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100,000 Demonstrators in Brussels

By Workers Party of Belgium

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from the Workers Party of Belgium on the upsurge of struggle on the part of the Belgium’s working class

Statement of the Workers’ Party of Belgium

In a historical demonstration, 100,000 workers, coming from most of the country’s factories, marched through Brussels last Friday, Oct. 28. More than just a rally, Brussels saw a real social movement take shape, defending the right for older workers to benefit from early retirement and the right of the unemployed youth to get a job.

Belgium’s workers hadn’t taken to the streets in such large numbers since 1986. The current mobilisation is larger and more profound than the movement against the anti-worker ‘global plan’ of 1993.

The Belgium-from-below had started a strike movement ten days earlier, culminating in the Brussels demonstration on Oct. 28. That day a second general strike was held. The first one took place on Oct. 7.

Even as many trade union militants and shop stewards were present, tens of thousands of common workers from all major industrial plants came to demonstrate in Brussels last Friday, many of them for the first time.

Even as this movement is broad, it is also very profound and determined. Before the demonstration, those in power had warned: “You are selfish, you are not concerned about the youth but only about your pre-pension, you are against a pact of solidarity between the generations.” But the 100,000 marchers in Brussels have shown that the real solidarity pact between the generations was taking shape in the streets, in the form of class solidarity.

From the workers in the chemical industry, up to the saleswomen from the supermarkets, and including the metal workers from VW, the message was one and clear: “Don’t touch our pre-pension,” and “Pre-pension at 58 years, not at 60.” Can the government plans to reduce the pre-retirement age be stopped? “We have to stop them, this is really crucial matter. We are exhausted by the infernal work rhythm, the stress, the workload,” said one demonstrator after the other.

Young people spoke to us about their parents, exhausted by their job, wanting to take up their pre-pension in order to safeguard their health. At the same time, the elder marchers were mobilised for jobs for the youth, for their children. Both ways, they showed to be against the ‘war of the generations’ that the government is fomenting. “Why the hell work longer while 140,000 young people are waiting for a job?” was one of the main reasons invoked when asked why people came to demonstrate in Brussels. And many young people told us: “If we accept today the postponement of the pre-retirement age to 60 years, it will be 70 years when it will be us who are eligible.”

The current movement is showing that there certainly exists a clear class opposition between the world of the workers and the world of capital. And the Oct. 28 manifestation has been a milestone for the Belgian working class to show its solidarity and its strength. The working class is already getting organised for the weeks ahead, and will thus contribute to the unity of the workers movement in Europe, united against the imperialist European Union., [email protected]

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