Which countries in Europe were fascist in the past?

Officially, only one: Italy. He is the only one to claim the name. Thus, describing as “fascist” other regimes of the same type at the same time immediately constitutes an abuse of language…

It was actually Stalin who popularized the term, but only after World War II. In his mind, the term is used to designate Hitler’s National Socialism, and everything that could be associated with it. However, the term National Socialism is embarrassing for Stalin since he claims himself the appellation of socialist. On the other hand, “fascism” sounds good and is easy to remember.

Nevertheless, even if no terminology is fully satisfactory, Stalin’s semantic find comes de facto to fill a void. There did exist a certain type of far-right political regime in the period between the two wars, in the majority of European countries. For the rest, it is only in Germany that power was obtained through the ballot box. Elsewhere, they were set up following coups d’etat, a civil war (Spain), or a foreign invasion.

Their raison d’être is the reaction to the communist revolution which took power in Russia as early as 1917. Just emerging from a devastating war (which served as a diversion from social problems), Europe became very industrialized at the same time. time that very unequal. Everywhere the working classes are strongly agitated, even on the verge of insurrection. Communist coup attempts also take place in Germany (Spartakists and the November Revolution), Austria and Hungary (Bela Kun), and civil wars supported by the Red Army in Latvia and Finland .

Also, terrified by the prospect of chaos, employers and the middle classes in many cases support reactionary movements. Even if the term “fascist” is inappropriate, these regimes are all authoritarian if not totalitarian, just like communism is. They often present themselves as being themselves revolutionaries. They all have a number of recognizable characteristics in common, some of which are analogous to Soviet totalitarianism, some of which are not.

  • the cult of the leader : Duce, Führer, Caudillo, Conducator etc. These regimes are always embodied by an all-powerful leader to whom a cult of personality is devoted.
  • Dictatorship : In all cases, these are one – party systems where opposition is not tolerated. The press is censored, opponents arrested and imprisoned, when not tortured or liquidated.
  • The enlistment of the masses : omnipresent propaganda, both in education and in the new means of communication (radio, audiovisual); politicized youth movements on the scout model are promoted; mass gatherings are organized with parades and uniforms.
  • The taste for acronyms : anecdotal but nevertheless characteristic aspect, in response to the communist hammer and sickle. In Germany, the iconic swastika will even appear on the new flag. These symbols are present everywhere with varying success.

The two major differences with communism are:

  • The maintenance of private property : this is, moreover, the whole purpose of the operation. The unions are neutralized by a corporatism subjected to the State. The propertied classes and the large industrial groups see their powers maintained if not reinforced.
  • Exacerbated nationalism : it is present everywhere, unlike communism which wants to be international. But there again, there are major differences, Hitler’s Germany being an extreme case. It is openly expansionist, racist and eugenicist whereas Italy is much less so, and Spain not at all. And the United States and Great Britain then have racist policies without being fascist.

In 1939, three of the main European countries, Germany, Italy and Spain had fascist-type regimes, although only Italy claimed the term. They serve as a reference and as ideological or strategic allies to those who have appeared elsewhere. In central Europe, democracy was maintained only in Czechoslovakia until its invasion. Other regimes will be put in place later, following the invasion by National Socialist Germany.

At that time, the other reactionary or totalitarian regimes on the right were:

  • Hungary Following the dismemberment of the country at the Treaty of Trianon and the abortive revolution of Bela Kun, the Hungarian Parliament elects Admiral Horthy regent (an ironic situation, knowing that the country no longer has either fleet or king) .
    A facade parliamentarianism is maintained, but the regime is authoritarian, relying on the army, the church and the aristocracy. It outlaws Communists and sets a numerus clausus for Jews at the University. Horthy cautiously cooperates with Hitler, but will nevertheless protect the Jews from extermination while he is in power.
  • Poland In 1926, Marshal Pilsudski organized a coup d’etat after several very chaotic years .
    The single party is established, called Sanacja (sanitation). The communists are repressed, but the main targets of the regime are the separatists, particularly the Ukrainians. Very popular, Pilsudski is above all patriotic and paternalistic. After his death, power remained in the hands of a military junta. Even if Poland is certainly not a democracy, the oppression there is disproportionate to that of its neighbors Hitler and Stalin, who will unite to bring it down.
  • Bulgaria Following an attack against King Boris III in the cathedral of Sofia, the “royal dictatorship” is established, ie the return to absolute monarchy as in the former tsarist Russia .
    This type of regime will prevail throughout the Balkans. The king nevertheless remains fairly honest.
  • Yugoslavia also knows the royal dictatorship after 1929 with King Alexander 1°, after a deputy was killed in the middle of a parliamentary session The king himself will be shot in 1934 in Marseille by Croatian separatists with the French minister Louis Barthou. As for Albania following a military coup, an adventurer named Ahmet Zogou had himself crowned king there under the name of Zog 1°, inspiring Hergé for “Ottokar’s scepter”…
  • Romania King Carol II will in turn establish a royal dictatorship .
    Expensive and frivolous, he installed his mistress Magda Lupescu, of Jewish origin, in the palace. He himself is in turn contested by a very violent fascist movement, the Iron Guard (or even the Legion of the Archangel Michael), whose charismatic leader Codreanu will end up assassinated. The ideology is national-Christian, anti-Communist, anti-Semitic and anti-Hungarian, and enjoys the support of the Orthodox Church.

It was only with the alignment on the Rome-Berlin axis that the Romanian “conducator” Antonescu came to power by a coup d’etat in 1940. He made King Carol abdicate in favor of his very young son Michel , who will be exiled by the Communists.

  • In Portugal , Doctor Salazar set up a Catholic national-corporatist state in 1933, the Estado Novo, model of the future Francoist Spain. He would remain in power until the Carnation Revolution in 1974.
  • Greece : classic scenario from 1936 with General Metaxas Coup d’etat, liquidation of the opposition, mass propaganda. Despite its proximity to the axis, it will be swept away by the Italian invasion of 1941.

Except in the last three cases, the epithet of fascist remains debatable for the others. Stalin, however, qualified them all as such, to better justify post-war Soviet occupation in Central Europe.

Following the German and/or Italian invasion:

  • Slovakia : as soon as Czechoslovakia was dismembered, a national-Catholic satellite state of Hitler was set up under Bishop Monsignor Tiso .
  • Norway Hitler brought his protege Vidkun Quisling to power there .
    In addition to the internment of resistance fighters in concentration camps beyond the Arctic Circle, Quisling actively promotes eugenics, encouraging the union of German soldiers with Norwegian women. His popular support is weak, and he will be hanged at the Liberation.
  • Croatia Allied to the Axis, the Ustasha government of Ante Pavelić annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina .
    He will show a barbaric cruelty towards the Jews and the Serbs, which will culminate in the Jasenovac camp. The number of Ustashi victims is in the hundreds of thousands. But the regime will rally the Bosnian Muslims whom it considers to be Croats, and some will serve as auxiliaries to Hitler under the name of Handschar.
  • The France of Vichy
    Benefiting from his prestige as a hero of Verdun, the very old Marshal Pétain was not very charismatic with regard to his neighbors Mussolini and Franco. But their influence on the regime is obvious: abolition of the Republic, national-Catholic alliance, propaganda and mass demonstrations, youth camps, recourse to a militia which tortures or liquidates the resistance fighters. If the racial obsession is much less pronounced than with Hitler, anti-Semitic measures will lead to the death of 70,000 Jews.

In Finland, Marshal Mannerheim allied with Hitler against Stalin. Nationalist and conservative, the regime nevertheless remains a democracy. As for the three Baltic states, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, they experienced coups and single national unity parties in the 1930s, but these precisely outlawed both communist and fascist formations. After the invasion of Nazi Germany, they will be absorbed into the Ostland, a “Reich police station” devoid of any autonomy, relying on collaborators.

Ukraine (at least its western part), which never knew independence, was in a similar situation during the Second World War. The Nazis relied for a time on the nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, who took the head of the organization OUN This one wants to establish a Ukrainian state at the expense of Poland and the USSR, and it is still celebrated by many of Ukrainians as a resister to Stalin. Although very anti-communist and very anti-Semitic, Bandera soon proved too intractable to please Hitler, who had him imprisoned several times from 1942.

It is therefore a large majority of Europe which is during the Second World War subjected to an order of the fascist type. Sweden and Switzerland are neutral but surrounded and forced to collaborate. Great Britain is the notable exception, but it has experienced similar movements with the Union of British Fascists of Oswald Mosley, even if they collapsed quite quickly. All these regimes will nevertheless be swept away by the combined victory of the Western allies and the Soviets.

In the East, communist totalitarianism takes over. In the West, the consumer society on the American model will permanently divert the working classes from the aspiration to revolution, a major trigger of fascism.

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