Belgian Labour Party
The Belgian Labour Party, called Belgische Werkliedenpartij (BWP) in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 (English translation: Belgian Workers' Party) and Parti Ouvrier Belge (POB) in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, was the first socialist party in Belgium, founded in 1885.


In April 1885, a meeting of 112 workers took place in a room of the café De Zwaan on the Grand Place
Grand Place
The Grand Place or Grote Markt is the central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by guildhalls, the city's Town Hall, and the Breadhouse . The square is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels, along with the Atomium and Manneken Pis...

 in Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, at the same place where the First International had convened, and where Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 had written the Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto, originally titled Manifesto of the Communist Party is a short 1848 publication written by the German Marxist political theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It has since been recognized as one of the world's most influential political manuscripts. Commissioned by the...

. At this meeting the Belgian Labour Party (POB or BWP) was created. Several groups had been represented at this meeting, among which also the BSP of Edward Anseele
Edward Anseele
Edward Anseele was a Belgian socialist politician. Although his parents rather belonged to the lower middle class , Edward Anseele became active the early socialist movement...

. The members were mainly craftsmen and not workers from industrial centres (with the exception of Ghent
Ghent is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the capital and biggest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Lys and in the Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of...

). When drafting a programme for the new party, it was feared that a radical programme would deter workers. On that basis it was decided that the word socialism would not be mentioned in the name of the party, a point of view which was also defended by Cesar De Paepe
Cesar De Paepe
César De Paepe was a medical doctor and a prominent syndicalist whose work strongly influenced the Industrial Workers of the World and the syndicalist movement in general...

 (1841–1890). The Charter of Quaregnon
Charter of Quaregnon
The Charter of Quaregnon was the doctrinary basis for the Belgian socialists from 1894 until 1979.In 1894, Belgian elections were for the first time held according to the scheme of the plural right to vote under the pressure of the violent Belgian general strike of 1893...

  (located in this municipalty and not in Mons
Mons is a Walloon city and municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut, of which it is the capital. The Mons municipality includes the old communes of Cuesmes, Flénu, Ghlin, Hyon, Nimy, Obourg, Baudour , Jemappes, Ciply, Harmignies, Harveng, Havré, Maisières, Mesvin, Nouvelles,...

 because of the Civic guard of Mons 'fusillade of the general strike of 1893
Belgian general strike of 1893
The Belgian general strike of 1893 was ordered by the General Board of the Belgian Labour Party after the Belgian Parliament rejected the Law Proposal on universal suffrage....

), of 1894 provided the doctrinary basis for the Belgian socialists from 1894 until 1979. Before 1919, the district system at Belgian elections made it almost impossible for the Labour Party to get parliamentary seats in Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, and the Ghent
Ghent is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the capital and biggest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Lys and in the Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of...

 socialist leader, Edward Anseele, was elected from Liège
Liège is a major city and municipality of Belgium located in the province of Liège, of which it is the economic capital, in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium....

. After 1919, universal male suffrage and proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

 greatly enhanced the party's parliamentary strength and it participated in several governments.

The party was a member of the Labour and Socialist International
Labour and Socialist International
The Labour and Socialist International was an international organization of socialist and labour parties, active between 1923 and 1940. The LSI was a forerunner of the present-day Socialist International....

 between 1923 and 1940.

After the second world war, most of the BWP/POB officials joined to found the Belgian Socialist Party
Belgian Socialist Party
The Belgian Socialist Party was a democratic socialist party which existed in Belgium from 1945 to 1978.The BSP was founded by activists from the Belgian Labour Party , which was the first Belgian socialist party. It ceased to function during the Second World War, while Belgium was under Nazi...


Notable members

  • Camille Huysmans
    Camille Huysmans
    Jean Joseph Camille Huysmans was a Belgian politician.Huymans studied German philology at the University of Liège. He was a teacher from 1893 until 1897...

  • Henri de Man
    Henri de Man
    Henri De Man was one of the leading Belgian socialist theoreticians of his period, who collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II...

  • Jules Destrée
    Jules Destrée
    Jules Destrée was a Walloon lawyer, cultural critic and socialist politician. The trials subsequent to the strikes of 1886 determined his commitment within the Belgian Labour Party. He wrote a Letter to the King in 1912, which is seen as the founding declaration of the Walloon movement...

  • Paul-Henri Spaak
    Paul-Henri Spaak
    Paul Henri Charles Spaak was a Belgian Socialist politician and statesman.-Early life:Paul-Henri Spaak was born on 25 January 1899 in Schaerbeek, Belgium, to a distinguished Belgian family. His grandfather, Paul Janson was an important member of the Liberal Party...

    , one of the Founding fathers of the European Union
    Founding fathers of the European Union
    The Founding Fathers of the European Union are a number of men who have been recognised as making a major contribution to the development of European unity and what is now the European Union. There is no official list of founding fathers or a single event defining them so some ideas vary.-Europe's...

  • Emile Vandervelde
    Emile Vandervelde
    thumb|upright|Emile VanderveldeEmile Vandervelde was a Belgian statesman, born at Ixelles. He studied law at the Free University of Brussels and became doctor of laws in 1885 and doctor of social science in 1888.-Activities:Vandervelde became a member of the Parti Ouvrier...

  • August Vermeylen
    August Vermeylen
    August Vermeylen was a Belgian writer and literature critic. In 1893 he founded the journal Van Nu en Straks . He studied history at the Université Libre de Bruxelles , and became a professor of literature and of art history at the ULB...

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