Right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn, who is mounting a big electoral challenge to the governing parties in power, has been banging on for some time about the publication of his book, 'The ruins of 8 years Purple government' in which he offers his 'solutions' to the pressing problems of health care, public security and migration.
The book, now out, is also designed to act as the election programme of his new party, the Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF), which is currently running second in the opinion polls for the 15 May general election.
Fortuyn made sure some journalists obtained advance copies so that, even before its official publication date, he and his party were already grabbing newspaper headlines and dominating radio and TV news programmes. After the book launch, Fortuyn was top news as the reactions of other politicians and opinion formers were faithfully recorded for several days.
Fortuyn was, of course, delighted but not everyone was so enthusiastic about his literary effort. Indeed, at the launch press conference, Fortuyn was attacked by members of the green Biologic Bakerıs Brigade, who lobbed three tarts at him in protest at his racist lyrics and empty slogans. Wiping pastry off his suit, he immediately blamed current Dutch prime minister Wim Kok for "creating an atmosphere" in which such actions "inevitably take place".
Much of the political reaction was deeply critical but Fortuyn still managed to be in the country's four main news programmes on the same evening, setting what might be a record. He also made headlines when he was sworn in, together with fifteen other members of Leefbaar Rotterdam (LR), to Rotterdam city council at the city hall.
Fortuyn's ambition to get his hands on decision making posts, however, did not to materialise after he failed to form a coalition with the Social Democrats of the PvdA, the city's second biggest party, whom he hates. As a result, Rotterdam still does not have a city council.
Even if his political antics in Rotterdam are laughable, his book and the whole package of reactionary ideas it touts has to be taken seriously. For example, Fortuyn wants to abolish a disability benefits law under which a million people obtain state money because they are unable to work. Fortuyn claims to 'know' that 300,000 people are fraudulently claiming disability benefit and should be turfed out of the state scheme.
His recipe for the health care system is no less radical: he wants to fire a quarter of all civil servants and to reorganise health care in a way that people can choose how they are insured, guaranteeing preferential treatment for the rich. In his reforming zeal, Fortuyn also wants to get rid of rent reductions for poor people and demands forced mixing of social groups in urban areas.
The young do not escape the sweep of Fortuyn's broad brush, either. In his book he demands the return of conscription the imposition of civil duties for youngsters. And, of course, he calls for the establishment of reform institutions for young offenders.
However, it is on the issue of migration that Fortuynıs trumpet blasts loudest. According to him, the Netherlands must re-establish border control, renounce the Schengen and the United Nations refugee treaties and scan every container coming in to the port of Rotterdam. Only refugees from England, Germany, France and Denmark are welcome, he says. As for other, presumably non-white, migrants, if they do not assimilate quickly enough, they will be refused social welfare.
Fortuyn regards migrants as "a dead weight in society" and wants to scrap Article 1 of the Dutch constitution which enshrines equal treatment of all citizens of the Netherlands. He reserves much venom for Muslims, stating: "If I can get it right juridically, no Muslim will enter our country anymore."
It is here that his racism is put on show. His statement about the "criminal behaviour" of Moroccan youth in some cities "Moroccan boys never steal from Moroccans. Did you notice that? We can be stolen from, but not them" has already become quite infamous.
There is also a latent antisemitism in another remark on reparations paid to the Jewish community for its sufferings under the Nazis in his book: "The mistake is made when we bend to the Jewish lobby. Not in the sense of compensation for theft and harm made to those directly involved or relatives , but in the sense of the general compensation which was handed out to all kinds of Jewish foundations, which can use that money, our money, for every purpose they want, even to hand it out among the poor. This action I put in the category, Once, but never again!"
The discussion about compensation for relatives of victims of slavery also stirs up Fortuynıs anger: "People who say they still suffer from the past of the slavery of their far ancestors belong at the psychiatrist's, not at the negotiating table for financial compensation". Fortuyn devotes a lot of space to the "lower class" and blames migrants for the heavy pressures on public transport and the waiting lists in the health sector.
He is also very misogynist, arguing that women belong at home. Strangely, it is only Islamic woman he wants to emancipate but he does not specify how. In any case, his statement seems more designed to prove that Islam in the Netherlands oppresses women and denounces womenıs rights than anything else.
Armed with this political check list and surrounded by generally very decent and totally uncritical followers, Fortuynıs mission, he proclaims, is to "save Holland". Describing himself as a "son of the people of the Netherlands", he is promoting a "survival of the fittest society", a society separated and divided into "haves" and "have nots", into "Dutchmen" and "foreigners", into men and woman.
Fortuyn is supported by businessmen, mainly from the world of property speculation, and has promised to repay their help when heıs in power. Driven around in a Daimler and living in a big villa in Rotterdam, he has, it seems, unlimited attraction to young people, to to first time voters, to neo-liberals, to people who have never voted before and, of course, to the extreme right.
Fortuynıs emergence as a political force has prompted numerous counter-initiatives against Fortuyn and his political ideas and it is good to see that not only anti-fascists are active in this. In fact, Fortuyn has woken up a lot of people.
Jeroen Bosch, Anti-Fascist Action/Alert in Utrecht