Belgium: Analysis of the Wave of Arson Attacks Against the Arms Industry


In Europe, wars seem to belong to a distant past. The images of trenches, concentration camps, aerial bombardments of European capitals and the landings on the Fench coast come out of the archives from time to time on the occasion of a hypocritical commemoration and everyone thinks that times have been good. Yet our current era is characterized by the omnipresence of warlike logic. Think of the ‘interventions’ in Iaq and Syria, conflicts that the members of the international coalition are largely responsible for. But the war is also here, very visible by the khaki uniforms that patrol our streets or on the dull and tired and faces of refugees who have been transported to Europe by the shock wave of distant bombing. It is sometimes found in the eruption of a scandal, such as when everybody pretends to notice that the Wallonia Region (in southern Belgium) sells weapons to Saudi Arabia…

Less visible, and puposely hidden, it is also present in offices, warehouses and workshops throughout Belgium. Many companies are participating in the current war effort, producing the necessary equipment for the conflicts here and elsewhere, arming cops and soldiers, equipping prisons and aircraft carriers, enabling the surveillance of the streets of Brussels and the devastation of Aleppo. These companies do not make the headlines, they don’t attract the attention of the passer-by in the streets and they don’t have advertising campaigns, as they are probably not very inclined towards boasting about making money from corpses. Yet they exist and in large numbers. According to Roland Teheux, head of Agoria (Belgian federation of tech companies) in the aerospace, space, security and defence sectors, there are 92 companies that are currently active with a combined annual turnover of 3.6 billion Euros. One can get an idea of the extent of these sectors by visiting the database website of the ‘Group for Research and Information on Peace and Security’ (GRIP), which lists 75 arms companies in Belgium.

We can of course feel totally helpless in the face of these wars on the other side of the world and state terrorism at home and abroad. However, the month of September 2017 was not very pleasant for the Belgian arms industry. According to the media, three companies in this sector seem to have been targeted by determined arsonists. On the night of September 25th, 5000 square meters of warehouse space belonging to the Varec company in Mechelen went up in smoke, requiring the intervention of firefighters from Mechelen, Duffel, Berlaar, Lier and Nijlen. If the fire had not been formally described as intentional by the prosecutor’s office, it would not have been noted that there were two distinct locations from which the fire spread. According to the company itself, Varec is ‘a world-renowned manufacturer of rubber-like metal parts and synthetic components for military vehicles’. It seems that the damage done was significant, for the firefighters had to work until the morning of the next day to control the fire. Two days later, it was the Teksam Company in Genk’s turn to see its premises turn into a bonfire. Here too, the damage was enormous: workshops and offices damaged by fire, orders ready to be shipped totally destroyed, 40 employees left without jobs…the fire seems to have been started by malicious people: gas cylinders were found at the site. Teksam Company designs and manufactures telescopic masts for armies around the world. The next day at 8AM in Herstal, a fire on the roof of a building belonging to Forges de Zeebrugge was about to take hold. Workers, apparently warned by the appearance of thick smoke, discovered a device consisting of gas cylinders attached to each other and connected to a fuse. The device was defused by army explosives experts. Zeebrugge Forges, a subsidiary of the Thales Group, manufacture bombs, ammunition and missiles for aircraft and helicopter gunships.

These attacks create a breach in the atmosphere of silent complicity, the submissive acceptance of a so-called morbid fatality in the face of these wars and the control of our lives that is intensifying daily. They show that the omnipotence of the military is not infallible. They also show that a struggle against the war of power and against social peace is not limited to empty words or symbolic actions, petitions or actions of political pressure, that it is possible to strike blows where they do not expect them, by oneself, and without waiting.

Published in ‘L’imprévu’, anarchist newspaper, No. 3, November 2017 (Brussels)

(via Sans Attendre Demain, translated by Insurrection News)