Tjen Folket, and first and foremost it’s leadership would like to self-criticize for providing a platform for the abuser Bård Frantzen, and would like to unconditionally apologize to victims known and unknown.
Bård Eskild Frantzen was excluded from Tjen Folket in december 2011 for sexist harassment of Nora Warholm. She was 16 years old at the time Frantzen called her a “whore” and told her to kill herself.
This was the third time he was strictly and formally disciplined by the organization. In december of 2010, he had to withdraw from all regional positions after a bus trip with SOS Rasisme. During this trip, he harassed several persons and threatened to throw an activist off the bus without their phone at a random place in Sweden. During the summer of 2011 he had to withdraw from all other held positions, and was given the choice between leaving the organization, or moving from Oslo to Haugesund after repeatedly bullying young activists in Oslo.
In the period prior to this, from 2007 to 2011, he had to submit formal written self-criticisms for his behaviour a number of times, and apologize for his behaviour against people both within and outside the organization. For example, after he engaged in sexist harassment against the general secretary of Rød Ungdom (the youth wing of the social democratic party “Rødt”), and after he engaged in severe harassment of an appointed official in the party “Rødt”. The full list of such violations is likely to be very long, and we don’t have the full scope of it, but among these is a series of violent threats against several different persons.
Frantzen was a long-time member of RV, Rød Ungdom, And AKP before joining Tjen Folket ( RV is the now defunct “Red electoral alliance” and AKP is the now defunct “Worker’s communist party”). He has previously been excluded and/or suspended for violence - we believe it to be around the year 2000. By 2007 he was long since reinstated as a member and was even elected as a representative of a regional committee in AKP - Oslo. There, he was responsible for the education of young party members.
When he first joined Tjen Folket, several anonymous persons warned us that he was an abuser and a dangerous person. This wasn’t taken seriously by us. Partially, we believed these warnings to be exaggerations and gossip, partially we believed that everyone can change and should be given the opportunity to do so. We now know this to be a mistake on our part. We should have taken this much more seriously.
As an example, we received knowledge about violence, at times quite severe, against more or less random people. This should have been handled seriously, even though most of the episodes occurred in the relative past.
In hindsight it came to our knowledge that his abusive behaviour was known amongst several people in RV/Rød Ungdom/AKP, without it being handled properly. This was talked about informally, but throughout several years he was allowed to be a part of these circles (first from the mid 90-ies, and then from around 2000 until 2007). We don’t have any insight into the details, but he participated in events hosted by Rød Ungdom in 2000 and held positions within AKP during the last years before the party’s disbandment in 2007. He was also a part of the social circles around and within AKP - Oslo around that time.
In our society it is common for male chauvinists and abusers to be protected and excused by others. We see this in political parties as well, where the accused pedophile and Mayor of Vågå from Arbeiderpartiet (the labor party) was protected by his local party, or when the mayor of Os from Frp (the progress party) was never excluded and was allowed to continue as mayor, even though he molested a young intoxicated girl at a party meeting. Today he’s a minister. We have to realise that, unfortunately, this sort of culture has characterized our handling of Frantzen before we finally made the decision to exclude him.
About a month before the exclusion of Frantzen, and very shortly after we rejected his application for potential future reinstatement (january 2012), he contacted the police and the newspaper “Dagbladet” to avenge himself against Tjen Folket and SOS Rasisme. There he “confirmed” the media’s smears against us, as well as roughly “confirming” the content of the authorities’ accusations against SOS Rasisme. He handed the names of communists to the police (and media), and gave them his version of how the organization was structured and how it functioned.
Throughout 2012 he contacted journalists and police investigators several times, and participated in several interactions with police, media, and other authorities. He became an eager informant, determined to damage several persons and an entire political movement, saying he wouldn’t quit until Tjen Folket was gone.
In addition to being an informant and engaging in chauvinist abuse, he had another distinguishing trait; namely political opportunism. In 2006, Frantzen was an eager proponent of merging RV and AKP into one party (which later became “Rødt”). This eagerness subsided when he wasn’t suggested as a candidate for the new leadership in Oslo. He then sought out Tjen Folket, and became active in our organization. In Tjen Folket, he was for a long time an almost overly eager supporter of the general line and the leadership. So “eager”, in fact, that he on his own initiative harassed young members into “following the leadership’s line”. This changed in 2010 when the criticism against him mounted. As his position weakened, he became more and more “oppositional”, ending in him trying to create an internal “left” fraction inspired by third-worldism and Gotfred Appel’s “moocher-state” theories.
The fractionary behaviour culminated in a group of young members leaving Tjen Folket in the fall of 2012, saying they would start a blog and a magazine called “Illojal Europeer” (Disloyal European), inspired by Appel’s theories. In their withdrawal letter they claimed that they did not have any contact with Frantzen, but later the leaders of the fraction (Mikkel Frostad and Kim Kopperud) - just like Frantzen - went to the police and media, at times together with Frantzen. They also tried to seize the organization “indiasolidaritet” together with him. Kim Kopperud was still demonstrably a close friend of Frantzen in 2016.
Frantzen, while espousing a “left” critique of Tjen Folket, wanted to have a more rightist praxis. Since the working class in the west was bribed by imperialism, then Tjen Folket had to maximally prioritize a broad front and non-revolutionary agitation without challenging the power. This opportunist practise was shown when he made a deal with the police to save his own skin during an anti-nazi demonstration, while other antifascists (among other from the Blitz-movement) refused to move and were arrested.
After the exclusion more stories emerged, among others of him hitting a young activist and countless episodes of him talking about grotesque fantasies about violence, murder and torture.
When confronted with his behaviour, he explained it with a tragic upbringing and psychological issues he should have sought help for. He promised to improve and eventually came up with a concrete plan for how this would happen. He was largely just stalling, and often got away with it.
We believe these traits to be typical for this type of men: 1. Chauvinism, sexism, aggressive harassment and violence against people they believe they should dominate (Women, youth, immigrants, the poor). 2. Informant activity and snitching to get off easy, to procure privileges or money, or as revenge for when they are exposed as abusers. 3 Political opportunism, where politics are shaped in accordance to personal ambition and interest. A Machiavellian, cynical approach to politics.
The leadership of Tjen Folket wishes to perform a collective self-criticism for letting such a person get a platform and an organization to operate in. We ask for forgiveness from comrades who suffered abuse and harassment. We ask for forgiveness from friends of the organization for putting them in an embarrassing position. And we ask for forgiveness from people outside the organization who fell victim to his abuse and harassment. We had a responsibility we took way too late.
We need to learn from this, and we need to spread this lesson outside our organization so that others have a real opportunity to isolate abusers from their ranks. We do not want to blame others for our mistakes, but we wish AKP would have taken Frantzen seriously, excluded him and warned others about him. It is excellent for the abuser when cases like these are handled internally and kept “behind closed doors”. It allows them to move on to other organizations and expose new people to danger. This makes them able to deny and explain away their behaviour when people are not familiar with their larger history, but rather with only one or a few examples.
We learned the following lessons from this:
The can’t be any tolerance for people who behave in an arrogant manner, and trample on others, who harass and hurl abuse. These are traits found in many abusers. It should be a way of conduct that’s alien to all revolutionaries, and revolutionary leaders in particular. We want people to rebel against oppressors. Therefore, we can not build our organizations with people who oppress women, youth, or other groups facing systemic risks. We can not overlook that these kinds of people participate in progressive organizations, as their mere presence will pose a danger for people.
When faced with warnings or suspicion of abuse like bullying, harassment, threats or violence, the accused should be suspended. As long as the case is being handled, potential abusers can’t participate in gatherings or activities alongside other activists, as they pose a potential threat to others. The fact that an investigation might take a long time is not an excuse for “business as usual”. Abuse is very serious, not “just” for the victims, but for the entire organization. Reporting future incidents becomes more difficult if one knows that the person you want to report will participate in the same gatherings and activities as oneself while the case is being handled. If the person turns out to be innocent, then they can use the break from the organization to do something else productive while awaiting acquittal.
Exposed abusers should be totally isolated from the community, both politically and socially. Isolating politically while including them socially is not an option. Abusers are dangerous, they pose both a physical and psychological threat to others. Their mere presence alienates their victims from the same community. As potential agents and informants they also pose a grave security risk. People lacking in scruples and inhibitions in their relations to others’ health and life quickly become enemies of the people, and have to be isolated from pro-people organizations.
It’s not enough to isolate the abuser alone. Their political and social circles of associates have to be isolated as well. People like this systematically engage in manipulation and scheming. If they’re unable to exercise their power and influence directly, then they seek to do it through other people. As such their friends should also not be permitted to participate in progressive political organizations. If people are unable to distance themselves from abusers, they become the abuser’s sidekicks, enabling future abuse. They put others in danger, trivialize the abuse and cast suspicion on the victims.
Many victims of abuse report that the abuse isn’t necessarily the worst part, the worst part is seeing the abuser being allowed to carry on as before, and associate with others as if nothing happened. To give room for abusers can become abuse in it’s own right.
To be indifferent to how such persons are handled is very dangerous. One puts oneself in a position where one’s own indifference or cowardice puts other people in danger, contributing to the long history of patriarchy and class society trampling the victims and excusing the abusers. Proletarian revolution and red power, women’s struggle and people’s power stands in direct opposition to all forms of chauvinism and abuse.
Left-oriented and radical movements where people say they’re against sexism and chauvinism need to show this in practice. If not, then one lets bourgeois and patriarchal structures flourish within one’s own movement. It becomes alienating and oppressive to anyone who’s trampled upon under such structures. Such movements become unsafe for women, LGBTQ-people, youth, and others. One shouldn’t receive some extra “quota” for mistakes just because one pays lip-service to the struggle against such oppressive structures. One shouldn’t get away with sexist abuse just because one talks like a feminist in the right places. What practice people have is more important than the words they know and use.
Our conclusion to the Frantzen case is that we ask for forgiveness from all who we have contributed to hurting with our mistakes, both inside and outside Tjen Folket. We realise that not everyone will accept this apology, and we can’t blame them for this. Furthermore, we would like to conclude by saying that we will not stray from our duty to isolate Frantzen and his associates from political work in progressive and pro-people organizations. We will warn all radicals against any involvement with him and any of his potential allies.
Our general conclusion is that we - and all other radical movements - need to treat abusers seriously. Such people pose a mortal danger to both isolated individuals and to organizations. Potential abusers need to be suspended while the investigation is ongoing. Exposed abusers need to be totally isolated from the movement. Their associates need to be isolated as well. Anything else is cowardly and dangerous.