Geert Wilders’ Partij van de Vrijheid (PVV)(1) is rightly attacked for its racist and nationalist position, as these are their most prominent ideas. On the social-economical landscape these right wing populists stand for a mix of neo-liberal and conservative attitudes, mainly in the interest of the middle class and businesses. A look into the thoughts and actions of the PVV.
|The original text in Dutch
(April 26th, 2009)
Wilders proved his reputation as a politician of spectacle again at the end of march 2009 during a debate in parliament about the economic crisis. When the parties in office, CDA(2), PvdA(3) and ChristenUnie(4) presented their measures to combat the crisis in the parliament, all PVV representatives left the room. Wilders knows how to exploit the lack of democracy in the parliamentary system, a system of which he has been a part of for many years, to present himself as the underdog. The usual targets of his attacks are the “Political elite in the Hague” with its huge bureaucracy and the multicultural society which opened the door for “the Marrocan street terrorists” and the “Islamic colonisers”.
As has happened before, the walkout of Wilders and his fellows lead to an outcry from other parliamentary politicians who saw their own spectacle stolen. The incident also caused a wave of media attention. Wilders has a well prepared tactic of creating disturbances in which he can present himself as the protector of the “average citizen”. Different surveys show how succesfull his approach is. But attention is seldomly paid to the content of his proposals.
The economic program of the PVV is neo-liberal. According to neo-liberals the economy should be decided by the “free market of supply and demand” as much as possible. Neo-liberals are against the regulation of the economy by the state. State enteprises such as public transportation and the postal service should be privatized as much as possible. Wilders aims for a small government that intervenes in the economy as little as possible. According to him economic growth “is the result of low taxes, minimal regulations and the presence of high quality educational facilities”. He wants to cut back the budget of the ministry of Economic Affairs by two thirds and wishes to do away with half of all existing laws and regulations.
The citizen that Wilders claims to stick up for has a lot to lose if he gains powers He wants to get rid of a great amount of laws which protect workers. These laws affect the position of the bosses and therefore the “freedom” of the market. As a member of parliament (MP) for the (neo-liberal) VVD(5) Wilders suggested to exclude the unions, because he claimed that they represented too small a part of the working population. As a leader of the PVV he promises to revoke the legally binding status of the CAOs.(6)
Championing the “average dutch citizen” is nothing more than hollow populist rethoric in which high bonuses and high taxes are criticized. “Low taxes and a small government” would be “the best guarantee for economic growth”. The PVV seems to favor mainly entrepeneurs, persons with a high income and those with the highest incomes. If the taxes on wage and income are lowered, the party claims it will favor everyone. But those with a higher income profit far more than those with a lower income, which is exactly what the party wants. In the long term tax reduction would mean the introduction of a flat tax. Instead of higher taxes for the rich the party wants everyone to pay the same tax tariff. This means that proportionately the rich would pay less and the poor would pay more.
Hardcore neo-liberals are absolutely against state intervention, but the PVV weighs that against the “national interest”. One of their proposals during the debate about the crisis was to give every adult an amount of 400 euro as a one time gift. With that money the demand for consumer goods would be promoted which would result in a boost for the economy. The PVV tries to appeal to people by offering bribes, meanwhile the crisis has hit hard and is affecting millions of people worldwide. Although Wilders has ranted about the high bonuses of topmanagers, they as well would receive this 400 euro. These stunts don’t help the many affected by the crisis and the “average citizens” who lost their jobs won’t regain employment through these symbolic measures.
With the liberalization of the postal service the PVV has chosen a conservative and nationalist view despite their neo-liberal stance. As of the 1st of april 2009 other companies than the TNT(7) are allowed to deliver private mail. For the TNT bosses this is a reason to restructure their company. This means nothing more than cutting back on wages. During a parliamentary debate about this subject the PVV claimed that they stuck up for postmen who were threatened by these cuts. The TNT bosses threatened with mass layoffs if the postmen did not agree with a 15 percent salary cut. As a response to this a SP (Socialist Party) MP, Sharon Gesthuizen, proposed to guarantee the postmen a minimum wage. This proposal was rejected by all parties in office, as well as the VVD and, of course, the PVV. The proposal by PVV MP Dion Grauss shows that the party was mainly concerned with the position of the Dutch TNT in terms of competition on the market rather than the breakdown of workers’ rights.
In the area of welfare and social affairs the PVV program is conservative and demands more intervention by the government. People receiving public assistance should be forced to work for their benefits. The amount of money people on benefit receive should be lowered, because according to them the difference with the minimum wage is so small that they wouldn’t be motivated to start working. The party wishes to revoke the benefit of persons who do not adequatly show they’re willing to work in the eyes of the government. Afterwards these people are left to fend for themselves. Wilders strives to create a strong state which if necessary will deploy the army to maintain order, discipline and decency. He advocates hard repression, minimum penalties and higher penalties than are presently given. The possibility of early release from prison should also be revoked.
According to the PVV health care is one of the main points of their social policy. The party regularly mentions examples of a failing health care system, like the shortage of qualified workers for the care of senior citizens, which results in a lower quality care. In this situation yet again the PVV looks for solutions in battling bureaucracy: more hands on the beds and less managers. Also the underappreciation and the low wages of the workers are a point of complaint. The PVV wants the government to put more money into their salaries.
At first sight these proposals aren’t that bad at all. But if only they left it at that. “These are the rights that our elderly citizens fought for with their blood, sweat and tears after they build up this country from the ruins of the Second World War.”, says the PVV. “They raised their children and paid incredible amounts to the squandering government and paid the bills for the ideal of the multicultural society”. According to the PVV the “allochtonen”(8) are the cause of the failing health care for senior citizens. Not the privatization and the continued cuts on the health care budget at the expense of the of the poor, but “the muslims” are the cause of the problem. They would put such a pressure on the health care system that “our” “autochtone”(9) elders waste away in the nursing homes.
The PVV seriously advocates the “de-islamisation” of the health care system. Because: “Henk en Ria pay for Ali and Fatima”. The new racist idea of division in society is that the “allochtone” and the “autochtone” parts of society do not wish to take care of each other. “The older and care needing muslim is very demanding and has cost society a lot of money.” Not only are muslims scapegoated, but illegals(10) and uninsured persons are stigmatised by the PVV as well. They don’t pay for health care insurance and because of that the “autochtonen” have to pay a larger sum of money. “In the end the lack of payment by these groups causes those with lower incomes to pay more. If a group of people does not pay for their health care, the nominal amount rises.” The precarious situation of those with a lower income is being abused to justify the racist nonsense of the opportunist PVV.
The PVV wants more money to be put into the environment, but they want this money to go into screwing it up. The party wishes to invest in roads and highways. Their proposals include building a second national airport in the Flevopolder or in the sea as well as the building of more nuclear power plants. With the slogan “Van Groene Hart naar Kloppend Hart” (From Green Heart to Beating Heart) the party wishes to sacrifice the last bit of green areas in the Randstad.(11)
Just like the economic crisis the rampant environmental crisis is a grave danger. Despite this the PVV refuses to introduce measures which could affect businesses. PVV MP Barry Madlener has submitted a resolution in parliament against European agreements which aimed to cut on CO2 emissions, because those would be detrimental to businesses. CO2 emissions? “No problem! They make the plants grow just fine.” according to ‘nature lover’ Madlener. In a different resolution he raged about agreements on air quality and public health, because those would affect the mobility of motorists. Dion Graus also made himself heard in this debate. He submitted a resolution against subsidies for building windmills which generate electricity. In July 2007 an all time low was reached when PVV MPs Bosma and Madlener asked questions to the minister of Education, Culture and Science and the minister of Housing, Planning and Environmental Management concerning “the wave of propaganda for the alleged climate change spread by the public broadcasting companies”. The PVV blatantly denies that the climate is changing as a result of the gigantic amount of CO2 emissions.
The money for the improvement of health care, more roads, tax reduction and the crisis package of 400 euros has to come from cuts in government expenses. According to the PVV the “left wing” Balkenende government has a “feast budget” in which every “left wing hobby” qualifies for a “feast grant”. According to the party the government can cut back on those massively. Examples they give are for instance on development aid, the EU, immigration, “climate madness”, action groups, public broadcasting, the multicultural society, exhaust pipe filters, joint strike fighters, the war in Afghanistan, subsidized artists, “Vogelaarwijken”(12), the Netherlands Antilles, reintergration, “all kinds of rules and privileges” (‘achievements’ of years of union struggle) and let us not forget “the biggest “pets” of the Dutch left: the allochtonen”
1. Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV), the Freedom Party, is a extreme right wing party in the Netherlands with a mix of conservative and neo-liberal ideas. Its main points are combating the “immigration problem” and Islam.
2. Christen Democratisch Appel (CDA), Christian Democratic Appeal, is a right from center party. It has a lot of conservative (christian) ideas and has a lot of protectionism in its economic program, which is a result of the strong position of the agrarian community in this party.
3. Partij van de Arbeid (PVDA), Party of Work, is a Social-Democratic party. Traditionally they have been responsible from strengthening the position of workers and the creation of various forms of social security. The last 20 years they have mainly been working towards breaking these down, and have become a party slightly left from the center. They wish to introduce neo-liberal reforms with a so called soft touch.
4. Christenunie (CU), Christian Union. The CU came out of various different christian parties with a conservative agenda. They still have a conservative agenda on topics like abortion and homosexuality. They present their social en economic program as progressive. They support the existence of social security, protection of the environment.
5. Volkspartij voor de Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD), The Peoples Party for Freedom and Democracy, is a neo-liberal party that comes out of the liberal capitalist tradition. It puts a lot of emphasis on personal freedoms and liberties. It wants the government to intervene in the lives of people and the “free market” as little as possible.
6. CAO, Collectieve Arbeidsovereenkomst. In English known as Collective Bargaining Agreements. In the Netherlands these agreements have a legally binding status for all workers in a certain field of work and contain the height of the salaries, rules for the working conditions and holidays.
7. TNT is the biggest mail company in the Netherlands. In the past this company was the public post service for the Netherlands. It has however been privatized.
8. Allochtonen is a Dutch word used in general society to describe people “who are not from here”. It comes from the old-greek words “allos” (other, foreign) and “chthoon” (earth, country). It is mainly used to describe immigrants, refugees and foreigners.
9. Autochtonen is a Dutch word used in general society to describe people “who are from here”. It comes from the old-greek words “autos” (self) and “chthoon” (earth, country). It is mainly used to describe the “original dutch” persons residing in the Netherlands.
10. It is important to note that according to Dutch law a person illegaly residing in the Netherlands is not allowed to have a health care insurance.
11. The Randstad is the densely populated area between the cities of Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam and Utrecht. In this area there is a part which still has a lot of green landscape, lakes and small forests known as “het Groene Hart” (The Green Heart).
12. Vogelaarneighbourhoods are neighbourhoods designated by the former dutch Minister for Living, Neighbourhoods and Intergration Ella Vogelaar to receive subsidies that were meant for improving these “deprived areas”.