Speech SP-leader Emile Roemer on the XVIII Congres in Breda (2th of June 2012)

2 June 2012

Speech SP-leader Emile Roemer on the XVIII Congres in Breda (2th of June 2012)

Who could have imagined something like that?

Emile RoemerSomebody from your own village nominates you for the position of party leader for the Netherland's best political party- and then to be chosen as such as well. And as it seems, with the aproval of all of you.

On the list of recommendations drawn up by a neighbour of your own village, you are proposed as number one on the list of electoral candidates for the Netherlands’ best party – and then to be chosen as such as well!

And then to see all of you casting your votes in approval. This leaves you speechless – and that’s not such a good thing when the plan is for you to give the closing speech of around twenty minutes...

So just let me take a bow before you, and before all the people you represent as well, and before all of the voters who stand behind us.

In the last few weeks you have all participated in ensuring that a quarter of a million copies of the SP public information paper, the ZO-Krant, would be delivered in people’s letter boxes. I took part in this, as did Ronald Koeman. Even in Amsterdam we couldn’t get enough of the papers. Tremendous!

Let me here stop and bow before the whole of the country and say that I feel honoured and extremely happy that I can lead our party in the coming electoral struggle and beyond.
But let me also say that I am only doing this in the knowledge that you are standing behind me and in order to further our ideals, which we have today so powerfully confirmed.
I am proud, very proud of you, very proud of us. We have come quite a way in the last forty years. And now we are close to being where we should be.

This is a memorable moment. We stand at a crossroads. A crossroads in our country’s history. I realise these are strong words. But we live in a time when strong words are needed. A time in which we must make a choice. A time in which we must make essential choices.

On the of 12th September millions of people will together decide which way we will go: even more liberal? Or will we make a choice to make this country a better, and thus a more social country?

The choice is that simple.

More liberal, or more social.

During the last quarter of a century parties have governed that more or less agreed with each other...

Solidarity, fair shares, the spreading of knowledge and diffusion of power? These were all ideas from the past. Everything had to be different. Everything had to be more modern.
A society - that was also a concept from the past...

Things would have to be more business-like, colder…

Above all we would have to take the social out of society!

More freedom and less interference from others. Everyone would follow his or her own path.

Unhindered by what this meant for others.

With what result?

That we have ended up in a period of runaway liberal thinking. Of course, we also believe that people want to be free. Without freedom, life would be a poor thing, without hope for the future.

On an international level we see this all too often. In countless places in the world people are struggling for, literally, their freedom. But people who want to be truly free want to share their freedom and happiness with others.

They realise that society must be social!

Jan Marijnissen, whom we elected once more today as the chairman of our party, gave his very first book the title Samenleven kan je niet alleen – ‘You can’t make a society on your own’.

And that title is today, here in Breda, almost twenty years later, still completely topical.

Congratulations, Jan, on your re-election. Congratulations to all the others who were elected, and who must now lead our party in the next few years. I have every confidence in them, and am extremely pleased for them.

More liberal or more social? This question has occupied our society now for a quarter of a century. It’s not a discussion for theoreticians, because the consequences are far-reaching and visible every day.

Because liberal thinking has been the ruling ideology throughout this time, society has also developed in this direction.

Everything, truly everything, has little by little become something which can be put on to the free market.

Housing associations are now property developers. Our energy utilities are sold to Sweden and Germany. Bus companies are governed from France.

What has always been counted as belonging to the public sector has been sold off.

They are even going to make health care into a market! With the doctor as producer and the patient as consumer.

Why on earth would you do that?

Who actually ever asked for this?



The people out in the street?

I don’t know of anyone, and I don’t think they exist.

So – keep your hands off this public sector!

I know – it isn’t always easy to see the big picture.

Each measure in itself does not immediately appear catastrophic.

But anyone equipped with a long-term political memory – which includes the SP – will see the red line connecting these measures.

They will see how, under the slogan of freedom, step by step what once belonged to us all has dwindled away, disappeared in the direction of management and of boards of directors.
And of course also in the direction of Europe’s board of directors, which from Brussels dictates how we should organise our own society. So that the free market becomes even bigger and even freer – until in the end it will have us all in its grip, and smother the true freedom of our citizens.

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not against Europe..

The SP is not against Europe.

We are an internationalist party in our genes. A party that knows that you have to cooperate in order to get anywhere. Nationally and internationally.

It’s great that European cooperation has banished the threat of war between ancient rivals.

It’s great that cooperation has made us all more prosperous.

That’s not the same as uncritically running after Brussels.

That is not the same as wanting to remake a Europe of peace and prosperity into a European superstate.

That is not the same as creating a Europe which aims above all at a tough competitive struggle.

Such a Europe leads to competition centred on working conditions.

Such a Europe leads to exploitation of Eastern European workers.

And such a Europe leads to the destruction of popular influence and of democracy.

For anyone who hasn’t already understood:

That’s no good

That’s not what we’d choose

I intend to be obstructive!

And we aren’t alone. We see in ever more countries that the people are stating their support for a social Europe. Our sister parties in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Cyprus are proving this, and are now participating in government.

And how badly this is needed was again made clear this week in a letter from Brussels.

This time it concerned mortgage relief and our rents. Last year they wanted to impose road-pricing on us. Next year they’ll be interfering in our pensions and our health care system.

To make myself clear:
They will not review these things, we will review them ourselves!

This concerns a fundamental conflict with major consequences for societies, for everyone.

And the SP, our party, has from the beginning taken a position on this. We said and we continue to say that freedom should be rooted in human dignity, equality and solidarity.

Without this relationship freedom is an idea which has lost its real meaning.

That is, in any case, how you might describe what has happened in the financial world.

Once, banks were there to help the economy.

Now they help the economy – on its way to ruin!

We have all seen the parliamentary commission at work, which set everything down and examined it and drew tough conclusions.

I am proud that this commission bears the name of Jan de Wit. Jan, fantastic, you gave a first rate performance.

In addition to the financial crisis and the economic crisis there is another crisis. And that is the moral crisis.

How can it be that so many people in positions of responsibility have failed to take responsibility?

People in society, in the business world, in government, educational institutions, housing associations, hospitals.

People who have wilfully shirked their responsibility.

Who found monetary gain more important than doing what they were appointed to do and for which they were well-paid.

You know all of these examples just as well as I do.

Perhaps that gives so many people the most pain: that those who were responsible look only to themselves and look away from the rest. .

With what painful result? That people who have no liability for all of these crises must pay and are hit hard by wretchedness.

I have a word for this: scandalous!

In recent times a lot of people have let their voices be heard. Educationalists, nurses, police officers.

And of course our cleaners. What they achieved, week in, week out, month after month - to conduct a struggle – but then to win it!

And what they won! Respect!

I take my hat off to them!

In one of these places of protest I came across Jos. A former pupil of mine. Thirty years old, two children, a draftsman in the building trade.

‘How’s it going, Jos?' I said.

He said ‘at its best, okay. But yes, sometimes also it’s difficult. Be a self-employed person in the building trade a ‘ZZPer’ – one without any employees of your own – and try getting a mortgage. Or try to insure yourself against being unable to work: much too expensive. Break your ankle on the building site? Two months without an income? Live on your savings. And my pension? Yes, well, that remains to be seen.

If I compare Jos’s life with my own at his age, Jos has appallingly few certainties. And very little in the way of bright prospects.

He said: 'Emile, I don’t understand it. Look around you. Such a rich, prosperous country, and yet so much insecurity exists. So many people with no social safety net. Always this tension, always this anxiety: what will tomorrow bring?

I thought: Jos is right.

Jos is completely right.

Is this the world that we want to leave to our children?

Is this the world we got from our parents?

The last thirty years have seen a massive hollowing out of the welfare state.

A steady demolition of social certainties.

A ruthless commercialisation of the public sphere.

Everything is up for sale.

Profit and output as the only criteria.

Profit and output before everything!

And look now:
Ever more expensive services of ever poorer quality.

Increasing scale, and privatisation. .

Deterioration in health care.

Deterioration in education.

Trains which ignore stop signals and mail that is thrown into ditches.

The postal workers from PostNL are told to sod off out of the front door while through the back door people are dragged in to work below the minimum wage!

Jos is not someone to complain.

He can handle a lot. But he worries about his children. He finds it strange that we inherited a relatively decent world from our parents and now are apparently not in a condition to pass on an at least equally decent world to our children.

He fears for solidarity between generations, a serious business.

Jos also showed me a photograph of his children.

A boy of 14 and a girl of 12. Nice couple of kids.

‘Yes Jos, that’s what you do it all for,’ I said.

'Yes Emile', said Jos, 'but that’s what you do it all for too.’

This touched me deeply.

I realised once again that what drives me is the feeling that we can make a better world than the one we have now.

If we only want to.

If we only set about it.

If we don’t follow bad people and bad ideas.

If we have the courage to follow a different path, and put our world once again into better order.

For ourselves. And above all for our children. .

A safe world with fair chances for everyone who wants to take them.

A sustainable world in which we don’t look at how fast we can use something, destroy it or throw it away, but instead at how long we can preserve something, guard it, protect it, maintain it.

I see it as one of the biggest tasks of our party to make even more effort to prevent the destruction of our earth.

After all we only have one!

I’ve said it already: these are historic times, times for an historic choice on 12th September.

These are also historic times for our party. We have existed for forty years this year – and yet I feel we’ve only just begun.

We have proved ourselves as an activist party, as the ally of ordinary people who want a better Netherlands.

We have proved ourselves as an opposition party, who repeatedly and consistently puts its finger on sore points.

In both capacities we are valued, which is pleasing.

But we are more than an active party.

More than a good opposition party.

We stand at the point at which we can prove ourselves as a very good party of government. This task is something which is put clearly into words in the congress resolution today. And it is also a task which I take extremely seriously.

But obviously not at any price.

I will not put my signature on anything which increases the gap in incomes.

I will not put my signature on anything if we cannot do something to combat the marketisation of health care or marketisation in the public sector.

And I will absolutely not put my signature on anything which is unable to do something about poverty amongst our children.

So, if the result on 12th September makes it possible, I will take the SP into the government of the Netherlands for the first time in our history.

That is, after all, the shortest and best way to turn the liberal tide. The shortest and best way to take a social way out of the crisis.

With a self-confident, self-assured left.

Because new optimism has always been the hallmark of the left.

And if I say left, then I mean left!

Not fake left, but real left.

Not right-left, but left-left.

Not light left, but SP left.

I’m ready for it.

The SP is ready for it.

Help us to build new confidence.

Join the SP!

Thank you very much.

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