Belgium - ys13.en
JAC Jeunes Anticapitalistes – LCR Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (Young Anti-capitalists – Revolutionary Communist League)
The political backdrop in Belgium
Around 10 million people live in Belgium, with around a million of these in Brussels. The country is a federal state split into 3 regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. These regions all have different economic realities: a high unemployment rate in Wallonia (with the collapse of the coal and steel industry); Flanders’ economy is based on more stable industries (textiles, commercial ports, etc.).
There are seven governments: one for each community (3), region (3) and the federal government. Brussels is the capital of Belgium, of the communities, of Flanders, of Europe…
The current government is a coalition between socialists, liberals and French-speaking and Dutch-speaking Christians.
In Flanders, the NVA (a nationalist, neo-liberal and separatist right-wing party that flirts with the far right) represents 30% of the vote.
In Wallonia, the socialist party acts as the “French-speaking guardian” in opposition to the NVA (cf. vote-catching). The far left is almost invisible. Only the PTB, which is currently emerging as an important force in local elections (Parti du Travail de Belgique [Workers Party of Belgium], which has a Mao-Stalinist stance, with 6,000 members and some local councillors at present).
The Prime Minister is from the PS (Elio Di Rupo) and is from a migrant background, a socialist and gay. This has allowed him to gain the trust of people but his government is implementing austerity without any comeback: unravelling social rights that mainly affect young people, women and workers over the age of 50.
• Early retirement / retirement (plan implemented in January 2013: rise of 6 months/year)
• In 2015: professional life lasts 40 years and retirement can be taken at the age of 60 if people have worked for 42 years.
• Hounding the unemployed / exclusion of tens of thousands of the unemployed
• Gradual decrease of benefits since 2012. This was not the system before.
• Collective sector agreements: changes to the “social dialogue” model, the decision from an employment policy/social security/working conditions standpoint are no longer defined by the employers and employees jointly
• Salaries frozen
• Public services
• Workers/employee statute standardised for the worse
Union model: over 60% of Belgians are trade union members. However, this is a “service” union. It is necessary to be a member to have access to unemployment. The two main unions are the Christian (CSC) and the Socialist (FGTB, originally founded by the forbearer of the Socialist Party – the POB – the Belgian Workers Party). Nowadays, many workers have lost faith in social democracy and are looking for a new kind of politics to the left of the PS and Ecolo.
Rassemblement de Charleroi
Originally, this was part of a call by Daniel Piron (a trade unionist from the FGTB regional HQ in Charleroi Sud Hainaut) on 1st May 2012 for a more left-wing political representation than the PC and Ecolo. The LCR reacted immediately, all radical left-wing organisations supported the movement, as well as many other organisations. They came together a year later in Charleroi. A section of the Christian union, the CNE (National Employees Association, a branch of the CSC) also responded to the call.
At grassroots level, the ultimate aim of this call is a united front of small left-wing parties without a set target date for an electoral programme.
Given the extensive nature of the initiative, the PTB also saw it as meaningful, especially after the Christian union joined the platform.
The LCR sees the conditions as ripe for a deep reorganisation on the left. The specifics of this opportunity will depend above all on the choices the PTB makes in the coming period, i.e. in light of the elections in 2014 (Federal + Regional + European). This means it has to come up with a proposal that reconciles the start of its electoral breakthrough with the historical opportunity of bringing together left-wing forces to effect structural changes in the balance of power between the real left on the one hand and social democracy and Christian democracy on the other.
The JAC (Jeunes AntiCapitalistes)
Our organisation represents youth, students, employees and the unemployed. We want to contribute to organising the youth struggle and promoting anti-capitalist ideas at the heart of this struggle and of society as a whole. We work in political solidarity with the Revolutionary Communist League, the Belgian section of the 4th International. We are based in Brussels. There are fewer members today than at other periods (cf. the sections in Liège and Charleroi a couple of years ago) but they are now better trained and more militant. This is therefore a generally positive step forward.
The JAC were part of the Stop Repression against SACs platform (Communal Administrative Sanctions – repressive measures introduced at municipal level aimed specifically at youth and social movements)
Stop Nuclear Thiange: an annual demonstration to put a stop to nuclear plants which brought together 3,000 people this year in Thianges.
Platform against the Marcourt decree (privatisation, education reform…)
Many conferences on austerity and solutions to overcome it
A conference on the situation in Syria, with Syrian speakers
A demonstration against police repression
A demonstration for the right to abortion
Other specific united actions with other left-wing groups, JOC, FGTB student youth union.