Skip to Content

50 Years Ago: Leopold

The recent disturbances in Belgium over the return of King Leopold provide a good illustration of how the Communists and Social Democrats waste their time. The Daily Worker (4-8-50) praised the leaders of "this historic movement," or at any rate the Communists among them. After Leopold returned, said the article, "it took the Belgian working class just five minutes to get angry and five days to get organised." It applauds the "working class unity" that was attained; it describes the strikes, the riots and the processions, and talks about "this great class battle." And it leads up to the triumphant conclusion when Leopold agreed to hand over his powers to his son Baudouin—though it blames the Social Democrats for not having insisted on his complete abdication.

When all the shouting and the shooting was over, what had happened? Before the agitation against the king, the Belgian workers were being exploited by the Belgian owners under the nominal presidency of someone called Leopold; after the agitation, the Belgian workers were being exploited under the nominal presidency of someone called Baudouin. Which makes a lot of difference. And yet to obtain such an insignificant change, the "Left-wing" parties strained all their energies, and three men who were following the lead of these parties were shot by the police at Grace-Berieur. The three men were called "martyrs," and the name is just; the men were martyrs to the ideas of those "leaders" of the working class who, instead of encouraging the workers to understand and bring about encouraging the workers to understand the bring about Socialism, spend all their time in noisy pursuit of aims which in the end bring no benefit at all to the workers.

(From "'Passing Comments", Socialist Standard, October 1950)