October 12, a new record to form a Dutch government has been posted by current negotiations. In length, it overtakes a fake formation attempt to create a Second Cabinet Den Uyl (see below). The new Government Rutte III is expected in another week, now a coalition agreement for its one-seat majority (76 out of 150 seats) has been reached.
December 24, 2017, it will be 30 years since the passing of the amazing Dutch Socialist politician Joop den Uyl. Here a few words about this remarkable man, in his honor and for our admonition and edification.
His prime-ministership (1973-77) knew much upheaval and turmoil (the oil crisis, terrorist attacks by Moluccans, the Lockheed affair (bribes for the Queen’s husband) and closing of an abortion clinic), among other points. But, just talking about these dramas would do his work injustice.
He was a true Socialist in that he saw himself as the representative of the workers – not for his glory but for their well-being. He was really principled and anything but an opportunist or weathercock. He would smile but his default attitude was grumpy. He knew what was at stake.
He was very stubborn, but that didn’t mean that his ears were stopped-up. He loved arguing with his close ones – not to win, but to find the best positions. Once he arrived at such conclusions, he would not butch.
His wife was a fiery feminist and he heard her. As prime minister he met with feminists, sat on the floor listening to them, in front of the cameras.
He did not sweat the small stuff, symbolic action. His first deed in 1973 was to give the most prominent organization for homosexuals, the COC, legal entity status. He also introduced a minimum youth wage. He encouraged many people to keep building a new more honest society. Den Uyl helped lay the foundations of the Dutch modern liberal attitude.
Yet, he was perplexed how little he could steer or influence things for the better. Everything seemed conditional on everything else and more than piecemeal change turned out impossible. Still, for me he embodied the will to fight, regardless. He stood for morality and integrity. Those make a difference, even when one is unable to implement most ideals.
The establishment already earlier employed him for dirty work. In 1965, coal-mines in the South had to close. Den Uyl was Finance Minister, got to announce it and then was widely blamed for it. The dirty trick worked. Many blue-color workers from then on saw Den Uyl as their enemy.
After rows concerning marriages from several of the princesses, the upcoming May 4, 1973, Queen Juliana’s Silver Jubilee, was feared as a cause for a public call of enough is enough, we want a republic. (Though, in presidential elections, Queen Juliana would have won anyway.) To have the Left in opposition was dangerous – it should be in government.
The 1976 Discovery of a Lockheed (and Northrop, covered-up by Den Uyl) scandal involving Queen Juliana’s husband, became another threat to the House of Orange-Nassau Monarchy. Socialist Prime Minister Den Uyl had to sooth the situation to keep the Queen from abdicating, which would have cost his party dearly in next elections. (The Queen was much loved for her humility and simplicity. At her accession to the throne she spoke the remarkable words: “Who am I that I am allowed to do this.“)
He was a brilliant orator with endless energy. Sometimes he won by debating opponents until they left exhausted, with only his people left.
Den Uyl was a genius debater and a clever political animal. And still, his rule fell through betrayal he had not anticipated. General elections after his maximal four years, gave the Socialist Party 10 more seats (from 43 to 53) – the Dutch wanted more of Den Uyl! The Christian parties held coalition negotiations with the Socialists for more than half a year, on the face of it to form a second cabinet Den Uyl. Yet, shockingly, they then suddenly struck a deal with Conservatives, bypassing the Socialists. His only administration was the last Dutch Left-wing one ever since.
Calm returned and Socialists became redundant again and were dumped by the established order. It cynically had used Left-winger Den Uyl to maintain the basic status quo.
After the coup, friends and family members jointly, as consolation, wrote him a brilliant roman à clef Cabinet 1989 : The Third Cabinet Den Uyl in Session (sorry, it’s in Dutch), in which he emerged a chanced hero who in his own nonchalant way saves the day, inspector Colombo style.
Following the putsch, he himself wrote much about how to bring about a better world, also internationally. Yet, his writings would stay largely unused by his untimely death. He smoked – at the time a popular way to hyper concentrate. That’s probably what killed him.
After him, few of his students or successors could stand in his shadow. For me, integrity in Dutch politics died with him. (Living in Israel now for 25 years, I don’t know if it meanwhile has reincarnated in anyone. My friend Eva van Sonderen suggests as candidate Den Uyl’s fellow Democratic-Socialist hard working idealistic humble honest fighter for a more just and loving city for all, also from a strict Calvist home and heavy smoker, the widely loved and mourned Mayer of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan, who just passed away from long cancer.)
Now, the Dutch Left on its own almost has a parliamentary majority (D66 19, GreenLeft 14, SP 14, Labor 9, Animal Party 5, and 50+ 4, even without Left-wingers in the Christian parties (19 + 5), total: 65) but at election time, it was terribly divided – while the Right was solidly unified. Rutte III, the upcoming Administration, has just presented its plans, and finally the Left is uniting – a year too late. Then they would’ve had the largest fraction and formed the new government, instead of Rutte, whose party lost 8 seats in the elections! Now they only can protest.
I read, from the age of 10, four dailies a day. At 16, I discovered their biases. At 1973, I was 20. I knew Dutch politics. Den Uyl was for me the only real politician I’ve ever seen in the Netherlands. He was an idealist. Almost the only one. He went into politics to work for a better world.
I feel honored and inspired to have lived at a time and place where I got to see a person move in the arena of lying self-serving egotist elitists and keep his integrity and heart for everyone. The great Joop den Uyl.