17 IMCWP, Contribution of PTB / PVDA (Worker’s Party of Belgium) [En]

3/11/16 1:43 PM
  • Belgium, Workers' Party of Belgium IMCWP En

Contribution of PTB / PVDA (Worker’s Party of Belgium) [En]

1. The subject of this meeting was at the heart of our last Congress, the "Solidarity Congress". It is an extension of our Renewal Congress in 2008. We present here some essential elements of the new Congress document "Broadening, Uniting, Deepening".

2. Speaking of the deep economic crisis and the havoc it causes to workers and peoples of the world, we reaffirm that "to understand the world of real production and the reasons behind the crisis, one has to go back to Marx’ fundamental analysis. "

The Congress did not only highlight the importance of studying the party documents as well as the basic works of the founders of Marxism. It also adopted a series of practical and organizational measures to implement education programs at seven different levels.

3. The origin of each crisis lies in the contradiction between the social character of production and the private appropriation of its product. Which leads inexorably to crises of overproduction, such as the one that began in the early 70s of last century.

It is the logic of the system that pushes each capitalist to make every effort to capture market shares from its competitors. He is forced to increase production while making it cheaper. Thus wage cuts, increase of the work rhythm, etc. The states, which embody the class interests of big capital, systematically reduce the budgets for the people's welfare, such as education or health, in favour of aid to their companies, such as tax reductions, among others.

However, globally, when all manufacturers and capitalist states do the same, production does increase but purchasing power does not follow and even decreases, because people earn less or become unemployed. More production but less purchasing power: the collision is unavoidable. This contradiction is inherent to capitalism.

4. The crisis could drag on and worsen. The "Global Wealth Report 2015," published a few weeks ago highlights the growing gap between rich and poor. Half of the world's wealth is in the hands of 1% of the population, the poorer half owns only 1%. Democratic and trade union rights are under increasing pressure. The deadly competitive struggle between the most powerful monopolies and their states is causing wars of aggression and intervention, be it in Ukraine, the Middle East or Africa. The logic of the market also continues to exacerbate the climate crisis, whose catastrophic consequences threaten the poorest regions above all.

Under this system it is not the needs of society that are decisive, but the prospect of maximum profit for the capital owners.

A paradigm shift is needed. A socialism of our time becomes not only possible but necessary. That’s the conclusion of the analysis of each axis of the crisis, be it the economic, financial or social crisis, the crisis of democracy, the crisis in international relations or the climate crisis. Society must take ownership of the key sectors. Only a planned economy can take human needs as the decisive criterion. A change of power will be needed so that workers and the vast majority of the people can decide for themselves about the future of society.

Preparing the workers for this perspective is the very meaning of the daily work of our party.

5. The PTB is, first of all, the party of the working class, which is the only fundamental force in the struggle for social reforms and for a change of society.

[1] The working class consists of all the people who have work in order to earn a wage. It includes different layers.

For strategical reasons, we focus first of all on the large industrial production lines and key sectors of the economy. Production is the basis of society. Workers in the manufacturing industry form the heart of the broad working class. Not only are these large productive sectors bastions of experience and struggle, but they are also of great economic importance. It is there, at the heart of the economy, that we want to be active.

History teaches us that it is often in large industrial production facilities and in key economic sectors that the labour movement is the most advanced in terms of organization and struggle.

This is where most people work. It is where the workers are the most trained, organized and disciplined by production. It is where workers have extensive knowledge of modern production and planning techniques. It is also where there is often a tradition of struggle. These are all reasons why a labour movement based in large production lines and key sectors is often best able to draw the other strata of the working class in the struggle for liberation, and for a society without exploitation.

We saw this confirmed by the general strike movements at the end of 2014 and again during the national trade union rally of the 7th of October this year.

[2] In recent years, our party made progress in creating strong chapters. The number of our chapters in the labour force has increased by 150% over the last five years. The total number of party members working in companies grew by 75 %.

The progress of our chapters in the workplace rests on three pillars of our Party work there: (1) the production of a larger number of analyses and studies adapted to a working class readership; (2) a better collaboration with the trade unions; and (3) more attention, support and investment from the Party leadership.

[3] The results are positive, in contrast with the notion that it would no longer be possible for the party to grow stronger in the world of labour. Nevertheless, we must remain realistic: Right wing forces still have great influence in companies. We are still far from being able to make significant and decisive contributions to the development of the social struggle in the most important enterprises and sectors. Compared to the needs and the overall growth of the party in recent years, the growth of our members and party chapters in companies remains inadequate. Growth is faster and more spontaneous at the neighbourhood and the local level. The first challenge therefore remains, how can we transform dozens of large production lines in the manufacturing industry and key sectors into real bastions of social struggle? How can we strengthen the party there?

6. Secondly, we want to develop political work in all layers of the working population, including among the workers in services, health and home care, education, among the civil servants, the white collar workers and the unemployed. This is a very diverse group. We therefore need to diversify our action and our message. We also want to pay special attention to the youth, to women and to immigrant workers, the three groups most affected by the crisis.

7. Tomorrow's world, socialism, will not fall from the sky. It will be the result of a long period of conflict between the class of capital owners and the working class. Finally the working class will take hold of the power, at the expense of the propertied class.

History teaches us that the transition from one society to another is only possible if two conditions are met.

First, the situation must be ripe. This happens when the propertied class is seriously divided and is no longer able to rule as before, while major parts of the population can no longer tolerate its rule, while the people can no longer live as before, and massively move into action.

Secondly, the working class must be prepared. In a situation of major crisis, the working class has to be sufficiently organized: in people's committees, trade unions, neighbourhood councils, mass organizations (of women, youth,...). And it has to be sufficiently conscious, in order to be able to realize the transition to socialism. This is the central task of the party. It must be able to show a patient, long-term work of conscientisation, organization and mobilization of people.

In today's Europe, we are still a long way from fulfilling those objective and subjective conditions

8. Because we are convinced that another society is necessary and also possible we strive to lead the fight for radical social, democratic and ecological reforms and we help the workers to obtain even small victories.

Our call is not: “We will solve it for you”, but “Take your life in your own hands. Organize, mobilize, become conscious!” Our role as a party is to help in organizing, mobilizing and conscienticizing. It is the people themselves, in their offices and schools, in the neighbourhoods and the workplaces, who will move and be active for bigger or smaller changes. Such concrete changes are needed to improve living and working conditions. At the same time, the fight to obtain those changes is in itself a « school » to discover the force of collective action and to learn how to give a political orientation.

9. The founders of scientific socialism have repeatedly reiterated that the struggle for socialism is inseparable from the fierce struggle for reforms and improvements in all fields. In his “Letter to the Secretary of the Socialist Propaganda League” Lenin for instance refuted the idea that his party, I quote, “had placed too great emphasis upon so-called ‘Immediate Demands’, and that thereby socialism can be diluted. We say and we prove that all parties except the working-class revolutionary Party, are hypocrites when they speak about reforms. We try to help the working class to get the smallest possible but real improvement (economic & political) in their situation…” . (End quote).

He explains that what distinguishes us from the reformists is not that they would fight for reforms while we would only be interested in changing the system.

The reformists spread the idea that the present system can be transformed into a stable social, democratic and peaceful system. They do not put into question the capitalist system. To the contrary, they impose on the workers what this system accepts as realistic. Together with Bernstein they say: do not “kill the goose that lays golden eggs” .

Our Congress reaffirms that “Every struggle for social and democratic improvements can take two different roads: either it reinforces the system and the dictatorship of the monopolies, or it manages to make large groups of people rise up, equipped with a new vision and energy. That way, they will reject the idea that the contemporary world is the only one possible. They will become able to create a better world.

We are moving towards a time when more and more people will turn their anger into action and organize new resistance movements. The needs of people and of their planet will be the starting points of these resistance movements, of their renewal and creativity. There will be a growing sentiment that such an approach conflicts in a thousand and one ways with the current capitalist society and that another society needs to emerge. We need to nourish this sentiment, provide arguments in its favour, support, develop, and organize it….

The struggle for deep social, democratic and ecological reforms relates to the struggle for a society without exploitation of man-by-man and without destruction of nature. By taking actions for social, ecological and democratic renewal, we also struggle to strengthen the position, organizational strength and striking power of the working class. No major reform can occur without a broad and lengthy struggle. Everything that the labour movement achieved, it got by developing its own forces. This means organizing, taking actions and building power relationships.”

10. The European Union – and not the United States – has been the region most affected by the financial crash of 2008 and the underlying economic crisis. This had a profound impact on European unification. It brought the EU close to a breaking point. This possibility still exists. But the European establishment took advantage of the situation to carry out a covert institutional coup and to greatly expand the power of the European Council and the European Commission towards the creation of a supranational federal state apparatus.

The European Union floods us on a near daily basis with unpalatable laws, regulations and measures. From its inception, the European Union was a pet project of the continent’s big capital and major captains of industry to face down competition from the United States and Japan. EU legislation reflects the interests of this class, and it shows at the social, democratic, ecological, cultural and international levels. There is, in terms of class character, no qualitative difference between the European supranational State being built and individual Member States.

We struggle for social progress, democratic rights, social ecology, a culture of openness, international solidarity and for anti-imperialist politics, first in the framework of the current national States, in order to change the balance of forces within each country and to create in these countries ‘locomotives of the struggle’ for the whole continent. However, there is also a need for continent-wide analysis, as governments and capitalists have been doing for a long time. The crisis and the EU austerity measures give rise throughout the continent to social movements for a different policy, for a better future. But all too often these movements remain isolated in their resistance, while their opponents speak with a single, European and neo-liberal voice. We want to contribute to a large number of European parties and organizations collectively putting forward social and democratic demands and campaigns. The climate change issue; the attacks of the EU against governments that want to go their own way; the struggle for public services; the policies regarding refugees – we must intervene in these European policy debates. We will not let action on these issues in the hands of those who would have people believe that the EU can be reformed and become a social and progressive force, nor to those who propose to withdraw to their own nation-state as alternative to European cooperation and solidarity.