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Comac (youth movement) Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comac_(youth_movement)

COMAC
ChairpersonMax Vancauwenberge
Founded2002 (2002)
HeadquartersBd Lemonnier 171, 1000, Brussels
IdeologySocialism[1]
Feminism[2]
Pacifism[3]
Environmentalism[4]
Anti-racism[5]
LGBTQ-activism[6][7]
Mother partyWorkers' Party of Belgium
International affiliationWorld Federation of Democratic Youth
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata (in French and Dutch)
Official YouTube channel (in Dutch)

Comac is the student youth wing of the Belgian marxist political party, the Workers' Party of Belgium (WPB), (known as PTB-PVDA in Belgium). The movement is active in 11 places across Belgium, operating in different cities, universities, as well as hogescholen.[8] Comac's projects engage in political and symbolic movements, and it frequently hosts gatherings, protests, or other actions. The organization is bilingual, with Flemish and Walloon sections cooperating on a national level.[9]

The student wing strives for a spectrum of social goals, such as a sustainable future, universal access to quality education, attention for mental health and climate action. Reversely, it opposes forms of discrimination, sexism, racism and aims to counteract the far-right.[9] Comac envisions a radically democratic, social and diverse society. While being politically aligned to PVDA-PTB, Comac is autonomous in their affairs; it is not required to be a WPB-member to join Comac.[8]

The student wing's abbreviation reflects its goals:

  • Change: Comac seeks to unite youth willing to stand up to injustice in society and fight to change the world;
  • Optimists: hopefulness towards alternatives and a better world;
  • Marxists: Comac sees Marx's ideas as a platform to understanding present-day capitalism and creating a new society;
  • Active: the student movement fights alongside climate activists, workers and people of everyday life;
  • Creative: change requires a broad movement independent of current dominant structures, to work on a new culture based on solidary.[8]

The organization has a joint movement, RedFox, for high-school students.[10]

History[edit]

Comac (short for Change, Optimisme, Marxisme, Activisme, Creativiteit[8] in Dutch and Changement, Optimisme, Marxisme, Activisme, Créativité in French)[11] is a result of the 2002 merger of the Leninist MML, Mouvement marxiste leniniste, and Marxistisch-Leninistische Beweging (MLB),[12] which were active at universities, and Rebelle or Rode Jeugd, who were active in the secondary schools. In April 2016, a split was made to demarcate between university students and younger members, as well as to represent the movement in high schools, leading to the creation of the sister movement RedFox.[13]

In 2018, Max Vancauwenberge was elected as national chairman, succeeding Charlie Le Paige, who had served the position for three years.[14] As of 2022, Comac has institutions in the VUB, ULB, Leuven, Antwerp, Ghent, Saint-Louis, Louvain-la-Neuve, Mons, Namur, Charleroi and Liège.

In 2022, internal documents of the youth organisation Schild & Vrienden [nl], a far-right Flemish nationalist group, contained plans to infiltrate Comac and gain control from the inside-out, as well as secure influential positions in society.[15] Comac chairman Max Vancauwenberge has strongly condemned these tactics, calling them "typical methods of fascist organisations: fysical and digital intimidation, provocation and violence."[16] Schild en Vrienden has been known to launch troll attacks on social media.[17]

Activism[edit]

Comac is active via protests, direct action, and by manifesting in other symbolic events to support LGBT pride,[6] women's rights, feminism[18] and political action.[19] Comac members have also volunteered for many solidarity actions, often jointly with other organizations and non-members, or in cooperation with the WPB or RedFox. These events aim to support disadvantaged groups, such as low-wage workers or refugees. The student wing furthermore has an online shop where stickers with messages can be purchased, such as against sexism[20] and racism.[21]

Comac members blocking the VBO's entrance, October 2021

Climate protests[edit]

Members from Comac have frequently participated in large-scale climate protests,[22] as well its own actions to advocate for climate action, such as blockading the entrance of the VBO (pictured), a building representing polluting multinational corporations. Comac called for a more collective climate approach as well as investments in transport and public transit to make these carbon-neutral.[23] The youth wing also criticizes the proposed carbon tax, opting for expansion on green energy alternatives as well as taxing polluting multinationals themselves.[4][24]

The youth organisation has furthermore sent 200 members to Glasgow to demonstrate at the COP26 summit for climate action.[25][26]

Anti-war protests[edit]

Comac and the WPB have organized and participated in pacifist rallies, calling on the Belgian government to discard military spending.[27] The coalition government had approved over 12.2 billion euro in military allocation, meant to further purchase F-35s, frigates and drones, as well as fund more personnel and digital security.[28]

Before the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Comac opposed escalation of the 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis, as the movement has called on Russia and Ukraine to strive for peaceful and diplomatic dialogue.[29] Since the invasion, Comac has attended peace protests[30] and has directed actions in universities, such as an open letter and raising peace flags at campuses.[31]

The Flemish part of the youth wing, Hoe Zit Da!? ('How's That Work?'), uploaded a first video discussing the Ukraine war, weapon deliveries and geopolitical tension. The video is critical of the USA's role in the conflict.[32]

Students' action[edit]

In early 2022, during the exam period of the first semester, Covid-19 quarantine prevented students from multiple universities from attending their midterm examinations. Some were granted catch-up examinations, but these overlapped with existing exam dates, leading to multiple tests on a single day. Other catch-up tests were postponed for months, forcing students into re-taking them during the summer months.[33] In response, Comac launched a petition to demand guaranteed catch-up exams right after the exam period for those affected by the mandatory Covid-19 isolation. As of the end of the midterms, around 2,000 had signed.[34]

In February 2022, students from the Ghent University, VUB and KU Leuven reported cases of sexual harassment by professors.[35] An associate professor was also fired in the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp.[36] Comac has since joined a movement strongly denouncing their acts and demanding zero-tolerance for unacceptable behaviour.[37] On 15 February, students across several Flemish cities protested, among which Comac members.[35]

Disadvantaged groups[edit]

On 20 July 2021 (on World Refugee Day) Comac members demonstrated in support of undocumented migrants (sans-papiers) who organized a hunger strike for better regulations of their legal status.[38] The youth wing has also provided supplies and food for refugees.[39]

Following the war in Ukraine and subsequent refugee crisis, the organization held actions at universities such as KU Leuven[40] and UGent as part of a peace initiative. Comac wishes to mobilize Belgian universities in a call for de-escalation of the war and diplomatic resolution, as well as raise awareness for student refugees, many of whom faced discrimination while fleeing the country. Comac furthermore opposes Belgian weapon deliveries to Ukraine.[41]

Comac also manifested in support of cleaning personnel, advocating for better working conditions and fairer salaries.[42]

Comac members at a general member meeting with Peter Mertens (middle), December 2021.

Disaster relief[edit]

In cooperation with the WBP as well as RedFox, so-called SolidariTeams were created to help victims of the 2021 European floods in Flanders and Wallonia,[43] many of which needed their houses rid of debris, the interior cleaned and repainted, as well as their basements drained. Around 41,000 households were left without electricity in Wallonia.[44] Since 2022, over 1,500 people have volunteered for the program.[45] As of April 2022, the action is ongoing.

Sociocultural activities[edit]

Comac also host a many events for members and non-members, some of which return yearly.

  • Week of Solidarity: during summer, a week-long set of activities, under which camping, playing games, teambuilding, workshops and trekking around the country. Usually, guest speakers from trade unions or the PVDA-PTB come to speak.[46]
  • Solidarity journey: a travel project where members head to (often times conflicted) regions to connect with local organizations, learn about the situation, and speak to locals. During past journeys, members have been to Greece, the contested Palestine and Cuba.[47]
  • Karl Marx School: a two-day workshop for beginners to read, discuss, debate and learn about Marxism and derivative views.[8]
  • General member meetings: meetings are hosted across cities, often as presentations, where recent developments are discussed, members are elected for positions, activities are planned, or a guest speaker gives a talk.[48] New members can attend these gatherings as well.
  • Basis group: members across Comac join a basisgroep,[49] usually clustered by their location or studies, which hold weekly meetings to review and learn about recent events, and discuss and coordinate actions.
  • Collective study: people are invited to a collectieve blok, aiming to study intensively over the course of five days. A roster is planned, such that attendants study in chunks of time with breaks in between. Depending on the type of blok organized, it is either complimentary or with a fee.[50]

Comac also participates in outside events, such as the World Festival of Youth and Students or the yearly ManiFiesta, a two-day concert in Belgium featuring world music and hip hop, guest speakers, debates, workshops and bookshops.[51]

Relations[edit]

Comac connects with intranational movements as well as foreign organizations. It has ties with other socialist youth wings as the Dutch Communist Youth Movement (CYM) and French Mouvement Jeunes Communistes de France and is a member of the World Federation of Democratic Youth.[52] Intranationally, it has ties with several feminist, anti-fascist, pacifist and volunteer movements. Comac also works with a multitude of peace movements, such as Pax Christi and the Belgian Vrede vzw and Hart Boven Hard.[3] Comac also seeks close cooperation with Belgian civil society organizations.

RedFox[edit]

RedFox
ChairmanAlice Verlinden
Founded2015
HeadquartersBd Lemonnier 171, 1000, Brussels
IdeologyFeminism
Gender equality
LGBT activism
Anti-racism
Mother partyWorkers' Party of Belgium
WebsiteRedFox official website (in French and Dutch)

The WPB is home to a second youth wing, RedFox, for people between 14 and 18 years of age.[10] The organization was founded in 2015.[13] Much like Comac, it engages in solidarity actions and political movements as anti-racism, anti-sexism, climate movement,[53] gender equality and LGBT support.[6]

The youth wing has its own online shop, where free movement stickers can be obtained.[54]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Serluppens, Enio (3 September 2018). "Comac: Students For Change". PVDA (in Flemish). Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  2. ^ "Een 8 maart met Debo - Als vrouwen stoppen, stopt de wereld". Comac NL (in Flemish). 15 March 2022. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  3. ^ a b Mertens, Bart. "Vredesvlag voor Oekraïne: "Oorlog is een menselijk drama"". hln.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Back To The Climate: na de overstromingen is het meer dan ooit tijd voor een sociaal en ambitieus klimaatbeleid". Comac NL (in Flemish). 6 October 2021. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
  5. ^ "Action contre le racisme et la discrimination ce dimanche". lavenir.net (in French). 21 March 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  6. ^ a b c "Comac en RedFox vieren Pride: 'Wij willen dat iedereen zichzelf kan zijn'". dewereldmorgen.be (in Dutch). 28 June 2021. Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  7. ^ "La loi anti-gay hongroise sert à diviser les gens". Solidaire (in French). 8 July 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Over Comac". comac-studenten.be (in Dutch). COMAC. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Durf Doen! - Comac". durfdoen.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Wat is RedFox". nl.redfox.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  11. ^ "Comac c'est quoi?". comac-etudiants.be (in French). COMAC. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Marxistisch-Leninistische Beweging (MLB) — Universiteit Gent", UGent.be, 2010, web: UG-MLB.
  13. ^ a b De Block, Dirk (29 April 2016). "Les RedFox arrivent ! - PTB". archive.ptb.be (in French). Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  14. ^ "Charlie Le Paige - Comac" (in Dutch). Retrieved 10 March 2022.
  15. ^ Atillah, Samira; De Coninck, Douglas (13 April 2022). "Interne documenten Schild en Vrienden: leden moesten 'invloedrijke posities in de maatschappij' innemen" (in Dutch). Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  16. ^ "Comac reageert tegen infiltratie- en intimidatie pogingen Schild & Vrienden". Comac NL (in Flemish). 13 April 2022. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  17. ^ "'Pano' legt tactieken van Schild & Vrienden-trollenleger bloot: "Kunnen er eens een paar mensen een vals profiel van mij aanmaken?"" (in Dutch). 6 September 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  18. ^ "Quatre féminicides en moins de deux semaines : le PTB tire la sonnette d'alarme". ptb.be (in French). Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  19. ^ "Studenten voeren actie voor meer perspectief". dewereldmorgen.be (in Dutch). 29 January 2021. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  20. ^ "Stickers against sexism". Comac NL (in Flemish). Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  21. ^ "Commande ton sticker Comac !". Comac FR (in French). Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  22. ^ "Tienduizenden demonstranten liepen mee in klimaatmars in Brussel". metronieuws.nl (in Dutch). 10 October 2021. Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  23. ^ Schaut, Cassandra. "Studentenvereniging Comac blokkeert ingang van VBO tijdens klimaatactie". hln.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  24. ^ "Ik ben niet gaan wandelen in de klimaatmarsen voor meer taksen". Comac NL (in Flemish). 16 November 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  25. ^ "COP26 Summit: Thousands March Glasgow Action Against Climate Change". www.newsclick.in. 8 November 2021. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  26. ^ "Comac gaat met 200 studenten naar de klimaattop in Glasgow". dewereldmorgen.be (in Dutch). 14 September 2021. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  27. ^ "Progressive sections in Belgium slam government plan to increase military spending". peoplesdispatch.org. 7 February 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  28. ^ Peter, De Lobel (21 January 2022). "Leger krijgt extra budget voor heli's, personeel en digitale bescherming". standaard.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  29. ^ "Geen oorlog om Oekraïne! Geen geld voor NAVO's oorlogen!". Vrede.be (in Dutch). 4 February 2022. Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  30. ^ "Breed gedragen vredesactie zaterdag 26 februari in Brussel: Stop de oorlog! - DeWereldMorgen.beDeWereldMorgen.be". www.dewereldmorgen.be (in Dutch). 26 February 2022. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  31. ^ "Open brief: KU Leuven voor vrede in Oekraïne". Comac NL (in Flemish). 31 March 2022. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  32. ^ Hoe Zit Da!?, Gaat wapens sturen vrede brengen in Oekraïne? (in Dutch), retrieved 10 July 2022
  33. ^ Vanheusden, Karin (12 January 2022). "Antwerpse studenten ongerust over inhaalexamens na quarantaine: "Dit is toch niet correct?"". gva.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  34. ^ "Garandeer inhaalexamens: teken de petitie!". comac.studenten.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  35. ^ a b kma. "Protesten tegen grensoverschrijdend gedrag aan universiteit: 'Wij eisen nultolerantie'". De Standaard (in Flemish). Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  36. ^ Van Rooy, Dylan (14 February 2022). "Docent Koninklijk Conservatorium Antwerpen ontslagen na grensoverschrijdend gedrag". vrtnws.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  37. ^ Van Damme, Sabine (14 February 2022). "Spandoek beschuldigt UGent van grensoverschrijdend gedrag". pzc.n (in Dutch). Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  38. ^ "Politicians, unionists demonstrate in support of hunger-striking migrants". brusselstimes.com. 21 July 2021. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  39. ^ "Comac voor vluchtelingen de straat op". hln.be (in Dutch). 10 March 2016. Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  40. ^ "Open brief: KU Leuven voor vrede in Oekraïne". Comac NL (in Flemish). 31 March 2022. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  41. ^ "Studenten van Comac vragen aan UGent rector Rik Van De Walle om te pleiten voor de de-escalatie en solidariteit met alle vluchtelingen". Comac NL (in Flemish). 31 March 2022. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  42. ^ Van de Pol, Caroline (6 December 2021). "UA-studenten houden Sinterklaasactie uit solidariteit met poetspersoneel: "Ze verloren uren terwijl de werkdruk bleef stijgen"". pzc.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  43. ^ Vanheusden, Karin (11 September 2021). ""De geur van vocht en mazout krijg je op tv niet mee": met de SolidariTeams van Peter Mertens (PVDA) naar Verviers". gva.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  44. ^ "Inondations en Wallonie: au moins 23 morts, plus de 41.000 ménages sans électricité (direct)" [Flood in Wallonia: at least 23 dead, more than 41,000 households without electricity]. Le Soir (in French). Brussels. 16 July 2021. Archived from the original on 16 July 2021. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  45. ^ "SolidariTeams: ik help mee". pvda.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  46. ^ "Week van de solidariteit 2021". comac-studenten.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  47. ^ "solidariteitsreis 2022". www.comac-studenten.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  48. ^ "Ledenvergadering thema wonen". mechelen.pvda.be (in Dutch). 30 November 2021. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  49. ^ "Help mee: word vrijwilliger!". Comac NL (in Flemish). Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  50. ^ "Collectieve Blok Kerst 2021". Comac NL (in Flemish). Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  51. ^ "Feest van de Solidariteit". ManiFiesta (in Dutch). Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  52. ^ "Internationale solidariteit voor een sociale, solidaire, ecologische en democratische maatschappij - Comac" (in Dutch). 30 December 2014. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  53. ^ "climate action pack - RedFox FR". fr.redfox.be (in French). Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  54. ^ "RedFox Shop - RedFox". redfoxshop.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 27 January 2022.

External links[edit]