ⓘ Workers Party of Belgium
The Workers Party of Belgium is a political party in Belgium that operates as a single Belgian party, in contrast to all other major Belgian political parties, which are either Flemish, Francophone or local.
The PTB-PVDA used to host the International Communist Seminar until 2014 which had become one of the main worldwide gatherings of communist parties.
PTB-PVDA has traditionally been a small party, but since the mid-2010s has gained momentum and increasing popularity at the polls and elections.
The Workers Party of Belgium originated in the student movement at the end of the 1960s. Radicalized students organized in the student union SVB - Studenten VakBeweging, mainly from the Catholic University of Leuven, turned towards the working-class movement. They considered the politics of the existing Communist Party of Belgium revisionist, i.e. too much turned toward social-democratic politics represented in Belgium by the Belgian Socialist Party. They were influenced by the ideas of the Communist Party of China, guerrilla movements in Latin America, the movement against the Vietnam War, and the Leuven-Vlaams movement, all perceived as aspects of a worldwide struggle against colonial or neo-colonial oppression and for civil or workers rights.
Their support and participation in an important strike in the coalmines turned the movement into a political party. They founded a periodical, AMADA Alle Macht Aan De Arbeiders - All Power To The Workers, which became the first name of their party. In 1979 the first congress was held, which adopted a Maoist programme and changed the name into PVDA-PTB. Ludo Martens became the first president, and remained an important ideologist of the party until his death in 2011.
2. Recent developments
Following its electoral defeat in 2003, the PVDA-PTB fundamentally changed its working methods and communication. On one hand, the PVDA-PTB said it would refocus on working with factory workers as well as on field work in the communities where it operates. On the other hand, the PVDA-PTB said it would officially break with what it calls its sectarian past to get closer to the concrete demands of citizens. This is reflected particularly by the demands put forward on very concrete issues, e.g. lower prices for medication, the reduction of VAT on energy products from 21% to 6%, an increase of the minimum pension, better control of rents or the lower cost of trash bags.
In preparation for the Belgian elections of June 2007, the Solidarity newspaper and the website of the party were merged in order to reach a wider public. The structures have also been "open" to a broader layer of activists.
On 2 March 2008, the work of the Eighth Congress of the PVDA-PTB was completed with a closing meeting at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. This Congress was conducted with the theme of "party renewal." A new Central Committee was elected, which in turn elected a new Bureau of the Party. It consists of:
- Lydia Neufcourt, °1955. Responsible for expanding the party
- Tom De Meester, °1975. Energy.
- Jo Cottenier, °1947. Responsible for the socio-economic issues
- Peter Mertens, °1969. President
- David Pestieau, °1969. Editor of Solidarity.
- Joris Van Gorp, °1952. Head of union relations
- Baudouin Deckers, °1946. Head of International Relations.
- Raoul Hedebouw, °1977. National voice of the PVDA-PTB
This shift seems to have produced some positive results, such as an increase in membership and a rebound of the electoral score of the PVDA-PTB in recent elections. The last elections in May 2019 showed more progress: a breakthrough was realised at the Flemish and European level. Since 2018 the party is also represented in the municipal councils of larger cities in Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.
In September 2014 the party had more than 8.000 members, in 2019 already 18.000. Its monthly publication "Solidarity / Solidarity" has between 3.000 and 5.000 subscribers. COMAC, its youth movement, is active in all the universities in Belgium and in secondary schools in Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. The PVDA-PTB is also known for its 11 Medicine for the people medical centres, which provide free access to primary health care.
The newspaper Solidarity, and Medicine for the People organize "ManiFiesta", a yearly festival of solidarity between the communities and the left in Belgium. The first edition was held in Bredene by the sea on 25 September 2010 and brought together 6.000 people from both North and South of Belgium. The fourth edition in 2013 attracted 10.000 people.
The PTB continues to be perceived as Stalinist, in relation to the Stalin hagiography written by its past-president Ludo Martens. Current president Peter Mertens tries to get his party out of this deep-rooted paradigm.
Party of the Automobile
Despite its recent conversion to ecology, local WPB sections oppose any restriction related to private car use, what has led to the nickname Party of the Automobile Partij Van De Auto in Dutch:
- In Antwerp against the Low Emissions zone in the city centre
- In Schaerbeek against parking tariffs
- In Liege against fines for illegal parking on sidewalks
4. Electoral results
The general elections of 2007 saw the party obtaining 0.88% in the Flemish electoral district and 0.81% in Wallonia.
In the regional elections in 2009 the PVDA-PTB gained 1.04% of the vote in Flanders +0.48% and 1.24% of the vote in Wallonia +0.62%. For the European elections on the same day the results were: 0.98% in the Dutch-speaking electoral college +0.37% and 1.16% in the French-speaking electoral college +0.35%.
In the general elections of June 2010 the party saw further growth. In Flanders it now represents 1.3% +0.4% of the votes for the Chamber of Representatives and 1.4% +0.5% for the Senate. Especially in the cities progress was noted with high scores in Antwerp 4.1% and Liege 4.2%. The highest scores were gained in the cantons of Herstal 9.8%, Assenede 7.5% and Seraing 7.3%; all places where the PVDA-PTB traditionally is strong.
The municipal and provincial elections in 2012 were considered a breakthrough on a local level for the PVDA-PTB. The party won 52 seats in total; 31 in municipal councils, 4 in provincial councils, and 17 in the district councils.
The federal and regional elections in 2014 saw further success for the party. They elected two deputies to the Chamber of Representatives, two others to the Walloon Parliament, and finally four to the Brussels Parliament.
An opinion poll released in July 2017 suggested the party was the most popular party in Wallonia at the time, with 25% of respondents indicating they intended to vote for the party. The second-most popular party was the Mouvement Reformateur, part of the governing coalition, with 23%. The poll indicated that the Workers Party would win 26 seats in the Belgian Chamber of Representatives if the next federal election were held immediately, putting it in tied first place with the Flemish N-VA.
The party generally increased its vote share in the 2018 local elections, and won over 15% of the vote in several French-speaking cities.
In the 2019 Belgian federal election, the party scored well and gained 10 seats. The party did well in Wallonia 13.8% overall there, scoring over 16% in Liege Province, over 15% in Hainaut Province, and also over 12% in Brussels-Capital Region. It achieved at least 22% of the votes in both Charleroi and La Louviere cities. Its strongest showing in Flanders was 12.71% in Antwerp city. The PTB was also the fourth largest party in the European election the same day in the Francophone areas, winning 14.59% and giving it one seat.
5. Elected politicians
- 2019 – 2024
- Marc Botenga
- 2019 – 2024
- Greet Daems
- Nadia Moscufo
- Raoul Hedebouw
- Sofie Merckx
- Nabil Boukili
- Roberto DAmico
- Peter Mertens
- Steven De Vuyst
- Gaby Colebunders
- Maria Vindevoghel
- Thierry Warmoes
- Marco Van Hees
- 2019 – 2024
- Youssef Handichi
- Jean-Pierre Kerckhofs
- Francis Dagrin
- Luc Vancauwenberghe
- Caroline De Bock
- Leila Lahssaini
- Stephanie Koplowicz
- Petya Obolensky
- Jan Busselen
- Françoise De Smedt
- Elisa Groppi
- Kim De Witte
- Lise Vandecasteele
- Jos DHaese
- Tom De Meester
- Laure Lekane
- Anouk Vandevoorde
- Antoine Hermant
- Julien Liradelfo
- Amandine Pavet
- John Beugnies
- Samuel Nemes
- Jori Dupont
- Alice Bernard
- Germain Mugemangango
- 2018 – 2024
- Marie-Christine Scheen
- Giovanni DellArea
- Luc Navet
- Luc Vandenameele
- Patricia Van Muylder
- Catharina Craen
- Marc Delrez
- Rudy Sohier
- Catherine Lacomble
- Rafik Rassaa