Norwegians are in shock, but remain determined to defend multiculturalism, writes Thomas Kvilhaug of the International Socialists in Oslo
The Norwegian labour movement has been attacked—and so have social justice, anti-racism, tolerance and international solidarity.
This is a small country, so many people know someone who was killed or injured in the gruesome massacre. We are all overcome with grief and sorrow.
Of course, Labour Party Youth Movement (AUF) activists at Utoya were the main target of the terror.
The AUF is Norway’s largest political youth movement, and has been for decades.
Just before the massacre there had been a commemoration for AUF members killed in the Spanish Civil War.
The first response to last week’s attack was a “flower march” on Monday evening “against terror”.
At least 150,000 people came onto the streets—and Oslo’s population is only 605,000. People had flowers, but the square by City Hall and the surrounding streets were so crowded, that it was impossible to march.
This was a gathering of the real, multicultural Oslo—people of all colours, nationalities and religions.
We all sang the old anti-war song “To the Young”, by the socialist poet Nordahl Grieg. It calls for international unity against hunger and injustice.
Prime minister Jens Stoltenberg addressed the crowd, calling for “tolerance in an open society”.
AUF leader Eskil Pedersen said, “Those gathered at Utoya were fighting for justice, equality and against racism.” He added that it was important for everyone to continue this struggle.
This demonstration was the best immediate response to the attack—but after grief comes anger.
The terrorist Anders Behring Breivik’s attacks came out of a deep hatred towards socialists and the labour movement.
We will need an active struggle to defend our multicultural society and oppose racism (see box).
The Labour Party has been in government since 2005. It leads a “Red-Green” coalition with the Socialist Left Party and the farmers’ Centre Party.
Breivik accused Labour of being “too kind” to immigrants and minorities.
In reality, the government has unfortunately gone along with the general attacks on asylum seekers and rights for refugees.
The AUF is more radical leaning than its mother-party, however. Its members often criticise the leadership and join protests against the government’s decisions.
They are comrades in the fight against fascism and organised racism, as well as in protests against oppression of refugees, and the war in Afghanistan, which the government has supported.
The annual AUF summer camp on the island of Utoya has taken place for more than 50 years. No one ever imagined such an attack on it.
The killer Breivik was in the populist right wing Progress Party until 2007—when he left, accusing the party of “cowardice”.
Presumably its policies on immigration and multiculturalism weren’t harsh enough for him.
Progress is the second largest party in the Norwegian parliament. It has been the main source of intolerance, racism, anti-asylum seeker and anti-Muslim propaganda for years.
It is not a fascist party, but it has attracted racist elements.
Its leaders have expelled extremists where they felt it “necessary”. Now it attracts up to 25 percent of the vote in elections.
In recent years, Breivik has expressed his deep antipathy towards “cultural Marxism”, multiculturalism and Islam on right wing internet forums.
He grew up and lived with his mother on the generally wealthier west side of Oslo.
He claims he had immigrant friends in his childhood, but says that this was a “mistake”.
He says it was the result of some kind of social conspiracy from the “cultural Marxists”.
He admires the medieval Knights Templar and the Crusades.
The English Defence League inspires him—although he calls on it to perform more spectacular actions. He seems to have been preparing his vicious attacks for some years.
Breivik’s exact connections to far right movements abroad and in Norway are still unclear.
In Norway, racists and fascists have been pushed back in a series of mass mobilisations and militant mass actions since the 1980s.
In 2001 up to 60,000 people marched through Oslo after Nazis murdered a black 15 year old.
Already this year anti-fascists have seen off two attempts to organise by the Norwegian Defence League (“Norskforsvarsallianse”).
In April, alongside the AUF, we mobilised 1,500 people—and the racists brought nine.
The International Socialists met with trade unionists and other activists last Saturday, to start organising a demonstration after the period of burials and mourning.
Trade unionists and left wingers understand that the attack was political.
On Monday, the transport workers’ union in Oslo met to discuss the planned march and agreed to support it. Leaders of Oslo LO (the equivalent of the TUC) appear set to join it. We hope that the national union council LO Norway will make it an official initiative.
We naturally expect the Labour youth (AUF) to be in the centre of such a march.
Of course at the moment they are suffering, but they have clearly stated that they will recover and continue their political activities in honour of the victims.
We want a demonstration in solidarity with the AUF, but also for a multicultural society, tolerance and unity against racism.