The Progress Party (FrP) – a right-wing populist party – has pulled out of Norway’s “blue-green” minority government of four parties. On the NRK national television news programme on Monday, 20 January, the FrP announced their departure from the government with immediate effect. This is a party that has been likened to the French National Front (now the ‘National Rally’) – the party of Le Pen”.
The FrP exit is historic: it is the first time a party has departed from a sitting government in the history of all forty eight former Norwegian governments. Never before has a party left a coalition government without the prime minister seeking a dismissal. This will not bring a change of government or bring forward a general election; all parties will carry on until the next election (in September, next year).
This is a blatant opportunist manoeuvre to place blame for dissatisfaction with the government on the smaller parties before the next election or even to force the smaller parties out of the four-sided coalition, with the aim of the FrP winning more seats next time around.
The issue they decided to leave on is not to do with the fact that little or no council houses have been built for young people to live in or to relieve the amount of homelessness. Nor is it about the urgent need for more money to reduce hospital queues or other such social necessities.
The problem is that the FrP disagreed with the government giving humanitarian organisations the right to bring home a Norwegian mother and her child from a (concentration) camp in Syria in an errand of mercy. The five year old child is extremely ill, and, according to the UN envoy, needed hospital treatment, as soon as possible. There is a groundswell of sympathy from the majority of the population of Norway for this mother and child.
The twenty seven MPs of the FrP had been participating in a government that has already been particularly vicious against non-EU immigrants. It has totally ignored and refused to adopt the UN migration platform. It has been at the forefront of expelling immigrants – a policy considered entirely acceptable by the FrP. This has included even sending people back to war-torn countries. In her press conference, the FrP leader (and former finance minister), Siv Jensen, mentioned 40,000 returned in just four years.
The rabid racism in her party was what initially attracted the mass murderer, A.B. Brevik, to join the FrP. Later, he left it because it was not right wing enough. In 2011, he carried out the horrific attack at the summer camp of the Arbeiderpartiet youth (AUF). He shot dead 69 of its members on the island of Utøya, 33 of who were under the age of 18 years. Eight more people were killed in the bomb attacks he carried out in Oslo
The FrP is a party that could be classified as extreme right wing. It would not be correct to call it a fascist party but it is openly racist. (They had to have a purge of their ranks to make them more acceptable for the mass of the population and to get rid of the more extreme elements.)
It also has a history of anti-socialist rhetoric. Recently, after the FrP national conference, the party’s leader, Siv Jensen, said: “Vi skal knuse disse jævla sosialistene!” (“We shall crush these ‘f…ing’ socialists!”)
Remaining coalition parties
The largest party left in the coalition, with 45 seats (out of 150), is Høyre – a conservative party committed to fiscal free-market policies, including tax cuts mainly for the rich. It does support (unwillingly) the continued existence of the Norwegian welfare state. But the opening of privately-owned doctors’ clinics, which blatantly undermine the welfare state hospitals, continues. The same can be said about schools.
In the Storting (Parliament), Høyre argues for reductions in public spending. The party is often associated with wealth and has historically been attacked by the left for defending the country’s richest. It is also in favour of Norwegian membership of the European Union, although they have stated that this is not a priority, nor realistic in the short term. Norwegians have rejected membership in two referendums and opinion polls show that two-thirds of Norwegians still oppose EU membership.
Another of the coalition’s parties is Venstre, with eight seats. Its name means ‘Left’ but the party refers to itself as a ‘centrist’ party. When the name was chosen (back in 1884), it referred to the position of their seats in Parliament and not to socialism. It was liberal or radical in comparison to the conservatives but now has a centrist position in the Norwegian political landscape. It is not a big party and its influence (in parliamentary seats) swings between 1 or 2 to 10 or 12. The main base of its membership is in rural areas, in the valleys and the fjords.
The Christian Democrats also have eight seats in the present parliament. They enjoy their strongest support in the so-called Bible Belt, especially in Sørlandet (an area in the south west of Norway). As a party centered on Christian values, it obviously draws support from the Christian population. Its policies of supporting Christian values and opposing same-sex marriage appeal to the more conservative religious base. The party’s main rival in the competition for conservative Christian votes has been the party which has just left the coalition – the Progress Party (FrP).
At present, there are four parties in the opposition. The largest, with 49 seats, is the Arbeiderpartiet (AP), which participates in the Second International along with the Labour Party in Britain. Until the early 1930s, the Arbeiderpartiet (AP) had a socialist and revolutionary profile but it adopted a more reformist position. It came into government in 1935 and remained in power until 1965.
The AP has around 56,000 members. It is organised at county level, municipal level, and in about 2,500 local associations. It holds bi-annual Congresses, as well as National Delegates’ meetings and Executive Board meetings.
To the left of the Arbeiderpartiet (AP) are the Sosialistisk Venstreparti (SV), with 11 parliamentary seats, and the Red Party (RVA), with just one, the same as the Green Party (MDG). The SV was founded in 1973 as the Socialist Electoral League – an electoral coalition along with the Communist Party and the Socialist People’s Party, mainly to oppose a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum on joining the European Economic Community (forerunner to the European Union).
The Red Party (RVA) was founded in 2007 as a merger of the Red Electoral Alliance and the Workers’ Communist Party. The Green Party is a member of the European Green Party and the Global Greens It was founded with the German Greens as its stated model, and maintains close ties with other Green parties, including the German Greens and the Swedish Greens.
We need a real opposition!
Norway is a country of no more than five and a half million people but a united and organised fight is needed against the bosses and their system. The workers’ parties, the youth and the trade unions, must combat the horrific racism of the FrP. They should organise anti-racist/anti-fascist rallies to push back the tide of racial hatred, as they did against a prominent racist in the 1990s. When the leader of Norway Against Immigration (NMI), Arne Myrdal, gave a speech in Brumunddal, he was met with a huge demonstration. Instead of trying to shout him down, they all turned their backs on him to show they were not listening. Thousands of people were involved in this silent protest. He was never heard of again!
There is also little or no campaigning by the Arbeiderpartiet (AP) or the trade unions to combat the cuts. We say there should be no cuts in jobs or services and the (AP) Arbeiderpartiet should encourage the municipal trade unions to get involved in saving our jobs and services,
Norway is the richest country in Europe and the bosses and the government could afford to pay for improvements in jobs and services. If they say they cannot afford to pay, let us open the books of the oil companies, insurance companies, railways and banks. Let the unions and others see where our money is going.
Only when the main organs of production are taken into public ownership and run in a democratic way, with workers’ control and management, can we put an end to the injustices of capitalist society.