" Rex// Or Socialist Drift?
" Concentration " Programme Halts
From Our Belgian Correspondent BELGIAN CATHOLICS ARE FINDING THEMSELVES IN GROWING DIFFICULTIES.
REX, THE SEMI-FASCIST PARTY OF M. DEGRELLE, IS MAKING HEADWAY AND ATTRACTING SUPPORTERS BECAUSE OF THE DRIFT OF THE COALITION GOVERNMENT, COMPOSED OF CATHOLICS AND SOCIALISTS, TOWARDS THE LEFT.
Great indignation is expressed at the visit of the third most important person in the Kingdom paying a visit to Red Spain and pledging to them the support of many Belgian Catholics.
The feelings of many Catholics have been expressed in a speech strongly critical of the Government made by the President of the Catholic Associations.
There is dissatisfaction with the failure of the Catholic Party to reorganise itself to meet the difficulties created by the twin movements towards Right and towards Left.
So far Degrelle, the Rex leader, has achieved a wonderful work in cleaning up Belgium politically and in denouncing scandalous practices in political matters.
Despite the fact that it is known and felt that he has gone too far, many Catholics, if you question them as I have done, say that they are still out-and-out Rexist.
This attitude flows as much from the disappointment with the Catholic Party as from any love for Degrelle—not to speak of what is often called the petty and vindictive persecution of Degrelie.
The denial to him of the use of the Belgian Broadcasting Station, the arrest of his reporters and editorial staff and their imprisonment, the recent degradation of a retired officer of the gendarmerie—Colonel Vigneron (for the mere fact that he acted as a witness for Degrelle) all hamper and annoy Degreile are contrary to the liberty guaranteed by the Belgian Constitution.
It is a common view that a Belgian general election would prove a sweeping victory for the Rexist Party.
The Moment is Grave
Most suggestive at the present time was the speech last week of Count Charles A. d'Aspremont-Lynden on the occasion of his re-clection as President of the Federation of Catholic Associations and Clubs.
"The moment is grave," he said, " and things must be said concerning the Government's policy and concerning the reor ganisation of the Party. Concentration roust be such that all Catholics are to feel at home within the party."
As to the Belgian Political situation, Count d'As.premont stated that at the start he had given his confidence to the Van Zeeland Ministry, hut today, without condemning the Government, he gave it but a relative confidence:
" I esteem," he continued, " that this confidence must be watchful, for the past few weeks we have noted a sliding towards the left which hae not been done to please us. I do not take an opposing attitude hut we do rise up against the attitude of certain ministers. Things have been done that order us to rise up against them.
"The Government has capitulated on the matter of amnesty for outrages perpetrated during the strike. It has yielded on the matter of the Coal Miners. for there k danger in limiling the production of coal when there is a shortage of coal. Working hours must not be reduced just for political reasons. The economic order is not yet reestablished and to give in to the Socialists on this point is a surrender."
In striking contrast to this frank criticism of Van Zeeland's Government by a supporter was the diatribe launched last week by a leading Catholic Minister of State. slating that it was not true that the Catholic Prime Minister, Van Zeeland, was ruled by
his Socialist Colleagues and upbraiding a part of the Catholic masses for letting themselves be led away from their duty by a minority " skilled in the art of deceit.' (Rexists.)
Socialist's Valencia Visit
An example of the kind of thing which makes many Catholics suspicious is the visit of the Socialist President of the Belgian Chamber to the Red General Miaja at Valencia.
Camille Huysmans, bourgomaster of Antwerp. and President of the Cluunber, has gone on a visit to Spain, though it was given out that he had merely gone to France for his health. In Spain. at the head of a delegation of Belgian Deputies—all Socialists—he applauded Setlor A zarta's speech—and then issues a solemn profession of faith in favour of the Reds, going so far as to state the untruth that a large section of Belgian Catholics sympathised with the Reds.
Camille Huysmans, as President of the Belgian Chamber, is the third person of importance in this country, and it is felt that his presence in Spain at this juncture is an outrage to Belgian honour whilst the blood of Baron de )3orchgrave has not been atoned for.
Meanwhile the proposed "Concentration" or " Reorganisation " of the Catholic Party makes little headway.
In September at the Congress of Malines, the most imposing of Catholic manifestations ever held in Belgium, all the Catholic elements resolved to sink their differences and rally round the Catholic standard in one united force on the political arena.
The growing grip of the Socialists over Belgium. and the spectre of Spain urged the responsible leaders, under the spell of the enthusiasm of the Malines Congress to concentrate without delay.
Five months has elapsed. Since then one has grown tired of the word " Concentration " which has been discussed in the press and on the platform every day, and concentration of Catholic forces seems far off and unattainable: Charges and re-organisations reported at the time in the Catholic Herald were made. but the effect has only been to split the Catholics more than ever.
To secure peace, union and unity, the concentration must be effected in such manner that one federation or group is not sacrificed in favour of another. Thus it is that discussions and debates are being carried on at meetings, at conferences, in the press, all in a heated endeavour to reach some satisfactory solution.
(Editorial continent on page 8)