Rexist Party

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Rexist Party
Leader Léon Degrelle
Founded 1930 (1930)
Dissolved 1944 (1944) (banned)
Succeeded by None
Headquarters Formerly Brussels, Belgium
Newspaper Le Pays Réel
Ideology

"Rexism":

Political position Far right
Colors Red, Black and White
Politics of Belgium
Political parties
Elections

Rex, also known as the Rexist Party (French: Parti Rexiste), was a nationalist and anti-Communist Belgian political movement of the extreme right, which was active from the 1930s to 1945. Initially close to Italian Fascist, Spanish Falangist and the Romanian Iron Guard movements, it drew closer to National Socialism and collaborated with the National Socialist occupation of Belgium.

The Party espoused "right wing revolution" and the dominance of the Catholic Church in Belgium,[1] but its ideology came to be vigorously opposed by the leader of the Belgian Church Cardinal van Roey, who called Rexism a "danger to the church and to the country".[2]

The party ran across Belgium, but was most popular in French-speaking Wallonia. It was founded by a Walloon journalist, Léon Degrelle. The name was derived from the Roman Catholic social teachings concerning Christus Rex, which was also the title of a conservative Catholic journal and publishing company.

The high point of Rexism saw it win 21 of 202 deputies (with 11.4% of the vote) and twelve senators in the 1936 election.[3] Never a mass movement, it was on the decline by 1938. During the German occupation of Belgium in the Second World War, Rex was closely associated with collaboration and was banned after the war.

Ideology[edit]

The ideology of Rex, which was loosely based on the writings of Jean Denis, called for the "moral renewal" of Belgian society through dominance of the Catholic Church, by forming a corporatist society and abolishing democracy.[note 1] Denis became an enthusiastic member of Rex and later wrote for the party newspaper, Le Pays Réel.

Anti-Semitism was also an integral part of the Rexist programme.[4] It also advocated Anti-Masonry.

The Rexist movement attracted support almost exclusively from Wallonia. On 6 October 1936, the Leon Degrelle made a secret agreement with Rex's Flemish counterpart, the Vlaamsch Nationaal Verbond (or VNV) led by Staf De Clercq.[5] It also faced competition from the likes of Paul Hoornaert's National Legion.

Pre-war politics[edit]

Léon Degrelle, founder and first leader of Rex.

Rex initially experienced considerable popularity in the Depression-era, culminating in winning 21 seats in the 1936 election. Even in 1936, however, the support for the party was extremely localized: Rexists succeeded in garnering over 30 per cent of the vote in the French-speaking province of Luxembourg, compared with just 9 per cent in equally French-speaking Hainaut.[6] After Adolf Hitler's rise to power, Rexism increasingly began to ally itself with the interests of Nazi Germany and to incorporate Nazi-style antisemitism into its platform. Correspondingly it then received financial support from German interests, while its ties to the Roman Catholic Church were increasingly repudiated by the Belgian clergy.

Degrelle had received subsidies from both Hitler and Mussolini. The Archbishop of Mechelen/Malines, Jozef-Ernest Cardinal van Roey, intervened in a 1937 Brussels by-election against Prime Minister van Zeeland, rebuking Rexist voters and calling Rexism "a danger to the country and to the Church". Degrelle was decisively defeated. The Nazi press told Germans that the "The election result was falsified in advance by the statement of the Archbishop".[7]

By 1938, support for the party had declined sharply.[8] In the 1939 election, Rex lost 17 of the 21 seats which it had won in 1936, largely to the mainstream Catholic and Liberal parties.[8]

Second World War[edit]

With the German invasion of Belgium in 1940, Rexism welcomed German occupation, even though it had initially supported the pre-war Belgian policy of neutrality.[9] While some former Rexists went into the underground resistance or (like José Streel) withdrew from politics after they had come to see the Nazis' anticlerical and extreme anti-Semitic policies enforced in occupied Belgium, most Rexists, however, proudly supported the occupiers and assisted German forces with the repression of the territory wherever they could.[9] Nevertheless, the popularity of Rex continued to drop. In 1941, at a reunion in Liège, Degrelle was booed by a hundred or so demonstrators.[9]

In August 1944, Rexist militia were responsible for the Courcelles Massacre.

Collaboration[edit]

Closely affiliated with Rex was the Légion Wallonie, a paramilitary organization which later became the "Wallonien" Division of the Waffen SS. After Operation Barbarossa started, the Légion Wallonie and its Flemish counterpart, the Legion Flandern sent respectively 25,000 and 15,000 volunteers to fight against the Soviet Union[citation needed]. Degrelle took command of the Wallonien division, where he fought on the Eastern Front. Whilst Degrelle was absent, nominal leadership of the party passed to Victor Matthys.

End of Rexism[edit]

From the liberation of Belgium in September 1944, the party had been banned. With the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945, many former Rexists were imprisoned or executed for their role during collaboration. Victor Matthys and José Streel were both executed by firing squad, Jean Denis (who had played only a minor role during the war) was imprisoned.

Degrelle took refuge in Francoist Spain. Degrelle was convicted of treason in absentia in Belgium and sentenced to death, but repeated requests to extradite him were turned down by the Spanish government.[10] Stripped of his citizenship and excommunicated (later lifted in Germany), Degrelle died in Málaga in 1994.[11]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In William Brustein's estimation (Brustein 1980). For J.M. Étienne (Le mouvement Rexiste jusqu'en 1940, Paris, 1968), Rex was not originally fascist, but an authoritarian and conservative Catholic nationalist movement that became fascist after 1937; but for J. Stengers ("Belgium: in The European Right Rogger and Weber, eds., Berkeley, 1965) and G. Carpinelli ("Les interprétations du rexisme," Cahiers Marxistes July–September, 1973), Rex was fascist in form and content.

References[edit]

References

  1. ^ Scripta Politica: Politieke Geschiedenis van België in Documenten (1918-2008) (2e herwerkte dr. ed.). Leuven: Acco. 2010. p. 112. ISBN 9789033480393. 
  2. ^ Richard Bonney Confronting the Nazi War on Christianity: the Kulturkampf Newsletters, 1936-1939; International Academic Publishers; Bern; 2009 ISBN 978-3-03911-904-2; pp. 175-176
  3. ^ Richard Bonney Confronting the Nazi War on Christianity: the Kulturkampf Newsletters, 1936-1939; International Academic Publishers; Bern; 2009 ISBN 978-3-03911-904-2; pp. 175-176
  4. ^ di Muro, Giovanni F. (2005). Léon Degrelle et l'aventure rexiste. Bruxelles: Pire. p. 16. ISBN 2874155195. 
  5. ^ Geheim akkoord tussen Rex en VNV quoted in Scripta Politica: Politieke Geschiedenis van België in Documenten (1918-2008) (2e herwerkte dr. ed.). Leuven: Acco. 2010. pp. 119–20. ISBN 9789033480393. 
  6. ^ Brustein (1980), pp. 69-80.
  7. ^ Richard Bonney Confronting the Nazi War on Christianity: the Kulturkampf Newsletters, 1936-1939; International Academic Publishers; Bern; 2009 ISBN 978-3-03911-904-2; pp. 175-176
  8. ^ a b di Muro, Giovanni F. (2005). Léon Degrelle et l'aventure rexiste. Bruxelles: Pire. pp. 151–3. ISBN 2874155195. 
  9. ^ a b c di Muro, Giovanni F. (2005). Léon Degrelle et l'aventure rexiste. Bruxelles: Pire. pp. 160–1. ISBN 2874155195. 
  10. ^ Degrelle, Léon (1985). Campaign on the Eastern Front. Institute Of Historical Review. ISBN 0-317-38510-0. 
  11. ^ Domenico, Roy P. (ed.); Hanley, Mark Y. (2007). Encyclopedia of modern Christian politics: L-Z (1. publ. ed.). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 163. ISBN 0313338906. 

Bibliography