The Modern Left in Europe

21 August 2011

The Modern Left in Europe

Last Friday and Saturday I took part in an informal meeting with a number of our European sister parties. Many of these parties are in the United Left group in the European Parliament, to which the SP also belongs. This meeting was, however, not to be compared to those in the EP: at last there was time for an informal and honest debate over the way forward in Europe. The general drift was that we as the left must continue to make it clear to everyone that the present crisis was caused in its entirety by the right. In order to get back on our feet, the left must take the initiative and attack casino capitalism at its heart. At the same time only the left can ensure that the bill for the crisis goes to the speculators and the highest earners, and that we restore a healthy welfare state.

Dennis de JongEveryone agreed that the right was attempting in every way it could to have it forgotten that it was the neoliberal ideology of ‘joy through freedom’ that was responsible for the current economic crisis. Instead of admitting their failures, neoliberals doggedly continue with their demolition of any mutual solidarity within the EU member states: public provision is being cut to nothing and instead of a thorough review of our financial system the neoliberals are trying to shelter the speculators and the highest earners from the storm. Measures to counter casino capitalism are taken only hesitantly and are invariably completely inadequate. Most bankers are once again taking huge bonuses, bigger than those paid out before the crisis, and instead of a European ban on ‘innovative’ financial products of the kind which melted down in the crisis, Europe will settle for yet more ‘transparency’.

Iceland’s current Finance Minister was one of the founder members of the SP’s Icelandic sister party. In a coalition with the social democrats, he is swimming against the tide. In the first place he has forced the speculators to pay for the crisis by refusing to save the Icelandic banks. To be clear about this, Iceland is convinced that ordinary savers, including those in the Netherlands, should certainly get their money back. Furthermore, he refuses to ruin social provision and the public sector through irresponsible austerity measures. At the same time he has had the courage to introduce higher taxes on those on high incomes. The result? Even the IMF is happy, as Iceland’s deficit is being rapidly reduced and the economy is beginning to return to growth.

In Norway, Finland and Cyprus, too, parties allied to the SP form part of governing coalitions and are attempting to push through comparable policies. In the last few years the right has made a complete mess of things and brought virtually the entire Eurozone to the brink of ruin. Happily a few points of light glimmer from the map of Europe: hopefully, the government of Mark Rutte here in the Netherlands will soon fall. Then we will, in this country too, be able to build again a society of solidarity with a strong public sector, sound social provision and a tax system in which the strongest shoulders carry the heaviest burden.

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