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What shaped him as a human being

You must own it yourself
Forfatter: Thorbjørn Jagland
Forlag: Cappelen Damm (Norge)

MEMOAR: Was the most interesting thing in Thorbjørn Jagland's book overlooked by the critics?

(Partly machine-translated from Norwegian by Gtranslate (extended Google))

Much of the preview of Thorbjørn Jagland's memoir You must own it yourself was of a critical nature and linked to the expectations that he would discuss internal conflicts in Arbeiderpartiet – and the relationship with Jens Stoltenberg. Then came the book and thus the reviews, and those who reviewed, were true to their expectations. They searched and found some old conflicts with Jens Stoltenberg and Grete Faremo from 25 years ago that they absolutely had to bring to light again. The book is 405 pages, but most of these reviews of a critical negative nature are about the content of 70-80 pages. The reviewers who chose this approach wrote in VG, TV 2 and DN.
The rest of the book's content, which in my opinion is the most interesting, was overlooked. In the media on the left, there were more interviews. NRK's ​​Ole Torp also had a long and interesting one conversation with Jagland.

The warmth and love

With my background in the labor movement, I found the book very interesting – it has a good and easy language. Through the reading, one gets close to a politician who has influenced the development of Norwegian society for about 40 years. Jagland is concerned with what shaped him as a human being, and how it led to the values ​​that guided his political work. He shares generously and interestingly about this.

The United States' conduct and brutality in the Vietnam War shaped Jagland's attitude to war and peace forever.

Jagland is a working-class child. He goes far back and tells about great-great-grandparents, great-grandparents, grandparents and parents. Some were from homesteads, while others were manual workers in industry. The working day was long, wages low and poverty high. It was a daily struggle to make ends meet. There are events in the story that shake because everyday life was so hard and heavy. The everyday toil of his own parents during the first years of their cohabitation is captivatingly depicted.

What strikes me in reading this part of the book is the warmth and love that characterized the relationship between the relatives and Jagland's childhood home. He and his siblings had a good upbringing.

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Jagland (Portrait)

The same applies to the story from one's own nuclear family. He met his wife Hanne in AUF. She has obviously been an important supporter in all the challenges that came later in life. They have two children; elder had a congenital serious illness. Jagland is candid about the challenges this created, and the joy that his son's fight for a good life was successful.

Jagland grew up in a family that loved nature and the outdoors. It was amazing what trips they sometimes went on while still having a great shortage of all material goods. He brought this joy of nature into his own family.

The inspirers

Jagland never became interested in Marx. He found the political values ​​of former leaders in his own county and other thinkers in the wider world. Marcus Thrane has been an inspirer. During his many travels in Europe, Thrane was seized by the revolutionary currents of freedom that characterized Europe in the mid-1800th century. Thrane brought the ideas home to Drammen – as editor of Drammens Adresse, he was also a strong advocate for universal suffrage.

The foundation of Drammen Arbeiderforening in 1848 was an important event, and then followed the formation of new workers' associations, where the members were to receive basic education in writing schools and reading rooms with book collections. These are events Jagland praises, and which have left traces in his political development.

Jagland's political awakening took place during a period of great international unrest.

Christopher Hornsrud is another who inspired him. He was radical in the 1870s and 80s
Left-wing man, but in 1888 joined the Labor Party. He became chairman in 1903 and later prime minister of the first Labor government in 1928. Hornsrud tied together socialismns ideals and Christianitywhile ethics in the same way as Marcus Thrane. Jagland says that this connection appealed to him. When it comes to religion, Jagland himself is primarily concerned with Jesus' message – he calls him "the rebel of Nazareth".

Jagland has told several times about the joy and inspiration he gets from reading fiction. One book that made a strong impression early on was Victor Hugos The miserable from 1862. It is especially the fate of the poor girl Fantine. An upper-class boy made her pregnant and disappeared. Fantine has to put away the child she gives birth to, and then she becomes a slave laborer for a rich couple. The injustice with the abuse of the young woman and the brutality in her everyday life left its mark on Jagland.

Jagland has elsewhere shared his enthusiasm for Lebanese Amin Maaloufs Book Leo Afrikaneren from 1986. Leo was expelled from Spain together with Muslims and Jews in the 1500th century. The journey as a refugee through North Africa and the Mediterranean countries and everything he experienced on the trip, also captured Jagland. A central part of the message in Leo Afrikaneren is the religious tolerance he met on his travels. Today, it is largely destroyed and replaced with fundamentalism, fanaticism and accusations of conspiracy theory.

Political development

Jagland's political awakening took place during a period of great international unrest. He was 13 years old when he joined AUF in 1963. Ten years later, he became chairman of AUF. He mentions Einar Gerhardsen as his great role model – his no to nuclear weapons on Norwegian soil in peacetime became landmark. The United States at the time was marked by violence and racial riots, and Martin Luther King juniors' message made an impression. The Vietnam War led to large-scale demonstrations around the world.

The Labor Party was divided, but AUF and many others demonstrated against the war. Jagland writes that the United States' conduct and brutality in Vietnam War shaped his attitude to war and peace forever. The coup by the fascist colonels in Greece in 1967 was another dramatic event in the cradle of democracy that shocked. Jagland was thrilled when Jens Evensen brought the case for Norway against the colonels in Greece and had them convicted in the European Court of Human Rights.

The EU and Europe have occupied him for a long time. He was in doubt about yes or no in 1972, but chose no. Willy Brandt eventually became both a conversation partner and a role model. In 1990, Jagland wrote the book My European Dream and declared himself a European and a strong supporter of Norwegian membership of the EU. In security policy, he still stands for dialogue, relaxation and disarmament.

Gro Harlem Brundtland became chairman of the Labor Party in February 1981 – and Jagland was investigation secretary. He describes the collaboration with Brundtland as very good, and praises her leadership. The United States' planned deployment of medium-range missiles in Europe became a major issue. Brundtland gave Jagland a special responsibility in the matter, and in collaboration with the German Social Democrats and in particular Brandt's close adviser Egon Bahr, they developed a new policy for disarmament and cooperation in Europe.

Social democratic governance policy

Jagland succeeded Brundtland as party leader in 1992 and had served until 2002. In 1996/97 he was prime minister. This period is much discussed in other contexts, and I therefore leave most of it.

Jagland's discussion of the relationship with Jens Stoltenberg and the struggle for leadership in the Labor Party is subdued – it was not a beautiful power struggle. It was not only a struggle for power between two leaders, but also a struggle for a political choice of direction. Stoltenberg was marked by Tony Blair's and Gerhard Schroeder's third way of escaping some of the neoliberalism with the privatization of state-owned companies and the opening up of competition. Jagland was fundamentally skeptical of most of this. He wanted more of traditional social democratic governing policy, but lost. Today, many Social Democrats believe that Blair's third path was devastating to the movement. Now one should therefore have enough room to say that Jagland was right.

The case of the Lund Commission and the monitoring of Berge Furre as a member of the commission are discussed, and the criticism of Grete Faremo and her handling of the Furre case – while she was Minister of Justice – is well-founded.

Yngve Hågensen and Thorbjørn Berntsen were among the few Jagland was able to have trusting conversations with when things went awry.

Yngve Hågensen and Thorbjørn Berntsen were among the few Jagland was able to have trusting conversations with when things went awry. From time to time in the book, Jagland has a sigh of relief that at times in forums outside the labor movement he could become awkward and insecure. I have experienced him in both places. In party forums, he is impressive as a speaker. In public contexts, he may seem angular.

Finally, in the book, Jagland discusses today's and tomorrow's political challenges. He has both in the book and in other contexts expressed that he likes the Labor Party's turn to the left in the draft of a new party program. Will he therefore vote for the AUF dissent that Norway should sign the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons?


Hanssen has been a member of the Labor Party for 47 years, and a member of the International Committee (1975–2003). During his time as Secretary General of Norwegian People's Aid (1994–2001), he had annual talks with Thorbjørn Jagland as party leader where he briefed on the work of the Norwegian People's Aid, the labor movement's humanitarian organization.

Halle Jørn Hanssen
Former Secretary General of Norwegian People's Aid, TV correspondent, politician and author.

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