Monday, November 29, 2010

Verbond der Dietse Nationaal-Solidaristen or Verdinaso

Since I have talked about the VNV and the Rexisme movement I have remembered that I neglected another similar political party of that period which was the Verbond der Dietse Nationaal-Solidaristen or Verdinaso. It is mostly unique as a first Dutch speaking party that became a Belgian nationalist party, different from its origin. The Verdinaso was started on 6 October 1931 in Ghent by Joris Van Severen, Jef Francois, Wies Moens and Emiel Thiers. They were inspired by the success of the fascists in Italy and, to different degrees as they went along by the National Socialists in Germany. However, they were of course unique to Belgium in ways of course and so were never nearly as menacing as these other parties but they could make frightening noises. Like most fascist-type parties they opposed the established system of parliamentary democracy. What they wanted to replace it modified over the time of the existence of the party.

At first the Verdinaso were a variety of pan-Dutch party specific to Flanders. They wanted Flemish and Dutch nationalism, not Belgian and called, like the similar parties in Nederlands, for Flanders, Nederlands and Luxembourg to come together in a Dietsland or Diets Rijk (Dutch Reich or Dutch Empire) that was much like the “Greater Netherlands” idea proposed by the Dutch Nazi party. As historical justification for this they looked back to the Duchy of Burgundy (which almost became a kingdom). Their symbol combined insignia of work and war and industry. In the early days they had some political success. In 1932 Francois and Van Severen were elected to the Chamber of Deputies. They also became more associated with the German National Socialists at that time when Victor Leemans joined the party and wrote a book defending Nazism called Het nationaal-socialisme. This was an isolated political success though since they did not participate in elections because they were totally opposed to democracy and the existing constitutional arrangement.

This opposition never changed by the still changed quite radically from their original platform. In 1934 Verdinaso dropped the pan-Dutch position and became a specifically Belgian nationalist party. This was a process over several years and also during that time, 1937, keeping in the fashion of the Brown shirts of Germany and the Black shirts of Italy the Verdinaso organized a paramilitary group of their own called DINASO Militanten Orde that wore green shirts. By 1939 they were a French and Dutch bilingual party and were advocated a corporatist society overseen directly by the King of the Belgians. They took their ideas from the corporatist model advocated at that time by many in the Catholic Church as well as the Integralism of Action Francaise which influenced Van Severen in particular. They became very opposed to liberalism and communism. They opposed the Freemasons as dangerous to society and, some trying to be like the Nazis, made anti-Semitic statements at times though they were never as extreme as the Germans. The opposition to Jews was there but it was not seen as very central or important as in Germany.

They were associated with the Vlaams Nationaal Block since 1936 and in the elections that year earned 16 deputy seats and in 1939 won 17 seats which was the most they ever received. At their height the green shirts had 3,000 members under Francois and they published two newspapers. They were devastated by the outbreak of the Second World War. Van Severen was killed in France as part of a series of executions of anyone suspected of having Nazi or communist sympathies (Hitler and Stalin were allies in the beginning) and many Belgian communists and Rexists were executed also. Francois took over leadership but the party was obviously in a confused state. Some welcomed the invasion of Nazi Germany, others opposed it and wanted King Leopold III to take control in this situation in an authoritarian system. Some of them joined the underground resistance when Belgium was occupied by the Germans, others joined the VNV and collaborated with them. No matter which side they chose the Verdinaso was finished.

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