After a period of internal unrest in the Danish Social Democracy, this Tuesday, November 19, party leader and former prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen decided to resign from his position as chairman of the party. After the big defeat in the elections last year the leadership has desperately tried to "renew" the party, and at the same time various members of the leadership have tried to manoeuvre in order to advance themselves in the organisation. In the last period several leading Social Democrats have anonymously demanded that Nyrup should resign, and now he has decided, that "it will do no good to the Social Democracy to continue the present discussion about the leadership". Now there is going to be a special congress to elect a new chairman. Former minister of finances and foreign affairs, Mogens Lykketoft (a man who looks like Trotsky, but stands for exactly the same right wing policies as Nyrup did), has already declared that he will be a candidate. Several other people have been mentioned in the press, but none have come forward so far.

Commenting on Nyrup's decision, the leader of SiD (a big union in Denmark) said that "Poul Nyrup Rasmussen will go down in history as one of the biggest personalities of the Social Democracy and as the architect behind the re-establishment of our welfare state after decades of unemployment and decline. As leader of the government he led the economical miracle that made the whole of Europe look towards Denmark. In this connection it is worth mentioning that Poul Nyrup Rasmussen - apart from the question of rules for early retirement - kept his promises to the voters".

This is, however, not exactly true. It is correct that Nyrup was prime minister during a period of economic growth which meant that unemployment didn't rise, and could even be brought down for a period. But “re-establishment of the welfare state” was not what happened - quite the contrary. Under the Nyrup government the attacks on the conquests won by the workers' movement in the past intensified, as the welfare provisions had become increasingly too expensive for the capitalist system, even in a period of boom. There was a big wave of privatisations to the detriment of the workers - the proceeds from privatisation amounted to 37 billion kroner under Nyrup, which is almost 8 times as much as under the bourgeois government in 1982-93. He attacked the arrangement for early retirement. The unemployed - especially young people - were hard hit with lower benefits and "forced labour". The Nyrup-government intervened against the striking workers in the big strikes in 98. It threatened and swindled its way through the euro-referendum in 2000 (but still lost). It lowered taxes for corporations and at the same time increased the indirect taxes for ordinary workers. There was a general neglect of the welfare state, with increased waiting lists in hospitals, mistreatment of older people, ramshackle schools etc. And all this despite the boom, one which ordinary working people hardly noticed. It was precisely this policy of attacks on welfare and the working class that led to the huge defeat in the elections in 2001. If Nyrup was such an amazing fighter for the welfare state it is completely impossible to understand why people would ever vote for the present prime minister Fogh and his Liberals who promised "change".

So there is no reason to mourn the fact that Nyrup has now resigned. But it raises the question whether the change of chairman will lead to a change in policy as well.

Nyrup himself has said that he is convinced "that if the Social Democracy is to present a credible alternative to the bourgeois government, the total renewal of the party is both right and necessary. (…) We must be the strong, popular alternative to the Liberal-Conservative government with a clear, better road for Denmark". Of course persons can play a big role, but if the Social Democracy continues with bourgeois politics and support for most of the government's cuts and only expresses minor criticisms once in a while, it doesn't matter very much whether the leader's name is Poul or Mogens. The small left wing party Unity List has declared that the Social Democracy should try a collective leadership, like the Unity List has. But what is needed is more than a change of persons or organisational arrangements. Whether there's one or ten chairpersons of the party doesn't matter much if they all have the same anti-working class policy. What is needed is a clear workers' policy - a Social Democracy that doesn't slavishly follow the demands of an ailing capitalism for ever more cuts and attacks on welfare. A party that dares confront the bourgeois government with a socialist alternative and that dares mobilise the working class and the youth for a real re-establishment of the rights and conditions won in the past, which can only be guaranteed as part of the struggle for a socialist society. That means that the leadership should not be allowed to go on as before, just with a new man in front - it means that active workers and youth must fight for another course in the workers' movement.

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