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A political strike?

maandag 15 december 2014
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  • 'The Fourth Estate', by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo in 1901, originally entitled 'The path of workers'

(Speech to Hart boven Hard gathering in La Tentation on the general strike of December 15th )

Je vais vous parler en anglais. plutôt hard (avec d) boven hart (avec t), que souavement ‘le cœur, pas la rigeur’ ou ‘toute autre chose’. Bouclez vos ceintures…

Sinister! Sinister, is the word that comes to mind, when you carefully listen to the present politicians in power. The mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever, the shadow prime minister, wanted  to deploy the army to protect the Jewish quarter. Just an idea? Jan Jambon, his acolyte, now minister of interior, wants to deploy the army too! Yes, the army should take over some policing tasks. Extremely sinister. The army is send in during states of emergency, like natural disaster (filling sand sacks against flooding, evacuating civilians), else it is a state of exception: the suspension of law to defend the system against uprising, revolt, conspiracy or coup d’état, in any case: severe unrest that threatens the stability and survival of the state. Sinister.   

Jambon want also to give more policing tasks to private security firms, while many reports on these firms declare them ill controlled and unaccountable. Sinister. 

All strikes are political (at least in the broad sense) but if a man like De Wever calls this strike a political strike, and calls the trade unions the ‘armed wing of the PS’(socialist party) , there is more than sinister undertones. These are overtones. For what does he say? That this strike does not defend social issues, but wants to overturn the government. In fact he claims it is in for what Americans call a ‘regime change‘.  

Against a political strike, in the technical sense of an attempt to overturn the regime (Sorel!), the state has all the rights to respond with martial law, the state of exception. The idea of sending in of the army has to been seen in that light. Am I right to use the word sinister?

Well dammed, for me this then becomes a political strike. After reading an article in De Standaard on how old members of the KVHV, a rightist student organization, are taking over all sorts of key positions in the state, I was shocked. I suddenly saw a silent take over of the state.   

Yes, it is time for a regime change. We are sick and tired of the shock doctrine, of austerity policy, of this neoliberal hegemony. Sounds revolutionary, no? Well, not at all: we want to defend the welfare state, we defend the model of social dialogue. We need to go back to the old regime of social dialogue, that is now overturned by them. In that respect, they are the revolutionaries, albeit from a rightist tendency.

For with his cry that this is a political strike, De Wever once more revealed that he is a neoconservative extremist. He likes somehow the state of exception, like Schmidt did and his pupil Leo Strauss, who was the godfather of neonconservatism. (I have written extensively on all this in my book Entropic Empire). Shortly after he became mayor of Antwerp, he declared a prohibition to gather in Borgerhout just based on some texting messages, typical neocon exceptionalism: a willingness, almost eagerness to suspend the constitution for exceptional measures. The severe limiting of the right to strike is part of this tampering with the constitution.  

They are the extremists, we are defending the system: the welfare state, and the famous Belgian model of social dialogue, the constitutional rights. This large movement Hard boven hard/toute autre chose and the unions are defending the warm society against their attempts to turn Belgian into a divided, harsh, competitive and repressive society. 

But beware: keep your army in their barracks, your excellency, Minister of interior. Cave Canem. You are playing with fire, certainly constitutionally speaking. But you might also be playing with fire in terms of social peace. The unrest might radicalize and spread. Just even to mention this idea of deploying the army today is sinister, extremely sinister.

My slogan remains ‘Hart boven hard als het kan, hard tegen hard als het moet’ (difficult to translate:) Hart warming if possible, cold war if necessary. Maybe better in French: ‘Le Cœur, pas la rigueur’, ou ‘toute autre chose’, …en tout  cas pas la peur.