We’ve been poking through Bård Larsen’s book The Idealists, which can be fairly described as a history of useful stoogery in modern Norway. It’s a country in which a high-profile involvement in Communist politics not only doesn’t hurt your ability to make it to the top in a variety of fields – in one instance after another, it often seems to have helped.
In some cases, indeed, people who have almost nothing but their Communist affiliations are handed top jobs. Aslak Sira Myhre‘s parents were prominent members of the Workers’ Communist Party (AKP), and he himself was head of a Communist party called Rødt Valgallianse (RV) before he was recruited in 2006 for the powerful and prestigious position of director of Litteraturhuset, Norway’s leading literary institution and debate venue.
In 2014, Myhre left that job for one that was even more high-profile: director of the Norwegian National Library. And no, he has no background whatsoever in library science or in any related profession.
A not terribly dissimilar case is that of Gerd Liv Valla, who was appointed Minister of Justice in 1997 by then Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland. During her student days at the University of Oslo, Valla had been active in the Kommunistisk Universitetslag (KU), a group whose politics, as Larsen reports, were to the left of AKP’s: KU supported the Kremlin line until the USSR underwent de-Stalinization, whereupon it switched its allegiance to Mao’s China; after Mao died and China moved beyond the Cultural Revolution, the KU aligned itself with Albania. That a woman with such a background should be put in charge of a democratic system of justice outraged many, but the furore was dismissed by the political class as right-wing nonsense. From 2001 to 2007, Valla was head of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), the workers’ organization that is one of the most powerful institutions in Norway.
In one field of endeavor after another, some of the most high-profile people in today’s Norway are Communists. Sports? No sports figure has been more prominent over the past couple of decades than Egil “Drillo” Olsen, the colorful, outspoken coach of the Norwegian national soccer team. “I believe in the collective, I believe in solidarity, I believe in taking the side of the weakest people in the most important conflicts in the world,” he said in a 2010 interview. “Therefore I’m a Communist.”
Medicine? No doctor in Norway is more famous than Mads Gilbert, an anesthesiologist and politician (for Rødt, a Communist party) who’s been praised by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, named Man of the Year (in 2014) by the newspaper VG, been decorated (in 2013) by King Harald V, and won a long list of prizes. Why? For his “humanitarian work” in the Palestinian territories. Never mind his less-than-humanitarian support for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, about which he said that “the oppressed have a moral right to attack the U.S.”
(By the way, another much-heralded Communist M.D. and “humanitarian,” Hans Husum, also vigorously defended 9/11, as did prolific crime novelist and Rødt politician Gert Nygårdshaug, who after the terror attacks wrote an op-ed explaining his refusal to take part in a minute of silence outside the U.S. Embassy. In fact, Nygårdshaug was so delighted by 9/11 that he put up a plaque in his garden commemorating it.)
Publishing? Anders Heger, a columnist for the daily Dagsavisen who has also been head of Cappelen, one of Norway’s three major book publishers, since 1991, is a Communist who has expressed support for jihad; born with a silver spoon in his mouth in the richest part of Oslo, he’s rejected charges of hypocrisy, saying that despite his wealth “I have a right to be radical….One can’t turn one’s convictions into a question about private income.”
Then there’s a group called SOS Rasisme. For many years, it was one of the most high-profile organizations in Norway, collecting massive amounts of government support for pointing the finger at supposed racists. Although many of these “racists” were people whose only offense was failing to toe the socialist line, SOS Rasisme’s charges were invariably taken seriously, and the group was regarded throughout the Norwegian cultural establishment as a legitimate and respectable anti-racist voice.
Then, a few years ago, it was revealed that SOS Rasisme (a) had been systematically lying about membership numbers in order to rake in more taxpayer cash, and (b) was essentially a front for Tjen Folket, an extremely radical Maoist faction whose leader, Henrik Ormåsen, had declared Stalin the greatest man of the 20th century. In 2013, the group finally went bankrupt; last year, Ormåsen and seven other men were indicted for fraud.