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Norway’s Disturbing Lurch to the Right

Anders Behring Breivik

Norway’s disturbing lurch to the right

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The results from today’s Norwegian elections are more or less clear: with some 26.8% of the vote, the Conservative party (Høyre) is poised to head Norway’s next coalition government. The first thing to note about Norway’s unsettling rightward turn is the fact that the Progress party (Fremskrittspartiet) is set to join as junior partner in a coalition government. Disturbingy, a political party whose platform is marked above all else by an ardent anti-immigration agenda is capable of making such headway little more than two years after neofascist Anders Breivik carried out his heinous terrorist attacks.

The events that left 77 people dead, prompted public debate to focus on a deeply troubling question: what was it about Norwegian society that had made 22/7 possible? Breivik’s extensive links to far-right groups and anti-Muslim networks prompted the recognition that his actions and ideology could not be understood in a vacuum. Rather, it seemed clear that he had emerged from the fertile ground of a racism and an Islamophobia that had attained a degree of respectability in public debate in Norway. This, it was argued, demanded a collective response: Norwegian society had to confront deep-seated xenophobic attitudes and embrace the fact that cultural and ethnic diversity had come to stay.

For a time, this was a recognition that seemed to hold sway. The most significant indication of this shift was the fact that electoral support for the Progress party – a party of which Breivik had been a member for a number of years, and whose warnings against the “sneak-Islamisation” of Norwegian society resonated with the main tenor of Breivik’s ideology – was significantly reduced in the local elections of September 2011.

However, the fact that the party now seems destined to become the second largest player in Norway’s new ruling coalition raises the question of why 22/7 failed to become more of a watershed in Norwegian politics. A very likely reason is the fact that Norway has failed to take the lessons of the attacks that befell us that dreadful day to heart. Breivik’s actions and ideology were quickly pathologised and turned into an aberration – indeed, the court proceedings against him were remarkable for their studious avoidance of questions relating to the broader context in which Breivik had flourished. An aberration, of course, is not something that weighs down on a nation’s collective conscience. Norwegian society could move along, safely ensconced in its affluent comfort zone. And this should be a matter of great concern for those of us who were hoping for a more tolerant society to emerge from the trauma of 22/7.

But it’s not only the advance of the far-right Progress party that gives cause for concern. It is equally disconcerting that victory has been claimed by a conservative political party that advocates tax cuts, privatisation, deregulation, and a substantial reduction of public spending on welfare. This agenda is of course familiar in these austerity-ridden times, but the paradox is this: there is no crisis to warrant such policies. Under its current “red-green” government, Norway has in fact steered clear of the economic and social debacle that has mired the EU project since 2008. Growth rates have been stable over the past five years and unemployment is lower in Norway than in any of the countries in the European Union.

This is not to say that there are not challenges ahead for Norway’s economy. For example, there is still inequality and poverty amid plenty, and immigrants and minority communities suffer its consequences disproportionally. However, there is no conceivable way in which the neoliberal agenda touted by the Conservatives can address such challenges.

On the contrary – the eager pursuit of such an agenda in the current context shows what the objective for the Conservatives really is, namely, a project geared towards redistributing wealth in favour of society’s elites. In doing so, this project will undermine what has been an enduring and valuable feature of Norwegian society – and a key reason why the country topped the UNDP’s human development index in 2013 – which is a social infrastructure that ensures the availability of crucial public goods and underpins the country’s relative egalitarian social structure.

In other words, the 2013 elections have thrown up a marriage of neoliberal conservatism and rightwing populism that threatens to entrench that which we need to rid ourselves of and erode that which we should struggle to keep.

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  • CriticalDragon1177

    Talking_fish_head,

    Than they’ll be murders as well. I couldn’t object if one of his intended victims took his life in self defense, but people don’t have the right to take the law into their own hands.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    Even if terrorist attacks committed by Muslims are contributing to the anti Muslim sentiment, it is still hardly justified, since most Muslims are not terrorists and do not support terrorism. Also when Christians commit atrocities in the name of their religion, are they Christian atrocities or just atrocities?

    Muslims are hardly the only ones who have done evil in the name of their faith. Why should we link every act evil ever done by a Muslim who claimed he was doing God’s will to Islam, when we won’t do the same when it comes to every other religion?

  • Tighe McCandless

    That’s just how Norway’s laws are: there’s no death penalty; but from what little I know of the country’s procedures, there’s certainly the possibility that his sentence can keep getting extended. I view this as his likely fate: living out the rest of his days in obscurity in prison, where he belongs.

    Vigilantism benefits no one, least of all the people he murdered, and the Islamophobic industry doesn’t need to have itself a martyr even if it would be done very slyly. Besides, dying for a cause is exactly the kind of crap that men like Breivik live for (no pun intended). It’s the end goal of fatalistic, conspiracy-laden worldviews.

  • Talking_fish_head

    why won’t someone just put a bullet between his eyes

  • Jekyll

    Check out Dr. Winter’s lecture on Liberalism and Islam.
    (All Muslims should very carefully study the small harbingers that led to the Holocaust).

  • thegreenmantle

    Unfortunetly I think this is an over the top report on Loonwatch . Usually I am very supportive but I think this a bit of a hyped up report . Norway like many european countries has a history of consensus politics that often means multiparty ruling groups an other example would be Germany for instance .
    The socialists have been in power a long time and now its the turn of the conservatives and yes a very junior part is the racist nuts party. I am sure once they show their true colours at the next election they will be spent packing or even before that if the example of the Blond bombshell in Holland is anything to go by .
    Sir David

  • Jon Diamond

    So, basically, Norway has legitimatized Breivik.

    Europe is a place full of hypocrisy. They are so keen in showing how they are so forward-thinking when it comes to issues such as drugs and sex. However, they are still not past their colonialist attitudes when it comes to people of different races.

    All of a sudden their liberalism ceases and they start talking about being conservative where it concerns issues of immigration and national identity. Their way is the only way and, anyone who is different, is wrong and to be hated.

  • thegreenmantle

    If you go to the Guardian web site you will find lots of coverage , this was an opinion piece based on that coverage
    Sir David

  • Reynardine

    That’s funny. No one else seems to have a comprehension problem.

  • Reynardine

    Well, it’s also called chickens coming home to roost.

  • techkid90

    yep, people keep talking about how much more open Europe is than the US. Ironically, the continent with countries whose past actions are largely responsible for much of what has happened in the middle east. You know what they say, you reap what you sow.

  • Roberto

    I think it’s bad journalism when you read an article about something and nowhere are you told anything about the subject.

  • Reynardine

    So one Quisling wasn’t enough.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    It won’t, and its only made more shocking by the fact that its happening in spite of Brevik’s rampage.

  • mindy1

    This cannot lead to anything good

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