Danish cadres in the Comintern: in the service of international communism or vanguard of a national working class?

Chris Holmsted Larsen

    Publikation: KonferencebidragKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskning


    I would like to present some of the preliminary results of an ongoing research-project, which I am fortunate to be part of and which very much has evolved along the lines of the subject of this conference. The research-project ‘Danish-Russian relations in the 20th Century’ was initiated in 2010 and made possible through generous funding from the Carlsberg Foundation. The initial goal of the project was digitally to copy and bring home the entire collection of case files regarding Danish communists in the Comintern archive, which today is located in the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History, also called the RGASPI-archive, in Moscow. Part of this achieve had already been brought back by a group of leading Danish historians in the 1990s, among other notably Professor Kurt Jacobsen and Morten Thing, who were the first to access the Danish part of the Comintern-achieve. But unfortunately, these files only included the absolute leading communists in the party and therefore not the subordinated levels of the DKP. But as some of the present researchers will know, it can be an arduous task to strike a deal with the Russian archival authorities in such matters and the negotiations for a renewed agreement, demanded a great deal of political and diplomatic marksmanship. Due to the helpfulness of especially the Austrian colleagues, who had already concluded a similar agreement with the Russians, we eventually managed to conclude a favorable agreement with the director of the RGASPI, Andrei Sorokin. This agreement was signed at the conference ‘Comintern and the Danish-Soviet relations’ in autumn 2011.
    In short, it made possible a complete digital transfer of all of the Comintern’s achieves related to Danish personal files. It was also agreed that these would be divided into three batches and that the first batch would be handed over January 2012 and the last would find its way to the Danish Labor Movements Library & Archives, where we had anchored the project, in December 2012. So, as you probably can imagine, one of our first priorities was to establish how much material we were dealing with. As it turned out, the archive consisted of 400 single case files, which again contained biographical material etc. on more the 600 Danes. So far, we have received more than 1400 single pages from RGASPI.
    After the first delivery, from the custodians in RGASPI, we made several surprising discoveries on the nature of these files. First, it became clear, that the Comintern had not only compiled sensitive information on Danish communists, but also public political figures from the Social Democratic Party, workers movement and other parliamentary parties.
    Especially outspoken anticommunists seemed to have caught the attention of the Comintern. A further category consisted of scientists. One example was a case file on the physicist Niels Bohr, who also was part of the British team of physicists working on the Manhattan Project.
    As for the communists, we were positively surprised by the fact, that the files not only contained the already known upper echelons of the DKP, but also surprisingly many unknown or relatively unknown communists from the middle layer of the party. Furthermore we found much new material which supplemented our hitherto knowledge of the leading communist echelons and the policies of the DKP. Yet another surprise was related to the chronology. Despite Stalin’s closure of the Comintern in 1943, new material continued to be added to the already existing case files well into the postwar period and in some instances to the very end of the Cold War. This historical extension means that we will also be able to conduct both standard and collective biographical research on the impact, of the Danish generation of Comintern communists, on the postwar policies and organization of the party.
    Despite these fortunate and important findings, there was also room for minor disappointments. One such, and halfway expected disappointment, was that the collected material did not include much information on the secret and illegal work of the Comintern, or more specifically the OMS.
    For example the prewar acts of bombing and sabotage, committed by the so called Wollweber Network, in Denmark, and Danish communist’s involvement and knowledge of this, has not found its way into this achieve. We are currently trying to gain access to these secret sections of the Comintern-archives, but also assume that much of the really interesting material is to be found in the less accessible former KGB-archives of the FSB. To illustrate what we, so far, have found and what this means for our understanding of the transnational relationship between the SUKP and the DKP, I would like to introduce you to one of the Danish communists, Martin Nielsen, who’s Comintern-files contained surprises. This file, among other, has prompted a tentative revision of elements of our hitherto historical knowledge of the Danish Communist movement and its relationship to the SUKP.
    Publikationsdato7 dec. 2012
    Antal sider9
    StatusUdgivet - 7 dec. 2012
    BegivenhedTwentieth Century Communism day conference : Towards a transnational communist history - University of Manchester, Manchester, Storbritannien
    Varighed: 7 dec. 20127 dec. 2012


    KonferenceTwentieth Century Communism day conference
    LokationUniversity of Manchester


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