Emile Vandervelde


Emile Vandervelde (25 January 1866 – 27 December 1938) was a
Belgian Belgian may refer to: * Something of, or related to, Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe Western Europe is the region of Europe Europe is a contine ...

socialist politician. Nicknamed "the boss" (''le patron''), Vandervelde was a leading figure in the
Belgian Labour Party The Belgian Labour Party or Belgian Workers' Party ( nl, Belgische Werkliedenpartij, BWP; french: Parti Ouvrier Belge, POB) was the first major Socialism, socialist party in Belgium. Founded in 1885, the party was officially disbanded in 1940 and s ...
(POB–BWP) and in international socialism.


Emile Auguste Vandervelde was born into a middle-class family in
Ixelles Ixelles (; nl, Elsene, italic=no, ) is one of the nineteen municipalities A municipality is usually a single administrative division having Municipal corporation, corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by ...
, a suburb of
Brussels Brussels (french: Bruxelles or ; nl, Brussel ), officially the Brussels-Capital Region (All text and all but one graphic show the English name as Brussels-Capital Region.) (french: link=no, Région de Bruxelles-Capitale; nl, link=no, Brussel ...

, in Belgium on 25 January 1866. Initially attracted by
Liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an adherent of a Liberal Party Arts, entertainment and media *''El Liberal'', a Spanish newspaper published betw ...
politics, Vandervelde entered the
Free University of BrusselsUniversity of Brussels may refer to several institutions in Brussels, Belgium: Current institutions *Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), a French-speaking university established as a separate entity in 1970 *Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), a Dut ...
as a
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
student in 1881. However, he soon became interested in emerging
socialist Socialism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individuals, s ...
ideas and, in 1885, joined the small Workers' League of Ixelles (''Ligue Ouvrière d'Ixelles''). In 1886, he joined the newly formed
Belgian Labour Party The Belgian Labour Party or Belgian Workers' Party ( nl, Belgische Werkliedenpartij, BWP; french: Parti Ouvrier Belge, POB) was the first major Socialism, socialist party in Belgium. Founded in 1885, the party was officially disbanded in 1940 and s ...
(POB–BWP). He worked as an academic at the Free University. Following the extension of
universal male suffrageUniversal manhood suffrage is a form of voting rights Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an electorate, in order to make a collective decision or express an opinion usually following discussions, debates or election campaigns. ...
in 1893, Vandervelde proposed a
manifesto A manifesto is a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a ...

for the POB, known as the Charter of Quaregnon which would form the basis for Belgian socialist politics until the 1970s. In the 1894 elections, Vandervelde was elected to the Chamber of Representatives (Belgium), Chamber of Representatives for the industrial city of Charleroi. He held the seat until 1890, when he transferred to Brussels which he held from 1900 to 1938. He was a staunch opponent of Leopold II of Belgium, Leopold II and the absolute power he enjoyed in the Congo during the 1890s and wrote numerous articles against capitalist colonialism. From 1900 to 1918, he held the position of president of the Second International. Vandervelde was named Minister of State (Belgium), Minister of State in 1914 and supported the policy of resistance to the German invasion of Belgium (1914), German invasion of Belgium in World War I. As one of the more respected Socialists within Europe, he encouraged other socialists and other parties on the left to support the war against Germany. He wrote a telegram to the socialist party of Russia that was reprinted in several newspapers. In 1916, he entered the de Broqueville government in exile, de Broqueville government. He was a delegate for Belgium at the Treaty of Versailles and subsequently involved in the League of Nations. In 1923, he helped to found the Labour and Socialist International of which he held the presidency until 1938. Vandervelde's principle political aims concerned the extension of universal suffrage and social democracy. As a theoretician, he wrote extensively on the role of the state in socialism. In 1913, he was named a corresponding member of the ''Classe des Lettres et des Sciences morales et politiques'' at the Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium, Royal Academy of Belgium, later becoming a titular member in 1929 and director of the ''Classe'' in 1933. He was an opponent of Leopold II of Belgium, King Leopold II's attempts to expand his constitutional powers through the creation of the Congo Free State in the period leading up to the Free State's annexation by Belgium in 1908. Vandervelde held the portfolio of Minister of Justice between 1918 and 1921 in which role he supported prison reform, measures against alcoholism, trade union rights and women's rights. In 1922, Vandervelde joined a group of socialist lawyers including Arthur Wauter, member of the Belgian Labour Party, Kurt Rosenfeld and Theodor Liebknecht, members of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany. They travelled to Russia as a group of socialist lawyers where they defended members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party in the 1922 Moscow Trial of Socialist Revolutionaries. This resulted in his inclusion into a satirical poem "Mayakovsky Gallery" by the Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. From 1925 to 1927, he held the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs where he contributed to the Locarno Pact. He subsequently held a position on the Council of Ministers (1935–36) and Minister of Public Health (1936–37) in the government of Paul Van Zeeland. In 1933, Vandervelde became the POB's first president but increasingly found his internationalism (politics), internationalism and reformism challenged by a new generation of Belgian socialists. During the Spanish Civil War, Vandervelde's desire to intervene to halt the growing threat of fascism but was challenged by Henri de Man and Paul-Henri Spaak. He was a freemason, and a member of the lodge ''Les Amis Philanthropes'' of the Grand Orient of Belgium in Brussels. His personal papers are held by the Institut Émile Vandervelde in Brussels.


* ''Les associations professionelles d'artisans et d'ouvriers en Belgique'' (1892) * ''L'Evolution industrielle et le collectivisme'' (1896); English translation, ''Collectivism and Industrial Evolution'' (1901) * ''Le question agraire en Belgique'' (1897) * ''Le Socialisme en Belgique'' (1898), with Destrée * ''L'Alcoolisme et les conditions de travail en Belgique'' (1899) * ''Le propriété foncière en Belgique'' (1900) * ''L'Exode rural et le retour aux champs'' (1903) * ''Le Socialisme et l'agriculture'' (1906) * ''Le Belgique et le Belgian Congo, Congo'' (1911) * ''Three Aspects of The Russian Revolution'' (1918)
* ''Le pays d'Israel : un marxiste en Palestine'' (1929)


Further reading

* Janet Polasky, ''The Democratic Socialism of Emile Vandervelde: Between Reform and Revolution.'' Oxford, England: Berg Publishers, 1995. *

External links

Emile Vandervelde

Institut Emile Vandervelde
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Vandervelde, Emile 1866 births 1938 deaths People from Ixelles Belgian Labour Party politicians Belgian Ministers of State Free University of Brussels alumni Members of the Executive of the Labour and Socialist International Belgian Ministers of Justice Foreign ministers of Belgium