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Netherlands: An overwhelming 'No' vote to EU constitution
Voters ignore arrogant establishment and punish right-wing government
LAST WEEK'S vote on the European Constitution was the first time in more than 200 years that Dutch people had a referendum. A high turnout of 62.8% delivered a clear verdict - 61.6% voted against the constitution and only 38.4% in favour.
Ron Blom, Offensief (CWI Netherlands)
There were different reasons why people voted against. It was mainly blue-collar and white-collar workers, who are not convinced about usefulness of the constitution and see the 'neo-liberal' ie capitalist agenda behind it, who voted against.
The government parties and many opposition members of parliament - the social democratic PvdA and the Green-Left party - used every possible means, including crude propaganda, to try and convince the public of voting in favour of the European constitution. The pro-constitution campaign was backed by the employers' federations and the leadership of the trade unions. So, 85% of the political establishment was in favour of the constitution.
The Dutch population has never been asked before to voice a direct opinion on the European Union or its policies, including the introduction of the euro and its inflationary effects on the prices of food and other basic produce - which is obvious to everyone in the Netherlands, except, it seems, the Minister of Finance. Many people had serious doubts about the EU's prescriptions for the economic and social problems of the Netherlands.
The Dutch Socialist Party, a broad-based, Left party, played a central role in the no campaign. There was also opposition from the right. Geert Wilders, a right-wing, populist, who left the neo-liberal VVD party, earlier this year, tried to carve out a sphere of influence with his own no campaign, based on a reactionary, anti-immigrant rhetoric but without much success.
The main campaign highlighted the lack of democracy inside the EU, developments towards a so-called 'European Army', and the neo-liberal character of the EU - an agenda which is clearly spelled out in the EU's 'Bolkestein Directive'.
The VVD's pro-constitution television ads showed images of Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp, while the voiceover talked about a possible victory for the no side in the referendum. They said the "lights would go out" in Europe.
The leader of the VVD referred to the red banners seen at the celebrations of the French opponents of the constitution who won the referendum in France: "The people of Eastern Europe have just freed themselves from socialism; do they want to go back to that?"
Government gets a kicking
THE DUTCH population clearly rejects the coalition government, which is led by Jan Peter Balkenende, and made up of the Christian Democrats, the CDA, the right-wing liberals, the VVD, and the 'left-wing' liberals, the D66.
The popularity of the government has plunged to a historic low of 19%. This is not surprising, as the coalition is guilty of ruling over the country's longest economic recession since 1945. The Netherlands is one of the three European countries with the fastest rising unemployment rates.
The outcome of the EU constitution referendum is another indication that the Dutch people will not allow the government to destroy social provisions without putting up a fight. This result is a continuation of the large protests, held last autumn, against the austerity programme of the Balkenende government. Then, 300,000 people took to the streets. Now another important aspect of government policy - pushing through a yes for the EU constitution - is relegated to the dustbin. It is clear the Dutch population is sick of the elitist mentality of the government, its cabinet, and the entire ruling class.
The vote against the EU constitution is an important signal of opposition. To make this protest more powerful we need to organise and prepare for more struggles with the establishment.
The call for the government to resign is getting an ever-increasing echo. To achieve this aim, it is necessary to re-engage in a mass struggle, without illusions in so-called Left parties, like the social democratic PvdA, which has clearly chosen the side of the establishment.
Only genuine socialist policies, based on defending the interests of the majority of the population, will be able to break with the capitalist system. To achieve this, we will work together with other socialists in Europe to counterpose the Europe of bosses and bureaucrats with a socialist Europe, where people are put before profits.
In The Socialist 9 June 2005: