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Belgium: National Trade Union Protests.

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Belgium: Unions Protest Against Right-wing Government. 

Tens of thousands of people have responded to a united call from Belgium’s trade unions ( FGTB, ACLVB/ACVCSC ,  ABVV/CGSLB – socialist, Christian democrats and liberals)

together and have gathered at the Gare du Nord in Brussels to express their opposition to the agreement of Michel government.Unions expected 100,000 people in the streets of Brussels. A goal that could be achieved if it is based on the number of special tickets sold by SNCB (National Railway service)  for the occasion: 80,000.

Marc Goblet, secretary general of the FGTB, confides: “We will probably be well over 120,000 people. And if this plan is not enough, we will hold another march in January “

Many of the protesters, from the Flemish speaking north and the French speaking south of the country, have assembled together. A degree of  tension prevailed at the location of the gathering. Some traffic lights were damaged. So far these are isolated incidents.  

The transport system (apart from trains carrying marchers) is severely affected by solidarity strikes Le Soir.

The country’s public radio station, La Première reported this morning that support was strong in the Flemish north, with dockers from Antwerp joining in, and the Flemish Socialist Party directly  participating in the demonstration.

Many ordinary people, interviewed in Brussels, backed the march even if they themselves were unable to join in.

The four main reasons for the protest are the end of indexing salaries and welfare to keep up with inflation, later retirement age (67), enhanced flexibility and a lack of contribution of the very wealthy.

That is, put simply, budget cuts.

These policies are being introduced by the right-wing government Coalition of Flemish nationalists (N-VA), the Flemish Christian democrats (CD&V) and the liberal parties (Open Vld/MR) . Only one member party of the Coalition is Francophone – the liberal  Mouvement Réformateur (MR)

Nationale betoging start chaotisch

Update: Violence at end of March (le Soir)

Incidents broke out in the afternoon. “Several hundred protesters – led by dockers from the port of Antwerp and Ghent, and engineering workers from Liege were joined by hundreds of left-wing youth. They faced the police. Paving stones were launched  and vehicles were torched. The police responded with tear gas and water cannons.” There are reports of serious injuries.

© Belga.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

More: Manifestation nationale: La police charge les derniers manifestants à la Porte de Hal. (Libre Belgique)

Voir l'image sur Twitter

Au moins 100 000 personnes défilent contre les coupes budgétaires en Belgique (le Monde)

Des dizaines de milliers de manifestants ont défilé jeudi 6 novembre sur les boulevards du centre-ville de Bruxelles.

Mashable: Labour Protests Turn Violent.

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Belgium Protest Crowd


Belgium Protest

Written by Andrew Coates

November 6, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Belgium (Wallonie), Far-Left Party at 8,1% of Vote in Opinion Polls.

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Regional Elections take place in Belgium on May the 25th.

La Libre Belgique reports that the new far-left alliance PTB-Go  is at 8,1 (+0,5) of the vote in the French-speaking region of Wallionie according to the latest opinion poll.

The Socialists stand at nearly 30%, which is stable, while the Ecologists (Ecolo) are at 11%. The centre-right, MR is at 22,6% while the centrist CdH is only just above the PTB-Go at 9,4%

In Brussels the PTB-Go- PVDA  (its Dutch name, Partij van de Arbeid van België,)  is at 7,2% just behind the Ecologists  - 8, 0%.

In Flanders the hard-right N-VA (independentists) of Bart de Wever are far in front with 32,9% of voting intentions. The  Socialist Party (Socialistische Partij anders), the equivalent of the Labour Party, only gets 13,6%. The Flemish equivalent of PTB-Go, the PVDA +   is at a high 4,1%.

As the PTB-GO  site says, this is good news for the new alliance, though, it is, they underline, an opinion poll, which may, as in the past, over-estimate their real vote.

The Workers’ Party of Belgium (Dutch Partij van de Arbeid van België, PVDA, French Parti du Travail de Belgique, PTB) has over 8,000 members  (background here (English).

The party, from a Marxist-Leninist origin, is now aligned with the Trotskyist Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR),  Socialistische Arbeiderspartij and the Belgium Communist Party (PC), to form PTB-go! (go – gauche d’ouverture).

It was initially formed in 2012 from an appeal by trade unionists and other activists. Its influence, as can be seen, has grown.

In Brussels smaller parties (including, according to La Libre Belgique,  apparently the Pirate Party) are aligned with this list.

More information on PTB-Go site here.

Left Regrouping in Belgium: PTB- Go.

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Left Regrouping in Belgium. 

On Belgium’s public radio, La Première, this morning (here),

The Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB), the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) and the Communist Party (PC) have united under the symbol PTB-GO! Can we speak of a revolution in the small leftist parties? And is this new coalition a danger to the traditional parties. According to political scientist Jean Faniel is in the union that the radical left could have an impact, particularly in the unions.

The new group, PTB-GO (Parti du travil de Beligique, Gauche d’Ouverture, Belgium Workers’ Party and the Open Left), unites a party from a Marxist-Leninist (‘Maoist’)  background (the PTB) with Trotskyists, aligned to the Fourth International and France’s Nouveau parti anti-capitaliste (NPA). The small Parti Communiste, publishers of the historic Belgium Communist journal, Le Drapeau Rouge, has also joined this alliance of “progressives“.

They will present a list for the next Federal Elections in Belgium on the 26th of May.

There is also news today that a number of public personalities have backed this new alliance - la Libre Belgique.

Commenting, the political scientist, says, the PTB, is a very radical party, “The heir to Maoist political formations of the 70s it has long limped along with a large militant organization . But the  sectarian organisation has gradually changed. In  2000 it altered it main  slogan ‘Make the rich pay’ to ‘People First’, while continuing to defend the oppressed and workers “

The principal message of the new bloc is opposition to the austerity plans to which the country’s Socialists have agreed to, as part of the coalition running the country headed by Socialist Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. 

Is there “la possibilité d’élire un parlementaire de la gauche de gauche”  -the possibility of electing an MP from the left-of-the left?

On the programme the journalists noted that the PTB has not scored beyond 1% in national elections, but that it has steadily grown in municipal and regional ones.

In the local elections of 2012  2012, the PTB increased its representation in both Wallonie and Flanders It went from  15 à 47 local councillors, inlcuding  17 in the region of Antwerp. They got 4 provional councillors.  2at  Liège et 2 and 2 at Antwerp.  Anvers. with about 17 % of the vote  the PTB councillor, at Borgerhout, Zohra Othman, became their first “échevine” - member of the Council ‘Cabinet’. 

The PTB – and thus the new bloc – has attracted union backing from some sections of the socialist trade union federation FGTB (Fédération générale du travail de Belgique - Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond = ABVV).

The Mouvement de Gauche, which is directly inspired by the French Parti de gauche led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is not part of this regroupment.

More details (in English) on the Links (31.12.13).

And on the Socialist Resistance site, “Left Unity Belgian Style“.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 28, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Solidarity with Turkish Protests in Brussels, backed by Yorum.

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Yorum: Revolutionary and Socialist Music.

Brussels, Saturday.

Four hundred protesters, according to organisers,  demonstrated on Saturday evening at the Place du Luxembourg in Brussels to protest against police violence in Turkey.

Muharrem Cengiz Caner Bozkurt from the Turkish music group  Yorum talked about the events  at Taskim Square in Turkey, at Sazz n’Jazz.

Several musicians from Yorum have  participated in demonstrations in Gezi Park, close to Taksim Square in Istanbul.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the withdrawal of police on Saturday afternoon, after two days of police repression. “This action to save the last green island in the ocean of what became concrete Istanbul has turned into a social movement against Erdogan’s policy.”  explained Bahar Kimyongür, a Belgian activist of Turkish origin.

Members of Yorum the  are regularly prosecuted for their alleged link with the Turkish extreme left group DHKP-C. Five members were arrested only this January.

The treatment of Yorum is is an important illustration of the limits of the Turkish Islamist government-state’s ‘liberalism’.

This is from Wikipedia:

Grup Yorum is a Turkish band known for their political song writing.  Grup Yorum (Yorum means interpretation or comment in Turkish) has released twenty albums since 1987. Some of the group’s concerts and albums were banned over the years, and some of the group members were allegedly arrested or tortured] Yorum remains popular and their albums continue to sell well in Turkey and internationally. Yorum has also given concerts in Germany, Austria, Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, and Greece.

Then we have this, “70 journalists in Turkey are currently being prosecuted and kept in jail all over the country.”

We could go on but recommend reading this from Human Rights Watch,

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party government maintained economic growth in 2012 despite a slowdown and has taken a strong focus on developing a leading regional role. However, the government failed to take convincing steps to address the country’s worsening domestic human rights record and democratic deficit.  Prosecutors and courts continue to use terrorism laws to prosecute and prolong the incarceration of thousands of Kurdish political activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists, lawyers, and trade unionists. Free speech and media remain restricted, and there are ongoing serious violations of fair trial rights.

Holland, Republicans Speak as Monarchy Celebrates .

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In Holland Not Everybody Waves Back.

This morning the media is full of the ascension to the Dutch Throne of the new King.

It was suggested this morning  on the Belgium French-speaking radio le Première (which as a neighbouring  country, takes a keen intrest  in this) that opponents of the House of Orange were isolated cranks, even right-wing homophobes (???).

e Christian Science Monitor reports on another side of today jamboree in Holland,

Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orangewill be inaugurated as the new king. It’s expected to be a major event that will be celebrated across the country by a supportive public.

But just a few days ago, some 500 yards away from the Dam Square in central Amsterdam where the abdication and inauguration will take place, a small group of Dutch republicans met to discuss how best to call for the abolition of the country’s 200-year-old monarchy and instate a true republic.

The workshop was organized by the movement #HetIs2013 – Dutch for “It’s 2013″ – which was started in February when a student protester named Joanna was forcibly removed by police from an event in Utrecht that the queen attended.

Joanna had been holding up a sign that read “Away with the monarchy, it’s 2013″ – which the policemen took to be a violation of the Netherlands‘ lese majeste law, which still prohibits insulting the royal family despite the country’s general support of freedom of speech.

Willem-Alexander later said during a TV interview that the policemen had made “a mistake” by removing her.

The plucky Dutch republicans are organised in the Nieuw Republikeins Genootschap.

Wikipedia has an English entry on them.

Their main demand is to reduce the King’s salary and have launched a petition to this end.

With around 1,200 members the republicans are small but determined.

Polls, cited on the Belgium radio, indicate around 10% of the Dutch agree with them.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

New Workers’ Left Emerges in Belgium

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“Nous voulons la rupture avec le PS”

Daniel Piron, of the left-trade union federation, the FGTB*, was on the Belgium Radio station, La Première this morning (Here).

He charged the country’s Socialist Party of participating in “neo-liberal” governments.

La FGTB Charleroi organise samedi avec la CNE-Hainaut un meeting pour créer une “alternative de gauche à la crise capitaliste”. Des formations de la gauche radicale sont aussi invitées, mais il n’est pas question de créer un nouveau parti explique Daniel Piron, secrétaire régional de la FGTB Charleroi/Sud-Hainaut. “Il y a une volonté de travailler ensemble et d’élargir la réflexion aux autres instances syndicales de la FGTB et de la CSC“**.

The FGBT Charleroi is organising a meeting on Saturday with the CNE-Hinaut to “create a left-wing alternative to the capitalist crisis. Organisations of the radical left have been invited, though there is no question of forming a new party, explained Daniel Prion, the regional secretary of the FGBT Charlero/Sud-Hainaut. “There is a will to work together, to deeper our analysis, with other parts of the union structure inside the FGBT and the CSC”.

Daniel Piron added,

le PS et Ecolo “ne sont plus des partis qui relaient les revendications du monde du travail. Ces partis sont intégrés au système.

The Socialist Party and the Greens are “no longer parties which reflect the demands of working people. These parties are part-and-parcel of the system.

Background  information on La Lettre aux syndicalistes Blog  here.

The left groups invited include (see article here),  Le parti de Gauche (aligned with its French counterpart of  Jean-Luc Mélenchon) the  Front des Gauches (alliance of 6 small groups, including Communist Party, and the LCR) , LCR (Fourth International), LRT (Committee for a Workers International CWI) , PTB (Parti du travail de Belgique – Partij van de Arbeid van België – Marxist-Leninist)

* 1,5 Million members.  La Fédération générale du travail de Belgique (FGTB) (Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond = ABVV

** 1,7 million members La Confédération des syndicats chrétiens, ou CS

Written by Andrew Coates

April 26, 2013 at 10:14 am

Gérard Depardieu: Boycott this Tax Traitor!

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Boycott Greedy Gérard!

Gérard Depardieu, one of the best-paid French cinema actors, now lives in Belgium in the village of Néchin, near the French border.

This place, it is said, has all the charms and cultural attractions of a South Essex hamlet.

The Bourgmestre (Mayor), Daniel Senesael, openly admits the new resident is there for financial reasons.

That is, to avoid French taxes and benefit from a more favourable regime that the wealthy (and only them) enjoy in Belgium.

27% of the village’s inhabitants are ‘tax exiles’.

Earlier this year, when he was not pissing himself on planes, Depardieu,  gave his public backing to Nicolas Sarkozy.

At a public rally with the Presidential candidate at Villepinte he said,

“Since my friend Nicolas Sarkozy came to power, I only hear bad things about this man who does nothing but good,”

Libération reports, that the French left has taken a serious dislike to the man once proud of  his working class roots.

“Minister  Benoît Hamon has said that Depardieu has decided to avoid paying his due in a time of economic crisis. That is “anti-patriotic”. “

The PCF has compared him to a miser.

“It’s shameful” says Nathalie Arthaud, of Lutte Ouvrière. “It doesn’t surprise me, when somebody gets millions every year to get tired of paying tax. Meanwhile workers, those on the minimum wage, the unemployed, they have to.” She called for a crack down on tax evasion.

On France-Inter this morning there were strong suggestions that the French state will not take Depardieu’s efforts to avoid giving something back for the money he makes from the country lightly.

They will be watching his every move for ways to get him to pay up.

Meanwhile we support this: Boycott every film Gérard makes!

What of Depardieu’s future?

We imagine him, in his Néchin Mansion.

Dressed in a giant nappy, barely able to contain his girth,  he is  watching DVDs of his past triumphs.

Gérard is eating his tenth Horse steak and washing it down with a pail of wine from his Château de Tigné.

Next to him is  a bucket of chips swimming in mayonnaise.

Sometimes he breaks into lonely sobs.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm