Weekly News Review Archive

10th May, 2002
Netherlands: Pim Fortuyn murdered

Media coverage, outside the Netherlands, of the murder of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn has reached new lows of misunderstanding, deliberate distortion and sheer laziness. In the month of the fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen’s high vote in the French Presidential election’s first round, which was described by the English-language press as evidence of a “huge swing to the right”, we now see the late Mr Fortuyn described as a “far right leader”. Just as there was no swing to the right in France, but, on the contrary, a significant increase in the total votes cast for centre-left, left and far left candidates, so Mr Fortuyn was anything but “far right”. Fortuyn had some abhorrent views, describing Islam as incompatible with civilisation, and calling for a halt to immigration. He was, however, in favour of integration of existing immigrant communities, never called for repatriation or any other form of persecution of immigrants, and favoured an amnesty for any undocumented foreigners who had lived and worked in the country for five years or more. These policies are somewhat to the left of those favoured by Mr Blair and his gang, for whom many British socialists continue (unaccountably, in our view) to vote. Fortuyn said that he is opposed to immigration because the country cannot fit any more people in it. This is ridiculous, of course, but even in this case he gave no impression of disguising extreme racist views behind some kind of bogus demography. There were people of colour on Fortuyn's list for the elections, and black people weeping along with many others at the angry, spontaneous gatherings which greeted the news. Fortuyn had no skinhead or similar following. He was not antisemitic. He was well to the left of most US congressmen and women and the British Tory right.

 

The foreign media have characterised Fortuyn as "far right" because they are too lazy to think outside these handy categories. We shouldn't be. It is also the EU’s task, which it carries out with determination, to discredit anyone, left or right, who raises his or her voice in criticism, which Fortuyn did.

The Netherlands is not Britain, or the United States. Here is a country where if you win votes, you get representatives in Parliament and you get on TV. Our friends in the Socialist Party (SP) received 3.5% of the votes at the last election and have 5 MPs. They are hoping to better that next week. They are not wedded to parliamentarianism, either, but are also active on the street and in a range of campaigns. The Netherlands isn't paradise but as capitalist democracies go, it works. There is plenty of space to do real politics, inside or outside the system. There's a lively, playful anarchist movement and tradition, two parliamentary left parties, and lots of active local and national campaigning on social, environmental and civil liberties issues. The last thing anyone needed was some crazy with a gun.



Pim Fortuyn was not le Pen, or Hitler, or George W. Bush. He was just a colourful man who was wrong about a lot of stuff, though no more wrong than most politicians. He was committed to democracy, and never questioned people’s right to vote against him. Instead of characterising him as a fascist, the SP campaign concentrated on hammering away at the fact that, if you look at it carefully, the programme of his party, underneath all the rhetoric, is in fact pretty well identical to the current coalition government's.


The following statements were issued by the SP in the wake of the murder. Spectre endorses every word.


"It was with astonishment that we learned of the cowardly murder of Pim Fortuyn. We were often in agreement as to what was wrong; our solutions, our ideas about how to improve things, differed. The voters had the choice, as they should. That is democracy. It is a disgrace that the bullets which killed Pim Fortuyn also killed this choice. We send his family, friends, those who knew him and those who followed his ideas our sincerest condolences in the face of this loss. "

The SP later issued this longer statement:

"The attack on 6 May 2002 on MR Pim Fortuyn is both a personal tragedy and an unprecedented event in the post-war history of the Netherlands. The executive committee of the SP has sent condolences to Mr Fortuyn’s family, friends and acquaintances. On Monday Pim Fortuyn was the victim of a cowardly murder. It is pointless to speculate about the killer and his motive, and we shall refrain from doing so.

Pim Fortuyn was a controversial politician. If his critique of prevailing politics was on many points similar to that of the SP, his answers were often greatly at odds with our own. On this point there can be no misunderstanding.  The SP has, ever since Fortuyn’s  appearance  on the political stage concentrated the debate on his political opinions, shunning personal abuse.

Because of today’s tragic events we have suspended all national campaign activities for the coming general election. All SP branches have been informed of this and have ceased campaigning in their own localities. "

EU plans universal surveillance of telecommunications

In advance of the completion of the EU legislative process on proposals for the revision of the 1997 EU Directive on privacy in the telecommunications sector, a number of EU governments are drafting a binding “Framework Decision” to ensure that all member states introduce a law requiring the retention of telecommunications traffic data and the granting of access to it by law enforcement agencies.



Next Wednesday, 15 May, the European Parliament plenary session is due to vote on a report recently adopted by the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights on 18 April. This report re-affirmed the position taken by the parliament in its first reading last November, opposing the fundamental change being put forward by the Council. Under the 1997 Directive data can only be retained for a short period for "billing" purposes (ie: to help the customer confirm usage details) and then it must be erased. The Council want this data to be retained for law enforcement agencies to access. The European Parliament proposes that the current position be maintained, whereby such data can be accessed for the purposes of national security and criminal investigations where it is authorised on a case-by-case basis by judicial authorities.



Tony Bunyan, editor of the UK-based Statewatch, comments:



"By drafting a binding Framework Decision before the proper legislative processes are finished EU governments are showing their utter disregard for the European Parliament. The vote in the European Parliament and the final decision on this issue will be a defining moment for the future of democracy in the EU. If all telecommunications - phone-calls, e-mails, faxes and internet usage - are placed under surveillance not only will data protection be fatally undermined but so too will be the very freedoms that distinguish democracies from authoritarian regimes"



For more details, go to this website








Commission takes Blairites to Court

The British government is being hauled before the beak by the European Commission for its failure properly to implement the EU Directive on Working Time. The Commission's case is that the law does not make employers responsible for enforcing workers' rights to breaks and holidays, that it does not make provision for measurement of time worked voluntarily in excess of normal working time, and that night shift overtime hours are excluded from the tally of normal hours. The Blairites have until may 21st to respond, and if the Commission is not satisfied it will then institute legal proceedings. The spat has been accompanied by the ludicrous spectacle of the CBI attacking the Directive, which was agreed several years ago and is no longer at issue. The only issue is whether the UK has done what it agreed to do, because although the previous government had refused to implement the Directive one of Blair's first moves after coming to power was to sign up to it. The CBI no doubt lobbied the government then, with the result that the law transposing the Directive's requirements is - possibly - inadequate. 

Parliament: MEPs exploit assistants whilst lining own pockets

MEPs' assistants are in some cases paid as little as 800 euros a month, according to a recent survey, though the average pay is almost twice that. For comparison, the people who work for the Parliament and its political groups take home anything from 3000 euros upwards, with very few earning less. MEPs are paid whatever their national MPs receive, with the average being around  7000 euros, though this is the gross figure. There are currently attempts to put them on a common salary of  over 8,000 euros per month. This is generously topped up with ludicrously high expenses. Many fail to provide proper social security cover for their staff, in contravention both of the EP's own rules and of Belgian law. In addition, they encourage the assistants, many of whom are young and inexperienced, to fiddle their taxes. This does not apply to all MEPs - many treat their staff well and pay decent wages - but there is a significant proportion who prefer to figure out how to line their own pockets from the 12,000 euros per month office and secretarial allowance to which they are entitled.

Belgium blocks new GMO field trials while German activists hit Bayer AGM

Belgium’s Green Party environment minister Magda Aelvoet has blocked field trials of a genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape and a transgenic apple tree trial. Three other applications have been approved on a number of conditions, including that the firms concerned assume liability for any damage to human and animal health or property. Fortunately, a recent reorganisation has given Ms Aelvoet decision-making power in this crucial area. Previously this was trhe responsibility of biotech fanatic Jaak Gabriels, the man who, about a week after September 11, had the good taste to refer to opposition to biotechnology as “intellectual terrorism” . All five trial applications had received approval from scientific advisers, but the minister said the scope of the opinions was "too narrow". She has expanded the Belgian biosecurity committee to include more experts in ecology, population genetics and socio-economics.

Last month, a GM crop test site was destroyed by activists. Meanwhile, just over the border in Germany, protestors stormed the stage at the drug giant Bayer’s AGM in opposition to the company’s entry into the GM crop market with its purchase of Aventis. The protestors were removed by security, but not before the principles of capitalist democracy were respected: as they were shareholders, they were allowed to vote before being chucked out. Go to  www.Bayerhazard.com for more.

New introduction to biological warfare published

An Introduction to Biological Weapons, their Prohibition, and the Relationship to Biosafety is an introduction to biological weapons and biological weapons control which will be useful to any readers persons familiar with biosafety and biodiversity issues. It provides biological weapons history and discusses the future of biological weapons and their prohibition. Biological warfare agents are a unique class of weapons that pose dangers to all biodiversity and whose future threat is directly linked to the regulation of modern biotechnology. Biological weapons

include living organisms that are able to reproduce and perpetuate their destructive mission beyond the intended target area and time. Biosafety and biosecurity both relate to new genetic techniques and to the release of living organisms into the environment with harmful impacts. Available free at this website

Bush junta rats on yet another international treaty

“History will record April 11, 2002, as a day of enormous significance in the effort to achieve the rule of law in the conduct of international affairs. It marks the day the Treaty of Rome, establishing an International Criminal Court, was to be ratified by sixty nations, thus triggering the establishment of the global tribunal with jurisdiction over those who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. Tragically, instead of submitting the treaty to the Senate for ratification, George W.Bush would strike our name from the treaty altogether. In a press conference two weeks before the sixtieth nation deposited its ratification, the Administration's ambassador-at-large for war crimes, Pierre Prosper, made it clear that the President is still a hostage to the reactionary sponsors of the misnamed American Servicemembers Protection Act. This act would allow the United States to invade The Hague, presumed seat of the new tribunal, to "free" any American brought before the bar of international justice. In addition, any existing military assistance program to a non-NATO country that is "a party to" the ICC would be suspended.

Read the rest of Unsigning the ICC by John B. Anderson in The Nation at this website

Q&A on the euro

“Why should the government even think of holding a referendum on the euro?” asks the (British) Labour Euro Safeguards Committee. Indeed. As LESC continues, “During the last ten years, the British economy has performed conspicuously better than those in the euro zone. Our inflation rate is currently about half theirs. We have much less unemployment. We have attracted a far higher rate of direct inward investment. Our growth rate, averaging 2.9% per annum, has been almost twice the 1.6% per annum managed by Germany, allowing substantially increased expenditure in Britain on public services. All this has been achieved outside the euro - indeed largely because we have not been in it, thus enabling us to avoid the deflationary policies imposed on all the economies in the euro zone by the European Central Bank. Why then are some members of the government so keen to join the Single Currency? The reasons have little to do with economic considerations. It is because they regard the building of EU wide political, military, legal and administrative structures as more important than retaining democratic control over political decisions through the British parliament and our national institutions.” Read the rest at this website

In Brief

Blondes allergic to euro...Dutch daily De Volkskrant reportedly recently that people with fair hair and pale skin are likely to suffer an allergic reaction to the nickel in the new euro coins. The problem was anticipated. moreover, but the mix of nickel and other metals was chosen because it was cheap. At least, we suppose, it proves the euro isn't an Aryan plot.

European Voice, a federalist weekly which circulates for the most part in Brussels, is the subject of a bizarre attempt by Michel Boucquillon, the architect responsible for the unloved monstrosity which is the European Parliament's office block, to get them to pay him for using a photograph of the building. The EP itself makes such photographs freely available to the press and charges nothing, asking only acknowledgement. Boucquillon, however, believes he should get royalties every time anyone publishes a photo of the building. Until this matter is cleared up, Spectre will be steering well clear of using any photos whatsoever. If you can copyright the image of a building, you can surely copyright anything at all. 

Sharon's stormtroopers of the so-called Israeli Defence Force (IDF) routinely take civilians at gunpoint and make them open suspicious packages, knock on doors of suspects, and search the houses of "wanted" Palestinians during military operations. Go to http://hrw.org/reports/2002/israel2/ for the whole of the Human Rights Watch report In a Dark Hour: The Use of Civilians During IDF Arrest Operations.

Quotes

"The present occupation is an infringement upon human rights. And international law. And it is time for the European parliament to reflect this...We in the EU have a political and moral obligation to intervene. We really have to take Sharon's words seriously. He is trying to impose his idea of peace with no regard to human rights or international law...We need to have an honest brokerage that recognises the moral injustice of the military occupation of Palestine."     Luisa Morganitine, MEP  Italian Communist Refoundation                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

"It is sad to realise that young kamikaze Palestinian men are doing this no longer for religious reasons but simply because they feel that this way their lives will have meant something."      Yasmine Boudjenah, MEP ,   French Communist Party