Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Governments are manufacturing a new 'enemy within', write Yasser Louati and Malia Bouattia
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism