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The Cold War in Norwegian Politics

Torgrim Titlestad:

The Cold War in Norwegian Politics


When this article was published in Norwegian in Syn og Segn 1989 and then in English in Socialisma storia No. 3/1991 in Milan in Italy, the Norwegian press for several years had brought reports and interviews on unconstitutional political surveillance against the Left and on secret military intelligence groups in the Norwegian society during the cold war.

In the beginning the existence of such surveillance was denied by the authorities. But the revelations continued to be published, and in the end even conservative circles were convinced that the Labour Party had exploited its control of the government from 1945-65 to establish a sort of long lasting influence on the secret services also to illegally get information on non-socialist activities. Finally public pressure to know the facts became so strong that February 1994 the parliament decided to appoint a commission “to investigate allegations of the illegal surveillance of Norwegian citizens”.i

The parliamentary commission of investigation confirmed the allegations about the illegal political surveillance of Norwegian citizens by the police, through informers, opening of letters, secret tapping of phones etc. The police even intervened to influence public opinion to the detriment of the leftii- thus becoming a kind of unofficial secret political participant. The surveillance was in the beginning directed against the Communist Party and its network and those who were suspected of having Communist leanings. Political activities and opinions were recorded and registered. When the Labour party split in 1961 the members who were expelled founded their own party, Socialist People’s Party. They also became an object for surveillance and later this was also the case with a Maoist party. The police and military intelligence collaborated with the secret network of the Labour party (“circles in the labour movement”), headed by its willing and powerful secretary, Haakon Lie.iii The Labour party had a vast informal network of contacts to control the trade unions and prevent leftist/Communist influence.

The formal justification of the legal surveillance was to apprehend persons who violated Norwegian law by working for the intelligence services of a foreign power (the Soviet Union). Such surveillance should be endorsed in court by judges. These measures were undertaken in the period shortly after WWII when the authorities feared a Soviet attack on Norway and a new occupation. It was believed that in such an event the Communist Party and its members would act as collaborators given their close political ties and loyalty to the Soviet Union. Police surveillance however, went far beyond this legal framework to become a kind of mind control with consequent “Berufsverbot” against potential political dissidents, if the “mind-controllers” could get at you. A lot of judges uncritically accepted the applications to undertake surveillance by the police, even of the offices of political parties, organisations and newspapers. The Lund-commission stated:iv

“ – Through most of the post-war years the surveillance services of the Police have committed themselves to a comprehensive registration of the adversaries of official foreign and security policy. Their activity has been political surveillance, which violates the key democratic right to be able to freely act, politically.

  • During the registration the surveillance services have also used illegal methods – the bugging of rooms and telephone tapping.

  • To a great extent the registration has been carried out in collaboration between the surveillance services of the Police, groups in the labour movement and private business. There has been a great interchange of information.

  • Information from the registration [blacklisting] has been used to keep those deemed adversaries away from jobs in the public sector and private businesses and to limit their political or professional influence.

  • During the first part of the 1950`s the secret services of the Defence Ministry paid staff in the Arbeidernes Opplysningsforbund (the Workers` Information Bureau) and the Labour party to make a record of Communists and Communist activity. Simultaneously circles in the Labour movement received information that the intelligence services themselves had on these matters.

  • The authorities have given incorrect or misleading information on the surveillance and registration of Norwegian citizens”.

This article from 1989 – before the end of the cold war - was the first article on the subject by a Norwegian historian. Today a number of comprehensive books on this issue are published, written by historians like Trond Bergh, Knut Einar Eriksen and Olav Riste.

If I were to rewrite my article today I would have to take into consideration a lot of new sources now available to scholars. It would have become another article. In retrospect, however, it is clear that a number of the assumptions in this article still are valid and may be read as an interesting introduction to the topic – The Cold War in Norwegian Politics. And it hopefully will shed some light upon the period when the book “The Leader, The Party and the Politics” was written.

Torgrim Titlestad,

Stavanger, May 2002.

Introduction 1989

The phrase “The Cold War” makes us think primarily of the tense political and military relations between the USSR and the USA from the late 1940s into the 1960s. The Cold War entailed a division of the world into blocs — with the all-destructive atom bomb as the final overhanging threat. The political atmosphere between the super­powers was strained and this in turn made itself felt within the blocs: there was little room for political nuances either within the blocs or between the superpowers.

Trials in the East and in the West

In the East in 1947-48 the Russians tightened their grip on the coun­tries they controlled. The East European authorities staged public tri­als of “Anglo-American agents”, i.e. of the leaders of what they claimed to be forces inimical to the state. As in the case of the Moscow trials of the 1930s, the accused confessed the crimes of which they were accused.1

In the West we experienced a similar atmosphere. The politician who more than anyone else came to stand for political hysteria in the West was Republican Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy (1910-57), whose name has been immortalised in the term “McCarthyism”.2 His aim was to remove all whom he considered to be communists from important positions in government and business in the USA. The campaign spread political fear downwards through the entire fabric of American society. McCarthyism directed itself not only against declared communists but tried further to label other opposition as communistic and thereby to criminalise opposition in general.

From Norwegian Neutrality to Western Orientation

During the war Norwegian foreign policy was strongly coloured by British foreign policy.3 But opinion at home in Norway favoured an independent stance and this influenced the government into officially adopting an alliance-free foreign policy, the so-called bridge-building policy. In practice, as the international climate worsened, the govern­ment steadily turned to the West.4 The Cold War “broke out” inter­nationally in 1947 over the Truman Doctrine, by which Truman promised aid to all who wished to prevent communist takeovers, with a front-line vis-à-vis the USSR and communism in general.

In Norway voices on the right began to demand a political reorienta­tion, towards the West. In the summer of 1947 Labour Party secretary Haakon Lie wanted the Party to comply with this, but at that point his wishes on the matter were rejected by the party leadership as being potentially harmful to Norwegian interests.5 Local elections were in the offing and the party was making allowance for public opinion, which still preferred an alliance-free line. People generally had great sympathy for the USSR and no small scepticism of the USA as a superpower.6 On this point Norway distinguished itself from other Atlantic states, and such an attitude was particularly conspicuous in the Labour Party.

The question of Marshall Aid and the pressure towards the western military alliance in 1947-48 led, however, to a change in the neutral position which Labour Party politicians had adopted. By the beginning of 1948 the change of attitude had been effected, as Knut Einar Erik­sen claims in The Norwegian Labour Party and Nato: he writes that a small inner group in the party leadership and in the Trade Union leadership had decided upon a westward orientation and were trying to push this through as quickly as possible.7

One of the arguments for the new course was that the UK — with a social-democratic government (in British terms, Labour) — would act as a guarantee against American domination. The problem for the Norwegian Labour Party leadership was how to remould opinion in their own ranks. Here the communists were a decisive obstacle, especially since they were strong in the industrial areas where the Labour Party had long held sway. In the towns the Communist Party had an average percentage of 17 in 1945; as late as in January 1947 an opinion poll gave them a national average of almost 15% (8) and even by the end of 1947 the communists had such strong grass-roots support that they were in the process of becoming a dangerous competitor to the Labour Party.9

The Communist Party had a favourable starting-point for channel­ling the widespread Norwegian wish for an alliance-free line. When the Communist Party had the support of between 30% and 40% of trade union members in 1945(10), this was a warning that the Com­munist Party could threaten the previous monopoly held by the Labour Party in the working-class movement in general.

The Turning-Point: the Crisis in Czechoslovakia

Given the dominant ideological disposition of Norwegian opinion, it would be difficult to effect any change of opinion without weighty arguments. That was the problem for the Labour Party leaders and the government up to 1948. And of course the strength of the Com­munist Party was a substantial hindrance. But in January 1948 a poll showed that the Communist Party had lost ground since the local elections a few months previously and was down at 8% of the votes”. The communist takeover in Czechoslovakia on February 23, 1948 had immediate and unfavourable repercussions for the Norwegian Communist Party.

When the Czech communists took over the government they soon set aside fundamental democratic rights’2. In Western Europe the talk was of the coup in Czechoslovakia. This dramatic takeover was taken as proof of the kind of ambitions which the USSR and the communists had in Europe. The coup in Czechoslovakia was a common West-European label which could serve to justify large-scale campaigns against the relatively strong communist parties throughout Europe, and the situation was no different in Norway.

Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen held a speech in Fredrikstad (the “Kraakeroy Speech”) on Sunday February 28, shortly after the dis­turbing events in Czechoslovakia. He said these had caused anxiety and unease in Norway. But the only group which could threaten free­dom in Norway was the Communist Party — it was therefore the prime task of democracy and legality in Norway to reduce the Com­munist Party and “its influence” (13). Having also said that antagonism towards the communists must not be whipped up, he immediately went on to claim that those at the top of the Communist Party were “in their hearts” supporters of terror and dictatorship. At that mo­ment, thought Gerhardsen, the communists did not actually represent an acute danger for Norway, but he did encourage his listeners to take the matter seriously, without painting too black a picture.

The Prime Minister’s speech caused a nationwide sensation and even was read out to the American Senate (Verdens Gang, 8 March 1948). Shortly afterwards 1,500 students and Oslo people demonstrated against the coup in Czechoslovakia, and a torch-light procession set off for the building (Folkets Hus) where the communists were meeting. The latter supported the Czech takeover without reservation, a response shared by communists the world over. According to the daily newspaper Verdens Gang the protest march gathered thousands of participants. They marched under banners with slogans which linked the Com­munist Party with the Nazis, denounced the Communist Party, and called for a western orientation (“We Want the West! ”).

The legitimacy given by Gerhardsen to the confrontation with the communists affected public opinion at large and helped to generate the fear that Norway really was menaced by a possible communist coup. This was strengthened when in March 1948 the USSR proposed a Finnish-Soviet military pact, a proposal which in the West was inter­preted as unwarrantable pressure on Finland, and rumours grew that Norway was next in line. Politicians feared “a Czech solution” in Scandinavia. Yet in spite of these scares, support for a neutral stance was still strong among the people: 47% wanted an alliance with the West, 2% an alliance with the East, while 27% were in favour of remaining unattached to either of the big blocs, and 22% were “don’t knows”. Within the Labour Party 51% wanted to look west and 47% wanted to remain free of alliances.(14) The Labour Party leadership therefore still had problems in the way of effecting a change in its official security policy. An abrupt reorientation westwards could split the party down the middle, for almost half the membership still want­ed an alliance-free line. It was the international pattern of events which gradually brought about a swing to the West. The press whipped up anti-communist vehemence. The communists themselves, with their pro-Soviet stance, added fuel to the flames.

The Heröya Strike

Domestically, the campaign against the communists stepped up in the autumn of 1948, starting with the large-scale industrial conflict in Norsk Hydro on Heröya.(15). The men here were shift-workers and felt they had been hoodwinked by what they considered were promises of better shift patterns.(16) They achieved nothing in the course of pro­tracted (and in their view deliberately protracted) negotiations. A vast majority of the workers decided to take the matter into their own hands: “The new shift plan, so vital to the lives and health of the shift-workers, will be implemented”(17) The Heröya factories were of prime national importance: they were responsible for a large share of foreign currency earnings, and the state played a leading role in their management. The authorities claimed that the new shift plans would cost too much and would be taken as an unfortunate precedent elsewhere in industry.(18) The country was recuperating from the war, and could not afford such measures, they maintained.

The unrest on Heröya threatened the nation with the most serious industrial conflict since before the war. While the conflict was brew­ing, something happened that shook the population at large. On Sep­tember 17 the communist paper Friheten carried the headline: “Bomb against Our Party Paper in Narvik”. Someone had placed a bomb at the entrance to Nordlands Arbeiderblad. The culprits were not traced. Soon afterwards there was a break-in at the Communist Party’s Oslo office.(19) The thieves were not looking for money. Political attacks and break-ins were something new in postwar politics in Norway.

As the political temperature rose, the Heröya workers brought Norsk Hydro to a standstill. Several thousand downed tools. Discussion was heated, throughout the country — Were the communists behind it all? Were communists making trouble? Were they trying to bring about chaos and revolution?

The Labour Court judged that the Heröya strike was illegal. As the Communists dominated the Heröya union, the Labour Party leader­ship seized the chance to dub the strike as a communist provocation. They even went so far as to characterise the strike as an element in a Moscow-inspired conspiracy. Gerhardsen said that he had no proof, but that he personally was not in any doubt that “the Heröya action was part of an international political action”.(20) Arbeiderbladet followed up this remark of Gerhardsen’s with a cartoon showing a wicked slant-eyed character in an office in Moscow. On the wall there is a map of Europe with telephone lines to Paris, Rome, Berlin, Hel­sinki and Heröya. The caption reads: “Telephone exchange with direct lines”21. The cartoon had racist overtones last heard in the Nazi war­time press. The front-lines of the Cold War were now drawn up on Norwegian soil. The international reference-point for the isolation of the communists was provided by Czechoslovakia. The Norwegian, by Heröya.

The Pro-American Haakon Lie

In 1949 the campaign gained strength, nurtured by the deepening international tension. In the Labour Party a shift in policy took place, away from “bridge-building”, and in order to “sell” the new policy the USA had to be presented in a new and favourable light. Haakon Lie maintained that there had to be an end to the clichés about the USA being “capitalistic”. The USA, he argued, had a government which had gone further in a radical direction than the Norwegian Labour governments.22 Lie paved the way for an uncritical admiration of the USA which can be compared only with the communist adoration of the USSR.

A problem for Lie and for those of a like mind was the fact that a high percentage of Labour Party members were still against the idea of Norway belonging to a western bloc.23 Strong voices in the Labour Party have claimed that the party leadership manipulated the party in order to achieve a majority for joining Nato. Sigurd Evensmo writes about opinion being “pressurised”(24) and Sverre Löberg accuses the party leadership of “deceit” and intellectual coercion.25 The strong discipline within the Labour Party meant that little or none of this became public knowledge. The struggle against communism was to smother all alternatives to a pro-Nato policy. For the average newspaper reader it was difficult not to be influenced by what the papers wrote. In the spring of 1949 reports came steadily in of communist menace in Asia and Southern Europe. And the measures instigated by western governments against the communists created still more fear.

In 1948 the American authorities arrested ten of the leading com­munists in the USA and accused them of wanting to bring down the government.26 Friheten published reports of the hunt for “un­American activities” to show that democratic attitudes in the West were in a poor condition.27 The Americans further set about remov­ing potentially communist UN officers.28 Both in the UK, the USA, the Netherlands and Canada communists were excluded from posts regarded as important for national security.29

The Norwegian Communist Party Destroys Itself

At the parliamentary election in the autumn of 1949 the desire to reduce and isolate the Communist Party was put to the test. Gerhard­sen again went to the attack: “The communists are deliberately work­ing to destroy Norwegian democracy, freedom, and the security of the individual before the law...(30) The Communist Party was alone in defending the USSR and all the Soviet initiatives, including the trials in Eastern Europe. This roused distrust of the Communist Party in Norwegian opinion and reduced the party’s share of the vote from 11.9% in 1945 to 5.8% in 1949. Even so, the campaign did not weaken.

The split in the Communist Party in October fired the campaign anew. The newspaper columns were filled with sensational accounts of the strife within the party. The party general Peder Furubotn was expelled as a “Titoist”, a “Trotskyite” and a “bourgeois nationalist” along with his chief colleagues. A minority of the party leadership expelled the majority.31 The showdown in the Communist Party creat­ed even greater fear of communism in Norway.

The Cold War in Norwegian Working Life

In Morgenbladet on November 10, 1949 the question was raised whether the Home Guard (Heimevernet) should not be “cleaned up” and thus close itself to communists because the latter represented the country’s potential quislings. Mons Haukeland, chief of the Home Guard, gave an assurance that the Home Guard was proof against any danger of a coup and that “unworthy persons” were prevented from holding important positions.32 The implication was that surveil­lance of the communists was under way: there existed procedures for filtering out “unworthy” individuals. But the matter did not stop there. The newspapers demanded more severe tactics. Verdens Gang main­tained that the time had come for the isolation of communists to be no longer restricted to the armed services. By infiltrating civilian life communists in fact gained a better foothold, it was argued33, and Verdens Gang actually demanded that communists should be denied the right to work. Information on the fact that this did occur has emerged through the press and books, though we still know little of the extent to which it happened. One of those who have spoken out on the matter is the one-time personnel director of Norsk Hydro, Magnus Hole Jacobsen. When he was working at the head office of NSB (the state railway company) in 1947, he found that the compa­ny had established a system for the registration and documentation of communists and communist sympathisers among employees.34 Leif Öines from Mo i Rana was undoubtedly one of those affected by this surveillance: he wondered why he did not receive the promotion due to him on account of seniority, which he ought to have been granted in the early 1950s.35 At that time he was a local leader of Nordland Communist Party and in spite of bringing pressure through his own union he failed to get the pay-rise and the pension which were his due.

It seems to have been worse at Norsk Hydro. According to Hole Jacobsen no communists could get work at the head office. No com­munists could be employed without the security services being contact­ed. Information on the political attitude of applicants had to be checked. Hole Jacobsen carried out this work for a long time and he says it was all done by word of mouth. Written instructions did not exist. If one had to make a note of something then the paper would be destroyed soon after.36

Merchant seamen were the hardest hit by the Cold War.37 Many of those who suffered had worked throughout the war on Allied ships or on Norwegian ships under Allied control (i.e. they were out of Norway for the duration of the occupation). In 1950 the struggle against the communists came up on the agenda of the national conference of the Norwegian Seamen’s Union: a proposal was made to exclude communists from paid positions in the union or in branches of the union. Some even wanted to exclude communists outright from the union, but that did not win enough support. The “Stavangerfjord case” tells us more of the situation.38 Four of the crew were refused entry-permits to the USA in 1950, and one of those was a communist union member. Neither the Norwegian authorities nor the union helped them particularly. The cabin-girl Lilli Gjertsen on “Stavangerfjord” criticised the union on that account and her punishment was that the union refused to recognise her election as a union-representative (shop-steward). She persisted nonetheless, but two years later was sacked for allegedly having been drunk in working-hours. Then she was re­fused hire on other Norwegian ships and black-listed. Her appeal to the union was dismissed. She took the matter to court then, and won. The political scientist Per Selle points out that being excluded from the Seamen’s Union had serious consequences, for then one would not be given membership in any other union affiliated to Lands Or­ganisasjonen (LO, equivalent to the British TUC).39 One would not only be excluded from work as a seaman but would also have difficulty in finding any other work. While Nazis were allowed to remain in the merchant navy, the work of a sailor was denied to many of those who had been most active in the naval fighting forces in the war.

When workers who had been penalised in this way took their grievances to court, the press remained silent. The right-wing papers ignored such cases on the grounds that they referred to internal mat­ters in a union. The Labour Party press chose not to comment on infringements of this kind exercised against left-wing “deviants”. Selle writes: “In the 1940s and 1950s internal union affairs was something one could not ask a right-wing newspaper to take up — doing so would be tantamount to class-treachery, no matter how severe the oppression may have been”.40 Those who “deviated” found them­selves in a dilemma: they could be subjected to outright personal har­rassment yet could expect no help >from a silent press.

The Law on the Slippery Slope

In November 1949 there occurred a startling episode in the history of Norwegian legal practice when Gerhardsen’s Fredrikstad speech was used as the basis for a judgement in a libel case brought against Mor­genbladet. In the course of spring 1948 this newspaper had published a number of articles in which it was claimed that “the communists constitute a danger to the security of the North”.41 Several named communists had felt themselves to be libelled by the articles and took the paper to court. Their case was dismissed on the grounds that Gerhardsen’s speech gave sufficient basis for it to be maintained that “at least leading communists represent a danger to the security of the Scandinavian countries”. The judgement caused anxiety to those outside communist ranks as well. In his article “The Law on the Slip­pery Slope” Helge Seip argued that the judgement was unusual and that the courts ought to be cautious in handing down judgements-of­opinion “which, in keeping with the nature of Norwegian law, belong to the authority of the electors”.42

There were also several non-communists who reacted against the conviction of treason brought against the communist paper Arbeidet in Bergen in May 1949. The background was the stance of the Com­munist Party in 1940 with its condemnation of the military activity of the Nygaardsvold government. What was remarkable about the judgement in Bergen was that it ignored the undeniable fact that the editor had herself been in the resistence movement. Nonetheless the court condemned Johanna Bugge Olsen to a conditional prison sen­tence and to the loss of citizen’s rights for ten years.43 It is part of the same story that the authorities also tried to have Friheten con­demned for treason on the basis of evidence from 1940. The problem there was that at that time the paper had another name (Arbeideren) and the editor, Henry W. Kristiansen, died in a German concentration camp.44 Much larger newspapers — such as Aftenposten — had ob­liged the Germans throughout the occupation and they escaped prosecution.45

The Emergency Powers

In the spring of 1948 the defence budget was given an extra 100 million Crowns, of which 8 million went to the police to enable them to prevent a communist coup.46 Work on the emergency laws —“readiness laws” — accelerated. The background was the menacing international climate, a feeling that communism was on the march not only in Europe but also in Asia — especially in Korea — in the summer of 1950”.(47) Just five years had passed since Norway had been at war, and the fear of war, still very much alive, spread quickly with renewed vigour. In August 1950 proposals for forms of martial law were ready in Norway, parallel to similar proposals in other NATO countries. It was openly admitted that such measures were directed against the communists.48

The latter were regarded as fair game, politically, as when Arnulf Överland went to the attack at a public meeting in Stavanger. He said that the Norwegian Communist Party “today consists of people incapable of adaptation; of chronically dissatisfied (applause), incompe­tent, asocial individuals; of unhappy, quarrelsome neurotics (laugh­ter)”.49

The proposed laws would allow for the death penalty after summary judgement, something to which even the worst of the Nazi torturers were not subjected in the war-trials which followed the end of the occupation. The death-penalty could be carried out twenty-four hours after sentence and the condemned were to have no right of appeal. Proof could be based on “material which in part is — and must be — confidential...”,. Anonymous and unverifiable informing could be undertaken. On the basis of quite undefined forms of authority, and at short notice, and without parliamentary approval, such laws could set aside the constitution. There was also talk of rules for the control of printed matter, in other words the infringement of press freedom. Had these proposals become law then any claim that the laws exist to secure freedom and security would be farcical. The right-wing Stavangeren supported the government’s proposals and argued that the communists could not claim legal protection under the constitution.(50)

Initially these challenging proposals from the government roused no great debate. The conservative Farmand took this as proof of “how apathetic and dull the Norwegian public and the Norwegian press had become”.51 But gradually the situation changed. There developed a feeling that the laws could be used against any sort of opposition. Sharp words were heard, at work, in petitions, in leading newspapers, from intellectuals — in both radical and conservative camps.

Dagbladet was a mouthpiece for those who were against the pro­posed laws. The paper wrote that one could not use communist and Nazi methods in order to defend democracy. The laws would permit the growth of a police state “which can do whatever it wants with its citizens”.52

The sharpest reactions led to certain formal amendments, such as the removal of the death penalty. Nonetheless the justice committees were unwilling to give up the use of capital punishment altogether:

in fact the committee wanted to implement measures which would enable the use of the death penalty “if the situation demanded it”.53 This remarkable piece of legislation was carried through because —it was said — capital punishment could have unfortunate psychological consequences if it were a permanent part of our legal system.

Winning over Public Opinion

After the introduction of the emergency laws Prime Minister Gerhard­sen, speaking in the Norwegian Parliament on September 15, launched what he called a campaign for winning over public opinion.54.This ought to involve the press, schools, churches, cultural and youth or­ganisations. Gerhardsen said that the campaign was directed against the communists (“who in war will join our enemies”. In parliament too there came before Odelsting (alternative house of Norwegian legis­lature) a proposal on so-called “P-defence” (psychological defence). Those behind it included Lieut. Claus G.M. Coren, who in an inter­view in Nationen (20 October 1950) spoke of two elements in “P­-defence”, black and white propaganda. An important aspect of black propaganda (i.e. deception) was that it often produced quick results. During the war Coren was a lieutenant in the Linge Company and had special training in this field - “in a trusted position in the secret British department which was responsible for psychological warfare...”. He thus had certain qualifications for contributing to a Norwegian equivalent. In the recommendation to the parliamentary military com­mittee, it seemed as if such methods were already in use against the Norwegian people. In par. 11.4 one could read that Norwegian offensive propaganda measures directed at the Norwegian population and at the enemy were not included in the document under discussion.55

Underground Struggle

What people generally did not know was that beneath the political surface a number of secret groups were at work on the communists. Since the late 1970s a flood of newspaper articles and interviews have suggested that western intelligence agencies were involved. William Colby, once head of the CIA, mentioned, for instance, secret American groups in Norway — called “Stay Behind”.56 Retd. naval capt. Alf Martens Meyer told Vi Menn that intelligence chief Wilhelm Evang asked him in 1947 to apply for leave from his post at the naval school in order to build up a network of independent “partisan groups” in Norway.57 Millions of Crowns were obtained to supply these groups with arms and equipment, claimed Meyer. As many as several thou­sand Norwegians are said to have received such training in clandestine resistance fighting — against other Norwegians.

The author Sam O. Kjenne told Klassekampen of another secret organisation, “Antikominform”.58 He said that this nation-wide or­ganisation was set up first with former Milorg people who had carried out intelligence work in the war. In 1948 about 2,000 men were in­volved in this. They cooperated with the American Embassy and were well-supplied with funds. They had illegal shooting practice, trained in sabotage and planned how, for example, to take over the national broadcasting company. They were preparing themselves against a com­munist coup and a Russian invasion. They broke into the Polish Em­bassy and known communists were put on liquidation lists — 200 of them in the eastern-central area of Norway alone, says Kjenne. They are said to have been given the names by people who had previ­ously worked in Milorg’s intelligence network (XU).

Until we have more detailed knowledge of these clandestine activities against the communists we cannot fully appreciate the extent to which communism was feared in Norway during the Cold War. One impor­tant area to be investigated is the claim that the Labour Party had its own intelligence and surveillance apparatus alongside the state ap­paratus. Such a Labour Party apparatus is supposed to have tried in particular to control communist influence on the Trade Union move­ment, parallel with the control of the left wing of the party itself. It is also supposed to have cooperated with the official surveillance service. Several prominent individuals have maintained that the Labour Party carried out such activities, among them ex-intelligence agent and Morgenbladet editor Christian Christensen (Det henmelige Norge

The Secret Norway, Oslo 1983), and most recently the well-known Labour Party politician Ronald Bye in his book Sersjanten - The Ser­geant (Oslo, 1987). One-time Centre Party Prime Minister Per Borten has pointed out that it is “cause for concern in a-democracy” when there are “direct and special connections”, between the intelligence and surveillance services and a political party. In this context it is interest­ing to note that in a broadcast on the national network Borten claimed that individuals at the top of the civil service, and even in the Supreme Court, had told “untruths”, on the question of political surveillance in Norway.(59)

The Effects in the Labour Party

The unconditional admiration for the USSR evinced by the com­munists gave people cause to assume that in a major European conflict the communists would take the Soviet side. But it is not difficult to show that the fight against the communists had motives beyond those required by considerations of national security. For the govern­ing party the Cold War was an ideal opportunity to crush a trouble­some competitor which had threatened the power of the Labour Party in 1945-46. The anti-communist campaign may thus be viewed as an element in the tactics of dominance practiced by the party in power.

What has not been clear to many is that Haakon Lie in particular used the same campaign for decades to smother internal opposition in the party. He left his stamp on a whole generation of Labour

Party and Trade Union representatives who came to be labelled “yes­men”. They earned this nickname because they were more loyal to directives from Lie’s Labour Party secretariat than to their own reason and conscience. More than anyone else Haakon Lie came to symbolise the struggle against the communists on Norwegian soil. “Haakon Lie methods” became a concept which is still alive in the l980s.(60)

Press revelations in the autumn of 1987 and the spring of 1988 have made it clear that Lie played a central role in the introduction of the Cold War into Norwegian politics, with signs of his having cooperated directly with the American intelligence service. Given the manner in which, for a long period and on a nationwide basis, he dominated the internal affairs of the Labour Party61, one could ask what harm he has caused the party, both ideologically and in terms of personal political careers.

Lasting Harm?

It is perhaps not difficult to show that lies, false rumours and the sowing of suspicion were permitted in Norway in order to paralyse lines of thought which could lead to potential alternatives to official government policy during the Cold War. Through political surveillance fear spread throughout society and damaged the general fabric of democratic social debate. We know that damage of such a kind was more or less apparent in work-places, in the confrontations between communists and Labour Party members. But there is no reason to suppose that it was only political life that was adversely affected by the Cold War. We can ask, for instance, what happened in cultural matters - for in 1950 Gerhardsen had sought to involve Norwegian cultural organisations in his proposed campaign to stimulate a harder attitude towards the communists. We know from American experience that the Cold War infringed on research so strongly that important scholarly and scientific areas were closed to discussion, and such a situation continued right into the l970s.62

From our own Norwegian academic milieu Yngvar Ustvedt tells of what he describes as an ominous atmosphere in the early 1950s.63

We ought now to examine whether the Cold War had a baleful in­fluence on academic research, in, for example, historical studies. Since historians by and large lay the foundation for generally held attitudes, it is important to clarify this issue for the public.

Norwegian historians have not been slow in tackling the question of the Cold War and Norwegian security in relation to other countries after 1947: in this field detailed research has been carried out.(64) But the question of how the Cold War affected the domestic processes in Norway has not been raised, and the reason can hardly be said to be that the area is not important. Its importance is confirmed, indeed, by the weight and extent of newspaper coverage devoted to it since the late 1970s. Could it be that the after-effects of the Cold War are still hampering Norwegian historians? We should perhaps also ask if historians during the Cold War were encouraged to avoid <dangerous” subjects of research or in some other way allowed the Cold War to determine the lines of historical investigation. We can further ask if the Cold War influenced the attitudes which lecturers in history at universities and colleges passed on directly or indirectly to the new generations of historians after 1950. It is interesting that when the Students’ Union in Oslo opened in the autumn term of 1950 the chairman said that he “was mortally afraid of war and such an anxiety would set its mark on the whole spectrum of academic life...”(65)

When Did the Cold War End?

Jens Haugland, Minister of Justice from 1955 to 1963, has called this period a dark part of our history. But we may ask also — When in fact did the Cold War end in Norway? Have we really done away with the methods then employed, or are they still with us? When Soviet society has recently dared to be more open about much darker aspects of its history, shouldn’t we have the courage to scrutinise Norwegian politics during the Cold War?

New tensions in international relations may well develop. Next time it may be others than communists who are cast in the role of traitors or scapegoats. We must therefore clearly see the basic destructive mechanisms at work in political and social debate in that period: the anti-communist campaign as a legitimation of dictatorial tactics and of methods which otherwise would not be accepted as normal in Nor­wegian politics. With such an insight we can possibly vaccinate our­selves against the new kinds of McCarthyism or other “isms” which can poison our political atmosphere. The fundamental question is whether we can devise some permanent defence against those who want to use other people’s anxiety as a means of securing their own political power.

(Translation from the Norwegian by Robin Fulton)

1. See the accounts of court proceedings in Laszlo Rajk and his Accomplices before the People’s Court, Budapest, 1949.

2. R.H. Rovere, Senator Joe McCarthy, Ohio, 1970, 11th ed., p. 271.

3. N.M. Udgaard, Great Power Politics and Norwegian Foreign Policy, Oslo, 1973, pp. 25-29, 98, 158-63, 175-76.

4. K.E. Eriksen, Dna og Nato, Oslo, 1972, p. 21-23.

5. Ibid., p. 41.

6. Udgaard, op. cit., p. 228.

7. Eriksen, Op. Cit., p. 69.

8. T. Bergh, Storhetstid, vol. 5 of Arbeiderbevegelsen.s historie i Norge, Oslo, 1987, P. 20.

9. Udgaard, op. Cit., pp. 227-28.

10. Eriksen, Op. Cit., p. 76.

11. Bergh, op. Cit., p. 20.

12. K. Kaplan, The Short March, London, 1987.

13. Arbeidsplassen, March 1948.

14. Udgaard, op. cit., p. 229.

15. R. Knutsen, Statsbaerende og opposisjonell reformisme, Tidskrzft for arbeider­bevegelsens historie, n. 21, 1977.

16. Interview with Anker Nordbö, 21 February 1976, transcribed by T.T. Nordbd was one of the strike leaders.

17. J. Björgum, Norsk Kjemisk Industriarbeiderforbund gjennom 50 aar, Oslo, 1973, p. 366.

18. Ibid., p. 375.

19. Friheten, 25 September 1948.

20. I. Hagerup, Friheten, 11 October 1948. See Knutsen, p. 42 ff.

21. Arbeiderbladet, 2 October 1948.

22. Eriksen, op. Cit., p. 43.

23. Ibid., p. 263.

24. S. Evensmo, Ut I kulda, Oslo, 1978, p. 116.

25. Eriksen, op. cit., p. 236.

26. Arbeiderbladet, 9 February 1949.

27. Friheten, 6 August 1949, ~Mot demokratiet> and 25 October 1949 dustismord~.

28. S. Sjblyst, Krigslov og dodsstraff, unpublished thesis, Oslo, 1971, p. 22.

29. Ibid., pp. 22-23.

30. Arbeiderbladet, 14 September 1949.

31. T. Halvorsen, NKP I krise, Oslo, 1981, p. 32. See also T. Titlestad, <Paa vaggen hangde kulsprutepistolen. . . ~, Meddelande fraan arbetarrörelsens arkiv och bibliotek, ns. 10-11, Stockholm, 1980. See further T. Titlestad, <Ein moderne hekseprosess~, in Syn og Segn, n. 9, 1979.

32. Morgenbladet, 10 November 1949.

33. Verdens Gang, 3 November 1949.

34. M.H. Jacobsen til Friheten, 21 January 1988.

35. Conversation with, and letter to, T.T., 1978.

36. Jacobsen to Friheten, 21 January 1988.

37. Bergh, op. cit., p. 303.

38. L. Vetlesen, Reis ingen monumenter, Oslo, 1981, pp. 147-55.

39. P. Selle, <Northraship i den kalde krigern>, in Syn og Segn, n. 3, 1982, p. 174.

40. Ibid., pp. 174-75.

41. Morgenbladet, 4 May 1948 and 17 May 1948.

42. Dagbladet, 26 November 1949.

43. K. Skjaer in a study of the case against Arbejdet, in Kontrast, n. 1, 1975, pp. 59-63.

44. Oslo politikammer, landssvikavd. R.L. j. nr. 1402/48. ~Arbeideren>) — Hs/Bgk, also document from Andr. Aulie, 6 March 1948, riksadvokatembetet

45. B. Calmeyer and 0. Mathisen, Aftenposten, Oslo, 1974, pp. 54-57.

46. Eriksen, op. cit., p. 76.

47. Sjolyst, Op. cit., p. 13.

48. Arbeiderbladet, 14 September 1950.

49. Stavangeren, 8 June 1950.

50. Ibid.

51. Farmand, 2 September 1950.

52. Dagbladet, cited here according to Y. Ustvedt, Den varme freden den kalde krigen, Oslo, 1978, p. 402.

53. K.E. Eriksen and others, Etterkrigshistorie, I, Oslo, 1950, p. 174.

54. Forhandlinger i Stortinget nr. 242, Oslo, 1950, 1929.

55. P.M. om nOdvendigheten av forsvar mot den psykologiske krigforing. Forslag

111 organisasjon av dette forsvar med kostnadsoverslag. Submitted to the military com­mittee of the Norwegian Parliament by Guttorm Granum (Con.) in October 1950.

56. W. Colby, My Life in the CIA, New York, 1978.

57. Vi Menn, n. 27, 1978.

58. Klassekampen, 22 May 1978.

59. Borten, in an interview with Aftenposten, 16 November 1987.

60. Stavanger Aftenbkzd, 10 April 1987.

61. J. Haugland, Dagbok fraa kongens raad, Oslo, 1986, pp. 83, 257.

62. H. Pharo, USA og den kalde krigen, Oslo, 1972, pp. 8-9.

63. See Friheten, 13 October 1987.

64. See H. Pharo’s survey <(The Cold War in Norwegian and International Historical Research~, in Scandinavian Journal of History, n. 3, 1985.

65. Ustvedt, op. cit., p. 402.


Dokument nr. 15(1995-96), Report to the Parliament from the commission, appointed by the Parliament to investigate allegations of illegal surveillance on Norwegian citizens (the Lund-report), published by the presidency of the Parliament, 28.3.1996, Oslo 1996, 624 pages.

ii Dokument nr. 15, Oslo 1996: 570-73.

iii Dokument nr. 15, Oslo 1996: 573-86.

iv Dokument nr. 15, Oslo 1996: 67.

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