SP leader Marijnissen as parliamentary year opens: 'Time for justice'
SP leader Marijnissen as parliamentary year opens: 'Time for justice'
As Parliament returned from recess this week, SP leader Lilian Marijnissen marked the occasion with a speech to the think-tank The Machiavelli Foundation, based like the national legislature in The Hague. People, she said, want a coherent account of what is going on “in our country”. And quite rightly.
She had, she told her audience, no blueprint, but rather a perspective. Naturally, for the most part the perspective that Marijnissen sketched out concerned domestic policy, but in each case her focus, which was on migration and climate change, overlapped with European and foreign affairs. Below is a translation and summary of Lilian Marijnissen's speech.
“In recent times I've seen discontent over increasing economic injustice grow rapidly. Every time that there are celebratory noises here in The Hague indicating that the crisis is behind us, many people see their distrust of politics and politicians confirmed. Those politicians don't know how things really are, but more than six out of ten people admit that they haven't yet noticed that the crisis is over. How is it possible that wages are still not rising significantly?” This, she said, was the most important topic. “Added to that are two more subjects which will be extremely relevant in the coming year, namely migration and climate. And I think that these subjects are not only important for the world, for Europe and for our country, but also for my party.”
Before looking further into migration and climate, however, Marijnissen turned to what she called “the idea of freedom”. This, she said, is inextricably tied to the
concept of justice. The idea of freedom has been hijacked in recent decades, by neoliberals but also by Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, people who say that society is important. Yet, “for the established political order profit and the market have come to symbolise freedom.”
It's just ten years this 15th September that Lehman Brothers collapsed into bankruptcy, the SP leader recalled. “An enormous crisis ensued. Banks had been given space by the neoliberal political order to take irresponsible risks. When it went awry, it was society which paid the price.”
She went on to list examples of the results of this: almost 80,000 health- and care workers have lost their jobs; the number of insecure contracts has never been so great; rents have risen and student grants have been scrapped. “Is that really freedom? For me freedom means something else entirely: independence!.... Not having to live in the permanent grip of uncertainty. A government that doesn't look the other way, but one which provides security. Only then will we be able to achieve a just society.”
Profits are higher than ever, but an ever-smaller share goes to the workers. At the end of the last century that share was 81%, but this has fallen to 73%, while the distribution of profits to shareholders has rocketed. Is this justice? Whose freedom is it? At the same time, huge cuts in taxes on profits mean that private corporations are contributing less and less to our country, resulting in a seriously deteriorating public sector in which care workers, teachers, police officers and bus drivers, to name just a few, are hopelessly underpaid and face growing problems.
“That's why the abolition of the tax on dividends (for foreign shareholders) means so much more than simply a €2 billion gift voucher for foreign shareholders and multinationals. It's a symbol of the sacred belief in unrestrained shareholder capitalism... the symbol for so many people that politics and politicians are not for them. It's raw capitalism...” What’s more, the abolition of the tax on dividends was not mentioned in any party's election manifesto, so nobody voted for it or had the chance to vote against it.
Turning to migration policy, Marijnissen noted that “a just migration policy is based on human dignity, equality and solidarity.” Migration is “an exceptionally complicated subject. For Europe, for our country and to be honest, I have noticed that it is also so for our party.” But that's no reason to ignore it.
There is soon to be an EU summit on the issue. “We are often critical of the role of Europe, but it is precisely this type of issue where cooperation is more necessary than ever. Unfortunately what we are currently seeing every day is quite the opposite. European countries are hopelessly divided, pointing the finger at each other and threatening to make people in flight the political football of a Europe torn apart.”
And “raw capitalism” is where this all began. “As long as global inequality is growing, migration will continue to increase. People are going in search of a better future. And who can blame them? It's impossible for us to remain committed to unfair neoliberal trade treaties in which multinationals suck whole continents dry without being willing to pay an honest price. That has nothing to do with justice.”
“All the time we are seeing little boats arriving, in Greece, in Italy, in Spain. Yesterday the UNHCR even described the Mediterranean Sea as one of the world's deadliest routes, on which one out of every eighteen people loses his or her life. The circumstances are inhuman for the people in the boats and iniquitous, because the most vulnerable people aren't in any condition, physically or financially, to get into one of these boats at all. Things have to change.”
The SP, Marijnissen said, wants to see “a policy that makes migration just and manageable. We must organise the asylum procedure and relief closer to the people, so that they don't have to take that death trip across the Mediterranean.” The party wanted therefore an investigation into “the possibility of regional relief- and enlistment centres which confirm to our standards, in Africa. And we must be quite clear. People fleeing from war, violence or oppression will be welcomed, and the Netherlands must take our fair share.” Those coming for purely economic motives, however, have no future here.
“Better management of migration, in contrast to open borders, is a left position, for the simple reason that it is more just to people both here and there. Combating the fundamental causes would make the death trips unnecessary, opposing divide and rule policies and preventing yet more being demanded of our poorest towns and neighbourhoods. This is a just migration policy based on human dignity, equality and solidarity.”
The SP leader then turned to another major issue of our times, climate change.
“We must tackle the big polluters and not saddle the people with enormous costs,” she insisted. “Think of the future and you think about our climate. The time to do nothing is definitively behind us. It wasn't for nothing that we supported the Climate Law.” Supporting a government initiative isn't something we do every day, she noted. “But our companies, houses and society will go over to clean and healthy energy.”
“The big debate for the coming period is, however, who pays and who profits? As things stand the hundred biggest corporations in the world cause almost 80% of climate costs. As things stand Dutch firms pay out €1.8 billion less than they cost in pollution, households €2.8 billion more. The tariff that the Shells of this world pay for their energy is a hundred times lower than you and I pay. That's not climate justice. That's swindling the people.”
The SP, she said, “won't go along with a climate policy that pays no attention to society. We won't go along with a policy that let's the major polluters off scot-free while giving people huge rises in their energy bills. That's not only unjust, it also won't work. There won't be any support for costly climate measures unless we organise them in a just fashion.”
Let me be completely clear, Marijnissen concluded. “The climate targets must be met, but that will happen in a just fashion or it won't happen at all. And every measure that brings us closer to climate justice will have our support.”