The Socialist Party no longer has a youth movement. The party severs all ties with the political youth organization Rood, which will now continue independently. On Saturday, a large majority of SP departments voted in an online party council for such a hard break. It is the apotheosis of a lingering conflict between the socialist youth and their mother party – which also divides the SP itself.
Also read: Conflict with the SP youth splits the party
In recent months, the SP party leadership has been on a collision course with the youth of Rood, who want the party to follow a fierce communist course. This week, Rood made an appeal to the party board to change its mind “so that we can function as a fully-fledged youth organization of the SP again”. As the official youth branch of the SP, Rood received much of its income through government subsidies and the party treasury.
The approaching split also hurt among SP members. A mother party who abandons her child: that is how some departments experienced the farewell. “Shame on you,” said Jasiu van Haarlem, chairman of the Hilversum department. “As parents, the SP, we have failed considerably. Like children, they look elsewhere for the attention and love they need.” Koos Smits, chairman in De Bilt: “A family puts a teenager on the street, locks the door and says inside: everything is solved.”
It did not help. With 84 percent of the vote, the SP divisions on the party council voted in favor of the split that the party board wanted. There were ‘irreconcilable differences’, said SP member Nine Kooiman, who was a Member of Parliament until 2018 and has worked with a committee in recent months. investigated the conflict between Rood and the SP. Kooiman called in from France: she had interrupted her honeymoon to share the research results with the members.
According to the committee and the party board, Rood has quickly developed into an activist club that does more harm than good from within the SP. They complain that little came of training in the socialist principles and single-handed campaigning, all the more for unrest. The Red Youths say that they want to bring the party back to its roots and stimulate the discussion.
So the battle for the soul of the party went on. While the SP flirted with government participation in the run-up to the elections and sought cooperation with the cabinet – for example with regard to the nitrogen law – the Red board resisted this rapprochement, and with it the party board.
Also read: The SP youth looks with sorrow at the flirtation with the VVD
‘Parasites that destroy us’
The biggest source of suspicion for older party members is the Communist Platform. Under that name, an alliance of young communists tries to gain influence within Rood and the SP, in its own words as ‘part of our total struggle: the struggle for a communist party’. Last year, two members of the Platform were elected to the Red Board.
The SP board sees the members of the Communist Platform as a bunch of “radicalized attic communists” who want to take over the party. On Saturday, the departments also voiced heavy criticism of the unwavering course of the movement within the party. Speakers denounced the members of the Platform as “parasites that destroy our association”.
The SP previously classified the Communist Platform as a political party. All SP members who were known to be members of the Platform were then thrown out of the party: those who are members of the SP may not be members of other parties. That was a sought-after excuse, according to Olaf Kemerink, one of the disbarred directors. “An internal group is called a political party if they are annoying.”
Member of Parliament Renske Leijten, chairman of the Haarlem SP and former chairman of Rood, took a milder tone than some party members. But she also supported the break with Rood, which refused to send the board members of the Platform away. “Red is an association that is heavily subsidized by membership fees from all of us. If Rood no longer keeps to the agreements, will our invested money end up there properly?”
No more own breeding pond
As inevitable as the break seemed to have become, the consequences are dire. Several departments fear that they will have to miss future candidates on SP lists and active party members, now that the party is giving up its own breeding ground. The party board objected that this is not necessary: Unlike the Communist Platform, Red does not count as a political party in the SP registers. Red youngsters are therefore not expelled.
Nevertheless, an exodus of young people from the SP is an obvious choice. Kemerink does not want to say how many members the Platform has: every bit of information will be used against them, he suspects. But the movement has a lot of support within Red’s ranks. A large majority of the young people willingly and knowingly elected the members of the Platform to the Red board last year. On Sunday, when Red holds its members’ meeting, it will most likely happen again.
An uncertain future also awaits for Rood. “We will not be able to make the budget that we did before,” says Kemerink. With increased contributions and donations from older SP members who are very fond of Rood – “there are, because there are” – Rood hopes to pull it off after all.
There is no question of affiliation with another youth movement or party, such as Bij1. “We have a future of our own,” says Kemerink. And so this year’s summer school continues. On the agenda: the future of socialism.