By the editorial staff of Tjen Folket Media.
There is a long-standing tradition of opposition against NATO in Norway. For a long time, there has been a number of NATO opponents even deep within social democracy. At the same time, the leadership of [left social democratic] SV, which in its time grew out of the NATO opposition movement itself, now accepts NATO and has even supported several NATO wars. But many are against NATO without actually understanding NATO or Norway’s role in the alliance. This lack of understanding leads to political errors and the fostering and spreading of illusions regarding the Norwegian state.
Short Historical Overview
In 1949, the Norwegian government signed the North Atlantic Treaty along with 11 other Western countries, which led to the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The organization was established against the socialist Soviet Union and was then principally a military alliance against socialism [and from 1956 against competition from eastern social imperialism, trans.].
It was firstly during the Korean War (1950-1953) that the concrete organizing of NATO began. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990/1991, the character of NATO changed and from 1992 to 2004, NATO participated directly in wars and conflicts in Bosnia and the rest of Yugoslavia, including bombing raids over Serbia in 1999. Later, NATO organized military operations in countries like Afghanistan (through mission ISAF) and Libya (the bombing of 2011).
In short, NATO has gone from being a Western imperialist military alliance against socialism and thereafter, following the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union in 1956, against the social imperialist competitor to the east, and finally to an alliance for coordinating and organizing Western imperialist military operations against other countries.
1) NATO is primarily a tool for Yankee imperialism
NATO has two command structures: one civilian and one military. The Norwegian social democrat Jens Stoltenberg is now the General Secretary of NATO, or in other words NATO’s civilian chief. The civilian chief is elected for four years at a time (Stoltenberg was reelected for a new period from and including 2018) and it is always a European. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, stationed in Europe, it always a US officer. In this way, the US has direct control over NATO’s military operations.
The US is by far the largest military power within the military alliance of NATO and is also seen and acknowledged as the foremost leader in the alliance. For instance, it is the US, through President Trump, that pressures the other powers to make larger investments in defense and direct investments in NATO.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, European powers accounted for 34% of NATO’s military spending. Within 2012, it fell to 21%. By contrast, the US and Canada, primarily the US, accounted for nearly 80% of the collective military spending of NATO.
As an example of how the imperialists that participate in NATO are not uniform, France withdrew from NATO’s military structure in 1966 in protest of the USA’s dominance. They would not be fully integrated again until 2009. France was also sharply critical of the USA’s policies in regards to Iraq throughout the 1990s and of the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
This cannot by any means be explained with the argument that colonial power France is more humane or has more solidarity than the US, but rather through the contrasting of French imperialist interests with Yankee interests. Both in North African and Indochina, the competition between them has periodically become sharp. One contemporary example is Libya after Gaddafi’s fall, where the US and France each supported rivalling governments that wage war against each other.
The list of NATO operations show that NATO has organized collective efforts either within or against the following countries:
One can emphasize here that NATO countries France and Germany, along with Russia and China, were sharply critical of the USA’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. French and German states and companies had warm relations to Saddam Hussein’s regime, particularly the French petroleum giant ELF.
All of NATO’s operations have occurred within a region that comprises of the Balkans, North Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, the Caucuses, and Central Asia. This is the region where the imperialist great powers today clash the fiercest and most often. This is a region where the Soviet Union/Russia lost a deal of influence in the collapse of 1991. It is a region where China has worked systematically to build up its own influence in the last 20 years, including infrastructure projects (“the new silk road”). This is a region that Yankee strategists have indicated as particularly important for securing the USA’s position as the world’s only hegemonic superpower (formulated in “The Silk Road Strategy Act”).
The operation in Pakistan was portrayed as a humanitarian operation with emergency aid, but without a doubt contributes in securing American presence in a country that has long developed close relations with China (notably through the Gwadar Port).
Briefly summarized, all of NATO’s operations have directly served US-imperialism’s strategic interests, as this is the entire point of NATO for the US.
As Tjen Folket Media has earlier reported, Norwegian authorities have openly declared that the most important accomplishment for the Norwegian participation in the War in Afghanistan has been to strengthen Norwegian relations with its “allies” (the US).
2) NATO is an alliance of imperialists, not a supranational superstructure
When Lenin formulated his classic work on imperialism, wherein he defines it as capitalism’s highest, last, and decaying phase that began at the turn of the 20th century, he combats Kautsky’s theory of “ultraimperialism”. Briefly put, Kautsky’s thesis was that imperialism led to a smelting together of imperialists, and thereby to less competition between them. The logical conclusion was that imperialism’s development would lead to more united and harmony, with fewer conflicts and wars between and among imperialists.
Lenin tore this theory to pieces and maintained that as a dialectic law of development, the increased monopolization, which is a characteristic of imperialism, would on the contrary sharpen competition. Fewer actors would lead to harsher struggles between these actors. This applied then, and as we can see today, it continues to hold true, both in terms of states and companies.
The paradox is that monopolization, that is the repeal of free competition, leads to fiercer competition between the monopolists. Just as today the entire world is divided among imperialists, they must fight among themselves to expand or defend their possessions.
Chairman Gonzalo clarifies against and again that the condition between bourgeois fractions, capitalist states, and imperialists is a condition characterized by cooperation and competition, primarily competition. The cooperation between imperialists is relative, while competition is absolute.
NATO is a military alliance that coordinates the imperialist members’ interests to a limited degree, and does so under Yankee dominance. But NATO is not a supranational institution with its own “ultraimperialist” ambitions. NATO is an alliance of imperialists, and these participate only to the degree that they see that doing so is in their own particular interests.
The French exclusion from NATO’s military command structure lasted from 1966 until 2009 and is an example of how the alliance is relative. The French competition with Yankee imperialism in North Africa is another example of this. Yet another example is NATO’s absence in the Iraq War, in which various NATO countries stood against each other in their views of the US invasion.
NATO’s character as an alliance also applies to the imperialist state of Norway. It participates according to the relatively free will of the Norwegian imperialist bourgeoisie and only then as long as the alliance is in line with its interests. NATO is no supranational power that transcends its members and pressures them to accept things that are in violation of their interests. At the very least this would be a very minor side of NATO’s character.
Thereby it is completely incorrect when NATO opponents emphasize “Norwegian interests” in opposing NATO’s bases in Norway. This is misleading both in terms of NATO’s character and in terms of the Norwegian state’s character. The Norwegian politicians, who work in line with the Norwegian ruling class’s interests, embrace NATO bases in Norway. They welcome Yankee soldiers on Norwegian soil because this is completely in line with the Norwegian bourgeoisie’s wishes and needs. They do not manifest as headless chickens who unnecessarily provoke Russia only because the US will it. For instance, such a presence leads to the upgrading of the Norwegian military, to investments in materielle, to collective training, and not least cements the alliance with the world’s largest and strongest imperialist.
In short, Norway is not some oppressed nation. The Norwegian state is an imperialist state with its own imperialist ambitions. But Norway is a small state in Western Europe with close ties in particular with the UK and the US, and the relationship with US imperialism is close and warm. Norwegian capital does not primarily challenge US capital, even though there is competition here as well (!), but rather primarily challenges eastward towards the Baltics and Eastern Europe, against Eastern and Russian capital.
The conflicts in NATO are real and they are an expression of this very competition between its individual members. US imperialism’s interests as a rule coincide with the interests of French and German capital in particular, but also to a lesser extent with the interests of British, Norwegian, and other interests. Germany, which imports a great deal of gas from Russia, has for the most part a much more diplomatic tone in regards to Russia than the US has had. The relationship to NATO member Turkey has also varied a great deal among individual member states, even from day to day.
In short, people in Norway must understand that the Norwegian state is an imperialist that can stand on its own two feet and has its own ambitions. It is no cause for applause when it, on rare occasions, collides with Yankee interests. Norwegian politicians do not go against the US for humanitarian reasons, but solely after an estimation of Norwegian imperialist interests. One must nonetheless understand, as earlier mentioned, that NATO is primarily an alliance in support of the USA’s military interests. And one must understand that the individual imperialist member states participate on the basis of their own interests, as many of these in many cases (but not always!) coincide with Yankee interests.
3) A “Nordic Defence Alliance” is a poor alternative to NATO
As a result of the following point, the idea of a Nordic “defense alliance” being a good alternative to NATO has been long dead and buried. When NATO opponents demand Norwegian withdrawal from NATO in conjunction with such a demand, it isn’t really an anti-imperialist standpoint.
To coordinate the nordic countries’ military apparatus would be a coordination of the military apparatus of a sliver of incredibly wealthy imperialist states. Such an alliance will continue to orient itself against the East, against Russia, as it is the most likely military enemy of the Nordic countries in this part of the world. In other parts of the country, there are of course many more enemies to bomb, such as one saw in Libya, and many more countries to occupy, as one saw in Afghanistan. Thereby, such an alliance would be guaranteed manifest as a cooperation and competition westward and southward, in regards to primarily US imperialism and thereafter German, British, and French imperialism.
Without some pre-existing political earthquake, a Nordic military alliance would obviously operate as an ally to the US and NATO. The Nordic countries all have a warm relationship westward and southward. Only a comprehensive political upheaval, an enormous historical paradigm shift, would be able to turn this upside down and either form a “neutrality”, where the Nordic countries would have just as warm/cold relations westward and eastward, or en even friendlier relation eastward. Only Finland has had any real “neutrality” in the course of the past fifty years, but is today an EU member and NATO partner.
It is more likely that a Nordic military alliance would draw so-called “neutral” Finland and Sweden closer to US imperialism than it would draw Iceland, Norway, and Denmark significantly in the other direction. Such an alliance might even legitimize a closer cooperation with NATO, since it would then be characterized by “indirect” partnership and the Nordic countries could thereby legitimize it to a much greater degree in regards to Russia.
Thereby, such an alliance could strengthen the Nordic countries’ cooperation and thus their position and military ambitions on the international arena. Only those who have strong illusions about the Nordic countries being more humane and peace-loving than the others would see this as a good thing. Those who see Norsk Hydro’s environmental crimes in the Amazons, Statkraft’s razing of indigenous peoples’ regions in Mapucheland (Chile), Statoil’s plundering of Angola’s oil resources, Telenor’s chemical nightmare in Bangladesh, Rema 1000’s exploitation of workers in the Baltics, and so on, could not see a militarily strengthened Nordic as any kind of advantage for the world’s people.
Particularly not after the tragedies in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans, where Norwegian bomber planes and special forces soldiers have killed innumerable people. Or when one sees how Turkey or Saudi Arabia murders Kurds and Yemenis with Norwegian weapons systems.
In short – the case for anti-imperialists in the Nordic countries, as the German communist Liebknecht stated, is that our main enemy is to be found within our own country. It is “our own” bourgeoisie, “our own” state, that is the foremost enemy. It must be so, for if we are to fall into neutrality or even in support with them, we would become social patriots. We would become chauvinists, the way opportunists in many countries became in 1914 and in this way contributed in sending millions of workers to die in trenches for “Her” or “His Majesty” and the bourgeoisie’s colonies.
NATO (NATO’s webpage)
Addendum: Excerpt from Lenin’s “Imperialism”
Kautsky’s theoretical critique of imperialism has nothing in common with Marxism and serves only as a preamble to propaganda for peace and unity with the opportunists and the social-chauvinists, precisely for the reason that it evades and obscures the very profound and fundamental contradictions of imperialism: the contradictions between monopoly and free competition which exists side by side with it, between the gigantic “operations” (and gigantic profits) of finance capital and “honest” trade in the free market, the contradiction between cartels and trusts, on the one hand, and non-cartelised industry, on the other, etc.
The notorious theory of “ultra-imperialism”, invented by Kautsky, is just as reactionary. Compare his arguments on this subject in 1915, with Hobson’s arguments in 1902.
… Cannot the present imperialist policy be supplanted by a new, ultra-imperialist policy, which will introduce the joint exploitation of the world by internationally united finance capital in place of the mutual rivalries of national finance capitals? Such a new phase of capitalism is at any rate conceivable. Can it be achieved? Sufficient premises are still lacking to enable us to answer this question.
Christendom thus laid out in a few great federal empires, each with a retinue of uncivilised dependencies, seems to many the most legitimate development of present tendencies, and one which would offer the best hope of permanent peace on an assured basis of inter-Imperialism.
Kautsky called ultra-imperialism or super-imperialism what Hobson, thirteen years earlier, described as inter- imperialism. Except for coining a new and clever catchword, replacing one Latin prefix by another, the only progress Kautsky has made in the sphere of “scientific” thought is that he gave out as Marxism what Hobson, in effect, described as the cant of English parsons. After the Anglo-Boer War it was quite natural for this highly honourable caste to exert their main efforts to console the British middle class and the workers who had lost many of their relatives on the battlefields of South Africa and who were obliged to pay higher taxes in order to guarantee still higher profits for the British financiers. And what better consolation could there be than the theory that imperialism is not so bad; that it stands close to inter- (or ultra-) imperialism, which can ensure permanent peace? No matter what the good intentions of the English parsons, or of sentimental Kautsky, may have been, the only objective, i.e., real, social significance of Kautsky’s “theory” is this: it is a most reactionary method of consoling the masses with hopes of permanent peace being possible under capitalism, by distracting their attention from the sharp antagonisms and acute problems of the present times, and directing it towards illusory prospects of an imaginary “ultraimperialism” of the future. Deception of the masses—that is all there is in Kautsky’s “Marxist” theory.
Indeed, it is enough to compare well-known and indisputable facts to become convinced of the utter falsity of the prospects which Kautsky tries to conjure up before the German workers (and the workers of all lands). Let us consider India, Indo-China and China. It is known that these three colonial and semi-colonial countries, with a population of six to seven hundred million, are subjected to the exploitation of the finance capital of several imperialist powers: Great Britain, France, Japan, the U.S.A., etc. Let us assume that these imperialist countries form alliances against one another in order to protect or enlarge their possessions, their interests and their spheres of influence in these Asiatic states; these alliances will be “inter-imperialist”, or “ultra-imperialist” alliances. Let us assume that all the imperialist countries conclude an alliance for the “peaceful” division of these parts of Asia; this alliance would be an alliance of “internationally united finance capital”. There are actual examples of alliances of this kind in the history of the twentieth century—the attitude of the powers to China, for instance. We ask, is it “conceivable”, assuming that the capitalist system remains intact—and this is precisely the assumption that Kautsky does make—that such alliances would be more than temporary, that they would eliminate friction, conflicts and struggle in every possible form?
The question has only to be presented clearly for any other than a negative answer to be impossible. This is because the only conceivable basis under capitalism for the division of spheres of influence, interests, colonies, etc., is a calculation of the strength of those participating, their general economic, financial, military strength, etc. And the strength of these participants in the division does not change to an equal degree, for the even development of different undertakings, trusts, branches of industry, or countries is impossible under capitalism. Half a century ago Germany was a miserable, insignificant country, if her capitalist strength is compared with that of the Britain of that time; Japan compared with Russia in the same way. Is it “conceivable” that in ten or twenty years’ time the relative strength of the imperialist powers will have remained unchanged? It is out of the question.
Therefore, in the realities of the capitalist system, and not in the banal philistine fantasies of English parsons, or of the German “Marxist”, Kautsky, “inter-imperialist” or “ultra-imperialist” alliances, no matter what form they may assume, whether of one imperialist coalition against another, or of a general alliance embracing all the imperialist powers, are inevitably nothing more than a “truce” in periods between wars. Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars, and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, producing alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle on one and the same basis of imperialist connections and relations within world economics and world politics. But in order to pacify the workers and reconcile them with the social-chauvinists who have deserted to the side of the bourgeoisie, over-wise Kautsky separates one link of a single chain from another, separates the present peaceful (and ultra-imperialist, nay, ultra-ultra-imperialist) alliance of all the powers for the “pacification” of China (remember the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion) from the non-peaceful conflict of tomorrow, which will prepare the ground for another “peaceful” general alliance for the partition, say, of Turkey, on the day after tomorrow, etc., etc. Instead of showing the living connection between periods of imperialist peace and periods of imperialist war, Kautsky presents the workers with a lifeless abstraction in order to reconcile them to their lifeless leaders.