Father and daughter: the Maoist Michelets

Jon Michelet

When Jon Michelet died on April 14 at the age of 73, it made the front page of the major Norwegian newspapers and led off the TV news reports. Michelet published books in a wide range of genres, but was perhaps most famous for his bestselling crime novels. His death, the media told us, was mourned by Norway’s entire literary community – and, in fact, by the Norwegian reading public. The obituaries were full of praise for his work and his collegiality. His death was called “a great loss for Norwegian literature.”

Michelet at a 2014 book-signing

What wasn’t mentioned prominently – or at all – in the reports of his death was Michelet’s politics. He was, as it happens, a key figure in Norway’s Marxist-Leninist movement. From 1972 to 1976, he worked at the Oktober publishing house, which was run by a Maoist party called the Arbeidernes kommunistparti (AKP). During his last couple of years at Oktober, he ran the place. Later, police surveillance would result in the conclusion that he was, in fact, one of the leaders of AKP.

Stalin

Later, for a time, Michelet was also on the board of the Rød Valgallianse, another Norwegian Communist party which would subsequently merge with AKP and another Communist party to form the current Communist party, Rødt, or Red. (The history of Communist parties in postwar Norway is a field of study in itself.)

In 1987, he told Aftenposten that he wished that Norway, during his lifetime, would admit a million immigrants. (Norway has a population of five million.) This, he explained, would result in “total social upheaval” of a kind that Rødt Valgallianse would welcome.

It gives something of an idea of Michelet’s personality that after leaving Oktober, in an effort at “self-proletarianization,” he got a job at a brewery.

In recent years, Michelet made millions on a series of books about Norwegian naval heroes. But although he was rich, he told a reporter in 2014 that “I still consider myself a Communist. Money can change people, but not me!” Indeed, after his death, Ingeri Engelstad, the current editor-in-chief at Oktober, praised him for his “solidarity” and “political engagement.”

Jon and Marte

In addition to his shelfful of books, Michelet bequeathed another gift to Norway: a daughter, Marte Michelet. The other day, in a memorial article about her father, she wrote: “Thank you for everything you gave us, everything you fought for, everything you taught us and inspired us to do.”

What did he give her, what did he teach her, what did he fight for? The answer is simple: Mao, Stalin, Communist totalitarianism. And Marte learned it all. She shares her father’s far-left politics to the hilt. After being a leader of the Communist youth group Rød Ungdom, she went on to become a newspaper columnist. In that role, she has used every dirty Stalinist trick in the book against her ideological opponents – routinely misrepresenting their views and calling them liars and racists. That’s what Daddy taught her: in the struggle for Communist utopia, no instrument is too low.  

Marte Michelet

So it is that Marte is routinely quick to describe ideological opponents as liars and racists. Instead of replying to logical arguments with her own logical arguments, she coins words like “burkaphobia.” As Human Rights Service put it in 2008, Marte seems to do her best “to destroy any possibility of factual debate about immigration.” In 2009, Hege Storhaug reported on Marte’s efforts at “character assassination” in response to writers whose politics she disagreed with. When writer Steinar Lem questioned Norway’s immigration policies, Marte didn’t engage with his actual assertions; instead, she charged that he “viewed Muslim children as foreign weeds.” As Rita Karlsen wrote in response to this reprehensible mudslinging: “Quite simply, Marte Michelet should be sent to a course in manners.” Alas, good manners and devout Communism make a really, really bad fit. 

Putin’s Quisling

Tomorrow, October 7, Vladimir Putin celebrates his sixty-third birthday. To commemorate this occasion, we’re spending a few days here at Useful Stooges looking at Putin – and at a few of his benighted fans around the world. Today: a nutty but high-profile creep in Norway.

Ad for the TV series Occupied, showing a Russian flag flying over the Norwegian Royal Palace

In late August, Russia’s Foreign Ministry publicly condemned Occupied, a forthcoming Norwegian TV series, complaining that its premise – in the near future, Russia invades Norway and seizes its oil fields – brings to mind various anti-Soviet movies made in Hollywood during the Cold War. (One imagines they’re thinking of such fare as 1984’s Red Dawn, in which Soviet forces overrun the U.S.) The ten-part series, which was created by bestselling mystery novelist Jo Nesbø and will premiere in October on Norway’s TV2, had another critic: Bjørn Ditlef Nistad, who was identified by a Kremlin-controlled “news” website, Russia Beyond the Headlines, as a historian and an Associate Professor of the University of Oslo.

Nistad was paraphrased as saying that Occupied is offensive to residents of Norway, liberated by the Soviet Union from German occupation in 1944.”

What? Norway liberated by the Soviet Union in 1944?

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Bjørn Ditlef Nistad

Yes, it’s true that on October 18, 1944, Red Army soldiers chased retreating Nazi forces out of Russia and into the remote, sparsely populated far northern tip of Norway, with which Russia, then as now, shares a 122-mile-long border. But to describe these troops as having liberated Norway is Orwellian. On the contrary, even though Stalin was nominally an ally, the leaders of the Norwegian government-in-exile in London were so concerned about the entry of his troops into their territory that they dispatched Norwegian soldiers to the region, partly to try to minimize the damage done by the scorched-earth policy that the Nazis were pursuing as they fled southward but also partly to ensure that Uncle Joe didn’t annex so much as a square centimeter of Norwegian soil.

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Josef Stalin

When did the German occupation of Norway end? Ask any Norwegian. It ended on V-E Day, May 8, 1945, when the Nazis surrendered to the Allies. The date is still celebrated in Norway as Liberation Day. Soviet troops lingered in northern Norway until late September 1945, when they finally packed their bags and went home. Fortunately for Norway, Stalin had his hands full subduing and Communizing Eastern Europe and knew that any effort to turn his foot-in-the-door presence in Norway’s icy attic into a conquest of the entire country would be a difficult proposition and would be fiercely resisted both by Norwegians and by the Western Allies, who at that point were tacitly accepting his ongoing imprisonment of the people of Eastern Europe behind what Churchill had yet to call the Iron Curtain.

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Vladimir Putin

So how can a professor of history at Norway’s leading university present such a twisted version of the facts? Well, first of all, as it turns out, Nistad isn’t on the University of Oslo faculty. He got his Ph.D. in Russian history there in 2008, and stayed on as a temporary lecturer until 2010, but has not held an academic position since. He claims to have been unable to find a job. Why? Because, he says, of his “pro-Russian” views – by which he means his unqualified approval of absolutely everything Vladimir Putin does and says. Nistad supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; he endorses Putin’s oppression of gays. “I think Vladimir Putin is a good guy and a likeable politician who has saved Russia,” he told Dagbladet last year. He has even compared Putin to Churchill.

Because no Norwegian university will hire Nistad, he compares himself to a Soviet dissident. He’s tried to arrange financial backing from Russian oligarchs to pursue his “pro-Russia research.” There’s less freedom of speech in Norway today, he claims, than in Putin’s Russia.

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John Færseth

Not that he’s been silenced. Far from it. Despite his inability to wangle a sinecure at the University of Oslo, he’s secured, in the words of writer John Færseth, “an important role in Norwegian debates about Ukraine, not least on NRK,” Norway’s government-run TV and radio network. Nistad, according to Færseth, is the “most important – or in any case the most obvious – defense player on the Russian team on the Norwegian scene today.” While most Norwegian commentators on the crisis in Ukraine, observed Færseth last November, are “in practice mouthpieces for Russian propaganda,” what sets Nistad apart is that his readiness to defend Putin and Putin’s former puppet in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, “has as times led him over into pure bloodlust, as when he wrote in July that the ‘coup makers’ in Kiev should be hanged.” Nistad has called pro-freedom Ukrainians fascists and neo-Nazis, and has written that killing a “few hundred” of them “would be a small price to pay” if it succeeded in establishing “that fascists would not be able to come to power through a coup in one of Europe’s most populous states.” 

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Vidkun Quisling

Here’s another way that Nistad stands out: he’s not one of those Putin fans who deny any similarity between the current regime in Moscow and the Soviets. On the contrary, as his fantasy version of the liberation of Norway might suggest, he was a fan of the USSR, too. In 2011, Norway’s newspaper of record, Aftenposten, ran an article by him headlined “Can We Learn from the Soviet Union?” His answer: da! The USSR, he maintained, was “one of the few reasonably successful multiethnic and partly multicultural societies that the world has known.” Its 200-odd ethnic groups “lived together in peace.” They had “a common dream: of building a socialistic society.” And this shared goal made them “good, honest, and hard-working citizens.” Although Gorbachev, in Nistad’s version of history, did a deplorable amount of damage to this paradise, Soviet values still survive among today’s Russians, thanks largely to Putin – who, he explains, has breathed new life into those values and made Russians proud again.

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Nistad on NRK

Bjørn Nistad: remember the name. If the scenario imagined in Nesbø’s TV series ever did come to pass, it’s not a bad bet that Nistad would be to Putin what Quisling was to Hitler: a devoted Norwegian acolyte, willing to run his puppet government and enforce his tyranny.

What a shame that, in the meantime, Norwegian students won’t be able to learn at the feet of this courageous truth-teller!