Norway. According to countryaah, Norway was one of the countries in Europe that best survived the consequences of the international financial crisis. Oil revenues contributed to this. In January, the government decided to increase the use of oil revenues in the budget by more than NOK 16 billion for municipal grants, investments in infrastructure and efficiency in energy consumption. More than three billion was set aside for tax relief. Despite the stimulus in the economy, however, GDP was projected to decline by close to 2 percent during the year.
The fight for the autumn parliamentary elections characterized politics from the beginning of the year. The Progress Party played a key role in its capacity as the largest opposition party and with the ambition to lead a change of government. The party again took advantage of the immigration issue and increased its opinion following its speech about insidious Islamization of Norway and its harsh criticism of the Minister of Justice, who wanted to allow the headscarf for female police officers.
In the early summer, a scandal broke out. The military intelligence service was suspected of illegally monitoring data traffic for both King Harald and the court and the government office. The Criminal Police launched an investigation, and the military security service later complained that employees opened the court’s email.
During the summer, the Labor Party won success in public opinion, but the coalition parties Socialist Left Party and the Center Party lost ground. The position between the blocs was very even before the election, which according to analysts was decided by the bourgeois split on the government issue. The Progress Party expected to participate in a possible bourgeois government for the first time, and leader Siv Jensen also hoped to become prime minister. Left leader Lars Sponheim categorically rejected such cooperation and was supported by the Christian People’s Party. Instead, both parties pointed to Høyrelaren Erna Solberg as suitable prime minister, and Solberg himself seemed hesitant to cooperate with the Progress Party as the closer the election approached.
In contrast to the bourgeois divide, the red-green government was a unified and tried-and-tested alternative, although there were contradictions in foreign policy and environmental issues. On election night, the position changed between the blocks until the victory finally stopped with the red-green government with 86 seats against 83 for the bourgeois.
The Labor Party went up 35.4 percent, winning three new seats and ending 64. The Center Party held the positions, while the Socialist Left Party made its worst choice so far, losing almost a third of its vote. On the bourgeois side, the Progress Party made its best choice to date with 22.9 percent of the vote and 41 seats. Høyre went ahead with a full seven seats, the Christian People’s Party lost one, and Venstre made a disaster election, lost eight of its ten seats and remained at 3.9 percent of the vote. As a result, Venstres leader Lars Sponheim resigned. The turnout was 78.4 percent.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg formed a new red-green government, where the Labor Party’s position was strengthened to twelve ministers and the Socialist Left Party weakened, among other things by the passing of the Finance Minister’s post to the Labor Party’s Sigbjørn Johnsen.
Scattered settlement, large distances and strong regionalism are factors that have also influenced class conditions in Norway. Norway is not one class society, but several. Although both the land-owning upper class, the trading families and the capital-owning citizenship constitute certain national networks, each of these groups’ class characteristics can be discussed in relation to the class relationships of other and larger societies.
The working class is also to some extent divided regionally in terms of religion, language and lifestyle. This is partly due to the fact that manual labor in Norway is by far the most mobile. A chess in the mines or in the factory is from ancient times composed of people from several parts of the country with a great deal of migration behind them. Studies of the migration of the working population show that even far into the peasant community, rural workers often moved – in the same way that workers do today – and far more than the social strata that owned or disposed of the means of production.
The removals have leveled regional and other differences in the industrial working class and made it “ordinary” or typically European. For example, it is strongly influenced by outside ideas, because international socialism is surprisingly often incorporated into the Norwegian labor movement, despite its cultural and geographical distance to the continent. Parties and divisions in the working class follow international trends. They do not in the other classes.
The working class probably has certain characteristics in Norway. The strong edge radicalism is a consequence of the country’s special geography; but it is also a consequence of the fact that the particularly militant attitudes of the northern Norwegian working environment have rarely been able to be organized on a larger scale beyond the local community – precisely because of the distances, the geography. As an organized movement, the working class in Norway is more disciplined and more loyal to leadership than in most other countries. But this must be seen in the context of the general organizational culture, which is characterized by strong center control, more than the special conditions of the working class (see section Publicity and organization).
In contrast to the working class, the upper class is significantly different in Norway than in other countries. First, they are poorer. “Cottages and houses, no castles”. Neither agriculture nor industry has yielded nearly the same concentrated wealth as in other countries. The symbolic and cultural distinctiveness of the upper class is similarly weak. The ultimate social extravagance that Norwegians have been facing was when Bernt Anker, around the year 1800, had his shirts washed in London. It was at a time when, for a short period, the wooden cargo was making quick profits. That this story continues to be conveyed through school and upbringing says a lot about the relative poverty of the Norwegian elite.
Second, the upper class in Norway is not one, but several. Big farmers, forest owners, traders and industrialists can all be said to belong to the capital-owning group. However, the way these capital groups have been in conflict with each other, regionally and economically, and the different behaviors they have shown towards their respective dividend classes, constitute significant differences and lines of conflict in Norwegian politics. Especially in relation to abroad, through customs issues and union cases, the conflict of interest within what is simply called the bourgeoisie has been great. For example, the battle between the Left and the Right up to World War I severely divided the ranks.
A third feature of the upper class position in Norway is their close association with abroad. Norwegian natural values - apart from agricultural land and forests – could not be capitalistically exploited without the introduction of fixed capital. Foreign investors have therefore played a major role in business. Mines, railways, power plants and factory facilities were started with Swedish and English capital – later also French and American.
|All professions||Industry and mountain works|
|Direct foreign-owned shares as a percentage of total share capital in Norwegian companies (at face value).
Sources: A. Stonehill: Foreign Ownership in Norwegian Enterprises, Statistics Norway 1965. Norges Bank: foreign ownership interests in Norwegian companies, Note 1970.
The table is taken from Ståle Seierstad: Foreign control of Norwegian business, in A. Seierstad and others: Norway and the international large capital, Oslo 1970. From the war up to 1970, the share of foreign capital in industry and mining was increasing, but it has stagnated in the 1970s.
The economic upper class in Norway – alongside the peasant community – has, as a result, developed only a few national institutions. National disputes in Norwegian history have therefore often had a conflict between top and bottom: Capital interests advocate open borders and free communication with the outside world, while the broad popular movements just as regularly stand for market protection and a national argument.
Consequently, the link between nationalism and capital interests that characterize much of the European right is not very prevalent in Norway. There is no real conservatism in the continental sense. The upper class case does not stand strong in politics. In contrast, popular movements have more leeway in Norway than in many other countries.
Shipping takes on an international specialty as a profession. The shipowner – the traditional flagship of Norwegian entrepreneurial spirit and capitalist daring – is at the same time an economic group that is entirely dependent on following foreign and not Norwegian interests.
The Norwegian class society has been tried several times. However, no proper mapping has ever been done. Perhaps because it is so difficult to include the multifaceted in the structures. The traditional distinction between the “capitalists” on the one hand and “the whole working people” on the other, has always existed only on paper – first and foremost in the party programs. The socialist parties like to count the overwhelming majority of Norwegian citizens as workers. But they have never succeeded in formulating a unifying interest policy for more than 40-50% of this majority. Indeed, the interests of the primary professions with their special political structures cross the gap between labor and capital.
Nevertheless, there are a few central institutions that have expressed the exchange and at the same time maintained a two-class pattern. In the countryside, it is natural to count the home care services of such an institution. Industrial use is another in which the red working houses down by the river and the white painted director’s residence on the mountain visually express the exploitation: Through such institutions, classes and class differences have been produced and reproduced in the country.
It is a little different with the larger industrial plants, because they usually have foreign owners and a board that, through decisions in Stockholm or Paris, has put both workers, managers, engineers and managers in a form of the same boat. The mining communities, the oldest industrialized workplaces in Norway, have also been subject to a distant owner, who everyone in the work works for – or against. The fishing villages, on the other hand, are more like the homemaker institution, and must be regarded as a genuine Norwegian class institution, where one benefits the other directly.
Across the labor-capital divide we find self-ownership production: the farms and small businesses that produce partly for the local environment and partly for the larger markets. There is no direct exchange between the smallholder and the big farmer, and therefore no real class distinction, because the loan schemes in agriculture – the mortgage debt – are public and not privately regulated and managed.
Yet both a social divide and a set of economic differences of interest exist between the two groups. For example, they traditionally have different opinions on the customs issue: Sales production is dependent on customs protection, self-supply production of cheap import goods. The organizational division of small farmers and (large) farmers after this rupture took place around the turn of the century. It has continued to this day.
In summary, the class structure in Norway can be said to differ from other countries:
- by a weak upper class, which plays more the role of foreign capital intermediary than the actual capital and resource-owning group,
- in a large agricultural sector which, in many branches and combinations, intersects the traditionally European social map,
- in an industrial working class which, despite these structural differences, is astonishingly “normal” in comparison to other European countries.