If the Nordic countries represent the horizon of possibility for world unfettered by capitalist exploitation, please end me now. Those who claim that Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland, have a socialist economy, also have a misunderstanding of socialism. This misconception must be dispelled, in order to better comprehend our present international political climate and specifically the world we must strive to achieve. The Nordic countries don’t represent the better world that is possible, because they aren’t socialist.
A common misconception is that adequate social welfare programs is the equivalent of socialism. Though these are very good things that would exist under socialism, (and have existed under socialism, as shown in Chapter 7 of the 1936 USSR Constitution) a society can still have these things and be capitalist. Canada, Hong Kong, Chile, Australia, and many other countries, have universal or free healthcare. Germany, Fiji, Egypt, and Turkey all offer free education, along with some others, though sometimes conditional in relation to academic achievement or lack thereof. If those countries were socialist or aiming for socialism, like Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia, then the US would be bullying them right now, as the US harasses Nicaragua and slams sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Socialism is not our present organization of life, with the same unequal power structures, but with a “big government.” Socialism is not social democracy, in which somehow we will establish socialism through reform and displace the bourgeoisie through institutional means in a bourgeois state. No matter how much corporate power is limited, as long as corporate powers still exist and still exploit the majority and still have the upper hand in society, it is not socialism. To put it simply, socialism is an economic system in which private property is abolished and the means of production (tools, technology, machinery, raw materials) are not privately owned but are owned by all the workers. Private property is inherently violent, as the capitalist class withholds the money you need to sustain yourself and buy commodities necessary for the maintenance of your life, and only give it to you on an hourly basis if you use your labor-power to produce commodities for them on their private property. They then extract the money they garnered from the sale of the commodity you made, which they sold at a higher cost than what it cost to produce, then put a large portion of it into their pocket, spend a bit on capital, and give even less to their workers. In a socialist society, workers would receive the full value of their labor, rather than bosses and investors taking the surplus value from the worker’s labor.
In the Nords, society isn’t organized to abolish wage-slavery or overcome proletarian alienation, but is fundamentally organized in the same way as the rest of the capitalist world. This capitalist organization is an inherently flawed and exploitive system that is devouring itself alive, as the clash of its internal contradictions will bring it to its knees, and raise the fists of the working class. The nordic states are infested with these contradictions.
Nightmares in the Nordic Countries
If we examine the nordic countries present life and history more closely, the fact that they are poisoned with capitalist hegemony becomes quite apparent.
Imperialism and monopolization is an inevitable conclusion of capitalism, as it ensures accumulation of more profit. For starters, four of the seven Nordic countries are a member of NATO, the union formed to fight against the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact. With the help of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, NATO destroyed semi-socialist Yugoslavia and sent Libya into a slave trade. Other unions that some Nordic countries are a part of include the European Free Trade Association, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the European Union. Because socialist countries love unquestionable economic co-operation with capitalist states and free trade, apparently.
Colonialism is also a product of capitalism, and the Nords aren’t free from these human rights abuses either. Norway colonized the indigenous Sámi people, and has been further plundering against their humanity for centuries. The country has been greatly criticised by the international community for their politics of Norwegianization of and discrimination against the indigenous population of the country. Finland treats them similarly, as they deny funding daycare and Sámi language instruction for Sámi children, yet provide these rights to Finnish children. Finland denies many land rights and aboriginal rights to the Sámi, and Sweden isn’t innocent of this either. Had the Sámi not been colonized and their lives not been trampled, the Nordic model wouldn’t be thriving as it is today, at the expense of the Sámi homeland.
Malcolm X was right when he said, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”, though liberalism masquerades behind “colorblindedness” and truisms like “all men are created equal.” Racism (not xenophobia or ethnocentrism) truly emerged from the birth of capitalism and the Atlantic Slave trade to justify the European colonialists horrendous atrocities committed abroad to secure immense profits. It has evolved today to provide a rationale for the horrible oppression of people of color throughout the entire world, justifying the horrible inequalities that non-white people face, while justifying the decadence that the rich enjoy. Sweden is no different: the country has consistently had race attacks, according to a United Nations report that shows an epidemic of racist violence, amidst a country that perceives itself as progressive and tolerant. Asylum centers are burned, Mosques are vandalized, and these crimes occur more often than usual during election seasons, especially by Nazi parties. Tobias Hübinette, associate professor in intercultural studies at Karlstad University, says: “The welfare state takes care of you if you are inside the system, but access to the system is largely through work and partly through the residential market, which are highly segregated.” Institutional racism is so deeply tangled within capitalist society, that the only solution is an entirely new system, because it can’t function without it.
Denmark is even designating “ghettos”, urban neighborhoods where immigrants (mostly from countries the West is bombing) typically live, which are plagued by gang violence and unemployment. The Danish government, even the “pro-immigrant” Social Democrat party, are all supportive of these measures. Measures include pretty much forcing children from the “ghettos” at the age of 1 to enroll in daycare that teaches “danish values”, Christianity, and the Danish language; though parents aren’t obligated to do so, if they don’t, the municipalities would end their child benefit payments. These immigration laws even include gentrification, demolition of ghetto neighborhoods, and deliberate lowering of social welfare benefits for those that live in the ghettos. Punishments for crimes are doubled if they are committed within the ghettos, crimes that normally result in fines would inevitably result in imprisonment for the suspect, and the deployment of police is increased in these neighborhoods.
Along with racism, xenophobia, colonialism, and imperialism, another huge issue in the Nords is violent misogyny. The Nordic countries, despite their gender equality, have the highest rate of domestic violence against women in the EU, with nearly 40% of women murdered were killed by their male partner. Online violence against women, including gendered hate speech, leaks of nude images of the victim, coercion of sexual communication, and threats of sexual assault, are all increasingly prevalent in Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. Doctors forcing teenage girls to take “virginity tests” against their will, often damaging the patients ovaries, is an all too common crime in Sweden. Perhaps this is all a product of the commodification of the traditionally female body as a sex object to be used, perhaps this is a product of a neglected hyper-masculine culture, perhaps this a product of a history of the “traditional family”, division of labor, and further gendered segregation. Misogyny, even if combatted institutionally, will always be an issue under capitalism, that leads to the destruction and loss of women’s lives.
Sweden, a country dominated by corporations, and has above-average crime rates compared to other EU countries, especially with above-average levels of consumer fraud, is not socialist. Nor is Denmark, the country ranked 112 in economic “freedom” by the Heritage 2018 Index of Economic Freedom with an economy that stands out as the “most free” economy in the world. Norway, who wins second place in the world for the most deaths by drug overdoses, and whose oil workers are currently on strike over pensions and pays, is not a socialist country. Iceland, the country that regularly slaughters whales and has a tourism industry destroying the environment isn’t socialist either. All of the Nordic countries are in the top 20 of the Heritage 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, and if you think the Nordic model is socialist because they have good social welfare plans, please re-evaluate your idea about what words mean.
You may think, “Okay, the Nords aren’t socialist. But the socialism you’re describing didn’t work out.” And to that I reply, you’re wrong. The Washington Post reported that Struggling Romanians yearn for communism, Gallup reported that Former Soviet Countries See More Harm From Breakup, and The Christian Science Monitor reported that Tajikistan pines for old Soviet Union strength. The Pew Research Center would begger to differ that Hungarians don’t miss the Hungarian People’s Republic. Will Stewart writes for Express: “Life was better in the Soviet Union than afterwards, according to a majority of people who had a clear memory and experience of living under communism in the USSR.” in his article titled, Back in the USSR: 64 per cent of Russians say life was better in the Soviet Union than now. The Balkan Insight reports: “A poll shows that as many as 81 per cent of Serbians believe they lived best in the former Yugoslavia – ‘during the time of socialism’ ”. These successes aren’t just in the past, examples are with us now.
Socialism isn’t dead, and countries actively pursuing socialism are doing pretty well. Venezuela, though struggling due to a US-led economic war of lowering Saudi oil prices and intensifying sanctions, along with government mismanagement, not because of socialism, has built over 1,600 communes in which thousands of people live in and love. Even past US president Jimmy Carter praised their voting system, saying, “Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” The Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington DC says since Hugo Chavez took office in Venezuela, and since Evo Morales did in Bolivia, poverty rates, extreme poverty rates, and unemployment rates, have all dropped significantly, while enrollment in education and minimum wages have increased significantly. Dr. Margaret Chan of the World Health Organization describes the DPRK’s healthcare system, saying, “…I can tell you they have something which most other developing countries would envy.” Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, has pretty much ended racism on their island, and the World Wildlife Fund said that Cuba is the only country in the world that has achieved sustainable development. The tiny island, even though blockaded, provides healthcare, education, and housing for all, free of charge. All of this is a gross simplification of some of the achievements of socialist nations, but the message is clear: socialism works.
No, present socialist nations aren’t perfect, nor are the Nordic countries complete hellholes, but the former doesn’t suffer from the common contradictions of capitalism that the latter does: the contradiction between public welfare and private appropriation, between various disparities of income and uneven geographical development, between technological advancements and human disposability, between overproduction and starvation, between ecological sustainability and expansion of industry. So I am tired of “socialists” pointing towards the Nords as a pillar of socialism, because it is not only wrong, but does a great disservice to the legacy of achievements of the socialist nations that bourgeois media demonizes; a legacy that we can, and must, seek to replicate, exclusive to the material conditions of our present world.