Europe: Protests agains EU and rasism

Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, was a city of protests last weekend. The reason for this was that Denmark was the holder of the EU presidency and all the European Union leaders were in town. The actual EU summit though was held in a Conference Center protected by barbed wire and guarded by the biggest police force ever mobilised in the history of Denmark.

EU summit in Copenhagen.

Protests agains EU and racism in Copenhagen

While the heads of the states were dining and talking at the Conference Center thousands of activists were demonstrating and discussing how to create a new and different Europe.

The demonstrations started with a 1 500 strong protest against Sharon’s war on the Palestinians on Thursday 12 December.

The next day was the start of the EU summit. A small demonstration was organised outside the Conference Center during daytime 13 December and in the evening there was a big march, nearly 5 000 took part, against Fortress Europe and racism.

On Saturday, the network "The initiative towards a different Europe" had called an international demonstration against the summit. Up to 10 000 took part in this lively and long march through the streets of Copenhagen.

All the demonstrations were peaceful and thanks to the stewards the police didn´t manage to infiltrate the march on Saturday. There are even photos of masked (being masked is illegal in Denmark) police infiltrators trying to provoke the demonstrators.

Half the demonstration on Saturday was non-Danish. There were a lot of demonstrators from Sweden and Norway, but also groups of activist from Germany, Italy, Finland and Eastern Europe.

The CWI had a contingent on all the demonstrations. There were comrades from Sweden and Germany. There was a great deal of interest in our material and we sold for example 379 copies of the Swedish weekly Offensiv and got 54 new subscribers. On top of that we sold material produced by our German party Socialistische Alternative (SAV) and the CWI pamphlet, "Under Siege". Contacts were made for the CWI and International Socialist Resistance (ISR) now has a presence in Denmark.

The demonstrations have shown that the anti-capitalist movement is sinking roots in Scandinavia. This is despite the fact that the demonstration on Saturday was smaller than expected. There are many reasons for this.

One is that the protests were not really known about. We met many on the streets who said they hadn’t heard about the demonstrations. (A group of CWI-members were in Copenhagen 9-15 December, to campaign for the demos and spread the ideas of the CWI).

Therefore there are reasons to ask what kind of campaign had been organised to mobilise workers and youth in Copenhagen and other Danish cities.

The main organisers stressed in the network and the NGO Fourm that organised the seminars, the need for non-violence. We all, of course, are in favour of disciplined and peaceful activities. This means organising stewards and a common, democratically-decided approach to the demonstrations is our way of ensuring that we can have a peaceful march that is protected by the demonstrators themselves. But the official organisers took a position that was one-sided and too defensive, which didn’t take into the account the role of the police and that the police were responsible for the violence in Gothenburg and Genoa last year.

Long before mid-December the media started a smear campaign against the planned protests. It was said that Copenhagen was going to be a war zone. This public witch-hunt may have had an effect. This in turn made a political counter-campaign more necessary explaining the aims of the demonstrators and that if it was only up to the protesters there would be no violence whatsoever. The organisers of the demonstrations should have asked: "Can the police and the Danish authorities give the same undertaking?" They were the ones closing down borders and preparing to restrict democratic rights as the right to travel, demonstrate and meet.

The existence of a relatively strong racist and rightwing populist party, Dansk folkeparti, is a complicating factor in Denmark. Dansk Folkeparti (so-called Danish People’s Party) takes a stand against the EU / EMU from a nationalist populist standpoint. This make it more important that the real anti-EU movement takes a working-class and internationalist socialist position. The struggle against the bosses’ EU / EMU is a struggle against neo-liberalism at home and abroad. It’s the policy of the EU and the bosses that has allowed the extreme right and the racists to gain a certain audience and win votes. That is why the fight against racism and the Schengen wall is part of the struggle for lasting changes.

The protests in Copenhagen may not have been the biggest held against the EU / EMU, but nevertheless important events in building the forces of anti-capitalism and socialism.

The EU summit decided to open the door to ten new members next year. This decision has been presented as historic step towards the unification of Europe.

But it is not the capitalists that can bring the different European countries together, but the working class. The enlargement has reinforced the need for a common global struggle of workers across Europe. Our reply to the EU enlargement has to be a fight for a socialist Europe based on the struggles of young people and workers.

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December 2002