Those who search for an alternative list during parliamentary elections on18 May, in Belgium, might consider the Resist list. As its name implies, the list stands for resistance against war, discrimination and exploitation. Still the list remains limited to a coalition of the Stalinist PTB and the (Arab) nationalist AEL (Arab-European Ligue).
This article is taken from the March edition of ‘Socialistisch Links’/ ‘Alternative Socialiste’, the newspapers of Linkse Socialistiche Partij(LSP)/ Mouvement pour une Alternative Socialiste (MAS), the Belgian affiliate of the CWI. It explains the position of the LSP/MAS towards to the formation of a ‘radical’ electoral list’ – ‘Resist’ – for the forthcoming parliamentary elections in May.
Does the ‘Resist’ electoral List offer unity?
Working class needs unity against exploitation, discrimination and war
The initiators of the Resist list never contacted LSP/MAS, an important left force in Belgium. It is also unclear whether there still is a possibility for discussion on this project and its programme. The approach adopted by the initiators of this list is completely different from that of LSP/MAS and the idea we put forward to develop left wing alliances at the time of the council elections of 2000. At that time we contacted all left wing organisations and parties and kept everything open: both the name and the programme of the list. We doubt if the Resist list will adopt a similar attitude.
More important is the orientation of the list and its method. The key issue for Resist is discrimination against the immigrant community. Its programme stands for self-organisation and positive discrimination. As the AEL leader Dyab Abou Jahjah said: "After years of negative discrimination, we now need a period of positive discrimination."
Ever since "Black Sunday" (the elections of 24 November 1991, which saw the ultra right Vlaams Blok made a significant breakthrough) a lot has been said on the struggle against racism. The trade unions that are confronted with a large percentage of Vlaams Blok voters in their ranks have limited their fight against racism to moralistic campaigns. Meanwhile the attack on the living conditions of the working class (Belgians and immigrants) has continued. It is these attacks that prepare the ground for racist ideas.
Most immigrant organisations, which are heavily state subsidised and closely linked to local politicians, do not offer an answer to the problems of immigrants. They do not offer a way forward in the fight for decent jobs, housing or education.
The AEL presented itself in a different way. They proposed quotas for the number of immigrants working in every workplace as a concrete answer for a concrete problem. But of course rising unemployment makes sure that quotas do not offer any solution, for either Belgian workers or for immigrant workers. Why do they not propose a radical shortening of the working week without loss of pay, as a first step towards full employment?
On education it is clear that immigrants have less possibilities to build a decent future. The Resist list however does not demand more funding for education, but demands: "reform of the educational system to adapt itself to the multicultural reality". How can schools that are confronted with an attack on their funding ‘adapt’ the education to any ‘reality’? Many teachers would say that this is impossible. The decline of the education system is a reality for many working class children. We would demand the right to free and decent education for all and free language courses. That is the programme of the anti-racist campaign ’Blokbuster’, a programme to unite immigrants and Belgians to fight together for a better education for their children.
This programme is in sharp contrast with the demand for positive discrimination, which focuses on the differences instead of the need for the unity of the victims of this system.
In the anti-war campaigns we see the same story. On the 15 February, millions demonstrated against war. It is an important issue that will become even more important in the coming weeks and months. It is a war for power, prestige and economic interests that needs to be opposed by a struggle of the entire whole working class. But even before the war has started, the anti-war movement has seen the development of divisions. ‘Stop USA’, another front campaign of the AEL and the PTB, divided the movement even before the first demonstration. They called for a separate demonstration after a national anti-war protest had been called and on a date one week before the national demonstration was planned. We did not see any valid reason for this divisive call.
We fight inside the anti-war movement for a radical programme; we fight for a socialist programme – one that can attract broad layers of workers, Belgians and immigrants. We do not see the same approach in the platform of Stop USA or Resist.
Resist is presented as a radical list for radicals. It does not make any effort to fight for the unity of the working class against capitalism. Fundamentally it lacks a class analysis, a class programme and a clear plan of action.
If you wish to order a copy of Socialistisch Links/ Alternative Socialiste please e-mail the following: firstname.lastname@example.org