Same old story

Searchlight, July 2005

14 May was one of those days, the date of a yet another provocative demonstration by Nederlandse Volks Unie (Dutch People's Union - NVU), the Netherlands' oldest nazi party, this time in Arnhem, the hometown of NVU chairman, Constant Kusters.

The slogans announced for the demonstration were "Against the European constitution" and "Against Turkish entry to the European Union" (EU). Although the NVU's marches usually have a hidden agenda of commemorating an historical Nazi date, this time there was no mention of one.

Four years ago, the NVU adopted a so-called "consensus" policy, under which it seeks to ensure that its demonstrations are strictly legal. This policy marked a step away from the party's previous tactic of staging "spontaneous" marches and rallies, a stance that led to numerous arrests. Besides that, Kusters himself is running scared of finding himself behind bars again after serving six months in prison for multiple convictions of racism and violence.

Despite the legal demonstrations and the open announcements and mobilisation, the NVU has never managed to get more than eighty people out on the streets, of whom over half are frequently German nazis. And, when they have not met with strong anti-fascist resistance - as in Kerkrade 2001, when they only were allowed to get out of their cars for fifteen minutes or in Apeldoorn in 2003 when they were prevented from entering the town at all - the NVU has had to march through deserted industrial estates with only he police and pigeons to watch them.

The influence of the NVU on the political landscape is thus, despite its proven capacity for causing trouble in the ranks of right-wingers in other parties, minimal. When it became clear that the NVU had received court permission to march in a populated area behind Arnhem central station, local anti-fascists organised a counter-demonstration three times as big as the NVU's.

Before the NVU's march even started, the nazis found that their route was covered with anti-fascist slogans and that some local people had hung banners and posters from their windows with slogans like 'Refugees welcome' and 'No human being is illegal'.

The march started almost too late, because the police had to get German nazi Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands führer Udo Voigt, paying his first public visit to the Netherlands, and his entourage out of a traffic jam.

The march, when it finally started, again showed Dutch police's obsession with maintaining public order. Nazis with fascist slogans on their clothes and big flags with Celtic Crosses prompted no intervention. On the other hand, anti-fascists were arrested on their own demonstration after refusing to follow police orders or to identify themselves. The same old story.

Where city councils go to court to try to prevent NVU marches, the courts invariably rule that the demonstration can take place on the grounds of "freedom of speech", revealing a grotesque lack of expertise on how the NVU actually uses this freedom: Ruhm und Ehre für die Waffen SS slogans in Rotterdam in 2002, swastika badges in Harderwijk in 2002, SS uniforms in The Hague in 2004...the list goes on.

Kusters said in Arnhem on 14 May that "Israel is, when Turkey has entered the EU, the next country to join". Obviously afraid of prosecution, he did not expand on the theme but the antisemitic message was obvious.

Two weeks later, however, on 28 May, Kusters did not have to bother to hide his beliefs when he addressed a rally in Marienfels in Germany, for the re-erection of a memorial, in the local graveyard, to the dead of the First SS Panzerkorps.

After glorifying the history of the relationship between the village and SS and blaming politics and anti-fascists for the removal of the memorial, Kusters called for a demonstration on 13 May next year at Marienfels in an attempt to add it to the growing list of annual nazi demonstrations.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht