The Netherlands used to be a social democratic nation until 1990. Before that year, the super rich were forced to pay an income tax of 72% and the state took care of the elderly. But the collapse of stalinism and betrayal of social democracy, caused a massive shift to the right in Dutch politics. Social democrats, progressive liberals and liberal conservatives introduced neo-liberalism, the absolute rule of the market. In 1990, the highest tax rate was reduced to 60% and 11 years later the highest income tax became 51%. The elderly in the Netherlands are used to be cared by society in retirement homes. But now the capitalist government wants to close 800 out of 2000 homes for elderly people. The government says that old people must take care of themselves. Only elderly with serious disabilities are to receive help and care from the state. Family and friends must takeover the tasks now carried out by retirement homes. This attack on old people is a disaster. Many fear isolation and serious problems, as many elderly cannot take care of themselves!
The current government is made up of liberal conservatives and right-wing social democrats. It is ironic that the Party of Labour, who was a champion for social security and progressive politics in the 50 and 60’s, is now working with the liberal conservatives to destroy the system they build up. Dutch prime minister; Mark Rutte is a typical right-wing liberal. He believes in strict budget cuts and austerity programs. At the same time, Rutte tells the Dutch people to spend more money to help the economy. But how can Dutch workers spend more money if the cost of living is increasing. Many are saving money instead of spending it, fear is dominating the minds of many. Fear of losing their jobs, fear of entering the ”Bijstand” were the state forces you to work for your social security benefits. ”Bijstand” is a system were the state pays unemployed workers, money so they can live until they get a new job. In 2014 however, people who are forced into the ”Bijstand” are treated as ”lazy” by the right-wing media. Because of austerity, the government now forces people in the ”Bijstand” to work for their social security benefits. Many are forced to work 20 to 30 hours a week, doing meaningless jobs. Should they refuse to work, then the state cuts their ”Bijstand” benefits and this most unemployed cannot afford.
Soon 1.000.000 workers in the Netherlands get unemployed and forced to live on social benefits of the ”Bijstand”. When entering the ”Bijstand” you are not only forced to do work for the government, you are also forced to apply for jobs, ten times a month. If you are not actively searching for work, then the government can cut your social benefits. The government decides whether you are searching hard enough for work. This is why many workers ( who still have work ) live in fear. Because the capitalists are firing workers by the hundreds, all in the name of budget cuts and reorganizations. Living in the ”Bijstand” means also a social stigma, right-wing newspapers and populists on TV, call you ”lazy” and ”unwilling to find work” as an unemployed person. This is why few unemployed will ever say they are living on social benefits from the state.
Elderly people are also a victims of the governments austerity plans. The Netherlands has over 2000 retirement homes for elderly people. These homes were build in the 60’s and 70’s in order to give old people, a nice place to live in their last years. In these homes they were supported by healthcare workers, who took care of them until they died. Now the government of liberal conservatives and social democrats want to close these elderly homes, because they want to cut spending. Elderly people must live outside the care of the state and if they cannot afford to pay for help in their houses, then the family must take care of them. It is like returning to the 1940’s, when old people were living with their children. Only a capitalist government forces old people out of their retirement homes and back into the care of family and friends. Also who says that a family is able to support a old person. Many working class families are struggling, they do not have the financial means to support the elderly. Yet Mark Rutte and his traitorous social democratic allies, don’t care. 800 out of 2000 retirement homes must close, because they are victims of austerity!
We saw this in the former USSR. Stalinism may have been brutal, but it did not abandon elderly people. The Stalinist government created retirement homes for the old and many lived happy there. This changed after 1991. Most Soviet retirement homes closed, because the corrupt capitalist governments in Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, did no longer care about the elderly. Now many of them are living in isolation in old flats with very little money. Family is not always there to help them, since most Russian working class families are not able to take care of their old parents. Those win out family, are left to die in isolation. A society that does not take care of its elderly is cruel and can only be based on the greedy capitalistic system!
The Dutch austerity plans are bad for all workers. But there is not yet massive resistance. This is because many Dutch are pragmatic and few have a genuine class consciousness. The capitalist media also plays a dirty role here. Both the public broadcasting networks and the private networks, all claim that austerity is ”necessary” and that ”we all must feel the pain”. Problem only is that the rich feel absolutely nothing of this pain. They can pay a few hundred euros extra each month, but workers with an average income of €30.000 ( 41.000 U.S. dollars ) cannot. Also at least 1,3 million Dutch are living on an income that is lower then €17.000 ( 23.000 U.S. dollars ). These people are hit extra hard because of their low income!
In many European countries, social democracy is working against the interests of the working class. Social democrats in Greece are part of the government, who’s austerity programs has caused a sharp rise in unemployment. 27% of all Greek workers are not employed and forced to live on 600 euro’s a month. Many cannot pay the bills for electricity, house rent or food. Children of unemployed parents face genuine poverty, as they have no money for toys, movies or teenage stuff. All this because the capitalist European Union forced Greece to cut spending and privatize many parts of its economy. The EU works on the criminal capitalist system and has not interests in the suffering of millions, who struggle each day to meet ends.
Workers in Europe are very angry. But because there is a lack of workers parties, many turn towards leftist social democrats or old stalinists. In Greece, the new leftist party Syriza ( former Coalition of the Radical Left ) is not so radical left as its old name said. The new party Syriza is divided between social democrats and genuine socialists. Right-wing members oppose genuine socialism and class struggle against the capitalist system. Another question is what do with the key political issues of this period: Will the debt be repudiated or not? Will the banks and strategic businesses be nationalized or will big private capital, local and multinational, remain dominant in the economy? Is Syriza ready for a frontal conflict with the euro-zone?
Meanwhile in the Netherlands such debates are not happening inside the Socialist Party. The SP is the only leftist party that stands against the neo-liberal government of Mark Rutte. But its leadership is social democratic and has no desire to challenge the capitalist system nor the might of the euro-zone. Emile Roemer is leader of the Socialist Party since 2010. A nice man and a school teacher, but also a politician who is not a fighter against capitalism. Unlike the Irish socialists; Joe Higgins and Paul Murphy, Roemer is pragmatic and ready to make compromises. The SP also tries to turn the Party of Labour back to its social democratic roots, the root they betrayed almost 23 years ago. Trying to turn social democrats back into the leftist camp is not working, since the PvdA ( Party of Labour ) is a party of class traitors, who’s only job is to keep the Netherlands in line with EU plans!
Another problem of the SP is its use of old Stalinist methods. The Socialist Party was founded as a revolutionary, yet dogmatic Maoist party in 1972. It renounced stalinism in 1990, but it also moved away from revolutionary socialism. Although no longer a revolutionary party, the SP kept some Stalinist elements like a top-down bureaucratic leadership. The International Socialists of the International Socialist Tendency were told to leave the SP in 2005. The party leadership did not liked them inside their ranks. In 2008, the socialist group; Offensive linked to the Committee for a Workers International, was told to quite the SP. This is the problem of the Socialist Party, they have little tolerance for revolutionary socialists who have organized themselves in groups that are working outside the SP. Because these groups are not under control of the party leadership. Most SP leaders like Emile Roemer, entered the party during the 70’s and 80’s. They entered a party that was very dogmatic about its believes. Although the SP has abandoned the totalitarian ideals of Stalin and Mao, its leaders have not fully abandoned their methods of running a political party!
Dutch workers need to build a new workers party for themselves. Only a party build on a democratic socialist program, can win many votes during the elections. At least 24% of all voters do not vote during the last elections, because they have no trust in the political parties of the Netherlands. More then 3.000.000 Dutch choose not to vote in 2012. If these voters would have voted for a genuine workers party, it would strengthen the workers movement inside the parliament!
Revolutionary socialists in the Netherlands oppose the criminal austerity attacks of the liberals and social democrats. We also oppose the European Union who forces right-wing capitalist politics down on its members. In order to fight the political parties of capitalism, workers in the Netherlands need to fight for a genuine workers party based on a socialist program. We say:
– Fight all the cuts and privatizations
– Stop the pension cuts and raising of the retirement age
– Compensate for the price increases in wages, benefits and pensions
– No degradation of unemployment benefits
– Share out all work; for a 32-hour work week with no loss of pay
– No to the Joint Strike Fighter
– No to wage freezes in the public sector
– For permanent jobs in the home-care sector
– An union campaign for action and a 24-hour general strike; mobilize the massive potential of the trade union movement against all cuts
– The Dutch Socialist Party should represent workers and people who suffer from the cuts and form a combative political alternative to the austerity parties
– For a socialist alternative to cuts and capitalism, with a democratic socialist plan of production based on the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people and not those of a small super rich elite!