The Belgian liberal trade union in the 1930s in photography

The 1930s were a crucial time for the liberal trade union in Belgium. The local autonomous initiatives that had been developing in different cities since the 1890s were finally unified in a central organisation – first named the NCLVB (Nationale Centrale der Liberale Vakbonden van België), then since 1937 the ACLVB (Algemene Centrale der Liberale Vakbonden van België). Members increased from 25,000 in 1930 to 70,000 in 1937. There were some 800 sections in over 1,700 different municipalities in 1937.

The optimism of these years is reflected in the attention given to preserve events and personalities in photography. The photos were published in the union's periodical "Liberale Syndicalist" and clearly seen as essential elements of image-building. Photographers were hired to capture the offices and the staff at work in the headquarters of the ACLVB in Ghent.

Liberas keeps the glass negatives and prints of two remarkable series shot by Albert Ritsaert in the now disappeared building located on the Kortrijksepoortstraat in Ghent (in 1933 and 1935). Other series document the inauguration of the new administrative seat on the Koning Albertlaan on 19 December 1937 (where it is still located to this very day), important meetings and celebrations, as well as the election of union pioneer Alfons Colle as municipal councillor in Ghent in October 1938.

Marc Haegeman/Liberas