#3: What does it mean? – “Non” & “Nee”

2005-06-08

Richard Moore

Friends,

Thanks go to Stephanie McDowall, of British Columbia, for
bringing this next article to my attention. Unlike the first
article we looked at, also from the BBC, this one seems to be
quite objective, and therefore more informative. The writer,
for example, makes no attempt to tell us what we should think
about the EU, but sticks to the topic of "What were the
voter's reasons?".  In addition, it does not appear that he is
trying to spin his interpretation of those reason in any
pre-determined way. I must tip my hat to Mulvey, and the BBC,
for this report, and also acknowledge that our earlier
article, by Kirsty Hughes, did come in the "Analysis" section,
where interpretation is permitted.

More comments at the end.

all the best,
rkm

--------------------------------------------------------
Varied reasons behind Dutch 'No' 
By Stephen Mulvey 
BBC News, Amsterdam 
June 1, 2005

         ------------------------------
          DUTCH REFERENDUM 
            "Yes" camp 
                Christian Democrats (CDA), largest government party, plus
                coalition partners VVD and D66 Labour (PVDA) and Green Left
                opposition parties
            "No" camp 
                Right-wing Pim Fortuyn party Socialist Party ChristienUnie and
                SGP, Christian parties
         ------------------------------

The Dutch Socialist Party was already geared up to celebrate a
victory for the "No" camp before the exit poll flashed up on
the television screen.

But when it appeared the crowd went wild.

The margin of 26 points appeared to be at the upper end of
expectation.

Immediately, the No Constitution Rap, theme tune of the "No"
campaign, blasted out and the Socialists danced.

The gist of the song is this: "If you want a social Europe,
and a Europe for the people, not for business and money, then
say 'No' to the constitution."

Thinking for themselves
-----------------
Some voters evidently did want a social Europe, and voted "No"
for that reason, but many others said "No" for quite different
reasons.

The television screens looming above the party-goers were
showing a live programme from Hilversum. Right-wing "No"
campaigners periodically appeared - the maverick MP Geert
Wilders for example, whose main theme during the campaign was
opposition to immigration and Turkish membership of the EU.

On the streets of Amsterdam, people were giving varied
arguments both for and against the constitution.

This may be because neither the "No" side nor the "Yes" side
has been putting forward one coherent message, but the people
have also been thinking for themselves.

One person talks about the euro, the next about domination by
bigger EU states. Another will talk about Brussels
bureaucracy, or the threat to Dutch liberal values, or loss of
sovereignty and national identity, or the motor of European
integration speeding out of control.

'Arrogance'
--------
A common complaint is that Brussels does not listen.

"I am very pleased at this result and not because I am against
a united Europe," says Lydia Meist at the Socialist Party
celebrations.

"It's because of the whole way things were managed,
manipulated, not just by our government, but by the
authorities in Brussels. The arrogance! Being so sure of
themselves without speaking to the people of Europe, deciding
for themselves!"

Campaigners for the "Yes" vote are also rueing the fact that
Dutch citizens have not been asked to vote on EU policy
before.

"The message from France and the Netherlands is that they are
unhappy with the way Europe is being built," says Michiel van
Hulten, a leader of the Better Europe foundation and a former
MEP.

"People are unhappy with the fact that Europe is a project of
the elite, not the ordinary people.

"The decision to introduce the euro was taken in 1992 in
Maastricht, but at the time there was no public discussion.
The enlargement of the EU was agreed in 1993, but it was only
when it actually happened that the debate began."

Separating out all these reasons for the "No" vote and ranking
them in order of importance will be a major undertaking.

Fuelling force
----------
France and the Netherlands in 2005 clearly have some things in
common, including a poorly performing economy and a deeply
unpopular government - in the Dutch case, the most unpopular
government on record.

Some of the arguments heard in both countries have been the
same.

Some, on the other hand, have been the opposite - French
voters lamented their country's diminishing power, while Dutch
voters were more likely to complain that the big countries,
mainly France and Germany, were too strong, and would become
stronger under the constitution.

It is also clear that the French "Non" fuelled the Dutch
"Nee".

"Vive la France," says Daniel de Jongh of the Constitution No
[Grondwetnee] group in the Netherlands.

The French vote, she says, undermined in one stroke the Dutch
government's argument that the Netherlands would be isolated
if it rejected the constitution.

HAVE YOUR SAY There is a mismatch between the political ideals
and the economic reality Una, Muscat, Oman

The scale of the French "No" vote also made clear that it was
not only nationalists and chauvinists who were opposed to the
constitution, she says, and that centrists and left-wingers
could vote against it without finding themselves in company
they would normally shun.

She acknowledges however that both left and right in the
Netherlands have tapped into a deep-seated dissatisfaction
with the country's main political parties - which all
supported the constitution - and a widespread feeling that
they are not listening to the voters.

The late Pim Fortuyn was the first to do this, achieving huge
popularity within months of setting up his anti-immigration
party, the Pim Fortuyn list.

Now the constitution "No" campaign has built on his
anti-establishment legacy.


Story from BBC NEWS: 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/4601731.stm 

Published: 2005/06/01 23:15:31 GMT 

© BBC MMV 

------------------------------

rkm>

I find the following excerpts to be the core of the article,
and it is clear that the writer could not use this kind of
language if he was trying to spin the outcome from a pro-EU
perspective:

        The gist of the song [of the "No" campaign] is this: "If you
        want a social Europe, and a Europe for the people, not for
        business and money, then say 'No' to the constitution."

        On the streets of Amsterdam, people were giving varied
        arguments both for and against the constitution.
            This may be because neither the "No" side nor the "Yes" side
        has been putting forward one coherent message, but the people
        have also been thinking for themselves.
            One person talks about the euro, the next about domination by
        bigger EU states. Another will talk about Brussels
        bureaucracy, or the threat to Dutch liberal values, or loss of
        sovereignty and national identity, or the motor of European
        integration speeding out of control.

        "The message from France and the Netherlands is that they are
        unhappy with the way Europe is being built," says Michiel van
        Hulten, a leader of the Better Europe foundation and a former
        MEP.
            "People are unhappy with the fact that Europe is a project of
        the elite, not the ordinary people.
            "The decision to introduce the euro was taken in 1992 in
        Maastricht, but at the time there was no public discussion.
        The enlargement of the EU was agreed in 1993, but it was only
        when it actually happened that the debate began."

The fact that Mulvey departs from BBC's usual editorial
position enhances, I believe, the credibility of his
reporting. What he says also makes sense in terms of my own
observations of how the EU project has proceeded, as you saw
in yesterday's posting. I therefore take this article as a
welcome validation, to some extent, of my own analysis of the
No vote. In this regard I'd like to emphasize one particular
statement above, from Michiel van Hulten:

      "People are unhappy with the fact that Europe is a project of
        the elite, not the ordinary people."

I believe this is true, that this is becoming the core concern
of ordinary people in Europe, even more in the empowering wake
of the dramatic No votes.

If the EU project had been delivering more favorable results
on the ground, I doubt if people would be so concerned about
the issue of people-power vs. elite power. And if the people
of Europe had been more involved in the decisions, if there
had been more referenda, this democracy issue may also not
have emerged.  But the combination of poor results, along with
"Nobody ever asked my opinion", creates the conditions where
people's minds turn to the fundamental question of how
decisions are being made in their societies.

This frame of mind, this 'elites vs. people' consciousness, is
perhaps also fueled by the contents of the constitution
itself, which concentrates immense power in the European
Commission, an unelected body. Furthermore, the European
Parliament has much, much less power with respect to this
Brussels executive than do Europe's national parliaments, vis
a vis their national executives.  Thus the constitution would
dramatically shift power even more away from ordinary people
and toward elites, and this further encourages democratic
consciousness.

One can never be absolutely sure about such things, but I'll
bet all my marbles at this point that this  'elites vs.
people' issue is now a real one. I also believe that elite
strategists are well aware of this fact, in the wake of the No
votes. We might say that Mulvey is doing elites just as much a
favor as he is ourselves, with his objective reporting. If
elites are aware in this way, then let's consider how they
might be expected to respond.

First of all, I suggest that the 'fear of democracy' is the
most deeply held fear that exists in the minds of elites in
our "democracies." It was of express concern to those who
drafted the U.S. Constitution, for example, and they took
great pains to ensure that uprisings of popular sentiment
could be contained, so that their wealth and privilege could
be maintained. Typically, when "people power" raises its ugly
head, and it cannot be readily suppressed or safely ignored,
elites respond with effective co-option. In my book, I use the
Populists as an example of this principle, where co-option
took the form of welcoming the Populists into the Democratic
Party, resulting in the quick demise of the once-powerful
popular movement. The American Civil Rights Bill, which failed
to deal with economic issues, can be seen as a co-option of
the powerful Civil Rights Movement, taking most of the wind
out of its sails, as a grassroots movement. After that, the
action was more in the courts, and democracy had once again
been put safely back to sleep.

If a few hundred thousand protestors march in the streets,
that can be ignored. But if the masses of people look like
they might start waking up and thinking, then drastic action
is called for. The people must be thrown some crumbs - perhaps
big crumbs - to bring them back into the program. Keeping
control of the the program is the top priority for elites, as
we can see from all the crumbs elites were forced to throw the
people's way during the days of the New Deal. FDR once said
that the greatest accomplishment of his career was "saving 
capitalism."

In today's European context, what crumbs might we expect
elites to offer? I suggest, given the dramatic emergence of
dreaded democratic spirit, that the crumbs will be substantial
ones.

The heads of European political leaders, Chirac et al, may
tumble - not primarily because voters don't like them (notice
how Blair weathered the storm re/unpopular Iraq war), but more
because they have failed in their duty to elites: they did not
deliver the voters to the EU program!  Elites can use this
opportunity to bring in new blood, with fresh sounding
slogans, and these new slogans will reflect those crumbs which
elites have decided to share, for co-option purposes.

The rolling of heads, by itself, will seem to be a sign of
"hearing the people", and will to some extent defuse the
popular energy. And if the "crumbs" can be maximally
responsive to popular sentiments, while minimally sacrificing
of core elite objectives, then they may be able to get the
bandwagon back on track, albeit a bit behind schedule.

In terms of "keeping control of the program", the most
essential objective for elites is to further concentrate power
in the Brussels bureaucracy. Once that is accomplished, then
neoliberal policies, and all the rest, can follow. Elites were
over-confident in putting all the bad eggs into one
constitutional basket, but they can be forgiven this error in
light of the relatively easy time they've had so far in
selling the program. They didn't expect the sheep to turn on
the shepherds.

Based on these considerations, I think Kirsty Hughes may have
been on target, in her first option:

        Some suggest the EU could take some of the key parts of the
        constitution - an EU foreign minister, new voting
        arrangements, the European Council presidency - and push these
        through separately.

My guess is we'll see a new package presented, after a change
of several governments, that has these kinds of provisions,
plus a lot of fluff about popular issues, which will turn out to be
non-binding.

rkm
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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

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