Contribution of WP of Belgium [En]
“Defending workers' rights, opposing capitalism and militarism, building forces for socialism”
We want to thank the Communist Party of Vietnam for organizing the 18th IMCWP, for their warm welcome and for the perfect conditions that we can work in.
1. I'll give in 7 minutes some insides about the way the PTB is trying to develop the class struggle in Belgium via some concrete political struggles. All this in a context wherein the capitalist crisis is expanding and imperialist wars and acts of terrorism continue to put at risk the lives of people around the world.
Defending workers' rights
2. Two weeks ago, the Belgian government finished the state budget. As in many countries it's a document that shows clearly that the government is tied to the interest of the capitalist class. To give just a limited overview of the decisions taken: the wages will be blocked for the 10 coming years, the 38 hour working week can be stretched to a 45 hours week in several sectors, the obligation to work an extra 100 hours a year overtime can be imposed by the employers.
3. Next to that, working at night will be generalized in e-commerce without any collective bargaining, € 1,3 billion will be cut in the social security system and health insurance, the pension age will go up and pensions will be lowered in several sectors. Using the terror attacks in Brussels as an excuse, the government imposes also it's anti-democratic security agenda.
4. On the other hand the existing privileges of shareholders and financial corporations don't change a bit. Last year the 50 biggest companies payed an average tax on profit of 2,7% in stead of the legal 33,99%. In Belgium it stays very easy and cheap to fire workers. To illustrate, in September 2016 only, Caterpillar (industrial gear), ING (bank), Douwe Egberts (coffee), AXA (insurance) and some other companies announced closures, relocations and restructuring plans. As a consequence, more then 10.000 workers and their families risk to end up in poverty. This shows you how violent capitalism is.
5. Since 2008 the structural crisis of overproduction is deepening and spreading further every day. The EU framework of austerity can in no possible way get us out of the crisis. The working class is getting poorer and a growing part of the wealth they produce goes directly to the bank accounts of shareholders.
6. The objective situation is changing quickly and the PTB is doing all its best to help to build an organized answer to these challenges, side by side with the trade unions and social movements. To defend the workers' and peoples rights and to be able to put offensive demands on the table, the unity of the working class in our country is essential. This implies a unity between the unions with different political background, unity between unions in the private and public sectors, among unions in the different regions in our country and between the organized working class and the social movements. This orientation we defend during demonstrations, picket-line visits and media performances. At the same time we challenge people to join the actions to build a large movement against the austerity measures imposed on them.
Opposing militarism and NATO
7. Belgium is hosting the political and military headquarters of NATO. For the Belgian government NATO is “central in Belgium's efforts for peace”. Belgium is active in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. It serves the interests of US imperialism but is also actively participating in the “Common Security and Defense Policy” of the European Union and the implementation of the EU battle-groups. The United Nations comes third in line only. The control of energy supplies, transportation lines and markets to invest in to keep profits high, are the main objective of their military spending. And spending is what Belgium is planning to do.
8. Last week the government decided to invest in the coming 14 years €9.400.000.000 in new military equipment. This decision is in line with the NATO demand to allocate 2% of the Gross National Product to military spending. The biggest part of this amount will go to the renewal of the F16 fighter jets. These investments will engage Belgium for years to come in the NATO nuclear-war-machine. It will undermine the state budget for many years to come.
9. This situation creates big challenges for the peace movement in Belgium while the era of humanitarian interventions has an important ideological influence among progressive forces.
10. At the same time the combination of austerity measures and the investment in military equipment is an opportunity to mend a new alliance between the peace movement and the working class. Without this alliance it will not be possible to push back the government decisions, leave alone to develop a peace policy. The party, as a member of the peace movement, tries to argue in this direction and to connect both struggles together.
11. In 2017 special attention will go the NATO summit that will take place in Belgium. The peace movement is working hard to unify all forces against NATO in Belgium and abroad, in order to debunk the war agenda of NATO and its member states.
Blocking trade agreements
12. For several years a Europe-wide network is active against the signing of the free trade agreements CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada) and TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – between the EU and the US). In Belgium the popular network #StopTTIP #StopCETA is composed of unions, social movements, peasant organizations, women and youth organizations and NGO's.
13. Both agreements help to reinforce the position of the EU, the US and Canada on the world market in competition with Japan and the emerging countries. The agreements aim to break down trade barriers that are standing in the way of profit maximization. Limitations related to workers' protection, health security, environment protection ... are targeted. The Investment Court System (ICS) will privilege corporate claims against governments that protect peoples' rights, if these rights stand in the way of corporate interests.
14. The proposed agreement is another tool to secure profit for the capital class. That's why the PTB is actively participating in the peoples' movements. We defend the complete rejection of the agreement and don't want to leave the space to the tendencies that only want to adapt some points in the agreement to secure the core of it.
15. For the moment it's not clear if the Walloon government will stand its ground. When a small region as Wallonia blocks a 500 million people wide trade agreement, a lot of pressure is exercised to review its positions. Several (former) EU commissioners, Canadian ministers, the Belgian federal government and Belgian employers all push for a signature. It shows that the struggle against the federal government and the EU go hand in hand because both are institutions in the interest of big capital.
16. We participated actively in the mass demonstrations, published several articles, we are writing a book, declared our solidarity festival ManiFiesta CETA free, introduced resolutions in municipalities to make them CETA free and intervened actively in the different parliaments. Because of this it is harder for the social-democratic head of the Walloon government to give in to easy. He is afraid our party would grow further.
I want to add here the news that came in today. Although the popular movement in all its diversity put in a very good struggle, the Walloon government decided to sign the CETA-agreement after some non binding remarks were listed in a letter added to the agreement.
Building forces for real change, socialism
17. Our growing visibility in the media because of the first 8 parliament members (2 federal, 6 regional) we have ever, creates big expectations within a growing group among the working class. It is an important challenge to our representatives not to loose contact with the reality of the working people while in parliament. Street-council-street is the principle applied by them. They bring the struggles of the working people in parliament and go back to the people after the debate to inform them. Applying strict financial rules is another means to keep checks and balances right. All cadres and parliament members live with an average workers wage. This is much appreciated by the working class. As we tend to say, “If you don't live as you think, you start to think as you live”.
18. Our presence in parliament gives us an extra tool to reach out to many people and to get them involved in the popular movements that struggle for their rights. It's only through the experience of struggle that the masses learn about the real character of the system that has nothing to offer them. In all these struggles it's the parties first task to build its own strength via a process of sensitizing, organizing and mobilizing the many workers, women en youth we fight together with.
19. We have to take every opportunity to learn from the working class. But we also have to educate them that our history is build primarily through social struggle. In all the struggles the working class is waging, our party is active and tries to bring the struggles together for a real change of society, for socialism.
Thank you for your attention.