Belgium: Successful mobilisations against far right

Youth and workers need a socialist alternative

Anti-fascist activists in Belgium have been very busy in the past few weeks with three successful demonstrations in Leuven, Ghent and Antwerp. While Vlaams Belang, the far-right party in Flanders, is losing support in the opinion polls and has internal problems, with even the suggestion of party financial mismanagement, the danger of the far right remains present. The crisis has led to growing unemployment and possibilities for all sort of divisions: workplace is being set against workplace (including Opel and Carrefour), and unemployed youth are set against older workers who have to work longer. Racism is a part of a divide and rule policy and can have an impact in the absence of a collective response from the workers’ movement to the crisis.

The student organisation of Vlaams Belang, the NSV, has recently officially been recognised at Ghent and Leuven universities. The argument of the main political organisations was that this would give a more even left-right balance and that it would ‘normalise’ the members of the NSV.

These are wrong and dangerous arguments. In Antwerp, the NSV has already been recognised for a long time – Active Left Students, student organisation of the LSP, was the only organisation opposed to it a few years ago. This position did not stop the NSV from physically attacking a left student meeting in October 2009 (see The neo-fascist students use recognition to strengthen their position and they do not hesitate to use this in a physical way.

In Leuven and Ghent, LSP took the initiative to organise a demonstration against recognition of the NSV. In Leuven about 100 youth took the streets on 18 February. One week later, 800 participated in a demo in Ghent during a meeting organised by the NSV with international speakers such as Nick Griffin of the British National Party, Andreas Mölzer (FPÖ – Freedom Party in Austria) and Bruno Gollnisch (FN – National Front in France). On 4 March, the NSV held its annual demonstration, this year in its Antwerp stronghold. The anti-racist organisation Blokbuster called for a counter-demo and this demo was supported by 25 organisations, including trade union delegations.

In all three cases there was some discussion with a newly-launched campaign, ‘Students against Racism’, set up by the left organisation PvdA who argued for a non-political platform including all students fighting racism; it was not a question of being left or right. LSP does not agree with this position and stands by the advice of Malcolm X who said: “You can’t have capitalism without racism.” This means that in order to efficiently fight racism, we need to fight capitalism. Capitalism leads to divisions between workers being used by bosses and their politicians. We have to fight these divisions but also their source. Furthermore, capitalism alienates a growing group of youth from society, resulting in growing tensions and social problems. This can lead to a certain growth of violent neo-Nazi groupings; the racist and fascist violence in Russia and Eastern Europe should be a warning for all anti-fascists.

Amongst youth and a number of workers the clear and political anti-fascist message of Blokbuster and Active Left Students was well received. In Leuven we demonstrated alone but in Ghent and Antwerp we mobilised a big majority of those present. Our key slogan on all occasions was “Jobs, not racism”.

In Antwerp 700-800 participated in our demonstration, making it the biggest anti-fascist mobilisation in the city this century. The NSV held a demo at the same time with 350 present, including party leader Filip Dewinter, but also leaders of the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour.

After the demonstration we made an official complaint as 15 police officers had come to the demo wearing red Blokbuster vests. One of these officers was even seen arresting someone near the demo. This clearly was a provocation and an attempt to criminalise our demonstration. We asked the officers to take off the red vests but had to threaten to take pictures of them before they complied with our demand. Police representatives spread a false story that 55 Blokbuster supporters had been arrested; in fact no supporter of Blokbuster was arrested. Forty-eight people were arrested around the NSV demo, including students protesting against the demo in front of their own houses and also including several supporters of the NSV.

With these demonstrations the LSP/PSL brought a clear message. We continue the fight for jobs, education and housing. To obtain successes in these fights we need to oppose everything that divides the working class and those groups who strengthen divisions, particularly when accompanied by threats of or actual violence against those who stand at the forefront of workers’ struggles. In our struggle we show the need to break with capitalism and build a socialist alternative.

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March 2010