Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Political Context of the Norway Terror Attacks

Anders Behring Breivik took aim at those he falsely saw as "Marxists"
Many thousands of articles have been written on the subject of Anders Behring Breivik's terrorist attacks since they took place in Norway last Friday, yet few have seriously tried to examine their political context. This is unfortunate.

If - as ironically many in the corporate media reflexively suggested - the perpetrator had turned out to have been a Muslim man, the airwaves would be full of supposed 'experts' trying to trace his actions back to the Quran. As it is, Breivik is white, and describes himself as a "100% Christian", so he is labelled a "migrant hating monster" by the migrant hating Daily Mail, and even "insane" by his own lawyer. Breivik's crimes were undoubtedly monstrous, and were put into practice by a mind that could be labelled 'insane'. But such murderous impulses do not come to be 'randomly', so their causes must be found in the wider society.

The individual factors leading to Breivik's extreme right-wing political trajectory are yet to be pieced together, but Norwegian bourgeois politics - like bourgeois politics around the world - is shifting ever rightwards. Though liberals have long tended to view the oil-rich Scandinavian society as a model for a peaceful capitalism, financial and market forces are certainly making themselves felt in Norway, and the country has been far from immune to the effects of the financial crisis.

Norwegian PM Stoltenberg has modelled himself on Tony Blair
Current Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has modelled himself on the UK's most prominent 'centre-left' neo-liberal PM, Tony Blair. In his two terms, Stoltenberg has restricted welfare, privatised some formerly state-owned services, curbed immigration, and bailed out Norwegian bankers. Norway currently has troops helping to occupy Afghanistan, and Norwegian fighter jets are bombarding Libya, in the mission to overthrow replace Muammar Gaddafi with a dictatorship more favourable to the west. It is clear that Breivik saw Stoltenberg et al as being too tolerant of Islam, however, the 'mainstream' racist poisoning of public opinion that has always accompanied imperial adventures will have contributed to the intensity of Breivik's bigotry.

Another significant factor is Breivik's repeated use of the terms "Marxist" and "cultural Marxist". In his manifesto, Breivik identifies these supposed Marxists as being enemies of white Europeans, because their "political correctness" acts to dissolve traditional culture. Of course, Marxism has little to do with the decaying "political correctness" of the elite - instead basing its philosophy on the self-emancipation of the working class as a whole. Still, Breivik has - like many muddled extreme right-wingers - picked up the term and ran with it. His fascistic attack on those he saw as "Marxists" recalls the rhetoric that accompanied the Nazi conquest of Eastern Europe.

As Phil Dickens notes, it would be a mistake to overplay the links between Breivik and the American Tea Party or the English Defence League. That said, the existence of a Breivik in a relatively egalitarian country points to the potential existence of many more in countries such as the US and the UK. When conditions demand it - like in Greece and Egypt - the ruling class will not hesitate to use such forces against the working class. The existence of an openly racist extreme right-wing is yet another reason why we need an organised working class movement.
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