Thousands of anti-racists were set to march through Amsterdam in the Netherlands on Saturday. The protest will take place after elections in which the far right racist Geert Wilders was expected to do well.
The general election on Wednesday was unlikely to return an overall winner.
Wilders’ Freedom Party has gained from bitterness at the austerity imposed by the current Tory-Labour coalition—and its concessions to racism.
Ewout Van Der Berg, national coordinator of the International Socialists group, is part of the organising committee for Saturday’s anti-racism demonstration.
He told Socialist Worker, “If Wilders does form a government it will be drastic. He has campaigned to ban the Koran, close down mosques and return refugees.
“His success will strengthen the racists who put his ideas into action.”
Wilders split from the Tory VVD party in 2004 to pursue a more openly racist agenda.
But Ewout said, “VVD prime minister Mark Rutte has also run a racist ‘Wilders-lite’ campaign.
“He recently wrote in major newspapers saying that if people from ethnic minorities weren’t happy in the Netherlands they should leave.”
He added, “The election has been presented as a race between Rutte and Wilders, and that strengthens them both. But there’s a real possibility they could govern together.”
They have entered coalition talks together before in 2010. And Rutte’s government threw him a lifeline last week.
It expelled a Turkish minister from the country after Wilders had said Dutch Turks don’t belong in the country. But there is opposition.
“Whenever Wilders tries to go out on the street there are protests, not usually big but militant and loud,” said Ewout.
“There were a lot of protesters when he campaigned in Heerlen near his home town last Saturday. He’s had to cancel a lot of appearances. And he has weaknesses.
“The Freedom Party has no organisation and Wilders is its only real member.”
Anger at the rise of the right hasn’t translated into votes for either the Labour Party or the more radical left Socialist Party.
Ewout said, “Labour has been driving the agenda of austerity.
“That includes privatising social housing, increasing healthcare and university costs, and making the Netherlands the record-holder for ‘labour market flexibility’ in the European Union.
“And the Socialist Party has adapted to the racism of the right instead of resisting it, arguing for keeping out migrant workers.”
But a 15,000-strong women’s march last Saturday was the biggest demonstration in the Netherlands for two years, and the anti-racism demonstration could be bigger.
Ewout said, “The alternative is on the streets.”