The Socialist 6 October 2000 |
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A blow to the crisis-ridden Euro
THE FIRST referendum on the Euro currency in any European country ended in a clear rejection: 53.1% against and 46.9% for. With an 88% turnout, it was a major defeat for Denmark's social democratic government, the establishment parties and big business, which all campaigned for the Yes vote.
Per Ake Westerlund, Rattviseparteit, (CWI -Sweden)
Social Democratic leader, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, was close to tears as he faced the media. The result is a blow to the European Union's (EU) plans and the crisis-ridden Euro.
Even though several thousand young people met in Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, singing 'international solidarity', the racist and nationalist Dansk Folkeparti (DF - Danish People's Party) was declared the winner.
But in reality it was low-paid workers that defeated the Danish ruling elite. The biggest issue was the welfare state not Danish nationalism. Defence of the public sector and pensions became the most important reason for voting No.
"It is not a right-wing, but a sceptical left-wing which stands behind the No majority", commented the Spanish news agency, EFE.
Women workers are among the most Euro-sceptical and this is connected with women's dependence on public-sector services. The Economist magazine also commented that Denmark's "exceptionally generous welfare state" was a more important factor than the nationalistic or sovereignty arguments from the No side.
A majority of rank-and-file trade unionists voted No, even though the Yes campaign was backed by LO (Denmark's TUC). During the final week of the campaign, 800 childcare workers were on strike in Copenhagen against cuts proposed by the Social Democratic-led council.
There was massive support for the Yes campaign from politicians (80% of MPs), economists, trade union leaders, and media (46 of the 48 daily newspapers). But Tine Br¿ndrum, LO vice-chair, commented after visiting low-paid women factory workers that "their starting point was that politicians are cheating, that they are not telling the truth".
The Yes campaign zigzagged from threats to promises. Rasmussen said pensions would be safeguarded for 45 years - an impossible promise he was forced to retract. This climbdown meant that the threat to pensions was taken even more seriously! People wondered what other reforms were threatened.
In the final week the five Yes parties buried their differences in favour of a common campaign. This only strengthened the distrust towards them.
Rasmussen and his party are at an all-time low in opinion polls. The big problem is the lack of political alternatives.
SF (Socialistisk Folkeparti - Socialist People's Party that stands to the left of the Social Democrats) has left open the option of changing its position on the Euro - one wing actually campaigned for a Yes vote.
The other side of the current economic upswing - increasing inequality and lost security at work - has to find an expression. Both DF and SF have gained in opinion polls.
Despite international media attention on DF leader, Pia Kjaersgaard, support for DF fell during the summer. And although the latest opinion polls show DF on 12%, this is below their record 15% showing in January.
DF-type parties around Europe, however, will celebrate this result and will raise their anti-EU profile. The referendum will have repercussions throughout the EU: Sweden and Britain are now further away from the Euro than ever.
The Euro's crisis could deepen. Having recently spent billions shoring up the sinking Euro, the US, German and British central banks may be forced to buy more of the ailing currency to stop the ever-widening exchange rate with the dollar.
The referendum has also demonstrated the political vacuum existing throughout Europe. The search for an alternative will lead many people - especially young people protesting against global capitalism and workers striking against cuts - to turn towards a socialist alternative.