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Hello Comrade! John Prescott Speaks to his old Mates on Labour Election.

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John Prescott: Comrade.

 

The Tendance, old liquidationist Pabloites as we are, has always had a soft spot for John Prescott.

There’s that time he phoned me up – late, but obviously during House of Commons Bar opening times – and we had a chat, about this and that.

 He struck me, as he does most labour movement people we know him, as a genuine man of the left, one of ‘us’.

 Marginalised, and patronised by Blair, treated as a bleeding idiot, he kept his corner.

 He did his best against the privateers running down the transport of this country, stuck up for the environment, was none too clever about Council Housing, and was – we now know – capable of arguing against the Iraq War.

 He even went to Ruskin, like my dad.

 Though my dad didn’t end up in the House of Lords.

 Today I got an E-Mail from John, obviously personally addressed, to my good self.

Hello comrade! (We can still say that can’t we?).

I’m going to break the habit of a lifetime and be brief.

This leadership election is nearly over, and it looks like it’s down to a choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham.

I was glad I encouraged MPs to nominate Jeremy to get him into this race because we really needed a debate on Labour’s future.

And what a debate it’s been! People are flocking to meetings, our number of members and supporters has tripled and there’s a buzz about Labour again.

But now you need to decide who’s the best person to lead us back to power in 2020.

And for me, that person is Andy Burnham.

From progressive renationalisation of our railways to integrating social care into our NHS, Andy has the ideas, experience and passion to unite this party and put our traditional values in a modern setting.

We need a leader who won’t just lead protests ON Downing Street. Andy’s the best candidate to march us back INTO Downing Street.

Because if we don’t choose a leader who can win in 2020, we’ll give the Tory’s another five years of misrule to hit the poor and dismantle everything we achieved in Government.

So if you haven’t yet, please vote for Andy today.

The future of our country and our party depends on it.

And you’ll make me happy too!

JP

Today Andy Burnham has made a final appeal to voters in the Labour Party election (Independent).

I know you feel like we we’ve been dancing to the tune of the Conservative Party for too long. It’s no wonder people think we’re all the same when they can’t see the difference between us and the Tories on key issues like education and social security.

You want a bolder, more principled Labour Party. And you want us to be clearer about where we oppose the Tories. So here are five key commitments I will make if you elect me leader.

1. Housing

I will oppose the extension of right-to-buy to housing associations. Right-to-buy has created a dysfunctional housing market that doesn’t work for people anymore. Instead we should be championing policies such as ‘rent to own’ and allow councils to borrow money councils so they can build more homes.

2. Education

I will oppose the Tories’ latest damaging changes to our education system. I will stand up for comprehensive education against the enforced academisation of schools. The values of comprehensive education should be as intrinsic to our party as the values of the NHS.

3. Trade unions

I will fight against the Conservative campaign to demonise the trades unions. I will defend the ability of the unions to defend Britain’s workers. I will lead outright opposition to the cynical Trade Union Bill and will be a proud defender of the Labour movement.

4. Welfare

I will lead the opposition to the Welfare Bill. I am proud of what the last Labour Government did to lift children and disabled people from poverty and to help low paid workers with tax credits. The Welfare Bill will move the clock backwards and unfairly punish disabled people.

5. Elections

I will win the 2020 election general election. The polls have shown that, of all the candidates standing to be leader, I am best placed to win for Labour. I won’t just take the Tories on, I’ll kick them out of government.

So under my leadership we will fight the next election on a radical manifesto, with bold ideas such as integrating the NHS and social care, and renationalising the railways. I will set out exactly how we will pay for each policy, leaving no doubt in people’s minds that we are a principled Labour Party, ready for government.

To the thousands of people still undecided on how to vote, I say very clearly: don’t give up on wanting to see big changes, but don’t give up on winning either. The stakes for our party and the country couldn’t be higher.

I am sorry not to make my old mucker John happy.

I voted Jeremy Corbyn: the best anti-austerity candidate, and somebody with a solid socialist background and policies.

But I put Andy Burnham as my second preference.

John is obviously not planning to join the Kendall Resistance, and certainly does not share Yvette Cooper’s dislike of ‘boys’ toys’ like trains and cars.

I hope that Corbyn and Burnham can work together.

More…. Andy Burnham makes a pitch for Labour’s leftwing vote (Guardian)

Written by Andrew Coates

September 1, 2015 at 11:52 am

Labour Party Leader Election and French Socialist Party ‘Primary’

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Hysteria in UK at Labour Party Leadership Open Election. 

Such is the cultural cringe of the British media towards the USA that journalists have restored to comparing the Labour Party leadership election to the American Democrat primaries.

The Guardian explains Corbyn to an ‘international’ (that us, US) audience by saying that, “Like Bernie Sanders in the US Corbyn is a reminder that voters today seem to crave authenticity and a challenge to to the status quo – even if, in the final analysis, that may not necessarily be an electable one.”

But there is a comparison to a political party a lot nearer to home, and, both culturally and politically, far closer to the British left than the American Democrats: the French Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste).

Looking at the PS  even more important than that the French Socialists  held their own first “open” elections to decide on its leader in 2011. 

The 2011 French Socialist Party presidential primary was the first open primary (primaires citoyennes) of the French Socialist Party and Radical Party of the Left for selecting their candidate for the 2012 presidential election. The filing deadline for primary nomination papers was fixed at 13 July 2011 and six candidates competed in the first round of the vote. On election day, 9 October 2011, no candidate won 50 percent of the vote, and the two candidates with the most votes contested a runoff election on 16 October 2011: François Hollande won the primary, defeating Martine Aubry.

To participate you had to:

  • be registered in the French electoral lists before 31 December 2010 (or for French persons under 18: be 18 at the time of the 2012 presidential election, or be a member of Socialist Party (PS), Radical Party of the Left (PRG), Young Socialist Movement (MJS), or Young Radicals of the Left (JRG); foreigners will be able to vote if they are members of PS, PRG, MJS, or JRG);
  • pay a contribution of minimum €1;
  • sign a charter pledging to the values of the Left: “freedom, equality, fraternity, secularism, justice, solidarity and progress”

 

Around 2,700,000 voters participated in the first round, and  2,900,000 voters in the second.

Results of first round:

 Summary of the 8–9 and 15–16 October 2011 French Socialist Party presidential primary
Candidates Parties 1st round 2nd round
Votes  % Votes  %
François Hollande Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 1,038,207 39.17% 1,607,268 56.57%
Martine Aubry Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 806,189 30.42% 1,233,899 43.43%
Arnaud Montebourg Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 455,609 17.19%
Ségolène Royal Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 184,096 6.95%
Manuel Valls Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 149,103 5.63%
Jean-Michel Baylet Radical Party of the Left (Parti Radical de Gauche) PRG 17,055 0.64%
Total 2,650,259 100.00% 2,860,157 100.00%

About the only incident that sticks in the mind is that Martine Aubry accused the media of favouring François Hollande (More details here).

Nobody, to my recollection had a wobbly about the possibility of “infiltration” by the ‘hard left’ or right-wing.

This would indeed be something of a joke given that the present General Secretary of the Parti Socialiste, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, is a former cadre of one the hardest of hardest Trotskyist groups, the ‘Lambertists’.

The only real surprise was that Arnaud Montebourg, the left-wing candidate, and author of  Votez pour la démondialisation ! (an anti-economic liberal vision of globalisation, aimed at controlling finance), and a supporter of a new, radically democratic, ‘6th republic’, came from roughly nowhere to get 17,9%.

At the time Progress supporter Will Straw observed (Left Foot Forward. 2011)

 The French Socialist Party’s presidential primaries point the way ahead for British political parties, to the great benefit our democracy

The issue of primaries was discussed in a Progress fringe at Labour party conference. David Lammy, Jessica Asato and I spoke in favour with Luke Akehurst (and a number of people in the audience) expressing reservations.

Key points for the case against included concerns about the cost and whether primaries would actually re-engage voters in the democratic process. The Socialist Party’s (PS) experiment with primaries to select their candidate for President has given the clearest possible response.

On Comment is Free, political commentator, Agnes Poirer, explained that five million people had watched the final debate last Wednesday and wrote:

“It’s called primaries fever. It’s taking place all over France and should last another week. Although, in theory, only affecting the people of the left, even the right has showed early symptoms…

If a million people vote today, it will be a success for democracy. A bigger turnout would give an incredible legitimacy to the left’s candidate.”

In the end, 2.5 million people took part each paying a minimum of €1. In total, I’m told by a PS insider that the party collected between €3.2 million and €3.7 million – allowing for a significant profit once costs are taken into consideration.

Since no candidate took 50 per cent of the vote, there will be a run off this coming Sunday between François Hollande, who came first with 39 per cent, and Martine Aubrey, who secured 31 per cent. Ultimately the Socialists will end up with a significant war chest to fight President Sarkozy at the next election.

Even more significantly, the PS collected contact details for more than 1 million people making it far easier to mobilise large numbers of volunteers for the campaign.

As Daniel Hannan MEP understands:

“The eventual winner… will begin with a large corpus of emotionally committed supporters.”

The Conservative party, of course, experimented with primaries to select candidates like Sarah Wollaston in Totnes. Her independence has made them increasingly reluctant to fulfil the coalition programme commitment to hold 200 primaries ahead of the next general election. But democracy campaigners should hold them to it and push for primaries for the mayoral elections and for the selection of the elected police commissioners.

I would add that the Montebourg surge indicated that the best laid plans of France’s Progress types could come undone.

Unfortunately, despite only getting 5,63% of the vote, the lone French Blairite, Manuel Valls, is now Prime Minister!

If Progress seems to have conveniently forgotten its own recent past there is plenty more to think about here:

 wrote in 2011. (Institute for Government)

A novel experiment in democratic participation is under way on the other side of the Channel. Following recent rule changes, the French Socialist Party (PS) has offered all registered voters the chance to vote on the party’s candidate to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s presidential poll.

The first round of these new primaires citoyennes (citizen’s primary election) took place this past Sunday, with around 2.5 million people participating. The top two candidates – Francois Hollande and Martine Aubry – now go forward to a second, decisive round next week.

This innovation comes at a time when the Labour Party has itself just taken a small step towards opening its own selection procedures to the public. The next time Labour selects a new leader or deputy, ‘registered supporters’ will be entitled to take part, although the share of the electoral college allocated to this group will be a measly 3%, perhaps rising to 10% later.

What could be drawn from this process? Paun observed,

Read the rest of this entry »

Orthodox Trotskyism on the “Psuedo-Left” and Jeremy Corbyn

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Trotskyism vs. Revisionism Volume 7: The Fourth International and the Renegade Wohlforth

Standing Firm Against Pseudo-Left. 

While some of the left of Labour groups welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, and indeed attempt to bathe in its glory, including even the so-called ‘hard’ Workers Power now practicing entryism in Channel Four’s Economic Department (Paul Mason), of there remain Trotskyists who have not forgotten the ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUCVWXYZ of the Transitional Programme.

 

Much of the pseudo-left have indeed rallied to Corbyn’s side. Far from being a “hard left” plot to destroy the party, however, their concern is to preserve Labour’s role as the main political opposition to socialism and revolution. The Communist Party of Great Britain has long maintained the fiction that Labour is a “workers’ party” to this end, while the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition was formed as an electoral bloc between sections of the trade union bureaucracy and the pseudo-left as a means of preventing a political rebellion against Labour.

This also accounts for the backing that Corbyn has won from Unite, Britain’s largest union, along with several other unions. The greatest fear of the trade union bureaucracy is that Labour’s too obvious adoption of Tory policies will open the way for the emergence of a new, socialist, workers’ party.

But rather than proving Labour’s continued relevance to workers and youth, Corbyn’s candidacy has instead laid bare just how sclerotic, moribund and right-wing the party is. Faced with the possibility that it may be required to adopt an oppositional pose, it has gone into meltdown.

Writes Julie Hyland  on the esteemed organ of the International Committee of the Fourth International, The World Socialist Web Site.

The British section of the ICFI, the Socialist Equality Party, stood 2 candidates in the 2015 General election:  Katie Rhodes in Glasgow Central and David O’Sullivan in Holborn and St. Pancras.

They resolutely criticised the left wing alliance that also presented candidates in the election, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, and the left group, Socialist Unity.

……Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Left Unity. Representing better-off layers of the upper-middle class, these pseudo-left tendencies see the crisis only as an opportunity to further their own careers and gain lucrative posts in the trade union bureaucracy and the state apparatus.

More here.

Katie Rhodes scored  58 votes (0.1%) and David O’Sullivan obtained 100 (0,2%).

Their rivals, TUSC, stood 135 General Election candidates and won 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote.

Meanwhile…is this what the Times has become these days?

Oh our aching sides!

Anti-Austerity Protests and New Movements in Belgium.

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Crédit photo<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
: Alexandre Demarbre<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
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En front commun, les syndicats entendent protester contre les mesures du gouvernement Michel.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

Protests against Austerity – supported by all the trade union federations – are taking place in Belgium today.

They are demonstrating against the latest round of cutbacks of the Michel Coalition government (a centre-right cabinet backed by the hard-right Flemish nationalists of Bart de Wever).

On the spot news here (in French).

Tout autre chose/Hart boven Hart (Another thing Completely/ Heart Over Heart) – a citizens’ movement partly inspired by Podemos – took to the streets yesterday in Brussels for a ‘parade’.

The parade consisted of ten blocs, each representing the theme “Any other horizon”.  These were “common goods  by and for all,” “tax justice”, “a place for every generation,” “solidarity against poverty”, “dignified work”, “a nurturing environment,” “value our diversity “,” ecology:  it makes sense, “citizens without frontiers “and” dare democracy! “. Podemos, MOC (Mouvement Ouvrier Chrétien) and sp.a. (socialisten en progressieven anders, a small left split from the Flemish Socialist Partyjoined with a float  “against capitalism” during the parade. Pro-Palestinian protesters, too, decided to make their voices heard during this event.

Reports Le Soir.

17 000 personnes ont bravé la météo pour la parade Tout Autre Chose  Russia Today says,

Rainy weather in Brussels did not stop tens of thousands of people from protesting against austerity measures introduced by the new Belgian government. Attendance estimates from police and organisers differed sixfold.

The rally saw somewhere between 17,000 and 20,000 people on Sunday, RTFB broadcaster reported, citing police estimates. Meanwhile, march organisers claimed that up to 120,000 people participated.

Image from HART BOVEN HARD Facebook page Some are wondering if Belgium is about to experience a Podemos type movement.

TUC Welfare Conference: Fight for a Decent Benefit System!

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Photo: 

TUC: Welfare Conference, called by the TUC Consultative Committee for Unemployed Workers’ Centres.

Up to a hundred activists came to the Welfare Conference, held on Friday in Congress House. As the introductory speakers made plain the Liberal-Conservative Coalition, assisted by large sections of the media, have launched a frontal assault ion the basic principles of an equitable benefit system.  Instead of helping people in need they have attacked the most vulnerable.

Eleanor Firman (Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC and UNITE) illustrated what this has meant on the ground. As a result of cuts in housing benefit and the bedroom tax their group in Waltham Forest had had to defend those facing eviction.

She talked of how the Work Capability Assessment targeted disabled people. Those not meeting the government’s criteria – enforced through a flawed system run by private companies (ATOS and now Maximus), could expect to be treated with “harshness”, to the point of being left destitute. This was only one example of how welfare ‘reform’ was making people’s lives a misery. The answer was to challenge the DWP with the help of bodies like UNITE Community and, where they still exist, Law Centres.

Workshops covering benefit sanctions, the basis of the benefit system, unpaid work, and equality were held.

In the one I attended, on Sanctions, participants concentrated less on particular stories of injustice than on the nature of the arbitrary regime. We tried to bring together a rejection of all sanctions with proposals for real social security for all.  Disabled needed to be assessed not by private companies and computerised questionnaires, a source of many sanctions, but by clinical criteria, – the work of GPs. The power of ‘work coaches’ to decide to withdraw benefits – whether they should eat or have a home – should be removed.

There were fruitful discussions throughout the day. Groups talked through proposals for a universal minimum income, others investigated the socialisation of basic needs, “universal goods in kind’, proposed by the Greek party, Syriza. A group of us looked into the use of Blogging, Twitter and other social media to spread an alternative message to the media hate campaigns.

Others planned activities on Monday the 2nd of March Day of Action against Maximus and the 19th of March Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions. Further protests against benefit sanctions are planned to coincide with May Day.

Stop Sanctions: A Priority.

In the afternoon Richard Exell, the TUC’s senior Policy Officer on these issues, spoke. He cast aside his prepared notes. Instead he talked of how public opinion had been swayed behind the Coalition’s polices. Cautious about demanding an end to all sanctions Richard observed, however, that the way they had left hundreds of thousands destitute may help to alter popular attitudes. The children of claimants, through no ‘fault’ of their own, were left hungry and dependent on food banks and charity. Now they will affect those in low-paid work who received benefits. There was a need to develop alternatives to this and to Universal Credit.

Paula from DPAC stated that the introduction of the new system, with its new complicated ‘claimants’ commitment’ spelled ‘Armageddon’ for those reliant on benefits.

A set of principles and demands – drawing on the Centres’ Charter for the Unemployed is being drawn up. It will include demands for a decent level of benefits, an end to sanctions, and opposition to all forms of workfare – to make volunteering really ‘voluntary’ – a higher minimum wage, rent controls, and decent jobs for all.

These will be put into a coherent form at a further meeting on the 25th of March. The finished programme will be designed to take into union bodies and wider afield.

In a speech that touched on the way activists can change government and party (Labour) policy Lynne Groves drew on the way the Bedroom Tax had been challenged, and cuts in social services opposed. Activists and the wider public were urged to get involved in UNITE Community Branches, open to all.

At the end of the meeting Kevin Flynn noted the seriousness and richness of the debates that had taken placed. Amongst other points he welcomed the “historic formation of the National Union of Bloggers”.

The breadth and depth of the experiences of those attending this meeting – about 100 strong – were striking. The words ‘the labour movement’ really came to life. There was strong participation of the disabled, young people, women, and black people. Those attending came from a wide variety of work backgrounds: from heavy industry, clerical and service work, to the voluntary sector. Delegates attended from all over the country, from Newcastle, Liverpool to the West Country and even South London.

It was, as always, a real pleasure to hear Northern accents. The discussions were more than good-natured and creative. Everybody had something to contribute. It was, in short, bloody great!

 

Belgian General Strike Brings Country to a Halt.

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Socialist Party Leader Elio Di Rupo Backs Strikers.

Today the police in Belgium are observing a work-to-rule (grève du zèle).

The successful General Strike on Monday saw the country’s transport system grind to a halt, almost all public services closed, and workers in the private sector joined the protests.The unions also mobilised road Hauliers to bloc access to major cities.

There were a small number of clashes between strikers and scabs.

The left has described the strike as “historic”.

The International Monetary Fund has, however, just stated that the “reforms” launched the Belgian right-centred Coalition go in the “right direction” (La Libre Belgique).

Hard-right Bart de Weever, of the N-VA (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie)which advocates the Scottish nationalist style  break-up of the state, and who is seen by many as the éminence grise of the government, denounced the strike as “political”.

There were tense moments when Trade Unionists protested outside the Brussels  headquarters of the N-VA shouting, “« N-VA, casse-toi, la Belgique n’est pas à toi », N-VA, Piss off! You don’t own Belgium!”

Further action is planned for mid-January.

At present negotiations are underway. Centre-right  Coalition Minister, Willy Borsus (MR – Mouvement réformateur ) has already dismissed the day of action saying that the turn-out was “modest” ( “La mobilisation fut modeste” ) Le Soir 

The Morning Star carries a good report.

BELGIAN trade unions capped a month of action against government austerity policies with a general strike today that paralysed air and rail traffic and halted businesses across the country.

The strike targeted measures by the nation’s right-of-centre government to cut into employees’ income, extend working hours and restrict social services.

The huge action had an immediate international impact since Brussels airport, a busy hub with connections throughout Europe and beyond, had no traffic whatsoever.

Airport spokeswoman Florence Muls said some 600 flights have been cancelled, affecting more than 50,000 passengers.

Flights to and from Belgium were grounded from late on Sunday as air traffic controllers joined the strike for the second Monday this month.

The series of trade union actions, which have been the toughest in years, started last month with a demonstration in the capital that drew more than 150,000 protesters.

The government led by new Prime Minister Charles Michel, who was sworn in two months ago, plans to cut expenditure by €11bn (£8.7bn) during the next five years.

The unions are opposing a government decision to scrap a cost-of-living wage rise next year. Belgian law currently mandates that wages rise at the same pace as inflation.

The unions are also protesting against public-sector cutbacks and plans to increase the retirement age.

The 24-hour strike was the largest to have taken place in Belgium for many years.

As well as the transport closures, it forced government offices and schools to close and the country’s ports were blockaded.

The Belgian government has claimed that it must operate its cuts strategy in order to stay within EU debt limits.

But the European Transport Workers’ Federation disagreed and welcomed the strike, warning that “the Belgian government is using EU austerity targets to penalise families, both employed and unemployed, students and the poorest people in society.

“It is not targeting the big capital that remains almost untouched by the government’s austerity measures.”

There is talk of extending trade union action into the new year, but concrete measures have yet to be put forward.

See also:« Messieurs De Wever et Michel, la Belgique en grève veut prendre un tout autre chemin que le vôtre »   Parti du travail de Belgique – Partij van de Arbeid van België (PTB – PVDA). Bruxelles. Et après le 15? On continue, bien sûr! Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) et Socialistische arbeiderspartij (SAP)

General Strike in Belgium on Monday.

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Back our Belgian Sisters and Brothers!

BRUSSELS, Oct 16 (Reuters)

Belgium’s unions have called for a series of regional strikes culminating in a general strike on December 15 to voice their discontent over government plans to implement austerity measures and hike the pension age.

Belgium’s new federal government, which took office on Saturday, said it would raise the state pension age to 67 from 65, scrap a planned inflation-linked wage rise due next year and find savings in the public sector, including the health and social security budget.

“The government is deaf to the workers and recipients of social benefits but generous to the employers and the rich,” a common statement by the country’s three largest unions said.

The unions plan regional strikes every Monday starting November 24, culminating in a national strike on December 15.

The government said the austerity measures are needed to balance Belgium’s budget by 2018 and tackle the country’s national debt of about 100 percent of economic output, one of the highest in the euro zone. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Dominic Evans)

The general strike has been called by the FGTB (socialist), CSC (Christian) et CGSLB (liberal).

The scale of the action promises to be enormous.

Transport will be paralysed, public services will grind to a halt, the Union belge du transport (UBT) has urged lorry drivers to join the movement, and many in the private sector will support the mass protests (more here).

And…

Des piquets de grève temporaires « volants », des cellules qui bloqueront donc différents points capitaux au cours de la journée, seront mis en place ce lundi et des équipes de militants de la FGTB se tiendront prêtes à venir porter renfort aux piquets manquant d’effectifs.

‘Flying pickets’ , that is ‘cells’ of moving strikers, will block different sectors of the Capital during the day. They will be set up by activists from the FGTB (socialist/social democrat union federation) who will help any pickets that need reinforcements.

The day will be marked by demonstrations in the streets.

More details in Le Soir.

Bart de Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalist party (N-VA) and part of the ruling ‘Michel Coaltion’ (hard right to centre right),has criticised the strikes.

He said yesterday that the unions had come out with “une véritable désinformation et parfois de vrais mensonges” misinformation and sometimes outright lies. De Wever accsued the trade unions of being the “”bras armé du PS”, the armed wing, of the Socialist Party.

The leader of the Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, and former Prime Minister, Di Rupo has backed the strikes – though underlines that the union federations have taken this action independently and on their own initiative.

La  Libre Belgique.