Clarification on Danish Trotskyism
This letter from Mike Jones should have appeared in Revolutionary History Vol.2 No.3 but due to an oversight was never published. It supplements, corrects and modifies his article on Danish Trotskyism in Vol.2 No.2.
A few minor type-setting errors appeared in the account by Borge Trolle of the activity of the Revolutionary Socialists during the occupation of Denmark (RH Vol.2 No.2). The statement on p.48 mentions an “atavistic” sector of the Danish bourgeoisie instead of an 82210;activistic” sector. However the main error distorts the political significance in a more serious way, as it concerns the views of one of the key figures of Danish Trotskyism, so it should be corrected,
Describing the dispute between the supporters of Poul Moth and those of Georg Jungclas, the text states that the former “proposed that one should proclaim oneself as nationalists and that in the case of an occupation one should go into the street and ‘wave the flag’”. Trolle’s text said “anationalists” in the sense of “apolitical”, or above national affiliation.
After the appearance of Vol.2 No.2. Sam Bornstein said to me that, knowing Moth, he found the description of his views difficult to accept. He also said that after the war Moth had complained to him, saying that Jungclas was distorting his views and trying to portray him as having fallen into a nationalist posture. I assured Sam that a missing “a” had caused some of the confusion but since then another account has emerged.
In Mod Strommen, by Steen Bille Larsen, referred to in Trolle’s account, the same meeting on 8.4.1940 is described in almost the same words but instead of “wave the flag” it gives “go out with red flags” which puts a very different interpretation on events. As Trolle collaborated with Steen Bille, it would seem that Moth’s group did not go over to nationalism and that the flag that they proposed to wave was indeed a red one. The account by Steen Bille continues and remarks that “in fact the Moth people did carry out their proposal, inasmuch as they distributed leaflets at Osterbro Barracks among other places, which called upon the soldiers to turn their weapons against the bourgeoisie” p.256.
I cannot comment on what Jungclas was alleged to have said about Moth, but nothing whatever points to his having succumbed to nationalism, if anything he appears to have gone way off in the other direction. His group seems to have been very internationalist, to the point of abstraction, a common feature in Trotskyism, which grouped round international questions and was often incapable of developing a policy for its own working class – experts on the class struggle everywhere else! That seems to be why Jungclas broke with him and, by winning over most of the Brandlerist youth around Metz, together with some of the younger syndicalists, he was able to advance.
Steen Bille’s book shows how the Moth group emerged in the opposition in the Social Democratic youth over their party’s refusal to join the CP in a United Front against Fascism. Many hundreds of youth were expelled for engaging in uniformed struggle leagues of a para-military type. Steen Bille says that they never won over a majority of the youth because they never developed policies for young workers, apprentices and so on.
Two of the group, Tage Lau and Age Kjelso, went to Spain and joined the POUM. Another interesting fact about Moth’s group in Steen Bille’s book is that they published a Trotskyist paper in Esperanto, as part of their intervention into the workers’ Esperanto movement, a sure sign of their internationalism.
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Updated by ETOL: 22.10.2003