National Sovereignty in the Struggle Against
Imperialist Globalisation

Arnljot Ask 


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

The national bourgeoisie originally fought for national states; control over the domestic market was a basic economic foundation for their power. However, imperialism has now turned the national state, with its laws and regulations, into a hindrance for the expansion of the international capital.

In most countries the national bourgeoisie plays a smaller and smaller role. When the bourgeoisie plays the national tune today, it is to promote national chauvinism, legitimising hegemonism and suppression 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 of the various imperialist states are also locked in a mortal combat among the imperialist countries themselves. The vast bulk of commodities and finance is concentrated here. This leads to a situation where even smaller imperialist states increasingly resemble the neocolonialism we see today unfolding in former colonial states; foreign control of natural resources and the economy, the incorporation of smaller states in the military- and security spheres of the big powers and the development of servile political regimes.

National oppression today is taking new forms. We are experiencing harder oppression and the increasing centrality of the struggle for national sovereignty to the anti-imperialist struggle in all parts of the world.

Today, the defenders of the nation are not the bourgeoisie but the working class and the toiling masses: in their defence of trad union rights, juridical rights and, not 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 when Lenin formulated this theses on national self-determination more than 80 years ago.

At the beginning of the twenty first century, the main contradiction in the world 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 within the imperialist countries also plays a part.

2. Imperialism is utilizing national and ethnic contradictions. Communists must fight for national cooperation on equal non-hegemonistic grounds and for proletarian hegemonism.

The leading imperialist powers are meddling in conflicts between states and are striving to raise ethnic and religious based struggle within 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, inclusive the rights 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 could decide by their own their economic and social system. That does not mean there is an aim that every nation should create their own state. In the world today there hardly are any national states in the sense that everybody living inside its borders has the same ethnic background. If existing states are divided into new national states, these also become multinational and have to take care of the national rights of their minorities. If not, imperialism will utilize this in their 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 little sense in splitting up the state on ethnic lines. The different nations were so strongly mixed up that you had to go all the way down to the small villages to obtain a dissolution based on national grounds. It would have been better to try to solve the problems of 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. It is notable that the EU were very eager in dissolving the former Yugoslavia in the name of defending national sovereignty, while at the same time are working to erect a multinational EU-state.

We cannot leave “the national issue” to the bourgeoisie, because they are utilizing the national and ethnic contradictions for their own advantage. 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 presupposition for, and part of, the revolutionary struggle for socialism and communism. Socialist revolutions and development of a world wide communist system presupposes free national states, which can cooperate equally with each others, for the benefit of all, before the dismantling of the national states can begin.

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

Te collapse of the Soviet Union left the USA as the total dominating imperialist power. National liberation movements no longer could play on contradictions between the 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 erected 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, which they themselves call the New World Order, especially difficult for the anti-imperialist forces.

It is most likely that the USA will be able to retain this position for some time, even if 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 accelerate a change in the balance of strength between the imperialist big powers, however.

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 benefits US multinationals. Even the plans of an Inner Market, pushed forward by the big European enterprises through their organ European Round Table (ERT), were applauded by the USA.

The basis for the development of contradictions between the EU-project and the USA can be found in the new framework created by the ending of the “cold war” and the establishment of Germany as a normalized state. At the same time, according to economic laws, the building of the economic union is pushing forward a political and military union.

Still, the EU is in an embryonic phase as an independent political-military actor. The process is also fragile, because of its many internal differences and contradictions. The power struggles inside the project are still going to sharpen. At the same time the USA is still an important “European power” and will strengthen both internal tensions and competition with the EU in its efforts to push eastward its sphere of influence, both in Europe and in Asia. Most likely, the EU-project will splinter in the process of developing new major imperialist blocks. This may occur within maybe 10-15 years.

In any case, the bourgeoisie in Europe is developing new policies for their 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. Even the smaller states, outside the EU, such as Norway, are developing their own imperialist activities.

The EU institutions are being strengthened with these aims, and the largest imperialist powers will strengthen their positions. It is becoming increasingly clear that a strategy for reform 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 Workers Communist Party of Norway 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.

4. The core of the struggle against the EU is national sovereignty.

The EU is the present expression of capitalist development in Europe today. This has consequences for the class struggle and for the struggle for social and democratic rights in the various states. An important condition for the struggle is the ability to keep outside the EU, or be able to get out for those who are already 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 very well organized. It is easier to defend the rights for the Norwegian language 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 than to press the big powers in the EU. National sovereignty for Norway means that Norwegian authorities have the possibility to decide and that Norwegian laws can be followed. The class struggle in your own country can influence these decisions. 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 the EU is not the same as crushing capitalism in itself, but changing the framework for the class-struggle. We do not look upon the struggle against the EU as a direct matching up for the socialist revolution, but as a struggle giving us better conditions in the all-round struggle against capital and providing 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 united front policy of Workers’ Communist Party in the struggle against the EU.

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

The program of the united 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 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. In Sweden the resistance front is organised on a similar base and 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 can be found in Malta, one of the countries applying for membership having a referendum probably in 2002. Also in the Baltic countries “No-movements” are being built after the “Nordic model”.

In most of the EU-countries, however, parliamentary parties are dominating the EU-debate. That may be one of the reasons explaining the differences in strategy for the struggle. But the geography or different starting points should not be the decisive element. The base should be the political analyses and strategy and tactics followed from this. In the German political landscape, the slogan “Germany out of the EU” might be utilized by those going for an arbitrary “Greater Germany” (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 Vlandern.

But irrespective from what national state you are fighting 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 goes in countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece and the applicant Turkey. This is the case even if the EU-membership of these countries also had some positive elements in the first phase, in a period of consolidating the passage from fascist dictatorships to bourgeoisie democratic dictatorships.

The European Anti-Maastricht Alliance (TEAM) is the constellation on European level reflecting the front policy we are applying in the Nordic countries. This is the inter-European cooperation that will have the greatest potential to topple the EU-project; through the resistance forces this can mobilize at the home base in each country.

In Norway the bourgeois media continually claim that national independence is no longer possible, and that we must submit to supra-national constructions. The same goes for the 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. Abandoning the policy of fighting for national sovereignty and socialism in one country fits very well with the interests of the multinationals that lead the building of 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. #

 Edited from a contribution made by Arnljot Ask, International Secretary of the Workers Communist Party of Norway, to the International Communist Seminar, "The World Socialist Revolution in the Conditions of Imperialist Globalization", Brussels, 2-4 May 2001.