By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media.
In 1975, with a Labour government, Parliament passed a moratorium on immigration to Norway. Since then, there has not been any immigration to Norway with the exception of refugees, workers from EEA/EU and other Western countries, and family reunification. FrP has marketed itself as the most immigration-hostile party, but the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have always been close to FrP in practice. It is a myth that social democrats have operated a “friendliness-ism” or that they have stood for a more liberal immigration policy than the rightist parties.
Denmark is at the cusp of forming a new government now, and the media is portraying it as a reason that social democrats have become stricter in immigration policies:
The numbers show that on the contrary, social democrats have not made that much progress, and that the election victors are typically among the parties Radikale Venstre [‘Radical Left’, hereafter RV] and Sosialistisk Folkeparti [‘Socialist People’s Party’, hereafter SFP], which is considered a part of a “red bloc” with the social democrats. RV, the party that has made the most progress in the election, has profiled itself as the most liberal and humanist in asylum and immigration policies. They are the sister party of the Norwegian Venstre [Left] Party.
In Norway, both the Justice Minister and the municipal ministers have had responsibility for refugees. The responsible ministers from both the Conservative Party (H) and Labour (Ap), for instance Grete Farmo (Ap) and (“Jern-“)Erna Solberg (H) have deliberately made themselves known as being “strict” on their asylum policies.
Another myth is the racist claim that immigrants and refugees cost money. All residents of a country “cost money” if you only look at the expenses. If one considers only schools and hospitals, then of course every resident has an expense. Taken from this perspective, there might be a lot of money to be made if one were to empty a country of all its residents… But the people who make this argument “forget” that it is people who create value and pay taxes. And the overwhelming majority of people who come to Norway, be they work-immigrants from Poland or refugees from Iraq or Somalia, contribute to the creation of value.
Not only do they contribute, but foreigners are overrepresented in the worst paid occupations. They are overrepresented in heavily physical labour, in the service industry, in nursing homes, on construction sites, and in cleaning services. It is the people in these branches – normal working people – who contribute the absolute greatest amount to the profit of Norwegian companies and to the tax income of the state.
Marx showed that the source of profit is surplus labour. The source of the capitalists’ capital is the exploitation of working people. The source of wealth is poverty.
When racists claim that particular groups of people are overrepresented in unemployment or criminality, they refer only to a small minority of a group of refugees or immigrants. They “forget” that most adult immigrants use much less time to join the Norwegian work force than a child that is born in Norway and go to school for at least 18 years before they begin working.
It is the capitalists’ wild bluff that people are an expense that has pushed itself into this debate. The dubious proposition that capitalists are doing people a favor when they hire them is alive and well. But this is to turn the world on its head. Only human labour generates profits, and therefore it is only human beings that are at the source of the capitalists’ surplus. And even if Norwegian capitalists make an enormous amount of money on poor people in other countries, it is the working class in Norway that is the primary source of income for the state and capital, not its expenses.
The moment this changes, of when more and more people fall outside the system and into unemployment, it is as a manifestation of a crisis in capitalism. It is a manifestation of the general crisis in the global economic and social system. It is a manifestation of the need for less welfare and more economic liberalism and privatization. Not least, it is an expression of the ruling class’s need to split people to hold us down. When cuts to welfare need to be made, it is better for capitalists that people blame foreigners than if they point the finger at the true culprit: the capitalist system and the capitalist ruling class.
In this regard, all chauvinists are useful idiots for the capitalists. As are liberals, who wish for the free movement of labour power across borders. These two apparently contradictory standpoints complement each other. The best thing for the bourgeoisie and their state is the free movement of cheap labour, along with a strict asylum policy. They want the least possible number of refugees who flee for humanitarian reasons and will remain permanently in the countries they flee to, but they make a lot of work-immigrants who come for a few years to work 12 hours a day for pocket change. These are the underlying tendencies that explain how Western politicians can talks about stricter immigration policies and border control, all while observing several branches undergo a strong uptick in work-immigration.
The contradiction between a strict asylum policy and liberal immigration policies is positioned right in the middle of the bourgeois parties, including the social democrats. One example of the tension this causes can be seen with Oslo politicians Jan Bøhler, who is one of the Norwegian social democrats most concerned with both “law and order” and immigration, and who in classic chauvinistic style connects the two questions:
“The rightist turn in the social democratic immigration policy can mean that Mette Frederiksen will become Denmark’s next prime minister. Jan Bøhler believes Ap must learn from this.”
Believes Ap has Something to Learn https://www.dagbladet.no/nyheter/mener-ap-har-noe-a-laere/71145107
It must be clarified that the media has here made a claim that is not as obvious when one looks at the Danish election. As mentioned, the social democrats have not made considerable progress. The largest election victors in Denmark have been parties that have profiled themselves particularly around the climate question, and in many survey studies, climate issues were mentioned as the most important issue for voters.
Furthermore, it is a political bluff when social democrats are depicted as having operated a “friendliness-ism” in the immigration question. There has been broad consensus within Parliament on asylum and immigration policies in Norway. Work-immigration is primarily regulated by the EEA- and Schengen-agreements with EU countries. How many immigrants come to Norway and receive residence has very little to do with which party sits in government.
It must also be emphasized that half of those with “immigrant backgrounds” in Norway have European backgrounds, particularly Swedes and Poles, and have immigrated primarily as workers.
The biggest year for asylum seekers in Norway was during the so-called “refugee-crisis” in Europe, the direct consequence of the brutal war in Syria that caused millions of people to flee. It happened when FrP [Progress Party] and the Conservative Party were in government and this is how a government with FrP actually allowed far more refugees entry that year than the Red-Green government with SV [Socialist Left Party] ever had in its entire government period!
When the Labour Party again forms a government, it will be with the support of SV and the Red Party. The developments in Denmark, along with discussions in the Labour Party in Norway, show that it will not be a government filled with heartfelt warmth for refugees and asylum-seekers. Furthermore, we can even see tendencies in SV and the Red Party for a “stricter” position. In Red, there has been a lot of focus on work-immigration. In SV, there has also been talk about “tightening” and “stricter conditions”.
SV and Red are positioning themselves along the primary current in the Norwegian public and politics. They wish to tighten up some things here and loosen some things there. But the primary line aligns itself with the status quo and a maintenance of the system. Under the next Red-Green government, these parties will experience the difficult split between criticizing from the “left” while themselves being responsible for the government’s policies. For Red, it will be for the first time. The Red Party leadership has some thoughts on how this will be managed, but they will not be able to avoid the problem. They will make themselves legally ready to make the cut and they will reveal that reformism means integration with the system, and not a break from it.
For consistent anti-imoerialists and anti-racists, this split will be irreconcilably painful. When SV participated in the bombing of Libya, it lead to the departure of several anti-war activists from SV to Red. We will see if these activists have become more or less patient when Red becomes the support party for a government that once again sends soldiers and war machines to other countries and meanwhile rejects asylum applications from those who wish to escape the hell of war.
 Translator’s note: ‘jern’ means ‘iron’ in Norwegian, and prime minister Erna Solberg’s particularly tough stance on immigration has earned her this nickname among the Norwegian public.