Author Archives: Bernard Aris

Our Liberal “Internationalism”, born in a period of party fragmentation, is now our uniting and unique selling point

When you consult books about Liberal and Liberal Democrat party history about the birth of our “Internationalism”, European “Federalism” and our thesis that stand-alone nationstates (and “narrow nationalism”) become more and more obsolete, you discover a surprising fact.

According to Michael Steed’s chapter “Liberal Tradition” in Don MacIver’s bundle “The Liberal Democrats” (from 1996), it was in the comprehensive policy survey “The Liberal Way” of 1934, that we stated that in future, “narrow nationalist” parties everywhere would face parties, the Liberals firmly among them, supporting the growing, factual interdependence as best policy basis. Philip Kerr, marquis of Lothian, said (1935): “the only final remedy for war is a federation of nations”. But personal guilt about having himself written the War Damages clause in the Versailles Treaty made Kerr become an  advocate of appeasement to Germany, a Liberal dissident, until the Munich Agreement.

Both Chris Cook’s history of the Liberals in 1900-’76, and Robert  Ingham & Duncan Brack’s authoritative bundle “Peace Reform & Liberation” (PRL; 2001) tell that this  “interdependence  makes collectivism better policy”-idea was formulated in a phase of disintegration of the Liberal party (the split about the 1931 National Government; desertions to the National Liberals and Labour; loss of seats).  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

Social Liberals: winning against Populism because we have “street force”

First of all, on behalf of the tens of thousands D66 party members (over 25.000; and we’re gaining members every week for the past year,  our heartfelt congratulations to the Lib Dems on passing the 100.000 members threshold. And you’re not done yet, I know.

If we look to our Spanish and French social-liberal, pro-EU sister parties, Ciudadános and Macrons movement “En Marche”, they too are booking spectacular results in gaining members, and getting members active on the street. According to the French Wikipedia and the Economist, En Marche (EM) claimed 88.000 members in October 2016, and  250.000 now.  The Economist reports about EM-activists canvassing the British way in Strassbourg streets (and elsewhere).

That is the big difference I noticed in the Dutch European elections (2014) and our recent General Elections (March 2017):

  • whereas D66 activists were visible on the (high) streets and at train station entrances handing out leaflets months before (and until) election day,
  • other progressive parties (PvdA/Labour, GreenLeft, and old-style Socialists\SP) were strangely absent, where they dominated the scene until about ten years ago,
  • the center-right parties (VVD/NatLibs and CDA/Christian Democrats) and PVV never were very active in that way.

D66 has also started canvassing the British way in “friendly” neighbourhoods, talking to people on the doorstep; but we seldom hear that from other Dutch parties. Only PvdA/Labour appears to do that, and the Socialists/SP say they do it.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 7 Comments

Our Spanish sister-party Ciudadános is using “Community Politics” to build up support

 

Two weekends ago (from Friday March 31st to Sunday April 2nd) a group of D66 party members from The Hague, with council leader Robert van Asten and national Foreign Secretary Tjeerd Dierckxsens from the party executive, visited our brand-new Spanish sister party Ciudadános in Madrid, where their constituency party received us. They turned out to be very similar to your average D66/LibDem man or woman.

Spain was the first European country ever where a small progressive majority of  anti-Napoleon politicians convening in Cádiz (protected by Wellingtons expeditionary force) promulgated a truly liberal Constitution in 1812; but when the Bourbon king returned from French captivity in 1814 he canceled all that and restored absolutist rule. Liberal rule was temporarily restored in 1820-1823, and later on for longer periods of time during the 19th century. But Conservatism (working hand in glove with the Catholic Church and the monarchy) and Socialism (starting in 1870-1900) proved stronger than the small, urban, liberal minority. Liberalism disappeared from Spanish politics in the 20th century, especially because of the polarization culminating in the Civil War (1936-9) and Franco’s dictatorship (1939-’75).

Posted in Op-eds | 16 Comments

D66 leader makes waves taking a stand against anti-gay violence

D66, the party that initiated a global wave of legalizing gay marriage, made itself the emblem of a day-long Dutch media craze that even extended to Dutch diplomats in London and at the UN in New York, as the Huffington Post reported.

It all started when two Dutch gay men, walking home hand in hand from their pub over the (in)famous bridge at Arnhem, were accosted by a group of youths (some of them around 14 years old), with one having four front teeth knocked out.

Posted in Op-eds | 5 Comments

Brexit could starve the NHS and British arts & culture from European input

I’m pretty sure that British media have carried many interviews with EU citizens living and working in the UK about their thoughts about Brexit (and especially a “hard”, complete Brexit), and about whether they want to stay or leave now that Brexit seems inevitable.

I want to point to one case: the Dutch/Finnish modern musician Juha van’t Zelfde, who from 2014 was artistic director of the multimedia cultural center “Lighthouse” in Brighton. Because the outlooks of him and his girlfriend point to two terrains where the Brexit votes (referendum & parliament), the reactions in British society, …

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments

Compare the Dutch Government’s attitude to Trump’s travel ban to Theresa May’s

On Wednesday, February 1st, people from D66, myself included, attended   a medium-sized (2.500 people for an event organized in 3 days) demonstration in The Hague about Trumps policies (immigration ban; Muslims; Disabled; Women) and style of politics and government. This being an election campaign season, it was also attended by party leaders of PvdA (Labour), D66 (Dutch LibDems) and the Greens; and NGO’s like Amnesty and Oxfam NOVIB (=Dutch branch Oxfam) sent speakers. So far nothing remarkable.

But it was exceptional that the PvdA party leader, Asscher, is also vice prime minister and minister on Immigrants Integration, and that the PvdA minister on Education and Emancipation (including LGTB and disabled) filled the PvdA speakers slot.

I started following Dutch politics in gymnasium (Dutch type of Grammar school) around 1970; this was the second time in that era that Dutch Cabinet ministers attended demonstrations against policies of foreign governments.

The first time was when PvdA prime minister Joop den Uyl (leading a mostly progressive coalition that included D66) spoke on a demonstration against the garroting of Basque ETA activists by the Spanish Franco (fascist) government in 1974.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Churchill inspires D66 fightback against Trumpism and Farage’s people-expulsing “Hard Brexit”

This past week, both the Guardian and the Sun  had articles about the deputy ALDE liberal group leader Sophie in’t Veld  in the European Parliament getting involved in the mistreatment of ordinary EU citizens, living and working in the UK and being married to Britons, by the May government and its over-enthusiastic Brexiteer ministers. Both newspapers only failed to mention which party Mrs In’t Veld belongs to: none other than D66, the social-liberal inheritors of the pre-War VDB.

As one of three parties at the origins of Dutch abortion legislation (very similar to David Steel’s brilliant Liberal inheritance on that point in Britain), D66 fully supports the initiative by our Trade & Development minister Mrs Ploumen to try to compensate family planning advice and abortion services in the Third World, scrapped by Mr. Trump and his Christian-fundamentalist Vice President Pence. We’ll support continuing that compensatory policy in the next Dutch coalition government formed in the coming summer.

People who know about the career of Winston Churchill will be outraged by the fact that president Trump, who cosies up to jingoist-Russian, NATO-threatening and EU-subverting president Putin, put up a bust of Churchill in his Oval Office. You only have to look up Churchill’s Wikipedia item to see that from 1934 onwards (Hitler walking out of the League of Nations and abandoning his Versailles restrictions), Churchill sought and got data about German re-armament (Luftwaffe) and harried the appeasing Tory governments to re-arm Britain. An enormous contrast; Trump is behaving more like the self-seeking, protectionist European governments, not paying attention to foreign policy, which proved such easy pickings for Hitler and (in Poland and the Baltic) Stalin.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 11 Comments
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    Catherine Whether in agreement with you on specific policies or points of view, and usually ,I am, you are a true Liberal Democrat, because you...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 25th May - 4:19pm
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    @ Michael Cole. Last comment about this. Sadly, it's not just about academic intelligence - it's about judgement - and the electorate gave their judgement.
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    As a radical Liberal I have difficulty with the notion of hereditary monarchy. Having said that, I to raise my hat to our 91 year...
  • User AvatarCatherine Jane Crosland 25th May - 3:18pm
    Lorenzo, Thank you for sharing that lovely story. I think we should recognise that many politicians from other parties are liberals with a small l,...
  • User AvatarGlenn 25th May - 3:04pm
    Neil Home grown?. His dad from the sound of it was one of our "moderate" anti Gaddafi allies. His older brother seems to have been...