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Rethinking Fascism and Dictatorship in Europe

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Rethinking Fascism and
Dictatorship in Europe
Edited by

António Costa Pinto

Lisbon University, Portugal

Aristotle Kallis
Lancaster University, UK
Selection and editorial matter © António Costa Pinto and Aristotle Kallis 2014
Individual chapters © Respective authors 2014
Foreword © Roger Griffin 2014
Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 2014 978-1-137-38440-9

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ISBN 978-1-349-48088-3 ISBN 978-1-137-38441-6 (eBook)

DOI 10.1057/9781137384416
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A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rethinking fascism and dictatorship in Europe / edited by António
Costa Pinto and Aristotle Kallis.
pages cm
Summary: “Fascism exerted a crucial ideological and political influence across Europe
and beyond. Its appeal reached much further than the expanding transnational circle
of ‘fascists’, crossing into the territory of the mainstream, authoritarian, and
traditional right. Meanwhile, fascism’s seemingly inexorable rise unfolded against the
backdrop of a dramatic shift towards dictatorship in large parts of Europe during the
1920s and especially 1930s. These dictatorships shared a growing conviction that
‘fascism’ was the driving force of a new, post-liberal, fiercely nationalist and
anti-communist order. The ten contributions to this volume seek to capture,
theoretically and empirically, the complex transnational dynamic between interwar
dictatorships. This dynamic, involving diffusion of ideas and practices,
cross-fertilisation, and reflexive adaptation, muddied the boundaries between
‘fascist’ and ‘authoritarian’ constituencies of the interwar European
right” — Provided by publisher.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Fascism—Europe—History—20th century. 2. Dictatorship—Europe—
History—20th century. 3. Europe—Politics and government—1918–1945.
4. Transnationalism—Political aspects—Europe—History—20th century.
I. Pinto, António Costa. II. Kallis, Aristotle A., 1970–
D726.5.R43 2014
320.53 309409041—dc23 2014018833

List of Illustrations vii

Foreword by Roger Griffin viii

Acknowledgements xx

Notes on Contributors xxi

List of Abbreviations xxiv

Introduction 1
António Costa Pinto and Aristotle Kallis

Part I Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives

1 The ‘Fascist Effect’: On the Dynamics of Political Hybridization

in Inter-War Europe 13
Aristotle Kallis

2 Fascism and the Framework for Interactive Political Innovation

during the Era of the Two World Wars 42
David D. Roberts

3 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’: Complexity and Reflexive

Hybridity 67
Roger Eatwell

4 Fascism, Corporatism and the Crafting of Authoritarian

Institutions in Inter-War European Dictatorships 87
António Costa Pinto

Part II Case Studies

5 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime and the Stages

of its Development 121
Gerhard Botz

6 Salazar’s ‘New State’: The Paradoxes of Hybridization in the

Fascist Era 154
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto

vi Contents

7 State and Regime in Early Francoism, 1936–45: Power Structures,

Main Actors and Repression Policy 176
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque

8 Stages in the Development of the ‘Fourth of August’ Regime

in Greece 198
Mogens Pelt

9 External Influences on the Evolution of Hungarian

Authoritarianism, 1920–44 219
Jason Wittenberg

10 A Continuum of Dictatorships: Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments

in Romania, 1937–44 233
Constantin Iordachi

Conclusion: Embracing Complexity and Transnational Dynamics:

The Diffusion of Fascism and the Hybridization of Dictatorships in
Inter-War Europe 272
Aristotle Kallis and António Costa Pinto

Select Bibliography 283

Index 284


4.1 Dictatorships and corporatism in Europe (1918–45) 93


7.1 Political Power in Spain (1939–45) 180

Il ventennio parafascista? The Past and Future
of a Neologism in Comparative Fascist Studies

The birth of a concept

Much of this book deals with inter-war European regimes which are neither
comparable to the fully fledged fascist regimes of Mussolini and Hitler or to the
uncharismatic authoritarian regimes of monarchs or generals. They thus fall
broadly under the category of what some scholars term ‘parafascism’.
It is over twenty years since the neologism ‘parafascism’ slipped into the
eddying waters of comparative fascist studies with the publication of The Nature
of Fascism. Its extensive use in chapter 5 of that volume made more of a soft
plop than a splash at the time. In fact the book as a whole was greeted with
a resounding silence by the academic world to the point where all the pages
containing the new word would have long since been pulped but for a deci-
sion by Routledge to bring it out as a paperback in 1993, a decision which itself
contained a high level of contingency.1
Parafascism was the second innovative term coined for the analysis of fas-
cism in its pages. The first was ‘palingenetic’, a term familiar in Latin languages
in the study of political phenomena, but treated as an obsolescent term in the-
ology and the study of botanical reproduction and with no political meaning
in Anglo-Saxon usage according to the Oxford English Dictionary of the period
(though my use of it has finally acknowledged in the 2012 edition as an on-line
inquiry will show).2 ‘Palingenetic ultranationalism’ has gone on to become a
familiar, if still widely rejected and misunderstood, shorthand for fascism in
political theory. In contrast, ‘parafascism’ has led a more Cinderella-like exis-
tence, rarely invited to the ball of mainstream comparative fascist studies –
which makes the present volume particularly welcome. It was introduced in
the following passage about the lengths to which in the 1930s a number of
authoritarian regimes in Europe and Latin America went in order to mimic
the external features of the two fascist regimes of the day without pursuing the
‘genuinely’ fascist revolutionary agenda to create a new society and a new man:

So impressive was the apparent success of first Fascism then Nazism in weld-
ing revolutionary nationalism into a ‘third way’ between communism and

Foreword ix

liberalism, that their externals were bound to be imitated by both con-

servative and military regimes as a cosmetic ploy to retain hegemony, to
manipulate rather than to awaken genuine populist energies. The result
has been described in such terms as ‘fascistized’, ‘fascisant’, ‘pseudo-fascist’,
‘proto-fascist’ or ‘semi-fascist’. I propose to use instead the term ‘para-fascist’,
in which the prefix ‘para-‘ connotes an ‘alteration, perversion, simulation’
(Oxford English Dictionary) of ‘real’ fascism as we have defined it.

A para-fascist regime, however ritualistic its style of politics, well-

orchestrated its leader cult, palingenetic its rhetoric, ruthless its terror
apparatus, fearsome its official paramilitary league, dynamic its youth orga-
nization or monolithic its state party, will react to genuine fascism as a threat,
and though it may be forced to seek a fascist movement’s cooperation to
secure populist support or ward off common enemies (notably revolutionary
socialism), such a regime will take the first opportunity to neutralize it.3

Had Google been available as a research tool in the late 1980s I would have
soon realized that there were already footprints in the snow around this par-
ticular term. In December 1971 a certain Kenneth Lamott had applied it to
allegedly fascistic (i.e. proto-neo-Con?) tendencies in Californian state politics,
which drew flak in a reader’s letter to Commentary Magazine. This prompted the
following articulate rejoinder by Mr Lamott:

It seems to me that one source of Mr. Draper’s discomfort is his desire for
precision in describing phenomena that don’t lend themselves to exactness.
Regardless of what every college catalogue announces, politics is not a sci-
ence and its study is more akin to the study of, say, the metaphysical poets
than it is to the study of the moons of Jupiter. It is not mere sloppiness of
thought that has led some writers, myself included, to recognize a fascist or
at least pre-fascist cast of mind among a disturbing number of Americans
today. Instead, we are, I think, using words in a way that is allowable within
the rules of the game.

Mr. Draper displays a school-masterly testiness toward the word

‘parafascism,’ which I coined to try to describe what I see going on around
me here in California. (My model was ‘typhoid’ and ‘paratyphoid’—similar
in some symptoms but in fact two entirely distinct diseases) (my emphasis)
I sympathize with Mr. Draper because ‘parafascism’ is an awkward, ugly,
and imprecise word. I don’t particularly like it myself, but I haven’t found a
better one.4

I sympathize with Lamott’s aesthetic misgivings here. What is particularly note-

worthy is the way in his usage the term acquires pathological connotations on
x Foreword

the basis of ‘typhoid’ and ‘paratyphoid’, a derivation which highlights even

more strongly than my etymology the idea of a generic difference between the
fascist regimes in Italy and Germany and a parafascist one such as Salazar’s
or Dollfuss’s (not to mention US Republican administrations). It is also worth
noting that in the 1980s a number of articles appeared in the US characterizing
Nixon’s regime as ‘parafascist’ published in the Marxist publication The Lob-
ster Journal of Parapolitics. They bore such fascinating titles as ‘Fascism and
Parafascism’, ‘World Parafascism and the US Chile Lobby’, and ‘Transnational
Parafascism and the CIA’. However, it can be safely assumed that, true to a
venerable Marxist tradition of analysis, they denied fascism any genuine rev-
olutionary credentials, and can thus not be seen as anticipating my unwitting
purloining of the term ‘parafascism’ to denote speciously fascist regimes which
lacked the revolutionary dynamics of Fascism and Nazism.5

The mixed fortunes of parafascism since The Nature of Fascism

Since 1993 parafascism in the Griffinian sense has been generally ignored by
the more traditional or conceptually challenged historians in the study of right-
wing authoritarian military regimes which adopt the institutional or cosmetic
trappings of fascism without its anti-conservative, palingenetic thrust towards a
revolutionary new society and an alternative modernity. However, there have
also been some noteworthy exceptions. The Irish historian Mike Cronin, for
example, not only embraced the term warmly, but attempted to apply it cre-
atively in his 1997 study of the Irish Blueshirts,6 extending its remit to cover
movements which, even if successful in their challenge for state power, would
have not created a fully-fledged fascist regime. It is worth citing his more
recent thoughts on this issue which he offered in the chapter ‘Parafascists
and Clerics in 1930s Ireland’ in a wide-ranging study of inter-war clerical

The search for a consensus in fascist studies has relied to a large degree on a
combination of national studies and theoretical modelling around the ideal
of a fascist minimum. In my previous work on the Blueshirts in Ireland
(1997), I argued that Griffin’s model (1991) could be adapted for the Irish
situation. Rather than conforming to the fascist minimum, I argued that the
Blueshirts were potential parafascists. That is, they never made power, but
if they had done, their regime would have been para rather than fully fas-
cist. On reflection, I still hold with the basic premise of this argument in the
context of historical evidence and the associated jump into counter-factual
history and theoretical modelling. However, I believe that my earlier work
needs adapting given two key issues: (i) the onward march of fascist studies
and the ever more sophisticated models that have been put forward and,
Foreword xi

(ii) a failure to fully engage with the idea of clerical fascism and the Catholic
context of Ireland in political and intellectual life.7

It was surely in part due to Cronin’s book that in 2002, a decade into the
term’s existence in fascist studies, a brief section was devoted to ‘parafascism’
in The Routledge Companion to Fascism and the Far Right.8 Elsewhere in Europe
it was starting to make, if not waves, then some discernible ripples. For
example, Miguel Ángel del Arco Blanco employed it for his 2007 article in
Historia Actual Online which, following in the footsteps of The Nature of Fas-
cism, analysed the Dollfuss and Franco regimes to deepen understanding of
‘the coming and implantation of fascism in Europe, as well as of the phe-
nomenon of parafascism (a kind of regime that, although is not totally fascist,
shares some characteristics and is strongly influenced by the fascism in its
birth, implantation and consolidation)’. It also endorsed the thrust of the argu-
ment in my original chapter by concluding from a comparison of the Austrian
‘Ständestaat’ and Franquista corporate state that ‘parafascism could be the
norm in lieu of the exception to the totally fascist alternative in the inter-war
The multi-lingual Andreas Umland, one of the world’s most important
experts of post-Soviet Russian fascism from an informed comparative perspec-
tive, also reveals himself to be an advocate of the term in a book review
of Michael Neiberg’s Fascism (2006). He quotes a passage from the book on
the ‘totalitarian’ nature of Fascism which ‘call(s) into question the notion of
political change in fascist regimes coming top-down from the central state’,
commenting that to flesh out this point the author’s analysis ‘would have
been more persuasive had Neiberg, for instance, considered the notion of
“para-fascism”, as proposed by Griffin’.10
At the same time, Neiberg’s text underlines just how far the use of the
term ‘parafascism’ is from being second nature to many experts on right-wing
extremism. Indeed, a survey of histories of inter-war dictatorship, fascism and
totalitarianism would reveal the considerable confusion which still reigns some
eighty years after the March on Rome in the taxonomy of political movements
and regimes. This is due in no small part to the intellectual laziness of some
self-styled ‘empirical’ historians (as if even the most conceptually elaborated
history is not ‘empirical’ in its own way) whose love of primary research has all
too often been accompanied by a disdain for theory and disinterest in existing
approaches which would be unacceptable even at MA level. The resulting tun-
nel vision seriously compromises the value of their efforts as contributions to
understanding history (though given the lack of a collegial, generous-hearted
temperament that often accompanies such myopia it is possible they had no
serious interest in contributing to furthering communal understanding in the
first place!).
xii Foreword

The academic who is a prime example of a more enlightened approach to the

subject of fascism from the outset is Aristotle Kallis, the co-editor of this volume
someone with a specialist knowledge of the theory of fascism, Fascist imperial-
ism and architecture, the Holocaust, and Greece’s Metaxas regime. He not only
has clearly found the term ‘parafascism’ congenial, but was with António Costa
Pinto (another ‘converso’ to the term’s value) the main protagonists of the
collaborative effort to refine the term’s heuristic value in the study of inter-war
political regimes which has borne fruit in this volume. He had already staked
a claim in this area of research with his important 2003 article ‘ “Fascism”,
“Para-Fascism” and “Fascistization”: On the Similarities of Three Conceptual
Categories’, which went considerably beyond my initial act of improvisation in
theoretical sophistication.11
If cyberspace is paradoxically taken as a ‘real’ guide to which rival academic
theories win out in the Darwinian struggle for supremacy, then the fact that the
2010 Wapedia article on ‘fascism’ devoted two paragraphs to the exposition of
parafascism suggests a certain degree of orthodoxy has been achieved for this
rogue term, despite the Neibergs, Gregors and Bosworths of the world. It states
with the characteristic but spurious authority of all anonymous Web articles:

Some states and movements have certain characteristics of fascism, but

scholars generally agree they are not fascist. Such putatively fascist groups
are generally anti-liberal, anti-communist and use similar political or
paramilitary methods to fascists, but lack fascism’s revolutionary goal to
create a new national character. Para-fascism is a term used to describe
authoritarian regimes with aspects that differentiate them from true fascist
states or movements. Para-fascists typically eschewed radical change and
some viewed genuine fascists as a threat. Para-fascist states were often the
home of genuine fascist movements, which were sometimes suppressed or
co-opted, sometimes collaborated with.

The virtual scholar went on to offer an formidable list of putative parafascist

regimes: Dollfuss’ Austria, Metaxas’ Greece, Salazar’s Estado Novo in Portugal,
Imperial Japan under The Imperial Rule Assistance Association, the Greek Cold
War dictatorships of the 1960s and 1970s, Peronist Argentina, Pinochet’s Chile,
Suharto’s regime in Indonesia, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Apartheid-era South
Africa, Islamist Iran (but curiously not Franco’s Spain). Though the webpage
has now disappeared, parts of it have been cited (plagiarized?) word for word in
other web resources.12

Further research into parafascism

Given the patchy ‘reception history’ of the term I (re-)coined two decades ago,
I would have to be in a particularly manic mood to welcome the present book
Foreword xiii

as a triumphant vindication of that distant moment of verbal inventiveness

I experienced while writing chapter 5 of The Nature of Fascism which gave
birth to ‘parafascism’. Parturiunt montes; nascetur ridiculus mus. Its occasional
appearance in comparative fascist studies does, however, provide solid empir-
ical evidence that for some historians at least the term retains heuristic value
as a conceptual tool for helping making sense of the kinship patterns in the
right-wing dictatorships of inter-war Europe. In particular it helps sort out
revolutionary goats from the autocratic sheep of inter-war period. Were other
equally open-minded scholars keen to build on the fascinating material assem-
bled in this volume, I would suggest five promising lines of further enquiry.
One would be to take up the intriguing suggestion of the Wapedia article that
a number of modern dictatorial or military regimes outside Europe, in particular
those which combine autocratic rule with elaborate displays of pseudo-populist
‘political religion’ to legitimize them, could be usefully examined to establish
their affinities with the ‘classic’ parafascist regimes of Dollfuss in Austria, Franco
in Spain, or Antonescu in Romania. The Latin American dictatorships of the
modern era are one case in point. Another is Imperialist Japan at the height of
its campaign of creative destruction to found the ‘Greater Asia Co-Prosperity
Sphere’ between 1931 and 1945. In fact, there are good grounds to hope that
the highly complex and contested relationship of Japan under the Imperial
Way Faction to European fascism might be illuminated were it to be compared
not just to the Third Reich but to parafascist regimes which harnessed populist
energies from above without any radical attempt to destroy traditional (in this
case feudal) elites or create a New (Japanese) Man.
Then there is Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist regime, which in 1934 launched a
state sponsored, palingenetic and highly fascistic New Life Movement to foster
Chinese national consciousness. For too long the tumultuous events generated
by the post-imperial surge of Chinese populist ultranationalism, whose lead-
ers consciously sought to channel and organize populist sentiments in ways
inspired by European fascism, have been ignored by comparative fascist stud-
ies (something I am guilty of myself). Tony Mangan’s Superman Supreme: Fascist
Body as Political Icon13 is a rare exception to this rule. Perhaps the application of
‘parafascism’ to such initiatives would be enlightening.
Another theme worth investigating is the degree to which putative parafas-
cist regimes (including those of Latin America, China, and Japan) share a similar
genesis. They first arose in the particular historical context shaped by the post-
First World War collapse of liberal democracy’s credibility as a viable form of
government and of the Enlightenment theory of progress that underlay it.
Parafascism may be seen diachronically as part of the modernizing conser-
vative or counter-Enlightenment tradition, but synchronically its attempt to
create a synthesis of tradition with fascism ‘from above’ is shaped by a partic-
ular constellation of forces which occurred not just in Europe, but a number
of non-Western societies under the impact of global modernization. Among
xiv Foreword

these were the combined impact of the First World War and Bolshevism on
the credibility of the democratic/capitalist model for the future of Western
society, and the sense experienced by many foreign observers (even Winston
Churchill) that Mussolini’s Fascism offered a dynamic, powerful and creative
solution to the problems posed by modernizing a backward nation state in
an age of global instability and the threat of communism. It was apparently
nationalizing the masses, harnessing populist energies and achieving the sta-
tus of a modern ‘Great Power’ without sacrificing core elements of traditional
social hierarchy and the ideologies that legitimized it.
The Third Reich added another, far more radical, expansionist and violent
role-model for what could appear at the time an overwhelmingly successful
bid to resurrect a country on its knees, restore national pride, and deal with a
host of horrendously intractable foreign policy and domestic issues which pre-
viously had left the country divided and impotent. Both regimes had restored
national pride, ended anarchy at home and state weakness on the international
stage. They had orchestrated a national renaissance. By 1920 a future world
based on fostering a mass society based on ‘American’ democracy, material-
ism, consumerism, individualism and secularism could represent a nightmare,
a ‘end of history’ in a far more cataclysmic sense that that given it by Francis
Fukuyama. In their different ways, both fascism and parafascism offered elites a
way out of the labyrinth of modernity without surrendering to the two deadly
Cs, chaos or communism.
In any discussion of parafascism, it is vital not to underestimate how tempt-
ing it was for those who despaired of liberalism and feared both Bolshevism
and anarchy to see in the two fascist regimes elements of a cure-all for the ail-
ments of modernity, at least until the mid-1930s, that is, before the horrors of
war and genocide had started to unfold. They had come to embody for many
members of Europe’s ruling elites, whether secular or religious, the regenerative
power of ultranationalism as a (Sorelian) myth and the immense potential of
the ‘Gardening State’ as a tool of social engineering and control unencumbered
by the fetters of democracy and free from the threat of communism. Together
the Axis seemed to have built at the heart of Europe a fortress to combat what
were widely perceived as the collective forces of anarchy and decadence, turn-
ing what had been the death throes of Western civilization into the birth-pangs
of a new era. In short, the fascist regimes curved the space of inter-war poli-
tics around them away from liberal democracy and towards a plebiscitary or
pseudo-plebiscitary autocracy.
As a result a situation arose as the crisis of inter-war Europe deepened where
it was ‘normal’ for traditional elites seeking to gain control over the ‘emanci-
patory’ (for them ‘subversive’) forces unleashed by liberalism, democracy, trade
union power and the rise of the masses to invest their hopes and dreams not in
the survival of liberal democracy, now equated with a Spenglerian ‘decline of
Foreword xv

the West’, but in fascist and philo-fasist regimes. Many thus set about not liber-
alizing society and polity, but ‘fascistizing’ them from above so as to harness the
‘subversive’ forces of the masses, and generate a new pseudo-populist basis of
legitimacy for a dictatorial rule which would encourage the participation of the
church, the aristocracy, big business, the bourgeoisie, technocratic elites and
the ‘people’, while dealing ruthlessly with all ‘anarchic’ elements that chal-
lenged too vociferously or openly the status quo. Obviously each parafascist
state was uniquely tailored to the national context. Nevertheless significant
patterns of affinity are likely to be revealed from this perspective even between
1930s regimes as far apart as Vargas’ Brazil, nationalist China and imperialist

A ‘parafascist’ modernity

This outline of a project of collaborative, transnational research into regimes

using ‘parafascism’ as its conceptual framework and perhaps building on the
present volume, already contains the seed of a third line of enquiry. It is clear
from the characterization of regimes offered in the last paragraph that the
focus on parafascism in the analysis of 20th century politics highlights their
nature as experiments in creating a form of modern state appropriate to the
nation in which they emerge. In other words, they are expressions of a quest
for an alternative modernity, a state which could address the social, economic,
political, ideological and spiritual problems posed by modernization in a form
that avoided the anarchy and anomie of liberalism, the collectivization and
destruction of tradition of Soviet Russia, and the revolutionary totalitarianism
of Fascism and Nazism. Within this perspective parafascism moves from the
periphery to the centre-stage of inter-war political history, constituting not just
a watered-down, mimetic form of fascism, but a genus of regime in its own
right, one not only more numerous in its permutations than the ‘real thing’
in Italy and Germany, but, if we think of the Estado Novo and Franco’s Spain,
capable of surviving the cataclysm of the Second World War and displaying
considerably greater longevity than Fascism or Nazism.
At this point the study of putative parafascist regimes becomes intimately
bound up with the study of modernity and its impact on radical forms of
politics in pivotal works by Zygmunt Bauman,14 Shmuel Eisenstadt15 and
Emilio Gentile.16 No matter how far a particular regime avoided revolutionary
upheavals and preserved intact traditional social hierarchies and institutions of
religious belief, its history (which in the case of Salazar’s Portugal extends deep
into the post-1945 era) can be seen as an ongoing struggle to modernize the
nation and move dynamically ‘forward’ in historical time while avoiding the
Scylla of revolution, left or right, and the Charybdis of liberal decadence and
xvi Foreword

Pursuing this line of enquiry would eventually lead to consideration of the-

ories of modernism as a generic term not just for experimental aesthetics
imbued with a quest to express a deeper or higher level of reality or experi-
ence (what I call ‘epiphanic modernism’), but for ‘programmatic modernism’
as well. This term describes all attempts, social and political, to ‘heal’ the trauma
of modernity by achieving a renewed sense of communal purpose and transcen-
dence capable of putting an end to the corrosive impact of modernity and the
constellation of forces it was unleashing that threatened (what right-wingers
saw as) the fabric of society. One aspect of this process that I have explored
in some detail is the way the ‘liminoid’ conditions generated by modernity
encourage countless elaborate schemes of a new society, a new order, a new
world, some of them radical (e.g. Bolshevism and Nazism), some of them
conservative, but all with a marked tendency to syncretism.
Parafascism’s attempted fusion of tradition with modernity is an example
of just such a syncretic act of utopian improvisation typical of political mod-
ernism in its struggle to overcome ‘decadence’. Any political alternative to
liberal democracy born of the inter-war period that contained a genuinely
regenerative sense in the minds of its protagonists, whether fascist or parafas-
cist, is to be distinguished then from ‘reactionary conservatism’ or the arbitrary
despotism of military or personal dictatorships lacking a futural, utopian, mod-
ernist dimension.17 Naturally, investigations in this area would in turn intersect
with research into totalitarianism as a revolutionary (and palingenetic) force,18
and would help refine the distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian


This latter issue is bound up with a paradox which deserves greater scholarly
attention, and constitutes a fourth area of potential enquiry for the future aris-
ing from this book, the relationship between parafascism and violence. It would
be reasonable to assume that since fascism is more radical in its utopianism, it
would hence always be more stridently racist, more belligerent, more ruthlessly
violent than parafascism. Yet episodes of violence against ‘internal enemies’
that occurred under Franco’s Spain, Vichy France, Antonescu’s Romania and
Imperial Japan far outstrip the violence and cruelty under Fascist Italy at least
domestically (the legion war crimes committed by Fascists abroad is another
matter).19 By locating this complex topic within recent studies of genocidal20
and eugenic eliminationism21 on the one hand, and within research into the
psychology of terrorist violence as a symbolic act of ‘purging’ on the other,
parafascist studies could enter their ‘trentennio’ with considerable verve.
Perhaps one clue to the blurred distinction between parafascism and fas-
cism in terms of its violence results from the way both can share in their
Foreword xvii

most fanatical activists a Manichaean mindset which ‘splits’ the universe into
a realm of ‘Good’ and ‘Healthy’ and a realm of the ‘Bad’ and ‘Evil’ which
must be purged in order for society (‘the world’) to be regenerated and a new
era to begin.22 The collaborative, interdisciplinary and international research
programme that this topic demands is fully consistent with what I have
described elsewhere as a ‘new wave’ of scholarship23 which takes it for granted
that specialists working on the same problem are potential collaborators, not
enemies, and that their work is complementary not in competition. After all,
generic concepts and approaches are heuristic devices disclosing partial knowl-
edge, and should thus where possible be ‘clustered’24 to produce a composite
explanatory and taxonomic paradigm, and not treated as reified essences pre-
cluding other approaches and producing a ‘unidimensional’ rather than a
pluralistic perspective.25
Finally, the prefix ‘para-’ in political taxonomy is itself perhaps worthy of
more consideration. In particular, building on the premise of The Lobster Jour-
nal of Parapolitics shorn of its Marxist assumptions, it would be intriguing to
explore whether other mainstream ideologies have not given rise to ‘para-’
versions of itself, notably the travestied version of communism (‘communism
from above’) in the whole Soviet Empire, Romania, North Korea, Ethiopia and
Albania). Is it pushing the argument too far to suggest that liberal democracy
itself has produced ‘para-versions’ of itself in the past? Candidates would be
Germany’s Second Reich under the Hohernzollern, several phoney democracies
in Latin America (e.g. Brazil, Argentina in certain periods), numerous ‘demo-
cratic republics’ in post-colonial Africa and Milošević Serbia. It might even be
argued that liberal democracy temporarily became para-phenomena under the
Bush and Blair administrations that went in with guns blazing to ‘liberate’
Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist (and parafascist) regime and Taliban Afghanistan,
only to install two satellite para-liberal regimes, grim travesties of the ‘real
thing’. There might even be a case to be made for ‘para-totalitarianism’, when
society adopts the external totalitarian features of social engineering (propa-
ganda regime, terror apparatus, leader cult etc.) not to pursue the utopia of a
new society, a new man and a new civilization, but as a technique of social
control. The regimes of Pinochet, Ceauşescu, the GDR, North Korea, Saddam
Hussein’s Iraq and Mugabe’s Zimbabwe might be good places to test-run this
concept (and there is of course no reason why a regime might not be both
para-fascist or para-communist and para-totalitarian simultaneously).
In short, parafascism may still prove its worth as a heuristic device after two
decades in which it gave few signs of vitality. In the meantime, it is enough
that a group of historians from a number of European countries are using it in
this volume to reappraise the relationship between fascism and several authori-
tarian regimes who have for too long have crouched in the shadows of Fascism
and Nazism. They have thus been treated, in anglophone historiography at
xviii Foreword

least, as political Cinderellas, marginal to the cataclysmic events unleashed by

the Axis powers. Perhaps this volume will encourage historians to see them
instead as not just pale imitations of fascism, but as examples of a fourth way,
an alternative to democracy, communism and fascism, with its own distinctive
solution to the legion problems of modernity.

Roger Griffin
Oxford Brookes University, UK

1. This unusually enlightened editorial decision was only made because one of
Routledge’s commissioning editors got car trouble on the way to a meeting and read
Pinter’s hardback edition in a garage waiting room with an enthusiasm doubtless
partly fuelled by intense boredom.
2. (accessed
5 January 2013).
3. Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, London, Pinter, 1991, pp. 130–131.
4. April 1972 Commentary Magazine, Lamott’s response to a reader’s letter criticizing
the term–weimar–
6. Mike Cronin, The Blueshirts and Irish Politics, Dublin, Four Courts Press, 1997.
7. Mike Cronin, ‘Catholicising Fascism, Fascistising Catholicism? The Blueshirts and
the Jesuits in 1930s Ireland’, in M. Feldman, M. Turda and T. Georgescu, eds, Clerical
Fascism in Interwar Europe, London and New York, Routledge, 2008, pp. 189–200.
8. Peter Davies and Derek Lynch, eds, The Routledge Companion to Fascism and the Far
Right, London and New York, Routledge, 2002.
9. Miguel Ángel del Arco Blanco, ‘La marea autoritaria: nacimiento, desarrollo y
consolidación de regímenes parafascistas en Austria y España’, Historia Actual
Online, 12 (Winter 2007),
haol/article/view/189 (accessed 4 February 2013).
10. Andreas Umland, ‘Refining the Concept Generic Fascism’, European History Quarterly,
39/2 (2009), 0010/0826/2009_a_EHQ_
Refining_the_Concept_of_Generic_Fascism.pdf (accessed 5 February 2013).
11. Aristotle A. Kallis, ‘ “Fascism”, “Para-Fascism” and “Fascistization”: On the Simi-
larities of Three Conceptual Categories’, European History Quarterly, 33/2 (2003),
pp. 219–249.
12. E.g.,
SSRW-Fascism.htm#Para-fascism, and the heading ‘para-fascism’ in the European His-
tory for Smartphones and Mobile Devices (
Such uses may ensure the term will enter the collective modern psyche at some
subliminal level.
13. A. J. Mangan, ed., Superman Supreme: Fascist Body as Political Icon – Global Fascism,
London, Frank Cass, 2000.
14. Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press
1989, Modernity and Ambivalence, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press 1991.
Foreword xix

15. Schmuel Eisenstadt, ‘Multiple Modernities’, Daedalus 129 (2000), pp. 1–29; Fun-
damentalism, Sectarianism and Revolution: The Jacobin Dimension of Modernity,
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
16. Emilio Gentile, The Struggle For Modernity, Nationalism, Futurism and Fascism,
Westport, CT, Praeger, 2003.
17. Roger Griffin, Modernism and Fascism. The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and
Hitler, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
18. Pioneers of this approach are George Mosse, The Fascist Revolution: Toward a General
Theory of Fascism, New York, Howard Fertig, 1999; Emilio Gentile, The Sacraliza-
tion of Politics in Fascist Italy, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1996; David
Roberts, The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism, Chapel Hill, University of North
Carolina Press, 1979.
19. Filippo Focardi and Lutz Klinkhammer, ‘The question of Fascist Italy’s war
crimes: the construction of a self-acquitting myth (1943–1948)’, Journal of Mod-
ern Italian Studies, 9/3 (2004), pp. 330–348; Lidia Santarelli: ‘Muted violence:
Italian war crimes in occupied Greece’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 9/3 (2004),
pp. 280–299.
20. Aristotle Kallis, Genocide and Fascism: The Eliminationist Drive in Fascist Europe,
Abingdon and New York, Routledge, 2009.
21. Marius Turda, Modernism and Eugenics, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
22. See particularly Luciano Pellicani, Revolutionary Apocalypse: Ideological Roots of Terror-
ism, Westport, CT, Praeger, 2003; Michael Mazarr, Unmodern Men in the Modern World:
Radical Islam, Terrorism, and the War on Modernity, Cambridge, Cambridge University
Press, 2007; John Gray, Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern, New York, The New
Press, 2003; Arthur Redding, ‘The Dream Life of Political Violence: Georges Sorel,
Emma Goldman, and the Modern Imagination’, Modernism/modernity, 2 /2 (1995),
pp. 1–16.
23. Roger Griffin, ‘Studying Fascist in a Postfascist Age: From New Consensus to
New Wave?’, Fascism: Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies (open access journal),
November 2011.
24. Roger Griffin, ‘Cloister or Cluster? The Implications of Emilio Gentile’s Ecumenical
Theory of Political Religion for the Study of Extremism’, Totalitarian Movements and
Political Religion, 6/ 2 (2005) pp. 33–52.
25. An outstanding example of the fruit of this genuinely enlightened and intelligent
approach to academic research in a closely related field is Michael Geyer and
Sheila Fitzpatrick, eds, Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared,
New York, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

This volume brings together twelve scholars with established international

expertise in inter-war fascism and the study of inter-war dictatorship. The
editors have worked closely with the contributors to harness their individual
expertise but also maintain the coherence of the work. The volume is the result
of an informal working group on fascism and dictatorships that meets at the
Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, Portugal. The group has
always brought together a number of political scientist and historians work-
ing in different countries and areas of expertise. The dialogue among them has
always been fascinating and fruitful, if not always easy or unchallenging!1
The volume is the product of two international workshops held in Lisbon
(November 2009 and February 2011), during which draft papers were presented,
discussed extensively and subsequently revised in the light of both conceptual
guidelines agreed at the two workshops and feedback provided by the two edi-
tors and by the two anonymous reviewers. We would like to thank some of the
discussants and contributors to those conferences whose papers and comments
were very valuable, namely Michel Dobry (University of Paris 1), Stein U. Larsen
(University of Bergen, Norway), Marc-Olivier Baruch (EHESS, Paris) and Mary
Vincent (University of Sheffield, UK). The editors would like also to thank the
Institute of Social Science of the University of Lisbon and the Portuguese Foun-
dation for Science and Technology for their generous support and hospitality;
and Stewart Lloyd-Jones for translating and editing some of the texts for publi-
cation. Palgrave embraced the project wholeheartedly and saw it through with
trademark efficiency, yet attention to detail. The editors would like to thank
especially Clare Mence and Emily Russell for their support, editorial guidance
and patience and Philip Hillyer for his meticulous proofreading work.

1. Previous publications resulting from the work of this group are A. C. Pinto, ed.,
Rethinking the Nature of Fascism, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011; A. C. Pinto, ed.,
Ruling Elites and Decision-Making in Fascist-Era Dictatorships, New York, SSM-Columbia
University Press, 2009; and A. C. Pinto, R. Eatwell and S. U. Larsen, eds, Charisma and
Fascism in Interwar Europe, London, Routledge, 2007.


Goffredo Adinolfi is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Research and

Studies in Sociology at the Lisbon University Institute, Portugal. He received
his doctorate from the University of Milan, Italy. He has published mainly on
Italian and Portuguese fascism, including Ai confini del fascismo: Propaganda e
consenso nel Portogallo salazarista (1932–1944) (2007), and ‘The institutionaliza-
tion of propaganda in the fascist era: The cases of Germany, Portugal and Italy’,
European Legacy, 17 (2012).

Gerhard Botz is Professor Emeritus at the University of Vienna, Austria

and director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Historical Social Science
(Salzburg and Vienna). He has been visiting Professor at the University of
Minneapolis, Stanford, and at the EHESS, Paris; and Director of oral history
projects on Mauthausen survivors and Nazism. He is the author and editor
of several books, among others: Politische Gewalt in Österreich 1918–1938 (2nd
ed. 1983); Jews, Antisemitism and Culture in Vienna (1987, German 3rd ed.
2002); edited Reden und Schweigen einer Generation (2nd ed. 2007); Kontroversen
um Österreichs Vergangenheit (2nd ed. 2008); Nationalsozialismus in Wien
(5th ed. 2011).

Roger Eatwell is Emeritus Professor of Comparative European Politics at

the University of Bath, UK. He has written extensively on fascism and the
post-1945 extreme and populist right. Recent publications include: ‘Fascism’,
in M. Freeden et al., eds, The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies (2013) and
‘Fascism and Racism’, in J. Breuilly, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Nationalism

Roger Griffin is Professor of Modern History at Oxford Brookes University, UK.

His major work to date is The Nature of Fascism (1991). His other publications
include Fascism (1995), International Fascism: Theories, Causes, and the New Con-
sensus (1998), Fascism (edited with M. Feldman, 2003), Modernism and Fascism:
The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler (2007), and Terrorist’s Creed:
Fanatical Violence and the Human Need for Meaning (2012).

Constantin Iordachi is an Associate Professor of History at the Central

European University, Budapest. His research focuses mainly on comparative
approaches to historical research, totalitarianism, mass politics and nationalism
in Central and South-Eastern Europe. His publications include Charisma, Politics

xxii Notes on Contributors

and Violence: The Legion of the ‘Archangel Michael’ in Inter-war Romania (2004);
and Citizenship, Nation and State-Building: The Integration of Northern Dobrogea in
Romania, 1878–1913 (2002). He is the editor of Comparative Fascist Studies: New
Perspectives (2009).

Aristotle Kallis is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Lancaster

University, UK. His recent book publications include National Socialist Propa-
ganda in the Second World War (2005), Genocide and Fascism: The Eliminationist
Drive in Fascist Europe (2009), and The Third Rome, 1922–43: The Making of the
Fascist Capital (2014).

Javier Luque obtained an MA in Constitutional Law from the Centro de

Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales and a PhD in Political Science from the
University of Granada, Spain. He has worked as a Researcher in the Department
of Political Science at the University of Granada. He has published several works
on elites, leadership and regional politics in Spain.

Miguel Jerez Mir is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Depart-
ment of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of
Granada, Spain and responsible of the Andalusian research group in political
science. He has published extensively in the field of empirical analysis of elites,
parties and interest groups in contemporary Spain. His publications include
Elites políticas y centros de extracción en España, 1938–1957 (1982), and recently
the chapters ‘Executive, single party and ministers in Franco’s regime, 1936–45’
(2009), ‘Ministros y regímenes en España: del Sexenio Revolucionario a la
monarquía parlamentaria’ (2013) and ‘Los diputados en la nueva democracia
española, 1977–2011: pautas de continuidad y cambio’ (2013), the last two
co-authored with Juan J. Linz.

Mogens Pelt is Associate Professor in International History at the Department

of History, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is author of a number of
book and articles including Tobacco, Arms and Politics, Greece and Germany from
World Crisis to World War, 1929–41 (1998); Tying Greece to the West: American,
West-German, Greek Relations, 1945–1974 (2006) and Military Intervention and a
Crisis Democracy in Turkey: the Menderes Era and its Demise (2014).

António Costa Pinto is Research Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences,

University of Lisbon, Portugal. His research interests include fascism, author-
itarianism, political elites, democratization and transitional justice in new
democracies. He recently edited Ruling Elites and Decision-Making in Fascist-Era
Dictatorships (2009); Dealing with the Legacy of Authoritarianism. The ‘Politics of
the Past’ in Sothern European Democracies (with Leonardo Morlino, 2011) and
Notes on Contributors xxiii

Rethinking the Nature of Fascism (2011). He is the author of The Nature of Fascism
Revisited (2012).

David D. Roberts is Albert Berry Saye Professor of History, Emeritus, at the

University of Georgia, USA. Recent publications include The Totalitarian Exper-
iment in Twentieth-Century Europe (2006); Historicism and Fascism in Modern
Italy (2007); ‘ “Political religion” and the totalitarian departures of interwar
Europe’, Contemporary European History 18, 2009, pp. 381–414; and ‘Reconsid-
ering Gramsci’s Interpretation of Fascism’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies 16,
2011, pp. 239–255.

Jason Wittenberg is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University

of California, Berkeley, USA. He is the author of Crucibles of Political Loyalty:
Church Institutions and Electoral Continuity in Hungary (2008) and many articles
on inter-war central and Eastern Europe.

AC Catholic Action (Acción Católica), Spain

ACE Spanish Catholic Action (Acción Católica Española), Spain
ACI Italian Catholic Action (Azione Cattolica Italiana), Italy
ACN de P National Catholic Association of Propagandists (Asociación
Católica Nacional de Propagandistas), Spain
AEV School Action Vanguard (Acc,ão Escolar Vanguarda),
BBWR Non-partisan Bloc for Co-operation with the Government
(Bezpartyjny Blok Wspólpracy z Rzadem). Poland
BUF British Union of Fascists
CADC Christian Democracy Academic Centre (Centro Académico
de Democracia Cristã), Portugal
CAUR Comitati d’Azione per l’Universalità di Roma, Italy
CCP Portuguese Catholic Centre (Centro Católico Português),
CEDA Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rights
(Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas), Spain
CONCAPA Catholic Confederation of Parents (Confederación Católica
de Padres de Familia), Spain
CS Christian Social Party (Christlichsoziale Partei), Austria
CV Catholic Student Fraternities (Cartellverband), Austria
DAF Deutsche Arbeitsfront, Germany
DAP German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), Austria
DGSCI Direcção Geral dos Serviços da Censura, Portugal
DNS National Delegation of Syndicates (Delegación Nacional de
Sindicatos), Spain
DNSAP German National Socialist Workers’ Party (Deutsche
Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei), Austria
EON National Youth Organization (Ethnikí Orgánosis Neoléas).
EP Unity Party (Egységes Párt), Hungary
ETN National Labour Statute (Estatuto do Trabalho Nacional),
FE-JONS Spanish Falange and National Syndicalist Offensive Juntas
(Falange Española y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional
Sindicalistas), Spain

List of Abbreviations xxv

FET y de las JONS Traditionalist Spanish Falange and the National

Syndicalist Offensive Juntas (Falange Española
Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional
FHB Freedom Union (Freiheitsbund), Austria
FJ Falangist Youth Front (Frente de Juventudes), Spain
FM Front Militia (Frontmiliz), Austria
FNAT National Foundation for Happiness at Work (Fundac,ão
Nacional para a Alegria no Trabalho), Portugal
FRN Front of National Rebirth (Frontul Renas,terii Nat,ionale),
GVP Greater German People’s Party (Großdeutsche
Volkspartei), Austria
HOAC Catholic Action Workers’ Brotherhood (Hermandad
Obrera de Acción Católica), Spain
HSLS Slovak People’s Party (Hlinkova slovenská l’udová strana),
IEP Political Studies Institute (Instituto de Estudios Políticos),
IL Lusitanian Integralism (Integralismo Lusitano), Portugal
INTP National Institute of Labour and Welfare (Instituto
Nacional do Trabalho e Previdência), Portugal
JDN National Defence Junta (Junta de Defensa Nacional),
KdF Strength through Joy (Kraft durch Freude), Germany
KKE Kommounistikó Kómma Elládas, Greece
KWEG War Economy Enabling Law (Kriegswirtschaftliches
Ermächtigungsgesetz), Austria
LANC National-Christian Defence League (Liga Apărării
Naţional Creştine), Romania
LB Peasants’ Union (Landbund), Austria
LP Portuguese Legion (Legião Portuguesa), Portugal
LRJAE Juridical Regime and State Administration Law (Ley de
Régimen Jurídico de la Administración del Estado), Spain
LZS Agrarian Union (Latvijas Zemnieku Savienemiba). Latvia
MNS National Syndicalist Movement (Movimento
Nacional-Sindicalista), Portugal
MP Portuguese Youth (Mocidade Portuguesa), Portugal
MVF Mothers’ Protection Agency (Mutterschutzwerk
Vaterlaendische Front), Austria
xxvi List of Abbreviations

NEP Party of National Unity (Nemzeti Egység Pártja), Hungary

NSB Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging, Netherlands
NSDAP German National Socialist Workers Party (Nazi Party)
(Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), Germany
ÖJ Austrian Youth (Österreichisches Jungvolk), Austria
OND National Recreation Club (Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro),
ÖS Austrian Storm Troops (Östmärkische Sturmscharen),
ÖVP Austrian People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei), Austria
OZN Camp of National Unity (Obóz Zjednoczenia Narodowego).
PN Party of the Nation (Partidul Naţiunii), Romania
PNC National Christian Party (Partidul Naţional Creştin),
PNF National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista), Italy
PNL National Liberal Party (Partidul Naţional Liberal), Romania
PNR National Republican Party (Partido Nacional Republicano),
PNR Romanian National Party (Partidul Naţional Român),
PNT National Peasants’ Party (Partidul Naţional Ţărănesc),
PT Peasant Party (Partidul Ţărănesc), Romania
PVDE State Defence and Vigilance Police (Polícia de Vigilância e
Defesa do Estado), Portugal
RE Spanish Renewal (Renovación Española), Spain
RMVP Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda
(Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda),
RS Republican Defence League (Republikanischer Schutzbund),
RSI Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana), Italy
SAG Social Working Group (Soziale Arbeitsgemeinschaft), Austria
SD Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Austria
(Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs), Austria
SDAPÖ Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Austria
(Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs), Austria
SPD Social Democratic Party of Germany (Social Democrats)
(Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands), Germany
SPN National Propaganda Secretariat (Secretariado da
Propaganda Nacional), Portugal
List of Abbreviations xxvii

SSNJ Party of National Unity (Strana Slovenskej Národnej

Jednoty), Slovakia
UAC Agrarian and Citizen Union (Unión Agraria y Ciudadana),
UN National Union (União Nacional), Portugal
UP Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica), Spain
VF Fatherland Front (Vaterlandische Front), Austria
WF Defence Front (Wehrfront), Austria
WGS Workplace Communities (Werkgemeinschaften), Austria
António Costa Pinto and Aristotle Kallis

The revival of interest in ‘generic’ fascism in the last three decades has produced
an impressive number of new, sophisticated conceptual interpretations.
Whereas before ‘fascism’ had been considered a rogue historical force with lit-
tle intellectual substance or distinguishing ideological features, new approaches
sought to establish it as a distinct ideological ‘-ism’ of the twentieth century, its
intellectual origins meticulously charted, its popularity during the inter-war
years scrutinized, and its national permutations fruitfully analysed in com-
parative and transnational terms. Nevertheless, the focus on defining fascism
and identifying its differentiae specificae raised a host of new questions about
how particular movements and regimes fitted the suggested definitions. Differ-
ent taxonomies shifted the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, with some
seemingly less radical right-wing dictatorships and hyper-nationalist move-
ments now falling short of the new conceptual benchmarks. In addition, some
theorists questioned even the previously orthodox position that both Italian
Fascism and German National Socialism were paradigmatic’ cases of ‘fascism’.1
Thus the field of ‘fascism studies’ found itself in a paradoxical situation:
increasing conceptual sophistication produced more and more complicated,
contested and confusing taxonomies. In general, scholars of ‘fascism studies’
attempted to draw classificatory lines that distinguished between ‘fascism’ and
other kindred – but less radical and/or aggressive – political phenomena that
were usually branded more loosely as ‘authoritarian’ or ‘dictatorial’. ‘Fascism’
was supposed to occupy one extreme of a classificatory axis: it was ‘totalitarian’
as opposed to ‘authoritarian’, radical as opposed to conservative, active and
mass-mobilizing (populist) as opposed to passive and top-down, some would
even say ‘revolutionary’ as opposed to ‘reactionary’.2 As a result, a new resid-
ual space started to form in between the two extreme poles. It was populated
by dictatorial regimes (typically anti-parliamentary, anti-liberal, anti-socialist
and strongly nationalist) that were to varying degrees inspired by, fashioned
after or deliberately imitated, the ideology, style and organization of the two

2 Introduction

generally regarded as the most successful and paradigmatic’ cases of ‘fascism’

in Italy and Germany; but, it was now argued, they did not go far enough in
this direction and fell short on a number of critical tests (e.g. ‘revolutionary’
vision; ‘charismatic’ leadership etc.).
This classificatory approach that has dominated the past three decades has
transformed a rich dialectical relationship between what we call ‘fascism’
and facets of the so-called ‘old’ right (‘conservative’ and ‘authoritarian’) into
an impossible taxonomical vexation.3 It has often exaggerated distinctions
between different movements and regimes, as well as between ideological
vision and political praxis – and, in turn, between movements and regimes.
A large number of inter-war dictatorships (whether labelled as ‘fascist’ or
not) have largely been treated as imperfect, compromised translations of
their underpinning intentions into political action and institutional make-up.
‘Para-fascist’, ‘semi-fascist’, ‘quasi-fascist’, ‘pseudo-fascist’ and other similar
compound adjectives have been used and abused in the historiography, albeit
with some justification, in an attempt to account for the complexity of the
historical landscape of inter-war Europe while still salvaging the holy grail of
conceptual and taxonomical clarity. In fact, as a genus, the ‘fascist regime’ con-
cept has travelled neither far nor well, even in relation to case studies from
inter-war Europe. The tendency of parties and dictatorial regimes to seem-
ingly borrow ideological themes and emulate political or stylistic features of
established parties and dictatorships elsewhere (especially – but by no means
exclusively – from Fascist Italy and/or National Socialist Germany) has been
often explained away as mimesis – a passive, one-way emulation with minimal
agency or contextualization, often opportunistic and cynical. Having fallen foul
of newly drawn rigid lines of distinction and classification, those case stud-
ies that ended up in this residual space betwixt and between ‘fascism’ and
‘authoritarianism’ / ‘conservatism’ came to be regarded as an anomaly: neither
completely disowned nor fully embraced by fascism studies, they remained in
a strange liminal stage, as not-quite ‘fascist’. That this second-class club typi-
cally features a disproportionately high number of inter-war dictatorial regimes
(as opposed to movements and parties that never exercised power) illustrates a
bias in favour of an ideology-based classification that places regimes at a distinct
disadvantage in relation to movements and parties.
And yet, however peripheral to the study of ‘fascism’ all these other cases
may be (or perceived to be), these ‘fascist misfits’ raise questions about the
context that influenced and shaped them politically; as well as about the sig-
nificant degree of their ideological and/or political convergence with what we
call ‘fascism’. In spite of their differences, all these regimes shared an element
of qualitative political ‘departure’ (albeit varying in degree) – in a post-liberal,
hyper-nationalist, strongly anti-democratic and vehemently anti-socialist direc-
tion,4 engaging with new forms of mass mobilization and embarking on a series
António Costa Pinto and Aristotle Kallis 3

of novel experiments in social control and institutional design. But in most

cases this ‘departure’ did not seem to go as far as in the case of Nazi Germany or
even Fascist Italy, whether because of lack of intention to embark on an innova-
tive, indeed ‘revolutionary’ political experiment (what David Roberts described
as energizing self-confidence and history-making self-importance) or because
of what Robert Paxton has described as ‘entropy’ in the process (loss of radical
momentum due to institutionalization and ‘normalization’ once in power).5
In coining the term ‘para-fascism’, back in the early 1990s, to describe this
irksome constituency of ‘not-quite’ regimes and parties, Roger Griffin acknowl-
edged a crucial degree of historical affinity between them and ‘fascism’, both
ideologically and in political-organizational-stylistic terms.6 He also suggested
obliquely that what was happening in the inter-war years in Italy, Germany and
elsewhere mattered beyond national boundaries, producing a momentum that
exercised a strong formative and empowering influence in an ever-radicalizing
direction across the continent. Ideas travelled fast and wide; selected politi-
cal experiments (especially those regarded at the time as ‘successful’) spread
and were adapted, modified (sometimes profoundly so), and enriched in the
process. A complex transnational dynamic that involved inspiration, political
learning, reflexive cross-fertilization and competition perforated and muddled
the boundaries between political categories and constituencies of the inter-war
European right.
With this volume we wish to move the debate on inter-war fascism from its
ideological nature to its political dynamics; from classification according to cri-
teria derived from conceptual ‘ideal types’ to what Michel Dobry has described
as a ‘relational perspective’ that scrutinizes the complex contemporary con-
texts and processes of ideological, political and institutional hybridization over
the time and space of inter-war Europe.7 Our focus on hybridization acknowl-
edges the key significance of the relation between ‘fascism’ and ‘dictatorship’.
It captures a rich array of very different (and indeed largely unpredictable)
entanglements between ‘fascist’ and ‘authoritarian’ political actors, between
new and established ideas, between fresh and already tried political formulas –
all operating in an open field buzzing with new radical opportunities and
fighting for “competitive advantage” over each other.8 Our approach places
emphasis on factors such as personalization, institutional make-up, co-optation
of other actors, political-institutional hybridity, as well as on the impact of
‘political learning’ from seemingly successful innovations and precedents else-
where. The shared initial hypothesis of the contributors to the volume is that
something that we nowadays more or less identify generically with ‘fascism’
came to be perceived by a large (and steadily growing in the 1930s) number
of sympathetic contemporaries as an international, epoch-defining force in the
inter-war period after the consolidation of, first, Mussolini’s and, later, Hitler’s
regimes. Their perceptions of what this supposedly novel radical force (in itself
4 Introduction

changing as it was unfolding and taking shape) came to represent mattered

more far than the forensic definitions of ‘fascism’ offered by post-war scholarly
models. Wildly different from the onset, these perceptions continued to change
further in the 1920s and then the 1930s, as new political and institutional
experiments appeared in different corners of the continent, then selectively
borrowed – out of fascination or rational choice –, cross-fertilized with partic-
ular ambitions and national traditions, before becoming themselves sources of
inspiration that others could borrow and adapt in the process.
All these dynamic transnational entanglements generated a fascinatingly rich
field of circulation of ideas and practices that shaped the experience of both
inter-war ‘fascism’ and ‘dictatorship’ far more than previously assumed. These
intersections and (intended or not) outcomes blur the boundaries between
conceptual categories and rigid classifications, redirecting the analytical gaze
from the visible outcome to the underlying processes; and from the retro-
spective assessment based on hindsight to a better, more methodologically
empathetic understanding of the forces and influences that shaped these
political hybrids in and over time. New ideas and fresh political-institutional
experiments were de facto contextualized in the sense that each of them was
offered as a particular proposition shaped by particular actors in a particular
national-historical setting and with a distinct set of expectations attached to it.
Nevertheless, this initial contextualization did not stop others from (selective
and/or partly) de-contextualizing and re-contextualizing it according to their
own interpretations and expectations.9 The etiology, nature and limits of every
re-contextualization were of critical significance. Whether it constituted a full
ideological realignment, a selective appropriation, a particular interpolation
or a pragmatic emendation, re-contextualization produced new hybrids that
could also subsequently be de-/re-contextualized by others. As more and more
radical movements appeared in the inter-war years, as more and more dictato-
rial regimes emerged from the debris of failed democratic systems, the field of
inter-war anti-democratic, anti-socialist and hyper-nationalist ideas and politics
became a rich, and constantly expanding, laboratory of new, more or less rad-
ical experiments in the eyes of a rapidly expanding group of observers – some
of them mesmerized, some only partly convinced but willing to observe and
be converted, some simply intrigued, some cynically gambling on a seemingly
winning team.
That this laboratory was largely shaped by ideas and radical innovations
that derived from Italy and then Germany is difficult to deny. Recent schol-
arship on the transnational dynamics of ‘fascism’ has questioned the standard
designation of Fascism and National Socialism as ‘paradigmatic’ cases of some-
thing called ‘generic fascism’, partly because of their internal contradictions
and partly because they too were shaped – dynamically as well and unpre-
dictably over time – by entanglements and re-contextualizations like most
António Costa Pinto and Aristotle Kallis 5

of the other inter-war dictatorships.10 Different political actors very often did
make distinctions between Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany. Some
of them shifted their overall allegiances (usually from Mussolini’s to Hitler’s
regime in the second half of the 1930s) while continuing to re-contextualize
different aspects of each of these two regimes, again with unpredictable hybrid
outcomes. It is not the intention of this volume to re-propose the two regimes
as allegedly pure examples of ‘fascism’ that contrasted sharply to a separate
sphere of hybridization populated by the rest of inter-war dictatorships. It is,
nevertheless, important to stay within the field of contemporary perception
and not slide into a different kind of retrospectively applied hindsight. Whether
the two regimes met or not the benchmarks of subsequent definitions and tax-
onomical models of ‘fascism’, whether they were even branded or recognized
by others as ‘fascist’, matters less than what contemporary actors and observers
saw or wanted to see in them – separately or through their increasing de facto
political alignment after 1935. In this respect, a broad distinction was increas-
ingly operative on the level of perception in the inter-war years, pitting Fascist
Italy and National Socialist Germany against both liberal democracies and the
Soviet Union, even if other important differences were also perceived – and
distinctions were made – between the two regimes or even within each of them.

The contributions featured in the volume have been solicited by the edi-
tors in order to shed light on different aspects of this dynamic, ‘in motion’
approach to fascism11 and have subsequently been categorized into two parts.
Part I consists of four theoretical and comparative chapters, exploring from dif-
ferent viewpoints the complex relations between ‘fascism’, ‘authoritarianism’
and ‘dictatorship’. Part II features six country-specific contributions, bringing
together individual expertises in Austria, Portugal, Spain, Hungary, Romania
and Greece. In adopting this two-part division, we are seeking insights offered
by both ‘holistic’ and ‘individualistic’ methodological approaches to the field
of inter-war fascism and dictatorship. While we use the terms ‘fascism’ and
‘dictatorship’ in generic terms – and thus acknowledge the tremendous value
of conceptual approaches to both these concepts –, we are also seeking to
avoid forcing a kaleidoscope of different historical processes of multifaceted
and unpredictable interactions into a new set of rigid generic categories. The
volume’s focus on dynamic hybridization – in other words, on the processes
through which ideas, discourses, institutional experiments and political deci-
sions in one place influenced others elsewhere and changed as a result of
subsequent re-contextualizations – suggests a methodological framework that
recognizes the heuristic value of generic phenomena but at the same time seeks
to trace their historical trajectories by exploring how contemporary individual
actors perceived and operationalised them at different stages and in different
6 Introduction

The volume opens with a Foreword by Roger Griffin, in which he explains

the reasons why he introduced the concept of ‘parafascism’ as a key term for
distinguishing forms of fascist regime from those which adopted the trappings
of ‘fascism’ while rejecting its core programme for creating a revolutionary
alternative to existing forms of modern state. Griffin also considers intrigu-
ing uses of the term with quite different connotations before the appearance
of his monograph The Nature of Fascism in the early 1990s, the mixed schol-
arly reception of his own definition of ‘generic fascism’ and areas of research
where it may still prove its heuristic value as a conceptual device in the study of
right-wing movements and regimes inside and – to an extent at least – outside
In the first introductory chapter, ‘The “Fascist Effect”: On the Dynamics
of Political Hybridization in Inter-War Europe’, Aristotle Kallis explores the
similarities and differences between two ‘readings’ of inter-war fascism: one
based on conceptual distillation and ex post facto classification; the other
focused on understandings of, and interactions with, the experience of ‘fas-
cism’ at the time when it was still unfolding in novel, unpredictable ways
and directions. Kallis argues that the wider inter-war shift towards dictator-
ship and radical political style was much more than a ‘departure’ from the
liberal-democratic mainstream, although this was one of the defining common
feature of all inter-war radical rightist parties and regimes, ‘fascist’ included.
These attributes of the inter-war ‘authoritarian turn’ – the aggressive rejection of
liberal/democratic/socialist politics and the unfolding fascist radical alternative
increasingly seen as successful ‘destination’ – marked the interim political space
of multifaceted, dynamic political hybridity that his chapter seeks to explore.
In chapter 2, ‘Fascism and the Framework for Interactive Political Innova-
tion during the Era of the Two World Wars’, David Roberts argues that many
scholars have come to take fascism seriously as innovative, even revolutionary.
Doing so might seem to buttress long-standing ways of distinguishing genuine
fascism from right-wing regimes that seem to have adapted the trappings of
fascism for merely authoritarian or reactionary purposes. But recent research
suggests that some of those regimes were more innovative, even in their ways
of adapting fascism, than conventional categories suggest. To make sense of
the interaction, Roberts argues that we require a more flexible way of under-
standing the field of political innovation during the period. Even accounts that
take fascism seriously tend to gloss over the sense in which it was an uncer-
tain work in progress, the outcome of which – even the next stage of which –
could not have been clear at the time. To a considerable extent, those elsewhere
could see in fascism what they wanted to see, based on where they were in their
own dynamic trajectory. Thus there was scope not only for borrowing but also
for wishful thinking, illusion, misconstrual and myth-making. Consideration of
António Costa Pinto and Aristotle Kallis 7

the Italian case in light of these issues suggests how better to encompass the var-
ied modes of relationship between fascism and those who borrowed selectively
or were inspired from it.
In chapter 3, ‘The Nature of “Generic Fascism”: Complexity and Reflexive
Hybridity’, Roger Eatwell argues that the ‘generic fascism’ model encourages
a binary approach to regime typology; and that instead of seeing dictator-
ships such as Mussolini’s or Franco’s in terms of a radical totalitarianism versus
conservative authoritarianism, it is more fruitful to examine which concep-
tual strands are to be found within them, in what proportions and with
what dynamics of development through time. In turn, this focus raises further
questions about both national path dependency and the ways in which polit-
ical actors negotiated ideological and transnational transfers with particular
domestic (historical and contemporary) circumstances.
In the final chapter of Part I, chapter 4, ‘Fascism, Corporatism and the Craft-
ing of Authoritarian Institutions in Inter-War European Dictatorships’, António
Costa Pinto rethinks the role of corporatism as a political device against lib-
eral democracy and especially as a set of authoritarian institutions that spread
across inter-war Europe and was an agent for the hybridization of the insti-
tutions of fascist-era dictatorships. Costa Pinto argues that corporatism was at
the forefront of this process of cross-national diffusion, both as a new form of
organized interest representation and as an authoritarian alternative to liberal
democracy. He also argues that the patterns of diffusion of political and social
corporatism (which, along with the institution of the single party, was the hall-
mark of institutional transfers among European dictatorships of the inter-war
period) challenges some rigid dichotomous interpretations of inter-war fascism.
Part II of the volume features six country-specific chapters. In chapter 5
Gerhard Botz focuses on the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg dictatorship in Austria
(1933–38), which called itself ‘Christian Corporatist State’. It was the outcome
of Austria’s conflict-ridden years after the First World War. At its heart were
ideas about forming a new society and state along authoritarian principles, as a
harmonic classless community of professional corporations; all in all, a bundle
of ill-defined concepts which floated around in many other European coun-
tries but were never fully realized. In spite of these external influences and
transfers, the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg regime’s intellectual origins were located
in Austrian ‘political Catholicism’. The dictatorship depended strongly on the
growing power of the indigenous Heimwehr fascist movement. Even more cru-
cial was the heavy pressure from Mussolini’s Italy to abolish democracy and
crush socialism in the country. Simultaneously the weak and small state, whose
inhabitants displayed pro-German feelings, experienced rising pressures from
both the Austrian variant of the NSDAP and from Nazi Germany itself, to which
Austria finally succumbed in 1938. The two fascist movements as well as the
8 Introduction

authoritarian Austrian regime displayed remarkable shifts of their configura-

tion and a particular strong hybridity which makes it inappropriate to speak of
it as ‘Austrofascism’ or ‘Christian Corporate State’. As a result of divergent forces
and influences the dictatorship of Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg, in
a dialectic relationship of attempts to resist and imitate, took the form of a
hybrid regime which permanently rearranged its internal power balances.
In chapter 6 Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto deal with Portugal’s
Estado Novo (New State), which was led by Oliveira Salazar and was consoli-
dated during the 1930s out of a military dictatorship that had been implanted
in 1926. The two authors note how the regime was shaped by several models
of inspiration and explore the cleavages and main protagonists of its institu-
tionalization, especially some segments of the conservative elites, the Catholic
Church and the armed forces. They also pay attention to how the political dif-
fusion of models and institutions by the European authoritarian right during
the inter-war period shaped some of the main institutions of Salazar’s dictator-
ship. The chapter tackles the main processes of hybridization of authoritarian
institutions with a particular focus on the successive pacts between Salazar,
the Armed Forces and the Catholic Church, that fostered the consolidation of
Salazarism in Portugal.
In chapter 7 Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque tackle some of the most rele-
vant questions concerning the nature of Francoism in Spain, particularly from
its origins until the end of the Second World War. After a brief overview of
the factors that contributed to the collapse of the previous democratic regime
and the context and circumstances that made possible the extraordinary accu-
mulation of power in the hands of General Francisco Franco, the two authors
address the following issues: first, the structure, composition and main func-
tions of the new institutions created by the dictator; second, the distribution of
power between the various actors building the eclectic anti-Republican coali-
tion (the Army, the Catholic Church and its ancillary organizations, Falange,
Comunión Tradicionalista, etc.); and the systematic violence exerted over the
opposition during the Civil War and its aftermath. The chapter concludes
with some reflections on the hybridization of processes and institutions that
characterized Franco’s regime.
In chapter 8 Mogens Pelt discusses the establishment and development of
the dictatorship of General Ioannis Metaxas in Greece between 1936 and
1941. Pelt examines to what extent it is possible to understand the regime
as a hybrid between a traditional right-wing authoritarian dictatorship and
a fascist regime. He focuses on the radical transformative potential of the
regime and its long-term intentions for change, paying particular attention to
the dictatorship’s successive stages. The main parameters that defined these
stages, Pelt argues, were of two kinds: first, developments in the internal
balance of power, i.e., between Metaxas and King George II, and the way
António Costa Pinto and Aristotle Kallis 9

in which Metaxas created a groundwork to conquer the state from within;

and, second, the changes of the European political order, which affected the
whole continent in the wake Germany’s revisionist drive in the second half
the 1930s. By including the impact from the political experiments led by
Italy and Germany, in particular, the chapter also investigates the develop-
ment of the Metaxas regime in the framework of a growing, transnational
and increasingly internationally inspired process of political and ideological
convergence between anti-democratic right-wing politics.
In chapter 9 Jason Wittenberg explores the evolution of Hungarian authori-
tarianism during the inter-war period, focusing in particular on elements that
might be termed ‘fascist’. Wittenberg argues that Hungary’s turn to the radical
right was influenced as much by concurrent developments elsewhere as by a
domestically driven ‘demand’ for radical politics. He illustrates this by exam-
ining turning points such as the introduction of the Jewish quota (numerus
clausus), the pursuit of an alliance with Nazi Germany and the rise to power of
the indigenous fascist movement, Arrow Cross.
In chapter 10, Constantin Iordachi discusses the cumulative succession of
‘departures’ from democracy towards authoritarian experiments in Romania’s
political life between 1937 and 1944. While the history of these ‘departures’ –
and of the diverse regimes that they produced – has been routinely approached
in terms of discontinuity from each other, Iordachi approaches this period of
upheaval in Romania’s history as a continuum, being mostly interested in the
political legacy of these experiments and the way they fed into each other, as
part of a wider process of cumulative political radicalization. In order to iden-
tify the complex continuities and ruptures between these regimes, he employs
a dual comparative perspective: diachronic, underscoring processes of polit-
ical transition from one regime to another; and synchronic, that accounts
for the wider transnational influences and transfers between these political
experiments in Romania and similar dictatorial regimes elsewhere. His aim
is to understand the complex interaction between social-political actors, the
interplay between local and foreign political models and the hybridization
of ideological options, political styles and institutional forms in inter-war
In the Conclusion the editors argue that the historiography of fascism and
inter-war dictatorship needs to look beyond previously assumed conceptual
dichotomies and accept the challenge of embracing complexity, hoping that
the nuanced approaches offered by the contributors to this volume can con-
tribute to a new wave of scholarship on inter-war fascism and dictatorship that
is more aware of the fuzziness of taxonomies and more eager to scrutinize the
dynamic processes that produced, underpinned and shaped a wider spectrum
of inter-war dictatorships, ‘fascist’ and not-quite ‘fascist’ alike.
10 Introduction

1. E.g. Z. Sternhell, The Birth of Fascist Ideology, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University
Press, 1994. Even I. Kershaw remains unconvinced about aspects of the theories of
‘generic fascism’; see, for example, his ‘Hitler and the Uniqueness of Nazism’, Journal
of Contemporary History, Vol. 39, No. 2, 2004, pp. 239–254, and The Nazi Dictatorship.
Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation, London, Arnold, 2000, 4th ed., pp. 20–46.
2. G. L. Mosse, ‘Introduction: The Genesis of Fascism’, Journal of Contemporary History,
Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 14–26; K. Passmore, Fascism. A Very Short Introduction, Oxford,
Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 15. The idea of a ‘revolutionary fascism’ has been
controversial among some researchers of fascism; see, for example, D. Woodley,
‘Radical right discourse contra state-based authoritarian populism: neo-liberalism,
identity and exclusion after the crisis’, in R. Wodak and J. Richardson, eds.,
Analysing Fascist Discourse. European Fascism in Talk and Text, New York, Routledge,
2013, pp. 17–41. See also, in general, R. Griffin, ‘Introduction’, in R. Griffin and
M. Feldman, eds., Fascism. Critical Concepts in Political Science, London and New York,
Routledge, 2004, pp. 1–10.
3. M. Dobry, ‘Desperately Seeking “Generic Fascism”: Some Discordant Thoughts on
the Academic Recycling of Indigenous Categories’, in A. C. Pinto, ed., Rethinking the
Nature of Fascism. Comparative Perspectives, London, Palgrave, 2011, pp. 53–83.
4. D. D. Roberts, The Totalitarian Experiment in Twentieth-Century Europe: Understanding
the Poverty of Great Politics, Abingdon and New York, Routledge, 2006, pp. 24–36.
5. Roberts, Totalitarian Experiment, esp. pp. 113, 337; R. O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fas-
cism, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2004, Ch. 6 and ‘The Five Stages of Fascism’, Journal
of Modern History, Vol. 70, No. 1, 1998, pp. 1–23.
6. See R. Griffin, ‘Foreword’ to this volume; cf. R. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, London
and New York, Routledge, 1991, pp. 120–134.
7. M. Dobry, ‘La thèse immunitaire face aux fascismes. Pour une critique de la logique
classificatoire’, in M. Dobry, ed., Le Mythe de l’allergie française au fascisme, Paris, Albin
Michel, 2002, pp. 17–67; and Dobry, ‘Desperately Seeking “Generic Fascism” ’.
8. M. Dobry, ‘February 1934 and the Discovery of French Society’s Allergy to the “Fascist
Revolution” ’, in B. Jenkins, ed., France in the Era of Fascism: Essays on the French
Authoritarian Right, Oxford, Berghahn, 2005, pp. 129–50.
9. R. Wodak, J. Richardson, ‘Introduction’, in R. Wodak and J. Richardson, Analysing
Fascist Discourse, pp. 1–16.
10. See, for example, C. Goeschel, ‘Italia docet? The Relationship between Italian Fascism
and Nazism Revisited’, European History Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 3, 2012, pp. 480–492.
11. Paxton, ‘The Five Stages of Fascism’, pp. 9–10.
12. S. U. Larsen, ed., Fascism Outside Europe: The European Impulse against Domestic
Conditions in the Diffusion of Global Fascism, New York, SSM-Columbia University
Press, 2001; F. Finchelstein, Transatlantic Fascism. Ideology, Violence and the Sacred in
Argentina and Italy, 1919–1945, Durham NC, Duke University Press, 2010.
Part I
Theoretical and Comparative
The ‘Fascist Effect’: On the Dynamics
of Political Hybridization
in Inter-War Europe
Aristotle Kallis

Introduction: ‘fascism’ beyond the classificatory paradigms

Since the 1980s the historiography of fascism has produced a series of works
that share a determination to ‘take fascism seriously’ – as a distinct ideolog-
ical, political, and social phenomenon. Whether theoretical, classificatory or
comparative, these works may have differed substantially in terms of their
understanding of the essence of ‘fascism’ and the optimal methodological
framework for its analysis; but together they brought about a significant recal-
ibration of analytical tools, charting new – and mostly fruitful – avenues of
interpretation and further research. Moving steadily away from the barely the-
orized and indiscriminate ‘survey’ paradigms of the 1950s and 1960s, ‘fascism’
started to gradually emerge as a coherent and distinct ‘ism’, rooted in wider
intellectual currents of its historical context but underpinned by distinct and
novel ideological-political qualities that were now seen as crucial to its for-
mation and conceptual understanding.1 Gradually recognized as a ‘third-way’
ideology,2 sharing specific elements from existing worldviews but propagating
a new kind of ‘revolutionary’ synthesis that went beyond existing political tem-
plates, ‘fascism’ came to be regarded as the vertex of ideological and political
radicalism in inter-war Europe – not only across the full left–right spectrum but
also within the political space of the European right. It was considered ‘totali-
tarian’ as opposed to ‘authoritarian’, radical as opposed to conservative, active
and mass-mobilizing (populist) as opposed to passive and top-down, even ‘revo-
lutionary’ as opposed to reactionary. As a result, ‘fascism’ could now be defined
both against what it vehemently opposed and rejected (from elite-driven con-
servatism to liberalism and parliamentary democracy to all forms of socialism
and internationalism) and in its own terms – as an ‘ideal type’ possessing a
distinct ‘ineliminable [ideological] core’.

14 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

However, the refinement of the conceptual core and boundaries of ‘fas-

cism’ restricted, qualified or contested the empirical application of the term
in the historical context of inter-war Europe. Previous case-studies that had
been almost de facto considered ‘fascist’ in the earlier survey studies now
appeared to fall short of new conceptual benchmarks. Even among those who
were willing to subscribe to the notion of generic fascism, new disagreements
emerged, in relation to how far the concept could be deployed and what it
needed to exclude. Every new theoretical or comparative scholarly work on ‘fas-
cism’ featured a different gamut of case-studies and intriguing omissions (both
movements/parties and regimes). At some point, one of the major theorists of
generic fascism went as far as arguing that National Socialism was not ‘fascist’
but a unique and fundamentally different phenomenon, due to its unparal-
leled obsession with biological racism.3 But even for the majority of scholars in
the fray of ‘fascism studies’, while a range of inter-war movements and parties
demonstrated ideological and political characteristics that could mark them as
‘fascist’, when it came to regimes the consensus was that the sample of suitable
case studies should be restricted to just the two ‘paradigmatic’ cases of Italy and
There were two main reasons behind this narrowing of the empirical
focus when it came to regimes. First, only in Italy and Germany did ‘fas-
cist’ parties succeed in exercising power autonomously and over a signifi-
cant period of time. The National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista,
PNF) and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische
Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP) may not have technically ‘conquered’ power
autonomously in 1922 and 1933 respectively but, unlike other ideologically
kindred parties that were also co-opted by conservative elites (e.g. the Spanish
Falange, the Austrian Stahlhelm etc.), they managed to emancipate themselves
institutionally from their initial political sponsors and consolidate their power
to such a degree that enabled them to rule virtually unchallenged by other
domestic actors. Second, the two regimes followed a trajectory of radicalization,
displaying both the ‘revolutionary’ ambition of effecting a new ‘historic(al)
beginning’ and the radical political dynamism that enabled them to constantly
break taboos and redefine the political horizon in inter-war Europe. The com-
bination of these criteria meant that only Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany could
clear the classificatory hurdle; all other regime cases fell short in one test or
the other.
There was a further complication, however, in this classificatory
approach. The apparent – at the time – ‘success’ and dynamism of Italian
Fascism and German National Socialism exercised a spectacular influence
well beyond the boundaries of the two countries. Movements and parties
sprang up across the continent that sought to emulate, replicate or adapt
the recipe of ‘success’ of the PNF and the NSDAP.4 Only a few, like the
Aristotle Kallis 15

British Union of Fascists (BUF) or the Dutch National Socialist Movement

(Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging, NSB) proudly brandished the name of one
of the two ‘paradigmatic’ fascist parties; the majority branded themselves in
ways that invoked national particularities and allowed them to avoid criticism
that they were ‘aping’ foreign examples. All of them, however, declared their
admiration for, or at least strong interest in, what was being pursued and rep-
resented by the two ‘fascist’ regimes – or at least by one of them – and wanted
to be considered part of a wider campaign of – perceived – historic change
in their own countries. Meanwhile, the way in which the Italian and then
German regimes exercised power – their unique political style and discourse,
their organizational experiments, their uncompromising assault on their per-
ceived ‘enemies’, their radical activism – appealed to much wider constituencies
across the continent, including entrenched political elites of the traditional
(conservative and/or authoritarian right). They, too, appeared increasingly will-
ing to borrow or adapt selectively features from the ‘fascist’ rule in Italy and/or
Germany, praising them as effective solutions to common perceived ‘problems’.
Anything from the suspension of the democratic system and the relentless
abrogation of liberal rights to the ruthless persecution of the organized left
and particular minority groups, were taboos that the two fascist regimes had
challenged and in the end shattered (with impunity), setting an empowering
and liberating precedent that others were only too keen to follow. As a result,
a constantly growing number of regimes in the 1920s and particularly 1930s
appeared to be following – in different ways and to different degrees – the rad-
ical political course set by the two regimes in Italy and Germany. While some
of them co-opted native ‘fascist’ elements in order to instil a movement-style
dynamics to the regime, others experimented with the introduction of ‘fascist’
political and organizational features ‘from above’ without risking entangle-
ments with far more radical and uncontrollable political movements, which
in some cases they even actively suppressed.5
Broadly speaking, the classificatory paradigms of ‘generic fascism’ have
treated these regimes and movements beyond Italy and Germany as ‘failed’
in one way or another. In a sense, Mussolini’s and Hitler’s conquest of power
set the bar of political ‘success’ for fascist movements extremely high, mean-
ing that exercise of power (and indeed the establishment of a single-party
fascist dictatorship) was the ultimate test of ‘success’ for inter-war fascist con-
tenders.6 Organizational expansion and electoral performance of a fascist party
were considered further benchmarks for ‘success’, influenced by the levels of
party membership and voter support achieved by the NSDAP in 1933 and
only approximated (temporarily) by fascist parties in Romania and Hungary –
although interestingly not by the PNF in Italy. In addition, the relentless drive
towards radicalization displayed primarily by the Nazi regime cast a number
of other dictatorial regimes – ideologically less radical from the outset or less
16 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

determined to forge ahead and challenge taboos – as ‘failed’ in a different sense.

They fell short because they lacked what David Roberts described as ‘energiz-
ing self-confidence and history-making self-importance’ or because of what
Robert Paxton has described as ‘entropy’ (loss of radical momentum due to
institutionalization once in power).7
Nevertheless, these ‘failures’ challenge even the most sophisticated classi-
ficatory paradigms of ‘generic fascism’. Together, they demarcate an interim
anti-democratic, anti-socialist, and post-liberal political space in inter-war
Europe, situated in a grey zone of crucial crossovers between ‘fascism’ and
conventional ‘authoritarianism’. Unpredictable ideological and political entan-
glements in different areas and for different reasons in each case make this
grouping of regimes essentially a ‘hybrid’ category that is extremely hard
to classify and theorize adequately with the standard conceptual tools of
either ‘fascism’ or ‘authoritarianism’. Even more confusingly, volatile political
identities and outlooks during the inter-war period meant that a number of
right-wing actors were attracted to the ‘fascist’ regime model and chose to (tac-
tically and selectively) emulate and/or adapt some of its radical innovations,
thus perforating and obfuscating the claimed boundaries between ‘fascist’ and
‘non-fascist’ inter-war right. One of the leading theorists of generic fascism,
Stanley Payne, attempted to reclassify the spectrum of the inter-war right by
inserting a hybrid interim category between ‘fascism’ and ‘authoritarian (con-
servative) right’ that he labelled ‘radical right’. He noted that, while fascists
were both the most radical constituency and uniquely espousing a ‘revolu-
tionary’ vision of epoch-defining change, the ‘radical rightists’ were almost
as extreme but still shied away from fully embracing fascism’s revolutionary
alternative.8 A similar classificatory perspective underpinned Michael Mann’s
comparative study of inter-war fascism, in which he introduced not one but
two ‘intermediate’ categories (‘semi-reactionary’ and ‘corporatist’, in ascend-
ing order of radicalization).9 While both authors recognized the need to make
distinctions between ‘fascists’ and other inter-war rightists (as well as between
regimes led by each of these constituencies), they nevertheless admitted that
the conceptual boundaries between their interim categories and ‘fascism’ were
porous and entanglements were becoming more widespread at the time.
In contrast to Payne, Mann, Paxton, and some other theorists of ‘generic fas-
cism’ who sought to separate ‘fascism’ not just conceptually/analytically but
also in linguistic terms from other forms of the inter-war European ‘right’,
Roger Griffin labelled his own interim category as ‘para-fascism’. In so doing,
he recognized the latter’s critical influence from, and political debts to, the
emerging paradigm of fascism in Italy and Germany. For Griffin, ‘para-fascism’
designated a residual political space of the ‘not-quite-fascist’ – more radical
than conventional authoritarianism and shaped under the influence of ‘fascist’
precedents but not radical (that is, revolutionary, aggressive and/or ambitious)
Aristotle Kallis 17

enough when compared to the Italian and German paradigmatic cases.10 The
term sought to overcome the essentialism of the dualistic scheme ‘either fas-
cist or authoritarian’, recognizing that even those ‘not-quite-fascist’ dictatorial
regimes of the inter-war period could not be sufficiently understood without
‘fascist’ insights. The intriguing ambiguity of the prefix ‘para’ gave the term a
dynamic quality: it indicated proximity (like in the case of similar prefixes used
by others, such as ‘proto’, ‘quasi’ and ‘semi’), conditional qualitative similarity,
appendage, variation, but also incompleteness, peripherality, distortion or even
defect.11 It also acknowledged a complex reality of hybridization, on the level of
both ideas and political praxis, recognizing the influence that ‘fascism’ exerted
on a wider array of movements and regimes across inter-war Europe.12 Not
unlike Herbert Marcuse’s ‘incipient fascism’,13 Griffin’s classificatory neologism
of ‘para-fascism’ indicated a (successful) ‘departure’ (towards a radical post-
liberal, anti-democratic and anti-socialist political space), the primary source
of inspiration for it (namely, the political alternative represented by ‘fascism’ in
Italy and Germany), and a (never-reached) ‘destination’. In essence, Griffin sug-
gested that the regimes belonging to this interim ‘para-fascist’ political category
were essentially more ‘fascist’ than ‘authoritarian’ or ‘conservative’.

‘Departure’, ‘destination’, and fascism’s ‘demonstration effect’

‘Para-fascism’ became a rather more welcoming shelter for all sorts of ‘fascist’
misfits. The cases that Griffin was willing to include in this category (anything
from General Franco’s regime in Spain to the dictatorships in Austria, Hungary,
and many Balkan countries) were in his opinion fascist underachievers, by con-
viction or circumstance; but he was willing to recognize that in different ways
all these regimes could not be analysed without making reference to a broader
inter-war political context shaped by the revolutionary agency and – apparent
at the time – success of the two fascist regimes. As Mann has noted, inter-
war Europe experienced a widespread, multifaceted, and profound challenge to
the political and moral legitimacy of liberal democracy.14 In what he called
‘the authoritarian half of Europe’ (countries of central, eastern, and south-
ern Europe) democratic regimes either imploded or degenerated over time,
replaced by dictatorships. This was a trend that had predated the success of
Italian Fascism in 1922 (for example, Hungary had made a painful transi-
tion, first, to a short-lived socialist republic under Béla Kun and then to a
semi-pluralist authoritarian regime under Admiral Miklós Horthy in 1919–20).
According to David Roberts, the deeper roots of this ‘departure’ lay in the unset-
tling experience of the First World War.15 Yet, its momentum and relevance to
the history of the entire inter-war European right were crucially strengthened
after Mussolini’s rise to power; and grew even further in the wake of Hitler’s
appointment as German chancellor in 1933.
18 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

The perceived ‘success’ and dynamic of the radical political experiments in

Italy and Germany functioned as an increasingly more powerful catalyst for
the diffusion of the ‘authoritarian (post-liberal) departure’ across the continent.
It provided a powerful confirmation of the wider post-liberal/authoritarian
departure itself, shattering the taboo of political pluralism, destroying indi-
vidual and group freedoms, and reconceptualizing dramatically the relations
between the individual, national society, and the state.16 In many ways, the
victory of fascism in Italy and its diffusion across Europe in the following
two decades produced a spectacular demonstration effect that sought to chal-
lenge the earlier diffusion of both democracy and socialism. When Mussolini
declared that Fascism was the dominant doctrine of the twentieth century, just
as liberalism and socialism had a commanding influence in the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries respectively,17 he staked out his vision of trans-
national and indeed potentially universal victory of his Fascist experiment.
In hindsight, the events of 1922 and 1933 infused the wider ‘authoritarian
departure’ with a ‘world-historical significance’ and diffusion dynamic that
matched (and, in terms of propagating results, exceeded) that of the Bolshevik
It is thus not a coincidence that the seismic ‘authoritarian departure’ in inter-
war Europe unfolded in three ‘waves’, chronologically connected to events in
Italy or Germany. The first (and, by comparison, less powerful) wave was regis-
tered in the 1920s. The Fascist ‘March on Rome’ inspired a new breed of radical
populist leaders (among them, Adolf Hitler) to embark on a violent challenge
against the institutions of liberal democracy. In so doing, they also turned their
attention to other innovative aspects of Italian Fascism concerning rhetoric,
communication, organization, liturgy, and political style. Others were soon
attracted by the novel and uncompromising character of Mussolini’s dictatorial
regime. The French author Robert Brasillach saw in the Italian stato totalitario
a fascinating experiment with ‘Latin’ roots that combined the political with
the dramatic and the aesthetic.19 One of the most influential literary figures of
the century, the American poet Ezra Pound, invoked the imagery of Mussolini
as the modern embodiment of the ‘enlightened soul’ and artifex (construc-
tor) that would fill up with his personality and determination the revival of
a historic(al) epic.20 Others, however, like the Spanish general Miguel Primo
de Rivera, who headed a dictatorship in Spain in 1923–30, saw in Mussolini’s
regime a novel political and constitutional arrangement, freed from the limits
of liberal-democratic rule, and controlled tightly by a single figurehead from
above.21 The general’s son, José Antonio Primo de Rivera (leader of the most
genuine fascist movement in Spain in the 1930s, the Falange Española), did
not lose an opportunity to display his deference to Mussolini, even if pri-
vately he observed the Italian experiment with mixed feelings and used it rather
Aristotle Kallis 19

opportunistically as a ‘myth that [the Falange] might exploit to its own profit’.22
The Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar appreciated Mussolini’s initiatives in
the direction of strengthening the central authority of the state in accordance
with the doctrine of corporatism without risking a revolutionary new social
order, while keeping his distance from some of the more coercive or populist
aspects of the Italian (and later German) regime.23 As for Oswald Mosley –
a late convert who founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932 -, he pro-
claimed Fascism the only ‘world-wide phenomenon invading every country in
the hour of crisis as the only alternative to destructive communism’ (emphasis
added).24 Beyond Spain (temporarily) and Portugal, dictatorships sprang up –
mostly in the wake of a coup d’êtat – in Greece (1925), Poland, Lithuania (both
1926), Albania (1928), and Yugoslavia (1929). What started with an appreci-
ation by some of Mussolini’s ‘energetic’ regime as an ‘Italian’ solution to the
country’s perceived chronic political weaknesses25 soon turned for many more
into a successful blueprint of sorts for a future post-liberal, hyper-nationalist,
anti-socialist, and anti-democratic new political order across Europe.26
The second wave of ‘authoritarian departure’ was relatively shorter (1933–34)
but nonetheless intense and significant as a confirmation of the earlier trend.
Following Hitler’s appointment as German chancellor in January 1933, democ-
racies were replaced by dictatorial regimes in Austria (March 1933), Estonia
(March 1934), Latvia, and Bulgaria (May 1934). Finally, the third wave swept
away most of the remaining democracies in central, southern, and eastern
Europe from 1936 until the outbreak of the war: again Greece (1936) and Spain
(1939), but also Romania (1938, 1941). Democracy was challenged far less (and
proved far more resilient) in northern European countries than in the over-
whelming majority of the ‘successor’ states of the pre-First World War Habsburg
and Russian empires, as well as in the Balkans, where – with only very few
exceptions – it gave way sooner or later to dictatorial or at least semi-pluralist
regimes. With the notable exception of Czechoslovakia (which maintained a
functioning democratic system until its eventual dismemberment and disso-
lution in 1938–39), only the more established northern democracies withstood
the authoritarian onslaught. Even in France and Belgium, where the authoritar-
ian challenge turned out to be acute and multifaceted in the 1930s, democracy
survived until the time of the Nazi invasion in 1940.27 Meanwhile, movements
and parties with increasingly more obvious and more radical ‘fascist’ trappings
continued to appear in almost every corner of the continent. They invariably
borrowed, emulated, adapted or reinterpreted features pioneered by Fascism in
Italy and/or National Socialism in Germany, sometimes going as far as using
the adjective ‘national socialist’ or ‘fascist’ in their official appellation and/or
official discourse. The overwhelming majority of them supported with striking
zeal the Axis military campaign from 1939 onwards, heading or participating in
20 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

so-called collaborationist regimes during the Second World War, and remaining
loyal to the international, history-making ‘fascist’ cause until the very end.
Such a widespread transnational ‘authoritarian departure’ in inter-war Europe
was significant on two interrelated levels, as departure from and departure
towards. On the one hand, it signified an emphatic rejection of liberalism
and parliamentary democracy, favouring instead a return to more authoritar-
ian and repressive systems of government. On the other hand, however, this
change pointed not to a simple regression to earlier conventional models of
authoritarian dictatorship but to a novel political dynamic obsessed with mass
mobilization, with imageries of violent activism and persecution of ‘enemies’,
with ‘organic’ and fiercely exclusive notions of nationalism, as well as with
a mentality that sought to tease and transgress many of the boundaries of
‘acceptable’ behaviour.
In this chapter, I am arguing for a re-mapping of the inter-war
‘authoritarian turn’ that places the – unfolding at the time and therefore
open-ended – trajectories of Italy and Germany (and both after 1933) at the
heart of multiple cross-overs and ‘hybrid’ political outcomes that transformed
the wider political space of the inter-war European right – ‘fascist’, ‘radi-
cal’, ‘authoritarian’, and even conservative. Each of these entanglements and
hybrid outcomes may have pointed to different political ‘destinations’, reflect-
ing partly diverse intentions for the long term and range of strategies to achieve
them. But there was a growing perception of broad (and significant) com-
monality of purpose amongst those involved in these ‘departures’ that was
inevitably influenced and sustained by what was happening in other coun-
tries. Every new entanglement, interpretation, selective reading, and ‘hybrid’
experiment created new points of reference for others. For example, Carlists
in Spain were far more interested in the experiments of Pilsudski, Salazar, and
(after 1933) Dollfuss than they were in the examples of Mussolini and Hitler.28
In turn, Salazarismo (and particularly its constitutional experiments with the
notion of the ‘New State’ – Estado Novo) fascinated Ioannis Metaxas who headed
the ‘Fourth of August’ dictatorship in Greece after a successful coup with the
support of the monarchy in 1936.29 Crucially, what either the Fascist or the
National Socialist regime was trying to achieve was not truly or fully apparent
at the time that it was unfolding on uncharted political territory during the
1930s; the differences that have been rightly scrutinized by classificatory stud-
ies rest largely on the benefit of an ex post facto perspective that could not
possibly be assumed for those observing and acting in the 1920s and 1930s.
However, neither the ‘authoritarian turn’ of the inter-war period as a whole nor
the particular political trajectories or characteristics that its various national
components demonstrated at the time make much sense outside the prodi-
gious ‘magnetic field of (inter-war) fascism’,30 whose undisputed guiding centre
was perceived to be located in Rome and Berlin.
Aristotle Kallis 21

In his masterful Fascism and the Right, Martin Blinkhorn underlined

the need to recognize the encouragement that Fascist and Nazi ‘successes’
gave to authoritarians elsewhere in interwar Europe who, in the strict ‘ide-
ological’ sense of the term, were not fascists themselves. [ . . . ] Not only did
this growing, Italian- and German-induced sense that Europe’s future was
‘fascist’ assist the overthrow of many interwar European democracies, but
the character and conduct of many of the authoritarian regimes then estab-
lished was strongly if selectively influenced by their leaders’ and architects’
interpretation of the Italian and/or German reality.31

Blinkhorn’s insightful analysis (building on his earlier collaborative work

exploring the connections and differences between ‘fascists’ and ‘conserva-
tives’ in the 1930s32 ) charted a growing process of political and – in some
cases – ideological convergence between anti-democratic conservative and var-
ious radical right-wing political actors across inter-war Europe. He also drew
attention to the ensuing open-ended and multifaceted hybridization between
radicalized conservatives, self-proclaimed ‘fascists’, and other ultra-nationalist
radicals. This convergence and ensuing hybridization affected both rightist
movements and regimes in different ways. On the one hand, new radical hyper-
nationalist movements and parties framed their own radicalizing momentum
under the influence of other radical movements (and particularly those that
came to power – namely, Italian Fascism and National Socialism), mirroring
and adapting selectively (rather than simply ‘aping’) their stylistic, organiza-
tional, and political-ideological facets. On the other hand, rightist dictatorial
regimes shaped their post-liberal ‘departure’ largely (though never predictably)
in broad accordance with new extreme political precedents derived from other,
earlier ‘departures’ in Rome, Berlin, and elsewhere.
What Blinkhorn described as ‘the encouragement that Fascist and Nazi
“successes” gave to authoritarians elsewhere’ suggests that the three ‘waves’
of authoritarian departure outlined earlier were episodes of a single post-
liberal/dictatorial ‘domino effect’ or contagion.33 Each of them may have drawn
inspiration and warrant from different sources and events. For example, the
first wave referenced the ‘success’ of Mussolini’s regime; the second did the
same for Hitler’s then fledgling dictatorship; the third was most likely induced
by the cumulative dynamics and appreciable consequences of the previous two
waves, as well as by the escalating radicalism of National Socialist Germany.
Yet together they transformed a series of largely independent ‘authoritarian
departures’ in different countries into a seismic political paradigm shift in the
inter-war period. The metaphor of a wider ‘contagion’ from developments in
Fascist Italy and/or Nazi Germany captures eloquently the self-sustaining, rad-
icalizing, empowering, indeed infectious and trans-national dynamic of the
22 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

inter-war ‘authoritarian turn’ while also referencing the source of the trans-
gressive licence and the effect of shattering previous taboos. It highlights the
co-relational pattern of an extraordinary (in speed, scope, and quality) diffu-
sion involving new or different ideas, cognitions, and behaviours. It also draws
attention to both the intensity of the inspiration/encouragement derived from
precedent and the susceptibility of numerous – more or less sympathetic –
international receptors elsewhere to it.
Nevertheless, ‘contagion’ leaves the complex etiology behind the apparent
‘success’ of these alternative, previously fringe or taboo ideas and experiments
largely unexplored. Heavily focused on the supply side of the equation, it says
little specifically about perception and demand in relation to those who subse-
quently endorsed, imitated or adapted them. Ideas do not simply ‘infect’ people
like in a random outbreak of a disease; in fact, very few new ideas become truly
‘infectious’, most of them usually following a trajectory that leads from incep-
tion and initial propagation to limited diffusion and (sooner or later) entropy
or supersession by other ideas. The political ‘success’ of what we now call
‘fascism’ in inter-war Europe was in no way predetermined or indeed likely,
however powerful the realities and – more importantly – perceptions of ‘crisis’
were at the time. The ‘contagion’ metaphor conveys eloquently the fascinat-
ing dynamics of ‘success’ (in this instance, wider adoption in ‘waves’, often
by unlikely actors and constituencies) but says little about the specific – and
very different – reasons behind the diffusion or the wildly diverse shape of the
political, ideological, and institutional hybrid outcomes.
Not only does ‘contagion’ over-determine the outcome of diffusion but it also
oversimplifies the processes through which diffusion occurs. The inherently
dynamic channels of inspiration, borrowing, adaptation, and reinterpreta-
tion (‘re-contextualization’34 ) are reduced to a one-directional flow of passive
imitation. Questions about the different perceptions of, and inputs from,
individual actors in all these processes remain unaccounted for in the case
of the ‘authoritarian turn’ in inter-war Europe. Which elements of politi-
cal demand – previously concealed, suppressed or unformed – did the supply
of the unfolding ‘fascist’ template of revolutionary thought, novel organiza-
tion, quasi-religious liturgy, and radical break with the (recent) past cater for?
Did it exercise some kind of irrational fascination on fellow radical travellers,
deeply disaffected with the path of Western modernity, the perceived ‘crisis’ of
‘Western’ civilization, and the paradigm of liberal democracy? Did it open up
a previously inaccessible outlet for radical collective action and offer the rare
promise of ‘reloading history’ in the most dramatic sense of the word?35 Did it
appeal (in whole or in part) to other political and social constituencies through
a process of more rational assessment and choice, as a ‘successful’ alternative
political template capable of addressing similar perceived problems in other
countries more effectively than other current recipes? At which point in time or
Aristotle Kallis 23

in which cases did irrational appeal and/or positive rational endorsement give
way to strategic, opportunistic adoption, whereby imitation reflected a desire
to be on the perceived winner’s side but could be reversed if this perception
changed at a subsequent point?
Judging by the multiple political responses to the ‘success’ of what we call
‘fascism’ in the 1920s and 1930s, it seems that external actors who were
attracted to it differed on two significant areas: first, they held divergent
perceptions of what exactly was happening; and second, they wrested very dif-
ferent political ‘lessons’ from the events of 1922 and/or 1933.36 Leaving aside
those who reacted negatively and defensively to the ‘authoritarian turn’ and
the rise of ‘fascism’ (namely, the various organizations of the left and those
mainstream liberals and conservatives who maintained their commitment to
the democratic system), sympathetic contemporary observers structured their
responses to these events according to their (different) political diagnoses and
specific schemata.37 Schemata – broadly speaking, clusters or ‘frames’ of pre-
conceived ideas through which individuals and groups organize the complex
world around them – tend to bias perception of particular events in ways that
validate pre-existing beliefs while redacting those elements that do not fit into
(or contradict) them. As I will argue, this meant that the subjective percep-
tion of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s ‘success’ produced not one but in fact three
authoritarian ‘demonstration effects’ across inter-war Europe, mutually rein-
forcing in some crucial respects but only partly overlapping in terms of ‘lessons’
and outcomes. The unfolding paradigm of ‘fascism’ was at the heart of each of
these three diffusion dynamics; yet how political actors chose to interact with
it depended overwhelmingly on what particular significance and ‘validation’
each of them ascribed to the events of 1922 and 1933.

Same events, different political lessons: Italy 1922, Germany 1933,

and the diffusion of ‘fascism’

What happened in Italy during those chaotic days of late October 1922
ushered in a very different kind of political dynamic, whose effects were
to be felt not only within the country but also across Europe in the fol-
lowing two decades. In the midst of the extraordinary political and social
circumstances that surrounded the March on Rome, the perception of an
unprecedented ‘crisis’ unlocked previously inaccessible possibilities, including
the option of co-opting a political constituency renowned for its ideological
extremism, anti-system orientation, violent street tactics, and disdain for the
liberal-democratic system.38 The role played by many key elite actors in 1922
(and again throughout the period until the proclamation of dictatorship in
January 1925) pointed to an increasing willingness to accept the option of a
post-democratic and post-liberal departure, whether out of preference or as a
24 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

perceived (and temporary) lesser evil to the perception of an ever-deepening

‘crisis’. Co-opting the Fascists in the wake of the aggressive mobilization of
the March on Rome (an act of blatant defiance vis-à-vis the liberal order that
provoked a serious short-term ‘crisis’39 ) was one among many choices; but it
was one that had previously been considered taboo and that, once adopted,
set a new precedent for a post-liberal (and decidedly anti-socialist) alternative
political path.
The establishment of the Fascist dictatorship in January 1925 marked the first
milestone in the ‘authoritarian turn’ and expanded the horizon of opportunity
for radical political change. The subsequent consolidation and radical politi-
cal praxis of Mussolini’s regime opened up and legitimized a viable alternative
(post-liberal, anti-democratic/anti-socialist) political space with a resonance
that soon extended well beyond Italy. In addition, however, Fascist Italy pro-
vided an unfolding blueprint for a radical political paradigm shift that came
to be regarded as both ‘successful’ and apposite to other national contexts.
As the Fascist regime continued to take shape in the rest of the 1920s and (with
increasing self-confidence) early 1930s, its ‘magnetic field’ grew stronger and
wider, even before Mussolini himself spoke of Fascism as an ‘export product’
with epochal and universal import.40 Crucially, the Fascist regime had come
about through a combination of attempted take-over and internal constitu-
tional accommodation sanctioned by incumbent mainstream elite actors. It was
not a ‘revolutionary’ event in the full sense of the word but it soon became clear
that it carried potential ‘revolutionary’ outcomes.41 In charting a novel path for
‘successful’ radical political change in-the-making, the experiment confirmed
the viability of the post-liberal ‘departure’, supplied a new radical template
for pursuing it in a new revolutionary direction, and charted a novel political
destination that was reflected in the proclamations and taboo-shattering deci-
sions/actions of the Fascist regime.42 These three ‘demonstrations’ overlapped
to a significant extent; they could but did not have to be perceived as such by
contemporary observers.
Therefore, contemporary perception – heavily conditioned by preconceived
frames of ideas and biased beliefs – translated the same set of unfolding events
in Italy into significantly divergent political ‘lessons’ for different observers.
On one level, the Italian experiment was perceived as a long-awaited, viable
trajectory and ‘destination’ for nascent radical, ultra-nationalist anti-system
forces in many other countries.43 On another level, what happened in Italy
in the 1920s tapped into, and fostered further, a broader political demand44 for
a post-liberal alternative to democracy as a form of stable political rule. The
weakening – or grudging in the first place – commitment of many mainstream
political and social constituencies to democracy, and the spectre of an inter-
national socialist revolutionary take-over to which the parliamentary system
appeared incapable of responding, had already helped edge dictatorship closer
Aristotle Kallis 25

to the mainstream of legitimate political change. The two schemata shared

the desire for a post-liberal authoritarian ‘departure’ grounded on organic
nationalism and vehement anti-socialism; yet, they differed significantly on
the preferred method, interim outcomes, and long-term political ‘destination’
of the authoritarian turn.
Predictably then, each of the two broad constituencies (radical hyper-
nationalist and sympathetic conservative/authoritarian) drew very different
conclusions from the disintegration of Italian democracy during the 1920s,
the institutional and political radical innovations emanating from Fascist Italy,
and the apparent ‘success’ of the then fledgling Fascist regime. For the for-
mer, Italian Fascism triggered an international ‘domino effect’ that would soon
sweep away liberals, socialists, and conservatives, marking a seismic break with
the past and forcing history into a new ‘heroic’ phase. For the latter, the
appointment and consolidation (but crucially not revolutionary take-over) of
Mussolini in power had confirmed the irreversible passing of the era of lib-
eral democracy; charted the path of a new kind of populist, mass-mobilizing
authoritarian dictatorial alternative; and demonstrated a viable, hugely effec-
tive strategy for obliterating the left. Thus, those (growing stronger in numbers
and conviction) who ‘wandered freely across [fascism’s] magnetic field’45 were
not there for the same reasons or looking for the same things. While many
were enthralled by Fascism’s apparent revolutionary élan and ‘history-making’
zest, others appreciated its message of order, efficiency, hierarchy, and ruth-
less capacity for problem-solving. Some were attracted by what Paxton called
the ‘plumage’ and the cultic ritual/aesthetic facets of Fascism.46 Others arrived
at a qualified admiration through rational assessment of political and social
benefits from borrowing and adapting selectively particular Fascist innovations
while discarding other, less appealing ones. Crucially too, some admired the
scope of the Fascist regime’s radical (and often aggressively fanatical) regen-
erative horizon; while others were interested in, and fascinated by, the actual
compromise solution that brought about the successful post-liberal authoritar-
ian ‘departure’ in Italy and unlocked a host of new possibilities for political
synthesis between mainstream and (‘successful’) radical elements. In short,
each read into the events of the 1920s in Italy what they wanted to see and
discarded the rest. As the taboo of authoritarian/dictatorial rule had been
broken – in a previously proudly democratic European ‘great power’ no less –
the precedent resonated across a much wider transnational constituency of
anti-democratic/anti-socialist/nationalist forces.
With the advent of Hitler to power on 30 January 1933 all this dynamic inten-
sified and mutated. In fact, the 1933–36 period was the most critical for the
reshaping of the ‘anti-democratic space’ in inter-war Europe, in the sense that
the successful consolidation of the Nazi regime appeared to offer a resounding
confirmation both of the paradigmatic ‘authoritarian turn’ and of an alternative
26 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

radical political model that many at the time (not only on the right but also
on the left47 ) recognized in both Italian Fascism and German National Social-
ism. In spite of the early difficult relation between the two regimes (particularly
in 1934–35), the breakdown of democracy in Germany and the ‘success’ of
the Nazi party (both electorally in 1930–33 and in terms of political con-
solidation after Hitler’s appointment) strengthened the ‘demonstration effect’
of the ‘fascist’ paradigm. Hitler himself is known to have acknowledged the
‘demonstration effect’ of 1922 on his own political trajectory, admitting that
the successful Italian precedent, ‘the mere fact that [the March on Rome] could
be done, served as an encouragement to us all’.48 It now seemed that an(other)
influential European country, whose landmark experiment with liberal consti-
tutional rule in the aftermath of the First World War had been regarded as a
benchmark for the future of democracy as a whole across the continent, had
emphatically turned its back to it.
The widespread perception at the time that the events of 1933 were linked
to a new alternative radical political path first charted by Fascism in Italy in
1922 had been fostered by the two movements themselves. It has been well
established that Mussolini and the PNF exercised a crucial formative influence
on Hitler during the early 1920s, both in organizational-liturgical terms and as
a model for conquering power. From 1924 onwards the Fascist regime had pro-
vided the NSDAP (along with other kindred anti-system parties across Europe)
with financial subsidies.49 Giuseppe Renzetti, the Italian who performed a crit-
ical liaison function between the two men and movements between 1922 and
1933, conveyed on a number of occasions political advice from the Duce to
Hitler.50 In the early 1930s Renzetti communicated at least twice Hitler’s strong
desire to visit Rome and ‘pay tribute’ to Mussolini51 – a request that was not
granted until 1938. Others, like the German nationalist Kurt Luedecke and
later Hermann Goering, acted as informal messengers between the two radi-
cal leaders, the latter visiting Rome in 1931 on a political mission. The Fascist
intellectual Sergio Panunzio had also greeted the rise of the NSDAP in the
early 1930s as a decisive step in the ‘inexorable march of international fas-
cism’.52 At first, Hitler’s appointment in January 1933 and the NSDAP’s final
electoral victory in the following March were greeted with suitable fanfare in
Italy. The Italian press did not shy away from calling the new regime ‘German
fascism’, portrayed as a triumph of ‘Fascist civilization, reincarnation splendidly
young and vital of the civilization of [ancient] Rome . . . advancing with its
proud banners to conquer the hearts and minds’ of others across the conti-
nent.53 Oswald Mosley was also quick to hail the victory of National Socialism
as the confirmation of a Europe-wide trend involving ‘fascism’ as the ‘saviour’
of Western civilization.54 A host of other radical, ultra-nationalist movements
across Europe (whether already active in 1933 of formed in its wake, like the
Flemish Vlaams Nationaal Verbond in Belgium55 ) interpreted Hitler’s victory as
Aristotle Kallis 27

a seismic confirmation of an epoch-defining political trend. They were eager

to register their admiration for, and commitment to, both the broader author-
itarian ‘departure’ and the more specific perceived method and ‘destination’
charted first by Mussolini and, more than a decade later, by Hitler.56
Ironically, the initial panegyrical mood in Rome gave way very soon to scep-
ticism, anxiety, and then – for a time – disdain. Ideological disagreements, a
clash of geopolitical interests, an unfortunate first meeting between the two
dictators (June 1934), and nearly a war over Austria (July 1934) poisoned the
relations between the two regimes and countries. If anything, however, this
strengthened Mussolini’s resolve to actively promote the ‘export’ of Fascism in
order to contain the apparent threat of a nascent National Socialist Germany
emerging as the leading force in the burgeoning bloc of radical nationalist anti-
system forces across the continent. The plan to set up a ‘Fascist International’
via a series of scheduled international conferences under the aegis of a new
organization named Action Committees for the Universality of Rome (Comitati
d’Azione per l’Universalità di Roma, CAUR) is indicative of the Duce’s growing
commitment to shaping and leading a trans-national group of ‘fascist’ forces
in opposition to both socialism and liberalism before an ambitious Hitler had
stolen the political limelight. Having identified kindred political movements
in every European country (with the exception of Yugoslavia) and many extra-
European ones, the organizers of the conferences invited representatives from
them to attend the proceedings at Montreux, Switzerland.57 Some (like the
NSDAP and the BUF58 ) refused to attend altogether; others, like the Spanish
Falange, did so but mostly as observers. Nevertheless, the CAUR conferences
brought together most of the stars (established and rising) of the transnational
radical inter-war right in Europe: among them, Vidkun Quisling (co-founder of
the Nasjonal Samling in Norway), Ion Mota (leading figure of the Romanian
Iron Guard), Ernst Rüdiger Camillo Starhemberg (leader of Austria’s Heimwehr
and of the Fatherland Front in 1933), Léon Degrelle (from the Belgian Rex), and
Eion O’Duffy (Irish Blueshirts). Predictably, the participants strongly disagreed
on almost everything of ideological substance: on the centrality of corporatism,
on race and the ‘Jewish question’, on the role of Christianity, on the theme of
‘universality of Rome’, eventually on the very balance between national speci-
ficity and international collaboration.59 The CAUR organizers did their best
to ensure compromises, where these could be achieved; surprisingly, one was
even forged with regard to the troublesome ‘Jewish Question’ that had divided
the delegates into two hostile camps.60 But what was far more troubling to
them was the growing threat of a fundamental realignment of radical, ultra-
nationalist forces across Europe with the Nazi regime. This was widely feared
to be the real motive behind the BUF’s refusal to attend, even if the reason
officially quoted was that the ‘universality of Rome’ was an alien concept to
British fascists. But Quisling used his presence at the proceedings to make the
28 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

point even more directly, declaring that ‘Hitler was as much an exponent of
fascism as Mussolini’.

Fascism ‘from above’ and dictatorship

The CAUR initiative reached its apex in 1934–35 but soon ran out of steam
and was formally terminated in 1939. Having served a predominantly anti-
Nazi purpose during the early years of conflict between Fascist Italy and Hitler’s
Germany, its purpose had been rendered obsolete following the ever-closer
alliance between the two regimes in the second half of the 1930s. Nevertheless,
the international dynamic of ‘fascism’ did continue to develop, albeit in very
different directions. As the second and third ‘waves’ of post-liberal, authoritar-
ian transformation swept away democracies in southern, central, and eastern
European countries (see above), most of the new dictatorial regimes established
close ties with either or both of the two paradigmatic ‘fascist’ regimes. The case
of Gyula Gömbös, the Hungarian arch-conservative who became prime minis-
ter in 1932–36, illustrates eloquently this new political trend. Having spent the
1920s as a vocal critic of Horthy’s semi-pluralist regime, he emerged in 1932 as
the prime candidate of the resurgent right’s bid to power. Ideologically situated
between Horthy’s conservatism and the far more extreme rightist alternative of
the fascist Arrow Cross, Gömbös was nevertheless strongly attracted to the new
political vision and style of, first, Fascist Italy and, later, Nazi Germany. Already
in 1929, as under-secretary to the Hungarian Ministry of Defence, he had vis-
ited Rome to meet Mussolini and express his admiration for his regime.61 He
repeated this kind of political pilgrimage twice as prime minister – in November
1932 (on which occasion he also visited the Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution
that formed the centrepiece of the Fascist regime’s ten-year anniversary celebra-
tions) and again shortly before his death in 1936.62 But he was also impressively
quick to congratulate Hitler on his appointment as chancellor in 1933 and
earned the distinction of being the first prime minister to visit Berlin in June
1933 (a gesture that he repeated in 1935). Gömbös cultivated very close ties
with both dictators and regimes, at a time that the two were seriously divided
on key ideological and geopolitical issues. His profound anti-Semitism (unpalat-
able to Mussolini at the time) co-existed with his enthusiastic endorsement of
the Fascist corporatism model and the ‘Fascist International’ project (Hitler was
not enthused with either). This pick-and-choose attitude was motivated by his
belief that the two regimes in Italy and Germany represented facets of the same
wave of radical-authoritarian, one-party anti-communist transformation in the
politics of the European inter-war right. He spoke on numerous occasions of
his hope that a ‘Rome-Berlin axis’ would emerge, leading the rest of the conti-
nent in a new, post-liberal and post-Versailles realignment.63 He also promised
Goering in 1935 that, under his leadership, Hungary would become a one-party
Aristotle Kallis 29

‘totalitarian’ state fashioned after the Nazi model within a very short period of
time.64 But above all, Gömbös was a supremely pragmatic admirer of the new
‘fascist’ paradigm. This allowed him to recognize that, while he was determined
to transform the regime that he headed into a fascist-like system, he could only
do so ‘from above’, as this was the most suitable formula for Hungary’s political
and social circumstances.65
This idea of a ‘fascist’ political transformation engineered ‘from above’ lies
at the heart of the classificatory grey zone of ‘hyphenated fascisms’66 that con-
cepts such as ‘para-fascism’ have tried to address. The selective and calculating
introduction/adaptation of ‘fascist’ political innovations pioneered in Rome
and/or Berlin was often masterminded by deeply conservative figures (usu-
ally tied to the political and/or military establishment), averse to the merest
hint of ‘revolutionary’ politics involving radical breaks with tradition or seis-
mic shifts in established patterns of power configuration. All these regimes
combined selective, reflexive, and adaptive borrowing of new ‘fascist’ radi-
cal aspects (para-military organizations and structures across a wide range of
social and economic activities; all-embracing, highly regimented youth move-
ments; mass leisure institutions; mass-mobilizing activities, organized around
new calendar events and collective rituals; efforts to manufacture a single mass
party/movement; extensive networks of ruthless secret police; often a variation
of leadership cult) with standard authoritarian features (anti-socialism, disdain
of the liberal-parliamentary system, censorship, nationalism, adherence to tra-
ditional identity politics). Yet, even in those cases where the leadership of such
a dictatorial regime attacked the alleged ‘decadence’ of the existing political
system and called for radical, wholesale regenerative action, praising the prece-
dents of Fascist Italy and/or National Socialist Germany, the overall framework
of policy-making remained entrenched – in the short term at least – within the
aspirations of its traditional social pillars (the military, conservative political
elites, often the church).67
More confusing from a classificatory point of view, many of these hybrid
inter-war dictatorships were perfectly happy with recontextualizing ‘fascist’
elements while at the same time antagonizing or, in some cases, violently per-
secuting native fascist (and more radical) movements. This was the case in
countries where native fascist movements emerged in the inter-war period,
launching a radical anti-system challenge to the political system. Faced with
this prospect, conservative elites embarking on the path of an ‘authoritarian
turn’ inspired by the apparent success of the fascist regimes in Italy and/or
Germany could not ignore the domestic realities of an anti-system mobiliza-
tion by new radical constituencies transfixed by the same contemporary fascist
precedent, albeit interpreted very differently. With the exception of 1930s
Greece and, to an extent, Bulgaria (where there was no credible fascist mass
movement at the time when the dictatorship was established by Metaxas68 ), in
30 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

all other cases existing ‘fascist’ constituencies (or varying social and electoral
strengths) had already become part of the post-liberal political equation. From
the point of view of conservative elites, these ‘fascist’ constituencies were at
the same time part of the problem (due to their radical ideological horizon)
and a potential part of the solution (providing a mass element to an ‘author-
itarian turn’ engineered ‘from above’). The way in which each of these elites
responded to the domestic ‘fascist’ challenge determined the overall political
and institutional physiognomy of the ensuing dictatorship, as well as the mar-
gins for its future dynamic. Some chose to co-opt the ‘fascist’ component in
the context of a wider coalition of authoritarian, nationalist, and anti-socialist
forces, although with the primary goal of neutralizing it in the longer term.
This happened in Italy (1922) and Germany (1933), but also in Spain under
Franco with regard to the Falange, and in Romania under General Antonescu
vis-à-vis the Iron Guard in 1940–41. Others (e.g. Hungary with the co-opting
of Gömbös against the Arrow Cross; and Austria, with the alliance between
Chancellor Dollfuss’ authoritarian Ständestaat and the Heimwehr against the
rising threat of the Austrian NSDAP) elected to embrace a less radical compo-
nent of native ‘fascism’ (thus also manipulating antagonisms inside the radical
anti-system constituency), under the supervision of traditional pillars of power
and in defence of the existing political order. This was a defensive formula
resting on a ‘lesser evil’ calculation that allowed them in theory to harness
the social dynamic of ‘fascist’ innovations while marginalizing more radical
and less dependable ‘fascist’ alternatives. Lastly, some elites elected the path of
direct confrontation with, and ruthless repression of, the native ‘fascist’ move-
ment at the same time that they were busy introducing ‘fascist’ elements into
their political structures and practices. This was the case in Romania under
King Carol (the Iron Guard was outlawed, its leaders executed or detained) and
again under Antonescu (final repression of the movement after a short period
of alliance in 1941 – see above), Portugal under Salazar’s regime (violent dis-
solution of Francisco Rolão Preto’s National Syndicalists), and Hungary (where
the Horthy regime outlawed and suppressed both the earlier Scythe Cross and
the Arrow Cross fascist movements).69
All these kinds of arrangements were both inherently dynamic and largely
unpredictable in the longer term, in relation to process and outcome alike.
The successful consolidation of the ‘fascist’ components in Italy and Germany
transformed an initially intended arrangement of co-opting ‘from above’ into
a genuinely radical fascist dictatorship, whose momentum derived from within
the fascist leadership and movement. By contrast, the successful and irreversible
repression of the National Syndicalists in Portugal ensured the political con-
solidation of Salazar’s Estado Novo as a trademark experiment in ‘fascistization
from above’. In-between these two more defined scenarios, the results of the
ongoing interaction between ‘fascists’, ‘radical rightists’, and ‘authoritarian
Aristotle Kallis 31

conservatives’ – to use conventional classificatory labels employed in the liter-

ature – remained as volatile as the ideological contours of these classifications.
Romania, in particular, experienced a kaleidoscope of dictatorial regime con-
figurations between 1937 and the end of the Second World War, with the Iron
Guard first ruthlessly repressed, then co-opted into power, and finally liqui-
dated.70 Meanwhile, in Austria the alliance between the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg
dictatorship and the Heimwehr against the Austrian NSDAP survived one chal-
lenge (the July 1934 coup, during which Dollfuss himself was assassinated) but
not a second one, supported by the blatant threat of Nazi invasion in March
1938 and the Austrian Nazis, who since 1936 had benefited from Schuschnigg’s
decision to reverse the earlier policy of persecution and partly co-opt them
into his cabinet. Only in Spain did the political accommodation between the
Francoist military, the monarchy, the church, and the fascist Falange result in
a more stable context of cohabitation, without nevertheless stopping the vari-
ous components of the regime from generating shifting political configurations
over time.71

The ‘magnetic field of fascism’

On the eve of the Nazi attack on Poland, Michael Mann’s notion of a Europe
divided into an ‘authoritarian’/dictatorial and a ‘democratic’ half had become
a tangible reality, with the two blocs on the precipice of a cataclysmic mil-
itary showdown. The Rome–Berlin Axis – formally united since the signing
of the Pact of Steel in May 1939 – constituted a primary pole of loyalty
in this highly polarized ideologico-political environment. By 1941, the Anti-
Comintern pact – instigated by the Nazi regime in the mid-1930s – featured
most European dictatorships (in addition to Japan) that were politically and/or
militarily aligned to the Axis bloc, including a series of collaborationist regimes
installed in Axis-occupied European countries (Denmark, Finland). The ‘suc-
cess’ of Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany (real successes, in the
sense of political consolidation and radicalization; perceived, in the sense of
pushing through new, radical ‘solutions’ to putative, often taboo ‘problems’)
produced a political critical mass that came to exercise a disproportionate influ-
ence over the ‘anti-democratic space’ in inter-war Europe. The result was that
this space was largely overshadowed by the precedent of the particular ‘fascist
departure’, its experiments, perceived achievements, and constantly unfolding
record of ‘successful’ political radicalism. The gravitational fields of the two
regimes (with National Socialist Germany emerging as the primary template
and source of inspiration in the second half of the 1930), partly independently
and partly combined, grew in strength, appeal, and reach. Together they cap-
tured, influenced, shaped, and redirected numerous political trajectories united
in their desire for a post-liberal, anti-socialist, (ultra-)nationalist authoritarian
32 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

‘departure’.72 The radical paths trodden by Fascist Italy and National Socialist
Germany may have been different in many significant ways, even as they were
converging in the second half of the decade. Yet the important point is that
a large number of political actors in inter-war Europe recognized in them a
single – successful and increasingly desirable – political alternative to either lib-
eralism or socialism. In short, the two regimes came to be recognized by their
contemporary sympathetic observers and fellow travellers of the right as both
a legitimizing precedent that charted new (previously inaccessible) paths of
radical political action and a developing toolkit for radical political change,
in whole or at least in part.
These very different audiences measured ‘success’ and ‘desirability’ with
rather different political and ideological yardsticks. A significant segment were
fascinated by the promise of a fundamental, history-making transformation
of civilization, society, and the human condition; they were those who felt
they stood on the ‘cusp of history’ – what Roger Griffin likened to a ‘limi-
noid’ stage73 -, born out of the terrible weight of recent experiences and an
awe-inspiring dawning awareness of the numerous dangers and possibilities
lying ahead. This constituency, perceiving themselves as ‘soldiers’ of an inter-
national ‘fascist’ cause, were mostly found among the ranks of the numerous
‘fascist’ movements that appeared across the continent in the 1920s and partic-
ularly 1930s. However, a large number of them – people like Léon Degrelle and
Ezra Pound (see above), the leader of the Dutch NSB Anton Mussert, and the
so-called ‘Singmaringen delegation’ of French fascist sympathisers, including
Marcel Déat, Pierre Laval, and the writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline – often headed
or supported collaborationist regimes in occupied Europe, staying fanatically
committed to, and fighting over-zealously for, the ‘fascist’ international cause
until the very final defeat in 1945. Others allowed themselves to be drawn into
the ‘magnetic field of fascism’ but only through a more rational and reflexive
process. Many more ‘mainstream’ politicians and thinkers, as well as broader
social constituencies, who had previously viewed Fascist Italy and even Nazi
Germany as irrelevant, innocuous or biddable ‘newcomers’ confined to one
or later two countries with diminished prospects of political ‘success’, were
swayed by the two regimes’ ‘demonstration’ effect. Resisting the temptation
to fashion a (desired) ‘authoritarian departure’ along the lines pioneered by
Fascist Italy and/or Nazi Germany became more and more difficult, for the
political-ideological polarization that marked the 1930s left very little ‘neutral’
political space from where to mount such a defence. Even conservative parties
with strong loyalties to traditional institutions such as the monarchy, the army
or the church felt the attraction, sometimes from more radical constituencies
within their own ranks; this is precisely what happened in wartime Slovakia,
where radical, Nazi-inspired factions such as Nastup (led by the then prime
minister Vojtech Tuka) and the paramilitary Rodobrana (under the control of
Aristotle Kallis 33

interior minister Alexandr Mach) exercised strong pressure for radicalization on

the leadership of the clerical Slovak People’s Party (HSLS), headed by Monsignor
Josef Tiso.74
Inevitably too for a novel, dynamic political phenomenon that appeared
wildly successful and – for a time – destined to triumph, many jumped on
the bandwagon (including those who led or participated in ‘puppet’ pro-Axis
regimes during the Second World War75 ), whether out of a feeling of awe or in a
calculated, sometimes blatantly opportunistic manner. The ‘bandwagon effect’
was particularly felt towards the end of the 1930s and during the first (victori-
ous for the Axis alliance) years of the Second World War. By contrast, in 1944
or 1945, when the Axis war appeared increasingly doomed and the two regimes
that led it had dramatically diminished in status and appeal, many earlier
adherents (like the Horthy regime in Hungary, Antonescu in Romania, and even
Vidkun Quisling in Norway) sought to extricate themselves from the alliance –
militarily, diplomatically, as well as politically and ideologically. This process
was also followed by the two dictatorships that survived the 1945 watershed
in Spain and Portugal. Yet, it should be borne in mind that a similar ‘band-
wagon effect’ had marked the earlier broad realignment of many European
political actors towards a form of liberal democracy that they regarded as sub-
optimal or even undesirable but nevertheless consented to precisely because
of a strong liberal-democratic ‘demonstration effect’ that appeared to have
swept across Europe after the end of the First World War.76 As Juan Linz
repeatedly noted, in the majority of cases the catastrophic disintegration of
democracy in inter-war Europe and its replacement by post-liberal dictatorial
regimes (with or without the participation of ‘fascists’) had more to do with
the weakness of the (supposedly democratic) elites’ commitment to the new
system than with the strength of the anti-system (radical-‘fascist’ and commu-
nist) challenge.77 In both cases, the apparent at the time ‘success’ of a political
experiment exercised a strong ‘demonstration effect’ on ideologically elastic
political constituencies that were swayed by both the impression of its impend-
ing victory and the inaccessibility of other, perhaps more desirable alternatives.
Yet, the eventual reversal of the democratic/liberal trend and the triumph of
dictatorship in the ‘authoritarian half’ of Europe were far more sensational
because they rested on the de facto legitimation of a previously taboo course
of action. Thus, from the viewpoint of the late 1930s and early 1940s, when
a transnational force that we now describe as ‘fascism’ appeared on the cusp
of achieving a gigantic, epoch-defining victory, its prodigious political con-
stituency was made up of pioneers and ‘believers’, enthusiastic converts, swayed
earlier sceptics, and pragmatists fearful of the (by then very tangible) prospect
of ending up on the losing side of history. Whether out of profound, genuine
conviction, of rational assessment or of opportunism, they felt at the time
that there was no other meaningful course of action apart from turning to
34 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

the two successful ‘fascist’ regimes for inspiration, succumbing to their unfold-
ing radical political paradigm, and cross-fertilizing/adapting their radical brand
with elements distinct to each national context and their personal political
All these diverse and highly volatile processes of ideological-political cross-
fertilization in inter-war Europe marked a burgeoning hybrid political space
with staggering dynamism and potential for novel synthesis. To describe all
these processes as fascistization, as some of us have done78 , may be unpalat-
able to others as too big a concession to ‘(generic) fascism’. Yet, ‘fascistization’
acknowledges the primary political and (to an extent at least) ideological
contribution of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to this sensational ‘authoritar-
ian departure’ in inter-war Europe, and captures its open-ended and volatile
dynamics without suggesting that the ‘destination’ or primary intention in
each case were or had to be the same. It recognizes important political dif-
ferences (of degree and kind) across the burgeoning bloc of inter-war rightist
(post-liberal and anti-socialist) dictatorships without shrugging off their com-
mon source of inspiration and transgressive empowerment. It approaches the
hybrid political outcomes of all these experiments with selective borrowing
and recontextualization not as ‘failures’ in reference to a specific radical politi-
cal blueprint but as novel products of an unprecedented political/ideological
porosity between ‘fascist’, ‘radical’, and conservative right.79 Above all, it
acknowledges that our conceptually sophisticated current understandings of
‘generic fascism’ are quite often at odds with the perceptions and wishful
reflections of political actors at the time that the history of inter-war ‘fascism’
was still unfolding – sensationally open-ended, like a whirlwind of ‘historic(al)
time’, catastrophic for so many but beguiling for some of its contemporaries.
The question that Paul Mazgaj and other historians of inter-war France
posed in relation to the country’s new radical/fascist right of the 1930s can
be extended across Mann’s ‘authoritarian half of Europe’: were the differences
between the ‘new’ and the ‘traditional’ right (and of the various gradations
in-between), however real and important, less consequential than what they
shared as trans-national allies against the left and liberal democracy?80 To this
I would add: would the wave-like transitioning from some from of liberal-
democratic system to dictatorship across a significant part of Europe in the
1920s and 1930s be imaginable without the ‘successful’ political consolida-
tion of Mussolini’s regime in the 1920s and the subsequent ‘confirmation’
effect of a similar trend in Germany during the 1930s? How likely would
January 1933 have been without the precedent of October 1922 (both the
March on Rome and the spectacular recalibration of elite attitudes vis-à-vis
Mussolini)? Would we talk today of a such a seismic transnational authoritar-
ian ‘departure’ across Europe in the 1930s without the tangible validation of the
trend in Italy, Germany, and elsewhere and the contemporary perception that
Aristotle Kallis 35

these developments converged on a single historical force of radical change?

It seems very likely, as Linz has convincingly argued, that a kind of wider
post-liberal transformation would have taken place in many parts of Europe
even without the events of 1933 in Germany.81 But it is extremely doubt-
ful that this ‘transition’ away from liberalism/democracy and towards a new
kind of populist, hyper-nationalist radical dictatorship would have been as dra-
matic, as rapid and widespread in terms of diffusion, or as radical in scope
as it turned out to be in reality. It is also extremely unlikely that, had it
happened, it would have taken the ideological and political hue that it did.
This very hue makes little sense without reference to the dynamic field of
ideological-political-institutional cross-fertilization crucially inspired by rad-
ical innovations practised in Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany
before others too contributed to it. The events of 1922 and 1933 – as suc-
cessful precedents of ‘departure’ and as practical, ‘successful’ solutions to
aspects of a perceived ‘crisis’ – underlined the feasibility and desirability of
this kind of political ‘departure’. They also dramatically expanded the hori-
zon of political/social action and convinced many of their contemporaries
that they were tethering on the brink of a history-making action-oriented
phase, whose final ‘destination’ remained exhilaratingly shapeless but whose
novel paths were being charted by radical pioneers in Berlin, Rome, and

Conclusions: tangled processes, hybrid outcomes

In order to appreciate inter-war ‘fascism’s’ most resounding (if strikingly

ephemeral) success and historical impact, we need to look less to the ways in
which it redefined the broader ideological milieu of inter-war Europe (which
it partly did) and more to the ways in which it reshaped the entire political
content and context of a much wider post-liberal radical ‘departure’, inspiring
forms of political action that broke taboos and made previously unthink-
able transgressions appear legitimate, feasible, and increasingly desirable to
a rapidly expanding constituency of disciples, converts, and fellow travellers.
If we focused more decisively on the magnitude of this ‘departure’ and on the
forces that shaped it dynamically during the 1920s and 1930s, we would at
the very least avoid the unavailing classificatory nightmare of seeking to award
static labels to arbitrary snapshots from otherwise dynamic processes of politi-
cal change and dynamic ‘hybridization’. Distinctions concerning the particular
conditions of each ‘departure’, the tools and strategies employed to implement
it over time, its possible long-term aspirations, and its degree of ‘success’ mea-
sured by achieved outcomes, are by all accounts important. Yet, like in all other
historical cases of widespread and quasi-simultaneous political ‘transition’
(from the 1830/1848 revolutions to the 1989 democratization of central/eastern
36 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

Europe to the recent ‘Arab Spring’83 ), the perception of broad commonality of

purpose shared by contemporary actors outweighs in significance the discrep-
ancies of the long-term intentions or especially achieved outcomes, especially
when these are viewed ex post facto.
A methodologically sympathetic view of the ‘not-quite-fascist’ dictatorial
regimes that made the anti-democratic ‘departure’ in the 1920s and espe-
cially 1930s entails less classificatory or conceptual rigidity. Above all, however,
it asks for an approach substantially less dependent on historical hindsight.
While many of the nuances and subtle differentiations may have been appar-
ent to post-1950 observers, this is not the case with regard to the political
actors and social constituencies trying to make sense of, and respond to, a
torrent of dynamic events at the time when they were unfolding in unpre-
dictable directions. This is why an analytical focus on change, ‘departure’,
and dynamic, unpredictable ‘hybridization’ can rebalance the current empha-
sis on the ‘destination’ (whether surmised by us as intention or judged on
what was actually achieved – or not – by the historical actors themselves).
The point is not to force a reclassification of those ‘not-quite-fascist’ regimes
as ‘fascist’ or ‘authoritarian’ – or anything else for that matter; it is rather
to appreciate the critical formative influence of Fascist Italy and later Nazi
Germany – as key facilitators of the wider inter-war post-liberal/anti-socialist
‘departure’, as catalysts by example for its subsequent diffusion, and as the
most significant sources of inspiration and compass for alternative radical polit-
ical trajectories at the time. Beyond the CAUR initiatives of Fascist Italy and
the geopolitical-military alliances forged during the Second World War, the
powerful ‘demonstration’ effects from the example of the regimes in Italy
and Germany remain woefully under-explored, obscured by ex post facto
classification and modelling.
Finally, a more sympathetic methodological glance at the kaleidoscope of
post-liberal, anti-democratic, nationalist ‘departures’ in the inter-war period
from the point of view of a primary ‘fascist’ inspiration and political ‘demon-
stration effect’ may also yield invaluable insights about the particular dynamic
entanglements and ‘hybrid’ outcomes derived from the interaction between
the ‘fascist’, ‘radical’, and ‘conservative’ inter-war right. This has been a
direction which the new wave of transnational approaches to the study of
inter-war fascism has explored most fruitfully. Still, the forensic attention
to how these entanglements occurred in each case, how ideas and prece-
dents were transferred and adapted in the process, should obfuscate neither
the primary perceived sources of inspiration nor the contemporary impres-
sion that they constituted facets of a single, ‘history-making’ force. In this
respect, the combined – ideological and political – influence of Fascist Italy
and National Socialist Germany (their significant differences and mutual inter-
actions notwithstanding) remains central to the understanding of the entire
Aristotle Kallis 37

landscape of the inter-war European right. ‘Fascism’ developed its very own
political ‘critical (political) mass’ and shaped willy-nilly a field far beyond its
specific ideological-political boundaries and original national context. It must
remain linked to the ‘bigger picture’ of radical nationalist anti-democratic
‘departure’ that influenced it in the first place and was then so powerfully
influenced and shaped by it.

1. A. Kallis, ed., The Fascist Reader, London, Routledge, 2003, Introduction; A. Kallis,
‘El concepto de fascismo en la historia anglófona comparada’, in J. A. Mellon,
ed., El fascismo clásico (1919–1945) y sus epígonos, Madrid, Tecnos, 2012,
pp. 15–70.
2. G. L. Mosse, ‘Towards a general theory of fascism’, in G. L. Mosse, ed., Masses and
Man: Nationalist and Fascist Perceptions of Reality, Detroit, MI, Wayne State University
Press, p. 195.
3. Z. Sternhell, The Birth of Fascist Ideology, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press,
4. A. C. Pinto, ‘Fascism: a “revolutionary” right in interwar Europe’, in N. Atkin and
M. Biddiss, eds, Themes in Modern European History, 1890–1945, New York, Routledge,
2009, pp. 215–242 (here 221); M. Blinkhorn, Fascism and the Right in Europe, 1919–
1945, London, Longman, 2002, pp. 43–44.
5. A. Kallis, ‘ “Fascism”, “Para-fascism” and “Fascistization”: on the Similarities of Three
Conceptual Categories’, European History Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2003, pp. 219–250
(here 234–242).
6. R. O. Paxton, ‘The Five Stages of Fascism’, Journal of Modern History, Vol. 70, No. 1,
1998, pp. 18–20.
7. R. O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism, New York, Vintage Books, 2005, pp. 148–170.
8. S. G. Payne, A History of Fascism: 1914–1945, London, UCL Press, 1997, pp. 18–19.
9. M. Mann, Fascists, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 44–48.
10. R. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, New York/London, Routledge, 1991, pp. 120–145;
Kallis, ‘ “Fascism”, “Para-fascism” and “Fascistization” ’, pp. 220–221.
11. Griffin, Nature of Fascism, pp. 120–121.
12. Paxton, ‘The Five Stages of Fascism’, p. 9.
13. H. Marcuse and D. Kellner, The New Left and the 1960s, London/New York, Routledge,
2007, p. 138.
14. Cf. G. Cappoccia, Defending Democracy: Reactions to Extremism in Interwar Europe,
Baltimore, ML, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005, p. 229.
15. I borrow the term (and focus on) ‘departure’ in this context from the excellent work
by D. D. Roberts, The Totalitarian Experiment in Twentieth-Century Europe, Abingdon
and New York, Routledge, 2006, Chs 1, 9; cf. D. D. Roberts, Historicism and Fascism
in Modern Italy, Toronto/Buffalo/London, University of Toronto Press, 2007, p. 40.
As will become clear, however, from the text that follows, I use the term in a post-
liberal, anti-democratic sense (also suggested by Roberts) without the specific notion
of a ‘totalitarian direction’.
16. R. Eatwell, ‘The Nature of “Generic Fascism”: The “Fascist Minimum” and the “Fas-
cist Matrix” ’, in U. Backes, ed., Rechtsextreme Ideologien in Geschichte und Gegenwart,
Bohlau Verlag, Colgone, 2003, pp. 93–137.
38 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

17. B. Mussolini (with G. Gentile), ‘The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism’,
originally in Enciclopedia Italiana; in The Political Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 3, 1933,
pp. 341–356.
18. T. H. Greene, Comparative Revolutionary Movements, Engelwood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-
Hall, 1984; E. J. Hobsbawm, ‘Revolution’, in R. Porter and M. Teich, eds, Revolutions
in History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 17.
19. M. A. Frese Witt, The Search for Modern Tragedy: Aesthetic Fascism in Italy and France,
Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 2002, p. 149.
20. D. P. Tryphonopoulos, The Celestial Tradition: A Study of Ezra Pound’s The Cantos,
Ontario, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1992, pp. 102–103. See also, more generally,
M. Feldman, Ezra Pound’s Fascist Propaganda, 1935–45, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2013.
21. J. Tusell and I. Saz, “Mussolini y Primo de Rivera: las relaciones políticas y diplomáti-
cas de dos dictaduras mediterráneas", Boletín de la Real Academia de la Real Academia
de la Historia, Vol. 179, 1992, pp. 413–483 (here 482–483).
22. Quoted in S. G. Payne, Falange: A History of Spanish Fascism, Stanford CA, Stanford
University Press, 1961, p. 77.
23. T. Gallagher, ‘Conservatism, dictatorship and fascism in Portugal, 1914–1945’, in
M. Blinkhorn, ed., Fascists and Conservatives. The Radical Right and the Establishment
in Twentieth-Century Europe, London, Routledge, 1990, p. 167.
24. O. Mosley, The Greater Britain, London, BUF Publications, 1932, pp. 153–154.
25. S. Falasca-Zamponi, ‘The “culture” of personality: Mussolini and the cinematic imag-
ination’, in K. Heller and J. Plamper, eds, Personality Cults in Stalinism. Personenkulte
in Stalinismus: Praktiken, Erfahrung, Bedeutungen, Goettingen, V&R Unipress, 2004,
pp. 97–99; cf. H. G. Wells’ belief that Mussolini’s regime was a good one ‘for the
Italians’: G. Balakrishnan, The Enemy. An Intellectual Portrait of Carl Schmitt, London,
Verso, 2000, p. 122.
26. M. J. Phillips-Matz, The Many Lives of Otto Kahn, New York, Macmillan, 1963, p. 250.
27. Mann, Fascists, p. 88.
28. M. Blinkhorn, Carlism and Crisis in Spain, 1931–1939, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press, 1975, pp. 144–145.
29. N. D. Koumaros, G. A. Mantzoufas, ‘Aι θεμελιώδεις υνταγματικές Aρχές τoυ Nέoυ
Kράτoυς ’, Nέoν Kράτoς Vol. 2, No. 11, pp. 761–818. See also M. Pelt, ‘The Estab-
lishment and Development of the Metaxas Dictatorship in the Content of Fascism
and Nazism, 1936–41’, in S. Gert and R. Mallett, eds, International Fascism, 1919–45,
London/Portland, OR, Frank Cass, 2002, pp. 143–172; A. Kallis, ’Neither Fascist nor
Authoritarian: The 4th of August Regime in Greece (1936–1941) and the Dynamics
of Fascistisation in 1930s Europe’, East Central Europe, Vol. 37, No. 2–3, 2010, pp.
303–330; H. Fleischer, ‘Authoritarian rule in Greece (1936–74) and its heritage’, in
J. Borejsza and K. Ziemer, eds, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes in Europe: Legacies
and Lessons from the Twentieth Century, New York, Berghahn, 2006, pp. 237–275.
30. Cf. P. Burrin, ‘La France dans le champ magnétique des fascismes’, Le Débat, 32, 1984,
pp. 52–72.
31. Blinkhorn, Fascism and the Right, pp. 108–109.
32. M. Blinkhorn, ed., Fascists and Conservatives: The Radical Right and the Establishment
in Twentieth-Century Europe, London, Routledge, 1990.
33. On the concept of ‘contagion’ in history and political science see S. P. Huntington,
The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, Norman, OK, Uni-
versity of Oklahoma Press, 1991, pp. 100–102; and, in general, A. Lynch, Thought
Contagion: How Belief Spreads Through Society: The New Science of Memes, New York,
Basic Books, 1998.
Aristotle Kallis 39

34. See the ‘Introduction’ to this volume.

35. Cf. R. Griffin, Modernism and Fascism, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
36. S. M. Saideman, ‘Is Pandora’s Box Half Empty or Half Full? The Limited Virulence
of Secessionism and the Domestic Sources of Disintegration’, in D. A. Lake and
D. S. Rothchild, eds, The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict: Fear, Diffusion,
and Escalation, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1998, pp. 127–150 (here
37. D. E. Rumelhart, ‘Schemata: the building blocks of cognition’, in R.J. Spiro et al., eds,
Theoretical Issues in Reading Comprehension, Hillsdale, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum, 1980,
pp. 38–58.
38. Cappoccia, Defending Democracy, Ch 1.
39. See, for example, G. Albanese, Alle origini del fascismo. La violenza politica a Venezia
1919–1922, Padova, Il Poligrafo, 2001; and the classic work of A. Lyttelton, The
Seizure of Power Fascism in Italy 1919–1929, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987,
2nd ed.
40. B. Scholz, ‘Italienischer Faschismus als ‘Export’-Artikel (1927–1935)’, Dissertation:
Universität Trier, Fachbereich 3, 1997, available online at http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.
41. R. Griffin, ‘Revolution from the Right: Fascism’, in D. Parker, ed., Revolutions
and the Revolutionary Tradition in the West 1560–1991, London, Routledge, 2003,
pp. 185–201; and, generally about ‘revolutionary situations’ and ‘revolutionary out-
comes’, C. Tilly, European Revolutions, 1492–1992, Oxford, Blackwell, 1995, pp. 10–20.
42. J. J. Linz, ‘Fascism and non-democratic regimes’, in H. Maier, ed., Totalitarianism and
Political Religions, vol. III: Concepts for the Comparison of Dictatorships – Theory and
History of Interpretation, New York, Routledge, 2003, pp. 225–291.
43. A. Kallis, Genocide and Fascism: The Eliminationist Drive in Interwar Europe, Abingdon
and New York, Routledge, 2009, Chs 6, 9.
44. D. Conversi, ‘Domino effect or internal developments? The influences of interna-
tional events and political ideologies on Catalan and Basque nationalism’, West
European Politics, Vol. 16, No. 3, 1993, pp. 245–270.
45. P. Mazgaj, Imagining Fascism: The Cultural Politics of the French Young Right, 1930–1945,
Newark, University of Delaware Press, 2007, p. 34.
46. Paxton, ‘The Five Stages of Fascism’, pp. 2–3; P. Burrin, ‘Poings levés et bras ten-
dus. La contagion des symboles au temps du Front populaire’, Vingtième Siècle –
Revue d’histoire, Vol. 11, No. 3, 1986, pp. 5–20; cf. S. Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn,
New York, Vintage, 1981, p. 99.
47. Kallis, ‘ “Fascism”, “Para-fascism” and “Fascistization” ’, pp. 222–225; Z. Sternhell,
‘Fascist ideology’, in W. Laqueur, ed., Fascism: A Reader’s Guide. Analyses, Interpreta-
tions, Bibliography, Berkeley/Los Angeles, CA, University of California Press, 1976,
pp. 315–376 (here 353).
48. W. Schieder, ‘Fatal Attraction: The German Right and Italian Fascism’, in
H. Mommsen, ed., The Third Reich between Vision and Reality. New Perspectives
on German History, 1918–1945, Oxford/New York, Berg, 2003, pp. 39–58 (here
49. B. R. Sullivan, ‘From Little Brother to Senior Partner: Fascist Italian Perceptions
of the Nazis and of Hitler’s Regime, 1930–1936’, in M. S. Alexander, ed., Knowing
Your Friends: Intelligence inside Alliances and Coalitions from 1914 to the Cold War,
London/Portland, OR, Frank Cass, 1998, pp. 85–108 (here 91).
50. G. L. Weinberg, Germany, Hitler, and World War II. Essays in Modern German and World
History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 45–46.
40 The Dynamics of Political Hybridization

51. Archivio Centrale dello Stato (ACS-Rome), Segretaria Particolare del Duce (SPD),
Carteggio Riservato (CR), 71, 442/R, 1 (reports by Renzetti, 2.11.1931, 12.6.1932,
52. Sergio Panunzio, ‘Fatti ed idee’, Popolo d’Italia, 25 September 1930.
53. ‘Il Reich fascista’, Il Messaggero, 7 March 1933, p. 1.
54. R. C. Thurlow, ‘The return of Jeremiah: the rejected knowledge of Sir Oswald Mosley
in the 1930s’, in K. Lunn and R. C. Thurlow, eds, British Fascism: Essays on the
Radical Right in inter-war Britain, London, Croom Helm, 1980, pp. 100–113 (here
55. Cappoccia, Defending Democracy, pp. 40–41.
56. J. Petersen, ‘The history of the concept of totalitarianism in Italy’, in H. Maier, ed.,
Totalitarianism and Political Religions, London/New York, Routledge, 2004, pp. 1–21
(here 14–15). On political pilgrimage see P. Hollander, Political Pilgrims: Western Intel-
lectuals in Search of the Good Society, New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Publishers, 2009,
11th ed.
57. M. Cuzzi, L’Internazionale delle Camicie Nere: I CAUR, Comitati D’Azione per
l’Universalità di Roma, 1933–1939, Milan: Mursia, 2005, pp. 327–346; M. A. Ledeen,
Universal Fascism: The Theory and Practice of the Fascist International, 1928–1936,
New York, Fertig, 1972, p. 128. See also ACS, Ministero Cultura Popolare (MCP),
Gabinetto, 93 (‘Appunti sui CAUR’, no date).
58. C. Baldoli, ‘Anglo-Italian Fascist Solidarity? The shift from Italophilia to Naziphilia
in the BUF’, in J. Gottlieb and T. P. Linehan, eds, The Culture of Fascism: Visions of the
Far Right in Britain, London, I. B. Tauris, 2004, pp. 155–156.
59. A. Cassels, Ideology and International Relations in the Modern World, New York/London,
Routledge, 1996, p. 158.
60. ‘Pax Romanizing’, Time, 31 December 1934.
61. ACS, Presidenza Consiglio Ministri (PCM), 1928–30, 4.2.15/8155 (Gömbös visit to
Italy, 1929).
62. ACS, SPD, Carteggio Ordinario (CO), 137.389, b.379 (file for Gömbös); cf. G. Réti
and T. J. DeKornfeld, Hungarian-Italian Relations in the Shadow of Hitler’s
Germany, 1933–1940, New York/Boulder, CO, EEM-Columbia University Press, 2003,
p. 347.
63. P. Hehn, A Low Dishonest Decade: The Great Powers, Eastern Europe, and the Economic
Origins of World War II, 1930–1941, New York/London, Continuum, 2005, pp. 53–54;
P. Morgan, Fascism in Europe, 1919–1945, London, Routledge, 2003, pp. 76–77.
64. Payne, Fascism, p. 112.
65. I. T. Berend, Decades of Crisis: Central and Eastern Europe before World War II, Berkeley,
University of California Press, 2001, pp. 309–310.
66. Mann, Fascists, p. 46.
67. A. Kallis, ‘The “Regime-Model” of Fascism: A Typology’, European History Quar-
terly, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2000, pp. 77–104 (here 91); Blinkhorn, Fascism and the Right,
pp. 49–50.
68. Kallis, ‘Neither Fascist nor Authoritarian’, p. 303–330.
69. Kallis, ‘ “Fascism”, “Para-fascism” and “Fascistization” ’, pp. 235–236.
70. See Constantin Iordachi’s contribution to this volume.
71. See the contributions of Gerhard Botz on Austria and of Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier
Luque on Spain featured in this volume.
72. Cf. the similar metaphor used by one of the most distinct thinkers of the twentieth-
century European radical right, J. Evola, Fascism viewed from the Right, Rome,
G. Volpe, 1974, p. 62.
Aristotle Kallis 41

73. Griffin, Modernism and Fascism, p. 113.

74. E. Nižnanský, ‘Expropriation and Deportation of Jews in Slovakia’, in B. Kosmala and
F. Tych, eds, Facing the NS Genocide: Non-Jews and Jews in Europe, Berlin, Metropol,
2004, pp. 205–230.
75. See W. Röhr, ed., Europa unterm Hakenkreuz. Okkupation und Kollaboration
(1938–1945): Beiträge zu Konzepten und Praxis der Kollaboration in der deutschen
Okkupationspolitik, Berlin/Heidelberg, Huthig, 1994 – in particular the contributions
of H. Umbreit, ‘Die Rolle der Kollaboration in der deutschen Besatzungspolitik’,
pp. 33–44 and of W. Röhr, ‘Okkupation und Kollaboration’, pp. 59–84.
76. L. Whitehead, ‘International aspects on democratization’, in G. O’Donnell,
P. Schmitter, and L. Whitehead, eds, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Compara-
tive Perspectives, Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986, pp. 3–46; and
his ‘Three international dimensions of democratization’, in L. Whitehead, ed., The
International Dimensions of Democratization, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996,
pp. 3–24.
77. J. J. Linz, ‘Fascism and non-democratic regimes’, in J. J. Linz and A.Valenzuela, eds,
The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes: Crisis, Breakdown and Reequilibration, Baltimore,
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978, p. 248.
78. M. Vincent, ‘Spain’, in R. J. B. Bosworth, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Fascism, Oxford,
Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 362–379; Kallis, ‘ “Fascism”, “Para-fascism” and
“Fascistization” ’.
79. M. Dobry, ‘February 1934 and the Discovery of French Society’s Allergy to the ‘Fas-
cist Revolution”, in B. Jenkins, ed., France in the Era of Fascism. Essays on the French
Authoritarian Right, Oxford, Berghahn, 2005, pp. 129–150 (here 139).
80. P. Mazgaj, Imagining Fascism, p. 33.
81. Linz, ‘Fascism and non-democratic regimes’, p. 254.
82. Roberts, Totalitarian Experiment, p. 269.
83. L. Whitehead, Democratization. Theory and Experience, Oxford, Oxford University
Press, 2002.
Fascism and the Framework for
Interactive Political Innovation during
the Era of the Two World Wars
David D. Roberts

The problem

Without imputing desirability or success, many scholars have come to take

European fascism seriously as innovative, modern and even revolutionary.
Doing so might seem to buttress long-standing ways of distinguishing genuine
fascism, as manifested in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, from contemporane-
ous regimes in Spain, Portugal, Austria and elsewhere that long seem to have
exploited some of the trappings of fascism for merely authoritarian or reac-
tionary purposes. These latter were ‘para-fascist’, in the terminology that Roger
Griffin adopted 20 years ago, using ‘para‘ in its dictionary sense as an alteration,
perversion or simulation of the real thing.1
But even as we have come take fascism more seriously, questions remain
about its centre of gravity. Indeed, new questions arise about what qualifies
as genuine fascism as opposed to mere para-fascism. In light of the manifest
differences between the Italian and German cases, we seek to specify a fascist
minimum, but the most influential ways of doing so do not compel agreement –
and may not hold up. At the same time, experts on the various para-fascisms,
while recognizing that distinctions remain necessary, have grown restive with
the conventional ways of making them. Recent research suggests that some, at
least, of the para-fascist regimes were more innovative in their own right, even
in their ways of adapting aspects of contemporary fascism, than we had recog-
nized. Still, even those who offer new insights into the various para-fascist cases
sometimes seem to remain unnecessarily boxed-in by the older dichotomy,
even as they challenge it up to a point. Questions from both sides suggest the
need and the scope for more complexity and variety in our ways of conceiving
the relationship between fascism and what had been considered para-fascism.
Central to the traditional ways of distinguishing the two was the totalitarian–
authoritarian dichotomy, which at least as conventionally applied no longer

David D. Roberts 43

convinces. On the one hand, countless studies have shown that the archetypal
fascist regimes in Italy and Germany were not really totalitarian, as the category
was long understood. Most basically, each was too chaotic, messy, fissiparous,
improvised. Neither exerted anything like total control. So taking fascism
more seriously does not necessarily entail making totalitarianism more rele-
vant. On the other hand, Mary Vincent, in a recent synthetic essay on Spain,
suggests why we must turn from authoritarianism in discussing regimes like
According to Vincent, our long-standing way of associating genuine fas-
cism with the Falange, domesticated by a merely authoritarian Franco regime,
misses, first, the much broader radicalization on the Spanish right in light of
the crisis of the republic and, second, the implications of that change for the
ensuing dynamic that produced the nationalist victory in the Spanish Civil War
and the consolidation of a particular sort of Francoist regime by 1941.2 Borrow-
ing the language of Ismael Saz Campos, Vincent shows that the new right in
Spain was caught up in a kind of dialectical interaction with wider European
fascism. She does not dispute the conventional view that the resulting regime
was a conservative, hierarchical military dictatorship, or that once the Falange
had lost the power struggles of 1941, ‘fascism had, indeed, been domesticated
by a wider authoritarian alliance’. But she concludes that though the Francoist
dictatorship was not fascist, neither can it be viewed simply as authoritarian,
because ‘the prospect of consolidation – of turning a brutal military victory
into a stable regime – would never have existed without either fascism or the
Falange’. So for Vincent, the Franco regime was a hybrid, a ‘fascistized’ state,
the result of a profound dialectic involving all sectors of the anti-republican
right during the 1930s.3 Her insistence that Franco was the subject of a genuine
leadership cult, even if he was not personally charismatic, particularly helps us
see the need to transcend the old dichotomy.4
The notion of a dialectical interaction between para-fascism and fascism
suggests a more complex relationship than inspiration, influence or merely bor-
rowing the trappings for defensive purposes. It also suggests that if we are to
encompass the diverse modes of interaction that may have been at work, we
need something other than a static comparative framework based on fixed def-
initions and dichotomous distinctions. We need more attention to the modes
of actual interaction at the time and, above all, to the framework of such inter-
action understood as a fluid, uncertain field of challenges, possibilities and
opportunities in light of experience with modern politics to that point. Cri-
teria of differentiation remain at issue, to be sure, but they can fruitfully be
revisited only in terms of such a deeper framework.
Here we will not consider any of the instances of interaction in depth. But
by considering both fascism in general and the Italian case in particular, I hope
to show how we might better conceive the openness and fluidity of the field
44 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

in which the interaction between fascism and para-fascism took place. With-
out getting hung up on definitions, we can widen our sense of the range of
challenges, aspirations and possibilities insofar as we more deeply understand
fascism as itself a characteristic, though still uncertain, product of a novel and
fluid field. On that basis, we can better grasp the uncertainty and complexity of
the trajectory resulting from the effort to act on the basis of fascist aspirations.
And from there we can more deeply understand the uncertainty, complexity
and potential variety in the modes of interaction with others looking toward

Complicating fascism

We have come a long way from the reductive and dismissive approaches that
dominated fascist studies for decades. The alternative, much trumpeted by
Michael Mann, is to take the fascists seriously, even, up to a point, letting them
speak for themselves and actually listening to them.5 This seems first to suggest
that we must take them seriously even on the level of aspirations, ideas, ideol-
ogy: all that we might lump together as ‘theory’. I use this term as a shorthand,
though I find it prejudicial, with its connotations of airy speculation or wishful
thinking in contrast to hard-headed, concrete practice. Taking the theory seri-
ously is to avoid the tendency, evident, especially among some recent students
of Fascist Italy, to focus on style or aesthetics on the grounds that any ideology
was at best a tissue of contradictions and thus did not much matter.
Although Mann seems at some points to suggest he is the first ever to have
done so, many have come to take the fascists seriously, in the process explic-
itly denying earlier ways of not taking them seriously. It is widely held that
fascism was not some revolt against modernity but the quest for an alternative
modernity.6 And rather than merely counter-revolutionary or reactionary, fas-
cism was in some sense ‘revolutionary in its own right’, to paraphrase Stanley
Payne.7 Neither notion is to justify fascism. But we immediately encounter
questions about the basis of that quest for an alternative modernity and about
the nature of that revolutionary impulse, even how it stands vis-à-vis Marxism
and/or Leninism. Such questions have produced differences that we are still
sorting out. Indeed, ‘taking seriously’ is not as straightforward as it initially
Although it beats dismissing it all as window-dressing or a tissue of contradic-
tions, merely to assert, in light of the long-standing scepticism, that the fascists
did indeed have an ideology, as ‘good’, in the sense of coherence or range as any
other, is not enough.8 To take the ideology seriously requires probing it in a cer-
tain spirit, especially insofar as we are prepared to view fascism as a quest for an
alternative modernity and/or an alternative revolution. We must expand what
we are prepared to hear, even prepare ourselves to be surprised and challenged,
David D. Roberts 45

if we are to grasp the basis of the fascist case against both the liberal democratic
modern mainstream and the mainstream Marxist way of pointing beyond it.
Influential though he has been, Zeev Sternhell seems to me the archetypal
exemplar of the scope for waywardness, even superficiality, in this respect. With
Sternhell, whom even Mann invokes as the authority on fascist ideology, there
is no deepening, no challenge, no expansion of horizons, for he already knows
what the anti-Enlightenment ideas at issue portend as they come together in
a neat nationalist–syndicalist synthesis.9 To approach the evidence with that
degree of a priori is not to take seriously, but to find another way of avoiding
taking seriously even while seeming to take seriously, when compared with
earlier dismissive approaches.
In their different ways, Griffin, Mann and Roger Eatwell all take fascist aspira-
tions far more seriously, and I greatly respect the contributions of all three. But
even they, in their different ways, seem to me too eager to establish a certain
sort of framework, to seek to pin too much down before considering a sufficient
range of evidence – and a sufficient range of possibilities. They thereby tend to
restrict what we can hear.
We are not really taking fascism seriously as a quest for an alternative
modernity if we assume we already know what the healthy, appropriate
response to modernity entailed. It is on this point that I have questioned
Griffin’s argument in his recent Modernism and Fascism, much as I admire and
agree with it up to a point.10 Although he initially seems to suggest that mod-
ern culture, in light of modern experience, was genuinely open and subject to
contest, and although he has done some invaluable pioneering research into
the modernist side of fascist culture, the range of possibilities he is prepared to
consider proves restricted.
Griffin ends up implying that those fastening upon palingenetic nationalism
and the myth of national regeneration were the ones who could not handle
‘canopy loss’ and the other characteristic pressures and anxieties of modernity.
It is surely true that fascism was about purging decadence, but Griffin’s accent
on abiding psychological needs and modern anomie leads him to use ‘deca-
dence’ to reduce all the discontents at issue to the same level. The Italian
Fascist claim that Italy’s capitalist bourgeoisie was not robust but decadent,
and that the parliamentary system fed on and bred such decadence, cannot
be understood as a response to modern anomie. Unless we raise more pointed
questions about, for example, the performance of the modern liberal state, we
cannot assess the basis of the fascist sense that it was necessary to act differently
through the modern state, even to create a wholly new form of modern state.
Like Griffin, Mann usefully takes the fascists seriously up to a point, in insist-
ing, for example, that rather than privilege class, as was done for so long, we
start with the rationale for the fascist claim to be transcending class – as a
key both to individual identity and to the understanding of society.11 But in
46 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

the last analysis he does not take the fascists as seriously as he claims. His
way of conceiving conditions of possibility relies on a four-part crisis that,
for historical reasons, did not come to the fore in north-western Europe as
it did elsewhere. That such contextual differences matter is undeniable, and
obviously we must attend to features common to certain countries and differ-
entiating them from others. But Mann’s fascists prove so hemmed in by his
contextualist macro-framework that in listening to them he can only hear a
certain range of frequencies. Indeed, the delimited framework yields a sort of
false positive: a set of answers that because they seem convincing in light of our
expectations, appear to obviate the need for deeper questioning and thus keep
us from more illuminating answers.
From within Mann’s framework, the countries of north-western Europe, hav-
ing developed durable democratic institutions capable of withstanding crisis,
represent healthy modernity. The others had problems insofar as they lacked
comparable conditions, traditions and institutions. So despite Mann’s insis-
tence that fascism was essential to modernity, relative backwardness remains
the basis of differentiation. To be sure, that fascism was a response to cri-
sis is true almost by definition; the question is the nature of the crisis, and
whether, and in what sense, it might implicate mainstream modernity more
generally. As one key to fascism, Mann convincingly features a hyper-nation-
statism that carried to extremes a wider modern tendency. But insofar as the
hyper, fascist version was not merely an alternative means to modernity, but
reflected a serious engagement with the liberal and Marxist traditions, it could
claim to be indicating an alternative direction even for the modern Western
mainstream. On occasion Mann deems fascist diagnoses and prescriptions plau-
sible, but plausible in what sense? Does it mean the fascists were so situated
that they could see into wider modern tensions and uncertainties as those in
the mature democracies could not, or does it merely mean insight into more
parochial problems that those in north-western Europe were fortunate enough
not to face?
Although Mann usefully features corporatism as central to the wider fascist
aim of transcending class conflict, in the Italian case especially, deeper issues
were involved in the emergence of the corporatist aspiration, which envisioned
mobilization through the workplace and the politicization of economic roles.
Mann cites Mabel Berezin on the basis of Italian Fascist corporatism – which
is curious indeed, because whereas Mann finds fascism a movement of intel-
lectuals, Berezin claims that Italy, with its ‘quasi-educated’ middle class, was ‘a
culture that rejected text in favour of gesture or performance’. In light of her
dismissal of articulated ideas, it is hardly surprising that Berezin, though good
on the place of ritual, proved to have little sense of the basis of corporatism.12
Mann considers pre-war intellectual antecedents that might have helped, but
the innovators are all thrown together, with little more than a listing of
David D. Roberts 47

names and themes.13 He does not use earlier intellectuals to challenge, to open
questions regarding the liberal mainstream and/or the Marxian framework for
challenging that mainstream.
Eatwell notes the seriousness of corporatism as part of his wider contention
that what seemed a rational response to specifically modern problems, espe-
cially in the socio-economic sphere, was central to the thrust and appeal of
fascism.14 In featuring the fascist claim to offer a third way, beyond both
liberalism and social democracy, he comes closer than Griffin or Mann to
taking seriously the fascist effort to address genuinely problematic or uncer-
tain aspects of modernity.15 And especially because he has read some actual
corporatists, Eatwell is more credible than Mann in asserting a measure of
But though Eatwell’s accent on rationality at the expense of myth, activism,
or political religion is convincing up to a point, in reacting against Griffin,
most notably, he goes too far in the other direction, thereby playing down
key elements of the energizing fuel of fascism.16 Myth and activism were more
central than he seems to acknowledge; the problem is that we cannot grasp
their place in terms of Griffin’s palingenesis or ‘rebirth’, which do not get at
the basis of the fascists’ confident self-assertion or their premium on a new
mode of collective action. Myth is multi-valent and enters into the equation
in more varied and complex ways than Griffin’s conception encompasses. And
activism, unless it is understood more deeply, implies the sort of irrationalism
that Eatwell rightly questions.
Although alternative modernity and alternative revolution provide a good
foundation, we cannot rethink the fascism–para-fascism relationship without a
more differentiated understanding of fascist aspirations and the dynamic they
helped to generate. Consideration of the three examples above suggests that
even as they take fascism seriously up to a point, the most influential accounts
of generic fascism still tend to essentialize or define too quickly. Thus they
are not sufficiently open to the scope for innovation, to unforeseen possibili-
ties and combinations, to uncertainties and tensions, to the extent of internal
contest and even contradiction. And thus, even when they recognize how dis-
parate its strands often were, they tend not to feature sufficiently the sense in
which fascism was an uncertain work in progress, the outcome of which – even
the next stage of which – could not have been clear at the time. They thereby
tend to delimit the field, including the possible modes of interface with those
looking at fascism from the outside.
The point is not that we need an alternative understanding of fascism, on
the same level as the others but commanding greater agreement, before we can
rethink ‘para-fascism’ and its place vis-à-vis ‘real’ fascism. Rather, we need to
understand why we must settle precisely for a more fluid, uncertain, tension-
ridden and open-ended framework. The degree of disagreement even among
48 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

contemporary scholars who seek to take fascism seriously is itself an indica-

tion of the slipperiness of the terrain, the field of possibilities, we are trying to
In proposing some additions to the mix, then, my aim is not to provide
an alternative definition, or minimum, or ideal type, but simply to suggest
how we might expand and complicate the framework. The most basic ques-
tion concerns what experience seemed to have revealed about mainstream
modernity, wound around liberal democracy, that suggested the need and pos-
sible scope for a non-Marxian, and necessarily anti-Marxian, alternative. There
was indeed much concern with ‘decadence’ among intellectual antecedents:
we think of Sorel and Pareto, for example. But for each the locus of con-
cern was not so much ‘the nation’, contemptuous though Sorel was of the
Third Republic and Pareto was of liberal Italy. The deeper concern was the
decadence of the West in light of the modern liberal-positivist dispensation.
Accents among such intellectuals differed, of course, but their overall target was
a supranational syndrome encompassing, most obviously, parliamentary gov-
ernment and short-term individualism, which seemed to compromise societal
commitment and effectiveness. But it also seemed that the mainstream failed
to grasp the need and scope for new modes of collective action appropriate to
the challenges and opportunities of modernity.
From the fascist perspective, what differentiated Italy and Germany was more
specific than decadence or national humiliation; it was more a matter of spe-
cial vulnerabilities, and thus special challenges.17 But the challenges opened the
way to special opportunities and even responsibilities, because those who man-
aged to create an alternative modernity in response to those national challenges
would also be addressing wider modern problems, seizing wider modern oppor-
tunities, showing the wider West the way beyond liberal-positivist decadence.
In countries closer to the liberal mainstream – in Mann’s north-west Europe,
for example – the inadequacies of mainstream modernity were less obvious, so
there was greater complacency. The fascist sense of seeing beyond included a
sense that they had learned, as liberalism and Marxism could not, from the
novel, unanticipated experience of the First World War.
Detlev Peukert’s interpretation of the transition from Weimar democracy
to the Nazi regime provides an almost archetypal example of this syndrome.
In Germany the terms of the crisis were such that addressing it required
leapfrogging the mature democracies, which did not face comparable chal-
lenges and thus did not have to be as innovative. In a key area of modernity,
centring on science and population engineering, Germany had to be out front,
hyper-modern.18 Yet, carrying Peukert’s point a bit further, those elsewhere had
the same problems beneath the surface, in light of the expanding reach of
the state. They were simply too complacent to have addressed those problems
systematically, through the new mode of action required.
David D. Roberts 49

Encompassing Giovanni Gentile and totalitarianism

If we are to take fascism seriously as a quest for an alternative modernity, we

must encompass the leading philosopher of fascism, Giovanni Gentile, whose
thought, among other things, so notably eluded Sternhell’s framework. To be
sure, Gentile’s thinking is slippery – and easily caricatured.19 But in Italy, ‘a
culture permeated by philosophical idealism’, as Robert Wohl put it years ago,
Gentile was widely influential from the First World War through the crisis of the
liberal order and into the consolidation of the Fascist regime.20 In particular, he
was central in establishing, as a core tenet of the Fascist self-understanding, the
notion that Fascist Italy was creating a totalitarian ethical state as the key to
the essential alternative modernity. Already prominent as a philosopher before
Mussolini came to power, Gentile was a very visible spokesman for Fascism for
those looking at the Italian departure from the outside. Yet his diagnosis and
prescription are not adequately encompassed even in the most influential ways
of taking fascism seriously today.
Gentile’s sense of what was necessary and possible cannot be understood in
terms of Griffin’s ‘canopy loss’. The opportunity was not to compensate for
loss but to achieve a deeper human self-realization on both the individual and
societal levels than had ever been achieved before. And Italy, he claimed, was
showing the way. Eatwell gets closer in stressing that Gentile did not see his task
as myth-making; rather, he sought to specify how to build a totalitarian ethical
state. This usefully counters the widespread tendency to overemphasize non-
rational myth and activism at the expense of concrete institution-building. But
even for proponents like Gentile and Camillo Pellizzi, the totalitarian ethical
state was an aspiration, always in process, never to be fully realized, so in a
significant sense it was as much myth as institution.21 Yet it was myth of a
particular sort, lucid, and not reducible to a longing for palingenesis. There
were distinctively modern reasons – having to do, first, with the seeming open-
endedness of history – for conceiving in such terms the institutional departure
Encompassing Gentile’s thinking helps us see why we cannot simply jetti-
son ‘totalitarianism’, even though particular care must be taken when bringing
it into the fascism–para-fascism discussion. The conventional totalitarian–
authoritarian dichotomy was surely too simple, but insofar as we continue to
understand totalitarianism in conventional terms, we miss its potential import.
We must encompass it first not as an ex-post facto analytical or comparative
category, but simply as it was understood at the time, as one of the novel pos-
sibilities on the table, capable or attracting or repelling or confusing others.
Appropriately recast, it might still have its uses for comparison and differen-
tiation as well, but that is a distinguishable question that we will consider in
50 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

I have sought elsewhere to delineate what I believe to be a more thorough

recasting of totalitarianism than we find in Emilio Gentile, Michael Burleigh
and others who have recently helped give it a measure of renewed currency.22
As I use it, totalitarianism is closer to what the Italian Fascists had in mind in
embracing it by the mid-1920s than to the ‘total control’ model that became
popular in the 1950s. In Fascist Italy totalitarianism could even encompass the
role for Fascist trade unions that Eatwell found too pluralistic to be compatible
with the category as he understood it, entailing something like a quest for top-
down domination.23 That totalitarianism was not, and probably could not have
been, fully realized is secondary because it was only a direction, not a system or
blueprint, and the fascists did move in that direction in practice, with results
not merely on the level of style.
Most basically, I use totalitarianism to indicate a sense of challenge, opportu-
nity and responsibility that could only have emerged at a historically specific
moment, in light of a modern configuration that seemed to demand a new
mode of collective action. It was essential to transcend liberal democracy by
expanding state sovereignty, in principle without limit, and by involving peo-
ple through more constant and direct participation, again in principle without
limit. As a mode of doing, not being, totalitarianism envisioned not a mere
‘sacralization of politics’, nor was its aim some utopia or final equilibrium.
It was an instrument for ongoing collective action in the face of a history now
experienced as more radically open-ended.24 We need such a recast notion of
totalitarianism if we are to grasp the force and implications of the fascist quest
for an alternative modernity. At the same time, we must grasp the force of
this sense of the scope for a new mode of collective action if we are to under-
stand the characteristic dynamic that followed from it, including the many
unforeseen results of the effort to act in this newly grandiose way.
As part of the mix, totalitarianism had considerable resonance, but it was a
deeply uncertain and contested category at the same time. Even among Italian
Fascists there were some, especially those closest to the monarchy and the
Catholic Church, who played it down, and those who embraced the category
were sometimes diametrically opposed on important issues. They agreed on
the need to depart from the liberal tradition, with its emphasis on individ-
ualism, pluralism and the public–private distinction, but they disagreed over
the need for hierarchy, over the capacity for political vision among ordinary
working people, and thus over the modes of participation that were appropri-
ate. Moreover, whereas totalitarianism was an important aspect of the Italian
Fascist self-understanding, the Nazis rejected the category as entailing a statist
Hegelian dimension they associated with Gentile’s influence, and that as they
saw it distinguished Italian Fascism from Nazism, based on dynamic move-
ment and race.25 This was a misreading of Gentile’s totalitarian vision, yet
it helped buttress the Nazis’ self-understanding – and their sense of offering
David D. Roberts 51

something different than the Italians to outsiders seeking to learn from genuine
Thus, adding Gentile and a recast notion of totalitarianism to the mix does
not get us closer to pinning down fascist aspirations in a definition. On the
contrary, it suggests why we need, and how we might develop, a more flexi-
ble, open-ended understanding of the field of possibilities. Central though it
was, Gentile’s role was bitterly contested from several sides even within Italian
Fascism.26 Some denied that he was a genuine Fascist, a notion periodically
echoed by scholars today. For Goffredo Adinolfi, Gentile was not a Fascist but
a nationalist like Alfredo Rocco.27 Adinolfi seems not to recognize that Gentile
explicitly repudiated Rocco-style nationalism, with its naturalistic conception
of the nation and its rigid elitism, in favour of a more open-ended, democratic
and spiritual conception.28 But Gentile and Rocco surely had some things in
common that distinguished them from other Fascists – the violent squadristi,
for example. There was indeed bitter disagreement over what counted as gen-
uinely Fascist, even within Italian Fascism. At the same time, however, the axes
of fissuring within fascism, in Italy and elsewhere, are not easily pinned down.
As we ponder the fascism–para-fascism relationship, we must keep in mind that
the criteria of genuine fascism were subject to contest – and indeed remain
subject to contest.
As it was understood at the time, totalitarianism similarly entailed uncer-
tainty, disagreement, confusion, misconstrual and myth-making. But in adding
another layer of complexity and contestedness, the category helps us conceive
the field in the expanded and more open-ended way that is necessary. And
this again was the field from within which interested outsiders were trying to
determine what sense to make of fascism, and what they might take from it.

Theory and practice

But even insofar as we recognize a totalitarian aspiration, it is widely agreed

that it encountered major obstacles and was not realized. More generally, the
fact that fascism in practice so often failed to live up to or simply overflowed
theory, thereby frustrating many of the originating aspirations, muddies the
waters as we seek to place genuine fascism in relation to para-fascism. For R.J.B
Bosworth, whatever the originating aspirations of Italian Fascism, whatever the
seriousness of the totalitarian pretensions, what ultimately matters is the limits
of the ideological penetration the Fascist regime managed to achieve. Frustrated
in practice, the aspirations can be dismissed as more or less ridiculous. What we
most need to understand is how the blunting of the ideology played against the
actual experience of Fascism on the part of ordinary Italians at the time.
Bosworth makes his case explicitly in opposition to those like Griffin and
Emilio Gentile who, he clearly believes, take fascism altogether too seriously as
52 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

they seek to unearth a ‘final pure lode that will identify fascism in a few words
or paragraphs’. Reading Fascist intellectuals intellectually, he charges, these his-
torians ‘lose the context in which Fascism was lived’. Bosworth claims to offer
an alternative approach that ‘is more given to reading between the lines and,
in so doing, placing fascist thoughts into their social and intellectual context’.
From this perspective, ‘fascist rule, for all its ambition at control, failed, by defi-
nition, to oust the very many histories that coursed through the lives of Italians
and others who were living the inter-war crisis. There is no pure fascist history
to be teased apart from the rest . . . like all ideas, fascism was merely one element
in the dynamic functioning of human life’.29
To a considerable extent, Bosworth sets up a straw man. No one denies the
importance of assessing the actual impact of Fascism on the lives of Italians.
It is imperative to show the limits of the ideological penetration, though Emilio
Gentile, especially, contends that even in Italy Fascism affected experience, pro-
ducing a new frame of mind, to a perhaps surprising extent. No one claims that
a ‘new man’ was actually created, but whatever the proportions there was some
alteration in frame of mind, even among many ordinary people. More gener-
ally, certain novel aspirations yielded a distinctive departure that, whatever the
limits, ended up deeply affecting those people’s lives. The question of how we
are to understand the sources, content and implications of the novel fascist
element in the mix hardly disappears, whatever the measure of realization in
An emphasis on limits and failure breeds a variation on the teleological fal-
lacy that keeps those like Bosworth from taking the Fascists seriously enough to
understand the aspirations. Thus they approach the evidence with a very lim-
ited conception of what fascism could have been about. They are not reading
between the lines at all. They cannot even convincingly gauge impact if they
are too contemptuous to understand the aspirations and their rationale. Yet
with their facile ‘face-value’ charge they seek to marginalize those who actu-
ally do take the Fascists seriously enough to understand what they sought to
do.30 Still, even if he pushes the point too far, Bosworth is right that we may
be tempted to define, and thereby essentialize fascism in light of its aspirations
and not pay enough attention to the resulting trajectory and its outcomes. The
larger point, however, is that we cannot understand the trajectory apart from
the aspirations, whatever the outcomes.
In a stimulating article of several years ago, on which I was invited to com-
ment, António Costa Pinto isolated several variables in an effort to draw out
the key differences in the actual functioning of the Salazar, Franco, Mussolini
and Hitler regimes.31 And he has argued along similar lines in his more recent
work.32 Although his aims are quite different from Bosworth’s, Pinto also
finds reason to turn from originating aspirations in light of the seeming gulf
between theory and practice. Even as he finds ideas and purposes essential to
David D. Roberts 53

understanding the origins, appeal and initial success of fascist movements, he

considers it possible, perhaps even essential, to bracket them to a substantial
extent when considering practice, actual functioning. As he has put it, ‘it just so
happens that why fascism ascended to power does not explain very many of the
characteristics of its use of power once it was consolidated’.33 He suggests that
if we focus on certain variables central to functioning – especially the charis-
matic quality of the leadership, the role of the single-party and the extent of
tensions between party and state – we can get at operational elements of fascist
regimes that distinguish them from other 20th-century European right-wing
But can we in fact understand the meaning and significance of the variables
Pinto pinpoints if we bifurcate theory and practice, originating aspirations and
modes of functioning, to this extent? Do we have a sufficient grasp of the con-
tent of the specifically fascist aspirations to understand the stakes of bracketing
them? I suggest that until we do better at understanding those aspirations, we
cannot understand how practice may have continued to reflect them even as
they were being frustrated. And insofar as we bracket originating aspirations on
the grounds that modes of functioning must be understood in other terms, we
cannot make sense of all that was at work in the fascist trajectory as interested
outsiders looked in.
In short, we need both theory and practice, aspirations and results, under-
standing the relationship between them as a reflection of the fluidity and
uncertainty in the field of possibilities at issue. From within that field, those
aspirations could help generate an unforeseeable and very messy dynamic. The
interaction between fascism and para-fascism was part of the same fluid, uncer-
tain field. To provide a more concrete sense of the obstacles and possibilities,
including the scope for selective borrowing, misconstrual and myth-making,
let us turn to the case of Fascist Italy.

The Italian trajectory

We find a classic way of distinguishing theory and practice in Fascist Italy in

Renzo De Felice’s long-influential way of bifurcating movement and regime,
suggesting that whereas the Fascist movement came together around aspira-
tions that were seriously radical and even totalitarian in implication, they
bogged down in the practice of the regime, especially in light of compromises
with existing elites and institutions. More recently, however, Emilio Gentile has
insisted that despite all the undoubted compromises, the aspirations that had
animated the movement continued to percolate in the regime, helping shape
its direction in essential ways.
Above all, under party secretary Achille Starace during the 1930s the National
Fascist Party (PNF – Partito Nazionale Fascista) was expanding its reach, not
54 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

only gaining power within the overall system, but penetrating society, produc-
ing a sacralization of politics wound around ritual, symbol, myth and the cult
of the Duce. For Gentile, this was not merely a diversion into style or aesthet-
ics; rather, it was to move toward the realization of the totalitarian ideological
project, the anthropological revolution to create a new man that had animated
the movement all along.35 This project he finds the key to distinguishing Fascist
Italy from the dictatorial regimes in Portugal and Spain.
Even in the face of Gentile, some of those approaching the Italian case from
a generic, non-specialist perspective still take a variation on De Felice’s distinc-
tion for granted. After Fascism came to power in Italy, says Ian Kershaw, ‘its élan
rapidly waned’, and a normalizing phase began in 1925.36 Robert Paxton explic-
itly brushes Gentile aside in asserting that ‘the Italian Fascist regime decayed
toward conservative authoritarian rule’.37 In this context, Paxton notes the
superficiality accompanying Fascist youth organizations and the leisure-time
organization, the Opera Nazionale Dopolarovo (National Recreation Club) even
as the party was extending its control.38 Many posit a definitive defeat for the
Fascist left, or radical fascism, at some point, citing for example the Pacification
Pact of 1921, the redirection of the Fascist trade-union movement in 1928 or
the defeat of Ugo Spirito’s proposal for proprietary corporations in 1932.
But those like Kershaw and Paxton are too quick to refer to normalization
and authoritarianism and to play down the ongoing radical thrust. Because
of inadequate criteria of leftist or radical, Paxton misconstrues what was at
issue in accenting a drift rightward in early Italian Fascism, and he betrays the
usual blinders in characterizing the sbloccamento of 1928.39 He is also quick
to draw misleading conclusions from the outcome of the corporatist impulse
in practice.40 There was blunting and frustration, to be sure, but the frustration
played into an ongoing dynamic, including inflating rhetoric and myth-making
that did not entail settling into a merely authoritarian or dictatorial system.
Despite their overall inadequacy, however, those like Paxton usefully raise
a red flag in connection with some of Emilio Gentile’s emphases. Although
Gentile has been invaluable in accenting, first, a totalitarian aspiration, second,
continuing openness and experiment and third – in the face of denigrators like
Bosworth – at least some measure of realization, his framework is too limited to
make sense of the overall dynamic at work, including the elements of blunting
and frustration. He certainly recognizes factiousness and openness as he con-
siders that dynamic, but his way of conceiving the axes of differentiation and
contest proves too restricted. We need a better grasp of the components, based
on a better understanding of the aspirations underlying them, to do justice to
the infighting and its place in the dynamic.41
The matter of components proves tricky indeed, not only because the criteria
of radical – even left and right – are not always self-evident, but also because
the axes of overlap and division can be hard to discern and characterize.42
David D. Roberts 55

Priorities sometimes changed and strange bedfellows sometimes came together

in response to changing circumstances. But the essential prerequisite for grasp-
ing the components and their interplay is a deeper understanding of originating
Michael Mann does not repair to the facile movement–regime distinction,
and he wants to take the radical thrust of Fascism more seriously than those
like Kershaw and Paxton do. But he cannot adequately characterize the radical-
ism and thus its place in the overall dynamic because his boxes keep him from
seeing relationships, key areas of overlap and contest. We note, for example,
a disconnect between his accent on Fascism as a movement of intellectuals,
capable of a significant role in light of crisis, and his way of characterizing
the paramilitary squadrismo component within Fascism. Although he takes the
squadristi seriously in one sense, he limits their orientation to a propensity for
violence and to such values as comradeship, all derived especially from their
war experience. Mann’s way of accounting for the squadristi, though less dis-
missive and reductionist, carries little beyond the ‘military desperadoes’ notion
used decades ago.43
To assess the claim of the squadristi to embody the values of the war, we need
a deeper sense of what those values might have encompassed in light, first, of
the controversy over Italian intervention, then of the Italian war experience
itself. We also need to understand how the bitter dispute over the significance
of the war helped fuel the violent Fascist assault on the seemingly pro-Bolshevik
Italian left, a dimension that Mann neglects altogether. Because everyone must
fit into one of his boxes, he does not consider how the squadristi effort inter-
faced with the overall fascist critique of the two-pronged modern mainstream.
Even such one-time squadristi and apologists for violence, such as Dino Grandi,
Giuseppe Bottai, Italo Balbo and Curzio Suckert were among the intellectuals of
Fascism, and if we are to take them seriously we must actually read what they
wrote, or what they chose to publish in journalistic vehicles they controlled.44
If we do so, as Mann seemingly has not, we note links to others like the older
syndicalists, suggesting that the virtues of the front encompassed more than
comradeship and violence.
But we tend to miss not only key areas of overlap but also axes of disparity
and contest even among components with aspirations that can be considered
totalitarian. The corporatist thrust was itself fissiparous, entailing infighting
even on the level of basic purposes. We miss the terms of this contest and
its implications if we have not adequately grasped the originating aspirations
in the first place. As a result of such diversity, the regime sometimes sought a
kind of balance, as for example in the composition of the Commission of 15
(soon 18), which settled on a corporatist direction when charged to propose
institutional change, and thus a deeper historical raison d’être for Fascism, in
the wake of the Matteotti crisis of 1924. But the cultivated ambiguity in the
56 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

first steps toward corporatism, including the much-trumpeted Labour Charter

of 1927, could not overcome the element of division. And sometimes the dif-
ferences were clear, as with the revealing exchange of articles between Sergio
Panunzio and Carlo Costamagna in 1926.45
Up to a point, Mann is especially good on the diversity of Italian Fascism.
He notes that Mussolini, after coming to power, gave everyone a piece of the
action, thereby creating ‘a highly pluralistic state’. Conflict and compromise
now took place in private forms within the state rather than in parliament.46
This is true and important; however, the result was not some equilibrium, but
rather an ongoing process of interaction, the course of which was not deter-
mined in advance but was settled only in and through the history. Yet even
as he seems to grasp the diversity, Mann too often covers over the fissures and
thus misses their role in the particular dynamic that developed. For example,
in linking the totalitarian ethical state notion to top-down corporatism, which,
as he has it, quieted the leftists as worker control was forgotten, he miscon-
strues relationships, sidesteps the ongoing tensions and thus misses the place
of both corporatist and ethical state aspirations in the dynamic.47 From within
the overall interplay of components, corporatist development continued, as did
an effort, even into the 1940s, to breathe real life into corporatist institutions,
ultimately unsuccessful though it was.
The expanding role of the PNF during the 1930s was indeed central to
the overall interplay of components. But even as he usefully stresses open-
ness and continuing experiment, Emilio Gentile associates the specifically
fascist, totalitarian thrust with the party in a way that misconstrues the over-
all dynamic. What do we make of those Fascists who downplayed the party’s
role or opposed its expansion at that point? There were two sets of reasons
why doing so may not have been to resist the ongoing fascist revolution but to
promote it.
On the one hand, it could be argued that, however serious the party was
in performing its role, the corporatist or the wider totalitarian statist compo-
nent within the mix was more important, and that party expansion was to
compromise the scope for deeper realization. Yet Gentile does justice neither
to the corporatist nor to the wider statist dimension, even as he calls Giovanni
Gentile ‘the chief theologian of the new state’.48 The party could not be the
be-all-and-end-all in light of Fascism’s totalitarian pretensions, which required
expanding the reach of the state and involving people more constantly and
directly, especially through corporatism.
On the other hand, the party might seem, a priori, the embodiment of
the Fascist ideal, and it could seem a major vehicle both for the essential
Fascist education and for new modes of participation. Its expanding role might
seem inherently to mean revolutionary implementation. In fact, however, such
expansion entailed a good deal of trivialization and produced much frustration
David D. Roberts 57

among committed Fascists. Although it entailed a radical departure in one

sense, the party’s success in promoting the cult of the Duce did not serve seri-
ous implementation but provided a kind of diversion – a diversion that failed to
satisfy many. The whole Starace programme drew ridicule from many commit-
ted Fascists who continued to push for an outcome more congruent with their
original aims. If we concentrate on functioning apart from such aims, we miss
the basis of such frustrations and their place in continuing the dynamic. There
was sufficient dissatisfaction with the party by the end of the 1930s, and espe-
cially with the onset of war, that efforts to revitalize it under a new secretary
during 1940–41 were widely welcomed. But ongoing differences over priorities,
and especially over party–state relations, blunted the overall effort to renew the
Frustration in practice bred inflating rhetoric and myth-making, especially as
the Italians sought to trumpet the superiority of Fascism to Nazism, with its
vulgar, deterministic racism. Skewing assessment of possibilities and priorities,
such myth-making blinded the Fascists to their real prospects. But even in the
face of trivialization, narrowing and myth-making, the dynamic continued and
the ultimate outcome remained open to some extent. As Davide Rodogno has
shown, the war seemed the opportunity for revitalization through occupation
policy, but the over-reliance on Mussolini combined with further myth-making
to help doom all such efforts.49 Yet this culminating failure was also a phase in
the particular dynamic characteristic of Italian Fascism.

Fascism and para-fascism: complicating the framework of


The Italian example makes it clear that Fascism, as an uncertain open-ended

dynamic with no fixed essence, could only have been a moving object of
attraction for outsiders. Obviously it mattered greatly at what phase of the Fas-
cist trajectory others were attracted to it and borrowed from it. But especially
because Fascism was itself fluid, contested and uncertain, there was always
scope for those elsewhere to see in it what they wanted to see, to take what
they wanted to take, based partly on where they were in their own dynamic
trajectory. Such key components in the Italian mix as violence, totalitarianism,
corporatism, modernism, charismatic leadership, church–state relations, party–
state interaction and the left–right distinction all indicate the scope for such
selective borrowing. At the same time, the openness and uncertainty in the
Fascist dynamic enhanced the scope for illusion, wishful thinking, misconstrual
and myth-making on the part of others.
The stakes of neglecting the openness of such encounter are especially clear
in Mark Antliff’s recent treatment of the interaction between would-be French
fascists and Italian Fascism.50 Though limited to intellectuals, Antliff’s account
58 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

misses a great deal by failing to consider more explicitly what the French
actually knew, or genuinely sought to know, of Fascist Italy as of this or that
particular moment, as the Fascist regime was developing at this or that point.
Had he raised such questions, he might have distinguished, to put it simply,
actual copying or borrowing from a kind of myth-making, as the French to
some extent projected their own ideals onto the Italians. Doing so then enabled
them to draw confidence and further stimulus to their own imaginations, even
as they may have thought they were following an actual working model.
Treating the interaction between Fascist Italy and the nacionalistas of
Argentina’s new radical right, Federico Finchelstein is more attuned to the
selective borrowing, misreading, confusion and wishful thinking on both sides,
as well as to the elements of rivalry and resentment that balanced the inspi-
ration and mutual support. And in concluding that ‘Argentine nacionalismo
reformulated fascism until it was almost unrecognizable’, Finchelstein implies
that the modes of borrowing in the Argentine case transcended mere para-
fascism.51 But even as he expands our understanding of the framework for
cross-national interaction, Finchelstein repairs to a one-sided yet essentialist
and teleological conception of generic fascism based on irrationalism, violence
and extermination. Partly because it affords little sense of the internal dynam-
ics or axes of division in the Italian case, his conception unnecessarily restricts
that framework at the same time.
Others who have deepened our understanding of the para-fascist cases have
similarly tended to take genuine fascism as a given, though generally as bound
up with palingenesis and political religion, as opposed to violence and exter-
mination. But they, too, thereby approach fascism–para-fascism interaction
without an adequate sense of the tension-ridden array of aspirations at work
in fascism, and thus they tend to conceive the framework for that interac-
tion in unnecessarily restricted ways.52 Even as Mary Vincent points us toward
a more complex dialectic in treating Franco’s Spain, she is quick to accept a
particular reading of fascism and a particular way of associating novelty with

The palingenetic vision that lay at the heart of fascism had suddenly become
common currency on the Francoist right. Admittedly, the vision had been
modified by the admission of divine purpose but . . . that had not come from
nowhere. The circumstances of the civil war, in particular the anti-clerical
massacres in the republican zone, had given Catholicism a purchase it had
not had before, not even in Spain. Indeed, this transfer between Catholicism
and fascism, religion and politics, was part of the process of fascistization.53

But why refer to this as a ‘process of fascistization’? Vincent seems unnecessarily

boxed-in by the old framework. Though the fascist example surely stimulated
David D. Roberts 59

fresh thinking, the new politicizing of religion in Spain did not require a fascist
model, nor was the mode of politicizing at work comparable to what we find
in either Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany. In terms of this particular at least, the
Spanish case seems to have had its own more autonomous place within a novel
and uncertain field – at a moment when circumstances made possible an array
of options that cannot be categorized in a simple, dichotomous way as either
revolutionary or cosmetic.
In the Romanian case too, the areas of differentiation and overlap sug-
gest a fluid field and defy any easy fascism–para-fascism distinction. Although
Constantin Iordachi, treating Corneliu Codreanu and the Romanian Legion of
the Archangel Michael, seems, like Vincent, too quick to take palingenesis as
the core of fascism, his way of featuring a tradition of ‘romantic palingenesis’
as the key source of the Legion’s vision is surely convincing. As he makes
clear, ‘romantic palingenesis’ did not emerge full-blown in the inter-war period,
but owed a great debt to that long-standing tradition; yet it was original in
its relative autonomy vis-à-vis contemporaneous fascist movements elsewhere.
And it was overtly religious, envisioning the literal realization of Christianity.
Iordachi is also convincing that this vision entailed not merely blasphemy,
or Erstazreligion, or a renewed millenarianism; something more modern was
at work.54
Still, compared with the Romanian case, the thrust of fascism in Italy and
Germany was more secular, even post-religious. It was not about not expiation,
suffering and resurrection, and it was wound around a sense of the human
place in history that was not merely different from, but incompatible with, the
notion of literal resurrection as envisioned by Codreanu as the end of history.55
The fact that fascism was not about the realization of Christianity suggests a
decisive difference in content, in originating aspirations, in frame of mind, in
the sense of the historically specific challenge. At the same time, however, the
palingenetic religious impulse in Romania developed in interplay with other
impulses that seem to have owed more to Germany and especially to Italy,
including a would-be totalitarianism.
What the Romanian Legion of the Archangel Michael owed to fascism else-
where is an empirical question, but in what sense and to what degree it was an
instance of fascism in any case, whatever the indigenous nature of its sources,
is a conceptual question, and it is on that level that our sense of the possibilities
could usefully be opened up. To seek to address the distinctive Romanian mix-
ture from within the usual fascism/para-fascism framework keeps us from doing
justice to this mixture’s autonomy and originality. The Legion of the Archangel
Michael was part of the fluid field in which palingenesis, political religion,
anti-communism, totalitarianism, charismatic leadership, an energizing sense
of special mission and much else were among the possibilities, but it need not
be pinned down as either fascism or para-fascism.
60 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

Rethinking criteria of differentiation

So are we simply to settle, at least for now, for a field of varied interaction
among a collection of disparate cases, saying not only that the lines between
fascism and para-fascism are not as clear as we thought, but also that there are
more ways of drawing them than we have so far mapped? Should we perhaps
jettison the term para-fascism altogether, insofar as it implies a more stable,
determinate relationship with genuine fascism than was possible, in light of
the unstable, uncertain quality of fascism itself?
Before we can decide, we need more research and, above all, more dialogue
between students of the various regimes at issue – both fascist and para-fascist –
in light of an expanded and more flexible understanding of the field of possi-
bilities. But in a tentative, preliminary way, I will suggest why complicating the
field and expanding the range suggests, first, that lines still need to be drawn
and, second, how to draw them. Concluding the discussion of the Italian tra-
jectory above, we referred to ‘the particular dynamic characteristic of Fascism’,
implicitly differentiating it from para-fascism. But on the basis of what criteria,
in light of fluidity and uncertainty of that trajectory?
Although the Italian case, as the first fascism, is in one sense an instance
of genuine fascism by definition, aspects of the Italian dynamic and its out-
comes might suggest that Italy was closer to para-fascism than to Nazism.
Accenting the singularity of Nazism, Ian Kershaw has argued that unlike the
Nazis the Italian Fascists had little or no sense of being the last bulwark of
Western, Christian culture against atheistic, Jewish, Asiatic Bolshevism. Indeed,
he suggested, such pseudo-religious notions of national salvation were weaker
in fascist Italy even than in Franco’s Spain.56 In comparison with Nazi Germany,
practice in Fascist Italy more obviously entailed compromises, blunting any
initial radical thrust. Moreover, Italian Fascism more clearly ended up failing
in certain symptomatic ways, frustrating many of its own adherents. Vincent
notes that ‘like Mussolini’s regime before it, Franco’s New State represented an
alliance between the radical and conservative right’, so on what basis are we to
take Italy, but not Spain, as an instance of genuine fascism?57
In a different context we referred above to António Costa Pinto’s effort to
pinpoint the variables around which we could best characterize the differ-
ences in the actual functioning of the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and German
regimes. Pinto does not posit some rigid fascism–para-fascism distinction, and
at first glance his framework might seem to place the Italian case convincingly.
Although he eschews the totalitarian–authoritarian distinction, his criteria
mesh with Emilio Gentile’s to some extent. Pinto, too, features increasing party
influence, citing some of the same examples, and he also notes the increasing
role of charisma as manifested in the cult of the Duce.58 And whereas Gen-
tile showed how the party’s expanding role produced tensions with the state
David D. Roberts 61

apparatus, Pinto found the existence of such tensions to be among the key
factors distinguishing the operational elements of genuinely fascist regimes.
More recently, Pinto has focused on modes and loci of decision-making as a
complementary way of differentiating among the four regimes.59
Pinto‘s comparisons have revealed real and significant differences. But to iso-
late those variables and to focus on those differences apart from the overall
dynamic, stemming from and continuing to reflect all that Pinto bracketed
as ‘programme’, misleads about the meaning of what he found in the Italian
case. In responding to my earlier comment, Pinto found the clearest differ-
ence between us in my assertion that only the state, not the party, could be
totalitarian – and thus the locus for the expanded action that fascism was to
entail. That was the programme, he countered, but in this area, as elsewhere,
he accented the chasm between programme and practice. And on that basis he
concluded that ‘without an ideologically-motivated single-party, it is difficult
to imagine a “totalitarian” system in 20th-century Europe that has the state as
both its locus and as the vehicle for political decision-making’.60
I agree that we cannot imagine a fascist revolution without a lead role for the
single-party, but how we assess the actual role of the PNF in Italy by the later
1930s, in light of the particular array of forces in play, is another matter. With-
out deeper attention to what seemed the stakes of the party–state infighting,
possible only if we encompass the array of aspirations for fascism, we cannot
know what it meant that, in one sense, the party’s influence was growing in
the 1930s. And whereas we certainly need to understand the place of charisma
and the varied roles of leadership in the political departures at issue, we cannot
know what it meant that charismatic leadership was becoming more central
to Fascist Italy during the 1930s. In the same way, we cannot understand the
stakes of differences in modes and loci of decision-making if, with Pinto, we
assess them with little consideration of what the decisions were about.
Such objections to Pinto’s way of specifying differences might first seem to
reinforce the doubts that Italy was genuinely fascist. Insofar as the expand-
ing party reach and inflating cult of the Duce meant empty rituals, mere
spectatorship and the frustration of originating aspirations still at work, the
regime might seem to have fallen into a demobilizing mode of mobilization.
On that basis too it might seem closer to the Franco regime than either Pinto or
Emilio Gentile would want to admit. But a deeper sense of the limits of Pinto’s
approach helps us see the way to a more illuminating mode of differentiation,
not confined to modes of functioning and decision-making, but attuned to
originating aspirations and the resulting dynamic, and thus more consistent
with the uncertainties and fluidity in the field of relationships.
The blunting, frustration and failure did not mean that the originating aspi-
rations can be bracketed as theory in the sense of remaining only pipe dreams.
Those outcomes occurred precisely in terms of the particular aspirations,
62 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

including the several partly conflicting totalitarian strands that fuelled fas-
cism in the first place. We have seen that some of those aspirations require
an expanded framework if they are to be encompassed. And partly as tension-
ridden and contested in particular ways, they helped generate a particular
ongoing dynamic. The frustrations themselves played into that dynamic, gen-
erating a particular, characteristic kind of inflating rhetoric and myth-making
that in turn helped determine the outcome of the whole experiment.
Rather than settle into a merely authoritarian or dictatorial system, Fascist
Italy experienced what proved a syndrome characteristic of the novel, grandiose
totalitarian mode of collective action, stemming from a new sense of histori-
cal challenge and opportunity that we discussed above. As totalitarian in this
sense, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were competing with, and measuring
themselves against, the Soviet Union and – to a lesser extent – with each other.
It was especially on this level that they differed from the political departures in
Spain and elsewhere.
Whereas Kershaw found notions of national salvation to have been relatively
weak in Fascist Italy, the Italians had a different sense of mission, based first on
what they took to be their superior understanding of the limits of liberalism and
Marxism, but based also on their difference from Nazism and its racial deter-
minism. Different though it was, however, that energizing sense of mission was
parallel to the Nazi sense on one level. In each case the mission was not merely
defensive, as it is characterized by Kershaw, but modern, forward-looking,
reflecting a sense of new possibilities. Even as it came to encompass impasse,
empty rituals and myth-making, the Italian dynamic, fuelled by that sense of
mission, did not dissipate until it burned itself out, reaching a characteristic,
self-destructive end.
Whatever the role of such factors as charismatic leadership or the single-
party, the other departures at issue did not stem from a comparable sense of
energizing self-confidence and history-making self-importance; they did not
seek to innovate in such a way that the characteristic totalitarian dynamic was
produced. So even if we must jettison authoritarianism as the contrasting term,
totalitarianism, understood as a set of aspirations giving rise to a particular
characteristic dynamic, remains an essential differentiating factor.61

1. R. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, London, Routledge, 1993, p. 121.
2. M. Vincent, ‘Spain’, in R. Bosworth, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Fascism, Oxford,
Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 362–379.
3. Ibid., pp. 365, 378–379.
4. Ibid., p. 375.
5. M. Mann, Fascists, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 2–4, 97,
110, 112.
David D. Roberts 63

6. Among prominent examples: Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, p. 47; P. Morgan, Fascism
in Europe, 1919–1945, London, Routledge, 2003, p. 192; Mann, Fascists, p. 1.
7. S. Payne, A History of Fascism, 1914–1945, Madison, WI, University of Wisconsin
Press, 1995, p. 494.
8. See, for example, Mann, Fascists, p. 2.
9. For my earlier critique of Sternhell, see D. Roberts, ‘How not to think about fas-
cism and ideology: Intellectual antecedents and historical meaning’, in D. Roberts,
Historicism and Fascism in Modern Italy, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2007,
pp. 173–200. See also pp. 18–20 in the introduction. My review of Z. Sternhell’s The
Anti-Enlightenment Tradition, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2010, appeared
in The American Historical Review, December 2010, pp. 1519–1521.
10. R. Griffin, Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler,
Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007; D. Roberts, ‘Fascism, modernism and the
quest for an alternative modernity’, Patterns of Prejudice 43, no. 1, 2009, pp. 91–95.
11. Mann, Fascists, pp. 97, 100, 112.
12. Ibid., p. 99; M. Berezin, Making the Fascist Self: The Political Culture of Interwar Italy,
Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1997, pp. 29–30, 46–47.
13. Mann, Fascists, pp. 81–84.
14. R. Eatwell, ‘Reflections on fascism and religion’, Totalitarian Movements and Political
Religions 4, no. 3, Winter 2003, pp. 145–166; see especially p. 160.
15. See R. Eatwell, ‘Universal fascism? Approaches and definitions’, in S. Larsen, ed.,
Fascism outside Europe: The European Impulse against Domestic Conditions in the Diffu-
sion of Global Fascism, New York, SSM-Columbia University Press, 2001, p. 33 for his
one-sentence definition, featuring ‘third way’, and p. 34 for his elaboration on the
16. See ibid., pp. 27–28 for Eatwell’s critique of Griffin’s definition.
17. Although Paxton has sought to distance himself from Griffin, Griffin is right to note
the extent to which Paxton folds into Griffin’s own interpretation, especially insofar
as Paxton emphasizes – one might say overemphasizes – decline and victimhood. See
Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism, London, Penguin, pp. 218–220.
18. D. Peukert, The Weimar Republic: The Crisis of Classical Modernity, New York, Hill &
Wang, 1993, pp. 134–136, 187–188, 271–272.
19. Michael Burleigh notes that official statements of fascist doctrine, including, most
prominently, Gentile’s portions of Mussolini’s well-known 1932 encyclopaedia entry
on fascism, ‘were routinely characterized by a pretentiously woolly religiosity, whose
opacity (in any language) faithfully reflected the philosophical tone of the times’.
See M. Burleigh, Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics from the Great War to
the War on Terror, New York, Harper Perennial, 2007, p. 62.
20. R. Wohl, The Generation of 1914, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1979,
pp. 201–202. For Gentile’s career, see G. Turi’s thorough and balanced Giovanni
Gentile: Una Biografia, Florence, Giunti, 1995. I discuss Gentile in D. Roberts, The
Totalitarian Experiment in Twentieth-Century Europe: Understanding the Poverty of Great
Politics, Abingdon and New York, Routledge, 2006, pp. 130–142, 184–187, 299–305.
21. G. Gentile, Origini e dottrina del fascismo, Rome, Roma, 1929, pp. 43–48, espe-
cially pp. 46–48. This piece is included in G. Gentile, Politica e cultura, vol. 1, ed.
H. Cavallera, Florence, Le Lettere, 1990, vol. XLV in the standard edition of Gentile’s
works; see pp. 373–410. An English translation, condensing the original, appeared
in Foreign Affairs 6, January 1928, pp. 290–304. A. Gregor provides his own exem-
plary translation of the complete work under the title Origins and Doctrine of Fascism,
64 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

with Selections from Other Works, New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction, 2002. For Pellizzi’s
conception, see C. Pellizzi, Problemi e realtà del fascismo, Florence, Vallecchi, 1924,
pp. 157–65. Although Emilio Gentile sometimes invokes myth too loosely, his point
about the centrality of the ‘myth of the new state’ is convincing and important.
See E. Gentile, Il mito dello stato nuovo dall’antigiolittismo al fascismo, Rome and Bari,
Laterza, 1982.
22. See especially Roberts, The Totalitarian Experiment.
23. Eatwell, ‘Universal fascism’, p. 35. As a key example of the greater pluralism in Fascist
Italy, Eatwell cites the place for unions that would be merely co-ordinated within the
24. ‘Political religion’ points toward a crucial differentiating dimension, but this author
insists on the limitations of the category because it does not do justice to – indeed,
it proves a way of sidestepping – novelty and historical specificity. The dimensions
at issue are better understand as a corollary of totalitarianism itself; see D. Roberts,
‘ “Political religion” and the totalitarian departures of interwar Europe: On the uses
and disadvantages of an analytical category’, Contemporary European History 19, no. 4,
November 2009, pp. 379–412.
25. Roberts, The Totalitarian Experiment, pp. 433–437.
26. On the complexity of Gentile’s role in the regime, including the objections among
other fascists to his influence, see A. Tarquini, Il Gentile dei fascisti: Gentiliani e
antigentiliani nel regime fascista, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2009.
27. G. Adinolfi, ‘Political elite and decision-making in Mussolini’s Italy’, in A. Pinto, ed.,
Ruling Elites and Decision-Making in Fascist-Era Dictatorships, New York, SSM-Columbia
University Press, 2009, p. 49.
28. G. Gentile, ‘Nazione e Nazionalismo’ (March 1917), republished in Guerra e Fede,
Florence, Le Lettere, 1989, pp. 35–38. Gentile would highlight the difference even
from within the Fascist regime. See especially Gentile, Politica e Cultura, vol. 1,
pp. 401–406.
29. R. Bosworth, ‘Introduction’, in Bosworth, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Fascism, p. 5.
30. Explicitly following Bosworth, G. Talbot similarly fastens upon the undoubted lim-
its of the ideological penetration to indulge in mere put-down in Censorship in
Fascist Italy, 1922–1943: Policies, Procedures and Protagonists, Basingstoke, Palgrave
Macmillan, 2007, pp. 7, 10, 12–13, 19, 172, 194.
31. A. Pinto, ‘Elites, single parties and political decision-making in fascist era dicta-
torships’, Contemporary European History 11, no. 3, 2002, pp. 429–454. See also
D. Roberts, ‘Comment: Fascism, single-party dictatorships, and the search for a com-
parative framework’, Contemporary European History 11, no. 3, 2002, pp. 455–461,
and Pinto’s response, ‘Reply: State, dictators and single parties – where are the fascist
regimes?’ Contemporary European History 11, no. 3, 2002, pp. 462–466.
32. A. Pinto, ‘Single party, cabinet and political decision-making in fascist era dicta-
torships: comparative perspectives’, in Pinto, ed., Ruling Elites and Decision-Making,
pp. 215–251.
33. Pinto, ‘Reply’, p. 462. In the same context, Pinto insisted on the import of ideology,
though it was not his concern at that point. See pp. 462–463.
34. Ibid., pp. 462, 465.
35. E. Gentile, La via Italiana al Totalitarismo: Il Partito e lo Stato nel Regime Fascista, Rome,
Carocci, 1995, pp. 148–149.
36. I. Kershaw, ‘Hitler and the uniqueness of Nazism’, Journal of Contemporary History 39,
no. 2, April 2004, p. 248.
David D. Roberts 65

37. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism, pp. 120–121.

38. Ibid., pp. 123–125.
39. Ibid., pp. 60–64, 109, 152. In equating the radical thrust with a desire for spoils
(p. 109), Paxton merely reduces the fascists at issue to one species of banality, rather
than taking them seriously.
40. Ibid., pp. 137, 147.
41. R. Ben-Ghiat’s Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922–1945, Berkeley, CA, University of
California Press, 2001, focusing especially on the tensions, frustrations and sporadic
efforts at renewal of the regime’s later years, is especially helpful on how to locate
the ongoing radical effort within the wider dynamic of the regime.
42. In D. Roberts, The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism, Chapel Hill, NC, University
of North Carolina Press, 1979, pp. 188–212, I offered a framework for understanding
the axes of differentiation and convergence among the creators of fascism. I think it
holds up reasonably well, although I was not prepared to deal with Giovanni Gentile
at that point, and of course the axes became still more complex during the 1930s,
especially as a new generation came on the scene.
43. See, for example, W. Sauer, ‘National Socialism: Totalitarianism or fascism?’ American
Historical Review 73, no. 2, December 1967, pp. 419–422; and E. Tannenbaum, The
Fascist Experience: Italian Society and Culture, 1922–1943, New York, Basic Books, 1972,
p. 50.
44. For a few indications of the synergy at issue, see D. Grandi, ‘Il mito sindacalista’, from
La libertà economica, July 31, 1920, now in his Giovani, Bologna, Zanichelli,1941,
p. 220; I. Balbo, Diario, 1922, Milan, A. Mondadori, 1932, p. 6; S. Panunzio, Italo
Balbo, Milan, Imperia, 1923; and C. Suckert, ‘La conquista dello stato nella con-
cezione organica di Sergio Panunzio’, in I. Balbo, Corriere Padano, December 16,
1925, p. 1.
45. This polemical exchange unfolded in Rivista internazionale di filosofia del diritto. See
Roberts, The Syndicalist Tradition, pp. 240–244, for the context and the relevant ref-
erences. In a recent essay Philip Morgan gives a good sense of the limitations of
corporatism in practice, even while recognizing its ongoing importance as a myth.
But because he does not consider the origins of the corporatist impulse, he conveys
a misleading sense of its rationale and also misses the axes of division. Although
he mentions Bottai, he seems to be following Rocco, whose conception differed
considerably from that of Bottai or Panunzio. See P. Morgan, ‘Corporatism and the
economic order’, in Bosworth, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Fascism, pp. 156–161, 165.
46. Mann, Fascists, pp. 133–134; see also pp. 99–100.
47. Ibid., p. 98.
48. E. Gentile, The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy, Cambridge, MA, Harvard
University Press, 1996, p. 58.
49. D. Rodogno, Fascism’s European Empire: Italian Occupation during the Second World War,
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
50. M. Antliff, Avant-Garde Fascism: The Mobilization of Myth, Art, and Culture in France,
1909–1939, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 2007. I treat this book in Roberts,
‘Fascism, modernism, and the quest for an alternative modernity’, cited above.
51. F. Finchelstein, Transatlantic Fascism: Ideology, Violence, and the Sacred in Argentina and
Italy, 1919–1945, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 2010, p. 165.
52. For example, Aristotle Kallis seems to take too much for granted in referring to
‘fascism’s own nature as millenarian political religion’. See A. Kallis, Genocide and Fas-
cism: The Eliminationist Drive in Fascist Europe, Abingdon and New York, Routledge,
2009, p. 321.
66 Fascism and Interactive Political Innovation

53. Vincent, ‘Spain’, p. 376.

54. C. Iordachi, ‘God’s chosen warriors: Romantic Palingenesis, militarism and fascism
in modern Romania’, in C. Iordachi, ed., Comparative Fascist Studies: New Perspectives,
London, Routledge, 2010, pp. 316–357; see especially pp. 350, 354.
55. Ibid., p. 340.
56. Kershaw, ‘Hitler and the uniqueness of Nazism’, p. 247.
57. Vincent, ‘Spain’, p. 375.
58. Pinto, ‘Elites, single-parties and political decision-making’, pp. 445–446.
59. Pinto, ‘Single-party, cabinet and political decision-making’, pp. 215–251.
60. Pinto, ‘Reply’, p. 464.
61. In his response to my comment, Pinto was right to charge that I was using the
totalitarian-authoritarian binominal too indiscriminately. See ibid., p. 465. Not that
it is any defence, but I note that the dichotomy is still widely used. Robert Paxton
employs the term ‘authoritarian’ unapologetically for the traditional reasons, with
extended use of the Franco example, in The Anatomy of Fascism, pp. 216–218. And
whereas at this point in his argument, the contrast is with fascism, not totalitar-
ianism, the later notion is implicit in his reference to ‘fascism’s urge to reduce
the private sphere to nothing’ (p. 217). Eatwell still uses totalitarianism, though
too conventionally, it seems to me, even as he ends up minimizing its import for
understanding fascism. On the one hand, ‘In Nazi Germany’, as he sees it, ‘the ulti-
mate goal was a form of totalitarianism, where other institutions would only exist
under state or party control’ (Eatwell, ‘Universal fascism’, p. 35). On the other hand,
in the last analysis, totalitarianism for Eatwell indicates a mere stylistic similarity
between fascism and Soviet communism during the 1930s. It is thus secondary at
best, because, as he puts it, ‘the totalitarian model omits a teleological dimension
which separates these two isms’ (Eatwell, ‘Universal fascism’, p. 38). Although Paul
Corner is not concerned with origins and aspirations in this instance, his usage of
the totalitarian/authoritarian dichotomy to characterize modes of practice in fas-
cist Italy seems appropriate and illuminating up to a point, but it would not help
us distinguish fascist from para-fascist regimes. The latter could also be considered
totalitarian as he uses the term. See P. Corner, ‘Italian Fascism: Whatever happened
to dictatorship?’ Journal of Modern History 74, June 2002, pp. 348–350. So though the
totalitarian/authoritarian dichotomy is still widely used, the applicability of both
terms remains uncertain and subject to discussion.
The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’:
Complexity and Reflexive Hybridity
Roger Eatwell

The rediscovery of generic fascism

Although few movements in inter-war Europe termed themselves fascist, and

there was only one such-self-styled regime, scholars initially found little diffi-
culty identifying a widespread fascist family.1 However, by the 1970s a growing
body of empirical evidence pointed to genetic difference rather than likeness.
As a result, many historians came to hold that even the previously paradigmatic
cases of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were not part of the same political fam-
ily (a conclusion that is still widely held).2 Most commonly, this view focused
on the allegedly sui generis nature of Nazi racism and, to a lesser extent, its more
pervasive and violent regime phase.
During the 1990s, interest in the nature of generic fascism revived, driven
by the claim it was possible to identify a radical fascist ideology.3 This con-
stituted an important corrective to earlier interpretations that had stressed
fascism’s violent nihilism, or the marxisant claim that its programme masked
capitalist reaction. However, when Roger Griffin claimed that a new consensus
had emerged around this approach many remained unconvinced.4 One major
critic, Robert Paxton, argued that the ideological approach is static, whereas
the two major manifestations of fascism went through five distinct phases from
birth to death, encompassing both conservatism and radicalism.5 This rightly
stresses the mercurial nature of fascism, though the argument overstates clear
diachronic development and neglects significant synchronic variation. Critics
have further argued that this ideological approach does little to explain the rise
of fascism, while its emphasis on the revolutionary nature of fascism differs
notably from aspects of regime practice, especially in Italy in which policies
included a historic accommodation with the Catholic Church in 1929.
In an attempt to add explanatory purchase, cultural-turn accounts have
increasingly portrayed fascism as a political religion that inspired new fanati-
cal beliefs, especially among the young. However, this offers a highly one-sided

68 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’

account of the rise of fascism. What is needed is a far more complex approach,
including consideration of feedback between different parts of political systems.
At the individual level, this requires integrating work that stresses the economic
appeal of fascism as well as its attraction to those suffering from a loss of iden-
tity and purpose.6 At the group and localized level, it requires understanding
that fascism frequently succeeded where associational membership was densest
not, as mass society theory posits, where it is weakest.7
The emphasis on the existence of a revolutionary ideology further encourages
the creation of a firewall between fascist and more conservative right-wing dic-
tatorships. This has frequently been expressed in terms of a distinction between
totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Although the classic totalitarian model
had fallen from favour after the 1960s, partly on account of its static nature, it
chimed with a cultural turn that sought to define fascism by its scope as well
as its ends. Its goal was not just a revolutionary new order, but a society in
which the barriers between the private and the public would be obliterated.
This was markedly different from traditional forms of authoritarianism, which
lacked both the desire and tools, such as the mass movement and controlled
mass media, to break down social divisions and structures.
However, António Costa Pinto and Aristotle Kallis have argued that Fascism
had a notable demonstration effect on regimes such as Franco’s military dic-
tatorship and Salazar’s more technocratic New State in Portugal, which are
typically placed in the authoritarian camp by liberal scholars. These states
adapted institutions, especially forms of corporatism and the single-party, in an
attempt to promote limited participation and greater social integration.8 More-
over, although neither dictator had a great deal of charisma (an Italian account
from the 1930s described the Portuguese system as ‘personal rule without per-
sonality’), both regimes borrowed from fascist propaganda and style. As a result,
some historians have characterized them as ‘para-fascism’, which points espe-
cially to the defensive borrowing of style, or ‘pseudo-fascism’, which points
more to the false nature of adaptation. The term ‘clerico-fascism’, which
points towards a genuine attempt at synthesizing anti-materialistic belief, has
also been used for regimes such as those of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg in Austria.
This emphasis on hybridity is important, though it is vital to stress that the
direction of causality did not run simply from fascism to mimetic movements
and regimes. There were multiple levels of feedback, with fascism being shaped
by its domestic and international environment, as well as other actors being
influenced by fascism. For example, although there were radical strands in the
1919 founding Fascist programme, Mussolini increasingly sought to portray
Fascism as a potential government partner, alluding to the Italian practice of
incorporating new party challengers (trasformismo). The manner of Mussolini’s
accession to power also influenced the Nazis, though initially they misread the
Roger Eatwell 69

March on Rome as a coup d’état rather than coup de théâtre, which helped inspire
the abortive 1923 Munich putsch. The failure of the latter and its judicial
aftermath, in turn, led to a reassessment of the Weimar Republic as a Janus-state
that housed many sympathetic radical nationalists and in which the directly
elected presidency offered the potential to develop a new form of authoritar-
ianism. These perspectives opened the possibility of more peaceful routes to
In view of these criticisms of the cultural turn, it is important to reiter-
ate that it is possible to identify a fascist ideology encompassing Nazism.
This is best seen as centring around three main themes, though aspects of
style such as the charismatic leader should also be noted if the focus turns
to parties and regimes. Fascism sought the creation of a new man (commu-
nal and martial), a holistic nationalism (situated in a dangerous geopolitical
world) and a new third-way state (neither capitalist nor communist).9 How-
ever, in practice these themes need to be analysed within a matrix in which
notably different syntheses were possible. For example, although many fascist
ideologues saw the third way in terms of creating a dynamic and prosperous
socio-economic order, there were others who saw it in more spiritual terms,
while some conservative opportunists were more concerned with controlling
the rising working class’s growing demands on national wealth by repressive
corporatist structures.
These differences are important when explaining mass support, as fascism
attracted activists and voters for a variety of reasons that cannot be understood
by Weberian ideal type generic concepts and largely mono-causal theories.
Moreover, an emphasis on hybridity helps explain how in practice conservative
and reactionary elites responded to the rise of fascism.
Turning to regimes, this hybridity becomes an even more important aspect of
practice. In Germany, the changing nature of the state after 1933 tells us more
about complex power struggles within the party and with German elites than
the political thought of Nazi intellectuals. Indeed, even among the ideologues
there were differences about how the state was conceived, with some seeking
a Führer-democracy in which the leader’s power was largely unconstrained,
whereas some early Nazis sought a more corporatist and legalist system. These
variations in both fascist theory and practice helped make fascism, especially
its Italian variant, an appealing model as relevant parts could be adapted to
other national situations and traditions, with these in turn becoming models
for others.
Before expanding these points about the rise of fascist movements and the
nature of inter-war right-wing regimes, it is necessary to consider briefly two
terms that are vital theoretical underpinnings to what follows: ‘complexity’
and ‘reflexive hybridity’.
70 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’

Complexity and reflexive hybridity

Complexity is not simply a synonym for complicated, a reference to the

difficulty of unravelling the relative importance of factors in explaining the
rise of fascism, such as micro-individual behaviour, meso-group influences and
macro-structural forces. Nor does it refer to the difficulties of unravelling the
precise process of policy-making, such as that which led to the launching of
Nazi genocide during 1939–42, and which had a bottom-up as well as top-down
dimension. Rather, it is used to highlight the fact it is impossible to understand
systems by simply examining specific constituent parts, as their relationships
can produce outcomes that could not be predicted if components are examined
individually. This core assumption of complexity theory is very different to
the reductionist approaches that lie at the heart of much of the recent generic
fascism literature, which holds that the whole can largely be understood by
delineating and systematizing key parts.
Although cultural-turn historians note that complicated factors were at play,
the basic approach is to understand the nature of fascism by focusing on dis-
course and symbolism. The point can be seen by examining the claim fascism
was a form of political religion that appealed to people suffering from anomie
resulting from rapid social change and traumatic shocks such as the impact of
the First World War. This conclusion is typically deduced from study of supply
rather than from a serious analysis of demand, namely an analysis of popular
mentalities and values. To the extent that the latter is considered, comments
from intellectuals about decadence and/or the isolation of the masses are often
taken as evidence of objective social reality.10 Similarly, quasi-religious ceremo-
nial and discourse are treated as if the audience, especially when consuming
the message at one step removed via various media, simply imbibed messages
uncritically. In practice, most would have filtered fascism through existing atti-
tudes and norms. Methodologically, this reflects the fact it is much easier for
historians to study texts and symbols than collective consciousness, especially
of nations that were made up of differentiated local communities and political
groups rather than a single imaginary.
Another important aspect of complexity theory is a stress on the openness
of systems. In the context of fascism, this points to the need to consider
transnational as well as national histories and starting points. In a full anal-
ysis, this would encompass much more than the impact of different right-wing
movements and regimes on each other, which is the focus of the following dis-
cussion. For instance, Ernst Nolte has argued that Soviet policies, such as forced
collectivization and the induced Ukrainian famine, offered a model for Nazi
terror and mass killings. While the vast majority of historians have rejected
a significant Soviet demonstration effect, there was an overreaction during
and after the impassioned Historikerstreit that followed Nolte’s controversial
Roger Eatwell 71

claims.11 It is also important to note the extensive coverage of the Bolshevik

terror in Germany during the immediate post-war years. This period also
saw a notable growth in the association of communism with Jews, like the
leader of the Red Army in the Civil War against the Whites, Leon Trotsky;
symptomatically a pre-war forgery entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,
which depicted Jews as lying behind both capitalist and communist attempts
to destroy the nation, circulated widely in Weimar Germany. Moreover, when
considering Nazi genocide it is important not to neglect the impact of American
and European historical expansion.12 Although it would be wrong to seek the
roots of anti-Semitism in the United States rather than Europe, Hitler loved
books and films about the American frontier, was aware of the doctrine of man-
ifest destiny and talked of the Volga as ‘our Mississippi’. In a similar form of
imperialist legitimation, Hitler talked of Russia as ‘our India’.
The Italian propaganda film 22 Maggio Anno XVII (1939) was modelled on
Vertov’s Soviet Three Songs about Lenin (1934). This portrayed leader-led eco-
nomic development in a country which in the 1930s was second only to
the Soviet Union in the relative size of its state sector. Hitler, who was influ-
enced by Henry Ford’s autobiography, believed the production of new goods
such as cars could both bolster the Nazi regime and reduce social inequali-
ties. The Volkswagen was genuinely meant to be the people’s car, at least once
new Lebensraum in the east had been won.13 Fascist and Nazi imperial ambi-
tions required a high level of productive capacity, so modern technology per se
could not be rejected. However, the fascist model did not simply ape American
capitalism, rather it sought to transform it by means such as leisure and wel-
fare organizations like the National Recreation Club (OND – Opera Nazionale
Dopolavoro), which was the inspiration for the Nazi Strength through Joy
(KdF – Kraft durch Freude) organization, and the Nazi beautification of factories
programme. These had romantic and socialist rather than liberal pedigrees.
Reflexive hybridity in this sense has to be distinguished from the post-
modern connotation of reflexivity involving a broad swathe of individuals
creating new identities. Reflexive hybridity is used in the context of fascism to
refer to the thinking of a relatively small group of people, though not just those
who have been the focus of high politics historiography. It is also important to
look at the role of civil servants and, more generally, of actors and forces that
come together to make policy. Even in dictatorships, policy normally involved a
process rather than single act of command bringing together different interests
and rules of engagement. The policy process also involves feedback about possi-
bilities, both in terms of memory and contemporary contagion. Moreover, the
growth of communications in the post-1918 era meant actors were more aware
of international examples: the newsreel in particular meant that new styles of
leadership were projected internationally as well as domestically. The devel-
opment of both fascist movements and related regimes, therefore, followed a
72 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’

dynamic trajectory. Actors were influenced by, but also could influence, their
domestic and wider environments.
Second, reflexive hybridity refers to the way in which mass audiences tend
to filter messages in a way posited by cognitive dissonance theory, namely
they fit messages into existing structures of thought, or adapt them in some
way. This is very different to seeing individuals in terms of a tabula rasa, as
implied by media power approaches, such as the hypodermic needle theory, in
which audiences are drugged. This is an especially important point when con-
sidering the impact of both the more revolutionary side of fascist rhetoric and
the discourse and symbolism that are typically the focus of political religion

The rise of fascism

The cultural turn involves a very different focus from the macro-structural
factors that featured in many classic accounts of the rise of fascism, such as
an alleged economic Sonderweg, which created a weak middle class squeezed
between a powerful grand bourgeoisie and rising working class. In one influen-
tial account, Barrington Moore developed a model that states an aristocratic–
bourgeois political coalition, caused by the relative weakness of both in the face
of a rising left, is the typical starting point of fascism.14 A much wider reduc-
tionist marxisant literature sees fascism as a form of dictatorship that emerges
in a capitalist crisis, when it is no longer possible to hold people in a state
of false consciousness (an analysis that helped prevent left-wing unity in the
face of fascism before the Comintern introduced the popular front line in the
At the macro level it is certainly important to write economics and poli-
tics back into historiography following a social turn that at times since the
1960s has seemed more interested in, for example, how women lived under
fascism than why it emerged. Fascism could not have succeeded in Italy and
Germany without an element of establishment connivance. Symptomatically,
although Hitler was prosecuted for treason following the Munich putsch, he
served less than a year in jail after a trial in which he was allowed to make
much-publicized propaganda statements from the dock. Similarly, the Nazis’
murderous incursion into working-class Altona in 1932, which was partly
designed to demonstrate their power compared to the notable-based right-
wing parties, could not have happened without preceding judicial and police
complicity about such violence.16
However, macro-structural approaches have weaknesses in terms of explain-
ing the rapid growth of fascism, and especially its specific age and class back-
ground. For example, why did the Nazi Party (NSDAP – Nationalsozialistische
Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) grow from just over 2 per cent of the vote in 1928
Roger Eatwell 73

to almost 40 per cent in free elections in 1932, making it almost twice the
size of the next largest party? The onset of rural, then more general, depres-
sion after 1929 appears to offer a relatively direct chronological fit in the
German case, especially as major public expenditure cuts weakened the clien-
telistic power of the dominant governing party, the Social Democrats (SPD –
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands). Nevertheless, there is no simple cor-
relation between economics and Nazi voting. Nor is there at the European level
between recession and the rise of fascism. This is recognized by Gramisciite
Marxist explanations, which place the main emphasis in the Italian case on
liberalism’s failure to develop a hegemonic relationship over the subordinate
classes, rather than the state of the economy in the early 1920s.
The political establishment in the early 20th century faced a series of chal-
lenges, especially the growth of universal suffrage, the rise of socialism and
the developing capitalist structure of economies. Some countries had to fur-
ther undergo the impact of world war, though this could strengthen as well as
weaken systems. The precise nature of these threats varied, as did the political
toolbox that elites had to respond to them. States like the United Kingdom were
established democracies with confident and experienced elites and a growing
labour movement that largely respected liberal norms and patriotically sup-
ported the First World War. In others, such as Germany, the rise of such norms
found only partial acceptance in a post-1918 republican state founded in defeat
and staffed by many who yearned for an authoritarian order, while the working-
class movement included a much larger extreme left. Allowing Hitler to form a
coalition government in January 1933 stemmed from fears among those around
the president, Field-Marshal von Hindenburg, that dictatorship could provoke
a civil war that would embroil the armed forces.17 The aristocratic Hindenburg,
who disdained the ‘Bohemian corporal’, was further influenced by his belief
Hitler would become dependent on his presidential authority. This was based
on a powerful trans-class nationalist myth, stemming from his role in the First
World War, though the general myth of the great leader had much deeper
Germanic roots.18
In some countries democratic norms were even less strongly embedded in
the establishment and/or the threat from the left seemed greater still. Spain’s
latifundia landowners feared democracy would lead to the redistribution of
their land in small parcels, especially after the reduction in electoral corruption
following the foundation of the republic in 1931. Although generally on the
political right, business elites were more willing to contemplate liberal democ-
racy as they thought that limited forms of welfare, which would only partly be
paid for by taxes on business, could promote industrial peace. However, when
faced with a radical left, especially one rapidly in the ascendant as in Italy after
1918, business elites too could turn to dictatorial solutions. In Spain this meant
looking primarily to the military, as the right was a relatively weak electoral
74 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’

and paramilitary force and the main group, the Carlists, looked more to the
technocratic Salazar regime than mass-based fascism for inspiration.
In Romania, ending most electoral malpractice helped the fascist Iron Guard
to a major electoral breakthrough in the mid-1930s.19 However, the authoritar-
ian King Carol II was well aware of the dangers of collaboration with fascists
following the German and Italian experience. He responded by arresting many
of the guard’s members, including its leader Codreanu, who were killed shortly
afterwards while ‘attempting to escape’. Nevertheless, even authoritarian sys-
tems in inter-war Europe tended to seek some form of popular legitimation,
and within two years a group of Iron Guard members who were more compli-
ant and conservative on socio-economic issues, if not in their virulent hatred
of Jews, was admitted into the new government of General Ion Antonescu.
Prior to coming to office in both Italy and Germany, fascist leaders had
sought to play a dual game in which paramilitary street violence was backed
by courting the establishment. Mussolini toned down the radical parts of the
founding programme and sought to distance himself from the more revolution-
ary leaders like Balbo.20 In Germany, Hitler and bourgeois Nazis like Frick and
Göring, courted business and other elites, promising to break the rising forces
of the left while remaining ambiguous about what form of government would
replace the hated Weimar Republic. Indeed, during his first broadcast speech as
chancellor in February 1933, Hitler asked the German people for just four years
to restore Germany, implying that he sought a form of temporary, exceptional,
rule at a time of crisis rather than a radically new form of state (though speak-
ing to industrialists shortly afterwards Hitler made it clear he did not envisage
new elections).
At the meso level, fascists often sought to work through civil society groups
that had begun to emerge during the 19th century. Generally, these groups
were associated with the rise of democratic values, like social Catholic attempts
to organize youth in France, a development that gathered pace after 1918
to counter the communist and fascist organization of youth.21 After electoral
take off in 1928 Nazism struggled to appeal to active members of the Catholic
Church as well as trade unions22 (though the survival of the party in its early
days involved an important strand of Catholic symbiosis in Munich, which
had been the scene of revolutionary left-wing activism after 1918).23 How-
ever, in some areas Protestant pastors supported the Nazis, helping to bring
over their flocks. Moreover, there was a variety of uncivil völkisch and quasi-
military groups like rifle clubs that had little love of democracy, and even less
of Jews who they associated with both democracy and communism.24 This role
of local opinion makers helps explain why in Schleswig Holstein, the only
region in which the Nazis obtained more than 50 per cent of the vote in 1932,
there were remarkably different levels of support in similar socio-economic
Roger Eatwell 75

Nevertheless, these factors alone cannot explain the precise chronology of

the rise of fascism. It is also necessary to look at the way in which the
NSDAP was reorganized after the disastrous election results in 1928, pay-
ing special attention to local and national propaganda themes. Although
fascism is typically associated with violence, an important strand in its ide-
ology was concerned with propaganda.25 While drawing on populist precur-
sors like Karl Lueger’s Christian Social Party (CS – Christlichsoziale Partei)
in Austria, Italian and German fascism were also clearly influenced by the
rise of socialism, especially its mixture of economic appeals with ritual and
In Germany’s case, there was also the example of Hindenburg’s 1925 presi-
dential campaign, in which he had been portrayed as the ‘saviour’, and which
exploited the new media of film and radio – though after the election he fre-
quently appeared in commercial adverts, such as for Opel cars. Fascist economic
propaganda was often targeted at specific groups, like peasants in northern
Italy. Sensitivity to propaganda themes could also be highly localized and tar-
geted at specific groups, with different imagery and language used in these
appeals. For example, the Nazis in Nordheim did not use anti-Semitic themes
prior to power, as prominent Jews were popular locally and such views risked
losing support.26
A central element in fascist propaganda concerned leadership, which had an
internal as well as external dimension. Within the party, it was vital that lead-
ers could keep factions together through hard times and the tactical changes
necessary to achieve power. Both Mussolini and especially Hitler exercised sig-
nificant coterie charisma within the party leadership, which helped prevent
damaging splits.27 Externally, these leaders did not exhibit a single image. For
instance, the Hitler myth after 1933 combined a God-like aura with an almost
managerial emphasis on policy success in fields such as growing employment
and reversing the Versailles Treaty in the foreign-policy sphere. Codreanu is
typically seen as the most mystical-religious of the major fascist leaders, but
during the Iron Guard’s rapid rise in the mid-1930s he promised a cow to some
supporters, a patch of land to others and even told peasants before the 1937
elections that they would be given free merchandise.
In terms of understanding voting behaviour, it is important to see leaders
in terms of their ability to personify a mission. This was especially the case in
Germany, where by 1932 the Nazis were often referred to as the Hitler Party.
Such leadership helps provide what rational choice theorists call low-cost sig-
nalling, namely the ability to reach a broad range of voters. Perceiving politics
through leaders also almost certainly reduced the dissonance that may well
have stemmed from a more careful study of party factions and programme, and
increased a sense of efficacy that made voting more likely. However, it is impor-
tant not to overstate this argument. For example, voting for the Italian Fascist
76 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’

Party (PNF – Partito Nazionale Fascista) prior to 1922 owed more to local leaders
than to Mussolini. Some fascist leaders, like Szalasi in Hungary, were almost
the antithesis of the stereotypical charismatic, underlying the importance of
programmatic rather than personal appeals.
If the focus turns to the micro dimension, is it possible to delineate the
archetypal fascist voter? Much of the early debate about support hinged around
mass society versus middle-class approaches, which pointed to very different
motivations.28 Mass society theory fell from favour after the 1960s, mainly
because fascism often gathered support where social bonds were greatest. The
middle-class approach has shown more consistent staying power, and cer-
tainly fascism was relatively strong among groups such as artisans and small
businessmen. However, rational choice approaches have recently stressed the
importance of economic motivations among a wider group of voters, including
sections of the rural and urban working class, which has led Nazism to be seen
as an all-class Volkspartei.29
Nevertheless, it is important not to overstate this relationship. Where fas-
cism succeeded in gaining mass electoral support it was more through its
syncretic appeal. Fascism undoubtedly adopted a religious style even before
it controlled the state in both Italy and Germany, which gave it the ability to
develop pervasive public ritual and symbolism. Paul Corner has clearly shown
in his study of Ferrara how the nascent Fascist movement used funerals of
its martyrs to develop a cult of the dead and emotional sense of belonging
among activists.30 However, both Fascism and Nazism developed a large body
of economic propaganda, and this arguably figured even more prominently in
electoral campaigning.31
Analysing the rise of fascist movements in inter-war Europe, therefore,
requires a multifaceted approach. Where successful, they appealed strongly to
the young, but they also attracted large numbers who had previously supported
other parties. Although fascist parties could attract a desperate ‘pessimistariat’
at times of economic crisis, they could also attract those who were genuinely
inspired by their mission to create a new socio-political community. Put in
the language of contemporary social science, fascism was a movement of both
affective and rational voters. In spite of their stereotypical taste for violence,
leaders of the two paradigmatic fascist movements often engaged in a pragmatic
assessment of political and social reality in their rise to power. For example,
after the failure of the 1923 Munich Putsch, key Nazis increasingly accepted the
importance of courting elite opinion and targeting violence mainly at left-wing
opponents rather than powerful elites and the state. This was notably differ-
ent to the Iron Guard, which combined the electoral road with assassination
of officials and powerful enemies. It also stood in contrast to the left in coun-
tries such as Spain, where many failed to understand how far they could go in
using violence and extremist rhetoric without provoking a spiral of cumulative
Roger Eatwell 77

extremist response including the right, which the liberal state was ultimately
unable to check.

The Fascist regime

The cultural turn in fascist historiography helped revive the totalitarian model.
Central to most new generic fascist approaches is the claim that fascism is a
revolutionary form of political religion. Less commonly, historians like David
Roberts have stressed the way in which fascism sought to create an ethical new
socio-economic order that would be both dynamic and break down class barri-
ers.32 However, common to all variations of the revived totalitarian approach is
a much greater emphasis on ideological intent rather than on regime practice.
As will become clear, this is an important corrective that helps deflect empirical
criticisms of the classic model, although it still points to a binary approach that
diverts attention from hybridity.
In its best-known iteration, the classic totalitarian model was structural rather
than genealogical and identified six key regime features: (i) an elaborate ideol-
ogy; (ii) a single mass party led by a dictator: (iii) terroristic police control;
(iv) monopoly control of communications; (v) a near complete control of
the armed forces; and (vi) a centralized bureaucratic control of the economy.
Juan Linz has influentially distinguished totalitarian regimes like the Nazis
from authoritarian ones.33 On this approach, crucial aspects which differentiate
right-wing authoritarian regimes, such as Salazar’s, include: (i) the acceptance
of alternative power centres like the church, large landowners and the emerging
class of big business; (ii) relatively low social penetration through new propa-
ganda media; (iii) the absence of a single-party, or at least one that served as
much more than a façade; and especially (iv) the absence of any systematic
ideology that sets out holistic, utopian views. This meant that in terms of con-
trol and legitimation, authoritarian regimes are seen as relying on the power of
the army and/or the authority of the church rather than popular support for a
charismatic dictator and/or party mission.
However, most historians have accepted the totalitarian model does not fit
the early stages of the two paradigmatic fascist regimes, during which power
was shared with conservative elites. Indeed, some argue that this situation
characterized the Italian Fascist regime until its final chaotic phase during the
Italian Social Republic (RSI – Repubblica Sociale Italiana) of 1943–45, when
under German tutelage it sought a return to the radical side of its roots. While
Mussolini used his authority after becoming prime minister to curb the power
of party rivals, it was only during the 1930s that the full cult of the Duce was
developed, complete with Ruritanian ceremony. Even then, Italy remained a
monarchy and in 1943 the Duce was overthrown by an internal coup, which
also involved the Fascist Grand Council.
78 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’

Hitler similarly initially headed a coalition cabinet. Even after other parties
were banned, Hindenburg remained in office until his death in August 1934.
Moreover, many leading personnel in the Weimar state retained their posts,
most notably Hjalmar Schact, who in 1934 moved from being head of the
Reichsbank to become economics minister. (An important reason for Nazi sus-
picions about the state was this form of continuity, which was extensive at a
lower level.) Ernst Fraenkel has identified a dual state in which a continuation
of previous institutions existed alongside a prerogative state (Massnahmenstaat)
that operated outside of legal constraints and was able to deploy brutal vio-
lence. This prerogative state became increasingly important following a process
of cumulative radicalization that took place after the late 1930s. While the
Nazis did not develop an elaborate conception of a totalitarian state of the
type expounded by Italian intellectuals like Gentile,34 such thinking influenced
Nazi plans to break with liberal democracy and create a total state, or wage
total war in a way that would harness the power of the nation. Nevertheless,
problems remain concerning how applicable the totalitarian model is even to
the cumulative radicalization phase. By the 1940s, the Nazi state was complex
polyarchy of competing ministerial, party and other cabals.35 The main bond
linking leading Nazis was a fervent desire to work towards the Führer.36
A further criticism of the totalitarian model, especially when applied to the
Italian case, is that the regime enjoyed nothing like monopoly control of com-
munications. Indeed, the role of Catholicism was increased in various ways
even before signing of the Lateran Treaty, including expanding religious teach-
ing in schools and recognition of religious festivals as public holidays. Although
the papacy adopted a form of realpolitik after 1922 that saw Fascism as the
least bad option compared to liberal, let alone left-wing, regimes, civil society
groups like Italian Catholic Action (ACI – Azione Cattolica Italiana) offered a
notable forum in which to voice dissent. This included criticism of the per-
sonality cult that grew up around Mussolini, and especially the ‘sacralization’
of the state during the 1930s.37 The adoption of official anti-Semitism in 1938
also met resistance within the church (although critics have argued that Pius
XI (1922–39) and Pius XII (1939–58) should have led much stronger resistance
to these policies, and especially to Nazi genocide).
The totalitarian model has been further attacked by research that indicated
the Fascist, and especially Nazi, regimes were underpinned by notable popu-
lar support rather than terroristic police control. This argument was based on
practices such as extensive denunciations to the Gestapo well before support
for the regime was reinforced by full employment and repeated foreign-policy
successes.38 In Italy, techniques for the surveillance of enemies in many ways
continued those of the liberal state, and there were never concentration camps
built for political prisoners. Even in Germany there were only 4,000 prisoners
held in camps in 1935, compared to 100,000 in normal prisons, with death
Roger Eatwell 79

the exception rather than norm for inmates at this time. However, critics have
argued that this research downplays the importance of dictatorial controls and
the threat of coercion.39 This is an important corrective that is more consistent
with the classic totalitarian model, though it poses a problem for a cultural
turn that has sought to argue a fascist Weltanschauung penetrated deeply into
the German and Italian people.
These regime ambiguities, especially in the early phase, almost certainly
enhanced Mussolini’s international demonstration effect.40 Arguably the most
commonly held view overseas up until the mid-1930s was that Mussolini was
a man who got things done: the man who agreed the historic Lateran Treaty
in 1929 that normalized church–state relations for the first time since Italian
unification, the man who helped Italy rise out of the world recession, the man
who helped unite a divided people. Hitler’s leadership and regime were seen
far more negatively abroad from the early days, especially in socialist and reli-
gious circles. Nevertheless, the German economic revival was viewed by some,
even in democratic countries such as the United Kingdom, as reinforcing the
importance of dictators, or at least strong leaders at moments of crisis.41 This
sometimes involved a form of doublethink, in which forms of government that
would not have been considered appropriate at home were considered relevant
in exceptional circumstances abroad. Even in ‘the land of the free’, Studebaker
launched a car named The Dictator in 1927, and there is evidence Roosevelt
was impressed by Mussolini’s statist economic policies, if not political system
(Mussolini was later to claim that the New Deal copied his corporate state).
The totalitarian–authoritarian regime division has also been attacked by aca-
demics who have focused on the catch-all authoritarian category. For example,
Hugh Seton Watson has sought to distinguish fascist from both conservative
and reactionary states, with the reactionary category mainly associated with
Catholic and Orthodox countries including regimes like Horthy’s in Hungary.
More recently, this trend has been refined by Michael Mann, who sets out
three categories of authoritarian regime. First, he identifies semi-authoritarian
regimes, such as the pre-Fascist Italian regimes of Salandra and Sonnino, and
the pre-Nazi ones of von Schleicher and von Papen. Second, he seeks to dis-
tinguish semi-reactionary authoritarian regimes, such as Salazar’s Portugal and
General Primo de Rivera’s Spain. Finally, he identifies a set of corporatist
regimes, such as King Carol II’s monarcho-fascism in Romania, followed by
General Antonescu’s military fascism, and the French Vichy regime.42
There were undoubtedly differences between these authoritarian regimes,
though viewed at the microscopic level it is possible to delineate even more sub-
types. For example, from 1937 to 1941 Romania went through arguably three
regime variations, including the entry into government of members of the Iron
Guard with its new leader, Horia Sima, becoming deputy prime minister. The
Vichy regime similarly went through different phases after 1940. The initial
80 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’

conservative phase was based heavily on the prestige of the ageing First World
War hero, Marshall Pétain, whose early homilies preached that France had
fallen into decadence that necessitated a return to traditions of work, family
and fatherland. However, by 1941 this post-revolutionary trinity was moving in
a more third-way direction, largely under the influence of young technocratic
elites who sought to modernize France so it could take an honoured place in
the new European order that was a key feature of German occupation rhetoric
(echoing a common theme among pre-war French fascist intellectuals.)43
Conversely, taking a more panoramic view, it could be argued that the lines
of division between Mann’s second and third category, and even fascism, are
far from clear. Certainly, a notable intellectual influence on key personnel in
the Salazar regime was Charles Maurras, the leader of the Action Française,
whose integral nationalism has been seen by some historians as an important
harbinger of fascism.44 While most have seen his thought as too traditional-
ist and positivist to be truly fascist, his critique of capitalism and democracy
had many similarities. His famous slogan la politique d’abord (politics first) did
not mean that his primary focus was only to change political institutions, but
rather his belief that this had to come before a new economic order could
be instituted. Although his elitist strategy meant he never sought to make
Action Française a mass movement, his ideas undoubtedly influenced a wider
swathe of policy-related thinking in the Vichy regime, and not simply among
those who sought to demonstrate French rather than foreign intellectual roots
(Maurras always opposed Nazism, though there were strong anti-German well
as philosophical dimensions to this position).45
The difficulty of drawing neat lines between different regimes has led some to
suggest using terms such as ‘para-fascism’ and’ pseudo-fascism’ for dictatorships
such as Salazar’s, Franco’s and Vichy France. Although usage is not consistent,
the former tends to point to defensive borrowing especially of style, such as:
leader-focused propaganda (if not necessarily worship), and/or a limited-use
of a single-party, for instance to help socialize and train prospective mem-
bers of the state bureaucracy. Pseudo-fascism points more to the false nature
of some adaptation, such as third-way policies targeted at the working class,
which mask conservative interests: for example, in spite of corporatist develop-
ments in Spain after 1939 accompanied by syndicalist rhetoric, these favoured
the interests of the employers rather than the workers. Used carefully, such
terms illustrate the possibility of hybridity, though they verge on oxymoronic
when used by those who hold fascism is best defined in terms of a revolutionary
Another amalgam is ‘clerico-fascism’, a term which has been used for regimes
such as that of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg in Austria. These have usually been
seen by scholars as authoritarian.47 This conclusion is based on the argu-
ment that the regimes were largely reactionary, seeking to recreate a version
Roger Eatwell 81

of German-speaking Christendom, and lacking both the radical ideology and

modern mass movement to qualify as fascist. However, some recent research
tends to produce a more nuanced picture, arguing Schuschnigg’s acceptance
of the label Klerofaschismus represented a genuine attempt at symbiosis in a
country that spawned one of the largest fascist movements in Europe.48 Both
Dollfuss and Schuschnigg sought to unite classes and defuse domestic Nazism
by developing a form of corporate state. Although this was influenced by the
works of the conservative Viennese academic, Othmar Spann, and the 1931
papal encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, the Fascist model clearly influenced the
building of the Austrian corporate state. Moreover, the move to dictatorship
in 1933 was accompanied by the development of a doctrine of Führerprinzip.
After the assassination of Dollfuss by local Nazis in 1934, further fascist-inspired
developments included the attempt to make the Fatherland Front a monop-
olistic mass party, the creation of a state leisure organization and a state
youth group.
Although the direction of causality most typically emanated from fascism,
the multi-dimensionality of hybridity can be seen by considering inter-war
Spain. In its early days Francoism created a single-party, the Falange, and lifted
propaganda posters and slogans directly from Italy. As in its Italian equivalent,
the women’s section of the Falange contained both modernist and traditional-
ist elements.49 Its military tribunals, which dispensed brutal summary justice,
were set up with advice from Nazi legal theorists. In 1937, a leading Francoist
even stated that ‘Nationalist Spain has fascist roots whose links to Hitler and
Mussolini are not to be denied’.50 However, internal as well as external develop-
ments and forces exerted significant influence over the origin and development
of the regime. Its military pronunciamiento reflected the weakness of the political
Spanish nationalist right, whose small paramilitary wing was met with notable
violence from the left, especially after the Nazi takeover. Key regime features
reflected attempts to rectify failures of the dictatorial regime of Primo de Rivera,
which had sought to build a broad base by limited reforms, but which had failed
to plant any firm roots in the poorer classes.
In many ways, the crisis that led to the Primo de Rivera dictatorship in 1923
was analogous to that of Italy prior to 1922, in particular the owning classes’
loss of faith in the ability of the existing political order to guarantee their inter-
ests.51 The ensuing regime has been referred to as fascism from above, and there
are unquestioned parallels at the policy level.52 Primo de Rivera was commit-
ted to economic modernization and saw corporatism as an important vehicle
to ensure social peace at a time of rapid development, portraying his policies
as neither left nor right. Although regime spokesmen pointed to a variety of
influences, including social-Catholicism and the Polish Pilsudski dictatorship,
Primo de Rivera visited Fascist Italy within two months of taking power and
was later visited by leading Fascists, including one of their most intellectual
82 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’

members, Giuseppe Bottai. During the closing stages of the regime, Primo de
Rivera was considering introducing a single-party similar to the PNF in order to
mobilize popular support behind the regime and help radicalize conservative
elites within government.53
This demise of the Primo de Rivera regime in 1930 and the development
of the other Iberian dictatorships needs further examination in the context of
their impact in Italy. While its precise importance to Mussolini remains unclear,
it probably reinforced his fears about the way in which compromises with con-
servative forces had blunted Fascism’s radical edge. Although in 1936 Mussolini
advised the Nazi Hans Frank to let the state take care of politics and leave reli-
gion to the church, by this time he was increasingly aware of the dangers of
sharing authority and power. The early 1930s saw notable conflicts between the
church and regime, with groups like ACI seeking nothing less than the recon-
quest of Italian society.54 The development of the corporatist Salazar regime
during the 1930s in another Catholic country seems to have offered another
cautionary tale for some leading Fascists. Certainly a 1935 Italian report on the
Portuguese New State claimed Fascism was a system of thought, whereas the
New State was ‘merely a form of government’.55 Mussolini’s response to regime
atrophy in Italy was to see war abroad and anti-Semitism at home as key ways
of reviving the quest for a Fascist new man and challenging the church which,
in spite of its anti-Semitic traditions, was doctrinally universalist.
The complex interplay between fascism and other systems can be further
seen by considering the case of Argentina, with one recent study arguing this
produced a widespread form of clerico-fascist synthesis.56 Interest in this form
of hybridity was encouraged by praise for Fascism from Cardinal Pacelli when
he visited Buenos Aires, and by the more clearly anti-clerical line of the Nazi
government, which allowed Italian Fascism to be seen as non-totalitarian. The
Franco regime was similarly widely seen as a model that was not totalitarian
and clearly supportive of Catholicism.
Fascism rather than Francoism is normally seen as of far greater influence in
forming the views of Perón, who rapidly rose to power in Argentina follow-
ing the 1943 military coup. Certainly, Peron’s anti-clerical views and desire to
appeal to the working class were a far cry from the Caudillo’s politics. Moreover,
Perón had visited Italy in 1940 and was clearly impressed by features such as
the leisure and welfare schemes. Nevertheless, Perón was interested in aspects
of the early Francoist regime, including its experiment with corporatism and
hispanidad rhetoric. He sought a break with the Anglo-Saxon model of capital-
ism and neo-colonial relations, but realized the dangers of seeking autarky in a
small and narrowly based economy. A wider Iberian-Latin American grouping
offered possibilities of developing alternative models.57 However, these ideas
were not new to Francoism. They were prominent in the later phase of the
Primo de Rivera regime, which had sent a prominent hispanidad intellectual to
Roger Eatwell 83

Buenos Aires as ambassador in 1930 – though their initial resonance was more
among those who sought to preserve the existing order, while modernizing it,
rather than create a Peron-like third-way justicialismo.
Analysing the emergence of fascist and other right-wing regimes, therefore,
requires a multi-dimensional approach. There was undoubtedly a strong diffu-
sion effect from fascism to others, but there was reverse feedback too from both
domestic and international actors and models. However, it is important not
to overstate the impact of style features such as ‘charismatized’ leadership, or
institutional ones such as the single-party. Fascism was also of interest because
it sought to resolve problems associated with the rise of international capi-
talism. In France, many on the extreme right claimed they sought to learn
from Nazism rather than copy it, especially in areas such as fighting unem-
ployment.58 Peter Drucker, a Jewish émigré from Nazism, caught this Zeitgeist
when he wrote at the end of the 1930s: ‘fascist totalitarianism has assumed
the proportions of a major world revolution. It has become the only effec-
tive political force in Europe.’59 He added that the most fundamental feature
of totalitarianism in Germany and Italy was its attempt to build system sup-
port not simply through economic rewards. Even someone who had good
reason to despise Nazism could reflect positively on the way in which fas-
cists sought to hybridize (national) capitalism and forms of socialism and


The cultural turn in fascist studies represented a major development in the

study of the history of political thought. It stressed that a serious fascist ide-
ology had emerged by the 1920s, though in general it played down its more
mercurial and syncretic side. However, in terms of understanding the rise of fas-
cism it offers far more limited insights unless its ideology is understood within
a matrix that permitted a myriad of syntheses. A more essentialist approach,
focusing on its revolutionary side, creates the paradox that many fascist voters
were not true fascists.
This approach also points to the conclusion that the only regime to term itself
Fascist was not truly fascist, although many of its leaders had totalitarian aspira-
tions! In practice, a complex set of interactions meant the two major fascist and
other right-wing regimes could develop in non-linear ways. Fascism was more
a flexible strategy to achieve power than a blueprint. Although leaders such as
Mussolini and Hitler were undoubtedly driven by missions and cannot be seen
as simply opportunistic, their leadership, especially in the early stages, must be
understood in terms of an interaction among agents. In understanding the tra-
jectory of fascism, it is vital to be sensitive to both initial conditions and then
the dynamic process of feedback in which agents interact. Instead of simply
84 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’

allocating countries to totalitarian or authoritarian typologies, or criticizing

this binary division by creating a plethora of subtypes, they should be stud-
ied empirically in order to establish which features combined within them, in
what proportions and with what modifications over time.
All right-wing dictatorial inter-war regimes owed much to bricolage, though
this is not to say that there were not important differences between them.
Arguably, the most important of these were in relation to desires to change the
nature of the relationship between the individual, the nation and the state, and
more specifically to radically change the existing socio-economic order. In this
broad sense, the distinction between totalitarianism, which sought a new holis-
tic order, and authoritarian regimes retains useful heuristic value, though these
concepts need to be seen within a continuum in the real world rather than as
ideal types.

1. For example, W. Theimer, ed., The Penguin Political Dictionary, London, Penguin,
1939, especially p. 96.
2. In keeping with common anglophone practice, Fascism refers to the specifically
Italian variant, and fascism to its generic form.
3. An approach pioneered in works such as A. J. Gregor, The Fascist Persuasion in
Radical Politics, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1974; G. Mosse, ed., Inter-
national Fascism: New Thoughts and New Approaches, Beverly Hills, CA, Sage, 1979; and
Z. Sternhell, Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France, Princeton, NJ, Princeton
University Press, 1986.
4. R. Griffin, ed., International Fascism: Theories, Causes and the New Consensus, London,
Arnold, 1998.
5. R. O. Paxton, ‘The five stages of fascism’, Journal of Modern History 70, no. 1, 1998,
pp. 1–23.
6. E. Spencer Wellhofer, ‘Democracy and fascism: Class, civil society, and rational
choice in Italy’, American Political Science Review 97, no. 1, 2003, pp. 91–106.
7. D. J. Riley, The Civic Foundations of Fascism. Italy, Spain and Romania, 1870–1945,
Baltimore, MD, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.
8. A. Costa Pinto, Salazar’s Dictatorship and European Fascism, New York, Columbia Uni-
versity Press, 1995, and A. Kallis, ‘ “Fascism”, “para-fascism” and “fascistisation”:
On the similarities of three conceptual categories’, European History Quarterly 33,
no. 2, 2003, pp. 219–249.
9. R. Eatwell, ‘Towards a new model of generic fascism’, Journal of Theoretical Politics 4,
no. 2, 1992, pp. 161–194; ‘The nature of generic fascism: The “fascist minimum” and
the “fascist matrix” ’, in C. Iordachi, ed., Comparative Fascist Studies: New Perspectives,
London, Routledge, 2009, pp. 134–161; ‘Fascism’, in M. Freeden, L. T. Sargent and
M. Stears, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies, Oxford, Oxford University
Press, 2013, pp. 474–492.
10. For example, R. Griffin, Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a New Beginning under
Mussolini and Hitler, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
11. C. Goeschel and N. Wachsmann, ‘Before Auschwitz: The formation of Nazi concen-
tration camps, 1933–39’, Journal of Contemporary History 45, no. 3, 2010, pp. 515–534.
Roger Eatwell 85

12. D. Stone, Histories of the Holocaust, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010.
13. R. Overy, The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, New York, W. W. Norton,
2004, p. 237.
14. B. Moore Jr, Social Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship, Boston, MA, Beacon, 1966.
15. For a review of classic Marxist approaches see D. Beetham, ed., Marxists in Face of Fas-
cism: Writings by Marxists on Fascism from the Inter-war Period, Manchester, Manchester
University Press, 1983.
16. A. McElligott, Contested City: Municipal Politics and the Rise of Nazism in Altona,
1917–37, Ann Arbor, MI, University of Michigan Press, 1998.
17. H.R. Turner, Hitler’s Thirty Days to Power: January 1933, New York, Basic Books, 1996.
18. A. von der Goltz, Hindenburg. Power, Myth and the Rise of the Nazis, Oxford, Oxford
University Press, 2009.
19. C. Iordachi, Charisma, Politics and Violence: The Legion of the ‘Archangel Michael’ in
Inter-War Romania, Trondheim, Trondheim Studies on East European Cultures and
Societies, 2004.
20. A. Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy, 1919–1929, London, Routledge,
21. S. Whitney, Mobilizing Youth. Communists and Catholics in Inter-War France, Durham,
NC, Duke University Press, 2009.
22. D. Mühlberger, The Social Bases of Nazism, 1919–1933, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press, 2003.
23. D. Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Social-
ism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010; K. P. Spicer, Hitler’s Priests: Catholic Clergy
and National Socialism, DeKalb, IL, Northern Illinois University Press, 2008.
24. For example, R. Koshar, Social Life, Local Politics, and Nazism: Marburg, 1880–1935,
Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Press, 1986.
25. R. Eatwell, ‘Ideology, propaganda, violence and the rise of fascism’, in A. C. Pinto,
ed., Rethinking the Nature of Fascism: Comparative Perspectives, Basingstoke, Palgrave
Macmillan, 2010, pp. 165–185.
26. W. S. Allen, The Nazi Seizure of Power: the Experience of a Single German Town 1920–
1945, Danbury, CT, Franklin Watts, 1966.
27. R. Eatwell, ‘The concept and theory of charismatic leadership’, in A. C. Pinto,
R. Eatwell and S. Larsen, eds, Charisma and Fascism in Inter-War Europe, London,
Routledge, 2006, pp. 3–18.
28. Cf. A. Kornhauser, The Politics of Mass Society, Glencoe, IL, The Free Press, 1959, with
S. M. Lipset, Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics, New York, Doubleday, 1963.
29. See especially W. Brustein, The Logic of Evil. The Social Origins of the Nazi Party,
1925–1933, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1996.
30. P. Corner, Fascism in Ferrara, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1975.
31. B. M. Lane and L. J. Rupp, eds, Nazi Ideology before 1933: A Documentation,
Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1978.
32. See especially D. Roberts, The Totalitarian Experiment in Twentieth Century Europe,
Abingdon and New York, Routledge, 2006.
33. J. Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, Boulder, CO, Lynn Rienner, 2000.
34. On totalitarian theory, see A. J. Gregor, Mussolini’s Intellectuals: Fascist Social and Polit-
ical Thought, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2005, though this plays down
the Nazi link.
35. For example, C. Gerlach and N. Werth, ‘State violence – violent societies’, in M. Geyer
and S. Fitzpatrick, eds, Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared,
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 133–179.
86 The Nature of ‘Generic Fascism’

36. I. Kershaw, Hitler, 1889–1936: Hubris, London, W. W. Norton, 1996.

37. J. Nelis, ‘The clerical response to a totalitarian political religion: La Civiltà Cattolica
and Italian Fascism’, Journal of Contemporary History 46, no. 2, 2011, pp. 245–270.
38. R. Gellately, The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933–1945,
Oxford, Clarendon Paperbacks, 1992. See also J. Dunnage, ‘Surveillance and denun-
ciation in Fascist Siena, 1927–43’, European History Quarterly 38, no. 2, 2008,
pp. 244–265.
39. P. Corner, ‘Italian Fascism: Whatever happened to dictatorship?’, Journal of Modern
History 74, no. 2, 2002, pp. 325–351. See also P. Corner, The Fascist Party and Popular
Opinion in Mussolini’s Italy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.
40. Pinto, Eatwell and Larsen, Charisma and Fascism.
41. R. Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right: British Enthusiasts for Nazi Germany 1933–39,
London, Faber & Faber, 1983.
42. M. Mann, Fascists, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. x ff.
43. For example, D. La Rochelle, L’Europe Contre les Patries, Paris, Gallimard, 1931.
44. E. Nolte, Three Faces of Fascism: Action Francaise, Italian Fascism, National Socialism,
London, Holt & Co., 1966.
45. On the influence of Maurras and fascist tendencies see J. Hellman, The Knight-Monks
of Vichy France: Uriage, 1940–45, Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993.
46. R. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, London, Routledge, 1991, especially pp. 120–128.
47. For example, S. Payne, A History of Fascism, 1914–1945, Madison, WI, University of
Wisconsin Press, 1995, pp. 250–251.
48. For example, J. Thorpe, ‘Austrofascism: Revisiting the “authoritarian state” 40 years
on’, Journal of Contemporary History 45, no. 2, 2010, pp. 315–343.
49. I. Ofer, ‘A “new” woman for a “new” Spain: the Sección Femenina de la Falange and
the image of the national syndicalist woman’, European History Quarterly 39, no. 4,
2009, pp. 583–605.
50. S. Payne, Franco and Hitler: Spain, Germany and World War II, New Haven, CT, Yale
University Press, 2007, p. 49.
51. P. Preston, The Politics of Revenge: Fascism and the Military in Twentieth Century Spain,
London, Routledge, 1995, especially p. 13.
52. S. Ben Ami, Fascism from Above: The Dictatorship of Primo de Rivera in Spain, 1923–
1930, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1983.
53. S. G. Payne, Fascism in Spain, 1923–1977, Madison, WI, University of Wisconsin
Press, 2000, pp. 27 ff.
54. J. F. Pollard, The Vatican and Italian Fascism, 1929–32: A Study in Conflict, Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press, 1985.
55. Cited in A. Kallis, ed., The Fascism Reader, London, Routledge, 2002, pp. 314–315.
56. F. Finchelstein, Transatlantic Fascism: Ideology, Violence and the Sacred in Argentina and
Italy, 1919–1945, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 2010.
57. On relations with Spain see R. Rein, The Franco-Peron Alliance: Relations between Spain
and Argentina, 1946–1955, Pittsburgh, PA, University of Pittsburgh Press,1993.
58. D. Orlow, The Lure of Fascism in Western Europe: German Nazis, Dutch and French
Fascists, 1933–39, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
59. P. Drucker, The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism, New York, Harper
& Row, 1939, p. 3.
Fascism, Corporatism and the Crafting
of Authoritarian Institutions in
Inter-War European Dictatorships
António Costa Pinto

Corporatism put an indelible mark on the first decades of the 20th century,
both as a set of institutions created by the forced integration of organized
interests (mainly independent unions) in the state, and as an organic-statist
alternative to liberal democracy.1 Variants of corporatism inspired conservative,
radical-right and fascist parties, not to mention the Roman Catholic Church
and the third-way options of segments of the technocratic elites. It also inspired
dictatorships – stretching from António de Oliveira Salazar’s Portuguese New
State through Benito Mussolini’s Italy and the Austria of Engelbert Dolfuss,
right across to the new Baltic states – to create institutions to legitimate their
regimes. The European variants spread throughout Latin America and Asia,
particularly in Brazil, Argentina and Turkey.2
When we look at 20th-century dictatorships we note some degree of insti-
tutional variation. Parties, cabinets, parliaments, corporatist assemblies, juntas
and a whole set of parallel and auxiliary structures of domination, mobiliza-
tion and control were symbols of the (often tense) diversity characterizing
authoritarian regimes.3 These authoritarian institutions, created in the political
laboratory of inter-war Europe, expanded across the globe after the end of the
Second World War: particularly the personalization of leadership, the single-
party and the organic-statist legislatures. Some contemporaries of fascism had
already realized some of the institutions created by the inter-war dictatorships
could be durable. As the committed early 20th-century observer, Romanian
academic and politically authoritarian Mihail Manoilescu, noted, ‘of all the
political and social creations of our century – which for the historian began
in 1918 – there are two that have in a definitive way enriched humanity’s pat-
rimony . . . corporatism and the single-party’.4 Manoilescu dedicated a study to
each of these political institutions without knowing in 1936 that some aspects
of the former would be long-lasting and that the latter would become one of
the most durable political instruments of dictatorships.5

88 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

Inter-war dictatorships were personalized authoritarian regimes.6 Even those

regimes that were institutionalized following military coups or military dic-
tatorships gave rise to personalist regimes and attempts to create single or
dominant regime parties. The personalization of leadership within dictatorial
regimes became a dominant characteristic of the fascist era.7 However, autocrats
need institutions and elites to exercise their rule, and their role has often been
underestimated as it has been taken as a given that decision-making power was
centralized in the dictators.8 To prevent the undermining of their legitimacy
and the usurpation of their authority, dictators need to co-opt elites and to
either create or adapt institutions to be the locus of the co-optation, negotia-
tion and (sometimes) decision-making: ‘without institutions they cannot make
policy concessions’.9 On the other hand, and as Amos Perlmutter has noted, no
authoritarian regime can survive politically without the critical support of such
modern elites as bureaucrats, managers, technocrats and the military.10
If the typical fascist regimes of’ Italy and Germany were based on a takeover
of power by a party, many civilian and military rulers of inter-war Europe
did not have a ‘ready-made organization upon which to rely’.11 In order to
counteract their precarious position, dictators tended to create regime par-
ties. Some fascist movements emerged during the inter-war period either as
rivals to or unstable partners within the single or dominant government party,
and often as inhibitors to their formation, making the institutionalization
of the regimes more difficult for the dictatorial candidates. Inter-war dicta-
tors also established controlled parliaments, corporatist assemblies or other
bureaucratic-authoritarian consultative bodies. The political institutions of the
dictatorships, even those legislatures some authors have described as nominally
democratic, were not just window dressing: they did affect policy-making.12
Autocrats also need compliance and co-operation and, in some cases in order
‘to organize policy compromises, dictators need nominally democratic insti-
tutions’ that can serve as forums in which factions, and even the regime
and its opposition, can forge agreements.13 ‘Nominally democratic institutions
can help authoritarian rulers maintain coalitions and survive in power’,14 and
‘corporatist parliaments’ are legitimating institutions for dictatorships and are
also sometimes the locus of that process.
In this chapter we will examine the role of corporatism as a political device
against liberal democracy that permeated the political right during the first
wave of democratization, and especially as a set of authoritarian institu-
tions that spread across inter-war Europe and which was an agent for the
hybridization of the institutions of fascist-era dictatorships. Powerful processes
of institutional transfers were a hallmark of inter-war dictatorships, and we
will argue corporatism was at the forefront of this process of cross-national
diffusion, both as a new form of organized interest representation and as an
authoritarian alternative to parliamentary democracy.15
António Costa Pinto 89

Social and political corporatism during the first wave

of democratization

Corporatism as an ideology and as a type of organized interest representa-

tion was initially promoted by the Roman Catholic Church from the late-19th
through to the mid-20th century as a third-way in opposition to socialism and
liberal capitalism.16 Much of the model predates the Papal encyclical Rerum
Novarum (1891), and was due to the romanticization of medieval Europe’s
feudal guilds by 19th-century conservatives who had become disenchanted
with liberalism and fearful of socialism and democracy. However, ‘the church’s
explicit endorsement surely moved corporatism from seminar rooms to presi-
dential palaces’, especially after the publication of the encyclical Quadragesimo
Anno (1931).17
Corporatism became a powerful ideological and institutional device against
liberal democracy during the first half of the 20th century, but the neo-
corporatist practices of some democracies during its second half – not to speak
of the more recent use of the word within the social sciences18 – demands a
definition of the phenomenon being studied, and for the sake of conceptual
clarity, to disentangle social from political corporatism:
Social corporatism ‘can be defined as a system of interest representation
in which the constituent units are organized into a limited number of sin-
gular, compulsory, non-competitive, hierarchically-ordered and functionally-
differentiated categories, recognized or licensed (if not created) by the state and
granted a deliberate representational monopoly within their respective cate-
gories in exchange for observing certain controls on their selection of leaders
and articulation of demands and support’.19
Political corporatism can be defined as a system of political representation
based in an organic-statist view of society in which its organic units (fam-
ilies, local powers, professional associations and interest organizations and
institutions) replace the individual-centred electoral model of representation
and parliamentary legitimacy, becoming the primary and/or complementary
legislative or advisory body of the ruler’s executive.
A central ideal of corporatist thinkers was the organic nature of society in the
political and economic sphere. This was based on a critique of what Ugo Spirito
called the egotistical and individualist homo economicus of liberal capitalism,
which was to be replaced by a homo corporativus, which would be motivated by
the national interest and common values and objectives.20
During the inter-war period corporatism permeated the main political fam-
ilies of the conservative and authoritarian political right: from the Catholic
parties and social Catholicism to radical-right royalists and fascists, not to
speak of Durkheimian solidarist and supporters of technocratic governments.21
Royalists, republicans, technocrats, fascists and social-Catholics shared ‘a
90 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

notable degree of common ground on views about democracy and represen-

tation’ and on the project of a functional representation as an alternative to
liberal democracy, namely as constituencies of legislative chambers or councils
that were established in many authoritarian regimes during the 20th century.22
However, there were differences between the Catholic corporatist formulations
of the late 19th century and the integral corporatist proposals of some fascist
and radical right-wing parties. When we look at fascist party programmes and
segments of the radical right, like the Action Française-inspired movements, the
portrait is even clearer, with many reinforcing ‘integral corporatism’ vis-à-vis a
social Catholicism. Two examples are sufficient to illustrate this:
In the Spanish Second Republic, the Spanish Confederation of Autonomous
Rights (CEDA – Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas), which
was formed in 1933 through the unification of a number of conservative
Catholic groups, and was the first party based ‘on a politically mobilized mass
Catholicism’, which for electoral reasons was poorly defined and called for the
establishment of ‘a corporatist, Catholic and conservative republic’ similar to
the one created by Salazar in neighbouring Portugal and Dolfuss in Austria.23
When José Antonio Primo de Rivera founded the Falange Española, it was
immediately suggested parliament be replaced by a system of corporatist repre-
sentation that recognized the family, the municipality, the union, the business
organization and the corporation ‘as the authentic bases of state organiza-
tion’.24 However, in an attempt to demarcate its political programme from
CEDA, the Falange strengthened its revolutionary programme, which included
the nationalization of the banks, and José António managed to unmask some
of the conservative dimensions of the corporate state.25
In inter-war Belgium, while for the Catholic unions the authoritarian
models – even those of the Portuguese New State – were considered ‘statist’
and not to be followed (they even came to avoid using the word), the right
wing of the Catholic party was inclined to view them positively.26 For those
on the extreme right of the Catholic party, corporatism had to be ‘the bases of
political representation and a means of organizing the working class, which had
lost all of its independence’.27 ‘Some Catholics were sympathetic towards the
authoritarian regimes in Portugal and Austria. Corporatism . . . was an important
aspect, but few Catholics wanted to replace democracy with a corporatist and
authoritarian regime’.28 Despite the differences between Flemish and Walloons
in a Catholic subculture that was more sensitive to the working class in the for-
mer and more mistrustful of the ‘masses’ in the latter, corporatism permeated
the political culture of the conservative elites, particularly the Catholic elite;
however, their influence on institutional reform was limited. In 1938 a very
moderate proposal, which was more a project of social concertation than of
corporatist organization, was approved by the senate.
António Costa Pinto 91

The Rexist Party (Parti Rexiste) led by Leon Degrelle emerged from a split
within Catholic Action in November 1935. Independently of the complex
course followed by Degrelle’s Rexists on their path to fascism, this movement’s
roots were within the Catholic camp and did not escape the rule of the author-
itarian radicalization of corporatist representation as a means of differentiating
themselves from the conservatives.29 However, its increasing criticism of parlia-
mentarianism went beyond corporatism, which was not a central theme of the
Rexist’s political agenda.
Although part of the same ideological magma, social and political
corporatism did not necessarily follow the same path in 20th-century poli-
tics. On the other hand, the historical experience with corporatism has not
been confined to dictatorships, and in liberal democracies ‘implicit tendencies
toward corporatist structures developed both before and concurrently with the
emergence of fascism’.30 In fact, occupational representation was not limited to
the world of dictatorships, with several democracies discovering complements
to the typical parliamentary representation. Corporatist ideology was particu-
larly strong in Ireland’s 1937 constitution, for example, which called for the
election of groups representing interests and services, while several other inter-
war bicameral democracies introduced corporatist representation to their upper
Many ideologists of social corporatism – particularly within Catholic circles –
advocated a societal corporatism without an omnipresent state, but the praxis
of corporatist patterns of representation was mainly the result of an imposition
by authoritarian political elites to civil society.32 Under inter-war dictatorships
corporatism became synonymous with the process of forced unification of
organized interests into single units of employers and employees closely con-
trolled by the state, and which eliminated their independence: especially that
of trade unions. Social corporatism offered autocrats a formalized system of
interest representation to manage labour relations, legitimizing the repression
of free labour unionism by the co-optation of some of its segments through
state-controlled unions, often with compulsory membership. Last but not least,
corporatist arrangements also sought to ‘allow the state, labour and business
to express their interests and arrive at outcomes that are, first and foremost,
satisfactory to the regime’.33
However, during this period corporatism was also (and in some cases mainly)
used to refer to the comprehensive organization of political society beyond
state–social groups relations seeking to replace liberal democracy with an anti-
individualist system of representation.34 In fact, in many cases the corporatist
or economic parliaments either co-existed with and assisted parliaments or
replaced them with a new legislature with consultative functions, which pro-
vided the government with technical assistance. The most influential theorist
92 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

of Quadragesimo Anno, the Jesuit Heirich Pesch, did mention the economic
parliament as a ‘central clearing house’ of his organic view, but he left its
structure to the future.35 With Rerum Novarum, the corporatism frame became
clearer, with a corporatist reorganization of society associated with the strong
anti-secular principles of parliamentary democracy held by Pope Pius XII.
In 1937 Karl Loewenstein saw ‘this romantic concept of organic representa-
tion’, in new legislatures trying to be a ‘true mirror of the social forces of
the nation and a genuine replica of its economic structure’.36 However, the
role of corporatist bodies within the dictatorships was certainly much less
George Valois, the syndicalist ideologist of Action Française and founder
of one of the first French fascist movements, encapsulated the functions of
corporatist legislatures when he proposed the replacement of parliament with
general estates (états généraux). ‘This body was not to be an assembly in which
decisions were made based on majority votes or where the majority would be
able to overwhelm the minority; rather, it was to be an assembly in which
the corporations adjusted their interests in favour of the national interest’.37
In 1926, the Spanish general Miguel Primo de Rivera was not engaging in
intellectual romanticism when he introduced corporatist principles in his dic-
tatorship, proclaiming ‘the parliamentary system has failed and no-one is crazy
enough to re-establish it in Spain. The government and the Patriotic Union
(UP – Unión Patriótica) call for the construction of a state based on a new struc-
ture. The first cell of the nation will be the municipality, around which is the
family with its old virtues and its modern concept of citizenship.’38 In Austria in
1934, Chancellor Englebert Dolfuss reaffirmed the words of the Spanish general,
words that many dictators were either thinking privately or repeating publicly,
‘this parliament . . . will never, and must never, return again’.39 In this perspec-
tive, corporatism was a powerful agent for the institutional hybridization of
inter-war dictatorships, largely surpassing the ground from which it sprang (see
Table 4.1).40
Since representation was an essential element of modern political systems,
authoritarian regimes tended to create political institutions in which the func-
tion of corporatism was to give legitimation to organic representation and to
ensure the co-optation and control of sections of the elite and organized inter-
ests. ‘Working out policy concessions requires an institutional setting: some
forum to which access can be controlled, where demands can be revealed with-
out appearing as acts of resistance, where compromises can be hammered out
without undue public scrutiny and where the resulting agreements can be
dressed in a legalistic form and publicized as such.’41 The tendency of inter-
war dictatorships towards the creation of organic legislatures should not be
separated from the creation of regime parties – whether single or dominant –
that provided legitimation for the abolition of political pluralism, forcing
Table 4.1 Dictatorships and corporatism in Europe (1918–45)

Country Regime Type of party system Social Political

corporatism corporatism

Austria Dolfuss–Schuschnigg (1934–38) Single Strong Strong

Bulgaria Velcheg Dictatorship (1934) No Strong Strong
Royal Dictatorship (1935–44) Dominant Weak Weak
Estonia Pats Dictatorship (1934–40) Single Strong Medium
France Vichy Regime (1940–44) no Medium Medium
Greece Metaxas Dictatorship (1936–41) no Medium Weak
Hungary Horthy Regime
–Bethlen Period Dominant Weak Weak
–Gombos Period (1932–35) Single Strong Medium
Italy Fascist Dictatorship (1922–43) Single Strong Strong
Latvia Ulmanis Dictatorship (1934–40) No Strong Medium
Lithuania Smetona Dictatorship (1926–40) Dominant Strong Weak
Poland Pilsudsky Dictatorship
–(1926–35) Dominant Weak Medium
–(1935–40) Single Strong Strong
Portugal Sidonio Pais Dictatorship
(1917–18) Dominant Weak Medium
Salazar’s Dictatorship (1933–74) Single Strong Medium
Romania Royal Dictatorship (1937–40) Single Strong Strong
Antonescu Dictatorship (1940–44) No (after the dissolution Weak Weak
of the Iron Guard)
Slovakia Tiso Dictatorship (1940–44) Single Strong Medium
Spain Primo de Rivera (1923–31) Dominant Strong Medium
Francoism (1939–1975) Single Strong Strong
94 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

the authoritarian coalition to merge in a single or dominant party under

personalized rule.
Another implicit goal of the adoption of corporatist representation, Max
Weber noted, was to disenfranchise large sectors of society.42 As Juan Linz notes:
‘corporatism encourages the basic apoliticism of the population and transform
issues into technical decisions and problems of administration’.43 Institutional-
ized in the wake of polarized democratizations, inter-war dictatorships tended
to choose corporatism both as a process for the repression and co-optation of
the labour movement, interest groups and of elites through organic legislatures.
It is from this perspective we revisit the processes of the institutional crafting of
inter-war European dictatorships, observing in particular the adoption of social
and political corporatist institutions and regime parties.

Inter-war dictatorships and corporatist institutions

The primacy of Italian Fascism

In the celebrated Futurist manifesto of 1918, Filippo Marinetti announced the
‘transformation of parliament through the equitable participation of industri-
alists, farmers, engineers and businessmen in the government of the country’.44
However, even before their fusion with the National Fascist Party (PNF –
Partito Nazionale Fascista), the nationalists of Enrico Corradini and Alfredo
Rocco were the most systematic ideologists of integral corporatism and national
syndicalism. For Rocco, this integral syndicalism represented both the integra-
tion into the state of organized interests and the elimination of parliament
and senate in favour of bodies representing professions and other func-
tional groups.45 Rocco’s statism was perhaps the most different from Catholic
corporatism, since it was a strategy for the passive and subordinated integration
of the masses into the state.
Many authors stress the primacy of institutional reform over the eco-
nomic question in Italian Fascism. In the inaugural speech of the Fasci
di Combattimento (Italian League of Combatants), Mussolini immediately
referred to the need for the ‘direct representation of interests’, which was also
noted in the PNF’s 1921 programme.46 Mussolini and the PNF had institutional
reform and the elimination of liberal representation in mind ever since the
March on Rome of 1922; however, the legal nature of the Fascist seizure of
power and the presence of a monarch who was heir of the liberal period ensured
the process was slow and full of tension.47
The Fascists’ first concern was to secure political control of parliament, which
they quickly achieved, while eliminating its capacity for legislative initiative
and declaring the independence of the executive and the head of govern-
ment.48 Following this, corporatist representation was an ever-present factor
in the proposals for the abolition of a parliament that managed to continue
António Costa Pinto 95

existing – at least formally – for a few more years. In 1929 elections were
replaced with plebiscites in which Italians could respond yes or no to a list
of candidates chosen by the Fascist Grand Council from a list of names put
forward by the PNF, the Fascist syndicates and business organizations. In this
way representation became organic, accompanied with the corporatization of
interest organizations, as outlined in the 1927 labour charter, and the chamber
dominated by the PNF. As a declaration of the principles of Fascist corporatism,
the labour charter fell short of the aspirations of Fascist syndicalism; however,
it was the most influential document within those dictatorships that adopted
social corporatism.49
In 1931 Mussolini called on the Fascist Grand Council to begin reforming
parliament. The secretary of the PNF, Giovanni Giuriati, who was also president
of parliament, was charged with the project. At the beginning of the 1930s the
debate around corporatism and the reform of representation was a hot topic.50
There were several options available within the limited pluralism of the regime,
with the former nationalist, Rocco, calling for a model of corporatism that was
restricted more to labour relations, while Giuseppe Bottai called for a more
decentralized model without forgetting the manifest desire of the PNF to dom-
inate the future chamber. Farinacci opposed the proposal to turn the National
Council of Corporations into a corporatist chamber because he thought this
would undermine the PNF. Giuriati finally proposed the establishment of a Fas-
cist legislative assembly and the dissolution of the senate; however, Mussolini,
possibly in order not to enter into conflict with the king, opposed the abolition
of the upper house of the liberal era, which the PNF subsequently ‘fascistized’.51
Another commission was then created by hierarchies of Fascism and jurists,
supported by functionaries who studied the systems in Germany, Poland,
Portugal and Austria.52 It was not until 1936 – 14 years after taking power –
that Mussolini was finally able to announce the establishment of the Fascist
and corporatist chamber (Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni), and with it
the corporatization of political representation. This chamber became the func-
tional representation of the PNF’s national council and National Council of
Corporations, while members of the Fascist Grand Council became ex-officio
members. A survey of its members in 1939 allows us to note a difficult balance
between counsellors of the PNF and the corporations, with the latter being –
at least formally – dominant. In practice the situation was different, since the
PNF was also represented within the corporatist structures.53 Because he had to
recognize all national counsellors by decree, Mussolini had the last word.
While initially underestimated by many historians, the importance of the
work carried out by the National Council of Corporations and later by the
chamber, and its co-opting and negotiating functions, has been stressed both
by contemporary observers and in some more recent historiography.54 Orga-
nized in 12 standing committees, the meetings of which were not public, the
96 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

chamber had very few legislative powers: in practice it was the cabinet that
initiated legislation. Due to the variation in the leadership of PNF and cor-
porations, the turnover of counsellors was high. According to a report on the
first three years of activity submitted to Mussolini by Grandi, ten days were
enough to pass 80 per cent of the bills, with just 23 per cent amended.55 Legisla-
tion was often discussed and amendments completed. However, as one student
of the theme notes – citing Bottai – this was clearly without ‘exceeding the
limits of a technical and conceptual critique’, and always within the regime’s

Fascism and social Catholicism in the Iberian Peninsula

If we exclude the one-year presidentialist dictatorship of Sidónio Pais in
Portugal (1918), the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera in Spain (1923–30)
was probably the first to replace parliamentarianism with a unicameral system
based on corporatism and by the creation of the UP, a regime party endowed
with a well-defined political doctrine. While Sidónio Pais had earlier outlined a
programme for corporatist representation, the truth is that the Catalan general
introduced a political formula for modern dictatorships in which corporatism
was a central element of its legitimation. In September 1923, Miguel Primo de
Rivera led a coup against the liberal regime, issuing a manifesto to the country
in which he denounced social agitation, separatism and clientelism. His impo-
sition of order was justification for a transitional dictatorship; however, he held
a plebiscite on a plan to change the constitutional order and institutionalize a
new regime. This was quickly implemented through the creation of a party, the
UP, which was controlled by the government, and of a corporatist parliament
with limited powers and by an attempt to integrate all organized interests into
the state with the abolition of class-based unions.57
The fact the dictator was a soldier was no obstacle to the institutionalization
of the regime, and Miguel Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship was an illustration of
‘the idea that the existence of a single national interest contained in military
thinking coincides with the vision of the common good of the organic-statist
model’.58 The UP played the role of the regime party in Primo de Rivera’s dic-
tatorship, despite the regime’s limited pluralism allowing other parties to exist
legally, indicating that ‘within the regime there is only one party’.59 In fact,
the UP represented the attempt to create a party from the top down. As it was
mainly an instrument of the dictator and of the government, the UP was a weak
single-party in terms of elite recruitment and as a decision-making centre that
only exercised some functions at the local administration level.
A national consultative assembly was established in 1927 which, as its name
suggests, collaborated rather than legislated. This assembly, the first corporatist
chamber in inter-war Europe, consisted of 400 representatives of the state,
local authorities, the party, municipalities and professional groups, in a process
António Costa Pinto 97

controlled by the interior ministry. Even while participating in this corporatist

assembly, some conservatives remained suspicious of its rubber-stamp func-
tions. On the eve of the dictatorship’s collapse in 1929, the project for the new
constitution that would result in a dramatic increase in the executive’s powers
and the establishment of a single chamber, the members of which were to be
nominated by the UP and elected by direct and corporatist suffrage in equal
measure, was presented to the public.
Some of the institutional traces of this early dictatorial experiment in the
Iberian Peninsula were also present in Portugal, which experienced one of the
longest dictatorships of the 20th century, and which until the end claimed
a corporatist legitimacy.60 On 28 May 1926 a military coup put an end to
Portugal’s parliamentary republic. Between the end of the republic and the
institutionalization of Salazar’s New State there were seven unstable years of
military dictatorship; however, it is worth citing the project for a new con-
stitution that the leader of the military uprising, General Manuel de Oliveira
Gomes da Costa, presented to the first government of the dictatorship just
one month after the coup: ‘A new constitution based on the following princi-
ples: national representation by direct delegation from the municipalities, the
economic unions and the educational and spiritual bodies, with the absolute
exclusion of individualist suffrage and the consequent party representation’.61
Other projects were discussed during the years that followed, but this exam-
ple demonstrates the importance of corporatist alternatives in Portuguese
anti-democratic elite political culture. In fact in 1918, during the brief dicta-
torship of Sidónio Pais, a parliament controlled by a dominant party formed
by the government co-existed with a senate with corporatist representation;
however, it lasted only briefly.
The first political institution to be created by the dictatorship was the
single-party, the National Union (UN – União Nacional). Created by Oliveira
Salazar in 1930, this accompanied the dissolution of political parties, including
the Portuguese Catholic Centre (CCP – Centro Católico Português), of which
Salazar had been a member. The impetus for its formation came from Salazar
and the government, with decisive aid from the state apparatus, especially the
interior ministry and its local delegations. Both in the UN’s manifesto and in
Salazar’s inaugural speech to the UN in 1930, the future dictator’s intention was
already clear as he announced the ‘creation of the social and corporatist state
that would closely follow the natural constitution of society’.62 The foundation
stone of social corporatism in Portugal was contained in the 1933 National
Labour Statute (ETN – Estatuto Nacional do Trabalho). As a declaration of
corporatist principles the ETN owed a great deal to Italian Fascism’s labour
charter, although tempered by the ideals of social Catholicism.63 With the ETN
approved unions were the first sector to be affected, and subsequent legislation
foresaw a long series of intermediate bodies that would lead to the constitution
98 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

of the corporations.64 Social corporatism was strongly institutionalized in the

Portuguese case, with agencies to encompass virtually all social groups and pro-
fessions, but, until the 1950s, when the corporations were finally created, a
sizeable part of the representation of the organic elements of the nation was
chosen by the corporatist council, made up by Salazar and ministers connected
with the sector.
The development of Salazar’s constitutional project at the beginning of
the 1930s and the institutions defined by him were symptomatic of the role
of the various conservative currents supporting the dictatorship and the role
of the military. The first project called for a corporatist system for the election of
both the president and parliament; however, between this and the project pre-
sented to the public in 1932 many changes were introduced by Salazar and his
council of notables.65 In the 1932 project there was a legislature of 90 deputies,
half elected by direct suffrage and half by corporatist suffrage. This project was
strongly criticized by some republican military officials as well as by the follow-
ers of Lusitanian Integralism (IL – Integralismo Lusitano) and Francisco Rolão
Preto’s fascist National Syndicalist Movement (MNS – Movimento Nacional-
Sindicalista), while the church was more concerned with the absence of God in
the constitution.66 Republican military officials criticized the corporatization of
representation, while the MNS and the IL believed the constitution had given
up too much ground to republican liberalism.
The final version approved by Salazar and submitted to a plebiscite was
a compromise. Portugal became ‘a unitary and corporatist republic’, but
the president and the national assembly were elected through direct – not
corporatist – suffrage. In fact, the constitution opted for a single chamber,
with a national assembly occupied exclusively by deputies selected by the
single-party and elected by direct suffrage; however, it also created a consulta-
tive corporatist chamber composed of functional representatives. The national
assembly had few powers before an executive free of parliamentary ties; how-
ever, the corporatist chamber was to be an auxiliary and consultative body.
The Portuguese corporatist chamber, which consisted of 109 procurators and
whose meetings were held in private, remained a consultative body for both
the government and the national assembly.
The longevity of the Portuguese regime and some research into Salazar’s
corporatist chamber allows us to reach some conclusions (which, unfortu-
nately, cannot be generalized given the absence of comparative data) about
functional representation. Despite the great majority of procurators in the
chamber representing functional interests, a small group of administrative
interests were nominated by the corporatist council that was led by the dic-
tator and which constituted the chamber’s elite.67 In practice, these political
procurators, making up an average of 15 per cent of all procurators, controlled
the chamber.
António Costa Pinto 99

An analysis of a large number of the corporatist chamber’s advisory opinions

during the first decade of its operation allows us to conclude that its func-
tion within the framework of the dictator’s consultation system, ‘permitted it a
first hearing of the impact of public policies and to make suggestions about the
implications of the measures to be adopted’.68 Finally, it also underlined its sub-
ordinate character compared to the national assembly, given that its advisory
opinions were not necessarily taken into account during debates in the national
assembly.69 However, it is worth highlighting that the national assembly was
also given a subordinate role as an adviser on legislation and was closely inte-
grated with the executive and subservient to it in a regime, not of separation of
powers but of organic unity.70
While during their long existence Salazar’s regime and Francoism converged
as forms of authoritarianism, their markedly different origins were evident, as
they were from the Primo de Rivera dictatorship. Ironically, one of the leading
figures behind Spanish corporatism was the Catalan, Eduardo Aunós, who was
an inspiration for the two corporatist parliaments and institutions in Spanish
dictatorships. Aunós’ background was one of liberal conservative elitism: he
served as labour minister in the Primo de Rivera regime, as a consultant to the
Falange and then as one of the authors of the labour charter (fuero del trabajo)
and justice minister under Franco. However, this apparent continuity between
some of the figures and institutions of 20th-century Spanish authoritarianism
cannot hide the fact the origins and original configuration of Francoism had
little in common with the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, with that of Salazar in
Portugal, or indeed with any of the Central and Eastern European dictatorships.
The product of a bloody civil war, the main characteristic of the first years
of the Franco regime was its radical break with democracy and the fact it
was inspired by the dynamics of fascism to a much greater degree. As Stanley
Payne notes, during the early years of Francoism ‘the nominal structure of
the Franco regime was the most purely arbitrary of the world’.71 Officially
announcing a totalitarian model following the creation of a single-party formed
through the forced unification of groups that had supported him during the
civil war, the FET y de las JONS (Falange Española de las Juntas de Ofensiva
Nacional-Sindicalista), under Falange leadership – even if placed under Franco’s
authority – not only managed to create a party apparatus and ancillary organi-
zations that were much more powerful, but its access to segments of the new
political system was comparable with the PNF in Mussolini’s Italy.72
Social corporatism was an essential component of Francoism and its insti-
tutions, which began to be sketched out in nationalist-controlled areas during
the civil war, where tensions existed between the Falange’s national syndicalist
model and those of groups closer to conservative Catholics. Not all of these
conflicts were doctrinal in nature; some were expressions of the fears within
the Falange that its role in the creation of the new corporatist structure would
100 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

be reduced. However, these fears were not confirmed, as both the 1938 labour
charter and the definition of the institutional structure of the Francoist labour
organization gave the Falange a central role.73 In 1940, when the syndical
union law required most workers, technicians and employers to join one of
the 27 multi-function, vertical and sectoral syndicates, the process was con-
trolled both at the state and party level by the Falangists.74 Despite the fascist
rhetoric accompanying the creation of the corporatist system being powerful,
with the removal in 1941 of Salvador Merino, the Falangist director of syndi-
cates, the party’s influence was to diminish and, more significantly, the original
concept of vertical syndicates was to be replaced with employers and workers
being represented in separate sections.
Under Ramón Serrano Suñer’s leadership, in 1940 the FET y de las JONS
political committee outlined the first project of constitutional laws, which
also anticipated the establishment of a corporatist parliament. A total of 20
of the draft’s 37 articles were devoted to it. As Stanley Payne notes, Serrano
Suñer backed a ‘more fully fascist political system than Franco was willing to
permit’.75 The most controversial proposal contained in this project was the
institutionalization of the FET y de las JONS political committee as a collegiate
co-ordination body between the state and the movement: a kind of Francoist
version of Mussolini’s Fascist Grand Council. Conservatives viewed this body
as the interjection of the party in the state, and Franco dismissed it.76
Franco’s decision to create a corporatist parliament in 1942 was an impor-
tant step in the consolidation of his regime – particularly given the tide of the
Second World War was turning against fascism – and the chief institutional
innovation of this phase of redefinition of legitimacy. Religion and organic-
statist views of state–society relations did play a central role.77 The Spanish
Christian roots, the exceptional historical position of the Caudillo and repre-
sentation of the people through a system of organic democracy, were to be
the main elements of legitimacy of consolidated Francoism after the era of
The Spanish corporatist parliament, the Cortes, was established as an instru-
ment of collaboration with Franco. According to the law governing the Cortes,
this new legislature was to serve ‘for the expression of contrasting opinions
within the unity of the regime’. Franco, the head of state, would continue as
‘the supreme power and to dictate legal norms’, but the Cortes would repre-
sent ‘a valuable instrument of collaboration in that task’.79 The first Cortes
consisted of around 423 procurators, made up of 126 members of the single-
party’s national council, 141 from the syndical organization, 50 designated by
the Caudillo and the remainder representatives of the municipalities, families
and associations of liberal professions, etc.80 Cabinet ministers and the head
of the judiciary were also members.81 The large majority of procurators were
public servants; consequently, the weight of the bureaucracy within it was
António Costa Pinto 101

very significant.82 The only change in the composition of the Cortes was the
introduction in 1967 of 108 family representatives, formally elected through a
restricted electoral system. Needless to say, the cabinet was responsible to the
head of state and Cortes was designed to advise and to deliberate upon proposed
laws coming from the government. To avoid the creation of informal factions
within the Cortes, its president was nominated by Franco and the heads of
commissions were nominated by the president of the Cortes. Few institutional
changes took place during the dictatorship’s long durée.

Dolfuss’ Austria
The brief institutionalization of Englebert Dolfuss’ dictatorship in Austria was
the most complete expression of an attempt at the authoritarian fusion of social
and political corporatism under the hegemony of conservative Catholicism.
In Austria, corporatism was a dream shared by fascists, Heimwehren (home
guard) and Catholics; however, the hegemony of its institutionalization by
political Catholicism was obvious.83 From the beginning of the 1920s the
Christian Social Party (CS – Christlichsoziale Partei) advanced proposals for
the partial corporatization of political representation and, by the beginning of
the following decade, under the leadership of Ignaz Seipel, the CS moved away
from democracy. This CS leader was one of the most important supporters of
the corporatist option as the ‘true’ democracy in Austria.84
In 1929 the CS repeated some of its 1919 proposals for a corporatist upper
chamber, a proposal that was rejected by the Social Democratic Workers’ Party
of Austria (SDAPÖ – Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs). How-
ever, when Dolfuss suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament, banned
the political parties and began governing with emergency powers, the tran-
sition to authoritarianism was enabled through the institutionalization of
corporatist representation formalized in the 1934 constitution. In this context,
the influence the Heimwehr fascists had on the corporatist option cannot be
understated, since it coincided with the time they had their greatest political
influence within the new regime. As they were closer to the Italian Fascist model
and to Othmar Span, they had been proposing projects for the corporatization
of the political system since 1930.
The 1934 constitution established a period of transition, and when Hitler
invaded Austria in 1938 a large part of the corporatization process had not yet
left the paper. According to the new constitution, the duumvirate of the presi-
dent and the chancellor gave powers to the latter. In electoral terms, the organic
vote was established and the legislature replaced by four advisory bodies repre-
senting the state, culture, the economy and the regions. These advisory bodies
sent delegates to the federal diet of 59 members. The corporatist bodies had
only one more delegate than the others within the federal diet; however, we
should not forget that as elsewhere with the absence of organized corporations
102 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

these bodies were composed of members appointed by the president and the
chancellor, since only two of the seven professional corporations had been
created by 1938. The CS were dominant in many of these advisory bodies,
although during the first two years of the regime the Heimwehr had more places
within them than their electoral strength in the parliament of the democratic
The government had a great deal of autonomy in relation to these advi-
sory bodies, which had only limited and partial veto powers that could be
circumvented by the executive. The subjection of the legislative branch to
the government left little room for the expression of opinion on public pol-
icy not sanctioned by the executive.86 In fact, between 1934 and the end of
the regime following the Nazi invasion, 69.31 per cent of the legislation was
adopted directly by the council of ministers.87
A central element in the institutionalization of the new regime was the cre-
ation of a single political movement, the Fatherland Front (VF – Vaterlandische
Front), in 1933, from where segments of the old CS party and the Heimwehr
were channelled from above. Dolfuss created this organization as a political tool
that was highly centralized and which was completely obedient to its creator;
however, it has been noted that the VF ‘remained a bureaucratic organizational
shell with no dynamic development or significance of its own’.88 Dolfuss’ suc-
cessor, Kurt Schuschnigg, was able to reduce the influence of the Heimwehr
and forced it to partially unite within the VF, but the life of this outline of a
single-party was very brief.

The challenges of corporatism in the competitive authoritarianisms of

Central and Eastern Europe
Some inter-war regimes were ‘able to work within a formal parliamentary frame-
work with a dominant government party that obtained a majority through
corrupt electoral practices, co-optation of some political elites and outlawing or
harassing those that oppose them, and by tolerating a weak and tamed oppo-
sition’.89 While the form of government divided conservatives and the radical
right, as Andrew Janos correctly notes, these regimes incorporated significant
compromises that even led to the establishment of poorly institutionalized
regimes.90 Inter-war Hungary and Poland are the closest examples of this.
The stabilization of Hungary following the successful counter-revolution
gave rise to a hybrid regime under the paternal but firm leadership of Admi-
ral Miklós Horthy; however, it was under the premiership of Count Stephen
Bethlen in 1921 that the new regime was consolidated. Bethlen, as with so
many European conservative leaders, believed democracy was ‘suitable only
for rich, well-structured and highly-cultured countries’, which was not true
of Hungary in the 1920s. Hungary needed to be somewhere ‘between unbri-
dled freedom and unrestrained dictatorship’.91 He carried out a programme of
António Costa Pinto 103

electoral reform that reconciled a reduction in the electorate with a clientelist

open vote in the rural districts, while retaining the secret ballot in the major
The second step was the creation of a government party that would ensure,
through political pressure and clientelistic procedures, its domination of the
system. This was achieved with the creation of the Unity Party (EP – Egységes
Párt), which from 1922 won successive semi-competitive elections during the
Bethlen era.92 To the EP-dominated house of representatives was joined an
upper house that was restored in 1925 along corporatist lines, with representa-
tives of the three religious denominations, 36 professional and economic cham-
bers, 76 representatives of the counties and municipalities, 48 life members
appointed by Horthy and 38 aristocrats.
When in 1932 Horthy reluctantly appointed Gyula Gömbös prime minis-
ter, despite the fragmentation of the Hungarian extreme right, the regime
began to move to the right. Gömbös, known as ‘Gombolini’ by his politi-
cal enemies, had been the leader of a right-wing paramilitary association and
was a close associate of Horthy, who nevertheless mitigated the most radical
parts of the former’s strategy. He reorganized the EP, renamed it the Party of
National Unity (NEP – Nemzeti Egység Pártja), gave it more responsibilities
in respect of extra-electoral political mobilization, provided it with a small
paramilitary section and turned its attention to mass mobilization. Gömbös
also planned a system of compulsory organized interest representation based
on vertical corporatism inspired by the Italian labour charter, with several pro-
fessional chambers in which representatives of both employers and employees
would handle labour issues. He attempted to suppress the bicameral parlia-
ment (through the creation of a council of state to replace the senate) and
presented plans for the creation of a new parliament consisting of elected
representatives and delegates from the municipalities, state departments and
professional corporations.93 In 1935 plans for the institutionalization of a
corporatist single-party dictatorship were presented at the electoral campaign
and announced to Goering; however, Gömbös died the following year, and
with him his plans, which had in any event been blocked for some time when
the corporatist system was taken off the agenda and the reorganization of the
party suspended.94 Some of the party’s organizations were dismantled, and it
was restored to its ‘original condition of an electoral machine based on the local
Somehow anticipating the academic discussion on hybrid or semi-democratic
regimes that was to take place at the beginning of the 21st century, in 1972 one
historian of Poland defined the inter-war Polish regime as a ‘semi-constitutional
guided democracy’.96 In fact, when Józef Pilsudski led the coup d’état that over-
threw Poland’s parliamentary democracy in 1926, it did not lead to a rapid
transition to dictatorship. With his origins in democratic nationalism, which
104 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

was very different from the counter-revolutionary origins of the Hungarian

leading elite at the same time, some of the dilemmas in classifying Pilsudski’s
regime do not differ greatly from those of Bethlem’s Hungary. The concen-
tration of power, the creation of a coalition party, the Non-partisan Bloc for
Co-operation with the Government (BBWR – Bezpartyjny Blok Wspólpracy z
Rzadem), to support the general in parliament and, finally, the presentation of
a new constitution and of a more coherent dominant party, were the marks of
his governance.97
While Pilsudski had many powers, parliament – despite having been dimin-
ished and controlled – continued to be a problem for the president, given that
it still represented a very significant degree of pluralism. In 1935 a new consti-
tution attempted to limit much that was already the functional praxis of the
regime. The executive was made responsible to the president rather than parlia-
ment, with article two stating the president was responsible only ‘to God and
history’ for the fortune of the state.98 The constitution provided for a bicam-
eral system; however, the amount of legislation that could be decided by decree
was increased. The decisive break with liberal parliamentarism was nevertheless
adopted by the electoral laws defining the legislature’s composition. The inno-
vation was in the definition of the electorate, which remained individual and
direct, although candidates were to be nominated organically.
The parliament (Sejm) had 209 deputies, with the country divided into 104
two-member constituencies in which the candidates were selected by local com-
missions led by a president nominated by the government and comprising of
delegates from local government, corporations, the chambers of commerce,
industry and agriculture, the liberal professions and trade unions. The scope
of manipulation by the government was impressive and a homogeneous and
obedient Sejm was assured. The upper house was later reduced to 96 mem-
bers with one-third appointed by the president and two-thirds by electoral
councils elected by similar organic institutions.99 Opposition parties reacted by
boycotting the elections.
Pilsudski died in 1935 and Poland remained a dictator-less dictatorship led
by his closest military associates, although with increased factionalism. The
regime’s institutional fragility following the dissolution of the BBWR led in
1936 to the creation of the Camp of National Unity (OZN – Obóz Zjednoczenia
Narodowego), a regime party that was better structured and more powerful
than its predecessor, and which was more of a single-party. Adam Koc, a young
Pilsudski follower, endowed the party with a youth section that he wanted to
offer to the fascist Falanga, which had a more clerical and corporatist political
programme. Koc also proposed the liquidation of the trade union movement
and ‘the establishment of a system of corporations on the fascist model’ as part
of OZN’s programme; however, this option was far from consolidated when
Poland was invaded and occupied in 1939.100
António Costa Pinto 105

In the case of Romania, the short dictatorial experiment did not lead to a
consolidated regime, but the clear goal was to institutionalize a single-party
regime. When on 10 February 1938 King Carol II suspended the constitution
and inaugurated a period of royal dictatorship, his first steps were to abolish
the political parties, create a single-party – the Front of National Rebirth (FRN –
Frontul Renasterü Nationale) – and hold a plebiscite on a new corporatist con-
stitution. All of this took place in the same year. The fascists of Corneliu Zelea
Codreanu’s Iron Guard, the Legion of the Archangel Michael, did not respond
to the royal coup d’état, and initially accepted the Legion’s dissolution.101 The
royal dictatorship sought to steal some of the Iron Guard’s ideological appeal,
adopting the propaganda of ‘organic nationalism, family, church and the gospel
of work’.102
According the constitution, the new parliament was selected according to the
sectoral categories of agriculture, industry, commerce, the professions and the
intelligentsia. Ministers were chosen by the king and were responsible only to
him, while legislative initiative was transferred from parliament to the king.
Manoilescu, the theoretician of corporatism, was an eminent strategist of the
royal dictatorship’s economic policy. Following the execution of Codreanu and
other fascist leaders, and coming under Nazi pressure to integrate them into
the regime, King Carol II reorganized his single-party, renaming it the Party of
the Nation (PN – Partidul Naţiunii), which incorporated the remaining fascists
and to which membership was compulsory for all public and corporatist office
holders. Corporatism was a minor ideological component for Codreanu’s Iron
Guard, despite Manoilescu’s attempts to develop it.103 As the legionary leader
Ion Mota stated, corporatism ‘is entirely colourless from a folk point of view’
and just after modification of the ‘ethnic structure of the State’ could be an
option for Romania.104
In 1940, King Carol II went into exile, leaving his son to preside over a
duumvirate constituted by General Antonescu and the Iron Guard, now led by
Horia Sima. During the short time the Iron Guard was the single-party of the
National Legionary State, no initiatives for corporatist reorganization came for-
ward. When Antonescu withdrew the Legion from government, the regime that
remained took on the appearance of a military dictatorship with a plebiscitary
While Antonescu’s pro-Nazi dictatorship proved to be poorly institutional-
ized after the elimination of the Iron Guard fascists, the same cannot be said of
Catholic Slovakia. When the Slovak state was created as a German protectorate
in 1939, the expanded heir of Andrej Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party (HSLS –
Hlinkova slovenská l’udová strana) became the single-party led by his successor
and vice-chairman, the Catholic priest Jozef Tiso, under the motto ‘One God,
one people, one party’.106 Greatly influence by the Austrian Catholic Church
and by Ignaz Seipel, ‘as early as 1931, [Tiso] moved away from parliamentary
106 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

democracy by endorsing the catholic corporatism of Quadragesimo Anno’.107

As Tiso noted in 1930, the nation was a single set of origins, customs and lan-
guage, constituting an organic whole.108 However, despite being the guide of
the dictatorship and of the single-party, Tiso had to share power with Vojtech
Tuka, who was more radical and had been appointed prime minister, and whom
the Germans wished to retain.
The 1939 constitution proclaimed Slovakia a Catholic state in which ‘the
nation participates in power through the HSLS’, and in fact the single-party
took control of parliament.109 The newly created council of state developed
into a corporatist upper house to advise Tiso, who had in the meanwhile
become president. Members of this privy council included the prime min-
ister, the president of parliament and members nominated by Tiso, the
single-party and each corporation: also, in a manner similar to Mussolini’s
Fascist Grand Council, this council chose the candidates for parliament.110
The implantation of a corporatist system called Christian solidarism were
then programmed. All Slovaks were obliged to join one of four corporations
that replaced the unions, and the political cadres within these corporations
had to be members of the single-party.111 As in other dictatorships, the
institutionalization of social corporatism was resisted by industrialists who
denounced the plan as ‘revolutionary’.112 The new constitution, inspired by
Salazar’s Portugal and Dolfuss’ Austria, sought to conciliate liberal parliamen-
tarism with corporatism and within the single-party, the Party of National
Unity (SSNJ – Strana Slovenskej Národnej Jednoty), the pro-corporatist cler-
ical faction was the most important.113 The regime’s brief existence, Tuka’s
more radical faction and the influence of Nazi Germany and of the German
minority prevented the rapid evolution towards a corporatist and organic
Corporatism also made a brief appearance in Bulgaria and in Metaxas’ Greece.
In Bulgaria following Colonel Damian Velchev’s 1934 coup d’état, both parlia-
ment and the political parties were dissolved with the proposal to institute
corporatist representation through the creation of seven corporations (estates)
that were to provide the basis for the election of three-quarters of the mem-
bers of the new parliament.115 Plans for a single-party were blocked by the king.
Feeling his position threatened, King Boris assumed full power, inaugurating a
period of royal dictatorship the following year, with controlled parliaments and
electoral laws that were carefully constructed to ensure government control of
the chamber.116
The ‘Fourth of August’ regime in Greece was established in the wake of a
coup d’état led by the prime minister, Ioannis Metaxas, who was head of a small
conservative, anti-parliamentary and royalist party. Metaxas did not create a
single-party following the dissolution of parliament and the political parties,
as this would have been difficult for the king to accept; however, he did place
António Costa Pinto 107

great hope in the creation of an official youth organization, the National Youth
Organization (EON – Ethnikí Orgánosis Neoléas), which was inspired by the
fascist model. A few weeks after the 1936 coup, Metaxas’ programme was clear,
with its 14th point indicating ‘the remodelling of society by easy stages on a
corporatist national basis so that a truly national representation may emerge’.117
In fact, the regime embarked on a ‘programme of “horizontal” restructuring of
economic and labour relations in a pattern that revealed the influence of the
Italian Fascist’ and Portuguese Salazarist experiments with corporatism, with
this latter being particularly evident in his plans for constitutional reform.118
The plans became more concrete in the political arena when Metaxas designed
a new system of national delegation supported by two bodies: the great council
of national labour and the assembly of the professions.119 According to several
sources, the king’s strong opposition to corporatist representation led to the
postponement of the project.

Corporatism and the presidential dictatorships of the Baltic countries

The construction of personalized authoritarian regimes in the young Baltic
countries was rapid. In 1926 a military coup d’état in Lithuania brought Antanas
Smetona to power, while in 1934 an almost syncretic series of coups led to the
institutionalization of presidentialist dictatorships in Estonia and Latvia, which
were only brought to an end with the Soviet invasion of 1940. The most elab-
orate attempt to institutionalize corporatist regimes in the region took place
under Päts in Estonia and Karlis Ulmanis in Latvia.
Despite the influence of the Catholic Church and a generous concordat
in Lithuania, the swift concentration of power to President Smetona caused
a number of conflicts between the now dominant party, the Tautininkai,
and the Christian Democrats, which had initially been involved in the pro-
authoritarian coalition. By the end of the 1930s this party had a youth wing
and a militia. Parliament eventually became a consultative body only, and the
president elected by extraordinary representatives of the nation selected by the
dominant party; however, despite this, pressures for the official party to have a
more active role were not supported by the president.120
Corporatist economic bodies were established during the 1930s, and even
if it was the opposition Christian Democrats who explicitly advanced the
idea for the creation of an organic state, its implementation became cen-
tral in Smetona’s political discourse.121 The strategy for controlling parliament
involved an electoral process in which the candidates were selected by the
municipalities and not the political parties, which had in the meanwhile been
dissolved. The dominant party obtained an overwhelming majority in the par-
liament that had mere consultative powers. With Smetona being glorified as
the leader of the people, Lithuania became the first authoritarian single-party
state of the Baltic countries.122
108 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

After the silencing of parliament following the 1934 coup d’état in Estonia,
in 1935 Konstantin Päts dissolved the political parties and sought to create a
single-party, the Fatherland League (Isamaaliit), to support the president. This
party was not so very different in its origins and initial functions from those
of its peers, such as the UN in Salazar’s Portugal. Organization by occupa-
tional groups was promoted as an alternative to parties and parliamentarism,
since corporatist organizations ‘had been a pet concept of Päts’ for quite some
time’.123 Between 1934 and 1938 the regime created 15 professional cham-
bers, representatives of which would later be assigned seats in the upper
house of the national assembly. In 1935 a transitional institution to advise
the government was also created, with 15 members elected by the occupa-
tional chambers and ten appointed by the president. The political system was
not made wholly corporatist with the 1938 constitution that created a bicam-
eral system, with a chamber of representatives of 80 directly elected deputies
and a corporatist upper house of 40 members representing administrative
departments, professional bodies and ecclesiastical and secular organizations.
In Latvia, Karlis Ulmanis, leader of the main right-wing Agrarian Union (LZS –
Latvijas Zemnieku Savienemiba), declared a state of siege after several attempts
to revise the constitution to limit parliamentary power. Parliament was even-
tually dissolved, along with the political parties – including his own; however,
unlike his Baltic neighbours, Ulmanis did not create an official political party.
Nevertheless, mobilization of the members of the previous party elite was sig-
nificant. Ulmanis initially ruled via the government, and once the presidential
mandate was over he combined the office of the prime minister with that of
the president.
The institutionalization of corporatism in Latvia was the most complete of
all of the Baltic States, and historians have debated the external influences on
it, including the Italian and the Austrian.124 A total of six corporations were
created between 1934 and 1938, and the old associative and syndical struc-
tures were abolished, with the corporatist chambers being placed under the
control of the respective ministries that nominated a large number of their
members. The regime also created a national economic council and a national
cultural council to supervise the activities of the different chambers. While
some observers have noted the fact Ulmanis wished to create a corporatist par-
liament, replacing for good the ‘plenary meeting of political parties’, this never
saw the light of day.125


Corporatism has frequently, and legitimately, been associated with the Catholic
political culture of the beginning of the 20th century, even although fas-
cism had also codified it as an authoritarian alternative to liberal democracy.
António Costa Pinto 109

Although it had a presence in the institutions of some democratic regimes,

it is only in dictatorships that a serious effort was made to organize political
regimes according to corporatist ideology.126 The success of this hybridization
effect in European authoritarian political institutions during the first half of
the 20th century is a good illustration of how the codification of corporatist
institutions became generalized. These experiences not only illustrated the
pragmatic adoption of authoritarian institutions in inter-war Europe, they also
illustrate their use by dictators with no link to the cultural background of the
Catholic or fascist corporatism of Southern Europe, which suggests it was in
fact the outcome of a process of diffusion during the inter-war period. While
there was some variation, the ideology of a single national interest, typical of
the apoliticism of military thinking and of anti-democratic conservative elites
was very compatible with the organic-statist core of corporatist representa-
tion, and the successful practical experience of some regimes led to its rapid
Institutional transfer was a hallmark of inter-war dictatorships, but the dif-
fusion was differentiated. In the case of social corporatism it is clear the
influence of Italian Fascism plays a central role. In its apparent totalitarian-
ism, the first principle of Italian Fascism’s labour charter was replicated across
inter-war European dictatorships: ‘The Italian nation . . . is a moral, political and
economic union that is globally realized in the fascist state’. The projects of
authoritarian constitutions and labour charters, albeit in less statist versions,
generally began with the organic principle. Social corporatism as a form of
state-led forced integration of interest groups in parastate structures and of the
decapitation of autonomous union movements largely transcends the inter-war
period; however, the process of political engineering through which these dic-
tatorships provided a channel for complex interest groups structure co-optation
and its legitimizing discourse became a blueprint of the 1930s. The compara-
tive analysis of the labour charters or equivalent legislation of these regimes
demonstrates the role-model function of the Italian Fascist labour charter in 11
dictatorships, the national adaptations of which were an expression of the orig-
inal coalition that formatted them (see Table 4.1). Thus in the Portuguese New
State, in Dolfuss’ Austria, in Tizo’s Slovakia, and even in Spain under Franco,
political Catholicism has a greater presence than it had in Vichy France or
Eastern Europe, for example. However, this mark is already a determinant in
the design of a common heritage for the creation of structures of interest inter-
mediation, for the dissolution of independent unions and the establishment of
state-led bargaining structures created to defend the regime. Even when such
institutions remain on paper, as in the case of Greece under Metaxas or in
Velchev’s Bulgaria, the outlines are very similar.
Despite the primacy of social corporatism, the constitution of an organic
political representation as an alternative to parliamentary democracy also plays
110 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

a central role in the hybridization processes of the institutional development of

inter-war dictatorships, transcending, and in many cases incorporating, histor-
ical fascism (see Table 7.1). However, Mussolini’s Italy has a much more limited
role in the spread of corporatist legislatures: as we saw above, a comparative
analysis of the constitutions and processes of institutional reform show that
Portugal under Salazar and Austria under Dolfuss had a more important role.
Moreover, Italian Fascism was undergoing institutional reform right up until
the end of the 1930s with the creation of the fascist and corporatist chamber.
We should not underestimate these authoritarian constitutions since they serve
to consolidate autocratic coalitions in power. Uncertainty is very great at the
beginning of a new authoritarian regime and constitutions represent ‘one key
mechanism through which political actors other than the dictator can codify
their right and interests’.128 At the same time, the power of parties and legis-
latures is often designed by the constitutions, making the boundaries of the
ruling group less fluid.
The diversity of legislatures designed by authoritarian constitutions suggests
the domination of mixed systems of single or dominant party legislatures with
corporatist chambers. Very few dictators in inter-war Europe had, at the outset,
the concentration of power that General Franco had in 1939, and the major-
ity of them had great difficulty with the institutional design of their regimes
and had to accommodate the more prominent members of the coalitions that
brought them to power into their new institutions. The ‘institutionalized inter-
action between the dictator and his allies results in greater transparency among
them, and by virtue of their formal structure, institutions provide a publicly
observable signal of the dictator’s commitment to power-sharing’.129 Neverthe-
less, however appealing the principle of corporatist representation may have
been for authoritarian rulers, the creation of corporatist legislatures was much
more difficult to implement in several dictatorships, even when it had been part
of the dictators’ programme. In some countries, such as in Greece and Bulgaria,
it was blocked by monarchs who feared losing their power, while in others,
such as in Horthy’s Hungary, it was paternalistic rulers, or, as in Portugal, it was
the initial compromise with segments of conservative liberal parties that led to
the institutionalization of bicameral systems with a corporatist chamber and a
parliament controlled by the dominant or single-party.
Finally, let us not forget the importance of regime parties. Very few inter-war
European dictatorships existed without a single or dominant party, and the rela-
tionship between dictators and their parties – particularly in those that existed
prior to the seizure of power – is certainly more complex than the rigid versions
of the fascism-versus-authoritarian dichotomy suggest. The inherent dilemma
in the transformation of the single-party as the dictatorship’s ruling institu-
tion into the leader’s instrument for rule also challenges rigid dichotomies.130
A regime’s decision to create a political party should not be conflated as a
António Costa Pinto 111

transition to party-based rule,131 and in reality the single-party was not the
regime’s ruling institution in the majority of inter-war dictatorships: rather it
was one among several.132 Some interpretations of fascism encountered very
significant differences between inter-war dictatorship regime parties (fascist and
non-fascist), but the tendency to create these suggest they fulfilled some impor-
tant common functions, such as being an instrument of the leader, as a means
of elite co-optation and of preventing factionalism or as a means of ensuring
a political monopoly on elite recruitment and to balance threats from such
institutions as the military.
Regardless of their origins (whether predating the dictatorship or being cre-
ated from above following the breakdown of the previous regime) or their
nature (whether they are mass or elite parties) they perform similar roles in
the new political system, both as single or dominant parties in the legislatures,
providing an institutionalized interaction between the dictator and his allies,
and the political control of corporatist institutions in the majority of inter-war
The diffusion of political and social corporatism, which with the single-
party are hallmarks of the institutional transfers among European dictatorships,
challenges some rigid dichotomous interpretations of inter-war fascism.133 The
success and expansion of organic-statist regimes with single or dominant par-
ties in the world of dictatorships of the second half of the 20th century might
bury some of them.

1. Like Alfred Stepan and Juan Linz, we use this expression to refer to the ‘vision
of political community in which the component parts of society harmoniously
combine . . . and also because of the assumption that such harmony requires power
and the unity of civil society by “the architectonic action of public authorities” –
hence ”organic-statism” ’. See A. Stepan, The State and Society: Peru in Comparative
Perspective, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978; J. J. Linz, Totalitarian
and Authoritarian Regimes, Boulder, CO, Lynne Rienner, 2000, pp. 215–217.
2. P. H. Lewis, Authoritarian Regimes in Latin America. Dictators, Despots, and Tyrants,
Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2006, pp. 129–154; D. Musiedlak, ed., Les
Experiences Corporatives dans L’Aire Latine, Bern, Peter Lang, 2010; T. Parla and
A. Davison, Corporatist Ideology in Kemalist Turkey. Progress or Order?, Syracuse, NY,
Syracuse University Press, 2004.
3. A. Perlmutter, Modern Authoritarianism: A Comparative Institutional Analysis, New
Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1981, p. 10.
4. M. Manoilescu, Le Parti Unique: Institution Politique des Regimes Nouveaux, Paris, Les
Oeuvres Françaises, 1936, p. viii.
5. M. Manoilescu, Le Siècle du Corporatisme, Paris, Librairie Felix Alcan, 1934;
Manoilescu, Le Parti Unique.
6. A. C. Pinto, R. Eatwell and S. U. Larsen, eds, Charisma and Fascism in Interwar Europe,
London, Routledge, 2007.
112 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

7. More than half of all 20th-century authoritarian regimes ‘initiated by militaries,

parties, or a combination of the two, had been partly or fully personalized within
three years of the initial seizure of power’. See B. Geddes, ‘Stages of development in
authoritarian regimes’, in V. Tismaneanu, M. M. Howard and R. Sil, eds, World Order
after Leninism, Seattle, WA, and London, University of Washington Press, 2006,
p. 164.
8. A. C. Pinto, ed., Ruling Elites and Decision-Making in Fascist-Era Dictatorships,
New York, Columbia University Press, 2009.
9. Geddes, ‘Stages of development’, p. 185.
10. Perlmutter, Modern Authoritarianism, p. 11.
11. J. Gandhi, Political Institutions under Dictatorship, Cambridge, Cambridge University
Press, 2008, p. 29.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid., p. viii.
14. Geddes, ‘Stages of development’, p. 164.
15. For a typology of outcomes of diffusion in this period, see K. Weyland, ‘The diffu-
sion of regime contention in European democratization, 1830–1940’, Comparative
Political Studies 43, 2010, pp. 1148–1176.
16. M. Conway, ‘Catholic politics or Christian democracy? The evolution of interwar
political Catholicism’, in W. Kaiser and H. Wohnout, eds, Political Catholicism in
Europe, 1918–45, vol. 1, London, Routledge, 2004, pp. 235–251.
17. R. Morck and B. Yeung, ‘Corporatism and the ghost of the third way’, Capitalism
and Society 5, no. 3, 2010, p. 4.
18. J. L. Cardoso and P. Mendonça, ‘Corporatism and beyond: An assessment of recent
literature’, ICS Working papers, 1, University of Lisbon, 2012.
19. P. C. Schmitter, ‘Still the century of corporatism?’, in F. B. Pike and T. Stritch, eds,
The New Corporatism: Social-Political Structures in the Iberian World, Notre Dame, IN,
Notre Dame University Press, 1974, p. 94.
20. C. Bastien and J. L. Cardoso, ‘From homo economicus to homo corporativus:
A neglected critique of neo-classical economics’, The Journal of Social Economics 36,
2007, pp. 118–127.
21. O. Dard, ‘Le corporatisme entre traditionalistes et modenisateurs: Des groupements
aux cercles du pouvoir’, in Musiedlak, Les Experiences Corporatives, pp. 67–102.
22. P. J. Williamson, Corporatism in Perspective, London, Sage, 1989, p. 32.
23. S. G. Payne, Franco y José António: El Estrańo Caso del Fascismo Español, Madrid,
Planeta, 1997, p. 116.
24. Ibid., p. 178.
25. F. B. Garcia, El Sindicalismo Vertical: Burocracia, Control Laboral y Representación de
Interesses en la España Franquista (1936–51), Madrid: Centro de Estúdios Políticos e
Constitucionales, 2010.
26. D. Luyten, ‘La reception des corporatismes étrangers et le débat sur le corporatisme
en Belgique dans les années trente à l’aune des transferts politiques’, in O. Dard,
ed., Le Corporatisme dans L’Aire Francophone au XX ème Siècle, Bern, Peter Lang, 2011,
pp. 139–148.
27. D. Luyten, ‘Un corporatisme belge, réponse à la crise du liberalisme’, in O. Dard and
E. Descamps, eds., Les Relèves en Europe d’un Après-Guerre à L’autre: Racines, Réseaux,
Projets et Postérités, Brussels, PIE – Peter Lang, 2005, p. 201.
28. E. Gerard, ‘Religion, class and language: The Catholic Party in Belgium’, in W. Kaiser
and H. Wohnout, eds, Political Catholicism in Europe, London, Routledge, 2004,
p. 106.
António Costa Pinto 113

29. M. Conway, Collaboration in Belgium: Léon Degrelle and the Rexist Movement, New
Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2003, p. 45.
30. L. Panitch, ‘The development of corporatism in liberal democracies’, Comparative
Political Studies 10, no. 1, 1977, p. 629.
31. K. Lowerstein, ‘Occupational representation and the idea of an economic parlia-
ment’, Social Science, October 1937, p. 426.
32. Stepan, The State and Society, p. 47.
33. W. Kim and J. Gandhi, ‘Co-opting workers under dictatorship’, The Journal of Politics
72, no. 3, 2010, p. 648.
34. D. A. Chalmers, ‘Corporatism and comparative politics’, in H. J. Wiarda, ed., New
Directions in Comparative Politics, Boulder, CO, Westview, 1991, p. 63.
35. P. Misner, ‘Christian democratic social policy: Precedents for third-way thinking’, in
T. Kselman and J. A. Buttigieg, eds, European Christian Democracy, Historical Legacies
and Comparative Perspectives, Notre Dame, IN, Notre Dame University Press, 2003,
p. 77.
36. K. Loewenstein, ‘Occupational representation and the idea of an economic parlia-
ment’, Social Science, October 1937, p. 423.
37. See A. Chatriot, ‘Georges Valois, la representation professionelle et le syndicalisme’,
in O. Dard, ed., Georges Valois, Intinéraire et Receptions, Berne, Peter Lang, 2011,
p. 65.
38. Cited in J. L. Gómez Navarro, El regimen de Primo de Rivera, Madrid, Catedra, 1991,
p. 234.
39. H. Wohnout, ‘Middle-class governmental party and secular arm of the Catholic
Church: The Christian Socials in Austria’, in Kaiser and Wohnout, Political
Catholicism, p. 184.
40. The classification is based on the degree of adoption of institutions associated with
social and political corporatism based on the constitutions and projects for con-
stitutional reform, independently of their effective institutionalization, given that
some regimes were very short-lived. We did exclude the Nazi dictatorship from this
table because even if it had some corporatist structures, we have doubts about its
classification on this scale.
41. J. Gandhi and A. Przeworski, ‘Authoritarian institutions and the survival of
authocrats’, Comparative Political Studies 40, no. 11, 2007, p. 1282.
42. M. Weber, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, Berkeley, CA,
University of California Press, 1968, pp. 1, 298.
43. And ‘those chambers are only components in their regimes . . . no legislature in
an authoritarian regime has either the formal or de facto power to question the
ultimate authority of a ruler or ruling group’. See J. J. Linz, ‘Legislatures in organic-
statist-authoritarian regimes: The case of Spain’, in J. Smith and L. D. Musolf, eds,
Legislatures in Development: Dynamics of Change in New and Old States, Durham, NC,
Duke University Press, 1979, pp. 91, 95.
44. See A. Gagliardi, Il Corporativismo Fascista, Rome, Laterza, 2010, p. 4.
45. A. J. de Grand, The Italian National Association and the Rise of Fascism in Italy,
Lincoln, NE, and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1978, p. 100.
46. F. Perfetti, ‘La discussion sul corporativismo in Italia’, in Musiedlak, Les Experiences
Corporatives, pp. 102–115; Gagliardi, Il Corporativismo Fascista.
47. See F. Perfetti, Fascismo e Riforma Istituzionali, Florence, Le Lettere, 2013.
48. D. Musiedlak, Lo Stato Fascista e la sua Classe Politica, 1922–43, Bologna, Il Mulino,
2003; G. Adinolfi, ‘Political elite and decision-making in Mussolini’s Italy’, in Pinto,
Ruling Elites, pp. 19–54.
114 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

49. D. D. Roberts, The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism, Chapel Hill, NC,
University of North Carolina Press, 1979.
50. Perfetti, ‘La discussion’.
51. P. Colombo, La Monarchia Fascista, 1922–1940, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2010, p. 105.
52. M. di Napoli, ‘The Italian Chamber of Fasci and Corporazioni: A substitute for par-
liament in a totalitarian regime’, in W. Brauneder and E. Berger, eds, Repräsentation
in Föderalismus und Korporativismus, Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang, 1998, p. 257.
53. D. Musiedlak, ‘Le corporatisme dans la structure de L’État fasciste’, in Musiedlak, Les
Experiences Corporatives, pp. 125–152; J.-Y. Dormagen, Logiques du Fascisme: L’État
Totalitaire en Italie, Paris, Fayard, 2008; Gagliardi, Il Corporativismo Fascista.
54. L. G. Field, The Syndical and Corporative Institutions of Italian Fascism, New York,
Columbia University Press, 1938; Di Napoli, ‘The Italian Chamber’.
55. Di Napoli, ‘The Italian Chamber’, p. 261.
56. Musiedlak, ‘Le corporatisme dans la structure’, p. 151.
57. M. A. Perfecto, ‘Influências ideológicas no projecto de corporativismo político-
social da ditadura de Primo de Rivera (1923–1930)’, Penélope 5, 1991, pp. 99–108;
‘La droite radicale espagnole et la pensée antiliberale française durant le premier
tiers du XX siècle’, in Dard, Georges Valois, pp. 99–108.
58. Gómez Navarro, El regimen de Primo de Rivera, p. 86.
59. Ibid., p. 207.
60. M. de Lucena, A Evolução do Sistema Corporativo Português, Vol. 1: O Salazarismo,
Lisbon, Perspectivas e Realidades, 1976.
61. A. Madureira, O 28 de Maio: Elementos para a sua Compreensão, Lisbon, Presença,
1978, p. 243.
62. A. de O. Salazar, Discursos e Notas Políticos, Vol. 1, Coimbra: Coimbra Editora, 1934,
p. 87.
63. F. Patriarca, A Questão Social no Salazarismo, 1933–47, Lisbon, Imprensa de Ciências
Sociais, 1995: F. P. Martinho, A Bem da Nação: O Sindicalismo Português entre a
Tradição e a Modernidade, Rio de Janeiro, Civilização Brasileira, 2002.
64. P. C. Schmitter, Portugal: Do Autoritarismo à Democracia, Lisbon, Imprensa de
Ciências Sociais, 1999; H. J. Wiarda, Corporatism and Development: The Portuguese
Experience, Amherst, MA, University of Massachusetts Press, 1977.
65. A. Araújo, A Lei de Salazar, Lisbon, Tenácitas, 2007; N. Estevão, ‘A câmara
corporativa no Estado Novo: Composição, funcionamento e influência’, doctoral
dissertation, Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa, 2009.
66. A. C. Pinto, The Blue Shirts: Portuguese Fascism in Interwar Europe, New York,
Columbia University Press, 2000.
67. J. M. T. Castilho, Os Procuradores à Câmara Corporativa, 1935–74, Lisbon, Texto,
68. Estêvão, ‘A câmara corporativa’. See also, J. L. Cardoso and N. E. Ferreira, ‘A câmara
corporativa e as políticas públicas do Estado Novo’, Ler História 64, 2013, pp. 31–54.
69. Castilho, Os Procuradores.
70. Wiarda, Corporatism and Development, p. 101.
71. S. G. Payne, The Franco Regime, 1936–75, Madison, WI, University of Wisconsin
Press, 1987, p. 323.
72. M. Jerez Mir, ‘Executive, single party and ministers in Franco’s regime, 1936–45’, in
Pinto, ed., Ruling Elites, pp. 165–213.
73. S. G. Payne, Fascism in Spain, Madison, WI, University of Wisconsin Press, 2000;
C. Molinero, ‘ “Sindicalisme Nacional’: Una anàlise comparativa entre Itàlia e
Espanya’, in G. di Febo and C. Molinero, eds, Nou Estat, Nova Política, Nou
António Costa Pinto 115

Ordre Social: Feixisme en una Perspectiva Comparada, Barcelona: CEFID-UAB, 2005,

pp. 45–77.
74. F. B. Garcia, El sindicalismo Vertical: Burocracia, Control Laboral y Representación de
Interesses en la España Franquista (1936–51), Madrid, Centro de Estúdios Políticos e
Constitucionales, 2010.
75. Payne, The Franco Regime, p. 285.
76. Ibid., p. 260.
77. Linz, ‘Organic-statist-authoritarian regimes’.
78. R. Gunther, Public Policy in a No-Party State: Spanish Planning and Budgeting in
the Twilight of the Franquist Era, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1980,
p. 36.
79. Gómez Navarro, El regimen de Primo de Rivera, p. 2.
80. B. Diaz-Nosty, Las Cortes de Franco, Barcelona, DOPESA, 1972.
81. A. G. Morales, Autoritarismo y Control Parlamentário en las Cortes de Franco, Murcia:
Departamento de Derecho Político, 1977.
82. R. B. Martinez, Poder de la Burocracia y Cortes Franquistas, 1943–71, Madrid: Instituto
Nacional de Administración Publica, 1978.
83. P. Pasteur, ‘ “Austrofascisme” ou régime autoritaire corporatiste chrétien?’, in
C. Horel, T. Sandu and F. Taubert, eds, La Périphérie du Fascisme: Le Cas de L’Europe
Central entre les Deux Guerres, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2006, pp. 111–122; P. Pasteur, Les
États Autoritaires en Europe, 1919–45, Paris, Armand Colin, 2007, p. 120.
84. K. von Klemperer, Ignaz Seipel: Christian Statesman in a Time of Crises, Princeton, NJ,
Princeton University Press, 1971, p. 247.
85. P. Pasteur, Les États Autoritaires en Europe, 1919–45, p. 160.
86. A. Diamant, Austrian Catholics and the First Republic: Democracy and the Social Order,
1918–34, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1960, p. 269.
87. H. Wohnout, ‘A chancellorial dictatorship with a “corporative” pretext: The
Austrian constitution between 1934 and 1938’, in G. Bishof, A. Pelinka and
A. Lassner, eds, The Dollfuss/Schuschnigg Era in Austria: A Reassessment, New
Brunswick, NJ, Transaction, 2003, p. 151.
88. Ibid., p. 156.
89. Linz, ‘Organic-statist-authoritarian regimes’, p. 92.
90. A. Janos, East Central Europe in the Modern World, Stanford, CA, Stanford University
Press, 2000.
91. A. Janos, The Politics of Backwardness in Hungary, 1825–1945, Princeton, NJ,
Princeton University Press, 1982, p. 210.
92. W. M. Batkay, Authoritarian Politics in a Transitional State: Istvan Bethlen and the
Unified Party in Hungary, 1919–26, New York, Columbia University Press, 1982.
93. I. T. Berend, Decades of Crises: Central and Eastern Europe before World War
Two, Berkeley, CA, California University Press, 1998; J. Vonyó, ‘Tentative de
l’organization totale de la société hongroise sous le gouvernement de Gyula
Gömbös’, in Horel, Sandu and Taubert, La périphére du fascisme, p. 59; M. Ormos,
Hungary between the Wars, New York, Columbia University Press, 2008, pp. 254–258.
94. M. Ormos, ‘The Horthy era and the fascist epilogue: 1921–1945’, in M. Ormos and
B. K. Király, eds, Hungary: Government and Politics, 1845–2000, New York, Columbia
University Press, 2001, pp. 216–274; I. Romsics, István Bethlen: A Great Conservative
Statesman of Hungary, New York, Columbia University Press, 1995, p. 335.
95. Janos, Politics of Backwardness, p. 290.
96. A. Polonsky, Politics of Independent Poland, 1921–39: The Crisis of Constitutional Gov-
ernment, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972, p. vii; S. Levitsky and L. A. Way, Competitive
116 Fascism, Corporatism and Authoritarian Institutions

Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War, New York, Cambridge University
Press, 2010.
97. The predominance of Roman Catholicism in Poland did not give rise to strong
Catholic parties, and although the ‘detailed model of a corporatist system that
made provision for setting a new vertical power system at whose head would be
a corporatist national chamber’ was part of the small Christian Democratic Party’s
programme, this did not influence Pilsudski’s institutional reform. See L. Kuk,
‘A powerful Catholic Church, unstable state and authoritarian political regime: The
Christian Democratic Party in Poland’, in Kaiser and Wohnout, Political Catholicism,
p. 157.
98. E. D. Wynot Jr., Polish Politics in Transition: The Camp of National Unity and the
Struggle for Power, 1935–39, New York, Columbia University Press, 1974, p. 24.
99. The general electorate could send a delegate to these electoral commissions only
with 500 notarized signatures, which was a worthless procedure. See Polonsky,
Politics of Independent Poland, p. 397; Wynot, Polish Politics in Transition, p. 26.
100. Polonsky, Politics of Independent Poland, p. 430.
101. I. Tiu, The Legionary Movement after Corneliu Codrianu, New York, Columbia Univer-
sity Press, 2009.
102. J. Rothschild, East Central Europe between the Two World Wars, Seattle, WA, and
London, University of Washington Press, 1974, p. 311.
103. Z. Ornea, The Romanian Extreme Right: The 1930s, New York, Columbia University
Press, 1999, pp. 244–264.
104. H. L. Roberts, Rumania: Political Problems of an Agrarian State, New Haven, CT, Yale
University Press, 1951, p. 231; M. Platon, ‘The Iron Guard and the “Modern State”:
Iron Guard Leaders Vasile Marin and Ion I. Motţa, and the “New European Order” ’,
Fascism. Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies. 1, 2012, pp. 65–90.
105. D. Deletant, Hitler’s Forgotten Ally: Ion Antunescu and his Regime, Romania, 1940–44,
London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
106. J. K. Hoensch, Catholics, the State and the European Radical Right, 1919–45, New York,
Columbia University Press, 1987, p. 174.
107. J. M. Ward, Priest, Politician, Collaborator: Jozef Tiso and the Making of Fascist Slovakia,
Ithaca, NY, and London, Cornell University Press, 2013, p. 119.
108. N. Nedelsky, ‘The wartime Slovak state: A case study on the relationship
between ethnic nationalism and authoritarian patterns of governance’, Nations and
Nationalisms 7, no. 2, 2001, p. 221.
109. A. Soubigou, ‘Le “clerico-fascisme” slovaque fut-il une religion politique?’ in
T. Sandu, ed., Vers un Profil Convergent des Fascismes? ‘Nouveaux Consensus’ et Religion
Politique en Europe Central, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2010, p. 79.
110. Hoensch, Catholics, p. 180; D. Poli and S. Salmi, ‘Lo Stato corporativo: Una com-
parazione fra i casi italiano, portoghese e slovacco‘, in M. Pasetti, ed., Progetti
Corporativi tra le Due Guerre Mondiali, Rome, Carocci, 2006, pp. 165–186.
111. Soubogou, ‘Le “clerico-fascisme” slovaque’, p. 76. The six corporations created
by the constitution were called estates. See J. Lettrich, History of Modern Slovakia,
New York, Praeger, 1955, pp. 147–148.
112. Ward, Priest, Politician, Collaborator, p. 207.
113. Y. Jelinek, The Parish Republic: Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party, New York, Columbia
University Press, 1976, pp. 47–51; Poli and Salmi, ‘Lo Stato corporativo’, p. 173.
114. Ward, Priest, Politician, Collaborator, pp. 211–217.
115. R. J. Crampton, A Concise History of Bulgaria, Cambridge, Cambridge University
Press, 2005, p. 159.
António Costa Pinto 117

116. Ibid., p. 162.

117. J. Kofas, Authoritarianism in Greece: The Metaxas Regime, New York, Columbia
University Press, 1983, p. 65.
118. A. Kallis, ‘Neither fascist nor authoritarian: The 4th of August regime in Greece
(1936–41) and the dynamics of fascistisation in 1930s Europe’, East Central Europe
37, 2010, pp. 303–330.
119. C. Sarandis, ‘The ideology and character of the Metaxas regime’, in R. Highan and
T. Veremis, eds, Aspects of Greece: The Metaxas Dictatorship, Athens, ELIAMEP, 1993,
p. 156; S. V. Papacosma, ‘Ioannis Metaxas and the “Fourth of August” dictatorship’,
in F. Bernd, ed., Balkan Strongman: Dictators and Authoritarian Rulers of South-East
Europe, London, Hurst, 2006, p. 187.
120. A. Eidintas, ‘The presidential republic’, in A. Eidintas, V. Zalys and A. E. Senn, eds,
Lithuania in European Politics: The Years of the First Republic, 1918–40, Vilnius, Valga,
1997, pp. 111–137.
121. Ibid., p. 121. See also L. Sabaliunas, Lithuania in Crisis: Nationalism to Communism,
1934–1940, Bloomington IN, Indiana University Press, 1972, p. 42.
122. G. von Rauch, The Baltic States: The Years of Independence, 1917–40, New York, St
Martin’s Press, 1995, p. 164.
123. A. Kasekamp, The Radical Right in Interwar Estonia, London, Palgrave Macmillan,
2007, p. 121.
124. A. Plakans, The Latvians: A Short History, Stanford CA, The Hoover Institution Press,
125. Von Rauch, The Baltic States; Pasteur, Les États Autoritaires en Europe, 1919–45, p. 166.
126. Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, p. 214.
127. Stepan, The State and Society; Weyland, ‘The diffusion’, p. 1167.
128. M. Albertus and V. Menaldo, ‘Dictators as founding fathers? The role of con-
stitutions under autocracy’, p. 5, available at See
also, C. Thornhill, A Sociology of Constitutions. Constitutions and State Legitimacy
in Historical-Sociological Perspective, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011,
pp. 310–326.
129. M. W. Svolik, The Politics of Authoritarian Rule, New York, Cambridge University
Press, 2012.
130. P. Brooker, Twentieth-Century Dictatorships: The Ideological One-Party States,
New York, New York University Press, 1995, pp. 9–10.
131. N. Ezrow and E. Frantz, Dictators and Dictatorships: Understanding Authoritarian
Regimes and their Leaders, London, Continuum, 2011, p. 7.
132. Pinto, Ruling Elites.
133. See A. C. Pinto, ed., Rethinking the Nature of Fascism, London, Palgrave Macmillan,
2011 and, The Nature of Fascism Revisited, New York, SSM-Columbia University Press,
Part II
Case Studies
The Coming of the
Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime and the
Stages of its Development
Gerhard Botz

‘Austrofascism is back’.1 This is the opening statement of two young Viennese

scholars, F. Wenninger and L. Dreidemy, in a recent collected volume dealing
with the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg regime, and refers to the observation that ‘since
the 1980s the era of National Socialism’ has dominated historical research on
Austria’s 20th century at the expense of other topics.2 A tell-tale sign of the
sometimes confusing state of research and historiography on the (still politi-
cally disputed) Dollfuss–Schuschnigg dictatorship (1933–38) is the inability of
the 18 authors of this multifaceted book to agree on a name for their subject:
authoritarian, (berufs)ständisch (corporatist) or Austrofascist (with or without
quotation marks) are used. The latter term has been most commonly used by
pre- and post-war social democratic and leftist authors and is still used today,3
while conservatives had preferred ständisch or Ständestaat and other historians
have applied the names of the two rulers to label their regime or classify it as
By contrast, Christlicher Ständestaat (Christian corporatist state) was the term
favoured by Dollfuss and his successor, Kurt Schuschnigg: alternatively both
referred to their form of government in more abstract terms as an authoritarian
state or a Fuehrerstaat. Heimwehr leaders in their turn, taking their cue from
Mussolini’s stato totalitario, tended to include a reference to the principle of
totality, or spoke of authoritarian rule. A similar conceptual confusion haunts
many historians and political scientists both in Austria and elsewhere in their
research on the chameleon-like Dollfuss–Schuschnigg regime.
In contrast to this, the analysis first introduced by the German-American
political scientists E. Fraenkel and F. Neumann of the Nazi regime’s compos-
ite character and radicalizing dynamics has so far been only rarely extended to
Austria.5 Their explanatory model stipulated the interaction of a normative and
a prerogative principle in the Nazi dictatorship. This distinction continues to
be fruitful to this day for research into fascist and other dictatorial regimes

122 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

in Europe in the 1930s. The concept with its emphasis on regime-internal

heterogeneity has been expanded into a cultural-history term, ‘parafascism’,
by Roger Griffin.6 It is also at the root of recent theories concerning the
‘hybridization’ of dictatorial praxis as proposed by the editors of this volume.7
In line with the present author’s earlier concept of the fluid heterogeneity of
the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg regime,8 the aim of this chapter is to describe that
regime as a hybrid comprising different elements and theoretical models in an
ever-shifting mixture. While the focus is on the regime’s step-by-step evolution,
this neither postulates a nature-like development nor does it exclude the pos-
sibility of a reversal of the hitherto observed trend towards radicalization and
fascistization. In the Austrian case such an explanatory tableau is additionally
complicated by the role played by two fascist powers both outside and within
Austria and the double pressure they exerted on a small, then newly democ-
ratized and as yet unstable country. All this was crucial for Austria during the
1930s, both in terms of the form its regime was taking and for later collective

Historical background

This author’s point of departure is that ultra-conservative, authoritarian and

fascist phenomena in Austria are embedded in and derived from particular
segments of the existing socio-political culture.10 A process called pillarization
elsewhere, whose origins in Austria lie in the late 19th century, resulted in three
political camps – with a political party (or parties in Austria’s third camp) and
its distinct ideology forming the core to which supportive social, cultural and
other interest organizations attached themselves and provided strong interme-
diary networks for their followers ‘from the cradle to the grave’.11 The trenches
surrounding these camps were deepened by the increasingly confrontational
political conflicts of the First Republic (1918–33).12
Political conflicts exacerbated the differences and led the camps to set up
paramilitary defence organizations.13 A comparison with the multiply fractured
political culture of the Weimar Republic shows that the Austrian three-camp
structure was more coherent and long-lived than simple political milieus.
In many ways, the resulting structure survived into the Second Republic after
1945 in certain aspects of Austria’s main political parties and in the system of
social partnership. In the 1930s it was the precondition for and, in a vicious cir-
cle, the result of, heated domestic conflicts leading to two civil war interludes:
the socialist uprising in February 1934 and the Nazi (SS-SA) putsch in July 1934.
While not undisputed,14 the camp theory is best suited to capture the frag-
mented political culture of Austria’s inter-war period.15 The main actors, either
as opponents or as supporters of anti-democratic tendencies, in the political
arena of the period of fascism and authoritarianism were:
Gerhard Botz 123

• The large and powerful Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Austria (SD –
Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs). Based in Vienna and indus-
trial centres outside the capital, it had as its logical constituency the indus-
trial working classes. Its explicitly left-wing ideology, Austromarxism, left
little or no room for a communist party. SD leaders opposed anti-Semitism,
but the same cannot be said about their rank and file. In general elections
the SD repeatedly polled as much as 36–41 per cent of the vote and with its
affiliated organizations it can be considered the prototype of a class-based
camp.16 Outside of its strongholds, this did not exclude the possibility of
forming various coalitions with their political competitors, but SD support-
ers proved to be the most resistant to fascism and political authoritarianism
before the Great Depression struck, sapping Austromarxism’s organizational
• The almost as large Christian Social Party (CS – Christlichsoziale Partei) was
strongly linked to the Catholic Church and attracted large sections of the
rural population, the self-employed middle-classes, industrialists and what
survived of the traditional upper classes as well as a section of Catholic
workers. The devotion of its followers to the practice of Catholic rites and
cultural events (weekly or daily church attendance, participation in proces-
sions, observing periods of fasting, confession etc.) enabled them to bridge
all kinds of social and class gaps.17 Anti-Judaism was common and a certain
adherence to the Habsburgs and nostalgia for the old Austrian empire was
strong among peasants in general and especially in the east and in the Alpine
regions while in the western regions a kind of peasant democracy dominated
in the early 1920s. The CS, the Christian labour unions and the governing
CS political elites were supported by networks of priests and laymen in a
predominantly Catholic country and political Catholicism constituted the
Catholic-conservative camp in the strict sense.18 Since 1920 the CS had ruled
in coalition with the moderate German nationalist parties so that one spoke
of the dominant bourgeois bloc. Finally, the CS provided the backbone for
the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg regime, and, together with the German national-
ist political grouping it created space for the development of the composite
(and in part camp-crossing) Heimwehr movement.
• The remaining segment, the smallest in electoral and weakest in organiza-
tional terms, the so-called third camp, occupied the space between those
two camps. Its constituency was made up of state bureaucrats, civil servants,
private-sector employees, liberal professionals and mid-sized farmers in a
political spectrum ranging from bourgeois liberals to (ultra-)conservative
nationalists. It was present in rural regions as well as in Vienna and at
its strongest in mid-sized towns. There is a remarkable correlation with
still existing Protestant minorities. (Protestants had been oppressed by
the counter-reformation and by pro-Habsburg Catholicism, which inclined
124 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

them to feel sympathetic to Protestant Prussia.) The major actors in this

third camp were the Greater German People’s Party (GVP – Großdeutsche
Volkspartei), the small pro-German Peasants’ Union (LB – Landbund) and
the Nazis, who kept their own counsel and tended to stay away from
coalitions with their political neighbours.
Internally fragmented, this camp derived what common denominator it had
from a strong reliance on German nationalism and its striving for Anschluss
(union with Germany). Thus German nationalism ranged from radical
anti-democratic pan-German factions (including the student fraternities –
Burschenschaften) to moderate democratic nationalists and Catholic nation-
als. Special attention must be paid to a grouping calling itself Gesamtdeutsche
(all-embracing Germans),19 who sought to revive the pre-national vision of
a German Holy Reich somehow presided over by Austria.20 Anti-Semitism
in its secular, modern form was rife among them.21 Taken as a whole, the
so-called third camp was the breeding ground for Austrian Nazism.
• Left-leaning liberalism as a separate factor has been weak in Austria since the
late 19th century and was under permanent attack from anti-Semites of all
kinds. To a high extent it drew intellectual support from the Vienna-based
Jewish liberal bourgeoisie,22 but the liberal party, which had dominated
Austria (and Vienna) since 1867, declined in the early1920s and ceased to
be represented in parliament. Many of its Jewish members were ultimately
expelled or murdered by the Nazis. (Pre-Nazi Austria had a Jewish minority
of around 200,000.) Mainly outside Vienna there were pockets of liberal sen-
timent mostly in combination with German nationalism; liberalism formed
strange hybrids with anti-Semitism there, which became even more of a
staple in the third camp during the 1920s.

In such a fragmented political structure there was little room for the devel-
opment of fascist forces before the Great Depression unleashed its destructive
effects.23 The establishment of dictatorial rule in Italy and the seductive effects
of Hitler’s seizure of power in Germany created a totally different political sit-
uation; Austria became sandwiched between two powerful fascist regimes to
the north and the south. This development made itself felt in contradictory
ways that included the Heimwehr’s (albeit) limited success, the delay in the
rise of Nazism and the growth of anti-democratic tendencies within the exist-
ing Catholic-conservative camp. Already in the mid-1920s the CS had begun
to revitalize anti-republican and anti-modern traditions inherited from the
Habsburg period.
An important factor for defining the political space in which fascist move-
ments were able to recruit followers in many other European states was the
perception of national identities.24 In this respect, inter-war Austria resem-
bled Belgium, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. After 1918, the
Gerhard Botz 125

majority of the German-speaking citizens of the newly established republican

state resorted to a shared German identity and wanted to call their new coun-
try German-Austria, a wish they were denied by the victorious Entente. It is
therefore crucial to keep in mind that most Austrians sought union (Anschluss)
with Germany. Even if no one pursued this goal more ardently than the fac-
tions in the German nationalist camp, the GVP, LB and the originally marginal
group of National Socialists, the fact remains that this agenda was shared, with
differing degrees of conviction and for different reasons, by all major polit-
ical groups. Under the pretext of a union with a socialist German republic,
even the internationalist SD came out in favour of Anschluss. The majority of
the CS, particularly in the east and in Vienna, displayed continuing loyalty
to the Habsburgs and Catholic Austrian patriotism. While Anschluss was the
number-one issue for the German nationalists in the third camp, the other two
camps hedged their bets. Under the rising pressure from Hitler’s Germany in the
early 1930s the SD removed union with Germany from its party programme.25
The CS adopted an ambiguous position by paying lip service to the Nazified
German nationalists’ ideas while adhering to an anti-German line (at least until
The national question in the First Republic must also be seen against the
backdrop of the varieties of pro-Austrian sentiment. The CS alone was split into
subgroups defined along the lines of religious observance. Groups of active,
church-going believers and members of the highly developed Catholic orga-
nizations existed side-by-side with the majority of semi-secularized Catholics.
A multitude of Reich ideologies fascinated Catholic intellectuals, ranging from
the simple restoration of the Habsburg Empire, which would continue to
perform its historic mission of civilizing the south-east within the overall frame-
work of an all-embracing German Reich, to a conservative Catholic Central
Europe or even a federalist pan-Europe.26
Obviously this was an indication of the persisting trauma caused by the
breakdown of the order of the old monarchy and the demise of the Habsburg
Empire; pre-modern, autocratic traits and anti-democratic practices were still
lurking in the Austrian mindset and in the country’s shattered economic and
social structures after 1918.
Landed or office aristocrats, leading bureaucrats, military officers and other
members of the old ruling classes retained largely the same societal position
as before 1918 or were reinstalled in that position through the CS’s reversal
of policy (from the acceptance of the republic to sceptical positions) during
the early 1920s.27 The SD was not strong enough even after the Austrian ‘rev-
olution’ of 1918–19 to prevent the persistence and strengthening of these
reactionary forces. Austria’s traditional political elites were familiar with the
principle of government without parliament based on the notorious para-
graph 14 of the constitution of 1867, which had frequently been applied
126 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

either to overrule democratic decision-making processes in the multi-national

Reichsrat (the democratically elected second house of parliament) or to over-
come the Reichsrat’s increasingly common deadlock. During the First World
War rule by extra-parliamentary emergency legislation and police decrees
increased. The War Economy Enabling Law (KWEG – Kriegswirtschaftliches
Ermächtigungsgesetz) of 1917 expanded extra-democratic legislation to a wide
range of economic and provisioning issues. Rule from above characterized pre-
1918 Austria as a practically half-constitutional state and a breeding ground for
All this had not been forgotten by contemporaries and was considered a
(legitimate) way for the old ruling classes to deal with economic and political
crises, as was the case from 1932 on.28 This is an important but often neglected
factor that helps explain the coming of the Dollfuss regime, especially in a time
of emerging dictatorships in nearly all of Central, Southern and Eastern Europe.
Mutual imitation became a widely shared principle of government.

Two (proto-)fascist movements

The two fascist movements in Austria – National Socialism and the Heimwehr –
had clearly non-fascist beginnings. Both movements developed either in a
mutually entangled or in a complementary way, and both influenced either
as counterparts or agents of transfer of ideas and support for the authoritarian
regime the formation of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg regime.
National Socialism first emerged in the ethnically mixed German-Czech
areas of northern Bohemia, a region riven by nationalist conflict. In 1903,
German-speaking employees and workers on the railways and in public service
and mine supervisors established the German Workers’ Party (DAP −Deutsche
Arbeiterpartei) as an offspring of Georg von Schönerer’s radical völkisch and
anti-Semitic pan-German Party. Initially the DAP served as the political arm of
the German nationalist unions. Its programme was the protection of German-
speaking ‘elite workers’ against Czech competitors and ‘Jewish capital’ by
promoting nationalistic protectionism as a substitute for internationalist social-
ism and class struggle.29 At this stage the DAP resembled a centre-left party in
favour of socialism, ‘moderate’ anti-Semitism and Anschluss. A similar fusion
of nationalist and socialist demands had already led the Czech National-Social
Party to secede from the Czech Social Democrats in 1897.
Before and during the First World War, the appeal of nationalist socialist ideas
spread to those living in the German-speaking areas of what was to become
the Austrian republic, prompting the DAP to change its name to German
National Socialist Workers’ Party (DNSAP – Deutsche Nationalsozialistische
Arbeiterpartei). As a parliamentary force, it never outgrew the status of a splinter
Gerhard Botz 127

group; however, it became the embryo of the later Nazi party in Austria.30
(Indeed, Hitler joined its Bavarian namesake party in 1919;31 it soon modified
the acronym inherited from its Austrian predecessor to NSDAP.)
The Heimwehren (at this stage it is appropriate to use the plural, given their
regionalist character and lack of a unified organization) originated from the
many groups of vigilantes, peasants and rightist petit-bourgeois, who sought
to defend order and protect their property both against looting by soldiers of
the disbanded Habsburg army and against the perceived revolutionary threat
emanating from Béla Kun’s Soviet Hungary, revolutionary Bavaria and the SDs’
short-lived workers’ councils in and around Vienna. It was not long before
these bands of vigilantes were dominated by demobilized officers, provincial
intellectuals, conservative dignitaries and younger members of the politically
disenfranchised aristocracy.
In the southern provinces the Heimwehren were involved in border skir-
mishes as part of an undeclared defence war with Slovenes. They can be
compared to the Bavarian Home Guards (Einwohnerwehren) and the Upper
Silesian and the East Prussian Free Corps (Freikorps), both of which played
similar roles in the formation of early fascist organizations in Germany. The
Heimwehren soon established contacts with both German organizations and
received funds from post-revolutionary Bavaria.
During the relatively politically stable mid-1920s, both the NSDAP and
the Heimwehren declined to little more than armed paramilitary bands in
the service of conservative and German nationalist parties. To justify their
existence they claimed to be the logical counterparts to the paramilitary Repub-
lican Defence League (RS – Republikanischer Schutzbund), founded by the SD
in 1923.
In 1927 the Heimwehren were able to exploit renewed fears of the ‘red threat’
in the wake of the July 15 riots in Vienna; the Palace of Justice was set on fire
and 89 people died. Member numbers rose again, as did the political, finan-
cial and material support from Austrian conservatives and industrialists and
from Mussolini’s Italy. Ignaz Seipel, the Catholic prelate who, as the virtual
leader of the CS, was twice federal chancellor, supported in the pursuit of his
anti-democratic programme of ‘true democracy’ the ideas and activities of the
Heimwehren to keep Austromarxism at bay.
While the Heimwehren still remained only loosely organized, they were able
to recruit young farmers, farm labourers and industrial workers from outside
the capital in considerable numbers. They repeatedly claimed an attendance
of more than 150,000 at their meetings and propaganda marches. In the
late 1920s they even planned to imitate Mussolini’s example by marching
on Vienna. In addition to their original common denominator, anti-Marxism,
they adopted more and more ideological elements and concepts from Fascism,
128 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

a development that was boosted by financial and armament subsidies from

In 1929, demands put forward by the bourgeois parties and the Heimwehren
included the call for an amendment of the Federal Constitution of 1919.
Corporatist and authoritarian traits were to be introduced to satisfy rising right-
ist critique of democratic procedure. That the SD was able to see off most
of these demands at the time was owed at least partly to the fact that the
international environment was not yet favourable for such sweeping changes.
However, the power of the federal president was strengthened at the expense of
parliament and the president was granted the right to govern through limited
emergency decrees; the example for this had been set by the constitution of
the Weimar Republic. In 1933, when authoritarian rule was introduced, it was
in fact ushered in through a different door: the KWEG, which had not been
annulled while this was still possible, served Dollfuss as an effective lever for
the elimination of democracy.32
In an attempt to create a more united movement, the leaders of the regional
Heimwehr organizations pledged allegiance to a heterogeneous programme in
a ceremony that has gone down as the Korneuburg Oath of 18 May 1930.33 Its
demands included a call for the reconstruction of the state along authoritarian
and corporatist lines. The Heimwehr, like almost all other political strands in
Austria up to 1933, implicitly treated commitment to the Anschluss as a fore-
gone conclusion. (Austria had been forbidden the Anschluss since the peace
treaties of 1919/20.) When its leaders openly declared their will to seize power,
create the people’s state of the Heimwehr and make the nation subservient to
the well-being of its people, it seemed unnecessary to clarify what nation they
had in mind. The concept of an Austrian identity, then, was associated first and
foremost with a strong regional patriotism; Austrians were primarily Tyroleans,
Styrians, etc. The feeling of belonging to a ‘community of the German peo-
ple’ differed only in terms of the union with the German Reich. The only
Heimwehr organizations where demands for the Anschluss were openly voiced
were in Styria.34
The Korneuburg Oath served the different Heimwehr groups during the fol-
lowing years as a rallying cry. It had been formulated by Walter Heinrich, a
close collaborator of a Viennese professor of philosophy, Othmar Spann, the
most influential early ideologist of universalism, corporatism and the anti-
democratic true state.35 It was at this stage that the ardent anti-Marxism in
word and deed of the loosely unified Heimwehr entered into an amalgamation
with Führer and other authoritarian principles, voluntaristic actionism, and
assorted anti-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-parliament concepts of the kind that
were swirling around in Europe at the time. Anti-Semitism was there, but it was
not accorded the priority it had with National Socialists. There was also a latent
legitimistic (pro-Habsburgs) sentiment, which was not shown in public out of
Gerhard Botz 129

consideration for anti-Habsburg sentiment among neighbouring countries and

the Western powers.
The Heimwehr programme reflected the various currents existing within
it, ranging from the traditional, peasant-oriented wing represented by the
Lower Austrian Heimwehr and the consensus-inclined groups in Upper Austria
to corporatist (ständisch)-minded supporters typically found in more strictly
Catholic milieus and the openly fascist views prevalent in the Tyrol and Styria.
Even the official names they chose for their appearances in public were differ-
ent: Heimatwehr, Heimatschutz, Heimatblock, Selbstschutzverband and others
were alternative terms. The platform of 1930 was flexible enough to include
members of the GVP and the LB, as well as the radical pro-German Heimwehr
groups in southern Austria; the latter had developed early affinities with Nazism
and was crucial for the breach in 1931–32 between National Socialism and
Heimwehr fascism.36
1930 was also a year of general elections, the last, it turned out, in the First
Republic. The majority of regional Heimwehren formed a separate party, the
Heimatblock, which to their great disappointment netted only 227,000 votes
or 6 per cent of the ballot. Apparently the Heimwehr leaders had failed to take
into account that their candidacy constituted a real threat to the bourgeois
parties, which campaigned explicitly against them. In the wake of their elec-
toral defeat, they lost many sympathizers who had formerly taken part in their
extra-parliamentary activities.
Another sign of the decline of Heimwehr influence was the miscarriage of
a minority government with which the Heimwehr in concert with the CS
proposed to circumvent parliament in the autumn of 1930. This episode was
the first of its kind. Inspired by the mastermind of the rising anti-democratic
tendencies among the CS, Ignaz Seipel, it was brought down after 60 days
by the united opposition of the SD and the German national camp parties,
only to be renewed successfully under weakened democratic circumstances two
years later.37
A putsch carried out by the Styrian Heimwehr leader Walter Pfrimer on
13 September 1931 collapsed and raised hopes among democrats in and out-
side the country that this version of Austrian fascism had gone into terminal
decline. Nevertheless, in 1932 its remains were to have a crucial influence on
the formation of the Dollfuss regime.
Austrian Nazism developed in a similarly phase-delayed manner. Initially
competing with the Heimwehren, the Nazis did not hesitate to make com-
mon cause with them when convenient. They subsequently went on to attract
many former Heimwehr supporters. During the period of hyperinflation and
the even more stressful restructuring of the nearly bankrupt Austrian state by
means of the internationally guaranteed Geneva loan granted in 1922, Austria
had witnessed the social decline of its middle classes and had helplessly sat by
130 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

as its young men turned openly anti-democratic and violent. In occupational

sectors that lost their traditional fields of administration, transport and business
owing to the breakdown of the multi-national empire in 1918, unemployment
was rife among public and private employees.38
The rise of Hitler in Bavaria in 1923 exerted an increasing influence on the
Nazi organization in Austria, which led to disputes and secessions that took
a considerable toll on membership. This provided the remaining members
with the opportunity to adopt the name, organizational model, leadership and
programme of Hitler’s NSDAP.
From 1931 onwards, the effects of the Great Depression were felt more and
more keenly in Austria, providing additional fertile ground for Nazism. Having
polled only 3 per cent of the vote in the 1930 national elections, it was now
set to gain steadily in popularity. The reason for its delayed growth in Austria
compared to Germany was largely the existence of a still powerful SD and the
rival Heimwehr. While in the late 1920s the Nazis recruited members mainly
from among the middle classes, they now sought to become attractive also for
farmers and industrial workers, with only limited success. In 1931, half a decade
after the formation of the SA in Austria, the SS was established as an extremely
violent factor and at the hands of one of Hitler’s German emissary the NSDAP
underwent rigid reorganization in line with the German blueprint.39

Late democratic beginnings of the Dollfuss government

(May 1932–March 1933)

In the shadow of the economic crisis, which was to culminate in 1932–33,

the domestic political situation in Austria deteriorated ever further. The coali-
tion governments formed by two or three bourgeois parties that had been the
norm from 1920 onwards had ceased to be an option. This meant that no help
was available when the Credit-Anstalt bank collapsed in 1931. Austria’s over-
burdened financial system was in imminent danger of collapse as well. This
turned up the heat on the leaders of the CS, forcing them in the end to take the
unpopular decision to seek foreign financial assistance through the Lausanne
Protocol (signed on 15 July 1932). The protocol guaranteed a badly needed
loan. As in the comparable situation in 1922, the loan was linked in Austria to
a renewal of the unpopular prohibition of the Anschluss. Aware of the danger it
faced in this situation from the Nazis overtaking it on the right, the GDV, the
moderate German nationalist party in the third camp, left the CS-dominated
government and joined the opposition.
The April 1932 regional elections in Vienna, Lower Austria, Salzburg and
Vorarlberg six months later resulted in what was a landslide by Austrian stan-
dards: in the four provinces (Länder), which accounted for two-thirds of the
Austrian population, the NSDAP gained 16 per cent of the votes. Even if this
Gerhard Botz 131

result lagged behind developments in Germany, where Hitler had achieved

18.3 per cent in 1930 and was to poll 37.3 in July 1932, it shattered the existing
party system in Austria. A great part of the former following of the GVP and the
LB and the pro-German wing of the Heimwehr in southern Austria were soaked
up by the NSDAP.40 The Nazis also began making considerable inroads into the
CS and SD camps.41
At this point Engelbert Dollfuss, an as yet little-known figure in parliament,
who had made his mark as a consensus-oriented director of the chamber of agri-
culture, took on the task of forming a centre-right government in May 1932.
As a representative of the powerful agricultural lobby within the CS, he steered
his party into a coalition with the LB and the Heimwehr, allowing the latter a
disproportionate weight. The balance of power within the coalition was tilted
in favour of the representatives of agrarian interest, including anti-democratic
aristocrats. This gave a boost to the idea of a reorganization of society and state
along corporatist lines and to concepts calling for the restriction of parliamen-
tary rights and the increase in presidential and executive authority that, while
by no means new, had been ubiquitous in Europe since the 1920s.42
The new government continued to face strong opposition and calls for early
elections from the strong SD and the NSDAP, which was now represented in
four regional parliaments. As Dollfuss had only a precarious majority in par-
liament, he was understandably unwilling to call early general elections. Plans
were therefore put forward to allow him to overrule parliament and the SD as
well as the Nazis.
Having considered but postponed the introduction of emergency rule
already in October 1932, Dollfuss availed himself of a procedural crisis in the
Nationalrat on 4 March 1933. He claimed that since ‘parliament had eliminated
itself’ he had no choice but to rule with emergency power. While this was to the
liking both of the Heimwehr in Austria and of Mussolini in Italy, it also pleased
many within the CS. His resort to the KWEG of 1917, which involved bending
the law, even received hidden support from Meinoud Rost van Tonningen, who
had been sent to Vienna as the country’s League of Nations-appointed financial
controller for the Lausanne loan.
The international political situation was not favourable for democracy in
Austria in the early 1930s. Concepts, suggestions, philosophical constructs and
ideas of political and economic salvation travelled long distances across differ-
ent political and weltanschauliche milieus. Terms like ‘corporatist’ (ständisch) or
‘corporatist state’ (Ständestaat),43 ‘authoritarian’,’ true democracy’, ‘new state’,
‘Reich’, ‘new man’, ‘single-party’,44 ‘Führer state’, ‘dictatorship’, ‘totalitarian’,
even ‘Fascism’ or ‘National Socialism’, were very much part of the new politi-
cal discourse and pointed in the same direction, despite the differences in their
meaning. They were transported along different channels – intellectual, eco-
nomic or by threat of force – and changed their meaning chameleon-like en
132 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

route. Thus, these concepts nomads could be used nearly universally and applied
to widely differing – including even leftist – political contexts.45 They helped
blur the profiles of existing liberal and democratic ideological currents, which
had started out as widely apart from each other.46 Many of these concepts and
practical examples of politics were absorbed by Austria’s political right in the
largest sense.
In the early 1930s Austria’s neighbours were, with the exception of
Czechoslovakia, either governed by fascist, authoritarian or monarchist
regimes, or, as in Heinrich Brüning’s Germany, by a government that sought to
limit or abandon democracy. In Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia and other Eastern
European states, democracy was either absent or in decline. In Southern Europe
Portugal was ruled by Salazar’s authoritarian regime.47
The Mussolini and Horthy regimes in Italy and Hungary offered models of
dictatorial rule that proved attractive to Austria. Both provided, or promised
to provide, financial and even military assistance to authoritarian movements
such as the Heimwehr. These regimes viewed, and tried to influence, Austria
as a bridge for their revisionist foreign policy.48 In Germany, with its growing
drive for financial and economic expansion to the south-east (and the revival
of Anschluss tendencies), Heinrich Brüning, a representative of the Centre Party
(Zentrum), was head of a centre-right coalition that ruled by presidential emer-
gency decrees.49 The German example was widely admired by Austria’s Catholic
political elite and the country’s intellectuals. Germany, Austria’s major cultural,
economic and political reference point, had therefore given up parliamentary
rule even before Hitler’s seizure of government on 30 January and his victory
in the Reichstag elections of 5 March 1933.
Every Austrian party, with the exception of the SD, saw the rise in their
midst of ideologies promoting the restriction of parliamentary rights and the
strengthening of presidential and executive authority. Clearly this was at least
partially the result of the spread of ideas and of pressure emanating from
the Heimwehr. The idea of a reorganization of society along berufsständisch
(corporatist) principles and a nostalgic view of pre-modern society had their
most committed advocates in Catholic and monarchist circles. They were also
constitutive elements in the self-image of peasants in traditional rural regions
like the one Dollfuss came from. The concept was almost ubiquitous within
the Catholic-conservative camp and it became amalgamated with the myth
of a universal Reich and with sentimental attachment to the ousted Austrian
The situation was similar among supporters of the German nationalist camp,
particularly within the LB. There was, however, one crucial difference: the term
‘Reich’ meant something different to radical German nationalists: for them
since 1871 it had referred to a nation state under Prussian monarchs. For the
SD and for the thinning ranks of national democrats and liberals, ‘Reich’ was
Gerhard Botz 133

linked with the German Weimar Republic. Catholic politicians and intellec-
tuals, imbedded as they were in a totally different Weltanschauung, reduced
their interest in the Anschluss rather than giving it up altogether. Since they
had been socialized during the late Habsburg monarchy and in the First World
War as the ‘front generation’ they welcomed the destruction of democracy.51
As should become apparent from what has been said so far, many different and
differently accentuated versions of Reich ideologies that merged Catholic con-
servatism and German nationalism – from backward-looking Gesamtdeutsche
(all-embracing German) utopias to ideologies that tried to blend plain Nazism
with Catholicism – were swirling around in the cauldron of political discourse
in the early 1930s.52

Authoritarian rule and fascistization (March 1933–February 1934)

Dollfuss did not have a detailed plan for establishing a non-democratic regime,
nor did he need one; he simply took advantage of an opportunity that, from
his point of view, was too good to miss. After parliament had stalemated itself
on a point of due procedure, Dollfuss declared it had become unworkable and
set about abolishing constitutional rights, guarantees of political action and the
freedom of the press. Making use of bureaucratic acts and pseudo-legal decrees
deriving from his formal powers as state chancellor, he took care to avoid the
open impression of breaking the law, preferring to erode the legal status quo in
a series of small steps.
This pragmatic approach to ousting democracy paralyzed the SD. Their
endeavour to stop it through constitutional and legal measures proved in vain.
The threat of calling a general strike that might have redressed the balance in
more normal circumstances had been blunted by mass unemployment. The
only weapon left was the paramilitary violence of the RS. The rhetoric with
which the SD had warned of the coming of a ‘bourgeois dictatorship’ in the
party programme of 1926 was often repeated in public and complemented by
the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ as the ultima ratio of an otherwise thor-
oughly reformist party. The trade unions were increasingly confined to the
sidelines, the party’s representation in regional and local governments was on
the wane and its paramilitary defence organization was banned at the end of
May 1933.
The communist party, which had never amounted to much in any case, was
banned and this was followed on 16 May 1933, by the banning of the NSDAP,
the SS, SA and the Styrian Heimatschutz. The NSDAP had orchestrated a series
of murderous attacks on representatives of the Dollfuss regime.53
March 1933 marks the beginning of the second phase of Dollfuss’s author-
itarian regime. Authoritarianism had initially been considered an instrument
with which to secure the regime’s majority in parliament, now tentative plans
134 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

to gradually remodel society came to the fore. Dollfuss’s ideal seems to have
been a society conceived along the lines of an idealized tradition-bound peas-
ant family, where everyone, from the pater familias down to the lowliest servant,
sits under the crucifix at the same table and eats from the same bowl.54 Dollfuss
promoted this view in the Trabrennplatz speech he delivered in Vienna on
11 September 1933, in which he outlined the programme for a new crusade
250 years after Vienna’s liberation from the siege of the Turks. This time the
crusade was to be directed against socialism, Nazism, democracy and liberalism
in support of a corporatist order based on professional groups.55
For the time being, the main elements of Dollfuss’s power base were the
state bureaucracy, the judiciary, the police apparatus, organizational and per-
sonal networks of the old CS and other stakeholders such as unions, economic
and cultural associations and the powerful organization of Catholic student
and alumni fraternities (CV – Cartellverband). Dollfuss received support from
the industrialists’ association. Unemployment amounted to more than 25 per
cent. Here was an opportunity to attack the SD trade unions and reduce labour
In May 1933 Dollfuss founded the Fatherland Front (VF – Vaterländische
Front) as an all-embracing party representative of the entire Catholic-
conservative camp. As initially membership was open both to individuals and
organizations loyal to the regime – where loyalty was interpreted to mean not in
alignment with either the SD or the (banned) Nazi party – membership figures
soared to half a million within seven months.56
On taking office, Dollfuss was saluted by the terminally ill Ignaz Seipel,57
who had orchestrated the Catholic anti-democratic turn from 1927 onwards,
when, in the wake of the Vienna workers’ riot and the burning of the Palace of
Justice, he started to exploit anti-Marxist fears. After he had started on his anti-
democratic course, Dollfuss could also count on the goodwill of the Catholic
hierarchy and of many Catholic lay organizations with their deep-rooted suspi-
cion of democracy.58 The concordat concluded with the Holy See in June 1933
became an integral element of the Christliche Ständestaat.
Dollfuss had served as a front-line officer in the First World War and was able
to count on the loyalty of the officer corps of the First Republic’s small army,
which, after a brief interlude of socialist dominance, had been turned around
politically during the 1920s.
Despite the relative success of the VF, Dollfuss was forced to share power. The
problem was not so much the LB, whose politicians felt increasingly uncom-
fortable with Dollfuss’ authoritarian and anti-German course and ultimately
walked out of the coalition in 1933, but the Heimwehr, which was at the same
time his main ally and chief rival. Several Heimwehr leaders, such as Emil Fey,
had to be appointed to important positions in government, the police and the
security apparatus.
Gerhard Botz 135

The continuing role played by former high-ranking bureaucrats in min-

istries is remarkable. Most were former CS members and/or Catholic academics
organized in the CV. Seipel, Dollfuss, Schuschnigg and many members of
the government belonged to one of the student fraternities. New appointees
belonged to a relatively younger (front) generation – which included Dollfuss
himself and the justice minister (since 1932) Kurt Schuschnigg – but that was
the only change in the ruling conservative group. Only the Heimwehr leader-
ship represented a socially new and even younger element. The key posts in the
first authoritarian governments went to the former members of the CS, Dollfuss
and Schuschnigg, to the Heimwehr’s ‘strong man’ Fey, who was appointed to
the post of vice-chancellor in September 1933, and to the Heimwehr warhorse
and long-standing leader, Rüdiger von Starhemberg, then aged 34.
The fact that Starhemberg was a descendant of Ernst Rüdiger von
Starhemberg, the legendary liberator of Vienna (1638–1701), inspired Dollfuss
to use the 250th anniversary of the city’s liberation from the Turks in 1683
as a link with ‘Austria’s glorious past’ and to put himself and the organiza-
tion he led at the centre of many of the commemorative events in September
1933. Dollfuss’ and Starhemberg’s agenda now featured the liberation of Austria
from godless socialism and the miseries attending modernity and a class soci-
ety and the installation of a backward-looking corporatist order. What kind
of Ständestaat they and other supporters of corporatism envisaged was left to
interpretation. Dollfuss may have had his idealized peasant family in mind:
the aristocrats and the members of the old (military) elite of the Habsburg
Monarchy no doubt had other reasons to seek to reverse the course of history.59
Functionaries of organized agricultural and forestry interests argued strongly in
favour of agrarian corporatism,60 and from the 1920s on many industrialists
voiced their preference for some kind of crisis government that would roll back
the inroads labour organizations and democracy had made into their territory.61
The Heimwehr embraced the theory of the true state that had been developed
by the influential Viennese social philosopher Othmar Spann, the source of
inspiration for the Korneuburg Oath. Spann sought to systematize Mussolini’s
corporatist structure into a variant suited for Austria.62
In 1933, an as yet little-known Heimwehr leader, Odo Neustädter-Stürmer,
and the Austrian Catholic theologian Johannes Messner elaborated divergent
theories that in 1933 and 1934 helped a former democratic CS politician from
Vorarlberg, Otto Ender, formulate the constitution of the Austrian Ständestaat.63
Also important for the constitution was the papal encyclical Quadragesimo Anno
issued in May 1931.64 The social theory of a Catholic, classless, corporatist
order, which was supposed to harmonize capital and labour and employers and
employees in the most important professional sectors, had first been formulated
by 19th-century social-Catholicism and the encyclical Rerum Novarum of 1891.
The call advanced here for subsidiary co-operation was primarily intended to
136 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

structure society, not necessarily the political order. Implementation, it was

claimed, would, against all likelihood, be possible without the use of force.
The 1931 encyclical became highly influential among Catholics throughout
Europe, mainly in Austria, southern Germany, Poland and Southern Europe.
This channel of transfer of ideas worked less via diplomatic contacts than
through the diffusion of social-Catholicism’s subsidiary and corporatist theories
communicated through priests and religious writings.65 Catholic corporatist
social doctrine thus found its way from the Vatican to Austria, whereas Rome’s
Fascism and its use of corporatism provided attractive examples of right-wing
politics suspending democracy, class struggle and the left, according a radical
nationalistic movement with conservative power holders in early Fascism.
In addition to this, Mussolini and his admirers in the Heimwehr exerted
direct political pressure on Dollfuss to abolish what remained of the demo-
cratic constitution of 1920–29 and the last remaining SD footholds.66 This task
was effectively completed in the wake of the bloody defeat of the SD uprising
of 12–15 February 1934.67

Hybrid ‘half-fascist’ authoritarian dictatorship (February 1934–35)

Civil war quickly put an end to a workers’ revolt that, born of despair, broke
out in Vienna and in several industrial regions. Fighting took a heavy toll in
the form of about 300 deaths; several hundred combatants and bystanders
were wounded on both sides. Nine death sentences were carried out.68 Several
thousands of socialist (and communist) militants and activists were imprisoned
or interned in Wöllersdorf and other detention camps.69 Those who escaped
internment experienced routine discrimination at their workplace, office and
places of study or suffered ‘soft’ repression, such as excommunication by the
Catholic Church, and acts of public humiliation.70
Next in line to the military and the police, the Heimwehr had played a
decisive role in crushing the uprising: for this they were rewarded with even
more influential government posts. During the following months a remark-
able shift in the regime’s internal tetragon of power – Dollfuss, Schuschnigg,
Fey, Starhemberg – occurred. While both Heimwehr leaders were tighten-
ing their grip on power, Fey, the acclaimed victor over the socialists, fell
behind Starhemberg, who succeeded him as vice-chancellor. The ideologue of
corporatism, Odo Neustädter-Stürmer, was also rewarded with a ministry. Nev-
ertheless, by mid-1934 internal rivalries appear to have provided Dollfuss the
opportunity to halt the further advance of the radical Heimwehr fascists.
In May 1934 Dollfuss, Mussolini and Horthy concluded the Rome Protocols,
an economic and political alliance intended to keep British and French influ-
ence out of the Danube basin and to protect Austria against increasing Nazi
influence, both from within the country and from Germany.
Gerhard Botz 137

In view of Nazi Germany’s threat to annexe Austria, Dollfuss and his sup-
porters redoubled their efforts to establish a specific Austrian identity. The
ingredients they hit upon were patriotism, Catholicism, social compromise
and corporatism, with a reference to Austria’s German character thrown in for
good measure. Dollfuss is often credited with having conceived an Austrian
national identity after the break-up of the multi-national Habsburg Empire.
In all probability this overstates his case. His composite concept, which sought
to define Austria as the better of the two German states, was probably stillborn
or at least it did not survive the first four years of its life. This first attempt
to invent and propagate a (rump-) Austrian national identity suffered from its
ambiguity and limited political support; it met with hostility from the banned
socialists (and the outlawed Nazis). It could not provide the regime with the
kind of ideological support it needed for its battle for Austria’s continuing
As leader of the VF, Dollfuss made Starhemberg his deputy in 1934; after
Dollfuss’ assassination only a few months later, Starhemberg stayed in that
position until 1936. He was followed by Schuschnigg, who finally succeeded
in uniting in his person the leading positions in the state and in the VF. It is on
purely formal grounds that the term ‘strong dictator’, which António Costa
Pinto developed in his analysis of Salazar’s dictatorship, can be applied to
Dollfuss and Schuschnigg.72 Standing at the head of a regime that has correctly
been described as a ‘chancellor dictatorship’, their power was in fact neither
secure nor total in any real sense.73
That this was indeed the case is made obvious by the fact their short-
lived regime never developed in any reasonable sense a unified formal and
practical power structure. The regime was always having to make do with
improvisations, compromises, parallel institutions, unions and membership
organizations. This is the upshot of the most recent systematic analysis by the
political scientist E. Tálos.74 As it was struggling towards institutionalization,
which in any case it never achieved, the regime produced a succession of ever-
changing agglomerations of personnel, interests and projected organizations
rather than hard-and-fast corporatist structures. Therefore the sociologist Juan
Linz has described its character, in contrast to the ideal-type of totalitarian-
ism, as a regime with limited pluralism.75 Its chaotic character was a by-product
of the innate construction principle of corporatism, which allowed its bodies
only the right to invoke and advise a superior authority, not to take collective
decisions on specific issues, in blatant contravention of Quadragesimo Anno’s
subsidiarity principle. Thus the chain of command usually ended with the
Staatsführer or sub-leaders in competition with him. This hypothesis applies
both to the party and the state: two entities that were frequently entangled.
The VF was given formal status in May 1934. Set up in imitation of the
monopoly party organizations in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, it was
138 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

intended to be the sole political basis of the Dollfuss regime. Its goal was ‘the
political aggregation of all citizens who are based in an independent, Christian,
German, federal state organized in a corporatist manner’.76 It aimed to cre-
ate a common ground – and the consciousness that there was such a thing
as common ground – for everyone who accepted the idea of an indepen-
dent Christian, corporatist Austrian state. Theoretically this excluded German
nationalists and Nazis, but in practice any exclusiveness that might initially
have been present soon evaporated. The VF did not encourage former mem-
bers of the SD to join, but it certainly did not bar Jews, Protestants or people
without any religious affiliation even if it could do nothing to protect them
against prejudice and societal disadvantages. VF members were required to
acknowledge Dollfuss and his possible successor as leaders. Already the VF’s
second-in-command while Dollfuss was still alive, Starhemberg was installed as
its leader by Schuschnigg immediately after Dollfuss’s death, only to be ousted
two years later.
The VF retained the monopoly for every political, propagandistic or orga-
nizational activity.77 Founded in the spring of 1933, membership of this
state-controlled party shot up to 2 million by 1936 and to nearly 3.3 million
by March 1938 – almost half the country’s population. Such explosive growth
was never permitted in either Italy’s National Fascist Party or in Germany’s
NSDAP. Membership in these fascist parties was a matter for individuals, not
collectives; it was also supposed to bear the mark of a voluntary decision.
Even if, in addition to its mobilizing function, the NSDAP was also a gigan-
tic fundraiser, its total membership was limited by statute to a maximum of
10 per cent of the German population to shore up its elitist pretences. The
VF had no such inhibitions.78 It too was significant as a fundraiser, but served
also as a launching board for individual careers. It was no wonder that the
incidence of opportunists and self-serving ‘patriots’ was high. By March 1938
quite a few VF members were wearing NSDAP party insignia on the underside
of their lapels.
During the five years of its existence the VF created several organizations
for special-interest groups. There was Austrian Youth (OJ – Österreichisches
Jungvolk) to take charge of 6–18 year-olds, while the interests of women
and mothers were looked after by the Mothers’ Protection Agency (MVF –
Mutterschutzwerk Vaterländische Front). Both were merely superficial copies
of related institutions set up by the Fascists in Italy and the Nazis in Germany
and were designed to underline that Austria was keeping up with its neighbours
in societal developments. In the symbolic realm, the VF’s cross potent was in
direct competition with the Nazi swastika.
More complicated was the situation created by the friendly, and at the same
time adversarial Heimwehr. The Heimwehr (with Starhemberg at its head) was
able to retain some independence, at least for a time. Using delaying tactics,
Gerhard Botz 139

it tried to shake off the stranglehold of the VF while competing with other
officially sanctioned ‘patriotic’ paramilitary organizations – e.g. Schuschnigg’s
Austrian Storm Troops (OS – Ostmärkische Sturmscharen) and the Christian
workers’ Freedom Union (FHB – Freiheitsbund). All these quasi- or paramilitary
organizations and the numerous remaining Heimwehr units were united under
the umbrella of what was at first called the Defence Front (WF – Wehrfront)
before changing its name to Front Militia (FM – Frontmiliz), which was under
Starhemberg’s command until 1936.79
Other sub-organizations of the FV, such as the Workplace Communities
(WGS – Werkgemeinschaften) and the Social Working Group (SAG – Soziale
Arbeitsgemeinschaft), were designed to address the problem of political dis-
sent on both the left and the right. The unified, state-controlled Federation
of Trade Unions of Workers and Employees (Gewerkschaftsbund) was to rep-
resent the working class.80 Based on a mixture of appointed and elected shop
stewards, this organization did not conform to the corporatist principle and by
1938 it had enlisted 401,000 members. The short-lived Aktion Winter initiated
by Vienna’s (third) deputy mayor, Ernst Karl Winter, was the only unbiased
attempt to explore what – if any – common ground former SD workers and the
regime shared.81
In June 1937, when the Austrian regime was already beginning to cave
in to Nazi Germany, the VF established national-political departments
(Volkspolitische Referate) in a bid to integrate Austria’s German nationalists.
As far as the Nazis were concerned, this bid was unsuccessful. Sharing the innate
ambiguity of the VF’s other integrative instruments, the Volkspolitische Referate
were exploited by the Nazis as a semi-legal arena for anti-regime activities.
A number of Nazis involved in criminal and terrorist activities had been
forced to flee to Germany, while those remaining in the country continued
to erode the regime’s power base. It is contended, therefore, that the VF is a
somewhat anaemic copy of the much more robust, fully-fledged fascist regimes
in Italy and Germany. It was even forced to borrow its symbols, organizational
patterns and rituals from them.82
On 1 May 1934 a new constitution was adopted. It invoked ‘God almighty’
and the notorious emergency law of 1917 (KWEG), upon which authoritarian
rule had been based since March 1933.83 In order to produce the impres-
sion of legal continuity the paradoxical necessity arose to briefly resuscitate
a rump version of the supposedly unworkable lower chamber of parliament
(Nationalrat) and to get it, on 30 April, to pass the federal law on extraordinary
measures regarding the constitution (Bundesverfassungsgesetz über außeror-
dentliche Maßnahmen im Bereich der Verfassung). Conceived in imitation of
Hitler’s Enabling Act of 23 March 1933, it amounted to no less than the trans-
fer of the competences formerly held by the two chambers of parliament to the
federal government.
140 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

The constitution ostensibly provided ‘patriotic’ citizens – by definition this

excluded members of the SD and, at least initially, Nazis – with civil and
juridical rights. In practice these were reduced by a series of regulations and
orders in contravention of the norms of a constitutional state. In collusion
with one another, the legislative and executive powers were concentrated in
the person of the federal chancellor who was granted authority to define the
general line of policy.
Far from being a factor in a system of checks and balances, the federal
president, Wilhelm Miklas, a conservative member of the CS who had been
appointed to that position in 1928, was in fact no more than a puppet. It was
the chancellor who was vested with the power to decide nearly all important
matters at various levels even in the provinces (Bundesländer), to the detriment
of Austria’s strong confederative structures.
Dollfuss and the regime claimed that this accumulation of power was pro-
visional in nature and would be rescinded once the corporatist state was in
place. Given that no end to this project was in sight in 1938, the Christian
Ständestaat of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg, as conceived by Othmar Spann
and the Heimwehr, was in flagrant contradiction to Quadragesimo Anno and
remained largely a Potemkin village. Instead of growing from the grassroots
upwards, the corporatist order tended to be imposed by the state in an
autocratic and formalist way from above.
Utterly detached from reality, the May 1934 constitution stated that legisla-
tive power was vested almost completely in the new federal diet (Bundestag).
However, the Bundestag legislation, which was in any case confined to accept-
ing or rejecting bills prepared by the government, was in fact in the hands
of the government-appointed members of the four pre-consultant councils:
the State Council (Staatsrat), which can be regarded as the direct materializa-
tion of the top-down authoritarian principle; the Federal Cultural Council; the
Federal Economic Council; and the Länder Council. The latter three councils
owed, at least theoretically, their origin and function to the vision of corporatist
To these four collective bodies established according to meritocratic, cultural-
religious or federal principles the constitution added the Federal Economic
Council (Bundeswirtschaftsrat), half of whose 80 members were employ-
ers, while the other half were employees. It was intended to give focus to
the corporatist idea. The delegates were supposed to be deputed from the
Berufsstände (occupational corporations); in reality, they were appointed jointly
by the federal chancellor and the president. Of the seven Berufsstände outlined
in the constitution, only two had in fact materialized by 1938: for those active
in agriculture and forestry and for public sector employees. The five remain-
ing occupational corporations were supposed to have represented industry
Gerhard Botz 141

and mining, trade, commerce and transport, finance and insurances, and the
None of the state’s organs were legitimized through general elections, and
there was only ever a vague promise of a referendum. The Berufsstand for
agriculture and forestry was the only one capable of holding elections; its
organization and members were virtually identical with the pre-dictatorial CS
farmers’ association (Bauernbund).84 This is an indication that the Berufsstände
system could start working only where pre-existent networks eligible for
renaming and transfer could at least be used as nuclei by the new system.
As the ‘non-patriotic’ part of the population was excluded, the Ständestaat
can be viewed as the autocratic rule of the CS, the VF and the Heimwehr. It is no
surprise that extensive personal unions and the accumulation of senior organi-
zational positions are also typical of other important players formerly affiliated
to the CS, such as Julius Raab and Leopold Figl (both federal chancellors in the
Second Republic) and Josef Reither (governor of Lower Austria in both the First
and the Second Republic).85 It seems that most leading members of the former
CS and its organizational network remained in place throughout the period
1934–38, closing ranks against newcomers of the younger generation.
While the Heimwehr constituted a special case, it is quite clear that the
Dollfuss–Schuschnigg regime, taken as a whole, was far from a fascist regime of
the kind we associate with Hitler or Mussolini. By contrast to the Ständestaat,
these regimes relied on a youthful following and on a ruling caste of ‘new elites’.
An understanding of the true nature of the Ständestaat seems to involve the
following three features that can be gathered from the existing literature:

1. Formation of personal unions: this systemic feature can be observed clearly

on the level of the state government, where, historically speaking, it was a
remnant of the austerity governments from 1923 and 1932 onwards; it was
dominant also in the sphere of corporations, (non-labour) interest associa-
tions and the remains of ‘patriotic’ political organizations from the pre-1933
period. But these unions, given the sloppy collusion in political practice,
never became full amalgamations of the apparatuses of parallel institutions
and offices as was the case with the ‘new’ party-state institutions and the rad-
icalizing ‘commissioners’ in the Nazi regime. Particularly in the security and
police apparatuses, Kommissare and Kommissariate often exerted a disastrous
effect of uncertainty and informal control.
2. Authoritarian relocation of decision-making to ever higher levels: while this
anti-democratic principle reflects an essential aspect of the regime’s self-
perception and is also in evidence in the way Austria’s top politicians styled
themselves as Führer in blatant imitation of the Duce and Hitler, the position
of the leaders in the Ständestaat did not resemble those of either Mussolini
142 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

or Hitler. When Schuschnigg said in August 1934 that ‘authority should not
blindly come from above but remain rooted in the people . . . , just as the
perfect authority of Mussolini is based on the overwhelming majority of
the Italian people’, his message for his countrymen was that the people’s
possibility and right to co-determine and co-operate had to be structured
according to the (envisioned) Stände structure.86
3. Recursivity of authorization: a case in point is the (planned) appointment
modus of the federal president. From a shortlist compiled by the federal diet
containing three candidates, a majority of the mayors of more than 3,000
Austrian communes, irrespective of size (from Vienna to the smallest village)
was to have elected the president. One has to bear in mind that both many
of the mayors and all members of the federal diet had been appointed and
not elected.
In addition to this, the legislative process in the federal diet took account
of the (as yet incomplete) corporatist state structure only in a minority of
cases and was mostly performed according to the Law of Empowerment by
Dollfuss and/or Schuschnigg himself.87 Internally, the government admit-
ted it was mainly fear of the loss of control over the desired outcome of
any electoral process that was responsible for such an authoritarian policy
process. Thus one can agree with the Austrian historian H. Wohnout who,
correcting his earlier characterization of the authoritarian regime as a ‘gov-
ernment dictatorship’, has recently used the more accurate term ‘chancellor

Dollfuss did not live to reap whatever benefits this government-centred consti-
tution might have yielded: he was murdered during the attempted Nazi putsch
on 25 July 1934. The SS attacked government buildings in Vienna and the
SA launched an uprising lasting six days mainly in the southern provinces.
Austria’s armed forces with some support from the Heimwehr emerged victori-
ous after several days of heavy fighting and the death of about 220 on the two
sides.89 After Dollfuss’s intended removal Hitler had counted on being able to
take Austria by force with one blow.90 The failure of this attempt infuriated the
Führer and the decisive moment came when Mussolini hastened to declare his
support for Austria and moved Italian troops to the border.
In the aftermath of the failed putsch, the Heimwehr leaders demanded –
and obtained – an even greater share of power. The security apparatus came
down hard on Nazi militants and their families. More than 4,000 Nazis were
imprisoned alongside detainees from the political left in Wöllersdorf and in
other internment camps. In the wake of the ban of the NSDAP in 1933 and the
failure of the putsch some 10,000 Nazi activists fled Austria for Germany, where
an ‘Austrian legion’ was preparing them for the day when they would seize
power in their homeland.91 This produced a slowdown in the rise of Nazism in
Gerhard Botz 143

Austria, which was reversed after Schuschnigg’s agreement with Nazi Germany
in July 1936.92
To the extent he may be in fairness be credited with having had any gen-
uine charisma, Dollfuss may be said to have appealed primarily to marginalized
Austrians from a background similar to his own.93 Despite his croaky voice, his
diminutive stature and unimpressive outward appearance, he had the ‘charisma
of the underdog’. In this, he reflected a mood that prevailed in Austria after
the break-up of the Habsburg Empire. At the head of a small state he seems
to have inspired intense loyalty in some and tried – not entirely unsuccess-
fully – to restore to Austrians their self-esteem and to stem the rising tide of
pro-Anschluss sentiment. He did so with flawed or at least deeply ambiguous
Ambiguity, however, was not exorcised by his death. Elevated to the status of
martyr, he had a song dedicated to him by the VF under Schuschnigg, contain-
ing the lines: ‘Close ranks, youngsters, a dead man is leading us. He gave his
blood for Austria, a truly German man.’94
Unbelievably, the text chosen resembled the Horst-Wessel song, the NSDAP’s
battle hymn. Churches were named after Dollfuss, crosses erected and a
raft of commemorative books appeared.95 His ‘canonization’ was interrupted
by Austria’s annexation and the war, but was continued in 1945 by the
conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP – Österreichische Volkspartei).96

Bureaucratization and signs of the de-fascistization of the

Schuschnigg regime (1936–March 1938)

Engelbert Dollfuss was succeeded on his death by his deputy, Kurt von
Schuschnigg, a Catholic intellectual with a background of military ability.
While his public appearance differed from Dollfuss, he continued his predeces-
sor’s policy of seeking to strike a balance between the different factions within
the regime. He tended to favour officers of the former Habsburg army over CS
politicians and was careful to avoid Dollfuss’s strident patriotism.97 While refus-
ing to yield cultural primacy to Berlin – Austria was, in his view the better of
the two German states – Schuschnigg’s all-embracing German Reich sympathies
made him less effective in resisting Hitler’s pressure at the notorious meeting at
Berchtesgaden on 12 February 1938.
Two years earlier he had succeeded in ousting paramilitary organizations,
including the Heimwehr, from key positions within the regime, and managed
to transfer the remains of the Heimwehr, first into the VF’s militia and in 1937
into the Austrian army.98
Thus the quasi-revolutionary element of fascism, the Heimwehr, was first
weakened, then eliminated from the political power structure, while pro-
Austrian militantism, which had been strong towards the end of Dollfuss’ life,
144 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

declined at the same time. As in other European dictatorships of the late 1930s,
the influence of the military was very much in evidence in the government
hierarchy, uniforms and public rituals.99 This transfer of ideas did not necessar-
ily depend on Catholicism, as Protestant and Orthodox churches also served as
Surprisingly, the Austrian Ständestaat displayed an interest in preparing a
German translation of the Salazar’s Estado novo only as late as 1936. It seems
as if Dollfuss and Austrian conservative Catholics perceived themselves as being
in the centre of the Catholic world, and therefore did not look with any interest
beyond its borders, except gazing at the traditional intellectual focus points,
mainly Berlin and Rome, but also at Budapest, Prague, Munich and Warsaw.
The Catholic Church, which had profited from the privileges it had gained
under Dollfuss, stood squarely behind Schuschnigg.
By now it is difficult to define which impulses the Austrian Ständestaat exer-
cised on other anti-democratic regimes in Europe. As the French historian Paul
Pasteur found out, Estonia’s Konstantin Päts and Latvia’s Kārlis Ulmanis took a
similar line to gain power as Dollfuss, Latvia obviously imitated Dollfuss’ and
Schuschnigg’s corporatist chamber model and their concentration of power.
The VF observed even a ‘posthumous’ imitation in Béla Imrédy’s Hungarian
Front and Monsignor Tiso’s Catholic authoritarian Ständestaat in Solvakia in
A disconcerting matter was that Schuschnigg, in contrast to Dollfuss, toyed
with the idea of giving Otto Habsburg a political role in Austria; the latter
was made an honorary citizen in many communes and the anti-Habsburg
law of 1919 was repealed. This set off alarm bells, particularly in France
and Czechoslovakia, and above all for Hitler. It is an open question whether
under Schuschnigg legitimism began to play a more influential role or not in
The uncontrolled growth of corporations and semi-official organizations,
associations and groups seems to have boosted practical pluralism within the
regime, features described as typical of authoritarianism by Juan Linz.102 This
also strengthened the ständisch quasi-bureaucracies and led to an inefficient
mix and overlap of organizations and institutions. This was a strong indicator
of the growing militarization and bureaucratization of the Schuschnigg regime,
which also took place – albeit under different circumstances – in the Franco
regime during its final stages.
Without in any way wishing to play down the dictatorial character of the
Schuschnigg regime and its ongoing persecution of political adversaries, par-
ticularly on the left, this author has interpreted this regime-internal process
as the beginning of the de-fascistization of the hybrid Dollfuss–Schuschnigg
regime.103 At least it was the elimination of its Austrofascist component as
Gerhard Botz 145

represented in the Heimwehr. It was not yet Nazification but an unwitting

preparation for it.
This shift within the regime coincided with the Duce consigning Austria
and the Danube basin to the German sphere of interest in the wake of his
Abyssinian neo-colonialist war of conquest. The Austro-German agreement of
July 1936 marked the beginning of Austria’s path towards ever-closer relations
with Germany,104 a path that culminated in the 1938 Anschluss.
Time was running out for Schuschnigg’s efforts to find a feasible alterna-
tive policy for securing Austria’s independence either by turning towards the
Western European powers or to the oppressed left-wing domestic opposition.
This is true even if the chances for success of such a change of foreign and
domestic policy would have been minimal.
The internal dynamics of the Christian Ständestaat had petered out by the
time Schuschnigg attempted to mobilize his followers for a decisive plebiscite
that the regime had steered away from in the past, fearing an anti-regime
outcome. Instead of averting the invasion of the Wehrmacht and a Nazi upris-
ing, the plebiscite planned for 12 March 1938 propelled the showdown. Hitler
immediately ordered the Wehrmacht to invade Austria, which triggered upris-
ings by groups of Austrian Nazis particularly in the south of the country and in
Vienna. Thus the Anschluss was not only an occupation by the German army
and SS-police forces, but also a seizure of power from below (rapturous street
demonstrations, spontaneous acts of violent persecutions of Jews and political
opponents) and a take-over from positions the Nazis had already gained inside
the state apparatus of the doomed Schuschnigg government.

1. The author is indebted to Heinrich Berger, Kurt Bauer, Lucile Dreidemy, António
Costa Pinto and Otmar Binder for valuable hints and support, the latter also for his
translation and discussion of this text, and to the LBIHS, Vienna, for financial and
material support.
2. F. Wenninger and L. Dreidemy, ‘Einleitung’, in F. Wenninger and L. Dreidemy,
eds, Das Dollfuss–Schuschnigg-Regime 1933–1938: Vermessung eines Forschungsfeldes,
Vienna, Böhlau, 2013, p. 7; interestingly, another recent study also displays the
same oscillation between diverse conflictive corner points. See I. Reiter-Zatloukal,
C. Rothländer and P. Schölnberger, eds, Österreich 1933–1938: Interdisziplinäre
Annäherungen an das Dollfuß-/Schuschnigg-Regime, Vienna, Böhlau, 2012. For
spelling the name of Dollfuss I use the version in his baptism certificate (before
the orthographic reform of 1901).
3. The most comprehensive and systematic monograph is now E. Tálos, Das
Austrofaschistische Herrschaftssystem: Österreich 1933–1938, Vienna, Lit-Verl, 2013,
pp. 71–78; E. Tálos and W. Neugebauer, eds, Austrofaschismus: Politik, Ökonomie,
Kultur 1933–1938, 5th ed., Vienna, Lit-Verl, 2005. In contrast to this normative-
typological approach of a prominent Austrian political scientist compare the
146 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

terminological variety in many of other historiographic studies on this topic,

see note 4. For a balanced account see T. Kirk, ‘Fascism and Austrofascism’,
in G. Bischof, A. Pelinka and A. Lassner, eds, The Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Era in
Austria: A Reassessment, New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction, 2003, pp. 10–31. For left
interpretations see G. Botz, ‘Austro-Marxist interpretation of fascism’, Journal of
Contemporary History 11, no. 4, 1976, pp. 129–156.
4. R. J. Rath, ‘The Dollfuss ministry: The intensification and the drift toward author-
itarianism’, in Austrian History Yearbook 30, Minneapolis, MN, Center for Austrian
Studies, 1999, pp. 65–101; Bischof, Pelinka and Lassner, The Dollfuss–Schuschnigg
Era; G. Enderle-Burcel, ed., Protokolle des Ministerrates der Ersten Republik, 1918–
1938, sections 8–9 [Kabinette Dr. Engelbert Dollfuß and Dr. Kurt Schuschnigg],
Vienna, Österreich 1984–2000; W. Goldinger, ed., Christlichsoziale Partei: Protokolle
des Klubvorstandes der Christlichsozialen Partei: 1932–1934, Vienna, Geschichte
u. Politik, 1977; H. Wohnout, Regierungsdiktatur oder Ständeparlament? Gesetzgebung
im autoritären Österreich, Vienna, Böhlau, 1993; G Jagschitz, ‘Der Österreichische
Ständestaat 1934–1938’, in E. Weinzierl and K. Skalnik, eds, Österreich 1918–1938:
Geschichte der Ersten Republik, vol. 1, Graz, Styria, 1983, pp. 497–515.
5. E. Fraenkel, The Dual State: A Contribution to the Theory of Dictatorship, New York,
Oxford University Press, 1941; F. L. Neumann, Behemoth: The Structure and Prac-
tice of National Socialism, London, Gollancz, 1942. On Austria for the first time
see E. Holtmann, ‘Autoritätsprinzip und Maßnahmengesetz’, in Die Österreichis-
che Verfassung von 1918–1938: Protokoll des Symposiums in Wien am 19. Okt. 1977,
Vienna, Geschichte u. Politik, 1980, pp. 210–212.
6. For instance, J. J. Linz, ‘Totalitarian and authoritarian regimes’, in F. I. Greenstein
and N. W. Polsby, eds, Handbook of Political Science, vol. 3: Macropolitical Theory,
Reading, MA, Addison-Wesley, 1975, pp. 175–411; M. Broszat, Der Staat Hitlers:
Grundlegung und Entwicklung seiner inneren Verfassung, 15th ed., Munich, dtv, 2000;
H. Mommsen, Der Nationalsozialismus und die Deutsche Gesellschaft: Ausgewählte
Aufsätze, Reinbek bei Hamburg, Rowohlt, 1991; S. G. Payne, A History of Fascism,
1914–1945, London, UCL, 1995; R. O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism, London,
Allen Lane, 2004, pp. 119 ff., 153 ff. For recent overviews see R. Griffin with
M. Feldman, eds, Fascism: Critical Concepts in Political Science, 5 vols, London,
Routledge, 2004; A. A. Kallis, ed., The Fascism Reader, London, Routledge, 2003;
R Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, London, Routledge, 1993, pp. 120–128.
7. See A. A. Kallis, ‘ “Fascism”, “para-fascism”, and “fascistization” ’, European His-
tory Quarterly 33, no. 3, 2003, pp. 219–250; A. C. Pinto, ed., Rethinking the
Nature of Fascism: Comparative Perspectives, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011,
pp. 1–9. A similar but more concrete approach is proposed in most contributions
in S. Reichardt and W. Seibt, eds, Der Prekäre Staat: Herrschen und Verwalten im
Nationalsozialismus, Frankfurt am Main, Campus, 2011.
8. For the ‘four phases model’ see G. Botz, ‘Faschismus und “Ständestaat” vor und
nach dem 12 Februar 1934’, in E. Fröschl and H. Zoitl, eds, Februar 1934: Ursachen,
Fakten, Folgen, Vienna: Wiener Volksbuchhandlungen, 1984, pp. 311–332; G. Botz,
Gewalt in der Politik: Attentate,Zusammenstöße, Putschversuche, Unruhen in Österreich
1918–1938, 2nd ed., Munich, Fink, 1983, pp. 234–246.
9. For the following sections and for additional notes see G. Botz, ‘The short-
and long-term effects of the authoritarian regime and of Nazism in Austria:
The burden of a “second dictatorship” ’, in J. W. Borejsza and K. Ziemer, eds,
Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes in Europe, New York, Berghahn, 2006,
pp. 188–208.
Gerhard Botz 147

10. F. L. Carsten, Fascist Movements in Austria: From Schönerer to Hitler, London, Sage,
1977; R. Eatwell, Fascism: A History, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1997; M. Mann,
Fascists, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004.
11. See G. Sandner, ‘From the cradle to the grave: Austromarxism and cultural studies’,
Cultural Studies 16, no. 6, 2002, pp. 908–918.
12. Originally from A. Wandruszka, ‘Österreichs politische Struktur: Die Entwicklung
der Parteien und politischen Bewegungen’, in H. Benedikt, ed., Geschichte der
Republik Österreich, 2nd ed., Vienna, Gesch. u. Politik, pp. 291–293. See also
D. Lehnert, ‘Das Lagerkonzept – und seine Alternativen’, in E. Tálos, H. Dachs,
E. Hanisch and A. Staudinger, eds, Handbuch des Politischen Systems Österreichs:
Erste Republik 1918–1933 (Vienna: Manz 1995), pp. 431–443; E. Hanisch, Der Lange
Schatten des Staates: Österreichische Gesellschaftsgeschichte im 20.Jahrhundert, Vienna,
Ueberreuter, 1994, pp. 117–152. See also several contributions in G. Bischof and
A. Pelinka, eds, Austro-Corporatism: Past – Present – Future, New Brunswick, NJ,
Transaction, 1996. For a recent formulation see A. Pelinka, ‘Anti-Semitism and
ethno-nationalisms as determining factors for Austria’s political culture at the fin
de siècle’, in H. Tewes and J. Wright, eds, Liberalism, Anti-Semitism, and Democracy:
Essays in Honour of Peter Pulzer, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 63–75,
particularly pp. 66–67.
13. Even the waves and distribution of political violence mirrored the camp structure.
G. Botz, Gewalt in der Politik: Attentate, Zusammenstöße, Putschversuche, Unruhen in
Österreich 1918–1938, 2nd ed., Munich, Fink, 1983, pp. 300–308.
14. For a critical account see J. Thorpe, ‘Austrofascism: Revisiting the “authoritarian
state” 40 years on’, Journal of Contemporary History 45, no. 2, 2010, pp. 315–343.
15. This is true provided the following modifications are made: in 1934 90 per cent of
the Austrian population were baptized Catholics, only four per cent were Protes-
tants and the country’s national identity was largely German as a consequence of
the break up of the old multinational Empire; thus, none of these two features
as such provided distinctions in Austria’s political culture, only the degree mat-
tered. Class cleavages and the centre–periphery distinction were strong but did not
determine the country’s political landscape.
16. N. Leser, Zwischen Reformismus und Bolschewismus: Der Austromarxismus als Theorie
und Praxis, 2nd ed., Vienna, Böhlau, 1985.
17. E. Weinzierl, ‘Kirche und Politik’, in K. Skalnik and E. Weinzierl, eds, Österreich
1918–1938: Geschichte der Ersten Republik, vol. 1, Graz, Styria, 1983, pp. 438–496; G.
Stimmer, Eliten in Österreich: 1848–1970, vol. 1, Vienna, Böhlau, 1997, pp. 668–717.
18. E. Hanisch, ‘Das system und die Lebenswelt des Katholizismus’, in Tálos et al.,
Handbuch, pp. 444–453.
19. The word gesamt has been often translated in a misleading manner as ‘pan-German’
(see Thorpe, ‘Austrofascism’, p. 318). In the use of political Austrian historiography
it refers to a very wide and rather vague pro-German orientation, as opposed to the
rigid programme of Georg Ritter von Schönerer (see A. G. Whiteside, The Socialism
of Fools: Georg Ritter von Schönerer and Austrian Pan-Germanism, Berkeley, CA, Uni-
versity of California Press, 1975) and his followers who called themselves, and are
called in German language literature, alldeutsch (all- as translated by pan- [see the
literature in the following note]).
20. E. Bruckmüller, Nation Österreich, 2nd ed., Vienna, Böhlau, 1993, pp. 276–315; F.
Heer, Der Kampf um die Österreichische Identität, 3rd ed., Vienna, Böhlau, 2001,
pp. 115–210. See in general H. Lutz and H. Rumpler, eds, Österreich und die
Deutsche Frage im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert: Probleme der Politisch-Staatlichen und
148 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

Soziokulturellen Differenzierung im Deutschen Mitteleuropa, Vienna, Gesch. u. Politik,

1982; K. Bauer, ‘ “Heil Deutschösterreich!” Das deutschnationale Lager zu Beginn
der Ersten Republik’, in H. Konrad and W. Maderthaner, eds, Der Rest ist Österreich:
Das Werden der Ersten Republik, Vol. 1, Vienna, Gerold, 2008, pp. 261–280.
21. P. G. Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria, London,
Halban, 1988.
22. S. Beller, Vienna and the Jews, 1867–1938: A Cultural History, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press, 1989; A. Lichtblau, ‘Antisemitismus – Rahmenbedingungen und
Wirkungen auf das Zusammenleben von Juden und Nichtjuden’, in Tálos et al.,
Handbuch, pp. 454–471; I. Oxaal, M. Pollak and G. Botz, eds, Jews, Antisemitism and
Culture in Vienna, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987.
23. J. J. Linz, ‘Political space and fascism as a late-comer’, in S. U. Larsen, B. Hagtvet and
J. P. Myklebust, eds, Who were the Fascists? Social Roots of European Fascism, Bergen,
Forlaget, 1980, pp. 153–189.
24. Payne, A History of Fascism, chapter 8.
25. See the chapters by H. Konrad, H. Maimann and J. Weidenholzer in H. Konrad,
ed., Sozialdemokratie und “Anschluß”: Historische Wurzeln. Anschluß 1918 und 1938.
Nachwirkungen, Vienna, Europa, 1978.
26. See among others R. N. von Coudenhove-Kalergi, Europa Erwacht!, Zurich,
Paneuropa, 1934.
27. Stimmer, Eliten in Österreich, vol. 1, pp. 442–454, vol. 2, pp. 668–732.
28. Comprehensive for history and for 1933 use of the KWEG, see H. Leidinger
and V. Moritz, ‘Das Kriegswirtschaftliche Ermächtigungsgesetz (KWEG) vor dem
Hintergrund der österreichischen Verfassungsentwicklung’, in Wenninger and
Dreidemy, Dollfuss–Schuschnigg-Regime, pp. 449–470. See also G. D. Hasiba:
Das Notverordnungsrecht in Österreich (1848–1917): Notwendigkeit und Mißbrauch
eines “staatserhaltenden instrumentes”, Vienna, Österr. Akad. d. Wiss., 1985;
J. Redlich, Österreichische Regierung und Verwaltung im Weltkriege, Vienna, Hölder-
Picher-Tempsky, 1925). For the example of the war censorship office see
T. Scheer, Die Ringstraßenfront: Österreich-Ungarn, das Kriegsüberwachungsamt und
der Ausnahmezustand während des Ersten Weltkrieges, Vienna, BMLVS, 2010. Still
enlightening for 1933, see P. Huemer, Sektionschef Robert Hecht und die Zerstörung
der Demokratie in Österreich, Munich, Oldenbourg, 1975.
29. G. Botz, ‘The changing patterns of social support for Austrian National
Socialism (1918–1945)’, in Larsen, Hagtvet and Myklebust, Who were the
Fascists?, pp. 202–224; M. Wladika, Hitlers Vätergeneration: Die Ursprünge des
Nationalsozialismus in der k.u.k. Monarchie, Vienna, Böhlau, 2005; K. Bauer,
Nationalsozialismus: Ursprünge, Anfänge, Aufstieg und Fall, Vienna, Böhlau, 2008,
pp. 46–48.
30. B. F. Pauley, Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis: A History of Austrian National Socialism,
London, Macmillan, 1981.
31. I. Kershaw, Hitler, vol. 1: 1889–1936: Hubris, London, Longman, 1998, chapter 4.
32. W. Brauneder, Österreichische Verfassungsgeschichte, 11th ed., Vienna, Manz, 2009;
B. Skottsberg, Der Österreichische Parlamentarismus, Gothenburg, Elanders, 1940.
33. K. Berchtold, ed., Österreichische Parteiprogramme 1868–1966, Vienna, Gesch. und
Politik, 1967, pp. 402 ff. Many recent scholars have viewed the Heimwehr
from this point as fascist, but there are doubts whether this is appropriate and
if the fascist label can even be applied to the Heimwehr as a whole at any
point during its existence. For a respectable account see W. Wiltschegg, ed.,
Gerhard Botz 149

Die Heimwehr. Eine unwiderstehliche Volksbewegung?, Vienna, Verl. f. Geschichte

u. Politik, 1985 Wiltschegg, Heimwehr, pp. 47, 267–270. The current author tends
towards a nuanced, phase-wise account in contrast to my original typification
of the Heimwehr as fascist, see G. Botz, ‘Introduction’, in Larsen, Hagtvet and
Myklebust, Who were the Fascists?, pp. 192–201; H. Mommsen, ‘Theorie und Praxis
des österreichischen Ständestaats 1934 bis 1938’, in P. Heintel et al., eds, Das
gesitige Leben Wiens in der Zwischenkreigszeit, Vienna, Österreich Bunbdesverlag.
1981, p. 182.
34. Wiltschegg, Heimwehr, p. 263 and for the whole section: passim. See also Hanisch,
Der lange Schatten des Staates, pp. 287–294; Botz, Gewalt in der Politik, pp. 161–230.
35. K.-J. Siegfried, Universalismus und Faschismus: Das Gesellschaftsbild Othmar Spanns:
Zur politischen Funktion seiner Gesellschaftslehre und Ständestaatskonzeption, Vienna,
Europa, 1974; J. Haag, ‘Marginal men and the dream of the Reich: Eight Austrian
national-Catholic intellectuals’, in Larsen, Hagtvet and Myklebust, Who were the
Fascists?, pp. 239–256. See also H. Mommsen, ‘Theorie und Praxis des österreichis-
chen Städnestaats 1934 bis 1938’, in P. Heintel et al., eds, Das geistige, p. 182.
36. B. F. Pauley, Hahnenschwanz and Swastika: The Styrian Heimatschutz and Austrian
National Socialism 1918–1934, Vienna, Europa, 1972.
37. C. A. Gulick, Austria: From Habsburg to Hitler, Berkeley, CA, University of California
Press, 1980, chapter 21.
38. F. Butschek, Österreichische Wirtschaftsgeschichte: Von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart,
2nd ed., Vienna, Böhlau, 2011, pp. 182–218.
39. G. Jagschitz, ‘Von der “Bewegung” zum Apparat’, in E. Talós et al., eds, NS-Herrschaft
in Österreich: Ein Handbuch, Vienna, öbv and hpt, 2002, pp. 88–122; C. Rothländer,
Die Anfänge der Wiener SS, Vienna, Böhlau, 2012, pp. 21–333; Pauley, Hitler, chapters
40. C. Klösch, ‘Zerrieben zwischen Nationalsozialismus und Austrofaschismus’, in
Wenninger and Dreidemy, Dollfuss–Schuschnigg-Regime, pp. 87–105.
41. Botz, ‘Changing patterns’, pp. 210–215. A comprehensive electoral analysis has
been made by D. Hänisch, Die Österreichischen NSDAP-Wähler: Eine Empirische Anal-
yse ihrer Politischen Herkunft und ihres Sozialprofils, Vienna, Böhlau, 1998; U. Burz, Die
Nationalsozialistische Bewegung in Kärnten (1918–1933): Vom Deutschnationalismus
zum Führerprinzip, Klagenfurt, Kärntner Landesarchivs, 1998, pp. 177 ff.
42. For a compact overview see U. Kluge, Der Österreichische Ständestaat 1934–1938:
Entstehung und Scheitern, Munich, Oldenbourg, 1984 pp. 51–60 and passim. See
also P. Berger, Kurze Geschichte Österreichs im 20. Jahrhundert, Vienna, WUV,
2007; G. Jagschitz, ‘Engelbert Dollfuß 1892 bis 1934’, in F. Weissensteiner and
E. Weinzierl, eds, Die Österreichischen Bundeskanzler: Leben und Werk, Vienna,
Österreich Bundesverlag, 1983, pp. 190–216.
43. I am indebted to Laura Cerasi, who allowed me to use her unpublished inno-
vative conference paper ‘Corporatisme/Corporation/Corporativismo’ presented as
part of ‘Nomadic concepts in the social sciences’ conference at the school of history,
classics and archaeology, Newcastle University, 14 March 2012.
44. M. Manoilescu, Le Parti Unique: Institution Politique des Régimes Nouveau, Paris, Les
Oeuvres Françaises, 1938.
45. O. Christin, ‘Introduction’, in O. Christin, R. Barat and I. Moullier, eds, Dictionnaire
des Concepts Nomades en Sciences Humaines, Paris, Métaillié, 2010, pp. 11–23. There
are also many other examples. See A. C. Pinto, ‘Introduction: Fascism and the other
“isms” ’, in Pinto, Rethinking the Nature of Fascism, pp. 1–9.
150 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

46. R. Kriechbaumer, Die großen Erzählungen der Politik: Politische Kultur und Parteien in
Österreich von der Jahrhundertwende bis 1945, Vienna, Böhlau, 2001, pp. 470 ff.
47. P. Pasteur, Les États autoritaires, Paris, Armand Colin, 2007; E. Oberländer, ed.,
Autoritäre Regime in Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa 1919–1944, Paderborn, Schöningh,
48. L. Kerekes, Abenddämmerung einer Demokratie: Mussolini, Gömbös und die Heimwehr,
Vienna, Europa, 1966; A. Suppan and K. Koch, eds, Außenpolitische Dokumente der
Republik Österreich, 8 vols, Vienna, Österr. Akad. d. Wiss, 1993–2009, especially
volumes 7 and 8.
49. H. Mommsen, Die Verspielte Freiheit: Der Weg der Republik von Weimar in den
Untergang 1918 bis 1933, Frankfurt am Main, Ullstein, 1990, pp. 443–547.
50. P. Eppel, Zwischen Kreuz und Hakenkreuz: Die Haltung der Zeitschrift ‘Schönere Zukunft’
zum Nationalsozialismus in Deutschland 1934–1938, Vienna, Böhlau, 1980.
51. Heer, Kampf um die österreichische Identität, pp. 115–210.
52. G. Heiss, ‘Pan-Germans, better Germans, Austrians: Austrian historians on national
identity from the First to the Second Republic’, German Studies Review 16, 1993,
pp. 411–433; H. Bußhoff, Das Dollfuß-Regime in Österreich: In geistesgeschichtlicher
Perspektive unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der ‘Schöneren Zukunft’ und ‘Reichspost’,
Berlin, Duncker & Humblot, 1968; J. Haag, ‘Marginal men and the dream of
the Reich: Eight Austrian national-Catholic intellectuals’, in Larsen, Hagtvet and
Myklebust, Who were the Fascists?, pp. 239–248.
53. Botz, Gewalt in der Politik, pp. 215–218; H. Schafranek, ‘Österreichische
Nationalsozialisten in der Illegalität 1933–1938: Ein Forschungsbericht’, in
Wenninger and Dreidemy, Dollfuss–Schuschnigg-Regime, pp. 105–137.
54. See Unser Staatsprogramm: Führerworte, Vienna, Bundeskommissariat f. Heimatdienst,
1935, p. 69.
55. Berchtold, Österreichische Parteiprogramme, pp. 427–433.
56. Tálos, Das austrofaschistische Herrschaftssystem, pp. 147–152; I. Bohunovsky-
Bärnthaler, Die Vaterländische Front: Geschichte und Organisation, Vienna, Europa,
57. K. von Klemperer, Christian Statesman in a Time of Crisis, Princetown, NJ,
Princetown University Press, 1972.
58. E. Hanisch, Die Ideologie des Politischen Katholizismus in Österreich, 1918–1938,
Vienna, Geyer, 1977; E. Weinzierl, Die Österreichischen Konkordate von 1855 und
1933, Vienna, Geschichte und Politik,1960.
59. Stimmer, Eliten in Österreich, vol. 2, pp. 823–840; Wiltschegg, Heimwehr,
pp. 310–312.
60. E. Langthaler, ‘Ein brachliegendes Feld: Forschungen zur Agrargeschichte Öster-
reichs in den 1930er Jahren’, in Wenninger and Dreidemy, Dollfuss–Schuschnigg-
Regime, p. 336. See also E. Bruckmüller, E. Hanisch and R. Sandgruber, eds,
Geschichte der österreichischen Land- und Forstwirtschaft im 20. Jahrhundert, vol. 1:
Politik, Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft, Vienna, Ueberreuter, 2002.
61. K. Haas, ‘Industrielle interessenpolitik on Österreich zur Zeit der
Weltwirtschaftskrise’, in Jahrbuch für Zeitgeschichte 1978, Vienna, Geyer-Löcker,
1979, pp. 97–126; W. Meixner, ‘Wirtschaftstreibende, Bankiers und land-
wirtschaftliche interessenverbände 1930–1938’, in Wenninger and Dreidemy,
Dollfuss–Schuschnigg-Regime, pp. 309–330. See also G. Senft, Im Vorfeld der
Katastrophe: Die Wirtschaftspolitik des Ständestaates: Österreich 1934–1938, Vienna,
Braumüller, 2002.
62. Eatwell, Fascism, pp. 74–80.
Gerhard Botz 151

63. H. Rumpler, ‘Der Ständestaat ohne Stände’, in R. Krammer, C. Kühberger and

F. Schausberger, eds, Der Forschende Blick: Beiträge zur Geschichte Österreichs im 20.
Jahrhundert, Vienna, Böhlau, 2010, pp. 229–245; P. Melichar, ‘Ein Fall für die
Mikrogeschichte? Otto Enders Schreibtischarbeit’, in E. Hiebl and E. Langthaler,
eds, Im Kleinen das Große suchen. Mikrogeschichte in Theorie und Praxis: Hanns Haas
zum 70. Geburtstag, Innsbruck, Studien 2012, pp. 185–205.
64. See Pius XI, Litterae Encyclicae Quadragesimo Anno,
(accessed 20 February 2012). Remarkably, the encyclical’s vague Latin terminology
was shifting between collegia seu corpora and ordines and left crucial leeway for its
translation into German, probably co-worded by Ignaz Seipel. In German texts
it appeared often as ‘(berufs-)ständisch’ (see Pius XI, Weltrundschreiben über die
gesellschaftliche Ordnung [ . . . ]. Authentische dt. Übertragung, Berlin, 1931, pp. 27–30)
and this was prone to be used by German-speaking adepts for the propagation for
their specific ständisch conceptions.
65. P. Pasteur, ‘Der Ständestaat, ein autoritärer Staat wie die anderen oder ein Modell?’,
in F. S. Festa, E. Fröschl, T. la Rocca, L. Parente and G. Zanasi, eds, Das Österreich
der dreißiger Jahre und seine Stellung in Europa: Materialien der internationalen Tagung
in Neapel, Salerno und Taurasi (5. – 8. Juni 2007), Frankfurt am Main, Lang, 2012,
pp. 196–120.
66. W. Maderthaner and M. Maier, eds, ‘Der Führer bin ich selbst’: Engelbert Dollfuß –
Benito Mussolini, Briefwechsel, Vienna, Löcker, 2004.
67. See the detailed contributions in Fröschl and Zoitl, Februar 1934.
68. W. R. Garscha, ‘Opferzahlen als Tabu: Totengedenken und Propaganda nach
Februaraufstand und Juliputsch 1934’, in Reiter-Zatloukal, Rothländer and
Schölnberger, Österreich 1933–1938, pp. 111–128; Tálos, Das Austrofaschistische
Herrschaftssystem, pp. 288–293.
69. G. Jagschitz, ‘Die Anhaltelager in Österreich’, in L. Jedlicka and R. Neck, eds, Vom
Justizpalast zum Heldenplatz, Vienna, Österreich Staatsdruckerei, 1975, pp. 128–151;
P. Schölnberger, ‘ “Ein leben ohne freiheit ist kein leben”: Das “anhaltelager”
wöllersdorf 1933–1938’, in Reiter-Zatloukal, Rothländer and Schölnberger, Öster-
reich 1933–1938, pp. 94–107.
70. For example, socialists who had left the Catholic Church were forced to crawl
up church staircases on their knees (oral report by by Arne Haselbach, SD direc-
tor of Volkshochschule Vienna-Brigittenau, to the author 2004). Left-wing as well
as Nazi activists with family were forced by police and Heimwehr to clean their
graffiti from walls and streets (oral report by Josef Toch, the head of Tagblatt-
Archiv, Arbeiterkammer Vienna to the author in 1967); and O. R. von Rohrwig, Der
Freiheitskampf der Ostmark-Deutschen: Von St. Germain bis Adolf Hitler, Graz, Stocker,
71. See A. Staudinger, ‘Zur Österreich-Ideologie des Ständestaates’, in L. Jedlicka
and R. Neck, eds, Das Juliabkommen von 1936: Vorgeschichte, Hintergründe und
Folgen, Vienna, Geschichte und Politik, 1977, pp. 198–240; A. Staudinger,
‘Austrofaschistische “Österreich”-ideologie’, in Tálos and Neugebauer, Austrofaschis-
mus, pp. 29–52.
72. A. C. Pinto, Salazar’s Dictatorship and European Fascism: Problems of Interpretation,
Boulder, CO, Social Science Monographs, 1995, p. 170.
73. H. Wohnout, ‘Die Verfassung 1934 im Widerstreit der unterschiedlichen Kräfte im
Regierungslager’, in Reiter-Zatloukal, Rothländer and Schölnberger, Österreich 1933–
1938, pp. 17–30.
152 The Coming of the Dollfuss–Schuschnigg Regime

74. See Tálos, Das Austrofaschistische Herrschaftssystem.

75. Linz, ‘Totalitarian and authoritarian regimes’, pp. 271, 307–313.
76. Cited from Tálos, Das Austrofaschistische Herrschaftssystem, p. 152.
77. I. Bohunovsky-Bärnthaler, Die Vaterländische Front; R. Kriechbaumer, ed., Österre-
ich! und Front Heil! Aus den Akten des Generalsekretariats der Vaterländischen Front:
Inneanansichten eines Regimes, Vienna, Böhlau, 2005; Tálos, Das Austrofaschistische
Herrschaftssystem, p. 172.
78. It is misleading not to consider the regime-typical causes of the VF’s much
higher membership rate than the NSDAP or the Italian Fascist Party. Thorpe,
‘Austrofascism’, p. 322.
79. See Tálos, Das Austrofaschistische Herrschaftssystem, pp. 190–212, 380–292, 407–409,
522–29. For a description of the multitude of agents of (potential) physical violence,
see F. Wenninger, ‘Dimensionen organisierter Gewalt: Zum militärhistorischen
Forschungsstand über die österreichische Zwischenkriegszeit’, in Wenninger and
Dreidemy, Dollfuss–Schuschnig-Regime, pp. 517–530.
80. P. Pasteur, Être syndiqué(e) à l’ombre de la croix potencée: Corporatisme, syndical-
isme, résistance en Autriche, 1934–1938, Rouen, Centre d’Études et de Recherches
Autrichiennes, 2002, pp. 89–139.
81. E. Holtmann, Zwischen Unterdrückung und Befriedung: Sozialistische Arbeiterbewegung
und autoritäres Regime in Österreich 1933–1938, Vienna, Geschichte u. Politik, 1978;
A. Pelinka, Stand oder Klasse? Die christliche Arbeiterbewegung Österreichs 1933 bis
1938, Vienna, Europa, 1972; D. Binder, ‘Der “Christliche Ständestaat Österreich”,
1934–1938’, in R. Steininger and M. Gehler, eds, Österreich im 20. Jahrhundert,
vol. 1, Vienna, Böhlau, 1997, pp. 203–343; Berger, Kurze Geschichte, pp. 152–195;
G. Senft, Im Vorfeld der Katastrophe: Die Wirtschaftspolitik des Ständestaates, Öster-
reich 1934–1938, Vienna, Braumüller, 2002; M. Scheuch, Der Weg zum Heldenplatz:
Eine Geschichte der Österreichischen Diktatur 1933–1938, Vienna, Kremayr & Scheriau,
82. R. Kriechbaumer, Ein Vaterländisches Bilderbuch: Propaganda, Selbstinszenierung und
Ästhetik der Vaterländischen Front 1933–1938, Vienna, Böhlau, 2002.
83. For a comprehensive recent account see Leidinger and Moritz, ‘Das Kriegswirtschaft-
liche Ermächtigungsgesetz.
84. Hanisch, Der lange Schatten, pp. 310–323; Tálos, Das Austrofaschistische
Herrschaftssystem, pp. 82–145; M. Seliger, Scheinparlamentarismus im Führerstaat:
‘Gemeindevertretung’ im Austrofaschismus und Nationalsozialismus, Vienna, Lit, 2010;
G. Enderle-Burcel, Mandatare im Ständestaat, 1934–1938: Christlich, ständisch,
autoritär: Biographisches Handbuch, Vienna, Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreich
Widerstandes, 1991; W. Putschek, Ständische Verfassung und Verfassungspraxis in
Österreich 1933–1938 mit Dokumentenanhang, Frankfurt am Main, Lang, 1993.
85. Tálos, Das Austrofaschistische Herrschaftssystem, pp. 104 ff.
86. Unser Staatsprogramm, pp. 61 ff.
87. Tálos, Das Austrofaschistische Herrschaftssystem, pp. 99 ff.
88. Wohnout, ‘Die Verfassung 1934’, p. 30.
89. G. Jagschitz, Der Putsch: Die Nationalsozialisten 1934 in Österreich. Unter Mitarb. von
Alfred Baubin, Graz, Styria, 1976; K. Bauer, Elementar-Ereignis: Die österreichischen
Nationalsozialisten und der Juliputsch 1934, Vienna, Czernin, 2003.
90. K. Bauer, ‘Hitler und der Juliputsch 1934 in Österreich: Eine Fallstudie zur nation-
alsozialistischen Außenpolitik in der Frühphase des Regimes’, Vierteljahreshefte für
Zeitgeschichte 59, no. 2, April 2011, pp. 193–227.
Gerhard Botz 153

91. H. Schafranek, Söldner für den ‘Anschluss’: Die Österreichische Legion 1933–1938,
Vienna, Czernin, 2011; I. Reiter, Ausgewiesen, Abgeschoben: Eine Geschichte des
Ausweisungsrechts in Österreich vom ausgehenden 18. bis ins 20. Jahrhundert, Frankfurt
am Main, Lang, 2000.
92. L. Jedlicka and R. Neck, eds, Das Juliabkommen von 1936: Vorgeschichte, Hintergründe
und Folgen, Protokoll des Symposiums in Wien am 10. und 11. Juni 1976, Vienna,
Geschichte u. Politik, 1977.
93. G. Jagschitz, ‘Engelbert Dollfuß 1892 bis 1934’, in F. Weissensteiner and
E. Weinzierl, eds, Die Österreichischen Bundeskanzler: Leben und Werk, Vienna,
Österreich Bundesverlag, 1983, pp. 190–216.
94. ‘Ihr Jungen, schließt die Reihen gut,/Ein Toter führt uns an./Er gab für Österreich sein
Blut./Ein Toter führt uns an . . . ’. See A. Pfoser and G. Renner, ‘Ein Toter führt uns
an!’, in Tálos and Neugebauer, Austrofaschismus, pp. 338–356.
95. See, for instance, Gedenkbuch der Heimattreuen und Freunde Österreichs in Wort und
Bild: Dem Andenken des für die Freiheit Österreichs gefallenen Kanzlers Dr. Engelbert
Dollfuß gewidmet, Vienna, Wien I. Kärntnerring, 12, 1935.
96. See L. Dreidemy, ‘Dollfuß – biografisch: Eine Längsschnittanalyse des biografis-
chen Diskurses über Engelbert Dollfuß’, in Reiter-Zatloukal, Rothländer and
Schölnberger, Österreich 1933–1938, pp. 242–256; cf. Dollfuss’ German admirer,
G.-K. Kindermann, Österreich gegen Hitler: Europas erste Abwehrfront 1933–1938,
Munich, Langen Müller, 2003.
97. K. Schuschnigg, Im Kampf gegen Hitler: Die Überwindung der Anschlußidee, Vienna,
Amalthea, 1988; M. Gehler, ‘Schuschnigg, Kurt’, in Neue Deutsche Biographie,
vol. 23, Berlin, Historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der
Wissenschaften, 2007, pp. 766 ff.
98. Surprisingly there is little substantial research on the Schuschnigg regime, but see
Kluge, Der Österreichische Ständestaat, pp. 67–135 and W. Reich, Die Ostmärkischen
Sturmscharen: Für Gott und Ständestaat, Frankfurt am Main, Lang, 2000. See also
Jagschitz, ‘Der österreichische Ständestaat’, pp. 505–507, 510–513; Tálos, Das
Austrofaschistische Herrschaftssystem, pp. 152–156.
99. Kriechbaumer, Ein Vaterländisches Bilderbuch.
100. Pasteur, ‘Der Ständestaat’, pp. 117 ff.; Pasteur, Les États Autoritaires, pp. 162–166,
101. J. Thaler, ‘Legitimismus: Ein unterschätzter Baustein des autoritären Österreich’, in
Wenninger and Dreidemy, Dollfuß/Schuschnigg-Regime, pp. 69–85; Schuschnigg, Im
Kampf, pp. 18–25.
102. Linz, ‘Totalitarian and authoritarian regimes’, pp. 175–411; S. G. Payne, ‘The
concept of fascism’, in Larsen, Hagtvet and Myklebust, Who were the Fascists?,
pp. 14–25.
103. For the first time in 1984, see Botz, ‘Faschismus und “Ständestaat” ’, pp. 325–327;
also adopted by Hanisch, Der lange Schatten des Staates, p. 314.
104. L. Jedlicka and R. Neck, eds, Das Juliabkommen von 1936: Vorgeschichte, Hintergründe
und Folgen, Protokoll des Symposiums in Wien am 10. und 11. Juni 1976, Vienna,
Geschichte u. Politik, 1977.
Salazar’s ‘New State’: The Paradoxes
of Hybridization in the Fascist Era
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto


In inter-war European conservative circles, particularly those of the Catholics

and those close to Action Française, António de Oliveira Salazar’s New State was
praised as an example of a ‘good dictatorship’: one that avoided most of the
totalitarian and pagan elements of Mussolini and Hitler. Salazar’s dictatorship
and its political institutions have been the subject of wide-ranging interpretive
debate and some dimensions challenge common assumptions about inter-war
fascism. The first concerns its relatively long duration, surviving the ‘era of fas-
cism’ and much of the Cold War, ending only some years after the natural and
peaceful death of its dictator in the 1970s. The second and most important con-
cerning its ability to adapt institutions that, while inspired by certain aspects
of Italian Fascism, were shaped by the armed forces, the Catholic Church and
other institutions.
This chapter will analyse the process of consolidation of Salazarism and its
political institutions, noting how the regime was shaped by several models
of inspiration, and explore the cleavages and main protagonists of its institu-
tionalization, especially some segments of the conservative elites, the Catholic
Church and the armed forces. We also pay particular attention to the process
of political diffusion of models and institutions by the European authoritar-
ian right during the inter-war period and how they shaped some of the main
institutions of Salazar’s dictatorship.

The transition to Salazar’s New State

On 28 May 1926 a military coup put an end to Portugal’s parliamentary repub-

lic. Between the end of the republic and the institutionalization of Salazar’s
New State there were seven unstable years of military dictatorship; however,
it is worth noting the project for a new constitution that the leader of the
military uprising, General Manuel de Oliveira Gomes da Costa, presented to

Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 155

the dictatorship’s first government one month after the coup: ‘A new con-
stitution based on the following principles: national representation by direct
delegation from the municipalities, the economic unions and the educational
and spiritual bodies, with the absolute exclusion of individualist suffrage and
the consequent party representation.’1 Other projects were discussed during the
years that followed, but this example demonstrates the importance of authori-
tarian and corporatist political alternatives in Portuguese anti-democratic elite
political culture: namely, in sections of the armed forces, conservative parties
and interest groups.
The republican revolution of 1910 was a precocious political phenomenon
that brought the dilemmas of democratization and mass politics of the early
20th century to Portugal.2 Secularization, democratization and republicanism
marked the main cleavages within the republican regime implanted in 1910 in
a backward country and which accentuated the differences between rural soci-
ety and the small politically mobilized urban world. Although unstable almost
from the outset, the republican parliamentary regime suffered considerably
with Portugal’s participation in the First World War.3 Republicans pushed for
the country to enter the war on the side of the Allies, primarily out of a fear the
British would negotiate peace with the Germans at the expense of Portugal’s
colonies in Africa, although other goals of regime legitimation, such as patri-
otic mobilization, were also certainly important. Shaken by working-class social
mobilization and the differences between republican parties about participa-
tion in the European war, the young republican regime almost immediately
succumbed to a coup d’état. Portugal entered the war in 1916 and a few months
later a discreet, uniformed conservative, Sidónio Pais, seized power with the
support of a negative and vague coalition, the goal of which was to get Portugal
out of the war.
Although he used his military background to achieve power, the charismatic
leader of the coup d’état was a member of the conservative elite. A professor
at Coimbra University and a member of parliament, he had been ambassador
to Berlin and out of active military service for a number of years; however,
following the coup he began wearing the uniform again, albeit one designed
especially for him. While the support of the conservative parties was deci-
sive in his rise to power, Sidónio established a dictatorial regime based around
his own person. After some programmatic hesitations, he exiled a part of the
republican elite, broke with the 1911 constitution and sought to institutional-
ize a plebiscitary presidential dictatorship. Only the monarchists and Catholics
were represented in parliament with the National Republican Party (PNR –
Partido Nacional Republicano). The former supported the regime and were
re-established within many institutions, including the military; while the lat-
ter supported Sidónio to the very end as a result of his intention to revoke
the more radical anti-clerical legislation and to re-establish relations with the
156 Salazar’s ‘New State’

Vatican. This dictatorial experiment was short-lived, however. Sidónio was

assassinated by an anarcho-syndicalist in 1918 and, following the defeat of a
royalist uprising, the liberal republican regime was restored in 1919.
The most appropriate way to analyse the fall of the republican regime is
to examine civil–military relations.4 Appeals to the military were a constant
feature of post-war Portuguese politics. Conservative-republican parties and
economic interest groups had become accustomed to using extra-parliamentary
means to gain power. The radicalization of the small conservative republican
parties was a key factor in the fall of the republic: it led them to appeal to the
military when the Democratic Party won the elections of 1925. The military
coup of 1926 co-opted part of the liberal regime’s political elite, which, like
many in the military, sought the establishment of a reformed constitutional
order. The coup was also supported by the disloyal opposition that sought to
remove the dominant party from power.5 As soon as the republican regime was
overthrown, the military dictatorship found solutions for some of the problems
troubling the conservative bloc. The Democratic Party, the dominant party of
the previous regime, was ousted from power and its leaders exiled, the working
class lost its right to strike and the unions were legally restricted. The Catholic
Church blessed the 1926 coup and, while suspicious of republican officers and
civilians in the regime, immediately volunteered lay supporters for ministerial
The military regime established in 1926 could be described as a ‘dictatorship
without a dictator’. It emerged from a tentative, military-brokered compromise
and experienced contradictory phases until the consolidation of authoritarian-
ism under Salazar. Between 1926 and 1930 it was the target of several attempted
coups d’état led by the republican opposition as well as by the far-right.7 The
conservative republicans, the Catholics and the far-right tried to convert young
officers, who were a parallel power in the barracks; their position was strength-
ened by the appointment of officers to local administrative posts. At the cabinet
level, a more cohesive group of conservative generals consolidated around Gen-
eral Óscar Carmona. In the wake of a major financial crisis, Salazar was named
finance minister, subsequently gaining powers over the other ministries.
Salazar’s New State was born out of a military dictatorship beset by a
succession of conspiracies, palace coups and revolutionary attempts: signs of
the battle for leadership within the vast, pro-dictatorial, conservative coali-
tion. The consolidation of the authoritarian regime met with difficulties
because of the political diversity of the conservative bloc and its ability to
penetrate the armed forces. Curiously, it was under the military dictatorship
that the fascists gained some influence through the young officer cadre. They
attempted to create independent organizations and played a role in driving
republicans out of the ranks of the military. This military-mediated, limited
and self-devouring pluralism was overcome only by Salazar.
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 157

Salazar played no part in the 1926 coup, nor was he listed as a candidate dur-
ing the last years of the parliamentary regime. He was the son of a poor rural
family from Vimieiro, a village in central Portugal. Salazar had a traditional
Catholic upbringing and completed most of his intellectual and political edu-
cation before the First World War.8 He attended a seminary but abandoned his
ecclesiastical studies on the eve of the fall of the monarchy in order to study law
at Coimbra University. A reserved and brilliant student, he led the best-known
Catholic student organization at the university, the Christian Democracy Aca-
demic Centre (CADC – Centro Académico de Democracia Cristã). His friendship
with the future cardinal patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Cerejeira, dates from this
period. He pursued a university career as a professor of economic law, and his
only political activity under the liberal republic took place within the strict lim-
its of the social-Catholic movement. He was one of the leaders of the Portuguese
Catholic Centre (CCP – Centro Católico Português), a Catholic political party,
and was elected a deputy for them in the early 1920s.9
Salazar’s expertise in finance and his membership of the CCP made him a
natural candidate for the post of finance minister immediately after the 1926
coup, and it was in that capacity he joined the military dictatorship in 1928.
His rise in government was possible because of the powers he negotiated on his
arrival at the finance ministry.
The image Salazar cultivated was that of a reserved, puritanical and provin-
cial dictator. It was an image that held sway until his death, and one he never
attempted to change. Salazar was an academic dictator who closely followed
international politics and the ideas of the times. He was ideologically and cul-
turally traditionalist, anti-liberal and Catholic in a context of secularization.
He was ultra-conservative in the most literal sense of the term. He steadfastly
defended his rejection of democracy, favouring an organic vision of society
based on traditional, Catholic foundations. The systematic, Cartesian nature
of his speeches provide a good indication of his political thought. He always
addressed the elite and rarely succumbed to populist mass appeals. He was a
professor of finance and had clear ideas about the management of a state’s bal-
ance sheet. As a strong dictator, he rarely decentralized decisions and relied on
a docile administration.
The regime institutionalized by Salazar was admired by many on the fringes
of the European radical-right, but above all by those of Maurrasian and tradi-
tional Catholic extraction, given the political background of the dictator and
the cultural and institutional configuration of the regime.

The challenge of Preto’s National Syndicalism

Paradoxically, it was the military dictatorship that facilitated the organiza-

tion of a fascist movement in Portugal. As in other processes of transition to
158 Salazar’s ‘New State’

authoritarianism that took place during the 1930s, one of the challenges facing
the institutionalization of the New State from above came from below and from
the right. In 1932, a well-known member of Portugal’s radical right succeeded
in unifying many of his peers within a clearly fascist organization. Rolão Preto
was to become the charismatic leader of the National Syndicalist Movement
(MNS – Movimento Nacional-Sindicalista) and, consequently, one of Salazar’s
main rivals at the beginning of the 1930s.10
Fascism developed in Portugal towards the end of the 1920s, and attempted
to cut across the right-wing spectrum. Several young military officers with influ-
ence in the barracks gave Preto their support. Portuguese fascism also inherited
the small militias that had been hurriedly established by the military barons,
and began to mobilize sections of the working class in the context of an unsta-
ble dictatorship already dominated by the Catholic financial dictator. As an
organized movement, MNS was a latecomer attempting to open some political
space within Salazar’s authoritarian order.
Portuguese fascism was ideologically and politically influenced by Lusitanian
Integralism (IL – Integralismo Lusitano), an elitist new-monarchist group cre-
ated under the powerful influence of Action Française on the eve of the First
World War. Although the post-war crisis produced other movements that were
not influenced by IL, the movement’s ability to present a new reactionary ideo-
logical programme was decisive. This package was legitimate in the Portuguese
cultural context. IL’s ideological vigour and its capacity to permeate the elites
thus conditioned fascist development in Portugal. As a Portuguese sociologist
said, ‘At a time when Italian Fascist and Nazi models assumed “world-historical”
importance, those most predisposed to learn from and emulate them were all
grounded in the teachings and intellectual style of the IL.’11 Indeed, almost all
attempts to establish fascist parties — the last and most successful of which was
MNS – were shaped by IL.
Integralism created durable foundations for a new reactionary nationalism in
Portugal: it reinvented the tradition of an organic and corporatist society based
on a vision of a medieval Portugal destroyed by imported 19th-century liberal-
ism. IL presented corporatism as the alternative to liberalism, acting as a launch
pad for the restoration of the monarchy. Efforts to legitimate historically, and to
develop the theoretical foundations of corporatism, however, were more than
a reflection of Integralism’s anti-liberalism: this is apparent in the erudite stud-
ies published by its leaders. IL constructed a coherent political and intellectual
alternative, codified into a political programme. A vision of a nation organized
hierarchically according to tradition was held up in opposition to the notion of
popular sovereignty. The idea of universal suffrage was replaced by a vision of
the corporatist representation of the family, the city and town councils and the
professions. Parliament was rejected in favour of an advisory national assembly
representing the nation’s forças vivas (vital forces).
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 159

Rolão Preto was the youngest of Integralism’s founders. Born in cen-

tral Portugal in 1896, he was only 17 when he became managing edi-
tor of Integralism’s first publication – one of many to be established by
Portuguese emigrant students in France and Belgium who were influenced by
Action Française. Although they were from different generations, Preto always
acknowledged his debt to the two writers who most inspired him: Georges Sorel
and Georges Valois. The exile and the adventure of war enabled Integralism’s
youngest leader to forge close links with French intellectual pro-fascism and, in
a rare – perhaps even unique – case for any of Integralism’s founders, with the
Italian pre-fascism of Corradini and the Idea Nazionale (National Idea).
Preto attempted, during the brief leadership of General Gomes da Costa in
June 1926, to create a militia that, in association with junior military officers,
would support the new regime. It was during this period Preto came closest
to exercising real political power, standing as he did in the shadow of the old
general. Following Gomes da Costa’s overthrow in a palace coup in July of that
same year, the most radical wing of the Integralist family gambled upon the
establishment of a fascist party through which the military dictatorship could
be controlled. The first steps towards the organization of MNS took place during
the summer of 1932. It was built around Preto, who brought together pre-
existing groups dominated by Integralism. In other words, the party was created
around a personality and a core of ‘political entrepreneurs’ associated with him,
and local groups were created or reorganized to ensure loyalty to this lead-
ership. Initially, the party’s structure was fluid and dispersed. Several parallel
links of solidarity inherited from previous political experiences and conspira-
cies remained strong, affecting the party’s internal workings. Preto’s authority
was challenged on several occasions, albeit in a disguised form. Despite this,
the leader remained the focal point of the organization.
The hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the CCP – key political elements
within the dictatorship – was an important obstacle to fascist development.
Although they shared part of the Integralist programme, differences between
Catholics and Integralists during the inter-war period developed into open
animosity between the two groups. The church began to criticize the fascist
and Integralist doctrines developed during the 1920s, and after the 1926 coup
Portuguese Catholicism increased pressure against militia-style parties that pro-
moted an exaggerated nationalism. The church ultimately feared that power
holders, and the military in particular, might support the fascists. From the
autumn of 1932 onwards, these attacks increased in number and intensity: MNS
positions were denounced as anti-Catholic for exacerbating old quarrels. Fascist
leaders deliberately ignored their critics and continued to proclaim their loyalty
to Catholicism.
Salazar maintained a prudent distance between himself and MNS, and lost no
opportunity to emphasize the differences between his views and those of Preto
160 Salazar’s ‘New State’

and his followers. He condemned the appeal of totalitarianism, a doctrine that

‘tends towards a pagan Caesarism, and which will lead to a “New State” that
does not know the limits of moral or judicial order’. While Preto’s supporters
were in Braga on 26 May 1933, where they were commemorating the anniver-
sary of the 1926 coup by holding military-style parades, Salazar was denouncing
their ‘feverish, excited discontent . . . [as when] faced with the impossible, con-
tinue to shout: More! More!’12 The following September, Salazar decided to act:
the regime offered to officially recognize MNS, but on the condition Preto and
his lieutenants were removed from their positions of leadership. This officially
backed schism was ultimately unsuccessful, as those who had been tempted
by Salazar’s offer failed in their attempt to remove Preto. Since his relationship
with several important military leaders remained tense – and given that he
remained dependent upon the president’s support – Salazar avoided any direct
confrontation. It was not until the following year he felt confident enough to
ban MNS and force its leaders into exile in Spain.
In September 1935, the MNS, in alliance with several other groups opposed
to Salazar, rose up in a failed coup against the regime. Unlike previous conspir-
acies in which MNS members had played only a secondary role under military
command, this time Preto planned the conspirators’ political programme. MNS
led this conspiracy, and its defeat represented the end of the movement. Some
former National Syndicalists joined the regime, especially following the out-
break of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Nevertheless, this process of integrating
former fascists into Salazar’s New State was deliberately weak, and bore all the
hallmarks of the regime elite’s bureaucratic caution.

Salazar and the New State’s political institutions

In 1932 public opinion was presented with a project for a new constitu-
tion that was approved by plebiscite in 1933. The constitution of the New
State drew on three ideological foundations: conservative-republican liberal-
ism, integralism and social-Catholicism. Anti-parliamentarism was the meeting
point that brought these apparently irreconcilable forces together, over which
the state cast something of a spell, which gave absolute prominence to the dic-
tator. As Norberto Bobbio reminds us, the main target of the New State, and
therefore of its constitution, was not so much socialism or Marxism, but rather
liberalism, which was held to be responsible for undermining the authority of
the state, which therefore had to become more anti-individualistic.
The 1933 constitution established the political institutions of the New State
and heralded an early compromise with the conservative republicans. Its lib-
eral principles were weak and its corporatist and authoritarian elements strong.
Rights and liberties were formally maintained but were actually eliminated
by government regulation. De jure freedom of association existed, but parties
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 161

were eliminated by regulation. According to the new constitution, ‘sovereignty

resides in the nation and has as its organs the head of state, the national
assembly, the government and the courts’.13 The three classic powers thus
ceased to exert mutual controls and to limit the power of the state, and were
instead brought together to create a single source of power: the unitary and
corporatist state.14
It was no accident that the Portuguese presidency of the council – which, as
in the case of Italy, ceased to be primus inter pares and acquired an absolutely
dominant position within the government – lost its relationship of trust with
the parliament. Thus, the 1933 constitution stipulated that the national assem-
bly could be ‘freely convoked and dissolved by the president of the republic’
since the ‘government is based exclusively on confidence in the presidency of
the republic and its hold on power does not depend on the fate of any bills or
votes proposed by the national assembly’.15
The new constitutional order was based on the rejection of parliament –
which ceased to be the congress of the republic with a chamber of deputies
and a senate, and was renamed the national assembly – and on the concentra-
tion of power in the executive branch, which, as in Italy, then prevailed over
the other two powers. The government controlled the single-party, the National
Union (UN – União Nacional), together with the civil governors and the inte-
rior ministry;16 the single-party controlled the entire representative recruitment
In addition to being nominated by the government and deprived its free-
dom of opinion, the New State’s national assembly also lost its powers of
self-convocation, as its sittings were limited to ‘three months that cannot be
postponed’.17 But the constitution went even further: it established that the
‘president of the republic should respond directly and exclusively to the nation
for actions undertaken in the course of his duties, and the exercise of the latter
and his magistracy are free of any vote by the national assembly’.18
As noted above, the power of the judicial and legislative branches was articu-
lated by the executive. The head of state nominated the president of the council
of ministers which – and this is another paradoxical aspect of the hierarchies
of the New State – became the central link in the material constitution,19 and
at the same time was the only body that did not require plebiscitary legitimiza-
tion by the Portuguese people. Again, this reveals the proximity between the
New State, the Italian Fascist regime and other inter-war dictatorships.20
The 1933 constitution explicitly excluded the national assembly from hav-
ing any influence on the formation of the government, which became ‘the
exclusive attribute of the presidency of the republic, the preservation of whose
power does not depend on the fate of any bills or votes in the national assem-
bly’.21 The government, as represented by the president of the council, thus
concentrated both legislative power by directly controlling the recruitment of
162 Salazar’s ‘New State’

deputies, and legislating power as it could make extensive use of decree laws
without the prior consent of the national assembly. In this way, the presidency
of the council became a kind of exceptional legislative organ.22
Composed of functional representatives, the corporatist chamber was to be
an auxiliary and consultative body. Consisting of 109 procurators, whose meet-
ings were held in private, the corporatist chamber remained a consultative body
for both the government and the national assembly. Despite the great majority
of procurators representing functional interests, a small group of administra-
tive interests were nominated by the corporatist council led by the dictator
and which constituted the chamber’s elite. In practice, these political procu-
rators, making up an average of 15 per cent of all procurators, controlled the
chamber. An analysis of a large number of the corporatist chamber’s advisory
opinions during the first decade of its operation allows us to conclude that its
function within the framework of the dictator’s consultation system, ‘permit-
ted it a first hearing of the impact of public policies and to make suggestions
about the implications of the measures to be adopted’.23 Finally, it also under-
lined its subordinate character compared to the national assembly, given that
its advisory opinions were not necessarily taken into account during debates in
that chamber.24 Although no corporations were created to represent the organic
elements of the nation in the corporatist chamber until the 1950s, no interme-
diate organizations emerged either. The distance between the constituencies
and members of the chamber was maintained. The procurators were chosen
by the corporatist council, which consisted of Salazar and the ministers and
secretaries of state of the sectors involved, such as the economics ministry.
The constitution maintained the presidency of the republic, elected by direct
suffrage, as well as the presidency of the council of ministers, and Salazar was
responsible only to the former. During the early years of Salazar’s rule, the pres-
ident posed the only constitutional challenge to his authority.25 The president
of the republic was always a general, given the legacy of the military dictator-
ship, and this was to cause Salazar some problems after 1945. In short, to use a
phrase of the time, the regime was a constitutionalized dictatorship.
The New State inherited and strengthened the repressive apparatus of the
military dictatorship. Although inherited from the military dictatorship, the
functions of the Censor’s Office (DGSCI – Direcção Geral dos Serviços da
Censura) had been completely overhauled in 1933 and its leaders made respon-
sible directly to Salazar.26 The duties of the DGSCI were now to defend both
the regime’s positions and the idea that ‘what exists politically is only what is
known to exist’. It was also responsible for ensuring there was no opportunity
for the opposition to make its message public, and, third, was an instrument
for the internal and external regulation of the regime’s elite. Censors devoted
their attention both to the left-wing opposition and, for a short time, to the
fascist minority led by Rolão Preto.27
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 163

The autonomy of the political police increased as a result of successive decrees

until they were answerable only to Salazar, just as the instructions to the
censor were checked by Salazar each day.28 The State Defence and Vigilance
Police (PVDE – Polícia de Vigilância e Defesa do Estado) was reorganized and
used with remarkable rationality. Apart from repressing the clandestine opposi-
tion, controlling access to the public administration was of central importance.
Mechanisms to control the judicial branch increased. Political crimes were
placed under the jurisdiction of special military courts and special judges were
nominated and the PVDE was given extensive powers to determine prison sen-
tences. All this was done from above. It was a process that depended more
on generals and colonels than on lieutenants, and more on the interior min-
istry than on the mob. By 1934 liberalism had been eliminated and the old
republican institutions replaced.
One important problem remained: relations with the military. This was the
institution Salazar feared most, yet the movement to co-opt and control the
military elite was central to the consolidation of Salazarism.29 The subordina-
tion of the military hierarchy to the regime was a fact by the eve of the Second
World War, but the process was slow and fraught with tension. Salazar’s speech
at an officers’ rally in 1938 symbolically marked the victory of ‘a civilian police
dictatorship’ over the old military dictatorship of 1926.30
This process of establishing control lasted from the time Salazar took control
of the war ministry in mid-1936 to the reform of the armed forces in 1937 –
which General Carmona resisted. After taking charge of the war ministry,
Salazar could have the final – albeit tentative – word on all senior promotions
and transfers. Despite the temporary nature of his position, Salazar remained
war minister until the end of the Second World War, and it was in this capac-
ity that he presented his reform bill for the armed forces in 1937. This reform
provoked the most significant reduction in the size of the armed forces since
the First World War: the officer corps was reduced by 30 per cent. Already sig-
nificantly affected by resignations and the transfer to the reserves of those
implicated in the dozens of attempted coups and revolutions, the number of
officers reached ‘the lowest levels registered since 1905’.31 Besides this control
from above, a number of legislative measures were introduced that strength-
ened political control over the armed forces. These measures heralded the
political hegemony of the undersecretary of state, Captain Santos Costa, whose
power went unchallenged until the late 1950s.
General Carmona, the president of the republic, who was the other pole of
the dictatorship diarchy of the 1930s, enjoyed a dull, administrative military
career. A half-hearted republican, he served as a minister in a liberal conserva-
tive government during the 1920s. Member of the 1926 military junta, he was
the least caudillist and least radical of the generals leading the coup, and trans-
formed himself into a sympathetic complement to the consolidation of Salazar.
164 Salazar’s ‘New State’

For someone who had risen to the position of head of state and of government,
his progressive removal could have been difficult. But it was not. Carmona was
happy to be the nation’s symbolic head, retaining the formal position con-
ferred by the constitution while voluntarily choosing not to get involved in
any decision-making.

Salazar’s single-party: the UN

The first political institution to be created by the dictatorship was the single-
party, the UN. Created by Salazar in 1930, this accompanied the dissolution
of all other political parties – including the CCP. The impetus for its forma-
tion came from Salazar and the government, with decisive aid from the state
apparatus, especially the interior ministry and its local delegations. Both in the
UN’s manifesto and in Salazar’s inaugural speech to it in 1930, the future dicta-
tor’s intention was already clear as he announced the ‘creation of the social and
corporatist state that would closely follow the natural constitution of society’.32
The UN was a variant of dominant or single-parties Juan J. Linz has called
unified parties, generally representing a ‘coalescence, from the top, of vari-
ous elements to create a new political entity’, obliging other forces either to
integrate or to be excluded.33 The important factor here is that these parties
were already created in an authoritarian situation, where political pluralism
was already absent or severely restricted. In Portugal and Spain parties of this
type had precedents; they were modelled on those that had thrived under
Sidónio Pais and Primo de Rivera, respectively.34 Similar and more or less suc-
cessful projects had also been promoted in the 1930s in Austria, Hungary and
Poland.35 The impetus for their formation came from the government, with
crucial aid from the state apparatus. In general, their establishment entailed
varying degrees of compromise on the part of other parties or pressure groups
participating in the winning coalition.
Salazar created the UN in 1930 when he was emerging as the military dic-
tatorship’s main political leader. Its aims and membership criteria, however,
were only vaguely stated. The UN welcomed all the dictatorship’s sympathizers,
whether republican, monarchist or Catholic, and for the first two years it was
entirely dependent on the interior ministry.36 District governors were influen-
tial in the establishment of local committees; the interior minister was initially
responsible for replacing local leaders, who normally depended on the district
governor.37 The UN, on the other hand, took on the political task of obtaining
the adherence and support of conservative republicans at the local level.
State dependency marked the life of the party. Contrary to what one might
expect, its lethargy was notorious in the 1930s, when the single-parties of
other regimes were more active, from Italy’s National Fascist Party (PNF –
Partito Nazionale Fascista) to Spain’s Falange (Falange Española Tradicionalista),
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 165

Once its leaders had been appointed, its statutes established and its national
assembly representatives chosen, the UN practically disappeared. In 1938, the
dictator himself recognized that the UN’s activity had ‘progressively dimin-
ished to near-vanishing point’.38 Its internal structure was weak and it lacked
the propaganda, ideological, socio-professional and cultural departments of
other single-parties. Salazar established state departments for propaganda, the
Portuguese Youth (MP – Mocidade Portuguesa) and the National Foundation
for Happiness at Work (FNAT – Fundação Nacional para a Alegria no Trabalho)
the Portuguese equivalent of Italy’s National Recreation Club (OND – Opera
Nazionale Dopolavoro), but these were not linked to the party. Only occa-
sionally did the state turn to the party network, and only then to carry out
limited tasks. The single-party was not very important in the formation of
Salazarism’s political elite:39 it did, however, strengthen Salazar’s authority and
limit the organization of blocs and pressure groups, as well as allow for a certain
technocratic pluralism.
The first parliamentary elections in 1934 had clear legitimating aims. Elec-
tions were held regularly, but were not organized to achieve 99 per cent
participation.40 Civil servants were mobilized and, despite the already restricted
number of registered voters, electoral rolls were manipulated. Salazar governed
over and through the administrative apparatus, relegating the truly political
institutions to secondary positions. The UN’s key role was therefore to control
central and local administration, to unify the diverse political factions that sup-
ported the regime and to supply the system with political officials – especially
at the local level.

The corporatist apparatus

Corporatism was one of the central legitimizing elements of the New State’s
institutional reform. It was written into the constitution and given a central
role in determining institutional structures, ideology, relations with organized
interests and the state’s economic policy.41
Salazarism did not give the corporatist sector a monopoly on representation,
despite pressure from the radical right to do so. Elections were held but, as
stressed above, the corporatist chamber retained merely consultative status in a
powerless National assembly. The Portuguese corporatist edifice was never com-
pleted. Its influence on economic policy or its capacity to act as a buffer against
social conflict, however, are worth detailed examination. The linchpin of the
corporatist structure was the 1933 National Labour Statute (ETN – Estatuto
do Trabalho Nacional). Although tempered by the New State’s strong Catholic
leanings, the ETN owed a great deal to Italy’s Carta del Lavoro (Labour Char-
ter).42 The statute, approved in September 1933, sought to establish a synthesis
of the Italian model and the ideals of social-Catholicism. The founder of the
166 Salazar’s ‘New State’

Portuguese corporatist system, Pedro Teotónio Pereira, was a former Integralist

who united young radical right-wingers as well as social-Catholic civil servants
within his department.
Once the ETN was established and the appropriate control mechanisms cre-
ated, the organization of labour was undertaken. The government gave the
unions two months either to accept the new system or to disband. Substan-
tially weakened after the 1926 coup, the unions accepted the new legislation,
albeit by a slight majority.43 The most important unions were simply dissolved
when they rejected the legislation. In January 1934 a general strike took place
to protest the ‘fascistization’ of the unions, (to use the words of the clandes-
tine Communist Party and the anarcho-syndicalists); these were then recreated
from the top down by officials from within the corporatist apparatus.
The new unions were controlled by the National Institute of Labour and Wel-
fare (INTP – Instituto Nacional do Trabalho e Previdência). Their governing
statutes and prospective leaders were submitted to state approval and if they
diverged from the ETN they were summarily dissolved. Even members’ dues
came under official scrutiny. National representation was not permitted, so as
to keep them weak and ineffectual.
The rural world was represented by the casas do povo (community
centres).The regime did not recognize social stratification in a rural society over-
seen by associate protectors, actually latifundistas. The old rural unions were
simply abolished, particularly in the latifundia-dominated south. To ensure the
working classes were culturally provided for, FNAT, a clearly Italian Fascist and
Nazi-inspired organization, was created.44
The importance of the corporatist system becomes clearer when examining
state economic intervention from 1930 onwards. The pre-corporatist institu-
tions that could ensure smooth relations between the state and the emerging
corporatist institutions, such as the organizations of economic coordination,
were maintained. According to official rhetoric, they were to disappear gradu-
ally over time as the corporatist edifice neared completion. In practice, however,
they became central features of the regime, gaining total control over the
grémios (guilds) in the agricultural sector, the weaker industrial areas and the
agro-food export sector.
The integration of the old grémios into the new corporatist system was
asymmetrical, especially when compared with labour organizations. Decrees
governing grémios sought to reorganize employers and the liberal professions,
but in a more moderate and prudent fashion. The employers’ associations
remained tentatively active. Although supposedly transitional, some of them
lasted as long as the regime itself. The grémios were led by the state in the
name of national economic interests. Economic intervention strategies, rather
than corporatist coherence, determined their organization. Those in the more
modern economic sectors enjoyed greater autonomy, but grémios in agriculture
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 167

and associated trade sectors (wine, olive oil and cereals), as well as milling
and agro-industry, were rapidly forced to consolidate in the framework of the
corporatist system.

Militia and youth organizations

Students of the New State have stressed the impact the electoral victory of
the Spanish Popular Front and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War had on
Portugal. In response to the ‘red threat’ of the Popular Front in Spain, the
regime developed a new political discourse and paramilitary symbolism, and
set up two militia organizations.
Until the Spanish Civil War, Salazar had refused to create a militia-type orga-
nization. During the military dictatorship, a number of attempts to create such
bodies had failed. In 1934, the same year Salazar had crushed Preto’s MNS,
the first youth organization, the School Action Vanguard (AEV – Acção Escolar
Vanguarda), backed by António Ferro, the philo-fascist propaganda chief, was
disbanded.45 In 1936, however, the regime created a paramilitary youth orga-
nization, the MP, and allowed the formation of a fascist-style militia, the
Portuguese Legion (LP – Legião Portuguesa).
The LP was founded in September 1936 in the wake of an anti-communist
rally organized by the national unions. It emerged from the genuine pressure
exerted by fascist sectors of the regime. Salazar authorized its formation and
decreed its strict submission to the government. As was his custom, he moder-
ated its declaration of principles and put the military in charge, avoiding the
selection of officers who had been prominent in the radical right and MNS.46
Relations between the LP and the other regime institutions were not peace-
ful. This was particularly true with the UN. Salazar separated the MP from the
LP and rejected all proposals to place it under the control of the UN. Mean-
while, the single-party, ever suspicious of militia organizations, continued to
dominate local administration and to constitute the principal channel of com-
munication between the state and society. Yet there was no formal link between
the UN and the MP.
Similar pressures led to the foundation of the MP. The education ministry
drew up plans for various projects aiming to unite different youth sectors in
a paramilitary organization to replace the moribund AEV. Between May and
September 1936, in response to the victory of the Popular Front in Spain, the
MP indiscriminately accepted new members. Membership was voluntary, and
the children of the lower middle-class, white-collar workers and labourers could
sign up. During its first months the MP’s social base approximated that of the
MNS.47 The youth movement, however, was rapidly curtailed with the trans-
fer of non-student volunteers to the LP. From then on, the MP accepted only
school-age members. Participation became compulsory and the MP became
168 Salazar’s ‘New State’

dependent on a strengthened education ministry. In response to criticism from

the Catholic hierarchy, the MP was rapidly Christianized and encouraged to
interact with other essentially Catholic youth organizations, contrary to the
more evident tensions between the Italian Fascist organizations and Catholic
Certain differences between the LP and the MP are worthy of note. The
MP was quickly depoliticized and Christianized, whereas the LP was vigor-
ously politicized: its discourse, organizational structure and social composi-
tion were more typical of a fascist militia. Both groups were more modest
in scale, and more dependent on the state apparatus than their counter-
parts in other European authoritarian and fascist regimes. Their presence on
the political scene, moreover, was only fleeting, and in choreographic terms
(that is, in terms of rallies, parades and the like), they were never as fully
Salazar was put under pressure by the heads of the LP to maintain it after the
Spanish Civil War. The LP claimed that ‘there is still much to do for our patriotic
reinvigoration, and the Legion thus believes that its mission should not be
terminated’.48 Salazar did not dissolve the LP, but the organization nevertheless
went into irreversible decline. The new international arena, even with the rapid
development of the Cold War, was not favourable to militias associated with
inter-war fascism.

Manufacturing consent

In Portugal propaganda was seen primarily as an elite affair, and there was
no propaganda organization until September 1933. Consensus-building dur-
ing the first year of the regime was the responsibility of the interior ministry,
which controlled the dissemination of information, for the most part through
censorship, control over financing and repression.
The concepts of consensus and public opinion had a prominent place in the
national constitution. Although article 8 established freedom of expression and
thought, the subsequent article limited those freedoms through special laws to
prevent their abuse.49 But the next chapter of the constitution, specifically ded-
icated to the formation of public opinion, established that it is the task of the
state to exert tutelage over public opinion, determining what is and what is not
true. Article 21 subordinated the press to the interest of the state, transform-
ing the former into an instrument of public utility in accordance with existing
censorship rules.50
It was only after the birth of the Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment
and Propaganda (RMVP – Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propa-
ganda) that the nature of the debate in Portugal about propaganda practices
shifted. The impact of German Nazism is clear in the wording of the decree
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 169

creating the National Propaganda Secretariat (SPN – Secretariado da Propaganda

Nacional), the introduction of which notes that propaganda was so crucial that
‘in certain countries, even a ministry has been established’ – clearly a reference
to the Nazi ministry, which was the only one existing at the time.51 Portugal
followed a path similar to Italy’s propaganda secretariat, which was directly
dependent on the presidency of the council of ministers.52
At that point Salazar appointed the journalist António Ferro – a New State
political elite outsider – to be director of the SPN.53 In the eyes of UN lead-
ers, Salazar’s choice was a humiliating blow, not least because Ferro henceforth
became a member of the UN propaganda commission by virtue of his appoint-
ment. Ferro was a cosmopolitan journalist connected to Futurist and other
modernist avant-garde circles who had admired Italian Fascism since the
1920s.54 He enjoyed the dictator’s confidence and Salazar invited him to create
a propaganda machine that, in the end, greatly exceeded the needs of Salazar’s
image management. Although he had little to do with the leader’s provincial
traditionalism, or perhaps precisely because of this, Ferro provided the regime
with a cultural project that skilfully combined elements of modern aestheticism
with a reinvention of tradition.
The SPN co-ordinated the regime’s press and organized sporadic mass demon-
strations, as well as leisure activities for the popular classes (in close association
with the corporatist apparatus). It also organized numerous activities for the
elites, and promoted cultural relations with foreign countries.55 The SPN skil-
fully recruited intellectuals and artists, thanks to Ferro’s modernist links. Like
other authoritarian regimes, Salazarism’s cultural project sought the systematic
restoration of traditional values.
The relationship between power and propaganda in Portugal lacked the
strength of its Italian and German counterparts.56 More specifically, the director
of the SPN could not issue decrees or participate in the meetings of the council
of ministers, and was often completely subordinated to the New State hierarchy.
Censorship remained in the hands of the interior ministry; control of the radio
was a task shared with the public works ministry; and the newspapers were free
to decide whether to publish SPN releases or not, as the national propaganda
body did not have powers to coerce the press in this regard.
The SPN was meant to be the driving force in the nation’s moral develop-
ment. The decree-law establishing it called on it to organize and promote a
spirit of unity. The SPN was charged with organizing extensive propaganda
activities among the various public service organizations, which in turn were
called upon to supply the SPN with the information necessary for it to carry out
its work effectively.57 However, the central question – one that Ferro repeatedly
brought up – was the absence of coercive powers, which made it more difficult
for the SPN to impose itself, and indeed it was gradually forced to downgrade
its ambitions.
170 Salazar’s ‘New State’

In contrast with Fascist Italy, the link between the single-party and propa-
ganda did not undergo any significant evolution: Ferro remained in his position
until 1949, with relations between the SPN and the UN marked by continuous
conflicts and tensions, and was under Salazar’s direct control.58
The selective nature of censorship reflected the organic ideal of a conflict-free
society. Because conflict had theoretically been abolished, nothing was pub-
lished that might testify to its existence. The censors were ruthless when it
came to compulsory social peace. The regime did not ban or systematically dis-
solve opposition publications – they survived throughout the 1930s – but they
reached only an isolated or reduced intellectual readership that was allowed to
engage in debates about the social significance of art or the German–Soviet pact,
as long as such debates stayed strictly inside Lisbon’s cafes and well away from
the working class. Salazar did not have to worry about his rural and provincial
bastions because he trusted traditional structures and institutions, such as the
church, local notables and the bureaucracy.


Salazar once said to Henri Massis that his aim was to make Portugal live
by habit. This maître-mot, which so delighted his French supporter, perfectly
sums up the traditionalism of the New State. It would be a mistake, how-
ever, to confuse Salazar’s regime with a pragmatic dictatorship, particularly
between 1933 and 1945. Salazarism officially instituted an organic vision of
society and deployed all the ideological and social instruments of administra-
tive, corporative, educational and propagandistic control, as well as the elite,
the state and the church, to make that vision a reality. On the other hand, it
reinforced the presence of the state in the economy, limited the autonomy of
the economic elites and disciplined them with an iron hand.
Nevertheless, of all the European dictatorships that emerged in the 1920s,
Salazar’s New State proved the most thoroughly institutionalized and durable.
Had severe international constraints not hindered many of those dictatorships
on Europe’s southern and eastern periphery they would probably have sur-
vived with quite similar features. The regimes of Pilsudski in Poland, Smetona
in Lithuania and Dolfuss in Austria encountered external rather than inter-
nal factors that halted their institutionalization, leaving the process of political
engineering unfinished. Salazar’s neutrality during the Second World War,
his military concessions to the United Kingdom and the United States and
the rapid onset of the Cold War ensured the survival of his regime in an
unfavourable international climate post-1945, but its main institutions and
core-value system did not change much.
The new authoritarian order in Portugal, as in many other inter-war regimes,
was established on the heels of a traditional coup d’état. They represented a
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 171

compromise between civilian and military conservatives with limited avail-

able political space for fascist parties; they established single-party or dominant
party political systems; and the fascists were either minor partners in the coali-
tions that took power or were entirely absent. The result was a dictatorship
headed by a prime minister, and a national assembly dominated by the UN
through non-competitive elections. To avoid any loss of power, even to a par-
liament dominated by the government party, the executive was made almost
completely autonomous. The president, General Carmona, was re-elected to
guarantee military interests.
Salazarist ideology was based on the four-part doctrine of ‘God, Fatherland,
Family and Work’. The values of resignation and obedience, as well as the
concepts of an organic conflict and a politics-free society, dominated the new
legitimacy and institutions of the dictatorship, namely the corporatist appa-
ratus, both as a new frame for labour relations and political representation.
Christianization was another official obsession that affected everything from
classroom decorations to state rituals.
It is difficult fully to comprehend the political system and the ideological
foundations of the New State without taking into account the determining
influence of traditional Catholicism. The church affected all major texts and
institutions, including the constitution and the declaration of corporatist prin-
ciples. Its influence explains the weakness of the paramilitary organizations,
as well as the nature of the regime’s propaganda. The Portuguese Catholic
Church contributed to the Salazar regime’s value system. Not only did the
regime use Catholic symbolism with the explicit approval of the church hier-
archy, but it also maintained an actual policy of Christianizing institutions
and the school system. As Salazar himself said, the New State gave the church
‘the possibility to reconstruct . . . and recover . . . its leading position in the for-
mation of the Portuguese soul’. Pope Pious XII held Portugal up as a model:
‘the Lord has provided the Portuguese nation with an exemplary head of gov-
ernment’.59 This dimension was perhaps the most striking in conditioning the
fascist nature of some of Salazar’s institutions: in particular the militias and
propaganda. Moreover, it was also due to the development of the interna-
tional situation in neighbouring Spain with the victory of the left and the
communist threat that opened this political space for the radical right in
Although the elites and political movements that were the foundation of
Salazar’s New State were influenced by Italian Fascism to varying degrees, the
similarities should not be overstated. The most paradigmatic case is without
doubt that of its leader’s propaganda, and certainly of all those in the Salazarist
hierarchy, António Ferro was the one who identified most with Italian Fascism.
If on the one hand we read his speeches and observe the projects developed by
the SPN, we could be tempted to believe it indicated the New State was evolving
172 Salazar’s ‘New State’

in a more fascistic manner; however, the great majority of these projects, as

Ferro himself acknowledged, were never put into practice. The same can be
said about the militias and youth organizations, the LP and MP. In these cases
the mission and inspiration of Italian Fascism, and even of German National
Socialism, is an empirical fact. The institutionalization of Salazar’s New State
out of the military dictatorship in the 1930s is an example of the process of
diffusion of institutions created by Italian Fascism, particularly in relation to
propaganda, militias and youth organizations. As one would expect, the dicta-
torship’s elites and institutions adapted and were limited and altered in terms
of the ideological dimensions, internal and external tensions and the dynamics
of Salazarism’s institutionalization.
Furthest from the Italian Fascist model was the institutionalization of the
single-party, which was much closer to the situation in Primo de Rivera’s regime
in Spain in 1923. Created from above, with limited access to society and govern-
mental decision-making, the UN had an elitist character. But in this case Salazar
was in the company of the great majority of dictatorships in the inter-war
In the mid-1930s, with the regime consolidated and its institutions func-
tioning, Salazarism, ironically, began to be seen by many ideologues of the
conservative and Christian right as a dictatorial ‘third way’ between democ-
racy and fascism. In fact, many contemporary observers, anticipating without
knowing the concepts of ‘transfer’, ‘transnational’ and ‘diffusion’, identified
the mark of Salazar and Dolfuss in many of the dictatorships of the 1930s.

1. A. Madureira, O 28 de Maio: Elementos para a sua compreensão, Lisbon, Presença, 1978,
p. 243.
2. For an interpretation of the Portuguese republican elite as a group of ‘intellectuals
working for democratic revolution’, see C. Kurzman, Democracy Denied, 1905–1915,
Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2008. For an overview of the First Republic
as a ‘revolutionary’ regime, see R. Ramos, A segunda fundação, vol 6 of J. Mattoso, ed.,
História de Portugal, Lisbon, Estampa, 2002.
3. See N. S. Teixeira, O poder e a Guerra: Objectivos Nacionais e Estratégias Políticas em
Portugal, 1914–18, Lisbon, Estampa, 1996.
4. A. C. Pinto, ‘Portugal: Crisis and early authoritarian takeover’, in D. Berg-Schlosser
and J. Mitchell, eds, The Conditions of Democracy in Europe, 1919–1939, London,
Macmillan, 2000, p. 31. See also J. M. Ferreira, O Comportamento Político dos Militares:
Forças Armadas e Regimes Políticos em Portugal no Século XX, Lisbon, Estampa, 1992.
5. J. J. Linz and A. Stepan, eds, The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes, Baltimore, MA,
Johns Hopkins University Press.
6. A. C. Pinto and I. Rezola, ‘Political Catholicism, crisis of democracy and Salazar’s
New State in Portugal’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 8, no. 2, 2007,
pp. 353–368.
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 173

7. L. Farinha, O Reviralho: Revoltas Republicanas Contra a Ditadura e o Estado Novo,

1926–1940, Lisbon, Estampa, 1998.
8. See F. Ribeiro de Menezes, Salazar: A Political Biography, New York, Enigma, 2009.
9. Unlike in other Western and Southern European countries, the Portuguese Catholic
movement did not establish itself strongly, remaining an elitist phenomenon despite
the accentuation of the fractures between the church and the state in the wake of
the 1910 revolution. M. B. da Cruz, As Origens da Democracia Cristã e o Salazarismo,
Lisbon, Presença, 1980.
10. A. C. Pinto, The Blueshirts: Portuguese Fascism in Interwar Europe, New York, SSM-
Columbia University Press, 2000.
11. H. Martins, ‘Portugal’, in S. Woolf, ed., European Fascism, New York, Random House,
12. A. de O. Salazar, Discursos e Notas Políticos, vol. 1, Coimbra: Coimbra Editora, 1934,
p. 225.
13. Comissão Internacional para História das Assembleias de Estados e dos Parlamentos,
Secção Portuguesa, Constituição Política da República Portuguesa (Promulgada em 22
de fevereiro de 1933 e referendada em 19 de março de 1933), Lisbon, Assembleia da
República, 1992, article 7, p. 257.
14. Ibid., article 5, p. 243.
15. Ibid., article 107, p. 267.
16. R. Ramos, ‘O Estado Novo Perante os Poderes Periféricos: O Governo de Assis
Gonçalves em Vila Real’, Análise Social XXII (90) 1986, pp. 109–135.
17. Commissão Internacional, Constituição Política, article 94, p. 264.
18. Ibid., article 78, p. 258.
19. According to the Italian constitutionalist Costantino Mortati, there are two ways of
interpreting the constitution: the first is the formal constitution as it is written, the
second is the material constitution as it is applied. This lets Mortati explain how the
PNF came to be regarded to all intents and purposes as a constitutional body, despite
it not being mentioned in the Albertine Statute. C. Mortati, La Costituzione in Senso
Materiale, Milan, A. Giuffré, 1940.
20. G. Adinolfi, ‘O constitucionalismo perante o regime fascista’, in F. P. Martinho and
F. Limoncic, eds, Intelectuais e Anti-liberalismo na Primeira Metade do Século XX, Rio de
Janeiro, Civilização Brasileira, 2009, pp. 347–375.
21. Commissão Internacional, Constituição Política, article 111, p. 268.
22. M. B. da Cruz, O partido e o estado no Salazarismo, Lisbon, Presença, 1988, p. 98.
23. N. Estevão, ‘A câmara corporativa no estado novo: Composição, funcionamento e
influência’, doctoral dissertation, University of Lisboa Institute of Social Science,
Lisbon, 2009.
24. J. M. Tavares Castilho, Os Procuradores à Câmara Corporativa, 1935–1974, Lisbon,
Texto, 2010.
25. A. C. Pinto, ed., Os Presidentes da República Portuguesa, Lisbon, Temas e Debates, 2000.
26. J. C. Fialho, ‘A censura na ditadura militar e no Estado Novo (1926–1939)’, master’s
dissertation, ISCTE, Lisbon, 1997, p. 54.
27. G. Adinolfi, Ai Confini del Fascismo: Propaganda e Consenso nel Portogallo Salazarista
(1932–1944), Milan, FrancoAngeli, 2007, pp. 141–146.
28. The paradox was that the censor controlled articles produced by the SPN, which
were not published unless they were authorized at a higher level. Adinolfi, Ai Confini,
p. 143.
29. T. Faria, Debaixo de Fogo: Salazar e as Forças Armadas, 1933–1947, Lisbon, Cosmos,
174 Salazar’s ‘New State’

30. J. M. Ferreira, O Comportamento Político dos Militares: Forças Armadas e Regimes Políticos
em Portugal no Século XX, Lisbon, Estampa, 1992, pp. 175–202.
31. M. Carrilho, Forças Armadas e Mudança Política em Portugal no Século XX, Lisbon,
Estudos Gerais, p. 422.
32. Salazar, Discursos, p. 87.
33. J. J. Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, Boulder, CO, Lynne Rienner, 2000.
34. Sidónio’s single-party was the National Republican Party (PNR – Partido Nacional
Repúblicano), while that during Primo de Rivera’s regime was the Patriotic Union
(UP – Unión Patriótica).
35. In Hungary, the Party of National Unity (NEP – Nemzeti Egység Pártja), in Poland
the Camp of National Unity (OZN – Obóz Zjednoczenia Narodowego).
36. Circular from the interior minister to the presidents of the UN district commis-
sions, 29 December 1931, Folder 452, Box 5, Arquivo Geral do Ministério do Interior
(AGMI)/Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo (ANTT).
37. Arquivo Oliveira Salazar, Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, AOS/CO/PC-4.
38. Cruz, O partido, p. 140.
39. N. Estevão, R. A. Carvalho and A. C. Pinto, ‘The empire of the professor: Salazar’s
ministerial elite 1932–44’, in A. C. Pinto, ed., Ruling Elites and Decision-Making in
Fascist-era Dictatorships, Boulder, CO, Social Science Monographs, 2009, pp. 119–136.
40. J. R. Santos, Salazar e as Eleições: Um Estudo sobre as Eleições Gerais de 1942, Lisbon,
Assembleia da Republica, 2012.
41. P. C. Schmitter, Do Autoritarismo à Democracia, Lisbon, Instituto de Ciências Sociais,
42. M. Ivani, Esportare il Fascismo: Collaborazione di Polizia e Diplomazia Culturale tra Italia
Fascista e Portogallo di Salazar (1928–1945), Bologna, Clueb, 2008.
43. F. Patriarca, A Política Social do Salazarismo, Lisbon, Imprensa Nacional, 1995.
44. J. C. Valente, Estado Novo e Alegria no Trabalho: Uma História Política da FNAT (1935–
1958), Lisbon, Colibri, 1999.
45. A. C. Pinto and N. A. Ribeiro, A Acção Escolar Vanguarda (1933–1936), Lisbon, História
Crítica, 1980.
46. L. N. Rodrigues, A Legião Portuguesa, Lisbon, Estampa, 1996.
47. S. Kuin, ‘A Mocidade Portuguesa nos anos trinta: Anteprojectos e instauração de uma
organização paramilitar de juventude’, Análise Social 122, no. 28, 1993, pp. 155–188.
48. Cited in Rodrigues, A Legião Portuguesa, p. 34.
49. Political Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, ‘Freedom of expression and thought
in all of its forms’, article 8, paragraph 4, and ‘Special laws will regulate the exercise
of freedom of expression, preventively impeding and repressing the perversion of
public opinion in its function as a social force, while safeguarding the moral integrity
of citizens’, article 20, paragraph 1, Lisbon, National Assembly, 1936.
50. Ibid., ‘Public opinion is a fundamental element of the politics and administration of
the country; it shall be the duty of the state to protect it against all those agencies
which distort it contrary to truth, justice, good administration and the common
welfare’, article 21, and ‘The press exercises a function of a political nature, by virtue
of which it may not refuse to insert official notices issued by the government in
matters of national interest’, article 23.
51. A. Kallis, ‘Nazi propaganda decision-making: The hybrid of “modernity” and “neo-
feudalism” in Nazi wartime propaganda’, in Pinto, Ruling Elites, pp. 83–118.
52. Decree-Law 23054, 25 September 1933. For more details about the relations between
Fascist Italy and Salazarist Portugal, see M. Ivani, ‘Il Portogallo di Salazar e l’Italia
Fascista: Una comparazione’, Studi Storici 46, no. 2, 2005, pp. 347–406, and
Goffredo Adinolfi and António Costa Pinto 175

G. Albanese, ‘Comparare i fascismi: Una analisi storiografica’, Storica 43–45, 2010,

pp. 313–343.
53. E. C. Leal, António Ferro: Espaço Político e Imaginário Social (1918–32), Lisbon, Cosmos,
54. J. R. de Ó, Os Anos de Ferro: O Dispositivo Cultural Durante a ‘Política do Espírito’, Lisbon,
Estampa, 1999.
55. M. Acciaiuoli, As Exposições do Estado Novo 1934–1940, Lisbon, Horizonte, 1998.
56. G. Adinolfi, ‘The institutionalization of propaganda in the fascist era: The cases of
Germany, Portugal and Italy’, The European Legacy 17, no. 5, 2012, pp. 607–621.
57. Decree-law 20054, 25 September 1933, Article 6.
58. Adinolfi, Ai Confini, p. 74.
59. Ibid, p. 83.
State and Regime in Early Francoism,
1936–45: Power Structures, Main
Actors and Repression Policy
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque

The uprising by a large part of the Spanish army in July 1936 profoundly
changed the way the institutions of the Second Republic – the first consolidated
liberal democratic regime in Spain – operated, and after three years of civil war
led to its overthrow.1 The republic was replaced by one of the 20th century’s
most durable dictatorships, Francoism, which is – as with it Portuguese neigh-
bour, Salazarism – a name that acknowledges both the large degree of personal
power accumulated by the person after whom it was named, and its remarkable
diversity and limited doctrinal content.2
While the New State, with Franco at its head, demonstrated a surprising
capacity to adapt to changes in international circumstances, its original fea-
tures clearly remained right up until the dictator’s death in 1975.3 This chapter
will concentrate on early Francoism, from 1936 to 1945,4 a period that, as we
shall see below, includes almost all of the regime’s founding years, covering the
civil war and the Second World War, events that were separated by only a few
The new regime’s institutional beginnings can be traced to 1 October 1936,
the date on which Franco, hitherto commander of North African troops
deployed in continental Spain, was proclaimed head of the government of
the Spanish state,5 commander-in-chief of the army, navy and air force and
supreme commander of military operations.
With approval two days earlier from the National Defence Junta (JDN – Junta
de Defensa Nacional) Franco was granted ‘complete power in the New State’.6
The decision to appoint a single leader was largely due to pressure from the
Third Reich, which had provided decisive military assistance during the first
weeks of the insurgency, and the conviction of the majority of JDN that it was
necessary for them to win the war. The position was one of political command
with government duties, and it fell to Franco to respond to a petition from

Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 177

monarchists present in Salamanca, many of whom had been involved in the

civilian conspiracy.7
The monarchist supporters of the restoration of Alfonso XIII, most of whom
were linked with Spanish Renewal (RE – Renovación Española), which had 13
deputies in the Cortes, and whose leader, Calvo Sotelo, had been murdered by
rogue police officers shortly before the insurgency, were not the only civilians to
conspire against the republic. Included among the enemies of the young regime
were the Alfonsists’ rivals: the Carlist members of the Comunión Tradicionalista
(Traditionalist Communion), which had deep roots in Navarre and parts of
the neighbouring Basque Country and had nine parliamentary deputies. The
Carlists supported the restoration of the monarchy in the person of Alfonso
Carlos of Bourbon.8 Another civilian group opposed to the republic was the
Spanish Falange and National Syndicalist Offensive Juntas (FE-JONS – Falange
Española y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalistas), a fascist party that
in the February 1936 elections lost its only parliamentary deputy, its leader José
Antonio Primo de Rivera, who had since been accused of conspiring against the
republic and imprisoned in Alicante.9
To these declared opponents we must add those political groups that adopted
an ambiguous posture of semi-loyalty at best towards the republican institu-
tions. This group included the CEDA – Confederación Española de Derechas
Autónomas – a confederation of regional right-wing Christian democratic and
populist parties that had been the largest single-party since 1933 and after the
February 1936 elections won by the Popular Front.10 CEDA’s leader, José María
Gil Robles, known to his followers as ‘the chief’, eventually came out in favour
of the uprising, although he was later to condemn the resulting regime.

The institutional configuration of the state and regime

The fall of the Second Republic resulted in an almost complete institutional

vacuum, so much so that only one significant state organization – the council
of state, which was charged with issuing government reports and statements –
survived the civil war. The victors filled this vacuum with an eclectic collec-
tion of somewhat confusing values – particularly during the early months of
the conflict – which were antagonistic towards the values held by the over-
thrown regime. While the original plans outlined by General Mola, who was
the brains behind the uprising, called for a technically ‘open’ as well as republi-
can regime, within a month of the insurgency, by 15 August 1936 it had come
out in favour of monarchism, although without any commitment to its restora-
tion; moreover, there was no mention of who any future king might be or when
they would be allowed to claim their throne.11 From the outset there was talk of
creating a new state, although in its initial form centred around Franco it was
178 State and Regime in Early Francoism

so precarious that, in Ramón Serrano Suñer’s words, it could more accurately

be described as a ‘command-post state’.12
Franco’s regime never had a constitution in the true sense of the word,
despite some small groups within Spanish academe claiming it had.13 Rather,
the regime governed by dictating a series of juridical rules – the most important
of which were denominated fundamental laws (Leyes Fundamentales) follow-
ing the 1947 law of succession of the head of state (Ley de Sucesión en la
Jefatura del Estado) – according to the demands of the moment – particularly
during the civil war and the Second World War, to the extent that the regime
was not institutionalized until 1967, the year in which the state organic law
(Ley Orgánica del Estado) came into force.
Franco’s first act as head of state was to approve the law of 1 October 1936
that created the state technical junta, a type of war cabinet comprising mainly
civilians – none of whom were members of the Falange – and headed by a
military official. This represented a major change in the political organiza-
tion of nationalist-held territory, although features of the ‘command-post state’
were retained until the end of the conflict. The composition of this provisional
government, which was charged with advising the head of state in the art of
government, was similar to that of Primo de Rivera’s military directorate, which
was replaced by a civil directorate in 1925.14
His second and much more decisive step in the construction of his political
authority was taken the following spring, when he issued the unification decree
of 19 April. With this regulation, largely drawn up by Ramón Serrano Suñer,
the two disparate political forces mentioned above – FE-JONS and the Carlists
(Comunión Tradicionalista) – were united in a single-party, the Traditionalist
Spanish Falange and the National Syndicalist Offensive Juntas (FET y de las
JONS – Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional
Sindicalista).15 Despite the temptation to create a state party loyal to Franco,
the idea was soon forgotten. During the late 1930s fascism proved attractive to
the youth, and its potential to integrate the masses and attract foreign support
could not be ignored. The same could also be said of Carlism, largely because
of the bravery of its units on the battlefront, and for the importance of what
its philosophy represented to the anti-liberal and anti-parliamentary right in
Thus the official party was born, the only legal party, given that Article 1 of
the unification decree expressly prohibited the existence of any other political
parties or organizations. The idea to integrate the two main parties, in terms of
men under arms, under a single leadership had been discussed since November
1936, when the advance on Madrid was halted and it became clear the war
would not be over quickly. While until then problems had almost always been
of a military nature, after that date there was an increasing need to address
important political problems.
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 179

The differences that existed between insurgent groups were as much a con-
cern for the military officials planning the campaign as they were for public
order. This was particularly so when the various groups had their own militias
and command structures, as was the case with the Falange and the Carlists.
The insurgents’ Italian and German allies, which were supplying military assis-
tance, were unhappy with the proliferation of political forces. The unification
of the Falange and the Carlist Requeté under Franco’s direct command led to
the removal of their most zealous and orthodox followers, particularly from
within the Falange, which since the removal of its leader, José Antonio Primo
de Rivera – who had been executed by the republicans – had been suffering a
crisis of leadership.
The unification of these two groups was forced upon them by decree for the
sake of ‘efficient government’. If we believe Serrano Suñer’s testimony, while
there had been negotiations between elements of the interested parties, their
leading representatives were simply notified of the general staff’s intentions.
Nevertheless, the opinions of the two most powerful military leaders of the
moment, generals Mola and Queipo, were sought.17 In the preamble to the
decree, which made explicit the desire to emulate other countries with total-
itarian regimes, the contribution of both the Falange and the Carlists to the
uprising is praised; yet it also adopts the first 26 points of the Falangist 27-point
programme as its guiding principles (the 27th point was omitted because it con-
veyed the goal of acting alone), meaning the union was unequal in that it was
much less favourable to the Carlists.
As for the FET y de las JONS, the second article of the unification decree,
which now makes mention of the definitive organization of the totalitarian
new state, restricted it to establishing the bodies that, along with the head of
state, were to govern the new political entity (it avoided using the word ‘party’
in reference to FET y de las JONS): the Political junta or secretariat and the
national council (Consejo Nacional), bodies that had already been mentioned
in the statutes of the FE-JONS published on 24 October 1934 (see Figure 7.1).
The secretariat was to play an important role during the months immediately
following its creation, particularly in the elaboration of the new party’s statutes
that were published just 100 days after the unification.18 Two separate chap-
ters were needed to outline the organizational structure and functions of the
national council, the members of which were yet to be appointed, and for
the political junta, which was intended to be the former’s permanent delega-
tion. The document also emphasized the idea of a Movement, a term that had
been used by the Falangists – although without the initial capital letter – which
appeared in the 19 April decree. The ‘Militant Movement’, basis and inspiration
for the Spanish state, would from that moment constitute ‘a single legal entity
with a single heritage’ (Articles 1 and 2). The property seized from left-wing
parties and trade unions was to constitute an important part of this heritage.





Figure 7.1 Political Power in Spain (1939–45)

∗ Since the adoption of the Law of Succession in 1947 ∗∗ Since 1942, under the Act establishing the Corte Españolas (Spanish Parliament).
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 181

The statutes also anticipated the creation of the position of general secretary
and at least 12 national services, each with their own representative or head
of service, and which included a national inspector for education and religious
assistance (Articles 22 and 23). Apart from this last position, there was a clear
intent to emulate the fascist parties and to create a structure that imitated,
and in some cases duplicated, the state administration in order to group and
indoctrinate the populace.
This was all carried out according to a strict hierarchy, beginning with the
Caudillo, the Movement’s national leader, right down to the ordinary mem-
bers. Within this new hierarchical, vertical and national organization, the top
position was occupied by the Movement’s national leader. All its values and
its honours were personified in the leader, who answered only ‘to God and
to history’ (Article 47). His authority within the party was all-embracing.19 The
statutes refer to Franco as ‘Caudillo and national leader of the Movement’ (Arti-
cle 4) and grant him sole authority to ‘name his successor’ (Article 48) and to
appoint the general secretary. The Caudillo also had the authority to remove
the general secretary, a power shared with two thirds of the members of the
national council (Articles 45 and 46), and to nominate all of the members of
the first national council, whom he could ‘substitute or replace individually at
any time’ (Article 36).20 As well as calling meetings of this body, which Franco
could limit to meeting just once each year (there was a mandatory meeting on
17 July, the anniversary of the military uprising) and to ‘set the agenda of each
of the meetings’ (Article 40).
As a reflection of Franco’s desire to integrate all those sectors constituting the
foundation of his embryonic regime, ‘the generals, chiefs, officers and service-
men of the armed forces of land, sea and air, whether on active or war service’
automatically became members of the party’ (Article 5b). The effects of this last
article were largely nominal, even during the early days of the regime.
The political-administrative institutionalization of the Franco dictatorship
began with the introduction of the general administration of the state law in
January 1938, which authorized the creation of the first government, based
in Burgos, the authority of which was limited to those territories controlled
by the insurgents. Consequently, executive power was concentrated into the
hands of the dictator, to the extent that the government was instituted as a
body with deliberative powers that submitted all of its proposals to the head
of state.
The administration of the state was carried out by 11 ministries, which
included the union organization and action ministry. The law also created
the office of prime minister, which was occupied by the head of state, a dual
position Franco held right up until 1973. One novelty was the creation of
a vice-presidency to be held by the foreign affairs minister, General Gómez
182 State and Regime in Early Francoism

With the end of the civil war, the regulations were modified through the
publication of a law dated 8 August 1939, which restructured the organization
of the central state administration. The most important changes introduced
through these new measures were:

• The government vice-presidency was abolished, and replaced with the

sub-secretariat of the presidency office, which obtained ministerial status
in 1945.
• The defence ministry was divided across three portfolios, one for each
branch of the armed forces. This led to a significant increase in the num-
ber of political appointments, which gave Franco a means of rewarding the
loyalty of his closest comrades-in-arms and of dissuading those others who
may have been tempted to oppose his absolute authority.
• The general secretary of the party was elevated to ministerial rank, although
the position remained vacant on two lengthy occasions: between March
1940 and May 1941, and for a much longer period of time at the end of
the Second World War (until November 1948).22

The Falange-inspired union organization and action ministry was abolished,

with responsibility for labour relations being shared between the labour min-
istry and the National Delegation of Syndicates (DNS – Delegación Nacional
de Sindicatos), the latter of which was responsible to the general secretary of
FET y de las JONS until at least 1969, when the position was included in the
government as a minister without portfolio.
No less significant was the fact these changes strengthened Franco’s legisla-
tive power to the extent they confirmed the head of state as ‘the supreme
authority in respect of the issuing of general juridical regulations’, adding
that ‘provisions and resolutions issued by him in the form of laws or decrees
may be issued without prior discussion in the council of ministers when rea-
sons of urgency dictate’ (Article 7). Moreover, by establishing a new national
defence junta with Franco as its president along with the three military minis-
ters, the respective chiefs of staff and the joint chief of staff, a body that was
established by this same provision (Articles 4 and 5). This body adopted an
institutional organization that remained practically unaltered until the collapse
of the regime, and which was also centred on the uncontested leader, General
Franco. Below this body there was a quite clear separation between the coun-
cil of ministers, which in the early days had only a slight majority of civilian
members (although this was to change over the years), which was to ‘concern
itself with daily governance and with administration, and an army that had
autonomy and a direct line to the head of state, and which acted in isolation
from the administration’.23
These laws, which were never classified as fundamental, remained in force
until the dictator’s death. Paradoxically, the passing of these laws, which was
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 183

confirmed through their inclusion in the state organic law in 1967, prevented
many other fundamental laws from remaining fully in force. At no time was
the Caudillo’s status substantially altered, allowing us to confirm these laws,
along with the unification decree, which also did not have fundamental status,
were the regime’s true constitution for four decades, ‘because they did exactly
the opposite of what a constitution is understood to do, since they neither
distributed power, attributed responsibilities nor guaranteed civil liberties’.24
In the interim, two provisions affecting the organization of the party and
its apparatus were approved. The first, which was introduced in March 1938
following a bitter debate in the national council, approved the establishment of
a labour law (Fuero del Trabajo) which was a Spanish version of the Italian Carta
do Lavoro and reflected its fascist ideology, although its preamble presented it as
a renewal of the Catholic tradition inspired by the laws of the Spanish empire.25
While describing Spain as a totalitarian state was gradually abandoned, as late
as June 1962 Franco, in a speech in Valencia, referred to this law as ‘the Magna
Carta of our ideals and social organization’.26
This law provided for the organization of all economic forces into branches
of production and services in vertical syndicates headed by members of FET
y de las JONS, and specified that liberal and technical professionals should
organize in a similar manner and that ‘the actual economic and professional
associations’ be incorporated into the new organization (XIII.1, 4 and 9).
The second law, which was introduced in August 1939, approved some new
FET y de las JONS statutes that strengthened Franco’s power to the detriment
of the national council, which could no longer propose members of the FET y
de las JONS political committee.27 It is also worth noting that there were some
changes in the organic relationship between the government and the party.
On the one hand, both the president of the political committee and the general
secretary of FET y de las JONS were elevated to ministerial rank, while on the
other, by decree of November 1942, ministers – most of whom had been on
the national council since 1938 – became members by right of the this body,
but without voting rights and only to take part in the work of this body that
affected their ministerial functions.
One significant fact is that, by virtue of a regulation promulgated just a few
months earlier (Law of 21 October 1939), the Movement’s general secretary, the
national council, the political council and the recently created Political Stud-
ies Institute (IEP – Instituto de Estudios Políticos),28 were to take responsibility
for the budget appropriations allocated for ‘care of the abolished chamber of
deputies’.29 The state and the party were now indistinguishable, a reality made
explicit in the Law of 6 November 1941, which for tax purposes recognized the
juridical personality of FET y de las JONS as being the same as that of the state.
The former state organization scheme was completed with the re-
establishment of the council of state in 1940,30 and the creation, by through
184 State and Regime in Early Francoism

the Law of 17 July 1942, of the Spanish Cortes, which was defined as being
‘the highest organ of state in which the Spanish people can participate’. While
maintaining the traditional name that had been preserved under the repub-
lic, it was made quite clear this was an altogether new creation, conceived as
a simple collaboration tool within the legislature, which continued under the
supreme authority of the head of state, who was able to reject laws and return
them to the Cortes for re-examination (Article 17).
The composition of this new Cortes followed corporatist criteria, being com-
posed of members (procurators) by appointment and members by election
(basically union and professional corporation representatives). Despite con-
tinuous modifications that increased its size over the years, the make up of
the chamber did not change substantially until 1967 when, with the pass-
ing of the State Organic Law, 108 new constituencies were created – two for
each province – which were to be filled by representatives elected by heads of
The Cortes, the leadership of which was appointed by Franco, sat in plenary
session and in committees. Plenary sessions examined laws that required this
competence or whenever convoked by its president with the agreement of the
government (Articles 8 and 9). It is Linz’s belief that this was a multisectoral
legislature in which particularly cohesive groups, such as members of unions,
could operate in a manner similar to that of political parties in a parliament.31
Despite the Falangist and national-syndicalist rhetoric employed as motivation
for the law, the moment it was time to nominate the president of the Cortes,
Franco chose Esteban Bilbao, a former Traditionalist deputy who retained this
position for almost 23 years.
While the successor to General Muñoz Grandes as general secretary of the
Movement in 1941, José Luis Arrese, sought to shape the Cortes into a political
chamber – the national council – and an administrative chamber incorporating
representatives of families, municipalities and syndicates, his exit from govern-
ment in July 1945 frustrated this project.32 The establishment of the regency
and kingdom councils (Consejo de Regencia and Consejo del Reino, which
were in part integrated by highest military and ecclesiastic hierarchies) with the
passing of the 1947 law of succession to the head of state (Ley de Sucesión en
la Jefatura del Estado), completed the regime’s state institutions, all of which –
with the exception of the council of state – were new, which contrasted with
the situation in both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Political actors, power groups and areas of influence

A short time before the fall of the Spanish monarchy in 1931, Ortega y Gasset
had described it as ‘a mutual aid society created by a number of groups in order
to control public power – the state – that is, to control what matters in Spain’.
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 185

These groups came to represent ‘a tiny segment of the nation: they were big
capital, senior military officials, the old landed aristocracy, the church . . . those
who until recently had power and who now are defeated’.33 It was these same
groups – united once again and congregated around the flame of the single-
party – that emerged victorious from the civil war. The ‘new society’, whose
members did not always got on well together, quickly set about re-establishing
an order in which the interests of the state were once again identified with the
private interests of particular groups.
It is only possible to note a few non-substantial variations in the panorama
described by Ortega y Gasset: on the one hand, the reduced (although still
important) presence of the aristocracy on the political scene, which was proba-
bly a consequence of the disappearance of the royal court and of the monarchy;
on the other, the fact the agrarian, industrial and financial bourgeoisie experi-
enced a sudden decline in their role within the state apparatus, although at
least in respect of landowners, not necessarily of their benefits, which were
augmented by the restoration of the old order.
The loss of political ground by the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie largely
benefitted the new group who now formed the basis of the single-party. The
importance of FET y de las JONS’ presence at the heart of power was a perfectly
coherent outcome in a regime that, at least in its early days, had explicitly
assimilated totalitarianism. Its share of power, which was substantially less
among the traditionalists who nevertheless occupied symbolically important
positions, was largely in line with other regimes of a similar nature, particularly
since the Falangists and Carlists had made a decisive contribution towards the
initial success of the uprising, providing manpower both at the front and at the
rear throughout the conflict. It is also important to understand the significant
political role played by the Falange in providing young political cadres, along
with their ideology which, in a curious amalgam of ideas ranging from the tra-
ditional, authoritarian and Catholic right, served as a cover for the regime while
it established itself.
For their part, both the army and the Catholic Church saw their positions
substantially improved as a consequence of the insurgency. This should come
as no surprise given the war had been presented as a crusade and, consequently,
the victory, which would be as much religious and it would be military, must
benefit both main protagonists. Both the army and the church proved to be
excellent channels for the supply of manpower. The former supplied men
directly in the shape of its leaders and officers, who occupied innumerable
positions within the civil bureaucracy, as well as in the party of which they
were, at least nominally, members. The latter also provided manpower directly,
given that the ecclesiastical hierarchy was represented within the Cortes and
the council of state (as well as within the kingdom and regency councils
since their creation in 1947). However, the church’s greatest contribution was
186 State and Regime in Early Francoism

indirect, through groups that were to a greater or lesser extent linked to it

and/or to the Vatican: groups such as the National Catholic Association of
Propagandists (ACN de P – Asociación Católica Nacional de Propagandistas),
Spanish Catholic Action (ACE – Acción Católica Española) and the Catholic
Confederation of Parents (CONCAPA—Confederación Católica de Padres de
Apart from the Alfonsist monarchist groups, which also played an important
role during the early years of the regime, there was another major contrib-
utor to the political elite of a significantly different nature from the others:
the bureaucracy. More specifically, the elite figures at senior levels of the state
civil administration,34 which in addition to the small number of lawyers in
the council of state and Cortes lawyers included state advocates, diplomats,
university professors, civil engineers, agronomists and judges and prosecu-
tors.35 In the few cases belonging to these bodies was a factor explaining
access to senior position, notwithstanding the possible existence of other fac-
tors, including those derived from personal relationships. The fact that, in
general, there existed a correspondence between the nature of the position
held and the body to which the individual belonged seems to support this
To a large extent, the prevalence within the system of these forces, along
with the concurrence of traditionalist and Alfonsist monarchists, aristocrats and
large landowners, and the decidedly absolutist nature of the authority exercised
by General Franco, represents a return to the past that was an explicit aim of
the regime’s propaganda. This trend was only with difficulty tempered by the
modernizing elements within the Falange which, eagerly and in vain, invited
the country to follow a new imperial path.
We have seen there were a number of elite recruitment areas, which in turn
acted as centres of power for interests that, while often disparate, present a
considerable degree of articulation and aggregation, although this latter was of
a more diffuse character than would be found in a democratic regime. With-
out doubt tensions and differences existed between these people, just as there
were tensions and differences between the groups they represented; however,
these conflicts were balanced out in practice by the overall community of inter-
est and, above all, as a consequence of internal discipline exercised over the
regime by Franco. Divisions took place within the scope of conservative politi-
cal alternatives, but there was a consensus about the fundamentals. Taken as
a group, these men – and men they were, since very few women occupied
high office (three out of 521 before 1957) – represented a closed political class
within which circulation and mobility was limited and the recruitment pat-
terns were well established. This restricted group included no small number
of brothers, fathers and sons and even married couples, not to forget Franco’s
brother-in-law, Serrano Suñer.
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 187

Internal functions

The army, church and Falange had a number of other functions in addition
to their role providing leaders for the regime. These functions can be outlined
Competition between these groups created a fusion of traditional, charis-
matic and legal legitimacy that, while not always coherent, was always effective.
The first was partially fuelled by the conceptualization of the civil war as a cru-
sade and by the participation of Catholic leaders within the cabinet. All played
an equal part in the development of Franco’s personal charisma, while it fell
to the Falangist ideologues to give it a hint of modernization and a theoretical
basis. As for the rational legal legitimacy, it came later and was perhaps less
practically embodied within the framework of the fundamental laws that were
actively promoted by the Catholics, traditionalists and Falangists.
The coercive function of safeguarding the patria from a domestic enemy was
in the first instance assumed by the army, closely assisted by the Falange and, in
some areas, such as the holding of special courts and the teachers purification
commissions, by individuals with links to Catholic groups (in accordance with
the terms of the new legislation, the clergy formed an integral part of these
Falangists and Catholics were also allocated other essential roles within the
state in order for it to secure a minimum level of obedience, to ensure the
acceptance of a system of values through propaganda and education and to
generally carry out socialization tasks. Alongside activities carried out from their
positions at the highest levels of the state apparatus, the task of promoting the
regime’s ideology was developed as follows:

• Press, radio and cinema:

A way to communicate with the masses and in which both Falangists and
Catholics had their own organizations and areas of influence.
• School:
A meeting place for both socializing agents. The Catholics had more
influence than the Falange in centres of further and higher education.
• The vertical unions:
The official syndicates which were in practice monopolized by the Falange
during the period being studied, although the Catholics had their own
union organization, the Catholic Action Workers’ Brotherhood (HOAC –
Hermandad Obrera de Acción Católica).36

The Falangist Youth Front (FJ – Frente de Juventudes) and Catholic Action (AC –
Acción Católica), functioned as centres for spreading facets of their ideology
and as bases for the recruitment of new grassroots leaders who competed for
188 State and Regime in Early Francoism

the control of local life, which was often a useful apprenticeship for a political
career at more senior levels.
The forces that dominated the state apparatus converged in the decision-
making process, articulating their interests and incorporating them within the
political system. In fact, they often did so with the support of those with fun-
damental interests, since it was by these routes the majority of those who
come from the aristocracy and the agrarian, industrial and financial bourgeoisie
obtained access to senior positions within the administration.

Repressive policy

The essential features of the Franco dictatorship were its extraordinarily violent
beginning and its use of repression, with certain peaks and troughs, during its
entire existence as a means of subjugating the opposition. The replacement
of the republic with a new state was accompanied with the brutal repression of
political adversaries from the very earliest days. This process of annihilation was
developed through a number of procedures that while relatively disorganized
at the beginning of the civil war had been perfected by the end of the conflict.
Nevertheless, this violence, besides being premeditated, constituted the main
legitimating principle of the nascent political order.
Consequently, Francoism represents an exception in the European context of
that era: Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy – paradigms of ultra-right-wing totali-
tarianism – went through their own processes of democratic involution without
experiencing a dramatic a rupture like Spain. Indeed, neither Adolf Hitler nor
Benito Mussolini seized power illegally. Finland and Greece also went through
civil wars between revolutionary and reactionary forces; however, in neither
of these countries was the end of hostilities followed by long periods during
which the defeated and their families were persecuted and punished. Rather,
both the Finns and the Greeks were prepared almost immediately to embark on
a course that led to the slow but steady re-establishment of parliament and the
rule of law.
In order to illustrate the particularly violent nature of Francoism, it is useful
to compare some data. According to the most recent research, about 100,000
republicans were killed during the civil war, with no fewer than 50,000 more
executed in the decade after the conflict officially ended on 1 April 1939.37
These numbers contrast sharply with those from Fascist Italy, where 27 indi-
viduals were executed between 1922 and 1940,38 or from Nazi Germany, where
political assassinations (i.e. excluding the execution of the Jews and other eth-
nic groups) numbered approximately 12,000, most of whom were killed during
the Second World War. The figures for the repression in post-war Finland and
Greece also illustrate the exceptionally brutal nature of early Francoism, the
repressive machinery of which went far beyond the 8,380 killings that took
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 189

place during the ‘White terror’ in Finland and the 20,000 prisoners in the
aftermath of the Greek conflict.39
Besides being clearly greater in quantitative terms – if we accept that no more
than 50,000 people were victims of the ‘Red’ or of republican violence – from
the very beginning the repression meted out by the insurgents had both the
support and blessing of those who led the ‘crusade’ against the ‘enemies of
Spain’.40 Francoist repression should therefore be understood as an ideologically
motivated and preventive policy of violence, the immediate aim of which was
to physically eliminate all of those who could threaten – even minimally –
the overriding goal of eradicating the republican order. This is the reason why,
while referring to the behaviour of the insurgents, some authors openly talk of
a ‘planned extermination’ or of ‘genocide’.41
Since the insurrection was initiated by a section of the armed forces, the top
of the consequent power structure was populated entirely by members of the
military. Consistent with this, the strategy of repression was always led by army
commanders. However, in the conquest and subjugation of territory that had
been loyal to the republic, nationalist troops were accompanied by paramili-
tary militias, and particularly groups attached to FET y de las JONS. In this way,
they could count on the collaboration of the so-called fifth column – those
who sympathized with the uprising and who participated in acts of sabotage
and terrorism in the republican rear – and consented to the establishment of
killing squads consisting of armed neighbours who were spurred on by local
activists.42 The number and range of groups willing to engage in repression was
especially apparent during the first months of the war, a period during which
the various actors engaged in violent episodes with a great degree of autonomy.
This was what has become known as the first phase of insurgent repression,
between the alzamiento (uprising) and March 1937, which was characterized
by a certain procedural incoherence, of such a nature that some summary
courts martial took place in parallel with the firing squads that operated with
This model of decentralized – but not uncontrolled – repression was ques-
tioned almost from the beginning, as the insurgents began to appreciate that
the task of extermination needed to be clarified and organized.44 However, the
establishment of the judicial-military machinery proved slow, and until the
military courts had become generally established in March 1937 the repression
took two forms: the raids (razzias) and summary street executions (paseos), and
the military courts. In any event, from 28 July 1936 both manifestations of
right-wing terror existed under the juridical cover of the so-called war band
(Bando de Guerra) – which was preceded by many local war bands of limited
scope – and the network of military courts. Neither brought about the com-
plete cessation of the earlier practices, nor implied any change for those who
were suffering the nationalist violence.
190 State and Regime in Early Francoism

The systematic character of the insurgents’ violence, as well as the lack of

scruples continually demonstrated by insurgent commanders, foreshadowed
the attitude the civil war’s victors would demonstrate in the post-war period.
That is to say, the repression continued despite the ‘red army’ having been offi-
cially declared captured and disarmed on 1 April 1939. Rather, there followed
thousand of executions, which continued in some cases right up until Franco’s
death in 1975. Nevertheless, the repression was particularly intense during the
period 1939–45, with the most conservative estimates claiming an average of
ten people were executed each day between these years.45
Nonetheless, during the immediate post-war period death was just one
expression – the most clear, it has to be said – of the complex machinery of
institutionalized terror. The mass imprisonments, the widespread use of torture,
economic discrimination and social control were also adopted as instruments
in a global policy of repression that had the twin goal of reminding the ‘Reds’ of
their position as the defeated, and strengthening the supremacy the insurgents
and their allies had secured by force of arms.
In order to achieve such goals, the extermination of the ‘anti-Spain’ was led
by those in uniform, who not only continued to apply the military code of
justice,46 but also introduced two new legal jurisdictions: the law of political
responsibilities (ley de responsabilidades políticas) of 9 February 1939 and the law
for the repression of masonry and communism (Ley para la represión de la mason-
ería y el comunismo) of 2 March 1940. However, while remaining under military
jurisdiction, the courts established by these laws consisted of judicial officials
and activists who were aligned with FET y de las JONS.47 The judicial aspect of
the repression was mirrored by the incarcerations: it has been calculated that
in 1939 some 700,000 prisoners were being held in at least 50 concentration
As Richards states, the political repression of the early Francoism years
encompassed more than extermination, physical violence and the depriva-
tion of liberty.49 The ‘victory policies’ were intended to perpetuate the division
between the victors and the defeated, even outside the prisons. At least 80 per
cent of positions within the public administration were reserved to individuals
associated with the national cause (the mutilated, ex-combatants, ex-prisoners,
orphan victims of the ‘red terror’, etc.).50 These appointments complemented
the ideological purges of public servants who were unable to demonstrate their
political suitability.51
The dictatorship’s intervention in the marked was not restricted to the field
of labour relations. Its autarky – the economic model that was introduced
after the civil war, and which was inspired by the Third Reich – attributed the
state with a pre-eminent role in all activities involving the exchange of goods
or services. Although it finally proved disastrous for the country’s economy,
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 191

autarky offered clear benefits to certain national oligarchies in industry, finance

and commerce, etc., which knew how to take advantage of cheap labour, the
absence of international competition and the opportunity to capitalize by
exploiting contraband and the black market.52
On another level, certain sections of the middle- and working-classes also
benefitted from autarky, groups that were selectively favoured by the local
authorities through such means as quota allocations, the concealment of crop
stores and the distribution of ration cards.53 The pillage and plunder that took
place during the war, and in the years immediately following its end, played an
important role in this unequal division of misery.54 As Moreno notes, ‘the right
of the defeated to property lost all meaning as any Falangist believed they had
the authority to seize their belongings’.55 This form of economic repression led
many families of the defeated into destitution.

By way of a conclusion

It is not easy to define the type of regime that emerged from the fall of the
Second Spanish Republic. This is undoubtedly made more difficult as much by
its longevity as for its chameleon-like nature. As Linz himself implicitly admit-
ted, describing it as authoritarian is not appropriate for the years preceding the
defeat of the Axis powers, even if we may find the legacy of the ‘limited plural-
ism’ there.56 However, that leaves us with the question as to which description
would be more adequate? Certainly, it is clear that initially there was a totali-
tarian project that was clearly reflected in both the unification decree and the
labour charter. Given that both were promulgated during the civil war, it is pos-
sible to argue that the regime was still being defined, although it is a fact that
neither of these laws was derogated during Franco’s lifetime. Everything seems
to indicate the Caudillo did not review these proposals for many years, at least
We know that by 1944 many of its own members perceived the regime as
totalitarian: indeed, in a draft letter to Franco, his tenientes generales called
for the ‘complete and urgent end of the totalitarian regime and the legal re-
establishment of the traditional Catholic monarchy’.57 The same calls also came
from outside the country when, in December 1946, the regime was labelled
totalitarian by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
It can be argued that at that time the regime was only formally totalitarian.
However, not only was it totalitarian in symbolic terms, it was, as we saw above,
also totalitarian in terms of repression.58 It has also been suggested that what
Francoism practised was the ‘personal totalisation of power’.59 In our view the
Franco regime was quasi-totalitarian from 1937 until 1945 – to the extent that,
with some significant nuances, it is possible to find within it each and every
192 State and Regime in Early Francoism

trait of those regimes that have been labelled totalitarian according to Carl
Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski’s classic model:

an official ideology, a single mass party led typically by the ‘dictator’,

a technologically conditioned near-complete monopoly of control of all
means of effective mass communication, a similarly technological near-
complete monopoly of control (in the same hands) of all means of effective
armed combat, and a central control of direction of the entire economy.60

An altogether different matter is the characterization of the regime as fascist,

even during its early years. Both neo-Marxist writers, such as Nicos Poulantzas,
and historians who are far removed from such postulations can agree the Franco
dictatorship was not fascist, although from this latter group, Stanley Payne does
argue the regime went through a semi-fascist phase from 1937 to 1945. For his
part, Tusell speaks of the ‘fascist temptation’, agreeing with Payne that there
was a semi-fascist period, although contending it finished in 1941 rather than
1945 – probably as a means of understanding the roots of the change in gov-
ernment as one consequence of the crisis of May 1941 was the ‘domestication’
of the Falange that resulted in a ‘pseudo-fascism’ that survived until the end of
the Second World War.61
As Saz has noted, given the limitations of the theoretical model of both
totalitarianism and authoritarianism, to the extent that they provide good
descriptions of aspects of the subject and can, therefore, explain much of the
‘what’ (from a functionalist perspective), it explains little on on the ‘why’ (from
an historical perspective), and considering the difficulties in characterizing a
regime with the longevity of Francoism, we must reflect on other suggested
In our view, Saz’s characterization of the Francoism as ‘a fascistized regime’, or
as one of the ‘fascistic dictatorships’ are not a little suggestive.62 This ties in with
Griffin’s para-fascism category that he explicitly follows, while simultaneously
stressing ‘the problem of the nature of the coalition or informal alliance in
authority and of what was genuine in the fascistization of the forces of the
right and the traditional elites’.63 In his opinion, ‘Francoism, insofar as it was
a fascistized regime, could be characterized by its ability to combine certain
elements of fascism’s stubbornness with the pragmatism of the non-fascists.’64
It is a quarter of a century since Tusell completed his private review of the
literature then existing on the nature of Francoism, confirming this question,
to the extent it has a first-order ideological component – particularly at the
moment it was first posed in Spain, which coincided with the crisis of the
regime (and, importantly, the implantation of a number of Latin American
dictatorships that the US Department of State has defined as being authori-
tarian) – ‘can never claim to be definitively closed’.65 For better or for worse,
the facts have proved this illustrious historian correct.
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 193

1. S. Payne, 1993, Spain’s First Democracy: The Second Republic, 1931–36, Madison, WI,
University of Wisconsin Press.
2. J. Aróstegui, ‘Política y administración en el régimen de Franco’, in El Franquismo: El
Régimen y la Oposición: Actas de las IV Jornadas de Castilla-La Mancha sobre investigación
en archivos, Guadalajara, Nuevo Siglo, 2000, pp. 41–42.
3. J. Tusell, La Dictadura de Franco, Madrid, Atalaya, 1996, p. 173.
4. Although some historians argue ‘early Francoism’ lasted until the Stabilisation Plan
of 1957, we understand that the political differences within the first half of the
regime had sufficient substance to reserve that denomination for the regime’s first
years. See G. Sánchez Recio, ‘Líneas de investigación y debate historiográfico’, Ayer,
33, 1999, pp. 17–18.
5. From academic positions sympathetic to Franco it has been argued that this formula
was intended to circumvent the question of the form of government, which had
not yet been decided (despite initial monarchist proclamations, until the Decree of
2 February 1938 the rebels claimed they were fighting for the republic). In Mussolini’s
Italy, where the exiled and deposed Spanish king were living, rather than speak of
the ‘Spanish Republic’ or of the ‘Kingdom of Spain’, the Italian state chose to use the
expression, ‘Spanish state’. S. Hillers, ‘El Estado de derecho en el régimen de Franco’,
in El Legado de Franco, 2nd ed., Madrid, Fundación Nacional Francisco Franco, 1997,
pp. 197–275.
6. It should be noted that, because of his noncommittal attitude when he was
approached to join the conspiracy, Franco was not immediately invited to join the
7. M. Alonso Baquer, Franco y sus Generales, Madrid, Taurus, 2005, p. 33; J. Palacios and
S. Payne, Franco, Mi Padre: Testimonio de la Hija del Caudillo, Madrid, La Esfera de los
Libros, 2008, pp. 274–228; P. Preston, Franco: A Biography, London, Fontana, 1995,
pp. 171 ff.
8. J. J. Linz, M. Jerez Mir and C. Ortega, ‘The extreme right’, in M. Cotta and H. Best,
eds, Democratic Representation in Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006,
pp. 316–351.
9. José Antonio, the son of dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, had founded Falange
Española in 1933. One year later this party merged with JONS, an organization cre-
ated in 1931 that adapted some concepts of Italian Fascism and German National
Socialism to the Spanish society of the time: a Spanish-type fascism in which
Catholicism replaced the idea of superiority of the Aryan race. In fact, Falange was
never represented in parliament, since José Antonio had won his seat in Cadiz as
a member of the Agrarian and Citizen Union (UAC – Unión Agraria y Ciudadana).
See J. Jiménez Campo, El Fascismo en la Crisis de la II República, Madrid, CIS, 1979;
S. Payne, Franco y José Antonio: El Extraño Caso del Fascismo Español, Barcelona,
Planeta, 1997, pp. 135–137; H. Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, London, Eyre and
Spottiswoode, 1961.
10. J. R. Montero, La CEDA: El Catolicismo Social y Político en la II República, Madrid,
Ediciones de la Revista de Trabajo, 1977.
11. J. Palacios and S. Payne, Franco, Mi Padre: Testimonio de la Hija del Caudillo, Madrid,
La Esfera de los Libros, 2008, pp. 233–234.
12. J. Tusell, Franco en la Guerra Civil: Una Biografía Política, Barcelona, Tusquets, 1992,
pp. 13–78.
13. R. Fernández Carvajal, La Constitución Española, Madrid, Nacional, 1969.
194 State and Regime in Early Francoism

14. J. R. Urquijo Goitia, Gobiernos y Ministros Españoles en la Edad Contemporánea, 2nd

ed., Madrid, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2008.
15. Popularly known as el cuñadísimo (the brother-in-law), he was interior minister in
Franco’s first government, which was appointed the following year.
16. J. J. Linz, ‘From Falange to movimiento-organización: The Spanish single party and
the Franco regime’, in S. P. Huntington and C. H. Moore, eds, Authoritarian Politics in
Modern Societies, New York, Basic Books, 1970.
17. R. Serrano Suñer, Entre Hendaya y Gibraltar: Noticia y Reflexión, Frente a una Leyenda,
sobre nuestra Política en Dos Guerras, Madrid, EPESA, 1947, p. 57; S. Elwood, Historia
de Falange Española, Barcelona, Crítica, 2001, pp. 100–112; P. Preston, Franco:
A Biography, London, Fontana, 1995, pp. 248–274.
18. Decree of 4 August 1937.
19. J. Beneyto and J. M. Costa, El Partido, Zaragoza, Hispania, 1939, pp. 187–188.
20. The first national council was appointed exactly six months later, its members rep-
resenting the different political families in the Movimiento. According to one of his
members, it included 25 Falangists – roughly 40 per cent of the total – about ten
monarchists of Renovación Española and ten Traditionalists, and eight high-ranking
military officers, as well as some important personalities. See P. González-Bueno, En
una España Cambiante: Vivencias y Recuerdos de un Ministro de Franco, Barcelona, Áltera,
2006, p. 137.
21. C. Alba, ‘The organization of authoritarian leadership: Franco’s Spain’, in R. Rose and
E. N. Suleiman, eds, Presidents and Prime Ministers, Washington, DC, AEI, 1980, p. 261;
J. J. Linz and M. Jerez Mir with S. Corzo, ‘Ministers and regimes in Spain: From First
to Second Restoration, 1868–2002’, in P. T. de Almeida, A. C. Pinto and N. Bermeo,
eds, Who Governs Southern Europe?, London, Frank Cass, 2003, pp. 41–116; Urquijo,
Gobiernos y Ministros Españoles, p. 133.
22. Where the first vacancy was a proof of Franco’s force towards his party, the second
is related to regime efforts to offer a non-fascist image following the Axis debacle.
Scarcely three months before its suppression with the return to democracy following
the first free elections to parliament in 1936, a law of 1 April 1977, changed the name
of this position to that of ministro secretario del Gobierno. This norm also reorga-
nized the bodies subordinated to the national council and established a new legal
arrangement for their associations, offices and resources, See R. Chueca, El Fascismo
en los Comienzos del Régimen de Franco: Un Estudio sobre FET-JONS, Madrid, CIS, 1983,
p. 231.
23. It had to wait until the Juridical Regime and State Administration Law (LRJAE—Ley
de Régimen Jurídico de la Administración del Estado) was approved in 1957, which
named the government – through the appointment of the council of ministers – the
supreme body of the state’s central administration. See D. López Garrido, ‘El Consejo
de Ministros durante el régimen de Franco’, in Ministerio de Relaciones con las Cortes
y de la Secretaría del Gobierno, 1812–1992 – El Arte de Gobernar: Historia del Consejo de
Ministros y de la Presidencia del Gobierno, Madrid, Tecnos, 1992, p. 158.
24. A. Torres del Moral, Constitucionalismo Histórico Español, Madrid, Atomo, 1990,
p. 214.
25. See González-Bueno, En una España Cambiante, pp. 147–158.
26. Pensamiento político de Franco. Antología, Madrid, Servicio Informativo español, 1964,
p. 214. The Fuero del Trabajo had been a personal assignment of Franco to Pedro
González Bueno, his minister of union organization and action, a Falange ‘new shirt’.
During one of the first meetings of his first cabinet Franco expressed the urgent need
of giving ideological support to the Movement in order to avoid it being thought of
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 195

as just an uprising or military coup, and he explicitly mentioned the Carta di Lavoro
as the example to be followed. Elevated to the rank of fundamental law in 1947, the
Fuero del Trabajo remained unchanged until 1962. González-Bueno, En una España
Cambiante, pp. 147, 156–157.
27. This substantial change was already introduced through a decree issued in November
1937, three months after the new statutes were approved. Since the new Junta did
not gathered until March 1938, in real terms Franco monopolized at any time the
appointment of members of this body. Chueca, El Fascismo, p. 212.
28. According to Payne, the IEP was created ‘to compensate for the feeble development
of political theory [of the unified party]’. It was designed as a sort of brains trust
for the new regime, combining features of an advanced training school for senior
party leaders with those of a study institute for policy and theory. The kind of half-
baked ideas sometimes served up during the civil war, such as those in one Falange
pamphlet that declared ‘fascism is nothing other than the nationalization of Marx’s
doctrines’ obviously would not do, but it took the institute several years to make
any contribution. S. Payne, The Franco Regime, 1936–1975, London, Phoenix, 1987,
p. 240. See also N. Sesma, ‘La Médula del Régimen: El Instituto de Estudios Políti-
cos. Creación Doctrinal, Acción Legislativa y Formación de Elites para la Dictadura
Franquista’, unpublished doctoral thesis, Florence, European University Institute,
29. The national council and the IEP headquarters occupied the building of the
Spanish senate, inoperative from 1923. For the evolution of FET-JONS budgets and
its proportion of the state budget from 1940 to 1971, see Chueca, El Fascismo,
pp. 203–204.
30. This consultative body was initially headed by a monarchist, general Gómez Jordana,
until then foreign affairs minister, who was succeded in 1943 by Callejo de la Cuesta,
a civilian monarchist. It was not until January 1945 that a Falangist, Fernández
Cuesta, was appointed to lead it.
31. J. J. Linz, ‘Legislatures in organic statist-authoritarian regimes: The case of Spain’, in
J. Smith and L. D. Musolf, eds, Legislatures in Development: Dynamics of Change in New
and Old States, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 1979, pp. 99–100.
32. J. M. Thomàs i Andreu, ‘La configuración del franquismo: El partido y las institu-
ciones’, Ayer, 33, 1999, p. 51.
33. J. Ortega y Gasset, Rectificación de la República: Escritos Políticos, III (1929–1933),
Madrid, Revista de Occidente, 1973, p. 163.
34. M. Baena del Alcázar, Curso de Ciencia de la Administración, Vol. I, 3rd ed., Madrid,
Tecnos, 1999; M. Beltrán, La Elite Burocrática Española, Madrid, Fundación Juan
March, 1977.
35. Of the 521 persons occupying high government offices during the period 1938–1957,
60 were engineers, 48 were professors (11 of them at technical schools), 47 were
diplomats, 31 were lawyers and 13 were judges.
36. For more on the vertical unions see M. A. Aparicio, El Sindicalismo Vertical y la
Formación del Estado Franquista, Barcelona, Eunibar, 1980.
37. J. Casanova, ‘Una dictadura de cuarenta años’, in J. Casanova, ed., Morir, Matar,
Sobrevivir, Barcelona, Crítica, 2002, p. 8.
38. E. Malefakis, ‘La dictadura de Franco en perspectiva comparada’, in J. L. García
Delgado, ed., Franquismo: El Juicio de la Historia, Madrid, Temas de Hoy, 2000, p. 47.
39. For Finland see A. F. Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917–1918, Minneapolis, MN,
University of Minnesota Press, 1980, p. 519; for Greece see D. H. Close, ‘The
reconstruction of a right-wing state’, in D. H. Close, ed., The Greek Civil War
196 State and Regime in Early Francoism

(1943–1950): Studies of Polarization, London, Routledge, 1993, p. 168. With the end
of the civil war in 1939, the number of prisoners crowded into Franco’s prisons and
concentration camps increased to 500,000, see Casanova, ‘Una dictadura’, p. 8.
40. S. Juliá, ed., Víctimas de la Guerra Civil, Madrid, Temas de Hoy, 1999, p. 410. The word
crusade applied to the Spanish civil war was used for the first time by the Bishop of
Salamanca in his pastoral ‘[The?] two towns’, dated 1 September 1936. See Preston,
Franco: A Biography, pp. 184–185.
41. F. Espinosa and J. M. García Márquez, ‘La desinfección del solar patrio: La represión
judicial militar: Huelva (1936–1945)’, in M. Núñez, ed., La Gran Represión: Los Años
de Plomo de la Posguerra (1939–1948), Barcelona, Flor del Viento, 2002; A. Míguez, ‘La
destrucción de la ciudadanía y la reruralización ideológica de la sociedad: Práctica
genocida, perpetradores y víctimas en el caso gallego durante la Guerra Civil’, in
C. Navajas and D. Iturriaga, eds, Novísima: II Congreso Internacional de Historia de
Nuestro Tiempo, Logroño, Universidad de La Rioja, 2010.
42. M. Núñez, ‘El porqué y el para qué de la represión’, in M. Núñez, ed., La Gran
Represión, p. 22.
43. F. Espinosa, ‘Julio de 1936: Golpe militar y plan de exterminio’, in Casanova, Morir,
Matar, Sobrevivir, p. 82.
44. Julián Casanova claims the right-wing terror was carried out by a number of groups,
ranging from Falangists, Carlists, citizen militias and volunteers; however, the great-
est responsibility for this violence lay with the army, whose ‘leaders and officers made
no effort to put the brakes on a repression they always controlled, despite the sacas
and paseos making it appear “uncontrolled” ’. J. Casanova, ‘Rebelión y revolución’,
in S. Juliá, ed., Víctimas de la Guerra Civil, Madrid, Temas de Hoy, 1999, p. 112.
45. M. Richards, Un Tiempo de Silencio: La Guerra Civil y la Cultura de la Represión en la
España de Franco, 1936–1945, Barcelona, Crítica, 1999, p. 30.
46. This continued until July 1948, when the state of war was officially ended. F. Moreno
Gómez, ‘La represion en la posguerra’, in Juliá, Víctimas, p. 316.
47. M. Álvaro Dueñas, ‘ “Por derecho de fundación”: La legitimación de la represión
franquista’, in Núñez, La Gran Represión, p. 111.
48. Moreno Gómez, ‘La repression’, p. 279.
49. Richards, Un Tiempo de Silencio, p. 26.
50. Law of the Head of State, 25 August 1939.
51. Moreno Gómez, ‘La repression’, pp. 360–361.
52. A. Cazorla, Las Políticas de la Victoria: La Consolidación del Nuevo Estado Franquista
(1938–1953), Madrid, Marcial Pons, 2000, pp. 70–73.
53. M. A. del Arco, Hambre de Siglos: Mundo Rural y Apoyos Sociales del Franquismo en
Andalucía Oriental (1936–1951), Granada, Comares, 2007.
54. Cazorla, Las Políticas de la Victoria, p. 81.
55. Moreno Gómez, ‘La repression’, p. 345.
56. J. J. Linz, ‘An authoritarian regime: The case of Spain’, in E. Allardt and Y. Littunen,
eds, Cleavages, Ideologies and Party Systems: Contributions to Comparative Political Soci-
ology, Helsinki: Transactions of the Westermark Society, vol. 10, The Academic
Bookstore, 1964, pp. 291–341; J. J. Linz, ‘Futher reflections on totalitarian and
authoritarian regimes’, in J. J. Linz, Totalitarianism and Authoritarian Regimes, Boulder,
CO, Lynne Rienner, 2000, pp. 3–4.
57. J. Tusell, La dictadura de Franco, Barcelona, Ediciones Atalaya, 1996, p. 176.
58. J. A. Olmeda, Las Fuerzas Armadas en el Estado Franquista: Participación Política,
Influencia Presupuestaria y Profesionalización, 1939–1975, Madrid, El Arquero, 1988,
p. 101.
Miguel Jerez Mir and Javier Luque 197

59. Serrano Suñer, Entre Hendaya y Gibraltar.

60. C. J. Friedrich and Z. K. Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, Cambridge,
MA, Harvard University Press, 1956, pp. 9–10.
61. M. Jerez Mir, ‘Executive, single party and ministers in Franco’s regime 1936–1945’,
in A. C. Pinto, ed., Ruling Elites and Decision-Making in Fascist-Era Dictatorships,
New York, Columbia University Press, 2009, pp. 115–116; I. Saz Campos, Fascismo
y Franquismo, Valencia, Universitat de València, 2004, pp. 80, 153, 246.
62. Saz Campos, Fascismo y Franquismo, pp. 81ff., 53ff., 253ff.
63. R. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, London, Pinter, 1991.
64. Saz Campos, Fascismo y Franquismo, p. 253.
65. Tusell, La Dictadura de Franco, p. 103.
Stages in the Development of the
‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece
Mogens Pelt

The Metaxas dictatorship was established on 4 August 1936 when the Greek
king, George II, gave General Ioannis Metaxas carte blanche to suspend parlia-
ment and rule by decree, in what was widely known as the Fourth of August
regime. In spite of its clearly stated ambitions to shape a new Greece for future
generations, the dictatorship did not survive the Second World War.
Official tradition has placed Metaxas in the pantheon of national heroes
because of his refusal to accept Mussolini’s ultimatum on 28 October 1940
and because the Greek army successfully repelled the Italian attack. Nowadays
28 October is celebrated as a public holiday in Greece (‘No’ day). His decision
placed Greece on the side of the Allies and allowed Metaxas to claim it was
the Greek army that caused the first major setback to the otherwise seemingly
invincible Axis powers during the winter of 1940–41. Despite the fact Metaxas
died before Hitler invaded Greece on 6 April 1941, with the passage of time
his firm refusal to accede to Mussolini’s demands has come to be regarded as
defiance of Germany and the fascist bloc as a whole.
For this reason the task of many post-war narratives of the Metaxas regime
was to reconcile its obvious dictatorial nature with the Allied cause.1 Already
here one would expect to find a tendency attempting to downgrade the more
unsavoury aspects of the regime, not least its fascist ones. While there are
reasons to be sceptical about claims he was a fascist – for example, because
the regime was not born of a right-wing revolutionary movement with mass
participation – it is an irrefutable fact that many of its symbols and some of the
institutions it created were clearly inspired by the Fascist and Nazi movements.
Furthermore, there are numerous previously secret contemporary German
accounts produced by diplomats, politicians and military institutions that state
Metaxas wanted to do what Germany had already done. There are also reports
from the American ambassador to Greece, who believed the British must have
been blind not to see Metaxas was moving the regime in a fascist direction and
that Greece was moving closer to Germany.2

Mogens Pelt 199

All of this implies the existence of a strong transformative potential on the

part of the regime, and it makes clear that contemporary observers believed
it had long-term intentions for change. Because this potential was never fully
realised it is even more important to investigate, as Aristotle Kallis suggests,
whether the political consolidation of the Metaxas regime can be categorized
as the Greek chapter of a much wider narrative of transformation and radical-
ization in content and in the context of the anti-democratic, anti-liberal and
anti-communist politics of the inter-war years.3
In this chapter we will investigate the various stages of the regime’s devel-
opment, the main parameters of which are changes to the internal balance of
power between Metaxas and the king, and the impact on Greece of changes to
the European political order – changes that affected the entire continent in the
wake of Germany’s revisionist drive during the second half of the 1930s.

Metaxas’ path to power

While anti-democratic, anti-liberal and anti-communist politics all figured

on his political agenda at one time or another, in many important respects
Metaxas’ path to power was conditioned by events beyond his control and, it
is important to note, there was no fascist movement of any political or social
significance in inter-war Greece.
In 1936, when his political career began to take off in earnest, Metaxas
belonged to the political elite – but only as a marginal figure in the anti-
Venizelist camp, the popular right-wing of inter-war Greek politics. The origin
of this term originates from a cleavage in the political elite surrounding Greece’s
participation in the First World War, which became pivotal in shaping Greek
politics in the ensuing years. On one side of this split, known in Greece as the
National Schism, was the leader of the Liberal Party, Prime Minister Eleftherios
Venizelos, who wanted Greece to enter the war on the side of the Entente; he
was opposed by King Constantine I and his followers, who wished Greece to
remain neutral. The king was accused of being pro-German because of his fam-
ily ties to the Kaiser, but his official arguments were that if Greece declared war
against Germany it would risk losing its newly conquered northern provinces
of Macedonia and Thrace to Germany’s ally, Bulgaria.4
Metaxas was one of Constantine’s protégés, and belonged to a circle of men
known as the Little Court. It was as a result of this Metaxas was sent to
the Berlin War Academy to learn modern methods of warfare. On his return
to Greece he joined the general staff, where his reputation as a modern-
izer ensured his professional survival beyond the purges against royalists in
the wake of the 1909 Goudi coup. Metaxas was appointed chief of the gen-
eral staff during the Balkan wars of 1912–13, and in that capacity played an
important role in the diplomatic activities that resulted in the incorporation
200 The ‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece

of Epirus, Thrace and Macedonia into Greece, and which was symbolized by
Constantine’s triumphant entry into Thessaloniki.5
Metaxas, who unsurprisingly took the king’s side during the National Schism,
played a pivotal role in subsequent events. It was his refusal in 1915 to aid
the Entente’s Gallipoli campaign that forced Venizelos to resign and led him
to proclaim a provisional government in Thessaloniki, effectively dividing the
country into two states. When in 1917 the Entente forced Constantine to abdi-
cate, opening the way for Venizelos to lead Greece into the war, Metaxas joined
the king in exile and only returned with Constantine following the royalist
victory in the 1920 elections.
Following Greece’s military disaster in Asia Minor in 1922, the king was again
forced into exile, where he died. A plebiscite in 1924 paved the way for the
proclamation of the republic, the second republic in modern Greek history;
however, Metaxas managed to keep his royalist credentials and political per-
sona in one piece during the 1924–35 republic, largely because he had made
himself immune against the stream of accusations of treachery directed against
the royalists in the wake of the Asia Minor fiasco, a campaign he had publicly
During the Second Republic Venizelos remained in control until the assump-
tion of power by the anti-Venizelists following the March 1933 elections,
something that soon caused the National Schism to resurface, and resulted
in the bitter polarization of both the political arena and the armed forces.7
It unleashed a state of political instability that would last until Metaxas came to
power and set the scene for a series of manoeuvrings of an extra-parliamentary
nature by both the Venizelists and anti-Venizelists. Here it should be made clear
that a broad array of forces that included the Venizelist camp, and Venizelos
himself, had already flirted with the idea of suspending the parliamentary
In March 1933 the scene was set in the following way: the anti-Venizelists’
power base was constituted in its recently acquired governmental power, while
the Venizelists retained control over both senate and army. In May 1934, the
former Venizelist turned royalist General Georgios Kondylis informed Metaxas
that he was planning a coup for 15 August 1934 in an attempt to overcome
Venizelist resistance to army reform. The coup never took place.8 Venizelist
officers were also preparing a bid for power, and on 1 March 1935 they made
their move.9 In this way Greece was pushed into its worst national crisis since
the Asia Minor disaster, and for more than a week the country was on the brink
of disintegration.
In the aftermath, Kondylis, assisted by Metaxas, launched a thorough purge
of Venizelist officers.10 On 10 October, Kondylis and the three chiefs of the
armed forces overthrew Panagis Tsaldaris, the leader of the anti-Venizelist camp,
established a dictatorship to take control of the country and paved the way for
Mogens Pelt 201

the restoration of the monarchy, which was ratified through a rigged plebiscite
on 3 November in which 97.87 per cent of the votes in favoured the monarch.
From the day of his arrival in Greece on 25 November, King George II, who
had been living in the United Kingdom for almost 12 years, made it clear he was
determined to reconcile the two factions, pardoning the Venizelist participants
in the March coup and appointing a caretaker ministry that was to remain in
power until fresh elections were held on 26 January 1936.11
The elections ended in a political deadlock, with neither bloc able to
form a majority without the support of the Greek Communist Party (KKE—
Kommounistikó Kómma Elládas).12
On 5 March 1936, as a reaction to rumours the Venizelists and the KKE were
negotiating, the war minister, Alexandros Papagos, informed the king the army
would not accept a government that relied on communist support. The king
dismissed Papagos and assigned the war ministry to Metaxas, who also became
deputy prime minister.13 On 13 April, the leader of the caretaker government
died, and a few hours later the king appointed Metaxas as prime minister.
According to the head of the German legation, the king did this in order to
have a strong man ready to act firmly should parliamentary chaos threaten the
Less than three weeks later, on 30 April, Metaxas suspended parliament for
five months,15 and on 22 July the leaders of both the Venizelist and anti-
Venizelist camps informed the king they were ready to form a government
when parliament met again in October. The agreement was based on the rein-
statement of the purged Venizelists officers. The following day, the king gave
Metaxas carte blanche to establish a dictatorship, and on 4 August 1936 he
decided to act. His official justification for establishing the dictatorship was to
forestall a communist-inspired revolution.16 These developments suggest it was
the resurgence of the National Schism, the polarization between the Venizelists
and anti-Venizelists and the strengthening of the radical anti-Venizelist faction
that paved Metaxas’ path to the centre stage of Greek politics after 1933. Dom-
inant anti-Venizelist personalities, such as Kondylis, turned to Metaxas when it
came to such extra-parliamentary proceedings as the planning of a coup d’état
or when they needed the assistance of someone with an unblemished reputa-
tion as a diehard and reliable royalist to purge the army of Venizelists. It seems
to have been these same qualities that made King George choose Metaxas. After
Kondylis’ death and the dismissal of Papagos, Metaxas’ loyalty and devotion to
the king’s uncle, King Constantine, must have made Metaxas seem the perfect
The official justification for suspending the parliament on 4 August 1936,
claiming that Greece was facing a revolution, was not unlike the pretext used
in other countries at the time. However, in the absence of a populist fascist-like
radical threat, the only such danger in Greece was perceived to come from the
202 The ‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece

communists. Therefore, we have to direct our attention elsewhere to discover

the reasons for the establishment of the dictatorship. Greece faced a number of
major problems, not least those caused by the effects of the Great Depression
and the dramatic increase in tensions in the eastern Mediterranean in the wake
of Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia in October 1935, something that moved the
issue of rearmament to the centre stage of Greek politics.

Metaxas and the German option

The first signs that Greece wanted to base its rearmament on Germany date
from February 1934, within a year of the anti-Venizelists coming to power,
and stemmed from Kondylis.17 From internal German communication it is
clear the German foreign ministry was ready to sell arms to Greece, but as
the orders were huge, amounting to 75–100 million Reichsmark, it would not
be possible to deliver the arms until the second half of 1935.18 The decision
is worthy of note because Greece belonged to the French security system in
south-eastern Europe, the Balkan Entente, and because arms sales of this mag-
nitude would be of interest to Bulgaria, Germany’s ally in the First World
War, which held claims on Greek territory. It was in this situation that the
Aussenpolitisches Amt der NSDAP, the foreign department of the Nazi Party
(NSDAP – Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), took up the issue of
the internal political situation in Greece. Declaring that it wished to see the
Venizelists being prevented from returning to power, the Aussenpolitisches Amt
der NSDAP recommended cautious German support for the royalists.19 We do
not know if Metaxas was briefed about these views, but it remains a fact that
shortly before the June 1935 elections he secretly informed Berlin that should
he come to power he was interested in German economic and political sup-
port to build a strong army and untangle Greece from French influence.20 Here
it should be recalled that the elections took place before the restoration of the
monarchy and that Metaxas participated in The Union of Royalists – a coalition
of far-right parties. The Germans never answered, probably because Metaxas did
poorly at the elections and his political influence did not yet exceed his role as
a caretaker for the radical anti-Venizelists. However, once in a position of power
he was able to able to pursue his goals and act accordingly. In contrast to his pre-
decessors, Metaxas proved ready to apply what here we shall call ‘the German
option’, meaning he was prepared to allow Germany to rearm Greece.21
His was a plan based on the ambitious programme originally put forward by
Kondylis, which Metaxas adopted as his own, and sought to establish as the
cornerstone of the exchange of military hardware and commercial commodi-
ties between the two countries. In the immediate aftermath of the Abyssinian
Crisis of 1935 the Kondylis government reached an agreement with Berlin
over the purchase of German arms and war materiel to the value of 75–100
Mogens Pelt 203

million Reichsmarks, only to see its ratification postponed, if not put into jeop-
ardy, with the restoration of parliamentary rule. Nevertheless, 75–100 million
Reichsmarks was such a huge sum that there was no financial alternative to
the agreement should Greece wish to rearm on such a scale. While neither the
United Kingdom nor France were willing to grant Greece the necessary cred-
its, Greece had substantial trade surpluses with Germany that could be used to
finance the deal.22 These surpluses were frozen in credits at the Reichsbank in
Berlin and could only be liquidated by purchases of German products, some-
thing that prevented Greece from using them in third markets such as Britain
or France, for example.
It was the collapse of international trade and the rise of protectionism that
left Greece with no economically viable alternative to Germany. While this had
led to a significant rise in exports to Germany, it unsettled the commercial and
financial equilibrium of the period prior to the Great Depression. Because of the
barter trade – also known as clearing trade – Greece was forced to balance its
exports with imports, otherwise the earnings of its exports to Germany would
stay in Berlin. During the first half of 1936 the amount of Greek assets held
captive in the clearing account in Berlin had reached 32 million Reichsmarks.23
In this way, the armaments agreement with Germany gave Metaxas a means
by which to effectively cope with Greece’s economic and social problems and
to increase the prospects of social peace and avoid economic collapse. Since
the beginning of the clearing trade in 1932 the Greek government had walked
a tightrope, deciding whether to pay exporters from state funds in the hope
that one day it would be possible to liquidate the assets in Berlin, or inter-
rupt this practice and risk the wrath of agriculture and the possibility of a rural
revolution. This unleashed a series of crises, both major and minor, that culmi-
nated on 11 December 1935, while the Greek–German arms negotiations were
at an impasse following the return of the king. At that time, the German min-
ister to Greece, Ernst Eisenlohr, bluntly warned the king that ‘Greece could
not live without its German customers, and that, in particular, a reduction
or cessation of the purchase of tobacco must lead to the impoverishment of
Macedonian peasants and grave disturbances in Greek domestic politics.’ He
continued, ‘It is therefore God-given that Greece should fulfil its war material
requirements through Germany.’24
In February 1936 a decision by the Greek government to stop all further
accumulation of credits in the clearing account in Berlin provoked immediate
reactions in the tobacco growing provinces of northern Greece. All tobacco
trade came to a halt and representatives of the tobacco industry decided to
send a delegation to Athens. Their demands were supported by the country’s
most powerful financial institute, the National Bank of Greece.25 Faced with
such pressure the government reversed its decision, announcing on 1 March
1936 it would continue guaranteeing the frozen assets in Berlin. This, in turn,
204 The ‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece

called for a large increase in German imports, putting the import of German
arms and war materiel at the heart of the political agenda.26
Here Metaxas’ rising political star coincided with the need to get negotia-
tions with Germany moving. On 5 March 1936, less than a week after the
decision to continue tobacco exports to Germany, Metaxas was appointed
war minister and vice-president of the council of ministers. As the incarna-
tion of radical anti-Venizelism and a fiercely anti-French admirer of Germany,
Metaxas had little to lose by shifting Greece’s dependence on armaments from
France to Germany, unlike the Venizelist officers, whose post-war careers were
made by allegiance to the Entente cause. Quite unsurprisingly therefore, his
appointment was soon followed with a substantial breakthrough in Greek–
German arms negotiations. On 19 March, the Greek general staff met to discuss
the purchase of war equipment from Germany,27 and on 6 May the gov-
ernment decided to extend Germany’s import quota at the expense of other
On 9 May northern Greece became the scene of the largest workers’ uprising
ever seen in the modern state.29 On 12 May the trade unions declared a general
strike for the following day. Auswärtiges Amt instructed its legation in Athens
to inform the Greek government that German business wished to see an end to
the strike as soon as possible.30 As a result of increasing domestic and external
pressure to restore social and political peace, the government decided to accede
to all of the tobacco workers’ demands.31
The labour unrest also seems to have made Metaxas act quickly in order to
further an arms deal with Germany. On 14 May, Erich Kordt from the German
legation and representatives from the German Consortium for Exports of War
Materiel (Ausfuhrgemeinschaft für Kriegsgerät), met Metaxas, the director of
the Bank of Greece, the finance minister and three officers from the Greek
general staff.32 On 28 May emergency legislation was enacted giving the gov-
ernment authority to place orders for war equipment in Germany.33 During the
visit to Greece by Hjalmar Schacht, president of the Reichsbank, on 15 June,
Metaxas said he would send a Greek military commission to Germany as soon
as possible.34 The final deal was to be signed on 22 July 1936.35 While Metaxas’
German option made good economic sense, it contained political pitfalls. Turn-
ing to Germany in the field of military matters ran counter to Greek security
politics since 1917, when Greece entered the First World War on the side of
the Entente. It must also have been anathema to the traditionally pro-French
Venizelists – not least those officers who had made a career out of the Entente
option. This is probably also the reason no politician or military official dur-
ing the 1936 parliamentary deadlock dared finalize the armaments agreements
with Germany that had originally been signed by the Kondylis regime.
Metaxas’ decision to pursue the German option risked being undone
should the Venizelists and anti-Venizelists reinstate the Venizelist officers and
Mogens Pelt 205

re-politicize the armed forces. This is also why attention ought to be paid to
the timing of the following decisions: the two main parties agreed to reinstate
Venizelist officers on 22 July, the same day the Greek–German agreement was
signed to finalize Metaxas’ German option; on 23 July 1936, according the
Greek historian Griogrios Dafnis, who bases his account on Metaxas’ confi-
dant and éminence grise, Ioannis Diakos, the king gave Metaxas carte blanche to
establish a dictatorship within 15 days.36
The 15-day margin must be seen as a way to ensure the right moment was
chosen for the declaration of the coup. While the official reason for establish-
ing the dictatorship was to prevent a revolution, which, according to Metaxas,
was planned to coincide with a 24-hour general strike declared for 5 August,37
it makes more sense to view it as a means to prevent a return to parliamentary
rule and to safeguard Metaxas’ German option. At this stage his German option
consisted of a series of political decisions by which Metaxas agreed to increase
Greece’s economic and military dependence on Germany. The latter obviously
had some serious political implications because it constituted a radical depar-
ture from the line Greece had followed since the Goudi coup in 1909 when the
Greek army was developed mainly by French hardware and know-how. To the
extent that it had an ideological content, it first marked a return to the pol-
itics of the Little Court, which had wanted to base Greece’s rearmament on
In this way, the establishment of the dictatorship can also be seen as a
response to the increasing militarization of international relations and the
incipient European arms race initiated by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Herrschaftsanarchie and rearranging the circuits of

power, 1936–38

In addition to the monarch’s position as the head of the Greek state and the
commander-in-chief of its armed forces, royal power was based on political cap-
ital. To the anti-Venizelists the restoration of the monarchy was the symbolic
prize that sealed their triumph over the Venizelists, while the imagined strength
of his British connection appealed to those who believed he would never allow
Greece to deviate from its traditional pro-British line.38 However, the king was
a newcomer, and after his long exile he was poorly connected in the world of
Greek politics.
In contrast to the king, Metaxas demonstrated an acute awareness of the
dangers inherent in this newcomer status, using the institutionalization of his
personal networks as a solution. With the establishment of the dictatorship,
Metaxas had already taken control of several important state offices: the prime
minister’s department as well as the armed forces and foreign affairs ministries.
206 The ‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece

He also established a number of new ministries and secretariats, or created

parallel ministries to existing ones to which he appointed people who owed
him their loyalty.
Constantine Maniadakis was appointed secretary of state for security, which
as well as giving him control of the security police also allowed him to develop
a state within the state. The security police was reorganized and began the
brutally efficient persecution of regime opponents – especially the commu-
nists. Maniadakis also ran the special security department, which operated as
Metaxas’s personal guard and was assigned security and crowd control duties
in Athens. This department was also responsible for torturing and executing
dissidents.39 In terms of determination and efficiency, Maniadakis was with-
out precedent in Greek history, causing, according to German evaluations,
the communists to lose their most important stronghold in the near east.40
This did not escape the attention of the Reichsführer SS (Schutzstaffel) and
head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Himmler, who wanted the Greek security police
and the Gestapo to join forces and exchange information on ‘Bolshevik agi-
tation’.41 According to an item of correspondence intercepted by the British
legation, Maniadakis agreed to take part in a congress about methods for
fighting communism.42
Theologos Nikoloudis, another partisan of Metaxas, was appointed to head
the press and tourism secretariat, which was responsible for censorship and
propaganda.43 This secretariat also served as a platform for propagating the
ideology of the Fourth of August regime.44 Nikoloudis was the founder of the
monthly periodical, To Neon Kratos, which was intended to provide a forum for
intellectuals to debate Fourth of August solutions to the problems of modernity
facing Greece. He also created a number of the symbols and slogans, which,
as we shall discuss below, bore a strong resemblance to similar propaganda
tools used by the Nazis in Germany and the Fascists in Italy, gaining him the
nickname ‘the Greek Goebbels’. He met Joseph Goebbels when the German
propaganda minister visited Greece in September 1936. From Goebbels’ diaries
it appears that he considered his days in Greece to be among the happiest in
his life and that that he was enchanted by his encounter with the remnants
of the ancient Greek civilization. While we must consider the latter to be a
commonplace reaction on the part of a first-time visitor to Greece, it is worth
noting that Goebbels insisted on visiting Sparta, which was of important sym-
bolic value both to Metaxas and the Nazis. It is also important to emphasize
that Goebbels saw Aryans in the ancient Greeks, moving him to say following
his visit to the Acropolis in 1939: ‘On Acropolis. Oh, this shattering view! The
cradle of Aryan culture.’45
The ministry for capital administration was handed to another of Metaxas’
colleagues, Kostas Kotzias.46 Kotzias had a friendly relationship with both
Goering and Goebbels and was the only member of the Greek government
Mogens Pelt 207

to have met Hitler. The British viewed him as the Greek Goering, and Goebbels
described him as a true friend of the German people.47
From this platform, and by relying on the governing method of
Herrschaftsanarchie (rule of anarchy), Metaxas began to expand his power to the
detriment of both the king and the remaining independent Greek state institu-
tions. This seemed to be particularly true in respect of his German option –
his contacts with Germany, especially in matters of trade and armaments
that depended on unofficial connections with the business tycoon Prodromos
Bodosakis-Athanasiadis and Kyriakos Varvaressos, deputy-director of the Bank
of Greece48 and of the private National Bank of Greece.49 The Greek archives
containing material on Greek–German relations clearly show that relations
between Metaxas and Berlin were maintained through other often informal
Among Metaxas’ unofficial contacts, Bodosakis’ role requires some special
mention. Holding no public office, Bodosakis’ most important platform was
his industrial complex and, of course, his general business connections. The
Powder and Cartridge Company provided access to German armaments firm
Rheinmetall-Borsig, a connection that was in turn to lead to Hermann Goering,
head of Germany’s rearmament programme. In this respect, Walther Deter,
Rheinmetall-Borsig’s representative in Athens, and Hellmuth Roehnert, man-
aging director of Rheinmetall-Borsig, come to mind. Through these contacts
Bodosakis was able to stay in touch with a leading firm in the German arma-
ment programme on an almost daily basis and had indirect access to Goering.
This provided Metaxas with a route, other than official diplomatic channels,
through which he could cultivate relations with Berlin.
This was further strengthened – if not indeed sealed – through family ties,
since Bodosakis gave jobs to Georghios Mantzouphas and Papastathis, Metaxas’
son-in-law and nephew, respectively. This was noted by Nikolaos Mavroudis,
under-secretary of foreign affairs, who according to Bodosakis should have
said it was Bodosakis rather than Mavroudis who was responsible for Greece’s
foreign relations.51
Bodosakis’ role was undoubtedly enhanced by the unfolding of the civil
war in Spain, where a very promising and profitable market for arms and
war materiel was exploited by Bodosakis – to such a degree that it had a
significant positive bearing on the Greek national economy.52 This suggests
Metaxas wanted Greek economic and defence policy to be run by represen-
tatives from institutions that had been willing and able to act in accordance
with his German option. In order to achieve this he let his own political goals
and big business interests coalesce to such a degree that they began to overlap
and nurtured the emergence of a new informal and powerful domain under his
control outside the sphere of the traditional state apparatus manned by people
who supported his policy. At the same time, by allowing regime business to
208 The ‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece

merge with private enterprise he also furthered a development with a certain

corporatist leaning.

Corporatism, communism and fascism

Metaxas’ willingness to stake the country’s social stability on the German

option and vice versa made it a condition sine qua non that the regime be able
to garner some degree of popular support, or at least prevent the people from
turning against it. This view was reflected shortly after the establishment of the
dictatorship, when in an interview published in the Vradini newspaper Metaxas
declared his intention to win over supporters of the KKE.53 As we shall see, his
subsequent decisions demonstrated how seriously Metaxas took his declaration
as he entered into an almost permanent state of shadow boxing in the areas of
social reform and labour legislation with the now outlawed KKE.
The regime sought to promote an anti-plutocratic image as an alternative to
trade unions, political parties and professional and industrial bodies. The first of
May became a national holiday, renamed and promoted as national celebration
of work day. Legislation was introduced sanctioning compulsory arbitration
and there were plans to increase the minimum wage and improve social welfare.
The regime paid a great deal of attention to the enforcement of labour legisla-
tion, and the labour ministry did not hold back from fining employers who
broke the rules. The regime was adamant on this point, to the extent that in
1938 it chose to confront the Athens-Piraeus Electricity and Electric Transport
Company (known locally simply as ‘Power’), owned by the British companies
Prudential Assurances and Whitehall Securities Co-operation, and which sup-
plied Athens with electricity and operated its trolley buses and trams. When
Power refused to conclude a collective agreement, as stipulated by Greek law,
its managing director was arrested and the firm ordered to pay a considerable
This raises the question to what extent these societal and constitutional
arrangements may have been inspired by corporatist models. While the
regime never developed any coherent theoretical approach either to Italian
corporatism or to the Portuguese New State, it demonstrated a keen interest
in both examples. During the first 14 months following its launch in Septem-
ber 1937, the regime’s theoretical flagship To Neon Kratos, which means new
state, invited a number of foreign ideologues to present various aspects of
corporatism. One was an introduction to the theoretical and practical aspects
of corporatism, three praised the Portuguese dictator Salazar and one was a cri-
tique of Italian corporatism.55 This fits well with a statement made by Metaxas
in which he said he resembled Salazar more than Hitler and Mussolini because
the Portuguese leader was sent for through the merit of his ‘scientific qualities’
to improve his people by reforms from above and not raised to power by the
Mogens Pelt 209

support of a mass movement.56 It is also worth noting that in 1937 To Neon

Kratos published two articles on the Soviet Union, one on the Soviet utopia
and another one on Soviet education, while the July 1939 issue featured an
article on ‘the regulation of the national labour market in Germany’.
According to official figures, 616,000 workers and 141,000 public servants
were covered by the 1939 labour legislation.57 Wages increased on average by
50 per cent between 1935 and 1940, yet, due to consumer price inflation, the
real increase was little more than 5 per cent.58
According to figures published by the regime, social fund assets totalled 3 bil-
lion drachma, and around 37 million drachma was paid in unemployment
insurance to former tobacco workers between 1937 and 1939.59 However, Spiros
Linardatos claims the figure was only 850 million drachma, since the regime
used these funds to finance the rearmament programme.60
Job creation was an issue of central importance to the regime. According to
the German legation, the Greek government succeeded in reducing unemploy-
ment from 128,000 to 26,000 during its first year in power, and according to
the same source by 1939 unemployment had been brought as low as 15,000.61
The key factors explaining this spectacular reduction in unemployment,
according to the German legation, were the industrial growth stimulus pro-
vided by the state and the efficient implementation and supervision of labour
legislation, which had established the blue-collar working day at eight hours
and the white-collar day at seven hours.62 However, given that the regime
wished to promote itself as a pro-labour alternative to communist and free trade
unions, these figures must be treated with caution.
The regime seems to have been so obsessed with fighting the KKE that it effec-
tively made the party its ‘significant other’. This was probably so because, as a
mass party, the KKE – which attempted to operate along lines fundamentally
different from the clientelistic approach that had previously dominated Greek
politics – was its greatest rival. The KKE was particularly strong among the rural
tobacco workers, the Achilles’ heel of the Greek economy and of its relations
with Germany. In contrast to the communists, who emphasized conflict and
class struggle as the driving force in social change, Metaxas placed his empha-
sis on harmony, presenting Greece as an organic body, with the state having
responsibility for reconciling the interests of capital and labour.
However, by outlawing the KKE, Metaxas left a substantial group of vot-
ers without a party, and an even broader section of Greek society without a
spokesperson for their professional interests. It is only by understanding the
response to the emergence of this void that we can appreciate the creation
of top-down organizations designed to mobilize the masses and organize the
workers and peasants who had lost their independent unions.
It was through his search for alternative models that Metaxas turned to Fascist
and Nazi examples. To many observers during the second half of the 1930s the
210 The ‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece

example of corporatism in Germany, Italy and Portugal must have appeared

successful – to such an extent that many radical conservatives may well have
been tempted to emulate them. After all, the Nazi and Fascist movements had
conquered governmental power and they seemed to be well on their way to
fulfilling a number of their declared goals. Consequently, the large array of
organizations and institutes that made up Metaxas’ ersatz mass movements
bore a strong resemblance to those established in Nazi Germany and Fascist
Italy. By making these choices Metaxas believed certain aspects of Nazism and
Fascism – unlike the parliamentary regime he had overthrown – offered answers
for the future that could be applied in Greece.
Apart from appreciating the pragmatic value of these models we should recall
Metaxas and his political clique also showed interest in their ideology and that
the principles of corporatism’s organic conception of state and society were
known to Metaxas and that he saw a clear affinity between Salazar and himself.
We also know he was acquainted with Paul Krannhal’s Das Organische Weltbild
and kept a copy of the work in his library.63
The regime did adapt a number of model and symbols from Nazism and
Fascism. This was true in respect of the regime’s new and carefully designed
modes of communicating itself and its messages to the public: symbols such
as the Roman salute and the Cretan double axe symbol, which in its simple
outline and pre-Christian pagan inspiration resembled the German swastika
and the Italian fasces. Furthermore, Metaxas’ titles – First Peasant, First Worker,
Chief – call to mind the titles Führer and Duce, which were adopted by Hitler
and Mussolini, respectively.
Finally the regime’s symbolic claim that the Greece of the Fourth of August
was the third Greek civilization bears a close resemblance to Hitler’s declaration
of the German Third Reich and to Mussolini’s discourses on subjects concerning
Italy’s destiny as heir to the Roman Empire and the idea of a new Rome.64
Its palingenetic thrust is evident in a number of Metaxas’ speeches when he
referred to Sparta, calling the Greeks to commit themselves to the nation in the
same manner as did the Spartans so that Greece could regenerate itself into a
new state.
The same is also true of some of the practices and institutions his regime
established. Here we should mention the work battalions and the youth orga-
nization, the National Youth Group (EON – Ethniki Organosi Neolaias), which
resembled the Hitler Youth. As a declaration of the affinity between the Greek
and German system, Metaxas indicated his support for an exhibition in Athens
in 1938 organized by the Nazi organization, Strength through Joy (KdF – Kraft
durch Freude), by being present at its official opening by Robert Ley, head of
the German Labour Front (DAF – Deutsche Arbeitsfront).65
The regime’s position on racism was mixed. Metaxas made it publicly known
he did not hold anti-Semitic views, prompting The Jewish Chronicle to publish
Mogens Pelt 211

a short article in September 1937 praising the Greek dictator for banning the
publication of anti-Semitic writings.66 On the other hand, in 1936 Goebbels
claimed to have received the impression from a private conversation with
Metaxas that the latter was ‘strongly anti-Semitic’.67 While Goebbels does not
elaborate on this and the difference may well be conditioned by the fact
Metaxas was seeking to appease Goebbels, it does indicate he found it oppor-
tune to give the German propaganda minister the impression he shared the
same views as Berlin in respect of the Jews.
The regime’s most explicit stance on racism appears in EON’s statutes. While
the youth organization had been established in November 1936, its statutes
were not fully implemented until 1938. These rules stipulated that no Jew,
Muslim or any other minority was permitted to join,68 which fits well with
the fact the regime identified the modern and culturally heterogeneous Greece
with the image of classical Hellas and Byzantium, and introduced a cultural and
national policy of assimilation.
Metaxas ascribed paramount symbolic significance to the militaristic and oli-
garchic Sparta – the arch-rival of democratic Athens – which he depicted as
the first of three Greek civilizations, with the others being Byzantium and his
own. The dream of making ancient Greeks out of one’s own citizens was a
dream Metaxas shared with generations of German reformers and educators
since Wilhelm von Humboldt, whereas his emphasis on Sparta was something
he shared with the Nazis. However, contemporary reactions and later accounts
suggest the people never embraced these ersatz mass movements.69 With the
outbreak of war cutting the dictatorship short, we can stretch our conclusion
no further than to say that the historical significance of the ersatz mass move-
ments rested in their quality as evidence of the regime’s attempts to foster mass
support from future generations.
We should add, however, that some of Metaxas’ reforms ought also be viewed
as a means of preparing Greece for the emerging new European order, the out-
line of which began to appear with Hitler’s rejection of the Versailles settlement
that began with the remilitarization of the Rhineland in March 1936. In late
1938 it may well have seemed impossible to contain Germany, while at the
same time it was far from certain Berlin’s new position in Europe would be chal-
lenged. Such a preparation could, of course, be explained by pragmatism alone,
but by doing so one would have to forget that the ideological content of a num-
ber of the new institutions Metaxas adopted also seems to have corresponded
with values that were intrinsic to his own world-view.

Metaxas and Germany’s conquest of Central Europe

Anschluss and the Munich Agreement fundamentally changed the bal-

ance of power in Europe. Germany’s bloodless conquest of Central Europe
212 The ‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece

demonstrated both the Nazi regime’s resolve to rearrange the European order
and the British and French impotence to resist it. Because both events increased
Germany’s power almost overnight, the repercussions for south-eastern Europe
were immediate. Furthermore, London’s rejection in October 1938 of a defence
pact with Greece made it seem unlikely the United Kingdom would intervene
in central and south-eastern European affairs, which only served to strengthen
Metaxas’ position in relation to the king.70
According to an entry in Metaxas’ diary, it was after Anschluss and during
the September crisis – the prelude to the Munich Agreement – that he decided
to remove the unfaithful from his temple. He dismissed ‘most people from the
ministries’ and ‘changed the laws, then . . . replaced all ungrateful ministers and
officials with those who were loyal and totally devoted to me’.71 In other words,
Metaxas replaced those who were loyal to the king with people he trusted. This
did not go on unobserved: this entry was dated 25 September, and two days
later the United States’ ambassador, Lincoln MacVeagh, noted the king’s influ-
ence with the government was virtually nil and that he was no longer in control
of the army.72 In November and December 1938, according to the German min-
ister to Greece, Metaxas gave another demonstration of his intent to obtain full
control of the government at the cost of the royalists by turning the election
for the new Archbishop of Athens into a showdown. After the king’s preferred
candidate, the Archbishop of Corinth, Damaskinos, had won, illegally and in
contravention of the usual practice, Metaxas forced another vote, with the
result that his own candidate, the former Archbishop of Trapezunt, was elected.
Another round of purges of royalists followed, while Metaxas appointed the
vacant posts to himself or to men he trusted.73 While the immediate criterion
undoubtedly was personal loyalty, in a long-term perspective the replacements
might well have had ideological consequences for the direction of the regime,
because it was among Metaxas’ trusted men we find the strongest commit-
ment to fascist solutions. In fact, at this juncture the US ambassador no longer
regarded the king as an important player within the Metaxas regime.
In words more appropriate to a description of organized criminals, MacVeagh
made the following description of what he found at the heart of the Greek
regime: ‘around and behind the dictator, [are] Drossopoulos of the National
Bank, Kanellopoulos of EON, Diakos the éminence grise, Maniadakis the sardonic
reincarnation of Fouché, Bodosakis the arms merchant, et al.’.74
During the last days of 1938 the British minister attempted in vain to per-
suade the king to dismiss Metaxas. It was against this background that in March
1939 the US ambassador concluded the king was now totally dominated by his
‘fascist Frankenstein, the German-educated General Metaxas’.75 It is worth not-
ing that as a contemporary professional observer whose government had fewer
geopolitical interests at stake in Greece than did Germany and the UK, the
US ambassador to Greece did not hesitate to label Metaxas as a fascist. This
Mogens Pelt 213

suggests Metaxas strengthened his position vis-à-vis the king in the wake of
Nazi Germany’s conquest of Central Europe, and in particular after the Septem-
ber crisis. It also makes sense to assume Metaxas deliberately took advantage
of this dramatic expansion of Germany’s power to increase his own author-
ity within the government, and in this way strengthen the clique within the
regime with the strongest commitment to fascist solutions.
This raises the question of the meaning of the German option as a factor
in Metaxas’ foreign policy. His resolve to switch from France to Germany in
matters related to rearmament followed a direction that already had history in
Greece, going back to the time of the Little Court. However, while he seemed
ready to sacrifice French interests he obviously hoped to be able to balance
British interests with German.
After the outbreak of war, Greece initially adopted a position of benevolent
neutrality towards Britain – a decision that was largely a consequence of the
United Kingdom’s naval supremacy, and which resulted in the conclusion of
a war trade and shipping agreement with London. However, in the wake of
Germany’ spectacular military successes during the spring of 1940, and fol-
lowing Italy’s entry into the war – which, among other things, dramatically
increased Axis influence in the Mediterranean – Metaxas succumbed to German
demands concerning the delivery of strategic raw materials.76
When Italy initiated a series of provocations in order to create a casus belli
with Greece, Metaxas turned to both the United Kingdom and Germany for
protection. While Berlin intervened twice, following Germany’s bloodless con-
quest of Romania in the summer of 1940, Mussolini decided to move against
Greece without informing Hitler. Given that Hitler would have preferred to
stick to his declared south-eastern European policy of peace in the Balkans, the
Führer’s decision to attack Greece must be understood as an attempt at dam-
age limitation in order to minimize the negative consequences of Mussolini’s
disastrous decision.77

Unfinished business

The Metaxas regime’s policy can best be understood as one of national effi-
ciency, modernization and assimilation implemented through the extensive
use of brutality and at the expense of parliamentary principles and democratic
rights. In the realm of economics, the regime continued the trend of crisis man-
agement established by previous governments in response to the impact of the
Great Depression, with the important exception of the focus, which Metaxas
placed on rearmament and on the German option.
This goes a long way to explain why the dictatorship was established, because
in order to implement and make make viable the German option policy it
was necessary to prevent the reinstatement of Venizelist officers and be able
214 The ‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece

to rule without interference from the two main groups in Greek political life –
the Venizelists and the anti-Venizelists. It was in its very nature as a dictator-
ship that made the regime differ from previous governments and it was in its
attempts to establish the corporatist organization of the labour market, and by
seeking to organize the political apparatus and society according to the same
principles, that it departed from the policies followed by previous governments.
Furthermore, by relying on corporatism, Metaxas attempted to substitute a
single citizen–state relation for the kind of party–voter bipartisan clientelism
that had dominated Greek politics since the beginning of the National Schism.
It was in these efforts that Metaxas turned to the Nazi and Fascists mass-
mobilization models and attempted to transplant them to Greece. The creation
of top-down organizations to mobilize the party-less masses and to organize
the workers and peasants who had lost their independent unions must be seen
as long-term investments in the social and political future of Greece. However,
because of the short duration of the regime, they would remain ersatz mass
movements, representing the efforts of a regime that attempted to win from
future generations of Greeks what their contemporaries never provided: mass
Finally, some of the regime’s ostensible use of Nazi and Fascist symbols, and
its allegiance to the values they espoused must also be seen as a way to prepare
Greece for Hitler’s emerging new European order. While pragmatism undoubt-
edly played a role here, we should not forget that the ideological content of a
number of the new institutions the regime imported from Fascist Europe did
correspond with values that were intrinsic to Metaxas’ world-view, first of all
corporatism. This demonstrates that Metaxas was willing to make some aspects
of these models his own. It is also a fact that Metaxas demonstrated a strong
inclination to learn from Nazism and Fascism and that the regime did adopt a
number of their models. This indicates that Metaxas was in midst of a learning
process when the war demanded his full attention, leaving it a moot point how
far along this ideological path he would have gone.
This leads us to the following conclusion – that because of its choice of Fascist
and Nazi models as a substitute for genuine mass movements and professional
organizations, and due to its readiness to adapt to a European future dominated
by Axis values, the Metaxas regime can be described as the Greek chapter of the
much wider narrative of the transformation and radicalization of both the con-
tent and context of inter-war anti-democratic, anti-liberal and anti-communist
It was the Second World War and the defeat of the Axis that cut these
experiments short: experiments originally conceived with the purpose of trans-
forming the political and social conditions for future generations in order to
create a new homo graecus.
Mogens Pelt 215

1. The historiography tends to categorize the Metaxas regime as an authoritarian dic-
tatorship, rejecting the notion of it being of the fascist type. The most recent work
within that tradition is P. J. Vatikiotis, Popular Autocracy in Greece 1936–41: A Politi-
cal Biography of General Ioannis Metaxas, London, I. B. Tauris, 1998. It was originally
among the communists who were the first victims of the Metaxas regime and among
the losers in the Greek Civil War of 1946–49 – i.e. the opponents of the victorious
national government and its tradition, which has strong connections to the Metaxas
regime – that we find the narratives highlighting the fascist aspects of the regime.
The most famous and influential works in that tradition is S. Linardatos, Pos ftasame
stin 4e augustou and I 4e Avgoustou, Athens, Themelio, 1965 and 1966. Both works are
in-depth accounts of the Metaxas period based on the examination of newspapers
and laws from the period. Linardatos published his two volumes in the short spell
of time during the so-called Greek spring from 1963 to establishment of the 1967
dictatorship. After the downfall of the Colonels’ regime in 1974 a number of authors
have taken up the tradition from Linardatos.
2. See endnote 21.
3. A. Kallis, ‘Neither fascist nor authoritarian: The 4th of August regime in Greece
(1936–1941) and the dynamics of fascistisation in 1930s Europe’, East Central Europe
37, nos. 2–3, 2010, pp. 303–330.
4. On the National Schism see G. Th. Mavrogordatos, Stillborn Republic: Social Coalitions
and Party Strategies in Greece 1922–1936, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press,
5. On Metaxas’ early career see Vatikiotis, Popular Autocracy; on the Little Court and
period before the First World War, see K. Loulos, Die Deutsche Griechenlandspolitik von
Jahrhundertwende bis zur Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges, Frankfurt am Main, Berne
and New York, Peter Lang, 1986.
6. On the Asia Minor campaign, see M. L. Smith, Ionian Vision: Greece in Asia Minor
1919–1922, London, Hurst 1973.
7. Mavrogordatos, Stillborn Republic, p. 46.
8. Kondylis planned to enforce executive power with Metaxas as president, to reform
the army and introduce a labour market bill. Th. Veremis, I epemvasis tou stratou stin
elliniki politiki, Athens, Odysseas, 1983, pp. 195–198.
9. Ibid., p. 183; Mavrogordatos, Stillborn Republic, p. 318.
10. Annual Report 1935, FO 371/2 0392 National Archives (NA).
11. H. Cliadakis, ‘The political and diplomatic background to the Metaxas dictatorship,
1935–36’, Journal of Contemporary History 14, no. 1, January 1979, pp. 117–138.
12. Mavrogordatos, Stillborn Republic, pp. 227–279.
13. J. S. Koliopoulos, Greece and the British Connection 1935–1941, Oxford, Oxford
University Press, 1977, pp. 39–40.
14. Athens 15 April 1936, Kordt to AA, Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes (PAAA),
Abt II, Griechenland Politik 7, Ministerien Bd.2.
15. Istoria tou ellenikou ethnous, Neoteros Ellinismos apo to 1913 os to 1941, vol. 15 Athens,
Ekdotiki Athinon, 1978, p. 378.
16. I. Metaxas, To prosopiko tou imerologhio tou, vol. IV, Athens, Ikaros, 1960, pp. 232–233.
17. Berlin, 28 February 1934, Aufzeichnung des Vortragenden Legationsrat Frohwein,
ADAP C II, 289.
18. ADAP C III, 124.
216 The ‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece

19. 24 October 1934, Abteilung Süd Ost in Aussenpolitischen Amtes der NSDAP (APA).
W. Schumann and L. Nestler, eds, Weltherrschaft im Visier: Dokumente zu den Europa
und Weltherrschafts-planen des deutschen Imperialismus von der Jahrhundertswende bis
Mai 1945, (East) Berlin, VED Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1975, p. 238.
20. Geneva 4 May 1935, PAAA, Abt.II, Pol. 2, Balkan, 1089.
21. This in turn necessitates a correction of the evaluations analyses of Greek–German
relations based on British evidence have produced. This is particularly true in
respect of Koliopoulos, an authority on Greek–British relations, who concludes
‘Metaxas could not credibly match the king’s British connection with a German one’,
J. S. Koliopoulos, ‘Metaxas and Greek foreign relations 1936–1941’, in R. Higham
and Th. Veremis, eds, The Metaxas Dictatorship 1936–40: Aspects of Greece, Athens,
ELIAMEP, 1993, pp. 90–91. However, Koliopoulos, who does not use German evi-
dence, evaluates Greek–German relation rather exclusively on the basis of reports
from Sydney Waterlow, the British minister plenipotentiary to Greece, who believed
the king was in charge of the government and that he had Metaxas firmly under
his control. Waterlow linked assertions Greece had entered on a pro-German course
to the fact that the British community in Athens consisted mainly of business peo-
ple and that Britain’s commercial interests in Greece were negatively affected by
German trade policy. This would also mean that, for some time at least, it would
be in Waterlow’s own interests to stress the significance of his relationship with the
king. The US ambassador to Greece, Lincoln MacVeagh, suggests this explicitly in a
letter to the state department: ‘Sir Sidney’s [Waterlow’s] confidence in His Majesty
and estimate of his personal influence and ability run far ahead of anything I would
care to hazard. Indeed, in the light of the record, his attempt . . . to guide the king
in his choice of advisers, takes on a decided aspect of the blind leading the blind’.
J. O. Iatrides, ed., Ambassador MacVeagh’s Reports: Greece 1933–1947, Princeton, NJ,
Princeton University Press, 1980, pp 151–152, Athens, 31 January 1939, MacVeagh
to state department.
22. M. Pelt, Tobacco Arms and Poltics: Greece and Germany from World Crisis to World War
1929–41, Copenhagen, Museum Tusculanum, 1998, pp. 133–141.
23. Memorandum from H.C. Finlayson, ‘German clearing credit balances’, 20 February
1936, NA, FO 286-1136 R-71-12-36.
24. Berlin, 11 December 1935, AA to RKM, RWiM, RLM, geheim, PAAA, Geheimakten
II FK 118, Ausund Einfuhr von Kriegsgerät nach den Balkanländer; Athens,
12 December 1935, Eisenlohr to Auswärtiges Amt, ADAP, C, IV, 459.
25. The tobacco sector owed the National Bank of Greece 137 million drachma. Letter
from the sub-branch of the National Bank of Greece in Salonika to the board of direc-
tors, 20 February 1936, National Bank of Greece archive, XXVIII Proionda A Kapnos
fak 20. See also Memorandum by H.C. Finlayson, ‘German clearing credit balances’.
26. Athens, 5 March 1936, Waterlow to Eden, NA, FO 286/1136/71.
27. 19 March 1936 AA II M 293, PAAA, Geheimakten Abt.II FK 118 Geheimakten, Ausund
Einfuhr von Kriegsgerät nach dem Balkan Bd.2.
28. Athens, 16 July 1936, Anlage 2 geheim, PAAA, Ha.Pol.IVa wirtschaftliche
Beziehungen zu Deutschland (Griechenland) Wirtschaft 6 Bd.1.
29. Salonika, 20 May 1936, report from the German Consul, PAAA, Ha.Pol.IVa Tabak
Bd.1. See also Chapter 1.1.4.
30. The German cigarette company, Brinkmann, had about two million kilogrammes of
tobacco stored in Greece, and consequently the firm asked AA to act. Berlin, 12 May
1936 to the Legation in Athens, PAAA, II Balk. 995gr., Handakten Wiehl Bd. 2.
Mogens Pelt 217

31. Athens, 28 May 1936, Walker to Eden, NA, FO 371/20391; Koliopoulos, Greece and
the British Connection, p. 42.
32. Athens, 14 May 1936, Kordt to AA, geheim, Verhandlungen über deutschen
Kriegsmaterial Lieferung, PAAA, Ha.Pol. Geheimakten, Handel mit Kriegsgerät,
Balkan Bd.1.
33. Athens, 16 July 1936, Anlage 2 Geheim, Ha.Pol.IVa wirtschaftliche Beziehungen zu
Deutschland (Griechenland), PAAA, Wirtschaft 6 Bd.1.
34. Athens, 15 June 1936, telegram from Pistor to AA, PAAA, Pol.1 464g, Geheimakten.
Handel mit Kriegsgerät. Balkan Bd.1.
35. Pelt, Tobacco Arms, p. 150.
36. G. Dafnis, I Ellas metaxi dio polemon (Greece between two wars), vol. II, Athens, Ikaros,
1955, p. 432. Daphnis cites an interview with Diakos, one of Metaxas’ intimate
37. Ibid.
38. See endnote 21.
39. Y. Andricopoulos, ‘The powerbase of Greek authoritarianism’, in B. Hagtved and S. U.
Larsen, eds, Who were the Fascists? Social Roots of European Fascism, universitetsfor-
laget, Bergen, 1980, pp. 568–584.
40. Athens, 28 July 1937, Erbach to AA, politische Behandlung der zum Jahrestag der
Errichtung des autoritären Staats in Griechenland, politischer Bericht, PAAA, Pol IV
Po. 5 Gr. Bd.1.
41. Berlin, 8 October 1936, Note by Heinrich Himmler’s Deputy State Secretary, PAAA,
Inland IIg, Polizei Abkommen mit Griechenland und Bulgarien.
42. NA, FO 286/1142/71/71/49/37.
43. S. Linardatos, I 4e Avgoustou, Athens, Themelio, 1966, p. 77.
44. Report on leading personalities in Greece, NA, FO 371/23776.
45. Goebbels, Bd.2, p. 683; Bd.3, p. 586.
46. Kotzias was a retired athlete, a fencer who had represented Greece at the 1912
Olympic Games in Stockholm.
47. Report on leading personalities in Greece, NA, FO 371/23776. See also J. Goebbels,
Die Tagebücher II 1931–36, Munich, K. G. Saur Verlag, 1987, pp. 682 ff.
48. Varvaressos was offered the position of economy minister but preferred to keep
his appointment as deputy-governor of the Bank of Greece. From this position he
could continue negotiations concerning economic issues, not least with Germany.
Furthermore, Varvaressos worked as Metaxas’ personal economic advisor.
49. Metaxas also received economic advice from Alexandros Korizis, vice-president of the
National Bank of Greece, who was appointed to the newly established social security
ministry. In 1939 Korizis became president of the National Bank of Greece and when
Metaxas died in January 1941 he took over control of the country. He committed
suicide as a result of the German occupation of Greece in April 1941. Berlin 31 Jan-
uary 1941, geheim, Abw. Nr. 695/41 g IH OST S, Nachfolger des Ministerpräsidenten
Metaxas, Budensarchiv-Militärarchiv (BA-MA), W1 IC1. 10. The bank was repre-
sented additionally when Arvanitis, one of its executives, was appointed economy
minister. Here it is especially important to bear in mind that the National Bank of
Greece, which operated as a commerce bank, had direct economic interests at stake
within Greek–German trade.
50. While the Greek foreign ministry possesses little material of relevance to high-level
politics, the archives of the Bank of Greece and the National Bank of Greece contain
much more evidence of this nature. See, for example, Pelt, Tobacco Arms, p. 330.
218 The ‘Fourth of August’ Regime in Greece

51. M. Pelt and M. Heiberg, Los Negocios de la Guerra: Armas Nazis para la República
Española, Barcelona, Critica, 2005, pp. 54–55.
52. Ibid., pp. 87–91.
53. Metaxas, To prosopiko, IV, pp. 232–233.
54. Annual Report 1938, NA, FO 371/23777.
55. G. Pirou, ‘The organic organization in theory and practice: Corporatism’, September
1937; G. de Reynold, ‘Salazar and his work’, November–December 1937; E. Beau, ‘The
spiritual and political rejuvenation of Portugal’, September 1938; F. Sieburg, ‘Salazar
and his legend’, November 1938; A. Hennebique, ‘A history and critique of Italian
corporatism’, October and November 1938.
56. D. Philippis, Profasismos, ekfasismos, pseudofasismos: Ellada, Italia ke Ispania ston
Mesopolemo, Thessaloniki, University Studio Press, 2010, pp. 248–249.
57. Athens 10 May 1939, Erbach to AA, der 1. Mai in Griechenland, PAAA pol IV po
5. Gr. Bd.1.
58. Linardatos, Pos ftasame, p. 121.
59. Athens, 10 May 1939, Erbach to AA, der 1. Mai in Griechenland, PAAA, Pol IV Po
5. Gr. Bd. 1.
60. Linardatos, Pos ftasame, p.127
61. Griechenlands nationale Widergeburt. Zum ersten Jahrestag der Einführung der
autoritären Regierungsform, PAAA Pol. IV. Po. 5 Gr. Bd.1.
62. Athens, 10 May 1939, Erbach to AA, der 1. Mai in Griechenland, PAAA, Pol IV Po
5. Gr. Bd. 1.
63. Krannhal, who in his capacity as a political philosopher, became co-founder of the
National Socialist Society for German Culture under Alfred Rosenberg, who was one
the main authors of a number of key Nazi ideological creeds.
64. For a thorough discussion of the regime’s propaganda see M. Petrakis, The Metaxas
Myth: Dictatorship and Propaganda in Greece, London, I. B. Tauris, 2006.
65. Annual Report 1938, NA, FO 371/23777.
66. Athens 17 September 1937, Kordt to AA, die innerpolitische Entwicklung in
Griechenland, PAAA, Pol IV. Po.5. Gr. Bd.1.; the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
1937, A8/3.
67. Goebbels, Die Tagebücher, p. 687.
68. J. V. Kofas, Authoritarianism in Greece: The Metaxas Regime, New York, Colombia
University Press, 1983, pp. 88–89.
69. NA; see British annual reports from 1937–39.
70. Pelt, Tobacco Arms, pp. 222–223.
71. Petrakis, Metaxis Myth, p. 50.
72. Iatrides, Ambassador MacVeagh’s Reports: Greece, pp. 131–132.
73. Athens, 7 January 1939, Erbach to AA, innerpolitische Lage. Politischer Bericht,
PAAA, Pol. IV Po 5. Gr. Bd 1.
74. Iatrides, Ambassador MacVeagh’s Reports: Greece, pp. 148–149.
75. Ibid., p. 156.
76. Pelt, Tobacco Arms, pp. 238–240.
77. Ibid., pp. 204, 231–236.
External Influences on the Evolution
of Hungarian Authoritarianism,
Jason Wittenberg

Among historians and political scientists who study the roots of dictatorial rule
there is an increasing clamour to examine factors beyond domestic conditions.1
Lamenting the isolated case-study focus of much research on fascism, for exam-
ple, Constantin Iordachi has recently called for a transnational research agenda
in which the ‘multiple entanglements and reciprocal influences’ of move-
ments and regimes on one another is a central concern.2 Thomas Ambrosio
has proposed a research programme to study authoritarian diffusion – how the
emergence of dictatorship in one country affects the probability that it will
emerge in another country.3
The reasons for this new research agenda are not hard to discern. Although
the search for the domestic roots of dictatorial rule has been incredibly fruitful,
we know that, like democracy, dictatorship can also spread from abroad. Philip
Morgan, for example, documents two waves of fascism in inter-war Europe.
The first occurred in the chaos accompanying the end of the First World War,
in which attempts to imitate the communist takeover of Russia were met with
ruthless rightist repression. The second happened in the 1930s in the wake
of the Great Depression and victory of Nazism in Germany, which energized
radical rightist movements across Europe.4 The wave characteristics of author-
itarianism and opposition to it have been even more visible in the former
communist world. There the democratic surge of 1989–91 has met with serious
challenges in parts of the former Soviet Union, in which both nascent dicta-
tors and their domestic opponents have looked to transnational networks to
support their respective causes.5
We can think of external influences as operating through two broad
pathways: contagion and co-operation. In contagion, which is used here syn-
onymously with diffusion, ‘the prior adoption of a trait of practice in a
population alters the practice of adoption for remaining non-adopters’.6 This
curt formulation encompasses a number of reasons why the emergence of

220 The Evolution of Hungarian Authoritarianism

authoritarian practices in some countries might prompt adoption of such

practices in other countries. For example, if large influential countries (or a
significant proportion of all countries) become authoritarian, it can change
the prevailing norms regarding the acceptability of such rule. It proved much
harder to stigmatize dictatorship once Germany joined its ranks in 1933, which
strengthened the hands of would-be authoritarian actors in other states. Even
where norms do not evolve, authoritarian governments can also establish
dictatorial practices from which kindred groups in other states might learn.
Examples would be the broader adoption of internet monitoring technology
developed in China, or European admiration for corporatist forms of interest
intermediation based on their perceived success in Mussolini’s Italy. The dis-
tinguishing feature of the contagion pathway is that the spread of an idea or
practice occurs independently of any involvement of those who have already
adopted the said idea or practice.
The co-operation pathway involves modes of transmission in which foreign
actors play an active role in fomenting adoption of authoritarian practices. Such
activity can range from the forcible imposition of a fascist regime, as occurred
in Hungary in 1944 after the Germans occupied the country, to informal and
friendly communication with domestic actors that might be in a position
to influence policy. Both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy attempted to rally
international support for fascism by mobilizing sympathetic groups in other
countries. The same was true of the Soviet Union for communist movements
through the Comintern. By the late 1930s, as we shall see, Germany made use
of its enhanced economic and political leverage to influence other countries’
policies in its preferred direction. What unites co-operation arguments is their
emphasis on the intentions and actions of actors that have already adopted
some dictatorial practice.
This chapter explores how political contagion and co-operation affects the
emergence of dictatorial practices through a focus on inter-war Hungary.
Inter-war Hungary is a great venue to examine this topic for three reasons.
First, the literature tends to give pride of place to the reasons for democratic
breakdown.7 Although the collapse of democracy is obviously a worthy topic,
we know much less about the international influences on how dictatorial rule
evolves within non-democratic regimes, especially among the smaller coun-
tries of Eastern Europe. In Hungary Nazi Germany influenced events, but only
after authoritarian rule had been established, and in ways more subtle than
is commonly acknowledged. In some respects the most serious authoritarian
departures took place after democracy had already collapsed. Second, exist-
ing research has largely neglected instances of failed contagion.8 Although
Hungary, like other countries, was ultimately swept up into the ‘magnetic
field of fascism’, for a time in the early 1920s it was a lone dictatorship in
a largely democratic neighbourhood. Why should foreign models have been
Jason Wittenberg 221

more influential when they were fascist than when they were democratic?
Third, Hungary illustrates the difficulty of analytically separating domestic and
international factors. Although Nazi Germany’s war-time occupation and impo-
sition of the Arrow Cross government might count as a purely international
cause, in general international influences have their effect through the domes-
tic arena. Short of open coercion from abroad, a government could always have
chosen not to follow some foreign practice. Inter-war Hungary thus allows
a fine-grained examination of the mechanisms by which political contagion
The legal realm is not the only sphere with which one can document a
regime’s dictatorial character. For example, radical civil society movements and
political parties grew in prominence between the 1920s and 1930s, and these
organizations would ultimately become a force to be reckoned with. However,
the existence of such radicalism does not in itself imply much about the nature
of the governing regime. Weimar Germany was no less a democracy for hav-
ing featured substantial radical movements on both the left and the right. It is
when such radicalism becomes a matter of state policy that we can begin to
speak of an evolution in the regime.
I focus in particular on diminishing equality before the law, as embodied in
the 1920 numerus clausus law (restricting educational enrolment by national-
ity and race) and subsequent Jewish laws that were approved beginning in the
late 1930s. The impetus for the numerus clausus can be attributed to domestic
forces, at least in the sense the initial version of the reform was implemented
in response to domestic concerns. But the specific details of legislation from
the latter part of the 1930s belie German influence. The traditional conserva-
tive elites claimed anti-Jewish legislation would assuage the even more radical
demands of the extreme right. However, many of these elites were also willing
to sacrifice Jewish rights to benefit from German willingness to effect territorial
revision with the Habsburg successor states in Hungary’s favour.9 The increas-
ingly harsh discrimination against Jews is an example of an authoritarian
leadership mimicking some of the practices of even more authoritarian states
both to preserve its authority and ingratiate itself with other dictatorships.10

A hybrid regime avant la lettre

There is general agreement that the regime that ruled Hungary between 1920
and 1944, commonly referred to as the Horthy regime, was neither wholly
democratic nor wholly authoritarian. But beyond that consensus dissolves.
Inter-war Hungary did have a multi-party system with a real opposition, a func-
tioning parliament featuring real debate and governing power, an independent
judiciary and a lively opposition press. Its head of state, Miklós Horthy, ruled
for the entire period as regent, but was subject to constitutional constraints.11
222 The Evolution of Hungarian Authoritarianism

However, it is also true that the communist party was banned, the secret ballot
and the activities of the social democrats were substantially curtailed, and until
1939 the franchise remained limited.12 Restrictions on leftist activity, together
with the open ballot in the countryside, meant that in practice the government
could, and almost always did, engineer a sympathetic parliamentary majority,
though genuine opposition voices were always present.
This truly hybrid regime has been labelled ‘semi-authoritarian’,13 ‘a limited
parliamentary democracy with distinctly authoritarian features’,14 ‘a disguised
and indirect . . . absolute autocracy of the one man who was [both] Minister
President and party leader’,15 and, by István Bethlen, prime minister from
1921 until 1931 and the brains behind the system, a ‘guided democracy’,16
something ‘between unbridled freedom and unrestrained dictatorship’.17 Even
the anodyne label ‘Horthy regime’ has been questioned. Andrew Janos has
remarked that in reality the label is appropriate only after 1935, when the locus
of decision-making had shifted decisively away from the prime minister.18
This mixed system is at least in part a consequence of Hungary’s rather
tumultuous path out of the First World War. With the dissolution of the Dual
Monarchy Hungary became fully sovereign for the first time in centuries, but
amid economic, social and political chaos. The Treaty of Trianon that for-
mally ended hostilities between Hungary and the Entente powers stripped
Hungary of roughly two-thirds of its population and three-quarters of its terri-
tory, and stranded roughly one-third of the ethnic Hungarian population in the
Habsburg successor states. The treaty would have profound direct and indirect
consequences for the course of politics in the inter-war period. First, it increased
anti-Semitism and contributed to the political restrictions on the left. Few if any
Hungarian leaders were keen to preside over a radical and punitive dismember-
ment of the country. Thus, when in early 1919 the Allied plans became known,
the government was offered to the social democrats, who assumed power in
alliance with the communists and established a Soviet regime. Although the
Councils’ Republic lasted for fewer than five months, it frightened the old
ruling classes with its arbitrary violence and attempts to dismantle the old
order. For many it cast Jews, who were prominent among its leadership, as an
anti-Hungarian force whose influence needed to be limited.
Second, it ensured that revanchism would be a cornerstone of Hungarian
inter-war policy. Trianon was reviled across the political spectrum. Most obvi-
ously it dismantled historic Hungary, a territory that in the decades before
the outbreak of the First World War was developing into an integrated mod-
ern economic unit. Part of the post-war chaos was a result of the disruption
of economic life occasioned by the loss of what had previously been sources
of raw material and agricultural products. But more profoundly, the treaty
was seen as unjustly punitive, having consigned territories inhabited almost
exclusively by Hungarians to neighbouring states. This created a demand for
Jason Wittenberg 223

territorial revision among refugees streaming into rump Hungary and the many
who sympathized with them that would ultimately outweigh many other
political concerns. Ultimately much of Hungary’s foreign policy and some of
its domestic policy would be dictated by its desire to regain lost territories.
For the conservative leader István Bethlen, prime minister from 1921 to 1931,
the key to containing both left and right radicalism was a Government Party
whose political machine could ensure the continuing influence of conservative
pre-war political elites. Although the system he created effectively excluded
the social democratic left from power, it eventually came under attack from
the extreme right, which in the 1930s sought more radical solutions to the
country’s economic and political problems. The most important threat to con-
servative dominance prior to the war came when Gyula Gömbös became prime
minister in 1932. Gömbös’ desire to emulate Mussolini’s fascist regime was well
known by 1932, and within a couple of months of entering office he began to
lay the groundwork for a one-party dictatorship.
Under Bethlen the Government Party’s principal purpose had been to orga-
nize elections and deliver majorities. Gömbös wanted to reorganize the party
for mass mobilization in the service of national unity, and succeeded in replac-
ing a number of conservative army officers who opposed radical reform. He
also engineered the 1935 elections to return a parliament more sympathetic to
his ideas than the previous one. It is tempting to think only Gömbös’ death in
1936 halted the march towards outright dictatorship, but Horthy appointed a
new prime minister that stymied further radical developments.19 Horthy would
preside over feuding conservative and radical factions until being deposed by
the Germans in 1944.

(In)equality before the law: Anti-Jewish legislation

The evolution of international influence on inter-war Hungarian anti-Jewish

legislation can be divided into two phases. The first began with Horthy’s
assumption of power and lasted through roughly the early 1930s, when inter-
national norms supported policies of non-discrimination and there was no
major power to provide cover to countries that dissented. This phase featured
two important legislative acts: a 1920 law, the so-called numerus clausus, that
imposed racial and nationality quotas on entrance to university; and a 1928
amendment that removed the racial language. The second phase began in the
mid-1930s with the shift in international norms accompanying the rise of Nazi
Germany, and led to a series of increasingly and openly discriminatory laws.
An important debate over these latter laws has revolved around the extent to
which they can be attributed to German influence rather than to the fulfilment
of domestic preferences as expressed initially in the numerus clausus restric-
tions. Mária M. Kovács has convincingly argued for the essential continuity
224 The Evolution of Hungarian Authoritarianism

of Hungarian anti-Jewish intentions.20 Here I wish to make a different point,

that although the demand for restrictions on Jews may have been largely
domestically driven, the forms such demands took as legislation reflected
foreign influence and involved both the contagion and co-operation pathways.
Although popular anti-Semitism was undoubtedly widespread throughout
Europe, Hungary has the dubious distinction of having been the first country
in the 20th century to pass anti-Semitic legislation. Act XXV of 1920, passed
after Horthy had been made regent but by a pre-Horthy democratically elected
parliament, stipulated that the racial and national composition of university
enrolment not exceed the proportion of each nationality and race in the gen-
eral population. Although this numerus clausus never refers explicitly to Jews,
no one disputes that it was aimed at Jews, who in 1910 comprised roughly
5 per cent of the population but nearly 30 per cent of university students, and
were the only such over-represented group. The ultimate goal was to reduce
Jewish influence over the commanding heights of the economy. According to
the 1920 census, Jews comprised 48 per cent of salaried employees in industry,
58 per cent of small merchants, 67 per cent of those employed in commerce
and 89 per cent of those in finance.21
Act XXV’s reference to national and racial quotas represented an awk-
ward and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to achieve national balance in the
economy while conforming to international norms on discrimination that
precluded targeting Jews explicitly. First, unlike Jews in Poland or Romania,
Hungarian Jews as a matter of law had never been considered a separate
national group, much less a distinct race. Nationality had been a matter of
mother tongue, and the vast majority of Jews in Hungary had counted as
Hungarian, regardless of what religion, if any, they actually practised. As the
numerus clausus did not remedy this confusion, its application was necessarily
haphazard.22 Second, European norms no longer supported such open, targeted
discrimination. Although legal restrictions on Jews had once been unremark-
able throughout Europe, by 1920 that was no longer the case. The peace treaties
that ushered in the Habsburg successor states included provisions for the pro-
tection of minority rights, and explicitly prohibited discrimination based on
race, nationality and language. These strictures were often flouted in practice,
especially after the entire post-war order began to collapse in the 1930s. But
in the 1920s the League of Nations still monitored minority protections, and
Hungary, financially dependent on other countries and hoping to win for-
eign support for a peaceful revision of borders, was in no position to flout
international expectations.
Those Hungarians who supported the numerus clausus might well have
pointed to that fact that as written the restrictions applied to all nationali-
ties and races, not just to Jews. But the verbal sleight of hand did not fool the
law’s international (or domestic) opponents. In 1921 and 1925 the League of
Jason Wittenberg 225

Nations called for an investigation into the compatibility of the racial clause
with Hungary’s obligation to protect minority rights.23 Bethlen chose not to
be present for the original vote when he was a parliamentary representative in
1920, and had some sympathy for imposing restrictions on Jews. But he was
also keen to avoid excesses. Thus, while on the one hand he strove to liquidate
organized anti-Semitism, especially that emanating from the extreme right, he
also systematically excluded Jews from public service.24 Faced with the prospect
of international sanction and wishing in any case to maintain Jewish financial
support for state policies, Bethlen sought to change the law. A 1923 opposition
motion for full repeal was handily rejected.25 However, in 1928 Bethlen secured
parliamentary approval, over the objections of extremists within his own party,
for an amendment that removed the racial language.
If the 1920s were a period in which international norms served as an obstacle
to institutionalized discrimination, the 1930s provided a far more permissive
atmosphere. First, democracy itself was by then under sustained attack. While
in 1920 Hungary was the only state that did not have free and fair elections,
by 1935 no fewer than ten European states had transitioned to authoritarian-
ism, including influential states such as Italy and Germany.26 Dictatorial rule
had become, if not quite popularly legitimate, at least accepted and in many
quarters admired. Hungary itself became even less democratic in the latter half
of the 1930s as power shifted from popular organs such as parliament to the
government and regency.
The rise to prominence of Nazism in Germany breathed new life into anti-
Jewish mobilization all over Europe. Part of this was pure contagion: groups
both inside and outside government that sympathized with German anti-
Jewish policy sought to emulate the German example in their own countries.
This was certainly true in Hungary, where numerous Nazi-type parties emerged
beginning in the early 1930s.27 However, the co-operation pathway was also
present, especially towards the latter part of the 1930s. Germany had by
then become Hungary’s major trading partner, the arbiter of its territorial dis-
putes with other Habsburg successor states, and an open proponent of further
anti-Jewish discrimination. According to Andrew Janos, ‘German leaders did
persistently, indeed obsessively, pressure Hungarian governments to seek more
radical solutions to the Jewish “problem” ’.28
Hungary did in fact adopt two major anti-Jewish laws before entering the
war on the side of Germany, the first in 1938 and the second in 1939. Act
XV of 1938 is known as the ‘first Jewish law’ despite earlier anti-Jewish legisla-
tion.29 Act XV was similar to the numerus clausus, but broader in scope, more
discriminatory in language, and less ambiguous in intent.30 Whereas the 1920
legislation was confined to university admissions, this new law extended restric-
tions to journalism, film and fine arts, law, engineering and medicine. In each
case the proportion of Jews was not to exceed 20 per cent. That this proportion
226 The Evolution of Hungarian Authoritarianism

is less draconian than the earlier restrictions is less an admission of the severity
of the first numerus clausus than recognition of the potential economic harm to
Hungary a lower threshold might pose.31 Unlike the earlier law, Act XV names
Jews specifically as the target, and defines them in religious rather than racial
Act IV of 1939, the second Jewish law, was detailed and draconian, and is only
summarized here. It revived a racial definition of Jewishness, though with some
narrow provision for Christian converts. It lowered the maximum representa-
tion in the professions from 20 per cent (in the first Jewish law) to 6 per cent,
the estimated Jewish proportion in the population. It expanded the number
of sectors where discrimination was legalized, which now included, among
others, land holding, licences for trade, and salaries. Unlike previous legisla-
tion, it introduced outright exclusions. Jews whose families had immigrated to
Hungary after 1867 no longer had the right to vote or serve in parliament. Jews
could no longer serve in the upper house of parliament unless it was as one of
the designated representatives of the Jewish community. They could no longer
serve as editors, publishers or directors, except for exclusively Jewish publica-
tions. Finally, the law added provisions for the protection of national property
in anticipation of Jewish emigration.32

Pathways of German influence

At one level the Jewish laws were a purely domestic matter. With the 1920
numerus clausus Hungary had already established the principle of anti-Jewish
discrimination. Although the numerus clausus did succeed in reducing Jewish
enrolment in higher education, it was less successful at reducing the Jews’ dis-
proportionate position in the economy and culture. Traditional conservatives
and right-wing radicals differed less on the principle of affirmative action for
Christians than on their reasons for support and the manner in which it would
be implemented. The radicals were by no means homogeneous in their politi-
cal views, but there was broad consensus that the traditional toleration of Jews
was unsatisfactory and that the Jews needed to be excluded from economic
and political life. The conservatives acknowledged the need to reduce Jewish
influence but preferred more gradual and humane means. They acceded to the
Jewish laws less out of outright enthusiasm than to dampen popular support,
especially among the middle classes, for the increasingly assertive radical right-
wing parties.33 By 1938 Hungarian public opinion had moved enough to the
right that the first Jewish law passed in the absence of any German pressure
and with minimal opposition even from the small minority of leftist represen-
tatives.34 The far more discriminatory second Jewish law aroused considerably
more indignation and domestic opposition.35 But the prime minister, Pál
Teleki, denied allegations of German pressure, claiming instead that demand
Jason Wittenberg 227

for the legislation arose from Hungarian conditions.36 Horthy dropped his
opposition to the law once it had been amended to afford greater protections
to long-resident assimilated Jews who ‘were as much Hungarian as he was’.37
Nazi German influence was more apparent beneath the surface. One point of
contact was through the radical-right opposition. Berlin was more concerned
about maintaining friendly relations with Hungary than in fomenting a rad-
ical takeover, but it did view the radicals as a tool with which to influence
the direction of domestic policy.38 Concrete information on German sup-
port for Hungarian radical organizations is still scarce, but we know Ferenc
Szálasi, leader of the Arrow Cross, the most important of these movements
by 1937, visited Germany and likely received both advice and financial
Another avenue was through contagion, in particular how the norms of
what was considered acceptable legislation had evolved by the late 1930s.
As noted above, in the early 1920s the international Zeitgeist favoured non-
discrimination. The Minorities Treaties to which the Habsburg successor states
were signatories enshrined the principle into law, and the League of Nations
monitored violations. The 1920 numerus clausus never made reference to Jews
but its adoption nonetheless provoked significant domestic and international
opposition. By the late 1930s, however, it was no longer necessary to sugar-coat
and water down racial prejudice. The two Jewish laws were not nearly as severe
as the 1935 German Nuremberg laws, but if they bear some faint resemblance
to their more famous German counterparts it is no accident: the Hungarian
right-wing radicals that formulated and pushed for the legislation were emulat-
ing the German example. Thanks to Germany, anti-Jewish politics had become
the new normal.
Another and more consequential point of contact was through the conserva-
tive governing elite. Here it can be said that contagion operated in the opposite
way than it did in the case of the radical right. Kurt Weyland has empha-
sized the distinction in diffusion processes between the impetus for change
and the outcome. Sometimes efforts to effect reform succeed, and other times
not.40 German fascism may have emboldened Hungarian right-wing radicals
and breathed new life into popular anti-Semitism, but the conservative elite,
and Horthy in particular, did attempt to stem the tide. One strategy was to
persecute radical leaders. Amid rumours of German machinations and a poten-
tial coup, Ferenc Szálasi’s Arrow Cross movement was dissolved and he himself
was imprisoned in 1938.41 Even prominent government officials were vulner-
able. The prime minister, Béla Imrédy, had been appointed in 1938 because of
his perceived moderation, but in what Janos has described as ‘one of the most
startling turnabouts in Hungarian history’, he joined the radical camp, advo-
cating radical land reform, harsher anti-Jewish legislation (what would become
the second Jewish law) and contempt for the political system. But his domestic
228 The Evolution of Hungarian Authoritarianism

enemies struck back. When he did not step down after losing a no-confidence
vote in parliament, he was presented with evidence of his Jewish ancestry, and
tendered his resignation.42
A more consequential strategy involved curtailing democratic freedoms.
As noted above, although inter-war Hungary had never been a true democracy,
the citizenry nonetheless enjoyed real freedoms. Left-wing parties (though not
the communists) could mobilize voters, albeit within limits; opposition news-
papers continued to publish and criticize the government; and the government
was responsible to parliament. As the perceived threat from the radical right
increased in the 1930s, however, the regent’s power was strengthened. With
the 1937 Regency Act the regent was no longer vulnerable to impeachment,
had the right to approve draft bills before they came up for parliamentary
discussion and could dissolve parliament and call new elections.43 Even more
anti-democratic was the 1939 Defence Act, which empowered the government
to declare a state of emergency and arbitrarily detain individuals, curtail free-
dom of assembly, control wages and prices and suspend press publications.44
Horthy never used these powers to snuff out all opposition, but for the first
time had the legal authority to do so.
Such was conservative fear of popular right-wing radicalism that prominent
officials opposed democratic electoral reform. Sensing popular enthusiasm for
their cause, many radical political leaders favoured introducing the secret bal-
lot in rural areas. The former prime minister, Bethlen, was publicly circumspect
regarding franchise reform, but no doubt expressed the feelings of many con-
servatives in his suspicion that the secret ballot would ‘deliver the country into
the hands of provincial demagogues’ and would lead ‘to dictatorship or to revo-
lution’.45 Parliament reintroduced the secret ballot in 1938, though with further
restrictions on voting eligibility.46 Horthy could have vetoed the measure, but
decided to side with the parliamentary majority, secure in his recently acquired
right to dissolve parliament if he disliked the election result.47
A final pathway of Germany’s influence on anti-Semitic legislation was not
as an exemplar to be emulated (contagion), but through the political lever-
age Germany enjoyed (co-operation). As already noted, there is no evidence
the Jewish laws were in any way a direct consequence of whatever pressure
Germany may have exerted on Hungary in the 1930s to deal with its ‘Jewish
problem’. But the lure of lost territory proved irresistible. When the terms
of the Treaty of Trianon were first made public in January 1920, three days
of national mourning were declared, complete with black flags. Horthy con-
sidered the country’s new borders not just a grave injustice, but a ‘crime
against Western civilization’.48 Horthy had always hoped Britain could broker
a peaceful revision of borders. During the crisis preceding the 1938 Munich
agreement that awarded the Sudetenland to Germany he had even declined
Hitler’s offer of Slovakia in exchange for Hungarian participation in an invasion
Jason Wittenberg 229

of Czechoslovakia. However, Britain’s capitulation to German demands and

neglect of Hungary’s territorial claims convinced Horthy that currying favour
with Germany would serve the national interest.49 It is in this context that
Horthy’s acquiescence to the second Jewish law should be seen.
The second Jewish law was enacted in May 1939, just six months after the
so-called First Vienna Award of November 1938. Brokered by Germany and
Italy, the agreement reassigned from Czechoslovakia to Hungary more than
11,000 km2 land and more than one million people, the majority of whom were
Hungarian. Horthy received a rapturous welcome when he entered the newly
‘liberated’ city of Kassa on a white stallion.50 But the real territorial prize lay not
north in Czechoslovakia, but east in Romania. Under the Second Vienna Award
of August 1940 Hungary received 43,000 km2 land and 2.5 million new inhab-
itants, the majority of whom were probably Hungarian.51 Horthy was again
received in these territories by the Hungarians, and probably not a few Jews
who felt themselves Hungarian, with jubilation. Neither of the two agreements
fully restored the territorial integrity of pre-Trianon Hungary, but they did go
some way in revising what in Hungary was almost universally considered an
unjust post-war peace settlement.
Although Horthy had once declared that even extraordinary methods were
justified in seeking territorial revision,52 there were limits on how much he was
willing to embrace an Axis policy in pursuit of national goals. For example,
against the advice of some that Hungarian failure to support a German inva-
sion of Poland would needlessly anger Hitler, both Horthy and Teleki agreed
that the best policy was strict neutrality. Just how serious they were became
evident days after the war began, when Horthy refused to permit the passage of
German troops through Hungarian territory, even with the promise of receiving
a piece of Polish territory in return. Horthy regarded such assistance as dishon-
ourable and a ‘moral impossibility’ in view of Hungary’s long friendship with
Poland.53 Alas, he did not have such strong feelings for Hungarian Jews. Horthy
disliked the Nazis, and deserves credit for resisting calls to implement his own
‘final solution’, but he was a self-confessed anti-Semite who tolerated Jews only
because they controlled wealth Hungary needed. Whatever his discomfort at
the ‘inhuman, sadistic humiliation’ they were receiving, it did not cause him
to oppose the openly racist August 1941 third Jewish law, which in the name
of race protection prohibited marriages or even sexual relations between Jews
and Christians.54 Nuremberg had finally come to Budapest.55


This chapter has taken up the call to examine international influences on

domestic dictatorial developments. The analysis of the evolution of anti-
Jewish legislation in inter-war Hungary illustrates two larger points. First, the
230 The Evolution of Hungarian Authoritarianism

distinction between domestic and international factors can be more apparent

than real. Although the numerus clausus cannot be linked to a foreign actor
and contradicted then-prevailing international norms, the chaotic post-war cir-
cumstances under which Hungary ratified it were themselves created by forces
beyond Hungary’s control. Perhaps we should focus less on labelling and more
on specifying the pathway whereby a factor operates.
Second, it can be difficult definitively to establish the links between the exis-
tence of a dictatorial practice in one state and its adoption in another. On the
one hand, politicians are loath to acknowledge foreign influence when they
are considering policy that is perceived to be popular. Whatever part Germany
actually played, Teleki was at pains to minimize any German role in the second
Jewish law. On the other hand, ex-post, politicians are just as eager to devolve
onto others responsibility for policies that turn out to be disastrous. The vast
majority of Hungarian Jewry perished in the Holocaust, and thus after the war
it became fashionable for many to blame the Germans for legislation that was
interpreted as a precursor to genocide. Navigating such shoals may not be easy,
but it is a task we should be eager to take up.

1. The author would like to thank Andrew Janos, António Costa Pinto, Aristotle Kallis
and two anonymous referees for their generous comments on earlier versions of this
2. C. Iordachi, ‘Fascism in inter-war east central and southeastern Europe: Toward a
new transnational research agenda’, East Central Europe 37, 2010, p. 195.
3. T. Ambrosio, ‘Constructing a framework of authoritarian diffusion: Concepts,
dynamics, and future research’, International Studies Perspectives II, 2010, pp. 375–392.
4. See P. Morgan, Fascism in Europe, 1919–1945, London, Routledge, 2003.
5. The most comprehensive review of the so-called ‘colour’ revolutions in the former
Soviet Union remains V. J. Bunce and S. L. Wolchik, Defeating Authoritarian Leaders in
Postcommunist Countries, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011.
6. Cited in Z. Elkins and B. Simmons, ‘On waves, clusters, and diffusion: A concep-
tual framework’, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 33,
no. 598, 2005, pp. 38–51.
7. See, for example, N. Bermeo, Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times: The Citi-
zenry and the Breakdown of Democracy, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press,
2003; G. Capoccia, Defending Democracy: Reactions to Extremism in Interwar Europe,
Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.
8. Though for an important exception see K. Weyland, ‘The diffusion of regime con-
tention in European democratization, 1830–1940’, Comparative Political Studies 43,
nos. 8/9, 2010, pp. 1148–1176; Bunce and Wolchik, Defeating Authoritarian Leaders,
9. See A. C. Janos, The Politics of Backwardness in Hungary, Princeton, NJ, Princeton
University Press, 1982, p. 301.
10. These actions correspond closely to what Aristotle Kallis has identified as a dictatorial
departure from liberal politics, where a democratic system is suspended to protect it
Jason Wittenberg 231

from radical domestic challengers. See A. Kallis, ‘The “fascist critical mass” and the
dynamics of political hybridisation in 1930s Europe’, paper presented at the Lisbon
workshop on fascism, 4–5 February 2011, pp. 19–20. In the case of Hungary, however,
the system was already dictatorial, and the challengers may or may not have been
11. Technically Hungary was a monarchy due to elite disagreement on the desirability
of establishing a republic. Horthy was thus elected regent, to serve until the throne
could be filled or a republic declared.
12. I. Romsics, Hungary in the Twentieth Century, Budapest, Corvina, 1999, pp. 181–191
provides a concise overview of the main features of the regime.
13. See M. Mann, Fascists, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 45.
14. Romsics, Hungary, p. 190.
15. C.A. Macartney, October Fifteenth: A History of Modern Hungary, 1929–1945, Vol. I,
Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1956, p. 49.
16. Cited in T. Sakmyster, Hungary’s Admiral on Horseback: Miklós Horthy, 1918–1944,
Boulder, CO, East European Monographs, 1994, p. 124.
17. Cited in Janos, The Politics of Backwardness, p. 210.
18. See ibid., pp. 298–300.
19. This paragraph borrows from ibid., pp. 287–290.
20. See M. M. Kovács, ‘The problem of continuity between the 1920 numerus clausus and
post-1938 anti-Jewish legislation in Hungary’, East European Jewish Affairs 35, no. 1,
2005, pp. 23–32.
21. Janos, The Politics of Backwardness, p. 223.
22. See Kovács, ‘The problem of continuity’ and P. T. Nagy, ‘The numerus clausus in inter-
war Hungary: Pioneering European anti-Semitism’, East European Jewish Affairs 35,
no. 1, 2005, pp. 13–22. Nagy also notes (pp. 16–17) that using religious affiliation as
a criterion was not feasible because that would have prejudiced the Protestants, who
were overrepresented in government, the intelligentsia, and the middle classes.
23. Kovács, ‘The problem of continuity’, p. 24.
24. See Janos, The Politics of Backwardness, pp. 222–227.
25. Nagy, ‘The numerus clausus’, pp. 18–19.
26. Bermeo, Ordinary People, p. 23.
27. N. Katzburg, Hungary and the Jews: Policy and Legislation 1920–1943, Ramat-Gan, Bar-
Ilan University Press, 1981, p. 90.
28. Janos, The Politics of Backwardness, p. 301.
29. Kovács, ‘The problem of continuity’, p. 30 notes that in 1937 parliament passed a
special numerus clausus for the legal profession.
30. The text of the law may be found in Igazságügyi Törvények Tára XXI (1938), 3. szám,
pp. 27–29.
31. Sakmyster, Hungary’s Admiral, p. 210, notes that Horthy, who did not object to the
legislation, remarked that Hungary still needed the Jews for rearmament, and if anti-
Jewish legislation were too radical, the Jews might flee the country with their wealth.
32. See Katzburg, Hungary and the Jews, pp. 139–141; M. M. Kovács, Liberal Professions and
Illiberal Politics: Hungary from the Habsburgs to the Holocaust, Oxford, Oxford Univer-
sity Press, 1994, pp. 104–105; Macartney, October Fifteenth, pp. 324–325. The full text
of the law can be found in Igazságügyi Törvények Tára XXII (1939), 2. szám, pp. 81–92.
33. Katzburg, Hungary and the Jews, pp. 96–98.
34. See Sakmyster, Hungary’s Admiral, p. 210.
35. See Katzburg, Hungary and the Jews, pp. 114–138 for reactions and details of the
domestic debate.
232 The Evolution of Hungarian Authoritarianism

36. Ibid., p. 135; B. Ablonczy, Pál Teleki (1874–1941): The Life of a Controversial Hungarian
Politician, Boulder, CO, Social Science Monographs, 2006, p. 183.
37. Cited in Sakmyster, Hungary’s Admiral, p. 229.
38. See Morgan, Fascism in Europe, pp. 78–79.
39. M. Ormos, Hungary in the Age of the Two World Wars 1914–1945, Boulder, CO, Social
Science Monographs, 2007, p. 266; Kovács, Liberal Professions, p. 102.
40. Weyland, ‘The diffusion of regime contention’.
41. See Macartney, October Fifteenth, pp. 188; 229–230.
42. Janos, The Politics of Backwardness, pp. 291–293.
43. Macartney, October Fifteenth, pp. 189–190.
44. Ibid., p. 324; Janos, The Politics of Backwardness, pp. 305–306.
45. Cited in Ignác Romsics, István Bethlen: A Great Conservative Statesman of Hungary,
1874–1946. Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs, 1995, p. 326.
46. See Macartney, October Fifteenth, pp. 190–191.
47. See Sakmyster, Hungary’s Admiral, pp. 210–211.
48. Ibid., p. 63.
49. See ibid., pp. 214–219.
50. Ibid., p. 220.
51. For debates surrounding the exact figures, see Romsics, István Bethlen pp. 198–201.
52. Sakmyster, Hungary’s Admiral, p. 63.
53. Ibid., p. 233; 238. Quotation cited in Macartney, October Fifteenth, p. 362.
54. See Katzburg, Hungary and the Jews, pp. 158–183.
55. See Horthy’s October 14, 1940 note to Prime Minister Teleki, which can be found in
János Pelle, Sowing the Seeds of Hatred: Anti-Jewish Laws and Hungarian Public Opinion,
1938–1944. Boulder, CO, East European Monographs, 2004, p. 95.
A Continuum of Dictatorships: Hybrid
Totalitarian Experiments in Romania,
Constantin Iordachi

In December 1937, the national general elections in Romania produced an

inconclusive result: for the first time in the country’s inter-war history, no
political party managed to reach the electoral threshold of 40 per cent of the
total number of votes in order to benefit from the electoral bonus award-
ing the majority of seats in the parliament, as stipulated by the 1926 law.
Instead, the result confirmed two general trends already evident in the 1933
elections: the gradual erosion of popular support for the great bourgeois-
democratic parties, the National Liberal Party (PNL – Partidul Naţional Liberal)
and the National Peasants’ Party (PNT – Partidul Naţional Ţărănesc) on the one
hand, and the rising tide of new nationalist parties, among which the most
important were the fascist Legion of Archangel Michael and the conservative-
right National-Christian Party (PNC – Partidul Naţional Creştin) on the other.
To be sure, although party politics in Romania was clearly recast as a confronta-
tion between bourgeois-democratic and radical parties, the electoral balance
was still overwhelmingly in favour of the former, with the PNL obtaining
35.92 per cent of the vote, the dissident liberal faction led by Gheorghe
Brătianu 3.89 per cent and the PNT 20.40 per cent. At the same time, the radical
nationalist pole was, however, not only particularly strong – with a record of
15.53 per cent of the votes for the All for the Fatherland Party (representing the
Legion) and 9.15 per cent for the PNC – but also on the offensive.1 The power
balance between the two political poles was reversed by King Carol II: eager
to undermine the parliamentary regime, in December 1937 Carol II capitalized
on the PNL’s failure to produce an absolute majority and brought to power the
minor National-Christian Party as a prelude to his own personal regime.
In retrospect, the 1937 elections and their repercussions marked a major
turning point in Romania’s history, the first in a series of departures from

234 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

the pluralistic, multi-party parliamentary political system established after

the First World War. Over the next six years, Romania was to experience a
succession of hybrid dictatorial regimes: the royal dictatorship (10 February
1938–6 September 1940); the National-Legionary State (14 September 1940–14
February 1941); and the military dictatorship of General (later Marshall) Ion
Antonescu (6 September 1940–23 August 1944), followed, after a short inter-
regnum in the post-war period, by the Communist takeover on 6 March 1945.
The 1937 voting was to thus be Romania’s last free elections in more than 50
years (1937–90).
This chapter discusses this cumulative succession of departures from democ-
racy leading to multiple totalitarian experiments in Romania’s political life
(1937–44). While the history of these regimes has been routinely approached
in isolation from each other, here we will approach this period of upheaval
in Romania’s history as a continuum, being mostly interested in the political
legacy of these experiments and the way they built on each other as part of
a wider transnational process of political radicalization. To identify the com-
plex patterns of continuities and raptures between these regimes, the chapter
employs a dual comparative perspective: diachronic, underscoring processes of
political transition from one regime to another; and synchronic, to account
for the wider transnational influences and transfers between these political
experiments in Romania and similar regimes in contemporary Europe.
Theoretically and methodologically, the research is anchored in the field of
comparative fascist studies, but it challenges the received wisdom in this field
in two major ways. First, students of fascism generally operate with a clear-cut
typology of political ideologies and movements, differentiating at a concep-
tual level between genuine fascism, the radical right and the conservative
right.2 At an analytical level, the differentiation between conservative author-
itarian, radical right-wing and fascist movements and parties is indispensable
for comparative work, enabling historians to distinguish between related radi-
cal political phenomena and account for similarities and differences within the
wider ‘family of authoritarians’ in inter-war Europe.3 In historical reality, how-
ever, these ideal types are never to be found in pure form, as Max Weber, the
pioneer of this research method, pertinently pointed out; in politics in par-
ticular, the fluid nature of ideologies, the dynamics of the political process
and the multiple social-political factors that generally shape the nature and
outlook of political regimes generate hybrid outcomes.4 This is all the more
true for post-1918 Europe, a period of upheaval marked by grand experiments
and cross-fertilizations across a wide spectrum of mass ideologies and move-
ments, which resulted in peculiar political outcomes. From this perspective,
the aim here is not to arrive at a static typological classification of the suc-
cessive political regimes established in Romania made up of royal, fascist and
conservative-military dictatorships, but to understand the complex interaction
Constantin Iordachi 235

between social-political actors, the interplay between local and foreign polit-
ical models and the hybridization of ideological options, political styles and
institutional forms.
Second, we argue that wartime fascist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe
should be given greater historiographical attention. As is well known, the con-
cept of fascism can refer to a trans-national ideology, to a set of related political
movements and to a set of related political regimes. Each aspect of the triad
ideology–movement–regime has its own history and diachronic evolution, and
can be analysed separately by means of distinct methodologies. To date, how-
ever, comparative works on fascism have focused predominantly on the nature
of the fascist ideology and the movements it generated. At the same time, the
history of fascism in power has remained relatively under-researched, with the
notable exceptions of the independent and long-lasting regimes in Fascist Italy
(1922–43) and Nazi Germany (1933–45). The lack of research on the topic is
most evident in regard to the history of wartime fascist regimes in Central
and Eastern Europe. These regimes have been largely discarded as puppet gov-
ernments in Nazi satellite countries. This perspective is accurate insofar as it
describes the subordinate position of these regimes to the foreign policy goals
and military plans of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. It highlights the fact that
fascist movements in Central and Eastern Europe were not able to gain power
without the assistance of external factors. Yet the label ‘puppet governments’ is
also misleading, since it inaccurately denies these regimes any form of internal
autonomy, agency or (illiberal, as it were) institutional creativity, thus reducing
them to would-be copies of National Socialism or Italian Fascism.
Building mainly on research insights advanced by Zeev Sternhell, Stanley
Payne and Robert O. Paxton, a handful of researchers have attempted to con-
struct a more comprehensible analytical framework for understanding fascism
in power. Aristotle A. Kallis in particular pleads for a redirection of the research
agenda in fascist studies from ideal-types of generic fascist ideology to con-
structing a regime-model of fascism in power.5 This chapter follows on this
research agenda. Without diminishing the paramount analytical importance
of ideal-type models of fascist ideology for the study of inter-war fascism
this chapter focuses on the neglected issue of fascism in power by explor-
ing the case study of Romania. It argues that the short-lived regime of the
Legion of the Archangel Michael provides an interesting experiment of fascist
totalitarianism in action. Instead of discarding this regime as a puppet gov-
ernment, or of exclusively highlighting the internal and external constraints
upon the Legion’s rule, it explores this regime’s social-political agenda and
evaluate its successes and failures in building a totalitarian state. This regime
is seen not simply as marking the transition from the royal dictatorship to
Antonescu’s regime, but as a pivotal experiment shaping politics in wartime
236 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

Politics in Greater Romania: between nationalist consensus

and ideological competitions

Unification, state building and elite competition

The multiple departures from democratic politics in Romania in the period
1937–44 cannot be fully understood without taking into account the evolu-
tion of the country’s political regime in the inter-war period. The Old Kingdom
of Romania entered the First World War in 1916 on the side of the Entente, and
was fully transformed by this experience. Although during the war Romania
suffered massive human losses and experienced a long period of military occu-
pation, at the end it managed to double its size (from 130,177 km2 in 1914 to
295,049 km2 in 1919) and population (from 7,771,341 in 1914 to 14,669,841 in
1919). In addition, following the socio-political upheaval of the war, compre-
hensive reforms such as universal male suffrage (1919), land redistribution
(1921) and a new liberal constitution (1923) granted full citizenship rights
to peasants and emancipated subordinated ethno-religious minorities such as
Jews, thus effectively remodelling the state into a parliamentary democracy.
Despite these far-reaching reforms, the processes of post-war political reorga-
nization in Greater Romania – as the country was generally referred to – proved
arduous, being marked by numerous structural crises related to the establish-
ment and legitimization of a new political order, conflicts among regional
political elite groupings in the process of state unification, the expansion of
a bureaucratized state administration and its relation to local communities,
the integration of ethnic minorities and dilemmas of collective identity. The
process of internal integration was hampered by the fact Greater Romania
(1918–40) was a heterogeneous assembly of multiple historical provinces.
To the Old Kingdom – made up of the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia
(unified in 1859) and the former Ottoman province of Dobrudja (annexed in
1878) – were added the province of Bessarabia (1918), which had been occu-
pied by Russia from 1812 to 1918; Transylvania, the Banat, Maramureş and the
Partium, which had been part of Hungary; and Bukovina, a former province
of Austria. Moreover, although Greater Romania was conceived as a nation
state of ethnic Romanians as the dominant or titular nation – who numbered
12,981,324 people, or 71.9 per cent of the total population in 1930 – the coun-
try also encompassed a high ratio of minorities that amounted to 28.1 per cent
of the population.6
After succeeding at political unification, the political elite faced the chal-
lenge of fostering the administrative integration, cultural assimilation and
legislative harmonization of these heterogeneous amalgams, as the historical
provinces that composed the country had been shaped by different imperial
legacies and socio-political systems. Not surprisingly, the organization of the
new state led to persistent debates among rival factions of the political elite,
Constantin Iordachi 237

who advanced distinct ideological projects vying for political dominance, ani-
mated by liberalism, agrarianism, social democracy or radical ideologies, such
as fascism or communism. Employing Paul Colomy’s theoretical framework
on institutional change, we can differentiate three types of nation- and state-
building projects in inter-war Romania as a function of their relation to the
pre-war Old Kingdom: (1) ‘elaborative’, promoting only minor reforms of the
existing institutional framework with the aim of perpetuating practices that
functioned in the pre-1918 Old Kingdom, and thus protecting their traditional
interest groups; (2) ‘reconstructive’, arguing for an ample institutional reor-
ganization of the post-war Greater Romania leading to the creation of new
bureaucratic agencies and roles, in favour of new political interest groups; and
(3) ‘totalizing’, working for a radical reorganization of the existing institu-
tional order, either in the form of classical revolutions or of charismatic ethical
The Romanian political elites of the Old Kingdom, grouped mostly in the
PNL, promoted an ‘elaborative’ institutional agenda. Arguing Greater Romania
was a continuation of the Old Kingdom, they advocated the extension of that
country’s pre-war legislation to the newly incorporated provinces as a means of
homogenizing Greater Romania’s legislation and administrative system. In con-
trast to this dominant view originating from the political centre, regional elites
in the newly joined territories promoted an alternative, ‘reconstructive’ insti-
tutional agenda. Arguing that Greater Romania was a new state that had to
establish its distinct socio-political organization, these elites demanded post-
war negotiations for power positions among the political elites of all historical
regions, which were to lead to forms of decentralization of the decision-making
processes. The most powerful proponent of this view was the National Party led
by Iuliu Maniu and active in Transylvania and the Banat, where it had a strong
electoral basis due to its decade-long fight for the Romanian national cause
in Austria-Hungary. Resenting the abolition of its post-1918 monopoly over
Transylvania’s regional affairs in 1920, the National Party fused in 1926 with
the Peasants’ Party of the Old Kingdom to form the PNT as a new party with
nationwide coverage.
The political terminology employed by the proponents of these two main
competing perspectives on national unification, advanced by the National-
Liberal versus the National-Peasant parties, was also different: while the political
elites of the Old Kingdom demanded the integration of the new provinces into
the existing state structures through a process of legislative extension, regional
political elites spoke of unification through post-war pan-regional power nego-
tiations.8 The PNL and the PNT were also divided over Romania’s economic
policy and the role of the state in fostering economic development. The former
put the emphasis on sheltered industrialization under the slogan ‘by our own
means’: they favoured local capital over foreign investment.9 In contrast, the
238 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

PNT promoted the idea of a peasant state based on a large strata of independent,
self-sufficient farmers, and called for an open door policy to foreign capital.
After a short post-war interregnum of political upheaval and reorganization
(1919–22), in the first post-war decade Bucharest’s view on national integra-
tion prevailed. The process of ‘nationalizing the state’ by the Romanian ethnic
majority was shaped by the vision advanced by the PNL. Animated by the
strong personality of its leader, Ion I. C. Brătianu, and taking advantage of his
overwhelming influence over King Ferdinand, the PNL dominated politics in
the first post-war decade and implemented its view on the process of adminis-
trative and cultural homogenization, campaigning for state continuity between
the Old Kingdom and Greater Romania.
In the late 1920s, the PNT emerged as Romania’s most popular politi-
cal party and managed to challenge the PNL’s political rule by channelling
regional elite resistance against Bucharest-based centralization. On 6 May
1928 a massive public demonstration organized by the PNT in Alba Iulia
(the city where the union of Transylvania with Romania was proclaimed
on 1 December 1918) against the NLP’s political dominance, signalled the
impatience of regional elites in acquiring political power. In the same year,
the PNT obtained a crushing victory over the PNL, gaining 77.76 per cent
of the vote. While it formed the government (1928–31 and 1932–33), the
PNT attempted to reorganize Romania’s political life and administrative sys-
tem by promoting forms of descentralization and devolution. However, their
political experiment was both short-lived and conciliatory to the existing sta-
tus quo rather than revolutionary. In addition, its implementation was also
marred by the dramatic social impact of the Great Depression that was felt in
Romania from 1929 to 1933. The process of legislative unification and polit-
ical integration within Greater Romania progressed gradually – marked by
the adoption of a new civil code (1932) – which further eliminated regional
legal disparities. Overall, although Romania’s main political parties called for
the implementation of different social projects: the PNL favouring consolida-
tion of the native bourgeoisie through policies of sheltered industrialization,
while the PNT called for the creation of a peasant state through the develop-
ment of agriculture and co-operation with foreign capital, they both defended
a constitutional, multi-party parliamentary system, and promoted moder-
ate state-building measures, which safeguarded the standard rights of ethnic
minorities as stipulated in Romania’s domestic legislation and international

The far right: between integral nationalism and fascism

In contrast to the bourgeois-democratic political parties committed to the con-

stitutional, multi-party parliamentary regime, several right-wing movements
Constantin Iordachi 239

emerged in inter-war Romania, animated by the doctrine of integral

nationalism and proposing various ‘totalizing’ projects of socio-political
transformation.10 The doctrine of integral nationalism was inherited from
nationalist thinkers at the turn of the century, but invested with new con-
notations by the inter-war far right. The main tenet of integral nationalism
was the ethnic nationalization of the state under the slogan ‘Romania to the
Romanians’. Its main goal was the removal of ‘foreigners’ – that is, of the
non-ethnic Romanian members of society – from positions of power and repre-
sentation, and their replacement with ethnic Romanians. In the Old Kingdom
the main grievances of the Romanian nationalists focused on the status of the
Jewish population, concentrated mostly in northern Moldova. It is known that
Romania was the last country in Europe to emancipate its Jewish population
(1918–19). Until then Jews were classed as non-citizen residents: they lived
on Romanian territory and were subjects, but not citizens, of the Romanian
state. This status implied numerous duties (most importantly the duties of tax-
ation and military service) without granting full civil, economic and political
rights. An elaborate system of segregation, discrimination and exploitation,
made up of around 250 laws, deprived Jews of significant civil, social and eco-
nomic rights. The legal justification for this system was the doctrine of the
‘Christian state;’ the economic justification was the Jewish ‘domination’ of cer-
tain economic activities and liberal professions, and their compact geographical
concentration in certain areas, most notably northern Moldova, which was
portrayed by contemporaries as a genuine ‘Jewish invasion’. This system of
exclusion and discrimination was partially dismantled, under pressure from the
international community, in 1878, and fully abolished in 1919 under the terms
of the Minority Convention.11
The emancipation of the Jews was bitterly contested during the inter-war
period by the emerging radical right, which pleaded for the reinstatement of
the pre-war regime of constitutional nationalism. In the annexed territories, in
addition to the Jews, Romanian nationalists targeted the Hungarians, regarding
this group as a former privileged ‘imperial minority’ due to its urban concen-
tration and domination of the liberal profession and state bureaucracies in
the annexed provinces of Transylvania and the Banat. Although there was a
nationalist consensus in Romanian society over the aim of nationalizing the
state, the process was differently conceived by various factions of the politi-
cal elite, which were by different nationalist visions: the traditional right saw
ethnic nationalization as the end result of a gradual process of social and politi-
cal transformation implemented from above through legal-bureaucratic means,
while the radical right conceived of this process as a rapid, bottom-up cam-
paign, implemented through a violent right-wing revolution at the grass-roots
level. The radical right blamed the Great Powers and international organi-
zations for the ‘forced’ emancipation of non-citizens in Romania. They also
240 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

criticized traditional Romanian political elites for the slow pace of state nation-
alization and agitated for the implementation of a policy of numerus clausus in
education, the economy and politics.
In the early post-war years the main catalyst of integral nationalism were
the 1920–22 student movements that swept provincial Romanian universities
such as the University of Iaşi in northern Moldova and the University of Cluj
in Transylvania, where the new Romanian order was not yet consolidated and
the student body was ethnically mixed. After the student mobilization began to
wane, the most radical activists searched for ways to channel the student move-
ment into a nationalist political movement. In a first phase, these activists,
led by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu from Iaşi and Ion I. Moţa from Cluj, con-
tributed to the creation of the National-Christian Defence League (LANC –
Liga Apărării Naţional Creştine) established in 1923 under the leadership of
the influential and notoriously anti-Semitic A. C. Cuza, a professor at the
University of Iaşi. The electoral heartland of this organization was mostly in
northern Moldova and Bukovina, but it also made inroads into Maramureş and
Transylvania. Its programme focused mainly on ‘solving’ the Jewish question
in Romania by restrictive measures implemented from above. LANC opposed
the emancipation of Romanian Jews in the 1923 Constitution and called for
the nationalization of trade in Romanian hands through economic restrictions
imposed on the Jewish population.
LANC was a laboratory for the crystallization of fascist ideas and rit-
ual practices, in view of its rabid anti-Semitism, the violent activity of
its blue-uniformed paramilitary groups (lăncieri, or spearmen) and its anti-
establishment orientation. This new paramilitary style of politics, however,
increased the gap between LANC’s conservative leadership and the new genera-
tion of radical student activists. For this reason, the radical activists’ association
with the new party was short-lived. In 1927 the group led by Codreanu
and Moţa decided to leave and establish their own movement, the Legion
of the Archangel Michael.12 Although sharing LANC’s nationalism and anti-
Semitism, Codreanu criticized A. C. Cuza’s ‘moderate’ political discourse and
old-fashioned methods. By leaving LANC, the radical nucleus of activists dis-
tanced themselves from the mainstream nationalism promoted by the previous
generation and put forward a messianic call to generational solidarity under
the banner of charismatic nationalism.
It has been argued elsewhere by this author that the Legion was a fascist
totalitarian organization: its ideology reinterpreted major themes of romantic
nationalism in novel forms, adapting them to the new socio-political context
of inter-war Romania.13 First, the Legion was successful in appropriating the
romantic palingenetic myth of national rebirth, portraying itself as the instru-
ment of divine salvation and redemption. Second, it gave the militant spirit
of the turn-of-the-century integral nationalism an anti-systemic orientation
Constantin Iordachi 241

that was missing in its conservative-elitist variant. It merged pre-war anti-

Semitism with post-1917 anti-communism into a new ideological formula: that
of the Judeo-Bolshevik world conspiracy. Third, it added new elements to the
conservative-elitist commitment to militarism and religious values, such as the
urgency of apocalyptic thinking, emphasis on expiation of sins through suffer-
ing and violent self-sacrifice and ideas about metempsychosis linked with the
cult of the ancestors, the cult of the dead and of the martyrs. Fourth, the Legion
had a revolutionary character, which was evident in its totalitarian drive, its
paramilitary organization and the charismatic nature of its leadership. It aimed
to remove the ‘corrupt’ and ‘decadent’ political elite and replace it with a
new youth fascist elite entrusted with the mission to save Romania under a
charismatic leader. The Legion promoted an integral view of politics, govern-
ing all aspects in the life of its followers. It exercised a new type of charismatic,
oath-taking authority over its members, demanding total and unconditional
devotion to the movement and the leader. It also promoted new forms of polit-
ical organization and activism, militarizing the party and organizing it along
the values of hierarchy and discipline, and implementing innovative forms of
socialization and of pedagogical education aiming at the creation of the new
fascist man.
Although this radical ethno-nationalist project was apparently close to the
elaborative or reconstructive projects proposed by various sections of tradi-
tional elites, the agenda of the new fascist movement was in fact radically
anti-systemic, as it aimed at seizing the state by violent means, reconfiguring
it along totalitarian lines and forging a homogeneous ethnic community. Their
vision of rebirth and regeneration of the country entailed the purification of the
political body of all ‘foreign’, ‘unhealthy’ or ‘corrupt’ elements through denatu-
ralization and deportation. The Legionary project was not only directed against
high-status minorities, most notably the Jews and the Hungarians, but also
against Romanian political elites, who allegedly betrayed the national cause,
thus leading to intra-ethnic ideological strife as well.

Prelude to dictatorship: economic crisis and political

departures, 1930–37

As long as the PNT was successful in channelling anti-liberal feelings, far right
political parties had a narrow space in which to capture popular protest in order
to enter mainstream politics. The Great Depression of 1929–33, and the failure
of the democratic opposition led by the PNT to provide a coherent alterna-
tive to the PNL, led to long-term political changes. On the one hand, popular
support for major traditional parties began to erode and the number of active
voters decreased from 77.5 per cent in 1928 to 71.0 per cent in 1932. On the
other hand, a multitude of new political factions and groupings emerged, most
242 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

of them with similar regional backgrounds and programmes: there were seven
significant political parties in 1928, 12 in 1931 and 17 in 1932. Overall, dur-
ing the period 1928–32, old parties lost around 38.5 per cent of their electoral
support, of which 74.0 per cent was absorbed by new political parties.14
Since the 1930 another major factor impacted Romania’s politics and affect-
ing the evolution of its political regime: Carol II’s ascension to the throne. As
a prince heir, Carol – son of King Ferdinand I and Marie of Edinburgh – had
earned himself a poor reputation: after several scandals and a long-term extra-
marital relationship with Elena Lupescu, Carol was forced to renounce his right
to the throne on 28 December 1925 in favour of his under-age son, Michael
I, who reigned from 1927 to 1930.15 However, on 7 June 1930, Carol arrived
unexpectedly in Romania and was proclaimed king the next day, with help
from certain factions of the Romanian political class but against the wishes of
a significant part of it. The issue continued to divide the political establish-
ment for years to come. In addition to the much-contested circumstances of
his enthronement and conjugal life, the new king proved to have an appetite
for authoritarian rule. His political actions constantly subverted party poli-
tics and the parliamentary regime, gradually preparing the political ground
for establishing his personal regime. To this end, the king set up two non-
party cabinets of national union led by loyal politicians such as Nicolae Iorga
and Constantin Argetoianu, surrounded himself with an influential but highly
unpopular entourage, the camarila regală (the court clique); and undermined
internal party politics by appointing as prime minister Gheorghe Tătărescu, a
leader of the PNL’s Young Liberal faction, in defiance of the PNL’s president,
Dinu Brătianu.
Entering politics in 1927, the Legion was to be the most successful radi-
cal movement in challenging the existing political order. Its charismatic type
of legitimization was disruptive of democratic politics based on legal-rational
authority, but it was also disruptive of patronage politics based on party clien-
telism (called politicianism), and as such was highly subversive of the existing
order. The Legion’s unrivalled commitment and fanaticism challenged conven-
tional politics, obstructing patrons’ freedom of movement and forcing them
to take sides in the conflict between the formal legal-rational and charismatic
Until 1936, King Carol II attempted to disrupt the Legion’s charismatic cohe-
siveness by channelling it into a privileged patron–client relation. The Legion
benefited from governmental favours, such as facilities to organize the 1936
student congress in Târgu Mureş, but still continued its radical critique of the
political elite, also targeting Elena Lupescu and the king’s clique. The failure of
the king’s strategy of co-optation led to an open confrontation with the Legion.
On 29 August 1936, the king reshuffled the government and demanded firmer
measures against political radicalism. These measures were evidently meant to
Constantin Iordachi 243

make the Legion understand the heavy price it would pay for its refusal to
co-operate. After this demonstration of force, in February 1937 Carol II made
a final attempt to subordinate the Legion. Secret negotiations for political col-
laboration with Codreanu were fruitless, however. To the king’s request to be
proclaimed ‘Captain’ of the Legion, Codreanu responded that his charismatic
authority was unique and non-transferable, and argued that charismatic faith
cannot be the object of a political transfer.16 Moreover, in the parliamentary
elections of December 1937, Codreanu joined an anti-Carol political alliance
with the PNT led by Maniu and the dissident Liberal faction led by Gheorghe
Brătianu. As noted above, those elections marked the final crisis of the parlia-
mentary political regime in Romania. Apparently the Legion was the potential
winner, since it became the country’s third political force, with a consider-
able potential for growth. The political accession of the Legion was, however,
a double-edge sword, since its incomplete victory made it vulnerable to state

Caesarism in power: the king’s personal regime, 10 February

1938–4 September 1940

Encouraged by the political crisis caused by the results of the December 1937
elections, King Carol II decided to pursue his long-harboured plans to institute
a regime of personal authority, called dictatura regală (royal dictatorship). Royal
dictatorships were not uncommon in the Balkans during the inter-war years
(e.g. Alexander I in Yugoslavia, 1929–31, and Boris III in Bulgaria, 1938–43).
Their establishment was usually an ad hoc response by the monarchy and loyal
factions of traditional elites to structural political crises. A principal aim of royal
dictatorships was to restore political stability by curtailing pluralism and antag-
onistic party politics, and to block the radical right’s access to power. To gain
political legitimacy and effectively neutralize fascism, in addition to activating
traditional elements of the royal type of authority, these regimes also employed
fascist trappings, such as the cult of the leader, the indoctrination of youth
and its enrolment into a single mass organization, and emphasis on the propa-
ganda themes of salvation and redemption of the nation. Such trappings were
also intended to make these regimes appear modern and dynamic, in tune with
the new style of mass politics emerging in inter-war Europe.
The establishment and consolidation of Carol’s personal regime took place
in several stages, each constituting a major departure from the multi-party, par-
liamentary political regime. First, in order to bring about the collapse of the
multi-party parliamentary system, on 28 December 1937 Carol II brought the
PNC, led by A. C. Cuza and Octavian Goga, to power, despite it only having
won 10 per cent of the votes and finishing fourth in the elections. To con-
trol Octavian Goga’s new government, Carol appointed his close collaborator
244 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

Armand Călinescu Minister of the Interior, and Ion Antonescu as his Minister
of Defence (the careers of these two politicians will be explored in more detail
below). Unsurprisingly, the PNC was unable to stabilize the tense political sit-
uation. Instead, it introduced a decree that revoked the granting of citizenship
to Romanian Jews and, with the help of their paramilitary lăncieri and police,
engaged in a political vendetta against its enemies, marked by several vio-
lent confrontations with the Legion’s paramilitary troops. While the country
plunged into political and economic chaos and having lost much of its exter-
nal political credit, the ruling party was busy preparing new general elections
with the aim of winning a parliamentary majority.
The uncertain outcome of the future parliamentary elections worried Carol II,
however, as he feared that either the nationalist right or the democratic oppo-
sition would be able to claim a sweeping electoral victory or come together
on an anti-Carlist platform. To prevent such an unwanted outcome, the king
decided on a pre-emptive strike. After only 40 days of PNC rule (28 December
1937–9 February 1938), and having apparently proved to the public the inabil-
ity of political parties to manage the crisis, on 10 February 1938 Carol II staged
a coup d’état, instituted a state of emergency, imposed censorship and assumed
authoritarian powers.
The new royal dictatorship was anti-Legionary in character; however, in order
to subvert the Legion’s political message, it appropriated several fascist tropes
and trappings in its political style and rhetoric. Thus, in a proclamation that
borrowed the urgent language of Legion manifestos, Carol justified the estab-
lishment of his personal regime by the imperious need to put an end to political
chaos and sterile rivalry: ‘Romania has to be salvaged and am I determined to
work toward this end, motivated by my sole and eternal aim: the permanent
interests of the country and its continuous strengthening.’17 The king asked
for public support in the ‘great work of national awakening, of the country’s
recovery and salvation’.18 He appointed a new, non-party government, led by
the Orthodox Patriarch Miron Cristea and conceived as a broad anti-Legion
coalition, uniting the throne, the church and the army. In order to prevent any
significant political opposition and to induce the idea of a national union, the
new government included all former prime ministers and other leading politi-
cians, most of them as ministers without portfolio. The appointment of the
patriarch as prime minister was meant to appease internal political rivalries, to
highlight the Orthodox Church’s backing for the king’s agenda and to mobi-
lize the prelates and the masses of believers in support of the new regime. The
political coalition between the king and the patriarch emulated the Byzantine
political tradition functioning in the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia
until the early-modern period, based on the autocratic power of the prince
and the intertwined relationship between church and state. In exchange for an
extension of the church’s corporate privileges, the patriarch assisted the king
Constantin Iordachi 245

in the ‘domestication’ of his subjects. In a virulent pamphlet against political

parties, the patriarch enthusiastically endorsed the new political regime, assert-
ing it was ‘clear from where salvation comes: from the heroic determination of
Your Majesty’.19
On 12 February, the king announced his political programme, which com-
bined authoritarian rule with ethnic nationalism. Under the slogan ‘Peace and
Union’, Carol II promised comprehensive constitutional reforms promoting
‘national ideas and the interests of the Romanian element’; the revision of cit-
izenship for Jews ‘in order to allow economic life for the Romanian element’;
the depoliticization of the administration; and the maintenance of Romania’s
traditional foreign policy course based on the defence of the Versailles treaty
The legal basis of the new political regime was the constitution passed on
20 February 1938 under the slogan ‘Rescuing Contemporary Romania’.21 A few
days later, the constitution was approved by a plebiscite orchestrated to pro-
duce unanimity for the new regime. Secrecy was eliminated from the ballot
procedure and severe punishment was introduced for absenteeism, so that out
of 4,303,064 registered voters a mere 5,483 (0.13 per cent of the electorate) had
the courage to vote against it.22
Although the Constitution preserved the decorative facade of a multi-
party parliamentary system and a formal separation of powers, it nevertheless
consolidated all effective powers into the king’s hands and proclaimed the
pre-eminence of the executive over legislative power. The king had the right
to name the government, to veto the promulgation of the laws voted upon
by parliament and to issue decrees when parliament was not sitting. Parts of
the constitution were directed specifically against the Legion. To eliminate its
young electorate from political participation, political rights were granted only
to literate men and women over the age of 30. State dignitaries had to be from
families that had Romanian citizenship for at least three generations, a stipu-
lation possibly targeting the Codreanu family, which was naturalized only in
1903 coming from the Austrian province of Galicia. Finally, the constitution
introduced capital punishment for assassination attempts against members of
the royal family or state dignitaries.
The repressive side of the new regime was established by the decree for the
defence of state order, adopted in April 1938. The decree prohibited all activ-
ities that would lead to a change of the existing political regime or would
propagate the principle of class struggle or the abolition of private property
(article 2). While some of these stipulations targeted communist propaganda
and activism, most of them were evidently meant to counter the Legionary
threat: the decree banned oath-taking ceremonies, the wearing of uniforms in
public and paramilitary activities of any kind, political propaganda in print
or by way of group singing in public, etc. To neutralize the Legion’s main
246 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

recruitment base, the decree also expressly prohibited pupils, students and
priests from being involved in any type of political engagement, while political
propaganda was strictly forbidden in schools and churches. Violation of these
stipulations were punished with large fines, house arrest or imprisonment, and
the loss of civil rights for a period of up to five years.

Caesarism against fascism: the repression of the Legion

of the Archangel Michael
Under Carol’s personal regime, the Legion’s position rapidly deteriorated as
most of the repressive measures adopted by the king directly targeted it. Aware
of the danger and confident that his time was yet to come, on 21 February
1938 Codreanu tactically disbanded the All for the Fatherland party, forcing
its members into political passivity. He ordered the closure of its headquar-
ters and recommended Legionaries take up mystical communitarian isolation
through the observance of fasting, praying and the total abandonment of
earthly activities.
Although presented by Legion propaganda as an ethical response to tyranny,
Codreanu’s prudent attitude to the establishment of the royal dictatorship
reflected the Legion’s lack of available options. While between 1932 and 1937
the Legion grew into a mass movement, the organization lacked the capacity to
stage a successful coup d’état, or to resist powerful state-orchestrated repression.
Its leaders were trained to work within fragmented local cells which conducted
small-scale electoral campaigns or terrorist actions but lacked the experience of
effective mass mobilization on a national scale.
Soon after the consolidation of his personal regime, King Carol was quick to
unleash with full force his pre-emptive anti-Legionary strategy. On 30 March
1938, the king appointed a second government led by Orthodox Patriarch
Miron Cristea. Far from being a simple reshuffling, the new government was
the beginning of a fully-fledged anti-Legion campaign. The key figure in the
government was King Carol’s right-hand man, Armand Călinescu, nicknamed
the Black Monocle. Călinescu made his political debut within the Peasant Party
in the Old Kingdom. After its 1926 fusion with the Transylvanian National
Party, he made a name for himself as a prominent leader of the new wave of
young and energetic politicians within the newly formed PNT. In 1932–33, Căli-
nescu was under-secretary of state in the Ministry of the Interior in successive
PNT governments led by Alexandru Vaida Voievod, and soon becoming known
for his severe and uncompromising attitude against grass-roots agitations by
the Legion or the communists. In 1937, dissatisfied with the ossified cadre
policies of the PNT – which favoured older politicians – and aware that the
political fortune of traditional parties was in decline, Călinescu defected from
the PNT and entered King Carol’s service as a member of the Centrist political
faction. He first served as Minister of the Interior in Octavian Goga’s right-wing
Constantin Iordachi 247

government (December 1937–February 1938); after the establishment of Carol’s

personal regime on 10 February 1938, Călinescu became one of the king’s most
trusted political collaborators.
Călinescu was in favour of embarking on a swift and comprehensive cam-
paign of repression against the Legion, in order to eliminate it from political
life for once and for all. In his personal diary, he characterized Codreanu as
‘Uneducated, cruel, [with] no professional activity’.23 Together with the king,
Călinescu established a plan for the arrest and neutralization of the main
Legionary cadres. On 17 April 1938, Codreanu and other leading Legionaries
and sympathizers were arrested and interned in camps established at Tismana,
Dragomirna and Miercurea Ciuc. A military tribunal charged Codreanu with
the defamation of a public official. The legal pretext invoked for Codreanu’s
indictment was an injurious letter he sent to Nicolae Iorga, who was at the
time a royal counsellor. In reaction to Iorga’s press campaign against Legion
restaurants that led to their closure, Codreanu accused the historian and politi-
cian of opportunism, dishonesty and betrayal of the national ideals he had
once preached to his students. After a short trial, Codreanu was sentenced to
six months of forced labour.
Codreanu’s trial was only the beginning of a repression against the Legion.
In May 1938, after intense legal and political preparations, Codreanu was
brought to yet another public trial – this time more elaborate – designed by
official propaganda as a definitive public defamation of the Legion and its ter-
rorist activities. The prosecutor’s accusations insisted on Codreanu’s rebellion
against the state, high treason, alleged collaboration with foreign agents against
state interests – although no conclusive evidence was produced in this regard –
and undermining the existing social order.24 On 26–27 May, Codreanu was sen-
tenced to 10 years’ hard labour, despite the fact that the prosecution could not
produce a legally sound trial.
Upon the death of Patriarch Cristea on 7 March 1939, Călinescu became
prime minister and continued his policy of surveillance and repression against
the Legion. Although the Legion was effectively neutralized, the steady growth
of Nazi Germany’s political influence in Central Europe led Carol II to fear
German assistance would lead to the Legion’s political resurrection, and made
plans for Codreanu’s assassination. On the night of 29–30 November 1938,
returning from an unsuccessful diplomatic tour that included an official visit
to the United Kingdom and unofficial visits to France, Belgium and Germany,
Carol II ordered Codreanu’s death, along with that of another 13 Legionaries,
convicted for terrorism. The following day, a media report announced their
deaths, claiming that they had been killed while trying to escape. According to
the deposition of one of Codreanu’s executioners in 1940, which was taken by
the Romanian High Court of Cassation, the prisoners were strangled in a forest
near Bucharest. Their bodies were buried in the courtyard of the Jilava prison
248 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

and burned with vitriol.25 Later, the common grave was covered with a thick
layer of cement in an attempt to prevent a later recovery of the corpses and
their political exploitation.
Despite this desperate attempt to undermine Codreanu’s charisma, the spirit
of the ‘Captain’ obsessed his followers more than ever, triggering a Legion
vendetta. On 21 September 1939, a Legionnaire death squad, led by Miti
Dumitrescu, assassinated Prime Minister Călinescu, who they held directly
responsible for Codreanu’s assassination, in Bucharest. The death squad then
stormed the national radio station, and publicly announced that ‘the Captain
has been avenged’. The ‘political will’ of the death squad sheds light upon their
charismatic beliefs and indoctrination. The terrorist act was presented as legit-
imate revenge on those guilty for the assassination of Codreanu. The members
of the squad restated their conviction that Codreanu was a ‘God descended
among mortals’, and that the Romanian people were destined to fulfil a divine
mission entrusted by God.
After delivering their radio message, the members of the death squad sur-
rendered to the police. During the night of 22–23 September, they were taken
back to the public square and executed without trial. Their bodies were left on
public display for several days. Following Călinescu’s assassination, his tempo-
rary successor General Gheorghe Argeşanu authorized the military repression
of the Legion. On the night of 21–22 September, 252 Legionaries were executed
without trial.26 These included the main leaders held in camps: 44 in Miercurea
Ciuc, 31 in Vaslui, 13 in Râmnicu Sărat, 10 in Bucharest and 7 in Braşov. They
included: Gheorghe Clime, leader of the All for the Fatherland party; Alexandru
Cantacuzino, leader of the Moţa-Marin section; Gheorghe Gh. Istrate, leader of
the Brotherhoods of the Cross section; Ion Banea, leader of the Transylvanian
regional section; and the intellectuals Cristian Tell and Mihail Polihroniade.
A futher 147 Legionaries were selected at random from all over the country
(two or three from each county) and executed. Their corpses were displayed in
main public squares together with a banner stating ‘This is the fate of all traitors
to the nation’.
The confrontation between the two forms of political legitimacy, caesarism
and charismatic fascism had reached its peak. Unable to co-opt the Legion
through political negotiations and to subordinate it to his own political aims,
King Carol II had Legionaries killed by lawless methods as the only effective
way of stopping their political rise.

From caesarism to para-fascism: the fasticization of the royal

During its 30-month existence, Carol II’s royal dictatorship experienced many
changes: from a soft dictatorship with limited political pluralism to an
increasingly repressive authoritarian regime with pronounced fascist trappings.
Constantin Iordachi 249

Although initially Carol II conceived of his authoritarian rule as a barrier to

the Legion’s bid for power and, as shown above, did not hesitate to crush it
by lawless means, his regime borrowed numerous political elements from con-
temporary fascist movements and regimes, most importantly from the Legion
itself, such as the cult of the predestined leader, the single party, corporatism,
paramilitarism, the socialization of the youth through political mobilization
‘from above’ and, towards the end of the regime, anti-Semitism.
The basis of the new political regime was the cult of the king, celebrated as a
charismatic leader who would bring salvation to the national community. The
regime’s official propaganda portrayed Carol II in a multitude of capacities: as
a modernizing monarch, a protector of national culture, a legislator, a military
commander, a predestined leader and guarantor of law and order, etc.
The cult of the monarch was a necessary but not sufficient tool for creat-
ing popular consensus towards the new regime. The king also felt the need
to establish a new political party and youth and mass organizations as tools of
political representation and mobilization. On 15 December 1938 the king estab-
lished Romania’s first single mass political organization, the Front of National
Rebirth (FRN – Frontul Renaşterii Naţionale). The Front’s declared aim was ‘to
mobilize national consciousness for undertaking a unitary Romanian work of
national solidarity for the defence and development of the nation and the con-
solidation of the state’.27 It was to be ‘the only political organization in the
state’, that could operate and campaign in national elections, any other politi-
cal activity ‘being considered clandestine and its authors punished’. The FNR’s
monopoly on political representation was further consecrated by a royal decree
of 30 March 1938, which expressly prohibited all existing or future political par-
ties, groupings and associations. The leadership of the new party was entrusted
to Carol II’s closest collaborators, mostly former and current ministers.
The FRN was thoroughly reorganized in January 1940, under the slogan
‘The King, the Nation, Work and Faith’ (Regele, Naţiunea, Munca şi Credinţa),
its evolution reflecting the process of radicalization the royal dictatorship
had undergone.28 Thus, if initially the FRN was conceived as a national and
implicitly pluralistic union of all political forces, above and beyond the former
political parties, in January 1940 it developed in the direction of a hierarchical-
territorial organization, with its own ideology, leadership, party structure,
uniforms and symbols. Its new 1940 charter stipulated that the FRN was meant
‘to propagate its own ideology’,29 – declaratively based on the national idea, the
cult of the monarchy, corporatism, Christian and conservative family values,
work and social justice – and ‘to form the public spirit in this direction’.30
The main innovations introduced by the new party charter were a strong
emphasis on the establishment of grass-roots cells in rural areas, corporatist
organization and representation of main professional categories and the
attempt at encouraging permanent political activism by rank and file members.
250 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

First, the party’s new structure were to include organization in all territorial-
administrative units of the country, with particular emphasis on the estab-
lishment of party cells in rural areas. Second, party sections were organized
along corporatist lines, promoting proportional representation at all levels of
the three professional corporations mentioned by the 1938 constitution: agri-
culture and manual work; industry and trade; and intellectual work.31 Since
the FRN was the only political organization allowed to present candidates
for parliament, this party structure provided parliament and the regime with
a corporatist structure of political organization and representation. Third, in
order to ensure its members’ unconditional loyalty and devotion, and to
increase their discipline, the FRN forced new members to swear an oath of loy-
alty to the king, the fatherland and the party (article 7). To encourage new
recruits to become active in the service of the party, the FRN’s statutes dif-
ferentiated between ‘adherent’ and ‘active’ members: the former needing one
year of active involvement before achieving full membership (article 10).32 The
FRN’s members were obliged to promote the party’s ideology and programme,
to observe a strict code of behaviour, to write regular activity reports and to
participate in various study groups.33 They were also expected to recruit new
members (article 7). Minority ethnic groups were allowed to create their own,
distinct, organizational sections within the Party of the Nation. The decree also
established the National Guard (Garda Naţională) as the party’s independent
paramilitary security organization.34
The leaders of the FRN were its president, Alexandru Vaida Voievod, vice-
president Gheorghe Tătărescu and general-secretary Constantin C. Giurescu, all
of whom were appointed for one year by the king.35 The party also had three
collective leadership bodies – two deliberative and one executive: the National
Superior Council, which approved FRN policy, its candidates for parliament
and brought political recommendations to the government’s attention; the
Directorate, which assisted the Superior Council and approved the FRN’s bud-
get; and the Superior Commission, which was entrusted with control over the
FRN’s internal appointments and cadre policy. The National Superior Council
was made up of 180 members, 60 from each of the three main professional
corporations established by the 1938 constitution, with half appointed by
the king and the other half elected by corporations. The Directorate had 30
members, proportionally representing the three corporations, all appointed by
royal decree from among the members of the National Superior Council.36
The Superior Commission was made up of the president, one vice-president,
the general-secretary, the three regional first-secretaries and the Commander
of the National Guard. In a demagogic fashion, the FRN was defined as an inter-
face between the citizens and the professional associations on the one hand,
and the government and the administration on the other (article 4), providing
a close link and a constant channel of information between the two.37
Constantin Iordachi 251

Overall, the organization of the FRN was based on an even combination

between the ‘election’ and ‘selection’ principles of political representation. The
party’s organizational grid was made up of four parallel pillars, organized ter-
ritorially and hierarchically, from the most basic (commune), through county,
land and upper national levels, as follows: The National Guard, the corpora-
tion of the intellectuals, the corporation of industry and commerce and the
corporation of agriculture and manual workers, all formally subordinated to
the Superior Commission. The main leadership axis of the party consisted of
the network of presidents and three secretaries at each territorial level. Finally,
the last hierarchical pillar of power was represented by the party’s collective
bodies organized at territorial levels – the advisory councils and the general
assemblies, which reported to the Superior Council. All these pillars of power
were directly subordinate to the party’s president and three vice-presidents,
while the general-secretary acted as a link between them.
The creation of the FRN was part of a larger strategy of mass political mobi-
lization that involved the establishment of a network of youth, professional
and leisure organizations, with an overt pedagogical role of social control and
political indoctrination. Among them, the most important was Muncă şi Voe
Bună (Work and Leisure), remodelled along the lines of the Nazi’s Kraft durch
Freude and the Italian Fascist Opera nazionale dopolavoro in the summer of
1938 and which was aimed at the working class.
To increase the popular base of his personal rule, King Carol made particu-
lar efforts to secure the support of the youth. To this end, in December 1938
the youth organization Straja Ţării (The Sentinel of the Motherland), which
had been established in 1935, was reorganized, giving its activities a major
boost. Straja Ţării was conceived as a state institution entrusted with the ‘moral,
national-patriotic, social and physical education of the youth of both sexes’.38
All citizens aged 7–21 were members and given some military training. Its
motto was ‘Faith and Labour for the Fatherland and the King’ (article 6). The
king was its supreme commander (article 16), and he was assisted by a gen-
eral commander he appointed and by a supreme guiding council consisting of
senior dignitaries, the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church and vari-
ous governmental ministers with portfolios that touched upon youth policies
(article 17).
The Straja’s anti-Legion role was clear. First, the participation of ‘the entire
youth’ of Romania in its activities was mandatory (article 3). Second, it held a
monopoly over youth education: no other such organizations were permitted
in Romanian territory (article 3) – it alone was allowed to organize initiation-
courses, training and recreational camps for boys and girls. Third, its members
had to swear an oath of loyalty (crez) (article 6) similar to the Legionary vow
in its glorification of ancestors, religion and sacrifice, although with the major
difference that Straja’s oath political loyalty was directed towards the king, who
252 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

was known as Marele Străjer (the Great Sentinel). Fourth, Straja’s main educa-
tional activities, consisting in the organization of youth camps and colonies,
strongly resembled the innovative and largely successful Legionary practice of
organizing work camps with the aim of forging the ‘new Legionaries’. Fifth,
Straja had a paramilitary structure, being organized in hierarchical territo-
rial units made up of phalanxes, lands, legions, cohorts, flocks (flights) and
centuries, with sub-units made up of groups, nests and little nests. This struc-
ture combined ancient Roman with local traditions of military organization,
yet it also defined the nests as Straja’s most basic unit of organization, just
like the Legion. In addition, the commanders of Straja’s territorial units were
recruited mainly from among teachers, professors, officers and priests – the
main professional categories targeted by the Legion.
Despite these similarities the king’s concerted efforts to enlist and indoctri-
nate the youth were largely unsuccessful, this top-down approach to youth
mobilization contrasting sharply with the efficient grass-roots proselytizing
methods promoted by the Legion.
The last phase of the royal dictatorship was dominated by foreign policy
concerns. The partition of Czechoslovakia, the annexation of Austria and the
occupation of Poland placed Nazi Germany in a position of hegemony in Cen-
tral Europe. Although Romania acted as one of the pillars of the Versailles
system, the collapse of the post-1918 collective security system and the capit-
ulation of France forced the king to search for a modus vivendi with Germany.
The first outcome of this new political direction was the German-Romanian
Treaty for the Development of Economic Relations between the Two Countries,
which was signed on 23 March 1939, and which subordinated the Romanian
economy to German interests.
An important part of this rapprochement was the establishment of a fascist-like
regime that the king thought would be more compatible with Nazi political
expectations of Romania. On 22 June 1940, the FRN was renamed by royal
decree as Partidul Naţiunii (PN, Party of the Nation). The regime’s drive towards
totalitarianism was explicit. Article 1 of the decree stated that ‘The Front of
National Rebirth becomes a unique and totalitarian party, under the name of
the Party of the Nation’. Its main declared aim was to co-ordinate ‘the moral
and material life of the Romanian state and the Romanian nation’.39 In an
unprecedented move, the king assumed direct leadership of the new party:
‘The party will function under the supreme leadership of his majesty the king.’
On the same day a new decree reinforced the repressive side of the regime by
introducing penalties of up to five years in jail for any individual who chal-
lenged the political monopoly or authority of the Party of the Nation. Far from
being a simple cosmetic change, this political reshuffle marked a radical politi-
cal transformation of the nature of Carol II’s dictatorship. In his comments on
Constantin Iordachi 253

Romania’s political life dated, 25 June 1940, Constantin Argetoianu noted that
after a few days of confusion, ‘people begin to realize the radical and revolu-
tionary regime change that occurred with the transformation by the Front of
the National Rebirth into the Party of the Nation’.40
This far-reaching political change was amply evident in the king’s most con-
troversial act: his amnesty and renewed attempts at co-operation with the
Legion of the Archangel Michael, which he regarded as a precondition for col-
laboration with Nazi Germany. Such co-operation was nevertheless difficult
given the resentment caused by the terror unleashed by the king in 1938–39
that decapitated the Legion’s leadership. After backstage negotiations, on 4 July
1940 the king managed to co-opt a number of leading Legionaries, including
the movement’s new leader, Horia Sima, as minister of religion and arts, into
the new government led by Ioan Gigurtu. This ad hoc co-operation could not
mend relations between Carol II and the Legion, however. In fact, facing crit-
icism from inside the Legion for arriving at a modus vivendi with the person
responsible for murdering Codreanu and the Legion’s leadership, Sima resigned
from the government after just a few days.
The last stage in process of ‘fascistization’ was the promotion of anti-Semitic
measures to the level of official state policy. Following on from the anti-
Jewish legislation introduced by the Goga government in January 1938, on
8 August 1940, decrees 2560 and 2651 annulled the post-1918 emancipation
of Jews in Romania and reactivated late 19th-century anti-Semitic regulations.
The decrees had a doubly discriminating nature. First, they stripped the entire
Jewish population of substantive political and civic rights, such as the right to
settle in the countryside and purchase rural property, access to state positions,
as well as the right to marry Christians. Second, it also differentiated several
categories of Jew. It favoured those Jews who had been emancipated by the
Romanian parliament – either individually or collectively, for serving in the
Romanian army – but discriminated against Jews who had been emancipated
as a result of the 1919 Minority Convention.

The Legion in power: the National-Legionary State

(September 1940–February 1941)

In the summer of 1940, Romania suffered massive territorial losses, losing

Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union (USSR), and Northern
Transylvania to Hungary (followed in early September by Southern Dobrogea to
Bulgaria). Since the official propaganda portrayed the monarch as a guarantor of
Romania’s territorial integrity, these losses confronted Carol’s personal regime
with a deep crisis of legitimization, leading to mass demonstrations and open
unrest. In a desperate attempt to rescue his rule, on 4 September Carol II
254 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

brought General Ion Antonescu to power. An adept of authoritarianism and

integral nationalism, Antonescu emerged in the 1930s as a staunch critic of
the flaws of multi-party parliamentary regimes. In December 1937, Antonescu
accepted, at the king’s insistence, to join the Goga government as minister of
defence; however, he resigned at the end of March 1938, and refused to serve as
minister during the royal dictatorship. In response to his continuous critical
attitude towards the king’s entourage and policies, Antonescu was first sta-
tioned outside the capital and later held in the monastery at Bistriţa.41 Despite
this persecution, the king never lost hope in co-opting Antonescu. In September
he thought that, in view of his authoritarian personality and the prestige he
accumulated in nationalist circles, the general would be able to stabilize the
situation. After brief political consultations, Antonescu demanded full powers
and forced the king’s abdication, thus bringing both the royal dictatorship and
Carol’s monarchic rule to an end. In several proclamations, Antonescu asserted
unambiguously that his coming to power did not mean the establishment of
‘a new government, but of a new regime’.42 To achieve his goal of ‘saving the
State and the Nation’, Antonescu pledged to govern on a new basis, following
principles that ‘will emerge entirely from the creed of integral nationalism’.43
Adopting an authoritarian-paternalist tone, he called on Romanians to display
‘order, work, discipline and obeisance’.44
In need of a mass political movement to legitimize his authoritarian rule,
the general co-opted the Legion. A communique from the council of minis-
ters stated the general had ‘addressed the country and the Legion with a call for
union and action’, which was accepted with ‘joy and enthusiasm’.45 The Legion
thus became the ruling party and populated the administration and govern-
ment, while sharing executive power with the army, which retained control
of the key ministries of economy and finance, and state leadership through
General Antonescu.
On the basis of this agreement, on 14 September Antonescu proclaimed the
National-Legionary State. This new state was based on three main principles: it
was ‘national, Christian and totalitarian’.
It was totalitarian in structure: a series of decrees sanctioned by King Michael
I concentrated power into the hands of General Antonescu. Royal decree 3052
of 5 September 1940 suspended the 1938 constitution and dissolved the par-
liament for an indefinite period. In doing so, the decree dismantled the last
remnants of the party system that survived under Carol’s royal dictatorship,
replacing it with a totalitarian, centralized structure. Royal decree 3053 of 5
September 1940 created the new position of head of state (conducătorul statului)
invested with the ‘full powers to lead the Romanian state’ (article 1) to whom
public functionaries had to swear an oath of ‘loyalty and faith’.
Royal decree 3151 of 14 September 1940 defined the Legion as ‘the only polit-
ical movement recognized in the new state’ (article 2), while General Antonescu
Constantin Iordachi 255

was ‘the leader of the Legionary state and chief of the Legionary regime’ (arti-
cle 3). The state was based on a dual structure of power: the army led by General
Antonescu was the executive branch of government, while the Legion, led by
Horia Sima, was the political branch. As the only political party or movement
in the state, the Legion alone could provide the cadres to fill positions in the
political and bureaucratic apparatus, together with the politically non-engaged
army officers. This monopoly on political life was accompanied by the politi-
cization of the administration, which was populated by Legionaries appointed
by Antonescu as prefects and mayors at the local level, with the recommen-
dation of Horia Sima. The main aim of this structure was to build a unified
totalitarian party-state structure.
Following the abolition of Romania’s parliament, the council of ministers led
by Antonescu as head of state and prime minister was invested with full legisla-
tive powers. In addition, although Romania technically remained a monarchy,
the young King Michael’s role became purely ceremonial. While in theory
he retained certain nominal powers, such as the right to appoint the prime
minister, in practice the structure of government was firmly in the hands of
Antonescu, as head of state, prime minister and commander of the army. These
positions gave him full legislative powers and complete control over the admin-
istrative apparatus of the country. Later on, through a decree passed on 21 June
1941, Antonescu designated his close collaborator, Mihai Antonescu, who was
vice-president of the council of ministers, as his successor. Representative insti-
tutions were thus abolished and absolute power was concentrated at the top.
There was, however, a certain ambiguity in the exercise of power between the
Legion and the army: the former was symbolically represented in the govern-
ment with a few ministers, but it was more heavily represented in the lower
branches of the administration.
The second pillar in the organization of the totalitarian state was the doc-
trine of integral nationalism. In the National-Legionary State, this doctrine had
two main components: the denaturalization and removal of the Jews; and the
redistribution of their property in order to consolidate the Romanian upper and
middle class. As shown above, in 1937–38, on the basis of the laws for the ‘veri-
fication’ of citizenship, around 250,000 Romanian Jews (30 per cent of the total
Jewish population) were deprived of citizenship. Their denaturalization was fol-
lowed by their removal from property and exclusion from citizenship rights.
A new system of segregation was introduced in the education system, in the
army, in culture and in politics. Initiated under the dictatorship of Carol II, this
system of discrimination was continued and amplified during the interregnum
before the totalitarian state and again during the National-Legionary State.
New anti-Jewish decrees were passed on 5, 6, 7 and 19 September, which
stripped Jews of their civil and political rights and effectively sealed off Jewish
communities from Romanian society. Additional decrees banned Jews from
256 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

working in liberal professions. Decree Law 3437 of 17 October 1940 limited

Jewish lawyers – except those who had fought in the Romanian army and
were decorated or who were war invalids’ lawyers – to working only for Jewish
clients. The places vacated by Jewish lawyers were taken up by Christians
(art. 3). Fraud or failure to comply with the law was severely punished with
exorbitant fines or even prison sentences ranging from one to three months.46
According to Mihai Antonescu, the decree was ‘inspired by nationalist princi-
ples’; its aim was to assure the dominance of Romanians and to create places
for Romanian lawyers coming in from the occupied territories.47
In addition to the decree concerning the military status of Jews that was
adopted on 5 December 1940, another decree dated 21 January 1941 imposed
military ‘protection’ taxes on Jews, in addition to labour obligations, includ-
ing upon those who were not fit for military activity. Only Jews who had
mobilized into the army and those who had served in the army as officers or
non-commissioned officers were exempt from these taxes. Jews who could not
afford to pay the tax had to carry out additional forced labour. Those who tried
to hide or declare a reduced income were punished with fines that were twice
or even three times their tax obligation.48
The second main component of the doctrine of integral nationalism under
the National-Legionary regime was the campaign to Romanize the economy.
This process was very long and arduous for several reasons. First, it was a com-
plex and laborious campaign, made up of a myriad of transactions in multiple
fields. Second, the success of this campaign depended on the existence of a
bureaucratic apparatus that could register, classify, take over and redistribute
property to local Romanians or colonists. Soon two strategies were to crystal-
lize within the Legionary state: one gradual, based on ‘law and order’ and on a
centralized, top-down process of redistribution; another conceived as a violent,
ad hoc, grass-roots approach conducted by Legionary cells at the local level. An
additional obstacle in the process of the Romanization of the economy was the
fact that the Jews were essential to the successful running of industry. Despite
political imperatives, in practice the process of replacement therefore needed
to be gradual, since many valuable Jewish managers had to be temporarily
retained until they could be replaced by newly trained Romanians. In Septem-
ber 1940, General Antonescu spelled out this gradual strategy, stating that: ‘I
will solve the Jewish Question in the course of the process of organizing the
state, slowly substituting the Jews with the Romanians, first and foremost with
Legionaries, who will be preparing in the meantime.’49
The legal framework of the process of Romanization was laid out in late 1940
and early 1941. Decree law 3347 of 5 October 1940 stripped Jews of all agri-
cultural property.50 In order to prevent the economic collapse of rural industry,
article 5 of the decree exempted from confiscation those properties necessary
for the functioning of Jewish industries. The properties seized from Jews became
Constantin Iordachi 257

state property and were handed over to the sub-secretariat of state for coloniza-
tion and the evacuated population to assist with the resettlement of ethnic
Romanian refugees from Bessarabia and Bucovina, which had been occupied
by the Soviet Union (article 9).
Another decree adopted on 17 November 1940 extended the scope of the
confiscation to forests and rural industries of all kind, including mills, facto-
ries and distilleries owned by Jewish individuals or associations. In his report
to General Antonescu, the minister of justice, Mihai A. Antonescu, justified
this new wave of confiscations with ‘an old Romanian conception according
to which rural properties – the main source of the country’s wealth – should
belong to Romanians’. Since under the National-Legionary State, this term was
understood in an ethnic and not formal legal sense, it implied that the own-
ership of all rural properties had to be transferred to ethnic Romanians.51 The
decree defined Jews as ‘all those having both or only one Jewish parent, regard-
less of whether they or their parents are currently baptized in a religion other
than the Mosaic one, are Romanian citizens, or live in Romania’.52 The process
of property confiscation was further broadened by the decree for the transfer of
all Jewish urban properties to the state patrimony adopted on 27 March 1941,
which, argued Mihai A. Antonescu, was meant ‘to restore the historical rights
of the Romanian nation’.53
The third ideological pillar of the new regime was the doctrine of the
Christian state: the new totalitarian state reorganized religious organization,
proclaiming Orthodoxy as the state’s dominant religion while also recogniz-
ing and thus accepting a number of other religious cults. The Mosaic cult was
tolerated, but its corporate rights were no longer recognized. The Legionary
government wanted to promote a new relationship with Orthodoxy, a new
form of political religion that would incorporate but also subordinate the
Orthodox Church. The campaign for the institutional reorganization of the
church was, however, rather hesitant and did not lead to significant results,
falling into a kind of political modus vivendi with the church.

Integral nationalism versus fascism: the Legion’s fall from power

What was the position of the Legion within this structure of government? Due
to the rapid unfolding of events, the Legion was forced to change from a clan-
destine organization to a ruling party in a very short period of time. After
two years of clandestine activity and harsh repression (1938–40), the Legion
was unprepared for government. Unsurprisingly, therefore, its rule suffered
from lack of coherence and organization, and did not follow a comprehensive
programme of legal-political transformation. Legionaries preferred symbolic rit-
ual action and violent revenge to orderly legal political transformation from
above. During the Legion’s four months in power, its most important acts
of government were the rehabilitation and reburial of Codreanu and of the
258 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

Legion’s martyrs, and the violent elimination of the ‘corrupt’ inter-war polit-
ical class. While perfectly fitting to a clandestine, terrorist political fight, the
Legion’s cellular organizational structure made it difficult to co-ordinate the
movement when it was in power. Since the Legion was used to working clan-
destinely, its members found it easier to continue to employ conspiratorial
methods even when they were in power.
The internal weaknesses of the Legion were further aggravated by its rather
vulnerable political position in the new regime and its troubled relationship
with General Antonescu. Attempts at co-operation between the Legion and the
general had taken place during the late 1930s, as well as part of previous ini-
tiatives to form a great anti-Carol coalition of the far right, but the outcome
of those previous negotiations was rather discouraging. Antonescu was, both
then and later, in favour of a large nationalist coalition based on the princi-
ples of integral nationalism and focusing on a guided, top-down process of
socio-political transformation; however, the Legion rejected any co-operation
with LANC or its successor, the PNC, and called instead for a revolutionary,
grass-roots transformation of society led exclusively by the Legionaries.
Given these political differences, the collaboration between General
Antonescu and the Legion that started in September 1940 was from the very
beginning marred by suspicion, and soon degenerated into private and public
confrontations. The two parts provided different accounts of the circumstances
in which the collapse of Carol’s dictatorship and the establishment of the new
regime took place.54 Emulating the paradigmatic example of Italian Fascists’
1922 March on Rome, the Legion’s propaganda argued that in the first days
of September there occurred a large-scale Legionary armed revolt, a genuine
‘revolution’ that brought about the collapse of Carol’s tyrannical regime and
their ascension to power. In their view, Antonescu had no choice but to collab-
orate with the Legion as the strongest, most articulate political movement of
the day. In turn, General Antonescu and his official propaganda argued that it
was his actions and courage that put an end to the royal dictatorship, and that
he voluntarily and generously offered the Legion the opportunity to share in
the exercise of power.55
Second, concerning the cohabitation of the two poles of power during the
National-Legionary State, the Legion’s propaganda contended Antonescu was
never sincere in his co-operation with the Legion, and that all he wanted
was to compromise the movement in order to disband it. In contrast, General
Antonescu asserted that the Legion in fact planned from the very beginning
to seize full state power. He also argued that its lawless and chaotic actions
compromised the National-Legionary regime, forcing him to act in a decisive
Third, and most important, a main source of bilateral mistrust was the dif-
ferent visions of the two parties, which was clearly evident in their divergent
Constantin Iordachi 259

discourses and actions. General Antonescu shared the main principles of inte-
gral nationalism, but wanted to implement the ‘nationalization’ of the state
through a gradual process, co-ordinated from above in an ‘orderly’ fashion.
He also pleaded for a broad coalition of all valuable nationalist forces, reject-
ing sectarianism and internal struggles within the nationalist camp. His main
ideological emphasis was not on the palingenetic rebirth of the nation, but
on the salvation of the state, and through it of the nation. To this end, he
planned to rely on both the state administration and mainstream national
institutions, such as the church, schools and the army. Ultimately, his actions
were not designed to bring about a social revolution from below, but to shelter
and consolidate the interests of the Romanian bourgeoisie, to the detriment
of ethno-religious minorities. It is in this context that one can understand
his pleas for law, order, lack of violence and respect for property – these
principles were meant to contain the lawless actions of the Legion, but they
were not to be applied to the status of ethno-religious minorities, who were
placed outside the protection of the Romanian law by way of discriminatory
The Legion, in turn, called for the revolutionary transformation of society
through the complete elimination of the old political class and its replace-
ment with a new Legionary elite; the nationalization of the economy and of
trade through the elimination of ethno-religious minorities and the transfer
of their property to Romanians; and the indoctrination of the masses in the
Legion’s ideology. ‘Only when the whole Romanian nation has accepted the
Legion will we be able to speak the movement’s complete victory’, claimed
Sima.56 Although highly ambitious in its goals, the Legion did not have a
comprehensive programme of concrete socio-economic transformation, and
lacked both the cohesion and discipline necessary to implement such a long-
term agenda. Its ad hoc activities were meant to provide immediate material
and political satisfaction to its poor and frustrated supporters who were eager
to seize economic and political power. Soon, however, the Legionaries’ vio-
lent and uncoordinated nature brought chaos and disorganization to the state
The structural crisis in the relationship between the Legion and General
Antonescu was to soon paralyze the new regime, generating numerous top-level
confrontations. In a first exchange of letters between the two leaders in mid-
October 1940, Horia Sima reproached the general about his tolerance for the
old order and its politicians, and demanded the latter’s political purge and more
room of manoeuvring for the Legion. Antonescu replied that there was no room
for two heads of state, and urged the Legion to choose between co-operation
or divorce. At the end of October, Sima answered in an apparently conciliatory
tone, reiterating the Legion’s willingness to work with Antonescu. At the same
time, however, he unambiguously noted that
260 Hybrid Totalitarian Experiments in Romania

the Legionary regime demands rule in the Legionary spirit: totalitarian rule.
Totalitarian rule means the political monopoly of one moveme