Mette Elvensar


Mette Elvensar

Mme Barbara Castle, Ministre britannique du développement outre-mer.jpg
Chancellor of Delkora
In office
8 June 1959 – 5 June 1967
MonarchCharlotte III
Preceded byThalbius Sörbengaard
Succeeded byGeirbjørn Feldengaard
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
5 June 1967 – 2 June 1975
ChancellorGeirbjørn Feldengaard
Preceded byGeirbjørn Feldengaard
Succeeded byOsvald Bjerg
Leader of National Labor
In office
20 August 1948 – 1 May 1967
Preceded byJohannes Löfgren
Succeeded byGeirbjørn Feldengaard
Minister of Education
In office
12 August 1936 – 20 September 1940
ChancellorSofia Westergaard
Minister of Agriculture
In office
12 August 1932 – 12 August 1936
ChancellorSofia Westergaard
Member of the Chamber of Representatives
In office
12 August 1928 – 2 June 1975
ConstituencyNorthern Cybria
Personal details
Born
Margrethe Ellinor Elvensar

(1901-01-07)7 January 1901
Börnendren, Cybria, Kingdom of Delkora
Died(1984-05-02)2 May 1984
Tjærenbor, Cybria
NationalityDelkoran
Political partyNational Labor
Spouse(s)Otto Elvensar
(m. 1932)
Alma materTordenhelm University (B.A., M.L.)
OccupationTeacher
Politician

Mette Ellinor Elvensar (7 January 1901 – 2 May 1984) was a Delkoran stateswoman, teacher, and political reformist who served as chancellor of Delkora from 1959 to 1967. Entering office in the midst of a major economic depression, her government introduced the beginning phases of the New Kingdom economic reforms, an ambitious agenda that sought to begin transitioning the economy toward socialization of economic ownership and laid the foundation for the modern Delkoran welfare state.

Although opinions of her tenure vary by political affiliation, Elvensar is almost universally recognized by historians as one of the most effective chancellors in Delkoran history, consistently ranking in the top three of scholarly listings of the most influential chancellors.

Early years

Elvensar was born on a varden commune in the municipality of Börnendren in northern Cybria in 1901. Her mother Agnes worked as a tailor in the commune, while her father was a carpenter. While attending secondary school, she was introduced to Marxist political philosophy by her mathematics teacher and began closely following local politics. She would later reflect that her experience growing up in the varden profoundly shaped her political outlook, remarking in her autobiography that, "Having seen how well society could function when operating on the principles of subsidiarity, solidarity, and equity as was the case in the varden, I knew upon becoming chancellor that it would be my goal to replicate this on a national scale."

Elvensar's first political experience came in 1914 when the municipal council of Börnendren voted to seize a major portion of her varden's farmland through eminent domain for the purpose of building a lead smelter. Against her parent's wishes, she joined a group of the commune's members in staging an act of civil disobedience, chaining themselves to the fence surrounding the property to prevent the construction crew from gaining entrance. When the state police were summoned, a large fight broke out that left dozens severely injured. Elvensar was arrested along with her co-conspirators, but was not charged due to being a minor. Although the commune's act of defiance attracted the attention of local newspapers and gained it sympathy throughout the state, construction of the lead smelter proceeded as planned.

University and early career

After obtaining a scholarship to attend Tordenhelm University, Elvensar began studying economics in 1918. While attending Tordenhelm, she became involved with the United Residents Guild, an anarchist group engaged in direct action in the city's working class neighborhoods. A self-described anarchist without adjectives at the time, Elvensar remarked in one interview that, "Up to that point in my life, I had only experienced government as a violent, oppressive force, and so I had no interest in working within the system or waiting on incremental change." After completing her economics degree, she enrolled in the school of law at Tordenhelm, graduating in 1925.

That year, she returned to Börnendren, where she took up a job as a history teacher at a local secondary school. There, she successfully led efforts at unionizing the school system, and subsequently began working with other organizers in the area to unionize other schools throughout the county. In 1926, teachers in Börnendren and seven other municipalities went on strike and, under Elvensar's leadership, successfully negotiated a major salary and pension increase.

Elvensar's efforts during the strike gained her significant publicity in the region, and prompted the local National Labor party organization to approach her about running for office. Still an anarchist, Elvensar later reflected that at the time she believed National Labor to be a corrupt party that was "only marginally better" than the alternatives, but believed it might be possible to radicalize it from within. She subsequently ran for municipal council on the National Labor list in 1927, failing to be seated.

Nonetheless, she was placed on the ballot for the federal election the following year in her home constituency of Northern Cybria, and won a seat after personally knocking on thousands of doors and making a concerted effort to speak to voters in every city and town in the district.

Member of the Federal Parliament

As a member of parliament, Elvensar served on the Committee on Labor and Pensions and the Education Committee. Early on, she developed a reputation as an independent voice in her party who frequently went against leadership. In 1929, she successfully led a group of National Labor MPs in opposing the federal budget that year because of significant cuts to healthcare spending, defying party leader Johannes Löfgren, who had negotiated an agreement with the government of Chancellor Valdemar Kjeldsen whereby National Labor would support the budget in exchange for concessions on other bills. The group's efforts led to a month-long standoff that nearly forced an election, with the budget only winning passage after significant amendments.

While serving on the Labor and Pensions Committee, she formed a close relationship with her future minister of foreign affairs and successor as chancellor, Geirbjørn Feldengaard. The two formed an informal working group of democratic socialists and anarcho-syndicalists within their party that came to be known as the Red-Black Faction. Under the pair's leadership, the Faction launched multiple efforts to oust Löfgren throughout the 1930's and '40s and campaigned to get leftist candidates placed on the party's lists in federal elections. She also supported the Agrarian Workers' Party takeover of the Cybria National Labor organization and its subsequent reorganization under Bjørn Olsen.

In part as an effort to appease the rising tide of far-left dissent in the party and co-opt its leadership, Löfgren worked to secure low-ranking ministerial posts for both Elvensar and Feldengaard after the 1932 federal election, when National Labor entered government as the Liberal Party's junior coalition partner. Elvensar subsequently served as minister of agriculture from 1932 to 1936 and was then shifted to the ministry of education in cabinet reshuffle.

Elvensar as education minister, 1937

Despite her outspokenness and independent streak, Elvensar got on well with Chancellor Sofia Westergaard, who considered her a valuable ally. Elvensar appreciated Westergaard's "fighting spirit" and was impressed by her role in the Blockade of Banderhus and the Liberal Party split of 1940. In a later speech as Chancellor, she praised Westergaard, saying, "This woman was willing to risk the destruction of Delkora itself, and her party as well, over the simple, moral principle that a civilised society must do all it humanly can to prevent misery among its people."

After the 1940 Federal Election produced a Conservative-Agrarian government, Elvensar stepped down from her post as education minister, spending much of the 1940's as one of the leading voices in her party speaking out against the economic policies of Chancellor Veidnar Albendor. She later cited this time period as the start of her ideological transition from anarchism to democratic socialism, saying, "Whereas before I had conceived of government as a necessarily counterrevolutionary force that was to be eventually overcome, I then started to see it as a neutral weapon that would always be wielded against some element of society. My work would be to ensure it was wielded against the banker, the warmonger, and the racist, and not the worker, the disabled, or the migrant."

After National Labor's poor showing in the 1944 Federal Election, Elvensar challenged Löfgren for party leader, losing narrowly. Continuing to forge relationships with the party's newer, younger cohort, she mounted a successful bid four years later after Löfgren was forced to resign following National Labor's worst showing ever in the 1948 Federal Election. Prevailing over Löfgren's handpicked candidate, Elvensar assumed leadership of National Labor in March of that year.

Leader of National Labor

As leader, one of Elvensar's first initiatives was to implement democratic reforms of the party's internal proceedings. In 1948, she issued a memo calling on National Labor organizations from the national to the local level to open all meetings and official proceedings to the public. At the National Labor Convention of 1950, she pushed for amendments to the party's constitution that permitted state and local organizations to develop their own platforms and banning the national party from interfering in their leadership contests. A rule change she successfully pushed for in 1952 requiring local organizations to elect their leadership brought her into conflict with the National Labor political machines of the major cities and led to a failed effort by the party bosses of Norenstal, Gothendral, and Tordenhelm to oust her.

Elvensar made it a priority of her tenure as party leader to rebuild the party's relationship with the labor movement, which had deteriorated under Löfgren's leadership. According to one historian, National Labor became a truly "class mass" party under Elvensar's leadership to such an extent that, "The previously transactional relationship between the party and the labor movement had been replaced by one built on organic relationships such that a National Labor party operative sitting behind a desk in Norenstal and a union steelworker in Halmodryn no longer thought of themselves as belonging to functionally separate organizations." This was further aided by Elvensar's efforts at recruiting more working-class and non-white candidates for office, making National Labor more reflective of the groups it claimed to represent.

The cumulative effect of these and other initiatives was a strong showing by the party in state and local elections throughout the 1950's, as well as a slow rebuilding of its numbers in the Federal Parliament. Known for her passionate speeches on the floor of the Chamber of Representatives, Elvensar was a vocal critic of Albendor's economic policies, warning that the de-funding of public services and lax enforcement of anti-monopoly laws were doing untold harm to working people throughout the country and were not sustainable. Her fears proved to be well founded as Delkora entered a severe recession and eventually a depression in the aftermath of the 1953 Banking Crisis.

Two years after passing a controversial bailout package for three of the country's largest employers in 1954, Albendor announced his intention to step down ahead of the coming federal election and was replaced as Conservative Party leader by Hjalmar Madsen. Despite losing a significant number of seats, Madsen's coalition was returned to power. Early in his tenure, he was faced with growing instability throughout the Kingdom as rioting began to spread in the major cities due to record high unemployment. In 1959, he was assassinated after giving a speech in Grafholmen, and subsequently succeeded by Thalbius Sörbengaard. By this time, civil unrest had turned into widespread rioting in the major cities.

With Sörbengaard ultimately unable to bring the deteriorating situation in the country under control, Elvensar led a successful motion of no confidence against his government that year. In the resulting election, National Labor picked up an unprecedented number of seats, winning 243 seats and enabling Elvensar to form a single party government. During the campaign, she met Glykera Damonides, who would become her secretary and closest assistant.

Chancellor

Domestic policy

Elvensar in her chancellery office

Shortly after taking office, Elvensar gave a televised national address from the Chancellery Building calling for peace even as rioting continued throughout the country. The same day, she lifted the state of emergency that had been in place since 1958 and ordered the Royal Army garrison in Norenstal to begin demobilizing. One of her first major acts was an executive decree ordering a nationwide bank holiday to prevent an impending bank run and enable parliament to take action. Her government subsequently secured passage of the Banking Insurance Act of 1959, creating a federal deposit insurance program that succeeded in restoring public confidence in banking institutions.

With civil unrest temporarily quieted by these actions, Elvensar turned her attention to providing emergency relief to those driven into extreme poverty by the depression. The Emergency Services Act of 1959 provided funding for food, clothing, medicine, and emergency housing for those most in need, primarily in the inner cities and remote rural areas. Her government followed this with the Federal Food Security Act, which provided aid for farmers and attempted to raise crop prices to remedy the effects of the major overproduction that had occurred in preceding decades. In early 1960, the Elvensar government passed federal rent controls and re-instituted the minimum wage.

Her government also led an aggressive nationalization push, nationalizing failing corporations in key industries including finance, energy, and defense. This led to a major expansion of the Delkoran public sector and prevented the economy from sinking further into depression.

With these early actions helping to mitigate the worst effects of the depression, Elvensar's attention turned to implementation of more far-reaching reforms. In a televised address in late 1960, she announced the creation of the Federal Public Works Commission, an agency which would provide a national job guarantee by employing people in the construction of large-scale infrastructure projects such as highways, bridges, dams, hospitals, and airports. The FPWC proved to be successful in reinvigorating the economy, with unemployment falling to 12% by 1961 and 8% the following year.

With the economy rebounding, Elvensar's New Kingdom agenda moved to what she called "structural changes." Her government introduced the Cooperative Economy Act of 1965, which would fundamentally change the Delkoran economy by initiating a gradual transition to workers' self-management. The measure was highly controversial at the time and faced court challenges and resistance from many state governments, but was ultimately upheld. Passage of the CEA vaulted Elvensar and her government into the international spotlight. Leftists throughout Tyran lauded the New Kingdom as an example of how a liberal democratic state could democratically transition away from capitalism, while those on the right decried what they dubbed Delkora's capitulation to socialism. Domestically, Elvensar's radical agenda energized the National Labor base, helping instigate an increase in voter turnout.

Elvensar led National Labor to a comfortable re-election in 1963, and her second term was characterised by increasing economic growth, reductions in unemployment and inequality, and the structural changes inaugurated by the CEA.

While she enjoyed a single-party majority throughout her term in office, Elvensar maintained good relations with the Liberal Party. In a symbolic gesture, she named Westergaard the first chair of the FPWC, in honour of her advocacy of public works and economic interventionism as Chancellor.

Foreign policy

Although Elvensar's tenure as chancellor was dominated by domestic policy concerns, a number of important foreign policy events occurred while she was in office. She was a staunch advocate of Delkoran membership in the Common Sphere, securing the Kingdom's accession in 1965. Her government gave formal diplomatic recognition to Gylias in the aftermath of the Liberation War and sought to build close relations.

Minister of foreign affairs

Elvensar campaigning with her successor Geirbjørn Feldengaard in 1967

In the lead up to the 1967 Federal Election, Elvensar made a surprise announcement that she was stepping down as party leader, and would be endorsing Feldengaard to be her successor. In an interview after the announcement, she stated, "I have achieved what I set out to do as Chancellor. Our country is rising from the depths of economic despair and we have taken the necessary first steps to move our Kingdom toward a just and equitable future." In her personal notes, she reflected that the decision was also based on her personal misgivings about long-serving government officials, writing, "I have no desire to linger in office until I am old, gray, and reactionary."

In the ensuing leadership election, Feldengaard was elected by an overwhelming majority. Although she was no longer in the spotlight, Elvensar wanted to remain in the cabinet to mentor her successor and continue to help foster the New Kingdom. After National Labor retained its majority in the parliamentary election that year, he appointed her minister of foreign affairs.

As foreign minister, Elvensar oversaw Delkora's accession to the Commonwealth of Sovereign Nations in 1972. She was instrumental in securing the Kingdom an opt-out from the Eracuran Customs Union. She maintained good relations with Gylias, and her visits there as both Chancellor and foreign minister made her one of the most familiar Delkoran politicians to Gylians since Westergaard.

After her party finally lost its independent majority in the 1975 Federal Election and was forced to enter into a coalition with the Liberal Party, Elvensar announced her intention to step down from Parliament and was succeeded as foreign minister by Liberal leader Osvald Bjerg.

Retirement and later years

In 1977, Elvensar and her husband Otto purchased a small farm in Tjærenbor and retired there, opting to keep out of the public spotlight. She occasionally sat down for television interviews in the late '70s and early '80s and maintained a close friendship with Feldengaard, but otherwise kept a mostly private life. She wrote prolifically during this period on a variety of subjects including politics, philosophy, and popular culture. In 1982, she was interviewed for the DBS documentary series A New Kingdom (1983).

Elvensar died at her home on 2 May 1984 at the age of 83 after suffering a pulmonary embolism.

Legacy

Scholars universally credit Elvensar with having an enormous influence on Delkoran politics and economics, with one historian remarking, "It is rare in the history of Delkora for one of its chancellors to have so huge an impact on every facet of public life, from the halls of government to the union hall down the street." Speaking at her funeral, Feldengaard remarked, "The Delkora Mette was born into is unrecognizable from the one she has left behind."

Elvensar's government is credited with pulling Delkora out of depression and facilitating the largest economic boom in the country's history. The generation that came of age during the height of this boom in the period between 1965 and 1970 is known as the '65 Generation in Delkora, and have been known for their political radicalism, aversion to traditional social institutions such as the nobility and organized religion, and cosmopolitanism. Their support was a key factor that kept NL in power throughout the 1970's.

Some scholars go so far as to say her reforms saved Delkoran democracy, with one suggesting, "Had Mette's agenda been thwarted, its unlikely parliamentary government would have long survived the growing forces of authoritarian dissent from a far-left and far-right that were both determined to reorder Delkoran society."

The structural reforms of the Delkoran economy inducted by her government fundamentally changed relations between the government, workers, and employers going forward. The comprehensive welfare state, public ownership of key industries, redistributionist taxation, and commitment to a gradual transition to workers' self-management that all characterized her New Kingdom program are known abroad as the Delkoran Model.

A statue of Elvensar was commissioned for the courtyard of the Chancellery Building in 1987. In 1993, a monument to her was dedicated in the town square of Börnendren. Numerous streets, libraries, and government buildings throughout Delkora are named after her.