Netherlands: Colin Powell visit met by noisy protests

On Sunday 30 November, hundreds demonstrated in Maastricht against the visit of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is in the Dutch town for the summit of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe).

Over 500 demonstrators assembled in South-Limburg to show their anger towards the continuing imperialist occupation of Iraq and towards aggressive US military policy.

The 55 member states of the OSCE will meet in the Dutch town from 1-2 December. During those days there will be small protests, but it was decided, as well, to have a demo on the Sunday just before the summit. The OSCE is led by future NATO-boss, and current Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

The demonstration was important to show that representatives of US imperialism, like Bush or Powell, cannot travel anywhere without facing protests. If Bush visits London, or Powell visits Maastricht, there are demonstrations each time – even if on a different scale.

As expected there were not thousands of demonstrators in Maastricht. The protest was organised on short notice and in a city where it is not easy to get a big turnout. From the biggest cities in the Netherlands – Amsterdam and Rotterdam – it is a journey of hours to get in Maastricht. Despite this, there were over 500 demonstrators (the organisers even claimed up to 700 participants). That was a good turnout for Maastricht and the demo made enough noise to be heard by the inhabitants of the small town. It was a peaceful event and ended with speeches and live-music.

The demonstration mainly consisted of young people, some of whom travelled from Germany and Belgium. They marched in a lively and noisy protest.

A range of political organisations were on the march, including the German Communist Party, the Belgium Party of Labour, RED (the youth wing of the Dutch Socialist Party), the ISO/SWP and the Arab-European League. This last organisation attracted a lot of attention by shouting “Allah is Great!” and slogans supporting Hamas.

Interest in socialism

The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) organised a lively contingent. Members of Offensief (the CWI in the Netherlands), were joined by comrades from Belgium (Left Socialist Party-CWI), Germany (Socialist Alternative Voran-CWI) and Sweden (Justice Party-CWI). We sold 73 copies of the Dutch paper ‘Offensief’ and 8 copies of the Belgium paper ‘Socialist Left’. We collected Fighting Fund donations for Offensief and the Belgians sold stickers against the far right Vlaams Blok. Youth members sold International Socialist Resistance (ISR) stickers.

As an indication of the interest in socialist ideas on the demonstration, we also sold a copy of the book, ‘Socialism in the 21st Century’, (published by the England and Wales Socialist Party-CWI) to an Egyptian protester. We discussed with many youth on the demonstration and got positive response to our socialist ideas. People gave their details for more information on the CWI.

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December 2003