Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Massacre in Norway, and the Rise of Fascist Forces in the Ruling Classes of Western Imperialist Countries
On July 22, Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Christian fascist who described himself as "one of several leaders of the National and pan-European Patriotic resistance movement," set off on a brutal killing spree in the country of Norway. By the end of the day, 77 people were dead, and Breivik was in police custody, reportedly looking forward to the next phase of his "project"—using the killings to publicize and organize around his extremely reactionary ideology.1
Just before he set out, Breivik posted a YouTube video and a 1,500-page "manifesto" (2083: A European Declaration of Independence), which elaborated his world view and political program, and explicitly called upon the "tens of thousands of brothers and sisters who support us fully and are willing to fight beside us" to follow in his footsteps: "Follow the guidelines in this book and you will succeed!" 2
Breivik carried out his crimes with a chilling combination of efficiency and pleasure. According to an account in the online journal the Global Post,3 after setting off a huge bomb in front of government offices in the heart of downtown Oslo (the capital city), Breivik proceeded to the island of Utoya, which was hosting 600 teenagers attending the annual youth camp of the liberal Norwegian Labour Party, the ruling party in Norway. Dressed in a police uniform, he gathered the youth around him, saying that he was bringing news of the Oslo attack. Lisa Irene Johansen Aasbo described what happened next: "We were told to gather inside... When we went inside we heard someone shooting outside... we heard people screaming so we looked out the windows and saw a man wearing a police uniform and a safety jacket. He stood on a big stone and shot the girls who lay on the ground.... We ran outside and saw several girls covered in blood, so we fled into the woods."
The Global Post went on to describe how Breivik "chased the teens across the small island, executing them one by one. After shooting the victims, he walked next to them and shot them in their heads.... 'He was laughing and cheering when shooting people in their faces,' said Bjerge Schie, 21, who ran for cover." Some youth fled to the beach and tried to swim away, but Breivik shot them in the water. He continued killing for 90 minutes, until the police arrived, at which point he surrendered.
As word of this nightmare got out, there was an outpouring of grief and sympathy for the victims and their loved ones from people in Norway and around the world. The deaths of youths who are just beginning to taste life, and to try to affect the world around them, is especially painful to the people. And the methodical way they were killed added an element of horror-movie terror.
The murders gave rise to confusion and big questions. What motivated Breivik? Since he hated Muslims, why did he direct his attack at the youth of the ruling party, mainly Christian Europeans? Was this a one-time aberration, or part of a rising tide of right-wing terror? How should people respond to such a terrible act in Norway, a small, well-off country usually insulated from the turmoil and violence that grips much of the rest of the world?
The mainstream media in the West and some representatives of the government in Norway rushed to address these questions, with their focus and answers tending strongly in the direction of saying that Breivik was "a madman"4; that his connections to the large and growing extreme right in Europe and the U.S. were "all in his head," a "delusion"; that he was a lone wolf5; and to treat the whole thing as a terrible tragedy which had nothing to do with any real contradictions in Norwegian, European or U.S. society. Norway would rally to its "liberal" traditions (which in truth rest on a prosperity derived from its privileged position in the worldwide system of imperialist exploitation, including the grinding exploitation of the immigrants who Breivik wants to drive out) and "normal life" would go on as before. In fact, in spite of the horrific and dramatic character of the massacres, the story essentially dropped out of the news within a week.
If one is to take a serious and scientific approach to understanding new, major and shocking developments like this, then it must be said that there is still much to learn about Breivik and his relationship to other reactionary forces in Europe and the United States, as well as the ideology expressed in his lengthy manifesto.6 But the rush to declare Breivik a "lone wolf" and to close the book on the whole incident is not only way premature (and contrary to much existing evidence), but it is aimed at covering up what the massacres began to expose.
Whether or not Breivik himself is legally and/or medically sane and whether or not these massacres were carried out as part of a larger organizational structure, the truth is that there is a multilayered, powerful, and increasingly aggressive fascist movement with centers throughout Europe and the U.S., with a substantial popular base. And again, while there is much to uncover about this fascist movement and its exact connections with powerful ruling class circles, there are—as we will bring out—definite themes and directions that correspond between these fascists and major forces and figures in the Western ruling classes, and there are ways in which the actions of particular forces and individuals—like Breivik—within this fascist "universe" reflect and reinforce larger agendas of the ruling classes. Breivik was not only "inspired" by the overall ideological poison that this movement spews out, but very consciously saw his own actions as playing a strategic role in helping that movement advance to full political power.
Breivik's Ideology and Program
Breivik claims that Europe and "western civilization" are under attack and facing "Islamic colonization... through demographic warfare." He sees Europe and the U.S. as having an essentially Christian identity, and that the presence of large numbers of "unassimilated" Muslims—that is, Muslims who continue to practice their religion and, in many cases, are highly critical of the role of "the West" in the Middle East and the rest of the world—is undercutting that Christian identity and eroding European "civilization." Breivik says that "The problem can only be solved if we completely remove those who follow Islam. In order to do this all Muslims must 'submit' and convert to Christianity.... If they refuse to do this voluntarily prior to Jan. 1, 2020, they will be removed from European soil and deported back to the Islamic world."7,8
But Breivik also believes that this "Islamic colonization" is being facilitated from within European society, by what he refers to as "multiculturalism." As a philosophy, multiculturalism is basically the idea—held by many progressive people—that different peoples and cultures can and should coexist in society, each preserving its own culture and respecting and appreciating that of others. It is opposed to the idea of "assimilationism"—that people of the non-dominant culture should be forced to abandon their own ways and ideas and "assimilate" into the dominant culture—as well as to outright "exclusionism," which holds that cultural, religious and ethnic minorities should either not be allowed in or should be deported.9
Breivik sees the "multicultural" approach as leading to the destruction of Europe. But what he is railing against is not just the idea of multiculturalism, but the fact that for a number of decades, the dominant forces in the ruling class in most of Western Europe have themselves, and for their own reasons, allowed and even encouraged large-scale immigration. Breivik brands these ruling class forces as multiculturalists (sometimes he also refers to them as "Cultural Marxists") and says they are "traitors," betraying European civilization to the barbarian invaders.
It is important to understand that these ruling class forces have not embraced immigration out of internationalism, humanism, or anything else positive. Rather, the—partial and relative—opening of Europe's borders to immigrants has been driven by cold imperialist calculation. On the one hand, immigrants have filled a vital role in maintaining capitalist profitability in the West. Driven by desperate economic conditions (and often political repression) in their own—Western-dominated—countries, immigrants in Europe, as in the U.S., are now the backbone of large parts of the economy, from restaurants and grocery stores to hospital staffs and low-wage factories; their cheap labor is what makes the modern city hum and makes Western capital competitive in the world. On the other hand, money sent back home by these immigrants is an important stabilizing element in these Third World countries which are, again, dominated by Western (and Japanese) imperialism and are a major source of their wealth and power. So for some time most of the Western ruling classes brought immigrants in, and while hunting and hounding them in various ways, also made some allowances for the existence of immigrant neighborhoods where people can practice their own culture and religion, speak their own language, etc.
Breivik sees this policy as national and cultural suicide, and its political advocates as the main problem, the main obstacle to the survival of Christian Europe. So, "If they refuse to surrender until 2020, there will be no turning back. We will eventually wipe out every single one of them." 10
Breivik is also openly patriarchal and misogynist. Partly this flows from his view that Muslims are waging "demographic warfare," and that because European women, influenced by feminism, are "selfish" and put their own happiness and well-being above their responsibility as women to bear and raise more European children, the Muslims will overwhelm the white Europeans.11 But his patriarchy is not reducible to that—it is part of a broader view of what is needed to save Western civilization from destruction. "The female manipulation of males has been institutionalized during the last decades and is a partial cause of the feminization of men in Europe... He writes: 'men are not men anymore, but metro sexual and emotional beings that are there to serve the purpose as a never-criticising soul mate to the new age feminist woman goddess.'" He bluntly states that the "fate of European civilization depends on European men steadfastly resisting Politically Correct feminism." When cultural conservatives seize control of Europe, "we will re-establish the patriarchal structures," and eventually, women "conditioned" to this "will know [their] place in society."12
To "defend" against all of these threats to Europe, Breivik summons up the legacy of the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages, when large armies were mobilized by various kings, popes and lords, to make war on the Islamic countries of the Middle East. In particular, he claims to be part of a group that is resurrecting the Knights Templar (an elite military order during the Crusades) to initiate and lead the Christian "resistance." He explicitly poses the massacre he is about to commit as a model that should be taken up by others, saying "Knights" like him "will be role models...[who] should even be considered as candidates for official veneration."13 (He appears to mean Catholic "sainthood.")
Breivik's Ideology—in Tune with Major Forces in the Western Ruling Classes
All of this has been presented in the media to cast Breivik as an isolated lunatic. But the core of Breivik's view is actually a major current of ruling class opinion in both the U.S. and Europe.
On July 26, Pat Buchanan posted his article "A Fire Bell in the Night for Norway."14 After the requisite condemnation of the killings, he went on to articulate Breivik's outlook, point out that it is the outlook of major leaders in Europe, and then—in large measure—agree with him.
"[Breivik] chose as his targets not Muslims whose presence he detests, but the Labor Party leaders who let them into the country, and their children, the future leaders of that party.... He admits to his 'atrocious' but 'necessary' crimes, done, he says, to bring attention to his ideas and advance his cause: a Crusader's war between the real Europe and the 'cultural Marxists' and Muslims they invited in to alter the ethnic character and swamp the culture of the Old Continent...." Buchanan then notes that this is not an extreme view and that "[Chancellor] Angela Merkel of Germany, [President] Nicolas Sarkozy of France and [Prime Minister] David Cameron of Britain have all declared multiculturalism a failure....
"As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right." (emphasis ours)
Buchanan's language wildly distorts reality. When he speaks of a "climactic conflict" between the Christian West and the Islamic world "for the third time in 14 centuries," he is referencing actual armies—the Moors of North Africa, who invaded and occupied what is now Spain and Portugal from the early eighth century to the late 15th century, and an invasion of south-central Europe by the Ottoman empire (based in what is now Turkey), an invasion that was defeated 400 years ago. And he is applying that template to what is in fact the desperate emigration of millions of ordinary people from their homelands, with the aim of feeding their families, getting an education, or escaping persecution. By presenting this in military terms, Buchanan is seeking to stir ultra-nationalist patriotism, and fear and hatred of immigrants in the white European population; this is an ideology that lends justification to Breivik's slaughter.
Buchanan is not a fringe element—he is an influential figure in U.S. politics. He was a senior advisor to Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Ford, a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1972 and 1976, gave the keynote address at the 1976 Republican National Convention, and is a regular pundit on major news shows.
Moreover, Buchanan is correct to link other major leaders to the core of Breivik's views.
In February 2011, French President Sarkozy declared: "We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.... If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community." He continued, "And if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France."15 (emphasis ours)
In September 2009, Theo Sarrazin, a former leader of the German central bank and prominent member of the ruling party, wrote: "I do not have to acknowledge anyone who lives by welfare, denies the legitimacy of the very state that provides that welfare, refuses to care for the education of his children and constantly produces new little headscarf-girls. This holds true for 70 percent of the Turkish and 90 percent of the Arab population in Berlin." This kicked off a huge public controversy; in its wake, in October 2010, German Chancellor Merkel told a meeting that "This [multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed." It is important to remember that a few generations back, the German ruling class committed genocide against its religious and ethnic minorities for the crime of supposedly not fitting into the German ideal. Merkel's statement is the equivalent of the president of the U.S. declaring that "integration has failed; it is time for Black people to accept their inferior status, and only then can they live peacefully in the U.S."
We could also point to many examples on the U.S. political scene. Just a few weeks ago, Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry spoke at a "Christians-only" rally (which Perry called for in his capacity as governor) where he shared the platform with numerous Christian fascist preachers, and where Perry declared that "God has put me in this place at this time to do His will," and that people "proclaiming Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior" and "hand[ing]" the fate of the U.S. "over to God" is the answer to the problems that beset the country.16 Or the targeting of abortion doctors, not only by Operation Rescue but also well-accepted mainstream fascist commentators like Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, and the murder of these doctors by "individuals" who, of course, are claimed to have nothing to do with Operation Rescue.
These trends, ugly and indeed criminal as they are, do not arise from the prejudices of backward and ignorant "citizens"; they are a major pole—a pole with great power and initiative—in the ruling classes of the Western imperialist countries, and these forces are using their control of media and other means to organize and unleash backward sections of the population around this. The above statements are from mainstream "conservative" leaders, but most or all countries in Europe (and the U.S.) also have more or less openly fascist mass movements and/or political parties with substantial legislative representation, who put out even more bluntly racist and chauvinist calls.
It is clear that Breivik sees himself as a heroic "knight" in this "clash of civilizations." And he sees his project in international terms, touting alliances with fascist organizations in other European countries, and quoting heavily from the Christian right in the U.S. He claims to have attended a meeting of nine representatives from eight European countries to reestablish the Knights Templar. He says that he worked with two other "cells" in Norway, that he had been in touch with and in fact was "recruited" by members of the English Defense League (a large fascist organization in England, recently in the news for promising to put 1,000 vigilantes in the streets to help police crush the youth rebellion there in early August).17
But if Breivik's ideology is attuned to that of powerful forces in the ruling class, why did he unleash his murderous rampage on the Norwegian government and on the youth group of the ruling party? Again, further investigation and analysis is necessary. But it is an important fact that there is actually a sharp split in the ruling classes in the Western imperialist states (including the "smaller" and more "liberal" ones like Norway, Sweden, etc.)
Again, the situation in Europe is not identical to the U.S., nor is Norway the same as every other country in Europe. A close analysis of Norwegian politics is beyond the scope of this article, and more work needs to be done to uncover the actual relationships between the fascist forces in different countries. But there are some basic points that can be made.
Throughout Europe and the U.S., some ruling class forces—and the reactionaries they organize and unleash—argue that there is urgent necessity to restructure society on more openly fascist and theocratic terms in order to meet the challenges of the empire, while other sections—even while seeing the need for major moves in that direction, don't want to completely jettison all the traditional ideas and institutions of liberal democracy—political freedoms, secularism, cultural tolerance, the social safety net. These more "liberal" forces fear that their system will lose all legitimacy in the eyes of the people and that such an attempt to tightly "cohere" society will actually end up causing it to fly apart. Those sections of the ruling class are seen as a major obstacle by the more fully fascist section, and the struggle between them can be intense.
Bob Avakian addressed this in "The Fascists and the Destruction of the 'Weimar Republic'...And What Will Replace It"18:
"...And, besides attacking people who are genuinely opposed not only to this fascism but to the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole, one of the main lines of their assault is (to use a very relevant analogy) viciously going after the Weimar Republic (the bourgeois-democratic republic in Germany after World War 1, which was replaced and forcibly abolished when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in the 1930s). We have to understand the meaning and significance of this, and the purpose behind it."
The shootings in Norway happened in the context and framework of this intense struggle within the ruling class over how to best preserve their system. The "liberal" forces are defending a social order that is built on the imperialist domination of the planet, the siphoning of the wealth produced by billions into the economies of a handful of wealthy nations, and the relative civil peace and civil liberties that can be made available to at least the better-off classes in these countries on that basis. The fascists who attack them argue that these niceties are no longer sustainable in the lean and mean world of the 21st century, and want to strip away even these limited rights, in favor of open patriarchy, white/European supremacy, and Christian fascist "values." And far too many people end up thinking that they have to choose between these two nightmares.
1. In his "manifesto" Breivik wrote: "Explain what you have done (in an announcement distributed prior to operation) and make sure that everyone understands that we, the free peoples of Europe, are going to strike again and again." Quoted in the Toronto National Post, July 24, 2011, news.nationalpost.com/2011/07/24/suspect-posted-manifesto-before-mass-killing-in-norway [back]
2. Time Magazine, July 24, 2011, "An Interview with a Madman: Breivik Asks and Answers His Own Questions" [back]
4. Time Magazine, July 24, 2011—"An Interview with a Madman" [back]
5. See Time Magazine, July 24, 2011, "Killer's Manifesto: The Politics Behind the Norway Slaughter", and Reuters, July 30, 2011, "Norway killer 'more than willing to talk': police" [back]
6. To get a deeper understanding of the underlying forces at work behind the rise of the extreme right, and the Christian fascists in particular, and the implications of this for revolutionaries, we strongly recommend reading Bob Avakian's work, The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era, especially "The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down." Though this work is mainly an analysis of developments in the U.S. itself, and there are significant differences between the political landscape in the U.S. and the various European countries, the basic analysis and challenge presented is extremely relevant. [back]
8. Note: In the U.S. a large majority of immigrants are from Mexico and Latin America, whereas in much of Europe the majority of immigrants are Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Serbia, Somalia, Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East. This difference influences the shape of fascist movements—in the U.S. the anti-immigrant movement is mainly focused on the Mexican border, and there is also an anti-Muslim movement that targets the (nonexistent) "threat" of an Islamic takeover of the U.S. through the implementation of Sharia law.
These reactionary movements are distinct currents that swim together in a common fascist sea, with the "Tea Party" as a primary arena where they come together. In much of Europe the "anti-immigrant" movement is an anti-Muslim movement, and vice versa. The point in common is that in both cases these reactionaries—and the ruling class forces which back them—see "unassimilated" immigrants as a threat to the social cohesion and white/European supremacist character of their societies, and call for a return to the "traditional values" of patriotism, patriarchy and Christianity as the glue cohering the dominant society and excluding or crushing those who cannot or will not accept and conform to this. [back]
9. In fact, the question of multiculturalism is a complex one. Cultures are not unchanging things or identities that stand apart from the world. To the contrary, cultures reflect the ever-changing economic relations in any society and as such constantly change and develop more or less as those relations change. Moreover, in a society divided into classes, into oppressor and oppressed, most cultural practices and beliefs serve the maintenance of whichever class dominates—while at the same time there are cultural beliefs, practices, etc. which more reflect the strivings of the oppressed to get free.
The rise first of colonialism and then imperialism meant the domination of the vast majority of the globe by Europe, the U.S. and Japan. The capitalist-imperialist powers suppressed, vilified and held back the cultures of the peoples that they conquered (even as these conquerors also upheld, adapted, reinforced and/or utilized for their own ends some particularly backward or reactionary practices). For instance, enslaved and oppressed people were punished and even killed for speaking their own languages or maintaining their own religions, as the rulers deemed this to be evidence of rebellion—as indeed it sometimes was. This practice of outright cultural suppression is one that the likes of Breivik would like to bring back, with his program of forced conversion.
Communists strongly oppose the forcible assimilation of peoples and uphold the equality of languages—and there will be a flourishing of the language and culture of the oppressed in the future socialist societies, as shown in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic of North America (Draft Proposal). But multiculturalism, as it has come to be known, falls short as a full answer. There is an importance to criticism of that which is oppressive and reactionary within the cultures of the oppressed—for example, elements of patriarchal oppression of women. In this, it is crucial to rely on the masses of the oppressed nationalities themselves to carry forward the struggle to transform these cultures, in the overall context of revolutionary struggle. And there is great importance today to standing against the demonization and denial of equality to the languages and cultures of the oppressed, broadly speaking. [back]
11. Breivik wrote: "The West has skyrocketing divorce rates and plummeting birth rates, leading to a cultural and demographic vacuum that makes us vulnerable to a take-over by... Islam. And feminists still aren't satisfied." translated.by/you/2083-a-european-declaration-of-independence/original/?page=156 [back]
13. Time Magazine, July 24, 2011, "An Interview with a Madman" [back]
17. The response of these fascist forces to the Norway massacre has been two-fold. On the one hand, they have tried to distance themselves from Breivik, claiming that he was a lunatic, "evil," that "there is no ideology there." Some, like Bill O'Reilly, have absurdly tried to claim that Breivik was not a Christian! Breivik himself anticipated and "understood" this distancing, stating in his manifesto that fascist political forces "have to condemn us at this point which is fine. It is after all essential that they protect their reputational shields."
But having done that, many—like the Pat Buchanan article already cited – have gone on to say that Breivik really made some good points, and that the real responsibility for the murders lies not with the Christian fascist right, but with Islamic radicals who "provoked" him. (See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/29/internet-norway-killer-censorship-folly, for several such statements.) Some have gone further and expressed barely restrained sympathy for the murders—e.g., Pamela Geller's Atlas Shrugged blog posted this comment (taken from another site—Anti-Mullah) about the victims of the massacre: "The camp was run by the Youth Movement of the Labour Party and used to indoctrinate teens and young adults. Breivik was targeting the future leaders of the party responsible for flooding Norway with Muslims who refuse to assimilate, who commit major violence against Norwegian natives, including violent gang rapes, with impunity, and who live on the dole... all done without the consent of the Norwegians." atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2011/07/summer-camp-indoctrination-training-center. Glenn Beck infamously compared the camp to a "Hitler Youth" camp. guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/26/glenn-beck-norwegian-dead-hitler [back]
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.