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Brussels demos: Marching Against Capitalism And War
ON 13, 14 and 15 December 2001, workers and young people from all over Europe converged on Brussels in their thousands to protest at the European Union (EU) summit. What happened over that weekend shows the kind of struggles which could develop in 2002 and how support for socialist ideas could grow.
OVER 25,000 took to the streets of Brussels on 14 December in the first major anti-capitalist demo since the attacks in the US and the war in Afghanistan. Despite the bitter cold there was a carnival atmosphere with music and speeches broadcast from lorries at the head of each group.
International Socialist Resistance (ISR), International Resistance and the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) which the Socialist Party is a member of, had the liveliest - and best organised - contingent on the demo. We had 800-1,000 members and supporters from all over Europe and from the USA, Canada, Australia, Russia and South Africa.
With speeches and chanting in Dutch, French, English and German and all wearing our red CWI vests we made quite an impression on the rest of the demo and the people who lined the streets.
Many stayed with us not just because of our size but also because of the very professional stewarding. At one stage, the police had blocked off every exit and it not only looked as if we were to be penned in but also soaked with water cannon and worse. However they then allowed us through in small groups.
The CWI meetings after the demo were packed out. Many joined the CWI and ISR on the spot and came to the conference the following day.
By Rob Crowhurst
Angry Workers' Show Of Strength
THE 100,000-strong turnout on the trade union demonstration will give a mighty impetus to European workers' confidence in their own strength. Tens of thousands came from all the countries of Europe as well as a massive presence from the Belgian unions themselves.
By Bill Mullins
Decked out in their union colours they made a lasting impression on those who attended. Car workers, engineering workers, metal workers and public sector workers flocked to Brussels.
They were there, whatever their leaders tried to say, to protest at the threats to their jobs and living standards. Union general secretaries from around Europe made speeches about wanting a "social Europe", asking the capitalist governments to include concessions to the unions in their deliberations.
But the demonstrators themselves reflected a mounting wave of anger at the growing list of companies declaring redundancies and mass sackings.
Sabena airline workers, brutally thrown out on the stones by the company's bankruptcy after 11 September, were demanding that the Belgian government take over the company and protect their jobs.
Tens of thousands of French metal workers demanded that the EC stop the threat to their jobs. Thousands of German car workers and engineering workers protested against wage cuts and other concessions forced on them by the bosses.
Trade unionists from Lisbon to Stockholm, from Slovakia to Poland and beyond marched together in a tremendous show of solidarity.
If the union leaders had demonstrated one-tenth of the confidence of their members then Europe's capitalist leaders could not keep on with their programme of deregulation, privatisation and job cuts. They would be forced into an inglorious retreat by this show of strength.
If for example the workers' leaders had called a one-day general strike in the city of Brussels alone to match up with the demonstration, there is little doubt that workers in this European capital would have answered the call.
Instead at the end of the demo (when workers were still setting off from the main square when the front ranks had reached the end three miles further on) the union leaders gave speeches "saying nothing in 15 languages". It really was a case of workers being led up the hill to be marched down again.
Not one union leader said what should be done next. They magnanimously thanked the demonstrators for coming and wished them "bon voyage" on their way home. It will take an earthquake to wake up the trade union leaders to do anything else, but that is exactly what is coming.
Build International Socialist Resistance
ON SATURDAY 15 December, over 500 young people attended the founding conference of International Socialist Resistance (ISR), including about 100 from England and Wales.
By Clare James
Following the brilliant demonstration the day before, the conference took place in the French-speaking university in Brussels, and the booked meeting room was too small for the huge turnout.
The conference started with an inspiring rally including reports from all over Europe on what the new ISR branches have been doing. Members from the North and South of Ireland reported on their work against low pay and campaigns they are running with young people from schools and workplaces.
Members from Germany, Britain and Belgium gave examples of campaigns against cuts in education, against racism and cuts in youth services and explained how many young people in their countries were becoming active against the war in Afghanistan.
Then the conference broke up into very successful workshops on the environment, education, anti-capitalist campaigning work and youth rights.
The conference ended with proposals for the name and platform of ISR, which were overwhelmingly carried with only a few votes against and one or two abstentions. Delegates' speeches highlighted the misery that capitalism inflicts worldwide.
In South Africa pregnant women with HIV and AIDS have been denied drugs to prevent infecting their unborn children as their survival would be a burden on the state.
CWI member Joe Higgins, an Irish TD (MP) said just £40 billion would meet the additional cost of ensuring that every man, woman and child on the planet had access to adequate food, safe water, sanitation and basic healthcare and education. This is less than 4% of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people.
ISR will build international action to oppose capitalism and raise socialist ideas. One proposal was to have an international student action in May when education ministers are meeting in Spain.
It was also decided to have follow-up meetings to build close links in the International Resistance movement.
ISR was initiated by the CWI (Committee for a Workers International), to which the Socialist Party in England and Wales is affiliated.
ISR is an independent, broad and democratic organisation, open to anyone who is against this capitalist system of poverty and inequality. We fight for a democratic socialist society based on need and not greed. If you are not already a member please join - get active and help build International Socialist Resistance.
Address: ISR, PO Box 858, London, E11 1YG
Tel: 020 8558 7947
International Website www.resistance.eu.com
"THIS WAS the first European demo I've been to and it was really inspiring to find very like-minded people, who were interested in the same issues as me. I think we've done really well building up the movement that we have done through organisations like the CWI and ISR.
I thought the demonstration was good. We had a great contingent out there and on the whole it was very peaceful and we definitely got our point across very well."
"I THOUGHT the demo was absolutely massive, I couldn't quite believe it. I think the conference was really good and it's inspired me to go back and build ISR."
"I WASN'T expecting the demonstration to be so big. It went very well especially the CWI contingent - I was at the front and I looked back and it was quite impressive."
In The Socialist 4 January 2002: