Belgium: Strong anti-fascist demonstration in Leuven.

1,000 demonstrate against 300 neo-fascists

The student organisation of the far right Vlaams Belang, NSV, was only able to mobilise 300 supporters for a demonstration in Leuven. In contrast, the counter demonstration brought 1,000, mainly young people, onto the streets. Every year the NSV holds a march in a different part of Flanders every time there is a counter-protest.

The anti-NSV demonstration was supported by a platform of organisations. Besides Blokbuster, the anti-fascist campaign of LSP/PSL (CWI in Belgium), and Active Left Students, there also came support of student groups, trade union militants and others. The demonstration was lively and large with many local students from Leuven.

With the anti-NSV demonstration, the LSP/PSL brought a clear political message: against the background of the economic crisis, we will need to build an active opposition to the neoliberal policies of the capitalists and their political allies. This has nothing to do with the differences between Flemish and French-speaking workers and unemployed, but all with the differences between workers and capitalists.

young, powerful demonstration

For workers’ unity against the bosses!

The capitalists are responsible for the crisis of their system and want to make us pay for it. We need a collective resistance of workers against this attempt and this struggle will have to coincide with the construction of a working class political alternative. The far right is not giving any answers on the economic crisis; the Vlaams Belang itself is led by Bruno Valkeniers, a former boss of a port company. How would he suddenly start to defend the interests of the workers and unemployed? Instead of opposing the capitalists and bankers, the Flemish far right keeps playing the tune of opposing the French speaking people in Belgium.

LSP/PSL wants to build a relationship of forces that will be able to change the system. We stand for a socialist alternative to capitalist misery and horror. We stand for a society in the interests of the majority of the people, instead of a society in the interest of a handful of capitalists. We used the anti-NSV demonstration to bring our socialist alternative to workers and youth.

In our leaflet, before the demonstration and in speeches we argued for a non-violent demonstration. In building support it would be a mistake to use methods of action that are not understood and could isolate us from a broader layer. We therefore opposed the small groups of masked demonstrators who only wanted to riot.

The demonstration itself remained peaceful. It was a powerful and young demonstration. Afterwards there were some isolated incidents, which of course received more media attention than the demonstration itself. A majority of the demonstrators opposed violent tactics. The daily paper Het Nieuwsblad wrote: “A handful of hardliners have made sure that the message of the demonstrators went to the background. That is a pity.”

The city authorities had done all they could to create an atmosphere of violence and fear. Public transport in the city centre was stopped during and after the demonstrations. The police were massively present. Local inhabitants were asked to park their cars outside the city centre and were told not to put any bin bags outside for collections on Friday morning.

By letting the demo end at the railway station, while blocking the main route to the city centre, many students got blocked and driven into the hands of the isolated groups of demonstrators that wanted a riot. The biggest demonstration in which many local students participated should have got permission to end in the student area itself.

The NSV demonstration only mobilised 300. This included elected representatives of the Vlaams Belang besides neo-nazis organised in groupings such as ‘Blood & Honour’. A leading member of ‘Blood & Honour’ participated, with some 10 supporters, despite being sentenced to electronic tagging for committing several crimes. The Vlaams Belang was demonstrating hand in hand with convicted neo-nazis. We don’t understand why the media remained silent about this and only focused on the violence after the demonstrations.

protestors with CWI flags

Anti-fascist campaigning will continue

The anti-NSV demonstration was a success. Next year we will probably have a new mobilisation against the 2010 NSV parade, this time in Antwerp where the Vlaams Belang is stronger and where there are fewer students. We hope to repeat the success of this year’s anti-NSV demonstration and have already started our anti-fascist campaign.

This has frustrated the far right. Last week they blocked an anti-fascist meeting organised by the LSP in Antwerp from taking place. With 25 people, they sabotaged the meeting. We had to move the 25 present at our meeting to a different venue. That is a warning of what can happen if we let the far right do their thing without any opposition. We will take the necessary lessons of this incident and will make sure that the anti-NSV demo in Antwerp in 2010 will be a success.

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March 2009