Two elections - and the EU's war on Europe's peoples


Both Britain and the Netherlands have voted recently in general elections. In Britain, two right-wing parties formed a coalition while another right-wing party is the main opposition. No change of policies, just change of faces, with a coalition in power for the first time since the second world war. In the Netherlands, the radical left Socialist Party (SP) suffered something of a setback, but it survived what had at first looked like a potential disaster.

Going into the election with twenty-five seats, it had at one point as few as eight in the polls before recovering to win a respectable fifteen. If this still sounds like a major loss, it should be put into the context of the extraordinary circumstances which led to the party winning so many seats in 2006, tripling its total vote in the wake of the successful SP-led campaign for a No vote in the referendum on the European constitution. Fifteen remains the second-highest total in the party's rather brief parliamentary history.

The bad news is that the far-right, in the form of Geert Wilders's Freedom Party, won twenty-four seats.

It remains to be seen how this will affect Dutch politics, as the parties to emerge in first and second place - the neoliberal VVD and the slightly less neoliberal Labour Party – along with a shifting ragbag of other groups, are still locked in negotiations as to how to form a government.

It's hard to see Wilders being allowed into government, not just because he's a nasty racist with strange hair but because he says openly that he wants to ban the Koran. This is in a country whose arms industry rakes in billions a year selling death-dealing devices to Muslim countries.

However, it is not only the presence of a maverick far-right which makes forming a government difficult in such a proportional, multiparty system where 10 parties are represented in parliament, seven of them in double figures. In the Netherlands, a governing coalition must command the support of at least 76 seats in parliament. The two biggest parties between them can muster only 61. So, even if they can agree between themselves, they will need to find other coalition parties.

The question in the Netherlands, as it should be in Britain, is whether any government, when formed, will actually be holding the reins. Europe was scarcely mentioned in the Dutch election campaign. The SP tried to make an issue of the European question but largely failed, while the centre-left, right and far-right limited themselves to how the Brussels budget might be reduced in order that the Netherlands might make a lower contribution and address its own budgetary problems.

This lack of debate reflects the indifference of the Dutch electorate to all things European. Interest was briefly kindled by the SP's colourful campaign around the 2006 referendum, but when the resounding No was in effect ignored, people seem - understandably enough - to have concluded that there was nothing they could do to influence events in that sphere. This is both deliberate and unfortunate. Deliberate, in the sense that indifference suits the EU project, which relies on undermining democracy, and unfortunate because all of the issues which were in fact raised during the campaign concern decisions over which Brussels will have a determining influence.

All European member state governments will shortly be obliged to present a national implementation plan setting out the ways in which their country will contribute to realising the ambitions of Europa 2020, the EU's route out of crisis. The Lisbon agenda, which was supposed to make Europe the most competitive region in the world by 2010, is routinely described on all sides as a miserable failure. As the only way to achieve its goals would appear logically to be by reducing wages to Chinese levels, we should surely be grateful for that. But that is not in fact what Lisbon was set up to do.  The actual plans were all about "stimulating the knowledge economy," which of course means nothing whatsoever and so was easy for member states to ignore.

Europa 2020 purports to identify five areas in which sustainable growth can lead the way out of crisis. It may turn out to be just as much of a damp squib as Lisbon, but what it looks like is a declaration of class war.

And neither of the recently elected parliaments in Westminster and the Hague will have the slightest say in the matter. 

Almost €750 billion (£627bn) will be put into a fund to bail out governments that encounter budgetary problems, and national parliaments will not be consulted as to who should get this money and when, as a vote to reject would be punished by "the markets."  The recommendation is that budget cuts designed to avoid the need for such an intervention be accompanied by wage cuts. These will be achieved by dismantling existing national agreements - a bare minimum wage probably excepted - and allowing wages to be fixed by "the market." In addition, social spending will be in the front line of any attempt to find ways of reducing state spending.

The internal market project, established in the late 1980s in order to drive down wages and destroy the welfare state, is entering a new and more intense phase.  Far from being discredited by global financial crisis, capitalism is in dire need of new investment opportunities and will be coming shortly to a publicly owned service industry near you.

Steve McGiffen is Spectrezine's editor. A slightly different version of this article firts appeared as his monthly column in the Morning Star. The picture shows the Dutch Socialist Party's election night celebration of its successful damage limitation.