Dark Side Of Hygge: Understanding Denmark's Social Model

Dark Side Of Hygge: Understanding Denmark's Social Model
Parliamentary elections were held in Denmark on the 1st of November. Danish social democrat prime minister Mette Frederiksen dissolved parliament in early October under pressure from the junior coalition partner, the Social Liberal Party, which threatened to withdraw support for the government after a report critical to the prime minister related to the illegal killing of the Danish mink population. The Danish Social Democratic Party ruled on its own through a minority government, but was supported by a number of smaller centrist, center-left parties in parliament as part of the "red bloc."

The Danish political system has been the same for almost 100 years. The Social Democrats have always been the biggest party since the 1924 elections, but that doesn't mean they rule all the time. The Danish parliament is fragmented: there are about five (this is the number of parties in parliament after the 1924 elections) to twelve parties (the number of parties in parliament as a result of the 2022 elections). That is why, for decades, the Danish parties have been allied together in pre-election coalitions. These consist of the "red bloc", officially center-left, headed by the center-left Social Democratic Party, and the "blue bloc" headed by the conservative-liberal party Venstre (literally translated, it paradoxically means "Left").

However, this bloc-based system was shaken after the last elections in 2019. The Vestre party lost power (although it won the best result in many years), and the Social Democrats won the elections. However, the outgoing prime minister and leader of the Venstre party Lars Løkke Rasmussen proposed a "broad coalition" (that is, breaking the bloc system so that the Social Democrats would join a coalition with Vestre). His party did not agree to this, and he left it and founded a new party, Moderates, which belongs to neither the blue nor the red bloc. This move took a large part of Vestre's support (they got 23% in 2019 and only 13% in 2022).

Ultimately, with the arrival of the Moderates party, the results turned out to be quite complicated. This is because the red bloc obtained a total of 90 seats (i.e. the minimum number required for a majority), and the Social Democratic Party was the most successful party in 20, winning 27.6%. As it turns out, forming a government turned out to be more difficult. The Social Liberal Party (which caused the previous government to collapse) has announced that it favors a "broad coalition." This means that the red bloc does not have the majority. Of course, already before the elections, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen gave signals that she herself was a supporter of such a solution (due to the resistance of left-wing coalition partners to her policy).

On 15 December 2022, a new government was sworn in, consisting of the Social Democratic Party and two right-wing parties: Venstre and Moderates. This move finally broke the division into blocs, and the Social Democrats had already officially moved to the right.

This behavior of the Danish Social Democrats should come as no surprise, however. Frederiksen won power in 2019, receiving a large part of the votes from people who were voters of the far-right Danish People's Party, whose main postulate was an anti-immigration policy (mainly against immigrants from Muslim countries). It was her government that introduced the "anti-ghetto" law. Denmark’s “anti-ghetto law” aims to reduce the number of people of “non-Western origin” in designated “vulnerable areas” to less than 30%, through evictions, double punishment, over-policing and compulsory daycare. Denmark is in the middle of scandalous negotiations on the possible deportation of illegal immigrants to Rwanda (the UK is in the same talks). When Lars Løkke Rasmussen was prime minister, he carried out massive tax cuts and closed a commission tasked with investigating Denmark's entry into the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in particular whether the 2003 Iraq war was illegal. When the Social Democrats took power in 2019, they did not reopen this commission.
As for emissions, the Nordic countries perform worse than the rest of Europe, and only marginally better than the world’s most egregious offenders – the US, Australia, Canada and Saudi Arabia. Yes, they generate more renewable energy than most countries, but these gains are wiped out by carbon-intensive imports

It is no secret that the Danish ‘welfare state’ is not some perfect ‘golden mean’. That is to say, it is definitely not a miracle cure for the problems of capitalism, while at the same time ‘protecting’ the system against communism. At the end of the day, the Danish social democrats created and maintain this model to suppress revolutionary, anti-capitalist sentiments inside the country. To be sure, such an image of Denmark is at odds with the vision of a social democratic paradise. But in fact, this vision is false from the very beginning.

Above all, Denmark was part of the colonial system. To this day, Greenland is part of Denmark (with autonomous status since 1982). In fact, Greenlanders remain at the lowest level of Danish society, relegated to working migrants below the minimum wage, and racism against them remains a standardised and acceptable trait in Danish culture. They are treated similarly to the Inuit people in Canada, and the Danes also experimented with them and killed their children.

However, Denmark's integration into the entire criminal colonial system is much deeper than owning a colony on the island of Greenland. Colonialism is primarily a form of developing capitalism, emerging in Western European countries, which engaged in expansion. Between 1536 and 1814, there was a union between Denmark and Norway - the Kingdom of Denmark and Norway. At the end of the 18th century, colonial trade stimulated significant economic growth, especially in Copenhagen (the capital of Denmark).

Denmark-Norway occupied the Caribbean islands St. Thomas and St. John (St. Jan) in 1672 and 1718. While white settlers and indentured servants began to establish a diversified plantation economy, the ‘sugar revolution’ soon came to the Danish Islands. Throughout the eighteenth century, a slave plantation complex developed on the islands, and Denmark-Norway became a slave-trading nation of some significance. It is estimated that 110,000 enslaved people were transported on Danish ships across the Atlantic from the 1660s to 1803, equalling approximately 2% of the entire Atlantic slave trade in this period. Facing continued economic loss in the slave trade, expecting a British ban and influenced by humanitarian ideas, in 1792 Denmark-Norway decided to prohibit the trans-Atlantic slave trade with effect from 1803. Slavery continued until 1848, when a simmering rebellion forced the governor to declare emancipation of the enslaved population.

During the Second World War, Danish industry actively supported Adolf Hitler. With the encouragement of the Danish government, Danish exporters and entrepreneurs profited greatly compared to other occupied European countries, and entrepreneurs used slave labour, including Jewish prisoners provided by the Germans. Danish bacon, butter, fish and other commodities flowed into Germany during the war. Most of Denmark's food exports went to the Wehrmacht. The profits streamed back to the Danish industries but were of little benefit to the citizens. F. L. Smidht's cement plant in Port Kunda, Estonia, which was built in the early 1930s, was nationalised by the communists in 1940, but after the German invasion in 1941, it was restored to F. L. Smidth. From that moment it had one customer, Germany – which needed cement badly for building airfields in its war against the Soviet Union.

Denmark today is very well integrated into the global imperialist system led by the US. Denmark was a founding member of NATO, the immense alliance created in 1949 as an imperial venture on a global scale, so as to militarily encircle and contain the USSR and the socialist states of Eastern Europe – and, of course, to ensure the hegemony of the capitalist ruling-class in Western European countries. Former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was NATO Secretary General from 2009-2014.

Moreover, the Danish financial system – and this form of capitalism is the leading one in the post-WW2 system of collective imperialism – is known for money laundering. In 2018, it was revealed that over one and a half trillion Danish kroner in "dirty money" (an amount that corresponds to around 60% of Danish GDP) passed through the Danish financial giant Danske Bank. As such, Danske Bank was mainly laundering money in former Soviet Union countries such as Estonia. The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, which measures how capitalist a country is by studying regulation and taxation in different areas of the economy, ranks Denmark as the 10th most capitalist country in the world (by comparison, the United States is ranked 20th).

Interestingly, Denmark is also not an "ecological leader" (as the media is often found depicting Scandinavian countries). On the contrary, if we follow the Sustainable Development Index (SDI), we can see that the Nordic countries consume on average more than 32 tons per year (four and a half times more than the sustainable level). As for emissions, the Nordic countries perform worse than the rest of Europe, and only marginally better than the world’s most egregious offenders – the US, Australia, Canada and Saudi Arabia. Yes, they generate more renewable energy than most countries, but these gains are wiped out by carbon-intensive imports.

It is a myth, then, that the Danes lead an ‘ecological’ lifestyle (which SDI directly denies), and this should also call into question the image of Danes commuting to work on bicycles. In fact, cycling everywhere is a privilege for those who live in central Copenhagen - one of the most expensive cities in the world. Like everywhere, plebeians commute to inconspicuous suburbs after work.

As The Independent writes: ”One of the Scandinavian capital’s dirtiest secrets is that with every stop going away from the city centre, the darker the skin of the passengers becomes. Stowed away in the suburbs, minorities are kept from blemishing the ‘hygge’ daily life of drinking single origin coffee on million-dollar fin-de-siècle balconies.”

After all, Denmark is not (and has never been) a socialist country. In Denmark, there has been no tradition of state ownership of major industries, let alone commodities such as oil (nor does the Danish Social Democracy support this). Since the 1980s, there has also been a systematic tendency towards cutting of social spending and favouring private capital. In Denmark, there has been a classic monopolisation of capital. Many companies have disappeared, but the survivors of mergers and acquisitions are larger and more global today than ever – geared to meeting export, not domestic consumption. In Denmark, almost like a small village, there is now one dominant dairy, shipping company, brewery and slaughterhouse.

Therefore, it should be remembered that the Danish welfare state is only a myth and the Danish social democracy does not promote an ‘equal and fair’ system at all. All it does is that – to a limited extent – it has produced "capitalism with a human face," which is a cover for racism, Danish corporate profit and money laundering.

The author is a student of law in Poland