The Flemish socialist party hitherto known as Socialistische Partij Anders (Socialist Party Otherwise, SP.A or sp.a) has changed its name to Vooruit (Progress).
The idea of a name-change came from newly-elected president Conner Rousseau months ago, and met with opposition from within and without the party.
The first objection was that the name no longer has any mention of socialism, something the older members of the party as a betrayal, with the new name resembling something that would be dreamed up by a media agency rather than a grass-roots movement.
The objection from outsiders came from the Vooruit cultural centre in Ghent, which has carried the name since 1913, but now feels obliged to change. Although the centre was set up by a workers’ collective, it now has no desire to be so closely linked to one political party.
One effect of the dispute, however, is that the newly-named party has to go online with the address vooruit.org, because vooruit.be is still owned by the cultural centre for the time being.
The new name involves no change to the core values of the party, Rousseau said in a pre-recorded video billed as a ‘live event’ on Facebook. The most important being solidarity.
“And that is something very simple today: that is doing your part and getting your share; that is contributing according to your ability and receiving according to your needs; that is not only survival, but also living well.”
Rousseau also, in his message, called on his supporters to work towards making Belgium “the best country in the world to wake up in … and to live in.”
That is not possible as long as the old style of politics stands in the way, he said.
“It cannot be done otherwise, if it takes politics one and a half years to form a government alone. I can’t stand all that bitterness and cynicism, and I certainly can’t stand it when things don’t move forward.”
The new party name calls for a new way of doing politics, he said.
“We can do two things: we can either keep taking part in that old politics that takes endless time, or we can do things differently and start a new adventure. By listening every day and making things move, in order to break through the slowness, the stagnation and the decline.”
When it comes to new policies, however, he had little to say, other than a mission to open every question up to discussion, whether it be making pre-school obligatory to allow all children equal opportunities, or scrapping child allowance to invest the money instead in education and child-care.
“Because in the interest of our children, everything must be negotiable.”
Meanwhile, the Flemish socialist party in Brussels, a coalition of actually socialists and independents going by the name of one.brussels, is to adopt the name one.brussels Vooruit, despite some misgivings from independents at the express inclusion of the new socialist title in their name.