By Ragnar Røed. Original version in Norwegian published on June 25, 2018.
This text must be seen in the context of the class analysis “Class Analysis of Norway” from April 2018. This is a continuation of the analysis, and the two texts are connected. Several comrades have contributed to the text.
AKP(m-l) and Industrial Proletariat as the Core
The earlier communist movement in Norway, the Marxist-Leninism movement, and party AKP(m-l) prioritized class analysis highly – as other communist parties have done as well. In AKP(m-l), the class analysis was a part of the party’s program.
This party fell to revisionism at the end of the 1970s. They followed China’s leadership during the counterrevolution of 1976-1978, condemned the so-called “Gang of Four”, and hedged their bets entirely on Rød Valgalliansen’s [Red Electoral Alliance] electoral campaigns. Only a few parties in the world continued to advance during the confusion in the international communist movement. The foremost of these was the Communist Party of Peru, which initiated the people’s war in Peru in 1980 and formulated Maoism as a third and higher stage of communist ideology. At the same time, many parties went under and disbanded, or followed Albania’s dogmato-revisionism and its critique of Mao. AKP(m-l) was proud that the party continued and did not fall apart or split, but the ideological line crumbled and was replaced by opportunism and revisionism. The party changed its colors.
Before then, AKP(m-l) was the Norwegian communist party. It was the proletariat’s party in Norway, and their class analysis was, at the time, the foremost description of classes in Norway. In the 1970s, the party’s class analysis identified a core of the proletariat – and this analysis made up a part of the basis of the party’s political work.
The analysis of the position of the core of the proletariat must have been the starting point of the proletarianization campaign in AKP(m-l). As a result of the campaign, a large portion of its members ended their studies and petit bourgeois careers and took proletarian jobs, first and foremost in the industrial sector. The proletarianization campaign was first called “Campaign X” and it needed to be kept secret from the movement’s enemies. The labour aristocracy, “NKP” [transl. Norges kommunistparti, “The Communist Party of Norway”] revisionists, and capitalists were all interested in hindering Marxists-Leninists from becoming a political factor in industrial workplaces.
The AKP(m-l) program from 1976 reads “Among the proletariat, the workers in large industries and the largest workplaces are the vanguard, the core of the proletariat.”
Note that they emphasize the size of the workplaces, i.e. the number of workers employed, as an important criterion.
AKP and “Two-Tipped Theory”
The party’s analysis was changed in the 1980s. In the aftermath of major changes in employment in Norway, with the closure or downsizing of a number of important industrial workplaces (for instance, Aker’s mechanical workshops), with the party’s ideological orientation towards revisionism, and after the “women’s rebellion” that struggled against chauvinism in the party, the party developed the so-called “two-tipped theory”.
In 1999, Sissel Henriksen, a central member of AKP, wrote on the changes of the analysis of the party the following:
The traditional class analysis has brought forward the “core of the proletariat”, workers in the biggest industrial workplaces and in the transport sector, as the most battle-readied – a “tip” [transl. tip, point; as that of a spear] in the working class. One of the new analyses that grew out of the women’s rebellion and the concrete changes to the realities in the workforce is the so-called “two-tipped” theory that identifies working women as a new “tip”. This is formulated as follows in the current program: “Women in the working class are oppressed both as a class and as a gender. They are wedged in a position between workers and as the primary caretakers for the private, unpaid labor in the family. Increased participation in the workforce makes these pressures harder. This position entails that women lead the fore in the struggle for demands that are important for the entire working class. Increasing womens’ consciousness and dedicated women’s organizations are important in gathering the female part of the class for struggle. The advancement of women in the working class as an independent leading force has strengthened the working class. (Retrieved from akp.no)
AKP(m-l) (later just “AKP”) therefore had one analysis in the 1970s, and then another from the 1980s until its dissolution in 2007.
Mao’s Criteria for Finding the Core
Marxism’s (today Maoism’s) classics have given us the most important tools for defining the core of a class.
Mao Zedong writes in his analysis of classes in China that:
Though not very numerous, the industrial proletariat represents China’s new productive forces, is the most progressive class in modern China and has become the leading force in the revolutionary movement… The first reason why the industrial workers hold this position is their concentration. No other section of the people is so concentrated. The second reason is their low economic status. They have been deprived of all means of production, have nothing left but their hands, have no hope of ever becoming rich and, moreover, are subjected to the most ruthless treatment by the imperialists, the warlords and the bourgeoisie. That is why they are particularly good fighters.
In short, Mao maintains that it is concentration, the property of being many in one place, and low economic position, that they are poor, that are the two most important factors.
I maintain that we have roughly four alternatives when we are to take a position in the question of the core of the proletariat today:
- The Norwegian proletariat has no core, no vanguard, and no part or parts that are more leading or more concentrated than any other.
- The core of the Norwegian proletariat is still the industrial proletariat, as AKP(m-l) defined it in 1976.
- There are two cores: “women in the working class” and “workers in industry and transport” – i.e. the “two-tipped theory”, as AKP eventually claimed.
- There is a core of the Norwegian proletariat, but neither AKP(m-l)’s 1976 analysis, nor its 1980s analysis are correct today.
The Class has a Core
The first alternative must be rejected because it is in conflict with reality, the way Marxism helps us see it today. No living thing, no process in the real world, is in totally balanced equality. Everything is divided; all things have a heavier or lighter side. All that exists is composed of contradictions. And all groups of people form divisions – for instance, in line with Mao’s description of the people dividing themselves in three: the relatively most advanced, the intermediate, and the relatively backwards. All classes can be divided into upper, middle, and lower layers. All classes can be divided into a core and a periphery.
There must exist parts of the revolutionary proletariat that are more revolutionary and parts that are less revolutionary. There must exist parts of the class that are more concentrated, and some that are more dispersed and split. If there is no large layer or group in the class that takes this role today as a political vanguard, then there are nonetheless some that have greater potential to take on this role tomorrow. Therefore, the first alternative can be rejected.
The Industrial Proletariat, Individually or in its Totality, is not the Core Today
When it comes to the second alternative, we must first conclude that the industrial proletariat in Norway is today smaller than it has been for a long time. It still comprises a large branch, but as a proportion of the class, it is much smaller than it was in 1976. But, more importantly, it is also much less concentrated. The old factories with many hundreds of workers and in some cases even thousands of workers in the same workplace, hardly exist today. Today’s factories host, as a rule, a few dozen, or at most a few hundred workers under the same roof. And these are more divided than ever before. They are divided into different specialities and among temporary employment agencies, contractors, and long-term employees. A larger portion of those who work there today are specialists and trained technicians. And parts of the industrial proletariat are not even among those with the lowest incomes within the class. Some are even relatively highly paid, for instance those within the oil and gas sector.
Additionally, the large industries have more or less disappeared from the urban centers of Norway. Wharves and mechanical workshops that once employed hundreds and thousands of people right in the middle of the country’s largest cities, have been closed down.
Parts of the industrial proletariat, especially those in foodstuffs, textiles, and chemical processing industries, are still relatively highly concentrated and relatively low-paid. Despite this, they do not distinguish themselves fundamentally from a number of other groups within the proletariat. Their working conditions, life situations, position in production and society, and their relation to the means of production, are all conditions that they more or less share with many proletarians in retail, storage, healthcare, the service industry, and the building and construction sectors. This is incidentally in line with Marx and Engels’ description in the Communist Manifesto of a tendency within the proletariat for the differences to shrink due to industrialization and automation of labour. Neither the industrial proletariat as a whole, nor any of its parts, distinguishes itself clearly as a particular core within the proletariat.
“Two-tipped theory” Does Not Give Us the Answer
To claim that there are two equal cores, or “tips”, is a compromise solution, but unfortunately an impossibility in reality. There can never be two equally balanced tips. If there are, then one must protrude further than the other. Nor can there be two equal cores. One will always be stronger than the other. It breaks with Marxism to claim that there can be a complete equality or balance. There is a hypothetical possibility that there are two “tips” that reach almost as far as the other, but I maintain that this is not the way things are today.
To define “women in the working class” – which makes up over half of the proletariat – as one of two tips is illogical. It is not often that the majority stands at the fore. When the majority is in movement, it is typically because a minority has led in front, as a vanguard. One can object that AKP does not write that the tips are equal, but they do not clarify which stands further out – and there is an implied equality between the two tips in practice anyway.
Furthermore, such a definition does not take into consideration the fact that women are also divided into different layers and groups within the proletariat, where some are more advanced than others. And the two-tipped theory also says that the old tip, the “industrial proletariat and transportation workers” (and why transportation?) are still one of the tips.
On one hand, it appears that women have been added to the analysis as an afterthought, and paid lip service to. But on the other hand, the justification that it leads to more struggle and organizing is not a poor one either. This is an indicator that the old proletarian core does not distinguish itself as a fighting core, and that other and new groups – particularly low-waged “feminine jobs” – fight more. The theory has an incorrect premise and an incorrect method, but the conclusion may nonetheless lie closer to the true situation from the 1980s until the present than if one had maintained that the core was still the proletariat in large industries.
I contend that the logical conclusion must be that none of the three first points are a good Marxist class analysis for Norway today, and that none of them have been a good enough analysis for perhaps the last 40 years. “Two-tipped theory” appears to be more about being a useful confirmation of AKP’s previously adapted line of promoting women’s perspectives on all issues than anything else. It is possible that the theory came first, then the “analysis” that “confirmed” it.
We Must Avoid Orienting Ourselves to the Upper Layers
Lenin’s line was to go “deeper” and “broader” among the proletariat, and that it was there that communists must orient themselves, and not first and foremost towards the upper layers of the class. The communist party is the party for the entire proletariat, and will also include groups outside of the proletariat in the revolutionary struggle, but these are secondary in the revolutionary organization. The relatively most privileged among the proletariat are also secondary.
Lenin writes in his book Imperialism:
And in speaking of the British working class the bourgeois student of “British imperialism at the beginning of the twentieth century” is obliged to distinguish systematically between the “upper stratum” of the workers and the “lower stratum of the proletariat proper”. The upper stratum furnishes the bulk of the membership of co-operatives, of trade unions, of sporting clubs and of numerous religious sects. To this level is adapted the electoral system, which in Great Britain is still “sufficiently restricted to exclude the lower stratum of the proletariat proper«! In order to present the condition of the British working class in a rosy light, only this upper stratum—which constitutes a minority of the proletariat—is usually spoken of. For instance, “the problem of unemployment is mainly a London problem and that of the lower proletarian stratum, to which the politicians attach little importance…” He should have said: to which the bourgeois politicians and the “socialist” opportunists attach little importance.
Revisionists orient themselves towards the “top” of the class, because it is relatively more content and less revolutionary, in addition to being easier to organize politically within the system. Some opportunists of a more centrist variety will also naturally appeal to the same upper layer. This can be because they are better organized, more highly represented in unions, and are therefore more “lucrative” and easier to organize for electoral campaigns and similar political work. Or it can be as simple as the fact that some may themselves belong to the upper layer of the class or to the petit bourgeoisie, which stands closer to the upper layers of the proletariat than it does to the lower layers.
Revolutionaries must orient themselves deeper – towards the more exploited and relatively poorer among the class – because they are relatively more revolutionary.
Here in the imperialist countries in particular, we must look closer at this question. In Imperialism, Lenin writes that:
Imperialism, which means the partitioning of the world, and the exploitation of other countries besides China, which means high monopoly profits for a handful of very rich countries, makes it economically possible to bribe the upper strata of the proletariat, and thereby fosters, gives shape to, and strengthens opportunism. We must not, however, lose sight of the forces which counteract imperialism in general, and opportunism in particular, and which, naturally, the social-liberal Hobson is unable to perceive.
He also writes that “Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat.”
Lenin warns against treating this question in a one-sided manner, but also emphasizes the tendency for the upper layers of the proletariat to be “bought out” in the imperialist countries, and thereby creates the basis for opportunism and chauvinism in the labor movement. In Norway today, we find these subjects first and foremost in the large monopoly companies with a lot of business abroad, or with a lot of exports.
We Must Find the Core Where the Class is Most Concentrated
Mao further says that the industrial proletariat not only goes in the fore because it is more exploited and poorer, but also because it is more concentrated. It is gathered in the largest groups and collectives. AKP(m-l) also placed weight on this in 1976, when they talked about the proletariat in the large industries in the “largest workplaces”. In line with Lenin and Mao – who in turn built upon Marx and Engels – we must seek out the core of the proletariat among the lowest-paid and most exploited among the proletariat. Thereafter, we must search among those that are the most concentrated, who are gathered in the greatest numbers the most densely, i.e. a relatively large number in a relatively small area.
Among Maoists in Sweden and France, these groups are sought out in the suburbs in the largest cities. Here, the poorest layer of the proletariat is most concentrated in apartment complexes on the outskirts of city centers. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of proletarians are gathered within relatively few square kilometers. This is where the potential for class struggle is greatest, and these areas have also shown themselves to be more militant in the form of a number of recent riots. There have been riots in suburban areas of England, France, and Sweden in the last twenty years. And this is where the need is clearly greatest – even in the short-term – for power for the proletariat and the communist struggle. A very large proportion of the proletariat within the public and private service sector, retail, healthcare, building and construction, transportation, and industry live in these areas. This is where the unemployed, welfare recipients, poor children, marginalized youth, minorities, and the most oppressed in the system live. And a lot of people live in these areas – a large proportion of the proletariat.
High Concentration in Suburbs and Large Businesses
Suburbs, the overwhelmingly proletarian neighborhoods, have a clear strategic value for the struggle for political power. Without the proletarian masses in these areas, there will be no proletarian revolution.
In Norway, such areas are much smaller than they are in France and Sweden. But they exist without a doubt in Oslo’s suburbs, particularly in Groruddalen. They are places like Fossum, Vestli, Romsås, Tøyen, and Grønland. There are also the beginnings of such areas in the other cities. This is not something that is particularly new. “Østkanten” in Oslo has a history of being a proletarian part of the city. For a large portion of the 20th century, there have been poor areas there – and similar poor proletarian areas in all of the large cities. There have been patterns of working class areas with outhouses up until the 1970s. Entire districts have been built around large industrial workplaces. And the worker’s movement has been particularly well organized in these areas.
Worth mentioning is also the lowest-paid workers outside the large cities: in mining, wharves, crafting, transportation, industry, agriculture, and fisheries. They have physically demanding work and relatively low wages – and have a lot in common with the proletariat in suburbs. Both rural and suburban areas have characteristics of the periphery in that they have a distance to the center and core of the system: first and foremost socially, economically, and politically – but also geographically. There is a chasm of difference between the neat and expensive neighborhoods in the capital city and the proletarian suburbs and rural areas.
Beyond this, the concentration is greatest in the largest workplaces and the largest businesses – in factories, hospitals, large construction sites, in large warehouses, and so on. The worst paid are youth, women, temporary workers, short-term employees, and those on the bottom rung of the ladder – particularly shop workers, cleaners, untrained assistants in construction and infrastructure, kindergarten assistants, cafeteria workers, and workers in the food industry.
According to SSB, 17% of the population lived in apartments in 2013. In all likelihood, this means that a minimum of 17% – but more likely between 20 to 30% – of proletarians live in suburban apartments or housing cooperatives. In Oslo, over 60% of residents live in apartment buildings, and in Bergen the figure is over 40%. Additionally, there are some more central areas that distinguish themselves, including Grønland in Oslo. These areas are also areas with the most immigrants – which is logical, given that they are overrepresented among the proletariat, and particularly the lowest layer of the class. In short, the proletariat in Norway is concentrated the most in apartment buildings in the largest cities – just as they are in other European countries.
In the question of who is the core, it is not only income and whether or not one is high or low in the hierarchy that is important. In terms of their relation to production, the degree of concentration, and in terms of their capacity for struggle, these workers are more central than non-workers. Those who are fully employed generally have a higher income than the long-term unemployed, the retired, and those receiving welfare, but they are also more directly exploited by the capitalists, they are involved in the hierarchy of production on a daily basis, and they are concentrated in workplaces with others in the same position. They participate more directly in the proletariat as workers than welfare recipients. They receive their subsistence in the form of wages, not welfare, and they spend their days together with others in the same situation and the same class. In short, the proletariat that is employed makes up more of the core than those who are without work. And the proletariat that works at large workplaces are more central than those who are divided into smaller workplaces.
The Importance of Position in Production and the Relation to It
In periods where a very large portion of the employable proletariat is unemployed, the masses of unemployed can take a more active and battle-ready position. It is not unnatural that in great depressions or crises, large portions of the core may be placed outside of the workforce. For instance, this is something that we saw in the 1930s in Norway, where unemployment was high (more than one in three) and the unemployed proletariat organized themselves and struggled. They often went in the fore for the struggle for the class during that time. And communists had a leading position in this struggle, particularly within unions for the unemployed. But as a general rule, the center of gravity in the core will be active producers in the large workplaces.
The largest employers in Norway, including those employed abroad, are: ISS facility services (private service performer), Helse Sør-Øst RHF (healthcare in Østlandet), Telenor ASA (telecommunications), Aker ASA (industry), Statoil ASA (oil and gas), Posten Norge AS (postal service), Orkla ASA (industry), Yara International ASA (chemical industry), Aker Solutions AS (industry), Norges Statsbaner AS (transportation), Norsk Hydro AS (chemical industry), Marine Harvest ASA (seafood), DNB ASA (banking and finance), and Kongsberg Automative ASA (weapons industry). Each of these companies have somewhere between 10 and 60 thousand employees – but with a large variation in terms of how many of these are working in Norway, as well as how large workplaces they have.
These large companies have many employees and are important for the Norwegian economy. In that regard, they are strategically important in the class struggle and in the struggle against Norwegian imperialism. But we also see tendencies for bourgeoisification and labor aristocracy more clearly in the larger and richer companies. Here, the class generally arranges the working conditions, has relatively high wages, high levels of organization, and more or less are situated in the upper layers of the class. They are also more closely tied to imperialism ideologically: it is possible [transl. for the bourgeoisie] to appeal to “we are all in the same boat” and argue for weapons sales (Kongsberg) and oil extraction in Nigeria (Statoil/Equinor). We more often find the poorer workers in the support companies for these larger companies, their daughter companies, temporary employment agencies, service companies, and so on.
The Question of Profit- Creating Labour
In the question of who belongs to the proletariat, directly creating profit is not relevant. Not all labour creates profit. Profit is the difference between the price of the goods that are sold by the capitalist and the wages that the workers who created the goods receive. But not all workers produce goods, like those who work in the public healthcare sector or those who work in the circulation of goods, in retail. But these workers are just as proletarian. And they contribute indirectly to profits by reproducing labor power, or facilitating the sale of goods. What is relevant is their position in production, their relation to the means of production, how they receive their income, and how much they are paid, when it comes to determining class membership.
The most relevant factors for determining whether or not one belongs to the core of the class are whether or not one is among the most concentrated and lowest-paid. Profits are of course important for capitalists, and being able to affect profits directly through strikes is of course very important. But, for instance, in the oil and gas sector, a very well-paid layer of the proletariat has developed – so well-paid that they are among the highest paid in Norway. They have more in common with what Engels and Lenin defined as the labour aristocracy, than what Mao defined as a poor and exploited core proletariat. Even proletarians who themselves do not create profits in their labour can affect profits through their actions. Whether or not one creates profits should therefore not be decisive in determining whether or not one is part of the core.
The Subjective Relations, the Class Without, and the Subjective Element, the Party
Out of the objective material relations, particular subjective relations grow forth. One talks about the “class within” as the objectively existing class, and the “class without” as class consciousness, whether or not the proletariat is conscious of itself as a class and as a political subject: simply if the class sees the class struggle and will participate actively in it, or if it in general buys the bourgeois ideology about class peace and class cooperation.
The core in the proletariat develops class consciousness quicker. And it spontaneously develops a stronger class standpoint. Strong discipline, the ability to organize and struggle, and a greater openness for revolutionary and proletarian politics also grows here. This is the way it was with the industrial proletariat, this is the way it still is in the industrial sectors in large parts of the world, and this is also the way it is with the most concentrated, lowest-paid, working proletariat today in the European countries.
Parties represent classes. Parties are class organizations. Parties are the organized expression for a class’s political interests. The communist party is the proletariat’s party. The communist party is, according to Maoism, the highest, most important, and most advanced form for proletarian class organization. It is logical that the most advanced form of class organization must base itself first and foremost on the most progressive part of the proletariat, on the core of the proletariat; that the party must be melded together with the core of the proletariat, be among it, and to a large degree consist of people from it. The most progressive and the relatively most active part of the proletariat is the core.
This is logical; just as logical as it is for the bourgeoisie’s general staff and leadership to overlap with the core of the bourgeoisie; that there is a revolving door between the states’ highest organs and the leadership of the largest companies; that ministers, generals and large capitalists not only go to meetings with one another and make their plans in concert, but also gather socially and go to the same parties. The alternative would be that the government and bureaucracy depend on other parts of the bourgeoisie, but in this way, they would be much weaker. They would meet enormous problems in the face of the powerful core of the bourgeoisie, not unlike the crisis that the leftist oriented government in Venezuela met after the coup in Chile in 1973. Or like the Labour Party’s first government, the Hornsrud government, which needed to resign after just 20 days. A bourgeois state that does not have unity between the state leadership, the military leadership, and the core of the bourgeoisie, will be a weak state during a crisis.
The proletariat’s liberation must be the class’s own work. And it can never happen if the core does not stand at the fore. It need not be the entire core to begin with, but a movement at the periphery of the class will not achieve the victory that is needed. Such a movement would not have the ability to put the entire class in movement and organize it through struggle.
The Communist Party, People’s War, and the Mass Line
Since the proletariat is a revolutionary class that must take power from the bourgeoisie through violence if it is to have any kind of power at all, it must be a party for revolutionary war. The organizing of the proletariat and the organizing of the core of the class must therefore not only be of a political nature, but also a military one. This is not a secondary question, but rather the core in the strategy for taking power the way Mao put it: “The central task and the highest form of revolution is armed seizure of political power and the resolution of issues by armed struggle. This Marxist-Leninist revolutionary principle is universally correct. Whether it is in China or abroad, it is always correct.”
Furthermore, the party must practice Mao’s method for leadership, and it must have a mass line as its standpoint and method. One of the mass line’s methods takes its starting point in Mao’s approach of dividing the people into three.
In his article on methods for leadership, Mao writes:
The masses in any given place are generally composed of three parts, the relatively active, the intermediate and the relatively backward. The leaders must therefore be skilled in uniting the small number of active elements around the leadership and must rely on them to raise the level of the intermediate element and to win over the backward elements.
Applied to the proletariat, these Maoist principles entail that the leadership (the communist party) must work to gather the core of the proletariat around itself for people’s war and communism, depend on them to raise the rest of the proletariat and win parts of the petit bourgeoisie over to it, and neutralize or passivize other parts of the petit bourgeoisie. This is only possible if the party is united with the core of the proletariat. The union with the core in the proletariat can only happen by being politically active among it, by working politically close to the core to politicize, mobilize, and organize it, by living where the core lives, by being socially and culturally engaged with the core of the proletariat, and not least by ensuring that large parts of the party’s cadre themselves come from the core and is a part of it.
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