Socialist Party (SP)

Socialist Party (SP). Long an irrelevant minor party, the Socialist Party has become a major party in recent years.

The Socialists originate as a minor Maoist party, which quickly became critical of the Chinese government for actions such as its support of Unita in the Angolan civil war.

The SP put down strong local roots and became something of a community organisation group, running GPs offices, citizens advice bureaus and local community groups. While they did not win seats nationally, they became important in local politics in some regions.

The party moderated ideological, and officially rejected Marxism-Leninism in 1991. The party won its first seats in parliament in 1994 when it won 2 seats on a platform of rejecting the PvdA’s move to the centre. The party grew thanks to the Purple coalition, winning 5 seats in 1998, and 9 in 2002 and then 2003.

The party adopts positions which might be described as left-populist. Unlike the PvdA it remains clearly working class, and its leader from 1988 through to 2008 was Jan Marijnissen, a former welder who was also the youngest Dutch councillor ever in 1975 in the industrial municipality of Oss. Marijnissen’s clear working class roots, use of simple, everyday language, decision to take only a skilled workers salary rather than a full MP’s salary, and strong positions on defence of the welfare state made him popular but what really propelled him and his party into the national limelight was his 2005 opposition to the European Constitution.

The Socialists are the most left-wing party in the Dutch parliament on most issues and hold fairly traditional Socialist positions, though they are less progressive on social issues than other Dutch left-wing parties like GreenLeft or D66, though they are still relatively liberal by the standards of other parties. The party takes strong anti-austerity stances and engages in extra-parliament protest, giving it further credibility and visibility. Its MPs and representatives donate a significant portion of their salaries back to their party which has seen the SP become one of the best funded Dutch parties in recent years. The party has a certain left-populist edge and there is evidence that it competes for some working class voters with the Party for Freedom. However the party does not share the same association with the far-left that similar parties, such as Germany’s Die Linke have. A 2010 research project by the Dutch pollster Political Barometer estimated that around 7% of Dutch voters were willing to vote for either the PVV or the SP.

The party came third in the 2006 election, winning 25 seats in a big shock to the system. While the party negotiated with the CDA and PvdA to enter government its positions were too different from the CDA and it quickly left negotiations. This abandonment was seen as too quick by many of its supporters and it fell back to 15 seats for the 2010 elections, though this was much larger than it had been prior to 2006. The party polled well after 2010 due to its uncompromising opposition to the austerity programme of the VVD-led government, and its new leader, Emile Roemer, a former teacher, was seen as a potential Prime Minister by many. The party fell back closer to the election however, as its platform was seen as lacking credibility and once again won 15 seats. However with the PvdA in coalition with the VVD the party is perfectly placed to pick up significant support from the PvdA’s left-flank. Polls have recently shown it in a close third.

The SP is the most Eurosceptic party on the Dutch left, opposing the EU for its promotion of austerity and free-market capitalism. However it does not advocate withdrawal, rather reform, and rejects European bail-outs on the basis of rejection of austerity conditions and that the EU has not punished banks enough.

The party is a member of the European United Left in the European Parliament. It is actually one of the least loyal members of the group, voting alongside its group only 77.7% of the time. Only the Greek Communist Party is less loyal. Unlike the Greek Communists, the Socialists disloyalty is presumably due to their relative moderation. One of its MEPs has left the party over a dispute over the running of the party’s European group, she is actually more loyal to the European United Left, voting alongside it 84.9% of the time.