Belgium: Class Trade Unionism Seeks Political Expression

Published on The Bullet, Socialist Project’s e-bulletin no 893, by Daniel Tanuro, November 1, 2013.

In the social and political history of Belgium, May 1, 2012, could mark a milestone. On that day the leaders of the Charleroi regional branch of the socialist trade union General Federation of Belgian Labour (Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique / Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond, FGTB/ABVV) – the second biggest in the country, with 102,000 members – publicly broke with the social-democratic party and called for a rallying of the left to the perspective of a new broad, anti-capitalist force to the left of the Parti Socialiste (PS) and the Greens. An unprecedented thunderbolt… and not without consequences. 

May Day speeches in Belgium are generally unsurprising but like all rules, this has its exceptions. On May 1, 2012, in Charleroi, a big stone was thrown in the water by Daniel Piron, the regional secretary of the FGTB [see YouTube video]. Before stunned and furious social-democratic leaders, and in the presence of several hundred enthusiastic trade unionists, Piron denounced the austerity policies with which the PS has collaborated for 25 years without a break. (Belgium can only be governed by coalition governments. Between 1982 and 1987, the social democrats were out of power. Since 1987 they have participated in all the federal coalitions and also lead the Walloon regional government.)

However, the most spectacular aspect of this speech was not the denunciation of the role of the social democrats in coalition governments with the right, but rather the explicit call for the construction of an anti-capitalist political alternative, to the left of the PS and the Ecolo party (ecologist party).

Those who believed it was an individual outburst without consequence, or a manoeuvre to benefit the FGTB in the context of the forthcoming works council elections were wrong. Not only did Piron reiterate his call a year later, in the name of all the professional union federations of his region, but also meanwhile he and his comrades had passed into action. In two directions: the debate inside the trade union movement and the left in general, on the one hand, and the call for political regrouping of left forces on the other.

A Broad Echo: … //

… (full long text including many hyper-links).


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