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Contribution of the Communist Party of Denmark

Contribution to the Conference of European Communist Parties
Bruxelles April 11-12, 2011

I am going to give you a few facts about the current political situation in Denmark, concluding by some reflections on the strategy of Communists in metropole countries of the Scandinavian welfare state type.

The economic crisis hit these countries hard, as it hit most of the world, but recovery differs. Whereas, for instance, Sweden seems to be in a process of fairly speedy recovery based on its solid industrial foundations, Denmark finds itself in a kind of stalemate. The Gross National Product declined again towards the end of last year, unemployment continues to be on a high level, private consumption shows no signs of revival, and real estate prices are predicted to decline further by an order of magnitude of twenty percent during the years to come. Though Denmark has so far escaped the financial disasters suffered by countries like Iceland, Ireland and several countries of Southern Europe, billions have nevertheless been spent on saving speculative excess capital, and the bill has to be paid by ordinary people. The result is cuts in public economic activity, and the very fabric of the welfare state has now come under attack.

Unlike Sweden and Germany, the crisis has further accelerated the process of deindustrialization. Outsourcing is gathering speed. Some political forces, both in government and in opposition, are consoling themselves with a vision of Denmark as a haven of knowledge and innovation, with actual production going to take place elsewhere, but industry warns that this is no feasible way: It is not possible to separate the creation of knowledge from material production.

The Liberal-Conservative government, which has been in office for ten years now, is held widely responsible for this situation and has certainly shown very little understanding for the seriousness of the crisis. It is generally expected that national elections due this year will lead to a change of government in favour of a socialist coalition supported to the Left by the Red-Green Alliance and to the right by the Radical Party. The latter is a left liberal party which has for generations now enjoyed a key position in the Danish political landscape, entering into government coalitions with either Social Democrats or bourgeois parties. The party is in opposition to the present government primarily because of strict immigrant regulations imposed by the government's nationalist supports, but in domestic economic matters it has increasingly been placing itself toward the Right. This fact alone should serve as a warning not to expect too much of a change from the new government, even though the rhetorics between the opposing camps are currently much harsher than usual in Danish politics. Actually, the Social Democrats were responsible for introducing, back in the 90's, much of the neoliberal policies pursued by the present government, and they have always been fervent partisans of both EU and NATO and have supported the war efforts of recent years. The so-called Socialist People's Party, looking forward to government seats, is moving rapidly in the same direction, having recently embraced EU as well as NATO.

Most recently, the opposition is almost enthusiastically supporting the government in joining the imperialist intervention in the Libyan civil war. Even the Red-Green Alliance was in favour, thus rendering the decision to go to war unanimous, a hitherto unheard-of phenomenon in modern Danish politics. Driven by pressures from below, the Alliance has subsequently been stressing that it supports only the bombings warranted by the UN resolution, not outright intervention, but of course this is an excuse; they must have known the intentions of the government. "We" cannot allow the Libyan people to be massacred, they claim; but who are "we"? In spite of a revolutionist phraseology, it seems that the top of the Red-Greens is increasingly viewing themselves as part of the political establishment and regarding political questions from inside a framework of consensus.

The Left may expect to win the elections, but if this victory is to form the foundations of real change and not just of a new defeat in a few years' time, they will have to present a completely different policy, a new agenda. So far, they do not seem to be ready for that. What can the Communists do to push developments in this direction?

We share with the Social Democrats our working class origins. We have different goals: They seek a compromise with capitalism, an equality of labour with capital; we seek a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, in the long run of course the only viable solution. But these differences are differences inside the working class.

The Social Democratic position is not entirely an illusion. In some of the imperialist metropole countries the sharing of power between capital and working class is possible to some extent, even without affecting capitalist production relations. The outcome is the welfare state of Northern Europe. The welfare state implies genuine working class power positions and, of course, a safeguard of the workers' daily life. This is the reality that workers experience, and it is the reason for the very strong position of the Social Democrats in these countries the contribution of the Communists and of the proximity of a strong socialist camp notwithstanding.

This means that we cannot simply dismiss the Social Democrats as class traitors, waiting for the workers to see the light, because they won’t. Neither does it mean that we should seek a merger with the Social Democrats; it was tried in Eastern Europe, but it did not last, because it is not a question of different ways towards a common goal, but it is the goals that differ. In our revolutionary strategy we shall have to work with the Social Democrats even while working against them. We shall have to make them embrace our approach.

Because in the long run the Social Democratic compromise with capital is not viable neither, probably, globally. The political branch of the working class movement has to put forward a new agenda, if it wants to survive, and that is what we Communists have got to tell the other factions.

The idea of moving Social Democrats towards the left by exerting pressure from below is not without foundations: In the 80's, Danish Communists and the then very strong peace movement through which we worked succeeded in making the Social Democratic government oppose NATO missile deployment plans. The Right was fully aware that the Communists had inspired this policy: “Footnote policy” they named it scornfully. And this happened at a time when Danish Communists did not even posses a parliamentary representation.

Finally, a few words on the problems we should expect to encounter when putting socialism on the agenda in a European context. It is true that the crisis we have been through points to the unviability of capitalist solutions and to a socialist alternative, and this should be exploited. But it would seem that most European countries are too small to significantly alter the course of world events and turn this alternative into a durable fact; several of them have tried, with great heroism but without lasting success. Socialism in Europe will not be in one country, but will require concerted action, and here we run into a problem. Despite organizations like the EU, Europe is fragmented. We are witnessing just now a very promising revolutionary surge in the Arab countries, facilitated by the fact that these countries share the same language. In Europe we do not. We shall have to work very seriously on these problems.

In Denmark, there is much talk of what the ruling forces call "value struggle", by which they mean turning back working class gains in the ideological field and restoring undisputed bourgeois hegemony. The working class movement will have to fight back in this struggle. But we will also have to conduct a "value struggle" inside the working class, showing that the established Left's acceptance of the neoliberal agenda is a blind alley. This is the challenge we are facing just now.

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