Since April 1, almost 70,000 Danish state school teachers have been locked-out by their employers. The lockout is the latest in a series of austerity measures initiated by the so-called centre-left government, led by social-democratic Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
After its first year, which included some policy changes such as increased rights for migrants and LGBT people, enthusiasm for the new government has drastically waned and given place to resignation and repulsion as well as resistance.
After turning against the trade unions in June 2012 for failing to accept a longer working week, the government blocked with the right wing in parliament and agreed to lower taxes for the well-off while cutting benefits for the unemployed as well as disabled workers.
With the present indefinite lockout of the teachers’ unions, the government parties have taken their next step in turning against their own working-class voting base.
Solidarity with the protesting teachers needs to be expanded to other groups of workers. The record score for the radical socialists of the Red-Green Alliance (RGA) in the 2011 parliamentary election (when it won 6.7% of the vote and 12 parliamentary seats) must be converted into militant activism in the workplaces rather than tactical manoeuvres in parliament.
The 70,000 locked-out teachers have mounted a massive public campaign, complete with daily creative protests including singing, placards, YouTube videos, a 20-mile human chain between Copenhagen and Roskilde, and flash mobs all over the country. Meanwhile, 780,000 school children are spending their days at home or at their parents’ workplaces. Frustration and exhaustion is increasing as the lock-out continues.
Meeting in the weekend of April 26-28, the RGA national congress is facing discussions on parliamentary as well as extra-parliamentary strategy, including the party’s stand on whether to pull the carpet from under the government or struggling to gain concessions from the politically-weakened coalition parties.
With the Social Democrats down to a record low of 17% in polls, and a near meltdown for the supposedly more left-wing coalition partner Socialist Peoples’ Party, the Danish PM should watch both her back and the streets outside the parliament building.