A week with the Swedish young communists

The work our Swedish comrades are doing in organising their young members and supporters and building their party has many useful lessons for workers in Britain.

Proletarian writers

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The following article was written by a CPGB-ML member who attended the annual summer camp of communist youth organisation, the Revolutionary Communist Youth (RKU) in Lysestrand, Lyseskil, in July.

Our Swedish comrades were very welcoming and helpful throughout my stay with them, and very pleased to have a representative from the CPGB-ML at their camp. Between 150-170 comrades attended over the course of the week, with some staying for the entire seven days, and others dropping in for a few. The camp was a mix of Communist Party (KP) members, RYU members, party supporters, and their families.

The camp ran for seven days, with set-up and arrivals on Monday, and deconstruction and clean-up on Sunday. Party members provided rigging for a large enclosed stage, screen, speakers, and audio/PA system for speeches, slides, movies and performances. An adjacent gazebo hosed the Red Star bookshop and a Palestine solidarity shop (run by party members), as well as our own party’s stall.

Each day was well structured, with a variety of activities and events to cater for everyone. The Pioneers (RKU’s younger members) had their own survival-oriented camp with adult supervision, going hiking and playing capture the flag with the RKU. Each day generally consisted of talks, sports and other activities, and there was usually a musical performance in the evening. Highlights included an auction of donated items, which raised over £3,000 for the party.

Overall, the camp was a politically-oriented holiday, with political content mixed in with relaxation and recreation, providing an excellent opportunity for young Swedes to meet and speak with comrades from across the country.

The tasks involved in running the camp were shared by volunteers, with people being picking up kitchen shifts and other work.

Talk subjects included:

– The working class and the nation in 21st century Sweden

– The crisis in healthcare

– Ukraine beyond the lies and concealment

– The right to decent pensions

– 80th anniversary of the Spanish civil war

The Kommunistiska Partiet

The KP has dedicated cadres across the country, and several Swedish towns have communists serving on their local council. Comrades are regularly involved in local industrial disputes, as well as other demonstrations and protests. For example, Helsingborg branch is supporting workers at the Findus food factory, which is due to be shut down, and calling for it to be nationalised. All branches have regular stalls and paper sales.

A major issue the party is currently facing is the possibility that it might lose state funding (some £100,000 per year) for its newspaper, Proletären. This puts the employment of six communist journalists at risk, which naturally would impact the party’s ability to produce a weekly paper. Proletären is currently printed by a company wholly owned and staffed by party members, not by the party itself.

The RKU is quite separate from the party, although representatives are allowed to speak and make proposals at the party’s congress. The youth movement is seen as a distinct organisation, although with close ties to the party, and its main purpose is to educate young workers and raise their class- consciousness. While many members do progress to party membership, there is no assumption that every RKU member will do so.

Both the KP and the RKU have formal educational programmes, and a senior party member travels regularly to branches to conduct studies on and oversee the theoretical training of members.

Branches are responsible for collecting dues (with cadres contributing a percentage of their income) and forwarding these to the party to remain ‘affiliated’. This helps branches act more independently, having more branch funds and a sense of responsibility to engage in local politics.

The KP’s chairman, Comrade Robert Mathiasson, sees theory and education as being vitally important for the party in guarding against opportunism – especially as it is operating in an imperialist country. His party views organising in workplaces, from within and without, as a fundamental priority if it is to remain rooted in the working class.

Activity at the camp

While at the camp, I took the opportunity to interview Comrade Mathiasson on Brexit, as well as on the situation facing his party. (See Swedish communist party chair talks Brexit, Red Youth, 10 September 2017)

I also spoke with cadres from across Sweden about their organisational efforts and about the situation in Britain (Brexit being the topic on everyone’s mind), and about our party’s line on various issues.

I spent time getting to know various people associated with the Swedish party, including officers, cadres, members, RKU militants and supporters. It was a privilege to enjoy their comradeship, hear their stories, share songs, play football, go swimming and cook meals with them, as well as to discuss political theory and concrete situations.

Interview with Robert Mathiasson, chairman of the KP

What is the importance of theory in the party, and how do you train your comrades in Marxist theory?

I think it’s very important, especially in these times. The danger of opportunism is the greatest danger, especially as a communist party in an imperialist country, and you see it in many countries. There are two ways to fight opportunism: it’s theory and it’s rooting the party in the working class – being a part of the working class. In the party, in every level of the party, making sure workers are the majority.

Of course, it’s not like reading the Bible – you can’t find all the answers there, but you can see how revolutionaries were handling questions, and when you read it you see that it’s almost always the same questions that come up because we still live in a capitalist society with a class struggle. You can learn how they analysed situations, how they dealt with them. If you don’t do this, and if you believe you live in a brand new world and that’s all old history, then in a couple of years you won’t have a communist party.

How do you make sure you’re always engaging and bringing up workers in the party?

By focusing on the workplaces. If you don’t have party members in there then you have to come from outside. It’s there you have to be selling the paper, handing out leaflets, trying to make these workers see that there is a party for them.

We have almost no work when it comes to universities. Of course we should – a communist party should be in the universities too, but when you are small you have to focus. Even though it may be easier to get members in the universities, it’s not how many you are, it’s who you are, and it’s the workers: how you speak, what type of propaganda.

It’s not so much ‘What do we want to tell the workers?’, it’s ‘What’s moving in their heads, in their workplaces, and how do we make politics out of that?’ I know, and you know, that we often make posters and leaflets and so on with ourselves in mind: ‘How would I like to have this?’, but that’s not interesting. How can we do it so they see that and think: ‘Oh, there’s a party for me; it’s my questions, it’s my reality this party has in mind!’

Does the KP work with other left campaigns and groups in Sweden?

I think you have to try to broaden the party and at the same time build up the party core, and you have to do both. We have members that are really active around the issue of Palestine, against imperialist wars, against the EU, against Nato, for solidarity with Cuba and so on, and we have comrades that are chairs and sit on the boards of all these organisations.

The problem is that today all these organisations come to us and say: ‘Oh, please, can’t you find any comrade here to do this?’, and we have to say no, we need them for ourselves! So the main problem is that the left is really weak in Sweden.

What are the main challenges and obstacles to building a strong working-class movement and party in Sweden?

The main problem is the lack of class struggle. We have almost no strikes, almost no peoples’ movements when it comes to cuts in welfare and so on. That’s the main problem; that’s something we’re not able to change – we’re too small to change the objective or big situation. The main problem that we have to solve is that we, as a party, have accepted the idea that ‘Oh, it’s a bad situation, there’s nothing we can do,’ and we have accepted a role in the margins. It’s a matter of self-confidence as a party, and we have to break that mindset.

We have to see that there are great opportunities for us: that monopoly capital has invested all its political and economic resources in the European Union project, which is trembling in its foundations. Not that many years ago many workers trusted in the social democrats – trusted them to represent their interests. That’s not the situation anymore.

What is it that the elites are doing? They’re threatening war against the country, they’re threatening workers’ security, and everything else they can imagine, and we are the only party that can take these problems and make politics out of it. We have something to say: the workers need us, but we need to figure out how to make them realise this. We need to listen to people, not to judge them, trusting in the capability of the working class.

That I think is our main problem: the lack of self-confidence in the working class, and in the class party.