It Is All About Politics
Niels Jørgensen, Torkil Lauesen, and Jan Weimann
Translated by Gabriel Kuhn
The first draft of this article was finished in May 2008. It was written by Jan Weimann, Niels Jørgensen, and Torkil Lauesen, who have been called the “inner circle” of the Blekingegade Group. All three of us were sentenced to ten years in prison for criminal activities motivated by supporting Third World liberation movements.
In September 2008, Niels Jørgensen died after a few days of sickness. This was a huge personal loss for us. It also made it difficult to finish the article. Yet, we decided to do so nonetheless, not least because Niels would have wanted us to.
Niels Jørgensen remains listed as a coauthor because the article’s contents have not changed since his passing and because he has clearly left his mark on the text.
Copenhagen, January 20, 2009 – Torkil Lauesen and Jan Weimann
The Article’s Intention
For the past few years, there has been extensive media coverage of the so-called “Blekingegade Gang.” Especially the journalist Peter Øvig Knudsen (PØK) and the retired police investigator Jørn Moos have made regular media appearances as a result of their books about the Blekingegade Group. In early 2009, both the documentary film Blekingegadebanden and the play Blekingegade premiered. A TV series produced by Zentropa is on its way.1
PØK’s two-volume work is widely regarded as the truth about the Blekingegade Group. Together with Moos’s books, it might well be considered the authoritative source on the subject in the future. We find this unsettling. The current media coverage of the Blekingegade Group is full of distortions and wrong assumptions The named publications have significantly contributed to this. At least in part, this article is a response to them.
The name “Blekingegade Gang” is a label created by the media. We saw ourselves first and foremost as a political group. All of us have been politically interested and organized since a young age. In the beginning of the 1970s, we became members of the Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds, KAK. The original KAK dissolved in 1978. Afterward, the three of us were cofounders of Manifest – Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe, M-KA.
In this text, we want to outline the political practice of both organizations. A part of this practice was to secure material support for Third World liberation movements by illegal means. The practice did not involve all of the organizations’ members. It was pursued by a “subgroup,” whose membership fluctuated and who will be referred to here as the “Blekingegade Group.”
The intention of the article is therefore two-fold:
- We feel a need to outline our political project.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, when we were politically active, the world looked very different from the way it does today. This is why the article includes a description of the era. How did we see the world when we developed our political project? What were our positions and theories? Who were we inspired by? Who were our partners and allies? Why did we choose to act they way we did?
- We want to correct wrong assumptions about our theory and practice.
We do not intend to systematically address all the wrong assumptions that have been made about our political perspectives, the people and organizations we worked with, and our legal as well as illegal activities. But we want to address some of the most important one and some of the most common misunderstandings and misrepresentations.
Øvig’s Sources and Methods
PØK’s primary sources are police reports. The people he talked to were mostly law enforcement agents. When he was interviewed by dk4 in the old Horsens State Prison for the program Litteratursiden [The Literary Page],2 PØK confirmed that he went through the police files under the guidance of police officers. Apparently, the files would have been impossible to handle otherwise. However, it seems to us that he never even bothered to double-check on most of the information he received. He appears to have taken most of the police’s guesswork for facts. PØK also admitted in the program that the suspense factor was very important for his book. This obviously compromised the documentary quality. It is therefore not surprising that PØK arrived at plenty of wrong conclusions. We will address the most problematic ones on the following pages.
We ourselves want to focus on politics rather than crime. After all, the Blekingegade case was about politics. We also look at what happened in the context of its time, while PØK’s approach is characterized by the current obsession with “terrorism.”
Both PØK’s research and his political knowledge have clear limitations. It is clear, for example, that he has not even looked at some of the most crucial material, such as the journals, pamphlets, and books published by KAK and M-KA. His knowledge of liberation movements hardly goes beyond that of glossy magazine articles. Proper research would have provided answers to many of his questions and prevented many of his false conclusions. The most serious critique, however, is that it is impossible for his readers to distinguish fact from fiction. PØK’s work lacks references for almost all of the claims he makes. Readers can therefore not establish the credibility of his book’s contents.
OUR THEORY, PRACTICE, AND ALLIES
The first section of the article addresses four topics:
- KAK’s origins and the development of its political theory, that is, the “parasite state theory.”
- KAK’s legal and illegal practice.
- Our relationship to the PFLP and our reasons for not having any connections to the German Red Army Faction, RAF, and Wadi Haddad’s Special Operations.3
- The split of KAK and the founding of M-KA.
KAK and Our Political Origins
In order to understand the background of our political practice it is necessary to describe KAK, the organization in which we received our political schooling.
This description entails:
- a short overview of KAK’s history and theory, with a particular focus on the international political framework in which the organization was formed;
- the organizational characteristics of KAK, which had two objectives: one, to form an efficient political group, and two, to make a small contribution to undermining imperialism by supporting strategically selected liberation movements;
- a rejection of the claim that KAK was a Maoist organization throughout the 1970s;
- a rejection of portraying us as politically isolated dreamers, when our political worldview was shared by many movements and theorists who we were in constant contact with;
- an explanation for why KAK chose an illegal political practice in addition to a legal one.
KAK was founded in 1964 by former members of the Danish Communist Party, DKP. The early KAK leadership consisted of seven people, including Gotfred Appel and Benito Scocozza.4) KAK’s journal was named Kommunistisk Orientering. After its foundation, KAK published a twelve-point program, in which it criticized the DKP and the Soviet Union.5 KAK’s members were strongly inspired by Mao and the Communist Party of China, CPC.
In addition to the Maoist orientation, KAK had a strong internationalist outlook and was the first organization in Denmark to call for a demonstration against the Vietnam War. The demonstration was held on February 8, 1965, under the slogan, “Free the South, Defend the North, Reunite the Fatherland!” The same year, KAK took the initiative to collect money for a leprosy sanatorium in North Vietnam. This lay the foundation for the support of liberation movements that later became the organization’s focus. KAK thought that the fight against American imperialism would undermine the capitalist system and bring us closer to socialism. In 1966, KAK founded the Vietnam Committee (Vietnamkomité), which turned into a broad social movement.
Soon, however, KAK experienced internal conflict. Members were divided in their evaluation of the Danish working class’s revolutionary potential. As a result, Benito Scocozza and others left. This made KAK a more united and focused organization, but also a smaller one. The remaining members were convinced that the fight for Vietnam’s liberation was the most important struggle for socialists, even in Denmark.
KAK published an increasing number of articles explaining the difficulties in mobilizing Danish workers for international solidarity. Its analysis was that the Danish working class had been “bribed” with high wages. In 1966, the essence of what was later called the “parasite state theory” was outlined in a Kommunistisk Orientering article. The article emphasized the consequences of the thery for socialists in the rich countries: “If we want socialism to become a reality in the Western capitalist world, including Denmark, then it is our highest duty to support oppressed nations and peoples in their fight against Western capitalism, the common enemy.”6
In 1968, KAK founded the youth organization Kommunistisk Ungdomsforbund, KUF, which published the journal Ungkommunisten. KAK was still small and wanted to attract young activists. One of KUF’s first initiatives was the founding of the Antiimperialist Action Committee (Antiimperialistisk Aktionskomité).
Only at this point did we personally enter the picture. None of us was part of KAK’s early history. Jan Weimann first established ties to KAK in 1967 during a demonstration against the Greek military junta. Niels Jørgensen joined the organization in 1969 after meeting KUF members during protests against the Copenhagen screening of The Green Berets, a film glorifying U.S. war crimes in Vietnam. Torkil Lauesen joined KUF in 1971. Holger Jensen, who has received much attention in PØK’s book, became the leader of the Antiimperialist Action Committee.
By 1968, KAK was led by Gotfred Appel and his partner Ulla Hauton. The parasite state theory became increasingly important for the organization.7 Its quintessence was that the rich (imperialist) countries exploited the countries of the Third World, mainly in the form of “super profits” extracted as a result of foreign direct investments. The super profits not only made Western capitalists richer but also increased the wages of the Western working class, which now no longer had “only its chains to lose.”8 Western workers now also had an objective interest in defending global capitalism, since the system guaranteed them disproportionately high wages. It was crystal-clear to us that the Western European working class was not revolutionary in the 1960s – you just had to take a good look around you. This realization became our departure point. It defined, in a nutshell, the parasite state theory.
When Appel and Hauton added the final touches to the parasite state theory in 1968, KAK was still the official Danish ally of the CPC and owned the exclusive rights to the Danish edition of Mao’s Little Red Book.
From Maoism to Antiimperialism
When the CPC held its Ninth National Congress in 1969, some of its declarations sounded as if the revolution in Western Europa would break out any minute. Its description of the Western European working class as “revolutionary” was a complete delusion. KAK criticized this in a special issue of Kommunistisk Orientering. As a result, the official ties to the CPC were cut.
[Image 35: “What Is the Situation in Western Europe?” – Kommunistisk Orientering special issue May 1969]
A look at the texts published in Kommunistisk Orientering during the 1970s makes it clear that KAK was no longer a Maoist organization. The issues from 1974 and 19759 include a description of KAK’s politics, a critique of Scocozza, a critique of the German RAF, a contribution by Don Barnett,10 and articles on socialist theory, the famine in India, multinational oil companies, the West German working class, and U.S. agricultural policies. Not a single article talks about China. The fact that KAK was hoping for China to build a socialist state without repeating the mistakes of the Soviet Union under Stalin does not mean that KAK was Maoist. It is therefore incorrect when PØK and others speak of KAK as a Maoist organization during that time. The members of KFML/KAP, led by Benito Scocozza, took on the role of China’s supporters in Denmark. PØK belonged to the organization for some time, so he should know this.
Let us summarize:
- KAK’s political line differed in many ways from that of the CPC;
- we had a completely different analysis of the Western working class;
- KAK considered it crucial to support Third World liberation movements, while for the CPC the decisive struggle was the one of the Western working class;
- we had completely different perspectives on the Soviet Union: while we saw the Soviet Union as a tactical ally in the fight against imperialism (even if we didn’t see eye to eye with them on everything, especially not the political implementation of socialism), the CPC saw the Soviet Union as the most dangerous imperialist power of them all.11
Basically all of the Third World movements we supported were criticized by the CPC and the Maoist organizations in Western Europe. Most of Maoist organizations supported other movements; movements we had no sympathies for whatsoever. In Angola, for example, we supported the MPLA, while China supported UNITA and FNLA. UNITA was a group of anticommunist bandits who terrorized the civil population. By supporting them, China formed an alliance with the U.S., South Africa, and Israel. Later they also collaborated with the FNLA, which was known for murdering everyone when attacking white farms: the white owners as well as the black workers and their families. In the Middle East, the Chinese approach was also different from ours. The PFLP never received any support from China other than a box full of Mao books.
For younger generations, the differences between the socialist organizations of the 1970s might amount to little more than choosing different chiefs. For those of us who were active at the time, however, these differences were crucial. It was important that we were not Maoists, because we fundamentally disagreed with China’s foreign policy. Our reference points were the unjustified exploitation and oppression of the Third World and the sympathies we had for the revolutionary movements emerging there as a consequence of this.
In our analysis, the Marxist concept of “contradiction” played a central role. In short, a contradiction consists of two forces opposing one another and being dependent on one another at the same time. Traditional Marxist literature focuses on the contradiction between capitalists and workers. For us, the main contradiction was the one between the poor/exploited countries and the rich/imperialist ones. On the basis of the parasite state theory, we saw the contradiction between workers and capitalists in the Western world mitigated; they shared a common short-term interest, namely the increase of profits made from Third World exploitation (even if there was a constant struggle over the profits’ distribution, mainly expressed in wage disputes).
For us, the Third World was the focal point. It was in the Third World where social mass movements emerged and political organizations took up arms to overthrow the local elites and to end imperialist exploitation. We saw it as our main task to support these movements and organizations in their struggle.
Unity with Third World Liberation Movements
We were not alone in our analysis, even if it was not especially popular among the Danish left. The Third World liberation movements we collaborated with shared our views. We had the same goals: to liberate the Third World from imperialism; to end economic exploitation; and to move into a socialist direction. Che Guevara, one of the leaders during the Cuban Revolution, and later Cuba’s foreign minister, famously spoke of creating “many Vietnams”:
“How close and bright would the future appear if two, three, many Vietnams flowered on the face of the globe, with their quota of death and their immense tragedies, with their daily heroism, with their repeated blows against imperialism, forcing it to disperse its forces under the lash of the growing hatred of the peoples of the world!”12
Our support for Third World liberation movements had both a short-term and a long-term goal. The short-term goal was to help establish Third World countries’ economic and political self-determination. The long-term goal was to diminish the super profits of the imperialist countries’ capitalists and to thereby give new urgency to the contradiction between these countries’ capitalist and working classes. As a consequence, socialism would become a possibility even in our part of the world. Many Third World leaders and revolutionaries shared this perspective. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, wrote the following already in 1933:
“It is said that capitalism managed to prolong its life to our day because of a factor which perhaps Marx did not fully consider. This was the exploitation of colonial empires by the industrial countries of the West. This gave fresh life and prosperity to it, at the expense, of course, of the poor countries so exploited.”13
Che Guevara wrote in 1965:
“Ever since monopoly capital took over the world, it has kept the greater part of humanity in poverty, dividing all the profits among the group of the most powerful countries. The standard of living in those countries is based on the extreme poverty in our countries. To raise the living standards of the underdeveloped nations, therefore, we must fight against imperialism.”14
Julius K. Nyerere, at the time the president of Tanzania, compared the conditions of the nineteenth-century European working class with the labor force of the poor nations in 1973:
”The only difference between the two situations is that the beneficiaries in the international situation now are the national economies of the rich nations – which includes the working class of those nations. And the disagreements about division of the spoils, which used to exist between members of the capitalist class in the nineteenth century, are now represented by disagreement about the division of the spoils between workers and capitalists in the rich economies.”15
Not only politicians shared our analysis. Also numerous scholars did. Eric Hobsbawm, one of the world’s most renowned historians, wrote about the connection between imperialism and the labor aristocracy in 1964:
”The roots of British reformism no doubt lie in the history of a century of economic world supremacy, and the creation of a labour aristocracy, or even more generally, of an entire working class which drew advantages from it.” 16
In 1970, the respected economist Joan Robinson stated the following:
”It was not only superior productivity that caused capitalist wealth to grow. The whole world was ransacked for resources. The dominions overseas that European nations had been acquiring and fighting over since the sixteenth century, and others also, were now greatly developed to supply raw materials to industry. […] The industrial workers at home gained from imperialism in three ways. First of all, raw materials and foodstuffs were cheap relatively to manufactures which maintained the purchasing power of their wages. Tea, for instance, from being a middle-class luxury became an indispensable necessity for the English poor. Secondly the great fortunes made in industry, commerce and finance spilled over to the rest of the community in taxes and benefactions while continuing investment kept the demand for labour rising with the population […]. Finally, lording it around the world as members of the master nations, they could feel their self-esteem upon notions of racial superiority. […] Thus the industrial working class, while apparently struggling against the system, was in fact absorbed in it.”17
The Political Situation in the 1970s
While the revolutionary perspectives in Western Europe seemed to decline, the situation in the Third World looked promising, as the rebellion against imperialism and colonialism was on the rise everywhere. There were many possible reasons for a liberation struggle emerging in a particular place. The wish for national independence – the national aspect – was one. The wish for food on the table and for breaking the power of a foreign ruling class as well as the exploitation of resources and labor by foreign corporations – the economic aspect – was another. The wish for fundamental changes of the relations of power and the distribution of resources within the country – the socialist aspect – was a third. Often, two or all three of them were interrelated.
The national aspect
The national movements wanted to end the political domination of foreign powers. Their objective was decolonization. On the African continent, Algeria achieved liberation from France in 1962. There was a national liberation struggle in Eritrea. There were uprisings in the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and the Cape Verde Islands. The national aspect was also strong in countries where the political power was in the hands of a white minority. In Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe), a national liberation struggle was waged against Jan Smith’s settler regime. There was a liberation struggle in South West Africa (today’s Namibia), and the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa. In the Middle East, the Palestinian liberation movement grew rapidly, and in Turkey, the Kurdish minority rose up in protest.
The economic aspect
There were uprisings in many of the countries in which people experienced particularly severe forms of exploitation and oppression. People who had nothing to lose (workers, peasants, slum dwellers, etc.) fought against feudal and capitalist regimes that were often dependent on foreign powers. There was revolutionary unrest in Morocco. In Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie was ousted in a coup in 1974. In Iran, people rebelled against the Shah. Latin America experienced a wave of rebellions and social change. Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba in 1959. Salvador Allende was elected head of state in a democratic election in Chile in 1970. Strong liberation movements were active in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Latin America was known as the backyard of the CIA, which supported the most corrupt and brutal regimes. In many countries, death squads tortured and killed dissidents, whether they were oppositional politicians, unionists, or revolutionary Catholic priests.
The socialist aspect
Numerous liberation movements had a socialist ideology similar to KAK’s. The socialist perspective of the Vietnamese revolution affected liberation movements in other Asian countries, especially in Cambodia and Laos, while new communist movements were emerging in Thailand and in the Philippines. In South Yemen, a left-wing leadership had seized power, while a liberation movement was gaining strength in Oman.
The struggle was global and the perspectives bright
Undoubtedly, the Vietnamese Front National de Liberté, FNL, was responsible for much of the optimism with which we, and others, approached Third World liberation struggles. The FNL had been founded in South Vietnam in 1960 and, with the support of the North, it had been fighting for fifteen years for a free and united Vietnam. The struggle was directed against the ruling South Vietnamese elite and its foreign allies, first France and then the U.S. The goal was to create a united socialist nation. This became a reality after Saigon was conquered on April 30, 1975. The FNL knew – and proved – that it was possible to stand up against any force, even if it was as powerful as the U.S. army.
Several new nations with socialist promises were established as a result of successful liberation struggles at the time. In the mid-1970s, you could cover the entire world map with red pins if you used one for every active liberation movement. The struggle in the Third World was real. It was no a fantasy.18
The role of the USA
The uprisings were centered in the Third World, but rebellious movements were also emerging in the U.S. The black struggle for equal rights made headlines around the world every day. Demonstrations against government policies gathered thousands of people. Some political groups seemed to prepare for open struggle; we are thinking particularly of the Black Muslims and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
The Black Panthers were founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and others. One of their objectives was to protect the black community from police brutality. Therefore they armed themselves for self-defense, which, as we known, is legal in the U.S. In 1968, their journal had a print-run of 500,000. Very soon, the organization was brutally and systematically crushed by the American state. The police attacked one Panther office after another and killed many of the movement’s members, including some of its most prominent leaders. As a result, many Panthers were forced to go underground or flee the country.
In 1969, there also appeared a militant group of white socialists, the Weather Underground, who, in opposition to the war in Vietnam, committed acts of sabotage against government offices and the American weapons industry.
None of this meant that a revolution in the U.S. was waiting around the corner. But it showed that even the U.S. was fragile. It seemed that if the flow of wealth from the poor countries to the U.S. could be stopped, the country would experience a crisis that was not be solved by a few simple reforms.
In short, in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, there was a real possibility – a “window” – for radical global change. We saw the combination of anticolonial and antiimperialist struggles in many parts of the Third World and the antiauthoritarian youth revolt in Europe as the objective conditions for such a change not only being possible, but probable. This contributed to our radicalization and commitment as militants. We were not just pursuing a dream. It seemed possible for us to be a small wheel in a big revolutionary process.
The study of Marxism, that is, the study of historical materialism and political economy, was very important for us. It made us understand how the world’s forces related to one another. It was important for us that our practice was based on theory as well as empirical analysis, and not just on wishful thinking. We wanted to understand the patterns of economic exchange and the fabric of social relations. We considered this mandatory for being able to effectively change the world. A lot of time went into studying Karl Marx’s Capital. We also conducted economic analysis as well as in-depth political studies of various countries, and examined the liberation movements we considered collaborating with. In all of this, a purely theoretical perspective was never enough. KAK members embarked on many travels in the early 1970s to get a better understanding of what life was like in different parts of the world. Each journey lasted up to a few months. The experiences were summarized in reports about economic conditions, power relations, living standards, imperialist dependencies, etc. The reports were then discussed at KAK meetings. The countries we visited were India, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel, the Lebanon, Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, and the Western countries of Portugal, Germany, Northern Ireland, the USA, and Canada.
Our studies seemed to confirm that the revolutionary potential lay in the Third World where capitalism produced the value it needed to retain its momentum and where objective reasons (exploitation and oppression) existed for radical resistance to emerge.
The Western European working class desired higher wages and stronger welfare. It did not desire radical change. This implies no moral judgment. It was a simple matter of interests. Our analysis corresponded to our own experiences. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, many KAK members worked at big companies: B&W, FLSmidth, Tuborg, and others.19 In the mid-1970s, four KAK members also worked in Germany for a year to get an impression of the situation in a different Western European country.
Today, we believe that history has proven our analysis right. Since the 1970s, the Western European working class has not shown any revolutionary desire. We were not the dreamers; we were the realists. It wasn’t us but the DKP and KAP who wrote socialist programs for Denmark.
In Marxism, one distinguishes between a revolution’s object and subject. The object are the economic and political conditions you wish to change. The subject are the oppressed and exploited social groups that can make this change possible. In traditional Marxist theory, it is the working class that occupies the role of the revolutionary subject. However, we did not see the Western working class as such, since its situation was not defined by exploitation and oppression, at least not primarily. To the contrary, Western European workers had much to lose: their living standards were high; many working-class families owned a house and a car. There was no desire for revolution. The situation was entirely different for workers and peasants in Third World countries. It is wrong to say that we substituted ourselves – or a small group of militants – for the working class. The people we saw as the revolutionary subject were the ones active in Third World movements with popular support.
If a revolutionary movement wants to be successful it needs a population that is both tired of the old political system and disillusioned with democratic solutions. Marx spoke of a class that had nothing to lose “but its chains”:
”The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!”20
We found meaning in our political work, because we saw a correlation between our theoretical studies and our practical experiences. Our political commitment was based on the analysis of an unequal world, the understanding of imperialist exploitation, and first-hand experiences made in the Third World. Our goal was to contribute to the struggle of Third World people for a better life. The terrible working and living conditions and the political oppression that many of them suffered peaked in the assassinations of union members and militants fighting for social change. This had a big impact on us.
We were not isolated
Many on the Danish left have described us as politically isolated. Bente Hansen, for example, wrote in the journal Salt:
”The author [PØK] has done everything he could – especially in his many interviews – to make the group appear as an ‘integrated part of the left.’ Ironically, his book proves the exact opposite: by the time the group really became active (1969-1970), it was already revolving entirely around itself and had rejected the rest of the left. As a result, it never had a solid place in the left either. The group’s obscurity largely has to be blamed on its own members. They mistrusted the left and had a deep contempt for what they derogatorily called the ‘left-wing mush.’”21
It is true that our approach was not popular within the Danish left and regarded as bizarre. However, having been isolated within the Danish left does not mean that we were isolated in general. We strongly reject the notion that we had no political discussions with other militants or that we were completely detached from popular movements. We simply had discussions with people and movements that usually were not from Denmark or members of the DKP, KAP, or Venstresocialisterne [Left Socialists].22 We discussed politics with liberation movements whenever we visited them or whenever some of their representatives came to Denmark. We also had contacts to Western political groups that shared our perspectives and political priorities, such as the Liberation Support Movement, LSM, in North America and like-minded groups in Norway and Sweden. In Denmark we had contacts to solidarity projects supporting the PFLOAG/PFLO in Oman and movements in the Philippines, the Western Sahara, and El Salvador. Through Tøj til Afrika we were in contact with Ulandsklunserne23 and other organizations providing practical help for refugee camps, among them WUS (the later Ibis) and Mellemfolkelig Samvirke.24 We felt in no way isolated.
The decision to support liberation movements both morally and materially was made early on in KAK’s history. It was considered the most important revolutionary contribution a socialist organization in the imperialist world could make. The material support we provided was based on both legal and illegal activities.
In its political practice, KAK had two ambitions. The first one was to create a disciplined and effective organization able to work both legally and, under certain circumstances, illegally. The second one was to exercise political and practical solidarity with Third World liberation movements.
Gotfred Appel and Ulla Hauton wanted to form a communist group that had the will and the ability to partake in activities they considered necessary; this could mean to set militant examples in demonstrations or to engage in illegal actions. Here are some examples:
In May 1969, Copenhagen’s Saga cinema announced a screening of The Green Berets, an American propaganda film about the war in Vietnam. All across Western Europe screenings of the film had been prevented by demonstrations. Together with other groups on the left, KAK decided to prevent the one in Denmark. The Antiimperialist Action Committee and KUF ended up on the frontlines of the Saga protests. They doused the seats of the cinema with butyric acid and gave the demonstrations a militant character. After several days of rioting between left-wing activists and an alliance of police officers and members of the motorcycle club De Vilde Engle [The Wild Angels], the screening was canceled.
In September 1970, the World Bank held a congress in Copenhagen. Many on the left considered the World Bank a tool for the imperialist exploitation of the Third World. KAK participated in the protests with the objective to prevent, or at least disrupt, the meeting, to train members in militant action, and to inspire others. One action that KAK members were involved in was a petrol bomb attack against the Bella Center where the congress was held.25
[Image 23: KUF/Antiimperialistic Action Committee poster in protest against the World Bank congress in Copenhagen 1970: “The World Bank: This is where imperialism’s most effective minions work in order to reinforce the exploitation of the oppressed and to increase the profits of the monopolists. We are on the side of the oppressed! Which side are you on?”]
KUF and KAK members were also regularly sent to paint slogans like “Long Live PFLP” (Leve PFLP) and “Vietnam, Palestine – the same struggle” (Vietnam Palæstina – samme kamp) on bridges and commuter trains.
Today, we are convinced that for the KAK leadership the actions themselves were at least as important as their results. They wanted members of the organization to gain experience in illegal activities.
Tøj til Afrika
With regard to the material support for liberation movements, KUF founded the organization Tøj til Afrika, TTA, in 1972. TTA mainly collected used clothes and sent them to refugee camps in Africa administered by liberation movements where they distributed according to need. Many KUF and KAK members, as well as sympathizers, became involved in practical work through TTA: clothes needed to be collected, sorted, packaged, and shipped. Soon, the Copenhagen TTA activists were joined by local chapters in Odense, Løgstør, and Holbæk.
During the project’s first seven years, the following amounts of clothes were sent:
- 1972 – 0,9 tons (to the MPLA in Angola);
- 1973 – 8,7 tons (to FRELIMO in Mozambique and to the PFLOAG in Oman)
- 1974 – 4,7 tons (to FRELIMO)
- 1975 – 13,3 tons (to the MPLA, to the PFLO in Oman, and to ZANU in Zimbabwe)
- 1976 – 9,1 tons (to ZANU)
- 1977 – 27,3 tons (to ZANU)
- 1978 – ca. 70 tons (to ZANU)26
TTA also held flea markets in order to raise financial funds. The most successful flea markets brought about 100,000 crowns. Some of the money was used for the clothes’ shipping, the rest was donated to selected liberation movements.
The illegal work
Both KAK’s leadership and the rank and file were constantly contemplating how to increase the organization’s support for liberation movements. One of the possibilities was to acquire funds in illegal ways. None of us belonged to the KAK leadership when it was decided to pursue this path. Therefore, we can only take a qualified guess as to why this happened. The guess is based on discussions we have had throughout the years and on what Jan Weimann was told after he had joined the KAK leadership in 1975. There are strong indications for the illegal practice starting as an experiment. The KAK leadership wanted answers to the following questions:
- Was it possible to acquire significant economic means by illegal activities?
- Did the organization have members that could engage in such activities?
- Could the members engaged in these activities hide them from other KAK members as well as from people outside of the organization?
- Was it possible to engage in such activities without using excessive violence?
- Was it possible to engage in such activities without drawing the attention of the authorities?
- Could the activities be defended politically and morally?
- Would the members engaged in these activities answer these questions in the same way as the leadership?
It is important to remember that we did not go directly from collecting clothes to robbing cash-in-transit trucks. Members had partaken in violent demonstrations and direct actions before, such as the petrol bomb attack against the Bella Center. This made the step to robbery easier.
It did not take long before KAK’s leadership considered the experiment successful. This, however, demanded some structural changes within the organization. In particular, security was tightened. As a result, socializing was not a big priority within KAK from 1972 to 1976. Contacts between members focused on the political work. One member close to the leadership was excluded because he was considered a security risk.
PØK claims that KAK’s leadership already agreed to materially support the PFLP by illegal means when Gotfred Appel and Ulla Hauton met with PFLP representatives in Jordan in 1970. We do not believe that. When Gotfred and Ulla traveled to Jordan in 1970, the intention was to discuss politics. The discussions convinced them that the PFLP fulfilled KAK’s criteria for support. PØK has no documentation for criminal activities being discussed, and the slow and experimental way in which KAK’s criminal activities developed suggest that no such discussions took place.
Once the illegal practice was established, it had to be justified politically. The rationale was that as long as significant material support for Third World movements could be acquired without using excessive violence the means were legitimate. We will return to the political and moral aspects of the illegal practice in the section “Means and Ends.”
This was, in short, the history behind KAK’s criminal activities. The degree of violence we were ready to use was discussed before every action. This was a matter of great concern to us. We always always tried to minimize the risk for the victims. For example, we put a lot of effort into making batons that would do as little harm as possible. At the same time, yes, we were willing to use batons, warning shots, and physical coercion. We justified this with the significant support that these means allowed us to provide for liberation movements. Regardless of what the exact original intentions of Gotfred and Ulla might have been, the main motivation for us to engage in these activities was always to support liberation movements as effectively as possible.
Our Relationship to the RAF, the PFLP, and Wadi Haddad
Let us be clear:
- We had no connections to illegal organizations in Western Europe, including the RAF in West Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy.
- We collaborated with the PFLP, not with Wadi Haddad.
- We were a sovereign and independent organization, not a PFLP cell.
We reject PØK’s suggestion that KAK, and later M-KA, belonged to an international “terror network.” PØK’s claims are false; they are based on a small portion of facts and a big portion of imagination. He favors drama over documentation.
PØK suggests that we collaborated with the RAF. That is nonsense. Already in 1975, we published a critique of the RAF’s theoretical and practical approach in Kommunistisk Orientering.27 We never shared the RAF’s analysis that West Germany was a fascist state with a democratic facade. Furthermore, the RAF wanted to support the struggle in the Third World by building an antiimperialist front in Western Europe. We considered this utterly impossible. We never sent out a single communique to explain our actions precisely because of this. For us, there was no feasible revolutionary perspective in Western Europe. The change had to come from the Third World, and therefore the most important thing to do for Western antiimperialists was to support Third World liberation movements materially. We have stated this over and over again in our articles, pamphlets, and books.28
The primary reason for us not having any contact to the RAF was hence political. However, there was also a tactical reason. When we began collaborating with the PFLP, we also saw many other Europeans visiting them. We were not interested in meeting or even being recognized by them. In light of our illegal activities, any form of contact to the RAF or similar groups would have been a major security risk. Therefore we developed procedures with the PFLP that ensured us not having contact other Europeans during our visits. We did not want an arrested RAF member mentioning a secret Danish group involved in robberies as a means to support Third World liberation movements. For the same reason, we avoided contact with Palestinian activists in Denmark. Only once, after we had lost contact with the PFLP during the breakup of KAK and the subsequent founding of M-KA, did we decide to get in touch with PFLP members living in Denmark. We instantly paid a price for this: the PFLP members were under surveillance by PET agents, who consequently also took an interest in us. We never repeated that mistake.
That the RAF and KAK/M-KA were very different organizations is also confirmed by the way they related to Palestinian organizations. We got in touch with the PFLP because we wanted to support them. The RAF got in touch with Fatah29 because they wanted them to provide military training and equipment.
After the civil war in Jordan in 1970, a rift occurred between the PFLP and the Wadi Haddad group Special Operations. The RAF was interested in collaborating with Wadi Haddad. We were not. Instead, we consciously distanced ourselves from him.
It is true that a number of meetings were held between the KAK leadership and Wadi Haddad. The purpose of these meetings was to gather information. What did his group stand for? Was its cause worth supporting? Did it seem feasible to collaborate with him? And, if so, did it seem possible to collaborate with him without putting our own activities at risk? Our security was important to us, because it was the basis on which we were able to do what we did.
We decided for various reasons not to collaborate with Wadi Haddad. The decision was unanimous among the KAK leadership.
The reasons were the following:
- The most important one was that Haddad’s actions had little to do with mobilizing the Palestinian people. Instead of creating popular resistance against the Israeli occupation, as for example the Intifada did, Haddad chose elitist actions, that is, actions that required a high level of training and sophisticated equipment. The effect was that the actions pacified rather than mobilized the Palestinian population because ordinary Palestinians could not partake in them. It was militant demonstrations and throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers that inspired widespread resistance.
- We were puzzled by the fact that Haddad had opened the first of our meetings by asking what we could do for him and by explaining what he could do for us. Practical collaboration seemed more important to him than common political ground. This went against our principles. We always discussed politics first.
- Haddad’s operations simply became increasingly unsuccessful. When he had organized hijackings and similar high-profile actions as a PFLP member, his intention was to put the Palestinian question on the map. With this, he succeeded. After his split from the PFLP, however, all of his actions were fiascoes, both practically and politically.
We thought that the PFLP had the right political analysis of the situation in Jordan after the so-called Black September of 1970: In the late 1960s, the Palestinian organizations in Jordan decided to be very open. They carried weapons in refugee camps and also on the streets of Amman. Jordan was also used as a base for operations against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Palestinians comprised 60 percent of Jordan’s population and King Hussein began to perceive them as a threat to his rule. In September 1970, he ordered a military attack on the refugee camps. The result was that the Palestinian organizations were forced to leave the country and move to the Lebanon. George Habash and Wadi Haddad had different answers to this. Haddad concluded that the resistance movement had to go underground since it was not strong enough for an open, and therefore vulnerable, presence in an Arab country. Habash concluded that the resistance movement had to stay aboveground and be visible, since this made popular support more likely. Besides, one needed to defend the refugee camps in the Lebanon, especially in light of the country’s right-wing Christian forces.
The reason why we decided to continue our collaboration with the PFLP under the leadership of George Habash was that it had the popular base that we always saw as a precondition for supporting any movement. Once M-KA was founded, the contact with Wadi Haddad and his group ceased completely. Haddad died shortly after.
RAF’s connections to Haddad are well-documented. Haddad was behind the Landshut hijacking on October 13, 1977. The plane ended up in Mogadishu, Somalia, where the hijackers demanded the release of imprisoned Palestinians and RAF members in exchange for the release of the Landshut hostages. The operation ended in a defeat for Haddad when a German anti-terror corps stormed the plane and freed the crew and passengers.
In the end, all that is true is that we knew someone who was collaborating with the RAF. However, that’s it, and it’s a curious decision on PØK’s part to use eighty pages in his book to tell the story of the RAF. Don’t get us wrong: it is an interesting story and we understand that it increases the book’s suspense value – it just has nothing to do with the Blekingegade Group.
PØK also claims that the KAK members traveling to meet with PFLP representatives did not get their passports stamped at airports in the Middle East. That is completely false. This only happened on the few occasions we met with Wadi Haddad in Baghdad. If PØK had bothered to look more carefully into the court documents, he would know that we used different passports. We needed them exactly because our passports did get stamped when we traveled to the Middle East. We usually claimed stamped passports lost so we got new ones. In fact, PØK could have simply contacted the Danish passport authorities to receive all relevant information. But it certainly makes for a better story if he tells about young Danes secretly rushed across Arab borders.
We Were a Sovereign and Independent Organization
It is completely false to suggest that we were a “PFLP cell.” This was never the way in which we related to the PFLP. In the context of a hierarchical organization, a “cell” receives orders from above. We always had full control over our activities. Our practice was determined by our own political analysis and our own strategic decisions. We have never had a meeting with the PFLP without discussing politics.
We did not primarily support the PFLP because it wished to establish a Palestinian nation state, but because the PFLP envisioned a socialist society in the Arab world and because it had an explicitly internationalist outlook. The PFLP trained many members of liberation movements in the Third World. The first FSLN guerrilla fighters, the so-called Nicaraguan Sandinistas, were trained in a PFLP camp in the Lebanon. The Sandinistas went on to fight a successful liberation struggle and seized power in Nicaragua in 1979. Supporting the PFLP therefore had an important internationalist dimension for us, because it also meant supporting many other Third World liberation movements.
We were an independent group with its own political outlook. At times, this outlook differed from that of the PFLP. For example, we were skeptical of the PFLP developing close ties to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and we criticized their commandos crossing the border from the Lebanon for actions inside Israel, since the character of these actions was as elitist as Haddad’s and often caused bloody reprisals by the Israeli state.
Historical Parallels: The Wollweber League
The Blekingegade Group as an organization involved in illegal and secret political work has been called unique in Danish history. But that is not true. There were others. If we want to find them, we have to go back to the time between the two world wars, when the so-called Wollweber League was active in the country.30 The Wollweber League consisted of people who, after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, were convinced that everything had to be done to stop the axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan), even if this included illegal actions on the territory of Denmark or other countries not ruled by fascist governments.31 Denmark was a parliamentarian democracy at the time, with the DKP being represented in parliament. Yet, this did not deter the Wollweber League members from bombing ships in Danish ports or smuggling weapons to Spain.
The perspective of the Wollweber League was international. Even if there was democracy in Denmark, international politics were not democratic. The dark clouds of fascism and Nazism threatened everyone. The Wollweber League members saw it as probable that the axis powers would bring the world yet another gruesome war. The dilemma they were facing was similar to ours: Was it justifiable to use illegal means to damage Danish property and to even endanger innocent people when you had the possibility work legally within the democratic framework? As their actions proved, their answer was yes. Here are three examples:
- On September 3, 1935, Kaj Gejl used a petrol bomb to damage the American ship United States in the port of Copenhagen. After three failed attempts, he succeeded with the fourth. The United States should have been sold to Italy. Mussolini wanted it for the transport of troops to Abyssinia, where Italy led a brutal war of conquest.
- On May 22, 1938, Alberti Hansen and Kaj Thandrup Christensen blew up two Spanish trawlers in the Frederikshavn shipyard. The trawlers had been ordered by the Spanish government before the civil war, but, given the course of the war, it had to be assumed that they would end up in the hands of Franco. Franco would have most likely equipped them with canons and used them to attack the naval deliveries of weapons for the republican troops. He had already done so with a trawler that had fallen into his hands earlier.
- This concerns not a single event but a solidarity campaign: during most of the Spanish civil war, Richard Jensen chartered ships – the so-called krudtbåde, or “powder boats” – to transport weapons and ammunition to the republican forces. These ships were manned by Danish seamen who volunteered to take the (significant) risk to sail to Spain. Almost one thousand Danish mariners served on these boats.
Just like the Blekingegade Group, the Wollweber League had no desire to make it known that it stood behind these actions. In order for their fight against the fascists to continue, they had remain invisible.
Another parallel between the Wollweber League and us was the massive disapproval both groups met. Parts of the left called us “Maoists,” “lunatics,” “terrorists,” “anti-Semites,” and so forth. When the Wollweber League blew up the Spanish trawlers in Frederikshavn, the left reacted no differently. In an article published after the event in the DKP’s journal Arbejderbladet [Workers’ Journal], the party’s central committee had the following advice for its readers: “Watch out for provocateurs consisting of Trotskyists, informers, Gestapo agents, and Nazis! … Beware of these elements and their kingpins, who we will soon disclose.”32
[Image 36: The DKP reacts to a Wollweber League bombing in 1938: “From the Central Committee to the chapters and members: Beware of Provocateurs!”]
However, there was also an important difference between the Wollweber League and us. The Wollweber League had close ties to the Comintern and was controlled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. We have always been completely independent. It is true that some of our actions had been recommended to us by others – but it was always us who decided whether we wanted to do them or not. We were in charge, also on the occasions we “borrowed” people from other organizations: they always acted under the leadership of the Blekingegade Group.
[Image 37: Vridsløselille State Prison yard in the early 1940s, when several Wollweber League members were imprisoned there, half a century before the Blekingegade Group members]
Manifest – Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe
In describing the successor to KAK, that is, Manifest – Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe, M-KA, we want to focus on three aspects:
- he end of authoritarian leadership;
- the theory of unequal exchange, which was more nuanced than KAK’s analysis;
- M-KA’s continuation of both legal and illegal support for Third World liberation movements.
The KAK Split
In 1977, personal animosities and power struggles within KAK escalated. Originally, Gotfred Appel and Ulla Hauton were KAK’s undisputed leaders, surrounded by enthusiastic but unschooled militants in their early twenties. By the end of the 1970s, however, many members had a decade of political experience behind them, they had traveled, organized solidarity projects, and so on. They had matured and developed their own perspectives. Some of them were bothered by KAK’s internal discipline that didn’t allow for theoretical improvements. Neither the transformation of imperialism nor events like the oil crisis led to adjustments of KAK’s political foundations. Ideas for projects were never put into practice, because members were not used to doing things without receiving orders. Furthermore, there were personal conflicts. Ulla felt disrespected by male members. Gender discrimination was without doubt a problem within KAK, and this was the time when the Redstocking movement was strong, also in Denmark.33 Eventually, it all came to a head when female members, with the approval of the leadership, demanded that male comrades undergo “critique and self-critique” sessions. Men who refused to participate were threatened with expulsion. This was serious, as the membership in KAK was central to KAK members’ lives. Politically, there was nowhere else to go either. Not many organizations on the left prioritized practical support for liberation movements. KAK members were proud of their organization.
The critique and self-critique sessions lasted through the winter of 1977-1978 and effectively put a halt to all other activities. Female members demanded the expulsion of several men. Friendships and relationships were put to a test. Eventually, it became obvious to several members, both men and women, that things had gotten out of hand. Upon their initiative, a few meetings for the rank and file were organized. The leadership was not invited. The first of these meetings took place on May 4, 1978. About thirty members gathered in a house, where a a few of them lived communally. The meeting’s agenda was to end the anti-gender discrimination campaign and to analyze how things could have gone so wrong. What were the problems within our organization that had allowed this to happen? A few days later, Ulla and Gotfred were called to a meeting in order to present their views. Ulla was furious and insisted on the campaign continuing. Finally, Gotfred came to the meeting alone and suggested to suspend all KAK activities for half a year; then, the leadership would present a proper analysis of the events. The majority of the members rejected this proposal; they wanted to analyze the reasons for the anti-gender discrimination campaign and the course it had taken themselves. In the end, the members expelled Gotfred and Ulla from KAK after a vote.
During the following summer, KAK’s political orientation, practice, and structure were discussed at numerous membership meetings. It became obvious that there was disagreement about how to deal with the mistakes that had been made and how to move on. Long papers with evaluations, future plans, theoretical reflections, and practical suggestions were written and discussed. It looked as if the debates would go on forever. The three authors of this article and some others grew increasingly frustrated with the practical part of our work lying idle. We felt that we had a responsibility both towards the Tøj til Afrika activists and to the liberation movements we collaborated with. They were all wondering what was happening. Our group was willing to continue the political evaluation of KAK’s history and the development of future perspectives, but we also wanted to go back to practical work. In August 1978, we presented our thoughts for everyone and announced the founding of a new organization. This effectively split the former KAK into three groups:
- Gotfred Appel and Ulla Hauton, who had refused to accept their expulsion, continued to work under the name KAK. In Kommunistisk Orientering they declared that they had expelled the rest of the membership. They returned to being loyal to Beijing and followed the line of the CPC without reservation. The liberation movements they now supported were the ones that China supported. Chinese foreign policy at the time built on a division of the world in three parts, whereby the two competing imperialist powers – the USA and the Soviet Union – controlled the rest. China saw the Soviet Union as the more aggressive power of the two, against which the rest of the world had to be defended. This meant that Third World nations and Western countries had a common interest in fighting the Soviet Union. KAK uncritically adopted this “Three Worlds Theory.” Among others, they supported Pol Pot in Cambodia.
- Some former KAK members founded the Marxistisk Arbejdsgruppe, MAG. They intended to continue with the analysis of KAK’s past mistakes, while trying to develop a new form of organization and solidarity work. MAG was only short-lived. It folded in 1980.
- The three of us and about a handful of other former KAK members prepared a new organization. Everything that was related to the illegal practice was moved to a safe location. We reestablished contact with the liberation movements we had collaborated with and explained the new situation. We hired office space and established a print shop. The majority of the Tøj til Afrika activists in Copenhagen and the TTA chapter in Odense decided to work with us. Later, another TTA chapter was established in Århus.
The Foundation of Manifest – Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe, M-KA
On September 3, 1978, Manifest – Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe was officially founded. In the beginning it consisted of only seven members, including Holger Jensen and the three of us. In October, the first issue of our journal Manifest appeared. The first article, “Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe dannet” [Communist Working Group Founded] outlined our perspectives and intentions.34 In certain ways, we felt as KAK’s heirs, but we also wanted to develop our own analysis and improve our practice.
M-KA’s organizational goal was different from KAK’s. Even if Gotfred Appel saw revolutionary development in Denmark as highly improbable, he intended to build an organization that had the resources, the knowledge, and the discipline to act once a revolutionary situation in the country would occur. In the end, his support for Third World liberation movements had a clear Danish perspective:35 KAK was to be ready for the day the revolution was returning to Western Europe.
For M-KA, supporting liberation movements was a revolutionary end in itself. Any possible revolution in Denmark was too far away and too abstract to even consider. Rather, we saw three things as crucial: to develop political analysis and theory; to spread our analysis and theory; and to continue with the illegal and legal practice. We wanted to provide material support for liberation movements as an organization with a solid independent analysis. The Danish perspective moved further and further into the background and gave way to a thoroughly global perspective. One could say that M-KA was a reflection of “globalization” before the term was invented. Our logo combined a globe with a five-pointed star.
Establishing a new organization set an enormous amount of energy free. We had been in the doldrums for almost a year. The authority of Gotfred Appel and KAK’s internal discipline had been hindering independent initiatives and developments even longer. Now there were new possibilities. It was time to act again.
M-KA was a small, but hard-working group. People were either “full-time activists” on unemployment or they dedicated all of their free time to the organization. Some people left, others joined. The membership was always around twelve to fifteen people. Because of the illegal work, new members were only fully included after a year, once we had gotten to know them well. There was a bigger circle of sympathizers and volunteers who helped with the legal solidarity work. Our journal Manifest had about 200 paying subscribers.
The way M-KA was organized marked a rupture with the centralism and closedness of KAK. We had a democratically elected leadership and, all in all, a flat structure. We wanted to form an organization able to develop its politics by way of internal as well as external discussion. Holger was a driving force in the early days of M-KA, but solely because of his dedication – he had no formal leadership role. His death in 1980 was a hard blow to us. However, the following years proved that M-KA had become strong and grounded enough to continue its work nonetheless. Administrative, theoretical, legal, and illegal tasks were divided on the basis of mutual agreement. This gave the organization stability and made it effective.
[Image 3: Holger Jensen, 1979]
It is clear that the illegal practice set limits as to how open M-KA could be. Only those involved in the illegal practice knew about the details. But the decision about which liberation movements to support was taken by the entire organization. We had also established an offset print shop and a publishing house in the northwest of Copenhagen. There we printed journals of liberation movements, information material for Tøj til Afrika, and, eventually, a series of pamphlets and books.36 The expenses were paid for by member contributions, which dependent on the individuals’ means. In some cases, those were quite high.
The Development of M-KA’s Politics
To advance political theory was important for M-KA. We arranged study groups together with Tøj til Afrika. We installed a small library at our space in northwest Copenhagen. This was before the Internet age, so we subscribed to the BBC World Service, which had daily news cables coming from the Middle East, Southern Africa, and other regions. This allowed us to keep ourselves updated on the developments in regions in which we supported liberation movements.
We were convinced that in order to develop an effective practice we needed to study economic and political relations and to have a concrete analysis of where and how to get involved in people’s struggles. Our practice was always informed by strategic and tactical reflections that we dedicated much time to. An important factor were the discussions we had with liberation movements and the experiences we shared with them. We developed our political perspectives together.
We also resumed our travels. M-KA members went to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, the Philippines, and different countries in the Middle East. The entire M-KA membership visited the PFLP in the Lebanon in 1981, both to discuss politics and to give members who had never been to Palestinian refugee camps an opportunity to see them.
From Lenin to Unequal Exchange
Gotfred was a Leninist. If there was a theoretical problem, his answer was, “Well, let’s see what Lenin had to say.” All answers could be found in the Lenin’s Collected Works, one just had to open the right one of the forty volumes. KAK’s analysis of imperialism was based on Lenin’s 1916 text “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.”
In the middle of the 1970s, KAK tried to update Lenin’s analysis in the spirit of Varga and Mendelsohn’s book New Data.37 For years we studied capital export to the Third World and profit rates. We studied the development of transnational corporations and the extraction of raw materials. Eventually, we had to conclude that Lenin’s analysis of imperialism was no longer applicable. Foreign direct investments and profits could no longer explain the rising gap between the rich countries and the poor. However, KAK was not able to draw the necessary consequences and revise its theory.
M-KA did not have that problem. We were able to react to the changes that the analysis of imperialism had gone through in the 1970s. The Egyptian economist and historian Samir Amin had spoken of the rich countries forming the “center” and the poor and dependent countries the “periphery” of a global economic system that led to Third World poverty and underdevelopment. The American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein had described the historical development of the world system and the division of poor and rich countries from the fifteenth century to the present. And Arghiri Emmanuel had presented the theory of “unequal exchange”: rather than capital export and super profits, unequal trade was the reason for the world being divided into rich and poor countries. Unequal exchange happens when goods are produced in Third World countries where wages are low and sold in rich countries where wages are high. Unequal exchange can, in short, be described as the result of different pay for the same kind of work.38 What impressed us particularly with Emmanuel’s approach was how scientific it was. His analysis was a direct continuation of Marx’s Capital. It had the same basis: a thorough examination of theories and analyses of foreign trade from the nineteenth-century classical economists to this day. Each argument was examined carefully.
We first contacted Emmanuel in 1974, but the connection became much closer after KAK’s split. Following the foundation of M-KA, we went to visit him several times. He also kept in touch after our imprisonment, and contact only ceased when he died in 2001. When we worked on our book Imperialismen idag, he read the manuscript and was kind enough to provide a preface. It included the following paragraphs:
”Often in meetings, academic or other, where I was to put the case for my theses on unequal exchange and on the international exploitation which was its outcome, sincere left-wing militants, somewhat at sea, asked the same question in different forms. If this is the case, if the proletariat no longer exists in our industrialized countries, if all, or almost all wage-earners, white collars and blue collars together, have become a labour aristocracy by definition producing less value than their wages allow them to appropriate and thus becoming the objective allies of imperialism, which brings them the supplement, what, then, becomes of the political action of revolutionary marxists? To whom, to which class, to which strata of society can they therefore address themselves? …
This is the question to which the members of the Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds have replied in this book. One must, they say, quite simply, put oneself at the service of the classes which have an interest in overthrowing imperialism, ‘…no matter where they are geographically.’ This is clearer and more distinct than anything I have been able to mumble in answer here and there to my various questioners. …
Now, as a result of some historical changes which Marx could not forecast, classes are no longer distributed ‘geographically’ today, according to the classical intra-national model. The proletariat, the true party to the cause of the socialist revolution, has practically disappeared in the affluent countries of the centre. It continues to exist in the periphery. …
The structure of this book reflects the progress of their praxis, as I have been able to witness it through personal contacts I have had with them. Firstly to know the world, then to transform it. But … to know the world as it is today and not as it was in Marx’s time and nevertheless to do this by using the marxist method.”39
[Image 6: Arghiri Emmanuel and Torkil Lauesen, 1983]
In Imperialismen idag we tried to give a realistic estimation of unequal exchange. Using trade figures and wage statistics we calculated that in 1977 about 350 billion U.S. dollars were transferred from the Third World to the rich (OECD) countries.40
Emmanuel withdrew from the academic world in the late 1980s. He died in 2001 at the age of 90. Since then, different people have continued to study unequal exchange. If one set the exchange balance to zero in 1865, then calculations of trade, wages, and purchasing power show that unequal exchange led to a transfer of value equivalent to 1750 billion U.S. dollars from poor to rich countries in 1995, which equaled 6.6 percent of the gross world product. The three biggest losers of unequal exchange in 1995 were China, Mexico, and Indonesia. The three biggest winners were the U.S., Japan, and Germany. Today, unequal exchange leads to a transfer of value equivalent to more than 2000 billion U.S. dollars per year. This amount is many times higher than foreign aid, private credits, and corporate investments going to Third World countries combined.
[Image 26: Unequal exchange illustration, M-KA, ca. 1982]
Some of the results of the studies we did in M-KA were published in our journal Manifest and in pamphlets and books.41 We examined the historical origin of the world’s division in rich and poor countries; we looked at why some former colonies – in South America – remained poor, while other former colonies – in North America – developed and became rich; we studied crisis theory and capitalism’s ability to adapt and transform; we studied the Soviet Union’s development in the 1980s; we looked at U.S. military strategy in the Third World after the Vietnam War.
We were constantly searching for new information and discussed our perspectives both with political allies and academics. In the mid-1980s, we were involved in starting a political journal, Liberation, which was distributed in Tanzania and Uganda. In short, we find it difficult to accept PØK’s portrayal of M-KA as a rigid and dogmatic organization.
[Image 39: First issue of Liberation, July/August 1985]
M-KA proceeded with the legal solidarity work that KAK had started. Tøj til Afrika continued to send tons of clothes, shoes, and tents to camps hosting refugees from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Angola. We visited these camps to make sure that all the deliveries arrived. Together with Ulandsklunserne,42 we arranged monthly flea markets. The earnings went to political refugees from South Africa or to the PFLO in the Arab Gulf. We also spread information about the liberation movements we supported. In 1983, we published a book about the conflict in the Western Sahara. 43 In 1985, we were involved in starting the Western Sahara Committee (Vestsaharakomité), which supported refugees from the region. We were also involved in the Namibia Alliance (Namibiaforeningen), the Philippines Committee (Filipinerkomité), and the El Salvador solidarity campaign.
In 1987, we opened Café Liberation in the Islands Brygge district, near the center of Copenhagen. The café was exclusively run on voluntary labor. All earnings went to liberation movements.
We had four criteria for deciding which movements to support:
- a socialist perspective;
- broad popular support;
- strategic significance for the struggle against imperialism;
- a tactical consideration: we wanted our limited means to be used in ways that made a difference. This is why we often supported movements during the earliest phase of their struggle, when they did not yet receive much other support. Let us name one example: In the early 1980s we supported the Black Consciousness Movement, BCM, in South Africa. The BCM was carried by students and youths in poor townships around Johannesburg. We printed a journal related to the movement, Islandwana Revolutionary Effort, as well as flyers and posters. We sent the material to Botswana, from where it was smuggled into South Africa. We also supported a pig farm and a bottle store in Botswana, which were managed by political refugees from South Africa and functioned as a base for actions on South African territory.
[Image 15: IRE journal, printed by M-KA]
This is just one example that proves that our support work was more diverse – in terms of both the form it took and the people it reached – than what PØK makes his readers believe.
The reason for continuing the illegal practice was first and foremost that it allowed us to provide much bigger quantities of material support than our legal activities.
THE CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES AND THE TRIAL
In this section we want to correct some of the wrong perceptions concerning the illegal practice of KAK and M-KA.
The Criminal Activities
KAK was already involved in illegal activities in the late 1960s. This included painting slogans in support of the Vietnamese and Palestinian liberation struggles on bridges and commuter trains, actions directed against the sale of Israeli goods in Brugsen supermarkets as well as against the involvement of Denmark’s ØK company in teak logging in Thailand, and militant protests against the Green Berets screening in 1969 as well as against the World Bank congress in 1970. KAK also helped a group of Indonesian communists who were stranded in Eastern Europe after Suharto’s coup and the massacres of Communist Party members in 1967. They wanted to secretly return to Indonesia to help reestablish the Communist Party. KAK arranged for them to travel from Hungary to Denmark, provided them with fake papers, and arranged for the return journey to Indonesia.
Of course it was a big step to go from these activities to acquiring money for liberation movements by illegal means. But these activities functioned as a kind of bridge. They had shown which of the KAK members were ready for illegal action and they had trained these members in careful and secret planning.
KAK wanted to provide the liberation movements with more support than it had been able to so far. This was the main motivation for the first robberies. In the beginning, they were mainly experiments. After they proved successful, they became an increasingly important part of KAK’s practice.
PØK and other authors seem very excited about the idea of KAK members receiving training in Middle Eastern training camps. In their books, they return to this idea again and again. The problem is that no KAK members ever received training in Middle Eastern training camps. Yes, we have visited the PFLP many times. However, guerrilla tactics in the Middle East and criminal activities in Denmark have very little in common. In order to do what we did – in terms of planning, dealing with the security forces, and living a double life – one needed very specific knowledge about the conditions in Denmark. The PFLP couldn’t provide that. We had to learn all this ourselves.
As we have already mentioned, the motives of the KAK leadership for the illegal practice were not necessarily the same as those of the individuals involved. We believe that the leadership had two major motives: to provide financial support for the liberation movements and to train KAK members in illegal activities. For us – none of whom was part of the leadership at that time – there was only one motive, and that was to support the liberation movements as effectively as possible. That was the reason for agreeing to participate in these actions when we were asked to.
We always discussed options other than robberies. We thought about making money through investments – but no one in KAK (or M-KA, in later years) knew anything about investments. We had one member who knew about IT, but his knowledge did not allow for great moneymaking schemes. Jan Weimann has been called an IT expert in the press, but his former colleagues probably only got a good laugh out of that. The only time that IT knowledge was relevant for any of our actions was during the forgery of postal money orders in 1976 that gave us 1.4 million Danish crowns.
The conclusions we drew from the robberies we conducted from 1974 to 1976 were the following:
- Detailed and careful planning was necessary in order to remain in control. In particular, an escape route was needed that made chases impossible or, at least, very difficult.
- You could never expect rational reactions from the victims. For example, you could never count on threatening someone into handing you the money, you had to take the money yourself.
- Moments of surprise and fear were important in order to minimize resistance and therefore the use of violence.
We never thought about psychological trauma we could cause. At least partly, this can be explained by the fact that psychological trauma was not discussed much at the time. Obviously, this has changed. There is no doubt that we underestimated the psychological effects that our actions had on others. Whether we had acted differently if we had had a better understanding we don’t know, but we are certainly not proud of the psychological damage we have caused.
With every action we reached for a higher booty. In a sense, this also increased the likelihood of something going wrong – both for the victims and for us. We tried to remain true to our principles, but we clearly made some wrong decisions along the way.
The organization that got the biggest support from us was the PFLP. The situation of the Palestinian people was very difficult. We also got to know PFLP members very well. We always acted based on our conscience, but the desperate situation of the Palestinians made us shift our limits. A number of events in the Middle East were very important for our practice: King Hussein’s attack on the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan in 1970; the Lebanese civil war; the massacre of the Palestinian Tel Al Za’atar refugee camp in 1976, in which about 6,000 Palestinians were killed; Israel’s heavy-handed oppression of the Intifada; and the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon in 1982.
The Rausing Kidnapping Plan
In particular the massacres in the refugee camps Sabra and Shatila44 made M-KA members believe that it was worth taking higher risks for both ourselves and the victims of our crimes. There was a strong sense that the PFLP now needed all the support it could get.
At first, the kidnapping of a German millionaire, a coowner of the Würth company, was planned. The tip had come from the PFLP. We abandoned the plan because we felt that the victim was not well chosen. We were unsure about whether we could get a big enough ransom – or any ransom at all. Since we never came close to executing the plan, our emotional and moral limits were not tested.
Then we turned to a new plan, this time focusing on the Rausing family in Sweden. Jörn Rausing, a heir to the rich Tetra Pak company, was living in Lund, in the south of the country, not far from Copenhagen. We always had bad feelings about the plan. But time and time again, we overcame our reservations. We ground our teeth, thought of the situation the Palestinians were in, and continued. This is not meant as an excuse, it is a simple description of what happened.
The closer we got to the date set for the kidnapping, the more difficult it became to push our reservations aside. The date was postponed several times. The smallest obstacle was turned into a big deal – in hindsight, we simply couldn’t see the action through. This had a variety of reasons, whose importance probably differed from individual to individual.
First, there was the possibility of things going wrong; the plan was very complex and there were a number of risk factors.
Secondly, there was always the possibility that no ransom would be paid. We were quite certain that the Rausing family could and would meet our demands. But we could not be a hundred percent sure, which was bothering us. Besides, the whole thing went against our principle of taking money instead of threatening others into giving it to us.
Thirdly, we couldn’t do this with only a limited degree of violence. Our plan was to drug Jörn Rausing and to take him to a hiding place in Norway. We tested the methods we wanted to use (both the drugs and the means of transport) on ourselves to get a better understanding of their consequences. We discussed this issue endlessly, never reaching any satisfying conclusions.
Fourthly, we felt empathy with the victim. We had gotten to know Jörn Rausing quite well during the months we had been observing him. Had he been an unpleasant fellow, it would have probably been easier to execute the plan. However, he appeared to be a pretty average and quite likeable young man.
Fifthly, there was a strong emotional dimension. In the end, we were simply appalled by the idea of kidnapping someone, and this feeling only became stronger with time. This was probably the most important reason.
In hindsight, it was idiotic to even consider this kind of crime. It would have been way too harsh on the victim and it went beyond our capacities. When the time came, we simply weren’t able to do it. Therefore, once the plan had been abandoned, we all concluded that we would never consider anything like this again. We decided that we should return to what we knew instead, which was robbery.
We thought that we could get away with the most spectacular coups, as long as the planning was right. However, it is difficult to be active during almost twenty years without making small mistakes. A single small mistake might not get you caught, but the mistakes add up and make you vulnerable. In retrospect, it wasn’t the actual robberies that made PET suspicious of us. It was the mistakes we had made in our communication with the PFLP and an increasing carelessness regarding security.
Living a double life had become our normality. We got a lot of satisfaction out of being “good craftsmen” able to provide organizations with the money they needed. At the same time, the life we led included a lot of stress, bad conscience, and many sleepless nights. We will return to this in the last section of this article.
The Weapons in Blekingegade
Many weapons were stored at the Blekingegade apartment. Most of them came from burglaries at a Danish Army weapons depot in the water tower of Jægersborg and a Swedish Army weapons depot in Flen. This is an aspect of our activity that we regret for several reasons.
For our operations, we needed small weapons for means of intimidation during robberies. So why did we amass hand grenades, land mines, anti-tank missiles, and explosives? As we explained at our trial, the weapons were meant to go to liberation movements. Our main plan was to smuggle them into Israel or the occupied West Bank. After the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon and the massacres in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, the PFLP expressed a strong need for weapons. We wanted to help.
To get weapons and to store them was not a big problem. The problem was to come up with a good plan to get them to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Unfortunately, we had not made such a plan before we got the weapons. Once we had them, it took us a long time to come up with ideas. In the end, all we were able to do was to install a secret weapons cache in France where we were able to deposit at least some of the weapons and explosives for PFLP members to collect.
Before that, we had planned to smuggle weapons into Israel disguised as surfers. We found a car ferry that could take us from Greece to Israel. We also looked at different types of cars. Our choice fell on a Ford Grenada. It seemed most suitable for carrying concealed weapons We also cut up a surfboard, put two anti-tank missiles inside, and glued the board back together. It was done so professionally that the police was still wondering what the surfboard did in the Blekingegade apartment after they had turned everything upside down several times. Eventually, Torkil asked his lawyer to tell the police about the contents. He was afraid that the missiles might explode if the board was handled carelessly.
Obviously, we were set on doing the trip ourselves. It was clearly easier for Europeans to smuggle weapons into Israel than for Palestinians. But we had our doubts. What if we were discovered? None of us wanted to spend time in an Israeli prison. So, we shelved the plan and it didn’t take long before we stopped considering it altogether. Instead, we contemplated getting rid of the weapons. But this wasn’t so easy either. We certainly didn’t want them to be discovered by anybody else. And how do you defuse an anti-tank missile?
PØK suggests that the weapons were meant for terrorist activities in Europe. That is wrong. Equally wrong as PØK’s claims about our contacts to the RAF, the Red Brigades, and Carlos the Jackal, or about our alleged collaboration with Wadi Haddad. But, once again, it adds to PØK’s tale if he can turn us into pawns of an “international terrorist network.”
Needless to say, it wasn’t smart to get all those weapons without a plan of how to transport them to their intended destination. It also meant that we ourselves gave rise to rumors about being involved in “civil war” and “terrorism” in Europe. However, as with all other aspects of our practice, the objective was simply to support Third World liberation movements. Not only did we reject military actions in Denmark and the rest of Western Europe morally and politically, but being involved in them could have also proven disastrous for our illegal practice, since it might have turned us into a prime target of the security forces.
In the end, the material support we were able to provide consisted of money, technical equipment, medicine, and clothes. We had the intention of providing weapons as well, but we failed to do so. That’s the reason why the weapons were found in Blekingegade. They caused us many logistical problems and exposed the Blekingegade tenants to an entirely unnecessary risk in the case of fire. This is something we regret.
The “Mild Spy Paragraph,” § 108
Paragraph 108 of the Danish penal code became relevant during our trial because of the “Z-file” (Z for Zionism), often referred to as the “Jew file” in the press.
In 1981, the PFLP asked us to help identify people working for the Israeli intelligence service in Denmark. It was known that the Mossad used England and Denmark as informal headquarters of its European activities. In those countries, they were well received by the national intelligence services and guaranteed good working conditions. In France and Italy, for example, the relationship with the national intelligence services was much more complicated. This has also been confirmed by the former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky.45 We ourselves had first-hand knowledge of Mossad agents trying to infiltrate Palestinian circles in Denmark.
The PFLP told us that they became increasingly suspicious about some of the many “left-wing tourists” from around the world coming to visit them in the Middle East. One example concerned the underground base in the Beirut refugee camp of Burj el-Barajineh. Visitors had inquired about the thickness of the walls. During the invasion of the Lebanon in June 1982, the base was destroyed by so-called bunker busters. The PFLP felt that if they had a list of people possibly working for the Israelis, it would be easier to identify spies.
At first, we were hesitant. This kind of work was time-consuming and if we indeed got close to a Mossad agent it would put our own practice at risk. Yet, particularly in light of the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon, we wanted to help. We decided to add another person to the illegal practice in order to handle the extra work that was required. This person was Bo Weimann, who, as a trained librarian, had the qualifications needed for the job. The Z-file became his main project.
We started with the assumption that anyone recruited as a Mossad agent in Denmark would have probably voiced pro-Israeli views at some point in the past. So we were looking for pro-Israeli (Zionist) sympathizers who suddenly stopped voicing their opinions in public.
The Z-file originally consisted of two parts. The first one listed companies, organizations, and journals that were pro-Israeli. The second one listed individuals who had voiced pro-Israeli opinions. The only concrete results of this work concerned the Wejra case.46 We also identified one individual as a possible Mossad agent. In an attempt to produce more concrete results, we added a third part to the Z-file, listing everyone who had signed a petition in support of Israel in 1973. 47 The idea was to compare this list to the other two in order to find possible overlaps. A significant number of the individuals listed were – unsurprisingly – Jewish. That is why parts of the press wrongly referred to the file as a “Jew file.”
We want to be very clear about one thing: We are not and have never been anti-Semites. We reject the Zionist project, whose objective has always been to create a purely Jewish state. The Palestinian people were displaced and their homelands occupied by Israel in two wars, in 1948-1949 and in 1967. We demand that the United Nations live up to their own resolutions guaranteeing the Palestinian people the right to a sovereign nation state. The United Nations have never enforced these resolutions. The Palestinian people have a legitimate right to resist the Israeli occupation, and we are on their side.
The Death of a Policeman during the Købmagergade Robbery
During our trial, two of us gave statements about the Købmagergade robbery and the shot that caused the death of a policeman.48 We explained that the intention behind the shot was to puncture the police vehicle’s tires in order to prevent a chase. The prosecutors conceded that the shot was fired from the hip and unsighted. This was also confirmed by witness statements and the forensic evidence whose conclusion was that the policeman was hit by a stray pellet in the eye. The other pellets riddled the display window of a shoe store.
Bent Otken, the presiding judge, drew the following conclusion: “According to all the information we have, including the rapid development of events in Købmagergade, it cannot be assumed that the robbers had collectively agreed to fire at possible pursuers with the intent to kill.”49 Therefore, Otken recommended the jury not to sentence us for intentional murder and we were acquitted on this count.
During the trial, it had not been possible to prove – or even make it appear probable – that this was a case of premeditated murder. If his had been the case, all of us could have been found guilty of murder. This was the conviction that the police was seeking.
We never reckoned that firing shots would be necessary during the Købmagergade robbery. We thought that the alarm from the cash-in-transit truck would go to the post office first, then from there to the police. According to our calculations, the probability of police arriving at the scene within less than two minutes was minimal. Unfortunately, we were wrong. During the trial, we came to understand that the alarm had gone directly from the truck to the police. Had we known this beforehand, our plan would have looked different. It was always mandatory for us to avoid direct confrontations with the security forces.
What was our plan in case a police patrol did arrive at the scene? In fact, two of them arrived. We met the first one in Løvstræde, right after turning out of the post office yard. We managed to pass it before two shots were fired at our van. One shattered the back window and got stuck in the driver’s seat. The second patrol car was waiting for us on Købmagergade. We pulled into the opposite direction and acted according to our plan, which was to stop and fire a warning shot against any vehicle trying to follow us, whether it was a police car, a post office truck, or a taxi. We carried a shotgun with us because it made a lot of noise. It was also loaded with big pellets that could puncture the tires of any possible pursuer. Unfortunately, one of those pellets hit the policeman.
[Image 42: Entrance to the post office yard where the Købmagergade robbery took place on November 3, 1988]
Of course it implies a risk to bring a weapon to a robbery and to fire a warning shot. But none of us ever had the intention to take someone’s life. We deeply regret that it came that far. We cannot change what has happened, no matter how much we wanted to.
PET and Us
We were under observation by PET for almost twenty years. We do not believe that this has ever happened without us being aware of it. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to gather at secret apartments several times a week during all this time without ever disclosing them.
The observations began in 1970, when Holger drew attention in connection with the demonstrations against the World Bank congress. He enjoyed switching roles and began following the agents.
We developed a routine for how do behave when we noticed that we were observed. We acted as normally as possible, not letting anybody know that we were aware of the observation. Everything else would have seemed suspicious. We also developed methods to ensure that we were not observed when it would have compromised us.
PET agents were always easy to recognize. They were in their 30s and about 6 feet tall, they had nice clothes and usually were in good shape. There were always two people in a car. The cars were unassuming middle-class models in modest colors. Usually, three to four cars were working in shifts. The time patterns were very steady. We could often count on the observation ending on Friday at 4 pm and recommencing on Monday morning. Sometimes, things were done more professionally, but even then it hardly ever took more than a few minutes before you knew that someone was following you.
Niels and Holger were observed when they came home from the U.S. in 1979. It was basically revealed to them during a stopover in London. They were searched and questioned about their journey. When they asked for a reason for the interference, they were told, “We know very well what kind you are.”
Our homes were also searched. Sometimes, the agents didn’t return things to their proper place, or they were forced to leave in a hurry. We were convinced that our phones were tapped, and always used them carefully. When Torkil applied for a job at the Foreign Ministry, he was told that he could not be cleared. We knew that PET had an eye on us.
Our analysis was that PET knew about our contacts to liberation movements, especially the PFLP, and that this was what made us interesting. They probably also knew that we were involved in illegal activities, but they didn’t know about the details. When we were arrested in 1989, it became obvious that PET’s knowledge was limited. They arrested Peter Døllner who hadn’t been active in the group for many years, while they apparently didn’t know about the members who had joined later.
MORALITY AND POLITICS
The third and final section of the article addresses the connections between morality and politics, including the use of violence in a political context.
Violence has always been a central part of politics. This is an uncomfortable truth. Since World War II, there have been more than 100 armed conflicts in the Third World causing the death of more than 20 million people. It is easy in contemporary Denmark to take a moral stand and reject violence as a political means, even if in reality most people are willing to use it, not least government officials. The boundaries between legitimate peacekeeping missions and criminal violence and terrorism depend largely on one’s political orientation. It is all about politics.
On the following pages we want to investigate both the claim that the ends justify the means and the claim that the ends never justify the means. We want to provide examples of the dilemmas you inevitably encounter as a political militant. We want to discuss the use of violence as a political means. And, finally, we want to shed some light on the relationship between liberation struggle and terrorism.
Do the Ends Justify the Means?
Among other things, PØK’s books about the Blekingegade Group caused a fiery debate about the group’s morals. With PØK’s “voice” as the main reference point,50 most commentators agreed that the Blekingegade Group’s approach was “cynical.” We were portrayed as supporters of hijackings and of people using criminal means to achieve their goals. It was suggested that we blindly followed the motto of “the end justifying the means.” This is a statement often ascribed to Niccoló Machiavelli, author of The Prince, a little book written in the early sixteenth century. The Prince consists of numerous guidelines for how to govern. However, it is far from the first text to discuss the relationship between ends and means. In the tragedy Electra, the Greek dramatist Sophocles asked in 400 B.C. whether “the end excuses any evil,” while, in 10 B.C., the Roman poet Ovid concluded in his lyrical collection Heroides that “the result justifies the deed.”
Balancing ends and means requires concrete reflections on what you find important and justified. If someone pursues ends that you do not consider important, it is easy to morally discredit the means. The accusation of someone following the principle of “the end justifying the means” comes easily. It is always convenient if you can accuse people you disagree with of immorality. On March 4, 2007, Politiken, one of Denmark’s biggest dailies, wrote, “Overall, the ‘voice’ admits that the end justified the means; that it was okay to do anything as long as it served the cause.” The Blekingegade Group was portrayed as a group of amoral villains that had turned against the apparent social consensus that the end never justify the means.
Let us, for a moment, consider political reality rather than noble rhetoric. Is there really a consensus on the end never justifying the means? Here are three examples regarding the war in Iraq…51
On December 5, 1996, shortly after being appointed U.S. secretary of state, Madeleine Albright was interviewed by Lesley Stahl for the TV program 60 Minutes:
Lesley Stahl: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And – and you know, is the price worth it?”
Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”
On January 1, 2004, the Danish prime minister Anders Fogh-Rasmussen declared in his New Year’s television address to the nation: “I am certain that the liberation of the Iraqi people was and is worth all costs.”
On February 20, 2005, Tøger Seidenfaden, the editor of Politiken, commented: “Seen with Western eyes, the noble end – democracy in the Middle East – justifies the harsh means.” This statement was made two years after the invasion, when the enormous amount of victims was already known.
Apparently, when it comes to the war in Iraq, the consensus that the end never justify the means is not valid.
If the motto of the end justifying the means implies that you can use any means you want (without any consideration for the consequences for others) in order to achieve any end you have decided to pursue, then the Blekingegade Group has never followed such a motto. At the same time, we have never followed the motto that the end never justifies the means either. After all, there is a third option – which, in fact, is much more realistic than the other two: not all ends justify all means, but, depending on the circumstances, some ends justify some means. This was the position that guided our actions. It is a position, of course, that implies challenges. One has to consider and balance three factors: ends, means, and circumstances. It is not always easy to draw the right conclusions.
We do not believe that Albright, Fogh, or Seidenfaden would argue that all means are justified once you have decided to pursue a certain goal (even if they obviously go a pretty long way: half a million dead children, 700,000 casualties, and four million displaced Iraqis). The point, however, is that political actors have to be very clear about both their ends and their means. This requires a political discussion. Morality plays an important role in this discussion, but a reference to moral principles alone is not enough. In the eighteenth century, Immanuel Kant argued that the end alone can never justify the means, and that means need to be justifiable in and by themselves. This is an important reminder that the means we employ need to be carefully examined. But Kant’s argument does not rid us of the responsibility to go through a political discussion first.
Most people find violence acceptable if the end is important enough and the situation urgent. For example, few people in Denmark would – politically or morally – question the use of violence in the context of the Danish resistance movement against the Nazis. Presumably, they would hold the same opinion even if the Nazis had won the war. By itself, the Danish resistance movement was not strong enough to defeat the Nazis. They were but a small wheel in the fight against them. Yet, the end of weakening Nazi Germany was enough to justify the use of violence. The resistance fighters sabotaged factories and railways in order to interfere with the production and delivery of goods important to the German war industry. Suspected collaborators were assassinated. But this does not mean that all means were acceptable. In recent years, some actions have also been criticized – for example, certain assassinations were based on weak evidence. Still, the overall opinion remains that under the given circumstances, the use of violence was justified.
It is hard to say where exactly the legitimate use of violence begins. In the case of the Danish resistance movement, the lines were drawn by the individual resistance groups and the individual resistance fighters. It was them who had to live with the decisions for the rest of their lives. This is the simple core question of each political dilemma: What do I do?
We also chose to be a small wheel in a big struggle. In this case, it was the global struggle against oppression and exploitation in colonies, settler states, and Third World dictatorships. We also have to live with this decision for the rest of our lives.
Machiavelli’s Use of “The End Justifying the Means”
Machiavelli’s book The Prince was published in 1532. It is a manual for the art of governing. It includes Machiavelli’s famous (and infamous) justifications of violence as a means to secure power. For example, he states that “a prince wishing to keep his state is very often forced to do evil.”52 Essentially, the book is an honest description of how power functions, regardless of all ideological and moral considerations. One can read The Prince in various ways. To read it is a cynical manual for how to gain and defend power, is one option. Machiavelli himself, however, suggests another reading: “…it being my intention to write a thing which shall be useful to him who apprehends it, it appears to me more appropriate to follow up the real truth of the matter than the imagination of it…”53
Machiavelli was one of the Renaissance’s first secular thinkers. He wrote about separating religion (the dominant form of morality at the time) and politics. He refused to analyze political realities on the basis of religious dogma. He was, in contrast to many of his contemporaries, a realist, and he could not avoid to notice how far removed the theological idealizations were from the real and harsh world of politics. It is also important to remember the historical and political context in which The Prince was written. Machiavelli’s intention was not to aid royals in their exercise of power. Machiavelli’s intention was to unite Italy.
Italy reached national independence in the fifteenth century based on a balance of power between five states: Naples, the Papal State, Florence, Milan, and Venice. Governance relied on strict rules, implemented by a tight-knit system of diplomatic representation. But from 1494 onwards, Italian unity was attacked by France and Spain. Naples and Milan lost their independence and the other three states were under constant threat. With other words, the advice on ends and means that Machiavelli presented in The Prince was not based on general principles, but on a concrete historical situation, namely a nation being besieged. The same can hardly be argued in the case of the USA in 1996 (Albright) or of Denmark in 2004 (Fogh) and 2005 (Seidenfaden). The existence of neither state was threatened when the above statements were made. Arguably, in 1970, the situation was different for the Palestinians.
The 1970 PFLP Hijackings
When, in September 1970, PFLP commandos hijacked three civilian planes and ordered the pilots to fly to the Jordanian desert, the Palestinian nation was in a desperate situation. The U.S. foreign minister, William Rogers, had outlined a plan for the Middle East known as the Rogers Plan. The PFLP and most other Palestinian organizations as well as political observers considered the plan a blueprint for quelling the Palestinian resistance and eradicating any hope for a Palestinian state. This perception was strengthened by the U.S.-approved attacks of the Jordanian military on the Palestinian refugee camps, which had commenced a few months earlier. The PFLP hijackings have to be understood against this background. They were – if you allow us this figure of speech – an attempt to pull the emergency break in a situation that threatened the Palestinian struggle as a whole. The feeling was that something needed to be done to prevent the Rogers Plan from being implemented. It must also be noted that the hijackings ended by the airplanes being blown up, while all of the hostages remained unharmed.
It was not the first time that the PFLP had responded to attacks by taking hostages. When the Jordanian air force bombed Palestinian refugee camps for five days, from June 7 to 11, 1970, PFLP commandos occupied two of Amman’s main hotels and took the American, West German, and British guests hostage, demanding an end to the bombardments. At 5 am on June 12, 1970, the PFLP’s general secretary, George Habash, gave a speech before the hostages at the Jordan Intercontinental Hotel. What follows is an excerpt:
”Ladies and gentlemen! I feel that it is my duty to explain to you why we did what we did. Of course, from a liberal point of view of thinking, I feel sorry for what happened, and I am sorry that we caused you some trouble during the last two or three days. But leaving this aside, I hope that you will understand, or at least try to understand, why we did what we did. Maybe it will be difficult for you to understand our point of view. People living different circumstances think on different lines. They cannot think in the same manner and we, the Palestinian people, and the conditions we have been living for a good number of years, all these conditions have modeled our way of thinking. We cannot help it. You can understand our way of thinking when you know a very basic fact. We, the Palestinians for twenty-two years, for the last twenty-two years, have been living in camps and tents.
We were driven out of our country, our houses, our homes and our lands, driven out like sheep and left here in refugee camps in very inhumane conditions. For twenty-two years our people have been waiting in order to restore their rights but nothing happened. Three years ago circumstances became favorable so that our people could carry arms to defend their cause and start to fight to restore their rights, to go back to their country and liberate their country. After twenty-two years of injustice, inhumanity, living in camps with nobody caring for us, we feel that we have the very full right to protect our revolution. We have all the right to protect our revolution. Our code of morals is our revolution. What saves our revolution, what helps our revolution, what protects our revolution is right, is very right and very honourable and very noble and very beautiful, because our revolution means justice, means having back our homs, having back our country, which is a very just and noble aim. You have to take this point into consideration. If you want to be, in one way or another, cooperative with us, try to understand our point of view.”54
Habash’s words take us back to the original question of this chapter: “Does the end justify the means?” Did the twenty-two years of displacement and miserable living conditions in refugee camps – now exposed to bombardments – justify the occupation of hotels and the hijacking of airplanes? At this point, the question becomes concrete. It is no longer about abstract philosophical arguments, but about making a concrete political decision. Did these particular ends – the halting of bombardments of refugee camps and the creation of an independent Palestinian homeland – justify these particular means used under these particular circumstances? We thought they did. We tried to understand the PFLP’s perspective. But that doesn’t mean that there were no limits to the means that were justified, also for the PFLP. In both cases – the occupation of the hotels and the hijackings of the planes – the hostages remained unharmed.
The English philosopher Ted Honderich has approached this question differently, but he reaches the same conclusion: an occupied people has the right to resistance and, if necessary, to use violence. He refers to the “principle of humanity” as a way to distinguish between a legitimate and an illegitimate use of violence. For him, the Palestinian situation is an example for what he considers a legitimate use of violence:
“I have drawn a parallel between the resistance against the apartheid regime in South Africa and the resistance against the occupation of the Palestinian territories. When a people are oppressed and their homelands occupied, you cannot deny them the right to use violent means of resistance. […] One lives a poor life when one cannot expect to live a long and healthy life, when one enjoys neither freedom nor civil rights, has neither respect nor self-respect, and possesses no possibility to create relationships with others and partake in cultural development. A politics that seeks to establish a good life corresponds to the principle of humanity. The Palestinians’ terrorist acts can be justified because they are directed against a power that denies them a good life. That’s why their struggle is legitimate, while, for example, Osama bin Laden’s is not.”55
With respect to our approach, Ted Honderich looks at one of the factors we need to consider when deciding how to act politically: the justification of ends. He does not address the justification of means.
Liberation Struggle Is Not Terrorism
The international actions of the PFLP and other Palestinian organizations from 1968 to 1972 made the entire world aware of the Palestinian situation. In the late 1960s, the Palestinians felt that no Western politicians or journalists even bothered to listen when they tried to tell them about their plight. As an old Palestinian told us, they felt like the “donkeys of the world.”
When KUF members put up posters in Copenhagen in 1969 in order to raise awareness about the situation of the Palestinians, the only statements of sympathy were unwished for because they came from the political right. To express support for the Palestinian struggle was considered anti-Jewish. Regarding the PLO’s international actions, for example, Noah Lucas has written that although this “earned it little sympathy in the world, it nevertheless succeeded in establishing the image of its cause as the quest of a victimized people for national self-determination, rather than a neglected refugee problem as it had hitherto been widely regarded.”56
The Palestinian demand for an independent state was practically ignored by the West, despite resolutions passed by the UN as early as in 1947 (Resolution 181: Partition Plan for Palestine) and 1948 (Resolution 194: Right of Return for Refugees), both expressing a commitment to an independent Palestinian homeland. It is worth noting that the Western countries themselves had voted for these resolutions.
We found it both necessary and justified to support the Palestinian liberation struggle, especially in the context of commitments to and responsibility for a just global order. Either UN resolutions are binding for all, or one accepts the doctrine of “might is right.” We considered the situation of the Palestinians so hopeless and miserable that “dirty” methods, such as hijacking planes, would at least give them a chance to be heard. We did not see the PFLP’s struggle as terrorism. The PFLP fought for a democratic and nonreligious state. Palestinians lived under the occupation of violent security forces.
The PFLP’s political leader was Abu Ali Mustafa. He worked openly in the West Bank, but was killed when an Israeli Apache helicopter fired two missiles into his office in Ramallah on August 27, 2001. The offices of Palestinian leaders in Ramallah are protected by the Oslo agreement, which Israel codrafted and signed. Yet, the Israeli government decided to execute Abu Ali Mustafa without judicial process. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Israel has killed 232 Palestinians since the year 2000 in so-called “targeted killings,” that is, with assassinations executed by the state with no legal foundation. These assassinations have also caused the death of 154 civilians. This has not led to any noteworthy international reactions.57 Israel does not act like a constitutional state. In the occupied territories, there is no rule of democracy, only the rule of the fist.
The PFLP responded to the assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa on October 17, 2001, with the assassination of the Israeli minister of tourism, Re’havam Ze’evi. Ze’evi had probably been involved in the decision to kill Abu Ali. He was the leader of the National Union, an alliance of ultra-right nationalist parties, which, after the terror attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, had advocated ethnic cleansing by demanding that all Palestinians should be forced out of Israel and the occupied territories. The killing of Ze’evi was the reason for the PFLP being added to the list of terrorist organizations by the U.S. and the EU. So, when the PFLP uses violence against a state – even if it is an occupying power – this is condemned and called terrorism. When that same state uses violence against the people living under its occupation, it is called retaliation and self-defense. Sometimes, when Israel acts in a particularly brutal manner, there is some international criticism. But the only organizations that end up on the list of terrorist organizations are those formed by the people living under occupation.
A simple count of the victims that the conflict in the region has caused shows that the Israeli state has killed about five times as many people as Palestinian militants. According to B’Tselem, 4789 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces or by Israeli civilians between September 29, 2000, and April 30, 2008. During the same period, 1053 Israelis were killed by Palestinians. If one looks at the numbers for minors, there were eight times as many Palestinian victims as Israeli ones: 938 vs. 123. According to the same source, the majority of Palestinians killed were not selected targets but random civilians.58 The international community might “regret” the violence of the Israeli state, while the violence of the Palestinians is condemned and criminalized. No one ever calls the support of the Israel state criminal.
Violence as a Political Means
Politicians love to talk about democracy. They hate to talk about violence. This stands in complete contrast to both historical experience and political reality. Politicians all over the world implement and use growing apparatuses of violence. Also the Danish government uses violence increasingly in its foreign policy. The “peace dividend” promised after the fall of the Berlin Wall never came.
We have no romantic relationship to violence. We have seen the civil war in the Lebanon with our own eyes. We have seen torched villages in Rhodesia. On television, we have seen bombs dropped from B-52s over Vietnamese cities, and we have seen children burned by napalm running from the jungle. However, we have no romantic relationship to nonviolence either. We did support the armed liberation struggle in many countries.59
It is not surprising that anticolonial and antiimperialist struggles turned violent. The violence of European colonialism and imperialism was extreme. Two lesser known examples are the following: the German colonists exterminated almost the entire population of South West Africa (today’s Namibia) in 1904,60 while in 1902, after taking over the colonial administration from the Spanish, the U.S. sent 125,000 troops to the Philippines to quell the liberation movement – the war cost the lives of half a million people.
The colonial attitude was summarized by the former British prime minister Lord Salisbury in his 1898 speech at Albert Hall: “You may roughly divide the nations of the world as the living and the dying […] the living nations will gradually encroach on the territory of the dying…”61
The imperialism of the twentieth century has been equally brutal. The U.S. killed one million people during the war in Vietnam.
France’s attempt to save the French settler regime in Algeria also cost one million people their lives.
It was against the background of the Algerian struggle that Frantz Fanon, who was active in the country’s liberation movement, wrote the book Wretched of the Earth, in which he reflects both on his own situation and on the situation of Third World nations in general. He concludes that the people of the Third World – held down by violence, exploitation, and oppression – must rise and gain self-consciousness. He argued that liberation from the colonial system and independence could be achieved by violent resistance coordinated and led by liberation movements. In his preface to Wretched of the Earth, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote:
”Try to understand this at any rate: if violence began this very evening and if exploitation and oppression had never existed on the earth, perhaps the slogans of nonviolence might end the quarrel. But if the whole regime, even your nonviolent ideas, are conditioned by a thousand-year-old oppression, your passivity serves only to place you in the ranks of the oppressors.”62
Our perspective was that systems of violence, often with the involvement of the U.S., stood in the way of democratic liberation and socialism. Take, for example, the CIA’s role in the coup against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, or the CIA’s endless meddling with the affairs of the countries of Central American. There was no hope for liberation without armed struggle in the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola, the racist regimes of Rhodesia and Southern Africa, or the right-wing dictatorships of Latin America.
Most liberation movements had originally been founded as legal political movements. South Africa’s ANC is one example. It advocated a nonviolent struggle until the late 1950s. Only after the Sharpeville massacre in 196063 and the subsequent criminalization of the ANC did the organization turn to armed struggle.
In 1970, there was a wave of rebellions spanning the globe from Vietnam to Mexico and from South Africa to the U.S. We felt that this was the beginning of a revolutionary process we wanted to see growing. We were far from the only ones supporting armed struggle. In the early 1970s, the belief in armed struggle was much more commonplace within the left than it is today. This was also expressed in the publishing world. The back cover of the Danish edition of Wretched of the Earth cites Klaus Rifbjerg’s review of the book in Politiken: “One of the most important texts – perhaps the most important – about the struggle in colonized countries is now available in Danish; it reveals an almost poetic anger and, at the same time, a compelling objectivity.”
In 1971, the renowned Danish publishing house Gyldendal released the anthology Den palæstinensiske befrielseskamp [The Palestinian Liberation Struggle] edited by Jens Nauntofte. It includes interviews with Leila Khaled on hijackings and with George Habash on international politics. The book’s tone is very positive. It clearly speaks of a “liberation movement.” Militants who are called “terrorists” today, are referred to as “fedayeens” in the book, the Arab word for “partisans” or “those who sacrifice themselves.”
The sympathies of the left for the liberation struggles were met by criticism from the right. The boundary ran, unsurprisingly, right through the Social Democrats. Prime minister J.O. Krag and the minister for foreign affairs, Hækkerup, supported the U.S. war in Vietnam. Only when Anker Jørgensen criticized the 1972 Christmas carpet bombing of Hanoi did the party begin to change its position.64 The U.S. dropped 7.6 million tons of bombs over Indochina. That is three times the amount of all bombs dropped by the allies combined during World War II.
The bourgeois camp, represented by the Berlinske Tidende and Jyllandsposten newspapers, were certainly no principled opponents of the use of violence as a political means. Both defended the war of the U.S. in Vietnam until the very end. Jyllandsposten also expressed sympathies for Pinochet’s coup against Allende in Chile and deemed South Africa’s black population not ready for democracy. Erhard Jakobsen, the founder of Centrum-Demokraterne, was a staunch supporter of the apartheid regime and considered ANC members to be terrorists.65 The ANC’s leader, of course, was Nelson Mandela – the celebration of Mandela as a great statesman is a more recent phenomenon.
What was our personal situation like in the late 1960s and early 1970s? We witnessed a global uprising on the one hand, and lived privileged lives in a Western country on the other. Our conclusion was that we had to act. We felt that there existed an incredible injustice in the world and we wanted to contribute to a profound political and economic change. We also felt that we were in a position that allowed us to act, and that it would have been inexcusable if we didn’t.
We find it difficult to share the perspective of the “voice” in PØK’s book when it states that “one can never compare different forms of suffering.” To begin with, the quest for a better and juster world does not begin with a cost-benefit analysis. It begins with a simple statement: “Enough!” Reflections about what you can achieve, and at what price, come later. Secondly, if you want to act politically, you cannot escape such reflections. That was true for us, and it has been true for anyone who has ever been involved in political struggles. Why bother with global economic justice, social welfare, or health care if you do not want to alleviate suffering? How can you fight an occupying power, resist oppression, and rise up, if you’re not affected by certain forms of suffering in a particular way? We all are affected by certain forms of suffering in a particular way in our everyday lives. We care more about people who are close to us than about people we don’t know or who we count among our enemies. That is human. Everything else enters the realm of divinity.
We do not think that we gave ourselves “a free moral ticket,” as PØK’s “voice” suggests. There were always lines we wouldn’t cross in our activities. Morality was always important, and we had innumerable discussions about the moral implications of our practice. This became very clear in relation to the Rausing kidnapping. All of us had problems with the idea. At the same time, we had been strongly affected by the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon, the thousands of people killed, and the massacres of Sabra and Shatila. The struggle of the Palestinians was our struggle. They were our friends. We felt close to them and therefore shifted our moral boundaries – for a while. But that didn’t mean that anyone was issued a “free moral ticket.” The plan, and the related anguish, took a hard toll on all of us. A “free moral ticket” would have meant to do nothing.
Global and National Contexts
Of course it was problematic to use violence in Denmark. But we did not see our practice limited to the Danish context, we saw it related to a global struggle. We acted in a world that was divided between rich and poor countries; a world without global democracy in which the principle of “might is right” determined international relations. Antiimperialist movements with a democratic agenda and no backing by an armed liberation movement didn’t stand a chance against an imperialism armed to the teeth and ruthless in the execution of its power. From our perspective, transferring value from the rich countries to the poor, specifically if received by liberation movements, was justified.
Here is a concrete example: In 1947, the UN accepted – with Denmark’s vote – a partition plan for Palestine with the goal of establishing both an Israeli and a Palestinian state. Years went by and neither Denmark nor the UN security council did anything to enforce this resolution. While the Israelis had their state, the Palestinians were languishing in refugee camps. So what do you as a democratic Danish citizen? Do you play by the democratic rules of your country or do you promote democratic rights internationally? What shall a democratic internationalist do when rich and powerful democracies lose all sight for democratic values in their foreign policies, and when this leads to people being robbed of the right to establish their own independent state? Does this make it justified to support their cause with illegal means? Those were the questions we were facing.
In this world of inequality, we lived and acted in a country in which there was no desire for revolutionary change. That’s why we did not send out communiques explaining our actions, in contrast to organizations like the RAF, the Red Brigades, and others we have been associated with. In the Danish context, our activities were simply criminal. That was also the reason why we never felt that the legal system was treating us unjustly or why we never saw ourselves as political prisoners. In the context of the Danish state and legal system, we were criminals, pure and simple. We had answered in a particular way to the questions we were facing, and we had to accept the consequences – even if the motivations for our criminal activities were rooted in an analysis of the global political system.
Of course it has problematic dimensions to act undemocratically in a democratic country in order to promote democracy in an undemocratic world. Then again, it also has problematic dimensions for democratic countries to send their armies out into the world without any democratic principles. The war in Iraq is a case in point. This fundamental contradiction – between national democratic systems and undemocratic international relations – has not lost its significance in the age of globalization.
There have been many stories circulating about the Blekingegade Group for the past twenty years. They aren’t getting less. Quite the contrary. The media always returns to the subject and law enforcement officers and politicians are happy to jump on the bandwagon. They have a particular motive: a hatred for the left of the 1970s. Apparent “investigations” are actually part of a political battle. People like Peter Øvig Knudsen and Jørn Moos also have personal motives f course. They want to sell books, work as “counselors” for film, TV, and theater, appear in talk shows, and give talks across the country. On the back cover of PØK’s two-volume history of the Blekingegade Group it says: “This is a documentation. The text is not the result of the author’s fantasy; it is based on innumerable written and oral sources.” This is a truth with modifications.
We understand that the story of the Blekingegade Group is a good story. But it is not as spectacular and meaningful as some try to make it to be. The “Blekingegade Group” is on its way to becoming a label exploited by the media industry. It is turning into a money-making machine. But who owns the copyright to the story? We know that capitalism likes to lay claim on everything. However, this doesn’t mean that we have to play along.
In this articles, we wanted to present our experiences and reflections in a concentrated form. It is neither meant as an apology nor as a manifesto. It is, however, an attempt at telling our history in a political context. Instead of focusing on crime and drama, we would like to see a more nuanced debate about politics, ends, and means.
We also wanted to pass on the experiences of twenty years of work with KAK and M-KA, which can hopefully contribute to forming new political strategies.
The story of the Blekingegade Group is a story about political action as a reaction to the political action of others. It is an example for the connectedness of national and international politics. It is a story of anger over injustice and a will to change the world. It is a story about doing something, since doing nothing was no option for us. It is a story about political analysis and about reflections on what is true and what is not.
Global exploitation and inequality were the main causes for our political actions. As we know, global exploitation and inequality still exist. But so do the movements trying to end suffering and oppression. The struggle continues.
Editor’s note: Zentropa is a Danish film company founded in 1992 by Lars von Trier and Peter Aalbæk Jensen. The TV series, entitled Blekingegade, aired in late 2009 and early 2010. Regarding the documentary film and the play, see the introduction. ↩
Editor’s note: dk4 is a Danish television channel launched in 1994. ↩
Editor’s note: The group was also known under the names “External Operations” and “Special Operations Group.” Wadi Haddad was an influential figure in the PFLP’s military wing. ↩
Editor’s note: In 1968, Benito Scocozza cofounded the Maoist KFML. He served as its chairman until 1975, and as the chairman of its successor, KAP, until 1984. (For KFML/KAP, see the appendix. ↩
KAK, Til alle kommunister! Till alle der vil socialisme [To All Communists! To All Who Want Socialism] (Copenhagen: Futura, 1964). ↩
KAK, Perspektiverne for socialisme i Danmark [Perspectives for Socialism in Denmark], insert in Kommunistisk Orientering, no. 3-5, 1966. ↩
See also KAK, To linjer [Two lines], insert in Kommunistisk Orientering, no. 18, 1968, to no. 2, 1969. ↩
See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto – the full paragraph follows below. ↩
Editor’s note: No Kommunistisk Orientering issues were published between 1970 and 1974 – see also the introduction. ↩
Editor’s note: Don Barnett was the founder of the LSM (see the appendix). ↩
Our views on the Soviet Union were summarized in the pamphlet Myter om Sovjet [Myths about the Soviet Union], authored by M.K. Andersen and T. Retbøll (Copenhagen: Manifest, 1986). ↩
Ernesto (Che) Guevara, “Vietnam and the World Struggle for Freedom,” quoted from George Lavan (ed.), Che Guevara Speaks (New York: Pathfinder, 1967), 159. ↩
Jawaharlal Nehru, Glimpses of World History (Delhi: Oxford University Press 1982 ), 548. ↩
Ernesto (Che) Guevara, “Speech at the Afro-Asian Conference in Algeria” (February 24, 1965), quoted from www.marxists.org. ↩
Julius K. Nyerere, “A Call to European Socialists” (November 1972), quoted from Nyerere, Freedom and Development: A Selection from Writings and Speeches 1968-1973 (Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1973), 374-375. ↩
Eric Hobsbawm, Labouring Men (London: Weidenfeld, 1964), 341. ↩
Joan Robinson, Freedom and Necessity (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1970), 64-66. ↩
For an analysis of the development of the liberation struggle, see also Torkil Lauesen, “Befrielsekampens problemer” [The Problems of Liberation Struggle], Gaia, no. 61-63, 2008-2009. ↩
Editor’s note: Burmeister & Wain (B&W) was a big Danish shipyard (closed 1980), FLSmidth is a major international machine manufacturer, and Tuborg is one of Europe’s biggest breweries. ↩
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848), quoted from www.marxists.com. ↩
Bente Hansen, “Mossad og Blekingegade” [Mossad and Blekingegade], Salt, no. 2, April 2007, 28. Editor’s notes: 1. Salt is a bimonthly journal for “social, political, and cultural issues,” founded in 1992. 2. “Left-wing mush” is an approximate translation of venstredynen, a dyne being a blanket or a soft, shapeless object; according to a Danish saying, Det er som at slå i en dyne, an action that doesn’t give any results is “like hitting a dyne”; this is what KAK members accused the rest of the Danish left for. The common Danish name used for the left is venstrefløjen, literally, “the left wing.” ↩
Editor’s note: Venstresocialisterne are a small leftist party founded in 1967. Today, they are part of the 1989-founded Enhedslisten – De Rød-Grønne [Red-Green Alliance], together with the DKP and the Trotskyist Socialistisk Arbejderparti [Socialist Workers Party]. KAP also belonged to the Red-Green Alliance before disbanding in 1994. ↩
Editor’s note: Ulandsklunserne roughly translates as “ragpickers for developing countries”; it was a collective involved in Third World solidarity projects. ↩
Editor’s notes: 1. WUS Denmark was the Danish branch of the international World University Service, originally an organization focusing on human rights and education. The Danish branch was founded in 1966 and focused strongly on supporting social movements and activists in the Third World. In 1991, it left the international organization and changed its name to Ibis. 2. Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, roughly “Cooperation between Peoples,” founded in 1944, promotes “the political empowerment of the world’s poor.” Today, it is associated with the international ActionAid network. ↩
Editor’s note: The Bella Center is Scandinavia’s largest exhibition and conference center; it opened in 1965. ↩
Editor’s note: The organizations supported by TTA from 1979 to 1986 (when the project disbanded) were ZANU, SWAPO in Namibia, and the IRE in South Africa. ↩
KAK, “Kritik af RAFs analyse og strategi” [Critique of RAF’s Analysis and Strategy], Kommunistisk Orientering, no. 5, 1975. ↩
See, in particular, M-KA, Imperialismen idag: Det ulige bytte og mulighederne for socialisme i en delt verden (Copenhagen: Manifest, 1983); English edition: Unequal Exchange and the Prospects of Socialism (Copenhagen: Manifest, 1986). ↩
Editor’s note: Fatah is a left-leaning Palestinian political party founded in 1965. It is the strongest faction within the PLO. Its founder and longtime chairman was Yasser Arafat. ↩
This history has been documented in Erik Nørgaard’s Krigen før krigen: Wollweber-organisationen og skibssabotagerne, fra den spanske borgerkrig til besættelsen af Danmark [The War Before the War: The Wollweber Organization and the Sabotage of Shipping Traffic: From the Spanish Civil War to the Occupation of Denmark] (Lynge: Bogan, 1986) and Krig og slutspil: Gestapo og dansk politi mod Kominterns “bombefolk”, fra besættelsen af Danmark til idag [War and Endgame: Gestapo and Danish Police against the “Comintern bombers”: From the Occupation of Denmark to the Presence] (ibid.), volumes 3 and 4 of a four-volume history of the Comintern. ↩
Editor’s note: The Wollweber League was named after its founder, the German communist Ernst Wollweber, who, as a young sailor in the Imperial German navy, was involved in the Wilhelmshaven Revolt of 1918, which led to the German Revolution and the end of the Kaiserreich. After the Nazis seized power in Germany in 1933, Wollweber fled to Copenhagen, where he started to form an “organization against fascism and in support of the Soviet Union,” i.e., the so-called Wollweber League. The Wollweber League was responsible for more than twenty acts of sabotage – mainly in Northern Europe – against ships serving fascist powers. Wollweber was arrested in Sweden in 1940 and deported to the Soviet Union in 1944. After the war, he was a high-ranking member of the East German SED. ↩
Quoted from Erik Nørgaard, Krigen før krigen: Wollweber-organisationen og skibssabotagerne, fra den spanske borgerkrig til besættelsen af Danmark (see note XX). ↩
Editor’s note: Rødstrømpebevægelsen is the Danish term for the international feminist-socialist Redstockings movement, founded in New York City in 1969. ↩
M-KA, “Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe dannet” [Communist Working Group founded], Manifest, no. 1, October 1978. ↩
See, for example, the pamphlet Det kommer en dag – Imperialisme og Arbejderklasse (Copenhagen: Futura, 1971), published in English as There Will Come a Day – Imperialism and the Working Class (ibid.). ↩
Editor’s note: See the website snylterstaten.dk for a list of Manifest publications. ↩
E. Varga and L. Mendelsohn (ed.), New Data for V.I. Lenin’s ‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’ (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1939). ↩
See, in particular, Samir Amin, Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism (New York/London: Monthly Review Press, 1977) [French original: L’impérialisme et le développement inégal (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1976)], Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System (New York/London: Academic Press, 1974), and Arghiri Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange: A Study of the Imperialism of Trade (New York/London: Monthly Review Press, 1972) [French original: L’échange inégal: Essai sur les antagonismes dans les rapports économiques internationaux (Paris: François Maspero, 1969)]. ↩
Arghiri Emmanuel, “Preface,” quoted from the English edition of Imperialismen idag: M-KA, English Unequal Exchange and the Prospects of Socialism (Copenhagen: Manifest, 1986), 9-15. ↩
Editor’s note: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was founded in 1961 by industrialized nations committed to a market economy. In 2012, it consisted of 34 member states. ↩
Editor’s note: See the website snylterstaten.dk for a list of Manifest publications. ↩
Editor’s note: See note XX. ↩
M-KA, Konflikten om Vestsahara: Polisarios kamp for et uafhængigt land [The Western Saharan Conflict: Polisario’s Struggle for an Independent Country] (Copenhagen: Manifest, 1983). ↩
Editor’s note: In September 1982, at least 800 Palestinians were killed during a three-day period by Christian Phalangist militias in the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila; the Israeli army, which controlled the area at the time, was accused of not interfering. ↩
Victor Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy, By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Officer (Scottsdale: Wilshire Press, 1990); on Denmark, see pages 231-233 and 241. ↩
Editor’s note: Wejra was a Danish weapons manufacturer that was accused in the 1980s of secret relations to Israel involving financial irregularities, illegal arms trade, and espionage. The company closed in 1990. ↩
Editor’s note: The petition expressed support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War. ↩
Editor’s note: Torkil Lauesen and Carsten Nielsen – see also “Solidarity Is Something You Can Hold in Your Hands.” ↩
From the stenographic transcript. ↩
Editor’s note: In Peter Øvig Knudsen’s books about the Blekingegade Group, one of his sources is an anonymous former M-KA member, referred to as the “voice.” After the book’s publication, it was officially revealed that the voice belonged to Bo Weimann. ↩
The examples are taken from Jørgen Bonde Jensen, Politiken og krigspolitikken – et læserbrev [Politics and War Politics: A Letter to the Editor] (Copenhagen: Babette, 2007). ↩
Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince, translated by W.K. Marriott, quoted from www.gutenberg.org. ↩
Habash’s speech was copied from the PFLP’s website (pflp.ps) a few years ago, where it is no longer accessible. ↩
”Nogle gange kan terror retfærdiggøres” [Sometimes Terror Can Be Justified], Interview with Ted Honderich by Mads Qvortrup, Information, December 27-28, 2008, 14-15. ↩
Noah Lucas, The Modern History of Israel (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974), 437. ↩
Quoted from Berlinske Tidende, December 6, 2008. ↩
See B’Tselem’s website, www.btselem.org/english/statistics/Casualties.asp. ↩
See also Torkil Lauesen, Det globale oprør [The Global Uprising] (Copenhagen: Autonomt forlag, 1994). On armed struggle and peace, see pages 117-131. ↩
Sven Lindqvist, Udryd de sataner [Exterminate the Savages] (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1992), 168. ↩
Lord Salisbury, “Speech at Albert Hall,” May 4, 1898, quoted from Andrew Roberts, “Salisbury, The Empire Builder Who Never Was,” History Today, vol. 49, iss. 10, online editon (www.historytoday.com). ↩
Jean-Paul Sartre, preface to Wretched of the Earth (1961), quoted from www.marxists.org. ↩
Editor’s note: On March 21, 1960, sixty-nine people were killed when the South African police opened fire during a protest outside the police station of the township of Sharpeville, south of Johannesburg. ↩
Editor’s note: Jens Otto Krag, Per Hækkerup, and Anker Jørgensen were prominent members of Denmark’s Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterne). ↩
Editor’s note: Centrum-Demokraterne [Center Democrats] was a Danish center-right party that split off from the Social Democrats in 1973; the party dissolved in 2008. ↩