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50 Years Ago: The Strike in Belgium

The Belgian strike is an attempt on the part of some of the Belgian workers to force the Government to resign or change its method of dealing with the economic crisis. The Government, a coalition of Christian Democrats and Liberals, has precipitated this situation by its austerity measures. These consist of cuts in the social services such as the Belgian equivalent of the National Health Service, in the education programme, in unemployment pay, and in coal subsidies, along with the introduction of a Means Test and what is called "additional temporary taxation." The Belgian local authorities are also to be empowered to impose additional income taxes of their own. (…)

Socialists feel deep sympathy for the Belgian workers on strike. But they realise that their action is futile as a means to achieve anything but temporary respite from the encroachments of their masters on their standard of living, and that they are jeopardising their chances of achieving even that by using the strike weapon against the State, instead of using it to back up wage demands with which to offset the effect of the Government's policy.(…)

Governments do not develop reforms or pruning schemes because their attitude to the working class is necessarily either sympathetic or antagonistic. Governments administer the affairs of a capitalist economy in the interests of the national capitalist class. The Belgian workers would be well advised to consider this fact in relation to the present situation, recognising that a change of government is merely a change of label.

A more fundamental change is needed. Austerity, in a world of potential plenty, is always the lot of the working class under capitalism. It is not enough to demonstrate against one type of capitalist government. The workers must organise consciously to abolish the present economic system and establish in its place their own system of society—Socialism.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, February 1961)