Norway. At year-end, Norway agreed with the oil cartel OPEC on reduced oil production to push up the world market price of oil. During the first half of the year, the price recovered from the sharp decline after September 11, 2001 and in June Norway decided to increase its production again. At that time, there were about 700 billion Norwegian kroner in the state fund, which saves the surplus from oil production.
In the spring, the Norwegian Bank and the insurance company Storebrand negotiated a merger, which was intended to create the largest financial group in Norway. But the deal fell on disagreement on pricing in the exchange of shares. It was Storebrand’s second merger failure in less than a year.
According to Countryaah website, national day of Norway is every June 7. An extensive journalist strike in the early summer affected about 3,300 journalists in close to 130 workplaces. The dispute concerned the requirement of a sixth holiday week for journalists with many years of service.
In June, the new express train between Oslo and Stockholm was inaugurated, reducing the travel time to less than five hours.
In July, Norway resumed whale meat exports for the first time in 14 years. Norway has made reservations against the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on whaling and the Norwegian authorities allowed a catch quota of 671 whales during the year.
In August, a child porn story was revealed in which about 700 people were suspected of crime. But the police did not have the resources to beat everyone, but the raid was limited to those who bought child pornography images at least three times. Thus, about 160 people were arrested.
During the fall, at least five people died of methanol poisoning after drinking wood liquor. Over 20 people became ill. About a dozen people were arrested on suspicion of selling wooden spirits, which were probably smuggled from Sweden.
Based on Digopaul, the Norwegian krone strengthened sharply during the year, resulting in exports falling by 15% in the first half of the year. In relation to the Swedish krona, the rate reached a higher level than ever since Norway got his own currency in 1819. In July, a Swedish hundred notes was worth around SEK 78. This led to dramatically increased border trade on the Swedish side. Not only the krone exchange rate but also differences in alcohol taxes helped the Norwegians to buy e.g. wine almost half as cheap in Sweden as at home.
The Progress Party (FRP), which constituted the right-wing opposition of the bourgeois tripartite government, demanded sharply lower fees to reduce border trade before the autumn budget negotiations and also wanted to use oil money for improved welfare. The party therefore reacted strongly when the government’s draft budget for 2003 hardly contained any tax relief at all. With a tight budget, the government wanted to counteract that the krona strengthened further and that the industry would lose even more competitiveness. Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik explained that he was prepared to resign if the Storting were to push through a budget that used too much of the oil income and that risked interest rate hikes and increased unemployment. The government’s negotiations with the Frp on the budget failed. Negotiations with the Labor Party were also unsuccessful, but finally the government agreed to a compromise with Frp, which received increased pensions.
During the year, Norwegian diplomats were involved in negotiations in a number of conflicts in the world. In Sri Lanka, they contributed to the ceasefire that closed in April following a civil war that has been going on for 20 years. The parties further negotiated in Oslo and agreed at the end of the year to introduce a federal system in Sri Lanka, which will give the Tamil regions regional autonomy.
The political parties
Since the fifties, the number of political parties has dropped dramatically. Active sections of the population have found other ways to influence political life, especially in the form of “grassroots movements” organized around individual cases. However, the basic role of the parties as tools for the interests of the different classes and layers has not changed, nor is the basic party pattern.
Civil and petty bourgeois parties
We still have the openly/declared bourgeois parties, with the Left Party and the Conservatives as the dominant ones. The two parties have for many years changed to be dominant on the bourgeois wing purely voter-wise, but – despite their competition – have both endeavored to be direct speakers of the interests of large capital. Since large capital cannot govern without the support of other strata of the population, both parties have also been willing to take due account of the interests of petty capital and petty bourgeoisie. In trying to undermine the influence of the Social Democracy, we see these years the Left Party trying to play the role of effective guardian of the interests of «welfare Denmark». The Left also managed to make a serious inroads among working-class voters.
The Radicals were originally a petty-bourgeois party that played a progressive role at certain points, e.g. in terms of defense and security policy and certain environmental issues. It has its root and main foundation in well-educated academic circles. However, the party has never concealed its hostile attitude towards the trade union movement. Many years of support for civilian governments in the 1980’s and recent years of government cooperation with the Social Democracy have removed the last progressive sides of the party’s politics, as demonstrated by its wholehearted support for NATO’s war against Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999.
In between these parties operate the Center Democrats and the Christian People’s Party, which, as genuine opportunistic parties, offer their support to the strongest. They do not represent any decisive parts of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, but have so far managed on individual cases.
The major changes in the class structure up through the ’60’s created in the early 1970’s a new petty-bourgeois protest party, the Progress Party, which today has turned into two: the Danish People’s Party and the Progress Party. The party has its roots and base among small self-employed and small capitalists, but its agitation against tax policy, cuts to the elderly and the sick, bureaucracy and not least the EC and the EU has provided them with many working-class voters. These parties have no independent program for the development of society, and in practice will act as support parties and breakwaters for the efforts of the «old» bourgeois parties to weaken the working class.
Social democracy – a bourgeois labor party
In the labor movement, the Social Democracy is still the largest party. It must be called a bourgeois labor party. Civil, because in practice its policy is about preserving the capitalist system and because its leadership also basically agrees with the bourgeoisie on the “necessary policy”. “Workers’ Party” because its main electoral base is still the working class and its main material base is still a large layer of unionists in the trade union movement, the tenant movement, the cooperative movement, etc.
The term “bourgeois working party” must also not be overshadowed by the fact that the party has major contradictions that are sharpened as the party leadership implements the bourgeois cutbacks policy. There is no visible and organized opposition in the Social Democratic Party organization itself. Traditionally, it will not have much chance of being heard. Instead, the criticism comes from the many unions in the trade union movement who are getting harder and harder to defend the party leadership’s policy towards their members. The contradictions are likely to be deepened in the coming years. In its rapid march to the right, the current leadership has brought the Social Democracy into a dead end. You have said goodbye to former core voters and put LO out of influence,
SF and Device List
But the parties to the left of the Social Democracy do not seem to seriously jeopardize the Social Democracy base in the trade union movement, or gather the majority of dissatisfied Social Democratic voters.
SF will undoubtedly be able to gather some of the Social Democratic voters in upcoming elections. But it does not constitute a programmatic and organizational alternative to the Social Democracy. SF is also a reformist party, and as such will end up as the administrator of the ruling order. Organizationally, it does not exert any major attraction on the social democratically confident trade unionists, as the party still has its main material basis in the well-educated intermediate layers.
The Unity List also lacks clearer political alternatives to the Social Democracy. Fortunately, it has a different view of capitalism, the EU, NATO, civilian crisis policy, etc. At the same time, the Unity List has brought together a significant part of the left around anti-capitalist branding, and even achieved a parliamentary breakthrough on that basis. That in itself is a feat when you consider that the far left was in complete collapse in the late 80’s. Yet, the list does not currently represent a truly programmatic and political alternative to the reformist currents that characterize the labor movement. At the same time, its social foundation is too weak for it to have any greater impact in the foreseeable future.