Norway and Social Democracy Under Attack
While our domestic right-wing pundits and bloggers remain focused on Muslim immigration into Europe and the United States, the motivation behind Anders Behring Breivik’s murderous rampage appears to be blind, insane hatred of Norway’s ruling Labor Party and the social democratic model of development. The youth group Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking (Workers’ Youth League) that owns the camp on Utoya Island is a member of the International Union of Socialist Youth. The killer murdered the flower of the next generation of democratic socialists. My conclusion is that the killer is an antisocial democrat, driven to ideological mass murder.
Of course, leave it to Glenn Beck to make a defining comment. He says, discussing the massacre in Norway, “As the thing started to unfold, and then there was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler Youth or whatever—I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing. But anyway, so there’s this political camp, and some crazy man goes and starts shooting kids.” Right-wing pundits will suffer public shame while they distance themselves. But the killer was such an admirer of many spokespersons of the far-right fringe of American politics that he plagiarized freely from their works to fill up his 1,500-page “manifesto.”
The rise of the right-wing tendency in the Scandinavian countries has been significant in the past twenty years. The Scandinavian model has begun to unravel in Sweden, Finland, Holland and Denmark, where an increase in Muslim immigration has triggered an “anti-Islamicist” backlash against the multicultural model. As Yascha Mounk has argued, the term “has become a useful shorthand for everything the populists don’t like: Islam and any kind of extra-European immigration, of course; but also the loss of cultural traditions, the EU’s encroachment on national sovereignty, and even certain forms of cultural relativism.”
The rise of anti-immigrant and right-wing parties in Europe has been impressive since the beginning of the millennium. In 2001 in Denmark, the Dansk Folkeparti obtained 12 percent of the vote and twenty-two seats in parliament; in 2007 it improved its electoral results with 13.8 percent of the votes and twenty-five seats (of a total of 179). The situation is similar in Holland, where a center-right coalition rules with external support from Gert Wilders’s xenophobic Partij voor Vrijheid (Party for Freedom), which received 15.5 percent of the votes and twenty-four seats in Parliament (of a total of 150). In Sweden a center-right coalition attained an absolute majority in Parliament in 2006; in 2010 it lost its majority, but continues to rule with the external support of the extreme right-wing party Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats) which received 5.7 percent of the votes, clearing an electoral hurdle and entering the Riksdag for the first time with twenty seats (of a total of 349). In Finland’s April 2011 elections, the xenophobic and anti-European Union party Perussuomalaiset (True Finns) went from 4 percent to 19.1 percent of the votes and from five seats to thirty-nine (of a total of 190). In Norway, despite the fact the the Labor Party continues to be the governing party, in the 2009 elections the center-right and its allies obtained an absolute majority of the votes and the most extreme of the right-wing parties Høyre (Conservative Party) and Fremskrittspartiet (Progress Party) gained in seats and votes. It is noteworthy that Anders Behring Breivik was a member of the youth section of the Progress Party until he abandoned it because of its supposed “embrace of multi-culturalism.”
Analysts and pundits should have taken more notice of political trends after the assassination of Sweden’s social democratic Prime Minister Olaf Palme in 1986, and the “end of innocence” in the so-called paradises of social democracy. Another indicator of the turmoil under the surface is modern Nordic literature. The writings of the Swedish crime writers Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, the Norweign Jo Nesbø, from the Islandic Arnaldur Indriðason, all depict a society that’s out of step with most outside conceptions of Scandinavian social democracy. Think of this detail: Sweden is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet for the last twenty years, more and more Swedes have gone to work in Norway. Naturally, as soon as they are declared “immigrant workers,” even Swedes are perceived in negative terms.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said, “You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy or our ideals for a better world.” Will the left heed Stoltenberg’s call to defend our ideals or will it remain quiet the face of terrorism, xenophobia and racism?
Aug 21 2011 - 2:29pm