on Rolf Martens 1942-2008

Malmö Maoist activist, Rolf Martens died on the 22nd of April 2008. He is buried at Limhamn’s cemetery.

His Wikipedia page notes he was Swedish chess champion in 1967 “and later, after I had learned some Marxism, made some “shocking” discoveries in its opening theory”. In fact there is a considerable literature on the Internet concerning his chess career and his contributions to chess theory.see https://www.365chess.com/players/Rolf_Martens

The entry notes – without elaborating that “he devoted himself to political activity, during which during the last 30 years of his life he stubbornly proclaimed an odd variant of Maoism”.

A former volunteer on the Marxists Internet Archive [M.I.A.], Martens was best known for his prolific publishing endeavours and internet engagement which was ironically described as “his personal big character poster board”.

Born in Norway in 1942, Martens moved in 1950 settling in Malmo the third-largest city in Sweden. He had a university degree with mathematics and physics, however was employed worked as a welder for 24 years. Rolf Martens worked as a welder at Åkermans workshop in Eslöv.  He was an active trade unionist and over the years involved in various campaigns including the Swedish anti-EU-membership campaign; anti- racism demonstrations and counter-demonstrations; support group for DR Congo; and was pro-nuclear power [At Barsebäck in southern Sweden, less than 20km from Copenhagen,two reactors came on-line in the mid-70’s. The plant was the focus of domestic protest during the 1976 “nuclear elections” and the site of large demonstrations at the time of the 1980 Swedish nuclear referendum]. Martens was pro-nuclear energy hence the cyber reference to ‘nuclear viking’.

Marten’s political engagement had begun in 1972, first in the anti-Vietnam-war movement, and as Swedish Maoists played a key role in organizing anti-Vietnam War protests Martens embraced the vibrant Swedish Maoist movement. In 1972 he joined Kommunistiska Förbundet Marxist-Leninisterna (revolutionärerna), abbreviated KFML(r) – The Communist League Marxist-Leninists (the revolutionaries). It was founded in 1970 by a splinter group from the pro-Chinese KFML. He was excluded from it after only two years. In 1974, Matens published “Dokument om kampen mot de pseudo-marxister, som vill undertrycka marxismen-leninismen och arbetar den sovjetiska socialimperialismen i händerna” [Document about the fight against the pseudo-marxists who want to suppress Marxism-Leninism and work hand-in-hand with Soviet social imperialism].

He recalls, “I was inexperienced in 1974, and in the then struggle made many mistakes, both of the “Left” sectarian type and of the Right opportunist one, and, not least, at first had difficulties in seeing how I, as only one individual, could successfully combat the then “KFML(r)” which, after all, in the 1973 parliamentary elections in Sweden (voters: 5 million), had received some 16 000 votes. But I didn’t land with the Right opportunists either (e.g. a “fraternal party” to the CPC called the “SKP” which later went with Deng and then disappeared in the early ’80s)”.

In 1974 Martens came under the influence of Hartmut Dicke (Klaus Sender) of the KPD/ML (NEUE EINHEIT), in self-exile in Malmö, Sweden, at the time due to persecution in West Germany.

A memoir on his webpage stated that he “endeavoured, and still am endeavouring, to act as an individual representative of Marxism in Sweden, of course always striving to contribute towards the creation of a genuinely Marxist-Leninist party in this country. In May 1975, I started publishing a series of leaflets (mainly) in Swedish, the INFORMATIONSBLAD series… from late 1974 on, I’ve participated in various organizations and coalitions of a united-front type, for causes which I’ve held it important to support.”

There were Martens’ disputes within the Sweden-China Friendship Committee. He was expelled from the Malmö chapter of the Swedish Palestine solidarity committee in 1983 which saw an explanatory text published, “A position on the Palestina Group congress in 1983”. Martens was critical of the role played by Rob Weltman – then the most influential leading member of the PGS, an organization in Sweden – “pointing out, and publicly proving, that Rob Weltman was working for forces wishing to subvert the PGS. For this I was kicked out”.

And in April 1990 Martens broke with the “bourgeois” KPD/ML (NEUE EINHEIT) it seems around the issue of their perceived lack of opposition to what the hostile KPD/ML described as “the Green and Alternative swindlers and so-called Ecologist movement”

The KPD/ML (NEUE EINHEIT), complained that Martens, a former member, kept publishing on the internet libels about the organization, at the same time trying to give the impression that he still has some connection with them, and was publishing articles and unauthorized translations of publications from Neue Eineit without permission.

“He only represents himself.” – NEUE EINHEIT Extra Nr.27 from Aug 15th 1996

Martens was a Steering Committee member involved with the Danish & Swedish chapters of the support group known as the International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life of Abimael Guzman. Publications that arose from disputes involving Martens included:

1) ” Leve 1 Maj” [Albertslund (Denmark),01 May 1996; 7 pages]; 2) “Forsvar Formand Gonzalos Liv!” [ Albertslund, 1996, 1 page]; 3) “Declaration Concerning Certain Suspicions” [2 copies: Malmö, 27 April 1995, 1 page, 2 sides (“to the editors of El Diario Internacional,are the anonymous leaders of the RIM agents of the CIA or not?”)]; 4) “To the Coordinating Committee.[Malmö, 12 April 19 94; 1 page, 2 sides]; 5) ” International Call to Action 20-21 May 1994″ [1 page, 2 sides]; 6) “Al Comité Coordinador” [Spanish edition of nr. 4; 1 2 April 1994]; 7) “A Proposal to Convene a Plenary Meeting of the Steering Committee of the IEC”[Malmö, 02 February 1995, 1 page, 2 sides]; 8) “Fö rklarung” [Malmö, July 1995; 1 page, 2 sides]; “Videovisning: You Must Tell the World” [Malmö, 1994, 1 page]

From late 1995 on, Martens was posting to Internet newsgroups and mailing lists, in English, Swedish and some other languages, among other things publishing “UNITE! (etc) Info” series.

FOERENA ER! Info en/de/fr/es/se series

Advocates the political line of Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong. Each
item # will be posted in one or more language(s).

Still to be found on mail archive sites are Rolf Marten’s multi-part instalments contributions dating from the mid-1990s onwards.….

Martens’ disputes were not simply restricted to the internet although Louis Proyect recall that he had to unsub Rolf at least 2 times from Marxmail, and former Chairman of the RCLB, Chris Burford waited in vain for Martens to apologise for Martens labelling him a cop in an acrimonious exchange on Marxism-General list in 1997. Burford, eventually  a member of Democratic Left, called for Martens withdraw from the list, explaining:

  • He stirs up unprincipled disputes. He appears to be unable to cooperate with a group sharing his political aims in Sweden, and there have been references to his falling out with a number of groups. Here on the internet despite regarding the Communist Party of Peru as having significant petty bourgeois tendencies he fanned a flame war against one supporter of that party in support of another group, one of whose members he now describes as a “swindler” and another as “lying”.
  • Despite apparently attempting to set up a new international on the internet according to the principles of Mao Zedong (who did not believe in an international) he appears singularly ignorant of Mao’s advice about not making personal attacks but enjoys name calling and appears to try to promote it. This might just be a childish pleasure in puns, but the role of police agents in causing divisions is well established, including their tendency to call others agents to distract attention from themselves and add to the confusion and distrust.
  • From: Chris Burford <cburford-AT-gn.apc.org>
  • Subject: M-G: Just a general without soldiers?
  • 29 Jul 1997 06:47:09 +0100

Actually in the real world neither of them were undercover cops!

These exchanges were not unusual in the febrile atmosphere that passed for political dialogue at that time. Martens recalled “… some sharp exchanges recently on the Jefferson Village Virginia Marxism list, where I condemned the 1979-1988 flagrant aggression against Afghanistan by Soviet social-imperialism and certain people very heatedly *defended* that aggression” .

Others who populated the internet lists would respond to “the Swedish individual Rolf Martens who does not even claim to uphold Hua Guofeng while still supporting his arrest of the “Gang of Four” and still claiming to oppose Deng Xiaoping. When asked [by MIM] who concretely he supported if not Hua Guofeng, Rolf Martens has no one to mention, only Mao, who was already dead.”

A flavour of Marten’s analysis and argumentation can be found in (these reformatted) pieces

  1. martens_gang of four
  2. martens_debate with olaechea
  3. martens_exposure of the rim

Clearly, Martens resembled what he criticised others for – a general without an army.

3 thoughts on “on Rolf Martens 1942-2008

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