The NSV, the students’ organisation of Belgian’s biggest fascist party, the Vlaams Blok, organises a yearly demo in one of the cities in Flanders where a university is present. This year they chose to march through Antwerp. Not only is Antwerp the biggest and economically most important Flemish city, it is also there that Vlaams Blok have their biggest base.
LSP-MAS, the Belgian section of the CWI, and members of its anti-fascist campaign Blokbuster organised a campaign to hold a counter demonstration on the same day as the NSV in Antwerp. The campaign had an enormous impact and pushed the Vlaams Blok to bring out their leading members to support the fascist mobilisation. According to the papers even Filip Dewinter, the national leader of the Vlaams Blok, attended the demo to uplift the battered spirits of the young thugs.
The involvement of the party leadership didn’t help their mobilisation. The NSV marched with 200 through Antwerp which cannot be called anything else than a defeat. Marching with only 200 people, under the eye of the national leadership of the Vlaams Blok, in the city where they claim to have the strongest base is without any doubt a hammering.
The counter demo, on the other hand, was very strong. Three years ago, when the NSV marched through Antwerp the last time, LSP-MAS mobilised about 250 for a counter demonstration. This time we trebled our numbers. This demonstration was important and not only to make clear what the relationship of forces is on the streets. It is the first time in years that an anti-fascist demo of this size was organised in Antwerp and it gives a new stimulus to the anti-fascist movement.
As a result of the anti-social policies of the government and the city council The Vlaams Blok can grow in elections without much effort of its own. They attract a big part of the protest vote in a city where official unemployment stands at 16% and real unemployment is probably a lot higher. The traditional parties do not care about poverty and unemployment. They exclude people from getting benefits and then boast that the figures for people claiming benefits have gone down.
These divide and rule policies that play out Belgians (of Flemish people) against immigrants, they counter pose those who still have jobs against the unemployed, the unemployed against those claiming living allowances,…..make it easy for the Vlaams Blok to use its racism.
With our demonstration against the NSV we wanted to counter this. We do not think that the Vlaams Blok provides any solutions. On the contrary, the Vlaams Blok applies the same divide and rule policies as the traditional parties. They do not defend the interests of workers and young people. One of the main demands of the NSV demonstrations was the need to have a European Army. It is clear that they are not on the side of workers and youth who have no interest in supporting a new arms race. The issues of unemployment only surfaces in their propaganda when they speak about the Walloon [The French-speaking South of Belgium] profiteers who live on the benefits paid out by Flemish workers. When Antwerp has an official unemployment rate of 16%, conditions are remarkably similar to those in Wallonia where they suffer an average unemployment rate of 18%. Does the Vlaams Blok think that the unemployed people in Antwerp are also profiteering? Probably not, the Vlaams Blok wouldn’t want to scare away too many of its voters with its real program.
Our demonstration proceeded without any incidents. After the demo we organised a public meeting in Berchem, a working class district of Antwerp. A few hundred people attended the public meeting. Its main theme was how to wage the anti-fascist struggle. Speakers included: Geert Cool, spokesperson for Blokbuster; Jan Vlegels, chair of Active Left Students in Antwerp; Nikei De Pooter, chair of Antwerp LSP-MAS. An international speaker from the Socialist Party England/Wales closed the meeting.
A tremendous success.
Our demonstration and meeting were a tremendous success. We are building an active opposition and will continue that struggle. LSP-MAS is running in the next European elections. Not because we expect to make an electoral breakthrough but because we want to use the election campaign to stress the need for a left opposition against anti-social policies. We are building this alternative patiently but consistently and call upon everyone to strengthen us by joining. It is not enough to be radical on your own. We need you to do something with it. The most radical of ideas are those who are accepted by broader layers in society and in that way become a material force for changing society.