Belgium: National conference of LSP/MAS

Extremely succesfull meeting of the Belgian left socialists

Last weekend the Left Socialist Part / Movement for a Socialist Alternative (LSP/MAS) held its national conference at the Belgian coast. The conference had to be postponed with a week following the announcement of a national demonstration against the jobcuts at the Volkswagen plant in Vorst. At that demo our members sold 500 papers and collected over 1,000 euro for the fighting fund. We also had a succesfull intervention with the broader CAP (Committee for Different Politics).

We had no choice but to postpone the conference with a week, even if this ment that less comrades would be present at the conference. That weakness was balanced with the rich experience of the intervention in the struggle at Volkswagen.

The conference saw a strong enthusiasm and confidence in the further building of our party and our international. Since the last conference in 2004 we had an important growth of the organisation and we also have developped more work on an international scale to assist the CWI in strenghtening the presence of socialist groups around the world.

The comrades at the conference realised the challenges that are ahead of us and showed how they are prepared to seize the opportunities. About 100 delegates (who were elected in the branches) showed their enthusiasm in the discussions (both the formal and the informal parts of the conference) but also practically. The financial appeal, organised by Stephane Delcros, led to a record amount being donated: 13,400 euro and an increase in subs of 700 euro per month.

On the conference we had four discussions. On Friday evening we started with an international report by Tony Saunois, the general secretary of the CWI. He went into the main features of the international situation explaining both the crisis of the capitalist and imperialist classes, and the growth of a search for an alternative. Tony was followed by interventions by comrade Alex Rouillard from France and a comrade from our Brasilian sisterorganisation. Unfortunately the postponing of our conference made it impossible for comrades from Germany or the Netherlands to attend.

The international discussion was followed by a discussion on perspectives dealing mainly with the situation in Belgium. Geert Cool spoke first to introduce the discussion and then many comrades made important contributions. Finally Eric Byl, general secretary of the LSP-MAS, spoke to conclude the discussion.

With the struggle taking place at Volkswagen and the continuing attacks on our social rights, this of course became the main theme of the debate. Volkswagen is an example of the pressure of the bosses on our wages and working conditions. Following the attacks in Germany (with a longer working week, attacks on the unemployed, the present attacks on pensioners,…), the Belgian bosses want to follow this example. Yet according to figures from the Belgian government 9% of the German workers are now suffering from (relative) poverty. The Belgian bosses want the same in this country.

If they do not manage to realise these attacks through collective agreements (there are negociations at the moment between the unions and the bosses on the wages for the coming two years), the bosses can use individual methods. This was shown by Volkswagen where the management announced that 4,000 jobs would be lost, to come back on this announcement and stating that only some 2,000 jobs will disappear but only on the condition of an agreement on an attack on the wages. There probably will come a longer working week (38 hours instead of 35 hours) without an increase of the wages. This example could be followed by other bosses.

In the discussion on perspectives some 15 comrades intervened, including shop stewards and trade union activists from the education unions, the chemical workers, public transport, social workers,… They brought important lessons based on their experience on the workfloor and in struggle. In the perspective discussion comrades already mentioned the growing possibilities for a new mass workers party and the first steps which are being set today with the CAP.

Anja Deschoemacker spoke as first in the separate discussion on the question of a new workers’ party and the development of the CAP. This initiative has grown from the workers’ struggles in the past years, especially the movement against the attacks on early retirement schemes at the end of 2005. Two days with general strikes and a national demo with 100,000 couldn’t avoid that the measures were passed in parlaiment, with almost no votes against. In the discussion at the conference comrades also intervened on experiences in other countries including the P-SOL in Brasil, the WASG in Germany or the SP in the Netherlands. Bart Vandersteene summed-up at the end. LSP/MAS is very active inside the CAP and is fully taking up its responsibility to try to consolidate and build this initiative.

On the last day of the conference we had a discussion on the development of our organisation. The main issue in this discussion, which was introduced by Boris Malarme and concluded by Els Deschoemacker, was on consolidation and broadening the leading layers of the party. In the past two years we have started to work with regional committees and regional bureaus. This has helped us to broaden the leadership of the party. The existence of local leaderships in 5 areas (West and Eastern Flanders, Antwerp, Flemish Brabant and Limburg, Brussels and Walloon Brabant, Liège) and the development of such a leadership in a 6th area (Hainaut) is an important step forward. This was shown at the conference, the seriousness and the high political level.

In the coming period we want to continue our growth and attract new members and involve them in our work. We want all our members to be involved in political discussions and in building the organisation. Everyone can have an involvement adapted to his or her possibilites. We will need more means and voted to increase the target for the fighting fund. We also voted on targets for recruitment, paper sales,…

The comrades at the conference agreed that this was probably one of the best conferences LSP/MAS ever held. We saw a huge enthusiasm, a political confidence, an open and critical preparedness to discuss and a determined will to seize the opportunities we are facing in the coming period.

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December 2006