Dignity, Equality, Solidarity
Dignity, Equality, Solidarity
Politics revolves around the issues of the day, or so it seems. But what of the underlying vision? In the runup to the European elections political thinkers give their view of the purpose, the problems and the hope of humanity. Today we present the fourth part of the series, a contribution from Arjan Vliegenthart and Dennis de Jong of the SP.
Dennis de Jong, number one candidate on the SP’s list for the European Parliament, and Arjan Vliegenthart, director of the party’s research department.
With human dignity, equality and solidarity as our most important principles the SP is a party which wants to do politics not only for the people, but with the people. Together we are responsible for ensuring that we can organise our society in a way which is social and on a human scale. In doing so the government cannot make us happy, but what it can do is create the circumstances in which people, with every chance of success, can pursue happiness.
On May 22nd elections will be held for the European Parliament. In our view over the next few years the European Union must take a fundamentally different direction. The existing form of cooperation, which is principally directed at bringing about a superstate in which the market is boss, stands in direct opposition to our vision of humanity.
We think, to be precise, that people best come into their own when they are able in solidarity to give form to their lives themselves. This can only be achieved when we arrange politics in such a way that this communal solidarity can be organised. This means that you should also organise politics in a way that encourages popular involvement.
People must be able, to the highest possible degree, to exercise influence on their own living, working, and general environment. It should be a matter of honour for politicians to involve the people in policymaking. This is why the SP is happiest conducting actions with those involved, in pursuit of a better society. Whenever you struggle together for such a goal politics become something to which you yourself give shape and which strengthens solidarity between people.
And it is in precisely this way that the European Union as presently constituted falls short. By concentrating power in a single place where insufficient democratic control is organised and with which citizens have too little affinity, a process of political alienation has been encouraged.
This can be seen from, amongst other things, the turnout statistics for European Parliament elections during the last few decades, which are structurally lower than those for national and local elections. It is also shown, however, by opinion polls which indicate that people do not feel that they are represented by those who make policy in Brussels.
People feel themselves principally to be inhabitants in their own town or village, region and country. It is for this reason that this is where political primacy should lie. In practice, however, Brussels is increasingly dominant over national and local politics and determines the space within which people can still make their own political choices affecting the public environment.
The crisis which we have had to confront during the last few years is partly the consequence of this development. It is not a natural phenomenon that has descended upon us from on high, but the result of political failure on the part of the leaders and decision-makers responsible. Recent years have seen the European Union direct itself above all at the goals of more market and less organised solidarity. As a result a structure has been created in which banks have a free hand to give full rein to their speculative behaviour and to pass the bill for their failures on to national governments.
The governments have chosen, partly as a result of pressure from Brussels, to in turn pass the bill to their citizens instead of recovering the costs from those involved. It was principally the most vulnerable people in the society who paid the price for this, not only in the Netherlands but also in countries such as Greece and Spain, where young people have little access to employment and millions of people have great difficulty in making ends meet.
Because the crisis is no natural phenomenon, there are possible alternatives which would see Europe organised differently. The neoliberalism that has spread like an oil slick over Europe in recent decades has made ‘one share, one vote’ the leading principle of our economy and sharpened existing contradictions, such as those between rich and poor, while creating new conflicts, such as that between northern and southern Europe.
Opting for the present form of European integration is a political choice which could be revoked and conducted in a different manner. The European integration project need not remain prisoner to its existing nature. There are realistic alternatives to austerity policies and to the Brussels meddling which clips the wings of our national democracy.
In the weeks to come we will, during the campaign, try to make it clear how we ourselves see these changes. Sometimes in really concrete forms, by giving the European Commission much less power and our own national parliament far more, but sometimes also by explaining what we have in the end in mind for Europe: a Europe in which member states on the basis of a mutual feeling of responsibility work to promote cooperation and peace, security and prosperity.
In doing so we shall, as always, try to encourage people to get involved, whether in the form of citizens’ initiatives attempting to prevent our water supply from being privatised or by arguing in favour of referenda in the event of fresh EU treaties. Democracy grows from the citizens, who do more than casting their votes once in how many years.
This distinguishes the SP from almost all other parties in the Netherlands, and of that we are proud. It is not for nothing that the anthem of our party, ”Heel de mens” (“The whole of humanity”), written by novelist Karel Glastra van Loon, ends with the call “Don’t stand sulking on the sidelines, Act, and show your courage. Let your anger go hand in hand with the good that you do.”
In our view, that’s what politics is all about.
This article first appeared on 8th May, 2014, in the daily newspaper the Reformatorisch Dagblad.
Dennis de Jong’s expenditure from general expenses since his election in 2009
|Coffee, tea etc||€3.395,34|
|Catering for meetings||€18.469,26|
|Expenses for speakers at meetings||€29.909,68|
|Internet and telephone||€7.797,03|
|Diverse personnel expenses eg accountant, courses, website||€3.053,28|
The above table gives details of Dennis de Jong’s expenses paid for from general expenses reimbursement since 2009. Each year MEPs receive some €51.000 in general expenses. From this De Jong returns €30,000 to the European Parliament. In addition, he gives €50.000 p.a. to good causes, paid for from his salary, daily expenses and distance reimbursement.