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Norway and Social Democracy under Attack

July 27, 2011
by Lawrence Gulotta

New York City


Asked if the rampage was aimed at the Labor Party, or at Muslim immigrants, Mr. Lippestad said: “This was an attack on the Labor Party.” a quote from the Anders Behring Breivik‘s defense attorney, in NY Times, on 07/26/2011.

Again, he said, “This was an attack on the Labor Party.”

While our domestic right-wing pundits and bloggers are focused on issues related to Muslim immigration into Europe and the US, the motivation here appears to be blind, insane hatred of Norway’s ruling social-democratic Labor Party and the Social Democratic model of development. The youth group, Arbeidernes ungdomsfylking (Workers’ Youth League), which owns camp Utoya, is a member of the International Union of Socialist Youth (“IUSY”). The killer murdered the flower of the next generation of democratic socialists. My conclusion is the killer is an anti-social democrat, driven to ideological mass murderer.

Of course, leave it to Glenn Beck to make a defining comment. He says, discussing the massacre in Norway,

“As the thing started to unfold, and then there was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler Youth or whatever — I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing. But anyway, so there’s this political camp, and some crazy man goes and starts shooting kids.”

Deflecting shame, by describing the victims as if “Hitler Youth, or whatever”
goes a long way toward understanding the Right’s meme of “blaming the victims,” No, the Labor Party’s youth group is not the “Hitler Youth or whatever.” Multiculturalism is not a totalitarian ideology nor is the Labor Party’s youth group like the “Hitler Youth, or whatever.”

Right-wing pundits will suffer public shame while they distance themselves. The killer was such a willing fan, an enthusiast, of many spokespersons of the far-right fringe of American politics, their ideologies and religious beliefs. It appears that the killer is a distant ideological and spiritual cousin of the extremist Right-wing philosophy.

The rise of the Right-wing tendency in the Scandinavian countries has been significant in the past twenty years. The Scandinavian model has crumbled in Sweden, Finland, Holland and Denmark. After September 11, 2001, principally in these countries, there appears an “anti-Islamicism” and a backlash against the multicultural model. The term, according to Yascha Mounk, writing in Dissent on July 26, 2011 , “has become a useful shorthand for everything the populists don’t like: Islam and any kind of extra-European immigration, of course; but also the loss of cultural traditions, the EU’s encroachment on national sovereignty, and even certain forms of cultural relativism,” see  In Holland, the film maker Theo Van Gogh directed the film “Submission” for which he was murdered by a Dutchman of Moroccan origins; in Denmark in 2005 the newspaper “Jyllands-Posten” published 12 cartoons (or vignettes) that infuriated the Islamic world.

The rise of anti-immigrant and right-wing parties has been impressive, since the beginning of the millennium. In 2001 in Denmark, the Dansk Folkepartie obtained 12% of the vote and 22 seats in parliament; in 2007 it improved its electoral results with 13.8% of the votes and 25 seats (of a total of 179). The same results in Holland where a center-right coalition rules, with external support from Gert Wilders’ Partij voor Vrijeid which received 15.5% of the votes and 24 seats in Parliament (of a total of 150). In Sweden a center-right coalition attained an absolute majority in Parliament in 2006; in 2010 it lost its majority, but continues to rule with the external support of the extreme right-wing party Sverigedemokrateerna which received its own 5.7% of the votes, clearing an electoral hurdle and entering Parliament with 20 seats (of a total of 349). In Finland’s April 2011 elections, the xenophobic and anti-Europe (EU) party, Perussuomalaiset (True Fins), went from 4% to 19.1% of the votes and from 5 seats to 39 seats (of a total of 190). In Norway, acting in its own “counter-tendency” fashion, because the Labor Party continues to govern; in reality, in the 2009 elections, the center-right and its allies obtained an absolute majority of the votes and the most extreme of the right-wing parties Hoyre and Framstegspartiet (Party of Progress) gained in seats and votes. It is noteworthy that Anders Behring Breivik, (from 1999 to 2004) was a member of the Youth section of the Party of Progress. He abandoned the party, denouncing its “embrace of multi-culturalism.”

We should be aware that relations between the Nordic countries and the Third Reich were not as innocent as some would have us understand. The sympathetic current of opinion towards support for purity of the Nordic Arian race was never marginalized. The name of Quisling has become synominus with collaborating with the enemy invader, since Vidkum Quisling ruled Norway, from 1942 to 1945, in the name of the Fuhrer.

Analysts and pundits should have taken more notice of political trends after the assassination of Sweden’s social democratic Prime Minister Olaf Palme (1986), and the end of a “stereotypic innocence” in the so-called “Paradise of Social Democracy.” Another indicator of turmoil under the surface is modern Nordic literature. The writings of the Swedish Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, from the Norweign Jo Nesbo, from the Islandic Arnaldur Indrioason, all demonstrating an unstable society, in respect to our stereotypes. Think of this detail:  Sweden is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet for the last 20-years, more and more Swedes have gone to work in Norway. Naturally, as soon as they are declared “immigrant workers,” they are perceived in negative terms.

It requires some time-out to develop an understanding of these events. What new dialectic has brought a Nordic democracy to look dumbfounded in shock on the bodies of their adolescents lying inanimate, on a once happy little island?

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said, “You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy or our ideals for a better world.” Will the Left heed Stoltenberg’s call to defend our ideals or will it remain quite in the face of terrorism, xenophobia and racism?

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