During the last couple of weeks the controversy over the Flemish separatist party Vlaams Belang has centered on allegations of “neo-Nazi” baggage and white supremacist tendencies among its leaders and membership. Various pieces of evidence are offered in support of these assertions: an alleged radio interview of VB leader Filip Dewinter “opposite David Duke”, the photo of a white power flag at a Vlaams Belang rally, etc.
Most of these allegations have been refuted. The rally in the photo (a smaller version is shown at right) turns out to have been a rally by an entirely different group, a truly racist group. Christine has been assiduously compiling the facts about this and other allegations at the CVF blog, including a report from a European reader named Cincinnatus who posted a comment here a couple of days ago, identifying the rally photo as being from a July rally of the VJW, Vlaamse Jongeren Westland. Here’s how Cincinnatus describes the group:
VJW is a repulsive mix of nationalism, socialism, anti-Israel and anti-USA (lots of burning USA flags), but mostly, as far as I can see, it is a bunch of twenty-eens who haven’t outgrown the leftist education which was pumped into them in high school…
An important point is that the VJW is no fan of the Vlaams Belang! See, for example, the 14 January 2007 entry which reads “Vlaams Belang wants to recruit new Flemings” and states that Vlaams Belang is recruiting among the Muslims!! This is much to VJW’s disapproval.
This conflation of Vlaams Belang with VJW has not been retracted, nor have any number of the other allegations which have been refuted.
The furor over VB has generated a lot of email from people who are polite and reasonable, but who are also concerned that our Counterjihad Summit was associated with such a “white supremacist” group. Below is my reply to one of these emails.
The “shady past” of Vlaams Belang is really the shady past of earlier Flemish groups. The current party is not shady; it is simply a Flemish separatist party with widespread popular support in Flanders. The Flemings have, in my opinion, a good case for separation from Wallonia; but that is obviously a matter to be decided within Belgium via the ballot box.
As for being nationalistic — I think a resurgence of nationalism within Europe would be a good thing at this point, being the only effective strategy for blocking the Eurabian juggernaut.
By “nationalism” I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labeled “good” or “bad.” But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
A resurgence of Flemish patriotism is what is represented by Vlaams Belang. This is what is being commonly referred to as “nationalism”, and I see no objection to it. The Flemings want to defend themselves, their culture, and their homeland from what they see as an invasion of (mostly Muslim) foreigners imposed on them by people outside of Flanders.
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The “white power” accusations are without merit. Almost all of them have been proved to be erroneous or disinformation — the rally in the photo was one held by VJW, and not by Vlaams Belang. Filip Dewinter did not give a radio interview “opposite David Duke”. For more refutations of the allegations against VB, with detailed sourcing, see the CVF Blog.
The persistence of such assertions is not evidence of their truth. If you investigate Vlaams Belang, you will find it very difficult (if not impossible) to find evidence of their “white power” proclivities — anything that goes beyond slander or disinformation is simply an assertion by people who are already predisposed against VB.
But more to the point: if Vlaams Belang are racist neo-Nazis, they are hiding it extraordinarily well. I spent several days with Bart Debie and Filip Dewinter in Antwerp and Brussels; I talked to their employees, hung out in their offices, and looked at their party literature and campaign materials. I saw no sign that they relied on racism or anti-Semitism in their vote-getting efforts.
I realize that this proves nothing to people whose minds are already made up — they’re clever fellows, these Flemish neo-Nazis; they know very well how to hide their nefarious plans — but don’t you think they’d make their stance more obvious if they wanted to pick up the Nazi vote?
Consider this: The VJW (Vlaamse Jongeren Westland, the Youth of West Flanders) are openly racist and recruit on that basis. They criticize Vlaams Belang for being too soft on the Muslim immigration issue. Don’t you think VB would be revealing their own racism in order to counter this criticism and gain VJW votes?
Or consider the support that Filip Dewinter enjoys within the Orthodox Jewish community in Antwerp; he’s openly proud of that support. Don’t you think he’d want to hide this inconvenient fact at election time, to cover up his association with the Zionist enemy?
Or do you think his secret Nazi admirers are thinking, “Ah, that wily Filip! He’s clever enough to fool even the Jews!”
I don’t think so.
The “neo-Nazi” and “white supremacist” slurs against Vlaams Belang are a mirage; when one approaches them, they vanish into the overheated air of these rancorous and uncivil debates.