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The party struggle in the Communist Party of Denmark (Marxist-Leninist) and its lessons

The Struggle for the Communist Party of the Working Class and the Development of the Communist Party of Denmark (Marxist-Leninist)

A critical and self-critical analysis

by the Party-Building Communist Organization OCTOBER, February 1999.


The theoretical journal of the communist organization October, Orientering (Orientations), No. 1, February 1999, carried under the above heading an extensive analysis of the struggle to create and maintain the communist party of the working class in Denmark on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Denmark (DKP).

The first part entitled “From DKP to DKP/ML” deals with the revisionist degeneration of the Communist Party of Denmark in the 1950s and 1960s and the struggle of the Marxist-Leninist communists to reconstruct a genuine communist party, succeeding in the founding of the Communist Party of Denmark (Marxist-Leninist) (DKP/ML) in 1978.

The second part entitled “The Communist Party of Denmark 1978-1997” describes the development of DKP/ML on the road of Marxism-Leninism during this period.

The third part entitled “DKP/ML since 1997: a false “Marxist-Leninist” party” deals with the development and characteristics of present-day DKP/ML.

The fourth and concluding part, entitled “The party struggle in the Communist Party of Denmark (Marxist-Leninist) and its lessons” deals with the party struggle in 1996-1997, that led to a revisionist takeover in the party, its division and the formation by the Marxist-Leninists of the party of the communist organization October in August 1997. It also examines the faults and mistakes of the Marxist-Leninist leadership of DKP/ML that assisted the revisionist takeover.

Here follows a complete English translation of the fourth part of the document.


The party struggle in the Communist Party of Denmark (Marxist-Leninist) and its lessons

The party struggle in the Communist Party of Denmark (Marxist-Leninist) (DKP/ML), during 1996-1997, was a struggle between the Marxist-Leninist line of the party and a revisionist line in the making, a revisionist line which today is about to be fully developed. The struggle expressed the acute intensification of the class struggle within the party and was provoked by a group of rightist people, headed by some trade union bureaucrats. For quite some time, this group had been developing a factional activity within the party, preparing for the final battle against the Marxist-Leninist majority of the party leadership. It was making alliances with the “Cuban phalanx” which had developed inside the party and with a number of other petty-bourgeois elements in the apparatus and leadership of the party. The individuals playing a key role in this revisionist group were Søren Becher, Jan Mathiesen, Joan Ågot Pedersen, Jørgen Petersen (present First Secretary of the Central Committee of DKP/ML), Sven Tarp and Karen Sunds. Lotte Rørtoft-Madsen, among others, later joined this group.

The first manifestation of this disguised rightist faction was to combat the antifascist and refugee/immigrant programme of the party, a programme expressing a class-based line for this struggle. Under the influence of the Unity List (Red-Greens) (Enhedslisten) and Demos, a group of party members, around and working at the local radio station, Københavnerkanalen, was opposing this policy and the general line of the party. After the line of the group was defeated at the 6th Congress of the party in 1994, it resigned from the party, but from outside the group was calling for struggle against the party. At that time, the party condemned the group unanimously, but it has now been “rehabilitated”, contrary to the resolutions of the party congress.

These events should turn out to be merely the first open battle of the party struggle. In 1996, the final struggle on the character of the party started off by campaigns of gossip and rumours and the creation of “petty cases” which basically were ridiculous and directed against the Marxist-Leninist party leaderships, leaders and especially against Klaus Riis (First Secretary of the Central Committee of DKP/ML from the founding of the party in 1978 until the 7th Congress in 1997). Distorting systematically the positions and intentions of the Marxist-Leninists, a general atmosphere of uncertainty in the party, a feeling of “something is really wrong” in the party and party leadership, was created.

A revisionist coup was being prepared; a faction was working inside the leadership and central apparatus of the party, as well as in the party leaderships of the big districts of Copenhagen and Aarhus. The creation of a “party crisis”, in which the revisionist faction could pose as “saviours”, was the objective of these actions.

In preparation of the 7th Congress of the party, which was to take place in March 1997, the Central Committee, in the autumn of 1996, passed a set of theses, which was submitted to the entire party for discussion. These theses adhered to and further developed the Marxist-Leninist line and policy of the party in a number of fields and constituted the basis of the party work of the coming three-year period till the next congress. The Central Committee adopted them unanimously. At that time, the factional elements did not dare to oppose them openly. However, by factional work, involving elements outside the party, they succeeded in raising doubt about the cadre policy of the party, expressed in the theses. The faction started a crusade, which had no objective basis or content, postulating that the theses laid the foundation for a fundamental change of the cadre and member policy of the party dividing up its members into “A, B and C members”.

This was taken out of the air, but it had, in fact, an effect on the Central Committee, as it broke in two. A compromise was made on this question, but the struggle between two different lines was already in full swing. In an attempt of avoiding the sharpening of the situation into a hostile break and split of the party, Klaus Riis announced that he would not apply for renomination as first secretary at the coming congress. The rightist faction was getting appetite for more, and it then made the decisive attack for getting control of the party leadership and set aside the line of the party, as well as the congress theses that defended and developed that line.

The faction did not succeed in winning the majority of neither the daily leadership of the party nor the Secretariat of the Central Committee, in attacking the policy and line of the party up till then and the theses for the congress, but instead it succeeded in doing so in the important Political Bureau. By a well-prepared action at the meeting of the Political Bureau, preparing the meeting of the Central Committee, that was to take place the following day, a plan for the abolition of the daily leadership, and for putting the first secretary “under administration” and prevent him from doing his work, was presented and decided. At the same time a resolution, which rejected the very same congress theses, discussed and unanimously adopted by the Central Committee some months before, was presented. This coup, against the statutes of the party, succeeded. The rightist faction of the Central Committee got the support of a number of vacillating elements, and even the Marxist-Leninist forces were divided.

Politically the following 7th Congress in March 1997 appeared to be a “congress of compromise”. Essentially, however, it was a congress of splitting. The victorious faction did not yet dare to change the line of party, but the congress resulted in its complete takeover of the Central Committee, the party apparatus and the daily party newspaper, Dagbladet Arbejderen. In fact, the congress meant the almost total cleansing of the Marxist-Leninist leaders, who from the very beginning had headed the building of the party. It did not create unity within the party, but left the party divided into different wings.

A split of the party and expulsions of the Marxist-Leninists

The real ideological and political substance of the party struggle was not clearly understood by the majority of the party members, who were heavily bombarded with sparks of the struggles inside the party leadership, with rumours and gossip, and a large number of memorandums. The above-mentioned trade union bureaucrats were showing off as the “guarantee” of the proletarian character of the coup. Many members took political positions according to their personal relations, on the basis of personal trust. Because of the rapid developments of this struggle, before and after the 7th Congress, they did not get many chances of examining it independently, on the basis of facts and documents.

The revisionist faction, who was in control of the Secretariat and Political Bureau of the Central Committee, whose supporters made up the overwhelming majority of the newly elected Central Committee, decreed that “the party struggle is over”, even though the congress left behind a number of questions, on which there existed disagreements, undiscussed and not adopted. As an example, this was the case with the “Programme for a Socialist Denmark”, a document inspired by revisionism. This document had been on the agenda of the congress, but it was postponed until later, i.e. until a new congress, in as much the congress is the only forum where the adoption of communist party programmes can take place.

Jørgen Petersen, Søren Becker and Co. understood that time was against the new leadership and its plans, that in the course of time the facts and the real content of the party struggle would become more and more obvious. Time would also reveal the new line of the party (a fact denied at the congress, although it was concluded that the party had become “a different party”), among other things, by going beyond or overruling the essential resolutions of the 7th Congress that were obstacles to the development of the new line in all fields. They were anxious to go further along the revisionist path and “prove” that this path would bring progress and advancement.

Objectively, the party had never had better possibilities of advancement, as it had at the time of the 7th Congress.

The party struggle was kept behind closed doors, although the new party leadership in Dagbladet Arbejderen, through the coverage of the congress and the change of first secretary, was bringing the news of “radical changes under way”.

As the former first secretary still was considered the main obstacle to the development of the new line of the party, a plan for the expulsion of him and his two close comrades, Dorte Grenaa and the communist veteran, Frede Klitgård, was initiated. At all points of the party struggle, the latter had resisted the revisionist faction resolutely, and at the decisive meeting of the Central Committee, which altered the direction of the party, he had laid down his mandate, protesting the revisionist coup against the party. Confident of its complete control of the party apparatus and Dagbladet Arbejderen, and especially relying on the strong loyalty to the party (a fine communist characteristic), the faction assumed that only a few handfuls would follow “Klaus Riis and Co.”. For its expulsions it even assured itself of the support of leaders of the revisionist parties Common Course Workers’ Party (Fælles Kurs), the Brezhnevite Communist Party in Denmark (KPiD) and the Communist Party of Denmark (DKP).

The expulsions were carried out against all communist standards. The item of expulsions was not even put on the official agenda of the meeting of the Central Committee, which passed them. Those expelled had neither received any notification of impending expulsion nor been confronted with any concrete “accusations”, and they were deprived of any possibility of defending themselves against false charges. In the deepest secrecy and hidden from the party, the Central Committee was turned into a special tribunal, a court-martial, in which the verdict was already given, due to the hand-picked majority of the faction. Obviously, the expulsions needed to be motivated, and because of the lack of any evidence in accusing the former first secretary and his two comrades of opposing the line and programme of the party, a number of fantastic and mendacious accusations of violating democratic centralism and faction making were fabricated. The “crime” of the expelled comrades was, however, that they had resisted and would continue resisting the alteration of the party line that was carried out by the faction of Jørgen Petersen.

At the very moment this special tribunal decided on expulsion, the few Marxist-Leninist members of the Central Committee, elected at the 7th Congress, gave up their mandates and left the party. Shortly after, they were joined by almost one third of the party members.

What had happened was actually an expulsion of the Marxist-Leninist wing of the party, a deliberate splitting of the party.

The revisionist DKP/ML continued its work on the basis of the results achieved in the period of Marxist-Leninist leadership, e.g. Dagbladet Arbejderen. It had, however, due to the expulsions and the splitting, destroyed the extremely positive situation of the party definitively. In return, it was free to provide the communist movement and public its version, its mendacious stories of the party struggle, of the three expelled and the Marxist-Leninist wing, that formed the Party Building Communist Organization October (Oktober) and began the publication of Kommunistisk Politik (Communist Policy), the central organ of October.

Klaus Riis, Dorte Grenaa and Frede Klitgård were branded as “enemies of the party” and “factionalists”. The Marxist-Leninist line and politics was denounced as “dogmatism” and “left opportunism”.

Just as the revisionist DKP and the Maoist Communist Workers’ Party (KAP), in the past, tried to isolate the revolutionary DKP/ML, the “new DKP/ML” was trying to isolate and combat the Marxist-Leninists and October.

This is how the revisionist leadership of DKP/ML achieved “free hands” to develop its revisionist line and policy, and it did not twiddle its thumbs. In quick succession, the anti-revolutionary platform described above (in the third part of the present document, translators note) was developed. These events in a former revolutionary party did not pass without notice. DKP/ML has become almost “presentable”. The party suddenly got a big media coverage, when it declared itself a supporting party of the Unity List (Red-Greens), which in its turn is a party, supporting the social democratic government, and when it announced, that it was considering joining the Unity List (Red-Greens). In the bourgeois press, the revisionist DKP/ML gets a coverage contrasting sharply with the systematic boycott against the revolutionary DKP/ML.

Dagbladet Arbejderen, after its transformation into an appendage of the day-to-day struggle and its developments, so to say into a speaker’s corner of the entire revisionist left, has “come in from the cold”, too. Today it must be called the “worthy” successor of the defunct daily of DKP, Land og Folk, sealed completely from Marxist-Leninist contributions.

On the initiative of the Association of Danish Daily Newspapers, it has even become member of this venerable employers’ institution.

These tangible “gains” of the present revisionist DKP/ML were just a part of all the “gains” achieved by the closing down sale of revolutionary ideals and principles of the former revolutionary party.

The errors and shortcomings of the Marxist-Leninists

The 6th Congress of DKP/ML in 1994 laid down the continuing construction and development of the party, of its leading role in the communist movement and the class struggle, of the consolidation and further development of Dagbladet Arbejderen, as the main tasks for the coming three-year period. It called for revolutionizing the party, strengthening democratic centralism within the party and combating the danger to the party that its members were turned into merely activists of the party newspaper, of the party apparatus, or into an appendage to the trade unions and mass organizations. It stressed that right opportunism constituted the main danger to the party, that tendencies of right opportunism, especially tendencies of reconciliation with modern revisionism, were showing in a number of fields in the work of the party and had to be combated head-on and effectively.

The congress period was marked by the inner struggle, which developed into a struggle between two different political lines; the Marxist-Leninist line, the line of the party from its founding and maintained during changing and sometimes dramatic historical developments, and a rightist line, a revisionist line coming into existence, whose true content and character was not revealed fully until after the 7th Congress.

The strong Marxist-Leninist majority of the Central Committee and party committees on different levels were undermined by the factional struggle of which the result is already known.

But what are the reasons for the defeat of the Marxist-Leninists?

The class struggle in the communist party, the struggle on two fronts, against right and left opportunism, is an objective phenomenon, which goes on continuously.

It is directed by the Central Committee in order to defend the line of the party, defend Marxism-Leninism as a theory and practice, and make sure the complete implementing of the party decisions without any distortions. The entire inner development of the party, from its founding, has taken place as a struggle on these two fronts, with the struggle against right opportunism, especially the influence of modern revisionism, constituting the main danger, as the principal struggle.

The revolutionary party and its members are neither isolated from society, from the class struggle, nor from the propaganda or ideological and political pressure of the bourgeois, reformist and revisionist parties. Because of this, the party must continuously hinder that these influences do not become rooted in the party itself.

This is done primarily by raising the Marxist-Leninist level of the party and its members, by revolutionizing the work of the party so that it keeps up with the changing situations and demands, and by getting rid of opportunist elements and members who have lost the revolutionary spirit.

The end of the 1980s and the early 1990s were very difficult periods that taxed the energy of a lot of people. The influx of new party members was negligible, and half a generation of youths was “lost” as was the case to other communist parties as well. The old cadres were beginning to feel worn-down while the tasks of the party were growing everywhere, with respect to the further building of the party, the development of the daily, and the class struggle and mass organizations. The number of party members in trade union organizations and other mass organizations were growing while the actual influence of the party was diminishing at the workplaces.

Among the consequences were a serious weakening of the party studies and the vigorous defence of the revolutionary theory, of the presentation of the revolutionary lessons of struggle, gained by the party and the communist movement, including the historical struggle against modern revisionism that was continuing its undermining work, assuming new forms.

Towards the mid-1990s, the influx of members again started, due to a series of initiatives, activities and the generally strengthened positions of the party. The new members were primarily revolutionary youths without much experience concerning Marxism-Leninist theory and practice, but also a number of young and older people who had been educated politically in the depressed and dissolved revisionist parties, especially the DKP of the 1970s and 1980s, joined the ranks of the party. Some of these people, without traditions of struggle and communist party consciousness, turned out to be vacillating elements, who were manipulated by the revisionist faction, which developed and had its centre in a clique inside the Central Committee. The general Marxist-Leninist level of the party was lowered.

It is the responsibility of the Marxist-Leninists that a situation developed that resulted in the strengthening of the petty-bourgeois elements in the party and the weakening of the dominance and influence of the revolutionary workers. Some of these even left the party.

To a small party, the publication of a revolutionary daily newspaper is a huge task. For many years the survival and development of the daily was the main task of the party. The daily was the strongest weapon of the party, but if the daily takes control of the party, instead of the reverse, it can turn out to be a two-edged sword. In DKP/ML this was the case. The 6th Congress made a strong effort to change this situation, but not sufficiently. The economic crisis of the daily and the necessary campaign to save it, which the petty-bourgeois rightist elements in the party were deepening and sabotaging, respectively, while refusing to accept party priorities (e.g. through passivity) took up the time of the Marxist-Leninist forces to such an extent, that other tasks, politically and ideologically important, including the struggle against the growing danger from the right, were being neglected, out of respect for the survival of the daily and the unity of the party. The party control of the work of party members working politically in mass organizations and trade unions, especially those working in the trade union apparatus, was gradually weakened. This caused the detachment of these people from the party and its priorities; it caused “trade union autonomy” which also manifested itself in the Trade Union Committee of the Central Committee. This committee was essential in the development of a legalist trade union line and the opportunist “alliance policy” which characterizes the party today.

All these factors, and more, made the creation of a right opportunist and revisionist line in the party possible.

Generally, it must be stated that the Marxist-Leninist leaders of the party did not carry out the struggle against right opportunism consistently and in all fields. It must also be added that besides this absence in the work of the Marxist-Leninist leaders, they also made a number of grave errors, which made the development of the revisionist line and its victory in the party struggle easier.

This was reflected in a tendency of underestimating the threat, which modern revisionism as a well-developed and deeply rooted opportunist current, active for half a century, continues to be to the revolutionary struggle of the working class, and especially of underestimating the factual influence of modern revisionism inside some sections of the party.

In fact the Marxist-Leninist party leadership allowed that essential elements of the new opportunist line developed and were expressed, internally and externally, in different ways.

In Dagbladet Arbejderen, the two lines, the two different views, e.g. in relation to Cuba and North Korea, were both to be seen. The Marxist-Leninists did not ensure, that the party view on these countries, as countries that deserved the support only on an anti-imperialist basis, or its views on the opportunist character of “Juche” and Castroism, were made clear. Such faulty “tactics” resulted in a general confusion about the party line, inside and outside the party, although a fundamentally correct line in these questions was expressed in the documents and resolutions of the party. By elaborating such “tactics” and by turning “tactic” into strategy, the right elements succeeded in raising doubt about the line and policy of the party in a number of fields, causing confusion about it, and succeeded in this way to formulate and lay down the essential elements of their revisionist line and strategy.

When the party struggle became very acute, above all in the District Committee of Copenhagen and in the Central Committee, the Marxist-Leninist elements in the leadership got confused, and for quite some time they were trying to reach “compromises” in order to save the unity of the party as well as Dagbladet Arbejderen. This lead to compromises, including on questions of principles, to the splitting of the ranks of the Marxist-Leninists who were not organizing an effective defence of the party line or calling on the whole party to crush the factionalist and right opportunist clique. This was also the case, when the Marxist-Leninists were reduced to a minority in the party leadership. They had neglected getting rid of the revisionist elements and elements hostile to the party, elements who did not at all hesitate to smash it into pieces.

The party allowed that a number of old cadres embarked on careers in the trade union apparatus and as officials of other mass organizations. These people became the majority of the Trade Union Committee of the party, and they tried to run it as a kind of “autonomous” entity, thereby sabotaging the decisions of the Central Committee concerning its tasks and priorities. Besides the “autonomy” of these new union officials, their new jobs resulted in a standard of living considerably higher than the living of ordinary workers. When the question of bringing their salary to the level of an ordinary worker was raised, these elements virtually exploded with rage and in anger confirming the old saying, that you don’t bite the hand that is feeding you.

The development of the disguised rightist line was facilitated by other errors in the policy and initiatives of the party during the 1990s, too.

Of course a party is not able to avoid making errors in the complex class struggle, and therefore it tries to rectify them, as soon as they are realized. Otherwise the party will get punished. Among such errors, which eventually achieved importance, but were not rectified, was the failure regarding the status of the revolutionary youth organization, Red Youth (Rød Ungdom). It must be pointed out, that it was an error that this organization, from its very beginning, did not openly and actually attach to DKP/ML, and to the struggle for a strong communist party and to scientific socialism.

What the international communist movement after 1991 is concerned, it must be stated that DKP/ML committed a number of errors.

The party held the correct view that the international communist movement, first and foremost, had to be built by creating strong Marxist-Leninist parties in the respective countries, while at the same time “The New World Order” and the so-called globalisation demanded, that the collaboration and coordination of the struggle of the communists, the working class and the peoples had to be strengthened.

The Marxist-Leninist communist parties could and should also play an active role in the processes that were taking place in the world among the declared communist parties. Among other things, they should support the attempts to rebuild genuine communist parties in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. We do not consider it an error that the party tried to orientate itself by making connections with declared communist forces in a number of countries in which Marxist-Leninist fraternal parties did not exist. Also the assessment of the party, that the time was not ripe for founding an international communist organization, a new Comintern, was correct.

However, DKL/ML neither fought to preserve nor energetically developed relations of bilateral or other nature with a number of fraternal Marxist-Leninist parties that upheld their Marxist-Leninist positions. Especially the parties of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, founded in 1994, on the basis of the appeal “Communist Call to the Workers and Peoples of the World”, the so-called Declaration of Quito.

We consider it an error of principle matter that DKP/ML established fraternal relations with the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Communist Party of Cuba, in spite of the fact that the party in its basic documents stressed the existence of fundamental ideological and political differences in relation to both of them.

This was a violation of the strategic principle of the international Marxist-Leninist communist movement about developing and consolidating unity on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism. Establishing fraternal relations with these two parties in power, parties from the camp of modern revisionism, could not lead to a strengthening of the international Marxist-Leninist communist movement, but only contribute to the blurring of the demarcation line between Marxism-Leninism and modern revisionism, in the communist movement and in the party itself.

Marxism-Leninism is invincible

All this being said, it must be stressed that the name of the revolutionary DKP/ML of 1978-1997 has been enrolled honourably in the history of the communist movement of Denmark, enrolled as a small, but genuine communist party, which in a very difficult period of international counter-revolution and reformist, revisionist treachery raised the red banner of the working class and revolution. It contributed decisively to the survival of Marxism-Leninism and communist policy as a vivid force in the struggle of the working class.

In the present struggle to establish the communist party of the working class, which is the fundamental task of the Danish communists today, and the main task of the communist organization October, the experiences of the revolutionary DKP of 1919 till around 1960 and the revolutionary DKP/ML are particularly important.

The lessons of the revisionist degeneration of these parties also constitute a part of this.

The communists and the working class always pay a high price for revisionist treachery. But it must also be noted, that a high price will be paid for all errors of the Marxist-Leninists, when they fail to

combat right and left opportunism, modern revisionism, reformism etc.

Once more, the party struggle in DKP/ML has proven, that the struggle against opportunism must be carried out head-on, putting away the kid gloves, and that the communist party strengthens itself by getting rid of opportunist elements. Compromises and concessions regarding questions of principle, affecting the foundations of Marxism-Leninism, are inadmissible and always carry the germ of defeat and degeneration.

Social democracy, right as well as left social democracy, and modern revisionism constitute counter-revolutionary currents within the working class movement. Without their defeat, without turning them into a minority in the working class movement, a socialist Denmark is not possible. Only the communist party of the working class will be able to defeat their present dominance, which is deeply rooted (especially due to the social democratic trade union movement) and will be able to develop the revolutionary line of class struggle and revolution in the entire working class, at the workplaces, in the trade union movement, among all progressive classes and strata.

Today, in the year of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the revolutionary DKP, of the 30th anniversary of Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) (KFML) and the 20th anniversary of the founding of DKP/ML, the task of the communists, the best elements in the working class, the revolutionary youth, is the foundation of the communist party of the working class.

Many generations of revolutionaries have struggled for this objective, for creating and developing the working class party, the essential and indispensable instrument for achieving their aspirations. The party will be built on all these experiences and lessons, won in the struggle.

Guided by invincible Marxism-Leninism, the communist party of the working class will be able to ensure the victory of socialism in Denmark in the coming century.

February 1999





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