Extraordinary TeleConference of the IMCWP, Contribution of WP of Belgium

12/13/21, 10:40 AM
  • Belgium, Workers' Party of Belgium Extraordinary TeleConference of the IMCWP En Europe Communist and workers' parties

For the unity of the working class
in its fight for social and democratic rights, for the climate, for peace and for socialism

Bert De Belder, Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA), December 2021


‘Divide and rule’ has always been one of the preferred strategies of the bourgeoisie to maintain its domination over the working class. In Belgium and elsewhere, this is to be taken literally: the separatists are gearing for the division of the country in 2024, when we will be facing crucial elections at all levels.

There is a scenario in which the Flemish nationalist N-VA party and the French-speaking Socialist Party would conclude an agreement to further divide the competences between Flanders (the Dutch-speaking north of the country) and Wallonia (the French speaking south) and completely empty the unity of the country.

At the same time, the fascists of Vlaams Belang are on the warpath. Using Trump as a model, they are already talking about 'stolen elections' well in advance of 2024, and are already calling to rebel, including in the streets.

The separatists' project is the project of big business. It is pushed by VOKA, the Flemish big business lobby, which wants to divide social security, divide and weaken the trade unions, attack pensions and sickness benefits, etc. Their dream is a pro-business and authoritarian Flanders, with fewer social rights for workers.

We will not let this happen. It is not for nothing that our 10th Party Congress that we just concluded is called the Unity Congress, and that we have launched a broad, popular campaign #WeAreOne. The good news is that there is hope. In the north, centre and south of the country alike, according to opinion polls, the large majority of people are in favour of the unity of the country. If there is a division in Belgium today, it is between the population on the one hand and the politicians on the other; between the broad working class and the economic and political elites. The working class aims for unity and solidarity.

Working class unity against division and fascisation

Today in Europe, we see the extreme right raising its head: the fascist party Vlaams Belang and several fascist fringe groups in Belgium, and the likes of Zemmour, Le Pen, Baudet, Salvini, Vox, AfD and others elsewhere in Europe. They are trying to organize on a European and world scale, they intend to make Warsaw or Madrid their capital, they want Brazilian fascist president Bolsonaro as one of their figureheads.

As in the 1930s, part of the economic establishment is tempted by the fascist option to divide and oppress the people. In seeking to expand and consolidate their economic power with a stronger political power base, the big monopolies use different strategies. With the subsequent serious crises of recent years – political crisis; economic, financial and social crisis; climate crisis and health crisis – their call is that the executive power (government) be strengthened at the expense of the legislative power (parliament). This is done with all kinds of emergency acts, exception laws and pandemic laws. Social concertation is being cut back, democratic space is being limited, the position of the trade unions is coming under pressure and the right to strike is being restricted.

At the same time, and in the interest of the most reactionary circles of the bourgeoisie, the extreme right tries to cater to the people who turn away disillusioned from the traditional parties. It does not direct that justified anger upwards, to big capital and their political representation, but lets the people direct their anger downwards, towards other working people, the unemployed, migrants, asylum seekers. This is done in a clever way, the wolf hides in a sheep's clothing. All over Europe, the extreme right is pretending to be an anti-establishment movement and is stealing social agenda items from the left. That, too, is nothing new in history. Fascism has always tried to create a mass movement through social, nationalist and racist demagogy.

Racism, sexism, narrow nationalism, anti-communism or the rejection of science are all gateways to this fascisation. We oppose to this the unity and struggles of the working class. And we oppose to this the dynamism and thirst for change of the youth.

For the climate and for peace

Change the system. This is the watchword that is increasingly heard among young people, as we recently saw at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow – where 200 members of the PTB’s youth and student movements RedFox and Comac went to demonstrate, debate and learn.

More and more young people reject the current system where only profit counts and where the two sources of wealth, human labour and nature, are destroyed. The layer of green varnish that the traditional parties tried to apply to their policies in Glasgow can no longer hide the root causes of climate change. The fight for the climate cannot be won without challenging this ‘green capitalism’. But we must also fight against measures and attitudes that amount to ‘climate-elitism’ or ‘punitive ecology’, such as carbon taxes or compulsory shifts to expensive alternative energy sources – too often accompanied by a moralising finger pointed at the working class and the peoples of the South.

Speaking about the North-South divide – or, better, about western imperialism versus the workers, the peoples and the nations of the global South –, this important subject was also identified at our Unity Congress as a major challenge to be taken up. We must not only ensure that the working class does not fall prey to narrow nationalism, but also to a European superpower chauvinism. We observe much opposition to decolonisation and to anti-racism, and this is to a large extent founded on five centuries of colonialism and exploitation of the global South, a dramatic and criminal legacy that we have to fight with determination.

Today, the main thrust of western imperialism, under US leadership, is to prevent any challenge to its weakening position of world dominance. This is the real and only reason behind the new Cold War it is waging and fomenting against China. This new Cold War risks to heat up sooner or later, with imperialism’s war machine NATO and its Asian clones and alliances (such as the Quad and the AUKUS) playing a key role.

NATO continues to strengthen itself and expand its reach, on the eve of its important Madrid Summit in June 2022, where it aims to renew its aggressive strategy. Washington requires NATO allies to increase their military spending. Many economic sectors are suffering in times of the pandemic, but one sector that fares particularly well is the international arms trade. Last year, the 100 largest arms producing companies increased their sales with 1.3%, or with 17% compared to 2015, according to the new annual report of the Swedish SIPRI institute. Take note that the top five arms traders are all US companies. The United States is pressuring the countries of the European Union to adopt a hostile attitude towards China and Chinese investments in Europe.

Through NATO and the European treaties, the European wagon is attached to the US locomotive. But why should Europe slavishly follow Washington in its new cold war, its militarisation, its aggressive alliances? The European Union and European countries could choose to abandon their unilateral alliance with the United States and turn their backs on NATO.

Meanwhile, the European Union is also advancing its own “strategic autonomy” and planning to build a bigger and stronger military force of its own, in order to re-establish itself as a major imperialist power of its own. Because we should nurture no illusions: Europe doesn’t do much better than the US in terms of imperialist and militarist posturing, planning and action. Whether in a transatlantic version with NATO or as a European Union in its own right, the ambition is to conquer more raw materials, markets, supply routes and labour force for the benefit of its own multinationals.

The new cold war against China is a danger to world peace. It risks to militarise whole societies, which will be also at the expense of democratic space for militant trade unions and social movements. Moreover, a cold war swallows up large amounts of money, and what goes to military expenditure cannot go to social expenditure. In short: in war, it is the working class that pays the price for the interests of the ruling class.

In the face of all these major challenges – attacks on social progress and democratic rights, fascisation, climate degeneration, militarisation and war - ultimately only socialism has a fundamental and sustainable answer.

To paraphrase Karl Marx: in order to abolish the idea of capitalism, the idea of communism is quite sufficient ; but it takes actual communist action to abolish actual capitalism. As communist and workers’ parties, we need to develop action on the ground, in many different fields. And we must see to it that in every concrete struggle, action and campaign, we open the windows to the fresh wind of the only societal alternative possible, to a socialism for today and for tomorrow.