January 30, 2002

Trial of the shop stewards of Clabecq resumes

On Tuesday, January 29, after five years of judicial events (the first tribunal was dismissed, the second one declared itself incompetent) the trial of the elected shop stewards of the Forges Clabecq resumed in room 11 of the court of appeals in Brussels. The hearing with which a trial usually begins, gave a foretaste of the manner in which bourgeois justice intends to make use of this trial and the manner in which it will actually use it if the solidarity movement does not stop it.

This Tuesday it was a matter of the court asking the 13 accused whether they accepted or rejected each of the numerous counts against them. For example, the chief judge asked whether Roberto D'Orazio accepted or challenged the charge of theft by means of a threat of a mobile phone from a watchman at the steelworks.

That permitted D'Orazio to ask once again exactly what he was charged with. In fact, the list of charges does not even specify whether each of the accused is being charged directly or indirectly (by way of orders, for example) with responsibility for the acts. D'Orazio is thus charged with acts (for example the incident with the telephone) about which the file does not even state that he was present at the places in question! The file limits itself to a series of general accusations to which the accused are supposed to prove their innocence. In reality, the elected shop stewards are accused of all the incidents that surrounded the long fight of the steel workers of Clabecq against the closing of their factory, without any investigation of the real acts of each person.

In this matter of the mobile phone, as in other matters, Roberto D'Orazio and Marra Silvio (the chairperson of the Security and Hygiene Committees) sought to expose before the court how the charges were manipulated by taking the incidents out of context.

While the trustees were trying to sell off the factory while it was in bankruptcy, the elected shop stewards, refusing to let it close, had managed with the voluntary labor of hundreds of workers to keep it running. What happened afterwards showed that they were right; instead of the liquidation of the steelworks for the profit of a few creditors, the factory resumed operation and half of the jobs were saved. At the time of these actions, the trustees did not want to know anything and had not only deserted the factory, but had undertaken to systematically sabotage the efforts of the steel workers. Among these acts of sabotage and provocation, the trustees had cut off all the telephone lines in the factory. By doing this, they deliberately threatened not only the attempt of workers to save the factory, but also the security of the workers themselves and also of the region since the risk of industrial accidents in a steelworks are not minor (the factory is traversed by lines of hydrogen, there was a stock of 200 kg [440 lbs.] of dynamite used to break up defective steel, etc.). The only left telephone line open by the trustees was the mobile phone in question, which was set so that it could only be used to summon the police to the factory by the watchman. Many workers did not accept that this phone line should be used in this way: they took the phone, put it in a safe place, and returned it sometime afterwards.

The speeches of the shop stewards at the hearing were really notable for their clarity, dignity and combativity, for they placed the charges in a context that showed their really indecent character. The chief judge decided not to listen to any of this. Thus after the explanation of the context of the matter of the mobile phone, the chief judge limited himself to asking (after having graciously allowed the stewards to speak) Roberto D'Orazio: "therefore, you reject the charge of theft of a telephone."

By reducing a social conflict to a group of punishable incidents, bourgeois justice can persecute the elected shop stewards who have dedicated all their social lives to the betterment of their class and skip over the only real scandal in the Clabecq affair: the pillage of a region and the selling-off of the chief Belgian steelworks by finance capital and its agents (the authorities and other trustees responsible for the embezzlement of tens of millions), the attempt to break the workers' resistance at all costs, and the shameful treason of the trade union bureaucracy.

It was not accidentally that the hearing sought to charge the elected shop stewards as a group without trying to establish the actual degree of involvement of each of the stewards in each incident. They were not only not interested in the actual involvement of any individual (their presence on the spot or not) but also the nature of their involvement, since on many occasions, the shop stewards, concerned about the security of the workers, put an end to incidents that officially caused them to be taken the court today. Officially and only officially, since behind the trial of these shop stewards, there is purely and simply the trial of the workers' resistance and class struggle trade unionism.

The next session (continuation of the hearing, speech of the prosecutor and pleas of the private parties associated with the prosecutor) will take place on Monday, February 4, the following one will probably take place the following Monday. Again other trial procedures are possible since the lawyers for the defense have asked that the charges be dismissed because of their lack of precision. It is important to get the broadest support for the shop stewards of the Forges of Clabecq in denouncing this trial and getting financial support for them: so far, their expenses for the trial exceed 50.000 Euros [almost $50,000] (account Workers' Defense: 370-1053288-52).

(Info: Red Aid/APAPC)

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