Double Dutch

Bhaskar Sunkara

Two of the parties on the ballot in the coming Dutch election.

Radical electoral success in Greece was a big international surprise, but who saw it coming in the Netherlands? Not known as a hotbed of radicalism, the anti-austerity Socialist Party is emerging as front-runners in that country’s upcoming elections.

Their name might invoke the squishy social democratic parties of the Socialist International, but the Socialist Party, initially formed as the Communist Party of the Netherlands in 1971, belongs to the far left.

The Dutch masses haven’t been sold on the red flags overnight. Their support is rooted in an anti-austerity sentiment at a time when the current government, controlled by the right-wing People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy , continues with a punishing cost-cutting plan.

The targets were set next door in Brussels by European Union technocrats, not unlike the burdens being imposed on Greece. But there is a key difference: the Netherlands is a wealthy part of the European core. Considering that the travails in Athens caused a tremendous amount of discord and the prospect of a SYRIZA victory was considered a doomsday scenario, the coming election has tremendous consequences. If a Greece exit would have likely imploded the Eurozone, a Dutch one definitely will.

In an interview with Uprising earlier this year, Seth Ackerman predicted as much:

One place to watch is the Netherlands, where the far-left Socialist Party (SP) has experienced a historic breakthrough over the past several years. Elections will be held later this year and in polls the SP is tipped as the biggest or second-biggest party. Now, that’s a party that has tapped into disaffection with mainstream politics, but which is fundamentally based on a very committed base of grassroots militants who build support for left politics through day-in-day-out street-level organizing.

I think we’ve been seeing evidence in a lot of places in Europe of a reservoir of deep desire for a return to genuine left-wing politics, but it’s always been neutralized in the past several decades by the sentiment that such a return just isn’t feasible or in the cards. What’s changing now is that the sense of the status quo’s inevitability is breaking down as neoliberalism itself comes to look more and more like the unsustainable fantasy.

Neoliberalism’s collapse is a promising prospect, but the far right has also been benefiting in the Netherlands. Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom has taken up the mantle of anti-austerity, blaming immigrants and other minority groups along with bankers for the economic disorder. It’s a trend not unique to the country. In France earlier this year, the National Front scored more than 6 million votes in the first election round, a much stronger showing than the Left Front, and in Greece the Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party, has achieved unprecedented electoral support.

As the neoliberal consensus shatters, is there any doubt that the future of Europe rests in the Left’s ability to rise to the occasion?

Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor of Jacobin magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @sunraysunray.
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.