LESSONS OF THE BELGIAN STRIKE
V. I. Lenin
The general strike of the Belgian workers has ended, as readers will know, in a half-victory. So far the workers have secured only a promise by the clerical government to appoint a commission to examine the question, not only of the local but also of the national franchise. The other day, the Belgian Prime Minister promised in the Chamber of Deputies that the commission would be appointed in May.
Of course, a ministerial promise (like any other promise "from above") is something that can by no means be taken seriously. One could not even speak of a partial victory, if the general political situation did not bear witness to a certain breach made by the general strike in the old, die-hard, unyielding and stubborn clerical (i.e., reactionary and obscurantist) "order".
The achievement of the strike is not so much this fragment of a victory over the government as the success of the organisation, discipline, fighting spirit and enthusiasm for the struggle displayed by the mass of the Belgian working class. The working class of Belgium has proved that it is capable of steadfast struggle at the call of its Socialist Party. "We shall repeat the strike once again, if necessary!" This was said by a workers' leader during the strike and is an expression of the fact that the masses are aware of holding their weapons firmly in their hands, and of being ready to make use of them once again. The strike proved to the Belgian capitalists that it inflicts vast losses on them, and that concessions are essential, if Belgian capital is not to fall hopelessly behind German capital, etc.
In Belgium, stable constitutional practices have long since been established, and political liberty is an old achievement of the people. Given political liberty, the workers have a broad and open road before them.
Why, in that case, has the strike had such little success? There are two main reasons.
The first is the domination of opportunism and reformism in a section of the Belgian Socialists, especially those in parliament. Being accustomed to move in alliance with the Liberals, these members of parliament feel, themselves dependent on the Liberals in all their activity. As a result, there was hesitation in calling the strike, and hesitation could not but limit the success, strength and scope of the whole proletarian struggle.
The first lesson of the Belgian strike is: look less to the Liberals, trust them less, and have more confidence in the independent and whole-hearted struggle of the proletariat.
The second cause of its partial failure is the weakness of the workers' organisations and the weakness of the party in Belgium. The Workers' Party in Belgium is an alliance of politically organised workers with politically unorganised workers, "pure and simple" co-operators, trade unionists, etc. This is a big drawback of Belgium's labour movement, which Mr. Yegorov in Kievskaya Mysl and the liquidators in Luch have done wrong to ignore.
The second lesson of the Belgian strike is: pay more attention to socialist propaganda, work more to build up a strong, highly principled and strictly party organisation which is true to socialism.
The general strike took place in Belgium from April 14 to April 24, 1913. The Belgian workers demanded a change in the Constitution: universal and equal suffrage. The strike was on a massive scale: of the total of more than one million, between 400,000 and 500,000 took part. Pravda gave wide coverage to the strike and reported on donations by Russian workers to the strike fund.
Written: Written on May 2 (15), 1913|
Published: Published on May 8, 1913 in Pravda No. 104. Printed from the Pravda text. Signed: K. 0..
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 234-235.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
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