20 years that we didn't dare to dream about

Anatoly Stankulov (Bulgaria)-politics and humor
OUR STORY / Orientering was created as a fighting body after the Norwegian Labor Party had brought Norway into NATO. But the newspaper fronted both the East and West blocks. The newspaper's focus was particularly on working, wage and living conditions for small people, as well as surveying economic power in Norwegian society and the real power holders behind the Storting.


"We will break you just as we have broken Freedom". The words came from Arbeiderbladets news editor Rolf Gerhardsen by chance during a reception at the Yugoslav embassy in 1954. Orientering – which he was referring to – had been in existence for well over a year then, and I had been editor this first year. I had not met Gerhardsen since I broke with Arbeiderbladet and the party in February 1949. The conversation was pleasant, he swung the ax with a boyish smile, and I replied just as kindly: – We'll see.

The death sentence meant that Orientering should be silenced to death.

In his mouth, the death sentence meant that Orientering would be silent to death, we knew each other so well that such a more precise explanation was unnecessary.

After working for 20 years as a journalist in The norwegian Arbeiderparti#'s press, of which 4 years in collaboration with the inner circle of Arbeiderbladet since 1945, I also knew that the suffocation of an uncomfortable opponent – "the silent killing" as we later called it in the parlance of the war – probably felt particularly demanding towards Orientering. It must not be known that "the circle about Orientering» mostly consisted of party comrades who had created a fighting body here after the party had brought Norway into NATO in 1949.

Who were the supporters?

In the management of the newspaper sat the party's Member of Parliament Jakob Friis, director of health Karl Evang, trade unionist Peder Ødegaard, university scholar Vilhelm Aubert and journalist Finn Gustavsen (editorial secretary) – all still members of the party. The same applied to board members and deputies in the Cooperative Orientering – among them the chairman August Lange, professor Kristen Andersen, secretary Per Nestor, engineer Leif Nordstrand, doctor Nic. Waal, consultant Ola Bonnevie, cand. Philol. Nic. Stang and lawyer Leif EA Michelsen.


There were new writers such as Johan Borgen, Johan Galtung, Thomas Wyller, Odd Eidem, Alf Prøysen, Trygve Bull, Finn Havrevold, Arild Haaland, Christian Bay, Rolf Kirkvaag and Helge Krog.

Apart from some non-party members, it was a compact Labor Party group, and this was – as seen from the 5th and 6th floors of Folketateret – something far worse than the communist opposition. On those floors, Haakon Lie and his people were no less well informed than that they soon peered into quite towering sympathizers behind Orientering, among them the veteran Christoffer Hornsrud, the party's first prime minister in 1928, Olav Oksvik, Olav Meisdalshagen and Kaare Fostervoll. But financially we were quite helpless, and in the party apparatus the Lies could offset their irritation with the certainty that such magazines became daily flies.

On that day in 1954, Rolf Gerhardsen did not know that we Orientering everything felt the edge of the ax across the neck. Our first regular issue appeared on 19 February 1953, and after just one year, in the late winter of 1954, Orientering on the brink of collapse for financial reasons. We had thousands of opinion traps around the country, but they had no idea that we existed, and this was compounded by the paralyzing despondency among oppositionists in the "grassroots" of the Norwegian Labor Party after NATO- the membership.

I myself understood – rather frayed on the nerves after this first hard year – that we now simply had to print a distress call in the newspaper: Either significant financial support from the opinion traps – or we had to give up.

This proposal ran aground – fortunately. We trudged on from year to year, always with a critical economy, always dependent on writers who did not demand a fee. And the "circle" gradually expanded. There were new writers like Johan Borgen, Johan Galtung, Thomas Wyller, Odd Eidem, Alf The Prussian, Trygve Bull, Finn Havrevold, Arild Haaland, Christian Bay, Rolf Kirkvaag and Helge Krog. From the beginning, I had a commitment to work as an employee from e.g. Hans Heiberg, Bernt Lund, Knut Løfsnes, Johan Vogt, Gutorm Gjessing and Odd Bang-Hansen. For many years, Hornsrud was a significant moral support. Like Nygaardsvold, he thought that socialism had disappeared in the Norwegian Workers' Party.

Distrust of spirit workers

Several years passed before that Orienterings name was mentioned in The labor press, and to this day it has never led any substantive debate with us. When the silence finally had to be broken well into the 1950s, the Norwegian Labor Party had an old, well-used offensive weapon in common with the bourgeois press: These troublemakers who wrote in Orientering, was a clique of academics without any contact with working people, and thus only to be shrugged off – an offshoot of Martin Tranmæl's inveterate distrust of intellectual workers after the bitter experiences with MOT DAG in the 1920s and 1930s.

To this "attack" we could have calmly said – without being heard – that writing is at least as demanding as other highly qualified work, and that it was therefore quite natural that we received help from e.g. writers and students who had the prerequisites. But the columns were open to less literate people at workplaces in towns and villages, we struggled to get hold of them, and they eventually came forward, especially in the 1960s when SF had created a new situation.

In the citizen press there was an uproar communism, inspired by the McCarthy plague from the US, which reached a peak just then Orientering started. And the bourgeois newspapers have largely preserved this passionate attitude after that McCarthyperiod was over. (Aftenposten set a record during the EC match last autumn).

«Orientering has proven to be a viable newspaper.”

The recruitment to Orientering came from many different types of "deviants", and of course we also experienced that some people dropped out along the way. Sidsel Bauck, who was there for a while, is today on the Norwegian Labor Party's central board, Dag Halvorsen, who had his training in Orienterings editorial staff, has become Arbeiderbladet's correspondent in Eastern Europe, Odd Eidem has been an employee of Farmand, Asmund Rørslett has become an anchorman for the commercial weekly press, Kåre Kleivan has settled into VG.

But all of these were peripheral employees.

A socialist basic view

The essence of Orientering was solid through all the years. And that's why we survived. The core had a socialist fundamental view that carried through all relevant differences of opinion. We carried forward the fundamental socialist-democratic principles in the Norwegian labor movement. We made a front against both the Eastern and Western Bloc – particularly marked in 1956 when we struck just as hard against Soviets brutal invasion of Hungary as against England and France's war of aggression in Egypt. This was Orienterings publication on 10 November 1956: "The power blocs dishonored in the east and west".

Slowly but surely we worked our way forward in the 1950s and gradually solved these two main problems: First, we had to definitively eradicate all notions of Orientering as a body only for cultural workers. Secondly, we would also fight for a socialist policy in Norway, not just on the international level. This had already been established in "Opinions and goals", which was published in the first issue of Orientering February 19, 1953:

"As a result of the A-pact policy, defense expenditure has swelled so that the basis for our standard of living is threatened, and the extension of military service is a burden for the individual and for society. In social and cultural areas, there is a danger of stagnation or retrogression due to the international situation and the pressure membership in NATO places on us. Not only in the form of criticism of what has happened, but in the case of positive proposals, we will take up for consideration important issues such as these: housing construction, expansion of social services, new advances for economic democracy and new activity in cultural life".

On 10 December 1959 we could write: "Orientering has proven to be a viable newspaper.” And from No. in 1961 went Orientering over to stay weekly newspaper instead of every 14 days.

There is reason to see this progress in a larger context. Well over three months after the conversion to a weekly newspaper, the Socialist People's Party was founded on 15–16 April. The initiative for the formation of the party did not come from the permanent editorial circle, but without there being any conscious aim, had Orientering through 8 years in many ways laid the foundation. The fact that it had become a weekly newspaper when the party entered its first, short and hectic election campaign, which produced two representatives in the Storting, had significant significance. SF's breakthrough had an immediate impact on the situation for the newspaper – within three weeks of the election victory, we gained over 1000 new subscribers.

At the turn of the year 1961–62, an important, practical reorganization also took place, which made the editorial office more efficient. Until then, the newspaper had been printed in Drammen, and this created several "deadlocks" between the editor's end of each issue and the mailing to subscribers. Since January 1962, Orientering used the printing house "Mona" in Oslo [Morgenbladet and Nationen's press in the basement of Lille Grensen. ed.anm.], ten minutes' walk from the editorial office in Folkets hus – and two minutes' walk from the Storting.

After 20 years, the researchers have begun to investigate Orienterings history, and some of them are so young that they can be wrong on important points because they themselves did not experience this time, but are based on written and not entirely reliable oral sources.

A significant mistake I have seen is the claim that "the circle about Orientering» was divided on an important question for many years: Should the group follow an "inner line" – i.e. operate as a faction within the A-Party, or an "outer" one – appealing generally to the outside?

It was never like that. No factional activity was ever planned within the A party, none of our employees who belonged to DNA operated factionally, as a group with specific goals within this party. Therefore, DNA's exclusion of a faction in 1960 was also unjustified. At that time, the height of the ceiling in the Norwegian Labor Party was about the height of a rabbit cage.

Friendly cooperation

I regularly participated in Orienterings editorial meetings throughout the years and know that the work always aimed to reach ever further with our opinions, and that within the editorial team there were never factional contradictions, we had an effective, comradely collaboration.

At that time, the height of the ceiling in the Norwegian Labor Party was about the height of a rabbit cage.

Let it also be said that Orientering was never dominated by any one individual. Karl gospel has been singled out by some as a "driver". He himself will surely be the first to deny this hesitation. It was a consistent feature Orienterings editorial board that the members could be stubborn individualists, but at the same time united about basic points of view which made differences of opinion immaterial.

Socialist People's Party (SF)

We had a couple of politically difficult situations.

When SF was founded in 1961, Orientering an independent cooperative, and part of the cooperative members belonged to the Norwegian Workers' Party. So what? Could we risk the newspaper collapsing by becoming an organ for SF? In advance, negotiations took place with August Lange and me on the one hand and Mountains Furre and Knut Løfsnes as representatives of the "party line". The compromise was that Orientering should be a "mouthpiece" for SF, without being subordinate to the party. And this proposal brought together almost the whole Orienterings old guard behind. Everyone understood that there was no deep principled contradiction behind the decision.

Orientering should be a "mouthpiece" for SF, without being subordinate to the party.

The situation became worse from 1967 when a SUF-delegation returned newly saved from China and in the following years caused problems also in Orienterings editorial board, especially because the party secretary Kjell Bygstad colluded with the Maoists and not only often paralyzed the central government's work, but also misused the newspaper into a toxic argument that displaced proper, outward-looking material and irritated many readers. For Orientering was SUF's march out at SF's national meeting in 1969 a release from female brakes.

But in our 20-year history, the SUF episode is no more than a footnote. Neither that nor other, smaller conflicts broke a political-journalistic expansion that has continued in many directions throughout the period, and has as its most important feature that social conditions and the power struggle in Norway have received ever wider coverage.

In this context, I would like to correct the rather widespread notion that Orientering in the first years it only dealt with foreign policy, despite the program "Meninger og mål" in 1953. Because the newspaper was created by the NATO situation, it was a given that the foreign matter had to play a significant role at that time. But the editorial effort to highlight our socialist view of domestic politics began as early as 1953, and in particular I would like to mention a series of 7 articles which became the strongest battering ram against the wall of silence around us. On 6 November 1953, the series began with the joint title "Social policy in the spotlight", and the author was Karl Evang.

Because the newspaper was created by the NATO situation, it was a given that foreign affairs had to play a significant role.

The country's director of health about the country social policy – it was strong enough that e.g. VG reproduced one article after another, and could not avoid mentioning Orientering as a source. But in Arbeiderbladet, the silence was unbreakable. The director of health's opinions on pressing social policy tasks could neither be cited nor discussed when they were in Orientering.

Naturally enough, the breadth of the political fabric was particularly developed throughout the 1960s as a result of the breadth of SF's efforts in and outside the Storting. Working, wage and living conditions for small people, the attitude (or lack of attitude) of the trade union movement, analyzes and mapping of the economic superpowers in Norwegian social life, the real power holders behind the Parliament, the multifaceted struggle against EC membership in the years 1962–72 – on these fields got Orientering its center of gravity.

The newspaper has had the strongest development in this respect since Kjell Cordtsen took over the editor's job, first together with Kjell Gjøstein Resi from 1965 and then alone from 1968 – i.e. in close collaboration with two secretaries, stable and thus particularly well coordinated in recent years with the trio Cordtsen, Erling Borgen and John E. Andersson.

But also for this period, as in the past, the flowers are to be shared among the changing, but always numerous, group of employees who have made their contributions without a penny in fee – many of them for years. (An interesting feature is that Karl Evang's pioneering effort with the article series 20 years ago is today carried on by a professional in the same field, who now from week to week delivers some of the best material in Orientering – doctor Rolf Hanoa with the column "Work and health".)

The foreign policy substance

There is no equivalent in Norwegian press history to this phenomenon: A political newspaper in regular, uninterrupted operation for 20 years, based to a significant extent on hard work.

In the future, SF and Orienterings employees to discuss particularly thoroughly the guidelines for the newspaper, in order to capture legitimate demands that have been raised, collected in this sum: We will become a national newspaper, far more than we have been able to so far.

From my side, just two pieces of advice: We must not limit it for that reason foreign policye substance, at a time when Norway is becoming more involved than ever big politicsone – now with a new center of gravity in economic interests. (In my opinion, the restrictions have gone too far.) Secondly, the newspaper must be expanded so that the cultural fabric is better served. For the sake of safety, let me clarify that with the term culture I am certainly not thinking of narrow specialist fields, but of the entire enormous amount of unsolved social tasks that are linked to all kinds of education and people's well-being, the development of a variety of active leisure pursuits and a local environment characterized by greater contact between people. In today's city life, we hardly know the family on the other side of the hall.

Unbroken operation over 20 years was based to a significant extent on hard work.

To exist for 20 years in 1953 was not even a daydream for Evang, Ødegaard, Aubert, Friis, Gustavsen, myself or others who sat and edited in a cold and shabby attic room in a backyard in Akersgata.

A new, very demanding generation meets today Orientering like a set table and are not stingy with criticism of the menu. Good, a newspaper on the offensive must be accompanied by permanent, alert, constructive criticism. But no one must get hurt in idealistic zeal to break up the comradely working community that has been created over these 20 years and now works better than ever. It was close to the tip of the vote for editors during SF's national meeting in Trondheim, and I would think that quite a few national meeting participants were not aware of the incalculable damage that would have affected both the party and the newspaper, if the "work accident" had not been narrowly averted.

In a relatively short time can Orientering standing with tasks and an influence that we today do not dare to dream of.

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