The legacy of Ploumen – The Green Amsterdammer

Lilianne Ploumen gives an explanation in the central floor of the House of Representatives.

Bart Maat / ANP

pvdaleaders are short-lived. After Ad Melkert and Wouter Bos, Job Cohen was there for two years, Diederik Samsom for five and Lodewijk Asscher for only four. Lilianne Ploumen came no further than to fifteen months. The party has already worn more leaders in this century than in the last. Often the attack came from within.

‘It was incredible shit, we were really angry,’ Hans Spekman told me a few years ago as he looked back on Job Cohen’s downfall. In 2012, Spekman and Cohen would take a jerk to the left, away from the Third Weg. Frans Timmermans then sent a letter to the faction, in which he feared that the SP would ‘mad victory’ by ‘only graciously stating that pvda finally seems to be moving away from the neoliberal path ’. The letter leaked out, and not much later, Cohen left his post.

“He was still seen as the killer of Job,” Spekman said. “Although it was not only French, many in the group sawed in the chair legs.” A few months earlier, the then party chairman Ploumen had also knocked Cohen out: She found him invisible and too absent in the idea debate in the party. She made the same allegations herself last week in her suicide note.

Several attacks took place between Cohen and Ploumen’s farewell. Samsom was dethroned by Asscher in a leadership battle that went out of control. When Asscher, as a brand new leader, found his party at the bottom in 2017, he wrote a witty and candid book, To get up at the Lloyd Hotel† He knew: I do not have a natural charm, I have to rely on a consistent story. After wandering through social democratic models in Denmark and southern Europe, he landed on a classic story of ‘certainty’.

In this media age, the question is whether something actually happens if no one has noticed it

Asscher had started to get up, but before he could straighten his back, he had to leave due to the unemployment benefit affair. Ploumen inherited the party from Asscher, but was not Asscher. The People’s Party of the past always sought exaltation in two ways: Socio-economically and culturally. Higher wages and cultural liberation. The plum interpreted the other. She had an impressive record as a minister who once spent hundreds of millions of dollars on keeping contraceptive and abortion clinics afloat after Trump cut a hole in women’s health programs. If there is a contemporary politician who knows the women’s cause and has developed concrete policies for it, it is Lilianne Ploumen. But that story she was not allowed to tell at the election to the House of Representatives. In the rush to seize power and under pressure from party leaders, the focus had to remain on the ‘security story’.

It is ‘important to be leading and opinion-forming on all topics’, wrote Lilianne Ploumen when she said goodbye. ‘To also lead the party in idea development on themes where I feel less at home.’ This display of self-knowledge, which was rare for The Hague, contained more than just acknowledging what she had fallen short of. Those were the words of a woman who did not lead her own struggle, but that of the male party members.

Yet there is a Ploumen legacy that typically is pvda is. During discussions on a common progressive program in the early 1970s, Joop den Uyl told Hans van Mierlo: ‘Once every twenty years, history provides a small opening for change, that is, now we must now try to use it , otherwise you wait another twenty years. ‘ Van Mierlo concluded from this: this is not a revolutionary with an urge to innovate, but a realistic socialist who believes in taking action whenever possible.

The plum looked like long believer in left-wing cooperation ‘the historic opportunity of the past year. Although the contours of a new progressive movement remained vague to the general public, they were constantly visible in Parliament. By coordinating voting behavior, ideas and interruptions with GroenLinks, ‘cooperation’ is the de facto opposition leader and therefore a power factor. Billions were pulled out of the fire in the Senate for Youth Care, more generous compensation for students without scholarships and an increase in aow† All themes that color the cheeks red.

‘It is the soft forces that win that shape the future of our country and the world,’ Ploumen wrote to her supporters as she said goodbye. Anyone who interprets softly here as ‘quiet’ must give her the right. Behind the scenes, she laid the foundation for a progressive movement capable of forcing change.

But in this media age, the question is whether something actually happens if no one has noticed it. Only insiders have been able to see that collaboration yields results. The plum has opened the window that only squeezes them now and then, offering the prospect of a progressive People’s Party. Her departure now opens a race.

Timmermans and Spekman are again against each other: the Climate Commissioner from Brussels is a loud advocate of close cooperation, the baggy sweater from Utrecht’s working class is against.

it is up to pvdadescendants in The Hague to determine how they handle Ploumen’s legacy. The choice of a replacement, who will be made this week, will determine whether the window will be resolutely slammed in, or whether her work over the past year has not been in vain.

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