Norway: anti-war revival

Submitted by on 20 November, 2002 - 9:27

Bjarke Friborg writes:
As in the rest of Europe the left and the antiwar movement in Norway have both been on the offensive the last few years, or at least they have grown in both size and influence. However, there is still much work to do to renew both of them, not least a thorough ideological renovation. The alternative is stagnation or even retrogression.
The biggest antiwar demos in the capital Oslo have had an attendance from 300-500 and up to about 2000. This is certainly more than the average under the Nato war against Yugoslavia, and testifies that there is a generally higher level of mobilisation on the left - but not only on the left.

Many liberals have found their way to the antiwar movement, disgusted by Bush and Sharon as well as by the right wing Norwegian government. However, there has also been an influx of some very illiberal elements, namely islamic fundamentalists from circles close to the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hizbollah. On the last demonstration against war in Iraq, on October 26th, even well-known supporters of Saddam Hussain turned up with their flags, leading to physical confrontations with supporters of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq.

In fact there has been several confrontations between left groups and fundamentalists living in exile in the country, but the Norwegian left has been reluctant to clear up its positions on this. Many left activists even quite openly prefers the fundamentalists to the socialists. Especially activists from the Palestine solidarity campaigns has a strong tendency to seriously downplay criticism against the Islamicists, if not actually portraying them as more "genuine" expressions of anti-imperialist rage against Israeli and US militarism. Unfortunately this policy has its supporters not only among the traditional Maoists and "Third Worldists" of the AKP (in the 1970s the biggest revolutionary party in the country, now part of the revolutionary Red Electoral Alliance), but also among the supporters of the International Socialists - the Norwegian affiliates of the British SWP.

However, the main picture is still one of left revival - although this is of course balanced by the simultaneous rise of the right wing populists of the "Progressive Party" which seems to have stabilised itself at around 25-30% of the votes… Anyway, whereas the war against Yugoslavia nearly split the Socialist Left Party (SV) down the middle, today SV is at a historically high point of voter support with an average of 13-15%.

This makes it almost as big as the Labour Party, which is at a historically low point (down to 18%, the lowest since the 1920s). However, SV has a "pragmatic" wing around the leadership who wants to join a future Labour government. And that is why the challenge for revolutionaries remains to build a broad and independent antiwar movement, on a principled basis and fully democratic and accountable.

Bjarke Friborg, AWL sympathiser in Norway

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