Socialist Worker

A left mood against euro

Issue No. 1716


A left mood against euro

THE PRESS in Britain were expecting voters in Denmark to reject joining the European single currency in Thursday's referendum. Some of the media claimed an anti-euro result would show the Scandinavian country was right wing, nationalist and anti-immigrant.

PAUL McGARR spoke to Margit Johansen, editor of Socialist Worker's Danish sister paper, Socialistisk Arbejder Avis, who explained the real issues in the referendum.

"It's simply rubbish that the no vote is based mainly on nationalism or on racism. That's not the arguments you hear. The key reason people are saying no is because they believe it will mean more attacks on welfare-pensions, childcare provision, hospitals, education and benefits.

Welfare is better in Denmark than many European countries, though it has been cut in recent years. People feel that the euro will mean more privatisation and cuts. There are some right wing parties, like the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party, calling for a no vote.

But in the last month this party has said it will keep quiet because it thinks its arguments could help the yes campaign! The no vote is a left vote in the sense that it is basically in defence of welfare and public services. It also reflects a mistrust of the government and all politicians.

People don't believe the Social Democrat led government. They promised a kindergarten place for every child, but there are still waiting lists. They said hospitals would get better, but not enough has happened. And they are pushing privatisation.

The nature of the no vote is clear from the polls. They show that a majority of those who vote for the main Tory or right wing parties are for a yes. But at least half, and probably a majority of those who vote Social Democrat, are for a no vote, despite the party and union leaders.

You get local Social Democrat leaders and mayors not wanting to go out and campaign for a yes vote because they know the feeling among their base. The no vote is most solid among the lowest paid workers, who see the real importance of welfare to their lives.

It is also solid among women, most of whom work full time in Denmark. They are dependent on our childcare system, which they see as threatened by the EU. The Socialist People's Party (SF) has been key in the no campaign.

It is an important left of Labour parliamentary party which gets some 12 percent of votes in elections. The more left wing United List, a red-green coalition which has five parliamentary seats, is also for a no.

The biggest meetings for a no vote have been in the universities and high schools. We have been in the no campaign putting our arguments that the EU and the euro is about capitalist interests in Europe.

We are for internationalism and workers' solidarity. A no vote will give people more confidence to fight here in Denmark, and will create new opportunities for the left."

Such strong opposition to the euro is despite the country's main political parties, business and trade union leaders calling for a yes vote. The referendum was worrying business and political leaders across the continent. A no vote in Denmark could scupper neighbouring Sweden's upcoming vote on joining the euro.

In Britain Tony Blair is committed to a referendum at some point. The Danish result could have serious implications for that. The euro is already in trouble.

It has lost value since its launch compared with currencies like the US dollar. That worries Europe's rulers. A Danish no would fuel instability and provoke rows in the run up to a key European Union summit in December.

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Sat 30 Sep 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1716
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