Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/374/6127
Belgium: Fighting the fascists in Gent
LSP/MAS organises biggest anti-fascist demo in years
Fifteen hundred students and young people marched through the streets of Gent on the night of 3 December to counter the demonstration organised by NSV, the fascist student wing of Vlaams Belang, (the renamed Vlaams Blok).
By an LSP/MAS member
The campaigning and mobilisation for this anti-fascist demonstration fell, as has been the case since 1995, almost exclusively on the shoulders of Blokbuster and Active Left Students, (respectively the anti-fascist campaign and student organisation of LSP/MAS, the Belgian section of the CWI). The NSV could only mobilise 150 thugs.
The NSV demonstration is an annual event taking place in one of the main Flemish university cities. They use these events to try and force their way into political life at the colleges and universities and make themselves acceptable.
The Vlaams Blok/Belang, despite its electoral successes, has been repeatedly defeated on the streets and its student organisation is still banned at Gent University.
The theme of the NSV demo was opposition to the entry of Turkey into the European Union (EU). In the leaflets the NSV produced, they claimed that "Turkish mobs have been a historical threat to Western Europe".
Building support in working-class areas
IN OUR campaign for the counter demonstration we opposed this racist bigotry and explained that we are against the EU because of its neo-liberal policies we would not support Turkish membership of the EU because of what the consequences of these neo-liberal policies would be for the Turkish people.
We pointed to our record of real opposition against the EU. It was International Resistance - the anti-capitalist campaign initiated by the CWI - that organised the student and school student strikes as a protest against the EU summit in Gent in October 2001.
The anti-fascist demonstration was peaceful and received a very friendly reception in the working class neighboorhoods it went through, in which a large section of the population is Turkish.
In the build up to the demonstration a team of our activists campaigned in these neighbourhoods explaining why we were organising this demonstration and why we had chosen that particular route. Last Monday a team of comrades organised a door-to-door paper sale and sold many copies of Socialistisch Links, our party paper.
On the night of the demonstration some local residents had put up our posters and waved the students on as they passed by. Some residents even came out to offer drinks and refreshments.
Orchestrated fascist attack
AT THE end of our demonstration most people returned to the student area to protect it from fascist provocation and intimidation. By that time the official part of the NSV demonstration had ended and the police had given the thugs free reign in the centre of the student neighbourhood.
Everybody who was recognisable as an immigrant, an anti-fascist, a member of LSP/MAS or from the French part of the country was targetted for a beating.
The members of Blokbuster, Active Left Students and LSP/MAS intervened and started organising the defence of the street against the fascists.
A commando of about 20 fascists, with about a 100 behind them ready to intervene, attacked the anti-fascists with military discipline in order to split us up. This assault was led by the national chairperson of the Vlaams Belang youth, Hans Verreyt.
The police intervened but only to use the water cannon against the anti-racist demonstrators and to protect the NSV members when they got isolated and surrounded by our people.
At the end of the evening a number of CWI comrades were arrested.
The police recognised the pivotal role these comrades had played in organising the protest and protecting the students against the fascist attacks. One young lad was dragged away by plain clothes policemen in an unmarked car. After receiving a terrible beating by the police they kept him in for hours of interrogation and intimidation.
The Gent police had clearly underestimated the strength and determination of the young anti-fascists and the lead given by the Belgian CWI. They took revenge on whichever member of the CWI they could get their hands on.
The Belgian CWI provided the leadership and the organisation for the anti-fascist actions. We made it clear we offer an alternative to broader layers by building an active opposition.
That is important in order to be able to fight the populist methods of the Vlaams Belang that has led to their electoral growth.
At the same time we prevented the student area of the city being dominated by violent fascists who are at the core of the Vlaams Belang.
In The Socialist 11 December 2004:
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