Did they train with weapons? Did they spy on their political opponents? Why did several of the members hide their identities? These are some of the questions raised by the author of «Mao, min Mao: historien om AKPs vekst og fall», Hans Petter Sjøli. The Norwegian journalist for Dagsavisen and Klassekampen reveals the story of the mysterious Norwegian Workers’ Communist Party (Arbeidernes Kommunistparti-AKP) and sheds light on the political radicalism in Norway and the world in 60s-70s.
AKP was a Maoist party and one of two communist parties in Norway; the other was the older Communist Party of Norway which has remained pro-Soviet. The relationship between the two parties was characterized by strong hostility.
AKP was founded in 1973, as Arbeidernes Kommunistparti (marxist-leninistene). It did not participate directly in elections, but members had “activity duty”, meaning that they were to work for the party’s goals – passive members were not accepted. The precise number of its members or sympathizers is unknown.
Split Leading to Formation of AKP
There were radical movements of Western academic environments in the late 1960s and early 1970s, particularly within the context of the Vietnam war.
There was a split between the Soviet Union and China, which caused an ideological crisis among an older generation of communists.
The founders of AKP came from what was then known as SUF, or Sosialistisk Ungdomsforbund (Socialist Youth League). SUF had been started as the youth wing of the Sosialistisk Folkeparti, but broke away in 1969 as it developed into a marxist-leninist direction. Following the split, SUF was renamed AKP.
As a result of the activity duty, many party members practiced “self-proletarisation” on the party’s orders, working as manual labourers, especially in the period from 1974 to 1976. Later, the party encouraged its well-educated members to take work as teachers, particularly in higher education.
As a part of their policy, AKP members have joined and tried to influence several voluntary organisations in socialist direction, particularly those related to “feminism”, labor unions and anti-racism.
Communism and Election Alliance
AKP did not put its name on election ballots, choosing instead to work through the Red Electoral Alliance (RV), originally AKPs electoral face. But from the year 1990, RV became a party of its own, with most of AKPs members also holding membership. In march 2007 AKP and Red Electoral Alliance (RV) merged, and formed the party Red, a revolutionary party with a programme supporting communism.
Meanwhile, some former members of AKP (especially members of AKP’s student organization, NKS), formed a marxist-leninist front called KP together, with the Marxist-Leninist Group Revolution. This front was meant to be an organisation with the purpose of building a traditional marxist-leninist party.
Klassekampen (Class Struggle) used to be the party’s daily newspaper in the 1970s, but since the 1990s has been associated with a slightly wider political spectrum. Red now owns 20 percent of Klassekampen, the same amount AKP owned before the merge with RV. AKP was also associated to Oktober Forlag, another publisher. From early 2000s the party has published the monthly newspaper akp.no, named after the party’s website, and throughout its existence it published a quarterly magazine for Marxist debate, originally named Røde Fane (Red Standard), then from 2004 Rødt! (Red! – this name might have inspired the name of the new party). The newspaper akp.no continues as Red’s party newspaper, under the name Rødt Nytt (Red News). The magazine Rødt! is continued under the ownership of the party Red.
Criticism for Support to Authoritarian Regimes
AKP and the Norwegian ML-movement were at times criticized for support of Marxist and communist regimes in other parts of the world, including the brutal regimes of Joseph Stalin, and Pol Pot. AKP openly endorsed the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, and when that party’s forces invaded Phnom Penh, Klassekampen had “Long live the free Cambodia” as their front-page headline. Support from AKP endured in spite of the killings, which were reported during Pol Pot’s rule. At that time, AKP considered these reports to be a part of a smear campaign against the new regime, and AKP had delegations visiting the country.
Much of the party’s inner workings have been clandestine in nature, for instance the precise number of members is kept secret. The party program has been considered militant, since it called for armed revolution before 1990, and kept the possibility of having to “defend the revolution with arms” open since.
“I will not say that the party did weapons training. But they take the rhetoric and worldview seriously; it will be very strange unless certain groups at least had weapons. AKP urged people to join shooting clubs, go into the military and join the service of the UN in Lebanon,” suggested the journalist Sjøli in an interview with Aftenposten.
In 2003 two former members of the party’s leadership, Finn Sjue and Egil Fossum, apologized for the totalitarian culture in the party.