1 Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 Department of Sociology, Study Council, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Københavns Universitet3 Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Københavns Universitet4 Department of Sociology, Study Council, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Københavns Universitet
THE FAILED CAMPAIGN FOR ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY AS A FACTOR IN THE POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE LABOUR MOVEMENT The campaign for Economic Democracy (ED) running from 1973 to 1986 was the Danish labour movement’s most extensive campaign after World War II. It was also relatively radical as it called for a transfer of large parts of the economy from private to collective ownership placed under the workers’ democratic control through their trade unions. In the campaign material, ED was framed in relation to the two major components of Danish social democratic ideology, namely, democracy and socialism. The campaign was relative successful in targeting the wage earners by framing ED as both a realisation of these two major goals of the labour movement as well as being a practical and efficient answer to unemployment, low wages, lack of influence on workplace policies etc. Despite the relative success of the campaign, ED was never turned into law and was de facto abandoned in the 1980s. Thus, the ED campaign – running for more than a decade, including the distribution of campaign materials counted by the 100,000’s as well as massive agitation and grass root activity – turned out to be a futile endeavour. In this perspective, it seems reasonable to hypothesize that as a consequence of the failure of the ED program the ideas of democracy and socialism suffered a defeat as well: on the one hand a loss of centrality in the ideology of the labour movement, and on the other hand a loss of credibility in the general public. Thus, it might be the case that the failure of the ED-program have been one among several causes which brought about the rather abrupt ideological shift from socialism and collectivism to an ideological turn towards social-liberal and individualistic ideas in the labour movement, in the late 1980s and 1990s.
Arbejderhistorie. Tidsskrift for Historie, Kultur Og Politik, 2013, Vol 2013, Issue 3, p. 50-71