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A strategist at sunset

Tron Øgrim traveled from Mao's China to Silicon Valley on an ideological fad.


[essay] "Night to July 4, 68 STEINA I US Embassy," Tron Øgrim, who died too early on May 23, confessed in a short story in the book The Son of Man. The following year, he left the national meeting of the Socialist People's Party together with a shock youth from SUF. They slammed the doors – and stapled AKP (ml).

Oppsal boy Øgrim became the party strategist and chief ideologist in the new party. But where Rune Slagstad's national strategists created the official state and left-wing capitalism, Øgrim first and foremost left traces in cultural life. He is today considered the origin of the ideas behind the newspaper Klassekampen, the label May and the publishing house October.

However, his ambitions were so much greater when he rode in the war in his proud times, armed with Leninism, admiration for Enver Hoxa's Albania and – that is – pebbles intended for the stronghold of imperialism in Drammensveien: Norway was to be transformed into Mao Tsetung's image.

Totalitarian fantasies.

It may arouse justified wonder that Øgrim as recently as in 1985 stuck to this ambition. But Tron Øgrim made a political showdown – first partly hidden behind a pseudonym, then explicitly. In Prose (6/2003) I followed this development through his writing.

Øgrim's first book was called The Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and was based on a lecture given by the Norwegian Student Society. It was a powerful debut, with a content that was at the center of the controversy before the national meeting of the Socialist People's Party (SF) in the winter of 1969. SF veteran Finn Gustavsen had suggested that supporters of dictatorship – in any form – should leave the party. The proposal was withdrawn when it became clear that the rift between SF and SUF (ml) would come anyway, but Øgrim's text emphasized how great the distance was at this time: "We who build on Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung's thinking claim that the working class can not possibly create socialism without the help of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat, "he wrote.

For Øgrim, democracy was not the same as freedom of speech, assembly and organization, but rather that "the people take power and govern politics based on their interests". Dictatorship, on the other hand, was something Øgrim found in all class societies. In Norway, citizenship governs through the dictatorship of the state and monopoly capital.

This redefinition of the words "democracy" and "dictatorship" runs like a thread through the main part of Øgrim's authorship. In Marxism – science or revelation religion, for example, he wrote: "If we do not want to overthrow this capitalist system and suppress it by necessary means such as revolutionary war, revolutionary dictatorship and revolutionary terror, then the dictatorship and terror of capitalism will continue forever."

Øgrims also uncritically defended "the socialist countries" – China under Mao, the Soviet Union before Khrushchev, Democratic Kampuchea, and Albania. In the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat, he vehemently rejected any objection to these countries: the Stalin era, it was largely good. The purges in the 30s affected the class enemy the most – not the people. If there were any mistakes, it was because "the dictatorship of the proletariat did not exist to a large enough degree, did not rule unrestrictedly in all areas of the Soviet Union at this time."

To caress the animal.

Ten years passed between the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and Marxism – science or religion of revelation. In the meantime, Øgrim had become a brewery worker and trade unionist. But then the party strategist discovered dark clouds on the horizon. In Marxism – science or revelatory religion, it was about keeping order in one's own ranks. In the preface, Øgrim wrote: "This book is not 'the official launch of the AKP (ml)'s last line change, adopted by the Central Committee'. It is also not 'the unofficial official launch of the AKP (ml)'s last line change, adopted by the Central Committee, but afterwards for tactical reasons disguised as a debate post by Tron Øgrim'. "

However, the author's position that emerged in the main text gave a quite different picture: AKP (ml) 's ideologue holds the cadres in the ears. Øgrim distanced himself from the most vulgar tendencies in his own movement: religious Marxism, the aftermath of China in one and all, that jazz and modern art are bourgeois and that the Comintern was a sensible organizational form. And thus he also turned the symbolic economy of the movement on his head: "To get the upper hand on the bourgeois criticism of Marxism, we must document that the Marxist critique of Marxism's results is better and really solves problems," he wrote.

The strategy was to create a scientific Marxism, which learned from the mistakes of the Marxist-Leninist world movement and adapted the classical theories to local conditions. However, it was a "scientificity" which, in addition to the lack of source references, made use of a rhetoric that would become peculiar to the party, characterized by the word "main page": "The main page was that the socialist October Revolution opened a new chapter in world history. It propagated for friendship and equality between nations, peoples and states… The main page gave hope for new and better relations between people on earth. " China took a stand against Stalin's mistake, but where the critics believed that China also has corpses in the cargo, Øgrim replied that although the cultural revolution may have lasted too long, it was necessary. The main side of it was good. In Cambodia, more than the main page was good: "I am very impressed with Kampuchea, which I think is a real socialist country," wrote Øgrim. Only in one place did he criticize the Khmer Rouge: "[I] can not follow Pol Pot when he said three years after the liberation that Democratic Kampuchea had created a society that was 'completely pure'. I think that was an exaggeration. "

Searching back to the roots was a logical step for a party strategist who saw what was wrong with what was to be the spearhead of the world revolution in Norway. Øgrim was also right that the success of the ml movement enjoyed in the first seven to eight years was about to disappear. However, he believed that a strict ideological fad would be more tenacious.

It was a mistake. His Rosinante remained an old ax. The movement became smaller and more marginal after 1979. Nevertheless, Øgrim followed the model of Marxism – science or revelation religion in the collapse of Western Maoism and the crisis in the AKP (ml).

The book became a major effort during May 1982. A grown leaflet for indoor use in AKP (ml), Øgrim called it. He would stake out a course that could take both him and the movement out of disabilities.

But again it was "our inadequate understanding of capitalism, and our inadequate analysis of social conditions and the capitalist development of our own society, which… leads to our inadequate understanding of the necessity, possibility and probable character of socialism in our country." Øgrim still did not deal with Marxist fatalism, the belief in the historical necessity of the revolution.


This is how it should continue for three more years. But in the Pig before Christmas from 1985 something happened. "We" in the text were no longer the ML movement, but the great we, we Norwegians. Øgrim had found a new topic: society's meeting with new technology.

Øgrim took the fortune teller's position in The Pig before Christmas, and delivered night-black technodystopias. God has placed Norway in a cheese bell. We thrive there because life is apparently safe, he claimed. But in the wider world, technological development was about to change everything. The consequences can be war and mass unemployment. Therefore, the working class must be more united than before – gain greater class awareness. As long as that does not happen, Øgrim wrote, the strategic situation can best be summed up as follows: "WE ARE THE PIG, AND SOON IT WILL BE CHRISTMAS."

A classic Marxist technology determinism still threatened to make people irresponsible puppets in the puppet theater of the economic forces. And in the hooks of the text, a small we still needed to be defended. But Øgrim hesitated now.

Then he disappeared from the booksellers' shelves. He resigned from the management of the AKP (ml) and also joined as a trade unionist to devote himself to data journalism. It resulted in an impressive amount of articles in trade and industry magazines, newspapers and magazines, a permanent column in PC World for a number of years, and a blog about data and society, called "Under a Stone in the Woods".

Meanwhile, however, Eirik Austey debuted as a literary writer. This is how he was presented by the publisher on the back of On the Track for the Unknown Animal from 1990: “Eirik Austey (44) has been a sailor, tax assessor and manager of a transport agency in Edinburgh, Scotland. He lives in Hedmark. In addition, he refuses to comment on rumors about his life. ”The text is accompanied by a picture by Franz Kafka.

More than ten years earlier, in the aftermath of the Iron Cross. The chapter that was gone, Øgrim had presented his view of literature, a program of truly revolutionary working literature. It was to take a sharper political position and "specifically criticize the current capitalist social order". The working class should play the heroic role, revisionists should be attacked and the literature show a true picture of class conditions, he believed.

That Øgrim thus rendered literary concepts of quality superfluous is a matter. Another is whether Eirik Austey lived up to the rigorous political demands of genuine work literature.

The literary exile.

He did not, and thus came the breach of Øgrim's writing. Austey was, after all, Øgrim's fictional alter ego.

In the German against Stretermish (1985), the action takes place before the First World War. Class struggle was still central to this mix of fantasy and political thriller, but the truth of the portrayals is somewhat lacking. In On the trail of the unknown animal, Øgrim further distanced himself from the revolutionary work literature. Rather, the half-absurd mix of small prose texts was marked by contrasts between the abstract pictorial ("A pretty little girl floating in the air in a room. Halfway up to the ceiling, the room is filled with soaring white sugar grains.") And the naivistic concrete ("10 years / jump knit / hit the knee in the chin / so he had to go to the dentist! ”).

Austey's third book, Oslo Melted in a Piece of Blue Glass, was a new dark vision of the future, in which the world is divided into parkland (the countries of the South), sky and scotland. Europe came in the latter category, and Oslo became a ruin populated by savages. Øgrim now failed to explicitly and specifically criticize capitalism.

During the six years that elapsed between the first and last book of Eirik Austey, the Soviet Union fell, and it was no longer possible to neglect the abuses of Pol Pot's "Killing fields".

An explicit settlement.

When Øgrim again wrote non-fiction, the line change was complete. He himself thought that Greetings to a generation of Mercury from 1997 (New issue of October in 2000) was a sequel to Pig before Christmas, but the defense of the dictatorship, mechanical materialism, the necessity of the revolution and the invincibility of the five big ones were gone. In this latest book, Øgrim played on a larger repertoire of analytical tools, and even gave what Marxists call superstructure the power to influence history. In other words, it was a whole-hearted, but perhaps also heartbreaking, settlement: "I'm an old radish, now recycled as a Punk Data Journalist," he wrote.

The sharp dichotomy between the two Pig alternatives before Christmas, communism or disaster, had lost credibility. The settlement became as explicit as one might demand: "The problem for traditional socialists / communists is that while the criticism of the current social and economic system is growing, the CONCRETE social model they have set up as a solution has ceased to be meaningful."

Instead of revolution, the "recycled" Øgrim would fight within an established political system. After analyzing the fate of the industrial city of Høyanger, the women's place in the new community and predicting that physical money will disappear, he launched a new radical policy in Mercury. In the short term, he would defend freedom of speech and run a cultural struggle for content on the internet, fight for the right to information, freedom from surveillance and free internet access for the poorest. (In recent years, he actively contributed to the Norwegian edition of Wikipedia.) In the longer term, he held on to some more comprehensive visions: that information becomes free, that society guarantees physical and cultural living, care and security for all its members, as well as personally and cultural freedom.

When Øgrim finally admitted his youthful sins, however, the resignation became visible. The proletarian knight who frightened the water of a drunken bourgeoisie in the 1970s could become a national strategist who left deep traces in Norwegian society – instead, the result of his work as a writer has become a political anachronism, some fiction books of varying quality and a collection more or less credible hypotheses about society after the computer revolution.

Tron Øgrim's life was undoubtedly eventful, with direction, with meaning, with dedication. Still, perhaps his writing can be summed up like this: Tron Øgrim was the strategist who fell off the fad.

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