Denmark and the Nordic countries: The rise and fall of the dream of peace and socialism without a revolution

By the Workers’ Communist Party of Denmark APK

Article published in Unity & Struggle, Journal of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations CIPOML. No. 34 (June 2017) is dedicated to the Hundredth Anniversary of the October Revolution 1917-2017

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As the Great Socialist October Revolution and the socialist Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin (1917-1953) is vanishing from the memories of the living it becomes especially important to establish its significance – not solely as an epoch making historical event of world significance with repercussions in the most distant corners of the planet, but also as a living reality, a hope and inspiration to the proletarians, peoples and revolutionaries, struggling for a better world.

Andersen-Nexø-Martin-75-års-fødselsdag-i-Stockholm-2-1080x650The great Danish proletarian author Martin Andersen Nexö (1869-1954), one of the fathers of socialist realist literature, testifies of this in his message to the Soviet Union in 1938 on the occasion of the 21. Anniversary of the revolution – at a time when fascism had darkened the skies of the European continent:

“The feeling of having a big brother as your back-up with the strength of the Soviet Union that has realized the dream of mankind of liberation from exploitation and repression on one sixth of the planet, has given the ordinary people all over the world new strength to continue the struggle for our right as men, our human right.

For me personally the existence of the Soviet Union and its marvelous wellbeing in spite of all enemies a confirmation that there is a meaning and justice in life, and that it rests in the hands of those who will meaning and order. Bolshevism has beaten the game and opportunity of the minority and driven fatalism out of the minds of the great majority. Already as a boy I dreamed, when I was hungry or freezing or was over burdened with labor, that a giant would come and beat all injustice to the ground, so there would be enough food and time for a boy to play. There would be so much food, that mother wouldn’t have to cry when stirring the pan, or wink to us across the table when we asked for more.

Reality was hard on the dream and on the belief in meaning and justice in life. But then emerged the great fact of the Soviet Union and rehabilitated the belief in the victory of the forces of good. All justice is rooted in the elementary, is so to say build on bread and the smile of the child! In the republic of the proletariat no mother will wet the bread with her tears, when she divides it among her children, and all children are joyful there – this alone is worth two world revolutions. And notice how life grows and becomes just in all its details, with bread and the child as its basis! Bread for all is work for all; work for all is prosperity for all; rest, enlightenment, good entertainment for everybody.

Every day there are unemployed knocking at my door, big strong men with hanging vacant arms and a bunch of hungry and crying kids at home. Involuntarily my thoughts turn towards my own childhood – and from there to the Soviet Union. And seeing the daily newspaper and reading about the fighting in Spain and China and about the tantrums of rage of the fascist countries, the thoughts again go to the Soviet Union, with a quiet and strongly felt Thanks!”

The living reality of socialism was a daily memento to both rulers and ruled, exploiters and exploited, the bourgeois class and the proletariat, that a struggle of gigantic proportions about the future of mankind was going on in front of their eyes, a reminder that the capitalist and imperialist system was not ‘the end of history’ or the most advanced model of society ever.

The destruction of this hope, this inspiration and living reality, created by the workers under the leadership of a revolutionary communist party, and upheld by the support of the people and workers all over the world, was a major feat of counter revolution, revisionism and reaction in the last century, that witnessed so many triumphs of revolutionary struggle, but also severe blow backs.

Denmark at the time of October

At the time of the October Revolution in Russia during the first imperialist world war the small kingdom Denmark – situated as the gate to Scandinavia (or, if you wish, to the European continent) and the Baltic Ocean, around 300 kilometers from former Leningrad – was a semi-neutral country trying to remain outside the deadly conflict between its three European big power neighbors – Germany, UK and Russia.

The majority of the working class was organized in or affiliated to Social Democracy, at that time containing both reformist and revolutionary elements, but oriented towards the parliamentary road and class collaboration.


In 1916 the leader of the Danish Social Democracy Stauning became minister in a bourgeois coalition government. In his famous article ‘Ten “socialist” ministers’ Lenin explained how the leader of the opposition within the party, the revolutionary Gerson Trier, resisted the ministerialism of the Stauning Party:

Trier defended revolutionary Marxist views in a splendid speech, and when the party decided to   go into the government, he resigned from the Central Committee and from the party, declaring that he would not be a member of a bourgeois party. In the past few years the Danish “Social-Democratic” Party has in no way differed from the bourgeois radicals. Greetings to Comrade G. Trier!”

In Denmark the revolutionary unrest after the revolution led to an upsurge of the class struggle and militant class actions. In February 1918 in the last year of the war a demonstration of unemployed, led by syndicalists, entered the Danish stock exchange, beating up some of the stockbrokers.

The October Revolution and the Bolshevik party of Lenin gave a new and clear direction to the Marxist forces, that in Europe were entangled in the web of opportunism. The revolution also prompted the ruling classes to call the Social Democratic parties of the II International to come out openly in favour of the bourgeois capitalist system. The first majority ‘socialist’ labor governments in Europe were formed in 1920, with the purpose of saving capitalism. Class collaboration became the method of the bourgeoisie to preserve the system of exploitation through some concessions and reforms to the workers. In 1924 Stauning became prime minister and the head of such a government, endorsed by the king and the major capitalists.

Reforms are the bi-products of revolution. No revolution has produced more reforms than the socialist October Revolution. But the Social Democrats and the bourgeoisie would preach that the reforms were the result of class collaboration and that socialism would be achieved in a gradual process without revolutionary leaps and jumps, by parliamentary means, without any violence. Due to their bourgeois class character and their role as the tools of the policies of the ruling class within the working class and the workers’ movement they have had the task of reducing and minimizing the influence of the communist parties and Marxist-Leninist ideas.

During the Nazi occupation of Denmark (1940-45) the Social Democrats degenerated to pursue a line of collaboration with the occupiers. Stauning was prime minister during the first years of the occupation until his death in 1942. In 1941 the party together with the rest of the bourgeois parties voted to forbid the communist party, that was in the forefront of the anti-fascist struggle.

The most significant and immediate result of the October Revolution in Denmark was the creation of the Communist Party of Denmark (DKP) on November 9th 1919, two years after the world shaking events in Russia. This signified the formation of an independent class political force, attracting and uniting the revolutionaries under the banner of Marxism-Leninism. The party with Martin Andersen Nexö as one of its most important figures, subsequently became a member of the Communist International, founded by Lenin, The Workers’ Communist Party APK considers itself to be the direct heir and continuer of this party.

The rise and fall of the capitalist ‘wellfare state’

The well known Danish and ‘Nordic’ model of the capitalist welfare state is indeed also a bi-product of the Great October Revolution and of the deep going changes in the relation of class forces in the world following the revolution and the building and strengthening of the first socialist country in the world, led by the party of Lenin and Stalin.

It gave a new impetus to the struggle of the workers for their basic social and political rights, and it forced the ruling bourgeoisie to make concessions when they realized that the new socialist state would not bend to armed interventions or political and economic sabotage. In the right wing social democratic parties with considerable mass backing and influence the ruling capitalist class found the ideal partner. They would twist the demands of the masses of workers of shorter work hours, better working conditions and social and other benefits in in such a way, that it did not threaten or challenge the power of the ruling bourgeoisie or the capitalist system itself. They made a ‘historic’ class compromise that basically was in effect until the revisionist counter revolution had destroyed socialism and the Soviet state itself.

The world economic crises from 1929 and throughout the 30es that eventually was overcome by war preparations and the second world war accentuated the need for reforms to the benefit of the workers – exactly in order to avoid a proletarian revolution in Denmark and the other Nordic countries.

In Denmark the capitalist welfare state found its first expression in the legislation following a major political deal un 1933 between Staunings’ Social Democracy as the leading party in government and the parties of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. Unemployment had exploded, reaching 30 percent, the capitalists demanded wage reductions of 20 percent, and threatened to lockout the majority of the workers. The existing labor contracts were prolonged by law, the labour conflict stopped, lockouts and strikes forbidden – and the capitalist state was accepted to intervene in the economy with a series of public works, creating work places and enlarged consumption. This introduced what from 1936 became known as Keynesian economics, the basic bourgeois economic concept of the capitalist welfare states.

A part of this legislation was a so-called social reform that introduced the right of unemployed and disabled to receive fixed and general social benefits without loss of political or other rights, also introducing an obligatory insurance system.

These steps constituted the first shape of the capitalist welfare state in Denmark. It laid the framework for the subsequent development of its version of the Nordic model – based on broad political agreements, comprising the majority of the pollical parties and the organizations of the capitalists and the workers alike. It brought some degree of social security to the workers that had not existed before and addressed in a kind of distorted way some of the main social demands of the workers at the time.

This model and these politics would be further developed over the following decades, interrupted by the Nazi German occupation of Denmark (1940-45) that also meant a general onslaught of the capitalists against these achievements.

The victory over fascism and the resistance movement – where the communist party played a major and leading part – strengthened the position of the working class against the capitalists, weakened Social Democracy that had collaborated with the occupiers and set in the post-war conditions for the development of the Nordic welfare state as an ‘alternative to both capitalism and socialism’ and as ‘the third way between capitalism and socialism’, as the propaganda had it.

The full scale model of the capitalist welfare state culminated in the 1960es and 70es, after the revisionist advent to power in the Soviet Union following the death of J.V. Stalin – and was even presented as possible road of development also of the revisionist countries in Europe and the Soviet Union.

Its main characteristic is its universal and general character. It applies to all members of society not matter class or income – as it is the case also with the political rights like the right to to vote and to be elected etc. The system is based on individual taxation, income taxes. It grants a number of social rights to everybody, poor or rich, as basically free public education, free health care, old age pensions with the possibility of retiring at 60 and at 65 for all, improved social housing, unemployment benefits and a social security system, that would prevent people from being thrown into the streets and hunger was a memory of the older generation. Everybody would contribute, and everybody would benefit, was the idea.

This system assisted Denmark and the other Nordic countries to develop into some of the most affluent capitalist countries of the world, and its popular support would be strengthened with the revisionist developments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, where the dynamic socialist economies turned capitalist and entered a prolonged phase of stagnation during until their fall in 1989-91.

The Danish monopolies were quite satisfied with a system with little labor unrest that still yilded great profits. The

reformist Social Democracy and the class collaborating trade union leaders boasted of the welfare state, as if it was their original invention and not a concession made in order to avoid sharp class struggles and the perspective of revolution and socialism. It proved to be a temporary thing, maintained by a long equilibrium in the class struggle, between the bourgeoisie and the working class and the forces of socialism. As soon as they changed began the decline of the capitalist Nordic welfare states. The ruling class rejected to carry on the class compromise.

In the 1980es and 90es the offensive of the capitalists against the welfare state gained momentum. No improvements to the benefit of the working people were seen, the period of progressive reforms had come to an end. The European Union that Denmark joined from 1973 adopted neoliberalism as its economic outlook to the exclusion of basic elements of the Nordic model, constantly reducing the public sector and privatizing its tasks and assets. The struggle of the working class entered a period of defense of the gains achieved.

The bourgeoisie, its government and politicians would of cause not declare a war against vthe welfare state. On the contrary – they claimed that every piece of legislation rolling back the former achievements were ‘reforms’ made in order to ‘save’ the welfare state and prolong its life forever. So cut-backs reducing the time where you can receive unemployment benefits with two thirds or the progressive elimination of the age of retirement from being possible at 60 and general from 65 was changed so it in a few years will be 67 and raised to 72 by 2040.And so on – in one field after another the capitalist welfare state has been turned into an empty shell with only the progressive signboard left.

If it from the beginning wasa caricature of the socialist welfare system, it has now become a caricature of itself – a grotesque system of extensive robbery of the working people. One of its aims is the formation of a downtrodden lower part of the working class, forced to take whatever job assigned, with no rights at all, for a constantly reduced allowance.

The social advances of the capitalist welfare state have been gradually undermined, restricted and successively annihilated. The main means of the welfare state has systematically been channeled into the pocket of the capitalists and the multinationals. One hundred years after the October Revolution, that put the welfare of the workers all overe the world on the political agenda, the Nordic welfare states do not exist – as little as do genuine socialist countries today. Only remnants of this much advertised feat of capitalism are left. Names signifying nothing, and memories of what once was.

The Baltic Region: Zone of aggression or a zone of peace and non-alignment?

The small Nordic and Baltic countries between big European imperialist powers as the UK, Germany and Russia have fought for independence and against the risk of being subjected to and integrated into the domain of one or the other. This has prompted the politics of ‘neutrality’ and the idea of the Nordic countries and indeed the Baltic Region as a zone of peace, of non-alignment and neutrality. Under this banner countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway have also acted as arbiters in international conflicts. The truth is that this non-alignment never became a reality. Today it seems further away than ever.

The Bolshevik revolution and the existence of a big socialist state bordering to Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea would of course have direct consequences for the external policies of Denmark and the Nordic countries. The workers in Finland tried to seize power in the wake of the revolution, but were militarily defeated in a civil war between January and May 1918. In the following rage of the counterrevolution 8500 ‘reds’ were summarily executed and more than 12.500 of 80.000 prisoners died in the next years of hunger and disease.

The other Nordic countries saw no attempts to seize power. Directly or indirectly the governments of the Scandinavian se countries sided with the counterrevolutionary interventionists and the ‘whites’ and their efforts to make the workers’ state fail, while the class conscious workers tried to support the efforts of the soviet proletariat in creating the new society. The anti-worker and anti-communist class character of the rulers of the capitalist states make them obvious allies of the most aggressive capitalist and imperialist powers.

During both the first and second world war the Baltic Ocean was controlled by Germany and the German navy. At the beginning of the Second World War Denmark and Norway declared ‘neutrality’, but they were both occupied by the Nazis in April 1940 and enrolled to support the Nazi aggression against the Soviet Union in 41. Sweden remained formally neutral during the war, while Finland sided with the hitlerites, and the three Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were occupied by the Nazis to support the German war, as was Poland.

The Baltic Sea and the entire region became a hotbed of aggression, but the heroic struggle of the Soviet people and its Red Army, the allied forces and the resistance movements in the occupied countries defeated and destroyed the Nazi regime and its dominance.

The first socialist state endured and came out even stronger after the war in spite of colossal losses, and the Nordic countries had to adapt to a new political situation in the world and the Baltic region – with the possibility of turning the Baltic Sea into a ‘Sea of Peace’ and non-aggression. Nuclear arms were to be forbidden. But such a joint platform of these small countries was never achieved. Denmark and Norway were integrated in the aggressive NATO alliance from the beginning while Sweden pursued a policy of neutrality and official non-alignment, and Finland made a special treaty with the Soviet Union that would prevent new aggression from Finnish territory.

But the movement for the Nordic countries as a non-aligned international force of peace outside the post-war military blocks and without nuclear armaments remained strong for decades, and included a strong popular resistance to nuclear weapons in the Nordic area and the plan of putting up 572 nuclear missiles in Europe by the US in 1983. Officially Denmark will have no nuclear arms on its territory in ‘times of peace’. The other Nordic countries also renounced of having nuclear weapons and stockpiles of offensive weapons on their territory during the ‘Cold War’.

As the Soviet Union degenerated from a force of peace to an imperialist superpower the movement against both these war mongers and their military alliances gained new momentum. This was reversed with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Most of the East European countries of the Soviet block and even some former countries of the Soviet Union have been integrated in the imperialist European Union and the aggressive NATO alliance.

Today the entire Baltic region has become an area of militarization and war preparations. Not for a war against the socialist state, that ceased to exist, but against capitalist Russia, considered a dangerous imperialist rival by the main imperialist country the US. All the Nordic countries signed a joint declaration with the US (May 2016) obliging them to arm themselves against ‘the Russian threat’. Including the professed ‘neutral’ Sweden, that later the same month signed a so called host country treaty with the US allowing stockpiling of NATO equipment and huge NATO exercises in Swedish territory. Today US and NATO-soldiers, war ships and fighter planes operate in the Baltic Sea and the countries around it, including permanent presence in the Baltic states and Poland. The border to Russia has been filled with elite soldiers and nuclear missiles point towards Russia from Polish and Romanian territory,

Peace in the Baltic region, peace for the Nordic countries seems further away than ever. The possibilities for peace, created by socialism also for countries with different social systems, are eliminated by the ‘victories’ of capitalism, posing grave dangers to mankind.

A working class revolution today is both necessary and achievable

Workers’ revolutions, proletarian revolutions, are becoming more and more urgent. The rulers of the capitalist societies are again fearing social unrest and the inevitable explosions as the result of the brutal capitalist agenda of exploitation and war.

Also in Denmark we hear more and more warnings from supporters of the capitalist system. The organization of Industrialists and the main Danske Bank (Danish Bank) worry that severe social unrest might be the consequence of rapidly increasing social inequality and the ever more widespread poverty.

In 2010 the present prime minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen stated that ‘We should have back hunger’. By 2017 this noble aim has been achieved in the former welfare state of Denmark. The neoliberal ‘medicine’ of the European Union has turned it into a bottomless discount version.

So far the ruling class has avoided big explosions. The parliamentary system and many new parties with changing government alliances, a right populist ‘Danish Peoples Party’ and a lame parliamentary left, tied to Social Democracy, has kept the protests under control by false promises and genuine fraud towards the electorate.
The trade unions and their reformist leadership have not raised one finger, or waved a fist, to counter the wave of neoliberal ‘reforms’, including the higher retirement age, aimed to squeeze every drop of labor power out of even seriously ill people.

The result is a present and future society where you are born to slave for the capitalists until you die. It is obvious that the protest cannot be held back and be buried forever. The tendency is obvious. The anger and dissatisfaction about the cut-back reforms are simmering both in the big towns and in the countryside and coastal regions. Many sorts of protests appear, but still not in a very large scale.

‘Right populism’ with Donald Trump in the US, Marine Le Pen in France and people of the same ilk and movements of the same kind all over is promoted and supported by strong forces of capital and bourgeois media to prevent the protests of turning towards the left and become directed against the system itself. They try to see to that the protests are diverted into fighting among the workers and people themselves and turned against scapegoats as ‘the foreigners’.

Many bourgeois commentators, who have supported ‘globalization’, ‘open borders’ and the cut-back ‘reforms’ are telling that the present time reminds them of the 1930es and the advent of the fascist and extreme right forces. Such elements exist, but the main danger against the benefits that the workers and the majority have fought for and achieved does not come from these forces, but from the neoliberal course pursued by the European Union and the capitalist bourgeoisie, and from the persistent wars and war policy of the US and NATO.

Drawing parallels to different historical situations it will be even more relevant to compare the present to the time leading to the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia – a time when all factors to cause such a gigantic social upheaval were maturing in many countries. This opens the perspective of a revolution, that throws the present ruling class into the dustbin of history, destroying its power structures and institutions, building a new society with another formerly repressed class as the ruling and leading class. A workers’ state, a socialist society

The October Revolution 100 years ago showed that a revolution of the working class is possible. The power of the present rulers is not eternal. It may be challenged and defeated. The revolution of the Russian workers, peasant and soldiers was not the first proletarian revolution of a socialist character. That was the Paris Commune fifty years before. But it was the first victorious workers’ revolution, thanks to the fact that it was guided by the ideas of scientific socialism.

For the first time a new type of society was built in a conscious and planned manner, where the entire structure is not made to serve a minority, a ruling class of capitalists and big land owners, but for the great majority of people.

Nothing has changed in this respect during the last 100 years of dramatic and violent historical changes. Victorious socialist revolutions are not wishful thinking or a utopia. They are certainly attainable and real possibilities – on conditions that the adequate objective and subjective factors of revolution exist and a revolutionary situation develops in the country. A crisis where the ruling class is not able to continue its rule as before, and where the subjected will not accept to be ruled over any more, as the classic definition goes.

In Russia November 1917 a whole series of these factors came together: Big imperialist powers were tied in a world wide showdown and not able to focus on stopping the developing revolution, the czarist regime had been overthrown, but the new bourgeois regime was not consolidated, the Russian people were war-weary and hungry and keen on change. The revolution was led by a revolutionary communist party, armed with Marxism, with the scientific theory of revolution, able to place itself in the vanguard of the workers and all repressed people. A party with a great Marxist and revolutionary as V.I. Lenin at the head and a leadership tested in struggles.

This party was able to repel all counter attacks of the defeated feudal and semi-feudal forces, of the capitalist bourgeoisie, of international capitalism and its armed forces and of all reaction. It was able to dismiss the demagogy and the misdirection of the masses on the part of opportunists and reformists of various sorts that tried to stop the revolution half-way.

100 years later are new workers’ revolutions no less possible. In many ways the factors of revolution have been strengthened. Also the present imperialist bourgeoisie is engaged in a deadly fight, that is threatening a new world war and atomic doomsday.

A new October is not only possible. Socialist revolution is also necessary. Necessary for world peace, for new advances for the great majority. Necessary to end the never ending catastrophes of capitalism and wars. To end climate and environmental destruction, to stop international crime, to end exploitation of the workers and the degradation of ordinary people. To have a just and secure life. To end the waves of refugees from wars and capitalist disasters. To have the possibility of normal life and development everywhere.

In all societies – Denmark included – the need of the new society becomes greater and more wide spread. No return to the past is possible. Not to our old Denmark, not to the capitalist Nordic welfare state of the 60es and 70es. The welfare state of the future will be a socialist Denmark.

The October revolution was not a single event, but the whole process of defeating the old ruling class and its international support, destroying its state apparatus and the building of a new one with the workers in command – the process of expropriation of the means of production, turning factories, mines and large farming into collective social property instead of private property. A process where the working class would learn to be the leading and directing class, taking control over all issues of society and life.

Such a revolution is also the unconditional prerequisite of the creation of a socialist society. From the October Revolution grew socialist Russia, the socialist Soviet Union, the victory of nazi-fascism, the peoples’ democracies and the spread of the new society in other continents. From this revolution grew a social progress for the people in a scale never seen before, for the majority and not just for a few. The human rights of today, including the social rights of man, are also the bi-products of this great revolution of 1917.

Socialism without revolution – without the victory of the working class over capitalists and capitalist monopolies – is impossible. There is still no single historical example of ‘peaceful’ or ‘parliamentary’ transition to socialism. Even large scale nationalizations will not be socialist without a complete transformation of the class structures, without crushing the power of capital, the capitalist state and private property. Not in the 20th Century, not in the 21st either. Such nationalizations may protect the resources of a country against imperialist plunder, but a succesful construction of socialism requires a socialist revolution, bringing the working class to power and securing the transition of the means of production to the property of society.

As a part of the fight of the rulers against socialist revolution all kinds of false theories and ideas are spread – such as the notion that class struggle has disappeared, that the working class is diminishing and disappearing, that capitalism of today is a benevolent capitalism, and many more, when some handfuls of super billionaires have taken possession of half of the world’s riches. Anti-marxist and opportunist ideas are also spread by ‘left’, ‘socialist’ and even proclaimed communist forces, seeking to prevent a proletarian revolution by claiming there are other and easier ways to achieve the blessings of socialism, such as new versions of the tales of the capitalist welfare state, or the tale of ‘anti-monopolist democracy’ still marketed by some revisionist parties, claiming to be communist.

The Workers’ Communist Party of Denmark APK and CIPOML – The International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations – are firmly based on the ground of the great October Revolution. They are indeed its direct ofsprings one hundred years later.

The socialist revolution is indeed possible, necessary and the prerequisite for a new and better Denmark. And for a new and better world.



Se også

Hvad kan vi lære fra Oktoberrevolutionen? Jubilæumsudgave af Unity & Struggle, CIPOMLs tidsskrift




KPnet 22. juli 2017

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