[Marxism] Pim Fortuyn and the globalisation afterglow - some background notes

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Fri Jun 25 05:48:17 MDT 2004

Pim Fortuyn (Wilhelmus Simon Petrus Fortuijn,  b. 19 February 1948 - d. 6
May 2002) was born in Velsen in the province of North Holland in a Roman
Catholic family. After a stint at polytech, he studied sociology, history,
law and economics at university in Amsterdam. In 1971 he gained a Master's
in sociology, and in 1980 he gained a Phd in social science.

In 1986 he was appointed as parttime social-scientific researcher of the
Social-Economic Council, and three years later, he became director of the
company which supplied student travel-discount cards, in Groningen. While in
Groningen, he was active in the Dutch Labour Party (until 1989), and later
had a flirtation with the Dutch Liberal Party. In 1990, he shifted to
Rotterdam, where he was for a short time visiting lecturer at the Erasmus

His political interests developed as a leftwing student, and apart from
writing books, he developed a reputation as a columnist with iconoclastic
commentary on Dutch society, politics and business. For eight years, he
wrote a column for Elsevier Magazine, in which he provided criticism of the
"purple politics" of the Lib-Lab coalition government. In 1992, he set up
his own consultancy, Fortuyn BV, and in 1997 he published a book called
"Against the Islamicisation of Our Culture". The last two years of his life
he stayed regularly at his house in Northern Italy, in the Northern province
Pordenone, between Venice and Triest.

On 20 August 2001 he publicised that he wanted to enter politics again, and
on 26 November 2001 he became the leading candidate for the parliamentary
elections of 15 May 2002 of the new "Liveable Netherlands" party nationally,
and on 20 January 2002 also of the Rotterdam section of that party. Fortuyn
claimed he was neither Right nor Left, criticised "subsidy socialism",
wanted more policing and said the media was the siamese twin of politics.
Some leftwing supporters of Liveable Netherlands responded by resigning. As
leading candidate in Rotterdam, Fortuyn gained a great electoral victory
there in the council elections with a third of the seats, making Liveable
Rotterdam the largest party.

After his statement in the Volkskrant newspaper that he wanted to amend the
Constitution, Fortuyn was fired as the leading candidate of Liveable
Netherlands, on 10 February 2002. The next day however, he announced his own
party list of candidates, the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF). In April 2002 he
published his last book, "The Ruins of Eight Years Purple Coalition
politics", intended as a kind of election manifesto.

Pim Fortuyn was hostile to Islam, according to some possibly motivated by
his homosexuality (although Islamic culture in practice often takes a more
lenient view of homosexuality than traditional christian faiths), but also
because of his liberal hostility to any kind of fundamentalism. In August
2001 the Rotterdam Daily quoted him as being in favour of a "cold war with
Islam", which he said was an "exceptionally grave threat" and a "hostile
civilisation", a popular theme in Dutch Liberal Party circles. Various
organisations made formal complaints in response to his statements for
breaking anti-discrimination laws. In an interview with ITV, he said that
Islam "discriminates against women".

On 9 February he came out with some more controversial statements in the
Volkskrant newspaper, saying that the Netherlands with 16 million
inhabitants was now "full", and that the admission of 40,000 immigrants a
year should be stopped. He predicted that he would take part in the next
Dutch Government, and committed himself to a strict immigration policy,
combined with a general pardon for 5,000 illegal immigrants, to start again
with a clean slate. He also said he aimed to scrap or modify article 1 of
the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.

Both leftists and liberals demonised Fortuyn as the "new Haider" or the "new
Le Pen", and many people considered his ideas dangerous, or said that it
would be a disaster for the Dutch government profile if he became Prime
Minister, which seemed a definite possibility, if the public mood swing
expressed in the opinion polls were to be believed. The main protest party
emerging had been the Dutch Socialist Party, but the "Liveable Netherlands"
movement picked up a significant portion of liberal middleclass and poorer
workingclass voters who did not identify with socialist values, as well as
protest votes against the political establishment. This meant that the
Socialist Party took a cautious, sympathetically critical stance towards Pim
Fortuyn, hoping to pick up support from him once his project had exhausted

Fortuyn was also likened to Philip deWinter, the leader of the right-wing
Flemish Bloc in Belgium and with the extreme-right Dutch politician Janmaat
of the Centrum Party, who, in the 1980s and 1990s, wanted to expell all
foreigners from Holland, and who was repeatedly prosecuted for
discrimination and attacked by anti-fascists for racist insults (parties
with a racist or fascist programme were made illegal).

But while Fortuyn aimed to break out of the normal left-righ spectrum, he
did not see himself as extreme-right, and resisted these comparisons
vigorously. He carefully distanced himself from explicitly racist statements
(which would invite legal persecution).  He said he had nothing in common
with Le Pen's holocaust-denial rhetoric, and did not seek to expell
foreigners forcibly from the country. Rather, those already resident in
Holland should be able to stay, except for illegal immigrants from the
Antilles. The Volkskrant newspaper however soberly pointed out, that
Antillians actually have Dutch citizenship and can therefore legally live in
the Netherlands.

Fortuyn subsequently qualified his previous statements about Islam, saying
that he did not "hate Islam" (a viewpoint, if expressed publicly, could also
be prosecuted for inciting racial hatred) but thought it a "backward
culture" (a legally permissible stance). He said, "I travelled a lot around
the world. Wherever Islam rules, things are terrible. All that duplicity and
ambiguity. It's akin to the old reformist church. The Reformed Church people
always lie. And why is that ? Because they have a system of norms and values
so elevated nobody can humanly live by it. That is also what you see in
Muslim culture. Just look at the Netherlands. In what country would a leader
of a movement as large as mine be able to be openly gay ? It is amazing that
this is possible. That is something to be proud of. And I want to keep it
that way, thank you very much."

Pim Fortuyn was a known republican, and member of the Republican
Association. He said he respected the Dutch legal system and the
Constitution, but preferred an elected president to a Queen or King as
official head of government. Fortuyn favoured an American two-party system
with an elected president, elected mayors and elected police commissioners.
A cabinet of which he would be the leader, would consist of no more than 6
ministers, he said, supported by secretaries of state.

He wanted first of all to shake up the state bureaucracy, cutting through
regulatory jungles, to make the government apparatus more efficient and
create means for reshaping society. Economically, his programme was largely
neo-liberal. He was in favour of a strong middle class which, according to
him, was the moving force of society. He said "where there is no middle
class, the country goes to the dogs."

Fortuyn wanted to rescind Dutch agreement to the Schengen Accord for
European-wide surveillance, and introduce an alternative form of border
patrols, as well as strict guarding of European borders. He considered the
European Parliament a waste of money, and counter to the wishes of citizens.
He based this opinion on the low voter turnout in European elections. He
also wanted to re-invigorate nationalist feeling in the Netherlands
(according to surveys strong national identification no longer exists).

He copped a lot of criticism for his statement that a sickness benefit
should be granted only to workers who had become sick through their actual
work, and not for any other reason. He favoured a decentralised school
system and wanted to break up the Dutch "committee-man" culture. As far as
special schools were concerned, he considered that they ought to be left to
their own devices, which invited strong criticism from humanists.

As regards defence, he argued the Dutch armed forces should concentrate on
the Royal Marines. The infrantry and airforce were better incorporated into
the marines, or else abolished, he said. Such views were not very credible,
and there was a sense that Fortuyn had peaked too soon, being forced to have
opinions on everything without solid backing of a political staff, and thus
mooting superficial ideas, rather than substantive policy proposals - his
individualist stance was both his strength and his weakness.

Even although they realised that Fortuyn's statements were often outrageous,
irresponsible or not based on any real knowledge of facts and laws, both his
critics and supporters acknowledged his personal talent for expressing in a
popular way the discontents and gripes of citizens, in a situation where
traditional moralities and social goals used for evaluating the merits or
demerits of people and institutions had become vague and uncertain. What
people approved of specifically, was his ability to shake up the political
establishment (the "Hague Regent culture") which is dominated by white,
well-educated middle-aged men with lengthy experience in the intricacies of
legalities, lobbying and political networks.

For half a year, from joining Liveable Netherlands to his death, Fortuyn
dominated the political stage as "tribune of the people" and "voice of the
common man". He was murdered on the same day that the newspapers reported
that his party was heading for a great electoral victory, and would gain 15
percent of the seats in parliament, creating the prospect that he would hold
the balance of power between parties, and could actually become Prime

On 6 May 2002, 9 days prior to the national elections, Pim Fortuyn left a
radio station at 18.05 pm in Hilversum, where he had given two media
interviews to BNN. Walking to his car, he was shot point blank by a white
guy with a baseball cap on, Volkert van der Graaf (not yet officially found
guilty but now in prison), who fired a revolver five times.  Fortuyn was hit
in the head, chest and neck. An ambulance arrived nine minutes later but
Fortuyn died shortly thereafter. Van der Graaf was activist in
Milieu-Offensief, an enironmental organisation, and had previously had some
success in legal proceedings against environmental offences and mistreatment
of animals. He also was in the habit of checking for himself if farmers had
the required environmental permits.
The assassination set a new precedent in modern political history in the
Netherlands, causing widespread consternation and shock, as well as
allegations of leftwing or green conspiracies. Tens of thousands of people
signed the condolence register in Rotterdam, there was an ornate funeral
attended by many thousands, and there were small riot incidents near
Parliament Buildings. Pim Fortuyn was first buried in Driehuis, in
Noord-Holland; but on 21 July 2002 he was reburied in Italy. Nevertheless
the elections went ahead on 15 May 2002, and the Pim Fortuyn List, capturing
the mood of public sympathy, gained no less than 26 seats, the second
largest party representation in parliament, supplying several Ministers to
the Cabinet.

However, the assessment of Jan Marijnissen, the Socialist Party leader, that
the Fortuyn formation was basically a "one day opportunist wonder" that
could not last because of lack of sustained political experience acquired
over many years, came true.
The LPF leaders lacked political experience, and wore themselves out with
incessant quarrels within their own party and with other government
representatives. This led to a breakdown of the government coalition and
renewed elections, and the demise of the LPF was a popular force. The main
political effect of Fortuynism was that he made ideas (such as stricter
immigration legislation) credible, which the liberals and christian
democrats subsequently elaborated with a different twist. Nevertheless the
possibilities of a genuine political radicalism in the Netherlands remain
limited, mainly because there are limited opportunities for expressing a
libertarian and egalitarian ethos through official political channels.


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