Belgian Socialist Party

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Belgian Socialist Party

 

(BSP; Parti Socialiste Beige; Belgische Socialistische Partij), founded in 1885 as a result of the merger of the Belgian Socialist Party—created in 1879 by the union of the Flemish and Brabant Socialist Parties—with other labor associations and groups.

From 1885 to 1940 the party was called the Belgian Labor Party (BLP). The leaders of the party at various periods were E. Vandervelde, C. Huysmans, and P.-H. Spaak. In addition to developing the movement to meet the economic demands of the workers, in the first years of its existence the BLP devoted a great deal of attention to the struggle for universal suffrage. It endeavored to achieve this by means Of general political strikes.

The Tenth Congress of the BLP (1894, Quaregnon) adopted the Declaration of Principles, which remained the program of the party until World War II (1939–45). The Declaration of Principles, which contained certain Marxist principles, showed in general the great influence exerted on the party by Proudhonism and anarchism. From the late 1890’s, opportunistic and reformist elements that supported a policy of class cooperation with the bourgeoisie gained strength in the party. During World War I (1914–18) the BLP held social chauvinistic positions; this is shown especially by the position of the BLP’s leader, Vandervelde, in the Belgian government, of which he was a member on several occasions between 1914 and 1937.

Under the influence of the October Revolution in Russia, a group called the Friends of the Exploited, led by J. Jacquemotte and favoring proletarian internationalist principles, was established within the party in 1919. In 1921 the group broke away from the Belgian Labor Party. The Friends of the Exploited and the Belgian Communist Party were the basis for the foundation of the Communist Party of Belgium (CPB). In the 1930’s the influence of fascistoriented elements led by the chairman of the party, H. de Man, gained influence in the BLP. In 1935, the BLP rejected the CPB’s proposal to form a popular front. In June 1940, after Belgium had been occupied by the German fascist forces, H. de Man adopted a policy of collaboration with the occupiers and dissolved the party. In August 1941 an illegal meeting of the BLP was held in Burnot-Riviére in the province of Namur, and the reestablishment of the party under the name of the Belgian Socialist Party (BSP) was proclaimed. In 1945 a congress of the party, the so-called Congress of Victory, confirmed the Quaregnon Declaration of Principles of 1894 and adopted a resolution defining the party’s policies (rejection of the class struggle, adoption of a policy of so-called democratic socialism and of the gradual rooting of socialism in capitalism, and so forth). This resolution, like the resolutions at subsequent congresses, and the program of economic development adopted in 1959, indicated further departures from Marxism by the BSP.

The leaders of the BSP, who headed governments from 1945 to 1949 and from 1954 to 1958, did not put forward any concrete program for the liquidation of domination by the monopolies; by their policy of class cooperation, they hampered the development of the strike struggle of the Belgian workers. In foreign policy, the leaders of the BSP supported the aggressive policies of American imperialism. With the decrease of international tension in 1955–56, the BSP supported the expansion of commercial, scientific, and cultural relations with the socialist countries. However, right-wing elements succeeded in putting the BSP back on its former reactionary course.

From 1961 to 1966 the representatives of the BSP in the government pursued a policy of collaboration with the ruling circles; this aroused deep discontent among the masses. In 1964, as a sign of protest against this policy, several left-wing members left the BSP; in 1965 they formed a socialist confederation of workers, which united some of the left-wing socialists, primarily from the Walloon areas, as well as from Brussels and Flanders. After the defeat of the BSP at the parliamentary elections in May 1965, the differences between rightists and leftists and between the federations (the provincial organizations of the BSP) in the Flemish and Walloon areas became stronger. Since 1967 the rule has been to hold separate congresses for the federations from these areas.

In 1966 and 1967, under pressure from its local organizations, the BSP leadership reexamined a number of its foreign policy positions. The party condemned the American bombing of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and supported a political settlernent of the Vietnam question. It opposed the location of NATO headquarters on Belgian territory and supported the maintenance of European security and recognition of postwar frontiers in Europe. The regular congress of the BSP (November 1966, Anderlecht) favored raising the workers’ standard of living and broadening democratic rights. However, the BSP’s shift to the left was limited and did not include all aspects of its activities. In the parliamentary elections of Mar. 31, 1968, the BSP won 28 percent of the votes (59 seats in the Chamber of Representatives and 53 in the Senate), and members of the party participated in the government headed by the Catholic G. Eyskens. The political maneuvering of the BSP enables it to maintain strong positions in mass organizations affiliated with it (the central trade-union organization—the General Federation of Labor of Belgium—cooperatives, mutual aid funds, and women’s, youth, and other organizations). The BSP is a member of the Socialist International. Since 1945 collective membership in the party has been replaced by individual membership. In 1970 the BSP had 130,000 members. The party’s central organ is the newspaper Le Peuple, founded in 1885. F. Leburton and I. Van Heinde are the chairmen of the BSP.

REFERENCES

Chlepner, B. S. Sto let sotsial’noi istorii Bel’gii. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from French.)
Pierson, M. A. Histoire du socialisme en Belgique. [Brussels], 1953.
Vandervelde, E. Le Parti ouvrier beige 1885–1925. Brussels, 1925.
Les Fastes du Parti 1885–1960. Brussels, 1960.

IU. N. PANKOV