Following a year of political turmoil, the latest attempt to form a stable coalition government in the Netherlands has fallen apart. Alienation from the main establishment parties is marked. At the same time, the Dutch economy has slowed down dramatically, after years of growth and low unemployment.

National elections in the Netherlands held on 15 May last year brought the populist right wing politician Pim Fortuyn’s party to power (the Pim Fortuyn List – the LFP), together with Christian Democrats (CDA) and the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD, the main Tory party). The assassination of Pim Fortuyn, shortly before last year’s elections, gave an enormous boost to his LPF. It reflected the widespread disillusionment with the main parties, which had dominated the political scene for decades. Unfortunately the mass disenchantment was partly channelled towards the LPF, whose dead leader had opportunistically linked social and economic problems with the issue of immigration.

However personal disputes and inner party clashes, especially in the volatile LPF, meant Jan Peter Balkenende’s right wing coalition government collapsed in October 2002 after only three months in office.

New elections on 22 January 2003 proved inconclusive. The Labour Party made a comeback and Fortuyn’s party almost collapsed. As a consequence, Christian Democrats and Labour Party started talks to form a new "centre-left" government on the basis of huge public spending cuts of €20 million. Even this draconian governmental programme proved to be insufficient for the Christian Democrats who effectively sabotaged the negotiations to form a government. After seventy-seven days of talks they dumped the Labour Party and indicated that they would rather form a government with the VVD. Christian Democrats and the VVD do not have a majority in parliament, and need a third party. In order to form a new government they are looking again at Fortuyn’s party or to a party of "progressive" liberals.

Draconian cuts

For the Dutch workers’ movement there is a real danger in this situation. A new government will be formed that will only implement cuts. Even pro-capitalist commentators point out that to cut the public sector so much in a period of recession will lead to an even deeper recession. The already cash-starved health and education sectors will receive no money at all. Civil servants will receive wage increases that will in fact be below inflation. The number of civil servants will be cut drastically. And payments for pensions will go sky-high (perhaps up to 25% of wages) (The over-65’s make up an increasing percentage of the population of some16 million).

The political situation is serious. The Labour Party has again shown itself capable of complete sell-outs, from the issue of the war in Iraq to social security cuts. The Socialist Party in the Netherlands is to the left of the Labour Party, but has drifted to the right and by doing so missed the opportunity of major election gains in January. It is urgent that this party takes up the fight against the new government and its programme of ‘cuts only’ together with the unions. The capitalist ‘consensus’ that brought the Netherlands high growth rates in the nineties has collapsed.

The CWI section in the Netherlands, Offensief, campaigns within the Socialist Party for the party to adopt a fighting, socialist programme that can build support amongst the mass of the working class, the minorities and the poor. Offensief has also been involved in many other issues, such as the recent anti-war movement, which saw demonstrations that eclipsed the scale of protests seen in recent years. Clearly a new generation are no longer prepared to put up with the capitalist politicians and the demagogy of the right.

Committee for a workers' International publications

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