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Communist Party of Norway
Norges Kommunistiske Parti
Leader Zafer Gözet
Founded 1923
Headquarters Oslo
Newspaper Friheten
Youth wing Young Communists in Norway
Ideology Communism,
Marxism-Leninism
International affiliation None
European affiliation None
Official colours Red
Website
http://www.nkp.no/
Politics of Norway
Political parties
Elections

The Communist Party of Norway (Norges Kommunistiske Parti) is a political party in Norway without parliamentary representation. It was formed in 1923, following a split in the Norwegian Labour Party. The party played an important role in the resistance to German occupation during the Second World War, and experienced a brief period of political popularity after the war. However, after the onset of the Cold War the influence steadily declined. Since the mid 70s the party has played a minimal role in Norwegian politics. They are against the EU and other neo-liberal organizations.

Contents

History

Foundation of NKP

The Norwegian Labour Party (DNA) under the leadership of Martin Tranmæl had joined the Communist International at the time of its formation. However, DNA was by no means ready evolve into a Bolshevik party on the lines that the International required. Moreover, Tranmæl was strictly opposed to ComIntern involvement in internal DNA affairs. At a national conference held in November 1923 the DNA decided to leave the International.

During that conference the pro-ComIntern elements gathered to constitute a new party, the Communist Party of Norway. The new party was founded on 4 November 1923. The founders of NKP came mainly from the youth league of DNA, with leaders such as Peter Furubotn, Eugene Olsen and Arvid G. Hansen. The majority of the youth league followed them in joining NKP.

Sverre Sjøstad was elected chairman, Halvard Olsen vice-chairman and Furubotn general secretary of the party. On 5 November the first issue of the party publication Norges kommunistblad was published, with Olav Scheflo as its editor.

13 of the DNA members of the Storting joined NKP, as well as large parts of the so-called trade union opposition of DNA.[1]

Early years

The political fortunes of the new party dwindled. It could not challenge DNA over its hegemony over the Norwegian labour movement. In the 1924 parliamentary election the party got 59 401 votes (6.1%) and won six seats. In 1926 it got 40 074 votes (4.02%) and three seats. In 1930 NKP lost its parliamentary representation, when it got 20 351 votes (1.7%). By 1936 it could only muster 4 376 votes (0.3%). In that election the party did, however, only contest in some districts.

Parallel to its decreasing electoral influence, the party was ravaged by internal strifes. Halvard Olsen and other trade union leader left the party in 1924, in protest over the trade union policy of NKP. Sverre Sjøstad, the founding chairman, and his followers left the party in 1927 to take part in the reunification of DNA (which merged with the Social Democratic Labour Party of Norway). Emil Stang and Olav Scheflo left the party the same year, as they did not want to oppose the DNA government.

In 1927 the Mot Dag-group, a circle of leftwing intellectuals, joined the party. They would leave the following year, as NKP took an 'ultra-left turn'.[2]

Second World War

At the onset of the Second World War, NKP subscribed to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. The DNA government on the other hand aligned with the United Kingdom. During the Finnish Winter War, NKP supported the Soviet war effort, whereas DNA supported the opposing side. DNA-NKP relations reached a historic low.

Germany invaded Norway on 9 April 1940. The NKP publication Arbeideren proclaimed that the war was an imperialist war, and that Germany and the Western powers were equally responsible for its outbreak. According to that analysis the party should not take sides for one of the imperialist powers, a policy that was in clear opposition of the (now exiled) DNA government.

However, locally NKP cells in northern Norway began (without the consent of the party leadership) to mobilize resistance activities.[3]

In August 1940, NKP was the first Norwegian political party to be banned by the German occupation authorities. The publication of Arbeideren ceased. The party then went underground. However, the party was poorly prepared for underground functioning.

In the ongoing confusion within the party, Furutbotn began to call for more active resistance by NKP against the occupation. Furubotn had spent several years in Moscow, but had returned to Norway just before the war. Now he was the leader of the party in Vestlandet. On 31 December 1941, the party held a clandestine national conference, which adopted Furubotn's 'active war politics'.

NKP came to play a leading role in the resistance movement, organizing sabotage and guerrilla activities. However even though different sectors of the resistance showed a united front towards the occupants, the relation between NKP on one hand and the Home Front, the government-in-exile and the clandestine trade union movement were not always smooth as government, only proponed peaceful resistance, like newspapers and intelligence support towards the allies, until the last years of the war, when these elements of recistance were to join actively. Generally NKP wanted to adopt more offensive tactics against the occupants. Still it also created an illegal newspaper "Friheten", or "Liberty", which is still in print. [4]

Postwar resurgence

After the war, NKP enjoyed a strong boost of popularity for its role in resistance struggle. The role the Soviet Union had played in defeating Germany, and in particular the Soviet liberation of Finnmark in northern Norway, also contributed to the popularity of the party.

In the national unity government formed after the war, two communists were inducted (Johan Strand Johansen and Kirsten Hansteen). Hansteen was the first female minister of Norway. The party organ Friheten would reach an edition of about a 100 000 directly after the war. In the new postwar atmosphere of tolerance, discussions were raised over a possible reunification between DNA and NKP. During the war, discussions had taken place in the Grini concentration camp between captured DNA and NKP leaders (including Einar Gerhardsen from DNA and Jørgen Vogt from NKP). However, these plans were discarded by Furubotn.

In the 1945 parliamentary election the NKP vote-share reached its historical peak. NKP got 176 535 votes (11.89%) and eleven seats in the Storting. In 1946 Furubotn was elected general secretary of NKP. [5]

Onset of the Cold War

However, the growth of the party proved to be brief. The Cold War began, and the Norwegian government aligned itself with the Western powers. In the 1949 parliamentary election NKP had lost many voters. The party got 102 722 votes (5.83%).[6]

The reason for the party's decline in popularity is often accredited to Labour Party Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen's famous speech at Kråkerøy in 1948, four days after the communist takeover in Czechoslovakia. In it, he condemned the actions in Czechoslovakia, but he also warned that the same thing could happen in Norway if the Communist Party was given too much power. The speech represented the start of an open and hidden campaign against the party and its members, with the purpose of scaring away voters, and reducing its influence in the labour movement.

Great Purge

At the same time the party would experience its most traumatic internal division. In 1946 some of Furubotn’s closest associates during the war, Kjell G. Kviberg and Ørnulf Egge, had been expelled. In 1949 Furubotn's enemies within the party began a campaign to expel him.

On 24 October 1949, the MP Johan Strand Johansen publicly declared that a division existed within the party in a speech to the local party unit in Malerne. The following day Furubotn’s followers resigned from their positions in the party. On 26 October Furubotn and his followers in the party were expelled. The editorial of Friheten on 27 October proclaimed that "It has emerged clearly that this anti-party centre is a trotskyist, bourgeois nationalist and titoist centre, which has paralysed the central board with endless and futile discussions."[7]

This process contributed to the ongoing political isolation of NKP. The expulsion of Furubotn, considered as a hero of the resistance struggle, is in many ways a political suicide. And the way the expulsions had taken place and the strong language used in the NKP press against the expellees, contributed to giving an image of NKP as a 'conspirational' party. [8]

Cold War years

The NKP was always considered to be a very loyal follower of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, although it now and then took independent positions opposing the Soviet line. This happened in 1968, when NKP condemned the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. The youth league, Young Communist League of Norway (NKU), used to follow a somewhat more independent line than the party.

In the mid 1960s the U.S. State Department estimated the party membership to be approximately 4500 (0.2% of the working age population of the country).[9]

In the parliamentary elections of 1973, the party participated in an electoral alliance with the Socialist People's Party and other left-wing groups, known as the Socialist Electoral League, and had its leader, Reidar Larsen elected into parliament. In 1975, the Socialist Electoral League became the Socialist Left Party, which is today Norway's largest left-wing party to the left of the Norwegian Labour Party. The Communist Party took part in the process of transforming the electoral league to a new party, but in the end decided to remain a separate party after all. At the party congress in 1975 113 delegates voted to keep the party as an independent party, whereas 30 had voted for merging it into SV. Larsen did not stand for re-election, and Martin Gunnar Knutsen was elected as the new party chairman.[10] After the congress Larsen and others left NKP to join the Socialist Left Party.

After Mikhail Gorbachev gained power in the Soviet Union and started his reform program, NKP - as most other European Communist parties started revising its views of past Soviet policies. The party started distancing itself from the practises of the Soviet Union, and focused on a "softer" communism. The term "democratic socialism" is frequently found in party literature from the early 1990s onward.

After the fall of the Socialist Bloc

Around 1990 there were also tendencies within NKP working for regroupment. In the 1989 parliamentary election they joined forces with Workers' Communist Party (AKP), Red Electoral Alliance (RV) and independent socialist to form Fylkeslistene for miljø og solidaritet (County lists for Environment and Solidarity). NKP also had joint lists with RV some places in the early 1990s, while at other places members of NKP campaigned for RV. This policy of unity was, however, abandoned around the mid-1990s.

A defining moment in this process came when the party opposed the Soviet coup attempt of 1991 against Gorbachev by the "old guard" of the Soviet communist party.

Today, the party's statement of principles explicitly acknowledges that the Soviet Union represented a violation of democratic principles and that the party acknowledge that it too have to take responsibility for its lack of criticism of these problems. The party does however still view these countries as examples of socialism and progress over the respective countries preceding regimes.

Even though NKP did survive the collapse of the Soviet Union, inner turmoil and particularly lack of recruitment amongst youth has since marginalized the party further.

In the early 1990s the party attempted to counteract some of this by electing younger leaders to the party's top positions. However this move failed to boost recruiting much, and subsequently is again dominated by older members who joined during the Soviet era.

Current situation

NKP won three elected posts in the 2003 municipal election, two seats in the municipal council in Åsnes and one in Vadsø. The Åsnes branch, by far the party's strongest at that time, did, however, leave the party in 2004 to form Radical Socialists due to disagreements over the questions of religion, Stalin and cooperation with other leftist groups. In addition, an NKP-member was a member of the Porsgrunn municipal council, elected on the RV-list until he joined RV. In later elections NKP has received about 1,000 votes. In the 2005 parliamentary election, it won 1,070 votes - 0.04% of the national total. In 2007, they could not find enough candidates for a list in Vadsø, and do thus currently have any democratically elected representatives.

In 2006-2008 NKP's youth league was changed from the old Young Communist League of Norway to the new Young Communist League in Norway. The new league changed its name in 2008 to the Youth Communists in Norway The party still publishes a weekly paper called Friheten ("The Freedom") which was started as a clandestine paper in 1941.

References

  1. ^ Johansen, Jahn Otto, in Sparring Åke (ed.), Kommunismen i Norden och den världskommunistiska rörelsens kris. Stockholm: Bokförlaget Aldus/Bonniers, 1965. p.126-128
  2. ^ Johansen, in Sparring (ed). 1965, p. 128-129
  3. ^ Stalin's Secret Wars in Norway
  4. ^ Johansen, in Sparring (ed). 1965, p. 129-131
  5. ^ Johansen, in Sparring (ed). 1965, p. 130-131
  6. ^ Johansen, in Sparring (ed). 1965, p. 132
  7. ^ Moreover, in an article in the same newspaper published on 11 November 1949, read that: "It is clear that within our party there are nationalist, petty bourgeois, trotskyist, titoist elements, enemies of the Soviet Union and socialism, that may form a base for recruitment of agents to the bourgeois states and the counter revolution."
  8. ^ Johansen, in Sparring (ed). 1965, p. 132-135
  9. ^ Benjamin, Roger W.; Kautsky, John H.. Communism and Economic Development, in The American Political Science Review, Vol. 62, No. 1. (Mar., 1968), pp. 122.
  10. ^ VPK-Information 7-8, 1975

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