Analysis from peace activists on the front lines in Oslo.
As I am sure others have conveyed, the first reaction of the Norwegian public and political leaders has been one of defiance. Not the kind of defiance that involves calls for strengthened security or surveillance, but a kind of defiance that seeks to deny the terrorist his goals on a deeper level: The Prime Minister has vowed that our response to the attacks, as a society, will be a deepening of democracy and tolerance, a vow that seems to be in accordance with the general mood. A strong display of this reaction was seen this Monday, when several hundred thousand Norwegians - a sizeable fraction of Norway's 5 million inhabitants - took to the streets with flowers in hand and a message of togetherness, compassion and tolerance.
It is still difficult to know for certain what this will develop into as time passes. If the current shift in the climate of public debate, and the developments I see in my personal network does indeed signal what will come, I think we will see some or all of these things come to pass:
- An increased value being put on partaking in democratic institutions. Indeed, all across the political spectrum, parties have reported large influxes of new members since the terrorist's motives were made clear. The emphasis on openness and tolerance is also likely to manifest itself in higher status for those that involve themselves in public debates, NGOs and grassroot organizations.
- A strengthening of the anti-racist movement, which has until now been under severe stress, both from a political climate that has tolerated increasingly virulent anti-immigration agitation and a completely unrelated organizational breakdown due to its mass organization being taken over by the leading cadres of a revolutionary, stalinist micro-party.
- A more assertive pro-multicultural movement. In the last years, as islamophobia has become a part of Norway's mainstream, it has become difficult to promote a multicultural society. Following the lead of the populist right, the likely main parties of a government coalition, the Social Democrats on the left wing, and the Liberal Conservative party on the right, have gradually adopted toward immigrants that have weakened their positions in various ways: making it harder to gain a residence permit on humanitarian grounds or to be given political asylum, adopting regulations that require the Norwegian-based party in non-Western family reunions to have a significant personal income, and discussing regulations on various cultural symbols, such as the hijab. Multicuturally oriented parties, the Socialist Left Party, which, together with the Social Democrats and Agrarian Centrists forms the ruling coalition, and the Liberal Party, which in case of the loss of the next parliamentary elections could assume an enabling position for a right-wing government, have seen significant losses in opinion polls, and this has partly been attributed to their stances on immigration.
- An at least temporary political recession for the populist right (Fremskrittspartiet), some of whose most prominent politicians have a history of statements that very closely mirror the terrorist's worldview, i.e. that Norway's historically dominant Social Democratic party, Arbeiderpartiet, has committed an act of cultural treason in allowing Norway to be "overrun" by Muslim immigrants, and that a grand conspiracy of left-wing politicians, media and academics runs the country to the detriment of its native citizens.
I don't have an intimate knowledge of the political life in other European countries, but from German and British sources, at least, some of these trends seem to be making themselves felt in a wider European sense, as well. This being said, it's important to note that one dominant position is that "this shouldn't change anything". A lot of people are - rightly, so - claiming that arguing for stricter immigration policies and more cultural homogeniety shouldn't be less acceptable today than it was before. But those who do will meet an invigorated resistance.
This might be wishful thinking, but in the wake of what has happened, nothing would be more fitting, in my opinion, than an intensified effort to make the multicultural project work. So far, a significant part of the population seems to agree with this. Let's hope their determination holds, as everyday life begins to return to the normal, and the challenges of cultural integration come to the forefront of attention again.
Benjamin E. Larsen
I'll totally agree on the issue concerning the right wing fundamentalists again and again getting their opportunity to turn their hate into action far away from the focus of public, governments, police and intelligence services. This should not come as a surprise as this has been the issue several times the past 40 years in Norway, as in many other Western countries.
As a fact, all terrorist attacks in Norway since the 2.WW has been put forward by right wing activists in any form. Below is a copy of a letter sent to our comrades in GB (SWP) and I hope that it will help you to get a better understanding of the tragedy that has just occured on our soil. Please read.
Always forward, never backward.
1) As we see it, the labour movement as such, and the basic principles of social justice, anti-racism, tolerance and international solidarity, has been attacked. The labour partys young activists, children and youth, in the labour youth movement "AUF" (arbeidernes ungdomsfylking) www.auf.no, was obviously a main target of the terror. In a small country this gruesome massacre means that many people know someone killed, injured or someone related, and we are in sorrow. The labour youth movement is the biggest political youth movement in norway, and so it has been for decades. Just before the massacre they published their honour to labour youth members killed during the civil-war in Spain, just to mention their recognition of proud socialist traditions.
2) Internasjonale Sosialister had a meeting saturday 23.07, to connect with trade unionists and other activists for the preparance of a political manifestation after the period of sorrow and burrials. People on the left and in the unions understand that the terror was political. We naturally expect the labour youth movement to be in the centre of such a manifestation. Of course at the moment they are severly hurt, but they have clearly stated that they will raise and continue their political activities in honour of the victims. We want a manifestation not only of solidarity with the labour youth movement, but also a manifestation for mulitcultural society, tolerance and unity against racism. But already this Monday we excpect tens of thousands in Oslo to join a "march against terror", which might not sound too political on the face of it, but that surely will have politcal implications, regarding the political source of the bomb attack and the massacre, which was clearly anti-socialist and racist.
3) The labour party governement/ in coallition with the socialist left party and the centreparty (agrarian party) / has (not without inner opposition) been dissapointingly loyal towards western imperialism, wars in Afghanistan and Libya, as well as the general EU-attakcs on asylum seekers and refugees rights. Also, they have been responsible for some internationally typical cuts in pensions and so on, still not without inner- and especially tradeunion opposition, also managing to fight back some cuts. The combination of warfare, restrictions on refugees rights and a lacking loyalty towards the working class that elected them, has indeed been "gifts" to the forces of the right. Still the bomb attack on the government buildings was commited by deep hatred towards socialists and labour movement.
4) The labour youth movement has a more radical leaning than its mother-party, often citisising and joining protests against their governments decisions, and are comrades against nazism and organised racism, as well as in protests against government oppression of refugees, and the war on afghanistan.
5) The labour youth gathering on "Utøya" has been for more than 50 years, always in peace and joy for the participants, and no one ever imagined such an attack.
6) Anders Behring Breivik has been a member of the populist liberalist right wing party named Frp (fremskrittspartiet) untill 2007, but left them accusing them for "cowardice" (I assume on the questions of such as immigration and mulitculturalism). Still, this party has been the main source of intolerance, racism, anti-asylum and anti-muslim propaganda for years. Allthough not a Nazi-party, nor a fascist party, they have attracted racist elements and electors, expelling some members when "nescessary", still keeping on... in the 90 s this party used to harrass mayday rallies (wich is big in norway), allthoug not violently, and always booed out. Later they have grown in to an inbetween 15 and up to 25% party on the tolls.
7) Later, on right wing anti-islamic internet forums such as document.no, A.B.B has expressed his deep antipathy towards such as (what he call) "cultural marxism", multiculture and islam, as well as the "female state" and so on...He obviously hates the labour party, and as far as I know he has accused them of being "too kind" on immigrants and minorities. He also claims that he had immigrant-friends in his child-hood, but says that he later understood that this was a "mistake", and the result of some kind of social conspiracy from the "cultural marxists". He admires "temple knights" and crusaders, has been inspired of such as the EDL (allthough appealing for more spectacluare actions) and as far as I understand what we call "sannfinnene" (finlands nationalist right wing party). On his facebook page he says he is a "conservative" and a "christian". He supports zionism. He also left a 1500-page doucumet and a pretty well done video-message on you-tube, and seems to have been preparing his vicious attacks for some years. But his connections to the far right movements abroad and in norway is still a bit unclear in terms of organization. He grew up and now lived with his mother on the mainly, allthough really not always, wealthy west side of oslo.
8) The neo-nazi movements and racist organizations in Norway was beaten down by massmobilizations and militant massactions in the 80s and 90s. In 2001 50-60.000 (10 percent of the populatiuon) in Oslo went out in the streets against a vicious nazi killing of a black 15 year old and against racism and nazism as such. Now, this year, february - april, antifascists have outnumbered and beaten down two rounds of initiated "norwegian defence league" ( norskforsvarsallianse, which runs a blog under that name ) organizations and gatherings in the streets of Oslo. At their last try in april, we were 1500, they were 9. Labour youth movement was a part of this anti-nazi mobilisation. Besides, antifascists and socialists has so far succesfully struggled a criminal russian nazi organization, "slavic union", trying to establish a headquarter in the city centre of Oslo.
9) Another racist organization, claiming christianity and christian culture as its ideological base, playing some kind of "soft" in the streets, is called SIAN, Stopp Islamiseringen av Norge (stop islamization of norway). They are also small in numbers, but has a dangerous vicious ideology.
10) Mostly the aggressive racist propaganda is to be found on the internet, on web sites, blogs and readers comments, but not in the streets. The far more influentiual but somewhat subtile racism is pushed out by the right wing populist liberalist party Frp, attacking any government for being to soft on immigrants and to ignorant on "islamist threats", both on terrorist or cultural levels. The terrible events now will give opportunities for the whole society to turn against attemtps of racism as a political strategy.
Norwegian pilots are the most frequent bombers in Libya. They bomb in Afghanistan and the participated tacitly in Iraq.
No wonder that the uniformed violence against "Muslims" sooner or later gets it's uncontrolled, private practitioners.
Note: Both NYT and Guardian named Muslims as perpetrators (especially mullah Krekar, living in Norway was mentioned) before it got clear that everything was the other way around.
Now the establishment says "it is not necessary to talk about the motives". Let's hold hands as Christians (although some of he victims probably were non-Christians).
Parallels with Unabomber rather superficial (bomb recipe and some reference on the Internet). Media/politicians try to obfuscate the existence of a new European anti-Islam extremist terrorist organization with an ideology escalating and concentrating ideas practiced by NATO, although in a non-sanctioned direction that could possible awake a drowsing people so far content with being the richest in the world and far away from NATO’s violence.