The stagnation of the Dutch Socialist Party

Issue: 151

Max van Lingen

The Socialist Party (SP) is one of the parties that emerged to the left of traditional social democracy in the last decade of the 20th century.1 In electoral terms, it is one of the most successful. At its peak in 2006, the SP got 25 out of 150 seats (16.6 percent of the vote), becoming the third party in the House of Representatives. With the European Parliament (2014) and provincial (2015) elections it eclipsed the Labour Party (PvdA) for the first time, becoming the biggest party of the left in the Netherlands. Until Syriza’s election victory in 2015 the Dutch SP was the only left reformist party in Europe to win a bigger share of the vote than the traditional social democratic party.

There are two particular aspects that make the SP different from other left wing challengers of traditional social democracy. The first is that the SP did not emerge from the process of left realignment that followed the 1980s crisis of the left. It is an older organisation, with its own characteristics, which are heavily influenced by its Maoist origin, that succeeded in making an electoral breakthrough in the 1990s by taking advantage of the space opened up by the decline and capitulation to neoliberalism of the other left parties. The party has a monolithic structure with a strong sense of loyalty amongst its cadres. In that respect the SP has more in common with the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PVDA). But it differs sharply from the KKE and the PVDA—and from most other leftist rivals to traditional social democracy—in the degree to which it has shifted to the centre. The SP is not just a serious challenger to Labour’s dominant position on the left, it also positions itself explicitly as heir to that party’s social democratic values.

Political parties in the House of Representatives (past and present)

The Dutch electoral system is characterised by proportional representation. The percentage of votes a party receives nationwide determines the percentage of the 150 seats it gets in the House of Representatives. This system results in a great number of parties. Here we give an overview of these parties, the number of seats obtained in the last general election (2012) and the latest election poll.


2012 (result and percentage)

Poll 2016* (projected seats)



41 (26.58)


Conservative liberals (government party)


38 (24.84)


Labour Party (government party)


15 (10.08)


Radical right, party of Geert Wilders


15 (9.65)


Socialist Party


13 (8.03)


Christian Democrats


12 (8.03)


Liberal democrats


5 (3.13)


Merger of small christian parties


4 (2.33)


Green, left liberals, merger of CPN, PSP, PPR and EVP


3 (2.09)


Christian fundamentalists


2 (1.93)


Party for the Animals


2 (1.88)


Party for the elderly




Communist Party of the Netherlands




Progressive Christians




Left liberals




Pacifist Socialist Party

*Source:, 18 April 2016.

Various leading figures have stated that they in fact consider the SP a social democratic party, especially since the party’s mammoth electoral victory in 2006. The primary focus of the party has increasingly shifted towards governing. In order to be “at the controls” it has been willing to go much further than parties like Syriza or Germany’s Die Linke. The SP has formed coalitions with right wing parties at the local and provincial level and has also made it clear it is prepared to enter government as a minority among parties that have embraced neoliberalism.

However, after the 2006 elections the SP also entered a period of stagnation. While eclipsing Labour, its share of the vote has fallen firmly. This has given rise to criticism within the party, in spite of its lack of a culture of open discussion, with many seeing the alienation of the party from its activist roots as the core of the problem. In this article I will argue that the current emphasis on governing is a logical consequence of the Maoist foundations on which the party was built as well as a political context in which neoliberal ideas have been dominant for decades.

From Maoist groupuscule to social democratic government party

The 1970s

The roots of the SP go back to the Communist Party of the Netherlands (CPN). When the Sino-Soviet split took place, the CPN tried to remain neutral. Rotterdammers Daan Monjé and Nico Schrevel, however, took Beijing’s side and set up the Marxist-Leninist Centre (MLC) in 1964. They were expelled the same year. In the 1960s, Monjé and Schrevel succeeded in building a national organisation, the name of which was changed to KEN-ml in early 1970. The party was mainly popular in conservative cities in the catholic south of the Netherlands with large student populations, such as Tilburg and Nijmegen, where they found young, radicalised people willing to build branches. But when a big wildcat strike broke out in the port of Rotterdam, KEN-ml managed to play an important role through an action group called Arbeidersmacht (Workers’ Power). This built the party’s national reputation, which helped it attract more young people. After the strike, 17 year old Jan Marijnissen invited somebody from KEN-ml to his home town, Oss. Marijnissen would later become chairman of the party—a position he would hold for almost three decades—and the party’s first MP.

The party’s spurt of growth, however, also involved growing pains. From 1967, the high number of students within the organisation led to discussions of the role of students in the class struggle. After the port strike, the conflict between Schrevel’s “intellectual” line and Monjé’s “proletarian” line intensified. Monjé described the discussion like this: “Where do the right ideas come from? Simply put, from practice or from the study?” According to Monjé, “intellectual workers” belonged to the “rearguard” rather than the “vanguard of the proletariat”. Therefore students should be forced to work in factories. Schrevel disagreed with this and was supported by the Tilburg branch. But the majority of the party, including the Nijmegen branch, supported Monjé. Eventually, Monjé’s supporters left the party, taking most of the assets with them, and set up what would soon become the Socialist Party (SP). At its foundation, the new party had about 200 members, which Monjé thought was “enough to win the revolution”.2

The Oss branch

The Oss branch was among those that supported the workerist, anti-intellectual orientation. Oss is a small industrial town in the southern Catholic province of North Brabant. For some time after the Second World War it was the most industrialised town in the Netherlands.3 This made the Oss branch exceptional in the SP, which mainly had branches in university cities. But those who set up the Oss branch were no workers either. Instead, radical school students laid the foundation of the branch that would eventually grow into the power base from which the breakthrough was made. In the late 1960s, radical ideas spread to the secondary schools in Oss. The rigid attitudes of conservative authorities only reinforced the radicalisation of these students.

As in other cities, the Oss school students started working in factories. There was little ideological discussion and political education meetings were mostly one-way traffic. During these sessions, the SP members were taught: “A worker has a proletarian class consciousness, because he is a worker”.4 The SP’s strategy was based on Mao’s words: “We should go to the masses and learn from them, synthesise their experience into better, articulated principles and methods, then do propaganda among the masses and call upon them to put these principles and methods into practice so as to solve their problems”.5 This “mass line” rendered theoretical analysis and ideological discussion superfluous. It also allowed the Oss branch to take little notice of the ideological line pushed by the party headquarters in Rotterdam. The SP’s success in Oss was based on strict discipline, tight organisation and favourable circumstances. The members put all other considerations aside when it came to building the party. Both careers and personal relations came second.

Their hard work was not always done under the banner of the party. In North Brabant, with no left wing tradition to speak of, socialism was still a bridge too far for most workers. For this reason, SP members often operated under the banner of so-called “mass organisations”, like the Union of Tenants and People Seeking Housing.6 The party also tried to build their own union, but were able to keep a branch of Arbeidersmacht going only in Oss. The obligation for students to work in factories did not yield the desired result either. In 1973 the party decided that members were allowed to go to university again, preferably to study law or medicine, since socialist lawyers and doctors could help people.

The Oss branch took this logic one step further. They started their own legal consultation hours and their own GP practice Ons Medisch Centrum (Our Medical Centre). This worked both ways: many people got to know the SP through the practical support offered by the party, while these support services were also a great source of information about abuses in companies and housing associations in the town.7 However, it also meant that most members were not recruited on the basis of a revolutionary perspective. Instead, while the party denounced capitalism rhetorically, its growth relied on the party’s ability to “serve the people” within the capitalist framework. The “mass organisations” also acted as a substitute for working together with other organisations.

Local breakthrough and stagnation

In 1974, the SP decided to take part in the municipal elections. Party members’ hard work paid off and the SP won five seats, all in the Catholic south of the Netherlands where the social democrats remained weak. The SP entered the scene as the power of the Catholic church was dwindling. Thus, two seats were obtained in Nijmegen and three in Oss. This was a sign of things to come, and in the course of the 1970s the centre of gravity of the SP increasingly shifted to Oss. The CPN and the Pacifist Socialist Party (PSP), which also tried to set up branches in and around Oss, were simply too late. The SP had already filled the space on the left.

On a national level, however, conditions were less advantageous. In 1977, the SP took part in the general elections for the first time. But PvdA prime minister Joop den Uyl, who headed the most progressive government the Netherlands had ever seen, was extremely popular among left wing voters. All parties to the left lost votes to the PvdA, which achieved its best result ever. At the national level, there was no space for a new party on the left. The SP only got 0.2 percent of the vote.

This was not the only setback the party had to face in the late 1970s. The tight discipline that had made the SP successful turned out to be unsustainable in the long run. In 1975, leading member Koos van Zomeren left the party. At first, the remaining members of the leadership tried to step up discipline, but in 1977 they changed course and decided to make a distinction between cadres and mass members. This allowed the party to gain many supporters who sympathised with the party but did not want to put the rest of their lives on hold.8

In spite of this, the SP ran into difficulties when the left wing upsurge on which the party had been built ground to a halt after the 1970s. In the early 1980s, the party had about 750 members and relied almost exclusively on the success of a few local branches.9 In the 1982 municipal elections they were able to win 22 seats but in national elections the SP still fell short.10 Other left wing parties also faced difficulties. The 1986 general elections saw CPN and EVP disappear from the House of Representatives, while PSP and PPR only got three seats between them.

National breakthrough

Still, the SP succeeded in forcing a national electoral breakthrough in the 1990s. The crucial factor was the political space that opened up as a result of the capitulation of the PvdA and the small left parties to the right. In 1977, the PvdA ended up in opposition in spite of achieving its best election result ever. This was the last time the PvdA also looked to the left parties to try and form a government. In addition, Keynesianism, which had been the foundation of the economic programme of the PvdA, fell out of favour. This meant that the PvdA had to dissociate itself from Keynesianism to be able to form a coalition.

This process accelerated when Wim Kok succeeded Joop den Uyl as PvdA leader in 1986. As the leader of the FNV union federation, he had been one of the signatories of the 1982 Wassenaar Agreement, in which employers, employees and government agreed to restrain wage growth in order to restore profits, which was seen as the way to combat unemployment. This way the union leaders took on responsibility for the “recovery of economic growth” and “boosting the competitive power of enterprises”.11

As PvdA leader, Kok introduced this opportunistic adaption to neoliberalism on the part of the union bureaucracy into the social democratic party. During a lecture he gave at Nijmegen University in 1989, he echoed Margaret Thatcher when he said there was “no alternative for the present social constellation, so there is no point in aspiring to this”.12

That same year the PvdA entered a coalition government with the Christian Democrats. Kok became finance minister and deputy prime minister. Previous governments’ austerity policies continued unchanged. In 1990, prime minister Ruud Lubbers, stating that “the Netherlands is ill”, started an attack on the WAO (disability benefits). When the cabinet presented its plans for the WAO the next year, Kok said these were “socially defensible”.

For the first time, the unions started to organise actions against policies implemented by a government that included the PvdA. Up to 250,000 people took part in a demonstration against the plans, which made it the biggest union demonstration in the history of the Netherlands till then—only one bigger demonstration has been held since. The policy drew fierce criticism from within the PvdA as well, since the party was breaking its election promises. Kok managed to silence the critics by threatening to resign if the cuts were rejected, and won at a special party conference. But thousands resigned from the party and relations with the unions had been severely damaged. In the 1994 elections the PvdA, losing 12 seats, suffered a historic defeat.

The small left parties, however, were unable to take advantage of the PvdA’s weakness. After a disastrous election result in 1986, they decided to cooperate more closely. As a result, in the 1989 elections, CPN, PSP, PPR and EVP formed a common list called GroenLinks. Although GroenLinks managed to get three more seats than the combined result of the parties in the previous elections, expectations of the new coalition had been much higher. More importantly, this coalition had not been built on a resurgence of social struggle. Rather, GroenLinks was set up during a shift to the right, which was compounded by the fall of the Berlin Wall. The heavy influence of postmodernism, and the associated departure from the radical critique of the system, made it impossible for the new party to resist this rightward drift and present itself as an alternative to the PvdA. When the PvdA suffered its enormous defeat in the 1994 elections, GroenLinks actually lost a seat—a disastrous result in this context. Instead, it was the SP that took advantage of this opportunity.


The SP could not have succeeded in this if it had not undergone a renewal process after the 1970s. The first step was what political scientist Gerrit Voerman has called a “process of demaoisation”.13 China had changed its foreign policy, increasingly opposing the Soviet Union while forming closer relations with the United States. This led to US president Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to Beijing. The crucial moment, however, came when China called on Maoist parties in the West to support NATO. In 1974, the images of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao disappeared from the front page of the SP’s paper. Works by Mao and Stalin, which had been used as education material, vanished from the party’s paper De Tribune in 1977. In 1980, the slogan “dare to struggle, dare to win”, taken from Mao’s Little Red Book, was removed from the front page.14 However, it is important to note that, while the SP got rid of its Maoist ornaments, it didn’t throw away the Maoist logic on which the party was built.

A second, more fundamental, step was taken in the mid-1980s, when the SP’s main focus had already shifted to Oss. This began to have national consequences when Jan Marijnissen was called to Rotterdam by party secretary Tiny Kox to serve as a paid member of the leadership. A conflict erupted in the leadership between the reformers Marijnissen and Kox and the unofficial party chair Monjé. This conflict was decided when Monjé suffered a heart attack during a holiday in Spain in 1986 and died shortly after. This gave Marijnissen and Kox the opportunity to reorganise the party according to the example set by the Oss branch.

Delegates approved the reorganisation at the party congress in 1987. According to journalist Rudie Kagie, when it came to practical work the SP had been a “federation of branches”. Delegates now approved plans for a much more centralised party.15 The increasing emphasis on parliamentarianism in Oss was now generalised to the party as a whole and the emphasis on building “mass organisations” was dropped because it did not yield the expected electoral results. Instead, the SP decided to concentrate much more on national issues under its own banner, but without developing a method of working together with other organisations.

In 1989 another attempt to gain seats in the House of Representatives failed. The SP concluded that the gap between the party and the electorate was still too great. In 1991 the party discarded all references to “Marxism-Leninism” and now simply described itself as “socialist”. The party stopped singing the Internationale and its Handvest 2000 (Charter 2000), approved by conference, stated that the SP now only wished to nationalise the banks and the big companies.16 The party apparently thought that if the voters did not come to the party, the party should go to the voters.

Another element in this strategy involved hiring marketing advisers to sell the party. In 1993, marketing consultant Niko Koffeman was recruited. The election slogan “Honest and Active” was replaced by “Vote Against”, the idea being that “racists vote for Janmaat, but protest voters vote SP”.17 The party adopted the tomato as its symbol.18 The SP was the only contender, well-organised at the national level and running consistent election campaigns. In the general elections of 1994 the party got its first two members of parliament, including Jan Marijnissen.

Left vs Purple

They got there just in time. In spite of the PvdA’s great losses, the CDA, which had enjoyed a powerful position as a centre party, suffered the biggest defeat, losing 20 seats. For the first time since the introduction of universal suffrage, a coalition without Christian Democrats could be formed. The PvdA, VVD and D66 formed a so-called Purple Coalition with Kok, the leader of the biggest party, as prime minister.

The PvdA, rather than merely making concessions to neoliberal parties, now fully embraced neoliberalism. In the 1995 throne speech written by Kok, queen Beatrix said: “More free-market reforms and less regulation are indispensable”.19 In practice, this meant that all sorts of things were privatised, while the welfare state was rapidly eroded. The government was helped by the global economic recovery of the 1990s, and by the image of the “Dutch miracle”, which was seen as a consequence of Kok’s “third way”. In reality, unemployment statistics were distorted by increasing flexibility in the labour market meaning that the consequences of government policies were not yet apparent to most people.

Nevertheless, the PvdA’s neoliberal policies were a great target for a small protest party like the SP. Its merciless opposition allowed the SP to grow to five seats in 1998 and nine seats in 2002. The lack of social struggle, however, encouraged the party to shift to a more moderate position. This was most apparent in its manifesto Heel de mens (The Whole Human Being), approved by the 1999 party conference.20

For Kox, this adjustment was necessary “to bridge the gap with people who in the past may have had good reasons for not joining us”.21 The SP was “never meant to remain small, so we have consciously worked towards a vision that can be embraced by many people”. This also included a new definition of socialism: “human dignity, equality and solidarity”.

From voting against to voting in favour

These kinds of statements must also be viewed in the light of the SP electoral growth and its urge to assume governmental responsibilities. As early as 1996, a party conference approved taking governmental responsibilities at the local level, provided “this would yield real advantages for people”, and these responsibilities were counterbalanced by strong council fractions and party branches “that could guarantee that SP participation in local governing coalitions would not lead to embourgeoisement”.

This decision was prompted by the dramatic defeat of the party a year before in the North Brabant municipality of Boxmeer. The party saw this defeat partly as a result of its refusal to assume governmental responsibilities. Local leader Emile Roemer had said: “If we serve on the executive board, we want to have even greater influence on policies and steer a totally different course.” According to council member Willem van Meurs, this had given the impression that “the SP had been a troublemaker. We are now paying the price for that.”

A few days after the conference decision, the SP accepted local governmental responsibilities for the first time. It was no coincidence that this happened in Oss. The party’s new executive board member, Jules Iding, called this “a great opportunity to show the public how a town can be run in the interests of the people”.22 Assuming governmental responsibilities was seen as a means of defending the interests of ordinary people, but also as an electoral necessity, since voters did not understand why the SP would not accept these responsibilities.

The SP’s fairly marginal position in the House of Representatives meant that the question of government hardly played a role on the national level yet. Nevertheless, an electoral reorientation took place after 2000. The slogan “vote against” was replaced by “vote in favour”. Tiny Kox said: “vote in favour is the only thing that is just as provocative as vote against”.23

The SP and the unions

The shift to a more moderate position was accompanied by a change in attitude towards the unions. In the 1970s, the SP considered the unions—and the PvdA—“traitors to the working class” and tried to set up its own union organisation. In Oss, the SP was able to gain a foothold with Arbeidersmacht. But elsewhere, the SP was no match for the power of the unions. In the 1980s, Arbeidersmacht reached a dead end even in Oss. The party decided to close it down in the early 1990s and SP members now joined the FNV union federation.

In the early 1990s, the PvdA still reigned supreme in the FNV-aligned unions. But this party’s embrace of neoliberalism in general and the WAO crisis in particular led to a greater openness to other organisations. Union members first started to see the SP as an alternative for the PvdA after their electoral breakthrough in 1994. In the following years, the PvdA’s increasingly right wing course and the SP’s growth led to growing numbers of union members joining the SP making it as popular with union members as the PvdA by 2007.24 Since then, the SP has kept gaining ground, while the PvdA lost influence. The PvdA is still dominant at the top of the FNV. So FNV chair Ton Heerts is a former MP for the PvdA. But among the middle layers of the union leadership, more and more people identify with the “activist” SP rather than the PvdA. For example Ron Meyer was an important union leader before succeeding Jan Marijnissen as party chair in autumn 2015.

The dividing line between SP and PvdA within the union reflects to some degree the divide between members who want an activist union on the basis of the “organising” model and those who want a service-oriented union on the basis of protection of the members’ interests. But the SP is extremely cautious about using its influence in the union. It does not have a strategy of fighting from below for a more militant union. In a 2010 interview with Spanning, the magazine published by the party’s think-tank, Jan Marijnissen said: “The party is, of course, separate from the union. We have our ideas on how things could be done differently, but we are not going to operate in the unions in an organised fashion”.25

In practice, the SP does not express these differences publically at all. Instead, they concentrate mainly on cooperation from above. The party makes its presence felt at virtually all union actions in healthcare—a crucial issue for the party’s profile—but it does not concern itself with the course of the struggle. This was also the case during a big healthcare demonstration last September, which was attended by 15,000 people, where neither Ton Heerts, nor the SP’s parliamentary fraction leader Emile Roemer gave any indication of how to continue the struggle. The SP’s attitude is similar to the classic social democratic approach, which holds that there is a separation between political struggle by the party and economic struggle by the union. Its acceptance of this artificial distinction is typical for the SP’s strategic course, which sees the union mainly as a place to win votes. Airing strategic differences publicly might disrupt the party’s relations with the union leadership.

This approach is not limited to the unions. The SP’s involvement in a number of social movements and campaigns, for example the campaigns against TTIP and climate change, is limited to being present and cooperating with the top of organisations. It does not try to influence these movements through active involvement and discussion by its own members.

High-water mark

The crucial factor in the SP’s growth after 2000 was the global wave of social struggle that started with the 1999 protests in Seattle. In the Netherlands, this struggle only really got underway after 2002. Nine days before the 2002 elections for the House of Representatives, the extreme right politician Pim Fortuyn was murdered. Although support for his party, Lijst Pim Fortuyn (Pim Fortuyn List, LPF) was already falling in the polls, the murder led to a landslide victory for the LPF and a hard-right coalition of CDA, LPF and VVD was formed, led by CDA prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende. This government fell a year later as a result of internal strife within the LPF, but new elections brought little change in the political balance of forces. Once more, CDA and VVD formed a coalition, this time with D66.

The first two Balkenende cabinets were really a continuation of Kok’s Purple cabinets’ policies of austerity and privatisation, but without the PvdA, without an economic recovery and with much more repression. With the PvdA no longer in office, there was more room for mobilisation on the left, for instance against the Netherlands’ participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2004, the unions campaigned against government plans to abolish pre-pension and early retirement and to reform disability insurance once again. This culminated in a 350,000 strong demonstration in Amsterdam’s Museum Square, the biggest union demonstration in the history of the Netherlands. SP members were a lively part of these movements.

A year later, the SP was the only left wing party to throw itself into the campaign for a “No” vote in the referendum on the European Constitution. Eventually, a majority of Dutch voters voted against the constitution. However, in constrast to the No vote in France, the Dutch No vote was not chiefly a left No. At the time, Pepijn Brandon, historian and member of the International Socialists, wrote in this journal: “Unfortunately the Socialist Party did not challenge the nationalism of the right—both of the yes and no campaign. Instead it collapsed itself into chauvinist slogans about losing our Dutch identity to a ‘European superstate’”.26

Yet there was undoubtedly a left wing sentiment from which the SP profited during the 2006 municipal elections. It made a mammoth advance in the general elections in the same year, growing from 9 to 25 seats and making it the third biggest party in the House of Representatives, behind CDA and PvdA. The party also made big gains in the provincial elections. But this euphoria was short-lived, since the SP started falling in the polls after 2007.

The SP leadership’s conclusion was that people who had voted SP were disappointed that the party had not taken office. Undoubtedly, this was one factor. The 2006 campaign for the general elections was emphatically aimed at joining the government. After the party’s substantial gains CDA and PvdA invited the SP to talks about a new coalition. However, after just a week and a half, negotiations broke down. CDA and PvdA claimed this was due to the SP’s attitude. PvdA leader Wouter Bos kept repeating this reproach for years, but it was later revealed that the PvdA never intended to throw in its lot with the SP.

After the peak

However, failure to take office was not the main reason why the SP fell in the polls. The main reason was that by 2007 the left wing mood had dissipated. After the massive union demonstration in 2004, a Museum Square Agreement was signed. While many hailed the agreement as a small victory, preparations for further union actions were abandoned. The resulting demoralisation also paved the way for an increase in the pensionable age a couple of years later without any notable resistance. The SP activists who had been part of the mobilisations increasingly focused on parliament. The growth of the SP membership was part of this development. The number of members doubled, from 25,052 in 1999 to 50,740 in 2007.27 The SP’s electoral strategy meant that these members moved from one election campaign to the other. After several elections, the orientation towards the social movements had all but disappeared.

The other important reason was that the SP changed its attitude to the PvdA at the time of the 2006 general elections. The party leadership’s assumption was that joining the government would be crucial for further electoral growth. After 2006, all positions that would make it impossible to form a coalition were abandoned. The SP no longer talked about abolishing the monarchy or leaving NATO. On socio-economic issues, too, their positions were watered down. This changed course brought the party close to the PvdA, but also made the SP less attractive as an alternative to the PvdA. The SP still has not been able to find a way out of this strategic quandary.

Governing party

The SP has been trying to convince the PvdA by proving that the party is able to govern. The SP joined local government coalitions first in smaller municipalities in the mid-1990s, then in medium-sized left wing cities like Nijmegen in 2002 and Groningen in 2006. The left wing local government coalitions of the SP, GroenLinks and PvdA that were formed in these cities were presented by the SP as a precursor of a potential national coalition government. However, after the failure to form a government with the PvdA on a national level this orientation was dropped.

After the 2011 provincial elections the SP first took part in provincial government, despite having suffered significant losses. In both North Brabant and South Holland, the SP formed coalitions with right wing parties only. This allowed the right wing parties to sideline the PvdA while coopting the SP. The breakthrough to the big cities came in 2014, as the SP joined local government coalitions in both Utrecht and Amsterdam. In both cities, the SP worked together with VVD and D66, in Utrecht joined by GroenLinks. After the 2015 provincial elections, the SP joined coalitions in six out of 12 provinces, mostly with right wing parties. A left wing coalition was not formed in any province.

Although the SP is still the only party in the House of Representatives to oppose neoliberalism, the party’s course after 2006 made it impossible for them to present themselves as a credible and attractive alternative to neoliberal austerity. When the financial crisis erupted in 2007, the SP kept quiet. A report by MPs Agnes Kant—who had succeeded Marijnissen as parliamentary fraction leader in 2008—and Ewout Irrgang was only published in October 2008. It called for “reinforcing rules and oversight, reversing shareholders’ excessive power and abolishing the perverse bonus culture”.28 As the crisis deepened and was seized by the right to implement hard-hitting cuts, the SP continued to present itself as a responsible government party. The flipside of this development was that the SP increasingly withdrew from social movements and became less visible on the street.

Between 2007 and 2016, the SP’s membership has fallen from 50,740 to 41,710.29 After suffering a dramatic defeat in the 2010 municipal elections, Kant resigned as parliamentary fraction leader and was succeeded by former local government executive member Emile Roemer. Under Roemer’s leadership, the SP lost ten seats in that year’s general elections. The party saw this defeat mainly as punishment for the events after the 2006 elections. Even after the formation of what Roemer described as the most right wing government since the Second World War (a CDA/VVD coalition supported by Geert Wilders’s PVV), the SP continued on its moderate course aimed at making itself fit and acceptable for government. As a result, when the government collapsed two years later, the SP got only 15 seats in the elections.

In the following period the SP did a little better, mainly because of the implosion of the PvdA. After the 2012 elections, the PvdA formed a coalition with the VVD, while most people voted PvdA to keep the VVD out. The PvdA had broken election promises many times before, but this time they were responsible for hard-right policies during an economic crisis with high unemployment. Against this background, the SP became just a bit bigger than the PvdA in the 2014 European Parliament election and again in the 2015 provincial elections. Roemer reacted with euphoria: “This is a historic evening. We are now the biggest party on the left. The SP is now a political force in the senate, an ideal starting point for the Dutch left to vote the SP into office in the next elections”.30

Weakness of the left

This position was repeated in the documents for last autumn’s congress—but it is a highly unrealistic scenario. The SP’s position as “biggest party on the left” is mostly a manifestation of the PvdA’s weakness, rather than the SP’s strength. In addition, the acceptance of the SP as a governing party on the local and ­provincial levels—which mainly involves it implementing existing policies—does not mean that the neoliberal parties consider the SP a potential coalition partner in national government. In this situation, even though short-term surges to the left may be possible, it is likely that the SP will move further to the centre in order to accommodate the other parties, making it increasingly less attractive as a left wing alternative.

This does not necessarily mean the SP can no longer grow. For one thing, there are many floating voters on the left. The SP is also well positioned to take advantage of a new wave of struggle, it has thousands of members who are involved in different social movements, although their participation in these movements is usually not connected to their membership of the party. In the case of a new left wing surge the SP could become the electoral focus point, not only for left wing floating voters, but also for disillusioned non-voters and some of those who went over to Geert Wilders’s PVV. But at the same time the focus on taking office prevents the party from actively building such struggles.

Behind the adjustment

Growth under neoliberalism

The history of the SP can be summarised as a shift from a reformism of struggle to a reformism of government. While the party used to emphasise winning improvements by organising struggles, it now hopes to “serve the people” by “being at the controls”. This shift has been reinforced by the objective conditions in which the SP made its breakthrough. The early SP took advantage of the left wing upsurge of the 1960s and 1970s—especially in the Catholic south of the country, where there was no strong left wing tradition—to build a national organisation. But the SP’s electoral breakthrough and biggest period of growth, which made it the party it is today, occurred in the context of the dominance of neoliberal ideas since the 1980s. The emergence and growth of the SP are not signs of the strength of the left, but of a form of regroupment—many supporters of the SP are former supporters of the CPN, PSP and PvdA—as a reaction to the left’s weakness since the 1980s.

The important exception has been the revival of the left after 2000. This upsurge launched the SP as a serious challenger to the PvdA’s position as the dominant party on the left, something that no other party had ever achieved. But this revival was too superficial to create the basis for an alternative to the parliamentary course of the party leadership. Instead, the end of the left upsurge coincided with electoral gains in this period, which further reinforced the party’s focus on parliament. The SP had now become big enough for serious speculation about joining a national coalition government, while the low level of struggle made an alternative focus on struggle outside parliament rather unattractive.

Lack of discussion

However, the degree to which the SP has shifted to the centre is not just the consequence of the dominance of neoliberal ideas. The Maoist origins of the party are another important influence. But we have to be very clear about what the problem is. Both the media and the party’s rivals in the House of Representatives often criticise the SP for its supposedly authoritarian structure, frequently with reference to its Maoist past or to the double mandate Jan Marijnissen had for a long time. Marijnissen was appointed party chair at the 1988 conference and, when elected as MP in 1994, he also became the leader of the parliamentary fraction.

In this respect the SP differs from other parties, which stick to the convention of allowing the parliamentary fraction to determine its own course. This convention is in keeping with the constitutional provision that states that MPs vote “without instruction”. Other parties, including the PvdA and GroenLinks, have a long tradition of ignoring the decisions of their own party conferences and presenting conference with faits accomplis. The close ties between the SP leadership and the parliamentary party are perfectly justifiable from a democratic point of view.

The real trouble with the Maoist origins of the party differs a lot from the bourgeois criticism. The SP was originally a homogeneous party, whose course was determined largely from above. According to political scientist Gerrit Voerman: “Mao’s mass line was its crucial strategic compass”.31 The consequence was that political and strategic discussion were seen as superfluous. When recruiting, the branches mainly relied on their practical work. The early SP saw democratic centralism as a means of “centralising experiences”, rather than a form of democratic decision-making. Although democratic centralism was officially ditched long ago, this particular interpretation has left its mark on the party’s culture.

On top of that, as Alex de Jong has pointed out, the SP did not really have to engage in discussions with other left wing parties. With the exception of Nijmegen, the SP was mostly active in areas where it did not have to face rivals on the radical left, such as the PSP and CPN, or even the social democratic PvdA.32 The SP’s sectarian attitude—working through their own front organisations rather than together with other organisations—was not conducive to a strong internal culture of debate either.

When the party finally made its breakthrough it grew by relaxing its conditions for membership and adjusting its ideology in order to attract more people and because of the weak position of the rest of the left. This was very convenient for the party leadership, who could move to a reformism of government in a very short time without facing a serious internal opposition. This has made the SP the big party it is now, but also a party without an ideological backbone. Within the present day SP there still is a strong division of labour between the branches, which mainly work on local issues, and the national leadership, which determines broad outlines and takes strategic decisions.

However, what did change was that in the 1990s the party started to embrace an ideology that was much better suited to its practical work. De Jong writes: “Since the 1990s, the SP has, in Marijnissen’s words, had its ‘own ideology’, without ‘the classical basis of Marx and Engels’… In this decade, ‘Marxism-Leninism’ was replaced by an ethical socialism. The party’s ‘socialism’ is a measuring stick, consisting of values few people will disagree with”.33 The party’s Heel de mens manifesto, with its moralistic striving for “human dignity”, which was adopted in 1999, is an expression of this development. As a result, ideological struggle remained low on the party’s priority list. De Jong concludes: “Intellectual persuasion and arguments are of minor importance in a strategy that primarily aims to address people’s moral indignation”.34

The stagnation of the party in recent years has created a more fertile ground for criticism. The announcement last summer by Jan Marijnissen that he was stepping down as party chair—a position he held for more than 27 years—also set the stage for the first real leadership contest in the party’s history, with MP Sharon Gesthuizen running against left wing union leader Ron Meyer. However, last autumn’s congress turned out to be another example of the party’s inability to have a profound discussion on strategy. In the congress documents the party leadership failed to acknowledge the deadlock in which the SP has found itself. Instead it sketched a highly unrealistic scenario in which the party is just one election away from joining the national government “on its own terms”.

Although a small left wing minority tried to challenge this fata morgana, the party leadership succeeded in depoliticising the discussion. Instead Meyer, who was endorsed by the old leadership, was elected as chair with the promise of strengthening the party by transforming it into a “permanent campaigning machine”. Former chair Kevin Levie of the dissident Rotterdam branch summed up the congress in his resignation letter: “They have tried very hard to keep the substantive discussion short and superficial, and they have succeeded very well in doing this. The central message of the day was and remains: we are very good and we are doing very good, and we don’t have to change anything, we just have to work a little harder”.35

Theory of change

According to Levie the party leadership sees “what it perceives as the views of the ‘masses’ often as fixed, instead of analysing these views and trying to talk with people about their problems and the causes of these problems”.36 His remarks are spot on. The SP has never understood that, as Karl Marx and Frederick Engels explain in The German Ideology, “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas”. In the 1970s, Jan Marijnissen had already said: “It’s not about what we want, it’s about what the people want.” Obviously, this presents a problem when the people’s ideas are those of the ruling class. The SP chooses to evade the struggle for ideas, which means it inevitably loses this struggle.

In spite of its focus on local activity, the SP has always belonged to the family of what Hal Draper called “socialism from above”. Their aim is to carry out the will of “the people” on behalf of the people, instead of helping the people to fight for themselves. The logical consequence of this is that they see themselves as the driving force of change. In the 1970s, this led to extreme sectarianism and from the 1990s onward it reinforced the party’s tendency to argue from their position as parliamentarians rather than taking the interests of the class as their starting point.

This distorted view of the relation between party and class also influenced the SP’s attitude towards other organisations. It does not see different parties and political organisations as reflections of the uneven level of class ­consciousness. Therefore, the party usually works on its own, launching campaigns that it completely dominates, much like the old “mass organisations”. But when it does try to work alongside other organisations, or is involved in social movements, it does so on an uncritical basis, tailing the main organisations.

Whither the SP?

The SP has always been proud of its presence “in the neighbourhoods”. However, parliamentary work and governing at the local and provincial level place a heavy burden on its members. Combined with the loss of thousands of members over the past years the SP’s capacity for action has enormously declined. It has become increasingly difficult for branches to maintain their presence in the neighbourhoods, a development that creates tensions between the state of denial of the party leadership and the experiences of SP cadres. Both Meyer and Gesthuizen were forced to address this contradiction in their campaigns, albeit in a way that avoided strategic discussion. For example, Meyer said in an interview with De Volkskrant: “The SP has to become the party I fell in love with in the 90s again”.37

This echoes the nostalgia of a part of the SP that sees the current problems as a result of the party’s alienation from its activist roots, especially since the elections of 2006, and fears the SP is going the way of the PvdA. However, this should not be confused with a fundamental disagreement about the party’s objective of joining the national government. Instead, more emphasis on activism is seen as the best way to win reforms and to strengthen the party in order to join the national government on more favourable terms. This is hardly surprising as the SP—even in the 1970s when it was extremely hostile towards the social democratic “traitors” of the PvdA and FNV—has always focused on winning reforms, rather than winning people for a revolutionary perspective. But, as long as the SP remained a party that was mainly active locally, it could combine an activist reformist praxis with a revolutionary image. From the moment the SP became a force on the national level by entering parliament, its reformist praxis made the move towards the centre—and thus the shift from activism to governing—inevitable and irreversible.

Minorities, nationalism and migration

Migrant Labour and Capital

If the SP was the most intransigent opposition party in the 1990s, it has been surpassed in recent years by the radical right. Although the fixation on governing and the move to the centre have made the party less attractive as an alternative to the mainstream parties, this is only half of the story. The party’s inability to formulate answers to the racist rhetoric of Geert Wilders and his PVV is at least as important.

The party’s attitude towards migrants has always been problematic. In 1983 the SP published a pamphlet called Migrant Labour and Capital. They wanted to encourage immigrants to return to their countries of origin by giving them 75,000 guilders if they left. Those who stayed should be forcibly assimilated. The SP also proposed that no neighbourhood should have a migrant population higher than 10 percent. Alex de Jong rightly points to another remarkable failing: “The pamphlet does not deal with the possibility of organising a common struggle by immigrants and indigenous workers. The only practical suggestion in the pamphlet is that foreigners should have to choose between adopting the Dutch nationality and Dutch ‘customs and traditions’ or leave with financial assistance from the government”.38

The publication of the pamphlet led to a storm of criticism, and not just from the left. The SP was even attacked by right-wingers for Migrant Labour and Capital. This left its mark on the SP with Jan Marijnissen calling the criticism “a scratch on the soul”.39 The party decided to stop propagating this position: “For years, people on the left kept saying: The SP wants foreigners to piss off. It was obvious we weren’t getting through, so we started keeping quiet about it after 1985”, Tiny Kox said in 2002.40

But in the changing political climate, the SP’s old position was accepted more and more. In 1995, Jan Marijnissen said, in an interview with Vrij Nederland: “To be honest, I’m proud that we put this topic on the agenda before Bolkestein, and I mean long before Bolkestein. We retreated when we should have persevered”.41 Since then, leading SP members have often referred to the pamphlet approvingly. At his first press conference as party leader, Emile Roemer said Geert Wilders is talking about “problems” the SP had already identified long ago.

Two main factors have contributed to the development of this attitude in the 1980s: the Stalinist concept of “socialism in one country” and the Maoist mass line. Historian Ron Blom, an SP member with a Trotskyist background, writes about the first:

Contrary to the classic socialist view of the necessity of spreading socialism beyond the borders of nation states, the party adopted the view that socialism should be built within the framework of the nation state. The interests of migrant workers were subordinated to those of indigenous Dutch workers. They had to assimilate.42

An explanation by Tiny Kox clearly bears the mark of the negative influence of the mass line:

We went into the neighbourhoods to talk to people. We were very good at leaky gutters. Then we would set up a neighbourhood committee to demand rent reduction. But this became more and more difficult in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Residents of the old neighbourhoods repeatedly asked us, can’t you do something about those foreigners? They complained that they used to be able to talk to people when they put out the rubbish a day too early, but they could no longer do so.43

The dilemma of the SP

Yet the attitude of the present-day SP towards Migrant Labour and Capital is much more ambivalent. When referring to the pamphlet, SP leaders seldom discuss its actual content, nor can the text be found on the party’s website. “Referring to a pamphlet without discussing the content is a safer strategy”, remarks Pepijn Brandon. “The large number of voters who expect the left to come up with a response to rampant islamophobia will not be pleased with passages like: ‘the difference in development and culture makes it very difficult for Dutch people to work and live together with their foreign co-workers’”.44

With the changing composition of the working class and the rise of racist ideas, the party is faced with a dilemma that cannot be solved by adapting its ideas to the majority. In fact, the party is already losing large numbers of voters to the PVV because it has never armed its supporters against racist ideas. But, because the party leadership navigates on what Kevin Levie has aptly described as “their presumption of what an old white male in a pub in Brabant probably would think”, the party is afraid to take a clear stance on migration or racism.45

The party’s choice not to get too deeply involved in anti-racist struggles prevents them from sinking roots in the anti-racist movement. In the past, the SP refused to take part in anti-racist demonstrations on numerous occasions, although it was not the only party to do so. MPs from the SP, GroenLinks and the PvdA refused to take part in a demonstration against racism on 22 March 2008 because it targeted their parliamentary colleague Wilders too much. Instead, they proposed a boycott of the demonstration. In 2010, the left wing parties again refused to support a demonstration against a visit by the English Defence League to Amsterdam. Members of GroenLinks who were involved in the demonstration, such as former parliamentary leader Mohamed Rabbae, were even openly criticised by their own party.46

Because of the lack of rootedness in the anti-racist movement and the party’s questionable past, anti-racism is not part of the SP’s genetic make-up. Unsurprisingly, SP members regularly screw up. In 2007, Jan Marijnissen said it would be “a big plus” if state secretaries Nebahat Albayrak and Ahmed Aboutaleb gave up their dual nationalities. Shamefully, he made this comment after Geert Wilders had proposed a vote of no confidence in both state secretaries because of their dual nationalities. In 2011, MP Paul Ulenbelt talked about a “tsunami of Poles” during a local meeting. This remark was especially unfortunate because it echoed Wilders’s notorious remark about a “tsunami of islamisation” a few years earlier.


The SP tries to avoid the dilemma by falling back on the economism of its early years. It limits the struggle against Wilders to the socio-economic sphere, while maintaining a deafening silence on the PVV’s racism. In 2011, the party produced two excellent reports on “Wilders’s broken promises”, in which the PVV’s “social mask” was attacked.47 But the core of the problem is not the PVV’s socio-economic policies, which it shares with parties like VVD and CDA, but its racist hatemongering, which the SP refuses to tackle. This is why D66 leader Alexander Pechtold is seen as Wilders’s main opponent in parliament. Since Pechtold is the personification of the political elite, this situation gives Wilders free rein to spread his racist poison among the victims of that elite’s neoliberal attacks. This in turn undermines the solidarity on which the SP bases its socio-economic struggle.

Due to the SP’s weak internationalism, the majority of activists in the resurging anti-racism movement don’t see the party as an ally, let alone as a party they should join. This in turn reinforces the focus of the party leadership on the “old white male in a pub in Brabant” that Levie mentioned. However, there are two developments that provide the basis for a change in this attitude. As migrants become an increasingly important part of the working class—especially in the big cities in the west of the country—class interests pull some of them towards the SP, despite the party’s weak stance on racism. The party has also been able to recruit among the smaller migrant communities with strong socialist traditions. For example, current MPs Sadet Karabulut and Farshad Bashir have Kurdish and Afghan backgrounds respectively. At the same time the growing confidence of the radical right—which increasingly targets the left as a whole—creates a situation where SP members feel compelled to fight back.

Thus, while the word racism was nowhere mentioned in the documents for last autumn’s congress and the party leadership has mostly kept silent on the refugee crisis, some local branches have become more active in the movement against racism. For example, the branches in PVV bulwarks Almere and Purmerend organised protests during Geert Wilders’s visits to these towns as part of his “resistance tour”, while the branches in Amsterdam and Utrecht respectively took the initiative in organising and joined existing counter protests against Pegida.

Ukraine Referendum

However, the recent referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, which was rejected in a referendum held on 6 April this year, saw the SP lapsing onto nationalist terrain. It should be stressed that this referendum was very different from the British referendum on membership of the EU. In the Dutch case voters were asked to decide on the future of another country. This complete disregard for the right of self-determination made it impossible to mount a left wing No campaign without falling back into politics from above. It is telling that Burgercomité EU (Citizens’ Committee EU), the organisation that came up with the idea for the referendum, stated during the campaign: “We don’t care about Ukraine at all”.48

Being a small organisation, Burgercomité EU joined forces with GeenStijl and Forum voor Democratie. GeenStijl (loosely translatable as “Tasteless”) is a popular far-right blog owned by the Telegraaf Media Groep (TMG). Forum voor Democratie (Forum for Democracy) is a far-right think-tank, led by Thierry Baudet. In Dutch media, Baudet is portrayed as a conservative intellectual, with narcissistic tendencies (he calls himself “the most important philosopher of this moment” in the Netherlands). But reality is much more grim. Baudet has called Austria’s FPÖ, the Front National and the PVV the “vanguard” and has spoken at meetings of the Flemish fascist party Vlaams Belang, and also at the IJzerwake, a gathering of Flemish fascists and neo-Nazis. He regularly appears as a guest in programmes on PowNed, a TV network owned by TMG.

Together these three organisations set out to collect 300,000 signatories within six weeks, the requirement for a consultative referendum. An advert in the right wing daily De Telegraaf—the biggest newspaper of the Netherlands, also owned by TMG—proved to be decisive, with the amount of signatories jumping from 255,000 to 443,000 in just a few days. The money for the advertisement came from none other than UKIP.49

The SP, however, saw the referendum as way to repeat the successful campaign against the European constitution in 2005. It can also be seen as the first attempt to transform the party into a “permanent campaigning machine” as Ron Meyer had promised. But, although leading members have reacted with euphoria to the results, the campaign has not fulfilled its promise. While 61 percent voted against the agreement, the lack of enthusiasm was expressed in the low turnout (32 percent). And, while the far-right initiators were able to use the referendum as a springboard, the SP was not able clearly to distinguish its campaign from the right wing No campaign.

Alex de Jong is far too positive when he writes that the “campaign focused mostly on the neoliberal character of the association treaty. But its appeals were not free of chauvinism—just like in the 2005 campaign around the EU constitution”.50 In an interview with the Financieel Dagblad Harry van Bommel, who headed the SP campaign, called himself a “strong supporter of the European Union”, defended the internal market, and went as far as describing the agreement as a threat to “the European project”. According to him the promise of the No vote was “a real trade agreement”.51 Instead, the SP focused on corruption as the main reason why “we should not associate with Ukraine”. In an absolute low, Emile Roemer, during a debate on news programme Nieuwsuur, said the only thing Ukraine “will be exporting is cheap labour”, even though the agreement does not allow most Ukrainian workers to work within the European Union.52

On top of this, the SP occasionally cooperated with the right wing No campaign. Van Bommel expressed his support for GeenStijl’s campaign on several occasions and gave a long interview to its public face, Jan Roos, who is notorious for his racist rants against Muslims. During an interview recorded at his home Jan Marijnissen did the same. Arjo Klamer, economist and prominent SP member, even appeared on national television as a member of the Committee of Recommendation of Thierry Baudet’s Forum voor Democratie. This association with the right wing No campaign mainly benefited the far right’s attempts to become more acceptable. At the same time, as Alex de Jong writes, “the low turnout shows that many SP supporters stayed home rather than add their No votes to Baudet and his right wing allies”.53 This shows again the contradictory development taking place within the SP.

The tasks of revolutionary socialists in the Netherlands

The current deadlock in which the SP finds itself, is a consequence of the reformist logic on which the party has been built. The SP has evolved from an alternative to traditional social democracy to a social democratic party that is in many respects to the right of the 1970s PvdA. But, contrary to the PvdA, it has not yet been fully integrated into the establishment. Even though it has done a lot to become acceptable, the SP is perceived as too radical by the other parties. In order to join the national government the SP would have to give up its opposition to neoliberalism, a step that would alienate the party from a large portion of its voters and rank and file members. Yet, although a break with its opposition to neoliberalism is a bridge too far, this will not prevent the party leadership from attempting to become more acceptable, thus continuing the shift towards the centre.

Over the past years, this shift has weakened the left as a whole. But simply calling for a new, revolutionary party is not the solution. Such a call would disregard the objective conditions faced by revolutionary socialists. A new party could only be built on a new wave of class struggle, and even then only as the result of a process of left regroupment. With all its shortcomings, the SP currently remains the most important party of the working class.

Therefore, revolutionary socialists have to relate to the SP and its members by working with them wherever possible, while remaining able to criticise the strategic choices of the party leadership. The lack of an open discussion culture makes it impossible to do this from the inside. Yet, the present stagnation offers starting points for strategic discussions. Also, the departure of Jan Marijnissen, and with him the old guard that built the party in the 1970s, means the party leadership is no longer as dominant as it used to be. It would be interesting to see how a new left wing upsurge would affect the SP.

However, the principal task of the revolutionary left in the Netherlands is to build a revolutionary pole which is able both ideologically to sharpen the left as a whole and to prepare itself for the next left wing upsurge. The International Socialists work together with the SP and its members wherever possible. Our annual Marxism Festival is attended by many SP members who are open to debate on strategic issues, and a lot of them read our monthly, The Socialist. We do not consider ourselves the electoral alternative for the SP, even though we acknowledge such an alternative might be necessary in the long run. Instead, we concentrate on building left wing networks—with SP members, trade union members and other activists—that are capable of pushing the struggle forwards and creating the conditions for left regroupment.

Max van Lingen is a historian and a leading member of the International Socialists in the Netherlands.


1 I would like to thank Ron Blom, Pepijn Brandon, Angela Ettema, Lennart Feijen, Peyman Jafari, Niels Jongerius and Michel Tilanus for their help with this article. As this list includes several members of the SP, the conclusions reached in this article are obviously my own.

2 Kagie, 2004, pp31-33.

3 Slager, 2001, p33.

4 De Jong, 2014b.

5 Mao, 1965, p158.

6 Slager, 2001, pp69-74.

7 Slager, 2001, pp177-181.

8 Slager, 2001, pp172-176.

9 Kagie, 2004, p38.

10 De Jong, 2014a, pp4-5.

11 Ettema, 2012.

12 Oudenampsen, 2015.

13 Voerman, 1984, p136.

14 Voerman, 2012, pp41-42.

15 Kagie, 2004, p41.

16 SP, 1989.

17 Hans Janmaat was a fascist MP between 1982 and 1986 and again between 1989 and 1998

18 Kagie, 2004, p77-78.

20 SP, 1999.

21 Voerman, 2012, p39.

22 Voerman, 2012, pp59-61.

23 Kagie, 2004, pp91-92.

24 Jorritsma and Valk, 2007.

25 Van der Velden, 2010.

26 Brandon, 2005.

28 Irrgang and Kant, 2008.

30, 2015. The Dutch Senate is chosen by representatives of the provinces.

31 Voerman, 2012, p41.

32 De Jong, 2014b.

33 De Jong, 2014b.

34 De Jong, 2014b.

35 Levie, 2016.

36 Levie, 2016.

37 Bakker, 2015.

38 De Jong, 2014b, p23.

39 Kagie, 2004, p171.

40 Alberts, 2002.

41 Frits Bolkestein was the leader of the VVD in the 1990s. His xenophobic ideas laid the groundwork for both Fortuyn and Wilders. Wilders is a former assistant of Bolkestein.

42 Blom, 2009, p190.

43 Alberts, 2002.

44 Brandon, 2009, p208.

45 Levie, 2016.

46 Van Lingen, 2010.

47 SP, 2011a and b.

48 Heck, 2016.

49 Cochez and Van de Putte, 2016.

50 De Jong, 2016.

51 Jonker, 2016.

52 Nieuwsuur, 2016.

53 De Jong, 2016.


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