Tensions have grown in the past few weeks at Antwerp University. The good response to a campaign by socialists students, combined with a growing frustration amongst layers of the far right have led to a violent confrontation.
The Active Left Students (student organisation linked to the LSP/PSL – CWI in Belgium) have organised highly successful meetings all around the country. The main subject for these meetings was, “Capitalism in crisis. Marx was right”. In 9 universities, a total over 300 students participated in these meetings, an indication of the possibilities that exist for Marxists today.
Far right thugs attempt to sabotage socialist meeting
In the city of Antwerp – with a small university and a high concentration of far right activists – the successes for socialists and the pressure on the far right have led to frustration. This frustration became deepened when the first public meeting of the NSV (Nationalist Student organisation, the students of the far right party, Vlaams Belang) was stopped from taking place in a meeting hall at the university.
The NSV had invited newly elected MEP Nick Griffin of the British National Party to the university. Students and staff protested against this meeting pointing out that Griffin was convicted denier of the holocaust and a proven racist. The university decided not to allow this meeting to take place. An attempt by the NSV to get a court order to reverse this decision was not successful. Therefore the NSV, supported by members of the Vlaams Belang, could not hold its meeting at the university and had to look for a different venue to hear Griffin speak.
Far right students immediately pointed out that this was the result of the activities of the ALS socialists and announced publicly that they would stop the planned meeting on “Capitalism in crisis, Marx was right” from taking place at the university venue. Earlier this year, an anti-fascist meeting organised by Active Left Students in Antwerp was attacked and broken up by this same grouping. They were determined to repeat this and even announced it on their website.
Active Left Students meeting held successfully despite violent atttack
Anti-fascism for us means mobilisation and discussion on the alternative to capitalism and the problems facing working people. We link this to the need for practical defence of the workers’ movement, leftwing activists and those under racist or fascist attack, where necessary. The far right relies upon small trained fighting squads.. In fighting the far right, we depend primarily on our numbers and solidarity. Over an hour before the ALS meeting was due to start, some 40 activists organised for the defence of the meeting.
When some 20 masked fascists arrived and saw our group defending the meeting hall, they brutally attacked us. Our comrades and supporters defended themselves, which resulted in the fascists having to pull back. Only then did the police intervene, checking the identity of the fascists. However, they were not arrested: physical violence by masked fascists is not a priority for the Antwerp police. A police spokesperson even confirmed this on local television when asked for a reaction to an interview with LSP-member Jan Vlegels on the incident.
The meeting itself was a huge success with 70 present, including about 15 new people showing an interest in further discussion on a socialist alternative to capitalism. We will continue our campaigns and off course will organise to defend our meetings and activity in Antwerp in the future.