Denmark: New government formed but workers’ parties must break with the bourgeois Radical Left

A new government was finally formed last week in Denmark. It is clear that the participation of the Radical Left (a bourgeois party) is going to prove to be catastrophic for the working class. The programme of the new government is a continuation of the right wing’s attack on early retirement, unemployment benefits, etc. All talk about a “fair solution” to the economic problems of Denmark and that “the broadest shoulders also should bear some of the burden” has now disappeared.

So long as the Radical Left remains part of the coalition, the policy of the government will be a continuation of the right-wing austerity policies of the previous government. The workers’ parties must break with the Radical Left and also break with any policy based on the demands of the bosses and counterpose to these a genuine socialist programme.

A continuation of the austerity policy: the unemployed

The “government programme” contains very few of the promises that the Social Democracy (SD) and the Socialist People’s Party (SF) made during the election campaign. The few positive elements that remain in the programme are the following: the particularly low benefits for immigrant imposed by the previous government are to be withdrawn; the limit on unemployed benefits will be removed; and finally the restrictions on benefits for workers off sick will be removed. These measures are important, but they are nothing compared to what the workers’ parties in this government have had to concede in exchange. And to make matters worse, no date has been set for when these measures are to be implemented, except for a vague “when the money is available”.

The massive attacks on the rights of the unemployed which were carried out after the crisis started are not going to be rolled back. In fact the new government is now talking of a broadening these out to the whole workforce. This means they are preparing an attack that will hit the whole working class hard. If the conditions of the unemployed are made worse than they already are, this will put workers in a desperate situation and force them to accept lower wages and a worsening of working conditions.

Essentially the previous right-wing government’s cut in the period you can get the higher level of unemployment benefit from four to two years will remain. The new government’s intention to postpone the cut in the period for half a year will not be of any real comfort for the thousands of workers who will lose their benefits next summer. When the unemployed benefits are removed, which already are well below wage levels, the families of the unemployed will clearly be unable to cope. The “lucky” ones may be able to get a very small amount of unemployment benefit from the state, but many won’t even be entitled to that and will thus be forced out of their homes.

The Radicals, using the usual argument of the bourgeois, say that by making it more difficult to get unemployment benefit, more people will have to get a job. This is pure right-wing propaganda and completely false, as it ignore the fact that real unemployment levels are going up.

Between May and August unemployment went up every month, with 6,700 workers losing their jobs. And this is only the beginning as the city councils and the private sector have both been warning that more redundancies are on the way. As Chief economist at Danske Bank, Steen Bocian recently explained, “My guess is, that unemployment will have risen by 5,000 to 10,000 before the New Year.” And the fact that the new government promises to increase public investments by 10 billion kr. will not have much of an impact on the growing levels of unemployment.

The austerity policy continues: Early retirement and pensions

This new government is going to continue with the right wing’s attack on the right to early retirement and the age of retirement. This means that a government which has within it the Social Democrats and the Socialist People’s party (SF), and which also has the support of the Unity List, will impose the most severe cuts on the age of retirement that Denmark has ever seen. The cuts mean that children born today will have to work till they are 73 years old before they can retire.

The unions protested heavily against this draconian measure when it was announced. In their campaign they asked, “How can a construction worker or a caretaker work until they are 73 years old?” In the light of rising youth unemployment this is even more severe.

If the crisis continues, most people between 19 and 29 years of age can expect either to lose their present jobs, or as is the case for many, for their present bout of unemployment to continue. Unemployment for 25-29 year olds presently stands at 9 %.

In other words the government is going to make the workers and youth pay for the crisis. Thus we can see how the so-called “fairness” in the plan of the SD and SF, that was supposed to pass the bill to the rich through a tax on the banks and the millionaires, has been left out of the “government programme”. The worker’s parties have in fact left it to the Radical Left to decide the economic programme of the government.

What the SD and SF have “gained” in return has nothing in common with a workers’ policy. They will impose a whole range of unjust indirect taxes that will hit the workers and the poorest hardest, completely contradicting their previously self-proclaimed principle that “the broadest shoulders should bear the biggest burden.” The new Tax Minister, Thor Möger Pedersen of the SF, speaking to the journal Boersen recently declared that, “This government will carry out a very ambitious tax reform that both markedly lowers taxes on labour and ensures there is a social balance and that it is is fully financed.”

We are in favour of lowering taxes for workers but it is clear that with the tax on millionaires and banks gone, with the lowering of taxes on the rich and with no talk of higher taxation on the corporations, then the statement issued by the Tax Minister together with all the other things they have said, means that the working class will have to pay a relatively bigger share of the bill compared to the rich, while at the same time welfare will be cut. How else can they guarantee that tax reductions are going to be “fully financed”?

And all this is only the beginning. Even though the election campaign “commitment” from the SD and SF that everyone would have to work an extra 12 minutes per day – with no increase in wages – is no longer on the table, there is still a plan to open up negotiations between employers, unions and the government to secure a “better competitiveness” of the Danish economy, which simply means that the workers will have to work more for less pay.

Where are the Unity List’s fingerprints?

The programme of the government is proving to be almost the worst that could have been expected for ordinary working people. It continuation on from where the previous right-wing government left off. And those parts of the programme that the workers parties did have a say are in no way policies that defend workers’ interests but are areas where the workers’ parties have moved far to the right.

The result of the elections was a clear message that the workers are opposed to the right-wing policy agreed to by the leadership in SD and SF. The Social Democrats already received their worst election result since 1903 and the SF also lost significant support. This process will continue as they participate further in this government on this programme.

The Unity List was strengthened in the elections as they were seen as an alternative to the left, but they will also be facing huge problems. When the leader of the Unity List, Johanne Schmidt Nielsen, comes out with a statement that she can see the Unity List’s “fingerprints” in the programme of the government, it reveals that although the Unity List will not be in the government they have reduced their role to being that of a “loyal opposition”. She says that the Unity List will fight for the policy commitments that the SD and SF made during the elections but which they abandoned during the government negotiations. How the Unity List is going to keep to those policies when the much bigger SD and SF proved incapable of doing so is left very vague. It has to be admitted that even this is a very limited and unambitious programme and the position of loyal opposition will prove catastrophic for the party. The Unity List together with the SD and SF will be held accountable if they unconditionally support the programme this government has presented.

Break with Radical Left – it is time for a real socialist policy

The cuts presented in the programme of the government are only the beginning. As long as the Radical Left is part of the government, the right-wing policies will continue. The participation of the workers’ parties in this government will eventually discredit them and pave the way for an even stronger right-wing government coming back into office at a later stage.

This government and its programme will not meet the expectations that the working class and youth had placed in it. Even before the programme had been published people were showing their dissatisfaction.

The leader of the DSU, the youth wing of the Social Democrats, has already publically criticized the fact that the promised tax on the banks and millionaires is not part of the government programme and therefore it will be the poorest in society who will be made to pay for a crisis not of their making. And one Social Democratic MP, Bjarne Laustsen, has said that there still is a base for class war, referring to the cuts in the rights of the unemployed and attack on early retirement.

The SF’s demands have also not been included in the programme. All those policies that the workers’ parties managed to get included in the new government programme are in fact the demands of the right wing of the Social Democrats that the SF was forced to accept in the name of unity before the election. Some of the positive and concrete demands that the SF was putting forward, such as as a better education system, were not included in the programme. Many rank and file members of the party are asking themselves: “Why are we entering a government that will not reflect the policies of the SF?”

Within the Socialist People’s Party criticism of the leadership is growing. Some, even fairly high up within the party, have even publically expressed their concerns, such as Pernille Frahm, a well known politician and former MP, who has argued that the Socialist People’s Party should not participate in this government.

It is clear that the road the leadership of the SF have taken the party down is going to prove catastrophic for the workers in general and for the Party in particular. One only has to look at the election results to see this already. Some sections of the party are now acknowledging this. What is required is to draw up a sober balance sheet and take on board all the lessons that flow from the elections and begin the task of building a left opposition current within the Socialist People’s Party based on a socialist programme. However, it is also true to say that in all the workers’ parties there are now people arguing for a break with the Radical Left and for a socialist policy. A network must be built inside the labour movement connecting up these different opposition currents

The world crisis is not going to go away. It will continue and the workers’ parties will be faced with a choice, either to break with capitalism or to continue attacking the rights of the working class, youth and poor. As long as the workers’ parties continue to collaborate with the Radical Left in this government, the right-wing attacks will continue. The programme of the present government is only the beginning of a more generalised onslaught against the working class.

The capitalists are pushing the leaderships of the workers’ parties into an offensive against the working class. As we have seen in other European countries, the capitalists are letting the workers’ parties do all the dirty work for them. The workers’ parties must not let the capitalists use them in this manner. They should break with the Radical Left, who are simply the agents of the capitalists inside the government, and put an end to this coalition. The workers’ parties should form a united front without any bourgeois party, and fight for a workers, government on a socialist programme.