UPDATE 2015-03-08: The premise of the first paragraph of this text is wrong. The picture was taken during a visit by the Norwegian parliament’s foreign affairs committee to Nicaragua in 1984, and the soldier on the picture is a member of the sandinista guerilla. The picture was used as an illustration to an article about Lied intending to attend the bogus El Salvador elections. This trip had gained approval by conservative party leaders, but was cancelled when it was heavily criticised in Norwegian media. I thank the photographer for pointing this error out to me, and apologize for the error.
This post was published in the Norwegian daily Klassekampen on Saturday October 18th, 2014.
This picture shows Harald U. Lied, Member of Stortinget , for the Norwegian conservatives, Høyre. He is depicted during a visit in El Salvador as an observer for the International Democrat Union. The picture was taken in 1984, at which time Høyre was the leading party in Norway’s centre-right coalition. At this time El Salvador was referred to as “The Land of Death Squadrons”. During the Salvadorean civil war, more than 20 % of the country’s population was driven to take flight as refugees. Lied and Høyre took part in the legitimization of the military junta’s war against the country’s inhabitants.
It is the single most ugly picture I know from Norwegian politics. It was taken in a class society which was willing to massacre its own people in order to survive. It shows a smiling apologist for this society, whether Lied was inexcusably naïve or incomprehensibly cynical. After all, he’s depicted with an M-16 in his hands, grinning.
In my opinion, this picture deserves attention right now, because, once again, the question about whether the Socialist Left party is in particular need of a thorough revision of it past political allegiances has been put on the agenda. The party’s own Bård Vegar Solhjell, the conservative think tank Civita’s Bård Larsen, and Frank Rossavik, political editor in the conservative daily Bergens tidende, each in their own way have drawn parallels between the party and its predecessor’s historical follies in relation to Eastern Bloc countries and what they see as an acceptance of the authoritarian in recent resolutions passed by the party on the war in Ukraine and Russia’s role therein. Still, I don’t know of any images of Norwegian socialists posing with automatic rifles in Eastern Europe.
So, can it really be asserted that the Socialist Left party in particular is in great need of publicly distancing itself from its past policies? Hasn’t the party’s politics already discussed and criticised their own and the party’s viewpoints far more frequently than politics of any other parties? Have the conservatives, Høyre, ever publicly renounced Harald U. Lied? No. So why doesn’t Bård Larsen accept a less hypocritical stance — at least until he has condemned how Civita’s rich uncles in The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, with the Høegh-family at the helm — have put themselves in a position where they can pay his salary with blood money earned by supplying the South African apartheid regime with oil. Perhaps what we should really demand is that the shipowners condemn themselves.
Frank Rossavik should perhaps consider if there isn’t a continuity from every Norwegian party’s silent acceptance of NATO-member Portugal’s slaughters in Africa to their silent acceptance of Turkey’s present de facto support of Daesh’/ISIS’ ongoing massacres of Kurds in Kobane. Foreign Minister Børge Brende hasn’t uttered a single critical syllable, and there has definitely not been any partisanship-transcending Norwegian approval of sanctions against Turkey, following similar non-existent proposals from the EU. And so far we haven’t even mentioned Saudi Arabia and the Norwegian goverment’s subservient relations with that regime of decapitators’ masters — in more than one sense.
Neither the seriousness of the controversies, policies implemented while in government, a relative lack of will to reconsider nor present political events adequately explain why it is necessary to put the allegation of double standards in the Socialist Left’s foreign policy on the agenda or publicly renounce such a phenomenon. An astute political analyst such as Rossavik clearly understands this, but loves to hate his ex-party. It’s an idiosyncracy we’ll have to endure.
On the other hand, Bård Vegar Solhjell is simply wrong in his presentation of “The Third Way”: Such a policy can’t force the Socialist Left to applaud or avoid mentioning, when Norway follows NATO’s bidding and contributes to an escalation of tensions in our region by contributing to expeditionary forces in the Baltics. Such a course of action indeed does make NATO part of the problem, and extends the geographical area influenced by the Ukrainian civil war. That is what the criticised National Assembly resolution of September 6th deals with. And — of course — none of this in any way stands in the way of the Socialist Left unambiguously condemning Russia’s violations of International Law, as the party did on May 25th.
A Third Way can’t accept that the measures taken against aggressors are so different, depending on their geopolitical alignment. If it does, it de facto supports one bloc. A Third Way can’t support one geopolitical actor’s escalating militarism against another. Indeed, it’s odd that this self-evident matter is so frequently disregarded. Is this political opportunism?