Extreme-right leader heads for Valhalla

Searchlight, july 2002

Hans Janmaat, leader of the extreme right-wing Centrum Democraten (CD), died from heart disease on 9 June at the age of 67 in a hospital in the Hague. Janmaat was active for 20 years in the extreme right-wing spectrum and became internationally known the face of intolerance and hate in the Netherlands.

Often described as the best weapon against the growth of the extreme right-wing in the Netherlands, he nevertheless managed to lead his party to three seats in the parliament and 77 seats on city councils in 1994. In Rotterdam, the CD, together with the fascist CP'86, took up to 15% of the vote, an early signal for the much later breakthrough of populist Pim Fortuyn in the city.

Janmaat became active in politics in 1981 as secretary of the anti-immigrant Centrum Partij (CP) and was elected to parliament in 1982. There, he remained isolated, spurned by his fellow MPs, because of his racial extremism, and was ignored by most of the press. He was not ignored by anti-fascist and migrant groups, however, who demonstrated against Janmaat and his party, chasing them all over the country and trying to prevent them from staging public meetings and demonstrations.

The combination of parliamentary rejection and anti-fascist activism succeeded in making the CP and its main mouthpiece pariahs on the political landscape. In addition, thanks to intensive research, the hardcore racists and fascists behind the party and their ideas were exposed.

In 1986, anti-fascists prevented a coalition between various fascist and right-wing groups when a protest demonstration got out of hand and the hotel where they were holding the meeting was burned down.

In 1989, Janmaat was in parliament again ­ after being kicked out of the CP in 1984 ­ this time for the CD, which he had founded himself. This party continued with the CPıs previous anti-foreigner rhetoric and statements designed to shock, especially on migration issues. Janmaat was also infamous for "exposing" all kinds of supposed conspiracies in which the security services were allegedly working together with politicians and the media to isolate him. Anti-fascist organisations, he described as the "fighting- mobs of the social democrats, of the PvdA".

In 1996, the CD had a breakthrough with two legal demonstrations, the first in their history. They also worked for a short time together with CP'86, just before the latter was outlawed by a Dutch court.

Filip Dewinter, the leader of the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, often tried to bring the warring far-right factions in the Netherlands together, but his schemes always foundered on the personality of Hans Janmaat, who wanted all the power and glory for himself.

In the meantime, half of his partyıs city council seats were abandoned because his crew of racists was so utterly talentless and succeeded only in creating a huge pile of scandals around them. In 1998, the CD lost all but one of its city council seats and also lost all three of its parliamentary seats.

After this crushing defeat, the CD collapsed and evaporated. Nothing more happened on its internet home page, no more newsletters were distributed and most of its activists went over to the Nieuwe Nationale Partij (NNP), the successor of the banned CPı86.

In 1998, Janmaat was convicted for a speech at a demonstration in which he had declared "If we come to power we will abolish the multi-ethnic society". In April this year, Janmaat was still trying to get the European court to quash the conviction.

Janmaat claimed that the leader of the Christian Democrats, and future prime minister of the Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende, said exactly the same as him. This is true. The political climate in the Netherlands has changed severely since the arrival of the late Pim Fortuyn who always expressed admiration for Janmaat in his press columns. Janmaat is now seen, especially by the racists in the Netherlands, as the individual who paved the way for Pim Fortuyn and his party, List Pim Fortuyn (LPF).

The political consequences of Janmaatıs death are negligible. The CD has long been already buried, most of its former activists in the NNP and its voters finding a home with the LPF. Right-wing groups have became more confident and vocal after Fortuynıs death, but they lack the infrastructure to benefit fully from its "campaign against the left and immigrants", just as Janmaat lacked the charisma and talent to unite all those groups and became a significant force in Dutch politics.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! in Utrecht