Netherlands: Thousands rally against austerity plans of new right-wing government

Around 1,000 people gathered on 17 September at The Hague in the Netherlands to protest against the plans by the new coalition government (which includes the populist right wing Pim Fortuyn List) and to also protest against US war plans for Iraq.

This was the first in what could become a series of anti-government protests following the announcement of 3.5 billion euro worth of budget cuts and a rise in taxes worth 4.43 billion euros over the next year. Following the neo-liberal policies of the last two ‘purple’ governments, Dutch workers and youth are being promised more of the same ‘medicine’. The announced austerity measures will cut the disposable income of average workers by 1.25%, over the next year.

A broad alliance of community campaigners, environmental organisations, NGO’s, progressive movements, and political parties, known as, ‘Keer het tij’, called the 17 September rally on the basis of a broad political platform. This allowed the social democrats of PvdA to join the protest – as if they had not formed the backbone of the two last governments!

Offensief, the Dutch section of the CWI, pointed out the political weaknesses of the Keer het tij platform but participated in the protest and views this event as a first step leading to a more rounded out struggle against the government and neo-liberal policies in general.

The unions did not attend the protest but the general trade union confederation, as well as the Christian trade union federation, has both spoken out against the austerity measures of the government. If the pressure from shop floor on these issues becomes big enough the perspective of active opposition in the unions opens up.

Offensief members and sympathisers sold 120 copies of the Offensief paper and 15 euro-worth of other literature at The Hague protest. People approached our stall for discussions on joining Offensief and to congratulate us on our website.

Although were are still in the early stages of opposition against the new government and its austerity measures, the Hague protest gives a taste of things to come.

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September 2002