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Aksel Larsen : biography

August 5, 1897 - January 10, 1972

Aksel Larsen (August 5, 1897 – January 10, 1972) was a Danish politician who was chairman of the Communist Party of Denmark and chairman and founder of the Socialist People's Party. Larsen became leader of the Communist Party in 1932, and was elected to the Danish Parliament (Rigsdagen) in 1932. Together with other Danish communists Larsen had to go into hiding in 1941 when the Danish police began arresting all party members.

After the liberation in 1945 Larsen served as a minister in the interim government, and subsequently led his party to its best-ever result in the October 1945 election, in which it took 10% of the vote. The election, however, brought a Liberal government into office, and Larsen's party was mostly shunned by the other party leaders.

Following the rising in Hungary in 1956, Larsen condemned the Soviet Union's action. This led him into conflict with the members of the party leadership who were more loyal to Moscow; a conflict that ended with his being expelled in November 1958.

Larsen's reaction was to form the Socialist People's Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti), which, thanks to Larsen's personal popularity, entered parliament at the 1960 election at the expense of the Communists, who from then on played only a very peripheral role in Danish politics.

Aksel Larsen, who was especially in later years highly respected among politicians, even if his party was seen as somewhat irresponsible, remained as leader of the Socialists until 1968, when he handed over to Sigurd Ømann. He remained an MP until his death in 1972.

The Danish Institute for International Studies, concluded in 2005, that Larsen held a secret working relationship between 1958 and 1964 with one of Denmark's allied partners in the Cold War, stating that "Larsen... obviously was an agent of a Western intelligence service."

Enacting the popular front policy

Larsen and the Communist Party complied with the orders from Moscow and began working for the popular front policy. In March 1938 following Adolf Hitler’s takeover of Austria in the Anschluss Larsen held a speech in which he used a more patriotic rhetoric than before and warned that Denmark could suffer the same fate. After the speech the communists urged the Social Democrats and the Social Liberal Party to join the communists in a popular front. In a letter to the Social Democratic leader and prime minister Thorvald Stauning Larsen promised “the most unconditional and loyal support”.

The new party line culminated on the 1938 party congress where Larsen held one of his most important speeches. He declared that the communist party was both a Danish and a democratic party and put great emphasis on his party’s wishes for unity in the labour movement.

The popular front policy won supporters outside traditional communist constituencies and since the communists used the charismatic Larsen to personify their policies he became increasingly popular. However the Social Democrats refused to cooperate with the communists.

In spite of the popularity of Larsen and the popular front voter support for the party was small. Although the communists got 40,983 votes in the 1939 election and went from two to three seats in parliament the increase was much smaller than they had hoped for which was a great disappointment to Larsen. The communists were further disappointed by the 1939 constitutional referendum where they had campaigned in favour of the new constitution which was not passed.

Surviving Stalin’s purges

Although Larsen wanted more independence in developing policies he was not critical of the Soviet Union. He was a loyal defender of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union. Although they affected many of his former friends from his stay in the 1920s and even though he did not believe in all the accusations he defended the purges and the Moscow trials.

On May 20, 1937 Larsen arrived to a Moscow marked by fear, anti-Trotskyist propaganda and mass hysteria. A lot of his old acquaintances had either disappeared or did not dare to meet him.

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Living octopus

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