Murdered Fortuyn gets 17% of the vote
The 25th Letter of an Autonomous Thinker

Amsterdam, May 21 2002

Dear reader, 

Nine days before the Dutch general elections the charismatic, gay, nonconformist leader of the populist “List Pim Fortuyn” was shot dead. Nevertheless his party got 17 % of the vote. A big shock because the List Fortuyn was only founded in the beginning of February!  The masses were dissatisfied by the coalition of Labour and Liberals and voted en masse for the oppositional Christen Democrats and the new List Fortuyn. The political program of this List is based on the ideas of its deceased leader but I doubt if his followers will abide by these (albeit vague) ideas. Fortuyn put the desires of the masses into words. Most politicians lack this quality and only want to impose their own ideas. Left and right do not exist anymore, political parties have become interchangeable, they are just a power instrument of the political establishment that wants to preserve the privileged position of the elite.

The funeral of Fortuyn was a huge demonstration against the political establishment. Many had hoped that this new leader should lead them towards a better future. The success of Fortuyn makes clear that something is fundamentally wrong with democracy. But people do not realize that new leaders always make common cause with sitting leaders and that the interest of the masses remains in second place. For a better life you have to depend on your own activity.

The star of Fortuyn rose fast. He propagated profound changes but after some months he tried already to compromise with those leading politicians that had proven to represent the sitting elite. Holland is an elitist democracy led by a political elite that only gives the masses an illusion of democracy. Political parties have become places where you can make a career. Political ideas are reduced to monetary problems. The waiting lists for medical operations, the feeling of uncertainty and insecurity, the deteriorating public transport system, etc. remained even when the economy was growing. I never expected much change because elections alone cannot remove a political oligarchy. Only some new politicians will replace some old leaders who withdraw in the background where they continue to pull the strings.

The fast rise of Fortuyn showed the hidden discontent of the masses. In a few months he got more than a third of the vote in Rotterdam and two months later 17% in the general elections. It seems a confirmation of the catastrophe theory - in a complicated world a small event, the rise of Fortuyn, can cause a huge change, the election result. But a real catastrophe is not possible because one of the preconditions, the continuous activity of the masses, is not fulfilled. See also my articles about political catastrophes.
An alarming factor is the lasting trust in leaders. The autonomous activity of the masses is restricted to the election of a new leader. People like Fortuyn give the masses some hope that ‘they’ will listen more to their plights but in the end they join the old ruling group. Fundamental changes will stay away because these only occur when the power of the elite is weakened. In four years new elections will be held and then it will be clear nothing has changed.
But one of the other preconditions for a real change was fulfilled, the growing political consciousness of the masses. The masses are more and more annoyed with the elitist democracy. Maybe they will now understand that Montesquieu only proposed democracy to solve problems within the elite. Democracy gave the masses never any influence on society. (see Chapter 5 of The Scarists).  

But was Fortuyn a right wing extremist? He made some remarks with a racist undertone (“Holland is full”, “the Islam is backward” …) and he advocated less government influence. But he had also leftist ideas caused by his open homosexuality and his staunch believe in the freedom of speech. The difference between left and right in politics is an illusion. It is one of the methods by which the political elite incites one part of the masses against another part. The contradiction left-right obscures the much more important contradiction between elite and masses. Fortuyn in The Netherlands, Le Pen in France or Haider in Austria are the result of the existence of a privileged and closed political elite.

Fortuyn did not (yet) belong to the political elite, he was even openly despised by sitting politicians. He belonged to the masses, he said what the masses wanted. But he presented himself as a strongman (see Chapter 4 of About Violence and Democracy) who acted in the name of and not together with the masses. In this respect he was right wing. Others could advance opinions but only HE decided. Many people liked that, trusted him and hoped HE should make their life better. The elected members of his party lack his power and will be outsmarted by the sitting political elite. In the coming negotiations for a new government it will become clear that the wish of these new people to get a nice job will be more important than the desires of the masses. Within a few years the List Fortuyn will collapse. See for the beginning collapse after only three month Letter 30 and after a few years the Fortuyn party was indeed decimated though the old discontent did still e3xist. Old and new leaders will become indistinguishable. (Free after George Orwell in Animal Farm).

It was wrong that leftists attacked Fortuyn, they still live in the past when different parts of the masses fought each other while the elite continued to be in power. Many people understand that the old left-right contradiction does not solve anything. The presence of a mighty elite is the cause of the discontent. Not Fortuyn but the existing establishment has to be attacked. But it was disappointing that the masses continued to look for leaders to solve their problems. Maybe in a next election people will turn away from all political elites by not going to the ballot boxes. Then the way will be free for alternating, involved and interested minorities of people who belong to the masses to carry out independent and autonomous actions against the leading minority that is called the elite.

See also the article in the series Political Catastrophes: Electoral Landslide in Holland.

Yours truly, Joost van Steenis


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26. Stop attacking masspeople
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