In the last week of March 15 members of Socialist Youth Front (SUF) were recommended for expulsion. Two weeks later the leadership of SUF chose to expel these 15 members, who then appealed the decision at the congress on April 7-9. According to SUF’s constitution, any expulsions must be confirmed by a two thirds majority at the congress. In the end, this was only the case in 1 out of the 15 recommended expulsions.
What is SUF?
The congress where the expulsions were discussed also marked the 5-year anniversary of SUF. SUF is, as you can see, a relatively young organisation. It was founded as a union of two organisations, Rebel and the Unity List Youth Network (The Unity List – the Red/Green alliance is the most left-wing party in the Danish parliament). Up until the actual founding of SUF negotiations were taking place with Red Youth, a youth organisation which in the end chose not to participate in the founding of SUF. One of the reasons for this was that SUF chose to distance itself from the so-called former ”communist” regimes of Eastern Europe in its programme.
SUF is an independent revolutionary youth organisation, and has grown steadily over the last few years, a result of the growing radicalisation of the youth. SUF now has around 1000 members. SUF’s programme is extremely broad and more or less embraces all revolutionary youth who want to fight against capitalism and for socialism.
One thing that has been discussed since the founding meeting is the relationship between SUF and the Unity List. SUF’s programme makes it clear that “Socialist Youth Front is a broad and independent revolutionary socialist youth organisation and has no mother party. However, we see ourselves as part of the same anti-authoritarian tendency as the Unity List and therefore collaborate with them in our daily work”.
This is concretely expressed in the collaboration agreement with the Unity List, which is renewed every year. This agreement states, among other things, that SUF will run election campaigns for the Unity List.
Socialist Standpoint in SUF
Members of Socialist Standpoint participated in the founding meeting of SUF and have continued to participate in the organisation. We chose to be members of SUF because we believed then as we do now that the organisation has the potential to become a broad and strong revolutionary youth organisation.
Since the founding of the organisation we have worked to build SUF. We have built local branches, organised and participated in campaigns, and have members in the leadership. As far as possible we have followed the decisions taken in the organisation. It was clear from the beginning that our analysis at times goes further than the minimum programme of SUF, as is the case with many other members.
When the section on factions was introduced into the statutes of the organisation we were asked to declare ourselves as such, which we did. We have been open with our paper and have explained our ideas and work several times in the internal bulletin.
Socialist Standpoint has been the object of slander and pasquinades for many years in SUF. But the attacks against us have been stepped up over the last six months, and leading comrades in SUF have described our work as disloyal etc.
About a month ago all members of SUF received a copy of the internal bulletin. Inside was an appeal to the leadership to expel Socialist Standpoint, signed by 83 members of SUF. Most of the leadership had signed the appeal. The secretariat, i.e. most of the apparatus, was behind the expulsions. The expulsion appeal had been prepared in advance and over a long period by a group called Paragraph 4 (Paragraph four is the section on expulsions in the statutes of the organisation). Paragraph 4 has an internal mailing list, their own meetings etc, and have never openly declared that they exist, yet they accuse us of holding back information.
We were not given the opportunity to defend ourselves in the internal bulletin. Afterwards the process was anything but pretty. The intention was that those who were recommended for expulsion should not be made aware of it before the membership of SUF was, even though it was later discovered that the executive committee of the Unity List was informed before the internal bulletin was sent out. Those recommended for expulsion never received word of any individual charges and therefore had no opportunity to defend themselves individually. Besides this, the rules for sending out material to one of SUF’s internal mailing lists, SUF-info (which has by far the largest amount of people on it), was changed just before the process of expulsion began. Despite the rule stating that members of the leadership could write to the list, one of the members of the leadership, who was recommended for expulsion, was deprived of this right.
Sufficient time was not allowed in several regions for the election of representatives of the leadership. There were many cases of open lies and slanderous comments being made against Socialist Standpoint. People began moving to various regions and text messages were sent claiming that we wanted to carry out a coup in SUF etc.
The leadership then decided to expel the 15 with the 4/5 majority that was required, even though 3 regions had not had the opportunity to elect regional representatives. There was even a case where one of the organisers of a regional meeting was phoned up and asked to postpone the meeting so that the expulsions could be pushed through more easily.
The leadership also chose to misinterpret the statutes in such a way so that all our membership rights were taken away. This meant that we were taken off most of the mailing lists, we lost the right to participate in branch meetings and we were refused the right to speak and vote at the congress!
At the congress we were not even allowed in to the meeting hall. We were also not permitted to participate in the discussion about the procedure and had to wait in the entrance for 5 to 6 hours and wait for our case to be put on the agenda.
Throughout the entire process, as well as during and after the debate, enormous pressure was put on everyone and anyone who stood against the expulsions.
In the process we were accused of everything under the sun; from having a songbook to being dogmatic, vulgar Marxists. Our work was said to be disloyal, and last but not least we were even accused of being reformists! These were the accusations that were in the expulsion appeal – in the official expulsion letter it said: that our work was disloyal because of our active membership in Socialist Standpoint.
We were expelled on the Friday evening after the meeting of the leadership. The leadership came and provided us with the reason for the expulsion 48 hours later - a procedure which is completely unheard of! First we get expelled and only afterwards do we get to know why.
Nothing could be further from the truth than the accusation that we are reformists or Social Democrats.
We are revolutionary socialists – we argue that workers and youth must take power in to their own hands, take over the means of production and democratically plan production. But the question is, how to achieve this?
Socialist Standpoint has run a campaign since the right-wing government came to power with the following slogan: for a workers’ government on a socialist programme! We urge people not only to vote for but also become members of the traditional workers’ parties: the Social Democracy, the Socialist People’s Party (SF) and the Unity List. But we do not argue that people simply support these organisation - none of these parties are at the present time capable of forming an opposition - but argue that they must put pressure on the leaders to adopt policies for improving welfare.
SUF organises election campaigns for the Unity List, which at the present time gets around 4% of the votes. Over the last period the Social Democracy has seen its support sink to new depths: recently they received only 19% support in the polls- the lowest in 103 years! However, only an insignificant part of the deserting social democrats has gone over to the Unity List.
There is no doubt that the Unity List is the party furthest to the left in parliament, but there is also no doubt that at the present time they are absolutely unable to attract the big majority of workers and youth.
As a revolutionary you must have completely clear political ideas but a flexible attitude towards tactics. The question is how do we reach the big majority with our ideas? We do not do this by isolating ourselves and shouting insults at the majority. There is no doubt that the leadership of the workers’ movement has right-wing policies. But the majority of workers still have illusions in the traditional organisations. As Marxists we have no organisational fetishes – we are where the workers are. And history has shown that when the working class begins to move they move first and foremost through their traditional organisations.
SUF works on election campaigns for the Unity List, and that is okay – but what do we say to the big majority that do not see the Unity List as an alternative? What do we say until that day when the Unity List gets an absolute majority in parliament? The Unity List gave parliamentary support to the Social Democrats the last time there was a centre-left majority government in the 1990s, which was led by the Social Democrats in coalition with the bourgeois party with a misleading name, The Radical Left. The Radical Left is used by the Social Democratic leadership as an excuse to make cutbacks. We think it is our duty as socialists to show that there is an alternative; a workers’ government on a socialist programme. There can be no doubt that we must support a Social Democratic government against a right-wing one.
In 1917, when the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries were in power in the Soviets, Lenin said, “All power to the Soviets!” He said to the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries: “Take power, the workers have given it to you!” Through experience the workers would test the leadership of the soviets. We say: give power to the workers’ parties, join them and fight for a socialist policy.
The campaign against the expulsions
When we became aware of the expulsion appeal we began organising our own campaign against the expulsions. Before the leadership meeting was held to decide on the expulsions two campaigns were launched. Both those who had signed the appeal (paragraph4) and those up for expulsion travelled around the entire country to visit branches and regional meetings.
It was clear that we did not have the resources to match those of the paragraph4 campaign. However, very soon it became clear that many SUF members were against the expulsions and were ready to fight against them. We got 76 signatures on our appeal against the expulsions. Most of those who signed did not agree with our political ideas, however they also did not think that we should be kicked out of the organisation. The Democratic Network was formed to fight for a democratic and broad based SUF and to fight against the expulsions. We established a mailing list and a website etc, to mobilise our forces. One of the tasks of the Democratic Network was to mobilise for the congress. When it was discovered that the leadership was not going to allow those up for expulsion to participate in the debate at the congress, we mobilised the Network to get people to speak.
The debate on the expulsions at the congress lasted more than two hours. There were many excellent contributions made in the debate, both from Network supporters and also from other SUF members who had nothing to do with the Network. 40 percent of the contributions were against the expulsions and many went up to the rostrum for the first time ever. The debate showed the enormous potential in SUF. It showed that around the country there are a lot of young revolutionaries who are not afraid to speak up even though it is against the majority.
That the expulsions were defeated must be seen as a major victory not only for Socialist Standpoint, but first and foremost for the Democratic Network and for democracy in SUF.
Why we were up for expulsion
Over the last few years we have seen a radicalisation of the youth. We have seen many struggles where students have taken to the streets. This radicalisation is naturally reflected in the youth organisations, both in terms of growth and in a sharpening of discussions.
There is no doubt that many political tendencies are gathered in SUF, some more organised than others. There have been discussions on the revolution in Latin America, on work in the student movement etc.
Support for the ideas represented by Socialist Standpoint has been growing both inside and outside SUF. This meant that some members of SUF increasingly saw us as a threat. It was made clear by several people during the expulsion process that these were political expulsions, and that there were plans to begin discussions on a programme for SUF. Naturally, it would be easier for these people to win the discussion and get the programme they want if Socialist Standpoint was expelled and not present.
Whether we were expelled or not, our ideas cannot be removed from the revolutionary youth and their organisations. Nor is it possible to remove political discussions, disagreements and the pursuit of answers from the youth. As the struggle sharpens, and as SUF grows in age and experience, the discussions in the organisation will also sharpen.
We are happy that we can participate in these discussions and put forward our ideas. We believe that it is the ideas of revolutionary Marxism, which we represent, that can lead the workers and youth to victory – and we will continue to fight for them.
We urge all to stay in SUF and continue the fight for a broad and democratic SUF.
For a strong, broad, democratic and revolutionary SUF!