Dutch Socialist Party: From Maoism to Social Democracy

The Dutch Socialist Party or SP, is a leftist social democratic party in the Netherlands. Although called Socialist Party, its main ideology is a mix between classic social democracy, leftist populism and elements of state-nationalism. The SP is not a revolutionary socialist party as of 2015, however in the 1970’s it was a party that advocated a socialist revolution. Founded by Daan Monjé as the Communist Unity Party of the Netherlands  ( KEN ) it split because of sectarian divisions. By 1972, Monjé renamed his splinter-group; Socialist Party and became its leader. From 1971 until early 1980’s, the SP was a Maoist revolutionary party. They championed Mao Zedong and his Cultural Revolution. As Mao’s crimes became more public knowledge, the SP moved back to classic marxism-leninism ( stalinism ). As the USSR collapsed, the party silently removed all references to Marxist-socialism and became reformist!

Most members of the SP do not speak about the period 1971 until 1990. They rather remain silent about the days when the party was loyal to Stalinist dogmatism. Although no longer a Marxist-Leninist party, the capitalist establishment called the SP ”extremist” and ”dangerous” in the 1990’s. Daan Monjé as founding father is not mentioned in the historybook of the SP. Even that fact that the party used to be dogmatic loyal to Mao Zedong is not mentioned. The only thing said about the revolutionary period before 1991 is that ”The SP abandoned marxism-leninism for pragmatism and concrete analyse of the situation”. In simple therms, it meant the party accepted the lie that Lenin’s ideals failed!

As a revolutionary party in the 1970’s, the Socialist Party was very active. It organized and participated in many strikes and demonstrations. The famous Rotterdam Harbour strike of 1979 was supported by the SP, who paid striking workers money so they could continue their fight. Not only the capitalists stood in opposition to the strikers, also the Party of Labour ( PvdA ) rejected them. By now social democracy was slowly moving away from its workers roots and became fully supportive of capitalism. We see this in the fact that the mayor of Rotterdam ( PvdA ) ordered the police to attack the demonstrations, organized by workers and members of the SP!

Mao Zedong became less popular in the 1980’s, so Daan Monjé silently removed the ”Great Chairman” out of the picture. Monjé himself was not a leader who showed himself to the public or even ordinary party members. He stayed in the background and gave the party chairmanship to Hans van Hooft. But behind the façade, Daan Monjé was the absolute leader and controlled all party activities. Like all Stalinist parties, the SP practised bureaucratic centralism. They called it ”democratic” centralism, but there was nothing democratic about it. Unlike Lenin’s democratic centralism, there were no debates among party-members, the SP was build on a top-down model. All major decisions were made by Daan Monjé and his politburo!

In October 1986, Monjé died. By then there were serious conflicts between him and his second in command; Jan Marijnissen. Monjé was dogmatic, idealistic and a revolutionary, but Marijnissen was pragmatic and reformist. With the death of their leader, the SP could undo itself of its Stalinist heritage. A year after Monjé died, the party tried to participate in national elections, but failed to gain seats. The little SP was unknown to many, so Jan Marijnissen started to reform the party along moderate socialist lines. As the USSR fell apart, the SP removed all reference to marxism-leninism and adopted a mixture of reformist socialism and leftist populism!

With social democracy moving to the right-wing, the reborn SP was finally seen as a alternative to the Party of Labour ( PvdA ). In 1994, Jan Marijnissen and Remi Poppe became the first SP members elected into the Dutch parliament. Unlike other representatives, they earn a modest income. Because the Socialist Party believes that a representative of the people should live on a average income. The party therefore decided that their members in the parliament are paid an income of 28.000 euro’s  ( 30.000 dollars ) a year after taxes. For many this seems a very low income, however the average monthly income for most Dutch workers after taxes is 1.800 euro ( 2.000 dollars )!

Although the party abandoned marxism-leninism, it remained committed to socialist ideals such as planning the economy for the need of the people. This changed in 1999, when ”Handvast 2000” ( principal document ) was replaced by ”Heel de Mens”. In the new program, the Socialist Party no longer called for the nationalizations of the means of production and workers-self management. The new program was a clear move to the right, as the SP positioned itself as a classic social democratic party. Still the old revolutionary tactic of organizing strikes and demonstrations remained. Members of the SP remained very active in the struggle against capitalist exploitation, while the PvdA became a fully bourgeois party that participated in many capitalist cabinets!

By dropping its revolutionary socialist ideology, the SP became a alternative for many to vote on. Still the capitalist media remained sceptic and ridiculed Jan Marijnissen as the Dutch Mao Zedong. In 2006, a huge earthquake hit the political landscape as the SP won 25 seats in the parliament. Suddenly this small leftist party was the third biggest party in the Netherlands. Media commentators demanded that the SP participated in a capitalist government. Even many members of the party think that they should participate in a government under capitalism!

Revolutionary socialists warned the SP that governing under capitalism is very bad, as it forces a socialist party to support capitalist laws. But Jan Marijnissen felt the pressure of the media to show ”responsibility”, he also made sure the SP supported the Dutch monarchy and NATO. But the social democrats of the PvdA and christian democrats of the CDA, were too fearful of the Socialist Party. So instead of appealing to Marijnissen, the PvdA and CDA choose to form a government with the Christian Union, a social-conservative party!

The capitalist media blamed the SP for its failure to participate in the government. Many media outlets said the Marijnissen made too little comprises. They ridiculed him for that, although Marijnissen was willing to work with PvdA and CDA. Still the SP became more moderate in a effort to appeal to the PvdA. Between 2006 and 2012, the Socialist Party tried again and again to turn the PvdA back to the left. This turned out to be a massive failure as the PvdA called the SP ”conservative” and ”outdated”. They only wanted to work together if the SP accepted the European Union, embraced capitalist logic and abandoned their opposition to austerity!

Jan Marijnissen left the chairmanship to Agnes Kant in 2008, her leadership led to massive loss of voters in the 2010 elections. By not offering a socialist alternative and by her attempts to turn the PvdA to the left, many workers no longer saw a alternative in the Socialist Party. 10 seats were lost, reducing the party to 15 seats in the parliament. Agnes Kant was replaced by former schoolteacher Emile Roemer. Under his leadership the SP turned into a fully leftist social democratic party, not revolutionary and not radical. The party kept its 15 seats during the 2012 elections, this shows a stagnation in SP voters!

Revolutionary socialists think that the Socialist Party can only win more votes if it builds a alternative to the current capitalist parties. But this is a problem as the media is anti-socialist and would use the old Soviet-Union as excuse to say that socialism does not work. The old Maoist guard of the party are the ones who moved away from socialism. People like Jan Marijnissen, Tiny Kox and Hans van Heijningen were already part of Daan Monjé’s inner-circle in 1972. They first moved away from Mao, then renounced Lenin and in 1999 removed revolutionary socialism from the party constitution. Only a small line in Article 3 of the constitution say that the party’s goal is to build a socialist society, the only reference to socialism in the whole Socialist Party!

In 2015, the SP is very moderate and not even trying to offer a alternative to the rotten parliamentary system. During debates with the other parties, Emile Roemer is moderate and lacks the revolutionary spirit of people like Jan Marijnissen. The party can profit from the PvdA, who’s participation in the current Dutch government with the right-wing VVD, has disillusioned many on the left-wing. Roemer’s Socialist Party can became a workers party, but its social democratic ideology means that they support social capitalism, which is not what socialists should do. Problematic is also the wiliness of local party leaders to enter local governments with right-wing parties. In Amsterdam, the SP replaced the PvdA as the coalition partner of the liberal conservatives ( VVD ) and liberal democrats ( D66 )!

Because the party turned social democratic, Revolutionary Socialist Media in the Netherlands has decided to call the SP: ”Social-democratic Party”. We no longer call it a socialist party, because of its social democratic attitude, its weak reformist program and its willingness to compromise with capitalist parties. Still the SP is the only force that is willing to oppose neoliberalism. They reject austerity and the huge budget cuts the PvdA supports. With the greens of GreenLeft willing to support austerity too, many will look to the SP as a alternative. But classic social democracy is no longer possible, the capitalists will make sure of that. A social democratic Netherlands will never survive in a hostile capitalist world. The European Union will also not tolerant it, since Brussels demand austerity and neoliberal privatisations!

The Netherlands has tree social democratic parties and two moderate communist parties. In 1991, the Communist Party of the Netherlands ( CPN ) fused with the Pacifist Socialist Party, the Political Party Radicals and the Evangelical People’s Party into GreenLeft. Opponents of this fusion created the Pacifist Socialist Party’92 and the New Communist Party of the Netherlands. A group of local communists split from the NCPN over the Blauwstad project and founded the United Communist Party in 1999!

Although the NCPN and VCP are communist in name, they are not so revolutionary. As they come from the Stalinist tradition, the NCPN and VCP believe in ”socialism in one nation” and share many flaws of the old CPN. Social democrats of the PvdA, GreenLeft and the Socialist Party are not willing to fight for democratic socialism. They support the monarchy, the bourgeoisie, NATO and the European Union. Therefore we revolutionary socialists call for the formation of a new workers party, created by workers and trade unionists. Only a genuine workers party can break the dominate position of social democracy on the Dutch political left-wing!



SP leader; Emile Roemer ( in black ) with former leader Jan Marijnissen!