Tybring-Gjeddes historiediktning

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The below is a guest post by my estimable friend and sometime co-author, Pål Røren. It was first published in Dagbladet, on the 27/06/2016

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Dessverre for Tybring-Gjedde er ikke det nasjonalromantiske bildet han tegner i tråd med historien

Christian Tybring-Gjedde (Frp) fremstod som Norges svar på Nigel Farage, da han etter forrige ukes Brexit uttalte seg grandiost om nasjonalstaten, folket og kontinentets seier over EU. Her hevdet Tybring-Gjedde at Europa er på vei tilbake til en tid hvor ulike folkeslag samarbeidet og handlet med hverandre med alle individer trygt plassert innenfor sine nasjonalstaters grenser. Dessverre for Tybring-Gjedde er ikke det nasjonalromantiske bildet han tegner i tråd med historien.

I DBTV-innslaget var det spesielt tre historiske påstander som utmerket seg:

  1. «I Europa har nasjonalstatene eksistert og handlet med hverandre i tusen år. EU kom først etter andre verdenskrig.»

Nasjonalstatene har ikke eksistert i tusen år. For tusen år siden var snakket vi ikke om Tyskland, Frankrike og Italia, men det tysk-romerske riket, det Bysantinske imperiet, Normannerne og andre små og store middelalderske entiteter.

Moderne nasjonalstater er en relativ ny oppfinnelse. Faglitteraturen var tidligere enige om at freden i Westfalen i 1648 representerte den spede start på det moderne statssystemet. Nylig historieforskning har vist at vi sannsynligvis må se den franske og den industrielle revolusjonen som det reelle startskuddet på nasjonalstaten.

Historieskisseringen fra Tybring Gjedde har større problemer enn det simple faktum at han bommer med vel 800 år. Hvis den moderne nasjonalstaten slik vi kjenner bare er i overkant av 150 år eldre enn EU er det umulig å betegne den ene som «naturlig» og den andre som «en underlig konstruksjon», slik Tybring-Gjedde gjør i innslaget

  1. «Handelen kommer til å fortsette som før. Det er det som skaper fred, ikke at du har et stort byråkrati i Brussel.»

I tråd med liberalismens grunnprinsipper har Tybring-Gjedde rett i at handel sannsynligvis skaper fred. Det er derimot noe forunderlig at han overser det faktum at EU har brutt ned tollbarrierer, redusert transaksjonskostnader og i alt økt handel både innad og utenfor unionens grenser.

Når vi først er inne på liberale teorier kan vi også nevne Immanuel Kants evige fred. Den demokratiske fredsteorien, i tråd med handelsfreden som Tybring-Gjedde skisserer, tilsier at det er tilnærmet ingen sannsynlighet for krig mellom demokratier. I faglitteraturen levnes det liten tvil om at EU gjennom sin pisk og sine insentiver har vært en sterk bidragsyter til det økende antall demokratier både inne og utenfor unionens grenser.

La gå om Tybring-Gjedde kanskje mener tildelingen av Nobels fredspris til EU var vel mye. Her kommer en nøktern formel: Økt handel skaper fred. Flere demokratier skaper fred. Og EU skaper mer handel og flere demokratier. EU er lik fred.

  1. «Det er det Europa var ment å være – ulike nasjonalstater som ikke er fiender, men som samarbeider med hverandre.»

Europa har stått for noen av verdenshistoriens største menneskelige fremskritt. For mange idealister var Europa ment å være en plass med mange nasjonalstater uten fiendskap. Historisk sett har derimot ikke Europa vært et spesielt fredelig sted. De mest grusomme handlinger og de største krigene ble ført i nasjonalstatens ånd. Selv om de samarbeidet og handlet varer med hverandre glemmer Tybring-Gjedde at to verdenskriger også ble utkjempet på dette kontinentet.

Supermaktene under den kalde krigen og atombombene skal definitivt ha sin del av æren for at det ble et relativt fredelig i Europa etter den andre verdenskrig. Men EF og EU har også bidratt til fred mellom stormaktene gjennom promotering av demokrati og fri flyt av varer og tjenester mellom medlemslandene.

I likhet med 52 prosent av Storbritannias befolkning mener et stort flertall av nordmenn at vi ikke trenger EU. Når man ikke ønsker å være med i klubben, skal man heller ikke være nødt. Slik sett er det en seier for demokratiet at Storbritannia nå tar følge med Norge. Det har Tybring-Gjedde all rett til å feire med et par pints. Men la oss prøve å holde historiebeskrivelsen edruelig i tiden som kommer.

 

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New Labour’s Attacks on Jeremy Corbyn: Don’t Believe the Swipes

Today’s Guardian reports how New Labour’s old guard is piling in on “left-winger” Jeremy Corbyn, the MP currently leading the Labour Party leadership race. Rattled by recent polls showing him leading of the rest of the field, it is clear  the Labour right-wing fear their stranglehold on the party is loosening. What is noticeable, however, is how Corbyn’s “Labour” critics lack of any substantive arguments, but rely instead on anti-left tropes and ad-hominum attacks. Indeed, remove the paternal tone, and in content these attacks could come from the Tories. And this is Labour’s problem.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn speaks to protesters following a march against the British government's spending cuts and austerity measures in London on June 20, 2015. Thousands of demonstrators staged an anti-austerity march in London today, in the first major public protest since Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron won a general election. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS        (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Jeremy Corby speaks out against Austerity

To paraphrase the criticism, Tony Blair, David Miliband and Labour’s big money donors are screaming “you need new ideas not old ones”, “history” tells us, and “common sense” dictates that “you are a ´heartless´ ´moron´ if you vote for Corbyn (and disagree with me)”. These scarcely constitute arguments in the traditional sense but one-liners commonly used by the Daily Mail. However, given the attention and support they have elicited from the press, they warrant debunking.

  1. Always be suspicious of people claiming definitive lessons from history; almost all historical events can be interpreted to support multiple positions. Moreover, Foot is not Corbyn, the Soviet Union is no more, and the UK state controls a fraction of the economy it once did. The comparison with the 1980s makes little sense. But if we must derive lessons from history, there is no reason why the right of the Labour party cannot sit disgruntled on the backbenchers like the left of Labour has these past 25 years. However, knowing what happened to the SDP and the ideological vacuum of most New Labour politicians together with their careerist culture, it seems more likely that those MPs currently criticising Corbyn, will quickly change their tune should he become leader.
  1. Common sense is frequently wrong: flying is safer than driving, you should tilt your head forward when you get a nosebleed,  but just limiting common sense to public knowledge about UK politics, most people are wrong about most things. But regardless, common sense is culturally shaped; if you live in the New Labour bubble you will have New Labour common sense (“Corbyn is dangerous left winger”); similarly if you hang out with the KKK you will consider segregation common sense. New Labour’s common sense has gone untested for 25 years. It is surely now time to test it, I suspect we will not witness apocalypse now.
  2. Tony Blair – the war criminal – thinks you are heartless you are almost certainly doing something right.
  1. Labour “needs new ideas, not old ones”? You can hardly call privatisation of the NHS, or the squeezing of the poor new ideas. But anyway, this argument has little to do with the utility of the ideas nor their old age. Rather, this is a function of how the election defeats of the 1980s haunt the party establishment. Indeed, the age of an idea says little about its utility. For example, re-nationalizing the railways: keeping natural monopolies out of the hands of business is an old idea and one that almost all economists (and the public) would still agree with. That the Labour establishment cannot stomach the debate about the role of the state is testament to how well the Tories have disciplined Labour into internalising the idea that anything leftish is automatically electoral suicide.

Ultimately though, the policies that Corbyn suggests, far from being marginal, are supported by the majority of voters. Indeed, the democratic popularity of his proposals is noticeably absent from the barrage of criticism Corbyn now faces. While his critics argue Corbyn’s willingness to rebel against the leadership should count against him, many of the policies he opposed – the Iraq War, Student tuition fees, for instance – in retrospect seem to illustrate a talent for prescience.

What is remarkable about the attacks underway is how the Scottish Labour leaders – the same that oversaw electoral disaster in the face of a “left-wing” party – feel able to criticise Corbyn. In fact, let’s look to Scotland to draw a lesson from history from 2015: if you want to mobilize the dormant, disillusioned electorate, the Labour party needs to stand away from the Tories, not with them.

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Saving SV From Itself

This article was originally written for, and published in Aftenposten.

'Saving SV from itself' by Hja! Illustration by Tom Lenartowicz / Thrilly

Illustration by Tom Lenartowicz / Thrilly

When I came to Norway three years ago I was delighted to learn Norway had proportional representation, and a Socialist Workers party that was not only significant but in power. I became a member almost immediately. Since then, as I have learned more about SV and watched their sad decline, I have grown exasperated and disillusioned. I am not going to bemoan the compromises they made while in government: that was understandable if not condonable. Rather, I am deeply saddened by how SV in opposition have failed to become relevant or even likeable to Norwegians. SV appear like the trivial hipster wing of Arbeidspartiet: the sort of people who think the term Champagne Socialist is a complement.

SV comes off like it disapproves of most of the electorate. That is why they only got 4% of the vote. However, that 4% voted for SV has little do with the policies or the politicians in the party. They should be understood as the residual minimum SV should expect. These loyalists vote on an idea, a memory, a dream of what SV could be.

When exactly did the socialist workers party stop employing people who have worked in real life? From the outside, SV looks like a state sponsored job-vehicle to employ young privileged Oslovians. Too many times to count, I have discovered that people who share my socialist values, not only do not vote SV, but hate SV. The right must laugh themselves to sleep at night. What a stroke of luck that the left-wing party in Norway is led by career politicians, gradually self-harming themselves to death.

Opposition is the time for big ideas, big criticism and big battles. SV seems intent to fiddle with the deckchairs while Høyre and co sail into the iceberg. First, for the love of God, shut up about barnehager. Sure barnehager are important – nobody could disagree – but that is the point: you can’t define yourself with policies so obvious your enemies agree.

Economists hold up Norway as the puzzling star of mixed economies: where prudent and well-meaning state interventions have produced the closest we have to utopia. And yet now unrestrained SV remain obsessed with pragmatic but boring details. In opposition you should be making noise, rattling cages, painting a big picture of the society you want. In SV’s case this should mean making the case for when and where and why you think the state has a role to play in Norway. Ask the right to clarify when, why and where they think the state has a role to play. Tell the story of how Norway got here, and ask the right to provide any evidence (not theory) of why privatisation will make things better. At the moment they are attacking the low hanging fruit (weather forecasters, and NGOs), but they have not been forced to say when or whether they will stop.

But start explaining when why and where you think private sector should be. At the moment people believe SV is blindly pro-state and anti-business. Provide vocal support for sectors where business should dominate. Believing the state has a role to play in society does not imply that all sectors should be state ran.

Celebrate the Norwegian story. Most Norwegians I have met seem to believe that once you struck oil everything they now enjoy was inevitable. Well it wasn’t: striking oil is actually correlated with underdevelopment and war to such an extent that social scientists have named the phenomenon the “resource curse”. Indeed, I come from Britain where Thatcher sold the oil to pay for a huge recession. We have no pension fund; the rightside’s ideology – the same ideology “Blå-Blå” explicitly idolise – would not permit it.

This is just one example, but Norway’s spectacular standard of living is based on several successful state interventions. And critically, this is a success built on long term policies that the current government would and could not have done, and seem intent on (slowly) reversing. This is the story SV should be shouting. Remind the people of what got us here: social democratic principles. Norway needs a strong party to the left of Arbeidspartiet to balance “Blå-Blå” otherwise the centre ground will shift permanently, and the society we now take for granted now will continue to be eroded and eventually disappear. In short, Norway needs SV.

At the moment prospects could scarcely be bleaker: the most recent poll showed SV at 2%. I have heard talk that 4% would be considered a success. This is hogwash. SV in opposition should get 10%; solidarity and caring about your neighbour should not be a tough sell in Norway, the land of the dugnad. What is required is imagination and people that relate to ordinary Norwegians. SV needs an internal revolution.

 

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