Netherlands: Populist right stokes up ‘debate’ on ‘dual nationality’

How should socialists reply?

During last March’s provincial elections in the Netherlands (7 March) the nationalist/racist PVV party (Party for Freedom) dominated debate, questioning whether the new Christian Democrats (CDA)/Labour Party (PvdA) national government’s ministers and parliamentarians should have ‘dual nationality’ and questioned whether or not politicians with two passports were "loyal" to the Netherlands (two government Labour ministers hold dual passports, Dutch and Turkish and Moroccan).

The far right PVV did not take part in the provincial elections, but another the right wing party, the VVD, won seats and seemed to profit from the anti-immigrant, nationalist mood stirred up.

Although the Dutch Socialist Party was the "biggest winner" in the 7 March provincial elections in the Netherlands (increasing its seats from four to 12 in the upper house), the ‘dual nationality’ issue shows the dangers of a rise of racism and bigotry, fanned by demagogic, right wing politicians, if the workers’ movement and SP does not show the way ahead with clear, pro-worker policies. Unfortunately, the SP leaders did not give a clear socialist alternative to the anti-immigrant, ‘dual nationality’ issues whipped up the PVV populist right and mainstream right wing parties. Even worse, Jan Marijnissen, leader of the Dutch SP, echoed the ideas of the PVV, in a newspaper interview, when he stated "it would be an added plus" if migrants choose to hold only Dutch nationality.

Along with its electoral rise, the SP leadership, unfortunately ran counter to the mood of its supporters, and signaled a shift to the right in policies. Already, the SP is in local council coalitions that carry out privatisations, such as in Nijmegen, where the local bus service was sold off.

These cuts policies, along with not making a clear class distinction from the policies of the right wing and right populist parties, can lead to many workers becoming disillusioned with the SP.

The Dutch CWI (Offensief), which is part of the Dutch SP, calls for the party to adopt fighting, socialist policies to oppose the pro-capitalist policies of the main parties and their divide and rule attempts.

Below, we carry an article on the ‘dual nationality’ issue, from the current issue of ‘Offensief’, newspaper of the CWI Netherlands.

Geert Wilders, a leader and MP for the Party for Freedom (PVV), criticised two Labour Party state secretaries, Aboutaleb and Albayrak, because they hold Turkish and Moroccan nationality, respectively, as well as Dutch nationality. According to this populist right MP, this implies a ‘lack of loyalty’ towards the Dutch state. Wilders demanded both government officials should be obligated to stop holding Turkish and Moroccan nationality.

Socialists reject Wilders ‘loyalty’ arguments. All over the world there are millions of immigrants holding dual nationality, including hundreds of thousands of migrants within Europe. Amongst them, are many Dutch people. In truth, even for Wilders this discussion is not really about so-called ‘loyalty’ to the Dutch state: it is a cynical and opportunist attempt by a right wing populist to emphasise and to deepen existing antagonisms and divisions between different population groups in the Netherlands. If Wilders attack on the Labour Party’s state officials is successful it will be an incentive for the PVV leader and other right wing politicians to try and accuse each immigrant holding dual nationality of a ‘lack of loyalty’.

Wilders uses his rightwing populism to widen the divide between domestic and migrant workers in the Netherlands. By doing so, he tries to weaken collective resistance to the ruling economic policy of neo-liberalism. Wilders’ PVV party, just like other pro-capitalist parties, stands for more cuts in social security, tax cuts for the rich, and more privatisation and liberalisation in public sectors, such as public transport, education and health care.

Poisonous policies

Wilders, however, hides the ‘neo-liberal core’ of his party’s programme by making it seem that the budget cuts which he proposes will only be targeted against "migrant profiteers" and will not have any negative effect on domestic Dutch workers. According to Wilders’ poisonous policies, it is only the migrant population which threatens social security, causes rising unemployment amongst domestic workers, and so on. The fact that migrant workers suffer just as much – or possibly even more – from a policy of cuts in social security and rising unemployment (in times of economic crisis they are the first to lose their jobs), is conveniently not mentioned by Wilders.

In this context, it is, to say the least, very disturbing that Jan Marijnissen, leader of the broad left Dutch Socialist Party, said in an interview with the right wing newspaper, De Telegraaf (The Telegraph, 31 March 2007), that even though "giving up the dual nationality is anybody’s free choice (…) it would be an added plus if migrants would choose to only keep the Dutch nationality".

By stating it is a matter of ‘personal choice’ as to whether people hold single or dual nationality, Jan Marijnissen wants to prevent the SP being cast in the same political light as the PVV or the neo-liberal Union for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) – two parties which stated that having dual nationality should be forbidden or is not preferable.

Socialist alternative needed

But this ‘differentiation’ by Marijnissen has no practical relevance. In the struggle for a socialist alternative to the capitalist system – a profit-first society which creates the problems facing migrant and domestic workers across the world – the question of holding more than one nationality should not be allowed to divide working class people. The struggle against cuts, privatisations, and for better wages and living conditions, needs workers’ unity, across all national, religious, gender and other divisions.

The workers’ movement is weakened when the working class is divided, including on the basis of nationality. And this danger lurks if socialists do not put a clear class alternative to the propaganda and lies of the right wing. The fears and anxieties of Dutch workers, which the anti-immigrant, populist right try to play on, must be answered with socialist policies. Socialists must oppose bosses’ attempts to push down wages and working conditions by using cheap, super-exploited immigrant labour. All workers need to be united in unions to resist big business attacks and to protect and vastly improve workplace conditions. Furthermore, the workers’ movement must not allow immigrants to become scapegoats for the lack of affordable and social housing, or the continuing erosion of the health service and welfare state – it is neo-liberal governments, acting on behalf of big business, that is responsible for this, and only a united workers’ movement can successfully stop the attacks and win new rights.

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