Movement on the Dutch right flank

Searchlight, March 2005

At the end of January, Hilbrand Nawijn, former Dutch minister for refugee policy and an MP for the List Pim Fortuyn, spoke at the right-wing extremist Vlaams Belang's New Year reception in Antwerp. As a further sign of the shifting sands of Dutch politics, some members of the right-wing populist Leefbaar Rotterdam (LR) - the late Pim Fortuyn's other successful party - also made the pilgrimage to the Antwerp event.

This is ironic because some months ago, mere contact with the Vlaams Belang's forerunner, the Vlaams Blok, was enough for LR to chuck out the party's resident far-rightist, Michiel Smit who went on to form his own outfit, NieuwRechts. Nawijn's speech at the Vlaams Belang's (VB) hoedown was, as usual, populist with calls to close the borders to asylum-seekers, demands for the demolition of minority policies and rejection of Turkish entry to the European Union.

Nawijn also raged against the proposed European constitution and urged that criminal Dutch people of foreign origin be stripped of their citizenship and removed from The Netherlands. The Dutch, he claimed, must win back their identity (or "leading culture" as the VB boss Philip Dewinter likes to call it) by dumping the government's "our own people last" policy. This is Nawijn's way of saying - being less gifted in rhetoric than Dewinter - "Dutch First!" When he branded the cordon sanitaire by the Belgian democratic parties against the VB "an attack on the Belgian state," Nawijn was loudly cheered by the five hundred extremists present.The inheritors of Fortuyn's political mantle have to travel to Belgium nowadays to get some cheer now that their own supporters have lost all faith in the LPF and LR after heavy bouts of infighting, scandals and splits.

Nawijn, who, incidentally, is no longer member of the LPF and not even belong to the LPF fraction in the Dutch parliament, was given a warm welcome by Dewinter.

The VB boss, indeed, was almost lost for words and emphasised that "the Dutch are finally part of Europe" and that the right-wing parties in Europe should join forces. Of course, he applauded the efforts, in the Netherlands, of the maverick politician Geert Wilders, on the one hand, and Nawijn, on the other, to form new right-wing parties.

Dewinter and Nawijn did not, however, agree on everything. Where the VB wants migrants wants to assimilate, Nawijn will settle for integration and, on the issue of public wearing of headscarves by Muslim, Nawijn opts only for banning such dress from being worn at public functions while Dewinter wants a 100% ban.

Financial and logistic support from the VB to the LR is out of the question, but Dewinter is willing to give his new "political friend" all the advice he can.

Nawijn later announced at a press conference that he would start the List Hilbrand Nawijn for next year's council elections in his hometown of Zoetermeer, near The Hague, to check whether his new political formula actually works. Then, if it does, he will go national with a new party in the 2007 parliamentary elections. He also announced that he would invite Dewinter for a reciprocal visit to the Netherlands, probably Zoetermeer.

The VB also took the opportunity offered by huge Dutch media attention to propose a political "cease-fire" with Geert Wilders, but the latter ungraciously replied that he was "busy with a fight in the Netherlands" and "did not need theVlaams Belang".

Wilders is most definitely busy. His demands for the expulsion of criminal migrants, even if born in the Netherlands, were heard again when a Dutch Moroccan youngster was killed when a car from which he had stolen a purse drove over him.

The incident touched a raw nerve about the issues that surfaced again after the killing of film maker Theo Van Gogh in November 2004: integration, criminality and the "us and them" society.

Wilders jumped on the bandwagon and repeated some of his extremist ideas which, if implemented, would wreck a tolerant society. For example, he wants to detain people - radical Islamists - in certain cases without reference to a judge. Other demands include temporary suspension of the constitution, a justice policy under which three successive convictions crimes will lead to a life sentence and measures against the supposed "street terror" of Dutch-Moroccan street criminals on the same level as against "state-terrorism". All of these policies measures go beyond what the big hitters of the European far-right like Jean-Marie Le Pen, Jörg Haider or Filip Dewinter want. Some academics have now joined forces to call for an investigation by the public prosecutor of some of these proposals.

Besides Wilders immoral, undemocratic and dangerous, and even traditionally fascist, ideas of the all-powerful State, the total silence of his supposed opponents and everybody else in the political landscape is very disturbing. Afraid of loosing votes or being described as 'weak, left and soft' if you not go along in this 'state of war' shouldn't cloud people's vision of the impact of these very dangerous ideas.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht