Since last weekend, there has been unrest in the Netherlands. In Urk, fascists and lateral thinkers burned down a Corona test street on Saturday. In Amsterdam and Eindhoven, riots broke out on Sunday after far-right groups like PEGIDA-NL and lateral thinkers (1) called for demonstrations against the curfew in both cities. The strange Querfront mix in the Netherlands at these types of demonstrations is similar to that in Germany and Austria. What is different is that youths hijacked the lateral-thinkers protests in Eindhoven on Sunday. Some fascist hooligans complained on social media that they were beaten up by migrant youths in the process. In some videos, youths chanted anti-Semitic slurs. So these are all far-right and anti-Semitic youth? No, but even though I of course condemn all far-right and anti-Semitic behavior, it’s not that simple. It is a difficult and complex situation. An attempt to explain the Corona riots in the Netherlands.
In the 1980s, Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers started a neoliberal reform program, and several successors continued it. When German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder launched his neoliberal Agenda 2010 in the early 2000s, he openly stated that it was partly based on the Dutch so-called “polder model.” In the Netherlands, however, neoliberal programs went much further than in Germany. Thatcher’s “there is no society” worked in our neighboring country. After the destructive work of 3 generations of politicians, society in the Netherlands is now completely broken.
As chance would have it, after the onset of neoliberal reforms, the far right entered Dutch parliament as early as the 1980s. At that time it was the Centrumpartij, later together with a breakaway faction: the Centrum Democrats. In 1986, the two parties tried to merge for the next elections, but autonomous anti-fascists disrupted the party congress of the far-right parties in Kedichem and so the merger did not take place. The hotel where the party congress was held went up in flames. With this action, the antifascists prevented the merger of Centrumpartij and Centrum-Demokraten.
Before the Centrumpartij, there was already the Nederlandse Volksunie (NVU), but it never really had the potential to become bigger. They were too openly fascist, in times when many people of the “war generation” were still alive. Soon the Centrumpartij and the Centrum-Demokraten were also dumped on the funeral pile of history. But the real danger was yet to come.
While the autonomous movement was weakening, a new far-right politician was gaining ground in the Netherlands: Pim Fortuyn. Fortuyn was a professor of mass communication in the early 1990s and wrote for the conservative weekly Elsevier. In 1997, he published the book “Against the Islamization of Our Culture.” On August 20, 2001, Fortuyn announced that he wanted to enter politics. In November 2001, he became the leading candidate of the party Leefbaar Nederland (LN, English: Liveable Netherlands), and shortly thereafter also of Leefbaar Rotterdam. After racist statements in Dutch media, Fortuyn was kicked out of Leefbaar Nederland because of his far-right agenda and immediately founded his own party. List Pim Fortuyn. Fortuyn was not an “old-school” fascist like Janmaat, he was a charismatic personality. He always wore tailored suits, fashionable Italian shoes and was rhetorically talented. I remember watching a debate with all the top candidates on Dutch public tv. It was a few months before the parliamentary elections in 2002, during which Fortuyn made his opponents look like schoolchildren with a lot to learn. At that moment I realized that this man was a very different kind of far-right politician, Fortuyn was really dangerous. A few weeks before the election, on May 6, 2002, Fortuyn was shot. The assassin, Volkert van der Graaf, was an environmental activist and said during his trial that he killed Fortuyn because he thought he was a danger to society, especially to vulnerable groups such as refugees, muslims, and people receiving disability pensions. Van der Graaf recognized that Fortuyn had to be stopped. But the damage had already been done. In just a few months, Fortuyn shook up the entire party landscape.
Fortuyn was never elected, but changed Dutch society in just a few months, permanently. Today, in 2021, almost 20 years later, far-right politics are completely normalized in the Netherlands. Nine days after his death, elections were held and his party became part of a coalition government with the Christian Democrats and the neoliberal VVD. It was the first time a far-right party governed the Netherlands since the Nazi occupation in the 1940s. In Rotterdam, his party got 30% in the municipal elections in 2002. One of the first things they did was “cleaning up” the city’s public library. Leftist books disappeared. Fortuyn had died, but “right-wing populism” established itself as a permanent element of Dutch politics. In 2002, that is, long before the AFD even existed in this country (Germany, Enough 14). Fortuyn’s heir apparent became Geert Wilders with his PVV. It is Wilders who agitates against state Corona measures. The Forum voor Democratie (FVD, German Forum for Democracy), another far-right party, also agitates against state Corona measures.
The Dutch government reacts with harsh repression against the far-right and lateral-thinkers movement, but Wilders and the FVD keep fueling it. Demonstrations are more and more often banned, but the mobilizations continue. The cops enforce these bans, often with a lot of violence. The fact that the curfew is the first since the Nazi occupation gave the far right the fuel they needed to escalate the protests. Dutch Nazis, are Nazis, but use the still existing emotions against Nazi Germany for their own goals. After the demonstrations in Amsterdam and Eindhoven were banned last Sunday, there were many calls to come for a cup of coffee, as that could not be banned by the state. Again, the cops began to disperse the crowd with massive force. Similar to the previous week in Amsterdam, riots broke out.
When the clashes started in Eindhoven on Sunday, you could see a lot of fascist hooligans fighting with the cops. But after a while the situation changed. More and more young people showed up, a part of them were migrants. They were the ones who gave the cops a hard time, looted stores and made Eindhoven uncontrollable for a few hours. Since some fascist hooligans complained on social media that they were beaten up by migrant youths, it seems they didn’t really worked together. By Monday, the riots had spread to a dozen cities in the Netherlands. On Tuesday, it continued, although the intensity was lower.
While there are many differences with the situation here in Germany, there are also some parallels. In the Netherlands, too, the field against the authoritarian state Corona measures was left open by the radical left. There, too, the far-right and conspiracy theorists said thank you and filled the gap that had been left open. Open criticism of the way the state is managing the pandemic with its authoritarian policies from the left, with a few exceptions, only came from insurgent anarchists. They were also the only ones, except for the far-right and conspiracy theorists, who called for resistance. On Indymedia NL, for example, there is a call from anarchists to join the current uprising.
In Germany, banlieu-like clashes like the one that took place in Stuttgart last year, are a relatively new phenomenon. In the Netherlands, it has happened more often, for instance in the Schilderswijk in The Hague, but also in Utrecht Overvecht, just to name a few.
Many leftists like to discuss the revolts in Chile, Lebanon, Tunisia and France. Revolts in which proletarian youth rose up, but in countries like the Netherlands and Germany, large parts of the so-called left seem to have lost contact with the proletarians in their own country.
When we talk about the uprisings in Tunisia at this point, it is also because no one in this country (Germany, Enough 14) talks about the riots in Stuttgart last summer anymore. Or, in other words, because there is no real spatial/perspective separation for the surplus proletariat that is full of pride in being responsible for the riots. There is only the left’s misconception about the genesis and perspective of the whole affair. To a large extent disconnected from any proletarian reality of life, it settles down at home in the stay home Biedermeier until the state has eliminated the pandemic completely or takes pleasure in introducing differentiated concepts of the state of emergency into the discourse. To this day, there is no left-wing report worth reading on the revolt in Stuttgart, no interviews with those involved, no one knows the names of those imprisoned, no donations are being collected for the trials, no one visits or writes the prisoners.Sebastian Lotzer in 2021 Nightshift [Part 1]
In France, anti-fascists have a different approach. They have gone into the banlieues and work a lot with people who live there. Many people from the banlieues now participate in demos and fight together with activists from the city centers. When the far-right tried to hijack the Gilets Jaunes movement, antifascists didn’t start counter-protests, but started to chase the fascists out of the demonstrations. They realized that the Gilets Jaunes had social demands and that they could not leave social issues to the fascists. They knew that they had to get involved themselves and so they did. This is exactly what is missing in countries like Germany and the Netherlands.
Of course it is intolerable when people call cops “Kankerjoden” (English → “Cancer Jews”). Of course, anti-Semitic language and behavior is unacceptable. But first, the Corona riots in proletarian neighborhoods in the Netherlands were unorganized and quite spontaneous. To say that they were all anti-Semites and far-right is simply wrong. What unites people is their hate against the police, because of their daily experiences with racial profiling, repression and so on. Many of them also see the hypocritical attitude of many politicians and large parts of society. They see no perspective for themselves in this capitalist world. Secondly, what do we actually expect in a broken society where most of us have lost contact with the people living in the proletarian neighborhoods and where many of us are mostly only in contact with people in our own “safe and free” spaces.
To claim that these riots are not political says more about the make-believe world that many leftists have come to terms with, including a walk around the church tower here and a benefit concert there. In Germany, parts of this so-called radical left have just started to become a parody of themselves with the Zero Covid campaign. In the Netherlands, it doesn’t look much better. Do we even want to know what the young people who took to the streets in the Netherlands have to say to us? I do.
Emre and Yassin, both in their early 20s, were interviewed yesterday, but these aren’t their real names. They were involved in the actions on Monday. Emre refers to the supplement affair. The Dutch government had to resign on Jan. 15 after it came out that 20,000 parents were wrongly prosecuted by the Dutch state for fraud. This has driven many families into financial ruin. Prime Minister Rutte (VVD) is nevertheless again top candidate of his party. In the interview with “Één Vandaag,” a program on Dutch public television, Emre said:
“Then they say: We are the scum of the earth. But the government has stolen millions from families, has destroyed families. If they do it, it’s legal because they are the government. If we do it, we are criminals.”Emre
These young people are apolitical? It seems to me that Emre is well aware of the kind of society he lives in. He may not have been to university, I really don’t know and don’t care, and he may speak a different language than most of the radical left, but he knows who and what he is fighting against.
“You can’t do anything, just sit at home. First they said until such and such date, but then at the press conference they extended it again for 2 weeks. Later we’re inside for 25 years, just like a tbs clinic.” (2)Emre
Emre and Yassin have no problem to attack the police, but it goes too far for them when people loot supermarkets or attack hospitals: “Because these are institutions that are there to help people.” A supermarket, of course, is not an institution that helps people, but a company that wants to make profits. But does that mean that the two youths are not political? It seems to me that the attack on a hospital in Enschede on Monday night is something they have reflected on. When I read such words, I actually have the impression that they reflect more than many of the usual suspects from parts of the so-called left.
As in many countries around the world, migrant youth in the Netherlands are often subjected to racial profiling and hostile cops who often punish and harass them for nothing and nothing again. Hatred against the police is growing. It’s partly a cat and mouse game, Emre and Yassin say, with some trying to take revenge on the police. That’s because too often, unjustified fines or penalties are imposed. But the violence could get much worse, Emre says, such as setting fire to a city hall or a police station.
“It is true that there are injuries among the police, but the police also use violence against civilians.”Emre
The images of looting and violence have made many people in the Netherlands very angry. But Emre and Yassin have little understanding for that. Yassin comments, “I don’t really care, it doesn’t bother me.”
To be honest, that’s not really surprising. Where are all these angry people when young people like Emre and Yassin are subjected to the police’s next racial profiling operation? On social media, many people cheered the collaboration between police and fascist hooligans in several Dutch cities on Tuesday night. That says a lot about the “common sense” in the Netherlands. Suddenly it was forgotten that the first clashes took place between the cops and the fascist hooligans. Emre and Yassin will not have forgotten that. In doubt all together against migrant youth?
This kind of unrest will increase in the coming years, not only in the Netherlands. We can learn a lot from comrades in countries like Chile and France. For example, how to overcome the current split between parts of the so-called radical left and the proletarian youth in the suburbs. This will not happen by itself. If we really want to overcome capitalism, it will be necessary to break our isolation in our free spaces and often closed circles and reach out to the proletarians in the suburbs. If we don’t do that and continue to go round in our own circles, we will wake up one day in a real totalitarian nightmare. The ruling classes have long since started to work on it.
(1)The lateral thinker movement is a mixed front of far-right, left and middle class activists called. In German its called Querdenker Bewegung (Bewegung is German for Movemenent). Lateral thinker is the translation provided by Leo.org. https://dict.leo.org/englisch-deutsch/Querdenker
(2) In Dutch criminal law, tbs (before 1988: terbeschikkingstelling van de regering, abbreviated tbr) is a measure that a judge may impose on a suspect of an offense punishable by imprisonment of at least four years or of a number of specifically listed offenses (e.g., threatening and stalking). The condition is that the judge is convinced that the defendant suffered from a “wrong development” or pathological mental disorder at the time of the offense.
Compulsory tbs can be subdivided according to the duration of the measure:
The latter is the well-known tbs that can be extended again and again. The former can be extended only once and has a maximum duration of four years.
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