Socialist Worker

Netherlands vote shows deep resentment against neo-liberal project

by Pepijn Brandon
Issue No. 1955

Dutch ‘no’ poster

Dutch ‘no’ poster

The Dutch no vote to the EU constitution was a blow for the right wing government and a victory for the left.

Some 62 percent voted against the constitution on a 63 percent turnout.

The result shows how deep resentment with the neo-liberal project for European integration is. Virtually the whole of the political establishment called for a yes vote.

It was joined by the social democratic Labour Party, the Green Left party and the leadership of the main trade union federation. On the left, only the Socialist Party and the anti-capitalists called for a no.

The vote followed the same pattern as in France. The no vote was overwhelmingly working class. Some 68 percent of those in the lowest income brackets voted no. Among those with an “average” income—waged workers—some 71 percent voted no.

Over 70 percent voted no in the heavily working class area around Rotterdam. In some areas of the north east, where unemployment is very high, the no vote topped 80 percent.

Almost 60 percent of Labour Party supporters voted no. The very few areas where the yes vote was in the majority were the places where the rich live.

Some of the arguments against the EU constitution were muddled. The far right tried to play on anti-immigrant sentiments. But the dominant mood was to the left.

The main themes throughout the campaign were the neo-liberal policies of the Dutch government, the impact of the euro on food prices and the lack of democracy in Europe and the Netherlands.

But above all, people felt they had a chance to deal a blow to the Dutch government.

The far right, led by Geert Wilders, and the Tory government both tried, in different ways, to play the nationalist card. The government claimed a yes vote was needed to strengthen Dutch influence in Europe. It also tried to whip up anti-French chauvinism after the French result.

The government propaganda had hardly any influence and Wilders played only a marginal role in the no campaign.

It was the radical left that profited most from the no campaign. A day after the referendum the Dutch equivalent of the Guardian ran the headline, “The Socialist Party Is The Big Winner Of The Referendum.” This is a victory the whole left can build on.

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Sat 11 Jun 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1955
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