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First conference of the African Left Networking Forum
The Left's Conception of Democracy in Africa: Tasks and Challenges

20-21 August 2010, Johannesburg

Contribution of the Workers' Party of Belgium

The National Council of the Workers' Party of Belgium greets the first conference of the Africa Left Networking Forum (ALNF) entitled "The Left's Conception of Democracy in Africa: Tasks and Challenges". We thank the South African Communist Party and the Sudanese Communist Party for the opportunity they offer us to be with you and to learn from the experiences and analyses of the communist parties and democratic organizations in Africa.

For us, Belgian communists, the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism and the imperialist policies of domination and recolonisation by U.S and European multinationals is inextricably linked to the struggle for socialism in Belgium and in Europe. Our Belgian capitalists drew a very important part of their power and capital from the colonization of Congo-Kinshasa, and from their mandated territories Rwanda and Burundi.

King Leopold II of Belgium seized, conquered and colonized - with the approval of the major European States - an area in the heart of Africa that was more than eighty times as large as Belgium. To recoup its initial invested capital and to increase his personal wealth Leopold II installed a terror regime for the Congolese people. People had to look for rubber in the forest and if they refused or if their harvest was insufficient, they were violently punished. The Belgian demographer Léon de Saint-Moulin estimated that between 1880 and 1920, 5 to 10 million Congolese, i.e. 33% to 50% of the population, disappeared. They were murdered, died of hardship or fled to neighboring countries. To this day, comrades, this regime is defended in our country. Former Foreign Minister and former European Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel, said of Leopold II on July 22 this year, I quote: "a visionary and a hero who used the methods that were in use at the time " end quote. And our capitalists made money, comrades, a lot of money: the value of the shares of companies active in Congo was in 1928, 26% of the total value of listed companies on the stock market in Belgium. By 1955 it had increased to 44%. The average profit rate of all colonial enterprises together was for the period 1950-1955 30%. For the mining companies it was even 50 to 60%. And so, thanks to the plundering of the colonies of central Africa and the exploitation of its Belgian working class, a powerful bourgeoisie was created in little Belgium. For these people Congolese independence was unacceptable and inconceivable. In the end, under pressure from the Congolese people and the international community, especially the Soviet Union, they organized elections. But it was the Congolese nationalists led by Patrice Emery Lumumba who won these elections. The Belgian bourgeoisie did not reject any act of cowardice, intrigue or brute force to defeat the nationalists. And for this it could fully count on the support of U.S. imperialism, which had taken the lead in Africa after Second World War. The cowardly assassination of the elected Congolese leader Lumumba, was followed by a merciless terror campaign against all nationalist Congolese. Serious historians speak of 300 thousand to 1 million Congolese dead who fell by the Belgo-American repression between 1960 and 1965. And so was established the Mobutu dictatorship, that was to last 36 years, by the direct bloody intervention of the Belgian and U.S. military aided by white mercenaries. Until 1990, comrades, Mobutu was the main ally of U.S. imperialism in the region and the great friend of the Belgian leaders. Only after the end of the Cold War his bosses begin to criticize him and to look for a successor. Following six years of fruitless palaver, one of the few surviving Lumumbist leaders from the sixties, a revolutionary and a Marxist, Laurent Desire Kabila, was able to use the excessive self-confidence and the many contradictions within the imperialist camp to chase Mobutu away on May 17 1997 after seven months of armed conflict.

Our party had already been in contact with Mzee Kabila in the seventies. Laurent Kabila was in 1964-1965 with Pierre Mulele and Gaston Soumaliot in the leadership of the revolutionary wing of the Conseil national de liberation, which tried to coordinate the different fronts of the nationalist resistance that had at the time already liberated two thirds of the country. After this opposition was brutally beaten down, Laurent Kabila founded the Popular Revolutionary Party (PRP) in 1968. Like Pierre Mulele, who was cruelly murdered in the same year, Kabila had indeed come to the conclusion that a national democratic revolution could not be conducted without a revolutionary Marxist party. During seventeen years Kabila led with the comrades Kibwe Cha Malenga, Gabriel Yumbu, Mashado and other leaders of the PRP a liberated zone in the region of Fizi Baraka on the border between South Kivu and North Katanga. Mobutu's troops, aided by mercenaries and the CIA organized a bloody repression. One after another, the revolutionary leaders were killed, and eventually the PRP and the maquis of Fizi Baraka were completely destroyed around 1985.

As a young communist organization, from the seventies we had contact with the PRP. When after a decade of preparatory work we organized the Foundation Congress of our Party in 1979, the delegation of the PRP, led by Laurent Kabila himself, was the only international delegation that was present. Besides working in the Belgian working class, learning from the Congolese revolutionaries who were actually struggling against the Mobutu regime was from the beginning one of the basic orientations of our party. In 1979 Laurent Kabila asked our party to save the history of the maquis directed by Pierre Mulele. In 1980, Ludo Martens, president of our party until 2008, began collecting testimonies and documents to analyze the maquis that Pierre Mulele, former education minister in the government of Lumumba, installed and led in the Kwilu region, 300 km away from the capital Kinshasa, between 1963 and 1966. This work resulted in the book "Pierre Mulele, la seconde vie de Patrice Lumumba" (Pierre Mulele, the second life of Patrice Lumumba) that was published in 1985. Many Congolese Patriots have recognized this work as a standard Marxist book on their country. It contains a thorough analysis of the colonial period, a class analysis of Congolese society and economy around 1960, a history of the resistance in the sixties and a detailed description of the experience of the Mulele-led resistance and the conclusions Pierre Mulele and his comrades drew from these experiences. The book ends with the description of the betrayal and the dreadful conditions in which Pierre Mulele was murdered in October 1968, an assassination ordered by Mobutu.

The book helped a generation of members of our party to develop an anti-colonial and anti-imperialist consciousness and to feel solidarity with the struggle of the peoples in the Third World, in Africa and particularly in Congo-Kinshasa. Some comrades developed close ties with opponents of the Mobutu regime in the Diaspora. Some visited one or more times the country itself. In the early nineties, our newspaper published a monthly supplement entitled "Congo-Kinshasa". During the Rwandan genocide we organized a solidarity campaign with the Rwandan people. And afterwards we launched a campaign to help build a new Rwanda. More than a hundred young Belgians traveled to Rwanda to observe the reality of the country so as to be able to bear witness afterwards in Belgium and to organize solidarity. It quickly appeared that within the Rwandan Patriotic Front pro-imperialist forces led by Kagame had taken the lead and many progressives; some members of the RPF, had to flee the country. When, in 1997, Laurent Kabila, with his rich experience and in a historic period in which imperialism felt omnipotent, succeeded in overthrowing the Mobutu regime and took a nationalist stance, we defended this fight and we also went to the Congo. For 8 years our comrade Ludo Martens spent most of his time in the country. He witnessed the struggle of the Congolese nationalists, led by Laurent Kabila, to recover their independence, stolen by treachery and violence in the sixties,.

Comrades, The wor'kers Party of Belgium is a party of 4000 members. In last elections this year, we obtained 2%. In the two big industrial cities, Antwerp and Liège, it was 4%. But for us the class struggle is the most important terrain.

Today, most of the big struggles in Europe are defensive struggles against the economic and social attacks, which are ordered, directed and coordinated by the European Union. These attacks follow the Lisbon traity and target three main domains of the social configuration: social security, judged as too costly, the labour market, judged as too rigid, and education, judged as badly suited to the demands of the employers.

The European Union set itself the objective of becoming the most dynamic and competitive economy in the world. This implies outperforming the USA. In the fields of social security and labour market, the USA are "far ahead", at least from the point of view of European big capital. Since the crisis of 2008 the EU impose drastic austerity programs that foresse in massif lay-ofs in public sector and in pulling down the wages.

When the government wage an ideological campaign to prepare the minds and to get the support of the trade-union leaders. We launched a counter-offensive based on arguments. At that step, we address mainly the trade- union circles to build a resistance front inside the trade-union structures. We provide a precise and Marxist analysis of the plans. Therefore we puublish analsyis in our theoretical journal "Marxist studies". Afterwards we put in popular brochures.

But it is not only important to have a good analysis, it must above all be understood by the public.

The aspect of communication also plays an important role. Our campaign is centred around 1° a general profile, 2° a specific slogan and 3° a popular demand.

1° The Party adopted as general profile the slogan : "People before profit". It is a slogan, which was set by the central committee as the Party's banner slogan for five years.

2° The specific slogan which we have chosen for the campaign against the generation pact was : " 600 000 unemployed people, why work longer ? " (One must note that there are 600 000 unemployed people in Belgium). In the first place, this slogan has the merit to gather into one single struggle the young and the elderly, the ones who have a job and the ones who don't. Moreover, it points at an obvious contradiction in the plan and opens the debate on the hidden motivations of the government. Finally, one tackles a problem of society in an advantageous way: some are working to death while others are condemned to unemployment. The choice of this slogan revealed itself as very judicious. With this slogan, we struck a point and reinforced the spirit of resistance in the trade-unions and with the masses.

3° The Party also decided to propagate a popular demand. We have demanded the right to early retirement at the age of 55, with a compulsory hiring of a young unemployed. This demand also expresses the same concern of uniting young and old in a common rejection of postponing retirement.

Armed with these two weapons, we confront the many studies that the governmental and employers' institutes had provided to prove that it was unavoidable to work more.

Since the crisis in 2008 the attacks on workers have become worse. The central question has become who will pay for the crisis: the workers or those who are at the origine of the crisis: the big capitalists?

It is on the basis of the experience of our work in the class strugle in 2005 that we launched a year ago a large campaign advocating a milonairstaks. This is a very reasonable demand: we say rich people in Belgium should pay a taks of 1% on what they own above 1 miljon euro, 2% what they own above 2 miljon euros and 3% above three miljon euros. This is a taks that only hits the 2% most rich Belgians. They realy will not eat a sandwich less per day, but such a taks will deleaver 8 biljon euros revenues for the state.

So with this campaign we draw the debat on the issue we want: who are the real capitalists and why they should pay for their crisis? This way we prepare the spirits for the coming class strugle to defend worker's rights against the agenda of the new governement that is in preparation.

Comrades, world capitalism is in crisis and the struggle of communist parties in the heart of capitalism is a struggle for the socialist revolution. Our struggle is closely connected with the national democratic revolution in the Third World and in Africa, to pave the way for socialism.

The South African Communist Party and the Sudanese Communist Party, promoters of this conference, have a history twice as long than ours. We want to learn from our older brother parties in Africa.

In a situation of unequal and adverse power relationships, the South African Communist Party has accumulated a very large experience with regard to increasing the hegemony of the working class within society starting from a strategy of national democratic revolution. It has a long tradition of political education, progressive journalism, revolutionary trade union struggle, popular mobilization and people's power, work among the peasants in the rural areas, cooperatives and armed struggle, which we can learn from.

Our comrades of the Sudanese Communist Party in recent months proved yet again their militancy through the victory of the doctors' strike in the Sudanese hospitals. The doctors went on strike because the Basjir government, despite the huge revenues of the state from the Sudanese oil sector, had no money left to improve the poor infrastructure of the health sector in their country. Despite severe repression, they gained an important victory.

Comrades, Africa is a continent where the crisis of world capitalism strikes very hard. Africa is also a continent with an enormous potential of natural resources, including its young dynamic population that is undoubtedly the most important. We are convinced that this century, after centuries of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism, will be the century of the liberation of Africa. The solution can only come from the organized left and can only be found in the direction of socialism.

Therefore, this conference is of historic importance and we are very grateful that we can attend.

Our party will also do everythig that is possible to support this ALNEF. In Belgium and in Europe there is a diaspora from Africa that gives us the possibilities to be in contact with African anti-impperialists and communist militants who we will bring in contact with the ALNEF. We will also put at the service of the ALNEF the analysis and knowledge that is present in Belgium and in Europe. And finaly we will prepâre to be organise anti-impertialist soldiarity campaigns in solidarity with our partners from ALNEF when teher are important struglles that happen in Africa.

Thank you

Tony Busselen,
Department of International Relations
Workers' Party of Belgium