[Marxism] The Dutch SP and immigrants

Alex spirit68 at gmail.com
Wed Nov 29 13:34:26 MST 2006

The relationship between the Dutch Socialist Party and the 'immigrant
question' is a peculiar one. One of the first things any Dutch leftist
will mention when asked about this subject is the infamous
'Guest-labor and capital' booklet the SP published in 1983 when it
still considered itself a maoist party. It lays down the party-line on
the question of the so-called 'guest laborers'; people that were
brought to the Netherlands in the '60s and '70s to serve as cheap
As the term indicates, guest laborers were expected to leave after
fulfilling a contract of a few years. In reality, this was nothing but
an excuse to deny them decent housing and social benefits because
'they are only temporarily in the Netherlands'. The first of these
immigrants came from southern-European countries, later the majority
came from Morocco and Turkey. In the late '70s, early '80s the decline
of the left, economic recession and the realization that most of the
'guest laborers' wanted to stay in the Netherlands caused a rise in
The left ofcourse disapproved of this racism but also denied that this
racism was caused by very real 'material' factors, as alienation and
the lack of a credible political alternative. Ofcourse I don't want to
make excuses for racism but the Dutch left took a very patronizing,
moralist stand on this issue, blaming racism on people's
'backwardness' and 'cultural misunderstandings' while also ignoring
the immigrant communities.
Anyway, in this climate the SP published 'Guest labor and capital'.
And it's fuckin' horrible. Reading it today makes me cringe. According
to this brochure it's the 'cultural backwardness' of the immigrants
and their 'insecure position' that enables capitalists to use them as
cheap alternative for native Dutch workers. This in turn creates
tensions, racism etc. The SP suggested the following 'solution';
either an immigrant takes on the Dutch nationality and adopts to
'Dutch norms and values' within two years or s/he has to return to
'their own country'.
A few choice quotes from the brochure:
"From our research we (meaning the SP) can conclude that for
foreigners of all categories, if they want to build a future in the
Netherlands, it's imperative that they adapt to the Dutch morals and
values. If they succeed in doing this, then they can make a valuable
contribution to the struggle of workers against the capitalist system"

"A Turkish manager at Verkade says about immigrant workers: "The
foreigners consider all employers  gentlemen who give them a chance to
earn their bread and they are grateful to them. These people want to
submit and to be humble. I was asked; how should we lead these
foreigners? I said: Lead them with a smile."
(The SP ads:) There's a big difference between the average Dutch
worker and the average foreign worker. If Dutch workers had the same
attitude as the foreigners described here, their colleagues would
consider them assholes."

"(Our solution is as follows) either foreigners adapt after a few
years - we're thinking of two years - the Dutch nationality or they
return after the same period to their fatherlands.
For those who chose of their free will to return, there should be a
settlement to enable them to start a life in their own country"

As bad as this, the SP isn't anymore luckily. But the SP leadership,
for a large part the same people who lead the party in the early '80s,
still mention 'Guest labor and capital' as proof that even before
Fortuijn they 'were aware of the problems with integration'. Also, the
party voted in favor of a new law that orders immigrants from non-EU
countries to learn about 'Dutch culture and values' before being
permited to live in the Netherlands. This 'integration course' is
nothing but a cloaked immigration check, aimed especially against
muslims. It's the product of post-Fortuijn racism. I took the test and
even though I lived my whole live in the Netherlands, I failed it. So
did all of my friends btw. (And the idea that the state formulates
what it's means to 'be Dutch' and tests people whether thay also know
this is ofcourse nationalist and a means of disciplining people)
Furthermore, the SP keeps completely silent on the issue of racism.
The SP is living proof that you don't have to be a marxist to be an
economic reductionist; the little racism they admit that exists is
caused, according to the leadership, to unemployment and neglect of
the inner-cities. If these problems are solved, the racism will also
disappear they say. In the meantime, the SP takes no part in specific
anti-racist initiatives in the Netherlands. Which is a big loss,
because the big majority of SP-members are strongly opposed to racism
and there is no chance of creating a succesful movement in the
Netherlands if the SP isn't involved. So I wouldn't say the SP speaks
'out of both sides of thier mouths', they just keep silent.
This all sounds very bad ofcourse. But like I said before, the SP also
took part in campaigns for a more hmuans asylum policy. And among
immigrants the SP is the second largest party, after the Labour Party.
The find themselves drawn to the SP not as members of communities that
are discriminated against but as workers and unemployed.
At the moment the SP has a shortage of cadre because of it's rapid
growth which gives anti-racist activists and party-members from
immigrant communities possibilities to make themselves heard. I think
that the SP can't go on to ignore the issue much longer; more and more
of it's members and votes come from ethinc minorities and racism keeps
increasing. Sooner or later, they will have to take a stand. And when
they do, I have no doubt that this time they will choose the right
side, but the sooner they do this the better.

In the meantime, negotiations about the new government are still
ongoing and are expected to take a long time. I hope the SP won't
break it's promise not to form a government with the

> Please continue to update us as things develop with this experience.
> To me, the most encouraging thing about it is the apparent rejection
> that it represents of the broad hostility toward immigrants, and
> particullarly of Muslim immigrants, in a European country. Please let
> readers of the list know some more about this issue if possible. From
> what you've written, the impression I get is rather one of a certain
> confusion on their part. I wouldn't want to say "speaking out of both
> sides of their mouths", though that's, of course, a possibility, too.
> Walter Lippmann
> Los Angeles, California

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