expressed. It is in these that a more thorough and carefully prepared policy tactics and strategy is set. These speeches also act as a standard for all the others who are freely performed and should, therefore, for scholars be of the utmost importance, even if they at the oral performance were not given the exact shape as they had in the written form. In other words, the content and the theme is the fundamental, and the various improvisations on the theme primarily intended for the audience Olof Palme was in front of, a way to create the necessary contacts, a way to let the message come through, and as always: an important prerequisite for any large speaker to find the right stroke at any particular time. Or to quote Olof Palme himself: “Improvisation is the reward of careful preparations. This applies both to policy as acting and policy as a conveying of words. … To improvise a speech can easily become an excuse to avoid consider if you have something to say, and if so, what. Improvisation becomes drivel, phrase and platitude. But after a lot of torment and effort in advance, the improvisation can at some happy moments come as a sudden stimulus, a variation on a theme, a frenzy of the tangent’s direction. My simple experience is, therefore, that, if possible, you should speak without a script. It is more demanding, is often poor. But it gives a chance for empathy, which means contact and interaction with the audience. Politics gets you insensible so easy. Improvisation is necessary not only to keeping yourself alive, but also living.”
Critical Situations in the History of England
In a series of 2.2. are collected the books and brochures Olof Palme wrote or participated in. Series 2.3 which includes articles contains the oldest document in the Olof Palme’s archives. It is a copy of his essay in Swedish to his higher school examination from the spring of 1944: [“Critical situations in the History of England during the Modern Era”]. After his upper-secondary final examination and military service Olof Palme began as a journalist at the Svenska dagbladet, first at its sporting section. From the autumn of 1946, he became a general reporter at the same paper and wrote articles under the pseudonym SOJ (= Sven Olof Joakim). These articles do not appear in the Olof Palme’s archives. Nor does the essay for his Bachelor of Arts graduation that Olof Palme wrote in the spring of 1948 at Kenyon College in the United States. This essay was a critical analysis of Friedrich von Hayek’s concept of freedom, a theme that he in speeches and articles would return to in the forthcoming decades; the difference between the concept of freedom as the market liberals and the socialists saw it, not to mention the lack of freedom in the communist dictatorships: “There are shivers along the spine of me, when I hear a communist talk about common workers’ movements values.” The first article, which is preserved in the archives, he wrote after the communist coup in Prague in spring 1948 during his time at Kenyon College in the journal The Advocate, under the heading: “Czechoslovakia gone - what about Sweden”. In the autumn of 1948 he published an article in Aftontidningen on the occasion of the Centennial of the Communist Manifesto. From then on he continued his publishing business in increasing quantities.
Approximately 600 articles by Olof Palme have been preserved in his archives either in the form of manuscripts and/or as a copy of the newspaper/magazine his article was published in, sometimes only as a cutting. Articles often are developed pieces of an issue he at the same time had treated in a speech, often they are a contribution to the ongoing political discussion, and sometimes they contain more in-depth analysis of a political problem.
An important way to quickly spread information and political messages from politicians and political parties, and also from the government and departments, is to send out press releases, communiqués and statements on current events to the mass media and hope that these are published and commented on. These will also be a means in the fight on which issues should be on the current political agenda. In Olof Palme’s archives, these are ordered in the series 2.5 Press releases, statements, communiqués, which includes 37 boxes for the period 1967-1986. From the years in opposition 1976-1982 only two volumes are preserved. (For several series, including “Documents relating to Olof Palme’s activities” and “Clippings”, the preserved material from this time is very lean. The explanation was received from one of Palme’s assistants: “Nobody was particularly happy to work during the years in opposition, this eternal writing of motions which did not lead to anything, so when the election was won in the autumn of 1982 and we were able to move back to the Cabinet, we threw most of the material from this time away. Everywhere were full bin bags.”) The press releases, etc. are many and usually they comprise only one to two pages, why they not have been registered on document level. They are put in chronological order.
… More personal…
Olof Palme was as an active politician always in the centre of all media, this we clearly can see in series 2.6 Interviews, which contains around 1,300 interviews (in 42 boxes), by dailies and weeklies (on broadcasting, see below). Articles, etc. written in the context of press conferences are not included here. This series is by no means complete, which the bibliographic work did show ( http://www.olofpalme.org/litteratur/bibliografi/ ). How many interviews Olof Palme gave is almost impossible to respond. The characteristics of the interviews are very diverse, some are long and detailed about any current political issue others short questions and answers about everything and nothing. All categories of newspapers in Sweden and abroad have done interviews with Olof Palme, from the major international dragons as the Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, Die Welt, Guardian, Newsweek, Times, Jeune Afrique, Der Spiegel etc., to the Swedish equivalents Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyheter, Arbetet, Aftonbladet, Expressen. In some newspapers interviews with Olof Palme reappeared periodically, for example, the newspaper Folket in Eskilstuna that traditionally made a New Year-interview with him from 1970 to 1986. Even small newspapers got access to Olof Palme’s time. In the interviews Olof Palme is often more personal than in other materials and we get many interesting insights into the privacy of Olof Palme by reading them. A few headlines from some Ladies weeklies in Sweden may illustrate: “The women played a large role in the childhood of Olof Palme: My mother’s life as a hunted refugee has taught me a lot.”, “The question that shocked the Prime Minister: would you be willing to be a houseman, Olle?”, “Olof Palme: How I met Lisbet, and how my life became: we got married in church, and I chose the bridal bouquet.” There are also many examples of his personal memories from his politically active life, an example: “Against the wall. Mona Andersson [Sahlin] and Weine Dahlström met Olof Palme. Why are you a Social Democrat?” Example of a longer important interview can be found in the book “Le rendez-vous suédois: Conversations avec Serge Richard”. In the same way as the speeches and articles also interviews sometimes caused heated discussions, such as in February 1966 when Olof Palme was interviewed by Le Monde Diplomatique (Le mot d’ordre économique: “Liquider cecui n’est pas rentables”) and expressed his opinion on trade and agriculture policies. This caused a series of articles and editorials and was also the subject of a debate in Parliament a month later. Some interviews were media events, as when David Frost in April 1969 made a famous television interview with Olof Palme.
In radio and television’s news programmes there were sometimes almost daily features in which Olof Palme was interviewed. These parts of the programmes are largely preserved in printed form (over 2000) in the series 2.7 Transcriptions. They are usually just a few minutes, but sometimes there are also longer transcripts from, for example, the debates during the election campaigns. These transcriptions were on one hand subscribed or they were made at the Social Democratic Party’s office. Sometimes Olof Palme’s assistants made their own transcripts of tape recordings of speeches or press conferences.
… Screams from the deep cellar vaults…
Section 3. Correspondence consists of a large sub-series 3.2 Letter collection, covering some 450 boxes, or an estimated 100,000 letters. Two different registers are linked to this letter collection (series 3.1 Diarium), in the form of a card catalogue for the years 1969-1986, and in the form of ledgers for the same period. To the earlier parts of the collection (1954-1969) a letter register was made at ARAB. The letter collection contains both the incoming letters and in general a copy of Olof Palme’s reply letter. The letters are organized by year and in the years mainly sorted in alphabetical order. A series placed under the working title E IV The opposition years 1976-1982 however is kept in numerical order. From the early 1970’s incoming documents from certain senders, such as Riksdagsgruppen [Social Democratic Parliamentary Group], SAP [Social Democratic Party], UD [Ministry for Foreign Affairs] were gathered in separate files, a regime that has been maintained. This also applies to materials from the Socialist International from 1977 onwards, when Olof Palme at SI’s congress in Geneva in 1976 became one of the vice-presidents under president-elect Willy Brandt. In separate boxes are also letters in connection to a couple of “Storms of public opinion”: letters concerning the Vietnam speech at Sergels torg in February 1968, and letters in connection with Arafat’s visit to Stockholm in spring 1983. In separate series you can find Congratulations on the 50th anniversary in 1977 (series 3.3) and Interview requests 1983-1985 (series 3.4).
Of course, it was impossible for Olof Palme himself to respond every letter. Here, there were a group of assistants who had the task of drawing up a basis and make proposals for answers. But, as with the speeches, Olof Palme himself read all the letters and made comments on the drafts before he signed the final answers.
To describe the contents of the letter collection in a few brief words is hardly possible, but still: in broad terms, you can divide the letters into three large groups. For the most part the collection of letters is from the public and social democratic voters, who have views and wishes of how the socialist policies at large or on some specific issues should be kept, often related to their own personal problems, which they hope that Olof Palme will be able to help them resolve. “Some letters are like screams from the deep cellar vaults,” Olof Palme once said.
A second group of letters, which, in the future perhaps, will be the most attractive to researchers, is the correspondence between Olof Palme and various political leaders, not least in the international labour movement. Since Olof Palme right from the beginning of his term as Erlander’s secretary in 1954 followed Erlander on his trips abroad, early he came to know all the leading people in the Socialist International and in other countries’ governments. This is reflected in the correspondence. A special type of correspondence, from the outset intended for publication, Olof Palme had with Willy Brandt and Bruno Kreisky in the early 1970’s. This eventually resulted in the book Briefe und Gespräche by Willy Brandt, Bruno Kreisky, and Olof Palme, published in 1975.
A third group of correspondence are all the letters with requests for Olof Palme to contribute with speeches, articles and interviews. If you want to identify the different commitment Olof Palme participated in, these are often an important complement to manuscripts, and sometimes they also describe the reactions afterwards. Occasionally there is no other material preserved than this correspondence, such as from Olof Palme’s first commitment as May Day-speaker in Osby and Glimåkra 1955. The key points to his speech are found on the back of a letter.
… The Liberal Party’s ideology and politics…
At the Social Democratic Students conference in the spring of 1953 Tage Erlander had asked Assar Lindbeck if he would have the opportunity to “do a study on the Liberal party’s ideology and policy over the past few years.” In a letter dated 15 June 1953 Assar Lindbeck replied that he did not have time for this, but he recommends instead a number of other persons, among them Krister Wickman and Olof Palme. About Olof Palme Assar Lindbeck writes: “Palme, finally, a lawyer and political scientist, has not been as committed to the party work as the others. But if he, in a study like this could firmly be linked to this kind of work the Social Democratic party would certainly have a major benefit of him. […] Palme is, if I’m rightly informed, in India for a few months this summer, so you are not able to get hold of him until the autumn.”
Erlander got, as is well known, hold of Olof Palme in the early autumn, when he returned from his Asian trip. This was the beginning of the political activities Olof Palme would dedicate the rest of his life. In section 4. Documents relating to Olof Palme’s activities can be found material concerning certain issues. The section includes about 300 boxes presented in a few sub-series, in which the largest is called 4.2 Documents arranged by topic. It starts with a couple of boxes from Olof Palme’s activities in the Swedish National Union of Students, 1949-1953. One box with material from his time as study leader in the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League, SSU, 1955-1961, is conserved.
Three series in the section includes documents from his time as an assistant to Tage Erlander, 1953-1963: 4.3 Preparatory work for Tage Erlander’s speeches etc., 4.4 and 4.5 Harpsund and Kungakommittéerna [Royal Committees]. I will not go into any more detail on these series here, but want to point out how important it is for those who want to study the Swedish post-war history to recall how close Tage Erlander and Olof Palme were to each other. It is reflected in their archives, so in many cases it is necessary to use the material in both their archives if you want to get the full picture of their activities and issues.
From 1958 Olof Palme had a seat as member of Riksdagen [the Parliament], in its first chamber as a representative of Jönköping. From that time, he became increasingly involved in work separated from Tage Erlander’s, such as chairman or member of different commissions or investigations. The documents in Olof Palme’s archives increase from 1963 when he in the autumn became a consultative minister of the government. Most of the documents are from election campaigns and debates with political opponents. There is also a rich background material kept concerning Olof Palme’s domestic and international travels, such as from the visits to London, Paris and Bonn in 1970 when the EEC-issue was on the agenda. There also are separate files about certain domestic and foreign policy issues, such as the discussions about the constitution, about nuclear power, wage-earner’s investment fund, Vietnam war and so on.
Even some volumes from Olof Palme’s activities in the international disarmament work as chairman of what after his death was named the Palme Commission are included in this series. In a series 4.7 Brandt Commission materials in eleven boxes is conserved from his membership of the Commission of the North-South problems lead by Willy Brandt.
“The joy of politics”
Politics was for Olof Palme something deeply serious, yet also something filled with great joy: “The joy of politics.” Many have certified the fact that he with his oratory literally could get a meeting electrified, where you almost saw the sparks crackle and lay between him and the audience. One moment, there could be an attentive silence in which all waited for the next word of Olof Palme, the next moment salvo of laughter could roll through the audience. Let it have been facing a major congress, a May Day-meeting with tens of thousands of listeners, at election meetings, or before a small club. His seriousness, his enthusiasm and his joy was contagious. Politics was during his time something fun and important to devote oneself to. Those who have been participants at his meetings remember this and it is something people can understand and imagine by reading his texts, but to come closest to the atmosphere that could be created at a meeting, you have to listen to Olof Palme, and also rather see his eyes, gestures and facial expressions.
In section 5. Collections can be found such material in sub-series 5.1.1. Audiotapes, 5.1.2 Videotapes and 5.1.3. Films, which could be helpful. 41 boxes store close to 600 different recordings. Most of these are made after 1976 on cassette tapes, from 1960’s - and early 1970’s there are a number of tapes on reels. There are recordings of radio programmes in which Olof Palme participated, recordings from the debates and press conferences, and as mentioned above, recordings of speeches. The quality of the recordings is very diverse, many of them poorly audible. Videotapes are far fewer, about 50, many interviews made by foreign TV companies are in other formats than VHS, making it difficult for other than professionals to inspect the contents. The films in the Palme archives are few: one from the United Nations in 1970, one from Poland in 1974, one from Cuba in 1975 and one from Baghdad in 1981.
In section 5, we also find the series 5.2. Clippings and 5.3 Photos. The Clippings consists of 100 boxes, Photos 25 boxes. Clippings in the 1960s are often added by subject on a particular topic, such as Constitution 1965-1966, Vietnam 1965-1967, South West Africa, South Africa 1965-1967, The Day H 1967 (Olof Palme who was Minister of Communications was responsible for Sweden’s change-over from left- to right-hand traffic), University reforms 1968, Czechoslovakia 1968, Party leadership 1967-1969. From the 1970’s the clippings are kept in strict chronological order. For the period 1977-1981 only one volume is conserved (see above, but this can be complemented in a series of clippings in the Social Democratic Party’s archives). In the clippings you can find the reactions to Olof Palme’s doings, here you find the debates in the press and, above all, here is a lot of the otherwise inaccessible foreign press material. The clippings often also give a convenient overview and a quick entrance to an event. The photographs in the series 5.3 are usually copies of photos taken by professional photographers, who sent copies to Olof Palme from special occasions.
… African wooden sculptures…
In section 6. Others, we can find things that are in close connection with other material in the archives, but because of format, etc. differs from the rest. It is in this case essentially gifts Olof Palme received at his international and domestic travels: everything from tableware, vases, embroideries, African wooden sculptures to paintings of known and unknown artists, as well as books with and without dedications. Here is the copy of Miguel de Cervantes book Don Quixote, which Felipe Gonzales carried on each day during twelve years and which he then handed over with thanks to Olof Palme. Here you also can find some of the awards and medals Olof Palme received. Framed is also his diploma from the Bachelor of Arts degree at Kenyon College in the United States in 1948.
The Appendix includes a wide-ranging material, approximately 400 boxes, broken down into 21 sub-series from the cabinet during the period 1966-1976. The largest series contains material from elections campaigns and party congresses; others have titles such as The Working Group on Drugs, Customs (EEC and NORDEK), IB affair, the energy issue, Nature and the Environment, Conflict in the labour market, Women’s and family policy. These documents were delivered to ARAB from the Cabinet after the election in autumn 1976.
The “Biografica” collection consists of clippings etc. about Olof Palme which, in different ways in addition to the Palme’s archives, have been received by ARAB. Here for example you can find the memory copies of various newspapers, which were published after Olof Palme’s death. Condolences consists of the thousands of books and letters which during the days after the murder were posted from all over Sweden and abroad, where people wrote their names, many times with a poem as a last greeting, or a few words that expressed their deepest despair. Together they provide a shocking and powerful impression from the collective grief that struck the country in the spring of 1986. Like all the greetings and poems that accompanied the tens of thousands of roses on Sveavägen, as well as all the gifts that were placed on the scene of the murder: Bibles, paintings, jewellery, etc.. And here are all the posters that were written with a hope for peace. And a balalaika.