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Issue 50, September 2000

Danish Euro-vote and the far-right

THE DRAMATIC growth of the racist Dansk Folkeparti (DF - Danish People's Party) seems to have stopped, at least temporarily. Rather than receiving a boost from the Danish referendum on the Euro (28 September), DF is losing support and is shaken by splits.

The high-point in support for the DF came in January when it reached 15.9% in an opinion poll taken during a blatantly racist advertising campaign. A poster and full-page advert showed a typical Danish youth living on the streets. The caption asked: 'Does he have to convert to Islam to get a flat?'

DF leader, Pia Kjaersgaard, blamed immigrants and refugees as the reason why the health service and elderly care have been severely cut in the 1990s. She criticised globalisation, the European Union and EMU. The DF web site publishes the names and addresses of every immigrant made a Danish citizen, claiming to be the only party still regarding them as 'foreigners'.

If the level of support reported in January was translated into votes, the DF would have doubled its number of MPs to 26 and become Denmark's third biggest party, while backing for the social democrats dropped from 35% a few years ago to below 25%. In panic, all the established parties have attempted to be even more extreme than the DF. Social democratic prime minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, spent most of his New Year speech promising tighter refugee policies and demanding that immigrants should adapt to Danish language and values.

Denmark has already tightened its immigration laws 13 times since 1993. Three years ago, the refugee grant was cut by 25% and DNA-tests were made compulsory. In February of this year, rules for relatives entering the country were made tougher - a proposal put forward by six social democratic mayors in the Copenhagen region.


The basis for the DF's support has been the same as that for the Freedom Party (FPÖ) in Austria: big cuts in the public sector and social democracy embracing the market. Widespread discontent and demands from the workers for a share in the economic upswing led to a general strike in May 1998. The strike ended after the government declared it illegal and trade union leaders capitulated.

The left alternatives have not been able to organise a struggle. The referendum in 1992 returned a No to Maastricht decision which shook the whole EU. A year later, the Yes side won as a result of threats to jobs and a few concessions, among them that Denmark could opt-out of the Euro. Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF - Socialist People's Party), which changed its line from No in 1992 to Yes in 1993, played a key role in assisting the establishment.

In the coming referendum, SF is back in the No camp and is gaining in the opinion polls. Also, over the course of this year, Enhedslistan (the Red-Green alliance) has taken steps towards becoming a party, although it has no agreed programme and has not increased its membership.

Despite the lack of any organised alternatives, however, DF has been plunged into crisis this summer. Allegations against Kjaersgaard's dictatorial methods and fraud have similarities with the splits in Le Pen's Front National in France, and the collapse of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party in Australia. Four MPs have either been expelled or left the DF in recent months and the party has fallen back to an opinion poll rating of less than 10%.


The DF has a fundamental weakness. It draws its support mainly from the discontent felt in broad layers of society, including workers. Working-class people want to punish the old parties, but do not support the whole programme of the DF. When the DF goes too far and opposition to its policies grows, support for it drops.

The bourgeoisie generally want to cut the public sector, including expenditure on refugees. The Danish shipbuilding company, AP Moller, has contributed to DF financially. But the leading capitalists fear a polarisation and a backlash against DF and are not in favour of increased attacks on immigrants in general. Some companies even want to 'import' qualified foreign workers.

So the DF has found itself marginalised within the establishment, in Denmark and internationally. When the DF leadership went on a 'solidarity tour' to Vienna in August they were unable to arrange a single discussion or photo-opportunity with the Austrian government. The DF was regarded as being too anti-Europe and extreme.

Over the last few years, DF has been the loudest voice against the EU and the Euro. But its falling support does not mean that a Yes victory in the referendum is certain. The biggest force against the Euro does not come from the anti-federalists and even less the racists: only 5% of No voters cite the example of Austria as their reason for voting No. Defending the welfare state is the main issue. The biggest section of people voting No are women public-sector workers fearing further cuts and privatisation. Unfortunately, the campaigns of the SF and other left forces in the No camp are stressing 'Danish independence' rather than these class issues, never mind a socialist alternative.


At present, 48% say they will vote Yes, with 46% voting against the Euro. Two months ago the No side was leading with 51%. Despite the fact that the Danish krone has been connected to the ecu/Euro for years in the narrow ERM band - which would not change in the event of a No vote - quite a lot is at stake. The bourgeois strategists are anxious to get into the eurozone, fearing the onset of financial crisis and currency turbulence. Among top managers, 86% are advocating a Yes vote alongside 75% of MPs and most of the media and trade unions. Their prestige, along with that of the falling Euro, would be severely hit by a negative result.

The worst scenario for the capitalists would be a No victory. A report by the investment bank, Merril Lynch, warns that outcome would delay or complicate 'reforms' in the EU countries. By 'reforms', of course, it really means counter-reforms - attacks on working-class people's living and working conditions. The Yes campaign will use all its resources to threaten, bribe or blackmail their way to victory. But despite being in the midst of an economic upswing, the prognosis for Denmark is for further political turmoil and instability.

Per-Åke Westerlund

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