Norwegian elections: a victory for the labour movement

In the recent Norwegian elections the right-wing Bondevik government suffered a devastating defeat. Now the left parties have a chance to offer an alternative. The problem is that the Norwegian Social Democracy is dominated by a Blairite pro-business leadership. The workers voted for change but will they get it?

The right wing has been ousted -
now a socialist programme is necessary!

On September 12, elections were held in Norway. As the polling stations closed, activists in the Norwegian left were pleased to see that the Bondevik government – together with its draconian dismantling of the welfare state – had suffered a devastating defeat. The right wing in the Storting (Norwegian parliament) has now been significantly weakened while the Social Democracy has been strengthened.

Due to the generalised shift to the right within the leadership of the labour movement over a period of years – not only on a European level, but also on a global scale – unfortunately, in spite of the victory, what we can expect is a policy of continued social austerity. And this, at a later stage, can prepare the ground for a resurgence of the far right at some point in the future. Indications of the process were already present in these results.

Social Democracy and Left-Reformism

While the Social Democratic Party (AP) – the traditional party of the Norwegian workers’ movement – has achieved an indisputable victory, expressing the Norwegian workers’ desire for political change and an end to cuts in welfare, the Left-Socialist Party (SV) lost eight seats.

How do we explain this? First and foremost because of the failure of the SV to presents itself as a viable socialist alternative armed with a clear programme in the face of the AP’s openly pro-big business policies.

As always, when the working class is faced with two reformist parties with practically indistinguishable programmes, it votes according to its traditions, even more so if this “historical” party is the larger of the two. Of course, this does not come about by pure chance. The AP, in spite of its leadership, does in fact benefit from having stronger historical roots within the labour movement. The SV’s lack of a clear socialist programme also explains why it lost a number of votes to its left, to the Red Electoral Alliance (RV), a far-left grouping. In spite of this the latter remains an extra-parliamentary force.

It should also not be forgotten that the SV on some occasions supported the bourgeois coalition government. It supported both the privatisation of the public company SND and public financing of private education put forward by the right! And it has paid for this now.

The last bulwark of the bourgeoisie

Expecting the failure of its own government, following four disastrous years, marked by privatisation and the progressive dismantling of the welfare sate, the bourgeoisie turned to its last bulwark: the far-right. The emergence of the latter is of course due – among other things – to the inability of the leadership of the labour movement to offer any real alternative to the right wing – a socialist alternative – firmly based on the trade unions.

With more than 22% of the total votes cast, Carl I. Hagen, leader of the Fremskrittspartiet (Progress Party), declared his pride at representing the largest “non-socialist” party in the Storting.

Indeed, the bourgeois parties, regrouped around the recently ousted right-wing coalition, are now immensely weakened. The ruling class will now be even more interested in increased collaboration with the far-right to achieve their anti-working class agenda.

The Fremskrittspartiet is thus benefiting from the disillusion, which a part of the bourgeoisie has in its own traditional parties as tools for defeating the labour movement. However, it is not only this. It also benefits from the failure of the Social Democracy and the SV to meet the demands and expectations of the workers. This means the ranks of the labour movement have no trust in the parties, which should be their own and this gives the bourgeoisie the possibility of playing the populist card.

Naturally, the Fremskrittspartiet has never hesitated to back the bourgeoisie in power, and now it sees itself reward by the latter. This, in turn, provides it with a “legitimacy” and an opportunity to represent the bosses directly.

A socialist programme is necessary!

The AP and SV are already discussing the possibility of a coalition government with the Senterpartiet (centre-right). This fact confirms what we said above: it means that we can expect a continuation of the same old policy of austerity. Despite the promise to withdraw Norwegian troops from Iraq, we cannot expect a policy that will meet the demands and needs of the workers.

Furthermore, on top of all this, no stable government is yet guaranteed, as the three parties are far from being in agreement over several issues, such as how to use the natural resources or whether or not to provide free meals in state schools. The fact is that only a government armed with a truly socialist programme can keep the right wing out of power and neutralise the bourgeoisie by blocking the road to the far right.

Marxists would now call for an AP-SV government on a socialist programme, based on the trade unions, while at the same time rejecting any compromise with the centre-right. The Marxists must actively participate in the strengthening of the labour movement while defending their own ideas within it. We must also build our own tendency within the SV and its youth wing, the SU, and within the AP and its youth wing, the AUF, and most importantly within the unions, for they are the organisations which gather all the potential for militant action on the part of the working class and they are also the only ones who have the power to transform the workers’ parties and arm them with a Marxist programme and method.