Paul J. Gerbrands, Historian
100 years on from the communist revolution of 1917
The welfare state: a paradise on earth. In its current form it owes a lot to liberal capitalism, which has brought so many blessings to the wealthy nations and even gained popularity when its negative by-effects had run their course.
Capitalism, which was, initially, strongly contested by communists and socialists, but secretly desired by them, is now, globally, the number one weapon against poverty. As if that was not enough, everything that reeks of government interference is now being cleaned away. It is presented as a system which guarantees prosperity for all.
Capitalism is, or rather its adherents are, making use of the absence of any notable opposition by socialists and communists these days. Europe and the United States are imposing their will on the rest of the world. They want, above all, to preserve their wealth and prosperity, even if is by way of a legalized plundering of the Third World. The Netherlands, for example, makes use of an area of land 14 times its own size; this huge surface area is the Netherlands’ ecological footprint. All wealthy nations operate in this way. In order to be able to do so, wars, tariff barriers or political power centralized in, for instance, the EU, are sometimes called upon.
Moving the Goalposts
There are now around six billion people. According to calculations by Western researchers, it is only possible for 3 billion people to lead lives which meet Western standards of prosperity. For the time being, it seems that it is only in China that people are wondering what is going to happen when 1.3 billion Chinese also start to arrange their lifestyles along Western lines, with fast cars and refrigerators. China is anticipating a future situation and opting for fewer people, who will consume more in the future. In the Netherlands, the consensus is still that a simple environmental tax will solve all the problems. While everything is constantly being made bigger, better, faster and more beautiful here, moreover, poverty and hunger are increasing in other parts of the world, along with the divide between Europe and the US, on the one hand, and the rest of the world on the other. The question is whether, right now, capitalism and economic growth are really the most suitable instruments for changing the goalposts.
Strikes about Pay
Currently, consumption and pollution by the 16 million inhabitants of the Netherlands equals that of the 200 million inhabitants of China. This begs the question whether the Dutch population should not be expected to make cuts as well, whether it be in wealth or in population size. Until now, no one has dared to be the messenger of bad tidings, by telling the electorate that we need to significantly reduce our collective spending in the Netherlands. It is quite normal, even, for strikes to be called when wage increases are considered to be too low. Although the Dutch government attempts to tackle alcohol and drugs abuse, violence, neighborhood disputes and prejudices, it hardly pays any attention to the root causes of these problems, namely the feelings of sadness and anger among large parts of both the original and immigrant populations who are trapped and frustrated. It is hardly surprising that people no longer understand their political representatives.
What do these politicians, focused as they are on the short-term and lacking any comprehensive vision, actually know about policy making? They too have undergone the effects of the multicultural society, of mass immigration, the failure of integration, the rapid growth in prosperity and the numbers of people profiting from it, the increasing traffic congestion and problems surrounding the major airport etc. It is these problems that have led the politicians to devise apparent solutions and stopgap measures, designed to alleviate symptoms instead of dealing with the underlying issue. They do not present any effective measures towards healing a country which is unhealthily overcrowded. D66, the liberal democrat party, places its bets on extending playgrounds by a few extra meters and on elected mayors. The Christian democrats (CDA), for their part, opt for the family and child assistance. The Labour party (PvdA) wants to reword the constitution in contemporary parlance, and the Green party (GroenLinks) wants to let in more refugees. All of this is friendly sounding but irrelevant, cosmetic talk, meant to conceal the fact that the political parties simply do not know how to proceed any more. The political system exists by the grace of those who want to keep hold of political power. That explains how a possible merger of the liberal democrats and liberal party, or between Labour and the Greens, can be openly discussed. Would it really make that much of a difference, though, if all the existing political parties were to merge into one?
The truly important issue is kept out of the spotlight. Overpopulation, as a problem, is denied. Population politics remains a “dirty” term, even in an ecological context. It is, after all, always associated with the Third Reich. The almost totalitarian, forced way in which the political establishment claims to combat fascism, crime and racism, actually serves to camouflage a lack of vision and arguments. Politicians’ fears of losing power always lead to repression, or, as we know it in this situation, political correctness. Now and then people do propose ways of countering the constant growth: by lowering the level of prosperity, for example, or by downscaling, aiming for a decrease in the number of people in an overflowing land and by pursuing a population policy. In these cases, however, the messengers are generally condemned as gloomy prophets of doom, or, perhaps, as racists. These judgements effectively close the discussion. In the mean time, the whole world is being sacrificed to the capitalist model of growth propounded by the US and Europe. The rich part of the world grows even richer by it. The poor in the rest of the world, however, especially in the Third World, are like the Russian proletarians under the Tsar. The protests by the anti-globalization movement are merely a harbinger of what could come to be known as the second proletarian world revolution. It might just take place in 2017.