How should the workers’ movement respond?
Right wing extremist Anders Behring Brevik’s massacre of young people at the camping island of Utøya, outside Norway’s capital, Oslo, shocked and horrified people everywhere. It was an act of hardly imaginable wanton cruelty. In cold blood, Behring Brevik shot dead 85 mainly young people – teenagers mainly – and wounded 67 more. Four more potential victims are still missing. Today, shock and grief dominates Norway. Many questions remain unanswered. What is behind right wing terrorism? How should the workers’ movement and socialists respond?
For nearly 10 years, Anders Behring Breivik planned his attack, combining the activities from two previous massacres – the Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh, and those who carried out the school massacre in Columbine. Like McVeigh, Anders Behring Breivik built a huge bomb to denote at government buildings. Like the school killings in Columbine, Anders Behring Breivik shot his young innocent victims in cold blood.
The terrorist attack in Oslo was designed to get maximum attention. The bomb reduced to ruins the streets and neighbourhoods around the government buildings at Youngstorget. It is speculated that the Prime Minister’s skyscraper offices might be demolished. Seven people were killed in the explosion, but police are still searching to see if there are additional victims.
All Norway’s police resources were sent to the centre of Oslo, while Breivik went on to his primary objective, the AUF (social democratic) youth camp on the small Utøya island. Behring Breivik impersonated a heavily armed police officer tasked with protecting the island from attack. Once there, he embarked on an hour and a half of cold-blooded executions, shouting "You should all die!", interspersed with his sickening cheering.
While Behring Brevik drove to the camp in a half hour, it took the police one and a half hours to arrive. Once they went on to the island, Breivik immediately surrendered. He confessed immediately to carrying out the shootings and bombing, while denying his deeds were criminal.
Hatred of "cultural Marxism" and "Islamic colonisation"
A few hours before the attack, Behring Brevik emailed a 1,500 pages right-wing ’manifesto’ to selected recipients, and posted a video on youtube. The manifesto also contains a diary that he began in 2002. The manifesto’s two main headings indicate his targets: "1. The Rise of Cultural Marxism" and "2. Islamic colonization".
Behring Breivik hated Marxism, internationalism and Islam. He has been on the internet describing himself as ’conservative’, rather than a Nazi or neo-liberal. He is a practising Christian, was a Freemason, and from 1999-2006 he was active in the racist Progress Party, until recently Norway’s second largest party. He stated his admiration for the Dutch Islamophobe politician, Geert Wilders, and tried to start a Norwegian branch of the notorious English Defence League. He was also active on the Swedish Nazi website nordisk.nu.
The social democratic Labour Party, in government in Noway, and its youth organization, AUF, which for Behring Breivik represented the labour movement, was the target of the terrorist attack. Therefore there is great need for the trade unions, socialists and left-wing organizations to discuss these events and to take initiatives.
The opposition Conservatives do not know what to say, limiting themselves to empty phrases about democracy and defending Norway.
At first, the forces of reaction tried to lay the blame for the massacre at others. In Sweden, the racist Sweden Democrats’ press secretary, the Dagbladet’s newspaper front page (last Saturday), as well as political commentator, Henrik Brors in Dagens Nyheter, quickly identified Islamists as responsible for the attacks.
Now the pro-establishment media and politicians only talk about extremism in general, avoiding discussing Behring Brevik’s right wing ideas and motivation. Dagens Nyheter’s editorial, last Sunday (July 24), tried to equate the Olso massacre with an imaginary ’threat’ from "left-wing extremism". In fact, both Behring Breivik and Al-Qaeda represent reactionary, right wing ideas – against the labour movement, socialists, democratic rights and women’s rights.
Socialists are opposed to terrorism from individuals and groups, as well as opposing the state terror carried out by US imperialism and its allies, including Sweden and Norway.
The terrorist attacks carried out last Friday are just as shocking for Norway as 9/11 was in the United States and the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme was in Sweden.
In Norway, solidarity with Behring Breivik’s victims was expressed immediately when boat owners, risked their lives to save those young people who jumped into the waters off Utøya, fleeing the gunman.
In an expression of widespread disbelief and sympathy with the young people murdered, mountains of flowers were placed outside social democratic offices and buildings and in churches. There is a sign of the potential of working people and youth to take action in opposition to right wing terror and racism and the social conditions that give rise to it.
United workers’ movement to cut across reactionary ideas
Terrorism is essentially a product of society. The former ’stable welfare societies’ in Norway and Sweden have been eroded, with widening social gaps and new injustices. In the absence of campaigning workers’ organizations drawing working people together to resist neo-liberalism and the system, as a whole, there is room for racists and right-wing extremists to make gains by putting the blame on convenient scapegoats. The populist right, racists, neo-Nazis and some Christian fundamentalists blame immigrants, minorities, workers and socialists for the growing crisis in society. Establishment politicians pave the way for this reactionary climate by introducing policies that result in harsh treatment of refugees and the undermining of solidarity within society, with attacks on the sick, the unemployed and so on.
To cut across reactionary, racist ideas and organisations and to undermine the breeding ground for right wing terrorism, requires a campaigning, united workers’ movement internationally. It is necessary to combat terrorism, war, capitalist globalization and racism. To struggle for decent living conditions, a living wage and a fully funded welfare state for all.
This starts now, with mobilisations against the far right and far right-inspired terrorism and by offering a socialist alternative.