Author, Activist, Journalist
Can it be true that the heart of social democracy is sliding right with the rest of the world? Will it too go quietly into that dark night, or will it resist the dismantling of the public state for conversion to the corporate state?
Scandinavia on the Skids: The Failure of Social Democracy
(Part 6 of a 7 part series on Scandinavia “Socialism”)
“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.
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.”
Bus Ad: “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.
# The company is so overworked with setting up hundreds of thousands of false companies (shells) and do not expect being exposed that they select one living person to be the director of hundreds of companies, which is not possible in itself, and then when they die they don’t notice or don’t care since there is impunity, and whistle blowers are not expected — a case of oversight.
Next and last: Denmark: Return of the Vikings
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.
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