A’ dol thairis air an reifreann Albannach

na_geillAir eadar-theangachadh bhon alt thùsail le Mike Sabot, AFed Dhùn Èideann, ga riochdachadh fhèin a-mhàin.  Faodar ar n-amasan is prionnsapalan a leughadh ann an Gàidhlig an seo.

Chan eil ach glè bheag de thìde ri dhol a-nis gu reifreann mòr na neo-eisimeileachd 18mh Sultain.

Ma bhòtas tu no mura bhòt, tha e an urra riut fhèin.  Bidh cuid de dh’anargaich a’ seachnadh a’ ghnothaich uile gu lèir agus a’ cuimseachadh air eagrachadh far a bheil iad agus ge bith dè thachras, bidh cuid eile a’ cur crois sa bhaileat airson Bu Chòir, feuch gum buannaich sinn co-dhiù corra leasachadh.

Ach ma thaghas tu Bu Chòir, dèan cinnteach nach e ach roghainn phragmatach a tha ann – na gabh ri ideòlas iomairt Bu Chòir, no rudeigin a tha coltach ris, nàiseantachd-chlì.

Tha fios gu bheil sinn a’ bruidhinn mu iomairt nàiseantach Albannach – ge bith dè a chanas cuid de dhaoine air an làimh-chlì* – agus aig an dearbh àm tha muinntir Cha Bu Chòir a’ riochdachadh nàiseantachd Bhreatannach.  Feumaidh iadsan a dh’aithnicheas cho cudromach ’s a tha strì nan clasaichean cur an aghaidh a dhà dhiubh.

Ann an riochd sam bith, tha nàiseantachd a’ dèanamh dà rud: bidh e a’ feuchainn ri coimhearsnachd a chruthachadh eadar bosaichean agus an clas-obrach; agus bidh e a’ ceangal na coimhearsnachd-sa ri stàit-nàisein chalpach, a’ daingneachadh a cumhachd agus a h-àite ann am mar a tha calpachas a’ gabhail brath oirnn.

Chan urrainn seo a bhith dhà-rìribh ‘adhartach’.

Mar a dh’innis an comannach Paul Mattick, tha ceud bliadhna de dh’eòlas againn air strìthean gus nàiseanean a shaoradh far an do chrìochnaich gluasadan ma b’ fhìor adhartach an aghaidh impirealas le a bhith a’ cruthachadh clas-riaghlaidh ainneartach ùr.

A-nis, ’s dòcha gum faic sinn caibideil eile san sgeulachd agus gluasadan neo-eisimeileachd air feadh na Roinn Eòrpa a’ freagairt ath-eagrachadh nua-libearalach agus na staing-chalpach a thachair o chionn ghoirid.  A bheil sinn an dùil ri toraidhean eadar-dhealaichte?

Chan e adhbhar gàirdeachais a tha ann an sgaraidhean is farpais am measg a’ chlas-obrach Eòrpaich.  Agus nuair a thig e gu eisimpleir leithid Chatalunya ’s ann a tha e gu follaiseach air a stiùireadh le luchd-an-airgid, agus airson ’s gum bi roinn nas beartaiche a’ cumail a cuid maoin bho roinnean nas bochda anns a’ chòrr den Spàinn.

mattickGàidhlig

Ach nach eil stàitean beaga nas fheàrr agus nas deamocrataiche?

Ma bheir sinn sùil gheur air na stàitean beaga Eòrpach a tha ann an-dràsta chìthear:

  • nach eil e ann an dà-rìribh nas fhasa do luchd-obrach eagrachadh annta;
  • gu bheil iad smachdail cuideachd (mar phàirt de dhreuchd stàit sam bith) agus gun urrainn dhaibh a bhith a cheart cho borb (’s e eisimpleir àraid a tha anns an dàimh eadar an eaglais Chaitligeach agus stàit na h-Èireann);
  • gu bheil iad air a bhith gu math deònach nua-libearalachd agus mòr-ghearraidhean a chur an gnìomh (agus tha fìor dhroch bhuaidh aig seo air daoine ann an stàitean beaga bhon t-Suomi gu na Tìrean Ìsle, gun luaidh air an Roinn Eòrpa a deas);
  • gu bheil treand an aghaidh in-imrich a’ fàs air feadh na Roinn Eòrpa a tuath co-cheangailte ri ceannas siostamach dhaoine-geala (systemic white supremacy);
  • gu bheil cuid de na stàitean beaga seo air saighdearan a chur a-null thairis (m.e. an Danmhairg ann an Afghanastàn) no tha iad a’ cur taic ri feadhainn a bhitheas (Èirinn a-rithist, is iad a’ tabhann port-adhair na Sionainne do Fheachd-adhair Aimearaga);
  • agus gu bheil iad an-còmhnaidh fo bhuaidh mhòr structaran tar-nàiseanta an t-saoghail agus calpa fhèin.

 ‘Nuair a bhios daoine air an dochann le maide cha bhi iad idir nas toilichte mas e “Maide nan Daoine” a chanar rithe.’ – Mikhail Bakunin

 Tha e air argamaid le iomairt Bu Chòir agus cuid air an làimh-chlì gun urrainn Alba fhèin a bhith na ‘dheamocrasaidh àbhaisteach’.  ’S cinnteach nach do mhothaich iad gu bheil deamocrasaidh-riochdachail ann am fìor èiginn agus air a chàineadh gu dubh le gluasadan-sòisealta air feadh an t-saoghail a tha a’ sabaid airson fìor dheamocrasaidh compàirteach.

Mura h-eil coltas ann an-dràsta nach biodh riaghaltas na h-Alba a’ toirt a-steach nithean gràineil leithid Cìs an t-Seòmair-chadail no a’ gabhail seasamh an aghaidh in-imrich, chan e suidheachadh seasamhach a tha seo.  Bidh cumhachdan mòra poileataigeach is eaconamach a’ bualadh air poileasaidh an riaghaltais às dèidh neo-eisimileachd.  Bidh e aige ri gearraidhean a dhèanamh uair no uaireigin agus feumaidh e a chrìochan a chleachdadh airson ‘math an eaconamaidh’.

Tha stàitean beaga gu math comasach am poball a mhealladh agus a bhith a’ dol an aghaidh beachd na mòr-chuid nuair a dh’fheumas iad  (m.e. chaidh ‘a’ bhun-reachd chompàirteach’ ann an Innis-Tìle a chur gu sàmhach seolta an dàrna taobh leis an riaghaltas).  Bidh an ‘dìth deamocratach’ dhà-rìribh a’ leantainn às dèidh neo-eisimeileachd.

Dè mu dheidhinn na Làimh-chlì ann an Alba?

’S e coimeasgadh a tha ann de nàiseantachd-chlì agus deamocrasaidh-sòisealta cianalach.  Tha e ag argamaid an aghaidh nua-libearalas seach calpachas fhèin.  ’S e deagh dhòigh a tha seo buill-phàrlamaid fhaighinn anns an ath thaghadh ach chan eil e a’ buntainn ri atharrachadh-sòisealta bunaiteach idir.

’S ann a tha Common Weal agus an iomairt na Neo-eisimeileachd Radaigich airson calpachas a ruith nas fheàrr.

Tha Common Weal air a bhith ’s dòcha nas buadhaich na càch air an Làimh-chlì.  ’S e buidheann a tha annta a tha gu follaiseach a’ putadh co-obrachadh eadar clasaichean – agus seo air a shealltainn gu furasta nan sluagh-ghairm  ‘All of us first’.  Tha iad ag iarraidh eaconamaidh mòr-fàs, ach ’s e tha seo a’ ciallachadh ann an dà-rìribh nas urrainnear faighinn a-mach às an luchd-obrach a mheudachadh, agus a bhith a’ buannachadh an aghaidh luchd-obrach eile anns an fharpais eadar-nàiseanta.

Tha ‘comhairlean-obrach’air am moladh leotha gus dèanamh cinnteach nach eil cus còmhstri san àite-obrach – rudeigin a tha gu math cudromach ann an a bhith a’ toirt fàs air tarbhachd – i. prothaid.  Far an deach an cleachdadh anns an Roinn Eòrpa bha iad an-còmhnaidh a’ lagachadh aonaidhean agus mìleantachd an luchd-obrach.

San leabhar, Yes: the radical case for Scottish independence, gheibhear an cunntas as mionaidiche le buill iomairt na Neo-eisimeileachd Radaigich.  Tha e a’ gairm airson ro-innleachd na h-aghaidh-aonaichte (united front) chun na h-ìre agus nach eil sòisealachd – fiù ’s ‘sòisealachd’ choirbte na stàite – air a’ chlàr-ghnothaich, ach na h-aisling airson fada san àm ri teachd.

Bu chòir dhuinn, tha e ag innse, pàrtaidh leathann dhen làimh-chlì (seach pàrtaidh ‘an aghaidh calpachas’) a chur air dòigh ann an Alba coltach ri Syriza no Die Linke, agus tha iad a’ tabhann an aon ‘Keynesian wish list’ stèidhichte air an dearbh mheasadh lapach air calpachas agus an stàit a chaidh a sgrùdadh gu geur le Michael Heinrich.

Coltach ri Common Weal, tha briathrachas radaigeach – deamocrasaidh compàirteach, dì-mheadhanachadh – a’ breacadh a sheasaimh airson mion-atharrachadh slaodach.  Nuair a thig e gu h-aon ’s gu dhà chan eil e dhà-rìribh eadar-dhealaichte ris, ach lorgar beagan de chàineadh air corra phuing leithid mar a tha Common Weal gu mòr a’ cur taic ris a’ mhodail Lochlannach.

An eisimpleir Lochlannach

’S iad na dùthchannan Lochlannan na stàitean beaga as trice a bhios daoine ag ainmeachadh, agus tha Common Weal gu sònraichte airson ’s gum bi Alba nas coltaiche riutha.  Mar thoradh air grunn rudan – gluasad làbarach làidir, goireasan nàdarra 7c – bha iad na bu chomasaiche an solarachadh shochairean a ghlèidheadh na bha Breatann.  Bho shealladh eadar-nàiseanta, b’ ann a bha na dùthchannan seo mar flaitheachdan-làbarach (labour aristocracies) a’ tighinn beò air saothair an luchd-obrach thall thairis.

Ach às dèidh sin, tha na stàitean Lochlannach cuideachd a’ fulang bho ionnsaigh nua-libearalach agus tha neo-ionnanachd a’ fàs an sin cuideachd.  Mhìnich Asbjørn Wahl mar tha an stàit shochairean ann an Nirribhidh, a tha cho beairteach le ola, ga lachachadh bhon taobh a-staigh agus gu bheil ideòlas taigh-nam-bochd (workfare) ga shìor neartachadh.

Tha Wahl a’ cumail a-mach nach eil e gu feum dhuinn a bhith daonnan a’ comharrachadh cho soirbheachail ’s a tha na dùthchannan Lochlannach ann am measaidhean eadar-nàiseanta.

’S e an trioblaid gu bheil a h-uile dùthaich anns na measaidhean seo gan lagachadh.  Air neo, gus a chur an cèill ann an dòigh eile, tha cèaban fhathast againn air an deic uachdrach, ach ’s e deic uachdrach an Titantic a tha ann, agus tha an long air fad a’ dol fodha. (2011: 11).

Thèid againn air na h-uiread ionnsachadh bhon eisimpleir Lochlannach ge-tà, le a bhith a’ coimhead air a’ chontrarrachd agus strì nan clasaichean taobh a-staigh nan dùthchannan seo – a tha a’ breugnachadh na tha aig deamocrataich-shòisealta ri ràdh a-bhos an seo.

Am measg na Làimh-chlì Lochlannaich tha deasbad a’ tachairt air ciamar a bu chòir dhaibh sabaid an aghaidh an dùbhlain do sholarachadh shochairean.  A bharrachd air Wahl, tha obair Daniel Ankarloo, sgoilear air sochairean san t-Suain, uabhasach inntinneach.

Dh’innis e gun robh an gluasad làbarach an sin ‘air a dhì-neartachadh le […] co-obrachadh nan clasaichean’ (2009) agus ri linn ’s gun robh cus dhaoine a’ creidsinn ann an ‘rathad poileasaidh-shòisealta gu sòisealachd’ (2008: 78-84) – i. gum b’ e eisimpleir de shòisealachd a bha ann an stàit nan sochairean agus chan fheumamaid ach sin a’ leudachadh.

An àite seo, airson na bhuannaich sinn a dhìon agus gus strì airson co-chomann eadar-dhealaichte, feumaidh sinn mìleantachd mar chlas a lorg a-rithist agus ‘gum feum an radaigeachd seo […] tighinn bhon bhonn ann an riochd fèin-eagrachadh a’ ghluasaid làbariach’ (2009).

Tha strìthean airson shochairean, seach a bhith a’ cur taic ri stàiteachas shochairean fhèin, na phàirt dheatamach dhe seo – a’ neartachadh a’ chlas-obrach agus a chomais airson sabaid (ibid.).

Mar bu chòir, tha Ankarloo ag argamaid gum feum an gluasad eagrachadh air feadh a’ cho-chomainn agus am measg gnàth-bhuill nan aonaidhean.  ’S urrainn dhuinn cuideachd a bhith air ar misneachadh leis an aonadh rèabhlaideach SAC san t-Suain agus leis an Làimh-chlì Lochlannach nas fharsainge a tha taobh a-muigh agus an aghaidh na pàrlamaid – tha iad fada nas eagraichte na gluasad coltach sam bith ann an Alba no san RA.

Ag ath-nuadhachadh ar strì

Chan eil e deimhinne gum faigh sin gin dhe na leasachaidhean a tha air an gealltainn le iomairt Bu Chòir.

Cha bu chòir dhuinn earbsa a chur ann an stàit Albannach neo-eisimeileach a bhith a’ roinn mòran beairteis, a bhith dhà-rìribh a’ glèidheadh solarachadh an NHS, gun a bhith a’ toirt ionnsaigh air daoine gun chosnadh no daoine ciorramach, gun a bhith a’ dèanamh ghearraidhean, gun a bhith a’ cur dhaoine a-mach às an dùthaich le fòirneart, no a bhith a’ toirt air falbh nan cuingealachaidhean air aonaidhean-ciùird.

Tha cuid an dòchas gum bi daoine cumanta a’ ghluasaid airson neo-eisimeileachd a’ cruthachadh gluasad sòisealta dùbhlannach às dèidh sgaradh nan dùthchannan.  Nach e seo a tha gorm!  Bhiodh aige ri a bhith a’ diùltadh a  bhun-stèidh ideòlach, a nàdar fhèin mar cho-chòrdadh eadar clasaichean eagraichte leis an dearbh fheadhainn a tha a’ sireadh cumhachd phoileataigeach.

Tha a’ mhiann sa ghluasad seo airson atharrachadh sòisealta, ‘smachd dheamocratach’, agus ath-riarachadh beairteis rim moladh ach feumaidh sinne an leithid a phutadh taobh rèabhlaideach.

Mura h-eil am pròiseact nàiseantach air a bhriseadh a dh’aithghearr air creagan a chontrarrachd fhèin, bidh againne ri a chuideachadh dol na bhloighean.

Ge bith dè toradh an reifrinn, tha na buaidhean maireannach air a bheil sinn cho feumach an eisimeil air na ghabhas dèanamh leinn ag eagrachadh agus a’ strì mar chlas ‘air a shon fhèin’.

Aig cnag na cùise tha fìor eadar-nàiseantachd phractaigeach.

Chan eil dòchas ann a bhith a’ feuchainn ri flaitheachd-làbarachd ùr a chruthachadh no ann an dlùthachd eadar-nàiseanta nan nàiseantach-clì, ach ann a bhith ag aonachadh luchd-obrach a’ sabaid bhon bhonn an aghaidh stàit, calpachas, patrargachd, agus ceannas nan daoine-geala air feadh an t-saoghail gu lèir.

Nòtaichean

*Abair troimh-chèile, no doillearachadh a dh’aona-ghnothach, a tha air a bhith ann a thaobh ciall ‘nàiseantachd’.  Chùm co-neach-gairm a’ Phàrtaidh Uaine, Patrick Harvie, a-mach mar eisimpleir nach b’e  nàiseantach a bha ann dheth,  tha cuid eile air feuchainn ri sgaradh a dhèanamh eadar nàiseantachd ‘mhath’ (a tha beag, catharra no airson stàit ùr) agus ‘dhona’ (impireileis, chinnidheach, no airson stàit mhòr stèidhichte),  tha feadhainn air taic shoirbh staoin a chur an cèill airson ‘eadar-nàiseantachd’ – facal nach bite ag aithneachadh gu ro thric.  Cha b’ fhuilear dhuinn breithneachadh a dhèanamh air na bhios daoine a’ dèanamh seach na bhios iad ag ràdh.  Mar sin, a bheil iad a’ brosnachadh coimhearsnachd mhac-meanmach eadar clasaichean agus atharrachadh sòisealta tron stàit no nach eil?

Daniel Ankarloo (2008), ‘The dualities of the Swedish welfare model’, pp 78-84

(2009), ‘A new phase of neoliberalism: collapse and consequences for Sweden’

Asbjørn Wahl (2011), The rise and fall of the welfare state

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Thoughts from a Swedish communist on national independence and welfare capitalism

A while back, I contacted riff-raff, who produce an excellent communist journal in Sweden, and asked them if they could give a critical perspective in English on the Nordic model as well as how it’s being used in the Scottish Independence debate.  One of their members kindly offered some thoughts, giving a class analysis and looking at the debate in an international context.  It gives a good grounding for others to look at things from a critical Marxist  stance.  I should add that it was written before the riots in Stockholm last week, and we’d be interested in more attempts to understand these developments.  

sweden-is-amazing

It is difficult to say what would happen exactly if Scotland were to become an independent state, but no matter what happens, this I think is true: In any capitalist country, a certain amount of value is appropriated each year; value produced within the country or value flowing from abroad. This is the gross value added or total value product, which is distributed to the various classes. Marx argues that within the specifically capitalist mode of production there are three main, fetishistic, sources of revenue: wages for productive labour, industrial profits and rent in various forms (e.g. land rent). The real source of all abstract, economic wealth, however, is productive labour: workers who directly increase the existing capital thanks to their capacity to perform surplus labour – more labour than is represented by their wages – to produce surplus value. Apart from wages, then, all other forms of income are derived from surplus value. Industrial capitalists are living on the productive workers; unproductive workers are paid from the profits of the industrial capitalist; as are the owners of natural resources, through monopoly prices. As Marx remarks, the land owner does not have to perform any work at all to receive his income. He also does not have to take the risk that is associated with producing commodities, although he still might do so. So how does this relate to the question of Scottish independence? Independence could change the distribution shares of the total value/price that is appropriated. If an independent Scotland would mean that more money derived from important natural resources, e.g. oil, were to go to people in Scotland, as opposed to those who are living in England and Wales, there is the possibility that all classes in Scotland gain from this. One could envisage for example that oil wells are nationalised and the income from these is handed out to every individual in cash or in the form of better health care. One could also well envisage that some groups or classes were to receive more of this income than others (tax cuts for the rich but just as bad healthcare). But this also means that less income would go to all the classes in England and Wales. Perhaps the London capitalists would become poorer, but English workers are likely to become poorer too. If in a different scenario Scottish independence would mean that Scotland got poorer and England and Wales richer, for example because less subsidies are paid from England and Wales to Scotland, then the opposite would be true.
Norway’s oil is owned by the state and its income benefits the population as a whole. It is well known that their living standards are very high and they are at the top of the Human Development Index (HDI). It is somewhat the same as regards Sweden’s natural resources (iron ore, the large forests, etc.). But if Norway and, to a lesser degree, Sweden are rich, this is much due to the fact that we are living on workers abroad. These incomes are land rents and this is unpaid labour, extracted from workers somewhere. To fight for independence to gain control of and extract monetary value from natural resources is therefore a struggle to live on the toil of others. Individualsgroups and nationalities may gain economically from such a struggle, but it does not help the world proletariat to loosen its chains. A struggle for higher wages, on the other hand, or better health care, can transfer money from the non-working classes to the proletariat. And we can be sure that the non-working classes will try to win this money back, either from workers close to home or far way. The struggle between capital and the proletariat over the working day and its value product does not by itself bring about a revolution, but if the proletarians are successful, they may 1) directly improve their living standards and 2) make the capitalists extract less surplus value, which could make the capitalist system as a whole work less smoothly, which in turn might heighten the class struggles and help bring about the will and determination of the world proletariat to put an end to world capitalism once and for all.

I should add that having a lot of natural resources does not necessarily bring about high living standards under capitalism. Norway is really an exception as regards equitable distribution of rental incomes. Nigeria has got huge oil deposits but is at the bottom on the HDI. Furthermore, the existence of land rent may just mitigate an otherwise problematic situation of slow capital accumulation. Despite all its hydro-electric energy, large deposits of iron ore and other metals, forests, and a highly educated workforce, Sweden had to make huge welfare cuts in the early 1990s and legalised precarious terms of employment. By “had to” I mean of course that it was necessary to maintain stable capitalist reproduction. Today’s Greece serves as an example of what happens if the government does not do what is necessary.

North Sea oil hypocrisy

northseaoilAt the last SNP conference, Nicola Sturgeon announced: “Today we are on the verge of a second North Sea oil boom”.

Sorry, what?  Do I live on a different planet?  Why aren’t more people worried and really pissed off that a major politician is saying this sort of thing?  The Scottish Government’s recent optimistic statements on the future of the North Sea oil industry are proof as good as you can get that politicians have no intention of carrying out any drastic move away from exploiting fossil fuels.

They can get away with this by pointing to the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which is supposedly “world-leading” legislation in the fight against global warming. Forget that the government broke its first target in 2010 and in fact increased emissions by its own measurements. Or that it seems likely to miss its future targets.  But, much more importantly, its targets are far too weak anyway, if we read what climate scientists are saying. The government plans on a 42% reduction of emissions by 2020, and an 80% reduction by 2050.  According to George Monbiot, the developed nations in fact need to make a 90% cut by 2030.*   I’m trying to get my head round the situation in Scotland and I have a ton of questions about how the emissions in the Act are calculated. So if you know more about this, please fill me in.**

This article explains that if the present or future Scottish Government is to be successful in its plans for North Sea oil selling:

12-24bn barrels of oil and gas (BBOE) over the next 40 years for an estimated £1.5 trillion – the most oil available – [it] would mean the release of 5.2-10.4bn tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.That figure, verified by climate experts, dwarfs the impact of the Scottish government’s “world-leading” legally binding targets to cut Scotland’s CO2 emissions by 42% by 2020, down to 40m tonnes.

It has a parallel target to generate the equivalent of 100% of its domestic electricity needs from renewables by 2020, a policy that will save just 9m tonnes of CO2 by 2020, while only allowing new coal-fired stations that partly use carbon-capture technology.”

Apparently, though, the Government doesn’t think extracting and exporting oil has any “bearing on Scotland’s domestic carbon emissions” and that ” some of that energy use was covered by the European Union’s carbon trading scheme” (Ibid.).  This is complete hypocrisy.

I was really disappointed that people in the Scottish Left are repeating the SNP’s arguments on extracting as much oil as we can get.  One member of the Radical Independence Conference has written recently that, “rumours of the death of our oil industry are greatly exaggerated” and that we need to extract the £2.25 trillion – £4 trillion that really exists in the North Sea (i.e. every last drop).  A majority share of the oil industry should be nationalised and the revenue used to reduce poverty and unemployment.  As what felt like a bit of a footnote, they said that “we also need to tackle the question of climate and sustainability, by using the oil fund to build a green re-industrialisation that could be the envy of the world”.  But as the figures above show, this doesn’t add up.  I’m not saying  this writer is a hypocrite; the real hypocrites are those in power making green policies and then completely contradicting them.  The author here has good intentions about fighting inequality and genuinely seems to believe we can do both.  However, if this a commonly held view on the Left, it needs to be challenged.***

Climate change is an expression of capitalism’s pursuit of infinite growth, of private profit for a few through the exploitation of humanity and the planet we share.  It’s another example of how we need to rid ourselves of this system, not reform it. We want to force governments from the outside to extend the social wage – welfare, public services, pensions etc. – using whatever revenues they get.  But fighting for a better world means that climate justice has to be an integral part of organising for social change.  The poorest people in the world are already suffering from global warming and if things get much worse it’ll be them, not the global elite, who will have to deal with drought, famine and the loss of ecosystems.  And we don’t need oil to eradicate poverty, we already have many times the productive capacity to do that.  But that creative potential is based on decades of fossil fuel dependency that’s now threatening to burn our future.

Scotland is only a small part of the jigsaw, but demanding change here could influence other developed countries.  We need a fast transition from oil and other fossil fuels, much bigger emissions targets, no deep-sea drilling, radical changes to the way we consume and live, no fracking, and no greenwashing like carbon ‘offsetting’.

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On Norway’s Oil Fund

In his book Arguing for Independence: Evidence, Risk and the Wicked Issues (2012) the late Stephen Maxwell touched on some of the most important contradictions and problems for the independence movement.  What he said about global warming really hit me:

An independent Scotland would be unlikely to accede to the demands of the radical environmentalists for an end to the exploration for new oil reserves in the deep waters of the North Atlantic west of Shetland.  […] [I]t is a safe prediction that an independent Scotland like other oil producing countries will still untested oil prospects, including the UK and Norway, would be unimpressed [by environmentalists’ arguments].  Oil will almost certainly increase in value as energy demand from the industrialising developing countries grows and few countries will reject the promise of the greater wealth it offers.  Scotland would have particular reasons for pursuing the remaining opportunities.  Oil would be proportionately more important to the smaller Scottish economy than to the UK economy and a Scottish government would be under pressure in the final decades of oil to make up as far as possible for the £270 bn or more of revenues surrendered to UK control in the first four decades of production (p. 163).

Maxwell, whose book is well worth a read, suggests that the Independence movement could be criticised in the future if it follows Norway’s approach, citing Mark Curtis’ work. It’s worth unpacking this because it’s been raised repeatedly in the referendum debate.  Norway’s Oil Fund puts it above even other Nordic model countries and, as a result, it has one of the highest standards of living in the world.  Curtis, however, has shown that there are major problems with its policy from an international perspective.

On oil and poverty:  “A key Norwegian interest in energy is maintaining high oil prices to ensure a “maximum return” from its production. But this immediately puts it at odds with most of the world’s poor countries, who are oil importers. While they have been plunged in further poverty by the recent high oil prices, Norway has been profiting handsomely” (p. 9).

Oil and human rights: “StatoilHydro, in which the government owns 67 per cent of the shares, now operates in over 40 countries, including many that are corrupt, undemocratic or abusive of human rights, such as Azerbaijan, Algeria, Angola, Iran and Nigeria. Yet, as the MFA’s Refleks project states, Norway’s oil and gas industry “is completely dependent on succeeding in these markets”” (pp. 9-10).

Oil and climate change: “On the one hand, Norway is a world leader when it comes to clean environmental policy. Nearly all the country’s electricity comes from hydro-electric plants and it was one of the first to adopt a carbon tax to address global warming, in 1991. [….] But the other face of Norway is that it is a major and increasing environmental polluter with an enormous carbon footprint that far outweighs its aid allocations. Greenhouse gas emissions from Norway account for around 0.3 per cent of global emissions, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), although the government argues the figure is 0.2 per cent. However, if emissions from Norway’s oil and gas exports are included, the figure is much higher, and perhaps up to 2 per cent of global emissions.The Refleks book notes that emissions from Norway’s oil and gas exports are probably more than ten times greater than Norwegian emissions reported to the Climate Convention” (p. 12).

I’m putting these points in here not as an argument against Scottish independence per se.  Maxwell may well be right that an independent Scotland would want to intensify oil exploration and extraction, but I hardly think the UK would have a different approach.  Rather, these show how complicated the issues are and that we should be more critical about using Norway and the other Nordic countries as examples for reform.

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* I’m reading his book Heat: how we can stop the planet burning (2006) right now. It’s a great introduction to the topic, but I’m pretty sure things have moved on a bit since it was published.

** These include:

  • The devolved legislation seems to include aviation and shipping but not carbon from imports. How much of a difference would this make?  Monbiot argues that the UK Climate Change Act 2008 grossly miscalculates the actual reduction in emissions because it doesn’t include imports (and also exports).
  • Where does the CO2 that will eventually be released by North Sea oil come into all this?  Presumably the UK government is including it in their emissions targets, or are they?
  • The Act talks about ‘carbon sinks’ including afforestation which could then be deducted from the emissions total.  But it’s not as simple as plant a tree and you’ve get x amount of reduction, it takes a long time for trees to become established and reduce carbon.
  • Will the Scottish Government try to use carbon offsetting in the future?
  • When will transport emissions be taken into account?
  • An emissions cut shared out equally over a period of time will result in more emissions over all than bigger cuts early on.  To what extent is this reflected in government legislation?

*** Other socialists have also questioned extracting all the North Sea oil and pointed to a TED lecture on this topic that will make you want to curl up into a ball and cry.

Nordic class struggle

Stockholm riots

The ‘Nordic model’ is the name given to the economic and social policies shared by Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland which stress welfare provision, high taxation, and a corporatist approach to industrial relations and governance.  It has come very much into vogue in Scottish political culture as part of the Independence debate, and is said to provide a more egalitarian yet achievable example for what an independent Scotland could look like, or at least, what it could aim for.  There is no doubt that relative to our current neoliberal status quo the Nordic countries – and there are important differences between them – have a higher quality of life and a smaller gap between rich and poor.  However, the Nordic example has become to a large extent mythologized and, because it has so much significance to the political direction here, especially among the Left, it deserves a more critical, class analysis. This is a big subject so here I only intend to point to a few examples of what has been happening recently to give some light to the other side of Nordic society.

So far there have been five nights of rioting in Sweden‘s capital city, Stockholm.  Many cars have been burned and the buildings attacked include schools and a police station.  This comes after a man was shot dead by police, who said they acted in self-defence.  The scale of the rioting, with firefighters responding to 90 different incidents on Wednesday night, declining to 70 last night, has shocked Swedish society.  It has also led many people to look at why this could be happening in what is meant to be one of the most progressive countries in the world.  Those involved in the rioting are said to be young and part of the immigrant community.  They are angry at rising inequality and institutional racism, which they are disproportionately affected by.

“The reason [for the riots] is very simple. Unemployment, the housing situation, disrespect from police,” said Rouzbeh Djalaie, editor of the local Norra Sidan newspaper, which covers Husby. “It just takes something to start a riot, and that was the shooting.”

Although Sweden’s quality of life is higher overall than most other countries, according to OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) figures, it “has seen the biggest increase in inequality of any developed country over the past 25 years”.

Demonstrators in Copenhagen against the lockout of all teachers in Denmark schoolsIn Denmark, a month-long lockout of teachers has come to an end this month.  50,000 teachers were stopped from teaching and 556,000 pupils had to stay at home.  The teachers’ union refused to agree to a new collective agreement with the the Local Authorities’ Association, so the latter stopped their pay from 2nd April 2013.  The new agreement was ostensibly about giving more power to head teachers to arrange the amount of time spent teaching rather than on preparation on a case by case basis with teachers.  But, according to the Guardian’s reporter, this is really about extending the school day and moving away from the current educational approach, which is comparatively much more liberal than here in Scotland and gives a significant amount of free time to pupils to create, play and learn for themselves.  Unfortunately, it looks like this was a massive defeat for the teachers and that new conditions have been imposed by the government, paving the way for more ‘reforms’ in the future.

Last month, the threat of a national strike in Norway was stopped by government intervention at the last moment.  Talks had broken down between the Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and others with the representatives of the employers, and a deal of a slight pay rise was agreed through a government mediator.    The deal “will cover 156,000 union members and will set the bar for pay negotiations throughout the country” but in fact is much lower than previous years and comes at a time when there are demands to lower wages to maintain competitiveness.

Over 3,000 power workers were on strike for two weeks, this month, for a new collective agreement “risking blackouts”.  On May 16th, the government put a stop to the srtike using powers that can end industrial action where it “it threatens human lives, vital infrastructure or national interests”.  This seems to be a quite frequent occurence:

Workers have struck regularly over the past year in Norway in order to oppose repeated attempts to cut their pay and conditions. Last summer, offshore workers closed large parts of the oil sector to demand higher wages. The strike covered eight oil platforms on the Norwegian continental shelf, affecting 13 percent of the country’s oil and 4 percent of gas exports. […]  The 16-day strike finally ended after the government intervened, invoking emergency powers to impose forced arbitration. This came less than a month after 50,000 public sector workers struck in pursuit of pay increases and in opposition to attacks on pensions.  

IcelandSome of the most interesting stuff has been happening in Iceland.  The country has received a great deal of coverage worldwide for refusing to bear the tax burden of the economic crisis when the main banks went under.  The people then replaced the government and demanded radical changes with a completely new direction from the days when speculative finance was at its height.  A major part of that was drawing up a new constitution which included using responses gathered online – the ‘crowd-sourced constitution’.  This was really innovative and allowed for more democratic input than normal.  But according to Laurie Penny:

Here’s what actually happened. Although it is true that the three largest banks –Glitnir, Kaupthing and Landsbanki – were allowed to go bust in 2008, this was hardly a political choice: Iceland could do nothing else, because their debts were ten times the size of its GDP. It is also true that popular protest brought about a change in power. Demonstrations over the government’s handling of the crisis, particularly its promises to the IMF to repay the financial sector’s enormous debts to countries such as the UK and the Netherlands, started in 2008. On 20 January 2009, the usually reserved Icelandic people turned out on to the streets in their thousands, bashed kitchen utensils and threw fruit and yoghurt at the Althingi, the parliament building. They were demanding a change of government.

They got one. Referendums were promptly held on whether to repay foreign debts, and the state began to draw up a new constitution in consultations with the public that included garnering responses on Facebook. But then, the new administration tried to side with the IMF over the debts of the online bank Icesave and refused, in effect, to implement the constitution Icelanders had been promised. So much for the socialist utopia.

The recent elections in Iceland gave the previous Social Democrat-led government “the worst defeat of any ruling party since independence from Denmark in 1944″, despite serving in a coalition with the Left-Green movement that was meant to provide an alternative to the old parties who created the country’s economic crisis.  In fact, things have now come full circle and there is a new coalition of the Independence Party and Progressive Party who seem intent on opposing the proposed constitution in its current form, pushing for new environmentally-damaging developments and defending the fishing quotas that benefit the wealthy elite.  People voted for change but became completely disillusioned with the parliamentary alternative, and so they ran out of options.

The point in all this isn’t to say that these countries don’t have anything to show us in terms of really progressive reforms and of a different approach to the ruthless neoliberalism we’re used to. They do absolutely.  As just one example, reading about Danish education in comparison to the Scottish system is frankly amazing.  But it’s now under attack.  Although they have had a commitment to welfare beyond the rest of Europe and especially the UK, these countries are, of course, capitalist .  We can see a class struggle at work in all of them.  International competition and the fallout from the economic crisis is hitting hard (although it differs from country to country), and there are political forces present that want more neoliberal restructuring and increased controls on immigration.  In short, reforms that have been won are not permanent but are challenged and have to be fought for.