Overview of some of the solidarity messages. Sign the online petition.
As explained in the article on this site "Active Left Students (ALS) under attack by university authorities" published on 25 April, the student organisation of LSP/MAS, the Belgian section of the CWI, is under threat.
The international campaign in support of Active Left Students has begun. We publish some of the protest letters adressed to the rector of Ghent university.
You can sign the online petition in English, French and Dutch at http://www.petitiononline.com/alsgent/petition.html (new window).
Letters of protest.
ALS have also been accused of breaking the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the universities code of conduct, yet both documents clearly state that promoting racist ideas is unacceptable. ALS were supporting these codes, not breaking them!
Bob Severn, Socialist Students
I demand that the threat of expulsion, de-recognition or any other measure taken against ALS is removed. I solemnly pledge to assist in every possible way in this campaign to defend ALS and its right to free speech and free association.
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." (Frederick Douglass, 1857)
Daniel DiMaggio, Harvard University Class of 2004
You cannot ban an antifascist action or an antifascist organization because in almost every european country racist ideas are considered illegal.
Anastasiades Nikolaos, Thessaloniki, Greece
I am writing from Wales as a Socialist, academic and writer, in support of Aktief Linkse Studenten (ALS). In my own town of Swansea there has been a vigorous political campaign by the extreme-Right nationalists of the British National Party (which enthusiastically supports the Vlaams Blok), and this has been accompanied by violent racial attacks and the murder of a Kurdish refugee from Iraq. (The police accept that this was a racially motivated crime, and the attacker has pleaded guilty to manslaughter. His supporters taunted the vigil held for the dead man with a BNP banner and verbal abuse.) Such parties pose as respectable participants in civic life whilst promoting intolerance and campaigns of violence and terror against individuals and communities, on grounds such as ethnicity, disability or the membership of trade unions and parties of the left. Given the high international reputation Belgium has in the field of Jewish Studies, I am very concerned by the implications of the predicament ALS now faces as a consequence of a principled campaign against the racist Right.
Actually, the young activists of the ALS plays are a credit the University of Ghent, as well as at other universities, for their work in organising against racist and fascist forces, and for their commitment to the rights of working people everywhere. By contrast, I ask you to consider the damage that would be done to your university if the Vlaams Blok/Belang or its youth organisation were to be allowed to use their methods of fear and intimidation openly. Ironically, there would be direct funding implications to your institution if it became impossible to attract foreign students to a campus whose political and social life were malformed by racist extremists, with their bigotry and violence.
I certainly attend to assist in every possible way in the international campaign to defend ALS and its right to free speech and free association, and I will be urgently contacting academic colleagues and friends throughout Wales, the UK, Europe, Asia and the USA by email asking them for their support as well. I am not a manual labourer any longer, but workers of the word can unite, too!
Dr Victor Golightly, Wales, UK
I am writing to you as an elected councillor in Dublin and shop-steward in the state airline Aer Lingus, and indeed as a former President of the Students’ Union in Dublin City University. I have been fortunate to attend your campus to participate in events organised by Aktief Linkse Studenten (ALS) in the past and have been very impressed by this group.
I sincerely hope that this issue will be addressed promptly and that all moves against ALS are dropped in the interests of the standing of your university and its image in the minds of foreign students in particular.
Councillor Clare Daly, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Apart from the fact that the university’s code of conduct must surely oppose the promotion of racist and fascist ideas of which the Vlaams Blok and its representatives are clearly guilty; it was the university authorities who stopped the debate from taking place. The ALS only exercised their democratic right of protest against an event promoting racist and fascist ideas at the university.
Joe Higgins T.D. Member of Parliament, the Republic of Ireland, Socialist Party
We believe that ALS plays a hugely important role at the University of Ghent, as well as at other universities, in organising against racist and fascist forces. It would be impossible to recommend students from Umeå to your university if the Vlaams Blok/Belang or its youth organisation were to be allowed to use their methods of fear and intimidation openly.
We demand that the threat of expulsion, de-recognition or any other measure taken against ALS is removed.
Jan Hägglund, councillor of Umeå city council
Ingrid Eriksson, councillor of Umeå city council
Yvonne Lantto, councillor of Umeå city council, Sweden
My name is Michael Wilson and I am a student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. I recently heard that your University is trying to ban the student organization Active Left Students from your University. This is unacceptable. I have read the allegations against ALS and they clearly do not warrant banning the group. ALS is vital to Ghent University and has proven their commitment and engagement. They should not be banned and I hope you will reconsider your campaign against them. I will continue to follow the situation from here and I hope to hear from you soon that you have stopped attacking this group.
Michael Wilson, Georgetown Solidarity Committee
Any attempt to deregister ALS as student body would convince us that the University authorities has a clear agenda to curb activities of progressive student movement and our party here in Malaysia would protest against such undemocratic practices.
The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) calls upon the University Board to reject any attempt to deregister ALS as such an attempt would only condemn the name of the University in the eyes of the world.
S.Arutchelvan, Secretary General, Socialist Party of Malaysia
"I have been a guest at events organised by ALS in the past and have found these events very useful and inspiring. I cannot understand that this organisation would be banned for picketing a meeting, and in actual fact enforcing a ban on racism and fascism, you had banned yourself. It is my impression that the university is attacking the democratic rights of one student organisation to pave the way for a change of attitude. It´s catastrophic if the Vlaams Blok gets a platform to stand on."
Head chair of Elevkampanjen, (school student organisation in Sweden)
"I would like to protest against the political persecution of the members of ALS (Left Active Students). As a student and a political activist in Israel, I stand for a similar agenda like ALS: against social cuts, privatisation, racism and discrimination. My political activity is pretty inspired from the comrades of ALS.
"To Ghent University authorities, I call to stop the persecution and to respect those two basic democratic civil rights. I also point the same demand to national studentsunion leaders and students representatives in Belgium. I call to students to stand against undemocratic mouth shut, to resist to the expelling attempt and cooperate with the just struggle of ALS"
Students representative at executive committee of the students union of The Academic College Of Tel Aviv Yaffo, Israel
"I believe that ALS plays a hugely important role at the University of Ghent, as well as at other universities, in organising against racist and fascist forces. It would be impossible to welcome foreign students to your university if the Vlaams Blok/Belang or its youth organisation were to be allowed to use their methods of fear and intimidation openly."
Marc Treude (Sozialistische Alternative),
Gemeenteraadslid Stadt Aachen
"It would not surprise me at all, and I will repeat this point to people I speak to, if the expulsion of ALS paves the way for the official recognition of the student organisation of the Vlaams Blok, the NSV in the years to come. That would be truly shamefull and a very real danger to foreign students and academic students at the campus. It will damage the reputation of your campus as seat of learning and international exchange."
Councillor City of Rostock Sozialistische Alternative / Liste gegen Sozialkahlschlag
"I wish to register with you my utter contempt and disappointment at your vilification and victimisation of Active Left Students (ALS) at Ghent University. The threatened exclusion of this successful, democratic and fighting student society from your university would be a disgrace to yourself and the university you are "apparently" serving."
Member of Socialist Society, Queens University Belfast
Member of Students Union Queens University Students Council (personal capacity)
"I have also been informed about the grounds on which the decision to expel ALS will be taken. It seems to me that the main legal argument is flawed and based on a very one-sided interpretation of facts and the code of conduct of the university. Allegedly ALS is being held responsible for the disruption of the activities of other student organisations and reference is made to the debate organised by KVHV on 16 November 2004. In actual fact it was the university who withdrew the use of the university facilities for the KVHV. Apart from this fact I would like to point to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the universities code of conduct which clearly states that promoting racist ideas is not permissible."
Member of the student board at the faculty of languages at the Catholic University of São Paulo.
"On behalf of Socialist Students members at Swansea University and members and supporters of ISR (International Socialist Resistance) in Swansea we are disturbed by what we understand is an attempt to ban the student society ALS (Active Left Students) at Ghent University by the authorities.
"We strongly urge you to use your positions as Rector and Vice Rector to reverse this proposed exclusion ban as it is unjust and will directly undermine democracy and debate at Ghent University and therefore will be extremly damaging to the reputation of the university in the eyes of students and university staff across Europe and beyond."
Sarah Mayo, International Socialist Resistance Swansea
Sheila Caffrey, Swansea Socialist Students
"I demand that the threat of expulsion, de-recognition or any other measure taken against ALS is removed. I solemnly pledge to assist in every possible way in this campaign to defend ALS and its right to free speech and free association."
Ramy Khalil, Seattle
"I have been informed that the next meeting of the board of directors’ will discuss the possible expulsion of Aktief Linkse Studenten (ALS), as a result ALS would lose its status as a registered and representative student organisation.
"I demand that the threat of expulsion, de-recognition or any other measure taken against ALS is removed. I solemnly pledge to assist in every possible way in this campaign to defend ALS and its right to free speech and free association"
Luiz Kazuo Takei
member of the student board at the São Carlos campus of the University of São Paulo
"Socialist Alternative – Minnesota demands that the threat of expulsion, de-recognition or any other measure taken against ALS is removed. We are very active around the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota in trade unions and other social movements. We will be informing the people we work with about the undemocratic measures your university is taking in an effort to assist in every possible way in this campaign to defend ALS and its right to free speech and free association."
Katherine Quarles, on behalf of Socialist Alternative – Minnesota
"I was well informed about events organised by ALS in the past and have found these events very usefull and inspiring. I cannot understand that this organisation would be banned."
Vice-president of the Students Council
Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Thessaly in Volos Greece
"Having spent all my working life as a lecturer in Further Education in the UK, I am proud that my trade union NATFHE has taken a more proactive role than any other education trade union in combating the poison of racism and fascism. In Britain there is a direct connection between the rise in the vote of the BNP in certain areas and the incidence of racist violence in the same places. Surely we cannot tolerate in a supposedly civilized society black people living in fear of physical attack from some mindless racist and fascist thug. Surely there can be no place in a university of all places for those who challenge the very multi cultural basis that we expect all institutions to uphold or for that matter those whose political antecedents can be traced to those who when in power showed no compunction whatsoever in the suppression of democracy.
"I therefore commend the actions of members of ALS in mobilizing opposition to the racists and fascists of Vlaams Belang. Possibly some of the methods used by these young people in their campaign may not have been totally acceptable, but surely this does not warrant their expulsion from the university- a move that will have considerable implications for their futures. I urge you to reconsider."
I await your reply,
With Best Wishes,