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William Simmons

Demonstrations in Denmark
Mark Rising Labor Militancy

(31 August 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 35, 31 August 1946, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by
Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Since its “liberation” Denmark has experienced a constantly rising wave of class struggle. During May of this year it culminated in “unauthorized” spontaneous mass strikes, involving in Copenhagen alone more than 150,000 workers. Mass demonstrations were held before parliament, voicing the general demand that the government must go.

These strikes were distinctly political in nature. Arising out of a government strike prohibition, they were carried on against the edicts of the trade union bureaucrats, against the open opposition of the Social Democratic Party officials, and against the thinly-veiled sabotage of the Stalinist leaders of the Communist Party.

Workers Disarmed

On the day of “liberation,” without a moment’s delay, a previously prepared coalition government, headed by a Social-Democratic premier, took over. It included some leaders of the resistance movement, amongst them two members of the CP. Yet, beginning that very same day, the coalition government took measures to undermine and to eliminate the freedom fighters’ organization embracing some 45,000 armed men, amongst whom the CP had established considerable influence.

In the parliamentary elections last fall the Social Democratic Party, for decades the dominant party in Danish politics, suffered an almost catastrophic setback. The Communist Party made striking advances, rising from two inembers in parliament to eighteen. However, the real gainers were the capitalists, whose well-to-do agrarians took over the reins of government.

The ruling class became more bold. Based on its general thesis of more production for export at lower cost, it assumed the offensive in a campaign to cut down the workers’ standard of living.

When trade union agreements cattle up for renewal and the workers demanded wage increases to catch up with the rising cost of living, the complex machinery of mediation whittled the general norm of hourly increases granted down to a miserly 5 to 6 pennies. This the laborers’ union refused to accept. By May Day 50,000 of its members were on strike. Later the packinghouse workers followed suit.

In Copenhagen 150,000 workers struck on May 11. In the provinces other thousands joined the strike.

The Social Democratic leaders in parliament took the position that law is law and must be upheld. The Stalinist leaders attempted to play both sides. While their parliamentary spokesmen admitted the justness of the action taken by the workers, their two members in the Copenhagen Magistrate Council joined in a unanimous proclamation of that body calling upon all municipal employes to return to work.

Thus the big strike movement had to make its difficult way without leadership. The Workers’ Opposition intervened, spreading leaflets throughout the city and called meetings which filled to overflowing the largest halls available. The strikers were urged to continue the fight, to select their own strike committees in every factory and shop and have each one of these committees select representatives to a central leadership. The strike received new impetus and became virtually a general shutdown.

Stab in Back

But the forces arrayed against the striking workers were too formidable. The final stab in the back came in a proclamation from the Stalinist central committee, calling upon all strikers to return to work Tuesday morning. Its official publication, Land and People, followed up with the explanation that:

“Nobody with political responsibility can shirk the obligation to help establish law and order, build up the economy of the country, continue the purge ... and create conditions of social justice in our country.”

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