SAP and the Red Green Alliance at the threshold of another century
Resolution adopted at the 16th ordinary convention of Socialistisk Arbejderparti, September 25, 1999
With this text we are sketching a new orientation in the building of a revolutionary organisation in Denmark, trying to take into account the actual situation in class struggle, on the left wing, and in SAP today and in the future.
The main point is that we start from one of the greatest achievements of SAP during the last ten years: the foundation, consolidation and development of the Red Green Alliance.
Our main goal is to contribute to the development of the Red Green Alliance into an organisation fit for intervention in the real struggles and movements, and a campaign organisation that can at certain times concentrate its forces on a selected political effort.
This new line in our party building perspectives means that we put an end to the idea of independent intervention and campaign work on the part of SAP. It does not mean that we dissolve SAP. But it does mean that the political work of SAP members should be oriented towards struggles and movements with the Red Green Alliance as the main pivot.
This orientation is only feasible if we start from and develop further the sum total of knowledge and experience that SAP possesses today. That is the second main task we set ourselves by this perspective.
Ten years ago the Red Green Alliance was founded. And five years ago we formulated our fundamental attitude towards the Red Green Alliance and our work there. [See the document »SAP and Enhedslisten« from 1995, translator’s note] Since then the Red Green Alliance has developed into a quite well consolidated organisation. Today the Red Green Alliance is so established that it would be able to survive even without its parliamentary representation.
- In the media and public debate, the Red Green Alliance is a regular part of the political landscape with its own well-defined role as the small opposition party on the extreme left wing.
- The Red Green Alliance has a significant power of attraction for those moving politically leftwards – regardless of their generation. Tendencies towards radicalisation in bigger or smaller groups in society will at some point unavoidably orient themselves in relation to the Red Green Alliance.
- The Red Green Alliance has developed politically and has showed unambiguous socialist positions in central political conflicts. A few examples:
a) The decisive touchstone: the wars in the Balkans
b) The internationalist criticism of the European Union
c) The support to the RiBus-strike and the principled opposition to privatisation, deregulation and austerity policies.
d) The defence of pensions and other aspects of social security
e) The collective wage contract bargains in 1998 and 1999.
- The Red Green Alliance is developing itself organisationally with regular structures and routines and small steps towards dealing with day-to-day problems. Apart from the right to be a member of another party, today the Red Green Alliance is a party like all others.
At the same time, the Red Green Alliance has lots of weaknesses: a low total level of activity, a limited ability to act collectively, as well as some tendencies towards adaptation and reformism in some parts of the organisation, significantly in the debates on responsibility towards the state and municipal budgets. We are not in a situation where the majority of the members are solidly rooted in revolutionary positions.
But fundamentally the political steadfastness of the Red Green Alliance has not been tested in struggle, that is, large-scale class struggles which put socialist parties to a test.
To sum up: We face a significant task in developing the Red Green Alliance to a more active engagement in mass work (movements, strikes and other struggles) and general extra-parliamentary action.
Today the Red Green Alliance is not in fact a revolutionary party in the classical Leninist sense (based on democratic centralism, with a developed program for a socialist revolution, etc.), and we do not consider it desirable to try to force a development in this direction. Neither the subjective, nor the objective conditions for such a development are present at the moment.
At this stage of development of the Red Green Alliance we can merely note that there is no pre-set limit as to how far the Red Green Alliance might develop towards an actual revolutionary party. But, on the other hand, the work of SAP inside the Red Green Alliance has such a policy as its guiding line.
All in all this must be seen as a significant victory, also for SAP. SAP took a great part in the initiative for the Red Green Alliance and its survival in the first difficult years, and still works hard in the day-to-day consolidation and development of the Red Green Alliance.
Today SAP possesses a great deal of knowledge, insight and experience which is a decisive contribution building the needed revolutionary organisation in Denmark. This consists of:
- Our programmatic basis.
As essential examples we can mention:
a) Our anti-capitalism which makes us seek the roots of concrete problems in capitalism and prevents us from limiting our demands to what would be feasible within the frames of capitalism.
b) Our position on democratic mass mobilisation as the instrument of change – through concrete partial results and through development of class consciousness.
c) Our socialist goal, the conquering of economic and political power by the working class through democratic institutions, on local, regional, national and international levels.
d) Our understanding of the necessity of a party – simultaneously democratic and centralist – as a tool for developing revolutionary politics and put these into action.
e) Our consistent defence of the necessity of revolutionary internationalism.
Because our programmatic basis is not identical to the SAP [founding] program adopted in 1980, and because it must constantly be developed and discussed, it is necessary for us in the nearest future to formulate this basis in brief.
As it is necessary to establish this as a common understanding in SAP, it is necessary that this basis is formulated as the result of a collective process.
- Our ability to answer day-to-day questions of politics on the basis of our program, avoiding both sectarianism and reformism. This ability is based on many years of experience. We have always tried to seek those answers that would mobilise the largest possible groups of people against the system.
But we have to be aware that this quality easily disintegrates when it is not being used. In the recent years we have not prioritised these discussions and the attempts to put them into practice.
- The political and organisational experience of our members.
- Our organisational apparatus, that is, our collective experience as well as our concrete tools: offices, structures, publications, regular arrangements.
- The Fourth International.
Together these pillars embody the capital and raison d’être of SAP. Other organisations might have big or small parts of this capital, but none other posses this totality today.
If SAP did not exist, we would have to invent it.
Constantly since the Red Green Alliance was founded as a distinct political formation, co-existing with SAP, we have had to appreciate how to build two organisations at once. At this convention we must make a balance sheet and decide how we are to continue.
We will start by considering three possibilities:
- We could leave the Red Green Alliance. Then we would weaken the building of struggles as well as the left wing and its parliamentary representation. That in itself would be bad and would, furthermore, decrease our own possibilities in the narrow sense. It would immediately isolate SAP from other anti-capitalists, and it would be impossible to explain politically.
- We could dissolve SAP and encourage everybody to devote themselves to the Red Green Alliance one hundred per cent. If we did that, we would effectively be destroying our political and organisational capital. Experience tells us that the insight and the political-organisational qualities of SAP cannot survive through individuals alone but has to be maintained in a collective organisational form.
- We could abandon all public manifestations of SAP and turn ourselves into a pure faction inside the Red Green Alliance with a goal of making the Red Green Alliance fill out the role of SAP as quick as possible and then maintain and develop our capital.
This would probably result in opposition against and defeat of our political-organisational orientation. The possibilities of propagating these positions over a longer period would disappear, and we would be isolating ourselves and maybe contributing to a split in the Red Green Alliance at a time when there is no reason whatsoever for doing so and when it would under no circumstances strengthen the building of a revolutionary organisation in Denmark.
Therefore, none of these possibilities are useful. In Denmark today, revolutionary work needs both SAP and a Red Green Alliance with traits somewhat akin to its present.
This means that we will have to choose a strategy by which we maintain and develop further the qualities of both organisations at once. This only becomes more difficult by the fact that we simultaneously must focus our work in order to prevent spreading our limited resources too much, but instead utilise them more effectively.
Building the Red Green Alliance presents us with many different tasks. If we are to exploit the special qualities of SAP in the most fruitful way, we must select some particular areas were we concentrate our contribution first of all.
- SAP members must work to establish closer links between the Red Green Alliance and the movements, to turn the Red Green Alliance into a struggling and campaigning organisation. To do this we must first of all work in those places and together with those members of the Red Green Alliance that are closest to movements and mobilisations. And, of course, we should argue for such as building perspective of the Red Green Alliance.
Besides strengthening the Red Green Alliance, such an orientation would develop SAP members who because of the objective situation and because of concrete prioritisation often lack experience in participating, building and leading extra-parliamentary struggles and movements.
- SAP members should develop the Red Green Alliance politically towards unambiguous, revolutionary Marxist positions. We should do this by participating in the formulation of concrete political answers and the related propaganda concerning political questions, including most importantly those that demand action and activity.
On the other hand we will not at present work for a programmatic development along revolutionary lines in the Red Green Alliance, because the objective preconditions for such a development do not exist. This, of course, does not prevent us from participating in those strategic and programmatic discussions that appear in the Red Green Alliance from time to time. At the same time we must start a discussion within SAP about our conception of the main traits of a revolutionary party.
- Already today SAP members have taken upon themselves many areas of responsibility in the Red Green Alliance, within local leaderships, commissions, national leadership, parliamentary representation and paid secretary jobs. In the coming period we must maintain these at the same level as today.
This whole intervention that has been sketched here is, of course, to proceed from the political basis of SAP. We must continuously discuss and decide upon those political questions and mobilisations that we also think the Red Green Alliance ought to work with. In doing this we must constantly search for possibilities of co-operating with the forces politically closest to us. This is also the case when activists from the Red Green Alliance should decide to join SAP.
But on the other hand, we are not, nor do we want to be, a disciplined faction establishing our position on single questions of debate in the Red Green Alliance and voting en bloc.
Between the two extremes: the unorganised single member of the Red Green Alliance and the disciplined faction, there are many variants, and it is only in practice that we will find the right model.
The building of SAP aims fundamentally to maintain and develop our present political and organisational capital, in order to facilitate the building of a revolutionary organisation in Denmark in the actual class struggle situation and in the organisational situation on the left wing.
In the forthcoming period this means that we must have three aims:
- We must (re-)formulate our political identity for ourselves and for external use. This could be in the form of a short programmatic resolution (it would be unrealistic to think that we are able to formulate a whole program for the next decade). It could also happen by participating in general and strategic discussions – without trying to force upon the Red Green Alliance a strategic clarification.
- We must begin to formulate political answers to the central problems and struggles, proceeding from our program as a central tool. This was one of the central qualities of SAP and the RSF [the predecessor of SAP during the seventies, translator’s note] in the period from the late seventies till the early nineties, but it has not been widely used and developed recently. This must be a part of branch meetings, branch leadership meetings, Political Committee meetings, National Committee meetings, the Socialistisk Information [the monthly magazine of SAP, translator’s note] and national arrangements. This will make our raison d’être more vivid and develop ourselves individually and collectively – and increase our ability to contribute to the building of the Red Green Alliance.
- We must establish closer links with the existing movements and struggles. We must constantly seek to become involved in movement and struggles, even if only short-lasting. This is the vital point for a revolutionary organisation.
At least in the forthcoming conventional period, but probably longer, there will be no reason to do this work in struggles and movements outside the Red Green Alliance, where we are part of a group with a larger contact surface.
In order to carry through these three parts of party work, it is necessary that we preserve the central party instruments: internal structures (branch meetings, branch leaderships, National Committee and Political Committee), national arrangements (convention, Easter seminar and the Socialistisk Information seminar in January) and our media (Socialistisk Information, our web site [www.sap-fi.dk] and ad hoc publications in connection with our national arrangements and the like).
The fundamental change in our political-organisational work will be that outward activities in movements, struggles and campaigns will be carried through within the Red Green Alliance, from beginning till end. This leaves us with a more narrow and precise definition of what we are to do in SAP. And this makes it possible for us down-size our purely organisational efforts.