“It is easy to take up the proposals of the PTB and then say that it is a party which does not propose solutions”

“It is easy to take up the proposals of the PTB and then say that it is a party which does not propose solutions”
“It is easy to take up the proposals of the PTB and then say that it is a party which does not propose solutions”

In Charleroi, Thursday morning, the day after May 1st. The sun is gone. He who, the day before, had given some color to the activists who were hitting the streets to participate in the PTB meeting organized at Place Buisset, opposite the station, at the foot of the bridge and one of the replicas of Constantin Meunier’s Crouching Miner.

The atmosphere on Thursday morning is obviously not the same as the day before. “Normal” life has resumed its rights. The nearby shopping center attracts its flow of customers. A slightly less dense flow than usual during this school holiday period. People, alone or in groups, pass each other without looking at each other. And politics? It seems that no one cares. “No thanks”I prefer not to answer”I’m in a hurry”. “Ah, are we going to vote?”. The answers are almost discouraging on this sad May morning.

The PTB proposes a “Canada tax” during its May 1 speech

The millionaires tax

The day before, May 1, it was different. The shopping center was closed and those who gathered at Place Buisset had a good reason to be there. The PTB is well established in Charleroi. With its 9 elected officials from the October 2018 ballot, the party is now heard in the municipal council. Six years earlier, when Sofie Merckx alone was elected, her presence was marginal.

Sofie Merckx could not miss the May 1st meeting at Place Buisset. It is even she who will deliver the speech just before the activists present shake off to reach the nearby Carole headquarters of the FGTB, where everyone who calls themselves left-wing in Charleroi comes to show their face.

The mood is rather optimistic. According to polls, the PTB should confirm an ascending form during the June 9 vote which will see the Belgians renew the House of Representatives, the Parliament of the Regions and the European Parliament. We kiss, we sign a petition, we take posters, we laugh, we congratulate Sofie, her again and Germain Mugemangango, also a municipal councilor in Charleroi, spokesperson for the party and group leader in the Walloon Parliament. Not far from the duo, the head of the PTB group at the Charleroi municipal council, Pauline Boninsegna, seems to jump from one activist to another. It is she who brings a megaphone to Sofie Merckx when her microphone cuts out in the middle of her speech due to lack of electricity. Before her, Germain Mugemangango and the PTB federal deputy, formerly of Caterpillar, Roberto D’Amico organize a small quiz for the participants. “How many millionaires are there in Belgium?”,“How much does a parliamentarian receive who is not re-elected?”, etc. On this second question, when the amounts are given, an activist becomes indignant. “VS“It’s true that it’s scandalous.”

Coffee is offered by the party, everyone has their own little cup in hand, we wait for the speeches and we also talk a lot about the landscape decree. Moreover, activists from Comac (students affiliated with the PTB) are also there to lend a hand.

The PTB now advocates taxing assets from 5 million euros and not more than 1 million to “keep up with inflation”

”I was ready to say: I’m not voting anymore”

But who are these people who decided to come here on a public holiday? Motivated ones for sure. Of the party’s voters, that’s undeniable. “I started to sign so that the PTB could present lists from 2006”, explain Denis. Everyone here seems to know him. “I was a street social worker, now I’m a pensioner, I took care of the homeless.” Denis has always voted on the left. For the socialists first, of whom he no longer wants to know anything, “with the business in Charleroi, I told myself that it was always the same and that they do not do what they say”. Denis also campaigned a little with Écolo. “I was even on the listshe concedes. Not to be elected but to support them.” And for 18 years, it is the PTB that he has given his voice to. “I must say that before voting for them, I was ready to say: I am no longer voting. But I intend to remain free, I do what I want.”

In the crowd, small but motivated, we also find a former socialist provincial deputy. Yves Lardinois “often comes to see us”, says Germain Mugemangango who seems delighted to see a socialist find the PTB’s speeches more in line with his left-wing commitment than those we hear at the PS.

Special sequence at the PS: Thomas Dermine opens the door to the PTB, only to slam it in his face

Two young guys are talking. One, Tony, in his thirties, holds the stroller where a child stays calm. A former worker in the health care sector, he is currently not working due to health problems. But he plans to find work soon. “They are the only ones who say things clearly. We have to get the money where it is.”

Alongside him, Michaël is a collaborator of the PTB group in the Walloon Parliament. He knows active politics well. His work allows him to see the “below politics”. He also says he is convinced by the ideas of the PTB, which is his employer. But it’s not just that. “The PTB wants to change things”, he asserts.

And then there is Lieve, an Antwerp woman who came to Charleroi in 1974. Dark pants, little red vest and shirt with a Peter Pan collar. Don’t be fooled by appearances, she’s an activist from the start. She is inexhaustible, smiling and more motivated than ever. She has done all the recent demonstrations in favor of Palestine. Originally from Antwerp but adopted by Carole, she remains viscerally committed. “I came here in 1974 because it was an important place in terms of workers’ struggle and the steel industry”. This trained regent worked in “Factory in Charleroi and Jumet GB.” Retired today, she continues to inform herself, to campaign and to explain what the PTB wants. “There are people who ask me why the PTB did not come to power. You have to explain the reasons to them. We must not go to power for power’s sake.”

“What is happening is impressive. In Flanders, we no longer see any difference between the PS and the PTB”

She knows the history of the party well and she recognizes that when she arrived in Charleroi, the members of the PTB were “a little sectarian perhaps but we were convinced”. Regarding the evolution of the party over the last 15 years, she says she is rather satisfied. “But it’s true that if I saw him today with my 1974 glasses, I would find him soft”, she explains, a little smile on her lips. Lieve, after talking to us about Mélenchon and the battles to be waged by the left, ends up inviting us to read the latest book by “Paul Goossens, the former editor-in-chief of Morgen. It will certainly be translated into French. It’s incredible, it’s a really good book. At 80 years old, he is doing tremendous work. He talks about inequalities in society”. The discussion ends in front of the headquarters of the FGTB in Charleroi, which has been an important supporter of the PTB for years.


Here, the barbecues are waiting to be lit and the leaders talk about Palestine, purchasing power, the tax on the rich, the rejection of the right but especially of the extreme right, against which the anathemas are on all lips. In the parking lot of the imposing union building that we see from afar when we arrive in town, these words resonate: “They will not pass, they will not pass”, proclaimed a union official. This particular fight against an extreme right which is very present in Flanders but almost non-existent in the south of the country, forms the link between all the left-wing forces in the area. When the PTB delegation arrives, he blends into the crowd, welcomed with “Comrades”. Sofie Merckx, Germain Mugemangango, Pauline Boninsegna and Roberto D’Amico are at home here, as are the ecologist and alderman Carolo, Xavier Desgain and the socialists, Thomas Dermine, Philippe Van Cauwenberghe, Eric Massin, Hugues Bayet, to name but a few. them. The latter, moreover, will not wait for the FGTB procession to set off to travel through the city. They must hurry to reach the Eden room where the PS and its president have arranged to meet the activists.

For its May 1st, the FGTB calls on the PTB to take its responsibilities

When we look at the results of the latest ballots in Charleroi as in Liège and in cities with a rich industrial past, we see that the PTB vote has long surpassed the purely militant vote. Is it a surprise to see a whole bunch of people heading towards the party which has been praising for more than ten years the need for a tax on millionaires, at a time when purchasing power is one of the priorities? voters? Since then, other parties have also wanted to implement taxation on the richest. “The PTB has been saying it for a long time, eh, explains a future voter, affiliated with the FGTB Carolo. It’s easy to do like him now and then say that it’s a party that doesn’t offer solutions.” Another union activist, wearing a red jacket on her upper body, wants to be confident. According to her, the PTB vote is no longer just an urban vote in former working-class towns. “There are more and more small independents and you will see that farmers will also vote for the PTB and students too. More than before… “.



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