First Published: The Call,, newspaper of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of the United States, June 6, July 3, and July 17, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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Pal Steigan is the chairman of the Norwegian Workers Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), known by its Norwegian initials as AKPML. Steigan visited the U.S. in June in order to take part in the first anniversary celebration of the CPML at which he was one of the featured speakers.
In a three-part interview, Steigan informs our readers about many aspects of the Norwegian class struggle and the political line of the AKPML. This first instalment centers on the history of the Party and the current struggles of Norwegian workers against the economic crisis.
The Call: You recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of the founding of your Party. Can you tell us briefly how the Party was founded and what have been the main accomplishments of the last five years?
Pal Steigan: The first Marxist-Leninist groups of the new M-L movement started around 1965, mostly inside the Socialist Party, which was a centrist party. When we broke away from this party in 1969, we took away all of its youth organization and one-third of that Party itself. Not one single local of the youth organization went with the opportunists.
When the AKPML was finally set up in 1973, it was the only party or group in our country claiming to be Marxist Leninist and it had achieved the task of uniting the Marxist-Leninists.
The other things we achieved through the party-building process were to make a class analysis or Norwegian society and to establish a backbone of party cells in industry.
Since the founding of the Party in 1973, we have been waging a struggle against two brands of revisionism reflected in the two revisionist parties in our country. These are the Brezhnevist, Moscow revisionist type party, which is the old so-called Norwegian Communist Party, and a newer Eurorevisionist party. We have managed to reduce the Brezhnevist party to a very isolated sect. It is well known among the working class of Norway that it is our Party which is the real communists. The Eurorevisionist party doesn’t even claim to be communists.
In terms of party organization and press, our Party is stronger than these others. None of them has a daily paper as we do. The Brezhnevist party doesn’t even dare go out in a street demonstration sponsored only by themselves. Their only choice is to demonstrate with the Eurorevisionists or the social-democratic government.
Politically speaking, we have created the situation where the advanced and class conscious workers regard our Party as the leading party. Many workers who may vote with the social-democrats or the Eurorevisionists turn to the AKPML for help and guidance in the class struggle itself, because our Party has a reputation for being in the vanguard of the strike movement.
Even the bourgeoisie admits this. Every time there is a strike they say it is led by the Workers Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), and tell the people not to support it for this reason. But the workers support it anyway on a class basis and ignore this propaganda.
We still have some shortcomings in our work, especially on the united front question: We have had some sectarianism and have not always gone all out to unite all who can be united in every single struggle. The Party now is paying much attention to solving this question.
Give us a picture of the most important struggles in Norway today and what work the AKPML is doing to give leadership to them.
The Norwegian social-democratic government has decided to cut the real wages of the working class by 10% over the year to come and cut public spending for social services. This is a shift from the policy they have been following since World War II of consistent increase in public expenditure.
Basically, they are launching an all-round attack on the working class and the working people, including not only wage cuts, but layoffs in the sector where the state is involved, and cutbacks in health care and other social services which the working people won through the struggles of the 1950s and 1960s.
This spring there was a decision on contracts that covered most of the workers in the country and established the wage cuts. By law, the workers should have had the right to vote on it, but the government ruled out a vote.
In response, our Party put forward the slogan for a political strike against the state on this point and worked in the trade unions to build such a strike. A week after we put forward this slogan, we had the strike, with 25,000 workers taking part in it and thousands more making protests of different types to show their solidarity.
Now we are concentrating on making use of local strikes, and struggles to win what was lost in the central negotiations. Coming up there will be a big struggle for jobs because in the shipbuilding industry, pulpwood industry, health institutions, and other places there will be many layoffs. Shipbuilding, for example, will be cut down to one-third of what it was in 1974. In May, 7,000 shipyard workers held a political strike against the layoff decision.
The crisis doesn’t affect only the workers. The crisis is hitting the fishermen, the poor peasants, the intellectuals and all strata of the people. So we must broaden the united front. In some communities, for example, where the state is planning to shut down a whole miners’ town, we are able to mobilize up to 95% of the community to hold protests and mass meetings.
What we are now trying to do is to find new forms of struggle to fight layoffs. We’ve had some successful strikes against layoffs, but we are also asking the working class to discuss such methods as taking over a factory, or to use boycotts and other tools to put pressure on the capitalists.
The Call: Has the fascist threat increased during the crisis? How do you fight it?
Pal Steigan: The backing of the neo-Nazi party by the reactionaries is a part of the general attack on the working class in this period of crisis. It is a political attack on the rights of the workers to organize, especially the foreign workers, because the neo-Nazis are demanding a “white Norway”.
Our Party is the only political party that puts forward the demand for a ban on the Neo-Nazi party. Because of the struggle of our party and the whole working class movement, the neo-Nazis’ have not succeeded in their efforts to be legalised. The social-democratic government very much want to legalise the neo-Nazis, but they don’t dare in the face of workers’ opposition.
The Norwegian workers have witnessed five years of Nazi occupation during World War II and don’t want the Nazis to ever be legalized again. The working class of our country has a very militant tradition in the fight against Nazism. For instance after the war, when the bourgeoisie wanted to give the national traitor Quisling only a few years in prison, most of the working class in Oslo turned out for street demonstrations demanding that he be shot.
The Call: What can you tell us about the situation of the foreign workers in Norway?
Pal Steigan: The foreign workers in Norway are the most exploited and oppressed part of the working class. They have the worst living conditions. Some of them even live in barracks where water freezes in the winter. In general, they have to live in extreme slums. Most of them are from North Africa, Turkey; and other parts of the Near East and Far East.
They are also never secure. They could be deported at any time back to their home country, where in many cases they would face execution or prosecution because of their political beliefs.
The Norwegian government is now trying to create a system of group-import of foreign workers. This would mean state-to-state agreements for example, the Norwegian government asks the Pakistani government to send a hundred workers for a nine-month job and then afterwards they are sent back to Pakistan. From this plan you can see that the social-democratic government and the central trade union leadership are directly responsible for the oppression of foreign born workers. They hate the foreign worker and they know that the foreign workers are among the most militant and revolutionary.
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Following is Part 2 of a recent Call interview with Pal Steigan, chairman of the Norwegian Workers Communist Party (M-L), the AKPML. Part 1 appeared in our June 26 issue.
* * *
How do you evaluate the threat posed by the U.S. and USSR to Norway?
Steigan: The Soviet Union is the greatest danger to Norway’s sovereignty. They often make military maneuvers to simulate an attack on Norway. The USSR has demanded joint sovereignty with Norway over the Norwegian Svalbard Archipelago. This is a territory of 62,000 sq. km. and has great strategic value.
Furthermore, the USSR has stolen more than 60,000 sq. km. of Norway’s territorial waters with the consent of the social democratic government in Norway, which has an appeasement policy towards the Soviet Union. The government says that if we bow to the Soviet threat, then the USSR won’t bully us anymore. The fact is that this policy has invited Soviet social-imperialism to go on and step up its pressure.
It’s obvious that the Soviet social-imperialists are planning to take Norway in the initial stages of a war over Europe. This will enable them to control the northern Atlantic Ocean and fully utilize their naval fleet headquartered at Murmansk and in the Baltic.
At the same time, we see that U.S. imperialism has a big stake in Norway. The U.S. is the biggest imperialist owner in Norway, owning many of the most strategic factories and some of the oil resources. There is no doubt that they want to secure their imperialist interests in Norway.
The U.S. has even made some plans to counter the Soviet attack, when it eventually comes, through such means as using nuclear weapons in Norway against Russian invading troops.
We certainly cannot see U.S. imperialism as any kind of guarantee against the Soviet Union. We see it as another imperialist superpower. Although it is on the decline, it still wants to defend its interests.
What we say to the working class is that they will have to mainly rely on themselves and the patriotic people in fighting an invasion. For this reason, we do investigation of the history of World War II in Norway. We draw positive and negative lessons in our literature about the anti-Nazi war, so that the people will not make the same mistakes that were made during that war. We are doing this both in scientific studies and even in popular novels, describing what happened in World War II so that it becomes very vivid to the people.
We are also stepping up the anti-imperialist solidarity work against the superpowers, especially to educate the people about the role the third world is playing today, and also so they understand that that may be their own situation tomorrow.
We think there is a close connection between what’s happening in the Horn of Africa and Norway’s position. The Horn of Africa is the southern flank of Europe, while Norway constitutes Europe’s northern flank. The moves on the southern flank are part of a pincer movement, and the northern flank of that pincer will be Norway.
While teaching the people to rely on themselves, we are also preparing the basis for a united front when the war eventually breaks out. Experience from the Second World War shows that at least part of the bourgeoisie will be willing to fight an invasion, even though another part will be quite willing to sell out the interests of the country. So we say that we should use these contradictions in a most favorable way.
But the basis for the struggle will always be with the working class and working people. In other words, use the contradictions, but rely on yourself.
To what extent has your educational work about the war danger been successful? How do the masses perceive the danger of war?
If one can take the Gallup Poll to represent the trend–of course not the exact situation–then the recent poll shows that 75% of Norwegian people think that the threat from Soviet social-imperialism is growing bigger. But all the other parties in Norway say either that there is no Soviet threat at all, or that the Soviet Union is not so dangerous.
Being the only party that propagates the danger of war and the true conditions in Norway today, we have a lot of work to do. But it seems that the people are more realistic than the bourgeois politicians.
Is there much debate in the ruling class of Norway about the war danger?
Yes, this debate is growing. In connection with last year’s agreement between Norway and the Soviet Union about the so-called “grey zone” in the Barents Sea, at first the Conservative parties did not want to take a stand. They vacillated.
But then we published a series of secret documents in our newspaper, Klassekampen, in which we showed that the government wanted to sell out this area to the Soviet Union. This created a political situation in which the Conservative parties had to take a stand. When it finally came up in Parliament, they voted against the “grey zone” agreement, even though they hadn’t planned to oppose the social-democrats on this at the beginning. We think this was very favorable. The government wanted to have so-called “national unity” of all political parties in support of this agreement. But it turns out they only were able to push it through in alliance with the Euro-revisionist party and only by a one-vote majority.
Now even more sentiment is growing against this agreement. The fishermen are denouncing it, because in fact the Soviet Union is turning this “grey zone” into their own zone and sweeping the waters of fish. Initially the fishermen were not against the agreement, but they are starting to oppose it now.
Inside the government, the struggle is developing between a pro-Soviet and an anti-Soviet wing, although both are really appeasers.
What is the importance of this debate inside the ruling circles to a proletarian party like yours?
This debate matters quite a lot to us. Because when the ruling class splits, that creates new opportunities for the working class to advance. It is also important because whether there is an appeasement policy or an anti-appeasement policy will have direct bearing on the whole situation in Norway in the near future.
If the government goes on doing as it has been, the Soviet Union will demand more and more concessions, and this will adversely affect the Norwegian working class–both its political and economic condition.
From the point of view of revolutionary strategy, we must study the alignment of forces in the ruling class, and to the extent that we are able, use these contradictions to the advantage of the working class. We know that in the main, the ruling class today is united. For a revolutionary situation to really develop, however, one of the conditions that must ripen is that of political crisis, including an actual split in the ruling class, affecting its ability to rule the country.
In speaking of the threat the USSR poses to Norway, you’ve mentioned the Svalbard Islands. What exactly is the situation with regard to the Soviet Union there?
Svalbard (Spitsbergen) has developed historically alongside the mainland of Norway. With the rise of capitalism, it became part of the national territory of Norway.
The first Norwegian expedition to Svalbard was in the 12th century. Since then, there have been constant connections between this archipelago and Norway. Even when Norway was a colony under Denmark and Sweden, Svalbard was recognized as Norwegian territory.
Many big powers have tried to grab hold of Svalbard. The British called it the “arctic Gibraltar” because of its strategic position–on the north end of the Atlantic and very close to Russia. It seems that the Soviet Union has the same opinion today.
After World War I, the big powers decreed at Versailles that Norway could have sovereignty over the islands, but there should be an “open door” policy. AH 40 countries signing the treaty would have the right to exploit its resources.
This has created a gap into which the Soviet Union is today leaping. They use the imperialist peace treaty to justify their actions in Svalbard. Today, they not only own mines in Svalbard, but have built an illegal military base with huge military helicopters on it.
This military base was discovered by a journalist from our press who went there disguised as a hunter. He went into the base and took pictures which went all over the press in Norway and Europe and caused a great sensation.
The Norwegian government has a right to investigate whatever the USSR does in Svalbard, and Norwegian law is the only law recognized there. But the government has never dared to go and inspect this base and see if there are weapons there, or demand that the Soviet Union dismantle the base. This is all part of the appeasement policy.
There is a miners’ union in Svalbard which has a long and militant tradition. Now this trade union is demanding that the government take steps to stop the Soviet military activity. They held a May Day demonstration this year, which we supported, in which the two main slogans were against the Soviet presence in Svalbard and against the crisis measures of the Norwegian government in the economy.
You can see from this that the class struggle is growing more intense and that the Norwegian working class is coming into direct confrontation with the Soviet Union.
Apart from the strategic military significance of Svalbard there is also oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium there. This makes it a very big piece of meat for the new czars and they will step up their oppression in order to control it.
(To be continued)
* * *
The Call: This concluding instalment focuses on the work of the AKPML, its newspaper KlasseKampen, and the various mass organisations and movements in which the Party is active.
The Call: We understand that the editor or KlasseKampen is going on trial for treason in connection with some secret documents exposed by your newspaper. What’s behind this?
Pal Steigan: You see, our newspaper has a reputation for being a bold newspaper, and so many people send us secret documents when they get hold of them. The former editor of KlasseKampen is charged with treason because the paper disclosed secret U.S. military tests Norway where they simulated the use of atomic bombs in the central part of the country. The government says that this is an exposure of a military secret and therefore of benefit to the enemy, so they may charge him with treason. But we see it this way; it’s in the interests of the people to know what the superpowers are really planning. We must show that the superpowers plan to use the Norwegian people as pawns in a game.
Of course we are going into this trial to fight to win and to create mass opinion for finding our comrade not guilty. But during the last year almost every case in which a Party comrade or a progressive person has been involved we have lost, no matter how good a case we had or how much we have made a fool out of the state attorney.
To be realistic, we think the same will happen in this case. It’s part of a big wave of repression currently.
The Call: Your newspaper is obviously playing a prominent role in Norwegian political life. We understand that you now have a campaign to make KlasseKampen “the only newspaper the worker needs to read.” How is this going?
Pal Steigan: This is a very ambitious slogan. We want to be not only a newspaper of political commentary that the workers can read alongside the news they get from the bourgeois press, but we want to provide all the news, cultural activities, sports and everything else the working class is interested in.
Workers have a very great range of interests and the class struggle goes on in every field. The Marxist-Leninists must be able to analyze not just a few aspects of the class struggle, but society as a whole, and propagate the interests of the working class in all fields.
Our newspaper must cover the small news as well as the big news, and give all that the workers need in order to be satisfied every single day.
This has been very difficult, and we need to work much more closely with the masses to do this. The masses know what they want, and, they put very high demands on us. The first half-year of publishing our newspaper, as a daily, we didn’t succeed very well in having the lively kind of newspaper the workers wanted.
We had only eight pages a day and it became very dry. It was only a commentator to the events, not the first to investigate, and bring the news. In fact, many rank-and-fiIe workers thought the paper was a bit dull. By summing up these experiences, we decided to print 16 pages, with a 24-page weekend edition, so that we could expand our coverage. This way we won back many readers and now we have a distribution of 15,000 daily. Now I think we still have to improve, but when the workers come in contact with our newspaper they really like it.
The Call: What are the different mass organizations that the AKPML works in and how are they progressing?
Pal Steigan: Our Party is leading mass organizations in many different ways. Our communist youth organizations are led directly by the Party. In other cases, the Party works in a united front with other forces and fights for its political line inside the front.
In many mass organizations, our Party has been able to isolate the revisionist and opportunist elements, who by their votes should have a majority, but when their political line is exposed, the members reject it and follow the guidance of our Party.
In the workers’ movement as a whole, we put forward the slogan of building class struggle unions, and in fact we have succeeded in creating some such unions, and others are on the way to becoming class struggle unions. Of course, these unions are in no way Party unions or even revolutionary unions. But they are organizations of all the workers where the communists and revolutionaries are the leading forces, and the workers can organize themselves and fight as a class.
In Norway, the unions are supposed to help promote production, and the shop stewards are supposed to put down strikes and unrest on the job. This is formulated by law. A very important thing for a class struggle union is to break with this and take a stand against it.
A class struggle union must also formulate a wide range of slogans and demands that it will fight for on a day-to-day level, and link them with general political demands of the workers. This kind of union must also break with the bureaucratic system of the class collaborationist unions where the masses of workers have no say and just a handful of leaders decide everything.
We don’t want to become “red bureaucrats,” so we have to create a new type of democracy in the unions. When workers see these types of unions in practice, then they know that we are really different from all the other political tendencies who want only to control the unions for their own ends. They can see that we really aim to serve the people.
In the women’s movement, we have taken the initiative along with many non Party women to create a women’s mass organization–the Women’s Front. This is a very broad front which mobilizes the women around day care, abortions, jobs for women, against the imperialist superpowers and against fascism.
This organization has done some good work. Now you find in many places that the word “feminist” no longer appears and instead, you see “women’s front activist”. This is some sort of a victory over the revisionists and bourgeois feminists, who are still strong, but who have lost much of their influence now that the Women’s Front has been built.
When it comes to ant-imperialist solidarity organizations, there is a wide range of them in which we are active. During the last year, our Anti-Imperialist Committee for the Third World has sponsored a big campaign in support of the Pan Africanist Congress in Azania. This committee takes up different issues from time to time to educate the people about the international situation and the two superpowers.
There is a very big upsurge now in the anti-imperialist movement that has not been since the days of the movement against the Vietnam War. But the significance of this movement is that it takes up the fight against both imperialist superpowers, the USSR as well as the U.S.
We have focused much of our education against the Soviet Union recently on the Horn of Africa and now we are going to have a big campaign in connection with the tenth anniversary of the occupation of Czechoslovakia, so you can say that we have succeeded in rebuilding the anti-imperialist movement in accordance with the changes in the world situation.
The Call: Your analysis of the struggle against the superpowers is clearly based on Chairman Mao’s theory of the three worlds, and in the debate within the international communist movement, your Party has taken it strong stand in defense of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. How do you assess the state of the international communist movement at this time?
Pal Steigan: First I must say that the attacks on Chairman Mao’s theory of the three worlds, especially shortly after Chairman Mao died, were very shocking. They were an attempt to split the international communist movement at a very crucial stage.
Now we can sum up the situation and we see that these plans have backfired and failed. The struggle has actually been favourable, and we have been able to distinguish the real Marxist-Leninists from the false ones. As a result the Marxist-Leninist movement is stronger and more consolidation than before this struggle came up.
The new revisionist tendency with its views that “both superpowers are equally dangerous” and so on, is utterly in contradiction with reality. When people see what is happening in Africa and all over the world today, they can’t make it fit with the line of these new revisionists. And so this new revisionist tendency is headed for a crisis.
We must also take note of the fact that social-imperialism has been very positive to these types of attacks. The new attacks on the theory of the three worlds are no different from what the revisionists have always said.
The Call: To conclude our interview, we’d like to ask you what your impressions are of the United States and the American people after spending a week here and visiting several different cities?
Pal Steigan: The impression that the bourgeoisie and the imperialists are giving of the American people in Europe is very distorted. They give the impression that the working class in the U.S. is living like the middle-bourgeoisie. They try to present suburban life as the real working class situation. Of course, I knew that that it was not the case.
But having actually been here, I see that the American working class is even more militant than I had figured; more willing to go out and fight for its interests. In spite of very sharp repression and police brutality and so on, the working class does not become pessimistic but continues to fight. All the oppression makes the working class even more militant.
I especially got a good impression of the Afro-American struggle and the importance of the role it plays in the revolutionary struggle in the United States.
So I will bring back a picture to the Norwegian workers of a militant workers movement here that is taking up the best traditions of the Haymarket martyrs and the other famous battles that the American workers have fought in the past.
This is all the more important because it is happening inside one of the two superpowers. This gives bright perspectives to the future for us to know that we have this enormous ally in the American working class and people.
I’ve been here in connection with the first anniversary of the CPML and I must say that your party has taken a very good stand on principle on all the important things that are debated in the world today. Also your party is very militant in waging the class struggle all over the country.
From this visit I see that your Party has very good possibilities to grow and be recognised as the vanguard, not only in the political sense, but in the actual sense, by the workers of this country. Of course, you will need some time, but the main thing is that you have a correct orientation and you are really out among the masses.