By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media.
[Translator’s Note: Norway uses an exclusion threshold to determine a party’s eligibility for leveling seats. More can be read about this threshold on Wikipedia.]
The social democrats have become the largest party in Denmark, and with the help of its support parties, among them Rødt’s [Red Party] friendship party Enhedslisten, have gotten a majority in Parliament for a social democratic government. They align themselves with a general tendency. In Sweden and Finland as well there is a social democratic prime minister. In Norway, the red-green alliance is performing the best in polls.
In the election in Spain this year, social democrats also ended up being the largest party and the party with the best opportunity to form a government.
Shuffle from Right to Left and Back Again
For several decades, it has been typical for Western imperialist countries with two-party systems (left/right, red/blue) to experience a tendency to alternate government power between the two sides with one, two, or three elections between them. Of course, there are many exceptions to this, but it has been the primary tendency. In the US, this is clear with the Republicans and Democrats. Even in European countries, it has been typical with governments that are either dependent on social democrats or on large conservative parties, and it has been typical that government power shuffles between them.
Yet in Norway and Sweden, it has been the social democrats who have dominated completely for the past few decades. Norway has even been referred to as a one-party state by prominent historians. However, throughout the 1970s as Europe experienced an economic crisis, a sharpening of the class struggle, a broadening of student protests, and a number of other upheavals, this grip was definitively broken by 1980. Nonetheless: social democrats continued as the largest party and the party that had formed the absolute greatest number of governments. This also led to the development of new parties – SV and FrP [Socialist Left and Progress Party, respectively] – which contributed to a change in the parliamentary dynamic.
Norway has had prime ministers from the following parties:
1945 – 1963: Labour Party
1963: Conservative Party
1963-1965: Labour Party
1965-1971: Centre Party (supported by the Conservative Party)
1971-1972: Labour Party
1972-1973: Christian Democratic Party (supported by the Conservative Party)
1973-1981: Labour Party
1981-1986: Conservative Party
1986-1989: Labour Party
1989-1990: Conservative Party
1990-1997: Labour Party
1997-2000: Christian Democratic Party (supported by the Conservative Party)
2000-2001: Labour Party
2001-2005: Christian Democratic Party (supported by the Conservative Party)
2005-2013: Labour Party
2013-: Conservative Party
Today’s Government is Past Due and May Fall Before 2021
First, this list shows that today’s Conservative Party government is “past due”. It has been sitting longer than most Conservative Party governments or any of its supporters after WWII. It is also the first majority government with the Conservative Party since Per Borten’s government (1965-1971). Second, it shows that it is not unusual that Norwegian governments break up or vacate on off-election years, even if it has been more stable since 2001. The governments formed in 1981, 1989, and 1997 needed to vacate “before time” because they lost their parliamentary basis during their tenure.
There are two conditions to take into consideration when one looks at today’s FrP/toll-crisis in government. FrP can of course continue to place straws on the camel’s back in government, but it shows that it would not be unique for them to dissolve their government. Then the government may continue with FrP as a support party, but it can also lead to the government sitting with less stability and needing to vacate before the election in 2021.
It is Red-Green’s Time Now
Unless something extraordinary happens, it is the Labour Party’s “turn” next. It would be very unique for Norway if the Conservative Party were able to form a government a third time in a row. Measures predict a “red-green” majority, and the advance in the polls for Red and Miljøpartiet De Grønne [the Green Party] indicate that there will be a fairly solid majority with not two support parties for Labour over the threshold, but four! The upshot is that this can prove to be a difficult majority to maneuver for Labour, as the different parties have diverse special interests and a strong need to make a show of force for their constituents.
When SV entered government in 2005, they received 8.8% of votes in the election. After several years in government, they received only 4.1% of votes in the 2013 election, just 0.1% over the threshold. In other words, it is not only FrP that has lost a lot of support in the government participation. And it can also mean that SV will attempt to align itself more with Labour the next time they sit in government.
The most normal government in Norway in the post-war era is a clean Labour government. That is to say a government where Labour alone participates, but does not have a majority aligned with itself in Parliament. Even if social democrats in Europe are experiencing a crisis and the classic social democratic parties have been all but eradicated in countries like France and Greece, it is the social democratic parties that continue to be the largest and organizationally strongest parties in many countries – including Norway.
A number of years ago, the conservative rightist party sat in governments in Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Now it is almost only Norway that is left. The pendulum is clearly swinging in a relatively predictable motion, as long as the system remains relatively stable.
A Parliamentary System in Decay
But there is a great storm cloud on the horizon for the Western parliamentary system. The Nordic countries are among the richest and most stable imperialists in the world. Nonetheless, one sees that the general economic and social crisis also manifests in the political systems here. One sees how new parties grow, first starting in the 1970s. We see how the old coalitions break up. We see, as in Sweden, that it can now take months to establish a viable government. There are strong tendencies against liberal bourgeois democracy. Postmodern philosophy dispels liberal philosophy. Right populism is growing. There are steadily stronger corporative features pointing in the direction of modern fascism.
Incidentally, we see “new” social democrats progressing and eating up the old social democracy’s constituents. The leftist alliance Syriza in Greece, with nearly 40% of votes in the last election, is an example of this. Podemos in Spain is another example. Linke in Germany, Enhedslisten in Denmark, the Red Party in Norway, PTB/PVDA in Belgium, the Socialist Party in the Netherlands – the list goes on. The small social democrats “left of social democracy” are making a comeback. They advanced in many countries in the 1970s and the late 1990s. This time, some of them are even bigger and undermine to large degrees the old social democrats. Furthermore, we see a similar tendency within the larger parties as well, as with Corbyn in Britain. The meaning of this should not be overstated. Even in the 1970s, many social democrats pandered to the left in their rhetoric and propaganda. Palme in Sweden is an example of this, but even Jens Stoltenberg appealed to the currents of the time when forty years earlier he had been a NATO-opponent and leader of AUF [Workers’ Youth League].
Learn from History and Reveal the Bourgeoisie’s Rotten System
We must demand that revolutionaries at the very least learn from history. And we must share what we learn. Instead, we see that some are consciously pulling the wool over peoples’ eyes, by embracing people like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, even if we know well that these are no alternatives to capitalism.
Furthermore, these different governments show clearly that it does not matter how people vote. The general development of society is not controlled by governments. It is at the mercy of economic developments, and general trends in the development of global society. That the pendulum swings is something that the masses do not feel on the body, but they do feel economic crises and upheavals no matter who it is that has formed a government.
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