In the days following the terrorist massacre by Anders Behring Breivik, the most extraordinary thing has happened — the killer has not only confessed to his crimes, but claimed them proudly as a meaningful act; he had written a long and clear explanation of his worldview before the mass killing, and circulated it widely — indeed the killing was in some way in service to his “manifesto” 2083: A European Declaration of Independence.

After the killing he explained how the act was in service to his political goals — that it was not an enraged spasm of anger, nor a racial attack, but a coolly planned outrage, its excessive nature designed to catalyse radical action.

Far from being a mix of impulse, emotion and opportunism — which most murders are — Breivik’s act constitutes one of the most considered, and, in terms of means and process, rationally conducted killings possible, the practical equivalent of a cool-handed contract killing.

The universal verdict? Breivik is insane, and the act has no meaning. No conclusion can be drawn from it. This stunning and paradoxical conclusion is not merely wrong, it is abhorrent, because it negates the meaning of the victims’ deaths. The dozens of young people who were slaughtered on that island were not killed randomly, walking into the wrong McDonald’s, or coming down a high-school corridor.

They were killed because of their political beliefs, which were in democracy and peaceful activism. Breivik’s killings were a mass political assassination.

Three groups are conspiring in the attempt to render Breivik’s meaningless — his court-appointed lawyer, the hard Right who helped set the hysterical context in which Breivik’s ideas were formed — and finally a dozy sort of mainstream thinking, which, especially in Australia, is so bereft of political knowledge of any depth that it cannot understand any relationship between politics and violence, a combination the rest of the world finds closer to inevitable than unusual.

Breivik’s lawyer is well within his rights to claim that his client is “probably insane”, and therefore open a line of defence for him. Breivik will presumably reject this defence (if he does not psychologically crumble in solitary confinement), and it would be an outrage if it succeeded.

Not guilty by diminished responsibility in these cases usually requires someone to be so psychotically deranged as to believe that killing someone is an act of immediate self-defence. Breivik has specifically rejected this by clarifying that his act was, in part, propaganda of the deed — at least in part, a means to an end.

He could not think this way, if he did not understand the act to be abhorrent in itself — he was marshalling abhorrence in the service of his political ends. That is clearly, impeccably, sane.

The “dozy” reaction, that nothing has real political meaning outside debate around carbon tax or whether someone miaowed at someone or not. One couldn’t find a better example of this than Peter Hartcher’s piece in the SMH. Hartcher’s argument appeared to be that because Breivik’s tactics may be counter-productive and his acts condemned by leaders of established far-Right parties, they had no connection to their policies, politics or beliefs.

This is asinine, and obviously so. Political movements have always had a dividing line running through them between violent and non-violent versions. Take Irish republicanism, which for many years was split between the parliamentary SDLP, and the violent (Provisional) IRA/Sinn Fein. Now that the IRA has been dissolved and Sinn Fein has taken a purely parliamentary route, the violent expression of such aims has come from the “real” IRA. One could give the same account of dozens of movements right, left and otherwise. Does one really have to teach this basic point to the international editor of a national newspaper?

Apparently so, because Hartcher goes on to suggest that there has been no “right wing” terror in Europe of recent times — only left and separatist terror. Such a conclusion is easily got if you include every firecracker bomb set off by Greek anarchists outside a bank at midnight as a terrorist incident equal to Breivik’s atrocity.

It also helps if you ignore the obvious fact that half the separatist groups currently engaged in violence are, by any reasonable account, groups of the Right, marshalling the same xenophobia and harking back to lost traditions, religious authority as is drawn on by both the hard-Right parliamentary groups and Breivik.

Crucially, Hartcher also ignores the ample evidence that Breivik had extensive contacts with the English Defence League, the “postmodern” hard Right, focused almost exclusively on Muslims, who stage intimidating and thuggish rallies in major UK cities with Muslim populations. Given that the EDL has also had links with Geert Wilders and other hard-right parliamentary groups it should be clear that there is a continuum on the hard Right, of which Breivik — and perhaps others allied with him in violence — are a part.

To ignore all that, and again to falsely describe Breivik’s perfectly calm and argued writings as “rantings” is either a simple lack of political breadth, or a depoliticisation of the act designed to minimise its distraction from the “war on terror”.

That last tactic has been taken up the hard Right in their increasing defensiveness around the atmosphere of paranoia and hate they have fostered over the past decade. Sometimes, as in Mark Steyn’s self-defence, this is wilfully stupid — Breivik didn’t kill Muslims, so how can he be anti-Muslim, dude?

Increasingly it is being done through a denigration of the victims deaths’ —  an amazing editorial in the Jerusalem Post argued that an equal or greater tragedy was that these killings would distract from the threat of violent Islamism — a movement in Europe that may have a couple of shots left in its locker, but is substantially broken and defeated, and never represented the threat of a mass violent movement.

And cometh the hour cometh the man — it was inevitable that Glenn Beck would plumb a new low by describing the victims as “Hitler Youth”. As with Breivik’s act, this appears inane if you want it to be, but it isn’t — it draws from the right-wing argument, expressed in Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism, that left social democrat parties are in fact fascist. By that logic Breivik is simply a misguided patriot.

The Right will continue to attempt to depoliticise this act — and continue to make the simple act of insisting that Breivik be taken at his word for his actions, as “opportunism”. But it needs to be said over and over — this was a terrorist act, but it was not a random terrorist act. It was a mass political assassination of people from a political party which, like the Greens in Australia, and Obama Democrats in the US, have been relentlessly described as totalitarian.

This event takes its place with the murder of civil rights workers in the US Deep South, trade unionists in Latin America, Turkish activists on the Gaza flotilla, and many others as the violent response to non-violent politics. Violence, in these cycles, when it comes, usually comes from the Right first, and makes an obvious lie of all this nonsense about green totalitarianism — the main reason why the Right are so desperate to talk it away, and why members of the right who have been troubled by this rhetoric still will not find the courage to speak against it.

For the dead of Norway, those of us on the left have to express more than mere pity for fellow humans, or analysis of the events — but also solidarity. These were our political brothers and sisters killed for their beliefs, in an atmosphere similar to the one that has been fostered against the left in this country for the past decade. It is not something we are likely to shut up about, anytime soon.