Paper for The Brussels Seminar, May 2-4, 2001 (slightly modified)

The nation states
and the communist movement
are faced with the emerging
supranational state of the EU

by Arnljot Ask, international secretary of AKP, Norway

Workers' Communist Party of Norway: Home page | English index page | In German In Spanish

1. Imperialism means national suppression, and makes the struggle for national sovereignty an integrated part of the proletarian, socialist revolution

Earlier, the national bourgeoisie fought for national states. In these they had control over the domestic market as a basic economic foundation for their power. Imperialism has turned the national state, with its laws and regulations, into a hindrance for the expansion of the international capital. In most countries today, even in semi-colonial countries, the national bourgeoisie is playing a smaller and smaller role.

When the bourgeoisie plays the national tune today, it is to promote what also has been there all the way from the beginning; national chauvinism legitimising hegemonism and oppression of national minorities within their own state borders.

Imperialism not only leads to exploitation and national suppression of peoples and nations in the so-called Third World. The bourgeoisie behind the various imperialist states are also in mortal combat for dominance over the imperialist countries themselves. The biggest amounts of commodities and capital are concentrated in the imperialist countries. This leads to that we even in smaller imperialist states find many factors that resemble the neo-colonialism of today, which is taking grip of many of the former colonial states. That is for example; dominant multinationals taking control over natural resources and local economy; smaller states being incorporated into the military- and security spheres of the big powers and the development of local political regimes that are servile to their big brothers.

We are experiencing that national oppression gets harder and that the struggle for national sovereignty is becoming an increasing part of the anti-imperialist struggle in all parts of the world.

Today the defenders of the nation is the working class and the toiling masses, in their defence of trade union rights, legal rights and - not the least - democratic rights. Today there is even more reason to say that the struggle for national sovereignty is an integrated part of the proletarian, socialist revolution, than it was then Lenin formulated this thesis more than 80 years ago.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are in a situation where imperialism has managed to push back the "first wave" of socialism. The next socialist revolutions will also emerge at "the weakest links" of imperialism and take the form of national revolutions, either as a following up of a national democratic revolution in dependent countries or as socialist revolutions in imperialist countries. The monopolisation of power structures under imperialism, both in fewer dominating MNCs and a smaller handful of big hegemonistic bourgeoisie states, does not lead into a simultaneous, global, socialist revolution and a constitution of a global socialist system. Even if the prospects for wider "breakaways" from the imperialist system are improving, the struggle has to be based on a socialist strategy adapted to each and every country. In the present world situation this is underpinning that the main contradiction in the world today is between imperialism and the oppressed peoples and nations in the world. The national democratic movements in the so-called Third world are the main force in the anti-imperialist camp, but the struggle for national sovereignty in the imperialist countries are also adding their share.

To avoid misinterpretations: This is not in contradiction to the fact that in imperialist states, like Norway, the main contradiction is between the working class and the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, the struggle for national sovereignty is a crucial condition for the class struggle against the bourgeoisie in Norway. It's the bourgeoisie that's selling out national sovereignty for dollars and euros, and to be in a better position also to exploit the working class in Norway even harder. The bourgeoisie in Norway is integrating and subordinating Norway in order to be able to partake in the imperialistic EU project and partake in the exploitation of the masses in the EU dominated areas and in EU's international "adventures". The EU dominated area is the new "home market" of the biggest Norwegian firms

2. Imperialism is utilizing national and ethnic contradictions. Communists must fight for voluntary international cooperation and for proletarian internationalism

The leading imperialist powers are meddling into conflicts between states and are striving to raise ethnically and religiously based struggle within the existing states. They are playing on national and ethnic contradictions in a classical divide and rule strategy. As we are fighting for the right of nations to form their states, including the right of secession from multinational states, communists then also have to struggle to minimise the contradictions between states and nations.

The struggle for national sovereignty and international solidarity within each separate nation is the only thing that can secure that the peoples in every nation can decide their economic and social system on their own. That does not mean that there should be an aim that every nation must create its own state. In the world today there are hardly any nation states in the sense that everybody living inside its borders has the same ethnic background. If existing states are divided into new nation states, these will also become multinational and have to take care of the national rights of their minorities. If not, imperialism will utilize this in its divide and rule game

The dissolution of former Yugoslavia illustrates this. Even if the rights for self determination for Bosnians, Croatians and Albanians are incontestable, there was no good reason to split up a state where the different nations are so strongly mixed up that you have to go into cell-splitting all the way down to small villages to obtain a dissolution based on national grounds. It would have been better to try to solve the misrule within the framework of the federation, in place of reactionary and chauvinistic currents playing off their misdoings against others to secure their own narrow interests. At the same time, the dissolution of former Yugoslavia gave the imperialist powers within the EU a free way forward. Something to think about then the EU is working at erecting a multinational EU-state, and at the same time was very eager to dissolve the former Yugoslavia in the name of defending national sovereignty.

We cannot leave "the national issue" to the bourgeoisie, just because they are utilizing the national and ethnic contradictions for their own advantage. If we do this it will be a setback for the class struggle and the socialist revolutions. The national struggle is an independent and important struggle for the working class and all exploited and oppressed classes and groups. This struggle is an important prerequisite for, and part of, the revolutionary struggle for socialism and communism. Socialist revolutions and developing a world wide communist system presupposes free national states, which can cooperate equally with each other, for the benefit of all, and start the process of dismantling the national states.

3. The EU is the project of big capital in Europe. The EU cannot be reformed to serve the working class and the peoples - it must be dissolved

The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the USA being the totally dominating imperialist power. National liberation movements can no longer play on contradictions between two superpowers. The USA is using this strength to lead a common, intensified attack from the capitalist class all over the world against the vast majority of the people in all countries. The global institutions built after the 2nd World War, The World Bank, the Monetary Fund and the GATT/WTO, have been important tools for this policy. The US dominance makes the situation in this phase, that they themselves call the New World Order, difficult for the anti-imperialist forces.

Most likely the USA will be able to retain its position for some time. Even though we already today observe that the general features of imperialism, with the uneven development of the strength of the competing imperialist forces, leads new rivals to the foreground, like the big powers in the EU-project and Japan. A crash in the world economy could also accelerate a change in the balance of strength between the big imperialist powers.

The EU was created under the patronage of the USA, within the European bastion against their rival the Soviet Union. The free trade area also benefited American multinationals. Even the plans of an Inner Market, pushed forward by the big European enterprises through their organ The European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), were applauded by the USA.

The basis for the development of the contradictions between the EU-project and the USA we find in the new framework created by the ending of the "cold war" and the establishing of Germany as a normalized state. At the same time, the building of the economic union itself, according to the economic laws, is pushing forward a political and military union.

Still the EU is in its embryonic phase of being a real political-military agent. The process is also fragile, because of its many internal differences and contradictions. The power struggle inside the project is still going to sharpen. At the same time the USA is still an important "European power" and will strengthen both internal tensions in the EU and compete with the EU in its efforts to push its sphere of influence eastward, both in Europe and in Asia. This is a part of the process forming the new main imperialist blocks standing against each other. Most likely the EU-project will splinter in this process.

But anyway what will be the final destiny of the EU, the bourgeoisie in Europe is developing new policies for increased exploitation. Policies are being developed that will undermine the legal possibilities for the struggle of the working class and the peoples of Europe. This process presupposes an undermining of the nation-states and subjecting them to supra-national state forms. The multinationals are developing EU into a prison of nations, under the hegemony of the strongest imperialist states in the EU. This is happening parallel with the process that even the smaller states - like Norway - are developing their own imperialist activities.

The EU institutions are being strengthened in accordance with these aims, and the largest imperialist powers in the EU will strengthen their positions. It's becoming increasingly clear that a strategy for the anti-imperialist forces to struggle within the EU system is increasingly difficult. The only way to go forward is to raise the struggle to withdraw from EU and to cooperate in a struggle to have the EU dissolved. For a non-member like Norway this means getting out of the suffocating grip of the European Economic Area.

The AKP considers that a socialist strategy must involve the liberation of the nations of Europe from supra-national state forms like the EU. A future socialist Europe must build on multilateral agreements based on voluntariness on the part of all nations. Just like the national socialist state cannot be built on the bourgeoisie state, it is futile to think that the EU can be turned into a socialist Europe.

4. The main question in the struggle against the EU is national sovereignty

EU is the present expression of capitalist development in Europe today. This has consequences for the class struggle, for the struggle for social and democratic rights in the various states too. It is an important condition for the struggle to keep outside the EU, or be able to get out for those who unfortunately are inside.

Seen from Norway, it is easier to secure trade union rights within a country with 4,5 million people than inside a supra-national structure of 200 millions where the capital is well organized. It is easier to defend the rights for the Norwegian language in the whole community when this is the main language of the state, than it would be as a "costly" minority-language. It is easier to put political pressure on the Norwegian government in a political case, than to press the big powers in the EU. National sovereignty of Norway is that Norwegian authorities have a possibility to decide and that Norwegian laws can be followed. Not in an absolute manner, but in a way you can influence through class struggle in your own country. National sovereignty is not only the right to vote for a parliament, it is more about how much the parliament has "the right" to decide.

Dissolving EU is not the same as smashing capitalism, but means changing the framework for the class struggle. We do not look upon the struggle against the EU as a direct marching up for the socialist revolution. But as a struggle giving us better conditions in the all-round struggle against capital and gaining strength for a future socialist revolution. At this stage, the question of national sovereignty is the crucial one. This is the "bottom-line" of the front-policy of AKP in the struggle against the EU.

In Norway we uphold the paroles: No to EU membership, Norway out of the Western European Union, No to the Schengen Agreement and Norway out of the European Economic Area (and, of course, Norway out of NATO). Whether people are socialists or not is subordinate in this context. But the struggle against the EU is developing the anti-capitalist consciousness among peoples.

The program of the front "No to the EU" has many of these elements. "No to the EU" is the most important organisation of the people of Norway and the working class of Norway for the maintenance of national sovereignty and international solidarity.

In practice it has shown up that this is the most successful line in the struggle against the EU in other parts of Europe too. Norway has managed to stay outside. Denmark has twice put obstacles for the EU-process and avoided to be completely swallowed up. Also Sweden, there the resistance front is organised on a similar base, has managed to avoid a full integration. Both of these countries therefore have a solid starting platform to get out of the EU-prison at a future cross road!

In Ireland the National Platform is also built in the same manner and is in a position to overturn the whole Nice-treaty, if they manage to win in the referendum before this summer. Similar resistance organising we can find in Malta, in one of the countries applying for membership having a referendum probably in 2002. Also in the Baltic countries they are building "No-movements" after the "Nordic model".

In most of the EU-countries, however, the EU-debate are dominated by the political parties. This may be one of the factors that explain the differences in strategy for the struggle. Different "starting points", of course, have to be taken into account, but should not be decisive elements of departure. The forces working for an arbitrary "Grosse Deutschland" might - in the German political landscape - utilize the parole "Germany out of the EU". (Depending on the balance of the political forces in Germany). In the same way "Belgium out of the EU" might be ammunition for the reactionary Vlaams Blok working for a separated Flanders. But irrespective of in which national state you are fighting against the EU-project, the struggle should be based on the perspective of dissolving the EU and that the conditions for the class struggle will be better inside the present national states. This also, we think, goes for countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece and the applicant Turkey. Even if the EU-membership of the first three of these countries also had some positive elements in the first phase, since they became members in a period of consolidating the passage from fascist dictatorships to bourgeoisie democratic dictatorships, and that the EU also might be used for a similar transformation of the Turkish class-state.

The European Anti-Maastricht Alliance (TEAM) is the constellation on the European level reflecting the front policy we are applying in the Nordic countries. This is the inter-European cooperation, which will have the biggest importance to develop to topple the EU-project; through the resistance forces this can mobilize at in each country, establishing broad, united, anti-hegemonistic, pro-democratic and anti-racist fronts.

In Norway the bourgeois media continually claims that national independence is no longer possible, and that we must submit to supra-national constructions. The same goes for the MAIN bourgeois parties, the most important being the Labour Party. This ideology has its twin in the Trotskyite movements that claim that there cannot be socialism in one country alone. Pressure is developed against the idea that socialism can and must be built in each individual country within an international setting based on voluntary cooperation between the states. Giving up the policy of fighting for national sovereignty and socialism in one country fits very well with the interests of the multinationals that are in the lead building the European Union.

The idea that socialism cannot be built in one country is a defeatist idea. It stops the working class from developing tactics to achieve just this. We are of course aware that the working class in Norway cannot hold on to power alone over a longer period, as the imperialist forces would be overwhelming. But our goal is to establish socialism in Norway, and we expect the international working class in all nations to struggle to achieve socialism in their respective nation-states.