The Belgian strike of the 100,000, 1941

Belgium: strike of the 100,000

A short history of the strike of tens of thousands of workers in Nazi-occupied Belgium, for a pay increase and against the fascist authorities.

The strike originated at the Cockerill steel works (Cockerill Fonderie) in the industrial town of Seraing, in eastern Belgium, on 10 May 1941. The date significantly marked the first anniversary of the German invasion of Belgium.[1]

News spread quickly through the Province of Liège and brought many other workers out on solidarity actions. It also spread into the industrial Province of Hainaut in the west and also to the neighbouring Limburg in Flanders. At its height it is estimated that 70,000 workers were on strike.[1]

Despite the Nazi Soviet Pact being in place, the Belgian Communist Party (PCB), and its leader Julien Lahaut, played a key role in organising the walkout.

The actions received widespread coverage in the national underground press of the Belgian Resistance and even achieved limited support from the middle and upper class who had traditionally opposed labour militancy.

In order to end the disruption, the Germans were forced to agree to a substantial wage increase of eight percent. The strike soon finished.[1] It officially ended on 18 May.[2] In the aftermath of the strike, the German authorities worried that a repeat could occur, arrested 400 workers in September 1942 who they believed to be planning a similar action.[1]

Further important strikes did, however, take place in Belgium in November 1942 and February 1943.[1]

In the aftermath of the strike and the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941) led to the end of the limited toleration of Belgian communists. Lahaut was deported to a concentration camp in Germany and many other strikers were also incarcerated in the fortress of Huy.[2]

A similar strike, inspired by the success of the Strike of the 100,000, took place later the same month in the French province of Pas-de-Calais (part of the same German administrative area as Belgium) which was judged by the French newspaper Le Mondein 2001 to have been one of the most spectacular acts of the French resistance.[3]

The strike, which broke out on 27 May and lasted until 9 June, brought 17,000 miners (around 80 percent of the regional total) out to protest pay and food shortages.[4]

Mass anti-Nazi strikes also broke out in the Netherlands and Norway in 1941, and Luxembourg in 1942.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Gotovitch, José; Aron, Paul, eds. (2008). Dictionnaire de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale en Belgique. Brussels: André Versaille éd. pp. 220–1. ISBN 978-2-87495-001-8. 
  2. ^ a b "Evocation: Julien Lahaut et la grève des 100 000". RTBF Info. 4 May 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "La grève des mineurs du Nord-Pas-de-Calais, 27 mai-9 juin 1941". Chemins de mémoire. Retrieved 29 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Taylor, Lynne (2000). Between Resistance and Collaboration: Popular Protest in Northern France, 1940-45. Basingstoke: Macmillan. pp. 75–6. ISBN 0-333-73640-0. 
Taken and edited from Wikipedia