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Belgium, Strike of the Century, 1960–1961

Nicolas Verschueren

Subject Social History » Labor History
Sociology » Social Movements

Place Low Countries » Belgium

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics civil disobedience, conflict, labor movements, revolution, strikes

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00187.x


The winter of 1960–1 witnessed the most important protest movement of the twentieth century in Belgium. Called the Strike of the Century, this event left long-lasting marks on the political history of Belgium. It ended a decade of deep social unrest linked to the Royal Question, the secondary school war, and the industrial collapse of the southern regions of Belgium. The violence and extent of these events left a deep impression on Belgian society. The triggering factor was Eyskens' Bill. Called Loi unique , it was proposed to the Parliament on September 27, 1960 and introduced a number of austerity policies to reduce the public deficit and fight threats of economic destabilization after decolonization. The workers' anger spread to all industrial areas, including Flanders, and especially Ghent and Antwerp. The mineworkers, steel-workers, and public servants became the spearheads of this movement, which started on December 14, 1960. At first, the trade unions and the Belgian Socialist Party were overwhelmed by events. Facing the Catholic-Liberal coalition government, the Belgian socialists federated the party, the trade union, and the socialist mutual insurance company to fight the Eyskens' Bill. This union was called Common Action. The public service socialist trade union (CGSP) and the unionists and workers who followed André Renard were the most virulent actors in this protest ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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