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Leader: Evensmo today

It was not easy to stand for Sigurd Evensmo's "the third position" in 1952. Far less in 1968. And in 2012 – impossible?


(NB! On the 100th anniversary on 14 February, 16.30-19, Gyldendal and Ny Tid invite you to a seminar, film and debate about Sigurd Evensmo. Program and registration here.)

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New give. "In 100 years, everything is forgotten," Knut Hamsun wrote in his time.

It can be. Yes, sometimes it only takes 60 years – so most of it seems to have been erased from history. Or distorted to the inaccessible. Forgotten or past.

This can also be the case for Sigurd Evensmo (1912-1978). The 14. February is the 100 year since this worker, author and ideologist came to the world, at Hamar. Orienterings first editor recorded the thoughts behind "the third position" in 1952/3 – a globally oriented view that distanced itself from both superpower blocs. A position that was clear against the abuse of power in both the east and the west. Since democracy and equality were the foundation.

It was not easy to stand for such in the 1950s. Even less later. Gradually Evensmo and his third stance were pushed out into the darkness, into oblivion. In 1967, he told how SFs are and at that time, the neo-radical of the time regarded him as "an interesting settlement from the distant year 1961".

An antidogmatic principle of principle was not part of the new wine. He was already opposed to violent romanticizing youth rebels. Evensmo saw trends early. Already on October 28, 1967, he wrote: "The SUF accepts a Mao worship that has long surpassed Stalin at its worst."

That same fall, Evensmo answered from SF. Had the party gone from the third position? The answer was ambiguous.

So it is no wonder that Evensmo's thinking now – 45 years later and 100 years after his death – seems to have gone to the grave with him. Evensmo provoked in his time, not least the young and oblique. He probably would have done the same today. A couple of years ago, Magnus Marsdal could almost proudly state: «No, Evensmo was not central to me and Bendik Wold when we wrote the book Third left».

Evensmo and his position are clearly no longer needed. To distress the concept. In Audun Lysbakken's e-pamphlet from January, a «A socialist people's party», Evensmo is not mentioned. Nor in Bård Vegar Solhjells Solidarity again (2011). The third position is most mentioned in passing. And then it is often unclear what they now put in the term.

To the east and west

Many will now understand the third way to mostly just distance themselves from NATO abuses, as some did as early as the 1950s. And you can. But then not entirely in the spirit of Evensmo: Hans Orientering went strongly against NATO countries' attack on Egypt during the Suez crisis in 1956 – but at the same time also against the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary. The great powers were then «disgraced in both east and west».

Transferred to today: It's about being able to criticize both the US Guantanamo Bay prison on one side of Cuba and the communist atrocities on the other side of the island. Both NATO abuses and Russia / China. Now as then.

Of course, it is possible to be inspired to innovate based on the Evensmo philosophy. As when Lysbakken writes: «We must build on our third position in the integration debate, which rejects both assimilation and cultural relativism as a strategy for multicultural Norway. Instead, we seek a balance between diversity and community. We want a lot of room for diversity, but still firmly rooted in secular and libertarian values. "

Or as when counter-candidate Heikki Holmås now wants to "take off her silk gloves" to create a clearer foreign policy and peace-oriented opposition. And when Solhjell in his book actualizes a third foreign road. Of course it is possible. Timeless thoughts have no date stamp. Certain ideas are too good to be true.

The five paths

Of course, there are several arguments against arguing for a third position today, as Berit Ås recently wrote here in Ny Tid. But at the same time, as Svein Skotheim pointed out, it is also possible with a solidary and climate-oriented path for our time.

Perhaps the challenges of our time are not so different from those of 1956, when it was stated: “It requires a clear mind, and a willingness to speak the hysteria opposite. It takes courage to work with insights for peace and humanity, in the midst of this time's thoughtless, emotionless drive toward a new world war. "

A small forest map of how Evensmo's 3rd road could be understood today, could possibly be drawn with five different paths, which then lead to some central points of view for our time:

1. The peace position: Evensmo's goal was "to raise an open-minded debate on Norwegian foreign and security policy" (28.01.53).

And the wars of recent years in Afghanistan and Libya have not diminished the need for such a fundamental debate. Perhaps to an even greater extent now than 60 years ago, we have a government and a society based on a "war attitude rather than a peace attitude".

A third position today should make it more natural to say No to Nuclear Weapons than Yes to NATO weapons. We live in a time where new speech is alive. There war is peace. And where even the Nobel Committee's understanding of the concept of peace can and should be challenged, in the name of the peace movement and the non-violent position. If necessary with civil disobedience.

2. Solidarity position: Today, the concept of solidarity can at times have a shrill sound, where even Marxist voices' support for various guerrilla groups can be understood as "solidarity".

But the term can in that case be taken back, as Evensmo and Finn Gustavsen used it. In 1961, Gustavsen wrote that a global perspective implies “solidarity with all peoples. True internationalism is today global, worldwide without fences against other political systems, nations or races ».

And then it is not enough to just say "no to the EU" in itself, as some so stubbornly do now, in the "interest of Norway". For the internationalist Gustavsen believed that Norway could be part of "an alliance with other nations, also in alliances where Norwegian national interests had to give way to the community".

The reason? He sought a "community built on worldwide solidarity." And then a community with the rich countries in the EEC / EC / EU will not be natural. Then it will be just as important to say yes to the AU (African Union) as no to the EU.

3. The diversity position: Few topics seem more important to Norwegian society in 2012, and after 22 July, than cultural diversity.

Here, too, Evensmo can be an inspiration: In the 60s, he stood up against apartheid in South Africa, as well as against racism in our midst. Again the global perspective:

"Sometimes we can ask if we have misunderstood the very concept of intellectual freedom. We thought it meant an open view of all corners of the world – to take part in the literary world culture…, »he wrote in 1964.
A third point of view in our time may be to look at diversity as the natural, while simplicity and the moncultural are the artificial. For both multicultural, women and sexual minorities seem to be exposed to much of the same hatred, the same contempt.

The struggle for diversity in the 2010s can thus become a natural continuation of the struggle for equality in the 1960s. A third way out of the debate roundabout.

4. Climate change: Few topics are bigger, more important and more transnational than the climate challenge.

Evensmo wrote in 1977 that the environmental damage was a "global suicide". He was critical of both the western and eastern countries' "fanatical" growth competition. These too are words for our time. Even now in the 2010s, a green third path can be stepped up more clearly, seen together with the fight for social justice across national borders.

5. Opinion: Orienterings project was to «respect freedom of expression, the rule of law and political democracy» (13.08.75). Evensmo tried to keep an "open space in the ice".

It's a new time now, new burning issues. Non-NATO critics need protection and a rostrum. But also in the expression debate, a third path can be sought between fundamentalists in the east and the west: A position where both freedom of expression and responsibility for expression are natural, not disgraced.

In sum: Even now, the point is not to pull any "sensational patent solutions out of the suitcase". The third way is perhaps about just this: To seek a passable, pragmatic and automatic path between the opposite poles in the ice. First know where you stand, then try to point the way with your ideological compass.

As early as the 1960s, Evensmo sounded like a voice from a bygone era. No wonder he seems dumbfounded today. But all this makes it no less important to remember.

100 years, nothing forgotten. ■

(This is an excerpt from Ny Tid's weekly magazine 03.02.2012. Read the whole thing by buying Ny Tid in newspaper retailers all over the country, or by subscribing to Ny Tid - click here. Subscribers receive previous editions free of charge as PDF.)

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Dag Herbjørnsrud
Former editor of MODERN TIMES. Now head of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas.

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