Norway in the 1960’s and 1970’s

The most controversial issue of Norway’s policy – EEC membership – has acted as a catalyst on the characterizing process of domestic politics in the last fifteen years: the crisis of the Norwegian party system. Crisis not only of the “bourgeois” opposition, more articulated than the Swedish prototype due to a system of cleavages particularly complex, but even more so than the social democratic hegemony. The elections of 1961 marked the beginning: the Social Democrats lost the absolute majority, held continuously since 1945, due to the affirmation of the People’s Socialist Party, a new formation of radical-pacifist, isolationist and neo-Marxist Social Democratic dissidents, who would be replaced, with its strong penetration in the urban and youth electorate, in the role of extreme left opposition to the anemic Communist Party (reduced to 2.9% from the initial 11.9% of the votes, collected in 1945, and private of his last seat at the Storting). The resulting stalemate (74 “bourgeois” deputies, 74 social democrats, 2 popular socialists), with the Gerhardsen minority cabinets, interrupted in the summer of 1963 by an ephemeral “bourgeois” coalition ministry under the conservative Lyng, was only released by the elections in 1965 which gave the four non-socialist parties – conservative, popular-Christian, center (agrarian) and liberal – a stable majority of 80 out of 150 seats; the centrist Per Borten formed a four-party government that lasted, with reshuffles, until 1971. Although it represented an innovation on the parliamentary and party level (alternation of government; coalition cabinet with its specific institutions and behaviors), the Borten ministry did not marked an economic and social: Storting’s unanimous approval of the social democratic project of the popular pension (1966) confirmed precisely the inexistence of a liberal and non-interventionist alternative to the welfare state, now accepted by all parties.

Confirmed only to a very narrow extent by the elections of 1969, the coalition, already worn down by the difficult coexistence of four so different parties, was shattered in the collision between adversaries and supporters of EEC membership: on March 2, 1971, Prime Minister Borten was forced to resign, because he had sent confidential material on the negotiations with the EEC to the leader of the anti- EEC movement. Like Sweden and Denmark, Norway had been among the founding members of the EFTA (1959), a position chosen for the existing economic and political ties with Great Britain. The revision of British policy towards the EEC forced Norway to reconsider its European policy, also joining, like Denmark, to the British requests for membership of 1961 and 1967.

According to smber, since the parliamentary debate of 1962, two substantial nuclei of opposition to entry into the EEC had emerged; one of a socialist orientation (social democratic minority, the socialist-popular and communist parties), the other an expression of agrarian and fishing interests (center, part of the popular-christian party). The overwhelming majority (136 positive votes against 13 negative) registered in the 1967 Storting vote in favor of a new request for full membership to the EEC, could lead to believe that the Norwegian opinion was won in the Community and the debate concluded. In reality it was only dormant, as long as the EEC enlargement process remained paralyzed and attention was drawn to the mirage of a Nordic alternative (nordek / skandek, v. Sweden, in this App.). The overwhelming majority with which the Storting again expressed itself in favor of membership in June 1970, with the lack of that alternative with the withdrawal of Finland, had no match in the country, as the Bratteli minority Social Democratic government would have experienced, formed after the fall of the coalition, which submitted the accession treaty (signed January 22, 1972) to a referendum. In fact, the referendum of 25-26 September 1972 gave an opposing majority of 53.5%: the only one among the candidate countries, Norway did not achieve the planned accession to the EEC.

The opposition of agricultural and fishing interests (only 13% of the active population) is not enough to explain this negative outcome, even if to organize the mass mobilization, in the “Popular Movement against the EEC” (1969), it was the organization of the peasants. The confluence of various oppositions was decisive: that of agriculture and fishing, in fact; the anti-capitalist one against the EEC considered a threatening multinational industrial cartel (this opposition spread throughout Scandinavia and extended from extra-parliamentarians to the social democracy sector and beyond towards the non-socialist electorate itself, especially the youth); finally, the isolationist and traditionalist ones, worried by the loss of sovereignty as well as by the transformation of civilization and daily life of the Norway by the strongest foreign influences, by industrial pollution and by the danger that Norwegian Lutheranism would run. Failure to ratify has generally been interpreted as a victory for the main antagonistic subcultures of the urban, modernizing, cosmopolitan culture of the center; while Oslo and Bergen voted in favor, the no reached 73% in municipalities with less than 2,500 residents and 80% in fishing areas. Following the characteristic alignments of the Norway of the late nineteenth century, the urban radical forces were added to the peripheral oppositions, this time under the anti-capitalist banner, capable of dragging the youth vote. The split on the EEC overlapped the classic lines of the Norwegian party system, dividing the same parties within them: enough compact were only the conservatives, in favor, and, in the opposing camp, the extreme left (popular socialists, communists, etc.), the agrarians of the Center and the popular Christians, spokesmen of Lutheran fundamentalism. Split the Social Democrats, whose workers’ base voted against, and the Liberals.

After the resignation of the Bratteli government, the popular Christian leader Korvald set up a tripartite minority cabinet with agrarians and liberals and negotiated a free trade agreement with the EEC (May 14, 1973), unanimously accepted by the Storting. But with this the EEC chapter is not closed, at least as far as domestic politics is concerned. The split of the Liberal Party between supporters and opponents of accession has opened (December 1972); furthermore, the lack of ratification was also a victory over the leadership Social Democrats and Conservatives. The populist and isolationist pressures have opposed to both a new alignment, expression of the ancient opposition of the periphery: the same one on which the Korvald government relied. The crisis of the Norwegian party system was revealed in all its gravity in the elections of 10 September 1973: the defeat of the Social Democracy, which lost 11% of the votes, and the great success of the far left cartel (communists, popular socialists and dissidents). Social Democrats), joined the Storting with 16 deputies; almost complete elimination of the liberals; the appearance of a poujadist party, which raises the anti-tax protest as its flag; shattering of the alignments, so that eight parties are now represented in parliament, while neither the Social Democrats nor the classic “bourgeois” parties have a majority. Bratteli set up a new government, with liberal support, later seeking the adhesion of the electorate with a stronger socialist accentuation of his program.

The process of disintegration of the Norwegian party system was halted, at least temporarily, by the elections of 11-12 September 1977, which marked a great recovery of both the Social Democrats (which went from 35.3% to 42.4% of the votes) and conservatives (from 17.5% to 24.7%), the decimation of the extreme left, now reduced to only two popular socialist deputies, and the almost elimination of new parties, especially those with a poujadist tendency.

The Social Democratic minority cabinet, headed by Nordli since January 1976, remained in office.

In September 1976, a law was passed allowing the establishment of a 200-mile maritime economic zone.

Norway in the 1960's and 1970's

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