Mark Bergfeld

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On Utoya – book review

Book Review, May 2012 (First published in Socialist Review

onutoyaThis collection of short essays is the antidote to the mainstream media’s “depoliticised” coverage of Anders Breivik’s trial. Written only three months after the political assassinations of more than 60 young members of the Norwegian Labour Party on Utøya island, this book is a testimony to those young people who suffered at the hands of a fascist terrorist.

The book guides us through the social and political conditions and the ideological shift in the mainstream which helped to fan the flames of Islamophobia. All the contributing authors agree that right wing media pundits, newspapers and mainstream politicians from left to right have successfully made Islamophobia the acceptable form of racism.

Analysing Breivik’s “Manifesto 2083”, Richard Seymour notes that Breivik helped himself to material from the BBC and other mainstream sources which confirmed his fear of an “Islamification” of Europe. Interestingly, Seymour points to the fact that Breivik did not articulate his Islamophobia in biological terms, unlike the German banker Thilo Sarrazin. Instead he articulated Islamophobia in terms of cultural incompatibility between Muslims and the “Christendom of Europe”.

Breivik’s manifesto and terror intentionally targeted the left: the “cultural Marxists” and the “multicultural elites”. This hatred of the left places him squarely in the classical fascist tradition. He absorbs the language of the right wing mainstream and infuses it with insurrection.

Guy Rundle turns his attention to the origins of right wing terror while pointing out how the mainstream right always distances itself from it, labelling it “unpolitical” or as in Breivik’s case labelling the terrorist himself as “mentally ill”. Rundle’s piece is a brilliant exposé of the hypocrisy that there is one law for Muslim and left wing terror and another one for terror that reinforces oppression and the prevailing status quo.

Rundle goes on to argue that in the past “state and non-state terror would co-mingle and complement each other”. Today rendition programmes, deaths in police custody and imperialist wars go hand in hand with vigilantes like George Zimmerman (the murderer of Trayvon Martin) or the fascist Golden Dawn street gang who have links inside the Greek police force.

This book will equip anti-fascists, trade unionists and students with an understanding that the tide can be turned both against the fascists on the fringes and mainstream Islamophobes. With the renewed threat from the French National Front, this book is a must-read in order to understand to what extent the seeds of Marine Le Pen’s success have been planted throughout the last decade, but also what can be done to stop her.

As Breivik’s trial continues, I am reminded of a fitting Malcolm X quote: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” On Utøya does the exact opposite.

On Utøya (eds. Tad Tietze, Elizabeth Humphreys, Guy Rundle) is an e-book, £4.95 You can buy it here.


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