Henri de Man


Henri (Hendrik) de Man (17 November 1885 – 20 June 1953) was a
Belgian Belgian may refer to: * Something of, or related to, Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe Western Europe is the region of Europe Europe is a contine ...

politician and leader of the
Belgian Labour Party The Belgian Labour Party or Belgian Workers' Party ( nl, Belgische Werkliedenpartij, BWP; french: Parti Ouvrier Belge, POB) was the first major Socialism, socialist party in Belgium. Founded in 1885, the party was officially disbanded in 1940 and s ...
(POB-BWP). He was one of the leading
socialist Socialism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individuals, s ...
theoreticians of his period and, during the
German occupation of Belgium during World War II The German occupation of Belgium (french: link=no, Occupation allemande, nl, Duitse bezetting) during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from ...
, was heavily involved in
collaboration Collaboration is the process of two or more people, entities or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal. Collaboration is similar to cooperation. Most collaboration requires leadership Leadership is both a researc ...

World War I and the interwar period

A politically-active socialist, he nevertheless fought with the Belgian army and supported the Allied cause in
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
. After the war, he taught
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly ...
for a time at the
University of Washington The University of Washington (UW, simply Washington, or informally U-Dub) is a public In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of s ...

University of Washington
, then started a workers' education school in Belgium, before moving back to Germany where he taught for some years at the University of Frankfurt. He was at odds there with the predominant, leftwing and communist movements surrounding some of his colleagues. He was allied with
Eugen Diederichs Eugen Diederichs (June 22, 1867 – September 10, 1930) was a German publisher born in Löbitz, in the Prussian Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a historically prominent Germans, German state that originated in 1525 w ...
, a conservative publisher in
Jena Jena (; ) is a German city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routle ...

. Henri de Man's
antisemitism Antisemitism (also spelled anti-semitism or anti-Semitism) is hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and ...
, expressed openly in his memoir of 1941, ''Après Coup'', developed during his years in Germany, although he lived in marriage with at least one Jewish woman (Après Coup, Brussels: Editions de la Toison d'Or, 1941). Returning to Belgium after the
Reichstag fire The Reichstag fire (german: Reichstagsbrand, ) was an arson attack on the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament in Berlin, on Monday 27 February 1933, precisely four weeks after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Hit ...
(his books were not popular with Hitler, and de Man was always a maverick relative to others' ideologies) he became Vice President of the
Belgian Labour Party The Belgian Labour Party or Belgian Workers' Party ( nl, Belgische Werkliedenpartij, BWP; french: Parti Ouvrier Belge, POB) was the first major Socialism, socialist party in Belgium. Founded in 1885, the party was officially disbanded in 1940 and s ...
(POB-BWP). Upon the death of
Emile Vandervelde Emile Vandervelde (25 January 1866 – 27 December 1938) was a Belgium, Belgian socialist politician. Nicknamed "the boss" (''le patron''), Vandervelde was a leading figure in the Belgian Labour Party (POB–BWP) and in international socialism. Ca ...

Emile Vandervelde
in 1938, he assumed its presidency. He was
Minister of Finance A finance minister is an executive or cabinet position in charge of one or more of government finances, economic policy and financial regulation. A finance minister's portfolio Portfolio may refer to: Objects * Portfolio (briefcase), a ty ...
from 1936 to 1938. His views on socialism and his revision of
Marxism Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies socia ...
were controversial. His promotion of the idea of "
planisme A planned economy is a type of economic system where investment, Production (economics), production and the allocation of capital goods takes place according to economy-wide economic plans and production plans. A planned economy may use Central pl ...
", or planning, was widely influential in the early 1930s, in particular among the Non-Conformist Movement in France, a movement also called the Third Way; he was connected briefly to the Personalist Emmanuel Mounier, and even thought of himself as something of a "13th century Thomist". The doctrine of Henri de Man intended to overcome the successive crises of capitalism by the nationalization of bank credit and an elevation of the degree of authority of the State in financial affairs, while preserving the structures of a capitalist economic system. The “planism” refuted the socialization of the means of production and the construction of a classless society, but on the contrary sought to encourage the private sector by freeing it from certain monopolies entrusted to the State and making it the protector of free competition and individual initiative. From a tactical point of view, marked by the crushing of the German Social Democrats by Hitler, which he attributes to the defection of the middle classes towards the NSDAP, de Man thinks it necessary to move towards a rapprochement with liberal parties.

Plan de Man

De Man was responsible for a plan which some say was devised to halt the rise of fascism in Belgium, but according to most other historians—as even his own memoirs attest—was part of his own turn toward fascism. This became overwhelmingly clear when he served as de facto prime minister directly under the Nazi occupation from June 1940. This plan became widely known as 'Het Plan de Man' and was an example of planism. While some assert that the plan is comparable to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, others point out that it was quite unlike the New Deal, being not a safety net of welfare and other benefits, but was an anti-democratic movement invented by a man disillusioned with democracy and the working class. The de Man Plan would have removed political power from the workers and their unions, leaving them only the appearance of representation, and vested it instead in owners and government. When he proposed it on the floor of the parliament, his opponents shouted,"That is pure fascism" in a debate that caused de Man to suffer a stroke on the spot, and paralyzed him for almost three months. Freedom of the press was also to be curtailed by Henri de Man.


De Man was an adviser to Leopold III of Belgium, King Leopold III and his mother, Elisabeth of Belgium, Queen Elisabeth. Having lived extensively in Germany, and "loving" the country as he said, throughout the 1930s in Belgium he advocated accommodating Hitler's expansionist policies to save Belgium from the crushing fate it had previously suffered in World War I, the policy that was called appeasement by other democratic nations. After the "capitulation" of the Belgian Army in 1940, he issued a manifesto to POB-BWP members, welcoming the German occupation as a field of neutralist action during the war: "For the working classes and for socialism, this collapse of a decrepit world, far from being a disaster, is a deliverance."Mark Mazower, ''Dark Continent'' (1999), p.144 He was involved in setting up an umbrella trade union, the ''Unie van Hand- en Geestesarbeiders''/''Union des Travailleurs Manuels et Intellectuels'' (UHGA-UTMI) which would unify the existing trade unions and moreover aim at the integration of manual and intellectual workers. That was branded by longtime socialists a fascist plan, and UHGA-UTMI was considered a fascist organization because workers had little or no control of this "union". As de Man moved steadily to the right, he also opposed a free press, as he wrote himself in his memoire, entitled ''Après Coup''. During several months, he was (at least in his own eyes) the ''de facto'' prime minister of Belgium, serving under the German generals Alexander von Falkenhausen and Eggert Reeder, the actual Belgian ministers having all fled the country during the Battle of Belgium to form the Belgian government in exile. Nevertheless, he eventually was mistrusted both by Flemish Nazi collaborators (for his Belgian nationalism, Belgicist views) and by the Nazi authorities, who forbade him to give any more public speeches after Easter 1941. Seeing he had lost his grip on events, he went into self-imposed exile.

Exile and death

After leaving Belgium, de Man lived for years in German-occupied Paris seeing his mistress Lucienne Didier; with her in occupied Paris he was part of the circle surrounding Ernst Jünger. However, with the advance of the Allied troops in May 1945, fearing capture, he fled to an Alpine cottage in La Clusaz, in the Haute Savoie region of France. After the liberation, he crossed the border to Switzerland and lived in the Grison mountains near Austria.Jean-Marie Tremblay
Henri de Man, 1885–1953, Professeur à l’Université libre de Bruxelles, Député et ministre dans le parlement belge
(French), University of Quebec, 9 October 2006
Google translation
He died with his young wife in 1953 in a collision between his car and a train, a death that his son Jan de Man and others thought was probably a suicide. Henri de Man had been depressed and immobilized in Switzerland for years, prevented from returning to Belgium by the threat of trial and imprisonment for treason. He was convicted ''trial in absentia, in absentia'' of treason after the war. His nephew, the literary theorist Paul de Man, became famous in the United States as a leading proponent of "deconstructionism." After his death in 1983, Paul de Man was found to have written articles for a collaborationist newspaper in Belgium, some of which expressed Antisemitism, antisemitic themes. This discovery prompted a broader re-evaluation of Paul de Man's work, as well as his relationship to Hendrik, who had been a fatherlike figure to him.



* ''Au pays du Taylorisme'', Bruxelles, éd. "Le Peuple", 1919. * ''Zur Psychologie des Sozialismus'', Jena, E. Diederichs, 1927. * ''Au-delà du marxisme'', Bruxelles, L'Églantine, 1927. (Rééd., Paris, Alcan, 1929; Seuil, 1974) * ''Socialisme et marxisme'', Bruxelles, L'Églantine, 1928. * ''Joie du travail'', enquête basée sur des témoignages d'ouvriers et d'employés, Paris, Librairie Félix Alcan, 1930. * ''Réflexions sur l'économie dirigée'', Bruxelles et Paris, L'Églantine, 1932. * ''Nationalisme et socialisme'', Paris, [éditeur non indiqué], 1932. * ''Marx redécouvert'', [''Der neu entdeckte Marx''], traduction de l'allemand par Michel Brélaz, Genève, Association pour l'étude de l'œuvre d'Henri de Man, 1980 [1932]. * ''Le Socialisme constructif'', traduit de l'allemand par L. C. Herbert, Paris, Paris, Librairie Félix Alcan, 1933. * ''Pour un plan d'action'', Paris, M. Rivière, [1934]. * ''Le Plan du travail'', Bruxelles, Institut d'économie européenne, 1934. Éditions Labor, 1935. * ''L'exécution du plan du travail'', Anvers, de Sikkel, 1935. * ''L'idée socialiste'' suivi du ''Plan de travail'', traduction d'Alexandre Kojevnikov et Henry Corbin, Paris, Bernard Grasset, [1935]. * ''Corporatisme et socialisme'', Bruxelles, Éditions Labor, 1935. * ''Masses et chefs'', Bruxelles, La Nouvelle églantine, 1937. * (avec Lucovic Zoretti, Léo Moulin, M. Somerhausen et Georges Lefranc, ''Les problèmes d'ensemble du fascisme'', semaine d'études d'Uccle-Bruxelles, 10–15 juillet 1934, Paris, Centre confédéral d'éducation ouvrière, [1939]. * ''Après coup, mémoires'', Bruxelles et Paris, Éditions de la Toison d'or et PUF, [1941] (plusieurs rééditions). * ''Herinneringen'', Antwerpen, de Sikkel, Arnheim, van Loghum Slaterus, 1941. * ''Réflexions sur la paix'', Paris et Bruxelles, Éditions de la Toison d'Or, 1942. * ''Cahiers de ma montagne'', Bruxelles, Éditions de la Toison d'or, 1944. * ''Au-delà du nationalisme. Vers un gouvernement mondial'', Genève, Éditions du Cheval ailé, 1946. * ''Cavalier seul. 45 années de socialisme européen'', Genève, Éditions du Cheval ailé, 1948. * ''Jacques Cœur, argentier du Roy'', [''Jacques Cœur, der konigliche kaufmann Paris'', 1950], Tardy, 1951. * ''L'Ère des masses et le déclin de la civilisation'', [''Vermassung und Kulturverfall''], traduit de l'allemand par Fernand Delmas, Paris, Flammarion, 1954. * ''Le "dossier Léopold III" et autres documents sur la période de la seconde guerre mondiale'', édité par Michel Brélaz, Genève, Éditions des Antipodes, 1989.



* * * *, especially chapter 4. * *Special issue of the ''Revue européenne des sciences sociales'', XII/31 (1974) entitled "Sur l'oeuvre d'Henri de Man" under the direction of Ivo Rens and Michel Brélaz

External links

Henri de Man archive
(available online) at International Institute of Social History
Entry in the ''Biographie nationale de Belgique''
* {{DEFAULTSORT:de Man, Henri 1885 births 1953 deaths Politicians from Antwerp Finance ministers of Belgium University of Washington faculty Belgian Labour Party politicians Belgian collaborators with Nazi Germany Belgian Army personnel of World War I People convicted of treason People convicted in absentia Road incident deaths in Switzerland Belgian fascists