For the many, not  the few!

Speech in Haags Historisch Museum met Jeremy Corbyn

For the many, not the few!

Foto Dirk Hol

Door Lodewijk Asscher op 5 juli 2018 Delen  

Dear Jeremy,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.

Dear friends,

I am an optimist. I firmly believe that the best of times lie ahead of us. This could be a great era for Europe. Education levels are higher than at any time in history. Large parts of the continent have enjoyed peace for over 70 years. We have fought hard for equality and minority rights. London and Rotterdam now have Mayors who are icons of social progress and Amsterdam will have its first female Mayor soon. After years of crisis, our economies are growing again. Technological developments improve our societies, we can take on global problems together, we can keep building our social model which is superior to any other model in the world.

However, my optimism is challenged at the moment. There is a fair amount of foolishness, despair and darkness around us. Many Europeans have existential doubt about the future. What do we have before us?

Our economy may be growing but Europe is divided. The UK is leaving, the rule of law is under pressure, and populist right-wing rhetoric is stoking fear and hatred.

Instead of building the welfare state of the future we see inequality and insecurity on the rise. Wages are lagging.

We need internationalism that leads to a march to the top, not a race to the bottom.

The questions of Charles Dickens are urgent as ever: Where are we going? Who is actually benefitting from the present growth?

We see London changing. We see Amsterdam changing. But who are they changing for?

Housing has become unaffordable. Public services are under distress because of the enormous pressure on those people working there. Here in the Netherlands a shortage of teachers is threatening the future of a new generation.

In the meantime multinationals and their wealthy owners are getting richer and richer.

It is the big corporations that demand security from our governments and are actually getting it.

Instead of doing something about growing inequality, many governments are now taking steps to reward multinationals with even lower taxes. Multinationals are benefiting twice: profits go up and taxes go down. It is a welfare state for the corporates instead of social justice for all.

As long as conservative governments are ready to be blackmailed by big companies threatening to go elsewhere regular tax payers will pay the prize.

This affects all of us, as it deteriorates the support for our social security system, our schools and universities, our hospitals, our infrastructure, our museums and parks. And ultimately, it leaves ordinary people to bear the costs. Now is the time to come together and stop this sale for the rich.

How on earth are we played like this by big corporations? What do these companies need to rake in more and more, leaving the rest of us worse off?

Actually, they need just two things:
1. Conservative governments;
2. Tax competition;

Unfortunately, the current Dutch government is providing just that. Instead of investing in good education for all, universal healthcare and affordable housing – it has chosen to cut the corporate profit tax rate by 4 percent and abolish the tax on dividends.

Why? Because they can. Because multinationals asked for it. Because of Brexit, or so they claim.

All in all: a big present of almost 5 billion euro’s. Not as a one-time hand out, but year after year. For 5 billion we could hire 75.000 nurses, teachers and community workers. Not one time, but year after year.

We often discuss research papers on tax paradises- mostly tropical islands none of us have visited but at the same time we have to realize this is it. Europe itself is a tax haven. And if Europe is a tax haven, the Netherlands is its beach resort.

As long as conservative governments are ready to be blackmailed by big companies threatening to go elsewhere regular tax payers will pay the prize.

I know David Davis has promised the UK will not turn into a tax haven and will not start a war based on lower standards for workers and environmental protection. But hey, promises of Brexiteers have had a tendency to age fast. And this promise wasn’t even painted on the side of a bus.

If Europe is a tax haven, the Netherlands is its beach resort.

As a Brexit rapporteur for Dutch Parliament I am increasingly worried by the absence of any realistic plan by the UK government. How to proceed if there so no vision of the future relationship with Europe nor any serious preparation for life after Brexit. The Tory government acts foolish and will bring nothing but despair for the people of Britain and Europe.

There of course are more important factors that feed the plague of insecurity for our workers and families. Unfair competition among workers due to labour migration; But also the effects of robotization and globalization. The addiction of big corporations on zero hour contracts and the tendency to shift risks to the employee.

Sytze vs. Deliveroo

In the Netherlands this trend is symbolized by Sytze, a twenty-year old chap working happily for Deliveroo. A few months ago, his job contract was thrown in the trash bin and Sytze was forced to work as a self-employed. Meaning: no security, no pension and no sick pay or insurance. Not such a good deal for Sytze, but a great one for Deliveroo. All the profits for them, all the risk for the workers. Reason for the brave Sytze to take the big UK-multinational to court. Our party has started a crowdfunding action to help Sytze with his important legal battle.

And we see this happening everywhere in the new economy. So far the Age of Digitalization has done nothing for our wages, while profits are reaching record highs. Indeed, workers are displaced by computers ánd need to be flexible ánd need to accept a stagnant wage.

So how do we get from this difficult moment to the best of times?

First, by working together. Across the channel and in Europe, social democrats should pick up the fight. The fight against tax evasion by multinationals, the fight for social security for the many, not the few.

We have to reform our economic model that no longer works in the interests of the many.

It is once again necessary to tame international capital in order to restore the position of labour. That is why we will not join a government that lowers the corporate tax rate and should stop the current government from this erroneous path.

That is why we must enforce in our parliaments that a Brexit-deal between Great Britain and the EU must include measures to tackle tax avoidance and to stop the fiscal race to the bottom. We are building a coalition in the EU to make the argument that any final deal must contain guarantees of that kind.

The Labour Party is in the perfect position to demand the same from the Theresa May government.

We have to reform our economic model that no longer works in the interests of the many.

Let’s make sure Labour and the PvdA lead the way in changing the discourse in Europe.

We have to defeat it by the force of the masses. As ever: collective action is needed to provide for individual security and progress. We should try to eradicate zero hour contracts from Europe, to change the rules for labour migration so workers are not set up against one another. Decent wages and an ambitious welfare state could be part of a common European dream that replaces the nightmare of a race to the bottom that ends up at Bulgarian level minimum wage for all. Last week I discussed this with Portugese prime minister Antonio Costa who is showing that it can be done!

We need to show that we can deliver for the new precariat of often young graduates with insecure jobs and poor housing prospects and the disgruntled public sector professionals. We need to move away from nihilistic visions that see the erosion of our working conditions as inevitable, and defeatist notions that little is to be gained from collective bargaining.

Let’s fight this fight together. Let’s make sure Labour and the PvdA lead the way in changing the discourse in Europe. Let’s foster the kind of globalization and technology that actually improves our world and builds more sustainable democracies, environment, jobs.

We need internationalism that leads to a march to the top, not a race to the bottom. Let’s re-awaken the optimism of progressives. Let’s make this the best of times.

Or as a rather popular campaign slogan went: For the many, not the few!

Delen:

Word lid van de PvdA!

Samen kunnen we onze idealen waarmaken.

Doe mee en word nu lid!

Word lid