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The New International, November 1934


The Bankruptcy of the Belgian Labor Bank

From New International, Vol. I No. 4, November 1934, p. 119.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


AS MIGHT have been expected, the investigation commission established to determine the causes for the bankruptcy of the Belgian Labor Bank [Banque Belge du Travail], composed mostly of Right wing elements of the Belgian Labor party [Parti Ouvriere Belge] – ardent defenders of the traditional policy of this party – has, in order to save this policy, thrown the responsibility for the “disappointments” upon a few persons accused of having been delinquent or of having employed methods which injured the growth and the prosperity of the economic enterprises of the POB. The general characterization which appears from the report handed in, may be transcribed as follows:

All efforts were exerted to discover fitting means of moderating the evil effects from which the economic enterprises of the POB suffer, while the cause of the evil is allowed to remain, that is, the policy of integration into the capitalist regime. How ever, since certain measures had to be taken in order to reduce in the minds of the working class the effects of the repercussions from the bankruptcy of the BBT, the fixing of individual responsibility permits the attainment of this goal by demanding censure or the expulsion of the eight mainly responsible, members of the POB, including the minister of state, citizen Anseele.

The fact of the matter is that the bankruptcy is the logical outcome of the policy whose essential aim was the creation of vast economic organisms within the framework of the bourgeois regime, in order to combat the bourgeoisie on its own ground. These enterprises, integrated into a decadent capitalist milieu, filled with insoluble contradictions, could have no other fate in periods of crisis than that reserved for them by the operation of the relentless laws of the capitalist system against the weakest commercial, industrial or banking establishments, that is, either absorption by powerful enterprises, or ruination. Having specialized in the control of textile enterprises (10 factories) – an industry very much subject to the influences of the crisis (in 1933, a large number of woolen mills worked only up to 50% of their productive capacity, some mills not reaching even 25%), the BBT suffered the repercussions flowing from the fact that the capitalist enterprises constituting the supply, faced with a considerably reduced demand for products, were drawn into a struggle which was rendered very bitter by the sharpened competition between capitalists, in which the more poorly financed enterprises succumbed. These were the enterprises patronized by the BBT.

There lies the “real cause of the bankruptcy of the BBT; but not a word of this is to be found in the cited report. On the contrary, one finds in it a justification of the “realistic” policy followed in this field. It says:

“Just so long as the capitalist regime shall not have been abolished, our own undertakings will be obliged to submit to the special exigencies of this milieu, which correspond neither to their spirit nor their goal.”

With the bases enunciated above as its point of departure, the commission confines itself to preaching the following remedies. The only initiative it takes in this domain deals with a functional perfecting of the economic enterprises of the POB. The most important proposals are a centralization of control and management and the creation of workers’ control where it does not yet exist.

To our mind, the centralization proposed by the Right wing elements who actually hold in their hands the commanding levers of all the organizations of the POB, the worst enemies of a genuine and healthy workers’ democracy, has as its aim to permit a restricted circle of new or old leaders to pursue with impunity the renowned “realizable” policy of Anseele and his associates. This appears all the truer to us because the promise of workers’ control is at present nothing but a promise which, it appears, is not going to be realized too soon. Consequently, should this hypothesis prove to be exact, it is certain that the policy of integration will continue in the same conditions as today and at the next stage will have consequences identical in form but more serious in essence than those which are now hitting at the worker-depositors. This is inevitable, for bound up with the capitalist system in which it evolves, the existence of the economic organisms of the POB is conditioned by the degenerated and jerky existence of the bourgeois regime in its present phase. The agonized somersaults of this great capitalist body engender identical somersaults of whatever it bears within itself, that is, the economic organism of the POB.

In conclusion, we believe that in striking at the men, while allowing to subsist the policy which led them to act as they did, it is certain that despite the palliatives recommended in the report, other directors will inevitably commit the same errors as their predecessors, errors which have their source in the reformist policy.

In order, therefore, to shelter the working class from the consequences which flow inevitably from the preservation of this policy, it is the principle which ought to be changed.

The only truth enunciated by the investigation commission in its labors, confirms, by its own absurdity, the correctness of our conceptions, namely:

That the social democracy and its enterprises, as an appendix of the bourgeois regime which endeavors by its own palliatives to resist the grip of the world economic crisis, determines the social democracy to create its own means of safeguarding itself and of self-preservation within the framework of the regime with which it is so intimately linked.

BRUSSELS, October 1934

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