The SP is a proudly internationalist party!

16 May 2012

The SP is a proudly internationalist party!

Willem Melching recently called the SP a ‘nationalistic party’. As evidence, however, the Amsterdam historian offers nothing but the fact that our party is an avowed opponent of the way in which Europe has in the last twenty years been continually vandalised. This is an odd stance for a man who likes to say that ‘facts are the basis of all historical reasoning’. Anyone who knows the SP will see that we are in reality a convinced internationalist party, one which wants European cooperation to be directed towards the essentials: peace, security and welfare – for everyone.

Tiny Kox, SP leader in the Senate

Tiny KoxThe SP is an avowed supporter of international cooperation. Listen to the favourite song which the now sadly departed writer Karel Glastra van Loon composed for us: ‘The rich West is no island, and Europe is no fortress. And whoever fears what is strange to them, deprive first of all themselves.’ In the SP’s statement of principles, internationalism is embedded in the words: ‘In a world where there is ever-increasing international interaction and interdependence, cooperation in more and more areas is needed, including cooperation within international institutions.’ Strange – and irresponsible – that the historian Willem Melching failed to notice this passage when he pinned his remarkable label on to the SP.

The rest of the SP’s statement of principles also positively exhales internationalism. Yet that – and this is where Melching goes completely wrong – is no reason to argue for a form of international cooperation which is value-free. Right-wing parties, known in the past for rather nationalistic views, now loudly state that European cooperation is a good thing, because it will enable us to make so much money. Now there’s nothing wrong with making money, but post-war European cooperation had an entirely different origin. After the horrors of the Second World War, preventing further wars and preserving peace could best be achieved by former enemies forming connections and binding their interests each to the others’. The coupling of the coal- and steel production of France and Germany via the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was the first in a series of steps towards more far-reaching European integration in the interests of security on a content which had so frequently been ravaged by war. This European cooperation was for decades a great success. The SP would happily champion this form of cooperation.

And that is precisely why we resist forcing the origins of European cooperation into the background while the earning of money as a source of inspiration for the further integration of Europe comes ever more to the fore. A Europe of peace and security is a beacon for the rest of the world. A Europe that sees its future as a powerful superstate which participates in the global economy is a competitor to others who would rather be seen as a threat than an inspiration. Look around Europe at the moment and you will see how painfully the desire to become ‘the most competitive economy in the world’ collides with the wish to uphold the social and democratic character of the European Union’s member states. The SP maintains, therefore, that European cooperation must first and foremost focus once more on its original goals. Only then will the chance exist for the sustainable advancement of the welfare of Europe’s inhabitants to occur. If we renounce this, the contradictions in Europe will not decrease in the foreseeable future but increase, and this will again lead to narrow nationalistic reflexes. We are already seeing that happen. The French National Front recorded its highest ever support in the first round of the French presidential elections and it is to be feared that the ultra-nationalists in Greece will also provide a nasty surprise this Sunday in the land where democracy was born. Comparable tendencies are visible in other countries including Hungary (Jobbik) and also the Netherlands, where Geert Wilders now announces that we must withdraw from the European Union. That’s his choice, but such a reflex isn’t going to get us anywhere.

Anyone who wants to combat such nationalistic reactions here and elsewhere would be wise to turn away from the dead-end street of a neoliberal Europe, in which the most powerful member states call the shots and lay down the law for the smaller countries, and where the contradictions between countries will be exacerbated rather than reduced. Income and wealth differentials now throughout Europe have grown compared to those of twenty years ago, while the rights of citizens have been curtailed. The course pursued by the European Union since the Treaty of Maastricht is fixated on the achievement of a single market, with a unified currency and a single economic policy, all to the advantage of major corporations and of the financial markets. All of this is based on the neoliberal supposition that what’s good for Big Money will also prove fruitful for ordinary people. Look at the way in which the financial-economic crisis has been wreaking havoc now for years, at first in the peripheral member states but now also in the heart of the Union, and you will see how shortsighted this chosen course has turned out to be.

European cooperation is good, provided it is directed at its original goals: the prevention of war, the preservation of peace and the furtherance of welfare and prosperity for all. These are goals fitted to a civilised society, and ones which the internationalist SP can heartily endorse.

This article first appeared in the original Dutch in a number of regional daily newspapers in the Netherlands in May, 2012.

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