In 1972 Denmark held a referendum – to join or not to join what was then the EEC (European Economic Community) – I was a young woman, a socialist feminist, and I voted against joining. I was anxious about Catholic southern Europe, about the German hausfrau, even about the Pope. I was worried about pressure on the Danish social welfare model. The referendum resulted in Denmark joining what is now the EU (European Union). As it turned out, the women of Europe looked to the North, and the EU has been widely instrumental in facilitating advances in equality legislation in Denmark. So my fears and my no-vote had been mistaken – as I fortunately and swiftly realised.
Later, in Brussels, I had my first experience of socialist feminists who were fervent supporters of the EU – and I decided to invite the philosopher Rosi Braidotti (currently Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University) to Copenhagen, because I was determined to hear her discuss the EU with Drude Dahlerup, an equally socialist feminist who was at the time the figurehead of JuniBevægelse (June Movement – the Danish Eurosceptic party named after the timing of the Danish referendum that rejected the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992).
My idea had been that they would surely be able to discuss the issues with one another, given that they were in agreement about socialism and feminism, but were in total disagreement about the EU. And so in November 1995 we held a conference at Hotel Marienlyst in Helsingør – ‘Feminin Fremtid – kvinders syn på Europa, visioner og skepsis’ (Feminine Future – women’s attitudes to Europe, visions and scepticism) – and three follow-up public meetings with packed audiences at Moltke’s Palace in Copenhagen.
It was not exclusively a question of Nordic feminists disagreeing with their southern European sisters on EU matters; the same pattern applied to the left wing of the political spectrum. Actually, I think that, like me, by now most Danish feminists have changed their views on the EU, whereas Enhedslisten (lit.: Unity List, a Danish political party) socialists have not budged an inch. Isolated from their European comrades, and in alliance with the extreme right wing in Europe and Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party), they propose that Denmark should also exit the EU after a referendum.
However much I might respect and like Drude Dahlerup, when listening to her in discussion with Rosi Braidotti I found the perspective she represented to be rather parochial. However much I might value certain individuals in Enhedslisten – and I note with pleasure that Preben Wilhjelm (former leader of Venstresocialisterne, the Left Socialist Party, which has been incorporated into Enhedslisten) does not agree with the party line – the EU policy they are pursuing is not only backward-looking, but blatantly hazardous in that it underpins the toxic turn to the right that is a threat throughout Europe. Today, the destructive forces are getting the upper hand. I don’t know if the well-meaning members of Enhedslisten can change their attitude – as has happened in Socialistisk Folkeparti (Socialist People’s Party of Denmark) – but I carry on hoping. It is a matter of urgency that Enhedslisten keeps up with Preben Wilhjelm and our real friends in the EU.
Translation: G. Kynoch