June 28, 2023
There have been claims that Sweden has broken its long-standing neutrality with its application for NATO membership. Do you agree with this assessment?
Sweden has had a long history of official neutrality, which once and for all is now broken. However, this official neutrality has never been any actual neutrality. There are countless examples of how Sweden in reality has never been neutral, but has always taken positions that have strengthened Swedish capital. This is also logical, as there is no neutrality under capitalism; one cannot principally stand on the side lines and not engage. Although officially neutral, Sweden has maintained close ties with the Western European imperialist powers and with the USA. This has manifested itself in a number of ways: allowing the transit of German troops to help in the occupation of Norway during the Second World War; the construction of a secret army during the Cold War within the framework of Operation Gladio; close cooperation with Western secret services; common military drills with Nato, and not to mention the extensive export of armaments to primarily Western countries. Throughout all of this, Sweden has maintained a position of official neutrality. What has
happened now is that politics has caught up to reality.
Why is the Swedish government so determined about NATO membership? What does it expect? And has there been a difference in approach in this respect after the government reshuffle last year?
There has been no significant difference in approach since the government reshuffle. One must keep in mind that this process was initiated by the previous government after it had secured the support of the right-wing parties. There is complete agreement in the current process. Behind this entire process one can clearly see the sharpening contradictions within the capitalist system and how they sharpen. The rivalries between the capitalist powers are becoming more and more acute, which is manifested by the war in the Ukraine, and Sweden is also drawn into this.
Sweden is a small country but with a very well-developed capitalism, whose tentacles spread across the world. Of special importance in this regard are the Swedish investments into the Baltic countries, which come into direct conflict with the Russian counterparts. Not having the means to assert its own interests by itself, it is necessary for Swedish capital to seek allies, and naturally enough, this has been done in Nato and the EU, to counteract Russian interests.
How do you, as communists living and struggling in Sweden, evaluate this approach to foreign policy? How should we expect this to affect social conditions in Sweden if NATO membership is realised?
Primarily, we see this as a natural step for Swedish capital, and our analyses focus on the role this plays in furthering the interests of Swedish capital. We see the necessity, out of which Swedish capital must seek allies and we see how this becomes a pressing matter in a context of sharpening contradictions. We do not recognize the previous policy of neutrality, as it was nowhere near neutral, and we see that this move openly brings the policies of the government in line with big capital.
Of course, we expect nothing good to come from this. We expect a heightened militarism on the side of Sweden, with an even bigger participation of Swedish militaries in imperialist interventions across the globe – remembering that Sweden already has or have had troops in countries such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, Mali and Libya. We will see a strengthening of the military presence within our borders and attempts to normalize this in the eyes of the population. We will see, and are already seeing, a huge increase in military spending, which will drain what welfare is left of its funding.
The results of publicised polls show that an increasing proportion of the Swedish people are in favour of NATO membership. As far as we have been able to track, this percentage has recently risen above 60 per cent. What is at the root of this support?
This is a very interesting question and I find it rather difficult to give a short answer to it. To begin with, we have to see how people are being driven into a false dichotomy. This is the same dichotomy that a lot of self-professed communists are being driven into as well, but from the opposite side. People are presented with a choice: either for NATO or for Russia. In the same way, many self-proclaimed communists choose the side of Russia in the war, in the false belief that one must choose one of the sides that are presented. This dichotomy, which we do not accept, is being presented to the public by a very effective media machinery. On the one hand, Sweden has a very concentrated media ownership, with more or less two families owning a majority of the media outlets. On the other hand, Sweden has a very effective public service, which presents news according to the interests of the state – that is, according to the interests of big capital. The big advantage with public service is that it is easier to maintain the illusion of neutrality. Critical voices are given no room to debate or to present their views, which means that the public are presented with only one perspective – that of pro-NATO.
However, we must also recognize one thing: the attitudes of the people towards the war are genuine. Faced with an invasion such as this, people become angry and afraid. Faced with war, they distance themselves from it. In essence, these are positive feelings. In and of themselves, these are human feelings. We feel the same abhorrence. Lacking theory, lacking positive political ideals and, we must say, an influential revolutionary communist party, people are left to what they are served, and these genuine feelings are turned into support for another imperialist bloc and other imperialist powers.
And what is the situation on the anti-NATO side? Is it possible to speak of such social resistance in Sweden?
No, not in any meaningful way. Certainly, there are different organisations and coalitions that oppose NATO and the membership process. The most vocal ones are the organisations that work in support of the Kurdish movement. However, they are small and they are riddled with ideological inconsistencies. For example, one of the main slogans of these protests have been “No alliance with a fascist”, referring to the Turkish president. We have criticised this because it completely misses the point – we do not oppose NATO because Erdogan is in it, but because it is an imperialist organisation, regardless of whether Erdogan is there or not. Slogans like these help shift the focus from the question of imperialism and the sharpening contradictions within the system to perspectives beneficial to the ruling class.
This is why we have chosen to formally stand aside from these protests, as they would force from us a compromise we are not willing to make. In essence, this is the logic of the lesser evil, where the communists compromise on basic positions to help achieve short-term victories; however, in the end, it helps distort reality.
Turkey is one of the two NATO countries that have not yet ratified Sweden’s membership. The ongoing negotiations on this issue are on the agenda of Turkey’s domestic politics as well as its foreign policy. In the meantime, communists in Turkey continue to explain what the expansion of NATO would mean both for Turkish people and for the peoples of the world. What would Swedish communists like to say on this subject to the readers of SoL News Portal and to the people of Turkey in general?
We believe that we cannot explain the expansion of NATO without explaining the imperialist system; we cannot avoid these topics and we must be clear what drives the development. Like you, we do our best to shatter the illusions that people have and to show reality for what it is. We must continue to do this. There cannot be a revolutionary resistance to NATO without a revolutionary understanding of the world.
The struggle against NATO is one of the most important struggles that we face today, as it is the strongest imperialist alliance in the world, and it becomes increasingly aggressive as it faces competition. However, we must not fall into the trap of regarding everyone that is against NATO as friends and allies; we must not resort to the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. We must chart our own path and construct our own opposition to NATO and imperialism, based on revolutionary socialist ideas.
We must have confidence in the people, that they are able to see what we see and act according to their own interests. We must not insult their capacity by diluting our politics. Instead, we must hold them to the highest standard and make it very clear that it is only the people that can save the people.