The Dutch elections and the danger of fascism
Peter Schwarz, WSWS, Mar 15 2017
The Dutch national elections, which are being held today, have been dominated by an outpouring of xenophobia, nationalism and racism on a scale unseen since the days when Adolf Hitler railed against the “Jewish conspiracy” in Berlin’s Sportpalast and Benito Mussolini whipped up crowds from the balcony of Rome’s Piazza Venezia. Geert Wilders and his fascistic Party for Freedom have called for a ban on immigration from Muslim countries, the closure of mosques and a ban on the Koran. But Wilders, far from being the exception, has set the tone for the entire spectrum of Dutch politics, from the conservative government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte to the ex-Maoist Socialist Party. Rutte told immigrants earlier this month:
If you don’t like it here, you can leave!
The WSJ commented:
This, coming from a multi-lingual classical music lover long known for pro-globalization and socially liberal policies, epitomizes a European establishment … In France, the presidential candidate for conservative party Les Républicains, François Fillon, has heavily focused on defending French cultural identity … Merkel, seeking a fourth term in September, has stepped back from her open-door immigration policy … In the UK, Conservative PM Theresa May has made stronger immigration controls a priority for the country’s future relations with the EU.
The seemingly magnetic appeal of Wilders’ right-wing populism to bourgeois politicians on both sides of the Atlantic was expressed in an outburst by Congressman Steve King, a representative from Iowa, who this week proclaimed:
Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny! We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies!
Just three days before the election, Rutte sought to prove his right-wing credentials by provoking a major diplomatic incident with Turkey. His government banned the Turkish Foreign Minister from entering the Netherlands, barricaded the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam, and expelled the Turkish Minister of Family Affairs with a police escort to the country’s border. The other parties applauded, including the Labour Party (PvdA) and the Socialist Party. Parties throughout Europe followed suit. In Germany, the Left Party enthusiastically greeted Rutte’s right-wing provocation and urged the German government to follow the example of the “consistent approach” of the Dutch government. (Trotsky quotes omitted – RB) This shift far to the right is the response of the bourgeois parties to a profound crisis of capitalist society in the Netherlands and across Europe. Decades of welfare cuts, the enrichment of a tiny minority at the expense of the majority and the spread of war have generated economic and social tensions that cannot be resolved by democratic methods. The methods of social conciliation on which bourgeois rule was based in the post-war period have long ceased to function. The social democratic parties and trade unions are discredited and have lost any support in the working class.
In the Netherlands, the PvdA, once one of the most influential European social democratic parties, stands on the brink of collapse. In opinion polls, it is in seventh place. In the early 1980s, the PvdA launched the attack on the Dutch social security system and has since played a leading role in destroying it. Since 2012, there have been six PvdA ministers in Rutte’s right-wing government. Its best-known representative, the head of the Euro Group, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, came to prominence agitating for austerity against Greece. Now the Dutch ruling class is trying to avert the threat of a social explosion by drawing on the methods of fascism, mobilizing the dregs of society against the working class. Wilders, himself a former parliamentary deputy of Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), appeals to the middle class, faced with the threat of being thrown into the mass of the working poor, and to the frustration of impoverished workers by blaming immigrants for this social misery. The adoption of Wilders’ right-wing policies by the establishment parties must be taken as a warning. The ruling elites are preparing to break with democratic methods, to suppress any opposition to social cuts and militarism. This is true not only in the Netherlands. After the Brexit referendum in the UK and the election of Trump as POTUS, the Dutch election is setting the tone for the French presidential election in April, where Marine Le Pen leads in the polls, and for the German elections in September, where the Alternative for Germany (AfD) is garnering similar poll numbers to Wilders’ PVV.