Belgium

Recent redundancy announcements in Belgium have provoked a very militant response from workers. The case of the InBev brewery workers is one example, as is that at Carrefour. Also a spontaneous strike on the railways after the recent fatal rail accident reveals the real mood within the Belgian working class.

An appeal has been issued for the nationalisation of the Opel plant in Antwerp under workers’ management, together with the call to develop the factory along eco-friendly lines, producing alternative forms of transport and defending jobs at the same time. Support the campaign!

Working class militancy is growing in Belgium as world capitalism goes into meltdown. Workers are learning very fast in this situation. They see plenty of money for the banks but very little for genuine social reforms. They also see a trade union and Socialist Party leadership totally incapable of giving any answers. Monday's trade union day of action brought all this to the surface.

Since the beginning of this year Belgium has witnessed a wave of wildcat strikes reminiscent of the 1970s. The movement has spread spontaneously from one sector to another. Significantly it has rekindled class unity across the language divide at the same time as the bourgeois attempt to divide the working class along national lines.

The recent internal leadership elections in the Flemish Socialist Party revealed a very militant mood in the ranks of the party. The two left candidates Erik De Bruyn and Elke Heirman received an amazing 33.6% of the votes, preparing the ground for the re-emergence of s strong left wing in the party.

The Belgian Socialist Party has been dominated by a right-wing bureaucracy for some time now, but something has been brewing in the ranks lately. This has now suddenly erupted and come to the surface with the Antwerp branch nominating Erik De Bruyn, a known Marxist and promoter of the left of the Party, “SP.a Rood”. An apparently small incident has provoked an earthquake within the party.

HOV Belgium participated in organising a large meeting of some 350 people in solidarity with the Venezuelan Revolution. With a packed agenda, important speakers from both Belgium and Venezuela spoke on the revolution and the need for solidarity. Meetings such as this show concretely that the ideas and the message of the Venezuelan revolution are spreading well beyond the borders of the Latin American country.

On October 28 another massive strike shook Belgium. This time all the unions were involved. In spite of all the attempts of the government and the bosses to sabotage it, the workers took part in large numbers and 100,000 marched through the streets of Brussels. Things are moving very fast now.

On Friday, October 7, there was a massive general strike in Belgium, the first for 12 years, called by Socialist ABVV-FGTB union. In spite of all attempts to make it fail, the workers came out in great numbers both in Flanders and Wallonia. Since then the pressure has built up. Strikes have broken in different parts of the country. The Christian union has now been forced to back the movement and a new general strike is being prepared for October 28. Class struggle is back on the agenda in Belgium, and with a bang.

Erik Demeester interviewed Remi Verwimp, who is an activist of a special kind. He is in fact a priest who belongs to a group called Christians for Socialism in Belgium inspired by liberation theology and Marxist ideas. As a lecturer at the Theology and Society Workshop (Werkgroep Theologie en Maatschappij) he has developed a critical view on the Catholic Church and especially on the latest pontificate.

Last week thousands of Belgians protested against US President Bush, who was in Brussels for a short trip from February 20-22. After having alienated most of his European allies, Bush was in Belgium to heal the wounds since he is aware the United States cannot simply keep running like a bull in a china shop on the stage of world affairs. Bush needs to seek points of support in Europe and that is why (temporarily) diplomacy seems to have taken the front seat again. Even little Belgium can help the United States, which is what the country is doing at the moment in relation to the war in Iraq. Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt may be “proud” of not having any Belgian troops in Iraq, but the

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Last month, the far right Vlaams Blok changed its name to Vlaams Belang, supposedly to be a “nicer” and “more polished up” version of its former ultra right image. They want to present themselves as a strong conservative party, a “respectable” alternative on which the ruling class can rely to carry out its attacks on the working class. Even in small and peaceful Belgium, all the contradictions are piling up, waiting to explode in one way or another.

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