The Communist Chronicles

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In the 1930s, the Norwegian Communist Party (NKP) had led a shadowy existence in national politics, winning only 1.7% of the votes in the local government elections in 1937, the last elections prior to 1945; yet with the liberation in the summer of 1945, the party was given two ministerial posts in Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen's coalition government, and at the parliamentary elections in the autumn it won 11 seats in the Storting, the party's first representatives since 1930, when it had three. On a national average, it won 11.9% of the votes in 1945, and 16.9% of the urban vote. Its revolutionary profile from between the wars was completely transformed. After the 1940 to 1945 period of resistance, no more was heard of the old sectarian and Soviet-inspired language. The party praised the King and national values, and claimed to be a non-oppositional parliamentary party.

The party leader was Peder Furubotn, who was General Secretary from its establishment in 1923 to 1925, and Chairman from 1925 to 1929, and who had held important posts in the Communist International, the Comintern. He was a member of its Presidium from 1927 to 1929, and of the Executive Committee even for longer. He had also been a member of the Comintern's special Senior Commission, and had worked in Profintern, the Communists' Trade Union International. On New Year's Eve 1941-42 he again became General Secretary, which he remained until suddenly purged in the autumn of 1949.

Rarely if ever has a Norwegian party leader been rejected by his own in the way Peder Furubotn was that autumn. After having been regarded as a wartime hero, he was suddenly excluded from the Communist Party as a bourgeois nationalist, class traitor, Trotskyite and Titoist. The extraordinary party congress in 1950 resolved that he was the member of the party who had gone furthest in collaborating with the Germans in 1940-41.(1) It was even whispered that he was a paid imperialist agent. During the war he had worked for the Gestapo and betrayed close friends and associates to the Germans where they faced almost certain torture and execution.(2) After the war he had continued to work, so it was claimed, for the destruction of Communism, now as an American agent...

The events surrounding Peder Furubotn in 1949-50 themselves constitute an exceptional drama which invites research. They are of international interest, because the Norwegian Communist Party was the only European Communist Party to be formally split in two during the great purges which Stalin was initiating in world communism at the time. A natural question to ask is what the personal and political factors were which led to this unusual party drama. Since Furubotn figures so prominently in all the studies and discussions of what took place in the party in 1949, the literary genre of biography is an obvious one to choose in approaching these issues..

As a field for scientific work in Norway, until recently political biography has remained relatively unploughed. The flood of political memoirs since the late 1960s has at last prompted researchers to consider the scientific problems biography entails. Per Maurseth's article ``Biographers of the world, arise!'' in Kontrast, 2, 1983, was a milestone. The increasing scientific interest in the phenomenon was manifested in a seminar arranged by the Norwegian Historical Association at the University of Oslo in February 1986, under the heading ``History as Biography''. But scholars are far from agreeing on what constitutes a scientifically sound biography; witness the remark in ``Symposion'' in Nytt norsk tidsskrift that `` some extent, their perspectives and methods compete with one another...''.(3)

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Footnote number 3:

Nytt norsk tidsskrift, no.2, 1986, P. 62.
© 2002 Hogne Titlestad, Erling Skjalgssonselskapet