Fascism of Eastern Europe - Crampton

Notes taken from:

Crampton, R. Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century and after. London; New York: Routledge. 1997. 

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Romania - Codreanu and King Carol

Romania' fascist movement was the greatest in Eastern Europe. The Guardists were anti-Semitc, nationalist, authoritarian and anti-Marxist, but did not believe in the corporatist state. The Iron Guard was characterised by an extreme and often macabre ritualism 

  • Movement close to the Orthodox Church and constituted 20th century version of tsarism's "Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationalism.:
  • Strengths came from the weaknesses of other parties in Romania at the time. It gained support from peasants by providing volunteer gangs, helping to build homes, roads etc.
  • 1937 election - mimic democracy. "Guided democracy" - a form of loyal dictatorship instituted to keep the extreme right at bay. King Carol did this because there was no longer any point in sticking to the old constitution because the NPP's readiness to align with the extreme right could always prevent a government nominated by the king from securing 40% votes necessary for a dependable parliament
  • Carol was genuinely alarmed by the rise of the Iron Guard and used constitutional and democratic law as a ploy to destroy their attempts of gaining power. 
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Romania - Codreanu and King Carol (2)

  • Carol introduced a new constitution in Feb 1938 - created the control into a corporatist state. - "Carol insisted that democracy was a foreign importation not suitable for Romania."
  • He expelled all political parties. The Front of National Rebirth was introduced in Dec 1937 with Carol as leader - the only legal political party. 
  • The powers of government were much reduced and the administrative system made more centralised,with ten regions replacing 71 
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Fascism as an Action rather than an Ideology

  • Fascism - the same as authoritarianism, which function was in most cases to protect and foster the interest of its dominant nation. 
  • Eastern European fascist states demanded control and discipline of society and of themselves. Control was exercised through security forces and mass organisations of the youth, women, workers etc.
  • Fascism fed on hatred and fear more readily than on benevolence and magnanimity - anti-socialist and anti-communist 
  • Western liberal democracies appeared feeble and ineffective alongside and opposeed to assertive and successful fascism. 
  • Parliamentary democracy was synonymous with corruption and inefficiency 
    • Lithuania - the move to the right came after immence bureaucratic electoral success
    • In Romania it was said that the only immoral and the corrupt could secure electoral success
  • Little love for capitalism - capitalism, in the same sense of socialism, created alternative motifs away from the nationalist interest. Capitalism was an agent of modernisation, a process which the fascists wanted to control and direct. 
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Anti-Semitism and Fascism

  • Came under the anti-rationalism of fascism. Jewish people associated with capitalism, socialism and modernisation and many of the other evils which enraged or frustrated fascists.
  • Anti-Semitism had been an aspect of Eastern Europe because of the above reasons for a long time 
  • "Anti-Semitism frequently enabled the fascists to appeal to entrenched popular prejudice."
  • Action against Jews - Hungary's first anti-Semitic law in 1938 was motivated by a determination to secure German goodwill during the partrition of Czechoslovakia 
  • "Christian-Nationalism" - used thus umbrella term to hide anti-Semitic tendencies and actions. 
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Fascism and the Nation

  • Codreanu - the nation was more than an aggregation of living individuals, since it also included "the souls and the bones of the dead and the legacy of future generations." 
  • Parliamentary democracy only represented the living. 
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Fascism and Religion

  • Romanian fascism was a "born again Christian Orthodox movement" 
  • The Orthodox Church in Romania was associated with anti-Semitism, the patriarch, believed "almost literally that the Jews had sucked the blood of Romanians"
  • Orthodox and Catholicism - married with fascism and became an inceasing embarrassment, but for many fascists helped to further their belief that their movement had a deep Christian foundation. 
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Social bases of Eastern European Fascism

  • Support for fascist groups came from - the lower ranks of the established middle class, middle class and from the upper reaches of the lower middle class, be that middle class bureaucratic or business
  • Iron Guard and Arrow Cross gained support from urban workers as they had little or no other ideological movements to support. The Communists had exited both countries and social democrats polled fewer votes than Jewish parties. Fascism appealed to urban workers because of their anti-capitalist values, as many employers were Jewish
  • The peasantry were a key group support for the fascist movement. They had not been touched by modernisation, they were thought to have mystical qualities, land was treated as capital unlike Jews and modern bourgeoisie. 
  • "Continuity, a racially mixed lineage, mutual cooperation and immunity from the corruption of modern, materialistic values were seen as hallmarks for the peasantry to become the model support group of EE fascists."
  • Fascism was a movement of youth, mainly youth of the intelligentsia. It was attractive to the youth because it seemed to be a movement of the future. 
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Failures of Eastern European Fascism

  • The success of fascist groups depended on the strength of the leader.
    • In Hungary, Szálasi was unfitted for dynamic revolutionary leadership.
    • In Czechoslovakia, Štibrny had been accused of embezzlement twice
    • In Romania, the leading Guardists seemed dazzled by the notion of self-sacrifice and allowed themselves to go to the slaughter without resistance 
  • Policies as well as personalities were defective.
    • The Romanian government in 1938 talked of implementing one time of Guardist policy - the explusion of Jews who had arrived in Romania without legal documents around 1918 - this number could have been as high as 800,000
  • "Despite the contradictions, for many East Europeans fascism retained a strong attraction and one which was naturally intensified when local fascists redistributed Jewish property." 
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Reasons for rise in Anti-Semitism

  • Rise in population: Jews were relatively recent arrivals in most European countries, such as Hungary. In 1885, Judaism was granted the status of a "relieved religion" which allowed government subsidies - these relaxations meant a steady increase in the Jewish population of Hungary throughout the 19th century. The Jewish population significantly increased after WWI as the Jews fled Russia and Russian occupied territories during the war. 
  • Ethnic differences - Jews were different to other nations. They were urban, rather than rural and had strange habits (to the locals) of dress, speech and religion.
  • Education - Jews were generally more educated than other nationalities. 
  • Hostility from Christians - In Hungary, the difference between language of Jews and the Magyay language and culture played a role that intensified ignorance and hostile attitudes towards Jews
  • Class ties - seen to be grouped with the bourgeoisie. "The Jewish people were seen as lackeys of the old order." 
  • "For most Jews in Eastern Europe, there was no salvation from any quarter and what was to come was to be beyond their wildest imaginations of horror." 
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