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From The Socialist newspaper, 1 December 2005

LSP/MAS mobilises against neo-fascists

LAST SATURDAY in Ghent, Belgium, over 700 people including the LSP/MAS (CWI, Belgium) and the anti-fascist youth organisation Blokbuster, marched to protest against the far-right Valaams Belang (formerly Vlaams Blok) conference being held in the city.

The VB demagogically talks about its 'worker friendly' and 'family friendly' policies. However, in its draft manifesto for the conference, it supported giving more wealth to the bosses (6 billion euros in tax reductions), while workers should worker longer and harder.

It is no coincidence the VB says the neo-liberal 'Lisbon Agenda' - which EU leaders agreed to in 2000 - should be carried out. The VB has also stated that the 'Generation Pact' (the government's measures to end early retirement schemes) does not go far enough.

The CWI in Belgium (LSP/MAS) and Blokbuster had campaigned for a demonstration against the Vlaams Belang Ghent conference. We received support from several organisations, including both the Social Democratic and Christian democrat trade union federations. During the demonstration, LSP/MAS, with several hundred, were the biggest contingent.

The national president of the social democratic metal workers' union, Herwig Jorissen was present. A week ago, Jorissen was under intense pressure, when the bosses' weekly paper - Trends - revealed how he was involved in a far-right group of street fighters when he was 17 years old. The 55-year-old Jorissen replied that he is now on the other side of the barricades. He made this point clear by going on the demonstration.

At the start of the march, there were two speeches. First, Mil Kooyman, Secretary of ABVV-Scheldeland (the regional section of the Social Democratic ABVV/FGTB federation), spoke for the trade unions. He warned that VB stands for 'Vlaams Bedrog' (Flemish Deceit) instead of defending workers' interests. He explained how the unions, therefore, had decided to support Blokbuster in its appeal for demonstrations against the VB and its policies. Kooyman was followed by Jo Coulier, a senior shop steward at the VUB University, in Brussels, and a founding member of Blokbuster, in 1991. He explained that VB is against unions and the interests of workers and their families.

Because of the appalling weather the short demonstration was ended with two speeches; Boris Van Acker spoke for Blokbuster and Bart Vandersteene spoke for LSP/MAS.

The two comrades explained how the anti-racist movement is in a new period of struggle. "14 years after the first electoral breakthrough for Vlaams Blok in the Flemish area of Belgium, we have to be optimistic in our fight against the Vlaams Belang. This party is not actively involved in the workers' movement and is being exposed more and more as defending the bosses' system.

"An active opposition against the neo-liberal policies of the Belgian government will need political representation. The VB has shown that it is not the political alternative which workers and youth need."

General strike in Italy against Berlusconi's budget

ON FRIDAY 25 November, a general strike against budget cuts paralysed Italy, with demonstrations in towns and cities countrywide. Bus, rail and tram workers struck for four hours. Air traffic controllers grounded 200 Alitalia flights. Post offices, universities and government offices closed. Hospitals covered only emergencies. Banks closed for four hours and schools for at least one hour - at the beginning or end of the day.

Clare Doyle reports

This, the sixth general strike organised by the three major trade union federations in less than five years of Berlusconi's right-wing government, was the biggest show so far of opposition to the anti-working class budget drawn up for 2006 and the government's failure to generate any economic growth.

Hostility towards the government was shown in the run-up to next April's general election. Throughout Italy, simultaneous renderings of requiems by Verdi, Mozart and Brahms were played and in the Ducal Palace, Genoa, a concert included Rossini's Thieving Magpie!

On Friday, 2 December, there will be all-out action of engineering workers organised in Fiom, a section of the Cgil trade union federation. As Italy slides further into economic and social chaos, polls show a majority in favour of the centre-left coalition replacing Berlusconi's government.

But full-blooded socialist policies are needed not a new version of the last Olive Tree government which, by introducing its own neo-liberal policies, opened the way for the present hated right-wing government.

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In The Socialist 1 December 2005:

Attack on pensions: We won't work till we drop!

Pensions struggles still loom

Don't let the profit system cost us the earth!

'Free market' threatens cold weather crisis

NHS feature: Bring the campaigns together

Campaign for a New Workers' Party

Fight for a political voice for young people!

Hidden - the effects of term-time working

Weakness invites aggression

Workers fight introduction of cheap labour

USA - Lame duck president George Bush waddles on

Exploited workers in Middle East fight back

LSP/MAS mobilises against neo-fascists


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