From the Marxist-Leninist Organization Revolusjon
December, 1996

The true face of bourgeois democracy

and its agent, Social Democracy

Different revisionist currents claim that the "new world order" as well as the experience of the peaceful counter-revolutions in Eastern Europe, prove that the violent revolution no longer is probable, that it is a hopeless outset, or not at all "necessary".

They believe that "democracy" (which they apprehend as something devoid of class content) has developed to such a level, that the peaceful transition and the "anti-monopolist strategy" is the only possible road of progress.

In the following we will look into the real content of modern, bourgeois democracy, in one of the social-democrat "exhibition windows" of Europe, namely Norway.

The Marxist concept concerning the question of the state is well-known. The state, as an historical category, is the tool of one class for suppressing other classes of society. The core of state power is always the apparatus of violence: the police, the army and the courts of justice.

This Marxist concept of the state is fundamental for understanding that the bourgeois state power (which in the last instance is based upon force) can only be abolished by use of force from the oppressed class. The bourgeois state can not simply be inherited by the working class, it must be "smashed" and the working class must create its own state organs. This was one of Marx's most important conclusions after studying the uprising, and eventually the defeat, of the Paris communards.

Reformist illusions among the "leftists"

On the Norwegian "left," petty-bourgeois illusions and reformist ideas have always nourished in fertile soil. Here is not the place to dwell on the specific historical, national geo-political and class-related reasons for this. Nevertheless, though still of course an inferior imperialism and minor in regard to its small population, "little Norway" of today is not merely a remote piece of semi-arctic rock inhabited by fishermen and small-scale farmers, but is in fact an increasingly active and ambitious actor on the imperialist arena. The soaring profits from the oil and off-shore industry have accumulated strong state finances, enabling the Norwegian bourgeoisie to act with pondus and eagerness in several areas. The fact of Norway simultaneously being an imperialist "little brother," obediently tailing behind far stronger imperialist countries and alliances (the US and the EU), does not contradict the truth first-mentioned.

Along with other Nordic countries like Sweden and Denmark, Norway has posed as a supreme democracy and an outstanding example of social democrat so-called "welfare states," securing all inhabitants certain social minimum standards, naturally without affecting the rule of capital or the subjugation to stronger imperialist power. On the international arena, these "paradises of social democracy" have been presented (and have presented themselves), especially to the countries and peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin-America, as the most "sensible" alternative to national and social liberation, revolution and socialism.

The truth about the "success" of Social Democracy

Until recently, this concept of the "success" of social democracy, has had a stronghold among a majority of the working people in the Scandinavian countries, and has also in several circumstances had a "moderating effect" on some national liberation movements, workers' organisations and progressive governments around the world. The governments of Norway have throughout the recent years eagerly been playing the role of "allies against oppression" (as in South Africa) or as "impartial negotiators" and "intermediates" in numerous conflict areas, like those of the Middle East, El Salvador, Guatemala etc.

What is now becoming evident is how Norway, as a minor imperialist power, is making efficient use of this "mediatory" position in order to maintain its new imperialist interests and ambitions. Here we will restrain ourselves to only one example: Whilst officially denouncing Indonesia's occupation of East Timor, the government and monopoly capital of Norway flirts openly with the Suharto regime, and even acknowledges in writing that the oil resources in the Timor Sea must be regarded as Indonesian territory!

What also is evident, is that modern social democracy has started to dismantle the "welfare state" it has been bragging about for decades. The reason for this is clear; capital doesn't any longer consider it necessary to class compromise any further, considering the prospects of revolution and the "socialist threat" near to nothing after the external and internal events occurring in the period after 1989-90. The working class of the Scandinavian countries are gradually waking up to capitalist reality and the real content of bourgeois democracy and "welfare capitalism" in social-democratic clothing.

A very important part of this comprehension is the nature of the form of capitalist rule we know as advanced bourgeois democracy, helmed by social democracy in most of the post-war period.

The communists must unmask the false talk of democracy "for all," on the "neutrality" of the state, on the apparatus of violence, on the "democratic way of thinking" that supposedly is typical for the Norwegian bourgeoisie. It is our duty to reveal the true face of Norwegian imperialism to the class we say that we will serve and prepare for revolution. Perhaps it is because capital doesn't consider it has any further need of Social Democracy for the time being, or perhaps the rivalry between factions of the bourgeoisie and their parties simply got out of hand, resulting in a deeper investigation than originally intended. Whatever the reason, the irony of history has caught up with Social Democracy. Now, the bourgeois parliamentary system itself is giving us a hand in revealing the true character and role of this bourgeois current and Trojan horse of imperialism, that thoroughly has spun its poisonous spider's web throughout the workers' and trade union movement in Norway (and undoubtedly in many other countries, too).

The Norwegian parliamentary commission
gives solid proof of Lenin's characteristic
of bourgeois democracy

According to Lenin, the power and influence of the bourgeoisie over the state machinery is greater and more effective the more democratic, parliamentary etc. the state is functioning:

"The working people are barred from participation in bourgeois parliaments (they never decide important questions under bourgeois democracy, which are decided by the stock exchange and the banks) by thousands of obstacles, and the workers know and feel, see and realize perfectly well that the bourgeois parliaments are institutions alien to them, instruments for the oppression of the workers by the bourgeoisie, institutions of a hostile class, of the exploiting minority." (V.I. Lenin, CW 28, p. 247)

Of course, the Marxist-Leninists will always make use of and fight for democratic rights and liberties, but never believing that such demands may be obtained other than partially and incompletely under capitalist conditions. The struggle against the war-mongerers, popular unity of action opposing the onslaughts of imperialism against national sovereignty, struggle to defend the environment, defence of the fundamental right to strike and other democratic rights will always be in the centre of the communists tactical programme. At the same time, the communists never attempt to hide that any success in such struggles under capitalist conditions, will only be partial and of limited permanence, depending on the forcefulness, the unity in action and the fighting ability of the working class and the masses. Lasting reforms and significant progress are part and parcel of an entirely different social and economic system; socialism.

Therefore, the institutions of the bourgeois state (i.e. Parliament, the Army, The Courts) may never be included as parts of a revolutionary strategy. The attitude of the Communists where these organs are concerned (i.e. taking part in elections or not, accepting military service or not etc.) are tactical issues, the right answer depending on the situation, or so to speak, on the "temperature" of the class struggle. In short, depending on what, at the given moment, under changing circumstances, best helps forward the realization of our strategic aims.

Different revisionist currents claim that the "new world order" as well as the experience of the peaceful counter-revolutions in Eastern Europe, prove that the violent revolution no longer is probable, that it is a hopeless outset, or not at all "necessary," now that the imperialists seem to settle their differences through the United Nations! In our country some revisionists state that violent revolution may still be a necessity in other parts of the world. However, according to them, the "peaceful history and traditions" of Norway make this Leninist teaching "obsolete" and "not in accordance with reality." This, of course, is a fraud.

Imperialist reality

Real reality, unlike the "virtual reality" of the revisionists, tells us otherwise. Where Norway is concerned, the prospects of a peaceful revolution in a country that today is second only to Saudi-Arabia when it comes to oil exports, must be said to be microscopical. Only a working class demonstrating its willingness to use armed force if necessary, might frighten the bourgeoisie enough to avoid bloodshed. Such are the lessons of the international workers movement throughout the past 150 years.

"The civilization and justice of bourgeois order comes out in its lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters. Then this civilization and justice stand forth as undisguised savagery and lawless revenge. Each new crisis in the class struggle between the appropriator and the producer brings out this fact more glaringly." (Marx: The Civil War in France)

The democratic facade of the bourgeois state is worth nothing more than a house of playing cards. It will immediately fall to the ground, if threatened by social unrest. This understanding is essential if one is to develop a revolutionary strategy. The Communists and the working class must be clear about what sort of an enemy we actually stand up against. The bourgeoisie will not wait a second to consider before it will make use of its violent state machinery to crush any serious attempt at revolt - in small, peaceful, remote Norway as in any other country.

The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie
black on white

Where Norway is concerned, this truth has now been officially confirmed by the bourgeois system itself. For years on end, Norwegian leftist and workers' parties and organisations, and even liberal individuals and democrats of different hues, have claimed that political surveillance has been going on for decades, resulting in harassment, blacklisting and probably cases of suicide. In recent years, books have been published by former leading Social Democrat leaders and other central personalities, confirming what the communists have been saying since the early 50's; that a major role in conducting these activities has been played by the leadership of the Social Democratic Party and the Norwegian TUC (LO), through close ties to the Norwegian Police Security Service (POT) and the Military Intelligence Service.

"Take the fundamental laws of modern states, take their administration, take freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, or 'equality of all citizens before the law,' and you will see at every turn evidence of the hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy with which every honest and class-conscious worker is familiar. There is not a single state, however democratic, which has no loopholes or reservations in its constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the possibility of dispatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a 'violence of public order,' and actually in case the exploited class 'violates' its position of slavery and tries to behave in a non-slavish manner. Kautsky shamelessly embellishes bourgeois democracy and omits to mention, for instance, how the most democratic and republican bourgeoisie in America or Switzerland deal with workers on strike." (V.I. Lenin, CW 28, p. 244)

A historical scandal becomes public

The evidence put forward finally amounted to such a degree that the opposition in parliament in 1993 forced the Social Democrat government to accept that a parliamentary commission be set up and instructed to go deeply into this matter. As far as is known, nothing like this has happened in any other country.

On May 8 last year, the Commission named after its chairman Ketil Lund, made public its 1100 page report concerning alleged illegal surveillance of tens of thousands of citizens by the Norwegian Police Security Service and the Military Intelligence Service. In the view of the Lund Commission, the judiciary has betrayed its duty to uphold rights guaranteed by law. According to its report, a complete absence of respect for basic civil rights is apparent in a number of cases, and the report strongly suggests that the courts have been very servile towards the National Security Bureau in Oslo.

Among other things. the report shows that all members and sympathisers of Communist, semi-communist or revolutionary parties and organisations - and even their children down to the age of 10 - have been under surveillance. The entire editorial staff of the Maoist daily newspaper Klassekampen was for example bugged from December 1976 to December 1979.

As the bourgeois press itself has put it: "The Lund Commission's report documenting extensive surveillance of Norwegian citizens, has tarnished Norway's reputation as country where due process of law reigns supreme."

For revolutionaries in Norway, nothing of this is surprising. What is surprising, however, is that the report has been made public and that all political parties accept the Lund Commission's historical criticism of Norway's secret services and commend the commission for doing an extremely thorough job. With the exception of the Conservative Party, the entire opposition has demanded apologies to Norwegian citizens who have been subject to surveillance.

The "supremacy" of bourgeois democracy

Of course, all this has triggered a unison attempt from the whole bourgeoisie, from the bluest reaction to leftists and revisionist, to state that this will put a final end to illegal surveillance of citizens solely on account of their legal political activities. The political scandal is now being turned upside down in order to prove the "supremacy" of the bourgeois democratic order, which has had the courage and "ability" to disclose these "unhealthy" appendixes of the system itself.

Labour party chairman and PM Thorbjørn Jagland, has been obliged to denounce such illegal acts as the planting of bugging devices, and he deplores the collusion that went on between labour leaders and the security police. However, while a united opposition demanded an apology from the Labour Party, the press stated that Mr. Jagland took great pains to make it clear that the Labour Party's perception of communist intentions was of pivotal significance. "Any judgment about the methods employed must take this into account," said Mr. Jagland. He strongly cautioned against disregarding the historical context , and insisted that the struggle against communism was a struggle to defend democracy.

Of course, the political confrontation triggered by the Lund Report turned into a quarrel over who was guilty of what. The bourgeois press admits that the non-socialist parties too, after reading the report, should search their own souls and take their share of the blame for what took place. They also admit that Justice ministers in a number of non-socialist governments have closed their eyes to these activities.

No sooner had this scandal become public, and the bourgeoisie was trying to use it as proof of "how democracy works," before a new scandal took the scene. This took place shortly after the new minister of Justice frankly assured that surveillance on solely political grounds was a matter belonging to history.

Investigating the investigator

The Storting's (the Norwegian parliament) new special committee for scrutiny of the secret service made some very serious findings last autumn regarding the National Police Security Service. It turned out that even members of the special committee were held under surveillance and information was gathered on those who were appointed to conduct a probe into the activities of the secret police.

The Norwegian Police Security Service (POT) had former Socialist Left party chairman Berge Furre under surveillance, suspected of espionage for foreign powers or of other punishable offenses. So, while Berge Furre as member of the Lund Commission was investigating the secret police, the secret police were investigating him!

Among other things, the security police applied to the former East German Stasi archives for information on Mr. Furre. The security police at first refused to declassify a report on the matter issued by the Storting's special committee for scrutiny of the secret services, but were soon forced to retreat. In other words, the secret police attempted to defame Berge Furre while he was serving on the Lund Commission. This was an affront against the Storting, which appointed the commission of which Berge Furre was appointed member. Moreover, this investigation of Berge Furre by the Norwegian Police Security Service (POT) had been approved at the top levels of the Ministry of Justice.

Only two weeks earlier Ms. Holt, minister of Justice, in an open hearing in the Storting on the Lund Commission, gave her assurances that surveillance is no longer being conducted on political grounds.

So far, this scandal has caused the fall of one former Minister of Justice and of the head of POT. Former long-time prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland left her post just in time to avoid bearing the political responsibility of this scandal. The time of her abdication was hardly coincidental.

The ruling class disregards its own laws

Naturally, all this is very embarrassing, showing the wide public that the ruling class completely disregards its own laws and regulations when it finds this convenient. Of course illegal surveillance is going on and will continue, probably in new forms and by way of different means. Regardless of this, the core of the matter is that preparations to "deal with" political opposition still is regarded as appropriate and quite legal as long as this opposition may be considered "endangering national security."

The Norwegian state still has several "loopholes or reservations in its constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the possibility of dispatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a 'violence of public order.'" These words of Lenin still retain their validity. Such laws still exist in Norway, and have not been affected whatsoever by the Lund report. Even after the "abolishment of socialism" and the ending of the cold war, the bourgeoisie totally rejects proposals to alter the context of these laws, originating from the time of Norway's subjugation to the USA and access to membership of the NATO treaty. These are laws aimed at opening up for martial law to get rid of the "internal enemy" when necessary.

Supra-national and illegal cooperation

In the meantime, new scandals and embarrassing disclosures are on their way, showing the true face of Social Democracy in its Scandinavian "show-room."

A recent book authored by a Finnish Social Democrat Juhani Salminen gives new information concerning the close ties, not only politically, but also when it came to intelligence and surveillance work, between the social-democratic leaders and the intelligence services in the Nordic countries. These "brothers-in-arms" started their cooperation during their engagement fighting on the "white" semi-fascist Finnish side against the Soviet Union in 1939.

Among other things, the book discloses that the Social Democratic intelligence organisation in Finland even succeeded in infiltrating the leadership of the Finnish CP. The organisation is said to have had more than a thousand informers around the country, some were paid to do the job, while the main bulk were volunteers. Monthly reports were submitted to the head of the organisations and to employers.

This is a pattern which turns out to be fairly typical in the case of Norway, too. In the late 40's the police and military surveillance and leading circles of the Norwegian Social Democratic Party made use of the former German CP member Karl Bargstädt in order to infiltrate the Norwegian Communist Party (NKP). It is claimed that late German Chancellor Willy Brandt helped the Norwegian Labour Party make this connection.

There is no doubt whatsoever that there has been a close and supra-national cooperation between the Social Democrats in Norway and Germany in the post-war period. The Swedish IB-scandal of the 70's, where it was disclosed that the Swedish Social-Democratic Party operated a "non-existing" intelligence organisation, and other very close ties between the Social Democratic parties, governments and military intelligence in the two neighbouring countries, as well as other facts, strongly indicate that Sweden, Norway and perhaps even Finland (where Norwegian agents were sent to the Soviet border) have been involved in forms of unofficial, supra-national cooperation completely colliding with each countries' own constitutions, their legislation and sovereignty.

An era coming to an end?

The amounts of evidence proving the dirty role of Social Democracy in the countries where it mostly boasts of its successfullness, is more than anything else an indicator that the era of traditional Social Democracy is coming to an end. The task given to Social Democracy today, certainly in Europe, is fulfilling the job of dismantling the "welfare state" of which Social Democracy itself likes to pose as birth-giving midwife. In the Scandinavian countries, no one can shoulder this ungrateful task better than Social Democracy, even though it might mean a nail in the coffin of the Social Democratic parties.

The massive facts brought into the light about the true face of Social Democracy, must be used skillfully to denounce its treacherous role in the labour movement; whether we are speaking of its role at the outbreak of World War One, its reactionary activities after the victory of the October Revolution, its support of NATO and of US aggression, or its treacherous role up till this very day as the favourite tool of the big bourgeoisie to confront the communists within the working class movement. Also, we must bear in mind the responsibility of the revisionist apologists of Social Democracy. Their conciliatory stand towards the reformist ideology and parties has contributed to preventing the working masses from seeing the true face of reformism and bourgeois democracy.

Click here to return to Norway Index