September 29th will see a major demonstration by trade unions in Brussels. European trade unions are holding the demonstration to protest against the one-sided policies with which the European Union and the various member states are attempting to resolve the economic crisis via swingeing cuts which go to the heart of public services and social provision. The European Commission is blind to the protests. On the very same day they will present their proposals for the introduction of sanctions against countries whose cuts don't go deep enough, while again on September 29th the European Parliament Crisis Committee will adopt an injurious report in which spending cuts also take centre stage. The gap between the street and Europe's ivory towers could hardly be wider.
Originally all seemed to be going well in the European Parliament's Crisis Committee: we would thoroughly investigate the causes of the crisis, just as was done in the Dutch Parliament, by a special committee chaired by Socialist Party colleague Jan de Wit. But we would be doing it more from a European perspective, with concrete proposals designed to put constraints on casino capitalism.
The original report, written by a French social democrat (a member of the Party of European Socialists and Democrats, in which both the Dutch and British Labour Parties participate – Ed), pointed in this direction. It wasn't completely at one with our thinking, and some measures by which Europe would take hold of our economic policy certainly went too far, but the general tone was good: we must maintain Europe's social character, and not destroy the entire foundations of society with crazed spending cuts.
For the centre-right, the Christian Democrats, liberals and conservatives, this report went much too far. They still refuse to see that the present economic system puts no constraints on the greed of speculators and senior management. That the system leads to financial institutions and corporations growing ever bigger through mergers and takeovers. That eventually in both the financial and the real economy a situation arises in which such banks and companies cannot fail without bringing about the collapse of the economy and that the state – or rather the tax-payer – must come to their aid. Yet if you say this to the above-named political groups, you are being 'ideological'. No, better to stick your head in the sand and hope that you save the day through ever decreasing public provision and by replacing good jobs with 'flexible contracts' with no real rights and a level of remuneration which often falls below the minimum wage. That is the neo-liberal solution, one which the Christian Democrats support. What's Christian about it beats me, but leave that aside.
I'm most disappointed, however, with the social democrats. Here too the movement is to the right, with pressure from the right wing causing the centre-left to buckle. If I had been rapporteur, and thus responsible for leading the work on the report, I would rather have fought my corner, even if in the end I lost. At least that would have meant that I did not share responsibility for a report which carried my name and that of my party, but which cannot remotely be described as social. The left would then have produced a counter-report, one which would have offered our supporters an alternative to the dead-end policies of the right.
As the SP European Parliament group we will of course be participating in the demonstration, most likely at the head of it, as we aren't afraid to opt for solidarity. The trade union movement and along with it the millions of people in Europe who are threatened with having to pay the price of the crisis, can count on us. Any social democratic Euro-MPs who attend should be ashamed to march under banners which, inside the European Parliament, they will furl at the first sign of a headwind.
Dennis de Jong is a Member of the European Parliament for the Socialist Party of the Netherlands, which is affiliated to the United European Left-Nordic Green Left political group, the GUE-NGL