A contribution to the criticism of RK’s position paper

By Espen S., February 2024.


In July 2023, the editorial board of Maoisme.no sent out a call for “input to [RK]’s program process, and especially criticism of the current position paper”.1 This call was necessary and right, and based on critical input and suggestions from within and without, RK’s first congress in the fall of 2023 was able to adopt a slightly revised version of the platform (which I will refer to as Standpunkt from here on out).

The revision of the platform was clearly a step forward. However, the “input and criticism” campaign is still ongoing, and the public report from the national congress emphasizes that the current platform is only valid “until a more long-term platform is adopted“.2

When Standpunkt was adopted in 2022, it served two functions: firstly, to clarify the principles and views we had already managed to unite around at the founding; secondly, to delimit ourselves from other nearby organizations on the left, thus explaining the need for a new organization. The document was necessary for the revolutionary communists to be able to gather in a new organization, and expressed a mainly correct political line. Nevertheless, it bears the mark of being unfinished and incomplete; it is the platform of a newborn organization that has not yet learned to walk. Through study, discussion, participation in political struggles, correspondence with comrades at home and abroad, etc. we have developed our positions on several points. At the same time, ideological and political contradictions have emerged in the organization, in addition to organizational and political challenges we could not foresee in 2021, which must be resolved through joint study and an honest and thorough debate.

This document is a contribution to the campaign to criticize the Standpunkt document, and contribute to the development of a new platform. The document is primarily meant as input for further discussion, and not a collection of ready-made answers.


The Standpunkt defines capitalism as follows:

Capitalism is an economic system. It is characterised by commodity production, and by the fact that the means of production (natural resources, tools, machines, etc.) are owned and controlled by private individuals. We call this owning class “capitalists”. What gets made is determined not by what people need, but by what creates the most profit for the capitalists.3

According to the Standpunkt, a defining criterion of capitalism is that the means of production are owned by “private individuals”. However, this is only one form of capitalist ownership among others. The above definition excludes state monopoly capitalism, bureaucratic capitalism and cooperative capitalism, where groups of workers own commodity-producing enterprises that compete with each other in a capitalist market. This shortcoming in the document has already been pointed out by a Danish comrade in “Kritiske bemærkninger”,4 and I join this criticism.

Furthermore, it states that: “This fundamental contradiction in capitalism makes it an unstable system with cyclical crises. When these crises hit, the capitalists will shift the burden of the crisis onto the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie, that is to say the vast majority.”5

This is imprecise. I assume that “petty bourgeoisie” is used here as a collective term for the various different layers that are placed between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, and which should preferably be called “middle strata”. It is characteristic of the class structure in imperialist countries that the middle classes constitute a relatively large group, while the actual petty bourgeoisie is relatively small (but by no means politically or economically unimportant).

The middle classes include various kinds of functionaries and bureaucrats in the “private” and “public” sectors, teachers, academics and other similar occupational groups. What they have in common is that they are formally wage earners, but they do not participate in production as such, they have a relatively privileged position in relation to the proletariat, they are dependent on the bourgeois state apparatus (middle layers in the public sector), or they coordinate and administer production in capitalist enterprises (middle layers in the private sector).

The actual petty bourgeoisie consists of small property owners, who mainly live from their own work and, at most, have a few employees. In 2022, just under 330,000 people were registered as self-employed in Norway, and two-thirds of these received their main income from salaries and pensions.6 If we use the number of self-employed as a starting point, we can assume that the petit bourgeoisie accounted for around 12% of the employed in 2022.7 By comparison, Lysestøl estimates that the middle classes accounted for around 45% of the employed population in 2019.8 I believe that this estimate is too high, as Lysestøl includes some groups in the middle classes that have more in common with the proletariat, such as social workers and nurses. Nevertheless, the main point remains: the small property owners do not constitute the majority of the middle classes, and today it is misleading to use “petit bourgeoisie” as a general term for the layer between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

A more correct formulation would have been: “[the capitalists will] shift the burden of the crisis onto the proletariat and the middle strata, including the petty bourgeoisie”.


The chapter on imperialism defines imperialism as the monopolistic stage of capitalism. Lenin’s definition of the economic nature of imperialism is correctly reproduced, but the document failed to define the political nature of imperialism, namely that imperialism divides the world into two mutually hostile camps: the oppressor nations on one side and the oppressed nations on the other. Without this in mind, it is impossible to understand what role different states play within the world system, what lies behind political events in the world arena, or why the class struggle in imperialist and oppressed countries takes different forms.

That is why the focal point in the Social-Democratic program must be that division of nations into oppressor and oppressed which forms the essence of imperialism, and is deceitfully evaded by the social-chauvinists and Kautsky. This division is not significant from the angle of bourgeois pacifism or the philistine Utopia of peaceful competition among independent nations under capitalism, but it is most significant from the angle of the revolutionary struggle against imperialism.9

Norway belongs to the imperialist camp; the camp of oppressor nations. The Norwegian bourgeoisie is not held down by foreign imperialism, but participates in the oppression of the majority of the world’s peoples. Norwegian monopoly capital exploits the proletariat in the oppressed countries, Norwegian society is permeated by imperialist parasitism, and all classes in Norwegian society benefit (to a greater or lesser degree) from Norway’s position in the international imperialist division of labor. This is what has made it possible for the bourgeoisie to “buy up” significant parts of the working class — a privileged layer of highly paid workers who are separated from the rest of the proletariat, and who are particularly susceptible to reformism, patriotism and other bourgeois ideology. That the Standpunkt neither addresses the labor aristocracy nor Norway’s actual position in the imperialist world system, the material basis for reformism in the labor movement, is one of the most serious shortcomings of the document.

Although Lenin’s theory of imperialism is still fundamentally valid, there have been important changes in the imperialist system over the last hundred years, and especially after the restructuring of the world economy since the 1970s. I will not go into details here, but just briefly mention some of the most important changes:

  • Traditional colonialism, based on territorial control over areas outside the “motherland”, was more or less abolished through the wave of wars of national liberation in the period around 1945-1970. Most oppressed countries today are semi-colonies, which are formally politically independent, but economically dominated by the major imperialist powers.
  • The traditional “international division of labor”, where the imperialist countries export industrial products while the (semi-)colonial countries export raw materials, has changed fundamentally. Since 1970, industrial production has moved to the global South at an explosive pace, and in 2010, 79% of the global industrial workforce was concentrated in “developing countries”.10
  • The bourgeoisification of the working class in the imperialist countries, especially after the “golden decades” following World War II, has proved to be more prolonged and profound than Lenin (and Marx/Engels) could have envisioned.

About replacement, the Standpunkt says:

In capitalism’s imperialistic stage, capital export gets special importance; that is to say the imperialist countries get incomes through direct investments or loans to other countries, instead of exporting goods.11

This is not incorrect, but still an incomplete representation. The exploitation of the oppressed countries occurs not only through direct investments and loans, but also through portfolio investments (“The Oil Fund” owns an average of 1.5% of all listed companies in the world!)12 , and not least the unequal exchange between imperialist countries and oppressed countries, where the oppressed countries are forced to export their goods at prices below their actual value. In this way, there are massive value transfers from oppressed countries to imperialist countries, which cannot be explained by referring to capital exports alone. These value transfers are not captured by traditional economic statistics, as a large part of the value created in the Third World is counted as part of the GDP of the imperialist countries.13 Hickel, Sullivan and Zoomkawala estimate that the transfer of value from the global South to the global North in the period 1960-2021 was equivalent to 152 trillion US dollars.14 These massive sums are completely invisible in public statistics. Whether this calculation is correct or not, I will not comment on it here — the point is that traditional capital exports are not a sufficient explanation of how the imperialist exploitation of the oppressed countries is taking place today.

Communism and socialism

The chapter on communism states that “[n]o society has reached communism, but the Soviet Union and China were on their way when they had socialism”.15 For Marxists, socialism is neither a mode of production nor a form of government, and thus cannot be something a country either “has” or “does not have”. Socialism is a transitional society in which the proletariat is organized as the ruling class, uses its organized monopoly of violence to suppress old and new bourgeois forces, and consciously steers society towards communism. The economy of the transitional society is characterized by features of the old capitalist mode of production, and features of the new communist mode of production, which is becoming increasingly prevalent in all areas. It is this understanding of the transitional society that dominates the Standpunkt, but the sentence about the Soviet Union and China should be rephrased to say that they “moved towards communism when it was the proletariat that ruled and steered the development of society along the socialist path”.

The third paragraph of the chapter on socialism states that “[u]nder socialism, we will need a strong state with the ability to use violence, that prevents the old bourgeoisie from taking power again”.16 This formulation is open to misunderstanding. It is quite correct that the proletariat must be strongly organized as a ruling class, i.e. exercise a strong class dictatorship, but this is something quite different from a “strong state”. We can compare the formulation of a “strong state” with the slogan of a “free state”, which Marx criticizes in “The Critique of the Gotha Program”:

It is by no means the aim of the workers, who have got rid of the narrow mentality of humble subjects, to set the state free. In the German Empire, the “state” is almost as “free” as in Russia. Freedom consists in converting the state from an organ superimposed upon society into one completely subordinate to it; and today, too, the forms of state are more free or less free to the extent that they restrict the “freedom of the state”.17

It is good that the document states that “The violence apparatus of this new state (army and law enforcement) must be a part of the general armament of the people, and not a standing army and police force separate from the people”.18 This point should be expanded and made more concrete.


The document says:

That we are Maoists also means that […] we work to serve the people, that the people’s interests always come first19

When Mao spoke of the people, it was always in connection with the opposite, the enemy, and he emphasized that these were not static categories, but a dynamic pair of opposites that changed according to the political situation:

We are confronted with two types of social contradictions — those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people. The two are totally different in nature.

To understand these two different types of contradictions correctly, we must first be clear on what is meant by “the people” and what is meant by “the enemy”. The concept of “the people” varies in content in different countries and in different periods of history in a given country.20

The RK’s Standpunkt speaks of “the people” without defining either the people or the enemy. The phrase is therefore politically meaningless, and at best contributes to confusion. At worst, the formulation of “serving the people” can be used as a justification for unprincipled populism, and it is not difficult to find examples from the history of the communist movement where the category of “the people” has been used in precisely this way.

The formulation that “the interests of the people are always most important” does not distinguish between short-term and long-term interests, subjectively understood interests and objective interests, and is therefore not Marxist, but populist. Of course we are not against “the interests of the people”, if we understand this as the common long-term interests of the non-ruling classes in Norwegian society, but then we have moved to a level of abstraction that has little to do with the wording. The Communist Party is the party of the proletariat, not a “people’s party”, and our task as communists is to fight for the long-term interests of the proletariat by working for the proletarian world revolution and the transition to communism at the world level. Everything we do, even when we participate in struggles for the short-term interests of “the people”, must be directed towards this long-term goal.

The document suffers partly from what I call “Lego Maoism”, where the three stages of development in MLM appear as three separate parts (Marxism, Leninism and Maoism) stacked on top of each other. The development of scientific socialism is portrayed as a linear, quantitative process of development, where each of the Marxist classics Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao builds on the previous one, making the theory ever more complete without stirring the existing paradigm. In other words: continuity all the way through, but never rupture. In “Lego Maoism”, Maoism is understood as a defense and complement to Marxism-Leninism as synthesized by Stalin. This underplays how Maoism breaks with Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy in essential areas, and especially in organizational theory.21

About Stalin and the capitalist restoration

In the section on Mao’s assessment of Stalin, it is stated that Stalin showed “[a] lack of understanding that the class struggle continues under socialism, and that one must let loose the masses to prevent counter-revolution both in society in general and in the Communist Party in particular.”22 This criticism is not correctly formulated, and prone to attack. Hoxhaists and other “orthodox Stalinists” will be able to dig up quotes that prove that Stalinrecognized after all that the class struggle continues under socialism.23 In fact, they will be right to a certain extent — the problem was not that Stalin did not understand “that the class struggle continues under socialism”, but that he had an incomplete understanding of what this class struggle is about. For Stalin, the class struggle under socialism was first and foremost about crushing the remnants of the old ruling classes who have had their property expropriated, preventing outside attacks by foreign imperialists, and suppressing remnants of bourgeois ideology:

The mistake of Bukharin and his friends is that they identify the growing resistance of the capitalists with the growth of the latter’s relative importance. But there are absolutely no grounds for this identification. There are no grounds because the fact that the capitalists are resisting by no means implies that they have become stronger than we are. The very opposite is the case. The dying classes are resisting, not because they have become stronger than we are, but because socialism is growing faster than they are, and they are becoming weaker than we are. And precisely because they are becoming weaker, they feel that their last days are approaching and are compelled to resist with all the forces and all the means in their power.24

Mao’s theory of the class struggle under socialism is a fundamental break with the Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy in this area, as formulated by Stalin and the Comintern. While Stalin assumed that the victory to socialism was inevitable, and that the socialist transformation of the relations of production was largely completed with the collectivization of agriculture, Mao assumed that capitalist restoration was not only possible, but the most likely outcome:

In the two decades since his initial dispute with the USSR in 1956, by 1976 Mao regarded the concept of revisionism as both an analytical prediction and a target for mass political mobilization. In the tug of war between socialism and capitalism, the former could take nothing for granted in its favor. In effect, capitalism loomed as the “probable” winner.25

The socialist transformation of society is an uphill struggle. The class struggle persists in socialist society, not only because of ideological “remnants” and enmity from outside, but because socialist society, which has not yet developed into the “higher” phase of communism, contains features that constantly breed new bourgeois elements. Lenin said that “small-scale production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie uninterruptedly, daily, hourly, spontaneously and on a mass scale”,26 but even when collectivization is complete, there are seeds of capitalism in socialist society. An important reason for this is that the exchange between the collective and public sectors mainly takes the form of commodity exchange — Stalin identified this as the most important reason why the commodity form cannot be abolished in the first phase of communism, but he was unable to see that the “socialist commodity production” breeds new bourgeois elements, and that the seeds of the new bourgeoisie are concentrated in the communist party itself.27 The reasons why new bourgeois elements are produced under socialism are complex, but some of the most important internal reasons are:

  1. The continued existence of commodity production, the law of value and bourgeois right
  2. That the division of labor between intellectual and manual labor has not been abolished
  3. That the Communist Party has a leading position in the socialist society, and thus becomes the center of the class struggle in the superstructure

On the distinction between a unity platform and a program

As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the Standpunkt was “to clarify the principles and views we had already managed to unite around at the founding [and] to delimit ourselves from other nearby organizations on the left”. The document was thus intended as a unity platform: a document that establishes the general principles and positions that unite the organization. This is not the same as a program, which is a battle plan for the revolution, and a description of the tasks of the revolutionary proletariat in the short term (minimum program) and longer term (maximum program).

Of course, there is no Chinese wall between the platform and the program, and both types of document must contain “elements of principle” and “programmatic elements”. Nevertheless, I believe that the main task of the League at this point in time is not to develop a program, but a unity platform that establishes the various principles that unite us, and that answers the question: what does it take to call oneself a revolutionary communist in Norway? This must also be based on a fundamental analysis of the Norwegian social system, the relationship between the classes in Norway, the historical development of Norwegian capitalism, Norway’s position in the imperialist world system, etc. A central weakness of the Standpunkt is that it remains exclusively on the level of “principles” and says very little about Norwegian society, the actual class struggle, the tasks of the proletariat in the current conditions, etc.

There are no shortcuts to the program

We have set ourselves the task of working for the socialist revolution in Norway, as part of the proletarian world revolution. This requires that we not only have a firm grasp of the general principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but that we make a thorough analysis of the concrete situation in which we work. For us, this means first and foremost analyzing the Norwegian social system and how it relates to the imperialist world system. This analysis cannot be pure armchair work, carried out by isolated intellectuals with no ties to the masses. Our theory should not be a descriptive sociology that “explains” society from an “outside” perspective, but must be a guide to action, a map of the class struggle drawn “from within”.

Although we have made progress since our founding, both in terms of membership, political level and ability to take action according to a common plan, the League is still at a relatively low organizational level. We have weak ties to the masses, and we particularly lack political influence among the most oppressed layers of the proletariat. An important obstacle (but not the only one!) to strengthening contact with the masses is that our platform is abstract, does not seem to be based on a concrete analysis of the Norwegian class structure and a standpoint in the actual class struggle, and does not provide enough guidance for action. We are faced here with an apparent paradox. On the one hand: The lack of a systematic class analysis and a concrete program means that we are without a guideline for our practical work, and that we have little ability to win trust and support among the most advanced parts of the proletariat. On the other hand: Without the trust and support of the most advanced part of the proletariat, we are in danger of our platform becoming a mere desk product, and that we willfully reproduce the divide (contradiction) between the communists and the masses. We must accept that there is a contradiction here, while at the same time believing that the mass line is the key to resolving this contradiction.

Theses for a platform

The following are some concrete suggestions for formulations that should be included in a unity platform for the communist league. The order of the theses is arbitrary.

  • Imperialism has divided the world into two hostile camps: on one side, a few oppressor nations that plunder the rest of the world, and a large majority of oppressed nations on the other.
  • Norway is an intermediate imperialist country, and belongs to the camp of oppressor nations. The Norwegian bourgeoisie has joined alliances with stronger imperialists (NATO, EU), but has in no way lost its position as a ruling class, i.e. its sovereignty.
  • The proletariat is a thoroughly international class. The Norwegian proletariat is not separated from the international proletariat, but is merely a “division” of the international proletariat.
  • The main enemy of the proletariat in Norway is the Norwegian bourgeoisie. Expressed in another way: the main contradicion in the Norwegian social system is between the bourgeoisie on one side and the proletariat on the other. It is only these two classes today that are capable of leading broader layers in transforming society.
  • The Communist Party in Norway is a branch of the party of the international proletariat, and therefore does not fight exclusively for “the Norwegian workers”, but for the total and all-round interests of the entire international proletariat.
  • The Norwegian state is founded on the territory of two historical nations: the Norwegian and the Sámi. The revolutionary proletariat recognizes the right of the Sámi people to national self-determination, up to and including secession from the Norwegian state, and full democratic freedoms and rights for the national minorities.
  • It is Norway’s position in the imperialist world system that has made the historical class compromise between workers and capitalists possible. As the crisis in the imperialist system develops, the basis for the class compromise disappears. Class antagonisms sharpen, and society divides more and more into two hostile camps: revolution and reaction.
  • The labor aristocracy in Norway is not a small, thin layer of union representatives, middle managers, labor party officials, etc., but a relatively large layer of well-paid workers who have a privileged position vis-à-vis the most exploited and oppressed parts of the class.
  • The labor aristocracy and the middle classes are privileged in relation to the proletariat, but are not themselves in power. In times of crisis, they therefore end up in conflict with the ruling sections of the bourgeoisie, but this conflict remains within the framework of capitalist society. The labor aristocracy and the middle classes therefore constitute a social basis for fascism, which appears to represent a “third way” between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
  • It is the poorest, most oppressed and marginalized in the proletariat that are most susceptible to revolutionary agitation in the short term, and it is in these layers that the reformist and bourgeois-democratic illusions are weakest. It is first and foremost the “deepest, lowest” layers of the proletariat that we must win over in the short term. Only when we have built a solid foundation among those who have the most to gain and the least to lose from a revolution, will it be possible to win over larger masses when the objective conditions have changed sufficiently.
  • The revolutionary communists fight for the greatest possible political autonomy for the proletariat, as the proletariat is the only revolutionary class in modern society. We do not make ourselves dependent on the bourgeois state, and we fight tirelessly against all kinds of ideology that would subordinate the proletariat to the bourgeoisie, or limit the struggle of the working class to short-term economic goals.

Comrades, let us continue to study and criticize the existing position paper, and let us continue to have an open discussion about the platform, both within the League and with comrades, friends, sympathizers, contacts and others outside the League.

1“RK ønsker innspill og kritikk”, Maoisme.no, July 22, 2023, https://www.maoisme.no/2023/07/rk-onsker-innspill-og-kritikk/.

2“RK har hatt landsmøte”, Maoisme.no, November 23, 2023, https://www.maoisme.no/2023/11/rk-har-hatt-landsmote/.

3“Platform of the Revolutionary Communists (RK)”, Maoisme.no, November 22, 2023, https://en.maoisme.no/2022/03/04/platform-rk/.

4“Bemærkninger til RKs standpunkt”, Maoisme.no, December 16, 2023, https://www.maoisme.no/2023/12/fra-danmark-bemaerkninger-til-rks-standpunkt/.

5“Platform of the Revolutionary Communists (RK)”.

6Christian Brovold, “Størst inntektsvekst for enkeltpersonforetak i primærnæringen”, Statistics Norway, December 22, 2023, https://www.ssb.no/inntekt-og-forbruk/inntekt-og-formue/statistikk/inntekter-personlig-naeringsdrivende/artikler/storst-inntekstvekst-for-enkeltpersonforetak-i-primaernaeringen.

7Statistics Norway, “Sysselsetting, registerbasert”, Statistics Norway, accessed January 12, 2024, https://www.ssb.no/arbeid-og-lonn/sysselsetting/statistikk/sysselsetting-registerbasert.

8Peder Martin Lysestøl, Arbeiderklassen: Visjoner om en annen verden (Oslo: Solum, 2021), 315.

9V. I. Lenin, “The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, Marxist Internet Archive, 1915, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1915/oct/16.htm.

10John Smith, Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016), 101. The reader should note that Smith is not a Maoist and does not include China in the imperialist camp. I disagree with him on this point — nevertheless, it is a fact that the global economic structure has undergone major changes, and that the weight of industrial production has shifted “southwards”.


12“The Oil Fund”, Norges Bank Investment Management, February 7, 2018, https://www.nbim.no/no/.

13John Smith, Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century, 259-63.

14Jason Hickel, Dylan Sullivan, and Huzaifa Zoomkawala, “Rich Countries Drained $152tn from the Global South since 1960”, Al Jazeera, May 6, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/5/6/rich-countries-drained-152tn-from-the-global-south-since-1960.



17Karl Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program”, 1875, https://tjen-folket.no/index.php/2017/05/06/kritikk-av-gothaprogrammet/.



20Mao Zedong, Om den riktige behandlingen av motsigelser (1957; repr., Tjen Folket Media, 2020), https://tjen-folket.no/index.php/2020/06/30/mao-om-den-riktige-behandlingen-av-motsigelser/.

21Ajith’s article “The Maoist Party” is well worth studying again. See K. Murali, “The Maoist Party”, in Of Concepts and Methods (Paris: Foreign Languages Press, 2020), 166-77.


23See, for example, Ludo Martens’ book Un autre regard sur Staline, where he writes: “Stalin emphasized that the class struggle continues under socialism, that the old feudal and bourgeois forces never ceased their struggle for restoration and that the party’s opportunists, Trotskyists, Bukharinists and bourgeois nationalists helped the anti-socialist classes to regroup their forces.” Martens, Ludo, En annan syn på Stalin (Stockholm: Oktoberförlaget, 2023). See also The Espresso Stalinist, “Stalin on Class Struggle Under Socialism”, The Espresso Stalinist (blog), July 30, 2011, https://espressostalinist.com/2011/07/30/stalin-on-class-struggle-under-socialism/.

24J. V. Stalin, “The Right Deviation in the C.P.S.U.(B.)”, Marxist Internet Archive, 1929, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1929/04/22.htm.

25Alessandro Russo, Cultural Revolution and Revolutionary Culture (London: Duke University Press, 2020).

26V. I. Lenin, “”Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder”, Marxist Internet Archive, 1920, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/ch02.htm.

27J. V. Stalin, “Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.”, in The Essential Stalin: Major Theoretical Writings, 1905-1952, ed. Bruce Franklin (1952; repr., New York: Anchor Books, 1972), 454.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *