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Belgian general strike of 1893

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Title: Belgian general strike of 1893  
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Subject: History of Belgium, List of massacres in Belgium, Royal Question, Suffrage, Direct action
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Belgian general strike of 1893

1893 General Strike
The military fire on strikers in the Borinage on 17 April 1893. From Le Petit Journal.
Date 13–18 April 1893
Location  Belgium
Goals Adoption of Universal suffrage
Parties to the civil conflict
Government of Auguste Beernaert
State and military
Catholics and Liberals
250,000 workers on strike[1]

The Belgian general strike of 1893 was a general strike in Belgium ordered by the General Board of the Belgian Labour Party (POB-BWP) on 12 April 1893 after the Belgian Parliament had rejected a bill proposing the introduction of universal male suffrage the day before.

This general strike forced the "terrified" bourgeoisie, who feared a full-scale revolution, into making concessions to the Socialists.[2] But according to Henri Pirenne, "the leaders of the Belgian Labour Party were also terrified in the face of events that were no longer under their control".[3]

Although universal suffrage was not adopted, a compromise system of plural voting was adopted. All male citizens were entitled to vote, but those with education or property were entitled to several votes, but poor, uneducated men were entitled to just one vote.[4] Universal suffrage was only adopted in 1913.

Chronology according to the Otago Witness

Otago Witness a weekly magazine from Otago, New Zealand, wrote a concise and detailed reportage on the story:[5]

April 12

The trouble with the strikers at Borinage has led to the calling out of the civic guard.

April 14

The strike ordered by the Belgian Labour party is of an extensive character, but it is not general. (...)

April 15

The general strike in Belgium is extending. (...) Much blood has been spilt, and many persons seriously wounded.

Brussels, April 17

The Belgian strikers now number 50,000. Many have been killed in conflicts with the police and military. (...) There is increased ferment throughout Belgium, and desperate fighting has taken place at Mons and Antwerp. A number of the Civic Guard were wounded, and several strikers killed and many wounded.

April 18

The strikers at Mons are maddened by the death of their comrades, and have sworn to avenge them.

Violent conflicts have taken place between the civic guard and rioters in Mons. The troops charged the mob, many of whom were wounded. The strikers retaliated with bricks, and the guard then fired, killing five and wounded many more. A large number were arrested, and the crowd then fled, taking the dead with them. (...)

The Belgian Government advocate manhood suffrage combined with plural voting. If the proposal is rejected the King must intervene...

Henri Pirenne wrote nevertheless the strike quickly spread to the Walloon basins of Liège, Charleroi Centre, Borinage Verviers and also in Flanders in Ghent and in Antwerp

The riots of Mons were also accurately described by the Otago Witness. We read almost the same version in a Walloon book.[6] There were finally seven strikers killed by the civic guard of Mons.


Depictions of the 1893 Strike
Un Soir de Grève (1893) by Eugène Laermans 

See also


  1. ^ "Les grèves générales dans l’histoire sociale de la Belgique".  
  2. ^ Henri Pirenne, Histoire de Belgique, Tome VII, Maurice Lambertin, Bruxelles, 1948, p. 319. Histoire de Belgique Tome VII
  3. ^ Henri Pirenne, Histoire de Belgique, p.319. French: Les chefs du parti ouvrier s'épouvantent de la tournure des événements qu'ils ne peuvent plus maîtriser. Histoire de Belgique Tome VII
  4. ^ Els Witte,Jan Craeybeckx,Alain Meynen Political History of Belgium: From 1830 Onwards, Academic and Scientific Publishers, Brussels, 2009, p. 278. ISBN 978-90-5487-517-8
  5. ^ Otago Witness, 20 April 1893, p. 17
  6. ^ Léon Fourmanoit, Des luttes, des hommes et du Borinage, Mons 1983 D/1983/3323/001 : La garde opère un simulacre de charge. Mouvement de recul de la foule mais au même moment des pierres sont lancées (...) Sans sommation aucune, un coup de feu part suivi d'une fusillade générale de quelques dizaines de secondes...
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