Intervention by the
Communist Party of Denmark (DKP)
Henrik Stamer Hedin
A question we have been posing ourselves at these meetings since the beginning of the current world crisis is: Has the crisis put socialism on the agenda? Are the conditions ripe for a new revolutionary surge?
Three years ago we stressed in the Tshwane declaration the transition from capitalism to socialism as a necessity for civilisation. And two years ago, in Athens, at the meeting named “Socialism is the future!”, we wrote: “Today the conditions have been formed for the construction of wide social antimonopoly and anti-imperialist alliances capable of [...] promoting deep progressive, radical, revolutionary changes.”
So, what are these alliances like?
The great revolutions of world history come in waves or surges. Each of these surges is characterized by a specific coalition of revolutionary classes carrying through a specific transformation of society in a range of countries. Then the revolutionary thrust ceases, having exhausted its power, the world enters a new equilibrium, so to speak, or even a phase of counterrevolutions, which cancel some of the revolutionary gains, but not all. We are in such a phase of counterrevolutions just now – or perhaps we are already on the brink of leaving it for a new revolutionary surge to take its beginning.
This pattern can be traced back more than half a millennium, and it is fascinating to study. But that is not what I am going to talk about. I am going to talk about the latest revolutionary surge, that of the 20th century, and of the one to come.
The revolutionary surge we have been witnessing throughout most of the 20th century was characterized by the alliance of workers and peasants. This is almost a truism. It is a fact familiar to us all. We are also familiar with the great results obtained by this revolutionary alliance: The October Revolution and the Soviet Union, the emergence of workers’ and peasants’ republics, the first steps towards building of socialism in a third of the world. Even in countries like my own, where change did not take on a revolutionary guise, power was assumed and progress shaped by an alliance of workers and small peasants, inspired by socialism or socialist ideals.
This epoch of history, or rather its central phase, during which the revolutionary drive had its full thrust, lasted roughly from 1917 until 1959. The Cuban revolution was the last of the great, victorious revolutions of this era; later revolutionary uprisings, e.g. of the 70’s, were either put down or did not possess the strength to push through to socialism. The alliance of workers and peasants was losing its power to initiate revolutionary change. A few decades later, the counterrevolution set in.
What is the reason for this? Throughout the world, there are still workers and peasants; they are still oppressed and exploited. In many countries, the alliance of workers and peasants may still represent a relevant perspective. But in a number of countries, among which some of the most developed, a drastic change in the class structure of society has occurred.
In my own country, e.g., Denmark – a country of world-wide renown for high-quality agricultural produce – there are no peasants left. There is no peasantry any more. The farmers are few, they own very large estates and command huge capitals. They are not peasants anymore, they are highly specialized entrepreneurs. Neither are they capitalists, for the capitals they command are not their own; they are heavily indebted. In spite of the size of their estates, they have no or very few employees; they work the lands and tend their livestock themselves. But they are not workers, for they have no employers. In a way, they are still exploited, for they pay heavy interests to their banks and real estate credit institutes. But the solution to their plight lies not in collectivism but in further concentration and capitalization. At least, that is how they see it, and they act accordingly. Thus, they get fewer and fewer and are rapidly losing their power to influence politics; the liberal and radical parties which used to base their existence on the peasantry are still influential, but they have shifted their electorate emphasis to the affluent urban middle strata and partly to backward sections of the working class. The present Danish government is still composed of Social Democrats and Radicals, the traditional worker-peasants’ alliance; but the Radicals are not a peasants’ party anymore, and accordingly, the policies of the alliance have shifted far to the right of what they used to be.
This disappearance of the peasantry is not confined to a few affluent and highly developed countries. It occurs in slightly different ways in less developed countries too. The concentration and specialization of agriculture takes place here too, but the peasant masses are widely excluded from this development; they are driven from the land and forced to migrate to the huge, expanding slums around the cities, where they lead an existence as a modern pauper proletariat. We described this development in the Tshwane declaration.
So, if the peasantry is disappearing it is no wonder that the alliance of workers and peasants is losing its revolutionary thrust. What is going to replace it? Where will the working class have to seek its allies for the struggles ahead? How do we forge the alliance capable of bringing about the revolutionary surge of the 21st century? What revolutionary strategy will be needed?
My party, at its 33rd Congress last year, considered this problem and decided to carry through a “strategy development year”. We are still in the middle of this, but being a very small party I doubt that we will be able to provide a definite answer to the problem. Perhaps some other party of greater resources will even be able to phrase the problem more precisely than I have done. But we do think that these things need to be thought about in the global Communist and Workers’ Parties Movement. A new surge of revolutionary clashes is bound to be upon us in a few decades, if not earlier. The Communist and Workers’ Parties have to arm themselves for victory – for the victory of socialism in the new century.