By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media.
Originally published July 26, 2020.
This is an debate article. Analysis and viewpoints belongs to the author.
In a longer text, Elling Borgersrud from the rap group Gatas Parlament makes a comprehensive break with Pål Steigan. Borgersrud calls the former AKP(m-l) leader racist after a critical review of the tendencies on steigan.no, where one can regularly find attacks on immigration, “multiculturalism”, and “anti-racism”. We support the criticism, but we maintain that two important points are missing that we would like to add.
Link to Borgersrud’s article (in Norwegian):
“Steigan.no er blitt en rasistisk blogg som ødelegger for venstresida. Her er hvorfor“
From Communist Leader to Anti-Anti-Racist?
Comrade Elling Borgersrud also links to a number of articles that reveal Steigan and his bedfellows, and the article is both important and correct. When the masses in the US rise up in the struggle against racist police violence, Steigan’s answer has been to condemn “Black Lives Matter” and what he refers to as “misunderstood anti-racism”. This is even being done with embarrassing references to Mao Zedong, who Steigan has clearly not studied since he was a teenager.
An example of this embarrassment is Steigan’s claims to what are “kindergarten lessons” [barnelære] from Chairman Mao. Steigan here refers to Chairman Mao’s teachings on contradictions, but falsifies Mao’s lessons by conflating the concepts of “fundamental contradictions” and “primary contradiction”, and by claiming that Mao demonstrated that there were “two primary contradictions” in the worlds, when Stalin and the communist movement have traditionally demonstrated that there are four fundamental contradictions in our world in our epoch (the contradiction between imperialism and oppressed nations, the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the capitalist countries, the contradictions among imperialists, and the contradiction between socialism and capitalism – a contradiction that today can only be found in the ideological struggle, as there are no currently existing socialist countries). He also makes false claims when he claims that Mao ignored anti-racism in favor of class struggle. Like the masterful dialectician he was, Mao was able to plainly see the struggle against racism as a part of the global struggle against imperialism and chauvinism, and therefore embraced Black Americans’ struggle as well.
The blog steigan.no has become a favorite among fascists and proto-fascists in SIAN, Alliansen, Demokratene, and Frp—for instance, Oslo’s Frp leader (from Frp’s proto-fascist right wing), recommended steigan.no when he was interviewed in Klassekampen(!). This is no coincidence.
Borgersrud’s article, along with the links he refers to, are highly recommended reading for everyone. Tjen Folket Media has earlier published a series of articles in three parts on the phenomena of “left chauvinism” and Steigan. We have also published many articles on the development of chauvinism and the opposition towards immigration in the Swedish “Communist Party” and more generally on “red racism”. What is missing in Borgersrud’s article, as well as in some of our own articles, is two things that must be made very clear.
Social Chauvinism Has a Long History and is an Extension of Right Opportunism
First, the true name of Steigan’s tendency is social patriotism, or social chauvinism. And this is by no means a new phenomena. Lenin describes it in, for instance, his book Imperialism: “social-chauvinism (socialism in words, chauvinism in deeds) is the utter betrayal of socialism, complete desertion to the side of the bourgeoisie; that this split in the working-class movement is bound up with the objective conditions of imperialism, etc.”
During WWI, the reformist labour leaders stood in the fore for defending “their” fatherland, and fundamentally betrayed proletarian internationalism. This is an old tendency in the European labour movement. It is a tendency that has split the movement for over 100 years. It is a phenomenon that is inextricably linked to imperialism itself and its de facto buying up of the upper layer of the “labour aristocracy”, the stratum that Steigan himself has belonged to, before he went entirely over to the petty-44bourgeoisie and eventually became a small capitalist of his own.
Steigan’s direction has not grown out of his own head, but out of material conditions. And therefore, we see the same direction in other countries. In Sweden, they have led to splits in both Ung Vänster [Young Left] and the “Communist Party” (KP). The former leader of KP is now a writer for a racist online news source. The Malmö branch of the party has broken off and established its own local party with opposition towards immigration as their banner issue. In Denmark, the party “Fælles Kurs” [Common Course] was a split from the revisionist “DKP” [Communist Party of Denmark] and was represented in the Danish Parliament in 1987, profiling themselves as immigration opponents. In 2001, they merged with the Red Party’s sister party, Enhedslisten [Red-Green Alliance (Denmark)]. In the Netherlands, The Socialist Party (also known as the “tomato party”), a party with similarities to the Red Party in Norway with a background in the Marxist-Leninist movement, also profiled themselves as critical towards immigration. In England, one can see such tendencies in a number of parties, like the Trotskyist Socialist Party, CPB-ML, and CPGB-ML. And so on! The list is long, both in modern times and from the interwar period – when a Swedish right opportunist “Communist Party of Sweden » became Hitler sympathizers as Svenska Socialistiska Partiet [Swedish Socialist Party].
In short, this rotten trend is old, and it cannot be separated from the fact that we live within imperialism, and especially in an imperialist country, where the objective conditions lead opportunists over to a “defense of the fatherland” and thereby to a defense of their own countries’ imperialism. And note then that imperialism not only drops bombs on other countries, but also that these bombs are just bloody politics, as Mao defined war, and that politics is nothing but concentrated economics, as Lenin defined it. It is not enough to condemn the bombing of Libya; one must also combat imperialism in its entirety and attack it at its roots.
The roots of this trend are however even older than imperialism. If we read the Communist Manifesto, we see that Marx and Engels devote a lot of space to a critique of reactionary socialism, conservative, or bourgeois socialism, as well as critical-utopian socialism and communism. And they maintain that the moderate opposition against the bourgeoisie decays into conservative and reactionary opposition that “attempts to turn back the wheels of history”. All of these criticisms drafted by Marxism’s founders apply directly to steigan.no. Everything from the critique of the reactionary (“immigration opposition”, alliances with fascists) to the critique of utopian socialism (Steigan’s “Communism 5.0” [sic!]), are demonstrably applicable and accurate, especially when they reveal the class character that lies at the base.
We can also recommend this article that expands on this in more detail:
Secondly, social patriotism is an extension of reformism, of right opportunism. It cannot be separated from it. This is also the case with Steigan. It is not the case that he was a very good communist all the way until 2012 or 2014, when he began using phrases like “mass immigration” and “elite”, and in this way began to appeal so strongly to clear-cut fascists that they excited themselves over his texts online. Steigan was already a right opportunist in the 1970s. He praised the rightist coup in China in 1976, their persecution of the revolutionary leaders, a persecution that included torture and murder, and wrote rosy proclamations about Deng Xiaoping’s way to power in the country and the restoration of capitalism in China. He praised those who, through violence, liquidated the dictatorship of the proletariat in the world’s most populous country. For some, this perhaps appears to be a minor historical detail, but for each and every revolutionary, and for each and every communist, this is an unforgivable betrayal.
Meanwhile, Steigan supported AKP(m-l)’s march into parliamentarianism, and with strong nationalist rhetoric in the defense of the Norwegian state’s interests all throughout. Under the guise of struggle against the social imperialist Soviet Union, Steigan agitated for a strong defense, greater allocation of funds to the bourgeois army, strong assertion of Norwegian fishing rights, and dominance of Svalbard, along with an incredibly nationalist rhetoric against the EU.
In the article “Opportunism, and the Collapse of the Second International”, Lenin writes:
“Social-chauvinism and opportunism are the same in their political essence; class collaboration, repudiation of the proletarian dictatorship, rejection of revolutionary action, obeisance to bourgeois legality, non-confidence in the proletariat, and confidence in the bourgeoisie… Social-chauvinism is the direct continuation and consummation of Millerandism, Bernsteinism, and British liberal-labour policies, their sum, their total, their highest achievement… Social-chauvinism is a consummated opportunism… [it] was so mature by 1915-15 that it proved an open ally of the bourgeoisie.”
In the Marxist-Leninist movement, such social-chauvinism was smuggled in with the false pretext of Chairman Mao’s line for national liberation in the oppressed nations, a conflation of Norway’s character (imperialist, or victim of imperialism?) with the correct communist line of opposition towards Hitler-fascism in the form of wars of national liberation. The class character of this line was a petty-bourgeois nationalism, which went hand in hand with opportunism all the way through.
Steigan condemns one form of imperialism: Yankee-imperialism. But it is portrayed by Steigan as a primarily deliberately chosen policy, and as an elite-based conspiracy, rather than capitalism’s second phase, in direct contradiction with Lenin’s analysis, which shows that imperialism is neither a conspiracy, nor a chosen policy. Russian and Chinese imperialism disappear completely for Steigan. And Norwegian and other European imperialism are portrayed as being “steered by the US”. Norway’s own imperialism, and the imperialism of the German, British, and French bourgeoisie, all disappear to a large degree in his worldview. In this way, an aggressive line against the US, presented as “anti-imperialism”, can in reality cover up an alliance with other bourgeoisies in competition with the US. Perhaps it is therefore no coincidence that Steigan “forgot” one of the fundamental contradictions in the world (among the imperialists themselves) when he attempted to repeat the “kindergarten lessons” for new readers.
Steigan’s opportunism, opportunism from Steigan’s circles, can be seen clearly when Russia or China are considered “counterweights” against the US, or when Trump and Le Pen are praised as alternatives to Clinton or Macron. This is the petty-bourgeoisie’s vacillation and mistrust of the proletariat’s independent position; it is the “choice between two evils”; it is to subjugate oneself to one imperialist against another, one bourgeois politician against another.
Borgersrud and other critics of Steigan deserve all honor for taking up the struggle. The struggle against fascism demands a hard demarcation of boundaries. It is unforgivable for a communist to enter into an alliance of any form, political or pragmatic, with fascists and proto-fascists. It is a gigantic betrayal against the young revolutionaries who fling themselves physically into battle with them, when Steigan reserves a space for them on his blog and attacks “anti-racism”. The struggle against chauvinism cannot be separated from proletarian internationalism and the struggle against imperialism. Marxists must combat the postmodern “identity politics” and reveal the liberal bourgeoisie when they call themselves anti-racists, but of course not in a way that one takes a reactionary standpoint in defense of chauvinism!
As Marxists, we must nonetheless point out some gaps in the criticism. This is the way it must be. All criticism cannot cover all truths. It would be both impossible and impractical. But a correct and Marxist analysis of Steigan’s direction must include these two points: that it is a part of the old social-chauvinist direction, and that social-chauvinism grows out of (right-)opportunism. One hardly needs this perspective to see that Steigan has crossed a line, but without the perspective, one will not be able to explain why, and therefore one will not be able to understand how it happened and why it happens with others, and therefore will also have great problems with combating opportunism and chauvinism,
Briefly, we must also conclude by mentioning the development in the Red Party in this context, where the party leader has been rather focused on labour immigration and where the party’s TV celebrity Mimir Kristjansson advocates for a national revival. It is crossing the line, or does it rather toe it? A number of Steigan’s supporters and partners are members of the Red Party. How can the party’s anti-racists live with this so clear and out in the open?
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