The rot of the Danish Socialist Peoples Party demonstrates that one cannot be a socialist and be in government at the same time.
For the first time since it split from the Communist Party, in 1959, the left-leaning Socialist Peoples Party, SF, had gained enough credibility and self-confidence to join the three-party government together with the Social Democrats and the centrist Social Liberals (for historical reasons, the partys official Danish name is The Radical Left, though the party is not Socialist). The Social Democratic leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt became prime minister and SFs chairman, Villy Søvndal, became foreign minister.
The SF was riding high. To be sure, it had lost many votes in the parliamentary elections in September 2011 when it scored 9.3 percent compared to 13 percent in 2007, but hoped to gain new strength based on the reforms it had promised the voters before the election.
Very little in terms of socialist policies, however, has been achieved and the rank and file has become increasingly restless. Opinion polls are consistently showing that about half of SFs voters have turned their backs on the party and there has been speculation that it might not even obtain the 2 percent of the votes required for representation in Parliament.
Thursday, January 30, it was all over, as SF chairman Annette Vilhelmsen announced that her party would leave the government and she her job as party leader. The government consisting of Ms Thorning-Schmidts Social Democrats and the Social Liberals stays because the SFs members of Parliament have declared that they will continue to support it as will the hard left Unity List. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt is in for a rocky ride because the two socialist parties to her left may start competing for the socialist vote in the next election by outbidding each other with populist demands. This will probably force Thorning-Schmidt to make deals with the center-right opposition led by Liberal chairman Lars Løkke Rasmussen further distancing herself from her former SF friends.
Since it came to power in October 2011, the Thorning-Schmidt government has been plagued by one misfortune and scandal after another forcing several ministers from all three parties to leave in disgrace. The last to go before Annette Vilhelmsen pulled her party out, was the Social Democratic Justice Minister Morten Bødskov, who had been caught lying to Parliament. Before that a number of prominent ministers had decided to leave or been kicked out due to incompetence, accusations of nepotism and lying.
The straw that broke Annette Vilhelmsens back was the governments decision to sell 19 percent of the stock in the state-owned energy company DONG to the American investment bank Goldman Sachs for 8 billion Danish kroner. Opinion polls indicate that 80 percent of the Danes are against the sale and that opponents are in a majority in all political parties. Only two parties the Unity List and the Danish Peoples Party have opposed the deal.
The Goldman Sachs transaction has been particularly burdensome to the SF. The vast majority of its voters hate selling a state-owned enterprise to capitalist investors whose only motive is profit and couldnt care less about the wellbeing of the Danes. In particular there was a public uproar when it was revealed that the financial transaction with Goldman Sachs will go via foreign tax havens and that the investment banks profits will not be taxed in Denmark.
Nevertheless the deal was approved by a majority in Parliament this Thursday and all SF members with two abstentions voted for it.
Meanwhile the SF lies in ruins. Its spokesmen are fighting like cats and dogs in full view of an astonished public. Leading members are looking for the exit. So far one former SF government minister has left the party and joined the Social Democratic parliamentary group.
The SFs government project has turned into the greatest political fiasco in recent Danish history, comments the prominent left TV journalist Henrik Qvortrup.
But how could it have been otherwise?
The Socialist Peoples Party and the Social Democrats won the 2011 election barely by promising heaven on earth. If Danes would vote for them, there would be money for the poor, the unemployed, the disadvantaged, the old and the sick. Billions! Denmark would save the worlds climate, ensure peace and democracy for hundreds of millions in distant lands. The Palestinians would get their state.
Once they had taken a look at the public finances and spoken to the state bureaucrats, it dawned on them that the money for all these goodies simply wasnt there shocking their happy voters who had been celebrating the coming of paradise.
There is a lesson here and not only for Denmark.
It appears that true socialists should refrain from joining governments. It will end in grief. Unless they have access to a gold mine, they cannot finance their election promises.
You can only remain a socialist by staying out of power.