Swedish Marxists say: fight NATO – fight imperialism!

US imperialism is the strongest force on the planet behind continued capitalist exploitation, poverty and misery. Now, the Swedish government has decided that it is in the interests of Swedish imperialism to join the US-led war alliance, NATO. We say: Fight NATO, fight imperialism – long live international working-class solidarity!

Just over two decades ago, after 11 September 2001, US imperialism invoked Article 5 of the NATO constitution, the North Atlantic Treaty. This article states that an armed attack against one member state is an attack against all.

The article was activated for one reason: to rally the member states of NATO to invade Afghanistan. They then spent 20 years “promoting democracy and freedom” by means of levelling the country to the ground, ruining millions of lives and leaving behind a country on the brink of dissolution, and back in the grip of the Taliban.

NATO is the military organ of US imperialism, and there’s no need to mention its long list of (war) crimes. The Swedish bourgeoisie, wanting to present itself as an advocate of “peace”, “democracy”, etc., of course claims that NATO is an outfit for defence. This is only true if you mean defending the right of the US, France, Germany, Britain etc. to murder, plunder and steal freely all across the globe. Swedish workers will not be safer in such an alliance – on the contrary.

Imperialist interests

Swedish imperialism is too tiny a player to really be able to play any significant role in most conflicts involving the other imperialist powers. Their main role has been exporting a considerable amount of weapons, the biggest receiver of which in 2021 was the United Emirates – and the main casualty: the Yemeni people.

The Swedish imperialists are currently busy advancing their interest in the Baltics. For instance, just two Swedish banks (Swedbank and SEB) now own more than half the banking system. This has put them at odds with the more powerful Russian imperialism. The Swedish bourgeois has long wanted a more aggressive stance on the part of NATO in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. By formally joining NATO, they can increase their influence over the alliance, to defend their investments and profits.

Sweden used to attempt to maintain a humanitarian facade. Formally neutral and seemingly a friend of small and oppressed nations, in practice it sided firmly with NATO and the US during the Cold War. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, it has gradually moved closer to NATO and abandoned this pretence of neutrality. In 1994, Sweden joined a NATO project with the Orwellian name Partnership for Peace. From 2003 onwards, Swedish troops fought under NATO leadership in Afghanistan as a part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In 2014, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NATO that made it easier to host NATO exercises and use Sweden as a base for military operations against Russia.

With the invasion of Ukraine, the Swedish bourgeoisie unleashed an avalanche of propaganda to rally the population in support of Swedish, European and American imperialism. They have falsely claimed that Putin intends to invade Sweden by taking Gotland island in the Baltic Sea, and other similar fantasies. No one can take this seriously. Russia would only attack Sweden directly as part of an all-out war campaign against the Central Europe powers – starting with Germany. Everyone can understand that Putin would have zero chance of winning such a war. Such a scenario is completely ruled out. The main aim of this campaign is to scare workers into supporting a membership in NATO.

For years, they fabricated paranoid stories about Soviet and later Russian submarines allegedly violating Swedish waters. In 2014, observations of Russian submarines by ex-militaries were widely publicised by the bourgeois press, and confirmed by the Swedish military to be accurate. As expected, these were shown later to be complete fabrications and falsehoods. The suspected submarine was actually just faulty weather equipment, which was revealed by military sources.

Betrayal by workers’ parties

The Social Democratic government has not only sent arms to aid the proxy war of the US imperialists in Ukraine, but also increased military spending to the NATO requirement of 2 percent of GDP. In practice, the party leadership decided to switch to an open pro-NATO position within days of Putin’s invasion. The Swedish ruling class saw their window of opportunity to join. For the last couple of weeks, the Social Democratic party has had a complete sham round of internal “discussions” and “debates”, such as the one that took place online last week where apparently no one thought it prudent to invite anyone that was against NATO. This is a parody of internal democracy, where the decision had been made by the right-wing leaders in advance.

The opinions that really matter for these Social Democratic leaders are those of the Swedish ruling class. In April, there was a meeting between the Swedish government, represented by finance minister Damberg, and the Finish president and military representatives in Helsinki. To this meeting was invited the head of one of the main capitalist families in Sweden, Jacob Wallenberg. Incidentally, this family also controls SAAB, the biggest Swedish exporter of arms, and the aforementioned bank SEB.

andersson Image WEP FlickrThe opinions that really matter for these Social Democratic leaders are those of the Swedish ruling class / Image: WEP, Flickr

Several representatives of big business have come out in favour of joining NATO, and Finish business representatives claimed that if Sweden did not join NATO it might “be negative for attracting foreign investments”. Jacob Wallenberg welcomed the decision of the Social Democratic leadership in favour of NATO membership, thereby further clarifying that they have the backing and blessing of the bourgeoisie. “Swedish companies have always taken an active hand in Swedish security, the defence of our country and the need for collaboration with others”, Wallenberg wrote in a statement.

Indeed, the Swedish capitalists are now rubbing their hands thinking of the opportunities this will open up for them, in particular the arms industry. An article in the business daily Dagens industri cheerfully described the wonders that the war in Ukraine will mean for SAAB, and also pointed out how much more could be achieved by joining NATO: “An exciting opportunity for SAAB is a Swedish-NATO membership. It would open up markets for the company and make it much easier to sell… SAAB should now have a golden opportunity to raise their prices and get paid more so that the shareholders also benefit from this.”

Unfortunately, the Left Party leadership has bowed to bourgeois pressure. It is true that the party formally maintains its opposition to NATO, but this opposition has been weak and confused to the extreme. For example, they voted in favour of increasing the military budget to the amount necessary to apply for NATO membership (2 percent of GDP). They have also spoken many times about how important it is to make defensive deals with other countries, and voted in favour of sending arms to Ukraine, which will only serve to prolong the war.

Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar stated in April that: “My position is that we are more safe in Sweden if we are outside of any military alliance. But it is important that we have broad agreement. That we do this together as one people and one nation. I don’t often agree with [former Conservative prime minister] Carl Bildt, but on this question I do. There’s the left-wing and there’s the right-wing, but the Swedish military is all Swedes together.”

Similar nationalist propaganda has been part and parcel of the Left Party leadership line since the first day of the war. Barring their formal opposition to NATO, they sound almost exactly the same as all other parties and the media: talking about the need to come together to oppose the “Russian threat”, defend Swedish security, and all the rest of it. They haven’t opposed NATO on the principled grounds that it is an alliance for imperialist wars and exploitation. Instead, they have focussed on completely secondary points, such as the fact that “undemocratic nations” like Hungary and Turkey are members, or that Donald Trump might become president in the US again. This lends credibility to the liberal position that bombing civilians, levelling whole countries to the ground and carrying out war crimes is fundamentally acceptable if it is done by their own favoured representatives such as Obama or Biden. Their main demand has in the end not been a clear opposition to NATO, but that the question should be voted on in a referendum.

This betrayal by the leaders of the main workers’ parties has decapitated the movement. This has given the ruling class the perfect opportunity to formalise their collaboration with US imperialism through a NATO membership.

No to NATO!

Despite unrelenting war propaganda in every single bourgeois media outlet, around half the Swedish population are still against NATO or undecided. This shows a healthy scepticism to this imperialist outfit in important layers of the population and the working class.

The left and the labour movement should fight NATO membership as a tool for war and oppression. It is eminently clear that this will not happen with the current leadership of the labour movement and the trade unions. This is why we need to fight for a labour movement armed with a revolutionary and genuinely internationalist programme.

The real alternative to a NATO membership isn’t going back to the previous so-called neutrality, i.e. building covert alliances that the Swedish capitalists believe will increase their share of imperialist profits internationally. The real alternative is irreconcilable struggle against imperialism. This must be based on international working-class solidarity and a programme for the world socialist revolution.

The IMT in Sweden, Revolution, will continue our fight against NATO, Swedish imperialism and the capitalist system. The decision to apply for NATO membership reveals the rotten character of Swedish imperialism and the need to abolish capitalism to guarantee peace and safety for everyone.

  • Not a man, not a penny to the NATO war machine!
  • Down with imperialism! Down with capitalism!
  • Fight for socialism! Long live international working class solidarity!