Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Political Testament, Part III

The third section of Leopold's "Political Testament," La réorganisation sociale, deals with social reform. We have already seen his concern for just relations between the different ethnolinguistic groups in Belgium; now his concern for harmony between the classes comes to the fore. Leopold's openness to social issues was a quality he shared with his family; Albert and Elisabeth had always sought to protect the working classes, both in Belgium and in the Congo, from exploitation. In their daughter Marie-José's words, her family, while not being "socialist", nevertheless had a strong "social orientation."

Cette guerre mondiale est l'enfantement d'un monde nouveau... L'individualisme et le libéralisme économique dont le XIXe siècle fut l'âge d'or, feront place, de gré ou de force, à l'établissement d'un système plus égalitaire.

Il appartiendra aux dirigeants de veiller à ce que notre organisation sociale future soit empreinte de solidarité et soi plus conforme à la charité chrétienne et la dignité humaine.

Mon rôle de souverain constitutionnel ne m'assigne pas pour tâche de présenter un programme de réalisation ou de prendre parti pour l'une ou l'autre doctrine, mais je faillirais à ma mission si je n'indiquais ici quelques principes qui ne sont que l'expression de l'équité. 

Je tiens pour urgentes de larges réformes sociales, car le scandaleux contraste des misères dont par deux fois la guerre a accablé les uns, et les profits exorbitants que se sont procurés les autres, proclame l'iniquité d'un régime égoïste et malsain et le devoir d'y mettre fin.

Dès la libération du Pays, les gouvernement auront l'obligation d'affirmer le droit au travail et le devoir du travail; par la fixation de salaires justes et l'extension des assurances obligatoires, d'assurer aux travailleurs la dignité et la sécurité qui, trop souvent, ont fait défaut dans le passé...

Ces progrès en créant une atmosphère de stabilité et de bien-être dans le monde du travail amèneront un esprit de solidarité social aussi vital pour l'avenir du Pays que le sont l'entente et l'égalité entre Flamands et Wallons...

This world war is the birth of a new world... The individualism and the economic liberalism, which the 19th century allowed to run rampant, will give way, by agreement or by force, to a more egalitarian system.

It will be the task of our leaders to ensure that our future social organization is more marked by solidarity and that it better accords with Christian charity and human dignity.

My role, as a constitutional monarch, does not give me the right to present a specific program, or to side with one school of thought or another, but I would fail in my mission if I did not indicate, here, some principles which are merely the expression of equity.

I consider that extensive social reforms are necessary, for the scandalous contrast between the poverty with which, twice, war has overwhelmed some; and the exorbitant profits with which it has enriched others, make clear the injustice of a selfish and unhealthy system and the duty of bringing it to an end.

When the country is liberated, governments will be obliged to affirm the right to work and the duty of work; and by establishing just salaries and the extension of obligatory insurance, to assure workers the dignity and security which, in the past, has too often been lacking...

This progress, by creating an atmosphere of stability and well-being in the working world, will give rise to a spirit of social solidarity, which is just as vital for the country's future as are good relations and equality between Flemings and Walloons...

The King was also concerned that the economic life of the country be wisely organized, to reap maximum benefit from the country's natural resources and capacity for work; he wished especially to protect and foster Belgian agriculture, so essential for the country's self-sufficiency and independence.

He continued:

Devoir, droit et protection du travail - restauration de la probité et de la capacité professionnelles - collaboration et solidarité nationales - organisation judicieuse de l'économie, discipline de la production et de la consommation - telles sont les bases de la rénovation immédiate qui préparera un avenir meilleur.

The duty of work; the right to work, and the protection of labor - restoration of professional honesty and ability - national collaboration and solidarity - prudent organization of the economy, discipline in production and consumption - these are the bases of immediate renewal, which will prepare a better future. 

In conclusion, Leopold insisted that the nation's leaders must put aside all party interests for the sake of social justice and the common good of the country; if they failed to do so, Belgium would suffer serious upheavals. Unfortunately, it is easy to see that the King's stipulations would antagonize those who preferred party interests to the common good.

2 comments:

MadMonarchist said...

This may be something of a "hot button" but, reading this, I must ask if in your studying of King Leopold III, do you think he was or would have been supportive of the corporate/corporatist model? His words about class and economic "collaboration and solidarity" prompt me to ask.

Matterhorn said...

That's a good question. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about the details of his economic theory. His words seem a bit general. His position precluded favoring one school of thought over another, at least publicly. And corporatism itself is a bit hard to pin down, since there are different kinds.