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CWI
History of the Committee for a Workers’ International

21/04/2014: 40th anniversary of the founding of the CWI

  History

Sri Lanka
Provincial elections spike president’s plans

20/04/2014: Repression can provoke opposition

  Sri Lanka

China
Labour disputes soar

17/04/2014: 40,000 workers paralyse world’s largest sports shoe maker

  China

Greece
International anti-fascist conference “No pasaran!”

16/04/2014: Four thousand attend three-day event in Athens

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South Africa
Enthusiastic response for WASP ahead of May elections

15/04/2014: WASP campaigning material available on pdf

  South Africa

India
Massive election process could end in turmoil

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  India

Cyprus
Austerity sees living standards fall back 40 years

11/04/2014: One year of the right wing Anastasiades government

  Cyprus

 Iranian nuclear talks
Hypocrisy abounds

10/04/2014: Paul Murphy MEP

  Video

Britain
Dave Nellist on BBC outlining TUSC’s socialist policies

10/04/2014: Trade union and socialist coalition (TUSC) candidate count reaches 476 for May local election

  Britain

Taiwan
Occupation of parliament ends after 23 days

10/04/2014: What are the lessons of the island’s ‘sunflower movement’?

  Taiwan

Hungary
Election highlights lack of Left challenge

09/04/2014: Declining vote for ruling Fidész party; neo-fascist Jobbik picks up 20% as false ‘alternative’

  Hungary

Environment
Ukraine crisis exploited by multinational fracking lobby

09/04/2014: Oppose the pro-big business EU/ US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership!

  Environment, Ukraine

Belgium
50,000 join ETUC Brussels demonstration

08/04/2014: Protesters’ radical mood

  Belgium

Britain
One in ten council seats will have TUSC candidate

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  Britain

Review
Net political impact

06/04/2014: To Save Everything, Click Here • By Evgeny Morozov •

  Review

Belgium
The rise of the PTB/PvdA

05/04/2014: Recent polls confirm a probable electoral breakthrough for the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PvdA).

  Belgium

Ivory Coast
First victory for students at University of Cocody

04/04/2014: An important step to push the struggle against neo-liberal policies further

  Ivory Coast

Canada
Port of Vancouver truckers’ strike wins significant gains

03/04/2014: After bosses’ seen off - unions must defend their right to strike!

  Canada

France
Government punished in local elections

02/04/2014: Far right gains highlight need for strong fighting left opposition

  France

Nepal
Turning back the wheel of history

01/04/2014: Second constituent assembly election – a shift to the right

  Nepal

South Africa
WASP manifesto launch success!

01/04/2014: On Saturday 29 March the Workers and Socialist Party launched its 2014 election manifesto at a rally in Katlehong, Gauteng

  Africa, South Africa

Taiwan
Half a million on the streets against President Ma

31/03/2014: Demonstrators call for trade pact to be withdrawn and for president to step down

  Taiwan

US
Winning $15 an hour in Seattle

31/03/2014: A socialist strategy

  US

Netherlands
Socialist Party local election gains

31/03/2014: Vote for SP can be the basis for a mass struggle against cuts

  Netherlands

 Video
Hypocrisy of Irish Govt & EU on Ukraine

29/03/2014: Joe Higgins, Socialist Party (CWI MP) speaks in Irish parliament

  Ukraine, Video

 Sweden
New political winds affect CWI Congress

28/03/2014: Optimistic Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna prepares for elections

  CWI, Sweden

No to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership!

28/03/2014: Anti-democratic agreement seeks to increase corporate domination of politics

Portugal
Thousands of police and military march in Lisbon

27/03/2014: Reflection of the government’s intrinsic weakness

  Portugal

Spain
A million march for dignity in Madrid

26/03/2014: 22M: A before and after moment for the class struggle

  Spain

Taiwan
Ma government rocked by mass protests and occupation of parliament

26/03/2014: Down with undemocratic Kuomintang rule – for a Taiwan-wide student strike as the next step!

  Taiwan

Bosnia-Herzegovina
Mass protests - The first flowers of spring

26/03/2014: What programme should the Left advocate?

  Bosnia

Dutch Elections

Liberals and Labour win; Socialist Party stuck on 15 seats

www.socialistworld.net, 13/09/2012
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

New coalition government promises austerity politics – Workers’ will resist!

Pieter Brans, Socialist Alternative (CWI in Netherlands) Amsterdam

The Dutch national elections, held on 12 September, resulted in a victory for the Liberal Party (comparable to the Conservatives in Britain) and the Labour Party (comparable to Britain’s New Labour). The Liberals got 41 seats (26.4%) and the Labour Party 39 (24.7%). The Dutch Socialist Party (SP) remains at 15 seats, although it polled support for 39 seats at one stage during the election campaign. Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (extreme right wing and racist) lost 9 seats (a fall from 24 seats to 15).

The elections took place against a background of propaganda about the state debt running out of control, the need to pay ‘our’ debts now and not to pass it on to next generations etc. The truth is that state debt ran at 200% after WWII, at 80% in the 1980s and is at 65% now, well below the EU average. Also, the Netherlands is the second largest tax haven in the world; billions of corporation money flows through the country, taxed minimally or untaxed.

The elections were called after the last coalition fell in March. It was a coalition government between the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats, supported by Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party. The Freedom Party supported the cabinet in parliament but did not have any party member as government ministers. This coalition fell apart over a new cuts programme. It agreed to 18 billion euro worth of cuts but later claimed a further 12.5 billion cuts were necessary to ‘stabilise state finances’. An additional austerity programme of 25 billion euro is now considered “necessary”.

Why did the Liberal Party emerge as the largest party on Wednesday despite its failure in government? The answer is simple. The other right wing parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Party, lost more seats (8 and 9 respectively) than the Liberal Party gained (10). In this sense, the previous right wing coalition government lost the election. The attempt to form a government that was “finger licking good” for the Right, as the former Prime Minister Rutte (Liberal Party leader) described it in 2010, was a failure.

Why has the Labour Party gained?

Why has the Labour Party made new gains, winning nearly 40 seats? It increased its vote by 9 seats largely because of the collapse of the Green Left (who lost 7 seats, leaving the party with just 3). When extra cuts were deemed necessary, last May, after the fall of the government, the Green Left and several other parties helped the caretaker government of Liberals and Christian Democrats to carry out a new round of cuts. Earlier on, the Green Left played a key role in supporting a police-training mission in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan. There were also internal difficulties inside the Green Left organisation that was eagerly reported on by the media.

The failure of the Dutch Socialist Party to make its promised breakthrough is the most startling result of these elections. It won 9.7% of the vote, down 0.2% from the last election. There was a great deal to fight for. Up to 40% of voters were estimated to be undecided until election day. But the SP ended up with 15 seats; exactly the number it held in the last parliament. After polling close to 40 seats during the election campaign, and with reports in the international press that SP leader, Emil Roemer, was possibly the next Dutch prime minister and that the SP could become the largest party in the Netherlands, Wednesday’s result was a major disappointment for SP voters and members.

It appears that many voters who supported the SP in the polls in August ended up voting for the Labour Party. The two most important reasons for this change of heart by potential SP voters seem to have been over the party’s position on pensions and the EU. The SP initially took the position that the pension age (65) should remain unchanged but in order to balance the budget went along with agreeing to increase the age to 67 in 2025. This reneging of the SP’s former position on pensions was carried out by leadership to prove the party’s ‘financial solidity’ to possible coalition partners and the media.

In the earlier stages of the election campaign, SP leader Roemer also declared that he would not pay any fines to the EU for overshooting the 3% (of GDP) budget deficit. He made this comment to the main Dutch financial newspaper. Roemer’s remarks were seized upon by the capitalist establishment and the media and condemned as “irresponsible”. He then vaguely retracted the statement. Defying the EU and the austerity tsars in Brussels could have made him hugely more popular with voters. Bowing to the political pressure of pro-cuts parties and the mass media, an impression Roemer reinforced on several later occasions, led to many workers and youth losing faith in the SP.

During the election campaign, Roemer and the SP’s leadership continued to stress their willingness to compromise and form a coalition government, which would include pro-cuts parties. They openly declared that they wanted to take over the role of social democracy. Many voters decided to vote for the real thing – Labour.

The election campaign was almost entirely focused on TV appearances and personalities and Labour Party leader, Diederik Samson, cut a sharper figure in this context than SP leader, Roemer. Samson was widely seen as the main challenger to former Liberal leader, Rutte, during TV debates and Roemer faded into the background.

The SP won 25 seats in the 2006 elections. It went down to 15 in the 2010 elections. Therefore getting the same result on 12 September is a huge disappointment for many SP voters, members and supporters.

Socialist Alternative

Socialist Alternative (CWI Netherlands) called for a vote for the SP and said that a major victory of the SP, as initially indicated by the polls, would have been the best possible outcome of the elections. Socialist Alternative campaigned for such a victory, while calling for the party to fight on bold socialist policies and the for the SP membership to oppose the leaderships further swing to the right. A strong SP result would have inspired the working class to fight the cuts, oppose the EU elite, with its endless demands for austerity, and to seek solidarity with other European workers in struggle.

The Dutch trade unions are involved in a complicated re-organisation at the moment and their leaders are seen as more supportive of the Labour Party. This may initially dampen the prospect of trade union struggles when the Labour Part gets into government, as is likely. The SP needs to support the struggle against cuts everywhere, to start to make a comeback. We call on the SP to have an open debate on the lessons of the election campaign and on the outcome of the election. The SP’s result - staying static at 15 seats – is not a serious setback for many SP members and supporters but it is not an irreversible defeat. Nevertheless given the failure of the previous right wing coalition government of the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats, and the role that the Labour Party played in previous governments, including helping to introduce the euro, bailout the big banks at workers’ expense, and setting major privatisations in motion, this weeks’ outcome for the SP was a case of ‘defeat snatched from the jaws of victory’.

The final weeks of the election campaign was presented by the politicians and media as a race between the Liberal and the Labour Party. Now they will most likely form a coalition government together. Neither can form a government with politically-‘allied’ parties. The Liberal Party is the largest party in the parliament but at the expense of the other main right wing parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Party. The Labour Party has grown but at the expense of the Green Lefts.

Together the Labour Party and Liberals hold 80 seats in parliament, which has 150 seats in total. They lack a majority in the upper house, so they will probably need to include the badly-bruised Christian Democrats in their coalition. This will mean a government of the traditional ruling parties – parties that are responsible for the political and economic disasters of the past 20 years.

Workers’ resistance to cuts

Dutch workers are in a difficult position. The new government, whatever its exact composition, will impose huge cuts on health and education, will force people to work much longer and will cut pensions by 10%-15%. Young people will be hit by low incomes, unemployment and high rents. Trade union resistance is largely blocked by the union leadership, at the moment. Political resistance is frustrated by the impotence of the SP leadership.

Resistance needs to be built from the bottom up. In the unions, a broad-based, fighting, left opposition, like the National Shop Stewards Network in Britain, is necessary to develop the struggle.

However the new coalition government will be full of tensions from the start. “We won our greatest victory in history," Rutte, the leader of the Liberals, declared. He is associated with German Chancellor Angel Merkel’s plans of strictly adhering to austerity measures that are designed to force down the country’s deficit. While Labour also agrees to cuts, there can be sharp disputes between the coalition parties over timing and the depth of austerity. Labour leader, Samsom, who is regarded as wanting to follow French President, Francois Hollande’s policy of increasing some spending and taxes on the rich, calls for spending on job-creation programmes in the Netherlands. Samsom claims he will bargain hard in coalition talks. "The course must be changed because the right-wing policies of the past two years cannot continue," he said. Developing working class opposition to austerity can put huge pressure on these coalition fault-lines and make the government much more vulnerable than it appears now.

The main lesson for the Dutch Socialist Party rank and file and wider supporters is that bold socialist policies are needed to decisively win over the support of working class and middle class people who will be hit hard by new austerity measures. Socialist Alternative (CWI Netherlands) calls for a genuinely democratic debate within and around the SP on the lessons of the 12 September elections. By adopting genuinely open and democratic structures and a socialist alternative to capitalism in crisis, the SP can attract new layers of workers and youth, and be part of the fight-back against a new coalition government’s cuts.

Voter volatility

The election campaign and final results emphase, once again, the electoral volatility of big parts of the Dutch electorate. Polarisation can take place to the Left and Right. Big swings by sections of the population in either direction is a hallmark of Dutch politics over the last decade or so.

The Left will have big possibilities to make gains and to establish the basis of a new mass party representing working class people, the youth and hard-pressed middle class people. But this requires a socialist programme. As well as resisting attacks on pensions, the SP can win support from working people, the unemployed and youth by boldly opposing cuts and the erosion of the welfare state, and by putting forward a clear socialist alternative: jobs for all, a properly funded education and health service, decent and affordable housing, opposition to imperialist wars and so on. By bringing the big banks and main planks of the economy into public ownership, under the democratic control and management of working people, the huge resources of society be employed to meet the needs of working-class people.

Such a socialist programme is needed to see the continuing decline of the populist, far right. The Freedom Party is now licking its wounds after a poor result in the elections. But unless the Left and the unions provide a credible alternative, decisively leading resistance to cuts and appealing for working-class unity, the populist, anti-immigrant right can make a come back, posing a real danger to workers’ unity.



Europe

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NEWS

Sri Lanka: Provincial elections spike president’s plans
20/04/2014, Siritunga Jayasuriya, Secretary of United Socialist Party (CWI Sri Lanka):
Repression can provoke opposition

China: Labour disputes soar
17/04/2014, chinaworker.info reporters:
40,000 workers paralyse world’s largest sports shoe maker

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16/04/2014, Segun Sango, Socialist Party Nigeria National Chairperson:
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Greece: International anti-fascist conference “No pasaran!”
16/04/2014, Sebastian Forster (CWI Germany) and Elin Gauffin (CWI Sweden):
Four thousand attend three-day event in Athens

South Africa: Enthusiastic response for WASP ahead of May elections
15/04/2014, Socialistworld.net:
WASP campaigning material available on pdf

India: Massive election process could end in turmoil
14/04/2014, Clare Doyle (CWI international Secretariat):
New party expresses, but cannot solve, major discontents

Cyprus: Austerity sees living standards fall back 40 years
11/04/2014, Athina Kariati, New Internationalist Left (CWI in Cyprus):
One year of the right wing Anastasiades government

Iranian nuclear talks: Hypocrisy abounds
10/04/2014, :
Paul Murphy MEP

Britain: Dave Nellist on BBC outlining TUSC’s socialist policies
10/04/2014, :
Trade union and socialist coalition (TUSC) candidate count reaches 476 for May local election

Hungary: Election highlights lack of Left challenge
09/04/2014, Sonja Grusch and Tilman M. Ruster:
Declining vote for ruling Fidész party; neo-fascist Jobbik picks up 20% as false ‘alternative’

Environment: Ukraine crisis exploited by multinational fracking lobby
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Review: Net political impact
06/04/2014, Ben Robinson, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) published in Socialism Today:
To Save Everything, Click Here • By Evgeny Morozov •

Ivory Coast: First victory for students at University of Cocody
04/04/2014, CWI in Ivory Coast:
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Canada: Port of Vancouver truckers’ strike wins significant gains
03/04/2014, Socialist Alternative Reporter, Vancouver:
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France: Government punished in local elections
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South Africa: WASP manifesto launch success!
01/04/2014, Workers’ and Socialist Party (WASP):
On Saturday 29 March the Workers and Socialist Party launched its 2014 election manifesto at a rally in Katlehong, Gauteng

Taiwan: Half a million on the streets against President Ma
31/03/2014, CWI reporters in Taipei:
Demonstrators call for trade pact to be withdrawn and for president to step down

Netherlands: Socialist Party local election gains
31/03/2014, Pieter Brans, Amsterdam:
Vote for SP can be the basis for a mass struggle against cuts

Video: Hypocrisy of Irish Govt & EU on Ukraine
29/03/2014, socialistworld.net:
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Sweden: New political winds affect CWI Congress
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CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

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What programme should the Left advocate?

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Scotland: Unions and the socialist case for independence
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13/03/2014, CWI Leaflet text:
Working people stir to end poverty, joblessness, corruption and ethnic divisions!

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17/02/2014, WASP (Workers and Socialist Party) Reporters, S Africa:
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South Africa: After NUMSA’s Congress
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