De socialistische Syndikale beweging na de eerste wereldoorlog (1919-1921).

The Socialist Trade-Union Movement After The First World War (1919-1921): The years after World War I were determining for the further evolution of the Belgian socialist trade unionism. In this period the socialist trade-unions enjoyed an enormous quantitative expansion which endowed them with a power previously unknown, the more so as the co-operation of the unions was indispensable for the economic reconstruction of the country. By incorporating the vague revolutionary aspirations of the working class into a concrete, immediate program of claims at the right moment, the unions had succeeded in rallying round them the majority of the workers in the vital sectors, and the demands of the workers were peaceably steered into reformist channels which ran parallel to the platform of the Belgian Labour Party (BWP). Naturally, this quantitative expansion confronted the trade-unionism with reorganization-problems. The movement for concentration and unification was carried out, a strong central authority saw to a uniform, disciplined management, whereas a growing union-administration was to enroll the new unionists. Aware of its power and position of authority the trade-union entered the struggle for "immediate social improvements". In doing so it kept emphasizing the national interest and pointed out to the workers their responsibility with regard to the production. The unions rather soon realized their basic claims, namely the eight-hour working-day, minimum wages and union-recognition. Especially the latter meant for trade-unionism the beginning of a new era. In a concrete form in the joint industrial councils union-recognition meant that the emploers were to recognize the union-executives as equivalent partners for discussions and decisions in economic and social life. In the euphory of the moment the trade-union hoped thus to get the ultimate control of production. Both practice and theory were attuned to this constructive task. Revolutionary actions such as general strikes were tabooed. For that matter, the strike did not agree with the newly acquired negotiation method and was subject to very strict regulations. In spite of its optimism with regard to the new tactics, it soon proved that the trade-union was losing its position of authority. Confronted with the first postwar economic crisis it was unable to present alternatives and had to exert itself to maintain the reforms acquired. Its task grew merely defensive. Neither did the trade-union succeed at that moment in defining a long-term strategy. It consumed the revolutionary potential of the movement in a struggle for limited objectives, which was justified by the circumstances, it is true, but which would prove sterile for remodelling thé system itself.