The meaning of the No vote

This article is a translation of "De betekenis van het Nee"

The referendum of 6 April has resulted in a resounding victory for the NO camp. Of course this is now being belittled by reference to the low turnout, but we should not forget that there has been a consistent attempt to belittle the referendum itself as a means of expressing public opinion. The fact that all the mainstream parties, from the conservative liberal VVD to the respectable ‘left’, and unfailingly supported by the media, campaigned for a Yes, only serves to underline the significance of the two-thirds majority for the No.


The aim of Oorlog Is Geen Oplossing NL and the Centrum voor Geopolitiek in calling for a rejection of the EU Association agreement from the start has been to enhance the quality of a No.

After all there was a lot of apprehension about the antecedents and antics of the rightwing populist initiators of the referendum, as well as the shadow cast by Wilders.

His xenophobia and provincial patriotism is in fact closely related to the Ukrainian ultra-nationalism and the fascist squads used by the oligarchs in that country to safeguard their power by channelling popular resistance into internecine hatred.

O≠O therefore joined the referendum campaign with a warning about the danger of a larger war concealed in the treaty’s political provisions. Through them Ukraine is being cast as part of the Western diplomatic and defence posture, both ranged against Russia and intended to turn all non-Russian republics that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union, into advance posts of NATO and economic satrapies of the EU.

Thus the resistance against the relentless advance of NATO and EU is being expressed in a different way from narrow-minded anti-Brussels’ sentiment—even though one need not be ashamed by now to feel deeply alienated from an EU that is the driving force of a neoliberal desertification which not be achieved in any separate EU country by democratic means, as we can see today in France. The strangling of Greek, and now also, Portuguese democracy by the EU, the initial invitation to the victims of the wars triggered by the West in the Middle East and North Africa to come to Europe, only to begin deporting them again once this turned out to lead to serious problems—all that makes it perfectly acceptable to say that this EU is no longer wanted.

Through the different public meetings we organised after the launch in De Balie in Amsterdam on 20 March, the differences and similarities with other, mostly stronger components of the No front have become clearer.

On 20 March we had invited Nicolai Petro of the University of Rhode Island in the US; Richard Sakwa of the University of Kent; the member of the German Bundestag for the Left Party, Andrej Hunko; and from the Netherlands, Tiny Kox of the Socialist Party and the journalist, Stan van Houcke. Their inspiring talks are on the website. Sakwa, the author of Frontline Ukraine, had already been invited to the Netherlands by the Forum for Democracy of Thierry Baudet, who himself attended the meeting in De Balie as well, and who likes to present himself as being on the right.

However, in the meetings in the country, notably those in Utrecht and Amersfoort, I was able to establish that the movement led by Baudet cannot simply be relegated to one end of the political spectrum. What has become evident in this campaign is the emergence of a political undercurrent of people who no longer want to be lied to by the media about the devilish machinations of ‘Putin’, or being sent packing by mainstream politicians with the message that the EU Association Treaty is only about ‘trade’. The current Baudet represents cannot in fact be characterised as rightist across the board, for instance in the sense that by closing the Dutch borders, the human consequences of war and poverty in the world can be kept at bay.

On the contrary, there are plenty opportunities to convince people that war and poverty must by tackled directly and that to that end, the power of NATO and the EU must be curtailed urgently. Humanistic sentiment cannot be abandoned in that endeavour, because ultimately, all engagement with these problems is rooted in it. Even apart from the fact that a Forum for Democracy will find it hard to align itself with Wilders’ PVV, which in order not to expose its racist and authoritarian leader to internal criticism, is not even a party with members.

In the last debate I was able to participate in, in the Auditorium of the Technical University Delft on the evening of 4 April, a statement was read from the audience (out of emotion, partly in Russian) by Dr Sergey Markhel. As I learned afterwards, he had been a witness of the massacre in Odessa in May 2014, a crime of which we meanwhile know it had been planned.

Ten days prior to the drama there had been a preparatory meeting in Kiev with coup president Turchinov, the minister of the interior, Avakov, and the neo-Nazi, Andriy Parubiy, Secretary of the National Defence and Security Council and still today the vice-chairman of the Kiev parliament. Avakov submitted the idea of deploying football hooligans whilst Parubiy was to supply bullet-proof vests. The oligarch, Kolomoisky, also was consulted (he lives in Geneva) and made his Dnipro-1 battalion available for the operation. He also promised a reward of $5,000 for every ‘pro-Russian separatist’ killed.

We know the outcome. Yet during the debate in Delft the spokeswoman of the mainstream Labour Party stated that had such an event really happened, she would have heard about it during her visit with a parliamentary delegation to Odessa.

Afterwards Dr Markhel presented me with a booklet containing an account of the Odessa massacre, illustrated with pictures he himself had taken of the burning trade union building in which around 50 people perished. I think it is appropriate to dedicate our Dutch No to the victims who fell on that occasion and on others in the civil war, beginning with the shootings on Maidan in February 2014.

That at least was my motivation to make the effort to help bring about a rejection of this scandalous and provocative treaty.

Kees van der Pijl

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