“Everyone” loves NATO. Rødt – Dagsavisen does not do that

– It can be difficult to be against NATO in a time marked by a war mood in Europe. But it feels first and foremost important, says Marie Sneve Martinussen, when Dagsavisen talks to her in connection with the fact that these days it is ten years since she was elected deputy head of Rødt.

Martinussen herself thinks she has been involved in an “adventurous development” these years after 2012. Rødt’s parliamentary group has grown from one to eight, and in the months after the last parliamentary election has marked itself as both a clearly visible and audible opposition party on the left. A lot has changed for Rødt. But not the opposition to NATO. It’s stuck.

Got shut up

It does so despite the fact that the Ukraine war has led to historically great support for NATO both in Norway and in Europe, and at a time when our neighboring countries Finland and Sweden are currently doing everything to become the alliance’s new members. SV is divided on the issue, but the party agreed to send weapons to Ukraine, and has opened up for an internal debate on Norway’s NATO membership until the next national meeting. In Red, there are no such plans. On the contrary, the leadership has been scolded by key party members because they have said that Rødt will not report Norway out of NATO now, until the national defense has been strengthened. Martinussen and a large majority in Rødt’s national board support this line, but is clear that she does not want Norway to stay in NATO. Where NATO presents itself as a defense alliance, Martinussen sees a military alliance that has at times waged a war of aggression.

– Red is an anti-imperialist party that does not want a war of aggression, and we do not want that no matter who starts that war of aggression, says Martinussen, and recalls NATO’s previous involvement in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

– Especially in times of war and crisis, it is important to have an open debate on these issues of principle. It is in crisis that you need your principles the most. We must not be a nation involved in a war of aggression. Explaining such a peace position in a time of war, I think is especially important now, says Martinussen, and thinks in particular that the Storting will soon take a position on a supplementary agreement with the United States on defense cooperation. The agreement will give the United States the right to use in peacetime the bases at Sola, Evenes, Rygge and Ramsund.

– The most concrete issue for Norway now is this base agreement that will be discussed in the Storting. There, Rødt and several others believe that Norway is about to break a provision we have had after World War II, that foreign military powers should not be based on Norwegian soil in peacetime. This has been an important part of Norwegian foreign and security policy, which we may now be in the process of breaking. Having an open and critical debate about something as important as the country’s security is so important, she believes.

Dagsavisen refers to the opinion poll this winter, which stated that a majority of Rødt’s own voters are in favor of a Norwegian NATO membership.

– We also discuss security policy in Rødt. Failure to do so will result in more religious incantations than political views. Support for NATO is greater in Norway now than ever, so I would assume that this also applies to some of Rødt’s members. But I have not met anyone in Rødt who is in favor of Norwegian NATO membership, says Martinussen.

Hope for a new spring

Dagsavisen meets deputy leader Martinussen in her office in Rødt’s wing in the Storting, which they took over from the Conservatives after the last parliamentary election.

– I’m sitting in Heidi Nordby Lunde’s office! She had left a Conservative poster for me as a greeting, Martinussen says with a smile. An election result of 4.7 percent sent Rødt over the magic barrier for the very first time, and thus gave a count of eight representatives and access to its own small wing in the Storting. But the start of Marie Sneve Martinussen and Rødt’s “adventurous development” in 2012 was not all the world.

– When I became deputy leader in 2012, we had a hope for renewal and a new spring for our movement. That hope was pretty hard shattered during the subsequent parliamentary elections in 2013. Then we got the worst result ever, with 1.1 percent, says Martinussen.

– But we still stuck to our plan, to make Red a people’s movement, with the fight against Difference Norway as one of the most important issues. Since that election, we have had continuous growth in opinion polls. We have quadrupled support, we have increased the number of members of the Storting eightfold, and we have increased the number of members tenfold. I think this is proof that we were right: We are a movement that is needed in Norway, says Martinussen.

After the election, Rødt grew even more in the polls, and in a poll in early February, Rødt became the country’s third largest party, with as much as 10.3 percent in the February poll from Opinion. Had this been the election result, Rødt would have gone from 8 to 18 representatives in the Storting.

– This is a historic day for Rødt, and that is perhaps how it feels to win an Olympic gold, said party leader Bjørnar Moxnes to FriFagbevegelse, and happy Rødt people ate cake.

Then came the war.

The noise around Steigan

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the mood in Norwegian politics changed. “All” Norwegian parties called for Norwegian NATO membership and agreed to send weapons to Ukraine, but not Red. In the weeks after the outbreak of war, Red began to fall in the polls. Then came the commotion around the website Steigan.no, which is criticized for reproducing Russian propaganda and conspiracy theories, and a spotlight was placed on links between members of Rødt and Steigan.no.

– I think this is a somewhat distorted picture. We are one of the few parties that have advanced after the election. Since Christmas, we have been around six percent all the time, says Martinussen to Dagsavisen. She is unsure of the extent to which the Steigan debate has harmed Rødt, but she is also very clear about where Rødt stands:

– Red is not for censorship. People need to be allowed to write whatever they want on the internet. But Steigan.no is a political project, which must withstand political criticism. In the same way that I criticize Resett for being idiots, we must also be able to criticize Steigan, says Martinussen.

– People in Red are otherwise the main critics of Steigan.no. They see the widespread racism, how harmful these corona conspiracy theories are, and last but not least: Steigan has passed on Russian propaganda.

Pål Steigan, who is the editor-in-chief of Steigan. no, says in a comment to Dagsavisen that the website is not a project, but an independent online newspaper.

– We have nothing against criticism from anyone, nor from Rødt’s management. But what they are doing is not criticizing. They do not document a single claim. They try to gag us by forcing members not to support us. There is an attack on the free press! says Steigan, who flatly denies all allegations of racism on the site, and that he is spreading Russian propaganda and corona conspiracy theories.

– Rødt’s leadership is attacking us because we are the leading opposition newspaper in Norway and that we are punching holes in the prevailing stories, Steigan says to Dagsavisen.

Russian friends

At the same time, Martinussen, who himself grew up in the Norwegian-Russian border landscape Sør-Varanger, believes that Norway should support and cooperate with Russians even during this sanction period. When she was active in Nature and Youth, she had good contact with Russian youth across the border, and she herself has several Russian friends.

– It is very important to distinguish between those you want to hit and those you want to support. We must support the Russian peace movement, we must support the Russian opposition, we must support the Russian dissidents, we must support independent journalists. But then we must hit the authoritarian regime. I know many people who participate in Barents cooperation in the north know this nuance well. But Sør-Varanger municipality has of course broken off cooperation with its former Russian friendship municipalities. That is absolutely right, and there one must have a hard line between what is the regime and what is the popular opposition in Russia. They are weak in the beginning, and now they can get 15 years in prison for saying the word “war”. I know that my regime – critical friends in Russia are having a terrible time now.

NATO-friendly spirit of the times

Red, on the other hand, is not so bad, despite the fact that they have fallen in the polls and are not at all in step with the NATO-friendly spirit of the time.

– I think we have very good opportunities to mark ourselves and grow. When I started as deputy chairman of Rødt, we had 1.1 per cent in the Storting election. So far, we have been around six percent every single month so far this year. 2022 has so far been the best year Red has ever had.

– So it’s not a pity on you?

– No not at all! Many are concerned about the class differences in Norway, and they have not disappeared even though there is war in Ukraine. They know that Rødt is taking the fight against Forskjells-Norge. I think that is the reason why we are still at 6 percent – even though we are against NATO, says Martinussen, and adds:

– There are many who are having a hard time at the moment. People of Ukraine, the Ukrainian refugees, the Russian opposition. It is not Red who is having a “difficult time”.

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