Recently, I witnessed a fellow student calling the Socialist Party ‘too communistic’, which was his reason to never vote for this party. This got me thinking, was this a misconception of the left? And more specifically, if so, what does it mean to be left in this day and age? Well, who better to ask than Jan Marijnissen – a retired (Parliamentary) Leader of the Socialist Party (SP).
The SP organized a public interview with Jan Marijnissen, to which I was invited. It was held in an assembly hall at the Cartesius Lyceum in Amsterdam. There were around 70 other attendees and as I looked around, I noticed that this was a very diverse group of people.I reached for my pen and paper, aiming to capture the oh so many highlights of the interview.
I was wondering if (and not so secretly hoping) his answers would surprise me. Marijnissen started off by addressing the ideal that he had in mind, the ideal that there should be respect for the elite, but not the elite you are thinking of right now. He explained that the ‘right elite’ were those who function as a moral anchor – or moral compass – if you will and not those who are currently considered as a part of the accepted elite. Marijnissen believes that the current political battle is an ideological one. When he was asked how to free people from the systematic conditioning of neo-liberal ideas, he replied: “By convincing people through words and action. By fighting for better
healthcare conditions, education and public broadcasting channels, for example”. His answer was followed by an enthusiastic and confirming applause from the audience.
Marijnissen continued by reminiscing about a time when you applied for a job in a factory, had a 14-day trial period and would then get a permanent contract. Unfortunately for us, those days are long gone. He stated that the elderly have done their part and that it is now time for young people to step up and fight for a better and more social future. To him, the “democratization of the influence on our economy” is what defines contemporary socialism. Aside from this, we also have to focus on the valuable things in life and he was not talking about materialistic valuables, but about moral values – starting with economic equality.
Another highlight of the evening was his take on media. Apart from the regular “internet is taking over written/traditional media” speech, Marijnissen explained the relevance of following media by right-wing sources, as a left-wing sympathizer. He said that “it’s important to know what people are thinking, especially those on the other side of the political realm”. I could not agree more! During the election campaign of Donald Trump I could not understand why his supporters did not know the things I knew (inconsistencies and such). Obviously, they had their own news sources. Sources I would initially not dare follow. However, when I realized that it is actually important and valuable to know what news they get presented with, I could more or less rationalize their way of thinking.
Finally, here’s something to think about: when he was asked whether or not we should get rid of the euro, his answer was “I cannot give a definite answer, ‘cause something’s about to happen with this..”.
In the eyes of Marijnissen, being a left-winger today means that you are still fighting for a better future. Better, in the sense of equality and quality. And no, his answers did not surprise me. March 15, 2017 will show us whether Marijnissen’s hope in young people is just.
Dit artikel is geschreven door Politeia-redacteur Sarah Setrowidjojo.