Searchlight - August 2009
An attempt by the nazi Dutch People's Union (NVU) to profit from the economic crisis by demonstrating against "casino capitalism" attracted the lowest turnout of fascists for years.
The town of Den Bosch was selected for the demonstration on 23 May and, on the eve of the event, the NVU had to challenge a ban imposed by the town's mayor and won.
Trying to ban the demonstration was bad move by the mayor, Ton Rombouts, who should have known that, since 2001, courts have consistently ruled in favour of the freedom to demonstrate and that a demonstration can only be banned if there is a danger to health, if traffic cannot be controlled or if there are insufficient of police to prevent public disorder.
Rombouts made a lot of noise in the media, depicting Den Bosch as a potential battleground but, after the court ruling, he could only declare a state of emergency in the town.
As it turned out it was a waste of effort. Only 60 nazis traipsed along to the demonstration, with half the infamous "black block" missing, with the section of Blood & Honour Flanders that consists mostly of Dutch nazis absent and no German marching drums or sound system in evidence.
Despite forty-four bystanders being arrested for shouting or blowing whistles, the nazi demonstration was harassed and jeered along its entire route by angry citizens, local youngsters and anti-fascists.
Totally surrounded by riot police, the nazis made a quick and mostly silent march before being escorted by police to the local railway station. It was not a good day for the nazis: one of their flags was stolen, their speeches were not heard and, as usual, their leader Constant Kusters blamed everybody but himself for the fiasco.
Meanwhile, a project aimed at preventing the far-right from exercising influence among young people ended in the village of Winschoten, in the north of the Netherlands.
Winschoten is the centre of a number of villages and is home to the area's schools, a shopping centre and to bars and dancing venues where youngsters gather. The local economy is weak and people tend to migrate to the big cities in the west of the Netherlands in search of career opportunities.
Despite, the relatively deprived character of the area, organised right-wingers were, by and large, absent until 2001, when the second generation of "Gabbers" – followers of hardcore techno music – emerged.
As a result, problems around asylum seekers' centres in the area steadily mounted and, from 2003 onwards, there were numerous gangs of right-wing youngsters causing racist violence.
In Winschoten itself, a group was recruited by several older and more experienced people from the nazi Blood&Honour (B&H) network who gave them a meeting place and had money and resources to organise parties and concerts for them.
Some members of the Winschoten group even showed up at a boot camp organised by the fascist Nationale Alliantie (NA) – at the time an ally of B&H – in Belgium.
By 2007, the situation in Winschoten was more or less out of control with a hardcore of active B&H nazis, youngsters who had been recruited by them and large numbers of other youngsters from Winschoten and the surrounding area who could potentially be recruited by them.
Something had to be done and a project was launched to try to address the deteriorating situation. Its focus was on the latter group of potential nazi recruits and the local authority, the juvenile police, schools, the labour movement and youth workers teamed up to start working with twenty-two "endangered" youngsters.
The central goal of the operation was to prevent the youngsters from entering the nazi scene and to steer them away from it by helping them helped with jobs, housing, education and drugs and alcohol problems. As a result, fifteen of the youngsters were "deradicalised" and the hardcore cell of B&H was badly hit by the publicity around the project and forced to beat a retreat.
Though there has been, without doubt, a measure of success, it is clear that problems with racist youngsters in Winschoten are far from over as shown by two demonstrations by young racists against a housing project for asylum seekers in May and June.
Whether the Winschoten project will be extended to other areas of the Netherlands is not yet clear.
Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net