BELGIUM: Achille’s Heel

BELGIUM: Achilles Heel

“Smiling Achille” van Acker went to his
native Bruges to celebrate 25 years of happy marriage. Then he came
back to Brussels to face a crisis in the uneasy union of Socialists,
Liberals and Communists which he had held in precarious balance for
three months.It was a member of his own Socialist party, Senator Henri Rolin,
stubbornly fighting Minister of Justice Adolphe van Glabbeke over a
secondary juridical matter, who brought about the downfall of Premier
van Acker's Government. When Van Acker demanded a vote of confidence,
hotheaded Rolin and two other Socialists abstained, and the Government
was overthrown 79-to-78. Smiling Achille beamed: “I am the happiest of
men; all my worries are over.”Other Belgians were far from happy. Would this mean another long
political crisis, like the one that began last February? What about Van
Acker's economic program? In an effort to put Belgium's economy on a
sounder, more competitive basis, Van Acker had dealt firmly and
effectively not only with Liberals and Catholics, but with his own
working-class followers. To businessmen he had issued a ukase ordering
an overall 10% price cut for commodities and services ranging from
haircuts to sewer pipes. To striking workers in the grimy industrial
Liege district he had sounded a harsh warning: “Watch out; you are in
the process of endangering your future and the future of your
children.”Now the thankless job of steering the nation along the thorny path of
recovery might fall upon the Catholic party, which favored the return
of King Leopold III from exile. In pious, conservative Flanders,
mottoes like “Wij eischen onzen Koning terug”
suddenly appeared on house walls. But in leftish, French-speaking
Wallonia, an all-Catholic government might cause strikes and riots.To the outside visitor, worried Belgium still looked like a land of
plenty. Said one lean Frenchman, sitting behind a juicy steak in a
Brussels restaurant: “Belgium may not be poetic, but you eat well