The reaction of the media and the politicians to the massive “no” votes against the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands reveals the nature of our “elites”, that part of the population that is supposed to manage society.
Even after two devastating defeats for the Constitution the mass media still seem unable to find any representatives of the “no” vote. Instead, the majority of the people of France and the Netherlands are bombarded by a cocktail of threats (“there will now definitely be a crisis and maybe even war!”), insults (“voters were too stupid to know what it was about”) and a great deal of arrogance (“we will still go ahead with the Constitution”). Apparently, democracy and elections are only valuable things as long as people cast the “right” vote. This is something Venezuela experienced after the people cast the “wrong” vote up to six consecutive times for president Chavez, after which the country was excommunicated by the international media.
There are now two more rogue states: France and the Netherlands. The merit of the Dutch “no” vote is that it soon demolished the cordon sanitaire, the coalition of government officials and bourgeois media established in France. Just before and right after the French “non” the press was full of reports on “l’exception française”, in the most negative sense: France was again navel-gazing; the arrogant French once again thought they could set themselves apart from the rest of the world; some even claimed that France was held hostage by the dinosaurs of May 1968! Editorials put France on the psychologist’s sofa and analysed the country’s post-revolutionary trauma. Even the Killing Fields in Cambodia were dragged into the discussion!
This was all to no avail. A few days after the “non” vote in France, the same thing happened in a country that is in many respects the antipode of France, i.e. the protestant, mercantile, Anglo-Saxon oriented Netherlands (that is if we are allowed to speak in historical clichés, otherwise the thick-headed, middle class, would-be intellectual “yes” voters will not understand).
Is it still not clear what is going on here? Indeed, the “no” vote is an international phenomenon. The Belgian establishment meanwhile takes it for granted that we are a country of “yes” voters. This also corresponds to the history of a country often trampled underfoot by foreign occupiers. However, as Julius Caesar wrote, “Of all these Gauls, the Belgians are the bravest”. The French too were convinced “yes” voters back in January this year. Just wait until the debate is held in a serious way over here. And the same goes for the rest of Europe.
So why is the “no” vote an international phenomenon? This is not hard to understand if you belong to the working class, because this is when the meaning of the increasing pressure at work, the precariousness of every job, the lengthening of the working day, the destruction of social security and the scaling down of social services becomes clear.
The Dutch people know this very well. Under the right-wing Balkenende administration the process of radicalisation has become quite advanced in the space of just a few years. At the end of 2004 massive strikes and demonstrations hit the traditionally quiet Netherlands. (See The Netherlands: The end of the “polder” model). Apparently, there is not one single journalist who can imagine that the “no” vote flows from this wave of militancy and social struggle.
The governments of the different member states of the European Union have been implementing counter-reforms for fifteen years now, all under the guise of the EU: “There is no other way, Europe forces us to do this.” Is it surprising then when people associate Europe with the destruction of the welfare state and social programmes? Although you could charge them with not literally knowing what is in the (deceased) constitution, ordinary working men and women intuitively know what it is about. The commodification, the liberalisation and the privatisation of society are indeed the backbone of this constitution. The constitution set capitalism in stone. We can be relieved that we have escaped this disaster, given that the French and the Dutch have shown the lucidity to vote against this draconian and suffocating constitution.
It is the establishment and the ruling clique of elites, including all their ink-slingers, bought-off academics, “stars” and political lackeys who have suffered a severe defeat. This is no small achievement: even though all the mass media, governments, party and trade unions leaders, the schools, the corporate world and administrations were on the “yes” side, they were still not able to convince people to vote “yes”. If we are stupid and vote the “wrong way”, then they are desperately incompetent.
The Constitution is dead. However, the struggle is not finished. Let us quote two Dutch trade unionists (taken from the discussion board www.maatisvol.nl)
1. Congratulations everybody who voted against the Constitutional Treaty. It was a massive blow to the market fundamentalists. And that is how it should be. Once again it emerged that the top of the trade union movement is as far removed from the membership as politicians are from their voters. A lot of work is to be done.
Reaction by Niek Stam — Wednesday June 1, 2005
I agree with you that a lot of work remains to be done. We clearly said “no” to a treaty they try to present as a “constitution”. We shouldn’t present this as a victory. If we do it will be used against us. We only applied the brake but the car must continue forward. Representatives of the people and the working class of Europe now need to work on a real constitution that includes rights and duties for every European citizen. It is clear that there is no room for the established politicians. I am thinking that the average guy on the street could accomplish this task.
Reaction by Harm — Thursday June 2, 2005
Yes, there is much work to be done. The referendums in France and the Netherlands were not so much “no” votes against Europe in general, but against a capitalist Europe. Now we need to build a Europe that belongs to the “average guy on the street”, a socialist Europe.