Denmark: The People’s Movement Against the European Union

Against the reactionary and imperialist ’United States of Europe’

By Klaus Riis
Workers Communist Party of Denmark APK

‘EU – Dictatorship of the banks and the monopolies’
From a demonstration in Fankfurt, Germany

Almost one hundred years ago, in 1915, when the outcome of the first imperialist world war was not yet decided, V.I. Lenin made his famous statement on the slogan for a United States of Europe:
“From the standpoint of the economic conditions of imperialism—i.e., the export of capital arid the division of the world by the “advanced” and “civilised” colonial powers—a United States of Europe, under capitalism, is either impossible or reactionary.”
All parts of this statement have proved absolutely true.

The effort to build the United States of Europe following the 1st world war and later imposed by the military power of  German Nazism failed completely.
Following the 2nd world war, the victory over fascism and the strengthening of the socialist Soviet Union the idea of the creation of a capitalist United States of Europe was brought up again.

This time by Winston Churchill, the prime minister of  the UK and head of a British empire (‘Commonwealth of Nations’), exhausted by the war. British imperialism faced the revolt of the colonies, encouraged by the defeat of fascism.

In a celebrated speech in Zürich, Switzerland, Churchill stated:

“The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral leadership of Europe. There can be no revival of Europe without a spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany.”
“The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honour by their contribution to the common cause…Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia – for then indeed all would be well – must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.”
“If we are to form the United States of Europe or whatever name or form it may take, we must begin now.”

(I9th September 1946)

The geopolitics of Winston Churchill envisioned a British empire, secured by a close alliance with the emerging imperialist superpower the United States of America, with a war torn European continent and a French-German axis as a buffer towards socialism and what was to become the peoples’ democracies in Europe.
He did not imagine the United Kingdom as a part of these ‘United States of Europe’.

Expansion of the European Union

The history of the European Union from that point is well known: By 1950 the first is taken by  the European Coal and Steel Community. The six founders are France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

From the beginning it was conceived as the nucleus of a later all inclusive economic, political and military union. The establishment of an economic and monetary union with a joint currency – the euro – was on the agenda since the 1960’es, but did not become a reality until the Maastricht Treaty was endorsed in 1993, after strong popular resistance and a no from a Danish referendum in 1992. The euro was established from 1999.  18 of the 28 present member countries have adopted the euro as their currency, while the UK, Denmark and Sweden are not part of the euro zone, like a number of the countries, that entered the EU after 2000.

Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined the European Union on 1 January 1973
South European countries that got rid of the juntas such as Greece joined in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986.
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union 1989-91 most of the former COMECON members and the formerly non-allied countries of Europe have been swallowed by the EU.
The former German Democratic Republic was included in the Federal Republic and the European Union in 1990. In 1995 Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the Union, and in 2004 it was time for the East European countries to make their entry: The Czech Republic,  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia enter – as do Cyprus and Malta.
Bulgaria and Rumania became members in 2007, and in 2013 Croatia, a spoil of the new Balkan wars and split-up of Yugoslavia. A small number of countries are still applying for membership.

The European Union has changed the political and economic map of Europe in significant ways, establishing a new imperialist power as the dominant force on the continent, aspiring to become a global imperialist superpower, reviving the heritage of old colonialist Europe.

This is one aspect to keep in mind concerning the recent development in Ukraine, where an alliance of pro-EU neoliberals and outright fascists were brought to power and formed a coup government, supported by the EU, USA and NATO.

In spite of ever greater popular and worker resistance a number of treaties have successively been establishing the out-and-out  reactionary character of the EU of the monopolies.
According to these treaties the EU and the member states are obliged to etablish an ever closer union in all fields, build on a neoliberal economic doctrine, that is implemented in every country.
The treaties also oblige the union and the member countries to perpetual militarisation and the creation of ever stronger defenses – that is eventually an EU army.
In April 2014 the European Union acted as a unified force, launching a military operation in the Central African Republic CAR in the name of the union, and not simply as some member countries. 13 countries have supplied ground forces, the other 15 member countries assisting in other ways.

The treaties of the European Union have never been put forward for the citizens for a general referendum. But where the main treaties have been subject to ratification by popular vote in one country or another they have very often been rejected. That was the case when the Maastricht Treaty was turned down in a Danish referendum in 1992. This increased very much the popular resistance to the state building project of the European Union.

The French and the Dutch No to the European Constitution treaty in 2005 dealt a new severe blow to the further construction of the United States of Europe.

But this project has never been abolished, and the different treaties that have been adopted since the outbreak of the economic crises and the euro zone crisis in 2007-08  have not been subject to referendums. With the exception of Ireland the Lisbon Treaty that followed the failed Constitution treaty in 2007, this treaty was not subject to a referendum in any of the member states. In Ireland it was rejected in 2008. Like what happened with the Danish No to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, which was reversed by a second referenduma year later – making a number of excptions for Denmark – the Irish No to the Lisbon Treaty was reversed in 2009.

A popular saying goes: ‘Vote Yes, and you won’t have the chance of voting again – Vote No, and you will get a second try.’
The European Fiscal Compact (2012) and the Banking Union of 2014 have not been put forward for referendums in any member country.

In the language of the European Union and a number of  member states the geographical notion ‘Europe’ has been made synonymous with the political ‘European Union’. Of course the 28 member states do not represent all the nations  of the continent, nor the continent as such.


On the agenda: ‘United States of Europe’ by 2020

On the eve of the elections to the EU parliament (the ’European Parliament’) in the end of May 2014 the European Commission has once more put the question of the ‘United States of Europe’ on the agenda.

The Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding stressed that the 2014 EU Parliament elections are more important than the national elections.
The European project is at a crossroads, according to Viviane Reding, and the elections will decide, what course it will follow in the coming years.

In  his ‘State of the Union’ speech to the EU Parliament in September 2012 the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso stated:

“Let’s not be afraid of the words: we will need to move towards a federation of nation states. This is what we need. This is our political horizon.”
He called it a “democratic federation of nation states that can tackle our common problems, through the sharing of sovereignty in a way that each country and each citizen are better equipped to control their own destiny”.

The homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding read:

“The on-going crisis has triggered a very necessary public debate about where Europe is heading. To make Economic and Monetary Union truly irreversible and to regain trust and confidence, it is important to give citizens and companies a perspective on what Europe will look like in 2020. For Vice-President Reding, strengthening Europe and strengthening Europe’s legitimacy can be best done by turning our Union into a United States of Europe.
As in the U.S., we will need a two-chamber system for the United States of Europe. A durable political Union with a strong government (the Commission) and two Chambers: the European Parliament and a ‘Senate’ of Member States. This European government must be accountable to the directly elected European Parliament. The head of the European government should … be elected by the European Parliament which represents all EU citizens.”
Among the power mongers of the European Union the notion prevails, that these  United States of Europe (USE)’ should be formally established and defined in a treaty by 2020.

There are obvious complications to this project.

One of them is the position of the United Kingdom. The present conservative prime minister David Cameron, who has promised a referendum on British membership of the European Union by the end of 2017. A so-called In-Out referendum on a new platform.
The European Commission is already counting the UK out of their project ‘United States of Europe’

Speaking at the University of Cambridge’s law faculty in February 2014 Viviane Reding said

“There is a strong case for a true fiscal and ultimately political union. In my personal view, the eurozone should become the United States of Europe.”
She continued:  “Like Winston Churchill, I believe that the UK will not be part of this, but it should remain a close ally with the federated eurozone, with which it would continue to share a common market, a common trade policy and hopefully a common security agenda.”

The ‘United States of Europe’ should, according to the Commission, be created directly on the basis of the present Euro zone.
For obvious reasons more carefully, but unmistakably, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande are also champions the ‘United States of Europe’. The German-French axis is still at work.

Growing resistance from the workers and peoples of the European Union

The economic crises and particularly the crises of the euro and the political and economic measures, adopted by the European Union, has greatly shaken the confidence in the European Project among the workers and the peoples.

Especially the series of neoliberal reforms and the austerity politics, implemented in all member counties, have made it more obvious, that the European Union is not a ‘Europe of the peoples’, but a creation by the bourgeoisie in the service of the monopolies.

The antipopular and blatantly undemocratic measures, dictated to member states such as Greece, Italy and others by the ‘Troika’ has further discredited the project.

Ten years after the Republic of Cyprus entered as a member in 2004 only 25 percent of the cypriots are positive towards the European Union, according to a survey by the University of Cyprus.
Opinion polls conducted in Denmark, Sweden and  Finland and Norway show that there is a majority embracing the idea of a Nordic union including Norway, which would mean leaving the EU.
The British Daily Mirror has published a survey from the beginning of May 2014, showing  that 43 percent would vote no to membership of the EU , if a referendum was held now, while 37,3 percent would vote in favour.

As unemployment and poverty is spreading the resistance to the European Union has grown rapidly.
In this situation right wing nationalist and populist forces, including fascists, are trying to exploit the growing dissatisfaction and anger to their advantage, directing it not against the ruling class, but against ‘foreigners’, immigrants, the left forces, the revolutionaries and communists.

The Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations show another solution. As they state in the declaration from April 2014 ‘No to the antisocial, antidemocratic and militarist European Union!’:

“This whole policy is deeply rejected by the workers and the peoples. The discontent is growing everywhere. The progressive, revolutionary and antiimperialist forces, the Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations have the duty to be in the front line of this tremendous protest which involves all sectors of the people, especially the working class.
To be in the forefront of this protest means to combat the policy of austerity, the governments and the European Union imposing it, with determination. This means to support the aspirations and the struggles of the workers and peoples against the antidemocratic character of the European Union, against the imperialist character of its policy and against the negation of the peoples’ right to determine their own future.”

Folkebevægelsen (The People’s Movement) of Denmark: Out of the EU

‘Denmark out of the EU – ‘No to the militarisation of the EU’ …
A demonstration in Aarhus October 2013, organised by the anti war movement and the Peoples Movement against the EU


While the Marxist-Leninist parties and organisations share the analysis and platform in fighting the European Union and the ‘United States of Europe’, each of them have to define their own tactics according to the actual and historical specifics of their country.

The Workers Communist Party APK strongly supports Folkebevægelsen mod EU – The People’s Movement Against the European Union – both as a candidate in the elections to the EU parliament (the list with the letter N) and  in the daily struggle against the antisocial and undemocratic policies of the European Union.
This is not a new position. The Marxist-Leninists have supported this popular movement ever since its foundation in april 1972 as a movement to prevent Danish membership of the  EEC – the European Economic Community – the predecessor of the present EU.

The supporters of the Yes vote at the referendum in October the same year swore that this was only about the entry to kind of a free trade agreement, that had nothing to do with a political union, and even less with a perspective like ‘The United States of Europe’.
They won the referendum: 63,4 percent voted Yes, 36,6 percent No to Danish entry. 90,1 percent of the electorate participated.
The Yes side included the Social Democratic coalition government and all the overt bourgeois parties of the parliament, the industrialists and employers as well as the social democratic trade union leaders.
The No side consisted of Communist and Marxist-Leninist organizations, two socialist and left socialist parties, a small number of petty bourgeois democratic and nationalist parties and left wing trade unions. But the Yes parties had deep internal divisions: In all of them pretty large segments would be against the Danish membership.

This divide had deep historical roots. The No movement – and indeed the Peoples Movement – considered itself as the heir og the Danish national resistance movement against the Nazi occupation 1940-45 and the Hitlerite idea of ‘The New Europe’, Neuropa, the main force being the communist party DKP.
The Yes side represented the same collaborationist parties, that during the war adapted to the nazi rule.

After the defeat in the referendum in 1972 the movement decided not to close down, but continue the struggle against Danish membership.
Ever since 1972 The Peoples  Movement  has had as its main objective to get Denmark OUT.
Its present foundation from 2000 says:

”The aim of The Peoples Movement Against the EU is to end the membership of the EU.
The Peoples Movement is against the suprastate steering and integration in all areas.
The resistance against the EU is a struggle for sovereignty and for an independent Denmark in a free international cooperation’.
“The Peoples Movement is open to all, who can support the  mission statement and adresses everybody who does not want Denmark to become a land in the EU with joint currency, military, police and citizenship. Only a Danish exit from the EU can keep us out of the super state.”

When elections for the European Parliament were set up the Peoples Movement in 1978 became eligible, and has been represented in this parliament ever since. At the 1979 elections 20,9 voted for The Peoples Movement – after one of the socialist parties (SF)  had left the movement and ran independently for the elections. In 1979 and in 1984 the Peoples Movement had four members of the EU Parliament – a quarter of all Danish members.

The Peoples Movement Against the EU have consistently fought to have referendums, when successive treaties rendering self determination to the EU have been adopted.
In 1992 it played a major role in having the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty and the resulting No,  that gave a great impetus to the popular resistance all over the EU, showing it was possible to reject the plans of the European monopolies and their politicians and parties.
This also influenced the second referendum on Norwegian membership in 1994, when the Norwegians like in 1972 voted No to enter the the EU.  The movement Nei til EU (No to EU) in  Norway is tis sister organization.

At the Danish entry in 1972 Greenland as a part of the Danish realm automatically also became a member. But in 1979 home rule was established in Greenland, and after a consultative referendum, where the Peoples Movement played an instrumental role in  supplying information to show, that the Greenland economy would be better of outside the EU, Greenland left it in 1985.
This is the only time a nation has actually left the EU.
In september 2000  Denmark said No to adopt the euro. 53,2% were against,  46,8% for. The Peoples Movement again played an important role in securing the No.

Internationally the Peoples Movement Against the EU has not many close partners, fighting to have their countries leave the EU. It associates with a number of so-called EU-critical or EU-sceptic parties and movements, that do not belong to the right.
In the EU parliament the Peoples Movement is technically associated to GUE/NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left).

In 2009 The People Movement obtained one of 14 Danish members of the parliament. It is expected to hold this position, or increase, at the 2014 elections.
The present MEP is Rina Ronja Kari. The task of the representation in the EU parliament is to supply the Danish public with truthful information concerning the developments of the European Union and what is going on in the EU Parliament.


Some features of a popular front

‘Yes to the World – No to EU !’ –
The leadership of the Peoples Movement Against the EU, elected in 2013

Folkebevægelsen mod EU embodies a number of features of a mass movement and a popular front as can be seen from its background and history, going back to the united front of the resistance movement, established during the Nazi occupation.
It has never been, or wanted to become, a political party, represented in the Danish parliament, and it does not support any of the government alternatives – at present a government, led by social democrat Helle Thorning Schmidt.

At the beginning there were quite large sectors of members of the pro-EU parties in the parliament, who were organized as members of the Peoples Movement. But with the passage of time the European Union has covered more and more fields of politics, and the dissenting members of the parties have in general left them, or in some cases been expelled.

Today between 60 and 80 percent of the laws passed in the national parliaments of the EU member countries are implementation of EU policies.
Politically the defense of not only national sovereignty and democratic rights, but also of social and ‘welfare’ rights have become ever more important in the work of the Peoples Movement as the European Union imposes neoliberal dictates and reforms in ever more areas.
This secures the Peoples Movement Against the EU an appeal to a broad social base of workers, middle strata and  intellectuals.

It has been the backbone of the Danish popular resistance to the EU for the whole period, where Denmark has been a member, and a decisive factor in the political victories, that have come about. The social composition has been favorable to this: A majority of workers and ordinary people from the countryside and fringe areas.
In spite of these facts the mainstream media prefers to present the right wing Danish People’s Party (DPP) as the major force of criticism of the EU. The DPP, hostile towards immigrants, actually supports the  European Union and a bourgeois coalition government in Denmark, most loyal to the EU.

Organisationally the Peoples Movement consists of individual members, who are organized in local committees all over the country, that carry out day-to-day propaganda exposing the reactionary character of the EU and distributing the materials of the movement.

Another part of the organisational structure are the collective members. At the moment consisting of 10 political parties, including the Workers Communist Party APK.
Only one of these parties is represented in the Danish parliament – that is Enhedslisten (The Red-Green Alliance) with twelve seats. It does not run independently for the EU parliament elections, but appeal to vote for the Peoples Movement.

Among the collective members are also some popular movements and the association promoting closer Nordic cooperation. Quite a large number of trade unions are also members and supporters.

The politics are decided by yearly national gatherings of both individual and collective members, that also elect its leadership.

During its more than four decades long history the Peoples Movement has of course also been the object of attacks not only by the protagonists of the European Union, but even more severely by forces masquerading as critics and opponents.

The most severe was in 1992, after the victory in the Maastricht referendum, when three of the four MEP’s wanted to change it from an opponent to a euro sceptic force, thus endorsing, like the DFF, the internal (single) market of the EU.
This was rejected by the Peoples Movement, but the EU parliamentarians split the organisation  and created the so called June Movement. This movement suffered failure and was dissolved since it was not elected to the EU parliament in 2009.

The leadership of the party Red-Green Alliance proposed in 2013, that the Party should make its own list for the elections in may 2014, and thus compete with the Peoples Movement, but this was defeated by a small margin by a majority of the party members.This party has links to the Party of European Left.

In the view of the Workers Communist Party the Peoples Movement Against the European Union constitutes an important part of the popular and revolutionary alternative to both the social democratic led and the bourgeois governments.
After more than 40 years it is still a combative, vivid, strong force in the class struggle.

Homepage of Folkebevægelsen mod EU

 

See also

May 1st 2014 in Copenhagen: Against austerity reforms and the European Union 

Netavisen 18. maj 2014