The example of the Cristeros caused Degrelle to become more militant in his Catholicism and he also became very much influenced by the writings of the French royalist Charles Maurras and the Belgian Jean Denis. From these sources, and others, he began publishing his own periodical for the Catholic Party in Belgium called “Editions de Rex”, taking his inspiration for the name from the Cristero battlecry of “Viva Cristo Rey” (Long live Christ the King). Soon, however, his views came to be at odds with the mainstream Catholic Party and in 1935 he split from them to form his own movement, which he called “Rexisme”. His goal was to lead not only a political movement but a social movement across Belgium, a revival of Catholic morality, Catholic social teachings and greater national unity. Rexisme opposed liberal democracy and promoted corporatism, envisioning a new type of government for Belgium that would do away with the usual democratic process in favor of a more robust monarchy and political representation based on occupation.
There have been, of course, obvious parallels drawn between Rexisme and other parties or movements which are today all classified as “far-right”. Jean Denis, himself soon elected to office for Rexisme, had influenced the corporatist regime of Antonio Salazar in Portugal. The year after forming his party, Degrelle met with Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, leader of the Falange in Spain, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu of the Iron Guard of Romania, the leader of Fascist Italy Benito Mussolini and, yes, Adolf Hitler of Germany. However, the influence of Hitler and the National Socialists was not great in the beginning. Both Hitler and Mussolini donated money to Degrelle and his movement, but Mussolini donated more and Rexisme had more in common with Italian Fascism as it was then than it had with the Nazi Party in Germany. Race was not really an issue for Rexisme as there were no appreciable racial minorities in Belgium nor did they have much to say about the Jews. Their movement was all about Catholics and the Jews did not really come into it.
The Belgian members of Rexisme thus became even more extreme out of bitterness to the whole political system. They had played the game fairly, played by the rules, had not been threatening or violent, yet they had been vilified, castigated and saw the political establishment unite to block them from electoral success. Why play the game if the other side is not going to play fairly? How things would have gone from there, we cannot know as a little thing called World War II intervened. Despite what some might think given his life subsequently, Leon Degrelle was not a cheerleader for Nazi Germany. He supported the position of King Leopold III that neutrality was the best policy. As in the last war, however, that neutrality was soon violated and after eighteen days of gallant resistance, King Leopold III surrendered to the Germans and was taken prisoner. The members of Rexisme were, to a degree, split by these events. As proud Belgian nationalists, some joined the underground to oppose the German occupation. Others, however, asked why they should support a regime that had opposed them to fight against men like Hitler and Mussolini who had consistently supported them? Many chose to join with the Axis.
In the end, of course, Nazi Germany was defeated and the “Wallonie” brigade was effectively wiped out on the west bank of the Oder. Survivors were evacuated to Denmark where Degrelle was able to escape to Norway and fly to Spain where he was given sanctuary. Condemned and sentenced to death by the Belgian government after the war for his collaboration, Generalissimo Franco refused to hand him over and Degrelle lived on until 1994, to the very end defending and praising Adolf Hitler and National Socialism. His hero-worship of Hitler and National Socialism had, it must be pointed out, eclipsed even his own movement, Rexisme, for Degrelle in the end. By that time, he had devoted himself to writing defenses of himself and more so Adolf Hitler, National Socialism and the German vision of a pan-European super-state in which there would be no place for individual countries. He did lose one court battle and was fined for what amounted to Holocaust denial, after the fall of the Franco regime, but was always unapologetic. He famously said that the only thing he regretted about World War II was that Germany had lost.
Nonetheless, they were and the liberals, proving the founder of Fascism right about them, swiftly set aside all of their high-minded ideals about freedom and fair play to stop Rexisme from gaining power through the political process. The result was that many saw no reason not to align themselves with the Germans when they arrived. This is happening in many countries today. The liberals know of no greater evil than the Nazis and since just about the whole world agreed that Nazis are bad, the Nazis became their favorite bogey man. However, they eventually found Nazis to be thin on the ground and so have started to create Nazis by expanding the definition of the term. This behavior was reinforced by the fact that whenever they shouted “Nazi!” their opponent would shut up and back away. Naturally, finding how well that works, every enemy of the liberals became a Nazi. Then, after broadening the term to absurd proportions, they also began pushing people toward the Nazi camp by suppressing all opposition to their viewpoint.