Norway: Tears and candle-lights cannot stop the fascists! Time to face hard with hard!

The recent brutal and outrageous attack in Norway on the Scandinavian and international workers' movement was a huge shock, not only for those members of the Norwegian Labour Party Youth (AUF) who were at the summer cap at the island of Utøya, but also for the whole population of Scandinavia.

O n Monday of last week more than 150,000 marched in Oslo in what was the biggest demonstration since WW2. After the massacre, international solidarity is deeply felt across the borders of Scandinavia. But while the bourgeois right-wingers shed crocodile-tears and denounce an “attack against democracy”, what they are really arguing for is fundamentally the same politics as the ones Anders Breivik tried to promote. The attack was directed precisely at the labour movement and now it is time for our movement to respond with more than roses and candle-lights.  

The crisis sharpens all contradictions

The worldwide capitalist slump which started in 2007/2008 and which has by no means finished, has sharpened all the contradictions. On the surface, the Scandinavian countries are presented as “basically healthy economies” that do not have major problems. However, the crisis has also affected the Scandinavian countries.

Norway's GDP grew by 0.7% in 2008, then it fell by 1.7% in 2009, only to grow by a miserable 0.3% in 2010. The country's economy had growth rates of between 2.3 and 3.9 per cent in the four years that preceded the crisis; that unemployment was low in Norway before the crisis, at around 2.4 per cent at its low point, but is now at 3.4% per cent. In itself this is not high by international standards but nevertheless it a significant growth which shows the direction in which things are heading.

The fact that discontent in Norwegian society is rising is shown also by the strike statistics. In 2010 there was a loss of more than 500,000 working days due to strikes, the highest figure in Norway since 1996. Around 67,000 workers were involved in 12 strikes, compared to only 10 strikes with 13,000 involved in 2008. The major part of those strikes took place within the health, social, education and building sectors.

Thus the crisis is sharpening all the contradictions in society also in the Scandinavian countries that were previously known to be “quiet” and “calm”. Trotsky explained that terrorism is an expression of a thoroughly rotten society. The crisis is far from over and the degeneration of society continues.

When Anders Breivik's manifesto was made public, it was said that he wanted a “revolution”. Something which doubtlessly will be used against everyone who fights to change society. However, the small detail is that Breivik did not fight for revolution but for political reaction, diametrically the opposite of revolution. Regardless of whether this action was the act of one individual or part of a major conspiration, it is clearly an expression of the deep crisis of capitalism, a system that is in decay. That is why a Socialist transformation of society is the only true alternative.

Defend democracy?

Stoltenberg, the Norwegian prime minister, in his speech at the demo last Monday said the following: “This is a demonstration for democracy, tolerance and unity. People in the whole country stand shoulder to shoulder in this moment. We can learn from this. We need more of this, each and everyone of us can make the spin of democracy a little bit stronger. We see this here […] Your dreams will be reality. You can continue and pass on the spirit of tonight. You can make a difference. Do it! My appeal is simple. Dedicate yourself, join an organization.”

Following this, all political parties have had an upsurge in membership. We must use the resistance to the attack to strengthen organization and the struggle, as the AUF leader Eskil Pedersen pointed out immediately after the massacre: “He may have killed individuals, but never the ideas that they fought for”.

The chairman of the Sosialistisk Venstreparti (The Left Socialist Party, which has been in coalition governments since 2005) wrote on the party website: “At the same time, incredibly many people now organize support for basic values such as equality and solidarity. This is a great strength in Norwegian society which we have to stand together on and take care of the future”.

The whole workers' movement in Scandinavia immedeatedly showed that solidarity with the Norwegian workers' movement has a solid ground and that internationalism from below goes beyond the borders.

But from all political sides, there is an attempt to direct the indignation over the massacre into safe, controlled and “democratic” channels. Stoltenberg continued his speech by saying: “Participate in the debate. Use your right to vote. Free elections are the crown jewel of democracy. By participating you say YES, loud and clear, in favour of democracy”.

Also in Denmark, the politicians from the whole political um have joined the chorus: “We must stand together in defence of democracy, fight what is “anti-Norwegian” and “anti-Nordic”. 

Jeppe Kofoed from the Social-Democratic Party wrote in his blog at

“On the other hand, this episode is felt under all circumstances as an attack on humanism, respect and tolerance for others. It is really uncomfortable and I get discomforted just by thinking how the families of the victims and their friends are feeling these days. Norwegian PM Stoltenberg has tackled the tragedy with dignity which generates respect. It is a time of shock and mourning. Defend democracy, political activity and free society. Defend Norway against what is not Nordic. He gets people to unite in the moment of tragedy and depression”.

Villy Søvndal (chairman of the Danish Socialist Peoples' Party) also wrote a blog at

“The only 'crime' of those young people apparently was that they worked and organized – but always peacefully – in defence of social justice, democracy, equal rights and international solidarity. They were part of a movement, which has not only influenced Norway but the whole of Northern Europe in more than one hundred years: The long and tiring work of extending and strengthening freedom, liberty equality and unity.

“It is unbelievable that anyone who has been raised with all those privileges, which is a predominant feature of Norwegian as well as Swedish and Danish societies, can turn his back on it in such a cowardly and hateful way”.

And even Per Clausen, leader of the parliamentary group of Enhedslisten (Unity-list, Red-Green Alliance) follows in the same line:

“We condemn the crime which is behind so many killings. Regardless of the motive behind such an atrocious crime, which everyone must reject, such criminals must not be allowed to destroy our democracy. That is why we must defend the openness,  which caracterizes the Nordic Countries and our democracies. Should we abandon this, the criminals will win.”

Candles in Oslo, July 25. Photo: Henrik Lied, NRKCandles in Oslo, July 25. Photo: Henrik Lied, NRK If we repeat the slogan of rejecting anything “un-Nordic”, in reality we would be repeating like parrots the rhethoric used by Anders Breivik and which has been adopted by the right-wing Danish Peoples' Party and the Norwegian Progress Party, to which Breivik belonged in the past. The fight of the right wing against the workers' movement does not have anything to do with questions of nationality; it is about classes and accordingly must be treated as a class question.

Anders Breivik outlined how he was against multi-culturalism, fundamentally expressing the same policy that Sarkozy in France, Merkel in Germany, Cameron in Britain and the Danish government has been carrying out for years.

In Denmark the youth organizations of the Social-Democratic Party (DSU) and of the Socialist Peoples' Party (SFU) have voted in favour of a resolution condemning the attack together with all the right-wing youth organizations.  Instead of joint “unity” resolutions, they should be explaining how the right-wing parties are defending the attacks of the capitalists on the working class and on the welfare state and that is reason enough why they should be fought, not worked together with.

Because in reality, our “democracy” is not genuine democracy. Everyone can say whatever they please and vote for whoever they want every four years, but they cannot decide on the fundamental lever which decides everything else, the economy. As hundreds of thousands have expressed on the streets of Spain and Greece, what we have is not a genuine democracy. The most important decisions are taken in the corridors of the big companies. We do not decide how many should be unemployed and how many employed, whether we should lower wages or work harder. Nor do we decide whether there should be cuts in education, hospitals and nurseries, nor whether it is necessary to bomb Libya or Afghanistan.

The attack on the Utøya island was a fascist attack. The labour movement has had many historic experiences with fascism and nazism in the past. It is necessary to fight the fascists, not with passivity nor with the individual methods of the anarchists. The battle must be conducted with the methods of the labour movement.

In the 1930's the Danish Young Social-Democrats organized their own armed self-defence squads against the Nazis. In Britain it was possible to halt all the marches of the Fascist gangs with mass resistance and barricades on the streets. But also recently, we saw how mass struggle can defeat these gangs. In Denmark in the 1990's, we had big mobilizations that undermined every attempt of the Nazis tried to organize rallies in the provinces, notably in Roskilde where they were kicked out of the city by the whole population who attacked them physically.

Unfortunately, instead of adopting these methods, the reaction of the left parties in Denmark to the fascist assault in Norway has been to demand the constitution of a committee to investigate legislation on hateful internet propaganda. This will not solve anything and it is clear that the law and the police did not help the youth at Utøya. Fascism and racism cannot be defeated by more “openness” and “debate”. Such a strategy has been adopted in the past and has led nowhere. This is completely insufficient! What is needed is firm action! Fascism cannot be silenced away; weakness invites aggression.

The workers' movement must fight back

Anders Breivik's attack was not any casual attack on “democracy”. It was not the right-wing parties that were attacked. It was clearly an assault against the workers' movement. And it is a matter of fact that Breivik's ideas are but the logical extension and continuation of the position held by the bourgeois parties, including the “respectable” right-wingers throughout Scandinavia. Faced with the crisis, those politicians have advocated “national unity” and told us that we are “all in the same boat”, that “everyone has to pay for the crisis”.

However, what this means in reality is that the workers ought to accept wage cuts, unemployment and more pressure at work, while companies register record profits. Some people find it “harsh” and “tactless” to speak of the need for a 24-hour general strike in Scandinavia and argue that such a step would be “taking advantage” of the present political crisis.

What they forget is that this tragedy is a political tragedy. It was imposed by a right-wing extremist against the workers' movement, aiming to achieve specifically political objectives. They also forget that the atrocity was based on a clear political programme, the same as the agenda carried out in the Scandinavian parliaments and in the media with the racist campaign against immigrants. If one tries to depoliticize the event, one will be playing into the hands of the right wing who speak of “unity” and class-collaboration.

Immediately after the attack, we proposed a 24-hour general strike should be called in Norway as a first reply to the attack. In 1936, when two trade unionists from the dockers' union in Belgium were killed by fascists in the port of Antwerp, their funeral was converted into the largest anti-fascist demonstration in the city and the dockers went on a spontaneous 24-hour general strike. Also in Norway in 2010 the train drivers held a two minute strike against the Israeli occupation of Gaza and during WWII the teachers held a month-long strike against the German occupation.

It is necessary to cut through all the talk of “national unity” and class-collaboration and bring the working class and the labour movement back into the struggle. Joint action, such as a general strike, would show that the antagonism is not between races or religious beliefs, but between classes. It would also show the enormous strength that the working class possesses. On the contrary, if we limit ourselves to a few minutes of silence, roses and candle-lights, we will open up room for the right wing who will strengthen itself and carry out new attacks in the future.

It is time to wake up

In many ways, the leaders of the Scandinavian labour movement are living in the past. In the past we could “build the welfare-society”, there was room for reforms, peaceful negotiations were on the order of the day. But those times have long passed. That period represented a historical exception, marked by the post-war boom.

The situation now is completely different. Capitalism finds itself in a deep crisis and class struggle is at the top of the agenda on a world scale. The working class and the youth will be forced into struggle again and again and for that purpose we need organizations that can lead the battle.

The attack on the largest youth organization of Norway's labour movement has made it perfectly clear that the workers' movement cannot rely on the state for protection. In Sweden we saw how the police fired against protesters in Gothenburg in 2001 and wounded one of them.  It is time for the labour movement to begin to adopt serious measures to defend itself and build defensive picket-lines for meetings, demonstrations, summer camps, etc.

The leader of Sosialistisk Ungdom (Socialist Youth, the Norwegian Socialist Left-party's youth), shortly before the attack raised the need for greater attention to the struggle against racism. The subsequent events proved him to be absolutely right. Racism can only be fought as part of the class struggle by fighting against the root causes of racism. The fight against racism should be linked to the struggle for Socialism in a concrete manner.

More and more people are beginning not only to question capitalism, but also to move into revolutionary action, as was shown by the events in the Middle East and more recently in Spain and Greece. Society is polarised to the left and to the right. It is an inevitable consequence of the crisis of capitalism. The masses are forced to fight for their very means of subsistence. And they are being pushed more in the direction of socialist ideas.

The bourgeoisie will follow up Anders Breivik's attack with further attacks against the labour movement, beginning with those who are furthest to the left. Immediately after the attack it was revealed that the assault had not been committed by islamic fundamentalists, as all the established media immediately thought, but by the extreme right wing. At that time the press pointed out that society had to be wary of both right and left-wing extremism.

However, it is a point of fact that it was a -winger who attacked a meeting of the labour movement. That, however, will not prevent the state from using it as a pretext for stepping up the surveillance of the left wing and pass new and even stricter anti-terror legislation, enabling them, not to stop terror, but to repress peaceful demonstrations and striking workers.

After the fascist attack in Norway, the mood has been one of mourning, with flowers, candle-lights and crying in the streets. This is obviously a normal and natural reaction. It is understandable that people are shocked. Olav Magnus Linge, Sosialistisk Ungdom leader, writes in a letter to the members: “We owe our comrades in the AUF and all those killed more than tears and words of memorial. We owe them that we get on with the task of organizing the youth for justice and freedom with even more dedication than before”. This is true, but we need even more.

The best way to honour those who died is to destroy the right wing which stands behind such acts, that right wing which functions as a tool of the capitalist class, and which is used to harass the workers' movement and for whom even the killing of young people and the use of terror is something they will not stop at. Candle-lights and tears will not stop them! Weakness invites agression.

The fascist psychopaths behave in a cowardly manner. The assault in Norway was a clear proof of this. The great nationalist “Knight Templar” shot at unarmed youth, a “non-dangerous” target. That is why the only response that the labour movement can come up with is to face hard with hard by setting up self-defence groups in the trade unions and workers' parties and physically repelling  these right-wing violent psychopaths. This massacre of the labor movement's youth must not go unanswered.

Source: Socialistisk Standpunkt (Denmark)

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