Belgium: 1,000s demonstrate against racism and sexism

First International Women’s Day demonstration in decades

LSP/MAS – the Belgian section of the CWI – took a leading role in organising two demonstrations, last week. On Thursday 6 March, some 1,200 marched against the far-right in a ’Blokbuster’ demonstration, in Ghent. On Saturday 8 March, we celebrated the tradition of International Women’s Day by co-organising a demonstration, in which 600 took part, in Brussels.

Anti-fascist resistance

The student far-right grouping Vlaams Belang (VB) tries every year again to organise a demonstration in one of the student cities of the Flemish area of Belgium. Last year, they demonstrated in Antwerp, and this year in Ghent. The neo-fascist students of the NSV (Nationalist Student Organisation) were only able to mobilise 250-300 on their demo, including former VB Chairman Frank Vanhecke, who recently gave up the party presidency position.

The anti-fascist counter-demo was organised by Blokbuster. Some other left groups refused to mobilise for the demonstration. The anarchists came to the starting point but refused to join the big demonstration. Instead, they held their own "radical" demo, with an attempt to go for ’confrontation’ (an attempt that only lasted 500 metres, before the police stopped them).

With 1,200 youth, we demonstrated through a working class neighborhood of Ghent. We got a very positive response in this local area. In the weeks running up to the demonstration we sold 230 papers in this area and at the university. During the demo, we sold a further 91 papers and collected 440 euro fighting fund. 30 people indicated that they want to discuss about LSP/MAS. The demo ended with speeches and music.

Unfortunately, the media concentrated almost all their attention on the arrest of the anarchists. It is reported that 238 people were taken into custody. For the media, this is more interesting than the 1,200 youth who loudly marched. However, for the youth and the inhabitants of the area, our message was clear. Our anti-fascist resistance continues, even if the far-right Vlaams Belang (VB) seems to have some electoral problems (partly due to the raise of a right wing populist party around the former liberal MP Jean-Marie Dedecker). This does not mean the danger from the far right is gone. The new party chair, Bruno Valkeniers, said he still holds his old view defending the former apartheid regime in South Africa. The MP Filip Deman wrote that, "There are not many clever negroes" when commenting on the political situation in South Africa. This sort of racism is combined with attempts at physical violence. Only days before the protest, a small group of neo-fascist NSV students were involved in a confrontation with other students and LSP/MAS members in Antwerp.

The demonstration was a huge success, with 1,200 attending, and it was a very political atmosphere. This success shows the possibilities of organising young people on a radical platform and the need to involve these youth in building a socialist alternative.

International Women’s Day: for struggle, solidarity and socialism!

For the first time in decades, there was a demonstration in Belgium to celebrate International Women’s Day. After an earlier collaboration with Iranian refugees who protested against the reactionary regime in Iran and the threat of an attack by US imperialism, we decided to co-organise a demonstration on 8 March.

We linked the fight for women’s rights, with the need to struggle against attacks on living standards. The demonstration was joined by a group of Kurdish women and, in total, some 600 women (and men) turned up. The international character of the demonstration was very positive and helped to reinstall the tradition of International Women’s Day. The demo was well-received, and LSP/MAS supporters sold 96 copies of our paper.

The Iranian women protested against the terrible conditions facing women in Iran, where, for example, stoning for some ’crimes’ is carried out. This repression is not limited to Iran; women in the US-ally Saudi Arabia barely hold any democratic or other rights.

Speakers from LSP/MAS at the demonstration explained the need to organise internationally to fight against oppression and capitalism. They took up day-to-day demands of Belgian workers, and linked these with the fight for a socialist alternative.

Pictures on

Antifascist demo

Women’s demo

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March 2008