- Vandervelde, Émile
- (1866-1938)The leader of the Belgian socialist movement for nearly 50 years, Émile Vandervelde was born in Ixelles on 25 January 1866. His father was a member of the Brussels bar and Émile studied law at the Université libre de Bruxelles. His parents were liberals, but their son's political thoughts turned decidedly more radical and, after having read the complete works of French social theorist Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809-1860) — a gift from his mother—Vandervelde became a socialist.A convinced adherent of Marxist theory, he was not averse, however, to working to secure improvements in workers' rights under the existing political and economic system. Elected to the Chamber of Representatives in 1894 as its youngest member, he served there until 1938. Vandervelde occupied posts in a number of cabinets, beginning in World War I (1916) and later as minister of justice (1919-1921), foreign affairs (1925-1927), and public health (1935). Until 1900, he represented Charleroi and afterward he served as a deputy for Brussels. A champion of innumerable reform campaigns, he was known for his eloquence and erudition in working to secure legislation favorable to working-class interests.Vandervelde was chosen president of the Second International in 1900 and presided over the executive committee of the headquarters bureau, located in Brussels. A major socialist theoretician, he affirmed that socialism, rather than serving as an instrument to reinforce state control, must aim to promote the rationalization and democratization of state services. Vandervelde died in Brussels on 27 December 1938.See also Political Parties.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.