Above Photo: A concert from Manifiesta 2021.
Thousands are gathering in Ostend for Manifiesta, the fest of solidarity on September 9-10.
The program is shaped to address pressing topics such as workplace rights of health personnel and the climate crisis, while also emphasizing the significance of feminism, anti-imperialism, peace advocacy, and solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and the Cuban Revolution
Left-wing forces in Belgium are unofficially kicking off a new political year as thousands of people pour into the coastal city of Ostend to participate in yet another edition of Manifiesta, the fest of solidarity, scheduled for the weekend of September 9-10. Launched for the first time in 2010, Manifiesta has evolved into a gathering of at least 15,000 people who convene not only for discussions and debates but also for bonding and evenings of music.
The festival provides passersby with a glimpse of the diversity of left-wing movements. The program is shaped to address pressing topics such as workplace rights of health personnel and the climate crisis, while also emphasizing the significance of feminism, anti-imperialism, peace advocacy, and solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and the Cuban Revolution. In a conversation with Solidaire, the publication of the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB), Palestinian activist Salah Hamouri called the festival a convivial and joyous place where people get the opportunity to discuss important instances of struggles and solidarity.
The tents at Manifiesta offer families, workers, and activists a mixture of political and cultural education, setting this event apart from others of its kind. Parents and carers are encouraged to bring children along, who have their own dedicated activities at PioFiesta. During the festival, attendees can listen to Jeremy Corbyn speak on workers’ and climate struggles, as well as join in singing the Internationale in various languages, a highlight of Manifiesta. As the daily discussions wind down, the same participants head over to concerts of artists like Coely and Axelle Red, who highlight another dimension of the anti-racist and social struggles addressed during the forums.
This festival is made possible through the support of several left-wing organizations, including Medics for the People, the youth association Redfox, and Solidaire. However, its organization would be impossible without the dedication of thousands of volunteers who engage in the festival’s preparation at various stages. Approximately 300 people are actively involved in planning Manifiesta throughout the entire year, with many more pitching in as the festival venue physically takes shape along the North Sea coastline.
The volunteers’ commitment goes beyond the festival; it serves as a deliberate effort to provide political education to the masses. The process of setting up Manifiesta over a weekend in September shows to volunteers that a different world can be built through collective effort. This mirrors the PTB’s belief that true change in Europe will not come from relying on a select group of professionals but, rather, from the collective efforts of its people. Giving activists, students, and workers the opportunity to work together and be the driving force behind such an event is of paramount importance to achieving that goal.
Manifiesta also stands as a symbol of international solidarity in Europe. As the European Union remains unresponsive to the working class’s demands for prioritizing education, healthcare, and decent housing over arms and corporate interests, during Manifiesta, Ostend plays host to figures like Chris Smalls, who have fought similar forces head on. By bringing both hope and experience gained from building successful movements, Manifiesta lays the foundation for another season of people’s struggles across Europe. The festival participants and activists, confident in their ability to create such a space for two consecutive days, are simultaneously fostering the people of Europe’s confidence to transform this into an everyday reality.