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Mark Biondich. Radical Catholicism and Fascism in Croatia, 1918-1945

Mark Biondich. Radical Catholicism and Fascism in Croatia, 1918-1945

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Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713636813
Radical Catholicism and Fascism in Croatia, 1918-1945
Mark Biondich
Department of Justice Canada, OttawaOnline Publication Date: 01 June 2007
To cite this Article
Biondich, Mark(2007)'Radical Catholicism and Fascism in Croatia, 1918-1945',Totalitarian Movements and PoliticalReligions,8:2,383 — 399
To link to this Article: DOI:
Full terms and conditions of use:http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions,Vol. 8, No. 2, 383–399, June 2007
ISSN 1469-0764 Print/ISSN 1743-9647 Online/07/020383-17 © 2007 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/14690760701321346
Radical Catholicism and Fascism in Croatia,1918–1945
Department of Justice Canada, Ottawa
TaylorandFrancis LtdFTMP_A_232030.sgm10.1080/14690760701321346TotalitarianMovements andPoliticalReligions1469-0764(print)/1743-9647(online)OriginalArticle2007Taylor&Francis820000002007MarkBiondichmbiondic@justice.gc.ca
Since it was first coined in 1924, the term ‘clerico-fascist’ has gained widecurrency in political and scholarly discourse in reference to Catholic support forfascism.
The term has eluded an exact definition, is often employed with consid-erable imprecision and, much like fascism, remains open to critical interpretation.Is ‘clerical fascism’ (or ‘clerico-fascism’) a subspecies of clericalism, or was it apeculiar form of fascism, which encompassed a number of dissimilar movementsacross interwar Europe? Indeed, at what point – if at all – did interwar clericalism become fascist and cease being essentially a conservative political ideology? Howare we to distinguish between clericalist movements that developed fascisttendencies and evolved into ‘clerico-fascist’ movements, and genuine fascistmovements that simply attracted Catholic support and were thus labelled byassociation ‘clerico-fascist’? Was there even a meaningful difference? In EastCentral Europe, Slovakia, Romania and Croatia are commonly cited as typicalexamples of the ‘clerico-fascist’ phenomenon. In the Croatian case, there appearsto be broad consensus that the Usta
a movement was a representative exemplarof ‘clerico-fascism’.
This article will attempt to address some of the issues associated with Catholicclericalism in interwar Croatia. It makes the case that clericalism – or radicalCatholicism, the preferred term of its contemporary proponents – was quitedistinct from Croatia’s fascist Usta
a movement. Although there is a tendency inthe literature to see the Usta
e as rabid ‘clerico-fascists’, the Usta
a movementwas a secular, nationalist movement which, from 1941 to 1945, attempted tomobilise Catholic support for its own political purposes and very survival. Itenlisted and indeed co-opted the Catholic movement, which had dissimilar ante-cedents and possessed a different social constituency. In the late interwar period,the proponents of radical Catholicism articulated a distinct ideology that wasnevertheless closely related to the one espoused by Ante Paveli
’s Usta
e. Duringthe Second World War, however, they cast their lot with Paveli
’s regime.
Croat Catholic Clericalism in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes,1918–1929
Organised political Catholicism in Croatia originated in the late Habsburg period.
The seminal event came in March 1913, with the formation of the Croat CatholicSeniory (
). The Seniory was an association of Catholic intellectuals andsˇsˇsˇsˇc´sˇc´
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ N E I C O N  C o n s o r ti u m]  A t : 14 :37 7  M a y 2009
 M. Biondich
elders, drawn principally from Croat Catholic academic clubs (e.g.
) and theological associations (e.g.
It served as the Cath-olic movement’s executive branch, gave it ideological guidance and oversaw theorganisation of Catholic lay societies. It was only in November 1918, during thelast days of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, that the Seniory determined toestablish a political party. This occurred in May 1919, with the formation of theCroat People’s Party [
 Hrvatska pu
ka stranka
, HPS].
It was not until June 1920,however, that the ‘Populists’ [
], as they were commonly known, succeededin forming a centralised party organisation; at that point, they consolidated, undera Supreme Council, the heterogeneous regional party councils of pre-war Croatia-Slavonia, Dalmatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Thus was born the first modernCatholic political party in Croatia.The Populists were strongest in Dalmatia, where they attracted some promi-nent intellectuals, clergy, peasants and landless agricultural labourers, in addi-tion to recruiting amongst the Catholic peasants of Backa province, i.e. the
. Yet they never managed to make serious inroads amongCatholic Croats in pre-war Croatia-Slavonia or Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is because, with the formation in December 1918 of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatsand Slovenes (Yugoslavia),
Croatian politics coalesced around the issue ofopposition to Serbian centralism. Stjepan Radi
’s Croat Peasant Party [
ka stranka
, HSS] became the dominant political force in interwar Croatia,represented the mainstream variant of Croat nationalism and led the resistanceto Serbian state centralism.
The other Croat parties, namely, the Croat Union[
 Hrvatska zajednica
] and Croat Party of Right [
 Hrvatska stranka prava
], werequickly marginalised. While the Croat Union represented Croatia’s nascentmiddle class and intellectual elite, and the historicist Croat Party of Right of AntePaveli
the lower middle class and nationalist intelligentsia, the HSS everywherecaptured the peasant vote. This left the Populists in a rather precarious position,as a result of which they were compelled, in the 1920s, to follow the political leadof Anton Koro
ec’s Slovene People’s Party, a Catholic party with a mass follow-ing in Slovenia. In the November 1920 elections to the Constituent Assembly, theCroat Populists gained nine seats, but were decimated in the 1923 and 1925parliamentary elections; in the 1927 elections – the last before the imposition ofthe royal dictatorship – they won only one seat in parliament and gained 2% ofthe popular vote in Croatia. The Croat Populists thus remained on the marginsof Croatian politics.
Croat Catholicism and Yugoslavism
The Croat Populists supported the creation of Yugoslavia even as theyresisted state centralism as implemented by the National Radical Party and theDemocratic Party, the two leading parties of the 1920s. The National Radicalswere a Great Serbian party who supported state centralism as the best way ofpreserving the recently obtained unity of all Serbs. The Democrats, on the otherhand, attracted Serb, Croat and Slovene supporters, and espoused the theory of
narodno jedinstvo
[national oneness], according to which these peoples were‘tribes’ of the trinomial Yugoslav nation. Together the National Radicals andDemocrats successfully promulgated the Vidovdan Constitution (June 1921),which enshrined a highly centralised state system on the logic of Yugoslavistunitarism. The Croat Populists’ Yugoslavism was not of the integral variety.
cˇ cˇ sˇ Sˇ 
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ N E I C O N  C o n s o r ti u m]  A t : 14 :37 7  M a y 2009

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