This is an assumption many non-Norwegians make, especially from North America. Here is a list of points that might make people believe Norway is a communist country:
- Norway has free education including higher education. University students even get a scholarship and a loan (from Lånekassen) on top of university being free.
- Norway can be seen as a “nanny state”, where many policies might seem to be interfering with personal choices, such as a restrictive alcohol policy (restrictions on where to buy alcohol and at what time, monopoly of the state on sale of alcohol), restrictive tobacco policy, etc. Also Norway uses taxes to influence the use of certain goods (for ex. no tax on electric cars, or high taxes on alcohol to decrease consumption).
- Norway is a welfare state, and imposes taxes on the revenue of those living there (including foreigners), and the richer you are the more you pay. The average is around 35%. This is not something you can opt out of if you live in Norway. Even if you never get sick or don’t have kids you still have to pay taxes decided by the state, to pay for the welfare state. Note that even those who are not working and getting social benefits usually pay taxes on that too.
- Norway has a common border with Russia, and wasn’t it the Soviet armies who freed Norway from the Nazis at the end of World War II?
- The state has a high amount of shares in many large companies such as Equinor (ex-Statoil), Vy (ex-NSB) etc.
- The protectionist approach to many industries in Norway, such as agriculture and the food industry – where two companies have a duopoly on what is sold in supermarkets.
In fact none of these elements are a proof that Norway is a communist country, and many other aspects of the Norwegian economy show it is actually very much a capitalist system rather than a communist one.
First of all, many countries have policies to ensure equal access to education, this is not enough to make them communist. In fact “the right to free education at primary education and progressive introduction of it at secondary and higher education” is a human right stipulated in Article 13 of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural rights and is not linked to any form of government or economic model.
Secondly, what defines a communist system is not a common border with the former USSR, protectionist laws on food, high taxes on the revenue or a welfare state based on solidarity. I believe that during the Cold War, “communism” became such a dirty word in many Western societies that myths were built on what communism is. Suddenly anything which is not the American way of life can be taxed as communist, and anything falling short of neoliberalism became communism.
Let’s get back to the definition and not our assumptions as to what communism is: “A communist society’s aim (under the marxist definition) is to ensure that workers or the proletariat control the means of production (mills, factories etc.). After a period of transition, the government would fade away, as well as money, the state and social classes. This revolution would lead to the workers building a classless society and an economy based on common ownership of the means of production. Religion and the family, institutions of social control that were used to subjugate the working class, would go the way of the government and private ownership”. (Sources: Principles of Communism, Frederick Engels, 1847, Section 18. and The ABC of Communism, Nikoli Bukharin, 1920, Section 20 & 21), Wikipedia, Investopedia).
The Norwegian society’s aim is not for workers to take control of the means of production. Those are controlled by private companies mostly. Also, there is no aim neither by the Norwegian government nor by the people of Norway to make money disappear. Norwegians are extremely consumerists (just count how many people have IPhones and how often they change them), and love owning private property. More than anywhere I have lived before. There is no plan either that the state or even religion fade away. The Church and the state have separated surprisingly recently (2016), and as we speak the Christian Democrats are in the ruling government, alongside three political parties which want an even more liberal economy: the Conservatives, the Far right and the Liberal party. So the opium of the people is pretty much ruling the country. Not sure how far from communism that makes Norway, but very far could be a good assumption.
Now you could say that Marxism never made it in practice, and that instead dictatorships where the government was extremely present were formed using communism as a defined system, such as for example the Soviet Union, North Korea or Mao’s China. True, and then those countries never turned out to be democracies. Yet Norway is a democracy, with almost 80% political participation in elections. It was even ranked “world’s best democracy” by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 6 years in a row.
Norway is also very much embracing a free market capitalism, including the adoption of a universalist welfare state, collective bargaining of unions with the state and the private sector, and a commitment to private ownership. This is called the Nordic model. Such countries are highly democratic and usually aim to high social mobility. In 2019, all five of the Nordic countries ranked in the top 10 on the World Happiness Report.
So, are you now convinced that Norway is not a communist country? If not, leave a comment!