Netherlands: Students against racism

More than 40 students from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam assembled on 16 November on campus to show their anger against the current spate of racist attacks and the posting of inflammatory anti-Muslim posters on campus .

The murder of journalist and filmdirector Theo van Gogh has led to an intensification of racism in Dutch society, with attacks on mosques, churches and synagogues occurring on an almost daily basis.

Racist lies against Muslims from the media and the mainstream parties have also helped create hostility towards Muslims and the recent increase in racist attacks. This all comes in the context of the rise of political Islam that has been making some ground amongst Muslims in the Netherlands- a reaction to the intensifying stigmatization and discrimination felt particularly amongst youth. Young Muslims feel increasingly alienated as a result of religious and discrimination racial discrimination, unemployment, low pay, police harassment and poor housing.

This government has clearly laid the basis for the rise of racism in society. This government promotes a racist agenda in order to create divisions amongst workers. In doing this, they aim to divert the anger about poor conditions away from themselves. This government will use the murder of Van Gogh to advance ‘national unity’, to cut across the anti-austerity cuts movement and to try to force trade union leaders, employers and the government into striking a ‘deal’.

Trade unions were set up by workers to protect their conditions at work. The motto ‘unity is strength’ was coined by trade unionists who saw that only collective struggle could get them decent working conditions. Such unity and solidarity was demonstrated recently in the Netherlands as hundreds of thousands of workers and youth, black and white, converged on the streets to oppose the governments vicious cutbacks. Trade unions must act now to organize against racism and fascism. They should call for protest action, raising clear social demands, which could play a key role in cutting across the divisions that currently exist in the Netherlands.

At the Vrije Universiteit today, Offensief, dutch section of the Committee for a Workers’ International, heavily criticised the SRVU (student union) for not supporting the action and for not opposing the university’s ban on the burqa, which further marginalizes Muslims on campus. This ban represents an attack on individual beliefs and political rights. People must have the right to publicly acclaim their beliefs, especially in schools and colleges, which are supposed to encourage the exchange and elaboration of all kinds of ideas. The role of the SRVU, and that of trade unions, is to defend it’s members. The SRVU has failed spectacularly in it’s task. Students should forge links with workers in college and together fight racism. Student’s deserve a democratic, fighting union that is capable of leading a fightback against the racist terror and the cutbacks in education.

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