LSP/MAS, the Belgian affiliate of the cwi, has developed very successful student organisations.
We have been in the forefront of the anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist movements in the last few years. The successful launch and campaigning with organisations like International Resistance meant that we have been able to politicise and give direction to the anti-capitalist movement.
In both the Flemish and the French speaking parts of the country we have been able to organise at the main universities and colleges for higher education. In four out of six universities our student organisation, ALS/EGA (Aktief Linkse Studenten/Etudiants de Gauche Actifs) is the biggest political active group.
This has given us opportunities to build the party and to challenge reformist ideas in the anti-globalist movement. In the months before this year’s European and regional elections this has not gone unnoticed. It is no coincidence, then that, the academic authorities are launching a coordinated attack against ALS/EGA in different universities, on both sides of the language border.
ULB – French speaking University in Brussels
Karim Brikci faces disciplinary sanctions. He is the local convener of the EGA at the French speaking university of Brussels and has to appear before the disciplinary council of the university next Thursday. The vice-president of the university has compiled a dossier of lies and slanders against our student organisation and its convener.
This conflict started when the authorities of the university called in a private security company to remove our stall from the campus. EGA was campaigning against the Bologna agreement for higher education, edited and agreed by the European Union, which will mean the introduction of two-tier higher education, privatisation of student services and higher tuition fees. As we are an officially recognised student organisation, we refused to pack up and stood by our right to free speech and political activity. The security guard called the vice-president of the university, André Nayer, to solve the conflict. André Nayer launched into a political attack, accusing our comrades of defending the crimes of Stalin.
The comrades’ answer that we as a Trotskyite organisation are the strongest opponents of Stalinism stunned this academic bureaucrat for a moment or two. When he finally regained his ‘intellectual’ confidence, he responded by saying that Stalinism and Trotskyism were the same anyway. He accused us further of “showing total contempt for the person of the vice-president”.
VUB – Flemish speaking university in Brussels
At the Flemish speaking university in Brussels a by-election is taking place to elect new student representatives. These student representatives get a seat on the ‘social council’ of the university. This body has the power to decide over social policies, for example, introducing local grants or housing subsidies to poorer students. In the past, student representatives have collaborated with the social council to implement a program of social cuts.
ALS is campaigning against this and has currently one officially recognised student representative. In these by-elections we are standing against the representatives of the ‘official’ student organisation, List Student Democracy, LSD. Social-Democrats and Liberals find each other in this organisation, the same way as they cooperate in the Belgian government.
After a campaign of slander and lies against our student organisation, rumour now has it that the LSD list is going to boycott the elections. The ‘List Student Democracy’ has not been out campaigning once. They hope that in this way not enough people will turn out to vote and the result of the elections will not be recognised. These bogus democrats have concluded that sabotage of the elections is their only chance to prevent our student organisation from winning the elections. The LSD only wants a democracy when their victory is guaranteed.
UG – Ghent University
At Gent University our student organisation has been suspended for a month. This suspension followed the ALS occupation of the lecture halls where the Vlaams Blok was organising a meeting.
The university authorities refused to provide a lecture hall for a debate in which the leader of the Fascist Vlaams Blok, Filip Dewinter, was set to participate. Filip Dewinter filed a complaint to Belgium’s highest court against the university board, on the basis of freedom of information laws. The university was ordered to provide accommodation so that the Vlaams Blok could meet at the university. This is, by the way, a university where the Vlaams Blok has no legally recognised student organisation and comes after a ruling by another court which convicted three front organisations of the Vlaams Blok for promoting racism and discrimination.
Active Left Students had been campaigning against providing a platform for the Vlaams Blok and decided to occupy the meeting hall to prevent the Vlaams Blok meeting from taking place. The occupation was successful and a victory for the ALS and all anti-fascist campaigners. The suspension of our student organisation is a direct result of this successful action and came after a complaint made to the official student council. Other student organisations have rounded on ALS and have used this to prevent us from organising.
UA – Antwerp University
The systematic use of intimidation and repression tactics against the Belgian students organisation affiliated to the CWI is clearest in Antwerp. Antwerp is economically and in terms of population the most important city in Flanders. In the last council election the Vlaams Blok received 33% of the vote.
Antwerp university management put no barriers in the way of the far-right Vlaams Blok organising in the university. It is one of the few universities where the student organisation of the Vlaams Blok is officially recognised and accepted as if it was no different from any other political student society. At the start of this academic year the Active Left Students (ALS) succeeded in organising a student society at the University of Antwerp. This was a first and from having two members we have grown to 15.
Whenever members of the ALS organise activity in the building of the university the local police force intervenes and threatens to arrest our activists if we do not stop all political activity. This has happened on at least three occasions and it is becoming increasingly clear that this is at the request of the management of the university. Whenever ALS advertises meetings on the designated message boards, posters get ripped off and disappear within minutes.
The repression of our student activities is not the result of personal vendettas or differences between our student society and university managements or our student societies and other student societies. These attacks are political. The authorities recognise that ALS/EGA has been very successful in campaigning against the liberalisation and privatisation of higher education.
We are the only student society which actively opposes the Bologna agreement for higher education and the implementation of the agreement locally. As a result ALS/EGA has been the fastest growing student society.
In parallel, LSP/MAS, the Belgian section of the CWI, has significantly grown in size and influence of the last two years. It is no coincidence that these attempts to frustrate our growth and limit our influence take place in the run-up to the European and regional elections in June. LSP/MAS is, for the first time, standing on both sides of the language border.
We appeal to all sections of the CWI and to socialists internationally to show international solidarity and defend our right to protest and organise. More information to follow.