Racist plans to celebrate the launch of a “European Defence League” flopped in the Netherlands last Saturday.
But the Dutch anti-racist movement took an important step forward.
Police prevented racists from across Europe, including hundreds of English Defence League (EDL) members, from attending a planned rally on the outskirts of the Dutch capital, Amsterdam.
The minibus carrying EDL leader Tommy Robinson had windows smashed in.
Supporters of the city’s Ajax football club chased some EDL members out of town. Earlier Ajax fans had issued a statement saying, “We do not tolerate violent racism and fascists in our city.”
The Dutch state decided it was not prepared to allow racists and Nazis from across Europe to come and launch right wing street gangs.
But the new Dutch government is the most right wing in post-war history.
The minority coalition of the Christian Democrats and free market Liberals is supported in parliament by Geert Wilders’ Islamophobic Freedom Party.
The coalition has already adopted parts of Wilders’ vicious Islamophobic programme with a promise to ban the full veil in public. And the government also plans a major package of cuts.
A group of around 70 Nazis, members of the NVU (Dutch People’s Union), were allowed to march on the same day in another Dutch city, The Hague.
More than 1,500 people joined an anti-racist protest in central Amsterdam last Saturday. It was called in response to the racist mobilisation—and it was the biggest anti-racist mobilisation for years in the Netherlands.
Many people felt a sense of relief that someone was finally standing up against Wilders.
Willem Boerhout and his daughter Laura were on the demo. They held a home made banner, saying “Foreigners are just our neighbours”.
Willem told Socialist Worker it was the first protest he had been on since anti-nuclear protests in the 1970s. He said, “Wilders is dangerous. I believe everyone in the Netherlands should be treated equally.
“But Wilders says that there is a problem if people hold dual passports—say, Dutch and Moroccan. He says you have to choose. He wants to make it into a test of loyalty.”
Laura also felt it was time to act. “Wilders has so much influence. Even the Labour Party talks about being hard on immigrants.
“The politicians aren’t standing up to him, so we have to. I hope there will be more protests.”
Saturday’s protest was called by the “platform against xenophobia” coalition of immigrant community organisations and the Dutch International Socialists.
There is now a big challenge ahead to build a movement capable of defeating Wilders, Islamophobia and attacks on migrants.
The big parliamentary left parties were mainly absent from Saturday’s event. They have either argued that the best way to deal with Wilders is to ignore him, or have made dangerous concessions to his arguments.
Femke Halsema, leader of the Green Left Party, recently declared that the left mustn’t be afraid of criticising Islam. But when Muslims face constant racist baiting, the first task of any real left is to express solidarity—not to join in.
The failure to challenge Islamophobia and attacks on migrants has seen Wilders’ support grow. Plans to launch a Dutch Defence League also show how Wilders’ success in shifting the political climate to the right can boost the confidence of racist gangs to organise on the streets.
A delegation from Unite Against Fascism (UAF) in Britain travelled to the Amsterdam demonstration and were received enthusiastically. Martin Smith, of UAF, told the rally, “We need a European-wide movement to defeat the new racist threat.”
He pointed out that standing up to attacks on Muslims was crucial to stopping today’s racists. “We must defend the right of people to practice their religion, or to wear what they want, free of racism and persecution.”