Editorial: Lessons of the Norwegian tragedy

On 22 July, an anti-muslim fanatic in Norway killed 76 people in two terrorist attacks. The first of these was a massive car bomb in Oslo close to several government ministry buildings, which resulted in eight deaths.

Some two or three hours after the explosions, a gunman wearing a police uniform landed in the island resort of Utøya, not far from Oslo, where a youth camp of the Norwegian Labour party was taking place, and proceeded to shoot everybody he could find, almost all teenagers.

The police were able to arrest the gunman in question, establishing his identity as 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, whose internet postings reveal fanatical racist, anti-muslim, anti-communist and pro-zionist views. It has been suggested that his massacre of Labour party youth was prompted by their support for the campaign to boycott Israeli goods. According to his own writings, his choice of targets was based on what he considered to be the support of the Norwegian Labour party, and particularly its youth section, for muslim migration and multiculturalism.

Yet, despite its ‘progressive’ veneer, the Norwegian state, including in the current ‘red-green’ coalition government, is a loyal member of the imperialist camp. It is a founding member of Nato, has sent troop contingents to Iraq, currently has 500 soldiers serving in Afghanistan, and has participated in the war on Libya from the start, although it has announced withdrawal from active participation as of 1 August.

However, none of this carries weight with the paranoid fringes of the extreme right. Breivik is on a par with those political forces in the United States who believe that Obama is both a muslim and a Marxist and that the financial bailout of Wall Street equates to the introduction of communism.

If the killer had not been identified, his terrorism would no doubt have been the occasion for yet another outburst of anti-muslim hysteria – not only in Norway but throughout the imperialist world. It would have been held out as a justification for every atrocity committed by Nato against muslims abroad, and as a reason for tolerating harassment of, and discrimination against, muslims at home. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath, but apparently on the basis of intelligence briefings, the US president, joined by the New Zealand prime minister, spoke in precisely those terms.

Encouraging such racism is a prime means of splitting the working class at a time when severe capitalist economic crisis is causing a rapid drop in workers’ living standards, so that the bourgeoisie seriously fears the emergence of a popular revolt against capitalism – unless workers can be diverted into racial strife.

As it is, viewed logically, Breivik would appear to have succumbed rather prematurely to the anti-muslim hysteria and xenophobia that is already rife in Norway, since there is no sign as yet that the Norwegian working class is on the verge of anti-capitalist revolt. Meanwhile, we can be quite certain that the kind of measures that have been adopted to persecute muslims will not be used to target the fascist organisations that inspired Breivik, despite token statements to the contrary.

Premature he may have been, but Breivik’s wicked actions serve as a deadly warning to the working class. Whilst very few would as yet embark on actions such as his, similar ideas to those he espouses are steadily entering the political mainstream in a number of European countries as the crisis deepens. Indeed Breivik was a member of his country’s second largest political party between 1999-2006, holding local leadership positions within it.

It has been proven historically that that far from acting as a barrier to such outright fascism, social democracy acts to facilitate it and even as its midwife. If the working class is to avoid barbarism, it must take the road to communism.