Mayday: Labour party is 65 today

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The Dutch Labour party is celebrating its 65th anniversary. Hundreds of members are gathering in the northern city of Zwolle for a festive commemoration, coinciding with International Labour Day.

Earlier in the day, party leader Job Cohen attended a ceremony in Rotterdam to honour the late Hendrik Spiekman, one of the founder members of the social-democratic movement in the Netherlands. Spiekman's SDAP party, established in 1894, was a leftist predecessor of the centre-left Labour party.

The Labour party, known generally by its Dutch initials PvdA, is the second largest in parliament and currently in opposition. In the most recent elections in June 2010 the party polled 20 percent of the votes, just behind the free-market conservative liberal VVD party, and closely followed by Geert Wilders' ultra-nationalist anti-Islam Freedom Party PVV.

Poverty Critics are asking whether the Labour party still has a role in the 21st century, having on the one hand lost its natural electorate of manual workers, and experiencing fierce competion from the radical Socialist Party and environmentalist Green Left. Daily , closely associated with Labour, asked on Saturday morning: "Mission accomplished?" The social democrats' original aims, an eight-hour working day and a welfare state providing basic support for its citizens, have generally been realised, the paper said.

But Job Cohen, speaking at the Spiekman monument in Rotterdam, pointed out that there is still a lot to do. He said that what is common in the Netherlands remains a remote ideal for people elsewhere in the world. "The reality is that the majority of people are not living in freedom, but are being oppressed by their fellow citizens or by their own government. A large part of humanity is not enjoying prosperity, but is having to cope with poverty and even hunger."

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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