A new workers’ party grows in Norway

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In the midst of the campaign for the September 13 parliamentary elections in Norway, the right-wing decided that enough was enough. For several years, the Red Party (Rødt) has regularly exceeded the electoral threshold of 4%. Beating that score would mean a breakthrough for the radical left in Norway, unheard of since the euphoric advances that followed 1945. Not only would the sole Red Party MP Bjørnar Moxnes be joined by somewhere between seven and eleven comrades in parliament – threshold would mean also the end of the right-wing government of Prime Minister Erna Solberg. No wonder Norwegian billionaires panicked.

So the right did what it always does. With their coffers filled with donations from the super-rich, they rallied their newspapers, parties, and think tanks in a familiar “Red Fear” campaign to make the Red Party a supporter of the Stalinist genocide and Communist dictatorship.

In a dismal attempt to attract attention, billionaire Stein Erik Hagen – Norway’s biggest right-wing financial contributor – offered all Red Party voters one-way tickets to North Korea. In a short propaganda video, BÃ¥rd Larsen of think tank Civita (funded by Hagen) drew ideological comparisons between the Red Party and right-wing authoritarians such as Donald Trump and Hungarian Viktor Orbán. Right-wing populist leader Sylvi Listhaug (also funded by Hagen) has focused her entire campaign on stopping “radical socialists” from the Green Party, the Socialist Left Party (SV) and the Red Party – claiming that she would not be able to sleep at night if the Red Party gained some form of political influence. A member of the traditional conservative Høyre party (funded, again, by Hagen) claimed that the Red Party was “as bad as Nazism”. And so on, for weeks.

The Red Party has always been vulnerable to this form of “red fear” campaign. Partly from a 1970s Maoist party known as the Communist Workers’ Party [Arbeidernes Kommunistparti (marxist-leninistene), AKP (ML)]he fought long and hard to convince voters of their commitment to a democratic form of Marxist socialism based on the most radical traditions of the proud Norwegian labor movement. Whenever the Red Party seemed to be making progress, whether at the national or municipal level, the right (and sometimes even the Social Democratic Labor Party) would go back to “red lights”. And for the most part, it worked. At least until now.

2021 was the first election in the history of the Red Party where such tactics were not enough to frighten voters. On election night, he garnered 4.7% of the vote, comfortably beating the electoral threshold and winning eight seats in parliament. Moreover, this breakthrough came without a corresponding drop in support for the Norwegian Labor Party (Arbeiderpartiet), and in addition to fine electoral gains for three other left parties – the Agrarian Center Party (Senterpartiet), the Green Party and the Party Party of the Socialist Left.

In short, the Norwegian electorate has made a historic turn to the left.

So how did the Red Party overcome such fear of Norwegian billionaires and their political media? And how did he make a breakthrough even in the midst of a seemingly crowded field of left-wing parties?

The answer is quite simple: It’s classy, ​​stupid! Since Bjørnar Moxnes became leader in 2012, the Red Party has consistently focused on class politics. Drawing on popular activism and a core of young politicians from modest backgrounds ranging from the working class to the lower middle class, the Red Party has managed to gain a foothold within the powerful Norwegian unions, where it is now the most serious. claiming to social democracy always hegemonic.

The main political title of the Red Party has been the fight against growing economic inequalities in Norway. Under this banner, the party hammered home economic demands that concern large swathes of working class Norwegians, such as universal single-payer dental care, the ban on private profit in public welfare, the taxation of wealth, strengthening social benefits and services and creating tens of thousands of jobs in green industry.

During this year’s election campaign, that message resonated very well with voters. For decades, Norwegians have bragged about the country’s low income inequality, believing they live in a social democratic paradise where class struggle is a relic of a bygone past. But that all changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the right-wing government chose to bail out businesses and billionaires, while a record 200,000 people were left out of work. Nurses and healthcare workers worked overtime at low wages as the Oslo stock index hit new highs. As people living on allowances suffered cuts and a campaign of mistrust and invasive checks by social services, the government asked no questions when it distributed tens of billions of dollars to businesses private. At one point, Norwegian taxpayers even spent $ 3 million to subsidize luxury brand Louis Vuitton, owned by Bernard Arnault, one of the richest men on the planet.

The response from voters was clear. For the first time ever, the Norwegian electorate cited “economic inequality” as their most important political problem. This gave the Red Party an unprecedented opportunity to prosper – and the efforts of billionaires to stir up the specter of “communist dictatorship” were not enough to stop it. Even for many who did not vote for the Red Party, it became increasingly clear that the “red fear” was not about communism at all, but about protecting the privileges of the super-rich in Norway.

The Red Party’s focus on class also became evident in how the party approached the other main issue of the election campaign – climate change. In a country where more than 200,000 workers depend on the oil and gas sector for their jobs, calls to shut down these industries are always doomed to create polarization. The left-wing Liberal Green Party has chosen a strategy of polarizing the issue further – seeking to rally young, urban, highly educated and ‘environmentally conscious’ voters to its side, while alienating large groups of workers. industrial.

The Red Party has chosen a different path. Instead of reducing the climate issue to a question of identity, he tried to build a bridge between industrial activists and climate strikers under the call for a “just transition”. As always, the underlying message was about class. The Red Party has rejected a transition to unemployment for hundreds of thousands of workers, instead presenting plans to build new green industries. Rather than singling out the consumption patterns of the working class, the Red Party attacked the luxury consumption of the rich. As usual, the party clashed with billionaire Hagen, who flies his private seaplane to visit his summer home even though the ride from his Oslo mansion is only two and a half hours.

This class-based climate action strategy was a bold move. To reach the 4 percent electoral threshold, the Red Party has historically been heavily dependent on many young and highly educated voters in major Norwegian cities, particularly in the capital Oslo. At the same time, the party tried to reach new voters – rural voters, workers in the service sector, workers in the public sector and workers in industry.

So the big question in the last phase of the campaign was whether the Red Party would lose too many young urban voters to the Greens, without being able to replace them with new voters from different social groups.

On election night, the Red Party’s strategy paid off. While the Greens (unfortunately) only missed the electoral threshold by 1,700 votes, the Red Party has largely exceeded the threshold. Not only has he progressed in Oslo and the big cities, but he has progressed in almost every municipality in Norway. Although the Red Party remains heavily dependent on voter support in urban areas, it is less so than the Greens or the Liberal Party (Venstre). Sociological analysis of its growth has shown a whole new set of red voters: lone parents, low-skilled and industrial workers, students, workers in the service sector and people on welfare.

For nearly ten years, the Red Party has worked strategically to build a modern Labor Party on the basis of radical socialism. The aim was to compete with the Social Democratic Labor Party of Norway – a force that moved almost continuously to the right for several decades, sadly calling for many damaging neoliberal reforms from the 1980s to the 2000s.

At first, this strategy seemed like little more than a pipe dream – yet another case of proud socialist radicalism. But growing economic inequalities have made it possible to believe that this goal can become a reality. In the next legislature, the Red Party will be the sole opposition to the left in the new Norwegian government led by Labor and Greens. With growing support not only from the electorate, but also within the labor movement, everything looks set for the Red Party to continue building a modern Labor Party to compete with the traditional Social Democratic Party of Norway. And with an opposition like the Red Party, Norwegian billionaires are right to be afraid.


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