Belgian General Strike Blasts Bailout Assault on Workers

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, October 6 — The financial meltdown of world capitalism is prompting workers to fight back, refusing to pay for the bosses’ crisis. Today’s general strike here was “a warning to the government and the bosses.” Workers paid no heed to rulers’ pleas “not to aggravate” the shaky economic situation. Instead, workers here set an example for workers internationally by taking the offensive.

Workers are demanding no wage-cuts, a higher minimum wage, equal benefits for young workers, government action to reduce the cost of trips between home and the workplace, higher welfare benefits, and lower taxes on workers and higher taxes on the rich and the corporations.

The strike shut the country’s major factories, such as Audi (auto) and Sonaca (aeronautics) in the Brussels area and the Charleroi steel mills. Work stoppages and workers’ on-the-job mass assemblies hit banks and superstores. Teachers struck nation-wide, as did postal workers and workers in national and local governments. Some cities (like Sambreville) decided to close “in a show of solidarity” rather than be shut by municipal workers.

Antwerp and Bruges, in Flemish-speaking regions, ground to a halt, as did Charleroi and Liège in French-speaking areas. The subway, trams and buses in Brussels — Belgium’s capital and the seat of the major European Union institutions — were all at a standstill. Practically no trains were running, disrupting both domestic traffic and travel to Amsterdam, Cologne and Paris.

On June 6, 100,000 workers had demonstrated in Brussels demanding the government take emergency measures to defend their purchasing power. Since then only prices have risen: food up 7.9%; electricity up 20%; natural gas up 50%; and heating oil up 59%.

The Belgian bosses’ answer to that demonstration was a new round of downsizing, repeated attacks on such public services as education, transport and health care, an attempt to impose a wage freeze and to make any improvement in welfare benefits dependent on a reduction in the corporate tax rate.

However, the power of the workers is being derailed by the leadership of the three major unions, the socialist FGTB, the Christian CSC, and the liberal CGSLB, which only want to influence the government’s proposed budget, scheduled for October 14.

In this period of global crisis and endless wars, the bosses — even if they give workers some crumbs — will try to take them away as soon as possible. The best victory workers can gain from these struggles is to turn them into schools for communism, forging the revolutionary leadership needed to fight for real workers’ power: communism.

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