Manifiesta 2023: 15,000 voices amplify call for solidarity and hope

Close to 15,000 people attended Manifiesta 2023, drawing inspiration from international struggles and solidarity. Speakers from diverse sectors emphasized the concrete experiences in building socialism

September 18, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Manifiesta 2023
Participants at Manifiesta 2023. Photo: PTB/PDVA

Approximately 15,000 people gathered in Ostend, Belgium, on September 9-10 for the latest edition of the solidarity festival Manifiesta. This year’s festival was an enormous success and featured additional programs designed to immerse visitors in the event. Music performances by Meteor and Axelle Red drew large crowds during the evenings, but so did Chris Smalls from the Amazon Labor Union, as he reminded listeners that the workers’ struggle is “a marathon, rather than a sprint.”

The experience of building the Amazon Labor Union serves as a practical example of the possibility of creating a different world, a message that Manifiesta’s organizers are eager to convey in Belgium and on a global scale. Participants from Palestine, Cuba, and Nicaragua discussed the various challenges faced by activists in their efforts to build socialism worldwide, adding more concrete experiences to the festival’s program. They also highlighted inspiring events that offer hope and international solidarity.

Central to Manifiesta’s mission is to show that each person in the crowd can play a role in shaping a global movement. Jeremy Corbyn, attending the festival to participate in discussions on climate justice, peace, and workers’ rights, urged the audience, saying, “Take courage and strength from each other, knowing that movements, when strong and united, change history and expand freedom.”

Manifiesta is one of the many solidarity festivals sprouting across Europe, providing a platform for discussions on social justice and workers’ rights outside the insulated spaces of government chambers, which remain indifferent to the people’s demands for peace and sound social policies. Both Chris Smalls and Jeremy Corbyn will reiterate their messages at similar events, including the upcoming Fête de l’Humanité in France and The World Transformed in the United Kingdom.

Read: Manifiesta to kick off a new political year for the left in Belgium and Europe

In addition to its international dimension, Manifiesta highlights the lived experiences of the Belgian working class. This year, the presidents of both major trade union federations, Thierry Bodson (FGTB) and Fatiha Dahmani (CSC), addressed the crowd, focusing on the daily challenges faced by their members. Raoul Hedebouw, president of the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA), also took the stage to introduce the party’s plans in preparation for the 2024 federal election campaign. Unlike other parties that are closer to the corporate sector than to the people, the PTB is surveying around 100,000 people across the country to identify their most pressing concerns and develop strategies to address them.

As the party develops programs to counter the alarming surge in food prices and tax policies favoring the rich, it also prioritizes building unity to counter the divisive rhetoric propagated by far-right groups seeking to sow hatred and division. Hedebouw encouraged the audience, particularly youth groups, to persevere in their struggle to build a different society, and not be fooled by those who tell them it is not possible.

“Yes, we dream of another world. Yes, we are right to be indignant in the face of injustice and inequality. Yes, we’re right to be outraged when we see families, mothers and children dying in African deserts because they dream of a different life. We are right to be outraged when we see human beings drowning in the Mediterranean,” he said. “But we also have reason to hope. And to fight,” he added.