Dutch courage? Anti-capitalism and mass migration

Blogging comrade Neil Clark has an interesting article in The First Post on the success of the Socialist Party of the Netherlands, which opposes mass migration on anti-capitalist grounds:

Anyone who argues that, as a political force, socialism is dead, ought to visit the Netherlands. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands (SP) is the fastest growing political group in the country.

They won 25 seats in the last general election – an increase of 16 seats – and made huge gains in last year’s local elections. They are now the third largest party in Holland in terms of members and could well replace the Dutch Labour Party as the main alternative to the Christian Democrats.

Why are they so successful? I would suggest that it is because they are a socialist party that actually has socialist policies. They oppose the privatisation of public services, advocate higher taxes on the very wealthy and have condemned the “the culture of greed” caused by “a capitalism based on inflated bonuses and easy money”. They oppose war and Nato and the nascent European superstate. They were the only left-wing Dutch party in Parliament to oppose the new EU Constitution in the 2005 referendum.

Of course the fact that they have one of the most charismatic – and photogenic – of all of European political leaders in the 41-year-old epidemiologist Agnes Kant (pictured above) does them no harm.

Part of its popularity with the voters lies in one particular policy which differentiates it from British or other European parties of the left: they oppose large scale immigration. The SP see the ‘free movement of labour’ as part of the neoliberal globalist package – something which benefits big business but not ordinary people. Their opposition to immigration is not based on racism – as tends to be the case with the BNP and other far-right parties in Europe – but on their socialist ideology.

A recent publication by the SP asserted that labour migration in the EU was making “more acute the contrasts between rich and poor and competition between different groups of workers within the EU”. Instead of lauding the free movement of labour as other parties on the left do, the SP calls for policies “to make migration unnecessary” and for the EU funds to be used to enable poorer regions of the continent to be self-supporting.

The SP’s opposition to large-scale immigration is not a recent development. In the 1980s, the party’s booklet Gastarbeid en Kapitaal (Migrant Labour and Capital), denounced the migration of foreign workers into the Netherlands as a capitalist ploy to drive down wages and destroy working class solidarity.

This is a far cry from the traditional position of the British left – which despite overwhelming evidence that large-scale immigration does reduce wages – still clings to an the ideology of open borders. In doing so, they are not only complying with the wishes of big business, who for obvious reasons welcome the influx of large numbers of people from low-wage economies onto their labour market; they are also espousing a policy which is unpopular with large swathes of the electorate and which is likely to become even more unpopular as unemployment grows.

The success of the Socialist Party of the Netherlands shows that there are lots of votes to be won by an unequivocally left-wing party which has the courage and sense to oppose large-scale immigration on non-racist, anti-capitalist grounds.

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6 Responses to “Dutch courage? Anti-capitalism and mass migration”

  1. Andrew Says:

    That’ll be the same Neil Clark who supports capital punishment and has called for a return to the social values of the 1940s?

  2. charliemarks Says:

    Yes, it would.

    I disagree with him on capital punishment but on the social values of the ’40s… There’s anti-fascism, working class solidarity, the welfare state, the National Health Service, the goal of full employment. These are the values he’s talking about – he’s not advocating the reversal of civil rights for women, LGBT people, the disabled, or ethnic and religious minorities.

  3. Andrew Says:

    As if capital punishment wasn’t bad enough.

    OK, let’s return to the original point: his stance on immigration is pretty reprehensible. But if you’ve linked to it approvingly I scarcely expect you to disagree with it.

  4. Seán Says:

    This is an interesting article, which goes against every thing I have believed in for the past 20 years or so, as well as every gut instinct I possess.

    I don’t know much about Neil, but I’m much more interested in what the Dutch Socialist put their success down too. Is it purely the immigration issue?

    There is, I suppose, a certain logic to the argument that globalised capital should not be allowed to run unchecked across the planet – therefore the same applies to globalised labour as well as.

    Also whether the Dutch model is applicable here is another issue. Are the British working class politically mature enough for this debate? Or would the far-right merely cash in? New Labour look like there heading towards this path anyway with tighter immigration laws.

    Worthy of debate, Charlie.

    A modest or immodest proposal?

  5. charliemarks Says:

    Andrew: Neil’s central point is that it makes no sense for anticapitalists to call for no borders given that open borders within the EU have undermined the rights of both settled and migrant workers.

    Sean: immigration controls are applied in a racist manner. How many white Australians or South Africans whose visas have expired end up in detention centres? That said, the idea of open borders doesn’t go down very well with most people – they don’t see how it benefits them to have increased competition in the labour market, and for public services, etc. It is obvious that in some sectors of the economy, rather than offer higher wages or skills training, employers have looked to employ labour directly from overseas.

    The success of the Dutch socialists isn’t based on the issue of migration, but they have successfuly provided a counterpoint to racists groups in the Netherlands by arguing against mass migration from an anti-racist and anti-capitalist perspective.

  6. Seán Says:

    “Rather than offer higher wages or skills training, employers have looked to employ labour directly from overseas.”

    I agree and it keeps costs down for employers as, in many cases, they are trained by a poorer country – yet the rich, western countries get the benefits of their skills.

    I agree, no one can argue that the immigration laws are used aggressively against those with the wrong colour skin.


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