The Nordic Countries in a World in Crisis

EDITORIAL, 6 Aug 2012

#229 | Johan Galtung - TRANSCEND Media Service

Talk at the Nordic Peoples’ Parliament in Jondal, Norway

Let us start with the crisis.

It is not a world but a Western crisis.  The root is simple: the Rest is catching up, and partly overtaking the West; China is catching up, and partly overtaking the USA–recovering from the blow received around 1500 from the Portuguese and the English destroying 1,000 years of buddhist-muslim trade from East China to Somalia via the rest of Asia; ending in Macao-Hong Kong (there are no Chinese enclaves in Portugal-England).

The West is outcompeted. The crisis is partly economic and partly a desperate Western effort, indeed Obama’s effort, to cling to hegemony.

Knowing that India and China can meet alone the world’s demand for industrial goods at higher quality/price ratios, and that the South is able to fulfill a world demand for resources and agricultural products, one Western approach was to switch from real to finance economy.  Building on the old City of London-Wall Street traditions in private banking and using debt bondage as power, cheap credit and speculation has been another approach, but it backfired.  However, “austerity” serves to dismantle US welfare state entitlements and to launch wars for keeping the $ as world currency.

But, if any country is in debt bondage it is the US itself, to China, Japan and the EU.  The US is never going to pay that debt, nor will China demand that they do so, probably already having gotten much more in return through access to the US market.  The US pressure to increase the Yuan value may make some Made in USA competitive, but at the expense of the bottom 90 percent of the US population that depends on cheap Made in China.  This is replicated in the EU, with Germany in the role of China and the indebted EU rim in the role of the USA; and in the world, with the World Bank doing the same relative to the South.  In all three cases the solution lies in debt forgiveness and periphery self-reliance.

But the West still has naked military power, and a NATO upgraded to UN’s military arm by Ban Ki-Mon, plus 800 US bases. Svalbard archipelago.

Take Afghanistan as an example. The invasion of Afghanistan had been planned long before 9/11 to be a base in a future war with China and for an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean; it needed only an irrefutable pretext.  On the other hand there was the Mullah Omar regime engaged in atrocities totally unacceptable and in need of outside intervention–in what form, how, is still an open question.

The net outcome was invasion and occupation; then regime change by implementing one of Machiavelli’s advices to the Prince: rule through a local hierarchy; headed by Karzai. United Nations Security Council resolutions have a built-in illegitimacy: Islam/OIC-Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the biggest pole in a multipolar world, has no veto. The West has three and uses the UNSC to intervene in Muslim countries, backed by Western paranoia and an inability to see its state terrorism as a major cause of terrorism. The West talks about a 30-year war in Afghanistan, counting from the terrible Soviet invasion, forgetting UK’s 1842-1878-1919 wars, and the more terrible Durand line.  The West uses constructs like “taliban” and “warlords” blinding them to resistance and diversity in a country very far from a Western nation state. One reason, by no means a valid one, for this poor intellectual grip is that allies are there because they want to please the US as head of NATO, not because of a threat from Afghanistan. They kill more than they protect; and are beaten militarily. A crisis.

How do the Nordic countries fit into all of this, and what can they possibly do?  They have a good reputation. But watch out: being exceptionally homogeneous nation states, democracy was easy (and yet Norway does not have the grace to grant the Samis a parliament seat). Strong labor movements with sympathy for communism and the efforts to lift the poorest from misery into dignity–also a christian tenet–while at the same time a part of the capitalist West, transcended State vs Capital and produced the welfare state. There was empathy with USSR while rejecting stalinism.  For Islam, only ignorance.

What is the Nordic model?  It is tripartite, labor-capital-state. The common base, the shared ideology, is economic growth; a growing pie can be cut and shared more easily than stable, let alone shrinking pies.  If the three strongest actors in society agree on that, so be it, regardless of public opinion studies showing that the majority of Norwegians, for instance, do not want more money, but more free time for personal and social growth of all kinds. Power rules-“makta rår“.

All five Nordic countries and the three dependencies (Aland, Faroe, and Greenland) feel attached to the USA; only small minorities to nazi Germany and bolshevik USSR.  At the same time they are condemned to growth by their model. So Norway–in spite of climate concerns–goes in for more oil extraction than ever, and launches as a new industry large scale production of missiles and drones, lining up costumers. All countries have anti-immigrant rightwing extremists; but only Norway produced Breivik.  Their homogeneity makes them poor actors in a globalizing world that by necessity will be multi-racial and multi-cultural. For this same reason, the Nordic countries may not be good mediators: too unfamiliar with non-Western mentalities, too hung up on individual human rights, majority democracy, and Western law strong on acts of commission-rule of law.  Peoples’ rights, dialogue to consensus, and acts of omission are prominent in other cultures.

Nonetheless, much can be done.  Joint action to democratize the UN by abolition of the veto and of Article 12A, a UN Peoples’ Assembly, and a Nordic Defense Union independent of NATO–not by giving to each some NATO task–makes sense. A Nordic nuclear free zone, like the efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-ASEAN.  A Nordic Federation beyond the present Nordic Community, Nordisk Råd, democratic, like the Swiss federation, and in line with the trend of growing regionalization.

We need a Nordic rebirth. Opening to the whole world and dialogues with immigrants–a blessing in disguise–may be good guides. Use them.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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3 Responses to “The Nordic Countries in a World in Crisis”

  1. […] *Johan Galtung, a Professor of Peace Studies, is Rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP. His editorial, based on a Talk at the Nordic Peoples’ Parliament in Jondal, Norway, was first published by TRANSCEND Media Service. Go to Original. […]

  2. […] 6 agosto 2012 Traduzione di Miky Lanza per il Centro Sereno Regis Titolo originale: The Nordic Countries in a World in Crisis […]

  3. Viviana Huwald says:

    A most enlightening and scholarly work which I intend to read in full.
    I am grateful Johan Galtung for writing on Facebook.

    Vivi Croccolo