Communist Party of Sweden on its opposition to NATO.
With the intensification of global imperialist conflict since the beginning of the war in Ukraine NATO has continued its aggressive expansion to the east with Finland joining and Sweden on its way to joining. This is a repudiation by Swedish ruling circles of decades of alleged Swedish "neutrality".
Since it was first announced that Sweden would try to join the imperialist NATO alliance, the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP) has been stalwart in its opposition to the move.
The Communist Party of the Workers of Spain's (PCTE) organ Nuevo Rumbo conducted an interviewed with the SKP on the topic of Sweden, NATO and neutrality which the SKP released an English translation of on January 30 that we are sharing here.
Nuevo Rumbo: First of all, we would like to thank the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP) for your time and for having accepted to this interview in our newspaper.
SKP: We are very happy to field your questions. The issue of Sweden’s accession into NATO is a highly important one and an examination of this issue gives a useful insight into the current development of imperialism.
Nuevo Rumbo: We would like to hear first about what you have to say about the allegedly historical neutrality of Sweden regarding war. We know that Sweden has somehow participated in some NATO missions, for example in the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan or Libya. This neutrality seems rather feeble.
SKP: The short answer would be that neutrality is not possible under capitalism and thus Sweden never has been truly neutral. To expand the answer we can start by looking back to the Second World War, when Sweden made important concessions to Nazi Germany, such as allowing the transfer of German troops over Swedish territory. Swedish exports were also of great importance to the Nazi war machine, with around three quarters of the yearly iron ore production going to Germany, constituting a significant part of the iron ore used by the German wartime industry. Swedish ball bearings were also very important to the German production of war material.
In the context of the Soviet-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940, the Swedish government declared Sweden a non-belligerent, rather than a neutral country. This enabled Sweden to give material support to Finland and made possible the recruitment of volunteers to fight on the side of Finland.
During the Cold War Sweden collaborated extensively with NATO, in the fields of intelligence and defense technology among others, although Sweden-NATO relations weren’t formalized until 1994, when Sweden joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace. And as you mention in your question, Sweden has even participated in a military capacity in NATO operations, such as, for example, when Sweden sent fighter jets to perform support roles for the NATO intervention in Libya. All this should illustrate how Sweden’s relationship with NATO stretches back to the period immediately after NATO’s founding, and how the Swedish NATO application was not a sudden U-turn, where long held neutrality was abruptly given up, but the final step in a decades long process. This should also expose Sweden’s neutrality as the myth it is and has been.
Nuevo Rumbo: We understand that there has been a relative consensus on the “neutral” stance of Sweden until the 1990's. We would like to know more about what discussions there has been among both the ruling class and the working class regarding the role of your country within NATO.
SKP: Sweden’s “neutral” stance must be seen in the context of having a socialist superpower across the Baltic Sea, in the form of the Soviet Union. With the counter-revolution, the fall of socialism in Europe and the Soviet Union, the consensus on neutrality started to fracture, as tensions eased around the Baltic and therefore became less important. Another aspect is that the Swedish labor movement was still relatively well organized during the Cold War era, and the bourgeoisie could not simply discount the effect of popular organizing as it was directed against the Vietnam War, and which could potentially be turned towards any official overtures towards a NATO membership.
Given the advantageous position Swedish industry found itself in after the end of World War II, as in it being untouched by the ravages of warfare, unlike most of the rest of Europe, neutrality had a certain allure, allowing relations, and more importantly trade, with whoever could pay for Swedish goods.
Still, to the bourgeoisie the Soviet Union was the greatest threat and a unifying factor. With the Soviet Union’s fall, different, and narrower, bourgeois interests could more strongly assert themselves against each other. There is also the argument to be made that the fall of socialism provided an opportunity to capital, and in particular Western capital, for a sort of primitive accumulation of capital in Eastern Europe. There capital could enter a virtually virgin territory, which also softened the ever-present contradictions within capitalism, as the capital of various nations could expand concurrently. Now the situation is again changed and the Swedish bourgeoisie is once again more unified, with no major internal conflicts, and in particular it is united in its desire to join NATO.
As for Sweden’s role in NATO, the membership has mostly been presented as necessary to ensure Sweden’s security, in particular against Russian aggression. There has been some talk about what Sweden can contribute to NATO, both from the side of NATO and the Swedish state and government side, but that has generally been on the topic of how Sweden strengthens the defensive capabilities of NATO against external aggression. The inevitability of Swedish troops being sent on future NATO missions to countries outside of NATO, to fight, kill and die there, is barely mentioned, and would then almost solely be pointed out by parts of the organized opposition to NATO.
Nuevo Rumbo:What do you think it is the main reason for the Swedish ruling class to opt for the accession to NATO?
SKP: The facade of neutrality has lost its value to the Swedish bourgeoisie as competition, and contradictions, sharpen within imperialism. It is now more important to be able to secure interests on the global stage. Membership in NATO will firmly cement Sweden’s position as a full member in the Western Euro-Atlantic imperialist bloc, and will help to secure Swedish monopoly capital’s global interests.
Nuevo Rumbo: Back to present. What is the official stance of the Swedish Government regarding the imperialist war in Ukraine? What role do you think it can play within NATO?
SKP: The Swedish government, be it the current right wing government, or the previous “red green” social democratic one, has been a strong supporter of the Zelenskyy government, having contributed over €2.2 billion (at current exchange rates as this is written) in aid to Ukraine since February 2022, the vast majority of which is military aid. This aid has included not only ammunition and training of Ukrainian personell, but also advanced artillery, tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.
The image that the government, and also Swedish media in general, paints of the imperialist war in Ukraine is that it is an attack upon democracy and freedom, and that supporting Ukraine is a necessity to ensure the security of Europe. The Swedish government has pledged to support Ukraine for as long as needed.
In this context it is worth noting that, according to the Swedish government, Sweden ranked among the ten largest investors in Ukraine at the time of the Russian invasion. Around 90 Swedish companies were active in Ukraine at the time and most still are. Swedish capital thus has significant interests in Ukraine, the outcome of the war, and the rebuilding that can be expected to take place after the war is concluded.
As for Sweden’s role within NATO, the argument for joining the alliance, as mentioned above in an answer to a previous question, is to safeguard Sweden against aggression in a less secure and stable world. Hopefully the answers so far have made it clear that the decision to join NATO is based in the interests of Swedish monopoly capital. Given this, and previous governments’ eagerness to participate in NATO-led interventions, along with the current strong support for Ukraine, one should not expect Sweden to adapt a passive role within NATO, or that Sweden “sheds its neutrality to seek protection” and becomes a “voice of reason” within the organization. Swedish capital expects to gain from this costly endeavor and will expect the Swedish state to act accordingly.
Nuevo Rumbo: Last questions. What stance does the Communist Party of Sweden support? What activities are you carrying out against NATO and the imperialist wars in general?
SKP: The Communist Party of Sweden has from the start condemned the invasion of Ukraine and demanded an end to the war. We have characterized the war as imperialistic and we refuse to side with one imperialist bloc over the other, but have rather stated our solidarity with the people of both Ukraine and Russia, who suffer and die on account of the war, and yet have nothing to gain from it. We have furthermore condemned the Swedish state’s support for Ukraine and demanded an end to all military aid.
Our party has organized its own anti-NATO protests, but there are problems with the broader movement against Swedish NATO membership, which has led us to choosing not to participate in protests which would force us to compromise our position on the question. It is important that in protesting we can highlight the imperialist nature of the Swedish membership application, and avoid associating ourselves with positions which create illusions, of which there are many within the Swedish anti-NATO movement.
One notable slogan, which we have criticized, is that of “No alliance with fascists,” referring to Turkish president Erdogan. This particular slogan creates the illusion that a membership in NATO, or the organization itself, would be acceptable if it were constituted only of “democratic” countries, or even if the last election in Turkey had gone differently. Our opposition to NATO has nothing to do with which countries are members, or these countries leaders’ political stance or affiliation. We oppose NATO because it is an imperialist organization.