The expulsions of 26 Marxists from the youth organisation SUF is now known not only on the Danish left, but also internationally. In another article (see: Denmark: 26 revolutionary Marxists expelled from the SUF!) we described the undemocratic manoeuvres that were used against those members of the SUF who support the paper Socialistisk Standpunkt.
The expulsions in the SUF mark a new era for the revolutionary youth in Denmark. The SUF was founded in 2001 in order to unite all revolutionary youth. Unfortunately, at this time leading layers in the SUF seem to prefer spending a lot of their time persecuting and expelling revolutionary Marxists from their ranks rather than actually building the movement. Their first attempt to expel Marxists from the SUF in 2006 was defeated at congress but a new recent attempt in 2007 has succeeded with the expulsion of 26 Marxists.
As we have explained, the expulsions were the culmination of a struggle that has been brewing inside the SUF for some time between different tendencies. The SUF leadership has moved more and more to the right both in the ideas that it defends and in its activity. Some leaders of the SUF, for example, argued in favour of dropping revolutionary resistance to the EU at the recent Unity List conference in May. In the big protest movements in 2006 against the right-wing government’s cutbacks there were several examples of how the SUF leadership subordinated itself to the leadership of the LO (the Danish TUC) and rejected proposals to continue and radicalise the struggle.
However, the leadership had to face criticism and strong opposition from the young supporters of Socialistisk Standpunkt, the Marxist tendency in Denmark. The ideas and proposals of this tendency were winning more and more support to a point where it was seriously challenging the political domination of the SUF leadership. Not able to reply to the political challenge with political ideas, the leadership of the SUF decided to root out the dissenting voices through bureaucratic organisational means. That was the real reason why the 26 Young Marxists were expelled on May 17th.
Unfortunately, the SUF leadership had the help of some other groups on the Danish left. Included amongst those is SAP (Socialistisk Arbejderparti), who actively supported the expulsions both in 2006 and in 2007. SAP is a part of the USFI international (United Secretariat of the Fourth International). The USFI’s most known historical leader was the Belgian, Ernest Mandel, and the USFI is a result of a number of splits in the Fourth International, the organisation which was founded by Trotsky in 1938. Today SAP still claim to represent the Fourth International even though they have toned down the references to Trotsky.
We think that it is necessary to put forward clearly the scandalous role that SAP has been playing in the expulsions and their real policies in the Danish class struggle. At the moment of writing a discussion inside the SUF has been going on about SAP and whether it should declare itself as a fraction or not. This makes it all the more necessary to deal with this question.
The SAP leadership has avoided making any public statement about the matter and is now portraying itself as the defenders of democracy on the left and as a revolutionary tendency in the SUF and in Enhedslisten (the red-green alliance, the Unity-list). As we warned at the time, if the bureaucratic methods of the SUF leadership are allowed in the socialist movement, they can be used against other currents if they put forward criticism of the leadership. The present expulsions will therefore not be a recipe for greater democracy, but on the contrary a recipe for legitimising bureaucratic measures against anyone who dares to put forward a revolutionary position. That should be clear to everyone, especially to the comrades of SAP and the USFI, who recently have been subjected to similar bureaucratic persecutions in other countries (like in the Italian Partito della Rifondazione Comunista).
SAP’s participation in the expulsion campaigns of 2006 and 2007
The witch-hunt against the Marxists of Socialistisk Standpunkt in SUF has been going on for many years. In 2006 a group tried to expel 15 SUF members that supported Socialistisk Standpunkt. When the expulsion appeal was published it turned out that the group, which called itself Paragraf4 (after the expulsion paragraph in the statutes), had coordinated its work with internal mailing lists and national meetings. They had not informed the rest of the SUF about this. Two members from SAP participated in the Paragraph4 group.
At this time the leadership of SAP decided to be “neutral” in the case. Shortly after this they reconsidered and their EC was now – officially – against the expulsions only because it thought that the expulsions had not been carried out in a democratic fashion and they gave their members inside SUF the freedom to vote however they chose. In fact their stand was a smokescreen to legitimise the expulsions. In a public statement they explained that:
“We believe that it is justifiable to expel people who work disloyally be it in SAP, SUF or Enhedslisten. There is nothing wrong with such an expulsion so long as it is done in line with natural justice and in a democratic fashion.
Members of SAP who have worked in SUF throughout the last 3 years recognise this criticism of SS’s political behaviour and way of operating. SAP therefore believes that there are grounds to start a case for the expulsion of those responsible if such charges can be documented.”
The statement goes on to say that the document which contained the appeal for expulsions in 2006 is not good enough because it does not document the alleged wrongdoings of those who were up for expulsion.
So in fact the SAP leadership agreed with the accusations of the SUF leadership (which were completely false) and with their reasoning for the expulsions. They thought that it was just a matter of legalistic procedures preventing them from giving official support to the expulsions!
Also, in the quotation given, they say that “There is nothing wrong with such an expulsion so long as it is done in line with natural justice and in a democratic fashion.” What is “natural justice” and who decides when things are carried out with “natural justice”? As far as we know this word does not figure in the vocabulary of Marxism. In fact, it is a petty-bourgeois idea, an idea that claims the existence of some kind of eternal reason.
Marxists do not defend such a position. We think that no one should be expelled from revolutionary organizations, except fascists and persons who openly side with the bourgeoisie or with their reformist stooges against the working class.
Expulsions are never some kind of legalistic nor democratic issue. It is a political issue and behind the recent expulsions in the SUF there were clear political intentions. The intentions were to eliminate the most important advocates of the revolutionary wing inside the SUF, i.e. Socialistisk Standpunkt.
The position of the SAP in terms of the expulsions in 2006 (which were rejected at the 2006 congress) is absolutely as harmful as their position in 2007. With their support for the expulsions they helped not only to split the revolutionary youth, they also helped to change the internal regime in the SUF and create a precedence for more expulsions and which-hunts against all critics of the SUF leadership.
Furthermore, the leadership of SAP had decided that members of SAP could decide for themselves if they wanted to vote in favour or against the expulsions. Using this pretext, several members of the SAP continued to work actively in favour of the expulsions and some of them put a lot of pressure on young members of the SUF who were against the expulsions. So in fact they did not oppose the expulsions in 2006, but supported them in practice.
In 2007 the executive committee of SAP was much firmer. Here they supported the expulsions without any reservations – despite the fact that the “basis for expulsion” this time was stolen and manipulated internal documents from Socialistisk Standpunkt. Every one of the 26 members of SUF who were up for expulsion explained that they could in no manner take responsibility for the documents. But this did not affect those proposing expulsions (who for several years have had it as their primary political goal to expel the Marxist tendency) or the leadership of SAP. In fact the SAP leadership explained in a letter about the 2007 expulsions to their international comrades that:
“SAP’s EC believe it is justifiable to expose internal documents of secretive groups such as SS who systematically conceal their real motives and where other means of proving their disloyalty are often impossible.”
First of all, it is amazing that SAP holds this position but do not dare put it forward openly. The following statement is in a letter to other USFI sections that was forwarded to us in reply to our questions (please see appendix). But why did this not appear in their magazine or website? Why hasn’t SAP come up with any public statement on the matter?
Secondly, this actually legitimises a police-style regime within the SUF and the workers’ movement in general. If it is “justifiable to expose internal documents” of other tendencies then we would be in for a brutal which-hunt against every group that dares criticise the line of the leadership or finds itself in opposition on a particular issue.
Any fraction or tendency should have the right to discuss internally and then put forward its own positions as a collective. That means having internal documents and complete freedom of discussion. Every tendency should be judged by the positions and politics that it puts forward not by anything else.
Fractions, tendencies and discussions
It is worth going into some detail on the question of fractions and tendencies. Again it is not a legalistic question, but a political issue that many working-class parties, organizations and movements have had to deal with since the very beginning of the labour movement.
While Marxists argue for the maximum unity in the class struggle against the bosses and the right wing, we think that it is natural that different tendencies will develop in Socialist organizations. This lies in the very development of events. Disagreements will always occur at different stages and it is natural that different ideas will also develop. Some comrades who have the same basic ideas may form an organized tendency together in order to fight to promote those specific ideas. That is ABC.
Lenin, who was never afraid of discussing with other tendencies or fractions clearly explained this:
“Every faction is convinced that its platform and its policy are the best means of abolishing factions, for no one regards the existence of factions as ideal. The only difference is that factions with clear, consistent, integral platforms openly defend their platforms, while unprincipled factions hide behind cheap shouts about their virtue, about their non-factionalism”
This is actually a very accurate description of the workings of the SUF leadership. The leadership has spent a lot of time accusing Socialistisk Standpunkt of “secret” fractional work. Now they have turned on the SAP and several leading members have demanded that SAP declare itself openly as a fraction. However, what the SUF leadership have forgotten to explain is, that they all along have been working to push SUF in a very specific direction – that is towards the right on a number of issues – on the question of the EU, with its adaptation to the trade union leadership in the welfare movements of 2006, etc. The leadership thus hides itself behind what Lenin defined as “cheap shouts about their virtue, about their non-factionalism”.
The problem is that SAP has legitimised all this. By supporting the expulsions and accepting that internal documents are used as a pretext for expulsions, they have gone from bad to worse. They have paved the way for the destruction of political debate inside the SUF. Instead of fighting to change the policies of the SUF and challenging the rightward shift of the leadership they have sided with the leadership in an unholy alliance to expel the Marxists of Socialistisk Standpunkt.
The slogan of a workers’ government
In the discussion about the expulsions many have accused Socialistisk Standpunkt of belonging simply to the Social Democracy. Without quoting any of our documents they have deliberately tried to present us as followers of Helle Thorning-Schmidt (chairman of the Social Democratic Party in Denmark who holds a position close to that of Tony Blair in Britain). In the 2006 statement of SAP we see the same accusation:
“It amazes us in SAP that SS dismisses all criticism of their strategy in the e-mail debate. Time and time again they have put forward a strategy based on “Marxists” going into the Social Democracy, and this also is written in several places on their website.“
Other groups on the left, often those who lack any real contact with or feel for the movement of the masses, always attack us on this issue. For them it is almost always a question of denouncing the reformist leaders of the workers’ movement. In their own little world they think that it is enough simply to raise the banner of Socialism and then the masses will follow.
This has never been the case anywhere in the world. Although the Danish Social Democratic Party at the present moment has a leadership with extremely right-wing policies, this does not alter the fact that it is the traditional mass party of the working class. It was borne in a harsh struggle against the bosses, in an attempt on the part of ordinary working men and women to control the destiny of their own lives in their own hands. It is a party that still commands support in elections and has a membership of hundreds of thousands of ordinary working people and trade unionists. Even in the last elections (which was a historic low-point for the Social Democratic party) they obtained 25.8% of the vote. Socialists need a strategy to win them over to revolutionary ideas.
Time and again we have seen that when the masses move into action they do this through the main workers’ parties, also through the Social Democratic Party. The mass of workers will again try to push the three working class parties in Denmark – Social Democracy, Socialist Peoples Party (SF) and Enhedslisten (Red-Green Alliance) – towards the left.
If the Socialists ignore this fact we will be doomed in advance to complete isolation from the masses. Therefore we must work to connect with the masses, both in the trade unions and in the workers’ movement. We cannot ignore honest workers’ simply because they hold a Social-Democratic party card.
That would amount to the worst sectarianism and it was never the method of Lenin or Trotsky, who both advocated a clear orientation towards the main workers’ parties.
At the present time most workers’ activists in Denmark have one question on their minds: How do we get rid of the right-wing Anders Fogh government? And how do we ensure that a new left-government will actually apply Socialist politics? If we are to rely on the answers that SAP gives us, it simply means building The Red-Green Alliance and then hoping that it one day will get enough seats to do all this. Unfortunately, for most workers this does not look like a realistic perspective.
What the mass of workers will be searching for is a clear conceivable alternative that is within their grasp. What do we say to them? The position of Socialistisk Standpunkt (for which we have been accused of being reformists) is that we appeal to workers and youth to fight for socialism and to organize in revolutionary socialist organizations in order to do so (that is, to join the SUF if they are young), while at the same time, in relation to the concrete question of elections, we raise the slogan of the need for a workers’ government on a socialist programme. That is, we appeal for a government of the three workers’ parties; the Social Democracy, the Socialist Peoples Party (SF) and Enhedslisten (Red-Green Alliance). We say to the leaders of these parties; “If you advocate a real programme in defence of the welfare system, against the war in Iraq, etc. you will be able to win the support and enthusiasm of the working class again and kick out the right-wing government”. This is in our opinion the best and only way of entering into a dialogue with workers and trade union activists about what a socialist programme is and how we can fight for it. It does not imply on our part one iota of support for the right-wing policies of the leadership of the Social Democracy, or for that matter for the reformist policies of the leaders of the SF and Enhedslisten.
This is the same approach that Lenin used when he advocated the famous slogan of “all power to the soviets”. In reality the soviets were at that time still under a majority of reformists (Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks). So in fact, Lenin was calling upon the reformists to seize power! A sectarian would never understand this. Had Lenin degenerated into opportunism? Far from it. Lenin understood very well that the mass of workers still looked to the SRs and Mensheviks. Therefore he put forward a slogan that connected with the mood for action and put pressure on the reformist leaders in the Soviets.
It was only in that way the Bolsheviks were able to win the support of the majority of the workers and ultimately carry through the revolution. Without such an approach the October revolution would never have taken place. So when our opponents attack us on the question of the mass organizations they actually attack us on our strongest side. We think that any revolutionary worth the name should know how to connect Socialist ideas with the masses.
The work of Socialistisk Standpunkt supporters inside the SUF
Another accusation that is repeated in the statements of SAP is that the comrades of Socialistisk Standpunkt have only been active inside the SUF to recruit members to our own tendency and to benefit in a parasitic way from the work inside the SUF.
This nonsense has sometimes been repeated in the discussions about the expulsions, but the leadership (and also SAP) has always avoided giving any concrete examples about our alleged disloyal practice. They haven’t gone into details because they know perfectly well that our record inside the SUF is a model one and that they cannot find any backing for their accusations.
Firstly, supporters of our tendency were among the founders of the SUF. We participated in the founding congress in 2001 and have been active ever since. Several of our comrades have been elected either in congresses or in regions to the national leadership and have been very active in campaigns, etc. In Roskilde, Vejle, Tønder and Sydhimmerland we were the founders of SUF branches. Especially in Roskilde we were successful in building an important and very active branch that attracted many young people and led student struggles in the local High Schools.
In total we had comrades active in 10 branches throughout the country. In February and March 2007 we took up the question of Venezuela and proposed organising a campaign on the subject, like we have done before in SUF congresses. But while the SUF leadership once again rejected doing anything in defence of the Venezuelan revolution, many local SUF branches invited Hands Off Venezuela to come and speak in public meetings.
We have never had any “hidden agendas”. Our agenda is that of revolutionary socialism and that is the agenda that SUF should be advocating. This is also what we have been putting forward inside the SUF. At the SUF congress of April 2007, before we were kicked out of the meeting, we successfully won the majority for an amendment on wage-negotiations. This was a revolutionary proposal and parts of its contents were actually rejected by members of SAP. Fortunately, the proposal was carried. Let us quote just one paragraph from it:
“To get in contact with trade union youth we will offer our help to apprentices and young workers, both practically with the distribution of leaflets, putting up of posters and picket line guards, but also by politically paying attention to their demands and connecting them with the struggle against the right-wing government. We will show them that the revolutionary Socialists are the most determined defenders of the working class youth!”
Does SAP advocate a revolutionary position in action?
Inside the SUF and the Unity-list, SAP has promoted itself as a revolutionary and Marxist tendency.
Of course we welcome anyone who fights for revolution as his or her aim, but we doubt that this can ever be achieved if one supports bureaucratic methods in the workers’ movement such as the present expulsions in the SUF. If the SAP leadership really wants to fight for revolution they should have fought together with the left in the SUF against the reformist EU-policies of some sectors of the leadership, for the defence of the Venezuelan revolution, for the continuation of the welfare movements, etc, etc. Unfortunately, in these struggles we have never seen the presence of SAP, although several branches in SUF have supported us and for example arranged meetings with the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign, etc.
Far from supporting the left in such struggles, the SAP leadership has actually promoted policies that are anything but revolutionary. A good example is the big movement against cuts to welfare in 2006 where SAP openly praised the work of the trade union leadership and turned against the slogan of a general strike.
In their latest congress approved document we read: (http://www.sap-fi.dk/sap/kongresDec2006/Kongres23.htm):
“In the period around May 17th [the big day of action, our note], some forces on the left began to critize Enhedslisten (and thereby indirectly SAP) for not proposing political strikes, some even a general strike. Such proposals were completely removed from the actual situation. They had no chance of winning support and thereby to develop the struggles and could at best serve to highlight those who promoted it as especially revolutionary and militant”.
And it continues:
“The trade union organizations concerned played a positive role in many places before and after the actions (…) [however] their active involvement was limited by the labour market system and the threat of fines. Most of the trade union leaders did not want to break with this system and the rest of them estimated – correctly – that they did not have the strength to do so in this situation.”
The fact is that May 17th was the biggest day of protest since the great strikes of 1985 and that more than 100,000 were on the streets nationally. This happened at a time when the government was carrying through a new reform which meant a brutal attack on the welfare state. There was a big majority in the population against this and a mood for action.
But after the big mobilizations on May 17th the trade union leaders slowed down the movement even though it was a unique chance to kick the government out of office. They thought that it was only necessary to hold “conferences”.
In the autumn the kindergarden teachers in Aarhus went on strike, in spite of the trade union leaders. For weeks they had to strike with the threat of fines and the labour court hanging over their heads. That shows that the movement absolutely had the potential to develop. But what was SAP’s conclusion? That the trade union leaders played a “positive role” and that there was never a possibility of political strikes!
Do SAP think that the LO [the Danish TUC] Aarhus played a “positive role” during the week-long strike of the kindergarden teachers in Aarhus in the autumn of 2006? In reality LO leaders in Aarhus did everything possible to stop the strike-movement of the kindergarden teachers. Faced with a unique chance of extending the movement and pulling back the cut-backs in the municipality, they got so nervous that they tried to put the movement off track.
If the trade union leaders had wanted to, or if a left opposition in the trade union movement had existed, wouldn’t it then have been possible to spread the movement? Was the right-wing government not so pressurized that Anders Fogh began to denounce the protesters as “Socialist troublemakers”?
We will let our readers judge for themselves whether it is a revolutionary Socialist position to argue against the calling of a general strike and the continuation of the movement. Suffice it to say, we think that this is a good example that illustrates SAP’s political methods in practice.
The actions of the SAP leadership in relation to the expulsions in SUF is a disgrace. This will have consequences in the future. The political discussions in the SUF will continue and many of the ideas and views that Socialistisk Standpunkt has been fighting for will continue to be discussed and defended by a minority, including many of those who are now organizing a new left opposition.
You cannot expel ideas. But by expelling 26 Marxists, a climate in the organization has been created where political discussions are avoided and where they will be tackled with expulsions and bureaucratic manoeuvres. Socialistisk Standpunkt will continue to fight for democracy in all working class organizations and for the right of every tendency to organize as a fraction.
At the same time we are aware of the fact that there are honest comrades among the militants of the SAP and the USFI who do a lot of work for the cause of Socialism. But we appeal to them to think very carefully about the questions involved and fight for a return to the ideas that the Fourth International was founded upon in 1938, that is the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. Bureaucratic expulsions were never methods that these four great Socialists applied.
The history of the movement that Trotsky founded is full of examples of an uncompromising attitude against using bureaucratic methods in the labour movement. These methods are always used by the right-wing leadership of the movement when it is afraid of the ideas of revolutionary Marxism. It is a pity and a shame that comrades who claim to stand on the tradition of Trotsky have legitimised the use of Stalinist methods amongst the revolutionary youth in Denmark.
However, the Marxists organized in the tendency Socialistisk Standpunkt will not give up. We will continue the struggle for a democratic and revolutionary SUF and for the ideas of Marxism within the revolutionary youth. A new left opposition inside the SUF, with the backing of several branches, is now being built and will be formed officially on Saturday 23rd of June. Within this opposition lies the possibility of winning the SUF back to a revolutionary Socialist programme.
SAP’s position on the new moves to exclude Socialist Standpoint (SS) from the Socialist Youth Front (SUF)
SAP’s executive committee (EC) held a meeting on the 12th of April 2007 with SAP members who are active in SUF. At the meeting the EC was informed about the recent national meeting and about the SS internal documents which were brought into the public domain at the meeting. The EC had a chance to read and take a view on these documents, the text of which can be found on SUF’s homepage.
It was the EC’s opinion that these documents contain enough material to justify exclusion in that they document SS’s real intentions in SS’s own words- material which was not present in the first attempt to exclude them.
Amongst other things:
- That SS has a real strategy and tactic in SUF which is not the same as what they openly proclaim within the organisation.
- That SS don’t work to build SUF as a revolutionary socialist youth organisation but are only there in the short-term to recruit members.
- In accordance with this they are prepared to put a SUF branch “on-ice” for a period because it suits their priorities.
- That they aggressively try to get to speak in new branches- not because they believe they are best at building those branches, but because it will give them the best possibilities to recruit to SS.
A socialist organisation shouldn’t have to put up with this find of disloyalty from members and it will be difficult to build strong, democratic socialist organisations if groups like SS are allowed to work from other, hidden, agendas.
In an attempt to divert attention from these damaging documents SS have bitterly complained about the way that they were obtained and published. SAP’s EC believe it is justifiable to expose internal documents of secretive groups such as SS who systematically conceal their real motives and where other means of proving their disloyalty is often impossible.
Nobody has yet explained how these documents came into SUF’s hands but SS has no evidence that they were obtained by theft or hacking.
SAP’s EC believes it would have been better for the on-going discussion in SUF if it had been made clear who had obtained these documents and how, and that we can in no way accept or support theft or hacking for factional motives on the left even though there is as yet no evidence for this.
Under any circumstances the possibly questionable way in which the documents were obtained and published does not change the fact that their contents are a basis for a case to expel all SS members from SUF.
SAP’s EC 12th April 2007
- Open letter to the Unity-list of Denmark (Red-Green alliance) by Claudio Bellotti (May 24, 2007)
- Denmark: 26 revolutionary Marxists expelled from the SUF! (May 24, 2007)
- Stop the expulsion of Danish Marxists from the SUF! An international appeal (April 13, 2007)