First Published: Class Struggle, journal of the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain, Vol. 13, No. 8, October 1989.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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At the beginning of September, ’Class Struggle’ interviewed a member of the Workers Communist Party of Norway (Marxist-Leninist), about the political situation in Norway and the party’s strategy towards the general election on September 11th.
The Norwegian electoral system works on the basis of proportional representation. Each party or front puts up a list of candidates in the different areas and the numbers elected from each list are in proportion to the number of votes cast for that party or front.
In the event, the ’Front for the Environment and for Solidarity’, in which the WCP(ML) participated won 23,000 votes nationally. This was a big increase on the votes won by the Red Electoral Alliance in 1985 but was fewer than had been hoped. The WCP(ML) attribute this to a big swing to the Left Social-Democrat Party in the last week and an effective boycott of their front by the mass media. They will be making a more detailed summing up of the results and their strategy.
CS: Can you tell us something about the background to the elections on September 11th?
WCP(ML): Norway has been quite a stable society, in the political sense, all the time since the last World War, except for one period, 1972-1973, when the capitalists tried to get Norway into the Common Market.
But the last two or three years, the situation has become quite unstable again. We think this is connected to the new strategy of the capitalists, who are implementing quite a crude policy against the working people. Wages do not keep pace with prices and there are severe cuts in public spending. This policy began with the Conservatives, at the beginning of the ’80s and when the Social Democrats got power in 1986, they implemented an even harsher policy towards the working class. They were an even more openly bourgeois government than before.
All this has caused unrest among people who had supported the Social Democrats. There have been splits among the Social Democrats. There has been increasing protest in the trade unions, and so on. So, generally, both the Social Democrats and the Conservatives have lost support over the last three years.
The faction that has picked up most support has been a new right-wing party, a right populist party called the Progress Party. They have managed to pick up support from the increasing numbers of unemployed people, who do not agree in every respect with the policy of this right-wing party. But it’s a kind of protest against the ruling party.
Or, the other hand, there has also been a reaction from the more progressive protest movements. I mentioned before the trade union movement. But there has also been a strong reaction from the women’s movement; on the environmental question and from the people in the districts of Norway who have suffered very much from the government’s policies.
Another matter that has been important is the attitudes towards immigration. In 1986, there was an increase in the numbers of refugees seeking asylum in Norway. For a long time, there had been between one to two thousand people coming every year. But in 86, there were seven or eight thousand because other countries in Europe were stopping immigration. This situation was used by the rightist party to campaign against immigration. They also used the issue to split people. They told al the usual stories – that these people were responsible for increasing unemployment, bad housing etc.
The Social Democrats (Labour Party) and the Conservatives have also moved to the right and adopted some of the arguments. They have tightened the rules on immigration because they thought they could get votes this, way. Over the last few years, the Norwegian government has been very strict towards refugees. Last year, only about two thousand were allowed to come in and not all of them have succeeded in getting permission to stay.
But there has also been resistance. The anti-racist movement has grown in strength the last few years, especially among young people and is now a very important political force in this election period.
This is the background to our strategy in the recent election.
CS: Can you explain the new strategy in the election?
WCP(ML): We think it is important to have an election strategy that can unite most of the progressive forces against the rightist movements and build a broader election front than we have had previously.
We have put up election lists in which people from all the progressive movements that I mentioned participate together with members of our party and our former election front, the Red Electoral Front. This Red Electoral Front has not ceased to exist. But this year, it has not put forward its own lists of candidates. Instead, they support the new front.
The revisionist party in Norway mainly supports this new front, although several of their district cells have broken away and are supporting the Left Social-Democrat party. We also had discussions with the new Green Party but they ended up not joining the front. But most of the environmental activists’ disagreed with this and have supported the front.
There seems to be a good chance that by bringing together the progressive forces in this way, we will increase the votes- for the left.
CS: How would you summarise the main issues then, this time?
WCP(ML): We are trying to unite the different progressive forces on the main political issues such as the standard of living of working people – wages, welfare, housing etc; from the trade unions, the most important points are wages and trade union rights because the government is trying to break trade union organisation; anti-racist and environmental questions and women’s issues. The main economic questions are important for women but there are also specific issues, like the abortion question.
CS: Can you explain the attitude of the party to elections in general?
WCP(ML): The party has participated in elections in Norway since 1973. We have put up lists of candidates of the Red Electoral Front, consisting of party members, revolutionary and radical people. Our opinion is that, in a country like Norway, it is important to use elections for propaganda means. At election time, most of the people are concerned with politics and usually about 80 per cent vote. We come into contact with many new people and we can use the elections to develop their political consciousness.
The other main reason why we take part in elections is that we think it is important to get delegates into the Parliament. Inside the Parliament we can also propagate our policies, we can raise issues that cause trouble for the authorities and we can get information that is useful.
We have had quite a lot of experience of councillors in local government. In the first elections we took part in in 1973, we got four people into local councils. In the last election in 1987, we got 54 people in.
We have also had bad experiences with parliamentary work. But mostly, it has been a good supplement and an important part of our political work.
We have not managed to get people in the Parliament before because it’s harder to win a seat there. You have to have at least 4 per cent of the vote.
CS: Given that the party has been associated with support for socialist China, has the events there this summer affected support for the front?
WCP(ML): It doesn’t seem so. Our party reacted very quickly to the situation in China. Even before the massacre, we went out and criticised martial law. We reacted strongly against the handling of the demonstrations and criticised the massacre in June. So, it hasn’t been easy for our opponents to utilise the events in China against us.
Of course, the bourgeoisie and especially the Social Democrats have tried. It almost seems that our party is to blame for the massacre in China, if you read some of their material. But our experience is that the events have not affected support for the party very much.
Our party has been independent of what is going on in China for a long time. We have emphasised the development of policies and a strategy for socialism in Norway in the first place, not relying on models in other countries.