British tourists driving their hire cars from their Corfu resorts in early August may have been surprised to see a large banner proclaiming “Show Racism the Red Card” at the side of the road. It marked the entrance to the 16th Youth against Racism in Europe summer camp, held in a beautifully wooded campsite near the village of Karoussades.
The event was both a fantastic holiday for the participants and an opportunity to discuss how to defeat racism and fascism and to unite workers across Europe. The campsite quickly filled up with tents as coaches and cars arrived from across Greece. Amongst the many Greek youth and campaigners attending, including migrant families, international participants arrived from elsewhere in Europe, including from France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Cyprus and the Czech Republic.
The campsite was a short walk from the sandy beach and the cheap canteen and bar kept everyone going, usually well into the early hours! A shady open-air meeting area behind the bar was a great place to meet up during the day and also provided the venue for meetings and film showings in the evenings. International visitors, including myself, felt privileged to be able to participate in the debates, with translators doing a great job to make sure we all understood each other!
Virginie Pregny, a member of the NPA, the new anti-capitalist party in France, and Marco Verrugio from the PRC left party in Italy both spoke in a lively meeting on the development of new workers’ parties in Europe. These parties are a vital development to challenge reactionary right-wing parties. Without a socialist alternative being offered, racist and nationalist ideas can gain an echo with voters who are angry at the failure of establishment parties to provide jobs and services as the recession takes hold. Speakers, including members of the Greek left coalition SYRIZA, discussed the need to make sure those new parties offered a real fighting alternative with open democratic structures.
I helped to introduce a meeting on the rise of the far-right, explaining why parties like the BNP had made gains in many countries in the recent European elections. The BNP’s populist slogans attacking politicians’ corruption, combined with the collapse in Labour’s vote, had helped win them 2 MEPs. Their support can be undermined by campaigns demanding jobs, homes and services instead of racism. Trade union struggles like the occupation then going on at Vestas and the victorious action at Lindsey Oil Refinery can also cut across racist divisions, uniting workers in action to defeat the bosses’ attacks.