Ohly bemoans ‘crowded middle ground’

Calling religion the opium of the people is 'vulgar Marxism', Left Party leader Lars Ohly told a pre-election meeting on Wednesday.

His message might be expected to go down well with his audience – the head of Sweden’s former Communist Party was answering questions from a pastor at the Mission Covenant Church in Köpingsvik, Öland.

Ohly, whose father was a priest, told the meeting that he grew up in a Christian, conservative-voting family. When he at the age of 13 left the Liberal youth movement and veered to the left, it prompted a period of reflection in the family, he said.

“But my parents have always accepted my choices and respected me, even when they thought I was wrong. That has been a major factor in shaping who I am.”

“A parent who denies their children the chance to decide for themselves what is right for them is a bad parent,” he said when asked how he would react if one of his own children became active in the Moderate Party.

Evangelist Thor-Björn Bastås asked a number of questions about what the Left Party threatened in society, and about how much the state should interfere in citizens’ lives.

Ohly responded that religion was not threatened by politics.

“Marx’s comment that religion is the opium of the people is an incorrect description. Like many other philosophies, religion can be used for good or bad purposes.”

“It has sometimes been justified to criticize people who have exercised power in religion’s name. But religion is not in itself an opium of the people or an impediment to socialist development,” Ohly said.

Speaking about the upcoming election, Ohly said it was getting lonely on the far-left of Swedish politics.

“Many people in Swedish politics have squeezed themselves into the middle,” a comment he later told Expressen was directed at the Green Party. He said that Green spokesman Peter Eriksson was politically oriented between Göran Persson and the Alliance.

The Left Party leader gave generously to the collection during the question session, which was punctuated with hymns and prayers. Ohly did not join in with the hymns except for one he had requested himself, a newly-written piece by Mikael Wiehe called ‘Utan dig’ (‘Without You’), which he sang with gusto.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, Maud Olofsson and Göran Persson will face questions from the pastor over the weekend.