Interview with Geert Lovink

For the Russian Legalization Campaign


(original English version)

OK: Amsterdam is usually considered to be the most liberal city in the world. Marijuana and prostitution are legal there, besides it, it has long been having the extremely liberal rules for the foreign immigrants. As a politically conscious and active citizen, how would you evaluate pros and contras of such liberalism?

GL: First of all, to correct you, the so-called liberal policies concerning softdrugs and prostitution do not apply to the Dutch migration policies. Despite the public image of the Netherlands, its treatment of refugees and immigrants is and has been particular harsh. Most of those who apply for a permission to stay are being refused and deported. Those from Suriname and other former Dutch colonies and the Maroccan and Turkish families that came to work from the 1960s onwards do not fall under the category of refugees or illegal migrants.

If you want to get a better understanding of Dutch policies, I would advice everyone to read Herbert Marcuse, in particular his writings on ‘repressive tolerance’. The Dutch approach has got nothing to do with being in favor of softdrugs, pornography or sympathy for ‘other cultures’. The climate in the Netherlands has always been one of an elitist ‘transnational’ regent class that showed little interest in the population at large. Tolerance is just another word for the right to be left alone. Outsiders often only see the positive side. What they forget is the flipside. Remember that ‘apartheid’ is a Dutch word. Originally it means the right of ‘seperate’ development. It is out of such ‘mutual’ forms of ‘disinterest’ that liberal policies grow. The Dutch are not in particularly favorite of liberal ideologies. Liberals are actually only a tiny minority. Most of the Dutch liberals would be called conservatives elsewhere. They are primarily Christians, protestants in the North and catholics in the South. Historically, the’tolerant’climate has grown out of comprimise between a variety of different social and political interests. In the 1960s the seperate social cultures (from socialist soccer clubs to catholic automobile clubs) rapidly disinteregrated. This process came to end with the rise of Pim Fortuyn and his LPF party that won a landslide victory in the 2002 parlementary elections.

OK: Does legalization create basis for a more tolerant society?

GL: Legislation puts off the immediate pressure on for instance sex workers and those who favor to smoke a joint. Both protitution and softdrugs are considered social phenomena and not a criminal offence. In many countries it the police force and legal system that slowly start to raise their voice about the enormous amount of work they have to do to file all these cases against individuals, while leaving the big business of hookers and dealers unhurt. The pressuse to legalize does not just come from NGOs. Legalization often comes out of cry for a more effective police system that can ease the pressure of overwork. In my view legalization occurs at the end of a process of battles and negotiations. It is therefore not a sign of tolerance if certain phenomena get decriminalized.

OK: Being a part of a consumerist society, does the legalized business of Red lights district and coffee-shops become a part of market as well? As is well-known, the recently elected right government in the Netherlands tends to prohibitionist policies. Does this mean that the right opposes the market? How does left react on this?

GL: Prostitution and drugs are big economic factors in Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general. The ultimate sign of legilization is taxation. For long taxation has been a demand from the software sector. It is the final step towards integration in the economy. However, as we all know, mafia is controlling both sectors. This is a contradiction not so easy to deal with. For instance, the softdrugs so far cannot legalilly be imported.

– As a politically conscious citizen, you’ve been for long time acively involved into the public life of the Netherlands. Your area is a digital sphere, which gives a new freedom for independent social projecting and critical thinking. Our net parliament attempts to do similar things in our conditions. What could you wish to it?

I am reluctant to go into detail with certain aspects of your question as I moved to Australia in 2000. So it starts to be become a little bit difficult to talk about these topics from a contemporary Dutch perspective. If you are interested in this topic you could go to the University of Amsterdam research site: and its link page: I would say, create coalitions. Do not do such campaigns on your own. Think about effective media actions and the images they create. Send Putin a joint. Something. Your imagination is certainly limitless.