Denmark's Election: The Left Wins, but Country's Militarism and Backing of NATO Actions Continue Unabated

Hvalsoe, Denmark–It was with joy that I watched television coverage of election day, September 15. According to all the nine political parties running, and the mass media, there were no wars in the world and Denmark no longer was involved in three wars—Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya–alongside the USA.

In fact, all through the three-week long election campaign, none of the parties spoke of war, or of that most fundamental of moral questions a society must ask: do we kill other people who do not attack us?

There were eight political parties in the 179-member parliament before election day. The right-wing coalition of liberals (Venstre, middle-to-large farmers’ traditional party) and conservatives (Konservativ, businessmen’s traditional party) held power for a decade but to achieve a parliamentary majority had been compelled to rely on the far right, racist People’s Party (DF).

These eight parties form two blocs: red (center left) and blue (center right).Two in the red bloc declare themselves to be socialist: The People’s Socialists (SF) and the Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten/Unity List or EL). Another is the traditional majority party, Social Democrats (SD). The fourth “red” party, which shifts between blocs, is the Radical Liberals (Radical Venstre/RV, small business employers and self-employed).

In this election, significant shifts in the numbers of parliamentary factions occurred. EL went from 2.2% of the vote to 6.7% for a gain of eight MPs, 12 in all. The Conservatives lost ten of their 18 (from 10.4% to 4.9%), with most of those votes going to the RV (from 5.1% to 9.5%), which went from nine to 17 MPs, and the laissez faire, libertarian capitalist party, Liberal Alliance, which went from five to nine MPs (and from 2.8% to 5% of the vote).

The red bloc now has 89 MPs and the blue 86. Semi-autonomous Greenland and the Faroe Islands each have two MPs in the Danish parliament. These four are usually divided between the two blocs. So the red bloc, despite lacking one vote for a majority, can form a government and rule only if the Red Green Alliance does not oppose its three new partners over principled anti-war morality or pro-socialist economic policies, which is not likely to happen. In the past ten years, several billion dollars has been used for war and new billions are slated to buy more killing machines. Other billions have been used to bail out the banks here, just as in the US. EL’s new partners have supported these policies and continue to do so.

Since its founding, in 1989, EL has opposed aggressive wars. But in this election, it decided to join the red bloc and negotiate with it, if victorious, for a state budget based on a capitalist economy.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, 44-year-old leader of the Social Democrats, will become Denmark's first female prime ministerHelle Thorning-Schmidt, 44-year-old leader of the Social Democrats, will become Denmark's first female prime minister

This strategy led its leaders to ignore the fact that Denmark has 600 well-paid mercenary soldiers fighting Afghans; had dropped 855 bombs on Libya, destroying much of that country’s infrastructure as of election day and had used $1 billion for “government change”; and is still using money and military advisors to back up the USA’s Quisling government in Iraq.

SF was created in 1959. Its founders broke from the traditional Denmark Communist Party over opposition to the Soviet Union’s military action against Hungary. SF has long since shifted from being anti-war and pro-socialist to being just another social democratic pro-capitalist party. Although SF originally voted against war in Afghanistan and Iraq, it has since voted for financing US-NATO occupation and actually advocated the bombing Libya.

SF came into the parliament in 1960 with 11 parliamentarians. Its high point was in 1987 with 27. Before this election it held 23 seats. For the first time the “People’s Socialists” was accepted by the SD to campaign for a coalition government. This caused many voters to abandon it for the Red-Green Alliance.

In this democratic bourgeois state, political parties need to win only 2% of the national vote in order to gain access to parliament. The minimum number of MPs for a party is four.

EL formed as East Europe was falling apart. The initiative was taken by the DKP as it was splitting up, and included Left Socialists (VS) and the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SAP). It started as a socialist party with anti-imperialist tendencies. EL came into the parliament first in 1994 with 3% of the vote and six MPs. Since then it has vacillated in its politics and its number of MPs has swung from six to four.

For three years, the Red-Green Alliance has ignored anti-war actions (the few there have been). It refuses to support any armed resistance movements in the world including resistance fighters to US-NATO invasions. Its leaders, several of whom are former communists of various stripes, have decided to “make a difference” by coming into a government instead of using their parliamentary platform solely as an arena for educating the public.

The same reformist course taken by the French Communist Party, in 1968, was aimed at undermining a potential revolution by millions of workers and students who had taken to the streets. The French CP gambled for capitalism and won. Most “leftist” parties—communist, trotskyist or socialist—in Denmark and elsewhere, have adopted a parliamentary strategy, giving up the idea of grass-roots work at building a large base that could win state power for real socialist policies.

My Judgment

All those facts and suppositions having been said by me, what about the Danish people? Why did so many people vote (87.7%–3.6 out of 4.1 million potential voters, one of the highest ever)? Why did some 200,000 more vote for the red bloc? And why did EL end with nearly 240,000 voters, almost 200,000 more than the last election?

For the last two decades both blocs’ major parties have agreed with the US-led neo-liberal capitalist policies: less government intervention in the economy and social welfare, greater free market power with less taxation for the rich. To that is added increased military-war and homeland security budgets and cutbacks in all social programs, from unemployment insurance to pensions, health care and education.

All but two of the eight parties have accepted the DF racist policy of curtailing rights and opportunities for immigrants, especially those from the Middle East and Africa. And both blocs have accepted big capital’s need to globalize politically and economically.

Hundreds of thousands of Danes are now fed up with those policies, understanding that they are detrimental to their lives. Although they do not act in solidarity with the people their nation’s military is murdering in other countries, they have come to understand that these wars are a “waste of money”, which they could use for better schools and health care. Many have decided that their taxes should not go to bail out the wealthy when their banks go bankrupt and believe that instead, their taxes should go for their welfare. More want the government to play a helpful role in this, and reject the conservative approach of relying mainly on individual initiative and charity.

The Red Green Alliance understands that this is where a large portion of the people is at, including most of their voters. Accordingly, they propose greater welfare programs within the capitalist-imperialist system. They will not risk alienating these voters by “doing the right thing”, that is, stopping their new partners from continuing wars or creating others. It is not an “issue” of concern. Plus, if they did oppose the government they are part of, the blue bloc might be able to win a vote of confidence and take over again.

True, there are some thousands of EL voters–a minority I think–who are concerned about solidarity with other peoples under attack by their own government, including by the one now in formation thanks to their votes. How radical they will be when the moral-political dilemmas come to the fore is anybody’s guess. Mine is they will accept it. I hope that some will take up the solidarity fight for real. I will be with them.

In my view all these parties are immoral. I say so not as an anarchist but as a revolutionary socialist who judges aggressive war to be the worst of human actions.

RON RIDENOUR, who was a co-founder and editor with Dave Lindorff in 1976 of the Los Angeles Vanguard, lives in Denmark. A veteran journalist who has reported in the US and from Venezuela, Cuba and Central America, he has written “Cuba at the Crossroads”, “Backfire: The CIA’s Biggest Burn”, and “Yankee Sandinistas.” For more information about Ron and his writing, go to: