Tag: Belgium

Belgium in 1939

Belgium in 1939

With the formation of the Spaak ministry (May 15, 1938), for the first time in the history of Belgium the political direction is assumed by a socialist, with a cabinet of concentration that is constituted on the platform of the renewal of the institutions, of the solution of the ethnic conflict, of equalization in the scholastic field and of the fight against unemployment and leaves only the Rexists, the Flemish nationalists and the Communists to the opposition. Concentration, however, is only at the top; deep is the split not only between the various parties making up the government majority, but within each individual party: PH Spaak’s decision to enter into regular diplomatic relations with Franco (November 29, 1938) causes confusion among the socialists, who on the other hand, Catholics fight the unemployment insurance project, already accepted at the time of the ministerial declaration, and are accused of directing by the liberals. The situation – despite the ministerial rehash of January 21, 1938 (Spaak hands over the Foreign Affairs to Janson) – is still worsening due to the sudden resurgence of the age-old Flemish question, due to the scandalous appointment of a war traitor to the recent Flemish Academy in Brussels. of 1914, Dr. Martens, already sentenced to death, and the indignation of the liberals for this appointment. All this, with the pressure of the square (Spaak is beaten by the crowd), leads to the resignation of the entire cabinet (February 9, 1939). The political direction passes to the Catholic Pierlot, with the exclusion of liberals from government; but the cabinet remains in office for just five days due to the socialist opposition to the deflationist policy of Pierlot and his finance minister Gutt. The king signs (6 March 1939) the dissolution of parliament, uncovering the crown in the letter to Pierlot accompanying the decree, and also revealing authoritarian tendencies. For Belgium 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.

The elections of April 2, 1939 marked a victory for the Catholic bloc, which became the strongest party in parliament, and for the Liberals, a significant weakening of the Socialists, who would or never pass to a second party, and a crushing defeat of the Rexists, who lost all parliamentary weight. Faced with the non-participation decided by the socialist congress, the new government that Pierlot constitutes on 18 April is only Catholic and liberal: created on the platform of Leopoldian neutralism, constitutional reform and economic-financial reorganization, it disposes of considerable powers by parliamentary delegation. extended; but it suffered the repercussions of international tension and on 3 September 1939 it was transformed into a new ministry of national union with Pierlot at the presidency and Spaak at the Foreigners.

After the war broke out, despite the growing discontent of Wallonia linked by complex ties to France and the increasingly strong cracks that – on the international level – arise between the politics of the sovereign and that of the responsible cabinet, Leopold III continues to remain faithful to the conception of integral neutralism: after having launched an appeal for peace on 24 August on behalf of the states of the Oslo group and offered, four days later, in agreement with the Queen of Holland, his good offices, he reiterates, once the conflict has broken out, in a proclamation to the country neutrality (September 4) and November 7 renews the offer of mediation, in harmony with the pacifist offensive unleashed by Hitler after the victory in Poland. This position, generally approved by the press, it takes a tragically absurd turn as the alarms of imminent German invasion become more insistent; but it always remains valid, preventing the implementation of the plan decided on November 28, 1939 by the allied command, while it exacerbates the traditional antagonism between the Walloons and the Flemings, the latter in favor of the policy of I. eopoldo III.

Under the pretext of “safeguarding Belgian neutrality”, denied, in the very act that von Bülow-Schwante handed over to Spaak the note, from the massive bombings of Brussels and Antwerp, on 10 May 1940 the Wehrmacht put an end to this situation. This does not mean that the consequences of a policy conducted for years were eliminated: the king and the Belgian high command – despite the fact that on 12 May the subordination to Gamelin was accepted – set up the campaign in the sense of a pure and simple defense of the territory and emphasized the unilateral nature of the obligations of the Western powers (this against the opinion of the Pierlot cabinet, which in turn does not speak of “guarantors” but of “allies” and on 17 May sent the king a letter of protest for the withdrawal of troops in the direction of the national redoubt north of the Meuse, rather than towards the French border). Faced with German power, in Belgium also favored by the sudden collapse of Flemish units (e.g., in Nevele, on May 26).

Belgium in 1939