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Last weekend, Norwegian communists and socialists gathered in a working-class suburb of Oslo for their annual conference.
This shouldn’t be of much interest beyond Norway’s borders – after all, their party, Rødt (meaning simply “red,”) represents a tiny fraction of the political landscape in a small successful country.
Norway, with its scenic nature, five million inhabitants, and literally well-oiled economy, regularly tops the charts when it comes to the best country to live in. It may, therefore, appear puzzling that a growing number of Norwegians want to vote for a party that wishes to transform the country into a communist state.
In the latest polls, Rødt has increased its share of the votes by 1.5 percentage points, up to 4.3 percent. If they garner 4 percent of the votes at the local elections in the fall, that would translate into 200 local councillors. In Oslo, they’re becoming a trendy choice among the liberal intelligentsia: the party clocked up 10% in the polls, a record high.
All is not rosy for the reds, though. The leader, Bjørnar Moxnes, has tried to remove the word communism from the manifesto since he took over in 2012. For that, he gets plenty of pushback. In 2014, he failed, and this year again, his comrades decided to stick with their vision of a classless society and kept the term communism to describe their purpose.
According to Aftenposten, a Norwegian newspaper, it was close call.
One of the people opposing Moxnes’ attempts at modernizing the party is Ole Marcus Mærøe, who told Aftenposten that he wanted to keep the word “communism” despite its links with the totalitarian regimes in China and the Soviet Union. “For me it’s about ownership to the term and defining it in a Norwegian reality. Communism is good. It’s the classless society. We need to dare to say it as it is. Language matters,” he told Aftenposten. He added that there were many reasons communism failed in other countries, but it didn’t have to in Norway.
Isn’t that what they always say, every time communism has been tried, and then fails: “This time round it will be different”? What would make Norway better equipped to carry out a political system that never in history has produced a society that anyone but the most fervent ideologues would like to live in? According to Mærøe, the reason it will work in Norway is that it’s a democratic country with a highly developed economy.
This will make it far easier to develop a planned economy, far easier than it was in the Soviet Union, he mused. Thus, he is admitting that capitalism is an effective way of producing the wealth he later wants to distribute evenly.
Keeping the word “communism” in the manifesto will prevent the reds from chickening out of trying to overturn the system, he said to the newspaper. And to the question of whether it might scare voters away, his answer was as telling as it was, sadly, true: the generations born after the Cold War doesn’t have the same knowledge or relationship to communism, which would give the party a chance to redefine it.
Millions of people died in the name of communism in the last century. In China alone, between 40 and 70 million – and so, the eternal question remains unanswered: Why is it perfectly acceptable to claim allegiance to an ideology that is responsible for countless lives, is undemocratic in its nature, and denies basic human rights such as the right to property, whereas anyone proclaiming the ideology of Nazism would be rightly condemned? Why has history failed to teach us that any ideology that doesn’t put individual sovereignty at its core is doomed to fail?
As we are currently witnessing the latest of such failures, namely Venezuela, my sincere hope for Norway is that its education system places more emphasis on the dangers of totalitarianism of any colour, lest the generations that follow become even further removed from the truth of its dangers.
When even the state broadcaster, NRK, says that Chinese dictator Mao was “controversial,” yet responsible for reforms such as free healthcare and education, without mentioning the atrocities that were committed under his regime, no wonder the ideology of communism comes across as fairly benevolent.
As for the members of Norway’s red party, one can hope they will not benefit in the upcoming elections, but remain on the far left fringes where they belong.