The Varis network have been interviewing Scandinavian comrades from different groups during the last year to get a better understanding of the similarities and differences between our neighboring countries. We have previously interviewed the research collectives Garm from Sweden and Redox from Denmark, and this time we interview the Norwegian anti-fascist crew Antifascistisk Aksjon (AFA). Members from our network have previously visited the local comrades on both their 20th and 25th anniversary parties in Oslo and we are very happy to publish this interview with them.
Hi Antifascistisk Aksjon! Your movement was founded in 1994 and you are still going strong. Could you describe your group for people unfamiliar with Norwegian anti-fascism? How has your your work changed during the decades you have been active?
During the 1970s and 1980s there existed a diverse bunch of Nazis in Norway, spread out in different small groups and parties. Although they were small they were often prone to violence – leftist book shops were set on fire, and immigration services and the 1979 May Day demonstration in Oslo were attacked with bombs. At the same time the Norwegian fascist politician Arne Myrdal traveled around the country, provoking confrontation between his supporters and anti-fascists (many coming from the “Blitz” squatter movement in Oslo).
Many of the neo-Nazis from these times were still active in the 1990s, so when the Norwegian AFA started in 1994 this is the context it was born into – Nazis that do terrorist attacks and physical confrontation. The slogan “anti-fascism is self-defense” was as true then as it is now.
The methods we used then was monitoring the Nazis, confronting them when they showed up and organizing blockades and counter-demonstrations against their marches and meetings. Our activism hasn´t really changed since then, only the context. Previously we could photograph the people that visited their infamous pubs in Oslo, but now we have to increasingly monitor what they are discussing in closed chat forums. Nazis are still being confronted, but today everyone has a camera in their pocket and surveillance cameras are set up in every corner.
The biggest change that has happened is that the battle against the fascists in the 90s has made Oslo a much safer city. They no longer pose as much of a threat on the streets – and we want to keep it that way!
We have interviewed lately antifascist research collectives Redox from Denmark and Garm from Sweden. As anti-fascist activists, why is research and journalism important?
It is important to have actual knowledge to not be swept away by sensationalism. When the Nordic Resistance Movement was re-launched in Norway in 2011 they got extreme amounts of attention. If they put flyers in mailboxes they got headlines in the local papers, which helped their recruiting and spread unease among people that risk being targets of fascist aggression.
We have found that it is important to be a trustworthy voice in our milieus, both against those who overplay the Nazi threat and those who underestimate it. It is also very important to have knowledge about those you want to do direct actions against.
How has the far-right scene in Norway changed during the last years/decade? Has the changes within the far-right affected the ways you work?
The Nazis (that is, the Nordic Resistance Movement) are much weaker now. They peaked in Norway around 2017, when they were supposed to organize their first publicly announced demonstration in Norway. Due to a huge anti-fascist mobilization, their march in Fredrikstad were cancelled and instead they held a smaller pop-up demonstration in the other end of the country. This failed demonstration in combination with the Gothenburg fiasco a few months later (in combination with our direct actions that led to many of their members quitting) has severely damaged the NRM. The last time they showed up in public the only gathered six members, and some of them had traveled from Sweden.
The development in the Stopp Islamiseringen av Norge (SIAN) organization is very interesting. They have previously just tried to hold meetings in the Oslo city center, attracting 20 supporters at most. Now their leader Lars Thorsen has become much more aggressive, and their tactics today focus on driving around and burning Qurans outside local mosques. This confrontational tactic have actually resulted in fewer participants at their events and big anti-fascist demonstrations being arranged by the Oslo mot Rasisme activists.
In the Nordic countries, the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) has gone from being a strong coordinated organization to losing members, getting into legal problems and becoming increasingly inactive these last years. What is their situation in Norway?
The trend is similar in Norway. On our homepage we have a list of NRM members, and the majority of the people that quit have been active in the organization only for a couple of months. To be removed from our site the only thing required is to contact us and go through an exit procedure.
During the Covid pandemic we noticed that the NRM wanted to parasite on the conspiracy movement, but it seems like the NRM lost more members to the conspiracists than vice versa.
What about Nordisk Styrka which is a splinter group from the NRM? They are quite invisible in Sweden but claim to have Norwegian activists.
Nordisk Styrka is still a question mark in Norway. Their website has not been updated since 2020, and we have not seen any real activity than can be connected to them. The split was quite devastating for the NRM though.
How do you see the political situation in Norway today? Is the far-right strong on the streets or in parliament?
The fascists are weak on the street, and in the Norwegian parliament there is some leftist success since the Rødt and Sosialistisk Venstreparti parties gained support while the right-wing lost votes and Arbeiderpartiet (social democrats) lost less votes than the prognosis. It is hard to speculate whether this will continue.
The far-right is increasingly active online in other countries, creating their own media platforms for propaganda. Has this happened in Norway and how do you counter it from an anti-fascist perspective?
While they once kept to forums and later migrated to Facebook, we now witness another change in the fascist online presence. The older people are still sticking to Facebook or different competitors (VK, MeWe etc.) while the younger ones increasingly hang out on Instagram, Discord and Telegram.
Considering media platforms there are a few “traditional” ones like Document.no and Resett.no in Norway. There are a few smaller sites trying to copy the Swedish “alternative” media but they are not very successful.
The Nordic Resistance Movement has a podcast project but it does not seem to generate many new members or activity at the moment.
What channels are Antifascistisk Aksjon using to spread information? Are there ways you can be supported economically?
We have Facebook and Instagram accounts, but we are very censored there. There is also a Telegram account, but mainly we which that people would visit our homepage (the URL is sadly blocked in much of the social media). There you can find updated links to our social media and the number to our telephone.
We can be economically supported through buying our merchandise from Anarres Bokkafe in Oslo. But what we want most is people getting organized!
Read our interviews with other anti-fascists around Scandinavia: