The Failure of Social Democracy
by Ron Ridenour
Copyright © 2017 Ron Ridenour
All rights reserved.
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I first met Denmark’s last truly Social Democratic Prime Minister, Anker Joergensen, in his state office, unannounced, in late 1980.
Grethe and I had just been married. We had met the year before in Los Angeles where I had been a “participatory journalist”, and activist for social/racial/gender equality and against the Vietnam War. I wanted to start a new life with Grethe in her peaceful, social democratic land.
I took odd jobs and did free lance writing for some Danish media, and progressive media in the US and England. As such, I often walked from Grethe’s centrally located Copenhagen apartment to Christiansborg. The palace is the only building in the world that houses all government branches. The royal palace stood beside the seat of economic power, Denmark’s Stock Exchange (Boersen).
Sometimes I covered official politics from my “palace playground”, as my new wife quipped. The six story building is a labyrinth of hard wooden stairs, long hallways and hundreds of offices. On my second trip inside, I ambled about unable to find the stairs that led directly to the balcony reserved for journalists covering the parliament. There were no guards and no signs on most doors. I stopped before a high door and turned the bronze polished handle.
A small man sat behind a large desk. He turned about to look at me, a smile on his face. I flushed and spurted an apology for disturbing what I realized was the nation’s political leader.
“That’s quite alright. No problem,” replied the prime minister unperturbed. His face wrinkled cozily through a black-white mustache and goatee. Thinning black hair was brushed back revealing a partially bald scalp. No guards or assistants appeared as I quietly closed the big door.
Later in the 1980s, I spoke a few times with the unassuming man when he was no longer prime minister yet still the Social Democratic (SD) party leader. We attended Danish union meetings with delegates from unions in Central America, men and women under threat by death squads working with the CIA and US military “advisors” backing murderous dictatorial regimes.
In 1985, I again met Anker, as he was known by all, standing beside his old-fashioned, gearless bicycle in the dead of winter. I asked him, as I had Palme, if he would be on standby if we had use for his political influence during the Central American peace-solidarity march. Anker readily agreed, and he did act when our marcher in El Salvador got arrested.
38 Danes were jailed by Iraq during the first Gulf War. Anker Joergensen went to Baghdad 1990 and convinced Saddam Hussein to free 16 of them
Anker started his working life as a bicycle messenger, then as an unskilled warehouse worker. He quickly was made a shop steward and worked his way up the union ladder. In the 1960s, he actively opposed the US war against Vietnam. Anker participated in Denmark sessions of the Russell-Sartre Tribunal, in 1968. He was a supporter of the oppressed in many parts of the world, and of the 1968 Danish student uproar. It was therefore with sadness for many on the left and the more militant class conscious workers that he decided to support Denmark’s admission to the EU, then called the EF, in 1972. Anker often found himself in the middle of political controversies.
During his two terms as Prime Minister, 1972-82 (minus 1973-5), he extended the social welfare system, the last state leader to do so. He got the pre-retirement benefits law passed, (at 62 years instead of waiting for old age pension at 67); increased paid vacations to five weeks for everyone; guaranteed pay raises for public employees; guaranteed social assistance, and more.
In Anker’s time, Denmark was known abroad as a tolerant, peaceful, civil liberties/freedom-loving land. Its foreign policy was based on peace. Anker supported the so-called “footnote” foreign policy (1982-8) when Denmark opposed placing NATO nuclear missiles in Europe. The anti-war movement had already convinced the Establishment not to allow NATO military exercises and atomic weapons on its territory. There were several serious confrontations between the US and Denmark because of this.
“No to Danish war participation”: Anker Jørgensen in front of the US Embassy in Copenhagen March 15, 2003. Photo Stop Terrorkrigen
Anker died peacefully, March 20, 2016, at 93. A people’s man, he lived all his adult life, until he entered a senior’s home, in a moderate apartment in a working class district of the capital city.
Denmark was a vanguard country in sexual freedom and gender equality. Brothels were legal as far back as in the 1870s. For some of 1900s sex for sale was illegal but allowed. Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize pornography, July 1969. Freetown Christiania is a major tourist attraction. It belonged to the military when, on September 4, 1971, the abandoned military area of 34 hectares was occupied by neighbors who broke down the fence. They set up living quarters in abandoned barracks and some built their own housing. Youth House was a legal underground Copenhagen center for music and free lifestyle, mainly used by autonomists and leftists for two decades until 2007. Denmark was also the first country to legalize same-sex sexual activity, in 1933; and legalize homosexual/lesbian/transvestite marriage, on June 15, 2012. Since 1977, the consent age for sex of any kind by any gender is 15.
Nevertheless, as a member of NATO and EU, Denmark cooperates with both pro-US institutions, including in war games. Ironically, it was after the fall of “communism” and the end of the cold war that Denmark decided to begin its “activist foreign policy,” based upon following the US into its wars, including breaking up Yugoslavia, the last European socialist state, and warring in the Middle East and Africa.
Left: the most famous Danish election campaign poster, “Stauning or chaos-Vote Social Democrats”, from 1935. Thorvald Stauning was the first social democratic Prime Minister of Denmark. He served as Prime Minister from 1924 to 1926 and again from 1929 until his death in 1942. Right: a parody from 2007 of the poster: “Thorning and chaos”. Helle Thorning Schmidt was Prime Minister of Denmark from 2011 to 2015, and the Leader of the Social Democrats from 2005 to 2015.
Denmark losing its peace and social democracy
Denmark’s 5.5 million residents support a permanent military force of about 20,000. Although there is a draft, one can choose to perform civil service instead. No one is forced to go to war unless Denmark is attacked, so those who war are volunteer mercenaries and earn more money.
The last Social Democratic Prime Minister, Helle Thorning Schmidt, was the first woman in the post. During her term, October 2011-June 2015, her enthusiasm for war included offering Barak Obama her military for “regime change” in Syria. She seemed disappointed that a war to remove Bashar al-Assad had been averted when Syria turned over all its chemical weapons for destruction, “no thanks” to Vladamir Putin’s input. She declared (September 2, 2014): “Denmark is one of those countries that deliver most. We are at the level with Americans, and in that way we also consider Denmark a strong, active and very solidarity NATO land.”
Obama seemed to echo Schmidt when he welcomed Denmark’s current liberal Prime Minister (PM) Lars Loekke Rasmussen, and the other four Nordic land leaders, to State Dinner, May 13, 2016.
President Obama and the First Lady greeted the five Nordic leaders after they arrived at the White House: (l-r) Solrun Lokke Rasmussen and Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Sindre Finnes and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Ingibjorg Elsa Ingjaldsdottir and Icelandic Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, Jenni Haukio and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, and Ulla Lofven and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
“The world would be better if more countries were like the Nordic lands.” “We share common interest and values”. You “punch above [your] weight.” He underscored Denmark’s recent decision to increase its military and economic aid to Afghanistan, and expressed thanks for DONG’s wind energy projects in Massachusetts. Denmark’s public television correspondent, Stephanie Surrugue, interpreted this praise as an American receipt for Denmark’s part in the “war against terror”.
The most important matter discussed that day was US and Nordic governments’ response to “Russian aggression,” reminiscent of 2014 when Russia reclaimed Crimea after 97% of voters there so asked. Denmark had already temporarily sent 6 F-16s and rotating troops to the Baltic and Poland. When PM Rasmussen returned to Denmark after dinner, he sent another 150 troops. NATO will now have 6000 permanent troops in these four countries plus in Rumania and Bulgaria.
In Obama’s dinner welcome, he extended another hand to Prime Minister Rasmussen, whose government and ally parties are known for being anti-immigrant. Obama referred to media critique against the new “Jewelry Law” as disproportional. The law cuts way back on immigration and asylum-seekers, even for those fleeing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where Denmark has long had hostile troops. The government even places ads around the continent warning refugees not to come. ()
The jewelry law allows police to seize personal belongings worth over $1,450 (jewelry and cash) from those who apply for asylum, reviving memories of how Jews were dispossessed of their belongings. One of the positive aspects Denmark is known for is its rescue of Jews when Hitler gave orders to eliminate them. Danes quickly took them to Sweden, which was neutral.
A few days after Obama justified Denmark’s grim treatment of refugees fleeing wars, Syrian families seeking exile started legal action against a new law that forbids the joining of family members for three years; it had been one year. Thousands of exiles are split from their closest ones due to death pursuits where they come from.
The refugees have a good chance of winning the court case especially as it was filed the day after the European Human Rights Court judged Denmark in violation of human rights regarding a law that discriminates against immigrants. An immigrant who marries someone living in another land cannot bring his/her partner to Denmark before they are 24 years old. This law is connected to another that only allows equality of natives and immigrants once the immigrant has been a citizen for 26 years. The main lawmaker considered these laws as making Denmark Europe’s “pioneer” in “hardening laws” against immigrants-refugees.
The current Foreign-Integration Minister, Inger Stoejberg, expressed disdain for the Court’s decision. She said that she would find a way to maintain and extend tightening immigration-refugee rules. “If we can’t do it one way, we’ll do it another.”
Protest in Stockholm, May 21, 2016: No to Host Nation Support Agreement
On the occasion of the White House State dinner, the five Nordic nations signed a “summit joint statement” with the US reaffirming “our deep partnership on shared fundamental values” that include strengthening NATO, backing the Baltic States and Poland with weaponry, aircraft and troops, pressing Russia on many fronts, “stabilizing” Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other areas.
Finland and Sweden also planned to end their neutrality and join NATO where Denmark, Norway and Iceland already sit. Sweden signed a Host Country Agreement with NATO after the dinner giving the war alliance rights to military troops and exercises on Swedish territory and even the right to war on Swedish territory “if a crisis” warrants it. Finland signed a similar agreement. Danish PM Loekke Rasmussen diligently prepared to please his host.
Since 9/11 all the Danish governments (so-called blue/conservative and red/liberal block coalitions) support the many regime shifts outlined by the first George Bush government, about which I will detail in future pieces. During the April 2016 Danish parliament debate to invade Syria and extend Denmark’s military capacity in Iraq, the foreign minister, Kristian Jensen, made no bones about it: “Our goal is quite simple. In relationship to Syria our goal is to remove Assad, as one of the worst dictators in the world at this time.” He also stated that Denmark will fight the Islamic State.
According to United Nations law, as well as Denmark’s own constitution, war must not be waged if: there is no UN mandate, or the country in question is not attacking the nation. With Syria, no specific plans are stated about directly attacking government forces. However, the Syrian government has not asked Denmark or the “coalition of the willing” to aid it in its defense against IS, and thus another reason the invasion is illegal.
The coffins with three Danish soldiers killed in Helmand, Afghanistan, arriving in Denmark in Dec. 2008. Krestine Havemann/Polfoto, via Associated Press
Pleasing the United States before dinner
1. April 19, Denmark’s parliament voted 90 to 19 to send 460 military instructors and technicians, including 60 Special Forces soldiers, to Syria and Iraq, along with seven F-16s, and a C-130J transport aircraft. Why did 40% of the parliament (70 highly paid members) not vote on the most important question: whether to kill people and do so against the laws?
2. May 10, parliament decided to send16 more soldiers to Afghanistan bringing their numbers to 100. This came after the US stated it will increase its troops there by 7-800. It now has about 10,000. The tiny country also did the US’s bidding against Libya in 2011 with 6 F-16s and 120 soldiers. As the US discusses the possibility of warring there once again, Denmark is ready.
3. May 12, the day before the Nordic state and foreign ministers were to eat at Obama’s table, Denmark’s government decided to buy 27 F-35 jet fighters before they were built by the world’s largest weapons company, Lockheed-Martin. The initial cost of 20 billion kroner ($3 billion) is the largest military expense in Danish history. Danish defense experts estimate that the real cost will run between three and four times that with upkeep and 30 years “normal” use.
The government ignored 53.3% of Danes, who opposed buying more bomber jets; 30.8% said yes. The poll was commissioned by Danmark’s most right-wing daily. Last year, a Gallup poll found that the same percentage of Danes opposed the proposal. [+ http://jyllands-posten.dk/indland/ECE8600526/danskerne-takker-nej-til-kampfly-for-flere-milliarder/+]
4. On the same day, Denmark’s energy company DONG stated it plans an initial public offering (IPO) of at least 15 percent of its shares on the Nasdaq Copenhagen stock exchange this summer. The estimated value is around $11 billion. This will be the largest IPO in Danish history.
The state-controlled utility said the move would reduce the government’s stake in the company from 58.8 percent to 50.1 percent, and the government could sale more of its share in 2020 and lose control. It was originally all state owned. In 2014, Goldman Sachs, the world’s most powerful and infamous investment firm, bought 18 percent of DONG for $1.2 billion. But it wasn’t even the New York GS company, rather a subsidiary in Luxembourg owned by a shell company tax haven in Delaware state and Cayman Islands. With its minority ownership, GS insisted on determining Denmark’s energy company’s leadership. It then pushed DONG to go IPO, and threatened to shut down renewable energy sources if the government didn’t increase its subsidies.
Eighty percent of Danes opposed the sale; 200,000 signed petitions. Nevertheless, the Social Democrat government refused to explain why it did not sell those shares to Danish pension fund companies which made offers. SD’s junior partner Socialist People’s Party (SF) quit the government over the scandal. The deal was so undemocratic that Goldman Sachs hired the former prime minister and ex-NATO general secretary, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as its PR man in Denmark to smooth over the controversy.
Just days after the White House State Dinner, the stock exchange valued DONG to be three times its underrated value in 2014, from about $5 billion to $13-15 billion. The “incentive plan” for DONG leadership garnered them $70 million, which raises suspicions that the company’s worth was deliberately undervalued. And the $1.2-$1.5 billion profit that Goldman Sachs plucked could have benefited Danish society had the shares been sold to Danish owned workers pension fund companies. The Social Democrat government’s finance minister at the time, Bjarne Corydon, is seen as the bourgeois’s Trojan Horse.
The May 27, 2016 editorial in “Politiken”, a liberal capitalist daily, called the course of events “ugly”, and has “increased mistrust”, so much so that a staff writer wrote “this is the stuff that makes ordinary people turn their back on the powers that be and look towards Donald Trump”.
While half of DONG’s electricity and heat generation comes from renewable sources, it also buys coal mined in Colombia where death squads operate. In December 2015, Danish and international media revealed how DONG and Sweden’s government-own Vattenfall bought coal from the murderous Prodeco mining firm owned by Glencore. BBC reported (2012) that Prodeco paid for the murder of ten residents, in 2002, so it could take their land.
In 2014, PAX NGO documented (including with testimonies of nine former paramilitary members) that Prodeco and another mining company paid death squads for murdering 3000 people—workers, local residents and milieu activists—between 1996 and 2006; “disappearing” 200 people, and forcing 55,000 to leave their homes. Colombian authorities merely fined and temporarily locked down Prodeco for causing serious environmental damage. (See:” The Dark Side of Coal” report. [+ www.paxforpeace.nl/stay-informed/news/danish-media-and-politicians-take-interest-in-dongs-ties-to-blood-coal+], and Glencore’s reply: )
One-third of Danish electricity comes from coal—4.5 million tons in 2014—and half of that comes from Colombia. DONG bought 950,000 tons of coal from Prodeco, in 2014, and 160,000 tons in 2015, after exposure about its murders. As of this writing DONG has not severed ties with Prodeco, and it is hard to find workers who still believe the Social Democratic party represents workers.
Denmark comes to dinner
Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen came gleefully to dinner bearing those many American gifts, and he thanked his world leader for the “lucrative export contracts for Danish businesses.” These warring-profiteering “gifts” offered to the world’s policeman dispute Bernie Sanders portrayal of Denmark as socialist and humanitarian as he has so often proclaimed during the election campaign.
Sanders is a social democrat, who mistakenly yet bravely refers of himself as a socialist. He thinks well of Scandinavia because, after class struggle there like in all of Europe, it introduced social benefits: “providing health care to all people as a right” and “medical and family paid leave,” as he repeatedly says.
A few days after his initiated this postulate early in the primary campaign, the Danish prime minister set Sanders straight.
“I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy…with a flexible labor market that makes it easy to hire or fire.”
Cut-Out: during 2014, the liberal Prime Minister was properly stripped by the media. We help him to dress again (Allusion to Rasmussen’s clothing expenses).Cartoon by Mirthuel Larsen
This writing sprang from discussions I’ve had with several people regarding the Danish/Scandinavian model of social democracy, or socialism as Bernie Sanders contends. Some well intentioned persons view the Nordic Model as a solution to greedy capitalism, while others view its role as a seditious savior of exploitative capitalism. Many Cubans I knew when living there (1988-96) and visiting since see the Nordic Model as a way out for their failing revolution, gone the way of a bureaucratic state. Some Spaniards backing Podemos hope to emulate Scandinavia, whose social democracy is also failing, unbeknownst to many foreign admirers.
I have been encouraged by Podemos activist Pepe Crespo (); Bernie Sanders supporter and colleague Dave Lindorff (); Left socialist William Hathaway, author of “Radical Peace” (); Marxist-Leninist communist Klaus Riis (); and my companion Jette Salling. Without their urgings I would not have delved into these complex themes.
Hathaway put it this way. We are witnessing “the death of social democracy in Europe coupled with the rise of pseudo-left parties that exist to channel potentially revolutionary energy into reformist dead-ends…the crackdown on social democracy is inevitable under capitalism. These progressive measures were only allowed to stimulate consumption because the main consumer market then [Europe 1920s-70s and USA in Keynesian time, 30s-70s] was in the home countries. Now the market is global, and the corporations have to slash costs to compete with the emerging capitalist countries, which have lower wages, so social democracy has to go. But this crackdown may finally make the workers in the West realize their class position and start fighting back.”
Lindorff put it another way. “Sanders [social democratic approach] offers a chance, slim I would agree, to attack the country’s corrupt power structure, and if that happens, we will inevitably see a weakening of the imperialist superstructure, and of the military industrial-complex…Sanders is urging his backers to create a movement, not for him but for the issues that matter which he is backing…It is a fantasy to believe that there will be a socialist revolution in the US that will overthrow the system. Far more likely is an openly fascist government.”
(Ron Ridenour has been an activist against war, against racism, and for socialism for over half a century. He is also the author of six books on Cuba, (“Backfire: The CIA’s Biggest Burn”) plus “Yankee Sandinistas”, “Sounds of Venezuela”, “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka”. He has lived and worked in Latin America for 15 years, including in Cuba 1988-96 (Cuba’s Editorial José Martí and Prensa Latina), Brazil, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, India. ; email: .)
Philosophical forefathers of a socialistic vision include Buddha and Lao Tzu. Buddha was an Indian/Nepalese prince; Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher. Both lived in the 6th century before Jesus Christ’s birth. Jesus should also be included as a “primitive communist” as some see the Palestinian Jew, human being or god-human. These visionaries hoped that peoples could live together in peace and harmony, one great family sharing resources.
The term socialism took hold as a political ideal first in France, in the 1820s, when Henri de Saint-Simon envisioned the ideal society as one large factory. His followers chose the word socialism to represent a centrally-planned society run like a cooperative business by worker-owners, and/or in conjunction with the state. The term communism also comes from France, probably back to medieval monks who shared property, living in common and feeling a sense of togetherness. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ theory of communism entailed social organization based on sharing property, the highest state of socialism in which all lived well socially in a stateless society.
Variations of Saint-Simon’s socialism have been formulated by many political theorists and writers: Thomas More, Louis Blanc, Eduard Bernstein, Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx and Engels, Sydney Webb, George Bernard Shaw, V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemberg, Emma Goldman…
Socialists disagree on how to develop socialism and even how to define it exactly. They all agree, however, that socialism’s economy is not dominated by private ownership of the means of production. Public ownership—either by the state or by worker cooperatives, or a combination—is central to its philosophy. It is also generally agreed that it is just and necessary to create a permanent state of social welfare with greater say in political-economic matters by the producers and folk at large. However, a system in which the people are the determining decision-makers has not yet been developed, neither in Russia/Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Korea or anywhere.
Socialist campaign poster from the 1912 US Presidential campaign, featuring Eugene V. Debs and Vice Presidential candidate Emil Seidel
Ferdinand Lassalle, Karl-Marx-Hof, Vienna
The rise of social democracy
The first social democratic party arose from union struggles and was founded by Ferdinand Lassalle, in Germany, in 1863. He was familiar with Marx and Engels’ writings. The latter founded The First International (International Workingmen’s Association) in London, the following year. They sought to unite left-wing socialists, communists, anarchists and trade unionists around class struggle and the need for a socialist revolution.
Some social democrats (S.D.) view social democracy as a “third way” while Marx and Engels maintain there can only be capitalism or socialism. There are basically two variants of social democracy in theory. One advocates evolutionary and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism, in contrast to the revolutionary approach associated with Marxism. The other advocates economic and social state interventions to promote social justice and welfare within the framework of a capitalist economy. The latter approach was adapted by the Englishman John Keynes. President F.D. Roosevelt employed Keynesianism during the Great Depression aimed at restoring order and saving the capitalist system. In all social democratic approaches private property remains in the hands of the owner (ruling) class.
Are you going to vote for the people’s traitors? Finnish Social democratic election ad, 1907
The first social democratic government in the world occurred in Finland, in 1907, eight years after the founding of the social democratic party. In 1916, S.D. won an absolute majority and governed alone for the only time.
German social democrats achieved their first government in 1918 upon the end of the First World War. Sweden had its first S.D. government in 1921. The second oldest social democrat party was led by postal worker Louis Pio in Denmark, in 1871, inspired by the Paris Commune. The social democrats formed its first government in 1924, the same year the social democratic Labour Party was elected to govern in England. Norway’s S.D. ruled first in 1928 but fell after two weeks. The party split into two, one fraction created the Communist Party. The S.D. ruled again in 1935. Iceland’s trade unions formed the social democratic party in 1916. The tiny nation took its independence from Denmark once the United States occupied it during the Second World War. The US took control of Keflavik airfield, and at its height there were 75,000 military personnel there. The social democratic party first came to rule in 1947-9.
The October Revolution in Russia (1917) was the key influence for social democratic development throughout Europe. The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDRP) was founded in Minsk, in 1898. Lenin joined it in 1902, and led the Bolshevik (majority) split at its second congress, in 1903. Bolsheviks became the Communist Party, in 1918. The Mensheviks (minority) continued as a S.D. party. The two were often at odds yet sometimes joined forces until the October Revolution.
The Bolsheviks formed a disciplined vanguard party agitating for a proletarian revolution, armed if necessary. The Mensheviks sought social democratic compromises with the “bourgeois democrats”, in which free expression would prevail as opposed to “democratic centralism”. When world war broke out Tsar Nicholas insisted on victory over Germany. He was forced to abdicate in March 1917 and a Provisional government took over. It, however, continued the war, supported by social democrats and the Social Revolutionaries. The Bolsheviks advocated an end to the war and a transition to socialism. Their slogan was: land, peace and bread.
Lenin and Trotsky led the party to victory in October (November 1917). Their hope that social democrats would oppose world war had been dashed when German social democrats supported the bourgeoisie war. A worldwide workers’ revolution was averted when social democrats in country after country, including in Russia, allied with the capitalist class. This led to the isolation of Russia.
The Nordic Model grew out of this Great Compromise between social democratic-led trade unions and wealthy property owners. In exchange for staving off socialist revolutions the capitalists granted improvements in working and living conditions for most workers in Scandinavia, eventually in Germany, England, Netherlands, and elsewhere in Europe.
The Saltsjöbaden Agreement of 1938 in Sweden, a deal that ensured class peace. Trade union leader August Lindberg is at the left while corporate chief Sigfrid Edström is at the right
The Nordic Model developed through the 1920s to the 1970s to include a large welfare state emphasizing employer and labor union institutions with unemployment insurance and pensions; transfers to households and publicly provided social services with a high rate of investment in human capital including: child care, tax supported education and health care, maternity and some paternity leave, paid vacations; and greater social and gender equality.
These producer-earned benefits dampened Western working class enthusiasm for international solidarity, especially with workers in underdeveloped nations whose work and living conditions neared slavery and even include slavery. No other nation joined Russia in its socialist experiment until after World War II.
No matter one’s analysis or opinions of Communist-led Russia and the expanded Soviet Union, one must recognize that its development was warped, in part, by constant subversion directed at it by the United States and many of its allies. From the beginning of the revolution, the US and several European allies, plus Australia, Canada, India, even Japan and China, supported the White Russian and Cossack counter-revolutionaries who wanted a return of the Tsar. The “democratic” allies sought to defeat the new Bolshevik army and to crush communism in the bud.
From May 1918 to July, 100,000 troops were sent to Vladivostok and other areas of northern Russia. The Japanese had 70,000 in Siberia to solve a “border problem” between China and Russia. The US sent 13,000 troops. Most weary allied forces withdrew by 1920 but some Japanese fought on in Siberia until 1922 and in northern Sakhalin until 1925 when finally defeated by Russia.
World War II and Marshall Plan
Social democracy had such an impact on workers in much of Europe that Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were forced to include many of its benefits for “authentic” Italians and non-Jew Arian Germans in their nationalist, racist and warring parties. Hitler even falsely named his party in that spirit: National Socialist German Worker’s Party. Its first priority was to draw workers away from communism and into völkisch (folk) nationalism. While Nazis killed communists, its political strategy initially focused on anti-business and anti-capitalist rhetoric, later played down in order to gain support of industrial property owners.
Italian Fascism promoted a corporatist economic system whereby employer and employee syndicates associated to collectively represent the nation’s economic producers and owners, which were to work alongside the state to set national economic policy, and resolve class conflict.
As World War II approached, most social democratic parties did not support the peace policies of the Lenin-wing of the social democratic party (soon to become the Communist Party), and its associated parties throughout the world. Nor did social democratic parties in many countries protest the rise of fascism or even the fascist take-over of their nations. In Denmark, for instance, the Nazi-collaborationist government was led by the Social Democratic Party, under the leadership of its “father” Thorvald Stauning. He was succeeded by S.D. Wilhelm Buhl. Both turned over Communists and other liberation fighters to the Nazi party, even more than asked for. The Nazis imprisoned 6000 civilians, tortured many, and executed 850. Buhl also encouraged workers to snitch on patriotic saboteurs, and to take jobs in Germany, thus aiding the Nazi war effort. Nevertheless, upon the end of the war, Buhl was made provisional prime minister.
Denmark was effectively liberated on May 5th by British forces led by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Only four days later the Russian Army occupied the Danish island of Bornholm after intense fighting with the Germans. Russians voluntarily left the island a year later.
After the liberation there was uncertainty about how the allies would regard Denmark, which had deliberately declined to take up the fight, as opposed to Norwegians. Eventually Denmark was accepted as an ally, mainly due to allied appreciation for the widespread Communist-led resistance to the German occupation during the last years of the war. (1)
Despite the fact that Russia was the main victor of the war, and suffered the greatest casualties, and that it was British troops who first entered Denmark, the social democrats and Danes generally fell in love with the United States, which has devastating consequences today (more on that later).
The loss of over 60 million people (some researchers say 80 million) devastated many countries, especially the Soviet Union. It lost 13.7% of its population, some 27 million people, about 16 million civilians. Germany lost between five and eight million people, 7-11% of its population. Despite torrential bombings, the UK lost only one percent of its people, around half-a-million. About three percent of China’s population was killed, between 15 and 20 million people, three-fourths of them civilians. By contrast, the US lost only 0.32% of its population, about 420,000, nearly all military. In 1940, there were 2.3 billion people. The war took three percent of them.
Nevertheless, World War II was an economic boom for the USA. Its weapons, oil, steel, auto, and construction industries grew manifold. Their surplus financed the Marshall Plan to rebuild the capitalist economies of Western Europe and prevent socialist-communist electoral victories. This policy succeeded, especially in Greece and Italy where a majority of workers were leftist.
Europe’s two largest political parties, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, adopted and even extended welfare benefits enabled by the Marshall Plan. The “free market” has since largely replaced the state as the politically determining force, and the welfare model is no longer viewed as necessary. Globalization brings unprecedented profits to capital, and their friendly governments allow even greater profits by helping the largest companies and rich individuals to avoid paying taxes in a myriad of ways: by granting them enormous tax cuts, ignoring their tax shelters and bogus companies, and by legal or semi-legal loopholes. Capitalists can also easily avoid paying taxes and decent wages by packing up businesses in the Western part of the world and moving them to countries where governments allow slave wages and unhealthy conditions.
The European Union has moved towards a United States of Europe in which major monopolies are assisted in attacking the historic results of workers struggles, and forging a state of permanent fear of losing jobs and social benefits. These fears are enhanced by terrorist attacks committed by desperate and fanatic people whose countries have been invaded and sacked by NATO/coalition of the willing armies, and the flooding of refugees fleeing these wars. EU has come to mean the loss of national sovereignty, un-payable debts, the destruction and privatization of the public sector—the abandonment of the Nordic Model.
All that moved the majority of Brits to vote themselves out of the EU. This historic rejection, on June 23, 2016, opened the way for radical movements rightist and leftist. I believe that those of us who are fed enough have a co-responsibility to stop this “inhumanity” human beings have created or Armageddon will overwhelm us and the planet. That means, at the least, that the inhuman economic system known as capitalism, which requires never-ending profit over the needs of people must be replaced by a humane economic system based on cooperation and sharing.
(1) The social democratic-led government could have waylaid the Nazi invasion of Norway, giving Norwegians time to put up greater resistance, had it sabotaged the airport at Aalborg where the Nazis would launch their attack. Ironically, it took a right-wing liberal Prime Minister, and later NATO chief, Anders Fogh Rassmussen, to be the first Danish leader to officially apologize for Denmark’s collaboration with the Nazis. As reported by the New York Times, August 30, 2003, he asserted this was ‘‘morally unjustifiable.’‘ In a speech for the 60th anniversary of the end of the 1940-43 collaborationist government, Rasmussen said, ‘‘If everyone in Europe—if the Americans and the Russians—had thought the same as the Danish lawmakers, then Hitler would have won the war.’‘ Nazi troops invaded on April 9, 1940 and the government immediately surrendered.
Olof Palme had just won his fourth term as Prime Minister when we spoke in Stockholm in the fall of 1985. Like Denmark’s Anker Joergensen, this stalwart social democrat opposed the “cold, egoistic new liberalism”. Unregulated capitalism threatens the Swedish model of social welfare, he said at his September 15 election victory.
Palme was more than a typical social democrat of his times, more a “revolutionary reformist”, as he was often called. He was a stronger critic of US and Israel imperialism than any other Western government leader. His denunciation of US’s war against Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos—especially its bombings of Hanoi, which he compared with Franco’s bombing of Guernica—led the US to deny him entry and it froze relations between the two governments. Sweden’s parliament was not cowed: 216 of the 350-member body voted to support South Vietnam’s provisional government’s 7-point peace plan. This plan, including the removal of all foreign military personnel and war equipment, became reality upon victory, May 1, 1975.
In 1969, Palme and the government adopted a neutral stance in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but when Israel invaded Lebanon, July 1982, Palme compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children to that of Nazi Germany treatment of Jewish children in concentration camps and in ghettos.
Not only did Palme speak out against imperialism but he marched against it, and for third world liberation. (He also condemned the Soviet intervention in Hungry and Czechoslovakia.) A Spanish speaker, he felt close to Latin America. Palme was the first Western government leader to visit Cuba after its revolutionary victory, and supported the revolutionaries in Nicaragua. He spoke at their victory rally, in July1979. Palme also supported Chilean President Salvador Allende and liberally gave asylum to many Chileans following the coup that overthrew Allende. He endeavoured to get Chilean political prisoners released from Dictator Agosto Pinochet’s dungeons.
Nevertheless, during Palme’s governments (before and after) the military and secret service co-operate with the Pentagon and the CIA. Sweden is also a major weapons industry. In 2013, it ranked number 12 in weapons sales ($1.8 billion), and the third largest exporter in per capita figures. It sells to 55 countries, including to human rights violator Saudi Arabia.
Palme enthusiastically accepted my invitation to be on call as a moral supporter for our solidarity and peace march in Central America. We had use of his support during our march in El Salvador. It grieved me to hear of his assassination on February 28, 1986.
I had recently returned following the end of the six-week peace action, and took a job at a Copenhagen sewage treatment center. On the day of Palme’s murder, we workers held a minute of silence. His murder was viewed by many as a political assassination. Possible culprits ranged from the CIA to Sweden’s own secret service, SAPO, known for its right-wing sympathy and CIA ties; to Chilean Dictator Pinochet, South Africa’s apartheid secret service, or a hateful individual. (1)
Sweden not only lost a strong leader for social democracy, which soon went downhill, but the nation has since leaned closer to US imperialism and today follows its foreign policy. Carl Bildt was PM from 1991-94, and leader of the Moderate Party from 1986 to 1999. He was responsible for severe attacks on the welfare state. With Black Wednesday, September 16, 1992, the British conservative government withdrew the pound sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). Currency market speculators, namely George Soros, had short sold the Sterling, and “broke the bank of England”. Sweden’s main bank, Riksbank, then set its krona currency free. The krona lost 15% to the US dollar. This took place concurrently with the burst of a housing bubble. Sweden lost $10 billion more. The crisis plunged Sweden and Finland into a severe recession. Unemployment rose from 2% to 10% in Sweden and from 3% to 18% in Finland.
Many economists pointed to the neo-liberalization of the economy, which the US influenced in the 1980s, as cause of the crisis. Social Democrats and liberals alike demanded a freeze and even cutbacks on wages. Scandinavia reduced the role of the public sector: deregulating financial markets, leading to a rapid inflow of capital to finance domestic investments and consumption. Speculation took over the once solid economy, and currencies were floated, expansion of credits with low rates of interests, greater capital imports, investing more than wise. Scandinavia lost satisfaction with being small, rich welfare states. Sweden joined the EU under a Social Democrat government, in 1995, as did Finland.
Neo-Liberalism serves the richest
Neo-liberalism is also associated with the financial crisis of 2007-8. Neo-liberalism became prevalent in the 1970s and 80s. It is a resurgence of 19th century laissez-faire capitalism, a “free market trade” without borders, aimed at enhancing the economic and political power of wealthy owners of property, of trans-national corporations.
Neo-liberalism took hold in the US with the first oil crisis in October 1973 when OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) proclaimed an oil embargo. By the end of the embargo, in March 1974, the price of oil had risen from US$3 per barrel to $12 globally (higher in the US). The embargo caused a shock with many short- and long-term effects on global politics and the global economy. It was followed by the second oil crisis, in 1979.
The embargo was a response to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Egypt and Syria tried to retake some of their territory stolen by Israel in 1967. They launched a surprise military campaign against Israel. The US supplied Israel with even more arms. In response to this, OAPEC (consisting of the Arab members of OPEC plus Egypt and Syria) announced an oil embargo against the US, UK, Netherlands, Canada and Japan. OPEC has sought a greater share of the oil pie.
The crisis had a major impact on international relations and created a rift within NATO, the last serious one. Some European nations, including Sweden under Palme, and Japan sought to disassociate themselves from US foreign policy in the Middle East, in order to avoid being targeted by the boycott. Arab oil producers linked any future policy changes to an end of war. President Richard Nixon and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger arranged for Israel to pull back from the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights (temporarily). The promise of a negotiated settlement between Israel and Syria was enough to convince Arab oil producers to lift the embargo in March 1974, but not before a stock market crash, the worst since the Great Depression.
The embargo’s success demonstrated Saudi Arabia’s economic power. It was (is) the largest oil exporter and a politically and religiously conservative kingdom. The embargo caused a petrodollar recycling mechanism, requiring a relaxation of capital controls in oil-importing economies, which marked exponential growth of Western capital markets. OPEC members and Russia were earning more money from the export of crude oil than they could feasibly invest in their own economies. Many believed that Western oil companies thereby also profiteered from the embargo and therefore colluded with OPEC. In 1974, seven of the fifteen top Fortune 500 companies were oil companies.
Friedrich Hayek (left) and Milton Friedman (right), the founding fathers of neoliberalism.
Milton Friedman was a major proponent of neo-liberalism (also right-wing economist Friedrich Hayek and “Atlas Shrugged” author Ayn Rand). A month before OPEC’s embargo, General Pinochet led a vicious coup, September 11, 1973, and took over Chile from the democratic government. Friedman helped him reverse the social democratic initiatives started by the socialist president Salvador Allende, who had been elected in 1970. The brutal coup, backed by the Nixon-Kissinger regime, murdered many thousands, many of them under arrest, and many were tortured. In recognition for his role in changing the Chilean economy in favour of the rich, Friedman became advisor to President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Sweden is now the most privatized neo-liberal economy of the Scandinavia states. Many of its public schools are privatized as are child care centers. Sometimes they go bankrupt and children are left without a school for a time, and small children have no ready care while both parents hold down jobs. Nursing centers are privatized, postal service is privatized, and there are three private train systems with prices varying from hour to hour.
Sweden’s growth in inequality between 1985 and the early 2010s is the largest among all 34 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, increasing by one third. But Sweden is still in the group of most equal OECD countries. Because of neo-liberalism, income inequality in OECD countries is higher than in 50 years. The average income of the richest 10% is about nine times that of the poorest 10% across the OECD, a gap 75% greater than 25 years ago.
Norway’s Labour Party is a social democratic party. It was the senior partner of the governing Red-Green Coalition (2005-13). Its former leader, Jens Stoltenberg, was PM. He relieved Dane Rasmussen as NATO’s secretary general, October 2014.
Since the 1980s, the “labour” party has included more of the principles of a social market economy, privatizing much of government-held assets and services and reducing income taxes. During the first Stoltenberg government (2000-1), the party’s policies were inspired by Tony Blair’s right-wing New Labour party. Under right-winger Stoltenberg, the nation witnessed the most widespread privatization by any Norwegian government to date, which influenced a majority of voters to turn his government out, in September 2013 elections.
Ironically, the Conservatives took over the government in a coalition with the right-wing libertarian Progress Party (Freskrittpartiet) to which the xenophobic mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik had been a member in his youth. The Progress Party’s hero is Ronald Reagan. It is strongly anti-Muslim and anti-immigration, the motivating factor for Behring’s shooting murder of 69 Labour Party teenagers, plus bombing to death eight others and wounding 240 people, on July 22, 2011.
The Progress Party supports US wars, greater police powers, the EU, and anti-environmental oil-based economy. However, in order to win enough votes (16%) to come into government for the first time in its history, it criticized the allegedly pro-working class government for “insufficiently funding social welfare and the infrastructure.”
Finland began following the rest of the West with neo-liberalism deregulations and cutbacks, in the 1980s, but has not gone as far as the others yet. One of its hallmarks is education. See Michael Moore’s most recent film (2016), “Where to invade next”. It is an excellent and entertaining source for values in which the US is contrasted to several countries. Finland tops the world for the best education, the best results for its elementary school students, who also rank among the happiest. Its secret: no homework, more time to be young, to play, to relax. Students are motivated to learn in a disciplined way for the 20 hours they attend classes.
For a fuller account of what is happening in Finland, I recommend reading “Atlantic” interview by Uri Friedman with Anu Partanen, a Finnish and US citizen, author of : “The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life”.. [+ www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/07/nordic-american-dream-partanen/489032/+]
Partanen moved to the US, in part, for the American land of freedom and opportunity propaganda. She concluded that those concepts are thriving more in the Nordic countries than in the U.S. Here is tease from the interview. “As much as I think that [the policies] Bernie Sanders [is] advocating are the right ideas, I’m not a big fan of him using the word “socialist.” Nordic countries are very much capitalist, free-market societies, and there’s this very strong strain of individualism in them. The idea that these Nordic countries are these socialist collectivist countries where everybody thinks of the good of one another—that’s just not true at all.”
Nevertheless, Scandinavian poverty rates after taxes and transfers are still among the lowest in the world. The latest UN figures stood at 5.7% in Iceland, 6% in Denmark, 7.5% in Finland, 7.7% in Norway, 9.7% in Sweden, in comparison with 17.4% in the USA (28.3% before taxes).
Yet, surprisingly, all Nordic nations are on the list of "high inequality" group, where the top 10% hold 60-70% of the country's household wealth. In comparison countries that are usually thought to be more capitalist, like the UK, Canada and Australia are on a rung below in the "medium inequality" group, with the top 10% holding between 50-60%, as reported by Mike Bird in Business Insider’s October 14, 2014 article: “Why Socialist Scandinavia Has Some Of The Highest Inequality In Europe”.
In the US, the top 10% hold 75% of all wealth, greater than in the days of laissez-faire capitalism a century ago.
Nordic governments-institutions remain among the least corrupt, ranking in the least 12 corrupt of 176 countries evaluated in 2014. Nevertheless, the Panama Papers reveal massive tax shelter corruption by some Danish banks, and scores of civil servants were arrested in June for taking bribes, something unheard of in decades.
Public spending, especially for health care and education, by the Nordic countries is still greater compared with other developed countries, although cutbacks have been severe since the 1980s.
While all Nordic countries cover all residents, the US spends far more for health care and yet tens of millions of people are not covered by any health insurance, nor is care as good across the board as in the Nordic countries. (2)
Warring for neo-liberalism and the US
Since 1814, Sweden has maintained a policy of peace and neutrality in not taking sides in wars albeit with varying degrees of consistency. But with the US’s “war on terrorism”, Sweden clearly has sought to adhere to drugstore cowboy George Bush’s challenge: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
Sweden’s first governmental aid “against terrorism” was to help CIA agents by kidnapping two Egyptian citizens who were seeking asylum in Sweden. This was one of the most scandalous cases of the “extraordinary rendition” torture program initiated by Ronald Reagan and used by the Bush regime several hundred times, involving 54 countries. (3)
Muhammad al-Zery and Ahmed Agiza were arrested by Swedish police in December 2001. They were taken to Bromma airport in Stockholm, had their clothes cut from their bodies, suppositories were inserted in their anuses and they were put in diapers, overalls, hoods, hand and ankle cuffs. They were then put onto a Gulfstream 5 aircraft, American registration N379P, with a crew of masked men. They were flown to Egypt, where they were imprisoned, beaten, and tortured, according to Swedish TV investigative programme Kalla fakta, May 2004 (
The Swedish ambassador in Egypt waited six weeks to visit them. Agiza had been sentenced in absentia for being an Islamic militant. His 25-year sentence was reduced to15 years. Al-Zery wasn’t charged, and after two years in jail without ever seeing a judge or prosecutor he was sent to his village in Egypt. In 2008, AL Zery was awarded $500,000 in damages by the Swedish government for the wrongful treatment he received in Sweden and the subsequent torture in Egypt.
Like most Western governments, Sweden’s social democrat and liberal governments participated in warring against Afghanistan and Libya. Sweden lost five soldiers in Afghanistan. It currently participates with around 500 troops in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) under NATO command. The “neutral” country sent eight jet fighters to patrol the no-fly zone over Libya, the only country neither a member of NATO or the Arab League to do so in this one-sided war.
Although Social Democrat Prime Minister Göran Persson expressed the official position on the US invasion of Iraq as “unfortunate,” the nation’s military intelligence agency (MUST) gave crucial information to the US for a bombing raid on civilian shelters in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, a Swedish newspaper exposed.
The day after the war began, PM Persson said: “Unlike the United States, Sweden views a military attack on Iraq without the support of the UN Security Council as a breach of human rights.”
The month before, Swedish diplomat Hans Blix, a Liberal People’s Party politician, had issued his report to the UN as head of the monitoring, verification and inspection commission. After 700 inspections, Blix could report that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which was the key lie used to war against Iraq. The fact that it is the US which is the world’s greatest producer, seller, and user of WMD was irrelevant.
A mild mannered man, Blix accused Bush and Blair of dramatizing the threat that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD in order to carry out a war they had long planned, as he wrote in his 2004 book, “Disarming Iraq”.
The Washington Post reported on April 19, 2002, that senior U.S. officials ordered the CIA to investigate Blix, in order to gather “sufficient ammunition to undermine” him so that the US could start the invasion of Iraq. US officials were upset that the CIA did not uncover such information.
Blix said he suspected his home and office were bugged by the United States, while he led teams searching for Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.
By 2010, Sweden had capitulated more to US’s foreign policy. By then, Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange had become one of the US government’s greatest and most effective “enemies” by having exposed its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with the release of new secret information.
The same year, the S.D. Minister of Justice Tomas Bodström acted to please his great ally by encouraging Assange’s “rape victims” to file a police complaint. Bodström is a senior partner in the law firm which came to represent Anna Arden, and her co-conspirator Sophia Wilen. Bodström’s “aid” came several days after Arden had tweetered friends exclaiming excitement about the “rapist” with whom she just had had sex.
Later, when liberal Carl Bildt was minister of foreign affairs (2006-14), he refused to guarantee Assange that he would not be extradited to the US if Assange appeared in Sweden for police questioning in the case.
Except for Denmark, no other Nordic country participated directly in the war against Iraq but in 2015 Norway transferred 120 troops from its war in Afghanistan to train Iraqi and Kurdish fighters. Sweden began sending a like number from June 2016 for the same reason.
Norway sent soldiers to Bosnia (1992-5) and Kosovo (1998-9). It has been an active US-UK coalition warrior since the beginning of the invasion against Afghanistan and can claim 10 soldier deaths as proof of its commitment to the terror war.
Norway has been an enthusiastic ally in NATO since its beginning (1949). Sixty-six percent of its people currently support membership. The formerly peaceful country is now in the front-line for US nuclear strategy, and a spying central in the Artic. Norwegian fighter aircraft (along with Danish fighters) bombed the most targets in Libya in proportion to the number of planes involved.
Most Swedes and Finns do not want in. Only 27% of Finns support joining NATO. The majority of Swedes have been opposed. Only 17% were for NATO in 2012. Today it is nip and tuck.
Finland’s foreign policy story is different from others but it too is changing thanks to neo-liberalism and globalization. At the end of WW11, Finland rejected Marshall Aid, in deference to Soviet desires. The Soviet Union invaded Finland during the Second World War, hoping to prevent a Nazi German advance from the neighboring country. Finland was not occupied by Russians and declared neutrality in 1945. Nevertheless, the US clandestinely aided the social democratic party financially.
Finland’s military is geared for defense only, although troops have served in UN peacekeeping operations in areas where the US-NATO have led invasions. It has sent hundreds of soldiers to Kosovo, and it lost two soldiers in Afghanistan on ISAF missions.
(1) Possible motivations to assassinate Olof Palme bring forth memories of the political assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Millions believe, me included, that the JFK murder was planned and executed by CIA officials with Mafia and Cuban exile accomplices. There is loads of evidence and first hand testimonies to the effect. This includes Senate and House of Representative investigations, and the great Oliver Stone film “JFK” based on actual evidence. I suggest just one of hundreds of books to read: “Double Cross” written by Sam and Chuck Giancana as told to them by their relative, Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana, who admits to being an integral part of the assassination and names names. (Warner Books, New York, 1992)
(2) The statistics for public spending are from the 2014 “index of economic freedom”, taken by the Wall Street Times and the Heritage Foundation, and approximate OECD figures. Health and education statistics are those of OECD. It is interesting to compare tax revenues with public spending. US public opinion makers who think of Nordic social democracy as some sort of evil socialism often complain that the US spends too much money on the public. While the US does spend quite a bit of its gross domestic product on the public, its operations are mostly in the hands of private companies, which make profits and often provide poor services, and can go bankrupt. Social service care in the Nordic countries was also entirely publicly administered, although some is now in private hands and there is a decline in expenditures and service.
Denmark has the highest taxes (48%, ranging from 38 to 56%), Sweden (44.5), Finland (43.4), Norway (43.2), Iceland (36). The US collects 25.1% of the GDP in taxes.
(3) Some Western and former Eastern European allies have aided the CIA in “torture by proxy”, which is a “crime against humanity” as so judged by the UN. Denmark assisted by allowing CIA-managed aircraft to fly over its territory. Poland was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, in 2014, and ordered to pay restitution to the men involved. US enemies Assad and Hussein allowed US victims to be tortured by their torturers in the beginning of the war against Afghanistan.
Washington Post, April 19, 2002
“Whenever I speak as head of state, I speak about peace. I will say it as often and as long as necessary,” the straight-talking President Vigdis Finnbogadöttir told me.
It was the winter of 1980, shortly after she won the presidency, the first female in the world to win a democratic presidential election.
“Think what we could do with the money that goes into militarism! I am a premeditated pacifist. Wars and armies are absurd things. We have no army, no militarism. We are a peaceful, independent people,” asserted the charismatic president.
Iceland had achieved its independence from Denmark during WWII after 600 years of colonialism. This could occur basically on the condition that the United States could have the coast guard station at Keflavik as a military base. In 1949, Iceland joined NATO on Iceland’s condition that it wouldn’t have a standing army. Throughout the 1960s-70s, Vigdis, as she prefers to be called, demonstrated against US military presence, often marching the 50 kilometers to and from the capital Reykjavik and the base.
Keflavik was turned back to Iceland in 2006 for Iceland’s coast guard and civilian use. However, the liberal Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson let the US navy take over the base again in September 2015 due to the bogus threat of “the Russians are coming”. A half year later, the people forced him out of office for corruption and tax evasion.
Vigdis was never a member of any political party. She was a cultural worker educated in French literature at the Sorbonne. When elected president she was head of Iceland’s theatre, and noted for being a single mother to a daughter she had adopted years after her divorce from a doctor.
“I think my election was the result of the woman’s day strike we had on October 4, 1975. No lady did a thing the whole day. I was striking like everybody else, as were all my actresses.”
The United Nations had proclaimed 1975 as Women’s Year. A committee made of five of women organisations in Iceland organized a day to protest for equal wages, equal treatment. Ninety percent of women did no housework; most did not go to their jobs; and 25,000 demonstrated (out of a 220,000 population). Many pointed to Vigdis as their choice for president.
“We have accomplished a lot for such as a small population. We have no real poverty, hardly any unemployment, everyone has food and shelter. And Imagine! We succeeded in harnessing the strong elements of nature: ice, rapid waters, fire, and even lava. We are the only nation to detour a lava stream to save a village and then used the lava to heat all the homes not destroyed,” President Finnbodattir concluded.
After leaving the president’s cozy office, I took the ferry to the mentioned village, Vestmann Islands, whose 5000 people function totally self-sufficiently on cheap, renewable and clean geothermal energy. I was so impressed with this healthy, scrappy, fishing people I decided to return next summer (1981) and take a fishing job. Icelandic net fishing was one of two of the hardest jobs I have undertaken; the other was cutting sugar cane in Cuba. Fishing Iceland’s cold waters is dangerous. I recommend seeing the Iceland-made film, “The Deep”.
From the end of WWII to the present, Iceland’s economic development and direction approximates the rest of Scandinavia, summarized in other pieces. Suffice it to say that neo-liberalism was introduced in 1991 by a social democratic-led coalition government, as has been the case in other Nordic countries. In 2000, the social democrats merged with other political parties in the Social Democratic Alliance. Since then most Iceland governments have cut taxes on wealth, deregulated some public services, cut pensions, deregulated the market, and the public banks were privatized with deregulation to follow, which led to the 2007 financial crash. The financial crisis started in this tiny island-nation when three private banks, which had been public, collapsed.
In 1980, net debt to foreign countries was at 36% of the GDP. When the real estate bubble burst, debt rapidly rose to 246% of GDP. In 1980, household debt per portion of income was 21%; it rose to 227% with the crash. The bank defaults totalled $114 billion. GDP was only $19 billion. They lost 10% of their GDP, and their currency fell 35% in value.
Unlike all other nations with capitalist-run economies, Icelanders refused to bail out the criminal bankers. Parliament passed emergency legislation to take over the major banks domestic operations and established new banks to handle them. The government, however, did not take over any of the foreign assets or obligations. Those stayed with the original banks gone bankrupt. (1)
Folk got behind recovery. Many politicians now listened to the people and refused to cut back on social services. People utilized their natural resources to attract the tech industry. Commercial fishing remained strong. The tourist industry bloomed. The International Monetary Fund conceded that Iceland “surpassed pre-crisis output levels”.
Best of all, Icelanders jailed the criminal bankers. By early 2016, 26 bankers had been sentence to a total of 74 years in prison. Charges ranged from breach of fiduciary duties to market manipulation and embezzlement (thievery). The average sentence was from four to five and one-half years. They are serving time in open prisons. They spend their day doing laundry, working out in the gym, searching the internet. Prisoners are offered work and education opportunities. All six prisons in Iceland are small with capacities ranging from 10 to 45, a total of 121 places.
A man in central Reykjavik urinates on pictures of bankers who left Iceland after the 2008 financial crash
President Olafur Ragnar Grimmson, who replaced Vigdis in 1996, explained Icelanders’ thinking:
“We were wise enough not to follow the traditional prevailing orthodoxies of the Western financial world in the last 30 years. We introduced currency controls, we let the banks fail, we provided support for the poor, and we didn’t introduce austerity measures.”
“Why are the banks considered to be the holy churches of the modern economy? Why are private banks not like airlines and telecommunication companies, and allowed to go bankrupt if they have been run in an irresponsible way? [We will not] let ordinary people bear their failure through taxes and austerity. People in enlightened democracies are not going to accept that in the long run.”
Many thousands had rallied at Reykjavik’s main square on freezing days between October 2008 and January 2009, banged saucepans, linked arms in a circle around the parliament building, pelted it with food, and demanded the “left” coalition government resign.
In January 2009, the SDA-Independent Party coalition broke. An interim SDA-LGM (Social Democrats plus Left Green Movement) government was formed to lead until April election, which it won. But this “left” government also capitulated to EU and elite pressure, and proposed a repayment deal “Icesave” to UK and Dutch creditors. The SDA-LGM government even announced drastic cuts in public spending. Hospital and school employees were laid off and wages cut. Some “leftist” politicians even suggested seeking membership in EU.
One of the few solid powers Icelandic presidents have is to sign proposed parliament laws before they can be effected. President Grimmson, a former political science professor who had debated the right-wing economist Milton Friedman at the University of Iceland, took the unusual step of vetoing the appeasing bill to bailout customers of the private banks. In the ensuing referendum, March 2010, 93% of the people voting backed up their president.
Despite this set-back, and a drastic slump in support, the “leftist” government tried once again to pay foreign creditors, this time in instalments. On 20 February 2011, President Grimmson again vetoed the bill. In the second referendum, 9 April 2011, Icelanders again rejected to pay $5 billion to Britain and the Netherlands.
Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, head of the centrist Progress Party ran against the “leftist” coalition on a platform of “cleaning up”, of fighting bank corruption and tax fraud. His party won the parliament elections and he took over as PM in May 2013. Sigmundur David worked with the president in refusing to pay the British and Netherland governments, a struggle finally sanctioned legally by the European EFTA Surveillance Authority. The centrist PM appeared more loyal to the people than the “leftists”.
A man holds a sign in Icelandic reading ‘Get out Sigmundur’ as people gather during a protest on Austurvollur Square in front of the Icelandic Parliament in Reykjavic, Iceland on April 4, 2016, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugson.(Photo: Birgir Por Hardarson, EPA)
Three years later, when the Panama Papers exploded, PM Sigmundur David was interviewed by Swedish SVT television. Icelander free lance journalist, Johannes Kr. Kristjánsson was the point man. He was one of 376 journalists from 76 countries working on the 11.5 million Panama Papers documents coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
During the interview Sigmundur David said it was most important for everyone to pay a fair share into society and that paying less than one’s share constituted cheating society. When asked if he had any connections to a foreign company, he replied that he always reported his financial assets. When Kristjansson asked specifically about his connections to Wintris, a foreign company and a creditor of failed Icelandic banks, he said he had disclosed all requested information to the government. He became indignant and walked out of the interview. He and his wife made public statements about “journalist encroachment into their private lives” and denied any wrong doing.
News coverage of the Panama Papers revealed that he and his wife shared ownership of Wintris, bought to invest his wife's inheritance. Sigmundur David also failed to disclose his 50% share when he entered parliament. He later sold his share to his wife for $1, the day before a new law took effect that would have required him to disclose his ownership as a conflict of interest.
People were furious. Many cursed the government for trying to make Iceland into a Banana Republic. Demonstrators were on the streets every day once again, in greater numbers than in Iceland’s history.
On April 5, President Olafur Ragnur Grimmson refused to dissolve parliament when so asked by the desperate prime minister. This forced Sigmundur David’s hand and he resigned his office.
Polls showed that two-thirds of the people had lost faith in the Establishment. The small Pirate Party, founded in 2012 as a protest to the banks and the Establishment, had won three seats in the 63-seat parliament in the previous elections. Between the time of the Panama Papers exposure and July 2016, polls indicated that between 30 and 43% wanted the Pirates to win the next elections. Originally scheduled for April 2017, the new PM, Sigurdur Ingi Johansson, Progress Party’s deputy leader, promised an election sometime in the fall 2016.
Grímsson with his second wife, Israeli-born British Dorrit Moussaieff, exposed by the Panama Papers
When David resigned President Grimmson was encouraged to run for a fifth term. A month later, however, the media revealed that his wife was connected to a tax haven in the British Virgin Islands. The company, Lasca Finance, was actually in the hands of her parents but the embarrassment and implication was too great for the president. He withdrew early from the May-June campaign, claiming there were enough qualified candidates.
Gudni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, one of the nine leading contenders for president, is an historian and lecturer at the University of Iceland. He had never run for office and never been a member of a political party. His optimistic prognosis, though, captured the spirit of many voters. On the one hand, he condemned the tiny elite that run the political Establishment, the business community, and much of the media. On the other, he pointed to the impact that activism can have in a small, tightly-bound population. He praised the activist demonstrators and the Pirate Party as positive factors that can save the tiny nation from a state of corruption and elitism.
Jóhannesson said he would oppose membership in the EU. He hoped when Britain is out that it and Iceland would work together and form with Norway, also a non-member, stronger ties. Jóhannesson won the June presidential election with 39% of the vote. The candidate with the most votes wins and takes office on August 1. He would have had more votes if not for the European Championship games in France where 10 percent of the population (33,000) was rooting for their team.
Jóhannesson on his way to vote in the Icelandic presidential elections. Photograph: Birgir Thor Hardarson/EPA
Perhaps Jóhannesson will be accompanied by the anti-authoritarian Pirate Party if it leads the next government. It has broadened its agenda, which began with three points: having no main leader, an offer of asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden, legalizing pornography. One of its founders, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, worked closely with Wikileaks and Julian Assange, who had visited Island.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir and the Pirate Party
Their platform now embraces: transparency of “all pertinent information required to make informed decisions”, a view that equality is a “fundamental human right” which should be guaranteed by law and society, improve conditions for small industry, bind a “minimum living wage into law”, treat drugs liberally as in Portugal and help people who have a drug problem in a “humane way”, reform copyright laws so as not to rationalize censorship, diversify education on all levels and make sex education mandatory in schools—rule by direct democracy.
On the key controversial subject of EU, the Pirates say, “the public should make a well-informed decision via a binding referendum.”
Organizers of the party feel kinship with the Swedish party of the same name, the new Alternative party in Denmark, Bernie Sanders, Syrisa in Greece and Podemos in Spain.
Icelanders are showing a way that we who want a better world for the 99% could listen to. Our ideals for a future of justice, equality and peace can best be assured if we live in small communities and practice participatory democracy where we live, assuring that elites cannot exist or dominate. Small is beautiful!
This small population is the world’s most well read. They generally appreciate poetry and many write poetry. Icelanders are known for their classic sagas and for being skilled chess players. We can learn from them for their tenacity, for their tight-knit fellowship, without which they would not have been determined enough to jail criminal bankers, or overthrow—without armed struggle—a corrupt, lying prime minister, nor win soccer games against countries far bigger then them.
This is the first time in European Championship soccer history that such a small nation qualified to play, and did so by beating the Netherlands and Turkey (75 million). Once in the games they beat Austria, and tonight, as I write this conclusion, the dogged team beat England, a former Imperial nation with 55 million people. The numbers of players registered in soccer clubs in England is five times the entire Icelandic population. (France took them out in the next match, 5-2. But the team did not hide their heads on the contrary.)
So, let us be convinced that we can beat the bad guys even though we are only a minority of activists, who have no cannons or nuclear weapons. The majority hardly ever acts, but they can back up a dedicated minority struggling for justice.
(1) Sources used here include the January 26, 2016 article, “Iceland sentences 26 bankers to 74 years in prison” by Grouch E. Geezr, posted on , July 26, 2016; Edward Robinson and Omar Valdimarsson’s “This is where bad bankers go to prison”, March 31, 2016.
Newly elected president Jóhannesson among Icelandic fans at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, attending the quarter-final match against France, July 2016
Now that Bernie Sanders is out of a presidential candidate job, some Danes want him to migrate to Denmark. The “Politiken” daily newspaper published a chronicle by Peter Ahrenfeldt Schroeder and Jakob Esmann, on April 28, 2016, heralding a new association, “Sanders for Prime Minister”.
“Bring Bernie to Denmark and make him Prime Minister,” they wrote. Their idea is that because Bernie Sanders is a leading advocate of traditional Danish social democracy, and since it is under serious attack, he would be an excellent candidate in the next Danish elections. Moreover, Sanders would collect taxes from the rich because a key issue in his campaign was the elimination of tax shelters, of which many Danish rich people partake with impunity.
One of Denmark’s most serious problems is that the Social Democrats and the more leftist parties do not believe that the people are actually capable of ruling sensibly. They don’t truly believe in participatory democracy, and they don’t think workers will fight so they go along with capitalism.
Since WWII, the Social Democratic party has led a dozen governments in seven periods, a total of 39 years. In one period, four successive S.D. governments ruled for nearly 15 years. The Liberal (Venstre) capitalist party has led governments in six periods, a total of 21 years. The Conservative party ruled just once but for ten years, and the Social Liberals ruled for three years. The self-styled workers party controlled governments 57% of the past 70 years. Nevertheless, since PM Anker Joergensen’s time (1972-82), one cannot tell the difference between the governments.
Many workers and middle class people are distressed because the welfare state/social democracy developed under the leadership of Social Democrats, whom they trusted, is being dismantled under its leadership. One in four Danes experience anxiety and/or depression despite the claim that they are the world’s happiest, as the American Medical Association reported in May 2014. .
Many feel afraid of just living. [+ www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/may/14/mental-illness-happiest-country-denmark+]
Workers are stressed about losing their jobs, about companies packing up and moving to lower wage countries, of being forced to accept wage cuts. This threat is real, in part, because of the capitalist-dictated borderless European continent. Workers from poorer countries are encouraged to come to the wealthier ones and take jobs for less than union wages. Migrating workers are often helped by employers to cheat on the social welfare system by not paying taxes. Teachers are stressed because they must use less time in class preparation and more time “baby sitting” and filling out forms thanks to a 2013 lockout forced upon 67,000 teachers by the Social Democrat-Radical Liberal-Socialist Peoples Party government. Pedagogues of babies and small children also spend too much time filling out administrative papers, and due to cutbacks those remaining must care for too many children. College students have fewer scholarships, and have lost academic study opportunities because the government has eliminated “unnecessary” subjects to appease business interests. Many elderly and marginal persons are often stressed by racist/xenophobic political parties proclaiming that refugees-immigrants will take over Danish culture and religion, and commit terror.
Social Democrats are even ready to make an alliance with the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim Danish Folkeparti (DF). Despite this capitulation to separatism, its abandonment of essential social democratic program, and support of US wars, Social Democrats are assisted by the allegedly more leftist Socialist Peoples Party (SF). This party grew out of the traditional pro-Soviet Communist Party. CP leader Aksel Larsen left his post to start SF, in 1959. SF sought a “third way” between social democracy and communism. It turned out Larsen had been a CIA informant.
In Socialist Peoples party’s early years it advocated social democratic programs and the peace movement. But it switched to support the neo-liberal Economic Union and joined the Social Democrat government in 2011. Its leader Villy Soevndal took the post of Secretary of State and supported US wars. SF support among voters has dived from nearly 15% to around 4%.
Then there is the even more self-proclaimed leftist Unity List party (Enhedslisten), which was created after the fall of the Berlin Wall by the traditional Communist Party, a Troskyist party and the Left Socialists. It too supported the peace movement but dropped out in 2008 when it made an alliance with the S.D. and supported its government in 2011-5, including its war against Libya. Unity List’s program today is a paled version of its original revolutionary one, seeking instead to reform capitalism with a raise in wage here and more hospital beds there.
Of course, the traditional capitalist parties (Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians) are no slouchers when it comes to eliminating peoples’ benefits and in committing war crimes, but it is more depressing when the self-proclaimed pro-worker, socialistic parties scramble to compete.
Welfare state in disarray
Let’s look at what has happened to social democracy since the end of the Cold War. Back then everybody felt secure economically; at least no one lived in poverty or in fear. There was little violence, no Danes at war, no terrorism at home.
Now, since Denmark kills people who have done it no harm in the Middle East and Afghanistan, retaliation in the form of terrorism has hit Denmark. In February 14-15, 2015, one gunman killed two civilians and wounded three policemen in two occasions. The Danish-born youth was of Palestinian ancestry. He, like others who have attempted to harm artists who have mocked the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, acted against “blasphemy” and invasions of Muslim nations.
Before the fall of the European socialist-communist experiment, and pre-11/9 Permanent War Era, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) placed Denmark at the top in health care, not only in financing but in quality. Today, it is in 19th place.
In cutting back on health care, the Social Democrats outdid the openly proud capitalist parties. Here are a few media headlines during the last Social Democrat-led government.
“Since 2007 every 6th hospital bed removed” (2014 headline after three years of S.D. government)
“Overflowing hospitals leads to more deaths”
“Doctors and nurses are furious: we can’t run faster”
“Undernourished patients starve in hospitals”
The numbers of beds removed from hospitals averages 507 per year in the past decade. This causes some hospitals to stack patients on beds in the aisles. Overfull hospitals experience ten percent greater deaths than normally.
Government cutbacks to public schools in the past decade are also prevalent.
“Spending on public schools has fallen 13%”
“4000 studies cut out”
“[_ 30% fewer university courses” _]
“[_ 11% fewer teachers” _]
“State scholarships fallen 3.7%”
“Educational grants fallen 19%”
Cutbacks in education continue in this first year of the traditional capitalist Liberal Party government: 500 university educators (7%) fired; government saves $300 million in education contribution this year and $1.4 billion savings planned; cuts of entire themes or many courses in natural science, health science, ancient history, contemporary society, law, theology.
Private schools, private hospitals, private transportation companies, private post offices at supermarkets served by untrained personnel emerge from neo-liberal deregulation and outsourcing of public services. One result is that the government pays greater fees to private hospitals and clinics for hundreds of thousands of patients who can’t be treated at public facilities because of the cutbacks. Of course, the rich can easily pay for quick services at private hospitals. There is no evidence that private service is more competent than public services.
Although one can’t determine that the nation actually gains anything from this idiotic policy what matters to governments is that the rich profit. Scandinavians are witnessing the same revolving door policy long in practice in the US—from government posts to big business and vice versa—and that keeps politicians close to the pocketbooks of the rich.
A good example of how the government looks the other way when capital seeks greater profits at the expense of workers health is the current scandal concerning the German-owned Siemens Wind Power company. In the past decade, 64 workers have become seriously sick and disabled due to exposure to dangerous chemicals (epoxy and isocyanat). The Danish Worker Environment Service and the Industrial Injury Board have allowed Siemens to operate without adequate safety controls, although they have known about the sicknesses. This decade-long “oversight” is so gross that TV news has covered the scandal, showing government officials acting bewildered about how this could have happened. A clear answer to such “bewilderment” is that one of the companies hired to oversee work security is a private concern, an outgrowth of deregulating industry.
A civil court just granted three worker plaintiffs $150,000 in “compensation” damages, which the company is to pay. The government has done nothing.
We see government neglect time and again in the food industry where retailers sell outdated food, and restaurants do not uphold health and safety regulations. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration look causally on. We can read in an otherwise passive newspaper industry that so and so many have been stricken ill from eating bad meat, food that authorities allowed to be sold without significant consequences to the perpetrators. Sometimes a restaurant is dealt a fine or even closed down for some days, but the culprits don’t go to jail.
Welfare cash payments have been so drastically cut back that many are taken out of the system. In just the last two years, 70,000 people have been pushed out of the welfare daily cash system; 62,000 under the last Social Democrat-led government. This has plunged 16,400 of them under the poverty line, especially hitting single mothers. 11,000 additional children now live in poverty.
The “red” and “blue” governments cut back on day care centers and old-age homes too. Because of national government reductions to local districts some nursing home administrators feel forced to buy vacuum-packed meals delivered by private businesses, rather than cooking at the homes.
“My fantasy can not grasp that one can serve nine-day old meals that smell or nothing, taste of nothing, have no nutrition, just to save a million kroner,” a union leader told the newspaper, Metro, which tried to find politicians who would eat this food. There were no takers.
Now we draw in workers’ clothes
Social Democrats have no vision
A “Politiken” debate column, written by political science professor Erik Joergen Hansen, on March 21, 2016, points out the loss of social democratic values in Denmark.
“As far as I can tell, the Social Democrats have no vision. They just wish to follow the stream of the power elite…dismantling the welfare state for a competitive one,” Hansen wrote.
“Economic inequality has grown over several years. Nevertheless, it has been a long time since we see Social Democrats indicate that there should be greater distribution from the rich to the poor.”
Joergen takes on the current S.D. chairwoman, Mette Frederiksen, for her perspective that welfare policy should be one of “social mobility”. Hansen contends this would diffuse the traditional social democracy values based on social benefits, public services, narrowing the gap between rich and others. He says Frederiksen heralds the land of opportunities to become rich is now the goal, not to become equal or even fed well enough.
Joergen sees contemporary Danish Social Democrats in the same light as expressed by US sociology professors Stephen McNamee and Robert Miller in their book, “The Meritocracy Myth”. The American Dream is called such “because one must be asleep to believe in it.”
Social mobility, Joergen contends “does not create social ascent but rather individual ascent, for those who are the quickest”…”The consequence of such a strategy, in fact, is to increase societal inequality”, thus eradicating the very definition of social democracy, let alone socialism.
Dave Brown, The Independent
“Do I live in a rogue state?” Mette Fugl’s column was headlined in “Politiken”, June 4, 2016.
Mette Fugl is a major name in Danish Establishment journalism. She worked for the largest broadcast media, Denmark’s Radio (DR), for nearly 40 years, mainly as foreign correspondent. Many view her as a prima donna in mainstream journalism. So it has special meaning that she implies that her traditionally harmless cozy country has become unprincipled, a swindler state.
Fugl outlines recent political and legal developments that warrant the “rogue” characterization.
1. The so-called “respect package”, which permits the state to punish people more severely who act “disrespectfully”, including use of violence but also verbal insults, over for official employees. Clamping down on “rioters” can cross the line of abusing civil liberties, such as the right to assembly and freedom of expression. The “respect package” includes the un-constitutional public listing of people who make “undemocratic” statements, as determined by the current government. Penalties are as high as eight years in prison.
2. The “blackout law”, as the Freedom of Inform Law of 2013 enacted by the Social Democrats is commonly referred to, allows governments to deny public access to important information necessary for democratic decision-making. A recent example is the government’s refusal to reveal documents that the former Iraq Commission collected when investigating what occurred in wars in which Denmark participates. Some evidence concerned Danish military allowing prisoners under its protection to be tortured, and that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen had agreed to help the US invade Iraq the year before the invasion, and before consulting parliament. When the current government assumed power, in 2015, it shut the commission down.
3. Tax laws that ordinary people cannot understand, and tax officials who don’t communicate and don’t collect taxes from the rich.
4. Politicians who dismiss social critics as liars. Decision-makers who refuse to be held accountable. Officials who scare those who are already scared.
5. Officials who defy international conventions on human rights, and do so with prideful joy. Politicians who virtually stand in front of barbed-wire fences and give the finger to the injured on the other side.
Refugee Bashing: Stringent! Harsh! Sour!—is the flavor of the day
Reference here is to the ever-tightening rules and laws that Danish governments make to prevent life-threatened refugees from finding shelter in this rich country, or once here their lives are made as unpleasant as possible: providing tents as residencies, preventing asylum-seeking children from attending schools, preventing couples and their children from joining one another for three years, confiscating jewelry and cash of asylum-seekers.
While many Danes, and most political parties, have become stingy towards and leery of refugees, a good number of ordinary people have helped refugees who crossed into Denmark from Germany by transporting them to Sweden, especially in September-October 2015. They did this without payment rather because the refugees had relatives or friends there, or because they felt they’d have a better chance of being accepted than in Denmark. These Danes were observed offering help by border police without being stopped. Later, the government decided to punish them as “human smugglers”. A few hundred have been judged guilty and made to pay large fines. (1)
One of the hateful politicians to which Mette Fugl refers is Inge Stoejberg, the Liberal government’s minister of immigrant and refugee “integration”. She is a principle lawmaker of the “respect package” law, which includes the right to exclude foreigners, namely and especially Islamic Inmans, from visiting Denmark if they have made statements that the government considers “anti-democratic” or “threatening” to human rights.
Steve Bell on Denmark seizing refugees’ assets (“jewellery law”) – The Guardian, 26//2016
At the same time Stoejberg prohibits opinions and statements she cannot abide she recently pressed charges against two young native Danish women for calling her a “fascist” when the minister was in a bar. Stoejberg claims such a statement falls under a law that forbids people from “cussing-insulting-harassing” persons who are “in pursuance of official duties”, that is, drinking in a bar. This anti-freedom of expression law can cost the outlaw 6-12 months jail time.
“Fascist” is a common term frequently used about people who are fundamentally authoritarian and racists. This is how I presume these women characterize Stoejberg, and not without reason.
Stoejberg ignores the contradiction concerning her wish to deny their freedom of expression and the government backing the freedom-of-press right for “Jylland-Posten” to publish cartoons depicting Muhammad in a light that most Muslims consider blasphemous and “insulting”. The 12 editorial cartoons published on September 30, 2005 caused “Denmark’s worst international relations incident since the Second World War,” according to the right-wing Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen then in office. He and Stoejberg are in the same “Venstre” party.
Danish products were boycotted by many Muslim majority countries, and attacks occurred on Danish diplomatic missions and Christian churches. Violence between demonstrators and police ended in 200 deaths, in several countries.
Last year, the major private bus company, Movia, copied government censorship by removing an advertisement from 35 buses paid for by the Danish Palestinian Friendship Association. The ad depicted two women alongside the statement: “Our conscience is clean! We neither buy products from the Israeli settlements nor invest in the settlement industry.”
The United Nations has condemned the settlements as discriminatory against the Palestinian people, whose lands have been stolen. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: an occupying power must not transfer its population into its occupied territories.
Yet when a few Jews and others complained about the statement the ad had to come down. The government made no protest. There are 6,300 Jews and 270,000 Muslims living in Denmark.
One of the many rules to make immigrants-refugees lives miserable is reversing the rule that all municipalities must offer asylum-seekers medical checkups. This is especially harmful to those persons who have been tortured. According to Dignity, one of the two Danish private organizations that help rehabilitate torture victims, 30 percent of refugees have been tortured and most have traumas that make it difficult to perform their roles as parents or to be effective workers; in fact, to be integrated. Dignity denounces the new rule, saying that it would result in many torture victims not being identified and thus not receiving treatment.
Under the pretext of supporting women’s rights, the government now forcibly separates married couples if one is under 18—almost always the female—even when the male is 18 and the female is 17. This causes asylum seekers to cry on a daily basis, to feint, and many have attempted suicide.
The tenor of times concerning refugees is so hostile that one can read this: “Seldom is there good news these days. This could have been better but something is better than nothing: About 2500 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean this year. We are only halfway through the year. Much can still happen.”
If the highly respected Danish theologian-philosopher K.E. Loestrup—imprisoned in a concentration camp during WWII for standing in solidarity with Jews—were still alive today, he might have said of these warped persons what he spoke in a 1938 sermon:
“To be a human being is to be blameful [responsible], or co-blameable,” that is what we must understand, meant Loegstrup, and if we do not understand that, “we are so blunted and hypocritically calcified that we are no longer human beings.”
The current tenor of immorality has finally woken up some editors and reporters in the mass media, who are sometimes taking a stand for decency, and this is also prompting some otherwise indifferent celebrities to come out of their closets. Sofie Graaboel is one of them.
Graaboel is known international for her roles in TV detective series, such as “The Killing”. When making a production in England earlier in 2016, “The Guardian” asked the shy star actress what she thought about the squeeze on asylum-seekers in her homeland. I read her remarks in the April 2016 edition of the Danish state train magazine, “Ud & Se” (Out and See), which I translate.
“Every morning when I passed by the big TV in the hotel lobby I could see the story tick in from home…It seemed so fierce to me that it was that impression that was put out in the world—that Englishmen suddenly got the unequivocal picture of Danes as people who just wanted to build a wall and frighten others away. This is not the [total] reality.”
Graaboel told the newspaper reporter that she wanted to be proud to be Danish but it was difficult with the current political steps taken regarding refugees.
One of many reasons for the tone of hostility towards refugees and non-white, non-Christian immigrants is the fact that the traditional workers “solidarity” party, Social Democrats, has joined forces with the two other major parties, the blue Liberals and the “blue social democrats”, as former PM Fogh Rasmussen calls the Danish People’s Party (DF). All of them have made rules and laws limiting admission of these immigrants-refugees and reducing their rights and benefits once here.
The former S.D. spokesperson on foreigners, Mette Reissmann, called them “unwanted guests”.
Denmark’s People’s Party was made kosher, in fact, by the Social Democratic party, by its PM in 2001, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, and by S.D. leaders of LO, the major union alliance.
Then a member of one of LO’s unions, I attended a conference, in 2002, concerning social dumping. The major union ideologue, Harald Boersting, was present when I spoke from the podium. I pointed a knarred finger at him, and harshly said:
”By your reaching out to the Danish People’s Party recently, by proposing cooperation, you have taken them in from the cold. You have thereby accepted their major premise for existence: racism and foreign-hatred, splitting the working class. You send out a wrongful, immoral signal to the entire people.
“If we do not throw out Boersting and the other career opportunists in leadership, then we workers who know what our interests are must form our own unions. Part of my life was in the US, where race discrimination and war enthusiasm ruled the AFL union alliance. This was a major reason why part of the coalition formed their own unions (CIO). Discrimination within our ranks only supports big capital’s divide-and-conquer strategy, and they laugh at us when we are weak.
“I can only call what LO’s top is doing for what it is: treachery!” A major Danish daily (Ekstra Bladet) and the union magazine “Fagbladet” printed my speech.
There was some applause, but Boersting later became LO’s chairman, and DF’s founder Pia Kaersgaard was given the honorable position of parliament chairperson. The Danish People’s Party and the Social Democratic party are currently speaking for the first time of joining forces to form a coalition government, if they gain the majority next election. In July 2016, a DF theoretician and outspoken anti-Muslim Luthren preacher Soeren Krarup came forth with the proposition that his party could cooperate with the traditional Social Democrats in a coalition government.
Something Rotten in Denmark
Danes cannot remember when or if it has ever been revealed that so many civil servants had taken bribes as now. In June 2015, government auditors charged 13 civil servants with receiving gifts of up to $10,000 each from an IT business, Atea, which sold them equipment for the institutions they represent. Two of the gifts for two government employees who could decide which company would sell equipment received $50-70,000 trips to Dubai and USA. A year later, another 32 civil servants were charged with the same crimes of receiving brides from the same company. We’re talking about major government institutions: national police, foreign ministry, military secret service, state transportation, and even the criminal justice system, including public prosecutors.
A popular blogger, Anne Sophia Hermansen, reminded us that there have been individual cases of gift-taking by individuals in state institutions, including leaders of the Treasury Department and a Conservative business minister, not to mention the Royal Family, but never so many at the same time. In one case, it was not a matter of just receiving gift bribes, but of a police service employee giving two friends work orders amounting to $4 millions without allowing bidding for the jobs.
Hermansen thinks that Transparency International’s usual ranking of Denmark as the least corrupt country is in danger of being replaced by the label “Banana Republic”. And she points the figure to the key cause: the neo-liberal outsourcing of public services to private firms and the privatization of public companies. She especially points a finger at the energy company DONG, part owned and primarily directed by Goldman Sachs.
Goldman Sachs is currently defending itself in a court case in London, in which Libyans claim GS illegally hid state monies from the public during Gaddafi’s regime, in 2010-11.
All readers have heard of the Mossack Fonseca law firm from the famous Panama Papers, and I have already mentioned this scandal as the reason for Iceland’s PM leaving office so I won’t go into any depth. But some Denmark bankers and many of the wealthiest Danes have been major players in this fraud, in which 300,000 so-called off-shore companies were set up as shells for tax evasion.
Journalists digging into the 11.5 million documents released by yet another whistle-blower estimate that $6 trillion (yes trillion) are hidden away in multiple tax havens. The Danes’ “share” is calculated at between $20 and $30 billion. One of the world’s largest banks is the Scandinavian Nordea. It is a prime culprit in assisting its rich customers in hiding their wealth from tax collectors.
Of the 543 banks throughout the world associating with this fraud in Panama, Nordea ranks 11th in creating the largest numbers of false companies between 1977 and 2015, and number six since then—tens of thousand shells in all. Nordea is listed in 10,000 Mossack Fonseca secret documents. Nordea has also falsified dates and names to hide wealth from government tax authorities.
The media has also revealed that some top leaders have been enriched by this fraud. One vice-directed smuggled over one white-washed million dollars through an anonymous account in a Luxembourg branch. He is one of the top executives having assisted many wealthy Danes with doing the same, none of whom have been charged with any crime.
Another example of how Nordea operates concerns associate Vianca Scott. She was selected as the chief executive officer of several hundred companies falsified by her employer, Mossack Fonseca, many of them for Nordea. She also managed 30 shells for eight years after her death, in 2005. #
Governments have known about at least some of Nordea’s illegal activities for some time. Swedish finance inspectors caught Nordea at this tax-cheating game at least twice and fined it $10 million in two cases. But the bank is so rich it can afford to pay fines and continues business as usual.
Besides the tax shelters, the Danish tax department has lost several billions of dollars through its inability, or lack of desire, to collect taxes from people they know owe them money. Part of the reason for this inefficiency is because the government has cut back on tax staff.
The breakdown in public confidence for United States and European governments and the major political parties has reached Denmark. The chief editor of “Politiken”, Bo Lidegaard, is one of those journalists who now dares to write the truth about how “small groups have become incomprehensibly rich”, how “globalization stands weakened in voters eyes,” how ever-growing “inequality is the big sinner,” as he wrote April 10 and June 5, 2016.
Lidegaard is concerned that the very roots of the Constitution are in danger, because some contemporary laws threaten its 19th century authors’ vision—that of humanism opposed to authoritarianism, the very notion of free-mindedness, tolerating various points of view in open debate in which opponents listen to one another.
1) Sweden had been quite open in accepting refugees. 162,000 came in 2015. Those accepted were granted asylum permanently. This year, lawmakers have tightened the law and stopped refugees from entering without having gone through procedures prior to arrival. Now, once asylum is granted it is only for three years. The state seeks to deport 80,000 asylum-seekers. Only 20,000 refugees came to Denmark last year, 11,500 from Syria; many of the rest from lands Denmark has bombed.
Björn Wahlroos, Chairman of Nordea: “Approximately 80 per cent of people are idiots. At least when it comes to money. The financial sector is about to move money from the 80 per cent without ideas to the 20 per cent of people who actually have ideas. The financial sector is a tunnel that takes money from idiots to people who are better with money, so everyone feel better, both idiots and the others “(Dagbladet Information). Drawing: Per Marquard Otzen, Politiken
Illegally I stepped upon the Royal Family’s castle grass in central Copenhagen during the flagday ceremony (September 5, 2013) honoring Danish voluntary soldiers’ return from their war in Afghanistan. My sign read and my voice shouted: Stop the War! War Criminal Mercenaries!
An angry civilian rushed up behind me and placed an iron grip over my mouth. The large man was quickly accompanied by a soldier and police who dragged me away. I refused to agree to not demonstrate again and was jailed for six hours so that Social Democrat Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt could honor her warriors unbothered. I was later fined several hundred dollars for “disorderly conduct” and “refusal to obey orders”.
The daily “lunch” newspaper BT ran a photograph of the civilian man’s hands “iron grip”, and a short article. Its reporter, Oliver Otte Okstroem interviewed me after jail.
“The media tells us that Danes are the happiest people in the world at the same time they murder people in other countries without provocation. That is deplorable, sad and immoral,” reporter Okstroem cited me.
Why Viking Warriors are revered
Shortly after arriving in Denmark, in the summer of 1980, Grethe took me to see an outdoor Viking theater, complete with poetry and sword fighting. I learned that their North Germanic language, Old Norse, became the mother-tongue of present-day Scandinavian languages and is still practiced mainly in its original form in Iceland. The Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Vikings ruled Scandinavia for three centuries, 8th-11th. In the 8th century, Scandinavians began to build long warships and sail on raiding expeditions thus initiating the Viking Age.
Vikings are revered for their skills as sea voyagers, explorer-conquerors, traders, craftsmen and farmers. Vikings were also poets, artists and lawmakers. Their general assembly was called the Ting, which laid the basis for the modern parliament “Folketing”.
Viking culture embodied three classes: the economic power elite; farmers and craftsmen, who were also armed warriors; and slaves without rights—many were conquered people, many Christians.
Women were freer than in most cultures of the times. They ran the farms while their men went off to plunder first in the British Isles, then further on to Scotland, Ireland, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland (the first Europeans to land in North America), France, Spain, Sicily, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. They mostly traded in the Middle East rather than conquering. They sailed further on to the Ukraine, the Baltics and Russia. In fact, the term Russia comes from the Swedish “Rus”, meaning Viking.
Vikings killed English Monks in their abbeys, drown them in the sea or enslaved them. Descendants of the Viking chieftain Rollo conquered England during the 1066 Norman Conquest. In 911, Vikings from Denmark-Norway came to northern France, Normandy (meaning “men of the north” in Scandinavian). Rollo made an alliance with the French King Charles the Simple. He became the duke of Normandy in return for converting to Christianity and defending north France against other Viking warriors. Among his descendants was the Duke of Normandy (1030), later known as William the Conqueror or William the Bastard. He led troops from Normandy and Breton to England, in 1066, and became the new king of a more united England.
Although the chronicles of medieval England portrayed them as rapacious “wolves among sheep”, the Vikings became the ruling aristocracy of Anglo-Saxon England, and the rulers of the British Empire. Today, Vikings are well viewed in the eyes of average Brits and Scandinavians. Their contemporary rulers have inherited the Viking thirst for warring, and the working people have incorporated their productive and artistic skills.
Denmark has a Viking museum, university studies, several Viking camps, theaters, reconstruction documentaries, souvenirs and clothing. Viking summer camps and entertainment events also exist in the US, euphoric for the “fierce and ruthless pirates”. [+ www.ingebretsens.com/culture/history/the-vikings-and-the-viking-era+]
The Russians are Coming
In the spring of 2016, the Danish government and parliament were preparing to buy 27 F-35 jet bombers; send more troops to Afghanistan for “Operation Enduring Freedom”; send 460 army personnel, including special fighting units, along with seven F-16s to Syria and Iraq; send hundreds of troops and jets to Poland and Baltic countries on a rotating basis; and participate in the largest NATO war exercise there since the end of the Cold War. Its 31,000 troops played at “what if” Russia attacked these NATO countries, which would be an asinine fiasco with no foreseeable military or political advantage. (See my piece, “Denmark: SOS Save Our Sovereignty”)
Since the new war jets were to cost more than an entire annual military budget, raising fears of even more social welfare cutbacks, Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen promised the people that no more taxes would be appropriated for the military. The aircraft would be paid for over some years from the regular “defense” budget.
Opinion polls showed that between 53 and 59% of Danes opposed using their taxes for new war planes. So politicians had to find a good reason. All but one of the nine parties in parliament, aided and abetted by most of the mass media, howled: “The Russians are coming”. They claimed that the Russians were so audacious that they were watching from northern skies and waters what the Scandinavian military might be doing that could threaten them. As usual, the Swedes were seeing Russian submarine ghosts in their waters, albeit they were ephemeral.
Within the month of May, Danish opinion fell from a high of 59% against buying the new jet-bombers to only 37% against.
Then came the July 8-9 NATO meeting. Denmark’s leaders reversed their promise and pledged “solidarity” with the easily frightened Baltic peoples and Poles, and agreed to increase Denmark’s military budget by an unspecified amount, plus sending 200 additional troops to Estonia.
As PM Lars Løekke told those assembled, “We line up when called upon!”
The “Weekendavisen” weekend newspaper wrote (July 15): “NATO countries agreed to send an important political message to Russia”, which is characterized as “more dangerous” today than during the Cold War. So, four battalions (2000-3000 troops) will “protect” NATO countries Poland and the Baltic Three on a permanent basis.
NATO will do more to support and train its allies in Afghanistan after 15 years of meaningless war, and commit greater efforts to fight IS, albeit without cooperating with Russia. Though Russia is doing most of the fighting against terrorist groups in Syria, the West is unhappy since some of the terrorists are their own comrade “democratic” fighters against the Assad regime.
Denmark will be especially used to strengthen defense of the Artic area against “Russian aggression”. Once delivered, the atom-bomb-capacity F-35s will patrol the Artic as well as Poland, the Baltic countries, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Ukraine.
There was some criticism about Denmark only allotting 1.2% of its GDP to its military when the goal for all NATO countries is two percent. Donald Trump and other leading figures in the US are opposed to financing NATO with 70% of its budget. Trump wants Europe “to do more”. But Danish leaders point out that with its 460 troops fighting the Islamic State it is among the top five of the 66-nation coalition providing military might pre capita, and also among the top five in military expenditures per capita. Its steady military presence in Afghanistan is unprecedented for a small state and unique among all of Scandinavia. And it now has 73 weapons firms whereas before 9/11 it only had five.
Additional areas of cooperation between Denmark and other NATO countries will include more military might in much of Africa, more cyber war intelligence, and support for transnational corporation agreements: TTIP, CETA, TISA—all linked with the US’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The key to these deals is that corporations can overrule national government rules and laws that curtail profits regardless of how much this could harm the environment or workers rights.
Furthermore, in the past two years Denmark has nearly ceased all support for peace research projects, cut way back on its contributions to underdeveloped countries diverting them to funding refugee shelters, cut back 50% of its funding to climate change reduction projects, and sliced 30% to UN social projects.
When Danish political and military chieftains returned to their country from the Warsaw NATO summit, the Viking summer games were in full swing.
Transparency Be Damned
Major Frank Grevil, an analyst in the defense ministry’s secret service (FE), had a democratic consciousness. On February 22, 2004, the major leaked FE documents showing that the ministry had found no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), in contrast to what the then PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Fogh) assured the public. Claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD, and would presumably use them, was a major excuse to declare war.
Upon becoming a whistle-blower, Grevil resigned from the military. The government charged him with unpatriotically leaking secret documents. A year later during Grevil’s trial, Socialist People’s Party (SF) leader Villy Soevndal sat in court as a supporter. He even signed a petition calling upon others to commit similar acts of civil disobedience. Soevndal was pleased to keep company with US whistle-blower and peace activist Daniel Ellsberg, who had come to Denmark to offer his support. Despite the exposure of lies the nation’s leaders were peddling, which caused the deaths of untold numbers of Iraqis and eight Danish soldiers, it was Grevil who went to prison for four months.
Ironically, peace supporter Soevndal worked his way into the Social Democrat-led war government just six years after the court case. He became secretary of state. One of his main jobs was to enthusiastically support the US-UK-Denmark wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. By then, Fogh had been promoted to NATO’s top warring post as secretary-general. Today, he is foreign affairs consultant to Ukraine’s president and Goldman Sachs consultant in Denmark.
One of the few decent things the S.D.-Soevndal government did was to launch a commission to investigate what occurred during the war against Iraq, what were motives for it and did the Danish military conduct or ignore torture of captured persons. By the time the Liberal party took state power, in the summer of 2015, the commission had gathered 70,000 documents, some of which dealt with these controversial matters.
The new government immediately locked down the commission. Using the Freedom of Information Act (FIA) enacted by S.D., it refused to release any information gathered either to the public or most parliamentarians.
In June 2016, Norway released a government commission report about its involvement in the Afghanistan war. It concluded that Norway’s 13-year engagement had not led to any significant improvements, but it did please the US government and thereby assured a fruitful alliance with the US and NATO. The cost was “only” the loss of ten soldiers and $3 billion.
A month later, the British Chilcot commission was finally forthcoming after seven years. The conservative TV network CNN reported that it was “a devastating indictment of Britain’s decision to invade Iraq”, finding that the war was based on “flawed intelligence and had been launched before diplomatic options were exhausted.” [+ http://edition.cnn.com/2016/07/06/europe/uk-iraq-inquiry-chilcot-report/+]
The 2.6 million-word Iraq Inquiry was released with a statement by probe chairman John Chilcot. The former civil servant said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” when the U.S-led invasion was launched in March 2003. The “strategy of containment” could have continued for some time.
“Chilcot said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned of the risks of regional instability and the rise of terrorism before the invasion of Iraq, but pressed on regardless”, CNN reported. Chilcot added: “The people of Iraq have suffered greatly.”
This inquiry came to the same conclusion as did the Norway investigation concerning its government’s war in Afghanistan: desire to “protect the UK’s relationship with the United States”.
The Danish government did not want the same procedure to happen so it stopped the Danish inquiry. However, under mounting pressure for some sort of account, a year later it announced that an appointed committee would “describe” events during the wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. There would be no digging into motives for the wars, or alleged torture by or complicity with torture on the part of Danish military. Information concerning Fogh’s presumed agreement to back a future war in Iraq when he visited US leaders in Washington a full year before the outbreak of the war was also forbidden.
But whistle-blowing is catching on and some of the 70,000 documents got leaked. “Politiken” obtained some. It wrote, on July 2, that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen had met with then Vice-Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon, on March 27, 2002. Fogh was asked what Denmark would do if the US decided to invade Iraq for some reason or another. He replied: Denmark will “indubitably offer its support.”
Opposition politicians clamored for release of the documents. The parliament has an ombudsman, who took the matter up. He announced, July 13, that the documents will not be released due to protecting relations with foreign governments (US), and cited a clause in the FIA that permits parliament to keep public records “inaccessible to parties with no part in the cases in question.”
That means that the entire public, and almost all members of Parliament, have “no part” in knowing what its government does or why it does it. Denmark has learned from Big Daddy “over there”.
Defense Academy Professor Peter Viggo Jacobsen explained: “Denmark and Norway feel good maintaining their friendship with the Americans; not so well, however, with combating terror…and creating stability and democracy in the [countries in question],” as “Politiken” wrote, June 7, 2016.
Jacobsen had earlier stated that the war didn’t have to do with Afghanistan rather that “We want them to continue to pick up the telephone in Washington…When one says that the Danish efforts have been a success it is because they love us in Washington today.”
From lovers of peace to Viking warriors again
It has become quite a “natural part of our everyday that once again we are on the way to war,” explained Vibeke Schou Tjalve, senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, to “Politiken”, October 1, 2014.
The transition to war-lovers started after two centuries of peace-seeking when the Conservative Prime Minister Poul Schlüter took power from Social Democrat Anker Joergensen. Schlüter called a special election in May 1988, shortly after assuming state power, because parliament had passed a resolution requiring the government to inform visiting warship captains that Denmark’s three-decade anti-atomic weapons policy bans nuclear weapons on its land and waters. Instead, the right-wing government insisted on uncritical support for the US and NATO and opposed the law, which the Social Democrats had backed.
Sven Auken was Anker Joergensen’s replacement as S.D chair. Auken asked Schlüter to send a letter to a US ship captain docked at Copenhagen’s harbor, simply to inform him that the law prohibited nuclear weapons. There was no request to board or inspect the ship. A reply would suffice. President Ronald Reagan informed Denmark, in no uncertain terms, that no such letter would be accepted. The US, along with Britain, temporarily suspended warship visits to Denmark.
The special election was closely watched by foreign governments. Former US military officers, turned critical of nuclear weapons, also played a role. Retired Admiral Eugene Carroll said during a visit to Copenhagen that 80% of US warships carry nuclear weapons, and refused to remove them when sailing into Danish waters.
Nevertheless, the government made surprising gains in the election, and the law was not enforced. From then on, the 8 year-old Danish “footnote policy” opposing nuclear missiles in Europe was effectively ended. An “activist foreign policy” was adopted. US’s Gulf War was Denmark’s first military engagement. On August 2, 1990 Denmark sent its Olfert Fischer corvette to blockade Iraq to relieve US and UK warships.
Denmark’s richest man, A.P. Moeller-Maersk (APMM) is also the world’s biggest ship owner. He was disappointed that his government offered so little to US’s war that he demanded he deal directly with the US military to aid it. Both governments immediately gave him the green light.
APMM sent dozens of ships to transport half-a-million US troops and armaments free of charge. This bought him future war contracts in the many billions.
The one-man navy has his own shipping line, Maersk Line Limited (MLL) in Norfolk, Virginia. His 56 ships there fly the US stars and stripes. Twenty-two of them are used directly by the US for military operations. MLL employs 4000 people who proudly serve US national security interests.
When Lockheed Martin decided to build 1,763 F-35 super jets following the 9/11 attacks, A.P. Moeller-Maersk was right there. He offered the project, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), his ships and expertise, and this brought the Danish government into the picture, one of eight countries to get a piece of JSF action. Danish weapons firms got contracts to build gun-pods and other parts. Danish taxpayers coughed up at least a half-billion dollars of taxes for JSF. The defense ministry sent Colonel Per Lyse Rasmussen to Washington as a go-between US and Danish weapons firms. APMM Sealands ships were contracted to sail parts from around the world to Lockheed Martin’s factory in Forth Worth, Texas. So, the decision to buy that aircraft instead of any other allegedly in the running had already been made in the early 2000s. (1)
Since the Gulf War, the defense ministry maintains that its mission is no longer one of just defense but to carry out international tasks for “peace, democracy and human rights”. Its next mission was to assist Germany in breaking up Yugoslavia, which succeeded by dividing the socialistic-led state into five separate capitalist states, in the 1990s.
November 8, 1992, 170 soldiers and observers set up headquarters in Bosnia. Denmark was under UN peace-keeping missions and under NATO fighting missions until March 1995.At the end of the 90s, Denmark participated in Kosovo conflicts on the side of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). It was a drug-smuggling band and had recently been on US and European terrorist lists. But when KLA attacked socialist-led Serbian forces, it became an ally. The US Committee for Refugees reported that KLA aimed at “cleansing the ethnic Serbian population”.
It is hard to know how many Danes were wounded or killed, but at least five deaths have been confirmed. Twenty thousand to 27,000 Danes fought in the Balkans. (These figures include return tours). Hundreds of them experienced PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and some committed suicide. In all the wars since 11/9 that Denmark has participated in, 47 veterans have committed suicide, at least 61 were killed (eight in Iraq), and hundreds wounded.
Former soldiers and their families have protested that the government did little to care for their emotional breakdowns. Between 7 and 9 July, 2016, a tragic result of that neglect took place when a 42 year-old Balkan war veteran murdered his parents. He beat them with his fists, hammered and cut them with a hatchet, then drove their bodies around in the back of his car for three days.
“Danes look over the whole globe now,” wrote the Defense Ministry in 2015. “The army contributes in Kosovo, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan,” and since then in Syria and Mali. Denmark sent pilots and six F-16s to Libya. They flew more war missions (600) than most of the 14 Western countries involved, dropping over 1000 bombs and did not meet any resistance. Queen Margrethe II received total media coverage for her remark: “One relies on us and one can”, referring to US of A wars naturally. I considered this cowardly behavior and was so quoted in the BT daily.
Denmark even sent a few soldiers to South Korea for military maneuvers last year alongside 200,000 South Korean troops, 30,000 US soldiers and thousand more from the UK, Australia, Canada, and France—thereby agitating North Koreans.
Since Danish soldiers must volunteer to go abroad to fight wars, and not all of the 20,000 soldiers do so, the military now enlists the Home Guard for foreign adventures. Until recently, the Home Guard existed only for defense.
When it came to George Bush’s war in Iraq, Fogh’s government went overboard by actually declaring war. This was the first time Denmark was officially at war since 1864 when it declared war against Prussia and Austria. Denmark had foolishly hoped to take two duchies at the German border, Holstein and Slesvig. This was a total disaster. The invasion of Iraq is a much greater disaster, a true tragedy for the entire population of 23 million people. The unprovoked war ruined the cradle of civilization.
Although Denmark claimed to withdraw its troops in 2007, it has continued to have a military presence there—“coalition of the willing” instructors for Iraqi allies, and now, once again, it has Special Forces there ready to kill.
Finally comes a question mark to all these war
Peace activism has been tepid for most of the years since 9/11 and the beginning of the “war on terror”. There have been exceptions, notably on February 15, 2003 when millions rallied in 600 cities in 60 countries, the largest protest event in human history. The purpose was to prevent the myopic Bush regime from invading Iraq following the takeover of Afghanistan.
I was among 30-40,000 people in Copenhagen rallying before the seat of power. We were around 50,000 in all of Denmark, the largest demo since the Vietnam War. Some of the largest protests took place in Europe. The action in Rome of around three million was the largest in history, as so listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Sources vary in their estimations of the number of participants involved. According to BBC News between six and eleven million people took part in protests over the weekend of February 15 and 16; other estimates range from eight million to thirty million.
But George Bush turned a deaf ear. He only cared about US oil, construction and weapons industry profit interests. A month after the world’s greatest outcry, he invaded the innocent nation. I think that after that we lost a lot of our energy. People just couldn’t comprehend how so many of us showing our desire for peace could be so ignored.
We have had a few less large demos since but, at least, in Denmark we haven’t had the indignation, determination and persistence that we had in Vietnam War days. No significant civil disobedience, no sabotage, no long marches—just rallies and short walks with a few signs, talks and music. The one exception is the score of dedicated Peace Guards who have passively stood before the Parliament and government building everyday since the invasion of Afghanistan. Sometimes the media covers their anniversaries now numbering 15; otherwise the media boycotts the tiny peace movement. I must conclude that we have had no effect on government policy all these 15 years.
Nevertheless some skepticism about these wars has begun in Denmark in the past few months. Some editors and a few politicians, mostly retired, are questioning their governments ceaseless catering to the interests of Washington, and Danish TV has run two critical documentaries.
Danish documentary filmmaker Mads Ellsoee produced “Children Soldiers’ New Job”, which public TV viewed in April. It opens with President Barack Obama saying: “We will maintain the best military fighting force the world has ever known”.
After Obama’s bravado we see how the US and the UK are using more mercenaries to fight their wars, mainly in Afghanistan. Some were children as young as 11 when forced to fight earlier in their countries.
We hear Uganda President Yowerei Museveni saying during a civil war in 1986: “In Africa, you learn to fight at four.” Museveni is still president, having suppressed numerous rebellions, civil wars and coup attempts. He is currently warring against the Congo. The West has feted him as “part of the new generation of African leaders.”
In the early years of the war against Iraq the US used professional adult mercenaries from such ill-reputed companies as “Blackwater”, which became more legitimate after changing its name to “Academy”. (Former Brazilian President Lula even used some of them). The British-run Aegis is a key mercenary company shown in the film, also Dyncorp, Beowulf, Garda and others. The numbers of paramilitary “firms” increased until it became too expensive to employ them. So, the war-makers began recruiting cheap labor from the third world.
Mercenary fans of former Chilean Dictator Pinochet cost $1000 a month, about the same as right-wingers from Peru and Colombia. Uganda mercenaries go for $600, but the cheapest are found in Sierra Leone for $250. After African mercenaries had been forced to fight as children during internecine wars, UK and US paramilitary firms came to recruit them for their government wars. By then, they were young men.
In the film, we hear several of them speak about why it was “necessary” to fight for money because they knew nothing else and there was no other work. Many of them hated it, some even cried about it. But life is cheap in Africa under neo-colonialization.
The film had such an impact on army captain Mads Silberg that he has been interviewed in newspapers, and he wrote a chronicle in “Politiken” (April 22). He strongly condemns states for using mercenaries and especially children or former children forced into armed struggle. Silberg’s arguments are professional and patriotic. He says that regular soldiers go to war to win, and do so with “pride of country”. Mercenaries go to war for money and not to win. If one wins then the war is over and so is the money.
Danish public television DR 1 made its own documentary in Afghanistan, “Skoler i Skudlinjen (Schools in the Firing Line), shown June 20. It exposes as false or exaggerated what Danish politicians claim as a key “success” in Afghanistan: more and better schools for more children and especially for girls.
Politicians say they have built or supported 270 schools at a cost of about $200 million. They say that under the government they support, upwards to 10 million children—out of a 30 million population—attend school and three million are girls. The film shows otherwise.
Many of the “Danish” schools are destroyed, others are uninhabitable, some were not built but the money went elsewhere, and others are under Taliban control with their teachers. Danish-supported schools that are in use have 50-60 students per teacher and 10-15 books. Money for books, for blackboards and general supplies are routinely stolen or never delivered.
The country is classified by the United Nations as the most corrupt in the world. It also grows most of the world’s heroin—something that did not exist when the Taliban was in power. The Taliban also allows some girls in schools but they teach their extreme version of Muslim culture and religion, rejecting Western teaching.
Denmark’s current Secretary of State Kristian Jensen admits that some Danish money ends in the wrong hands—that can mean government officials, local war lords, or Taliban hands. The Danish embassy does not control the flow of money nor do personnel inspect the schools, because “it is too dangerous” to go out there. Nevertheless, a Danish TV crew managed to visit schools. The journalists also interviewed a Danish general, who says that corruption is so rampant that he estimates only 5% of Danish “development funds” are used as designed.
Afghanistan government officials routinely falsify the numbers of schools and students, in order to receive foreign aid, estimated at between 65 and 90% of its entire expenditures.
Afghanistan is Denmark’s greatest recipient of development funding, “Politiken” wrote, December 30, 2014. Besides funding schools, Denmark has spent over $3 billion in 2002-14, and more since then. Most of it funding pays for military ventures, including: about 1000 war jet missions, tanks, machineguns, grenades, canons, surveillance drones (bought from Israel and the US), plus over 10,000 soldier tours of combat, home guards and police. Denmark has helped kill about 30,000 Afghans and rendered two-thirds of the population mentally sick, according to Afghanistan’s health ministry. Forty-three Danish soldiers have been killed and 200 wounded.
According to DR film sources, Taliban is stronger today than when it was overthrown in 2001-2.
In the July 22 issue of the “Weekendavisen” four former secretaries of state commented on the state of the world given the hot summer of: brexit, a failed coup in Turkey, terror come to several European cities, the massive influx of refugees fleeing the West’s wars followed by fanatic Islamists’ terror and European-Trump right-wing populism.
Former Secretaries of State Uffe Ellemann Jensen (liberal 1982-93), Niels Helveg Petersen (radical liberal 1993-2000), Mogens Lykketoft (social democrat 2000-01), and Holger K. Nielsen (people’s socialist 2013-14) all agreed that the war against Iraq was a failure, some said it was “a catastrophe”. They also agreed that much of Danish foreign affair problems are self-applied, and that foreign policy ought not be so “activist”.
This echoes what the Liberal government’s “foreign and security policy examiner” Peter Taksoee-Jensen concluded in his May 2016 report. He was commissioned to examine what policy ought to be applied given that Russia has taken back the Crimea, and terrorism is spreading. He emphasized that Denmark’s policies should first of all serve Danish interests, implying that it should not first and foremost be what the United States asks of it.
That is a dramatic new twist since Poul Schluter’s governments (1982-93) when Uffe Elleman Jensen was secretary of state. Elleman Jensen told “Weekendavisen” that Denmark has used too much “war rhetoric”, and the war in Libyan was “hopeless”.
The conservative “Weekendavisen” and the more liberal “Politiken” apparently agree that the war against Iraq was an error, not that it was immoral. “Weekendavisen’s” editorial of July 8 concerning the war against Iraq pointed out that the Chilcot report shows that Brits had all too little to say whenever the US decided they should go to war. It also admitted that the terrorist Islamic State is led by former officers of the regular Iraqi army under Hussein’s government, a direct result of the West’s aggressive failed war. Furthermore, the editorial lamented that Iraq had then been a “well ordered” state, albeit “odious,” and that Iraq had been a “well ordered state” for many thousands of generations. But since Hussein’s fall, “the mafia has taken over”. It seems that the editors miss Saddam Hussein, although I’m sure they would protest my conclusion.
“Politiken’s”, international editor Michael Jarlner, whom I have known to be a keen fan of the United States, wrote (May 14): “Denmark has become a warring nation”, and with its “activist foreign policy” it automatically sees only a “military solution” to great problems.
Given this critique of Western wars, it seems to me that United States drone-President Barack Obama would not be as popular as he apparently is in Denmark. According to a YouGov inquiry last year, the greatest numbers of Danes chose him as the most admired man in the world, above their own Crown Prince Frederik.
“Metro” newspaper interviewed lifestyle expert Mads Christensen about this. He was taken aback by the results. “I view Obama as a fiasco.” “I think [the poll] shows a basic lack of critical sense and comprehension about what actually goes on beyond one’s own nose,” Christensen concluded.
Let Us Recognize Our Past To Change Our Present To Liberate Our Future
Let us return to my second piece in this series, “Roots to Social Democracy/Capitalism, Socialism” to find my conclusion. I hope it has become apparent that social democracy has failed to “reform” capitalism. Yes, it did give capitalism such a humane façade, and under pressure it did accept some work place and social improvements for most workers, at least in the Western world. But it did not change the greedy needs of the profiteering monster!
Social democracy did not prevent capitalism’s wars for unending expansion (that is, imperialism). It did not end hunger and starvation, or unnecessary diseases given modern medicines. It did not end slavery. It did not prevent the conditions that lead to millions fleeing their land of birth. It did not bring us equality and brother/sisterhood. It did not free us from alienation. It did not bring us love.
Capitalists have decided they no longer need to “afford” the few benefits they had allowed “their” workers. They are taking them away from us so that they get to keep unlimited, untaxed profits without fussing with national state powers.
We must, therewith, create “a humane economic system based on cooperation and sharing,” to cite myself. Capitalism must be eliminated and replaced with a fully participatory struggle to build socialism where no one is rich as we know them today, and no one is poor, where no one’s voice is worthier than another.
I conclude with words from the final doomsday scene of “Melancholia”, a 2011 film directed by the world-famous Danish film-maker Lars Von Trier. I understand these words spoken by the character Justine as prophetic for what the very rich and powerful, and the indifferent, are doing to humanity and the Planet:
“Life is only on Earth; and not for Long. The earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it…Life on earth is evil.”
On the other hand, as our friend Leonard Cohen sings: “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
1. A.P. Moeller-Maersk died in 2012 but his daughter keeps his warring flagships intact. Sources for this information and what follows comes from my 2015 booklet, “Danmark er i Krig: Goer Oproer” (Denmark is at war: rebel). [+ www.tidtilfred.nu/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Danmark-er-i-krig-final-sh-v5.pdf+] . It was written for the peace group, “Tid til Fred: aktiv mod krig” (Time for Peace: active against war). Other sources are Defense Ministry reports and home pages from 2014-5, Defense Academy, government statements, Center for Suicide Research, and various newspapers. Everything is in Danish.
Bernie Sanders and millions more misunderstand what socialism and social democracy are, and what economic-social system Scandinavia has been built on for the past decades. This is not a matter of concern only for the last election campaign in the United States of America (USamerica) but is important for everyone to know what these terms actually signify. That is my first objective. My second objective is to explain that social democracy is failing in the countries that had adopted this form of capitalism, namely because the capitalist system, currently going under the name of free market globalization, no longer judges it is be necessary for their profits and world domination. My final objective is to point us in a direction that could be of benefit to the whole world, and that requires an end of capitalism. My work here is not primarily theoretical but mainly based on personal experiences from living three decades in Scandinavia (Denmark mainly), eight years in Cuba and seven more in other Latin American countries, 40 years USamerica, and traveling extensively in many other lands. My writing in six of these seven chapters includes information from interviews and encounters I have had with leading politicians in Scandinavia, including former prime ministers of Denmark and Sweden a former president of Iceland. My writing style often contains “the salty bite of authenticity in a Damon Runyan sort of way.” So wrote Theodore MacDonald, a former professor, author, musician and doctor, about my book, “Cuba Beyond the Crossroads.” I have had nine books published in USamerica, England, Germany, and India. Six books deal with Cuba—the best know is “Backfire: The CIA’s Biggest Burn.” Others are: “Yankee Sandinistas”, “Sounds of Venezuela”, and “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka”. I am the co-author of three other books, two in Danish. This is my first attempt at self-publishing an ebook.