Socialist party SP.A to change name to Vooruit

Summary

The young chair of Flanders’ socialist party has announced that a name change is part of a larger project to remake the party into a modern socialist movement

Arts centre Vooruit not happy

Flemish socialist party SP.A is going to change its name to Vooruit. Party chair Conner Rousseau made the announcement last week, and the process of switching to the new name should be complete by December.

The new name references the beginnings of the socialist movement in Flanders. A socialist co-operative called Vooruit – which means “forward” or “let’s go” – was established in 1880 in Ghent to improve the lives of the working class.

It published a newspaper called Vooruit and, together with the socialist party, eventually built the famous Vooruit building in the city, now a centre for arts and culture.

We have worked hard to reform and professionalise the organisation, to make a real movement out of a traditional party

- SP.A chair Conner Rousseau

“Over the next few months, we will roll out the Vooruit project,” said Rousseau (pictured). “It will be more than a new name; it will be a movement that looks to the future, in which we hope to bring together all progressive Flemings who want to see a new, positive way to take part in politics.”

It is the latest in a line of name changes for the party, which started out in the 1870s as VSA, later became BWP and then BSP before becoming SP (Socialistische Partij) in 1980. That name stuck until 2001 when it was changed to Socialistische Partij Anders (roughly, a different kind of socialist party), known as SP.A.

Rousseau, 27, became chair of SP.A last November. “Since then we’ve begun to remake the party into a socialist movement,” he said. “We have worked hard behind the scenes to reform and professionalise the organisation, to make a real movement out of a traditional party, to fight against the ideas of political celebrities and to once again connect people in a positive, ambitious and hopeful project for the future.”

The use of the name Vooruit by the political party detracts from our efforts and will lead to confusion

- Vooruit arts centre

Not everyone is happy about the new name, however, in particular the Vooruit culture centre. “The name Vooruit has been inseparable from the Ghent arts centre for nearly 40 years,” said general director Franky Devos and board chair Paul Teerlinck in a statement. “It has grown into a nationally and internationally renowned brand name, belonging to a centre that builds its programme around social and ecological values.”

Three years ago, Vooruit became an official Flemish Community Arts Institution, a list of seven centres and organisations that the government has recognised as having a significantly valuable role within its cultural policy.

“Vooruit develops a programme of performing arts, music, literature and nightlife completely independently and without specific ties to any party politics,” read the statement. “We have argued for and invested in this independence for decades in order to safeguard the future of the arts centre. The use of the name by the political party detracts from those efforts and will lead to confusion.”

There were apparently discussions between the party formerly known as SP.A and Vooruit in the lead up to the name-change announcement, but Vooruit was not in agreement that the name change would take place. Vooruit has submitted a complaint to SP.A.

Photo ©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA