The International Communist Current and Norway: a critique by Mortiva Forlag

Some criticisms of the ICC's interpretation of reality. Originally published by some Norwegian communists called 'Mortiva Forlag', who for a while in the 1980s published useful reports on class struggles in Scandinavia.

Submitted by Red Marriott on April 28, 2007

(A few grammatical errors and spelling mistakes in the article have been corrected here.)

Originally published by 'Mortiva Forlag', Norway, in November 1989.
Reprinted by 'Echanges Et Mouvement' in Echanges no. 62, London, Oct-Dec 1989.



The "International Communist Current" (ICC) is an organisation with an extensive publication activity. Their press ought to be an important source of information for revolutionaries around the world. The contents of their papers must be treated in a serious manner. The same importance should be given to all revolutionary papers, but the press of the ICC stands out because of the great number of publications of these 'publishers'.

It is important to learn about and properly analyse the struggles of the workers. To a great extent we all have to rely on the bourgeois press and other media, but as we know this is not a good source for learning about the class struggle. Even within the countries where we live facts and events will be concealed and distorted. Things going on almost next door will not be reported as thorough as we find necessary, not to speak of other countries or parts of the world.

We try to read as much as possible in order to gather information about the class struggle. Time, problems with foreign languages, and money limits the possibilities of reading paper and magazines. Even if we could read more, we would still have to rely on the bourgeois press to a great extent.

When we don't know the facts we can't form an opinion of events and developments. The less we know the more we have to guess and guessing is no good foundation for forming an opinion. Revolutionary papers should therefore be reliable and our best source of information about the class struggle.

We have read the press of the ICC for many years, but we are not 'impressed' by it. The reason for this critique of what the ICC has written about Norway in recent years is that I know the subject fairly well. But there is another important reason: the ICC has the possibility to write reliably about this country. It has a section in Sweden which ought to know conditions and events in Norway well. Norway is perhaps not the best example to choose. There have been no spectacular strikes like the Danish mass strike of 1985, the numerous wildcat strikes in Sweden in recent years, or the large strike movements in several countries around the world. Yet the ICC has found reasons to write about Norway. Other comrades should comment on the writings of the ICC about events they know well.

I don't know the internal 'division of labour' within the ICC, but I cannot imagine that they don't have some allocation of work with some fields to follow closely. I would guess that the section in Sweden has the task to follow the Scandinavian countries because of their geographical closeness, because they can understand most of the languages here without difficulties and because the general conditions are fairly similar. In short they should be in a better position than the other sections of the ICC to do this work properly.

I refer the reader to the letter dated "end of November 1988" which we have sent you, and for the benefit of those who have not read the articles of the ICC we enclose copies of some of their articles in English.


If we were to believe "World Revolution, monthly paper in Britain of the ICC", Norway was in turmoil in 1986. The working class was attacked so hard that it rose up as one man to fight back this attack at their wages.
"The Norwegian class responded to this with the most serious wave of struggles since 1931. ... Lock-outs ... meant 120 000 or 10% of Norways employed population were involved in the dispute." (WR No 94)

For those unfamiliar with the real situation this might look impressive. Unfortunately the reality behind this "most serious wave of struggles" was somewhat different. The main event was a lock-out by the employers federation (NAF) during the negotiation of national agreeents. In the process of these negotiations, the workers are almost totally excluded. When the lock-out was effected the workers were passively called out like pawns in a game of chess. The whole process of negotiating national agreements is a game between the employers, the unions, and the state with the workers as passive spectators. The lock-out backfired for the employers federation and revealed important differences of interests among the employers. LO - the main national union federation - emerged strengthened, and most likely with a stronger credibility among workers. In the middle of this muddle the government was changed from a centre/right to a social-democratic one. The whole left came out of this process strengthened. "World Revolution" sees the result of this through the spectacles of "Financial Times":
..but the deal 'turned out to be costlier than expected' (FT 17.4.A6).
Only struggle pays!" (WR No 94)

The comrades of WR uses phrases like "the most serious wave of struggles", "massive class struggles" and "struggles of the working class" completely uncritically. What do these phrases really mean? Comparing the real movements with the descriptions of WR, I can only come to the conclusion that by using such phrases which does not correspond to reality, "World Revolution" spreads lies. Lies in the sense that their descriptions and use of phrases does not correspond to reality, and thus giving their readers a completely false impression of what is going on. There should be no secret that the class struggle in Norway is at a low level. Hence any sign of a change is welcome, but events so far must be seen only as steps towards such a change. A true interpretation of the lock-out and strikes in recent years is that they could signal such a change.

"Communist Bulletin" No 11 (published by the "Communist Bulletin Group") contains a message from "Communist Internationalist", a group in India close to the ICC, saying:
"The proletariat, particularly in the metropoles, has been vigorously responding to these attacks, as shown by the waves of struggles since 1983 and confirmed by massive recent strike movements in Finland, Norway and Belgium."

The comrades of "Communist Internationalist" seems to have read the press of the ICC and taken their writing at face value.

If we now take a look at "Internationell Revolution", the paper of the section of the ICC in Sweden, we find a rather different story than the one presented by "World Revolution".

"The strikes and lock-outs called by the Norwegian LO and NAF ... was a result of on the one hand the growing dissatisfaction which exists in the Norwegian working class against the growing austerity, but also of a need for the Norwegian bourgeoisie to ... prepare for coming class struggle through releasing some steam of dissatisfaction. The big conflict in Norway, even if it was controlled by the unions and NAF ...signals a new situation, where Norway no longer will be an exception ..."("Internationell Revolution" No 19)
This is at least a more sober evaluation of the industrial disputes that took place.

I would think that the comrades in the Swedish section would have written to "World Revolution" and "International Review" to correct the false reports and interpretations of the events in 1986. Even if a correction of the erroneous views of WR would not be published, perhaps a more correct evaluation of the events would be seen in subsequent issues of "World Revolution" and "International Review". After all, the report in "Internationell Revolution" No 19 is closer to understanding and presenting the events correctly; and in an "internationally centralised organisation" one would expect such reports to circulate. But no, "World Revolution" No 95 and 96 and "International Review" No 47 still spreads the fantasies about the "massive strikes" of April 86:
... Finland and Norway have been hit simultaneously by massive outbreaks of struggle." (WR No 95)
"In Norway the massive strikes in April were followed..." (WR No 96) "These struggles, which followed widespread movements in Scandinavia and particularly Norway ..." (International Review No 47).
In the story of workers' passivity during the lock-out in 1986 there were a few places where workers tried to picket some hotels, resturants and a building site. In the general picture of the lock-out this was perhaps only one more way of letting out some steam of anger.

Whichever way you look at the disputes of April 1986 there was a lock-out, and that was the main event. The strikes were small in comparison. But still the ICC downplays this by writing: Norway there were up to 120 000 workers affected by strikes, including lock-outs ..." (International Review No 46)

The demonstration of "miners from Kirkeness" reported by "World Revolution" No 94 was a demonstration in the true spirit of trade unionism. Outside "Stortinget" (the Norwegian parliament) several local unions showed their solidarity by showing their union banner and perhaps a union bureaucrat to carry it.

Before I leave WR No 94 I have to make some 'minor' corrections. In 1985 the official rate of unemployment was 2.6% (54 000 people) according to "Statistical Yearbook 1988" which is the official statistics. Knowing how statistics are manipulated, the real figure might as well be 4.1% as "World Revolution" says, but then there is the question of sources. The real figure might as well have been 3.6% or 4.8% - the point in question is that the figure given by WR seems to be taken right out of the air.

WR has found 800 000 unemployed in Denmark out of a total population of 5 million. Please do what WR has obviously not done: take a look at those figures and think. 800 000 unemployed would be somewhere between 1/3 and 1/4 of the total working population. Unemployment in Denmark is rather high, in 1985 there were 252 000 unemployed and in 1986 there were 217 000. The total number employed in 1986 was 2 316 000. (All figures from Statistical Yearbook 1988)

We read that the employees in Helsinki came out on strike for a 6-20% pay rise. Not very precise, is it? And certainly not telling the reader anything about the reality of these demands.
Later in 1986 there were some strikes in Norway. The negotiations in the public sector between the state, local governments and unions ended up in some strikes at the end of May/beginning of June. Perhaps the most important thing happening was a demonstration in Oslo by some 20 000 people, protesting against the forced arbitration which ended these strikes. "World Revolution" spend exactly four lines on these strikes in No 96.
Official statistics gives the following figures for "work stoppages" (i.e. strikes and lock-outs) for 1986: 16 stoppages involving 165 742 wage earners, leading to the loss of 1 030 928 working days. (Statistical Yearbook 1988)

Before we leave the year 1985 I will mention "Weltrevolution", the paper of the section of the ICC in Germany, which has found more than 400 000 workers involved in the lock-outs in Norway (Weltrevolution No 22). Where do they find such figures?

In 1987, the year after the "massive struggles" of the Norwegian workers, LO and NAF agreed to give no general pay rise. The whole process of 'negotiations' were done in about 15 minutes - handshakes, posing for the photographers and everything. This should perhaps more than anything else tell who were the victors of the struggles of the preceeding year. And yes - WR was correct - only struggle pays. In the press of the ICC I have seen no mention of this agreement, even if it would tell their readers very much about the real situation in this country. Not even in "Internationell Revolution" have I found any notice about this.

However, in 1987 "Internationell Revolution" made a remark about Norway which we think is telling very much about how the ICC presents reality to its readers. In March 1987 the Swedish ICC section held a "public" meeting in Oslo. We told former comrades who had been in the KPL about this "important event in the life of the class", And at the meeting five of us turned up. Well into the meeting one person who was unknown to all of us turned up. What astonished us was reading in "Internationell Revolution" No 25: "The majority of the people taking part in the meeting were former militants of the KPL." This has something to do with perspectives; formally 5 people are the majority when 6 people come to a meeting. For a reader to whom these figures are unknown, the bombastic use of phrases certainly gives another impression of the congregation at this meeting.


"We have heard about a strike among teachers in Norway which has gone on for some time and which shall be "illegal". We don't know much about this, nor much about the situation in Norway. We should be happy if you could send us some more information about this strike or/and other matters of importance which happens in Norway." (Letter from Internationell Revolution 23.01.88)

"Although we have only sporadic access to information about the class struggle in Norway..." (Internationell Revolution No 28 /April 1988)

"Even though we don't in all details share the descriptions which the comrades makes of the situation we think that in general it gives a good picture of the present situation in Norway." (Internationell Revolution No 32, introducing excerpts from our letter of November 1988)

The Swedish comrades obviously don't know much about what goes on here, but still they can disagree on questions of details; but without informing their readers or us what these details are. But apparently the comrades of the section of the ICC in Belgium felt they knew enough about the conditions and details of the class struggle in Norway to write an article. We read a translation of their article in "World Revolution" No 115 /June 1988, and wrote a letter to "Internationell Revolution" in January 1989 in order to obtain a copy of the original article. We wrote a reminder in March and then received a letter from them explaining why we hadn't received it yet, and were told that the article was to be sent soon. To this day we have not received this copy, and therefore we have to use the translation printed in "World Revolution".

Let us look at what comrade "Anjou" has to tell about strikes in Norway. The article contains news about one strike and one demonstration on March 11th 1988. The article is not very precise about events, but the figure of participants is fairly correct (I don't know the exact number myself - the newspapers here wrote that more than 300 000 participated). The article does not mention that the strike was of a very limited duration - between 2 hours and half a working day - on March 11th. The way "Anjou" writes you might get the impression that the strike lasted much longer. The article is absolutely wrong in asserting that the strike was "against the advice of the unions". The fact is that the strike was called and organised by several white collar national union federations and some local union bodies, but the biggest union federation LO did not participate and called the strike "illegal". There are several reasons for this. The negotiations between LO, NAF and the government settled for a small fixed pay rise (1 krone) and a law was passed banning all further rises.

LO thus had its aims fulfilled: lowering real wages by giving almost no pay rise. The union federations outside LO protested against being excluded from real influence in the negotiations, as the result was binding for them also because of the law being passed. These union federations did not oppose the result in general, but wanted to distribute the wage rise in a different way. The strike was mainly in the public sector where the competition between LO and the other unions is fiercest. In the private sector, among workers and lower level
employees,LO is stronqer; often without any competition. LO is a social-democratic union, and thus it supports the social-democratic government. The other union federations are 'unpolitical' and have no particular allegation to the socialdemocratic government.

Some local union bodies of L0 took part in the strike and demonstration, and this was against the wishes and advice of L0.
But this was clearly a demonstration of the lower levels of the union bureaucracy which was protesting against the ban on local negotiations of wages. These local negotiations have been a very important field of work for the unions at the base, i.e. in the factories. Many workers supported this protest of the local unions and took part or were symphathetic to the protest.

The whole "lesson" which "Anjou" draws out of this strike is absolutely wrong.There is no reason to say that the strike showed a"mounting distrust of the unions", the majority of participants didn't go on strike "against the advice of the unions" - in fact none of the participants went on strike without being called by their union, either national or local, there were no attempts by workers to "take matters into their own hands". Further there were parts of the private sector taking part in the strike and demonstrations, so that the point of "didn't see the vital importance of spreading the fight to the private sector workers" is not in accordance with what actually happened.

But perhaps even more important than all this is that in the words of "Anjou" it is presented as a worker's strike, whereas in reality it was a union strike, and that is a hell of a difference.

The positions taken by revolutionaries are more and more determined by the actual class struggle. Arguments about theory and history are of course still very important, but more and more debates and positions will be based on workers' struggles, actions by the bourgeoisie, i.e. based on the present class struggle and a correct interpretation and analysis of these events.

What the ICC has written about Norway in recent years have neither been good reporting of the actual class struggle nor useful interpretation or analysis. Regarding Norway the views of the ICC and their presentations to their readers are wrong.

If what we have seen in the example of Norway is also typical for the general presentation of actual events in other countries, the press of the ICC is - of limited use for revolutionaries.



The original article also reprinted the ICC articles referred to in the text;
-World Revolution no. 94 - May 86, Scandinavia, workers must organise the extension of their struggles and no. 115 - June 88; Strike in Norway.

-International Review no. 46, 3rd quarter 86: Massive strikes in Norway, Finland and Belgium. From dispersion toward unification.



16 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Alf on April 26, 2008

I originally submitted this post on 9 May, 2007

The republication of Motiva Forlag’s critique of the ICC’s analysis of class struggle in Scandinavia in the 1980s is, if nothing else, a reminder of why it’s always useful to respond to criticisms at the time they are made. We are sometimes accused of spending too much time in polemics with other small groups (very often even smaller than ourselves) but if we were to respond to every criticism of the ICC (not to mention all the various attacks and slanders) we would never have time to write about anything else. I don’t recall why we didn’t respond to Motiva at the time, but it certainly would have been better to have dealt with the criticisms when the events were still fresh in our minds. As it is, an adequate response would need to begin with a good deal of research about events 20 years ago, which is not possible to do straight away given the amount of other more pressing demands on our time.

For the moment, just a few comments.

On Motiva’s text. It is perfectly valid for a group of revolutionaries in a particular country to make criticisms of what it perceives to be either factual or theoretical errors made by another group when writing about that country. But we don’t think that Motiva went about this in a very fraternal manner. If they were concerned about our errors, they could have written to us and begun a discussion with us, trying to convince us that we had made a mistake. My recollection is that they didn’t do this. The only mention of writing to us in the text is a reference to writing to our Belgian section to verify the translation of an article that in any case appeared in English. No doubt they are justified in complaining that they weren’t sent a copy of the paper they asked for, but this was hardly a starting point for a real exchange of views between us. Such a debate could have been either between the groups or in public, but either way its approach could have been very different from the one taken in the text, which seems to be only too willing to assume base motives on our part. For example, it leaps from what it perceives to be a factual error on the part of World Revolution to the accusation that we were lying. It then offers the conclusion that as a result of its alleged lack of concern for the truth in the case of Scandinavia, the press of the ICC as a whole is of limited use for revolutionaries. To dismiss the entire publishing efforts of a revolutionary organisation on such circumstantial evidence is, to say the least, a little harsh.

But there are other grounds for questioning Motiva’s approach. That is, it makes no attempt to relate the analysis we made of strikes in Scandinavia to the more general trends in the class struggle at the time, and thus to understand why we would have thought the struggles in Scandinavia were important; indeed, a grasp of our framework of analysis could also have explained why we might have looked at the same facts as Motiva but have interpreted them in a very different way. The ICC press during the middle of the 80s talked frequently the third wave of international class struggles since 1968. We saw large scale movements in Belgium 1983, in Britain (the miners’ strike) in Denmark in 1985, in France 86 (railways) in Italy 87 (railways, education sector), in Belgium again in 1986, health workers strikes in France in 1988, and so on. In a number of these movements (Belgium 86 being a very clear example) there were overt attempts by workers to spread their struggles from one sector to another. In movements such as the railway workers’ and health workers’ strikes in France or the education struggles in Italy, there were open attempts to organise outside the trade unions, (in assemblies, base committees etc) while in many others there was evidence of growing distrust of the union machinery. We also saw the development of struggle groups of active minorities in and across various sectors. Militants of the ICC and other proletarian groups participated in some of these groups; elsewhere revolutionaries were able to have a small but real impact on struggles, for example by being elected onto strike committees in the rail, and health strikes in France and the education strikes in Italy. For all these reasons we considered that this movement of the class not only had an international dynamic, but also that it was leading to gains in class consciousness and self-organisation.

For this reason, when we looked at strikes in particular countries, we always had in mind this overall dynamic. In many cases, the strikes formally unfolded as what Motiva calls ‘union strikes’, but because of the general potential in the movement, they often involved clashes between workers and the union officials or in workers taking the struggle further than the unions had intended. In sum, we don’t accept Motiva’s distinction between ‘workers strikes’ and ‘union strikes’ as a general rule, since there will not be any workers’ struggle between now and (after) the revolution which doesn’t have a greater or lesser degree of union involvement, and in a period when the class struggle is going forward it is even more important to keep this in mind.

It’s true that, regardless of the overall dynamic of a class movement, we can still overestimate the significance or potential or particular struggles. It’s possible that we did so in Norway, or elsewhere. One of the features of the movements in the 80s is that they were frequently blacked out by the bourgeois press, which made it difficult not only for workers in other countries to know about them, but also for revolutionaries to have a clear appreciation of their scale and significance (this of course is another reason why revolutionaries should cooperate in the dissemination of information about the class struggle internationally). In any case, as a re-reading of the articles in question will show (we will be putting the article from WR 94 online shortly), we hardly presented the movements in Scandinavia as pure and exemplary expressions of the class struggle. With the 1986 strike in Norway for example, we made it quite clear that the lock-out accounted for a large number of the sectors not working, and emphasised – both in the title and the conclusion to the article – that any real extension of struggles needed workers to take the struggle into their own hands. Perhaps we can be criticised for overusing the term ‘massive’ in this and other articles at the time: this isn’t just a question of numbers, but also of the symbolic, historical association of words. ‘Massive’, unless clearly explained, could give the impression that we are talking about the mass strike, such as Russia in 1905 or Poland in 1980, and clearly this is not what we meant. We certainly saw a potential for the mass strike in the movements of the 80s. This potential was broken, interrupted for reasons which we won’t go into here, and was followed by a long period of retreat in the 90s. But in our opinion this does not mean that what we called the international wave of struggle in the 80s was a hallucination (or a lie) on our part. On the contrary, we think that one of the weaknesses of the revolutionary milieu of the time was precisely its lack of awareness of this movement, its tendency to underestimate or dismiss its potential, a point we made in numerous polemics with other groups (such as the IBRP). And one of the methodological bases for this weakness was the ‘philosophy’ of empiricism - a tendency only to see the immediate appearance, the black and white facts at a given moment, and not to see the underlying dynamic. It was not accidental that one of the subjects of our polemic with the IBRP and others at the time was our notion of the subterranean maturation of consciousness, Marx’s Old Mole, a process in which a large element of the development of class consciousness takes place in a semi-concealed manner and which therefore cannot be ‘proved’ merely by resorting to facts and figures. Motiva’s whole approach suffers from this defect, in our opinion.

Motiva, to my knowledge, ceased to exist a long time ago, so there is little chance of resuming this discussion with them. However, the motivation of those who have republished this text (Ret Marut on libcom, and the so-called ‘Left Communist’ on was hardly to resume a debate that wasn’t given sufficient airing in the 80s. Suddenly bringing up a text that is nearly 20 years old seems to be just another attempt to discredit the ICC and warn people off us, in a not dissimilar way to the constant dredging up of Ingram’s ‘Open Letter to the ICC’ (which came up once again recently in a libcom thread started by a poster who asked a genuine question about what we see as the aims of our interventions). Its intent seems to be negative and destructive.

For our part, we hope that people will read our press not clouded by suspicion that it is all a tissue of lies, but in an open-minded and fraternal spirit. This has nothing to do with hiding criticisms or disagreements; on the contrary, we positively encourage their expression. But for debate between revolutionaries to lead anywhere, there has to be a recognition of an underlying commonality of interest and purpose – in short, a sense of solidarity.

This post has also been sent to

Red Marriott

16 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Red Marriott on April 27, 2008

Since you feel obliged to bring further attention to this - this is a belated reply to some of the claims Alf made when he originally posted his responses in 2007;
Alf on

This article was first posted up a couple of weeks ago on by Ret Marut, one of those on the site who are still extremely hostile to the ICC, and are deeply suspicious of the fact that many more people than in the past are prepared to listen to left communist positions, and to the ICC itself.

When have I ever expressed such a suspicion? Please link here to where I expressed that opinion. Otherwise retract it. There are some libcom posters who treat the ICC's presence as a running joke and take routine potshots of ridicule at them. As Alf well knows, I'm not one - I occasionally argue against what ICC do and say, with some substance to my arguments. This necessarily sometimes entails referring to the underlying psychological dynamics of the IMO 'sect' form of organisation and its conformity to an ideological belief system of eternal unyielding truths - but I don't dismiss them only as a cult, as plenty of others do. Which is not to say that they don't have some cult-like aspects to their behaviour.

This changing state of affairs certainly involves many people posting on libcom, and even in the collective which runs the site.

But if you mean your presence on libcom indicates a willingness to be listened to, I do think you're assuming too much. My impression is that for the most part people on libcom are bored, indifferent to and/or mildly amused by the ICC's presence. I realise that you use it as a shop window for presenting your ideology to the world (i.e. you see it as free advertising to the many non-posting lurkers) but I care little how many people 'are prepared to listen' to the mechanical repetitions on unions, nationalism, decadence and not much else. You may have influenced some people on those topics - (though I strongly doubt you've convinced anyone of the validity of your decadence notions) but again a critique of unions & nationalism is not at all exclusive to yourselves, but is a commonly held opinion by many on libcom, regardless of any ICC presence, so you claim too much undeserved credit. And, from your perspective, your presence hasn't translated into recruits. For example, how much has your desired 'influence' on libcom grown since you wrote the above, in May 07? Not at all, IMO.

Along with accusations of pacifism and moralism, Ret Marut frequently charges us with distorting the truth, bending facts, and downright lying. .

Another dubious claim - how frequent is frequent, when and where? On about two threads in the past year, I'd think, and justifiably, IMO. But then, why let the truth get in the way of a distortion?

Alf on libcom

However, the motivation of those who have republished this text (Ret Marut on libcom, and the so-called ‘Left Communist’ on was hardly to resume a debate that wasn’t given sufficient airing in the 80s. Suddenly bringing up a text that is nearly 20 years old seems to be just another attempt to discredit the ICC and warn people off us, in a not dissimilar way to the constant dredging up of Ingram’s ‘Open Letter to the ICC’ (which came up once again recently in a libcom thread started by a poster who asked a genuine question about what we see as the aims of our interventions). Its intent seems to be negative and destructive.

Methinks the ICC leader doth protest too much - against a text he claims as so invalid...

I do occasionally challenge some of the more reactionary, ridiculous and IMO occasionally anti-working class arguments of both the ICC and others on libcom, usually on fairly topical issues. The Mortiva text came up in conversation with some people, who expressed a desire to read it. That is mainly what prompted me to put it in the libcom library. The Motiva Forlag article shows that the ICC have a long history of bending reality to fit their rigid dogma. Recent threads on libcom show how repeately sloppy and dishonest they are regarding historical truth - they often have a major problem grasping the difference between assertion and fact; See;

There are also claims of ICC dishonesty from ex-members -
- some of which has been in the public domain for several years, so the claims of the Mortiva text will hardly be a startling revelation to those who have any interest in or direct experience of the subject.