Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

New anarchism for a new time

Information control and militarization, labor rights, liberalist globalization, climate and environmental politics, international and interpersonal solidarity are central themes in the recent history of anarchism as well as 150 years of history.


It goes without saying that anarchism has no central place in the story of the Norwegian party system. Such ideas have nevertheless been present in the periphery of the parliamentary system, and especially in the social movements that have helped to shape society. Any new social or extra-parliamentary movement is potentially anarchist. This is also where anarchism traditionally comes from; not from the established political system, but from the marginal zone, from the unintegrated currents such as the early labor movement, the Norwegian movement and the peasant friend movement. In recent times, the same applies to the counterculture movement in the 70s, the anti-EU movement, the environment and peace movement, various solidarity movements and Attac.

Thrane movement. Anarchist vibrations did not reach Norway until the middle of the 1800th century, with the founding of the labor movement. The Thrane movement was inspired by the February Revolution of 1848, but its leader Marcus Thrane also knew of anarchist ideas. The movement fought to improve the conditions of the proletariat, and made the voice of the working class noticeable, also to the Storting. Excerpts from the writings of the French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon on libertarian socialism were published in Arbeider-Foreningernes Blad. This was unheard of, and happened before we had actual parties in Norway. This first labor movement brought great disorder to the Norwegian duck pond, to the attention of tens of thousands of proletarians, but to fear and warning to the authorities.

Syndicalism. Syndicalism is the term on its own branch of anarchism which, especially in Italy, but also in Norway, prevailed beyond the early 1900s. The syndicalists accept the materialistic understanding of history, and believe that changes can be sought within the context of the existing. Syndicalism focuses especially on the social organizations and movements, but distances itself from party formation, as these seem divisive. In Norway, syndicalism has traditionally been oriented towards the trade union movement, but all organizational corporations or groups are of interest when it comes to initiating change and moving the center of gravity. General strikes are, of course, the foremost instrument of syndicalism.
The typographer Kristofer Hansteen, also called Norway's first anarchist, is important here, as an early source of inspiration for the Norwegian Syndicalist Federation, when he started the Anarchist newspaper in 1898, among other things. Syndicalism eventually became an important faction of the labor movement, carried by strong representatives such as Martin Tranmæl.
This proletarian anarchism stood early in a certain tension with the peasants. Nevertheless, Søren Jaabæk, founder of the peasant friends movement and co-founder of the Liberal Party, must be given much of the credit for the establishment of anarchist-inspired communalism together with the circle around Fedraheimen. The peasant friends' communalist model was based on decentralization and local self-government. The circle around Fedraheimen, Arne Garborg's magazine, saw his ideas as a further development of Jaabæk's radicalism. Communalism reappears in the 1970s in an anarchist version, as part of the prolific counterculture movement, but also in Unge Venstre, Grønt Gras and parts of Senterungdommen.

General strike is the foremost instrument of syndicalism.

Rural anarchism. Jærbuen, author and goalkeeper Arne Garborg played a prominent role in making anarchism known and relevant, with particular appeal to the counterculture in Bygde-Norway. His wife Hulda Garborg also added an early feminist and interpersonal element. Together with the pastor Ivar Mortensson Egnund and Rasmus Steinsvik, the Garborg couple formed a vital, Kropotkin-inspired group which, based on anarchist perspectives, developed a radical nationalism, where the Norwegian case was central. One curious thing is that the married couple Garborg strongly contributed to Ananda Acharaya, Indian philosopher and guru, settling in Alvdal in 1917.
At Garborgene, individualism is toned down to a culture-oriented anarchism. Hulda also has a commitment to the labor case, in spite of the mentioned tension between the agricultural anarchism and the labor movement. This initially cultural form of anarchism gradually grew with Jaabæk's peasant friend movement and thus communalism.

Cranberry as Ap Syndicalist. The Labor politician, painter and editor (of Ny Tid) Martin Tranmæl had his early experience from the abstinence movement and was central to the Labor Party throughout the first half of the 1900th century. He was against bureaucratization of the labor movement, and believed that the struggle of the labor movement must be a political project and that the trade union movement should have a great influence on politics. He was a spokesman for strong workers' organizations. Tranmæl became nationally known when he led the partly syndicalist Trade Union Opposition of 1911, and contributed greatly to the left wing of the party gaining a majority in 1918. At this time it is not unreasonable to call the Labor Party a partly syndicalist and in this way anarchist party, with Tranmæl as his most powerful politician. The party was otherwise called "Tranmælpartiet" and the members "tranmælitter".

Society Party. Norwegian history so far the only example of a freedom-socialist parliamentary party appeared in the early 1930s. The Social Party was inspired by, among other things, Hans Jæger, originated in Bergen, and recruited in particular many voters from Western Norway and Northern Norway. The party, founded by author Bertram Dybwad Brochmann, got a representative on the Storting for two successive periods from 1933, and had an anarcho-syndical, Christian socialist political program, with an emphasis on pacifism and libertarianism. One of the main points of this particular Norwegian variant, also called the Logocracy, "The power of the Word", is that the people govern through direct democracy in small, local units, for example congregations, and with the strong involvement of trade unions and other voluntary associations. The only state formation allowed is the so-called Accounting Center, which is to ensure fair distribution and control of the material goods.

The literature. Among Norwegian literatures, anarchism first appeared in the 1880s, and gradually spreads in several main directions. Literary or artistic anarchism is, by the way, still a phenomenon in the Norwegian landscape. Especially in the 1960s, but also up until today, it has popped up writers with pronounced anarchist sympathies, without necessarily having created any social movement. Jens Bjørneboe, Kaj Skagen, Tor Åge Bringswaard and Trondheim author / MDG politician Jan Bojer Vindheim are just four of the many examples that can be mentioned. Jens Bjørnebo's ideas, but also much of the other literary thought, can be categorized under what Kaj Skagen has called anarcho-individualism, where the best possible society arises through the greatest possible realization of individual talent.

Postwar. Towards the end of the 1930s, there was relative silence around anarchism in Norway, among other things the number of local co-organizations in the syndicalist federation dropped to around 20. When the war came, most active anarchist forums were banned or closed down. In the middle of the 60's, Jan Bojer started the Freedom Youth Group, and soon after, the Federation of Anarchist Youth was started up in Kristiansund. Only with the student uprising in Paris in 1968 and the hippie movement did the start of a new spring for anarchism begin. In 1969 Jens Bjørneboe wrote the essay Anarchism as a future, and in 1971 he introduced the Student Society in Oslo on the topic "Anarchism… today?" Bjørneboe became an important nestor within the burgeoning anarchist movement.

The last 50 years. In the 70s, the environment around Gateavisa in Oslo (which is also relaunched in the fall) became an important agent for the dissemination of anarchist ideas, with a diverse gathering of colorful representatives. Among the most marked we find author and editor Syphilia Morgenstierne and Christian Vennerød as well as the lawyer and the place activist Audun Engh.
Occupied urban farms and youth homes were important hangouts for disorganized youth this decade, and in many places became a hatchery for applied anarchism. Resistance to urban rationing was one of the important issues. Similar initiatives were taken in a number of Norwegian cities. In Trondheim, UFFA House, an autonomous youth home, was started in 1981, six months before the blitz in Oslo. The operating model was anarchic, and the place housed both a vegetarian café, a book café, a punk fanzine and the film collective Spis De Rike. The district of Svartlamon is a later example, which, with its 200 inhabitants, was threatened with demolition in the 90s, but which was protected after prolonged resistance. Many of the inhabitants are constantly anarchists, and the district is governed by direct democracy and public meetings.
In connection with the EU struggle and the growing counterculture around 1972, an increasing number of anarchist-inspired groups popped up, not least based on the growing awareness of environmental protection and demands for a sustainable and solidarity policy. Many small groups such as housing and agricultural collectives joined in on this new alternative movement, aiming to live out their ideas. This little-is-good thinking required direct democracy and smaller, local entities. Municipalism from the days of Jaabæk got a renaissance, and a number of countercultural groups such as Green Grass, Activity Grass and Frogs saw the light of day.

Our time. Although many of the movements and groupings that have grown internationally in recent years have many commonalities with anarchism, it is a very fragile and unclear field we are talking about. Many of the groupings can be categorized under what is called the "anti-globalization movement". The new anarchism works for flat organizations and hierarchies, usually in international networks, and has a nonviolent attitude to conflicts in society.
It is inherently true that many of the organizations in question can be called non-parliamentary (NGOs), while the territorial breadth of the engagement varies enormously. Two important examples of such modern groupings are Attac and the World Social Forum, founded in 1998 and 2001, respectively, whose main goal is to change the economic system at international level. Yanis Varoufakis' newly founded European Democracy Movement DiEM25 is in the same family.

The social party was inspired by, among other things, Hans Jæger.

Environment and peace. The environmental movement, which recently kick-started with the Mardøla campaign in 1969, and the opposition to the so-called power socialism, is probably still the largest of today's social movements, but is now so loosely composed that calling it anarchist a lot makes little sense. A key international nestor in eco-anarchism is Murray Bookchin, who in 1973, after being active since the 1950s, published the book Ecology and revolution at Pax Publishing, in English Post Scarcity Anarchism. Here he combines ecological politics with libertarian socialism.
Of anarchist activist organizations that have sprung from the environmental movement are Greenpeace most famous (with its spectacular actions), but also the 70s Norwegian Future in our hands, Bellona and the venerable Nature Conservation Association (founded 1914) has / has had features of anarchism, especially in its forms of action and its structure.
The antimilitarist peace movement is one of the oldest actors in the motley anarchist carnival, and got especially with the hippie movement and Vietnam War in the 60s a recovery. The UN's new negotiations on a ban have re-actualized No to nuclear weapons as one of the movement's actors, in a country that actually said no to a global ban on nuclear weapons as late as October 2016.

Not just Europe. Of the non-Western initiatives, including in the field of feminism, Russia's Pussy Riot is worth mentioning, originally a girl band that with its "punk prayer" in the Cathedral of the Savior in Moscow reached far beyond the Russian borders with its cause. The band's church action is an example of successful libertarian activism. In the United States, the movement Occupy Wall Street an expression of the same international impulse and popular activist will as in the World Social Forum, but which many believe that now, after Trump's election victory, must move on to form a political party.
"The Autonomous" is another common term for an informal network of left-wing activists, working through self-organization and through direct action. The autonomous movements are widespread in countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece and France. Common to many of these groups is that civil disobedience, often in the form of direct, nonviolent actions, is a key tool in the social struggle.

Sigurd Ohrem
Sigurd Ohrem
Ohrem is a writer for Ny Tid.

You may also like