Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

The Dutch elections: From euphoria to red neoliberalism?

Hilde van der Pas describes how high hopes for a strong Socialist Party vote and a Labour majority gave way to a right dominated coalition with Labour, and draws out the options for the future

September 18, 2012
3 min read

Photo: harry_nl/Flickr

For a few months, it genuinely looked like the first left-wing government in over forty years would succeed the most right-wing government the Netherlands has had since the Second World War. The Socialist Party was historically high in the polls; expected to reach up to 20 per cent of total votes, and many left-leaning voters were said to be willing to strategically vote for the Socialist Party just to make sure that we could counter the neoliberal austerity policies implemented by the Rutte government.

The euphoria lasted until the campaigns officially started. Roemer, the leader of the Socialist Party, didn’t seem to be the dream candidate many of us had hoped for. He was unable to hold the floor, even though what he was saying was obviously right most of the time and people would consider him to be the most honest politician of all. Samsom, the leader of the Social Democrats (PvdA) did much better, coming across as a strong and charismatic debater who had no problems countering Rutte, especially with Roemer being much weaker and softer.

In the run up to the elections there was a clear scare-campaign being conducted by the biggest Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf, as well as VNO-NCW, the biggest employers’ organisation in the Netherlands. Their chairman, Wientjes, called the Socialist Party a disaster for the economy and employment, and stated that they have destroyed the so-called ‘poldermodel’. On 28 August, De Telegraaf headlined in the days leading up to the elections: ‘SOCIALIST PARTY COSTS JOBS’, on 29 August ‘ROEMER LIES’, and ‘THE LEFT KILLS SME’S’ on 11 September.

In the end it seemed like left-leaning voters played it safe and voted for Samsom. The Social Democrats gained 10 seats and is now at 39, and the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) also gained 10 seats putting them at an historic 41 seats in parliament. This means that the most likely outcome will be a coalition between the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and the Social Democrats. On the other hand, the Socialist Party stayed at 15 seats and for the first time since entering the political arena, the Party For Freedom (a right-wing political party) lost seats, going from 24 to 15.

This outcome has led many to conclude that ‘the centre’ is back. But what they seem to forget is that the Social Democrats won with a clear left-wing message, with strong leanings toward the Socialist Party. At the same time, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy has adopted much of the language and ideas from the Party for Freedom.

The rise of populist right-wing parties in the Netherlands (first Pim Fortuyn and after that Wilders and his Freedom Party), like in other European countries, has partly been the effect of the ‘Purple’ cabinets from 1994 to 2002; which led people to believe that there really was no choice: voting for the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy or the Social Democrats (the main parties in the purple coalition) would result in the same neoliberal policies. Now that both of them have been elected with clearly opposite messages and will have to form a coalition together, it seems like we’re going back to the nineties. The outcome of this ‘red neoliberalism’ will go one of two ways: a growing Socialist Party or a revival of right-wing extremism.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali


45