First Published: Class Struggle, journal of the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain, July-August 1984.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
EROL Note: This was a presentation to a European election rally in Brussels organised by the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB).
* * *
Tyssedal is a small industrial village by the end of a fjord on the west coast of Norway. Water power is the village’s only resource, which is of vital importance to Tyssedal’s existence.
During the First World War, foreign capitalists built up a very modern aluminium factory in Tyssedal. In 1973, when the foreign owners Alcan and Bacho had taken out the profit from Tyssedal, they wanted to give up the old, unmodern factory. Both the trade union and the local population fought against this, and demanded a new factory. Their demand to the authorities was for employment guarantees. After one year hard struggle the government had to meet this demand. But they still tried to make an end to the factory and take the water power out of Tyssedal. After eight years, in May 1981, the government finally gave in when Parliament voted for a resolution saying that a new aluminium factory should be built in Tyssedal. But after the demolition of the old factory began and the parliamentary election had taken place, the new government indicated that they wanted to change the act of Parliament concerning aluminium in Tyssedal.
This was the start of two years’ hard struggle between Tyssedal and the Parliament and the rest of the Norwegian bourgeoisie. In November 1981 the government wanted to stop investment in a new factory and promised new plans instead. Tyssedal answered: a political general strike. The whole village was mobilised to a strike meeting outside the factory gates. The press, radio and television were all there. This forced a majority in the government to agree to continue investment in the aluminium factory. But the struggle was not over.
From this moment, there was a real fight between the social-democrats and the communists, especially within the unions. The question was: ’cooperation’ or to mobilise the local population for active struggle. The socia1 democrats were the leaders of the local union.
They believed in the lies of politicians and they didn’t want the people to fight.
What happened just before the Parliamentary debate made people in Tyssdal understand that the policy of the social democrats had totally failed. The government had forced a majority in Parliament to vote against a new aluminium factory and for a new “wait-and-see” resolution. Again Tyssedal went on full strike. The communists were now the leaders. After three days the whole village was on full strike and surrounding districts followed with a general strike. There was a lot of pressure on the government and again Tyssedal was “hot stuff” in the press.
During the debate in Parliament we sent five buses with workers on strike, women, men, grandparents and a lot of children to Oslo. They arrived in Oslo wearing working-clothes and helmets, with union banners and the school brass band. For two days we occupied the centre of Oslo holding demonstrations around the Parliament building and within it, during the debate. This debate was broadcast on radio, and Tyssedal and area were on full strike.
The government won and we lost the vote in Parliament. But we won public support. Our fighting spirit grew even stronger, and we went home to Tyssedal united as ever, with a strong will to fight to the bitter end – to victory.
The day after the par1iamentary debate, we agreed to stop the strike. But we, the leaders of the strike, wanted an organisation to go on fighting. This meant a full split. The social democrats claimed that it was the union’s right to lead the struggle. They claimed that this proposa1 for another organisation was a manoeuvre of the AKP (M-L) who wanted to take over the leadership totally.
But after much struggle and pressure from the local people, a resolution was passed: To build an organisation of all the people in Tyssedal, called “Long Live Tyssedal”. This was the people’s own organisation, especially the women’s. Never before had women had an opportunity to take part directly in the struggle. Now they became a real power. In many ways a power with more fighting spirit than their male comrades. Those who start a struggle must never forget that women are half the working class. Not to mobilise women means to forget this half. “Long Live Tyssedal” became a necessity to win the struggle. The government now made plans ’ to set up a new smelting factory. They promised plans quickly, but both autumn and spring passed before they did anything, In Tyssedal people were as united as ever, writing songs and poems. Big cultural events were held. They were prepared for new fights.
In May 1983 it became clear that the government did not want a new factory. A new general strike was held. Again severa1 hundred people went to Oslo by bus to demonstrate their will, and solidarity throughout the country had now grown. Seventy banners from all over the country demonstrated in solidarity with us. Together we surrounded the Parliament building.
Again we lost. But the pressure on the politicians worked this time. The members of Parliament made a lot of promises, promises which would be very difficult to get out of. To the very last day, it was not clear what would happen. The largest party in the government did not want new industry in Tyssedal. But the other parties felt the public pressure so much that they rea1ised that not voting for a new factory would have been political suicide. On the 19th December 1983 – ten years after the beginning of the struggle – Parliament passed their last resolution about Tyssedal. We won a new factory, which guaranteed the local community a further existence.
We have shown the working class in Norway that it is possible to win a struggle against the state. We have shown the most conscious part of the working class that victory cannot be obtained without struggle both against t he bourgeoisie and the social democrats.
We have always said that the leader of the central trade union and the social democratic party is an arm of the bourgeoisie. Therefore we have never let anyone think that they would be willing to fight for Tyssedal’s interests. We have also had a sceptical attitude to our local ’leaders’ who take this section of the bourgeoisie as their political model and ideal. But fighting against social democracy demands patience. If we had given up the first or the tenth time we lost a vote, there would have been no struggle. All the time our purpose has been to be real leaders. We have carried out investigations, discussions among comrades, neighbours, political and theoretical study. Our fundamental idea is that it is the people who make history, and that politics cannot be conducted from behind a desk. In Norway, Tyssedal has become a symbol of class struggle. The people in Tyssedal have become models for working people fighting for their rights against the ’soft dictatorship of the bourgeoisie’. Tyssedal is known because the people fought their own fight, rejected class collaboration and carried on their struggle to victory.