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BELGIUM. Constitutional Kingdom. Bi-cameral system. Chamber of Representatives : direct and proportional representation, 4 years term. Every male citizen over 25 with 12 months' qualification has one vote, but property and other qualifications give one or two supplementary votes. Failure to vote is a misdemeanor. 186 members. Members receive $800 per year. Senate 120 members ; 27 elected indirectly by the provincial Councils: Others are elected on proportional system. Minimum age of elector 30 years. Property and other qualifications give one or two supplementary votes. 8 years term.
In the modern Belgian labor movement, the various divisions of the working-class act together to a degree unknown in any other capitalistically developed country. The Party, the labor unions and the co-operative movement were until the beginning of the war, so closely allied that the divorce of the party organization from this union was seriously considered, in order to give the Party more freedom of action. The outbreak of war prevented the carrying out of this plan.
The Belgian Socialist Labor Party was founded in 1885. It had first to struggle against the plutocratic election laws of the state, but with the labor union, and co-operative movements organized within the party movement, the Party was well equipped from the start with men and funds. Although the labor unions were, for the time, purely local in character, and were built up under the influence of the Socialist Party, their early alliance meant moral and financial support for the Party in its time of greatest need. Although it is difficult to determine the membership of the Belgium S. L. P. because the members of the Socialist Trade Unions and co-operatives are reckoned together. the number of Socialist deputies gives a fairly good picture of how the Belgian movement has grown in spite of the unfair election laws. The Party had representatives in the Chamber of Deputies as follows: Representatives
Representatives 1900 33 1908
34 1902 34 1910
28 1912 1906 30 1914
40 In 1900 there were altogether 166 representatives in the Parliament. After 1910 their number was increased to 186. It is difficult to determine the size of the Socialist vote in Belgium, because of the plural voting system, and furthér because in many districts, it has been customary for Socialists and Liberals to unite upon one candidate to defeat the
clerical opponent. The following figures have been given, although they can, by no means, be accepted as accurate:
483,241 The membership figures given out by the labor unions affiliated with the “Union Commission” (trade unionists who believe in the class struggle) may, however, serve as a guide: Year Members Year
Members 1906 42,491 1910
68,984 1907 55,840 1911
77,224 1908 67,412 1912
116,082 1909 73,361 1913
131,405 Before the war, there were 1,200,000 men, women and children employed in the industries of Belgium: the labor unions had control of more than 25 papers, 21 of which were monthly, 2 gemi-monthly and one weekly organ. Of these 8 were published for 51,740 French, 8 for 36,100 Flemish and 24,000 French and Flemish speaking members. The organ of the Belgian seamen had a circulation of 2,000 and was printed in the Flemish, English and German languages. The largest union is that of the metal workers, with 30,000 members whose organ was printed for 20,000 members in French and for 10,000 in the Flemish language.
The so-called Christian Labor Unions which are organized upon a religious basis by the clericals in the interests of the capitalist class, and are, of course, completely separate from the bona-fide working-class organization, in 1913 claimed a membership of 71,235. The General Secretary of the Belgian class-conscious labor organizations proved that according to their own financial reports, their membership could not exceed 42,066.
Struggle for Universal Suffrage. In spite of the numerical strength of the Belgian movement, it was impossible to gain increased Parliamentary influence, as the figures given above clearly show. A general strike for the purpose of forcing concession from the plutocratic government had been a failure in spite of the powerful showing that the labor movement had made and the tremendous fear that it had aroused in the ranks of capital. When, therefore, all later attempts by peaceable means to secure a change in the election laws had failed, the Party and the Labor unions resolved on a special Socialist-Labor Union Congress, held on June 30, 1912, after the election of 1912 had once more disappointed all hopes of increased political
influence, to call a second general strike on April 14, 1913, for the purpose of forcing the government to grant full manhood suffrage. Between 400,000 and 600,000 workingmen and women-the workers claim 682,000, the capitalists 400,000 -stopped work. After three days a compromise was effected between the Party and the government, which resulted in the appointment of a commission for the purpose of studying the suffrage situation. This commission had not yet reported when the war interrupted its work.
The Co-operative Movement of Belgium is a noteworthy part of the Belgian labor movement. The printer, Edouard Anseele, founded the first co-operative undertaking at Ghent in 1873. This was followed shortly after, during a period of high priced bread, by a co-operative bakery, founded by the same organization. In 1880, the famous Vooruit (Forward) was started with a capital of thirteen dollars. This undertaking has met with phenomenal success, and has become so powerful an organization that it overshadows all the other labor organizations of Ghent. Anseele, the Socialist deputy,' is still at the head of the “Vooruit" which to-day possesses one of the most beautiful buildings in Ghent, a library of 33,000 books, bakeries, which produce 100,000 loaves of bread a week, general stores, restaurants, a brewery, 7 drug stores, coal yards, six clothing stores, six shoe stores and twentythree grocery stores and likewise controls a co-operative sick-benefit fund. Members of the “Vooruit,” who are 60 years of age or over and have been members for 20 years, receive an old age pension, the amount of which is determined by their purchases in the Vooruit stores, varying from 272 to 6 francs per week. In 1912 57,000 francs were thus paid out in old age pensions. As famous as the “Vooruit" is the “Maison due Peuple” in Brussels, which contained the National Office of the Labor Party as well as the International Socialist Bureau until the war broke out. It is larger than the “Vooruit.” It had in 1913, 32,000 members, 450 employees, property valued at 800,000 francs. It has a number of butcher stores, 3 large bakeries which produce 211,000 loaves of bread a week, 6 department stores and 39 branch stores of various kinds. In 1913 475,000 francs were paid out in dividends to the membership, 40,000 francs worth of bread distributed to the poor and 120,000 francs paid out for sick benefits and doctors, and almost 100,000 francs given to Socialist propaganda. Besides party and labor organizations are given offices free of charge in the co-operative buildings.
Attitude on War. The Belgian Socialist movement took a definite stand on the war.
On August 3, 1914, the Council of the Belgian Labor Party decided to abandon all anti-war demonstrations, and issued a manifesto to all Socialist workingmen in which it was stated that they were justified in exercising the legitimate right of self-defense. "The Party shrank from nothing," reads this manifesto, "to warn the people, to prevent the folly of armaments, to drive back the catastrophe which will strike all European communities. But to-day the harm is done, and by the fatality of events, one thought dominates us: that soon, perhaps, we shall have to direct our efforts to stopping the invasion of our territory. We do so with all the more ardent hearts in that in defending the neutrality and even the existence of our country against militarist barbarism we shall be conscious of serving the cause of democracy and of political liberty in Europe." At the same time, the Council decided that the Socialist deputies in the Chamber should vote for the war-budgets. A few days later Vandervelde entered the Cabinet as minister without portfolio.
The whole Belgian Party, whose headquarters have been transferred to London, during the war, seems to be unanimous on the war question. In Ghent, Anseele is publishing the Vooruit under German military censorship. Before the war the Vooruit had a circulation of about 20,000, since then, partly because a number of Party newspapers ceased publication, it has risen to 34,000. The paper is published in the Flemish language, while the Socialist organ in Brussels appears in French. Anseele, the editor of the Vooruit, has held the paper aloof from all chauvinism, free from all hatred and nationalist prejudice. There is besides a local weekly Volksteem, which prints 1,000 copies.
Secretary Labor Party, L. Vandermissen, Rue Joseph Stevens, 17, Brussels.
Secretary Labor Federation, C. Mertens, Rue Joseph Stevens, 17, Brussels.
BULGARIA. Constitutional monarchy. King and National Assembly (Sobranje). Parliament consists of 211 members elected by universal manhood suffrage; one representative for every 20,000 population.
It is no mere accident that Bulgaria should have the strongest and most highly developed working-class movement of all the Balkan States. Capitalist development has progressed in Bulgaria during the last 15 years, with tremendous strides, has built up an industrial system, and with it, an industrial proletariat, has introduced a system of extensive farming and, by so doing, has turned the farming population of Bulgaria into a class of exploited and oppressed farm hands and wage slaves. In spite of the industrial development of the nation it was impossible, until 1911, to
succeed in sending a representative to the Sobranje. In
107,000 1907 13,360 1914
25,265 The first Socialist representative, a member of the "Broadminded Party," Sakanoff, justified the faith of his comrades, when the mobilization order was being ratified by the Sobranje, he was the only representative who voted against the ratification, declaring: “We do not want a Balkan Confederation instituted with a view to war. What we want, what we are preparing is a confederation uniting all the Balkan nations, including Turkey, for a work of peace, of labor, of production and exchange, a work of liberty and progress.” When he went home from Parliament he was attacked by a mob of students armed with clube and knives, and narrowly escaped with his life. But it was Sakanoff's great work that has opened the eyes of the Bulgarian people to the real causes underlying the war against Turkey, and later, the war against her recent allies. It was to his credit that in the election of December, 1913, the 25,000 votes of 1911 were increased to 107,000. The “Broadminded” elected 21, the “Narrowminded” elected 16 representatives. The government, however, refused to work with such a "socialistically poisoned Parliament,” as the Prime Minister called it, and called for a re-election on March 8, 1914, in which only 20 of the 37 Socialists were returned to Parliament. Nevertheless even this was a huge success, for it showed that the Socialists were able to hold in times of peace 80 per cent. of the tremendous vote it had polled in a time of feverish war excitement.
Since October, 1914, the bitterness between the two Bulgarian Socialist Parties has been augmented by the acquiescence of the “Broadminded” Socialists in the government's war policy. The “Narrowminded” Socialists still firmly protest against all wars and have endorsed the Zimmerwald Conference and its declaration of principles. In October, 1915, they issued a manifesto calling the attention of the people to the intrigues of the government and demanding the preservation of Bulgarian neutrality. At the same time they indorsed the anti-militarist manifesto, which was adopted on September 16 by the Balkan Socialist Federation, repeating and indorsing the Socialist declaration given in the