The Cold War
in Norwegian Politics
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Turning-Point: the Crisis in Czechoslovakia
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
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 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
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
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
Communist Party Destroys Itself
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
in the Labour Party
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
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
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
When Did the
Cold War End?
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.
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.
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.
8. T. Bergh, Storhetstid,
vol. 5 of Arbeiderbevegelsen.s historie i Norge, Oslo,
1987, P. 20.
op. Cit., pp. 227-28.
10. Eriksen, Op. Cit., p.
op. Cit., p. 20.
Kaplan, The Short March, London, 1987.
13. Arbeidsplassen, March
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
17. J. Björgum, Norsk
Kjemisk Industriarbeiderforbund gjennom 50 aar, Oslo, 1973, p.
18. Ibid., p. 375.
19. Friheten, 25
20. I. Hagerup, Friheten, 11
October 1948. See Knutsen, p. 42 ff.
21. Arbeiderbladet, 2
22. Eriksen, op. Cit., p.
23. Ibid., p. 263.
24. S. Evensmo, Ut I kulda,
Oslo, 1978, p. 116.
25. Eriksen, op. cit.,
26. Arbeiderbladet, 9
27. Friheten, 6 August
1949, ~Mot demokratiet> and 25 October 1949 dustismord~.
28. S. Sjblyst, Krigslov og
dodsstraff, unpublished thesis, Oslo, 1971, p. 22.
30. Arbeiderbladet, 14
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.
32. Morgenbladet, 10
33. Verdens Gang, 3
34. M.H. Jacobsen til Friheten,
21 January 1988.
with, and letter to, T.T., 1978.
to Friheten, 21 January 1988.
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.
4 May 1948 and 17 May 1948.
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,
45. B. Calmeyer and 0.
Mathisen, Aftenposten, Oslo, 1974, pp. 54-57.
46. Eriksen, op. cit., p. 76.
47. Sjolyst, Op. cit.,
48. Arbeiderbladet, 14
49. Stavangeren, 8 June
51. Farmand, 2 September
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.
22 May 1978.
59. Borten, in an
interview with Aftenposten, 16 November 1987.
60. Stavanger Aftenbkzd, 10
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.
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.
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.
Dokument nr. 15, Oslo 1996: 570-73.
Dokument nr. 15, Oslo 1996: 573-86.
Dokument nr. 15, Oslo 1996: 67.