Event Date: 15 – 17 May 2019
Richmond University – The American University in London
Richmond TW10 6JP
A Century of Radical Right Extremism: New Approaches
Dr Roland Clark (University of Liverpool) – Images of Crisis in Right-Wing Discourses of Interwar Romania
This paper will how leading figures on the Romanian far right framed their grievances between 1918 and 1941. Right-wing ideologies consistently articulated their concerns as cultural, political, or social crises, but the specific crises varied considerably according to time and place. Right-wing workers claimed that striking workers were the vanguard of a communist invasion in Iaşi during 1919, antisemitic students protested Jewish medical students dissecting Romanian cadavers in Cluj during 1922, militant church leaders panicked about Western-influenced heretics in Bucharest during 1923, and ultranationalists arrested for plotting a series of assassinations complained about judicial bias against Romanian patriots in 1924. Social panics continued throughout the interwar period, from political scandals such as the Skoda Affair and the king’s abdication, to claims about disadvantaged populations such as the Moţi in Transylvania, Aromanians in Dobruja, or ethnically Romanian factory workers in foreign-owned factories, and longstanding fears about amorphous threats such as Jews, Communists, or Freemasons.
Tracing the evolution of images of crisis shows how interrelated various right-wing groups were and the extent to which they differed from mainstream conservative parties. Although they engaged in bitter and sometimes violent competition with one another, most groups shared a similar range of grievances and a common rhetoric of crisis. In terms of their grievances, there was little to separate the well-known Legion of the Archangel Michael from lesser-known groups such as Swastika of Fire, or even from so-called non-extremist groups such as the Block of the Generation of 1922 and Alexandru Vaida-Voevod’s wing of the National Peasant Party. Noting how the salience of various grievances changed over time indicates how closely antisemitic or anti-Masonic agendas were tied to political developments and well-publicised scandals. Fascists and other right-wing groups instrumentalized their grievances for political gain, and as Juan Linz noted, ‘the various ‘antis’ of fascism served to define its identity in contrast to other parties and to appeal to the supporters of one or another on the basis of being more militantly against others’. Finally, thinking of images of crisis as political tools allows us to evaluate Roger Griffin’s argument that national palingenesis lay at the heart of fascist ideology and practice. Drawing our attention away from vague, ‘mythic’ statements, the tone, frequency, and intensity of right-wing talk about crises shows the extent to which they were attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the regime (which varied from party to party), and the focus of their grievances reveal whether the object of their activism was the nation or political power.