Despite its progressive proposals, DENK, Dutch for “think,” is a party that was founded by two politicians of Turkish origin and that attracts, above all, support from the Anatolian community. TV presenter Sylvana Simons must also have foreseen this, and after acting as DENK’s spokesperson, went on to lead the new party Artikel1, with the objective of enforcing a ban on discrimination, set forth in the first article of the Dutch Constitution.
Would you describe it as a leftist party?
If its commitment against racism makes it seem so, it’s also true that its nationalist cultural background makes it difficult to identify with the values of the left. The attention paid to ethnicity, in fact, risks proving the claim that Dutch society is vertically divided into two very distinct and separate groups. Essentially, there’s a risk of returning to the times of verzuiling, pillarization in Dutch. [The term refers to the socio-political segregation of Dutch society into distinct communities.]
DENK’s emergence undoubtedly confirmed the distance between the parties of the traditional left and ethnic minorities in the Netherlands. Historically, how have these two worlds interacted?
Since the 1970s, the social-democratic PvdA (Partij voor de Arbeid) tried to be the party that best responded to the needs of minorities, nominating and electing exponents of immigrant communities in various representative assemblies. In 2014, however, Kuzu and Öztürk (the members of the House of Representatives who founded DENK) left the party, which confirmed its separation from minority groups, particularly the Turkish community. On the other hand, the socialist Sp (Socialistische partij) has always had a colder approach to immigration and cohabitation, favoring the assimilation of immigrants into Dutch society and criticizing freedom of movement in Europe. Finally, the red and green Gl (GroenLinks) has always adopted a more open and flexible attitude towards immigrant communities.