By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media. Translator’s note: “Rødt” has been translated as “Red Party”. SV is the Socialist Left Party.
The national congress of the Red Party held onto the word “communist” in their principles program. This can be a sign of the leftist wind that blows in the world today. But the party has at the same time removed itself even further from a Marxist analysis and description, and the program now harmonizes a little more with the social democratic strategy and praxis of the party.
The congress in the Red Party changed a number of terms; for instance, “bourgeoisie” was changed to “capitalist class” and they removed a statement in the program that said that people must be prepared for the possibility that this class will use non-democratic weapons against a prospective revolution.
TFM has earlier published an article that says that there is nothing decisive about whether or not the Red Party writes “communism” in their program. This is correct, as some of the most abominable parties in history have misused this word. But when a large majority at the congress votes against the leadership’s recommendation to drop the word, one can nonetheless see a positive sign of the times. We have seen many whirlwinds from the left these past few years. The Maoist movement is growing and shows itself to be young and vital. This is an expression for the escalation of the class struggle and the opposition from the masses, and particularly the youth, that words like “socialism” and “communism” are again on everybody’s lips.
The debates on this have taken place at the best of times and in the columns of major newspapers. There is talk about another societal system. One has no choice but to see this as something positive, even if there is little enthusiasm left to spare for the Red Party.
Bourgeois Bureaucrats in the Blind Spot
Incidentally, the leadership was able to push through its “modernization” of the program on several points. For instance, they replaced the word bourgeoisie with capitalist class. Deliberately or otherwise, this lays the basis for narrowing down who the ruling class is. One suspects that the leadership has long since defined politicians and other leaders within the state and its bureaucracy out of the Norwegian ruling class. A change in the definition lays the basis for only the typical private capitalist being seen as part of the “capitalist class”.
The bourgeoisie is a historically established class. Like the proletariat, the bourgeoisie is more than just the sum of individuals. It is a group of people within a social system that is united and comprised of more than just a common job title. Children and partners of capitalists are also a part of the bourgeoisie. Managers in large companies are as well, even if they don’t own a single share. Directors, who in many cases are nothing more than professional directors and are often trained as lawyers or similar, are also a part of this class. The top layers within the state, the public and semi-public companies, departments, directorates, Parliament, and so on, are all parts of the bourgeoisie.
Again, the class is historically established, and it has a beginning and a development – and it goes inexorably towards its end in communism. It has manifested economically, with its ownership shares and income sources. It has generated itself socially and in the organization of work, with its superior position. It has generated itself culturally, in that parts of the bourgeoisie associate with one another, by sharing customs, eating habits, drinking habits, vacation habits, cultural norms, and so on. They know each other, they meet, and they acquainted. They share a psyche, a ruling mentality, an arrogance, a self-confidence, all of which they cannot themselves see, but that all who meet them can recognize quickly.
All of this becomes much easier to ignore if one simply calls them the capitalist class. And it fits like a glove into revisionism’s portrayal of state production as socialism. A number of revisionists could not see the bourgeoisie in the Soviet Union because they were not a typical capitalist class. “NKP” argued that there were no private capitalists in the country. There were people in SV who claimed that this meant that there was neither capitalism nor socialism in the Soviet Union, but rather a new type of society that they called “bureaucratic collectivism”.
Marxism is not primarily concerned with the form of oppression or individuals. They see capitalism as a system for concentrating power over production in the hands of one class, such that this class can appropriate the labour of other classes. Marx talked about the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It is more precise than “capitalist class” and “working class”. And it leaves less room for revisionism’s incorrect understanding of socialism.
It is also worth mentioning at this point that the old Red Party program describes a bureaucratic tyrant at the top of social democracy, particularly in the leadership of the Labour Party and LO [National Confederation of Trade Unions]. This led Jonas Gahr Støre to ask Bjørnar Moxnes “Am I a bureaucratic tyrant?”, to which Moxnes was forced to answer no in embarrassment. In flagrant violation of the program, to be clear. But that was the old program. In the new program, there is no such thing as bureaucratic tyrants. The bureaucratic tyranny does not exist any longer and the road has been cleared for bureaucratic state capitalism. Or, alternatively, in the short term: a tight and binding cooperation with Libya’s gravediggers in the Labour Party leadership.
The Red Party again attempts to call off the revolution
The congress of the Red Party also removed a paragraph stating that in a revolution, one must be “prepared” for extrajudicial opposition from the ruling class. Red Party members on the left-wing of the party have earlier used this as evidence to support that the party is aware that a revolution is not a tea party. But the congress has decided that it will in fact be possible to sip tea all the way to the expropriation of the capitalist class. Worth noting, however, is that full expropriation of the capitalists has nonetheless been called off.
How the Red Party depicts the “peaceful democratic revolution” is of just as little import as the way they use the word “communism”. Whether or not the Red Party says that one must be prepared for opposition changes nothing. The party will not be making revolution. They will run in elections, they will gather votes, they will vote on budgets, and they will write press releases. What the party views as revolutionary is operating “extra-parliamentary” struggle on the side of that which is parliamentary. That is to say: mobilizing people to demonstrations and campaigns to pressure politicians. The combination of this pressure and good electoral turnouts for the Red Party will, according to “plan”, lead to a extension of democracy. Not quite what Karl Marx called communism, but this is nonetheless the Red Party’s vision.
Within the party, the division between left and right is often a matter of whether they see this “extra-parliamentary” activity or the parliamentary activity as the most important. But even the right-wing Moxnes sees the great value of the union movement and the “grassroots”. This is by no means revolutionary. Labour Party’s Martin Kolberg has already formulated Moxnes’ thoughts loud and clear not long ago when he exclaimed “union movement, union movement, union movement”. And even 100 years ago, Joseph Stalin said that social democracy was nothing without the unions. Social democrats themselves see this, but they will of course never lead the unions into a struggle against capitalism. On the contrary, they will function as grassroots, election supporters, money bins, and press resources against other parties. Like a lobbying organization for social democrats, in other words.
The Red Party wishes to “build on top of” and “extend” the system we have in Norway today. They describe their vision as an “extension of democracy”. In other words, a development of today’s political system, which is built on imperialist exploitation of the third world. This is by no means a desire for a real socialist revolution. In this way, they can safely drop their concerns about a wild counter-reaction from “counter-forces”. It is impossible to take power from the bourgeoisie within the framework of the political system that the bourgeoisie has built. That they would lose any power in the expansion of this system is too absurd a thought for words.
The Norwegian bourgeois state is more militarized than it has ever been. An expression for this was seen on May 8, when the military converted Liberation Day into a homage for Norwegian soldiers on international tours. In this, we can see the contours of an Americanized “Veteran’s Day”, and it is by no means a coincidence. Surveillance is expanded and the Norwegian state willingly casts democratic freedoms to the side when they handle demonstrators and opposition. The scandals in Norwegian politics in the past few years also point in the direction of a bourgeois system in decay. The Norwegian system is becoming more and more similar to those we see in other bourgeois countries. Corruption, of the kind we most often see in the form of politicians who go back and forth between the lobbyist organization First House, and Parliament, points to an even more corrupt and corporativist system. Militarization, corruption, and corporativism is today’s tendency, together with racist right-populism. It is a sign of a reaction that one cannot prepare for in a simple meeting, but which must be attacked wherever one can.
The portrayal of revolutionary violence that is primarily defensive is a typical tendency in opportunism. It is a tendency that is dangerous, because it will always disarm the masses. Those who are not tactically offensive and take the initiative are condemned to lose in a struggle against a stronger opponent. The bourgeoisie is today stronger than the bourgeoisie. Reaction is in the short-term stronger than revolution. The only way to change this is to be tactically offensive and attack the enemy. In this way, a revolution is developed from an infant beginning into a force strong enough to defeat capitalism. It is an ideological delusion that it will be possible to merely defend oneself all the way until victory. It is like a football team 10 points behind at halftime. They cannot play defensive during the second half and expect to win the match. This is the nature of the issue and the fundemental difference between the military strategy of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
Of course, the Red Party has no need for military strategy. Their military apparatus is the Norwegian armed forces. Their state is the Norwegian state. Their goal is simply to tip the scales within the state a little to the left. A revolution is something else entirely. A revolution means smashing this system and building a new system on the ruins of the old one. It is obvious that if one is primarily satisfied with imperialism and is incapable of seeing the relation between the high material living standards in Norway and the fact that poor people starve in Africa, one will certainly not be able to smash anything at all. Then one will just resign themselves to simply adjusting taxes, fees, and welfare benefits a little here and there and be satisfied with that.
That many view the word “communism” positively is good. It is an expression of a leftist tendency in society. But this is not what creates the leftist tendency. Left-populists in Europe float atop a wave that washes to the left, but they are not the ones who have created the wave. It is the masses who are in movement. Whether or not bourgeois and petit bourgeois politicians sail this wave is immaterial. They may as well. There are entirely different conditions that will determine which historical consequences the movement has.
That said, opportunism is dangerous. It is a theory for disarming the masses. And it is a line for strengthening the bourgeoisie’s left-wing. It serves the bourgeois politicians who sprinkle around socialist rhetoric. It leads genuine revolutionaries under the wings of social democrats, pulls teeth and clips claws, and makes potential tigers into tamed house cats. And it indoctrinates people into a bourgeois cynicism that appears revolting from the outside. A cynicism that gets well-meaning people to enter into compromises written in the blood of the poor masses, which exchanges small political victories with imperialist war. A cynicism where one accepts fifty years on wild roads in the name of “realism” and “the art of the possible”. It is a cynicism that tastes awful, if one takes the stand for the planet and for the world’s poorest masses. But it is a mentality that opportunism fosters and that is internalized among those who are left in its quagmire.
Revolution’s primary side is creation. The creation of the new power is the core in the revolution. But there can be no creation without destruction, no revolution without breaking from and destroying the old power, the very same power that the Red Party wishes to “build upon” and “extend”. Marx and Lenin maintained that the proletariat must smash the old bourgeois state, while the Red Party wants to become a part of it. They walk in the same footsteps as the Labour Party and SV. They are recycling the same theory and the same praxis.
At the same time, it is clear that there are many honest revolutionaries in the Red Party. People who have a burning desire to abolish capitalism. Many of them have already experienced a split between their burning desires and the party’s focus and praxis. This split will only grow larger if the party is successful in establishing itself as a medium-sized Parliament party and becomes a support party for a Labour Party government.
To those, it must be underlined that it is in the very nature of the revolutionary to step up to painful breaks and difficult choices. The revolutionary way is beautiful, but it is also tearful, tiring, and full of swings and hills. Every small victory for the class has been won with its blood. It has had to fight for all progress. No revolutionary will ride the coattails of the class’s weariness; they must themselves tire, sacrifice, challenge themselves, fight and lose and pick themselves up to fight again, all the way until we win together with our entire class.