Saturday, September 17, 2016
Fascism, fascism and Monarchy
Critics have long said this was because Mussolini was simply inconsistent, shallow and needed an excuse. Mussolini himself, however, called it being flexible and pragmatic. He often said that action was more important than political dogma, that what works today may fail tomorrow and what failed today may work tomorrow. Fascism rejected the notion that there was some specific political formula that would solve all problems but insisted rather that circumstances change and the State must be able to adapt. In other words, do not make specific promises but lay out a broad vision and do what it takes to get there. Try something and, if it doesn’t work, discard it and try something else until you find what works best and then do more of that. Strength in unity, symbolized by the fasces, was the most important principle but other than that, the most important thing was action, to do rather than to talk, to act rather than to argue, forget the legalism and do what must be done and be limited only in the regard of doing what is proven to work. “The machine, first of all, must run!” as Mussolini once said.
Looking, more broadly, beyond “Fascism” which is, strictly speaking, limited to Italy, to “fascism” as in those regimes most often identified as fascist, we can see some common themes and some of these explain why Mussolini the Fascist had very different views on church and crown than Mussolini the socialist. Regimes labeled as fascist tend to be very nationalist and that by itself means that they are not all going to be the same but will draw on the unique histories and cultures of the peoples involved. They tend to emphasize ‘fraternity’ but not ‘equality’ and tend to favor traditional values. Unity is almost always paramount and fascists reject democracy, liberalism and any form of civil rights that could be damaging to national cohesion. Religion tends to be respected, though of course, that is usually contingent on it not being a source of division (or, in other words, dissent).
Usually, any description of fascist regimes will include a general tendency to launch wars of aggression and trying to take over the world. It sounds exciting, but it is not true as the number of fascist regimes that ever actually launched a major invasion of another country is actually quite small. Regimes considered fascist in countries such as Austria, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Latvia, Argentina, Brazil and so on never attacked anyone beyond their borders. In this case, as with many, Germany tends to taint the pool as it does with the issue of racism. For most fascist countries, race was not a primary concern, with many not considering it terribly important in their case or only to the extent that they put their own people first and did not make it a matter of policy to scapegoat some other race or nationality.
Additionally, there was also the political aspect. For nationalist regimes, there was no greater ideological enemy than the internationalists of the communist countries. It is an unfortunate fact of history that many people associated Jews with communism for the simple reason that Jews were disproportionately represented in the communist takeover of Russia and in many other countries Jews stood out in the leadership of communist movements such as Bela Kun in Hungary, Rosa Luxembourg and the Frankfurt School in Germany, Ludovic-Oscar Frossard in France, Jacques de Kadt in the Netherlands, Ruth Fischer in Austria or were involved in high-profile acts of communist subversion such as Max Goldstein in Romania, and so on and so forth. Of course, none of this means that all Jews are communists but the fact that many communists were Jews can certainly help explain the rise of anti-Semitism in the wake of the spread of communism after the First World War. Given how small a percentage of the population they represented, it would simply not be reasonable to expect the level of Jewish involvement in the post-war communist movement to go unnoticed or to fail to produce some level of backlash.
The specifically racial animus against the Jews was almost entirely confined to the National Socialist regime in Germany, which stands apart from most other fascist regimes in that regard, as well as in their incoherent attitude toward Christianity, at times accepting it and at other times denouncing it (the denunciations more often being done away from public view). Their subtle and not-so-subtle at times pushing of pre-Christian paganism was fairly unique from other fascist regimes which, seeking to restore some past period of national greatness, could not fail to notice that their height of power invariably coincided with the triumph of Christianity. This was not the case in Italy, yet even someone from so anti-clerical a background as Mussolini was forced to admit that Italy and Catholicism were inseparable and national unity required an accord with the Church of Rome. Romania’s fascist Iron Guard or Legion of the Archangel Michael was zealously Christian, requiring members to be willing to die for Christ and the German attitude seems rather odd when one considers that the height of German power came in the Christian era, whereas the pagan Germans had been primitive, disunited and frequently beaten. The Germanic barbarians that did ultimately overrun much of the Roman Empire, it is worth pointing out, had previously become Christian. I confess, I’ve often smirked at the thought of some strutting SS officer in the latest Hugo Boss fashion standing before a grizzled Teutonic Knight, explaining to him how Christianity is a source of weakness and how his pagan, cave-dwelling enemies are the real example to follow.
Across the Channel in France, a rather unique situation existed in which the most prominent fascist-type organization was overtly royalist, in a country where that would seem least likely and of a type that really went contrary to what one would expect. The group in question was Action Francaise (French Action) and, although less so today, was once regarded as the first proto-fascist party. In any event, it certainly had a great deal of influence on other fascist movements and so is well worth considering. It came to particular prominence in association with Charles Maurras, who was neither the founder nor the leader of the movement but its most adept intellectual spokesman. French Action favored nationalism, Catholicism, monarchy and integralism (a wider view of society of which corporatism was a part) and regarded as suspect such elements as Masons, Jews, Protestants and of course Marxists and radical leftists. It favored restoring the French monarchy though not restoring the King to actual power and favored the Orleanist claim to the French throne, not surprising given that it was the more ‘French’ of the competing factions.
It seemed that French Action stood a good chance of being politically successful until they were cut down in 1927 by Pope Pius XI in a move that is still seen today as rather inexplicable. The magazine of the movement was the first ever to be placed on the “Index of Forbidden Works” by the Catholic Church and later that year members were forbidden from receiving the sacraments, something which largely gutted the movement as the vast majority of members were practicing Catholics. Why would the Church do this to a movement which called for restoring the monarchy and restoring Catholicism as the official state religion, which condemned freemasonry and Protestantism? All possible explanations seem unsatisfactory.
The most likely explanation is that the Church simply wished to squash the figure of Charles Maurras, an agnostic who viewed Catholicism as a useful tool of social order and a part of French culture rather than a divinely empowered instrument of salvation, and the loss of French Action was simply collateral damage. If so, this would seem something of an overreaction and still does not quite satisfy as a way of explaining such a strong reaction on the part of the papacy. Maurras was, again, not the founder or the leader of the party, simply the most prominent member and the membership of French Action included a considerable number of priests and religious. Later, after the horrific events in Spain, the next pontiff, Pope Pius XII, repealed the ban on French Action but, by that time, the political current had largely left the movement behind. Other, smaller and less effective but more specifically fascist type movements had left French Action as one, now softer, voice among many. Its fortunes were not helped by the attitude of France after World War II which condemned Maurras and French Action for going along with the Vichy regime, Maurras regarding it as less than ideal but an improvement over the liberal republic.
The problem in Spain was that, as in France, the monarchy had become a source of division rather than unity. Franco got around this problem by restoring the monarchy in name fairly early on (1947) but not restoring it in fact until his death. He held off for a number of years (until 1969) in naming who his royal successor would be as a way to keep all royalist factions on side, each hoping ‘their man’ would be the one chosen. It also helped that the royals were firmly on the side of Franco from the start. King Alfonso XIII had backed the nationalists and sent his son, the Count of Barcelona, to join their ranks. The count, however, never got along with Franco, called him a usurper and so it is no surprise he was passed over in favor of his son, Don Juan Carlos, who was very friendly and supportive of Franco and his regime and so it was he who was chosen to take power when Franco died, restoring the monarchy in fact. Franco proved his monarchist bona fides by actually restoring the monarchy.
Neighboring Portugal had a very different story, with a royal heir who was more openly opposed to the fascist type regime prevailing in his country. That was the corporatist state of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar which stressed, of course, corporatism, nationalism, Catholicism, pride in Portuguese history and the defense of every inch of the Portuguese empire. Salazar originally seemed favorable to the restoration of the monarchy and for the first time since the establishment of the republic, praise for the historic Kingdom of Portugal became commonplace. However, Salazar, while effectively the dictator, was legally only the head of government and not the head of state. President Oscar Carmona had been very powerful in the past, changed positions from time to time and was not someone Salazar probably wished to have an open clash with, nor could he have been expected to go along with a restoration of the monarchy. That changed when the President died in 1951 and Salazar did, at that point, consider doing away with the presidency and restoring the monarchy.
In the end, when the military coup ousted the corporatist regime, Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, celebrated the event and publicly endorsed the junta, perhaps hoping that he might be put on the throne by the new democratic regime. If so, that hope was obviously unfulfilled and one can only speculate if embracing the Salazar regime would have been to his benefit since, had he done so and had he been named successor in the fashion of Franco and Juan Carlos, he might have been quickly ousted as well by the military in the “Carnation Revolution”. Who can say? He has also caused some controversy by other actions such as saying nice things about President Assad in Syria and supposedly reconciling with the freemasons (which I have heard but am a bit skeptical about as it is hard to imagine what possible reason he would have for doing such a thing). In any event, for monarchists, the failure to restore the House of Braganza to the throne leaves most with little nostalgia for the “New State” though Portugal, in that era, will always have my support at least for fighting harder than any other European country, post-World War II, against the forces of international communism in Africa. Portugal was essentially fighting three wars at once with rebel forces backed by the entire communist global community and I don’t think Portugal receives nearly enough credit for that.
As we have mentioned here before (quite some time ago at this point), just looking at the World War II period, 18 of the 25 Axis powers or affiliated states were monarchies (though some only nominally so) and you had fascist type regimes in Spain that did bring back the monarchy, Austria that was in the process of doing so but was stopped and Portugal which came close but ultimately did not. Overall, one does get the impression that these fascist type movements were more favorable toward the idea of monarchy than with monarchy itself. Actual royals tended to cause jealousy and fears of rivalry in public esteem on the part of fascist leaders and having someone, no matter how seemingly ceremonial, ‘above’ the person holding power tends to make them very uncomfortable. Yet, the emphasis on nationalism, a grander form of tribalism, cannot but call to mind the traditional tribal chieftain, the hereditary leader of a people, someone for whom the story of their bloodline is the story of their people, their nation and that is a special bond which cannot be replicated by the mechanics of political machinery.
Personally, the only acceptable form of classical liberalism was that embodied by such conservative thinkers as Edmund Burke. The problem is in maintaining that style as liberalism carries within it the seeds of its own destruction as should be all too clear now. As someone known for having more positive things to say about Mussolini than is considered acceptable in polite society, I will not hesitate to point out again that the liberals today seem intent with their overreaching to prove him right more every day in his assertion that, “The liberal state is a mask behind which there is no face, it is a scaffolding behind which there is no building” or that, essentially, the whole system is a fraud with freedoms for the favored but not for all. The basic liberal system, based to a large extent on idealism, works only in so far as the ground rules are evenly applied and universally adhered to. Such is no longer the case today so that the point of view of the fascists, that every state is essentially totalitarian and the only options are whether it is a totalitarianism that favors your worldview or suppresses it, supports your people or endeavors to destroy them, becomes, I would think, nearly impossible to refute.
For this adherent of traditional authority, one of the biggest roots of our current evils is the existence of political parties. The basic corporatist model has long been one that I think has the potential to rid countries of that pestilence. In that way, to jump to the opposite end of the political spectrum, it is also why I have time for libertarian type ideas about the ‘privatized society’ in that regard. I would not quickly dismiss anything that would offer hope for rendering mass political parties irrelevant and ultimately extinct. If anything, regardless of any one group's view of monarchy (and this could be dangerous) the current trends of society, particularly in the western countries which have the very existence of their people at stake, the public is being forced in a nationalist direction simply as a survival mechanism.