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October 7: A Successful General Strike in Belgium

By Workers Party of Belgium

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement that we received from the Workers Party of Belgium. It gives valuable information on the general strike that rocked Belgium on Oct. 7.

Oct. 7, Belgium witnessed a 24-hour general strike – the first in more than twelve years. The social democratic trade union federation (Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique or FGTB, with more than 1.3 million members) had called for a general strike because the workers opposed the prolongation of their employment career by 5 years – thus limiting the access to early retirement plans. This was a demand of the employers and the government and a consequence of the Lisbon process, which was agreed upon at the European Union’s 2000 Lisbon summit.

The strike was a resounding success. Although the Christian democratic trade union federation (Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens or CSC, with almost 1.6 million members) had not called for a strike, a large part of its members joined their comrades of the FGTB in their strike and protest actions.

The port of Antwerp, the second port of Europe (after Rotterdam), was blocked. Arcelor, the steel giant, was paralyzed and so was the car industry: General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen and Volvo. The same was true for Caterpillar, the chemical and petrochemical industry, the steel industry, the retail sector, the nutrition sector, the textile sector, etc. Public transport came to a standstill and large parts of the postal services and the education sector were paralyzed. True to tradition, and to the irritation of the employers, flying pickets went to industrial parks in order to block strategic roads and to encourage the workers of small enterprises to join.

Through the issue was early retirement, the people also questioned the entire system, the government and the employers about many other issues. Workers’ Party of Belgium (WPB) members have documented hundreds of testimonies from all sectors. They unanimously say it is not possible to work until the age of 60, let alone 65. Workload is too heavy, productivity is too high, people feel worn out. That is the basis of the discontent and dissent.

Apart from this, everyone sees that the young have great difficulties to find a job. That is already a societal problem in itself. Why then can the older workers not retire while the young contribute to the social security by having genuine jobs? Because the employers actually want a large reserve army of unemployed to ensure a downward pressure on the salaries (and maximize their profit margins). The WPB slogan, “600,000 unemployed; why work longer?” is therefore very apt.

Besides, people are concerned about the future of the social security system – another contested issue.

WPB members have been mobilized massively in support of the strike. Before, they had already distributed 130,000 fliers. On Oct. 7, they visited many pickets and were touched by the warm reception by the strikers. They sold the party’s weekly newspaper Solidaire and a pamphlet on the retirement issue and social security. The WPB’s “Letter for trade unionists” was well received. The WPB was the only party to support the general strike without reservations.

The general strike in Belgium is part of a long series of workers’ struggles in Europe: Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc. Just like in France after the Oct. 4 national strike, the Belgian workers’ struggle continues. In this struggle, it is the task of the communists to instill revolutionary consciousness and reinforce the Party.

Let us unite against the Lisbon process of the imperialist European Union!

#Belgium #Labor #PTB #FédérationGénéraleDuTravailDeBelgique #Europe