Solow Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

H. St.

In the Service of His Majesty

Norwegian Labor Party Enters Cabinet Under Domination of Ruling Class

(May 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 20, 4 May 1935, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

COPENHAGEN. – It was not of its own initiative nor by means of class struggle action that the Norwegian Labor Party came to power. The farmers’ party withdrew support from the Mowinckel government and all of a sudden the Labor Party found that power had fallen right into its lap. But what sort of power was it? That is the point to be examined.

“The present government has no majority in this hall, but it is nevertheless a parliamentary government and will naturally consider it its duty, in this question as in all others, to carry out the will of the Storting as long as it holds its place.”

The above was the declaration made in the Norwegian chamber (Storting) by Defense Minister Monsen of the Labor government. The whole program of the Labor government is practically summed up in these words. The Labor government is nothing more than the executive organ of the bourgeois-parliamentarian majority. A more promising situation than this the Norwegian bourgeoisie could hardly imagine! It continues to determine the political course in the future, but leaves the responsibility with the Labor Party. And in their agitation, the bourgeois parties enjoy a free hand while the Labor party is open to attack from all sides.

Voting the King’s Stipend

Here are a few examples of the government policy as it works out in practice.

The former Mowinckel government had already worked out the budget. Now the Labor government takes over this same budget – with several insignificant changes in the form of concessions to the farmers’ party – that is, it now votes for most of the items in the budget which it previously voted against. Truly, a grotesque situation.

In monarchies it is the custom to deal first with the king’s stipend. While the Labor party used to move every year in the past for a reduction of the king’s stipend, this year the whole Storting fraction of the N.A.P. (Norv. Arbeiter Partei) voted to a man for the originally proposed 900,000 Kroner.

In the same manner, it unanimously approved the budget for the state police which it had opposed even in the budget commission. The state police, formerly nicknamed the “white guard” by the Labor Party, made itself particularly hateful to the Norwegian workers by its murderous assault on the striking forest workers in 1927. Today the Labor Party is assuming the duty of maintaining the “white guard” in existence.

Just to show that we haven’t lost our sense of humor, we want to quote from the editorial in the Arbeiterbladet by the real leader of the N.A.P., Tranmael, in which he defends this policy:

“The royal stipend was established by contract before he (the king) came here. He wanted to be assured of a regular salary which we would be legally responsible for. When the Labor Party voted for a smaller salary on previous occasions, it did not do so at any time as a demonstration against the king – because there is no cause for that – but against the maneuvers Christian Michelson, Wedel Jarlsberg and the other bourgeois politicians carried on in 1905 (!). This demonstration had its uses. It underscored our views of all the events that took place in the summer of 1906. But there are no grounds for continuing it now, that is why we have given up this demonstration. But it is self-evident that the party has in no way given up its basic republican principles.”

New Uses for Cops

As for the state police, the editorial writer assures us it will only be utilized to regulate intoxication and traffic. And therefore everything is in the best of order. That is how the republican revolutionary Labor party behaves the moment power falls into its lap. It does not even occur to it that a king can be deposed. The only thing they have against the bourgeoisie is that it did not procure a cheaper king for the Norwegians after the dissolution of the royal Swedish-Norwegian union.

But what should the Norwegian government do? In order to guard ourselves against the accusation of being negative in our criticism and of wanting to transplant the Russian revolution schematically to Norway, we wish to make the following remarks: In the first place it was the duty of the Labor Party after its electoral victory in 1933 to force its way into the government through extra-parliamentary struggle and not to wait until the parliamentary constellation would throw it into its lap.

However, to proceed from the accomplished fact – the Labor government has been formed. In the Storting there is a small bourgeois minority whose policy undoubtedly runs counter to the will of 90 per cent of the Norwegian people – the workers, the small farmers, the seamen, the fishermen. In the fall of the past year the Norwegian trades union congress met. It gave evidence to a splendid class spirit and demanded the formation of a workers’ government.

Importance of Trades Unions The trades unions are 200,000 members strong; Norway has a population of 2,800,000. If we add to the trades union members their families, they represent almost a third of the nation – its laboring, its productive section. Therefore, in order to create a counter weight to the reactionary majority in parliament, the government ought to first of all, call a permanent trades union congress into session. In the small towns and villages, the farmers and fishermen should then be called upon to elect their delegates to this trades union congress.

In this manner direct, popular representation could be created to express the will of the overwhelming majority of the Norwegian people. To this congress, the government could then propose the following measures: the nationalization of the banks, the introduction of workers control of production, aiming toward the independent administration of the factories by the workers, the confiscation of the landed estates, the introduction of a radically graduated property and income tax, the liberation of the small farmers from their mortgage and debt burdens, the organization of immediate relief measures for the needy fishermen, etc., etc.

There can be no doubt that under the influence of the radical trades union section, such a “Workers’, Farmers’ and Fishermen’s Congress” would support the government measures. After that, these measures could be laid before the Storting. Should they meet with rejection by this body, the Storting could be dissolved with the full support of the workers’ congress. If the king opposed this policy – as most likely he would – the government could confidently proceed to depose the king. The responsibility for the use of arms could be placed squarely upon the shoulders of the opposition. Internationally, the difficulties of the situation would be more than offset by the enthusiasm that Socialist measures in Norway would arouse in the other Scandinavian countries and in the rest of Europe.

But these miserable “revolutionists” of the N.A.P. cannot and will not recognize this sure road to the proletarian revolution in Scandinavia. Dissatisfaction in the party ranks and among the workers is growing constantly. But there is no group to give this revolutionary unrest expression, to raise its voice for the revolutionary way out. That increases the danger that dissatisfaction may turn into mistrust for the labor movement as such and thus pave the way for Fascist agitation. The need for a revolutionary group in Norway is of a transcendent importance.

(Unless, we are greatly mistaken, the N.A.P. is still in close alliance with the “revolutionary” I.L.P., the S.A.P. and the so-called London-Amsterdam Bureau. Some of these people will probably remember how they forsook a firm course towards the Fourth International in order to be with a mass party like the N.A.P. Did they reckon the king into the bargain also?)

Solow Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 27 July 2015