Romanian Legionary fascism as a futurist, not traditionalist, movement.
Let’s consider an essay on the Romanian Legionary Movement – Mircea Platon, The Iron Guard and the ‘Modern State’. Iron Guard Leaders Vasile Marin and Ion I. Moţa, and the ‘New European Order’, Fascism 1 (2012) 65–90. You should read the whole thing; the major points are mostly self-explanatory. I will cite some particularly relevant excerpts (emphasis added) and make some brief comments on them.
Let’s start with the abstract:
Historians and literary scholars still working in a Cold War paradigm cast Romanian Fascism as a form of reactionary resistance to liberal modernity, and not as a competing modernizing discourse and drive. Nevertheless, in a 1933 programmatic article, the Legionnaire leader, ideologue, and ‘martyr’ Vasile Marin wrote that political concepts such as ‘the Right,’ ‘the Left,’ and ‘extremism’ lost their relevance in Romania, as well as in Europe. They had been replaced by a ‘totalitarian view of the national life,’ which was common to Fascism, National-Socialism, and the Legion. This new ‘concept’ would allow Romania to ‘overcome, by absorbing them, the democratic and socialist experiences and would create the modern state,’ – a ‘totalitarian’ state. The present article aims to consolidate the conceptual gains of ‘new consensus’ historiography, which views the Iron Guard as part of a global revolutionary movement that was spurred by the practice of a political religion promising a ‘national rebirth’ or a ‘complete cultural’ and anthropological ‘renewal.’ Far from militating for national autarchy and populist-agrarian conservatism, the two Legionnaire leaders discussed in my article sought to align Romania with the modernizing, industrializing drive of Western European Fascism.
Note: “modernizing, industrializing drive.” Thus, as we shall see, this essay aligns the Legionary movement more with a Type II futurist, modernizing, “science and technics”-oriented outlook, as opposed to the Type I traditionalist “runes and boots” “twigs and branches” backwards outlook. This essay argues that the Legion’s traditionalist image was just a surface veneer, for effect (to place it within historical Romanian culture), rather than indicative of any underling foundational paradigm. In this sense, the Legion had more in common with EGI Notes than with Counter-Currents.
…the Legionnaire leader, ideologue, and ‘martyr’ Vasile Marin wrote that such political concepts as ‘the right,’ ‘the left,’ and ‘extremism’ had died in Romania, as well as in Europe. They had been replaced by a ‘totalitarian view of the national life,’ which was common to fascism, National Socialism, and the Legion. This new ‘concept’ would allow Romania to ‘overcome, by absorbing them, the democratic and socialist experiences and would create the modern state’ – a ‘totalitarian’ state. Codreanu’s socially conscious letter and Marin’s modernist enthusiasm highlight the relevance of the pioneering attempts of several scholars to place the Legion within the framework of the ‘new consensus.’ This ‘new consensus’ defined fascism as a global revolutionary movement spurred by the practice (‘living dangerously,’ ‘sacrificially’) of a political religion that promised a ‘national rebirth’ or a ‘complete cultural’ and anthropological ‘renewal.’
A rebirth and renewal through “modernist enthusiasm.” Type II, not Type I.
By using these terms, the Legion clearly demonstrated its intention to destroy the organic, historically mediated (and thus elastic and reasonably tolerant) social ties and ways of life that had developed over time. This would be done in order to recast them into a more uniform, militarized way of life that would no longer be able to accommodate ‘inefficiency,’ idle pastimes, and political or ‘racial’ undesirables (e.g., communists, liberals, or Jews). As such, the Legion was the first Romanian political movement to seek to impose its own aims on the whole of Romanian society. The increasingly sophisticated division of work spurred by modern economic development, with its emphasis on ‘organized activities,’ subordinated the individual to the ‘collectivity,’
Note: “the Legion clearly demonstrated its intention to destroy the organic, historically mediated (and thus elastic and reasonably tolerant) social ties and ways of life that had developed over time.” That is completely anti-traditionalist. It is a radically futurist approach. Delenda est traditionalism!
Far from celebrating the virtues of Romania’s traditional ‘minor’ peasant culture, Marin considered such a culture as a sign that his compatriots were historical outcasts…
…subsisting on a biological level…
Type Is marching through the woods, eating twigs and branches. Type Is “snug in their hobbit hole in the forest.”
…but non-existent at a ‘spiritual,’ cultural (i.e., Historical) level. The villages – the peasant world – were not important in themselves, but only as a resource, as a sort of gene pool for creating the modern culturally and genetically enhanced uber-Romanian. Like the rest of the population, Romania’s villagers were treated by Marin as a kind of raw material – a dark, anonymous human soil that had to be molded and propelled into History by the Iron Guardist ‘elite of the pure and intransigent ones.’ Marin placed all of his hopes on the ‘elite of our generation, the few, the chosen, the stubborn and the united,’ who would be capable of making the ‘crowds’ adhere to the national revolution.
The “de facto anarchy provinces” of Tolkien’s traditionalist wet dreams – merely “raw material.”
Marin noted that, whereas czarist Russia had belonged to History by virtue of its culture, the Soviet Union was merely a civilized, technological desert. This decay had taken place because what had started as a potentially epoch-making national revolution had been hijacked by Jews and demoted to a ‘mere’ communist revolution (i.e., a sterile civilizational affair). In the early 1930s, however, Marin noted with satisfaction that, while fascism was becoming increasingly socialist, Soviet socialism under Stalin was becoming increasingly ‘national’, thus proving that modernity and political realism were forcing the convergence of the two systems.
The Jews destroyed Russia. When will the Slav exact vengeance against the Jew?
An integral component of this fascist historic teleology, Marin’s strident anti-Semitism was not a sign of any reactionary retreat to the past, but of a revolutionary eagerness to embrace History and to master modernity. Marin feared that Jewish heterogeneity might spoil the national unity required by the creation of a powerful state capable of fostering a strong culture that would propel Romania into History. In this vision, the physical and the cultural nourished each other and, for Marin, History was the territory of the Nietzschean super-man.
From Chamberlain, Wagner, and Nietzsche, Marin borrowed the idea that the ‘Jewish race’ was characterized by a ‘materialism’ that corrupted the idealism of the superior Aryan race and that hampered its capacity to manifest its vitality through continual self-renewal
Marin’s opinions about the Jews is interesting in the context of this:
Marin married, with the approval of Legionary leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, Ana Maria Ropala in February 1933. Ropala was the daughter of a Romanian army officer and a Jewish woman who converted to Christianity.
Oy vey! Mazel Tov! Cue Der Movement comments about “Khazar milkers.”
Marin’s anti-Semitism was thus ideological, principled, and ontologically rooted in racism. Marin noted that the Iron Guard’s actions were prompted by ‘the conscience of a superiority of race – the same conscience that had caused the “Civitas Romanus,” 2000 years before, to spit with disgust in the face of the wretched Jew crawling along the walls of the eternal city like a beast.’ The radical, ontological alterity of the Jews could not be bridged or transformed in any political or cultural way. Racism was not a consequence, but a cause of economic anti-Semitism.
Except in the bedroom, Vasile? Mazel Tov!
Like Moţa, Marin rejected any right-wing corporatism or left-wing peasantism that failed to mandate racial purification.
Re: his wife?
Like Marin, however, Moţa complained that Jews constituted an obstacle to the modernization of Romania. Anything but a Romantic reactionary, Moţa claimed the benefits of modernization, industrialization, and the French Revolution for Romanians. He credited the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution with radical political and economic improvements in the life of all nations, a point he shared with Marin, who saw the French Revolution as a ‘national revolution’ with positive results for other European states.
This more balanced view of the French Revolution contrasts to the hysterical hostility of the reactionary traditionalist Right to every aspect of that revolution. According to Der Right, the French masses should have been content to starve while effete monarchs and parasitical nobles lived off the fat of the land.
…Romania and other Christian nations had lost their traditional culture without acquiring a ‘higher’ one, without having had the opportunity to ‘enhance their spiritual culture’ through the application of technology. In Moţa’s view (which differed from that of the nineteenth-century Romantic, passeist writer Mihail Eminescu, whose verses he quoted in the title of his article), industrialization had nothing to do with what he perceived to be the moral decay of Romanians. Liberalism offered nothing more than a failed, stunted modernization: ‘If railways brought us better and more beautiful songs to replace those they extinguished, we would not have cursed them in our songs (doine), but we would have celebrated the railways with happy dances (hore de bucurie). This would have happened if the fruits of this productive advance had come into our possession.’
This view of Mota is 100% in line with hardcore futurism and with the “machine primitivism” of French and Italian technics-oriented fascists.
Any notion that Moţa was mired in the past – that he was mounting anti-technological attacks similar to those of the German conservative revolutionary (as expressed in Friedrich Georg Jünger’s The Failure of Technology) or of the French Catholic anti-fascist conservative Georges Bernanos – is thus unfounded.
Thus, Mota was a Type II futurist, not a Type I traditionalist.
…Moţa accepted the Transylvanian Saxons as full-fledged Romanian citizens, as their ‘German cultural élan and their rebirth into an Aryan and Christian spirit is a legitimate ideal.’
Here I disagree, and this is a sad example of Teuton worship among the Right. John Morgan is not Hungarian and Transylvanian Saxons are not Romanians. Send them back to Germany.
Moţa’s participation at the fascist congress organized by the Comitati d’Azione per l’Universalità di Roma (CAUR; Committees of Action for the Universality of Rome) in Montreux, Switzerland (December 16-17, 1934), together with his 1934-1936 correspondence with the German news service and propaganda agency Welt-Dienst, or Service Mondial (World Service), offer the opportunity to analyze what the Legionnaire leadership believed to be the Legion’s role in the fascist New European Order. The relevant sets of documents have received only scant attention until now. They indicate that the Legion strived to be recognized at the European level as the only legitimate and trustworthy Romanian embodiment of the ‘national revolutionary’ spirit – as the natural ally and supporter of a New European Order. In Moţa’s vision, this Order would be a united anti-Semitic front, capable of successfully addressing the ‘Jewish question.’ In his Montreux speech, Moţa argued that this ‘question’ could be solved only if Nazis and Italian Fascists set aside their differences.
See this about Mota. A few of the minor details are outdated given some of the revelations of the Fascism piece, but the overall thrust of the essay is, in my opinion, still relevant.
The fact that Moţa articulated this point of view in his speech at the 1934 CAUR congress is particularly salient, given that the Italian Fascist organizers of the meeting had carefully avoided inviting any NSDAP representatives.
I stand corrected in my previous assertions that the Nazis did not attend because they were obsessed with hegemonic ambitions in Europe as opposed to genuine inter-fascist cooperation. Now, I still maintain that my overall interpretation of Nazi behavior is correct; however, their lack of attendance in this instance was because they were not invited.
The years 1933-34 marked Mussolini’s loudest attempts to distance himself from Nazi racism by repeatedly and publicly rejecting eugenics and the theory of an Aryan/German race. Interested in a muscular cultural nationalism that would allow him to ‘Italicize’ his empire, Mussolini regarded Hitler’s biological racism as a sign of sheer cultural backwardness: ‘Thirty centuries of history allow us to look with supreme pity on certain doctrines preached beyond the Alps by the descend-ants of those who were illiterate when Rome had Caesar, Virgil, and Augustus.’ Mussolini had a number of close Jewish collaborators; hundreds of Jews had participated in the famous 1922 March on Rome that had brought Mussolini to power and, until the 1938 introduction of anti-Jewish legislation, ‘the percent-age of Jews in the Fascist party was higher than in Italian society as a whole.’
Like Yockey and Evola, I believe that these opinions of Mussolini were a response to the Guntherite Nordicism that formed the basis of “Nazi racism.” The real problem for these people was not biological racism, but the expression of that biological racism specifically in Nordicist terms. Reading the whole essay, including parts not included in this post for the sake of brevity, we observe that Mota and others in the Legion wanted a “pan-Aryan” ideal that focused on Aryan vs. Jewish racial differences while minimizing differences among Aryans. And by ‘Aryan” was meant indigenous Europeans (non-Jewish European gentiles). This was a reaction to Germanocentric racism; however, some Germans who wanted to make common cause with Mota ostensibly espoused his “pan-Aryan” view (whether they actually believed it is another story).
This ideal could not be achieved without international solidarity among those fighting in the name of fascism. Coselschi pointed out that fascism was not international and ‘free-Masonic’ like Marxism, but national and nationalist. Fascism was also ‘universal,’ however, in that it could be adapted to different national contexts all over the world. Coselschi defined fascism as a movement whose goal was to rebuild a unitary, strong, and disciplined state on a new base of law and justice, of harmony between social classes, and of coordination and solidarity instead of competition between producers.
Fascism is revolutionary, not reactionary. Franco was not fascist.
Moţa asserted that, beyond corporatism, the unity of the international fascist movement could be further strengthened by finding common solutions to other common universal problems (e.g., ‘the Jewish problem’). In the case of Romania, the ‘Jewish problem’ was ‘very grave,’ and it would certainly ‘endanger the future unity of the Fascist world.’…As Moţa reminded the participants, this Europe would rest upon the ideas of ‘justice’ and ‘order.’ Moţa therefore urged the congress to ‘pronounce itself unequivocally’ on the ‘Jewish issue.’
Mr. Mota, meet Mrs. Marin.
Moţa’s appeal split the congress and catapulted the Romanian into the position of faction chief. The Belgian Paul Hoornaert, the Irish general Eoin O’Duffy, the Portuguese Eça de Queiroz, and the Greek George S. Mercouris insisted that, in their countries, the Jewish population was either very small or professionally and civically very well assimilated, that Jews had performed their patriotic duty on the front in WWI, and that they were very productive citizens. The Austrian Rinaldini declared that the corporatist structure of the Austrian state was functioning satisfactorily, even with Jewish delegates. The Italians Bortolotto, Basile, and Coselschi reiterated Mussolini’s declaration that, from the Italian Fascist point of view, ‘there was no Jewish question in Italy, only an Italian question.’74 On the other hand, Moţa had the support of the Belgian Somville, the Dutch Arnold Meijer, the Swiss Fonjallaz, and the Danish Clausen (whose argument was based on Alfred Rosenberg’s theories). Therefore, the congress adopted a motion stating that the ‘nefarious actions’ of those Jews engaged in activities or political organizations that subverted patriotism and the ‘Christian civilization’ and were ‘harmful’ to the ‘material and moral interests of their countries,’ should be met with opposition of the most stern form. The motion nevertheless stated that ‘the Congress declares that the Jewish question cannot be solved by a universal campaign of hate against Jews.’
The “JQ” divided Der Right even back then.
In other words, the Legion’s break with Cuza’s LANC was not due to the fact that the Legion was a Christian movement while LANC was racist. The divorce was prompted by the Legionnaire leadership’s belief that LANC was too democratic, and a mere tool of survival for the nineteenth-century ‘mechanical’ ideas and politics that the Legion’s vitalist reactionary modernism had rejected as ‘old.’
Since they had come into power, the Nazi leaders had preferred to negotiate with Cuza and to strengthen their influence in Romania by working directly with King Carol II.
Germans acting inappropriately even back then.
The entire episode allows us to conclude that, even though historians have not discovered much evidence to support the idea that the Legion acted as a Nazi ‘fifth column’ in Romania, Moţa and other Iron Guardist leaders actively sought a German alliance.
The Legion did not shun modernity; it welcomed it as a chance to build a truly national state – a state that would be the unhampered cultural expression of an ethnically pure nation. This would confirm their place within the family of European fascisms, defined by Robert Paxton as ‘a system of authority and of management which promises to strengthen the unity, the energy, and the purity of a modern community.’
It’s not going to be “ethnically pure” with Transylvanian Saxons around.