Assault On Democracy: Communism, Fascism, And Authoritarianism During The Interwar Years [1st Edition] 1108844332, 9781108844338, 1108948049, 9781108948043, 1108943640, 9781108943642

The interwar years saw the greatest reversal of political liberalization and democratization in modern history. Why and

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Assault On Democracy: Communism, Fascism, And Authoritarianism During The Interwar Years [1st Edition]
 1108844332, 9781108844338, 1108948049, 9781108948043, 1108943640, 9781108943642

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Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Title......Page 2
Title - Full......Page 4
Copyright......Page 5
Contents......Page 6
Tables......Page 8
Preface......Page 10
Acknowledgments......Page 12
1 Introduction The Puzzle: Reverse Waves of Political Reaction......Page 14
2 Theory: The Double Deterrent Effect and the Bounds of Rationality......Page 52
3 The Soviet Precedent and the Wave of Isomorphic Emulation Efforts......Page 88
4 The Suppression of Isomorphic Emulation Efforts and Its Limited Regime Effects......Page 114
5 Persistence of the Communist Threat and Rising Appeal of Fascism......Page 144
6 The German Exception: Emulating Full-Scale Fascism......Page 171
7 The Spread of Fascist Movements – Yet of Authoritarian Regimes......Page 206
8 Conservative–Fascist Relations and the Autocratic Reverse Wave......Page 241
9 The Edges of the Autocratic Wave: Battered Democracy and Populist Authoritarianism......Page 304
10 Conclusion......Page 327
Bibliography......Page 346
Index......Page 380

Citation preview

Assault on Democracy

The interwar years saw the greatest reversal of political liberalization and democratization in modern history. Why and how did dictatorship proliferate throughout Europe and Latin America in the 1920s and 1930s? Blending perspectives from history, comparative politics, and cognitive psychology, Kurt Weyland argues that the Russian Revolution sparked powerful elite groupings that, fearing communism, aimed to suppress imitation attempts inspired by Lenin’s success. Fears of communism fueled doubts about the defensive capacity of liberal democracy, strengthened the ideological right, and prompted the rise of fascism in many countries. Yet, as fascist movements spread, their extremity and violence also sparked conservative backlash that often blocked their seizure of power. Weyland teases out the differences across countries, tracing how the resulting conflicts led to the imposition of fascist totalitarianism in Italy and Germany and the installation of conservative authoritarianism in Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America. Kurt Weyland is Mike Hogg Professor in Liberal Arts in the Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of five other books and approximately fifty journal articles and book chapters. His book, Making Waves (Cambridge University Press, 2014) won Best Book Award from APSA’s Comparative Democratization section.

Assault on Democracy Communism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism During the Interwar Years

KURT WEYLAND University of Texas at Austin

University Printing House, Cambridge 2 8, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York,  10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne,  3207, Australia 314–321, 3rd Floor, Plot 3, Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – 110025, India 79 Anson Road, #06–04/06, Singapore 079906 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781108844338 : 10.1017/9781108943642 © Kurt Weyland 2021 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2021 A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library.  978-1-108-84433-8 Hardback  978-1-108-94804-3 Paperback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

Contents

List of Tables

page vii

Preface Acknowledgments

ix xi

1

Introduction: The Puzzle: Reverse Waves of Political Reaction

1

2

Theory: The Double Deterrent Effect and the Bounds of Rationality The Soviet Precedent and the Wave of Isomorphic Emulation Efforts

3 4 5

The Suppression of Isomorphic Emulation Efforts and Its Limited Regime Effects Persistence of the Communist Threat and Rising Appeal of Fascism

6 7

The German Exception: Emulating Full-Scale Fascism The Spread of Fascist Movements – Yet of Authoritarian Regimes

8

Conservative–Fascist Relations and the Autocratic Reverse Wave The Edges of the Autocratic Wave: Battered Democracy and Populist Authoritarianism

9

39 75 101 131 158 193 228 291

10 Conclusion

314

Bibliography Index

333 367

v

Tables

1.1 Installation of reactionary autocracies during the interwar years 2.1 Pathways to reactionary autocracy during the interwar years

vii

page 4 64

Preface

Every German who grew up in the post–WWII era faced the impossible task of coming to grips with our terrible recent past, the massive destruction and self-destruction, the unspeakable atrocities and crimes. Although I escaped to the United States and turned to the study of Latin America, it was unavoidable to return to this task. After I designed my own theoretical approach to political regime change and tested it by examining a range of other cases in my last two books, I finally felt ready. This study therefore holds a very deep personal meaning. For this reason, it is dedicated to my late father, Dr. Helmut Weyland, who grew up during the interwar years and who at the current age of my sons had already undergone experiences, as a regular soldier and then a POW, that he would spend the rest of his life trying to cope with. The book is also dedicated to my sons, Andreas and Nikolas Weyland, who – decades later – still live under the shadow of the German past.

ix

Acknowledgments

Because this book pulls together so many strands of my research and thinking, there are many people who contributed, in various ways. For excellent comments and interesting conversations over the years, I am grateful to Zoltan Barany, Mark Beissinger, Nancy Bermeo, Douglas Biow, Daniel Brinks, Giovanni Capoccia, Zachary Elkins, Federico Finchelstein, John Gerring, Kenneth Greene, Seva Gunitsky, Bert Hoffmann, Jacint Jordana, Brigitte Kaster, Fabrice Lehoucq, Raúl Madrid, Rose McDermott, António Costa Pinto, Peter Rudolf, Daniel Ziblatt, and especially Fernando Rosenblatt, Andrew Stein, and Wendy Hunter. Moreover, I benefited greatly from presentations at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg; Harvard University; Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen; Princeton University; Sciences Po, Paris; Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago de Chile; Universidade de São Paulo – Leste; Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona; and Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin. Furthermore, I would like to thank Cameron Daddis, Robert Judkins, Orvil Matthews, and especially Sara Doskow of Cambridge University Press for all their contributions to this book.

xi

1 Introduction The Puzzle: Reverse Waves of Political Reaction

The “third wave of democratization” (Huntington 1991) fueled great hopes of continuing political progress at the end of the twentieth century. But then, to observers’ surprise, the third millennium has quickly turned into an age of anxiety. In recent years, serious concerns about the vibrancy and sustainability of liberal democracy have proliferated (Bermeo 2016; Levitsky and Ziblatt 2018; Mounk 2018; Sunstein 2018). The sources of citizens’ worsening discontent, which seems to create room for undemocratic machinations, are manifold. Economic globalization has ravaged major industrial sectors and turned whole regions into rust belts. Social inequality keeps rising inexorably, reinforcing fears of status loss among the white working class (Gest 2016) and exacerbating worries about ever more profound and wide-ranging cultural change (Hochschild 2016; Norris and Inglehart 2019). Terrorist attacks loom. Mass migration threatens to undermine the cultural and ethnic homogeneity prized by substantial population segments (Eatwell and Goodwin 2018). As a result, political liberalism is faced with increasing criticism, if not rejection, and populist movements are sprouting across the globe. Populism in turn has inherent authoritarian tendencies, whether it combines with exclusionary nationalism in its right-wing versions or whether it announces participatory promises but, it uses plebiscitarian practices in its left-wing versions. After all, the personalistic leaders around whom populism revolves ceaselessly pursue power concentration to solidify their precarious political sustenance, which often lacks organizational foundations. To gain hegemony, they systematically try to bend or break institutional checks and balances and thus dismantle the 1

2

Introduction

safeguards with which liberal, pluralist democracy forestalls the abuse of state power (Levitsky and Loxton 2013; Weyland 2018). The global advance of populism has aroused fears of democratic backsliding even in the West’s seemingly consolidated democracies. With Donald Trump’s election, these worries gripped especially the United States, the world’s oldest democracy (Levitsky and Ziblatt 2018; Mounk 2018; Sunstein 2018). While traditionally regarded as unchallengeable and immune to threats, the US system might in fact be turning precarious because partisan polarization has intensified for years and signs of serious norm erosion and of authoritarian tendencies have appeared (Ginsberg and Shefter 2002; Hetherington and Weiler 2009; Dionne, Ornstein, and Mann 2017). As malaise has spread, observers have seen the specter of the interwar years rise again, when liberal democracy faced grave peril. After all, the authoritarian and fascist wave of the 1920s and 1930s engulfed not only Europe’s more “backward” South and East (Janos 1982; Berend 1998) but also its modern center, especially Germany; and it brought unprecedented challenges even for some longstanding Western democracies, especially France and Belgium (comprehensive overviews in Bosworth 2009c and Doumanis 2016; on France, see Soucy 1986, 1995). To assess the current dangers facing liberal democracy, numerous scholars have therefore invoked lessons derived from the autocratic reverse wave of the interwar years. In his reflections On Tyranny, for instance, Snyder (2017: 18–20, 23–25, 39–44) has frequently pointed to Hitler’s National Socialism. His in-depth studies of Germany (Ziblatt 2017) have helped Ziblatt develop scenarios of how democracy could unravel in the United States (Levitsky and Ziblatt 2018: 145–212). Similarly, German social scientists have examined whether “Weimar conditions” (Wirsching, Kohler, and Wilhelm 2018) may be reemerging. Moreover, Connolly (2017: 1–30) has compared “the rhetorical strategies of Hitler and Trump,” while Stanley (2018) and Traverso (2019) have highlighted risks of “fascism” as well. These concerns about a new cycle of illiberal involution and democratic reversal give acute relevance to an in-depth analysis of the undemocratic riptide of the 1920s and 1930s. While observers do not fear a complete repetition of history, particularly a resurrection of full-scale fascism, the interwar experiences laid bare vulnerabilities that could turn fatal to liberal democracy again. Especially worrisome are the cases when autocratic rule was not imposed by coup, but when democracy was hollowed out, undermined, and eventually destroyed by

Introduction

3

governments that had initially won power in formally legal ways, based on substantial support in free and fair elections (Levitsky and Ziblatt 2018: 3–10). The prime example is, of course, Germany’s National Socialism, which in the early 1930s achieved such drastic vote gains that in a democracy wrecked by ideological polarization and battered by economic collapse, government formation without them seemed no longer feasible. As soon as conservative power holders reluctantly appointed Hitler as chancellor (Turner 1996), he quickly obliterated the stranglehold that established elites sought to impose on him, dismantled democracy from the inside, and installed brutal totalitarianism (Sauer 1974; Bracher 1979). The speed with which the Nazi leader accomplished this feat suggested the inherent fragility of liberal democracy, which tends to grant room of maneuver even to its sworn enemies. Consequently, democracy can prove defenseless when growing portions of the electorate choose to support antidemocratic forces. While much less reactionary in ideology and much less dictatorial in political intentions, could a populist leader like Trump exploit these internal vulnerabilities for illiberal and increasingly authoritarian purposes as well? Given these concerns about democracy’s potential self-destruction, it is important to re-examine the autocratic wave of the interwar years, the single most striking, momentous, and consequential reversal of liberaldemocratic progress that the world has ever suffered (Huntington 1991: 14–18; Berg-Schlosser 2009: 44–48; Wejnert 2014: 13–17, 148–49, 164; Kailitz 2017: 40–44). The main question of the present book is what caused this surprising turnaround in the historical trend. After all, the nineteenth century had witnessed a seemingly unstoppable advance of political liberalism and democracy. Popular sovereignty, parliamentary responsibility, and suffrage extensions had spread slowly but surely in Europe, especially the continent’s Northwestern corner. The WWI and its immediate aftermath had brought an additional progressive surge as countries that were already advanced, such as Britain and Sweden, had completed their transitions to democracy. More importantly, the defeat of the four autocratic empires in Europe’s Eastern half had allowed for democracy to sprout in less hospitable soil. The new countries emerging from Habsburg, Hohenzollern, Ottoman, and Romanov rule adopted democratic constitutions and started to hold elections (see recently Kershaw 2015: 121–34; Gunitsky 2017: 77–87; Kailitz 2017). In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, political liberalism had also gained a substantial foothold in South

4

Introduction  . Installation of reactionary autocracies during the interwar years

1919 1922 1923 1923 1926 1926 1926 1928 1929 1932 1933 1933 1934 1934 1934/35 1936 1936/39 1937 1938

Hungary Italy Bulgaria Spain Poland Lithuania Portugal Albania Yugoslavia Portugal Germany Austria Estonia Latvia Bulgaria Greece Spain Brazil Romania

America (Przeworski 2009), where Southern Cone nations, in particular, had begun to select their governments through free and fair elections (Smith 2012: 54–57). Thus, there had been so much progress! Soon, however, the historical trend turned around: From the early 1920s onward, many of the new democracies fell to the onslaught of authoritarianism and fascism, both in Europe and South America. The widespread breakdown of liberal systems (which had not always reached full democracy) was striking. Political liberty suffered a massive setback. Moreover, types of dictatorship spread that were firmer and fiercer than earlier forms of autocratic rule. In particular, totalitarianism took hold in a Bolshevist version in Russia, and in fascist versions in Italy and Germany. This new regime type differed from de-politicizing, hierarchical authoritarianism in its plebiscitarian dynamism, ideological ambition, quest for absolute control, and unbounded violence, most clearly in the Russian and German cases (Linz 2000, 2002). Thus, the turn away from liberal democracy was shocking in its breadth as well as in its depth. This reversal was unusual both in the large number of countries falling under autocracy and in the systematic, harsh destruction of political liberty and even human lives in some of those countries. Table 1.1 summarizes this stunning reverse wave.

Main Argument

5

 :     Why did the modern world suffer such a dramatic setback – an unprecedented turnaround in the longstanding trend toward liberal-democratic progress? As Chapter 2 will discuss, a variety of problems and challenges battered pluralist democracies during the interwar era. Ethnic tensions often ran high, especially in the new nations carved out of the carcasses of the defeated empires. Hyperinflation in the early 1920s and then the Great Depression brought mass despair and pulverized the performance legitimacy of fledgling democracies. Dysfunctional institutional designs, such as the hyper-parliamentary constitutions of the Baltic countries, weakened governability. In fact, new democracies are inherently weak and prone to breakdown (Huntington 1991: 15–21; Gunitsky 2017: 6, 32–37). The coincidence and interaction of these difficulties proved especially deleterious. In particular, institutional deficiencies made it difficult to cope effectively with ethnic conflicts and economic challenges. In sum, liberal democracies bore an unusually heavy problem load, as Kershaw (2015) has recently highlighted again. No wonder that many collapsed under these multiple pressures. But the interwar reverse wave was so sweeping that these factors cannot provide a sufficient explanation. Democracy broke down in brand-new and in longer-standing liberal regimes; in consolidated and in recently created nations; in the presence and in the absence of ethnic conflicts; in countries that had suffered hyperinflation and in many that had been spared; and before as well as after the Great Depression’s onset, as Table 1.1 shows. This diversity in conditions, yet commonality of outcome suggests that in addition to specific risk factors, there were other, common sources of vulnerability and threat. As innumerable historical investigations demonstrate, a fundamental shared problem that lay at the root of the authoritarian and fascist reverse wave was the specter of communism, which the Bolshevist Revolution of 1917 had given enormous salience.1 The unexpected ease with which the Tsars’ centuries-old autocracy dissolved and soon thereafter Lenin’s Communists grabbed power sent shockwaves through Europe and around the world (see recently Daly and Trofimov 2017; Rinke and Wildt 2017). If a minority of radicals could install a dictatorship, 1

See, among many others, Carsten (1982: 176, 182–83, 187–88); Payne (1995: 76–78); Paxton (2005: 19, 44, 60–61, 68, 70, 81, 84, 88–89, 102–5, 110, 116, 196); Gerwarth and Horne (2012a: 42, 44, 51); and Kershaw (2015: 229–30).

6

Introduction

maintain control in a brutal civil war, and impose a host of profound, hugely costly changes, then perhaps these stunning transformations could find replication elsewhere. Observers therefore inferred that the sociopolitical order in a wide range of countries might well be more precarious and vulnerable to extremist assaults than established elites, middle classes, and broader segments of the citizenry had long assumed. Due to this suggestive inference, the Bolshevist precedent deeply affected political actors of all stripes (Furet 1999: 62–68; Eley 2002: 152–55; McAdams 2017: chap. 4). Many left-wingers felt inspired and jumped to the conclusion that socialist revolution was feasible across a vast swath of nations. If Lenin had accomplished this feat against all odds in backward Russia, then similar changes should be possible elsewhere. Accordingly, the Russian Revolution encouraged a wide range of leftists to pursue similar revolutionary projects; the most radical groupings quickly initiated armed assaults to repeat Lenin’s storming of the Winter Palace. Therefore, there was a wave of isomorphic emulation efforts across Europe and the world (Fayet 2014), with multiple efforts in Germany, communists’ main target (Angress 1972; Broué 2006). Yet while – and because – Lenin’s unlikely success inspired determined attempts at replication, it also instilled deep fear among status-quo defenders, ranging from the hardcore right to the moderate left, such as Germany’s mainstream Sozialdemokratische Partei (SPD; Merz 1995; Wirsching 2007). For these variegated sectors, communist revolution held prospects of enormous losses, including catastrophic economic destruction – so evident in the nascent Soviet Union – and serious setbacks to the liberal and democratic progress that many nations had already achieved. Accordingly, nations in Western and Northern Europe that had long left monarchic oppression behind were unwilling to submit to a selfappointed communist vanguard. And why would countries that had only recently emerged from autocratic empires want to fall under even fiercer, totalitarian domination? The determination to avoid radical revolution motivated a wide range of sectors, including powerful elites and large proportions of the citizenry, to combat Lenin’s disciples and followers with all means, including coercion. Radicals’ armed attacks that quickly sought to imitate the Russian Communists drew particularly brutal repression. Thus, the initial wave of emulative revolution provoked an immediate wave of counterrevolution. The violent defeat of communists’ precipitous uprisings, however, did not erase the fears of status-quo defenders, especially of established elites

Main Argument

7

and political conservatives. After all, left-wingers inspired by the Russian Revolution continued to agitate and organize across the globe. Moreover, the Soviet Union promoted world revolution and supported communists’ organizational efforts, conspiracies, and uprisings (Vatlin and Smith 2014; McAdams 2017). Therefore, in the eyes of many observers, especially right-wingers, the radical-left threat persisted. These profound fears of left-wing extremism provided the most fundamental impetus for the imposition of authoritarianism and fascism in so many countries during the interwar years. Weakened by institutional deficits, ethnic conflicts, and economic crises, many liberal democracies looked to worried establishment sectors like easy prey for communist revolutionaries. The openness and dispersed authority of pluralistic regimes seemed to provide ample opportunities that the enemies of liberty, property, and family could exploit. To combat these threats, a determined concentration of power was required. Especially among right-wingers, support for autocratic rule therefore grew. The body politick needed substantial fortification to withstand radical-left subversion or assault. This powerful backlash to the perceived threat of communism generated the most basic impulse for the reverse wave of the 1920s and 1930s. Fearful of the radical left, powerful elites and substantial population segments embraced the undemocratic recipes of the right in many countries. To immunize the nation against left-wing extremism, important sectors adopted the conservative advocates of authoritarianism or the violent fighters of fascism. The Bolshevist revolution and the efforts of Lenin’s disciples to spread it across the world unleashed strong deterrent effects, which helped to prompt the imposition of anti-communist dictatorships. This reactionary groundswell proved much more potent than the world-revolutionary agitation of the radical left. But whereas other counterrevolutionary waves advanced in a straightforward backlash dynamic and brought fairly uniform outcomes, the spread of authoritarianism and fascism during the interwar years proceeded in complex ways along divergent paths. In most reactionary riptides, a perceived challenge drew a similar regime response; for instance, to forestall the spread of radicalism inspired by the Cuban Revolution, militaries imposed anti-communist dictatorships in South America during the 1960s and 1970s (Weyland 2019). By contrast, the specter of Bolshevism did not prompt the installation of the same kind of autocracy during the interwar years; instead, regime outcomes differed across countries.

8

Introduction

The main reason for this diversity stemmed from the emergence of fascism in Italy, which offered a novel option for combating the radical left and strengthening the polity against perceived danger (Hamilton 1971; Sassoon 2007; Bosworth 2009a). In fact, this new regime type appeared as the single most potent antidote to Marxist socialism (Markwick 2009). But fascism also stirred up unease and concern among many right-wing counterrevolutionaries, especially conservative elites (Blinkhorn 1990). After all, its unaccountable charismatic leadership, violent dynamism, and strong totalitarian ambitions threatened to overturn sociopolitical hierarchy as well. Powerful establishment sectors therefore saw fascism with profound ambivalence. While they sought to use extreme-right movements against their leftist enemies, they also wanted to keep them under control and ensure their own domination by imposing demobilizational, exclusionary authoritarianism. This elite ambivalence toward fascism caused a great deal of complications and conflicts during the interwar reverse wave. The right-wing backlash against communism advanced along divergent pathways. The specific outcome depended on the relative strength of conservative establishment sectors, who sought stability through authoritarian rule, versus fascist upstarts, who pushed hard for a totalitarian transformation. In turn, this balance of sociopolitical clout depended on the modernization of economy and society. Traditional elites were relatively weak and fascist movements had the greatest opportunities for expansion in modern countries such as Germany. Only this advanced nation therefore followed Mussolini’s footsteps and installed a full-scale fascist regime on its own. By contrast, in the less developed East and South of Europe and in Latin America, traditional elites maintained much greater clout, for instance through clientelistic control over the rural population. Fascist movements therefore had less space for mobilizing support. The weakness of liberal democracy in these settings allowed conservative establishment sectors to impose hierarchical, exclusionary authoritarianism. And they did so not only to forestall potential threats from the radical left, but also – and often more urgently – to rein in fascist upstarts or prevent these violent hordes from seizing power. Conservative authoritarianism thus blocked totalitarian fascism. Unusually, thus, the interwar reverse wave was deeply affected by a second deterrent effect, nested in the broad backlash against communism. While right-wingers of all stripes often cooperated in combating the radical and not-so-radical left, they then divided over the counter-model to install. Whereas conservative elites tried to impose

Main Argument

9

non-mobilizational authoritarianism, fascist movements pushed hard for mobilizational totalitarianism. Fearful of subjugation by fascism’s omnipotent leaders, conservative sectors were determined to keep their erstwhile allies under control and subordinate them to conventional types of dictatorship. Thus, the widespread move toward autocracy during the 1920s and 1930s arose not only from widespread fear of communism, but also from establishment sectors’ fear of fascism. The double deterrent effect was the distinctive mechanism driving this riptide of democratic breakdown. This nested backlash dynamic had particular force and impact in countries such as Austria, Estonia, and Romania, where in the mid- to late 1930s fascist movements achieved a drastic upsurge and seemed poised to win power, primarily by electoral means. Fear of a fascist takeover, exacerbated by the Nazis’ recent power grab in Germany, then prompted preemptive coups that brought repression of the radical right and, in Austria, of the socialist left as well (Bermeo 2003: 43–45, 50, 235). In these countries, thus, liberal democracy fell not in direct reaction against the communist left, but against the fascist right. The fight among the enemies of the left turned lethal for political liberty as the conservative right suppressed its extremist brethren with authoritarian coercion, including brutal force. By contrast, where fascist movements remained small and weak, savvy advocates of authoritarianism squashed political liberalism by enlisting them as auxiliaries, primarily against the radical left, as in Spain. Yet as soon as these violent extremists had helped to defeat the revolutionary threat and to impose authoritarian rule, the new dictators subdued their hapless allies to their own domination and forcefully resisted the transformation of their non-mobilizational, hierarchical regimes into dynamic totalitarianism. Ironically, to appease domestic fascists and to reinforce their own preeminence, these authoritarian rulers often imported bits and pieces of Mussolini’s and later Hitler’s innovations, such as single parties and paramilitary formations. But transplanted from the hothouses of energetic totalitarianism to the barren sterility of exclusionary authoritarianism, these alien elements soon withered away or were starved of resources once these scheming dictators sat firmly in the saddle. Thus, these foreign imports remained empty shells and never bridged the gulf between the two distinct types of non-democracy. In sum, autocracy advanced along various paths during the interwar years. While all right-wingers were driven by fears of the communist left, they strongly, if not violently disagreed on the most effective and

10

Introduction

promising countermeasures. Due to this double deterrent effect, the relative strength of conservative authoritarians versus fascist totalitarians caused forks in the road. Two fairly broad paths, propelled by preventive coups or by uneven alliances,2 led to conservative authoritarianism, while one narrow path, at a higher level of modernity, opened up the gates to the fascist hell. In fact, this latter trajectory, taken – after Italy’s creation of fascism – only by Germany, hurried elites in other countries along the authoritarian pathway by aggravating dread of fascism and prompting harsh countermeasures, such as preemptive coups. Much of the autocratic wave of the 1920s and 1930s thus emanated from the double deterrent effect, driven by fear of the communist left as well as the fascist right. There was, however, a fourth, more salutary path. After all, at least until the outbreak of WWII, liberal democracy survived in the North and West of Europe (Cornell, Møller, and Skaaning 2017, 2020), though sometimes battered. England, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia remained unscathed, while Belgium and France managed to overcome strong challenges from fascist movements. Moreover, Finland escaped from a neardeath experience as mainstream elites combated the radical left and thus satisfied the main demand of a powerful fascist grouping, which then quickly lost support again. Last not least, Czechoslovakia maintained democracy because threats from domestic extremists and a dangerous international environment prompted sustained cooperation among a cartel of fairly well-organized parties. Thus, a number of more or less bruised democracies withstood the autocratic riptide. In conclusion, the reverse wave of the interwar years advanced in unusually complex and differentiated ways. Rather than sweeping across Europe and other regions in one uniform diffusion process, it unfolded in jumbles and ripples. This diversity arose from the intersection of various demonstration and deterrent effects. Radicals of the left sought to emulate Lenin’s success, yet this threat reinforced the urge of extremists of the right to replicate Mussolini and then Hitler’s feats. In turn, both of these ambitious projects, be it communist revolution or fascist totalitarianism, instilled deep fear among the conservative establishment, which sought protection by installing authoritarian rule. Thus, as the rise of fascism was 2

Linz (2002: 12–13) also distinguishes different paths of regime developments during the interwar years, but does not highlight preemptive coups as a separate path. But because these anti-fascist coups were decisive for effecting regime change, whereas conservatives’ use of fascist auxiliaries strengthened already-existing authoritarian regimes, as in Portugal, it makes sense for the present analysis of democratic breakdowns to emphasize this distinction.

The Tragedy of the Interwar Years

11

fueled by the deterrent effect of communism, so the move to conservative authoritarianism resulted to a good extent from the deterrent effect of fascism. In many countries, political liberty was sacrificed because deep fears of left-wing and/or right-wing extremism motivated dramatic efforts to avert apparently imminent losses through the imposition of autocratic stability. Due to the double deterrent effect, what spread during the 1920s and 1930s was neither communism nor, mostly, fascism, but mainly conservative authoritarianism.

     :      In propelling the interwar reverse wave in its unusual complexity, the double deterrent effect also caused a striking paroxysm of violence and cruelty. Whereas Europe’s long nineteenth century (1815–1914) had seen few instances of mass slaughter, the subsequent thirty years brought orgies of brutality, even in domestic politics (see recently Gerwarth 2016). As scholars commonly bemoan, sociopolitical forces of all stripes did not merely pursue their self-interests and ideological causes with coldblooded, amoral calculation. Instead, they often overshot the violence that seemed necessary for achieving their goals, used disproportionate force, and engaged in massive overkill, as Chapter 4 documents. This excess of violence and penchant for cruelty turned the interwar years into a particularly tragic era in Europe’s modern history. This willingness to unleash all-out coercion prevailed across the ideological spectrum. Certainly, however, the resource advantages of the right led to much greater victimization among the left, which paid a terrible price for its radical initiatives. White terror outdid red terror by substantial margins (Kershaw 2015: 107, 133, 304; Gerwarth 2016: 72–75, 99, 125, 131, 139–40, 151–52, 166–67; Jones 2016: 5, 256, 287, 326–27; Traverso 2016: 46–48, 56), as exemplified by the heinous murder of Rosa Luxemburg, days after the haphazard “Spartakus Uprising” had already been suppressed (see Chapter 4). The human cost and political damage inflicted by counterrevolutionary crackdowns were much worse than the losses imposed during revolutionary adventures (Read 2008: 45, 71, 75–78, 122–23, 155). Interestingly, however, excessive violence was used by the right not only against the radical left but also in struggles between different currents of the right, especially by conservative authoritarians against fascist totalitarians. Romania’s royal dictatorship, for instance, massacred hundreds of fascists in a countrywide campaign

12

Introduction

that, according to a specialist, “was less a reflection of rational calculations than of the elementary fear of the king for his own life” (Heinen 1986: 418). To account for these widespread overreactions and for their lopsided incidence, this book employs the bounded rationality approach to waves of political regime change that my last two volumes have developed (Weyland 2014, 2019). Specifically, the present study conducts an outof-sample assessment of my basic explanation of the Latin American coup wave of the 1960s and 1970s (Weyland 2019). That analysis documented the striking severity of the backlash against the Cuban Revolution, which drove the proliferation of conservative military rule, and attributed this excessive harshness to cognitive deviations from standard rationality. To cope with the challenges they faced, political forces of diverse persuasions did not employ the Bayesian rule of information processing and the conventional calculus of cost–benefit analysis. Instead, they relied on the substantially different mechanisms that a wealth of psychological experiments and field studies have shown humans to use. Real people diverge systematically from the ideal-typical abstraction of homo oeconomicus. These deviations shape both human perceptions and actions. First, rather than processing information in a thorough and balanced fashion, people automatically resort to cognitive shortcuts that facilitate making sense of the world but also risk significant distortions (McDermott 2004: 57–68; for a field study, see Schiemann 2007). These inferential heuristics use simple expedients, such as a disproportionate focus on particularly vivid, dramatic events or the overgeneralization of apparent similarities, to minimize people’s computational burden (Kahneman, Slovic, and Tversky 1982; Gilovich, Griffin, and Kahneman 2002). Whereas fully rational assessments would be cumbersome and time-consuming, cognitive shortcuts operate easily and allow people expeditiously to navigate situations of complexity and uncertainty. But the price is the danger of mistakes, which results from the neglect of objectively relevant information – such as the many events that are important but “normal” and not attention-grabbing; and the underlying differences that superficial similarities overshadow. Due to these inferential heuristics, both revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries often deviated from the commands of rational prudence and acted in unthinking, precipitous ways. Carried away by the epic Russian Revolution, which they misinterpreted as the beginning of the communist world revolution, radical leftists were overeager in spearheading violent challenges under conditions that held low prospects of success.

The Tragedy of the Interwar Years

13

Falling prey to the same misperception of revolution’s imminence, rightists overestimated the threat posed by these ill-advised uprisings and therefore squashed them with excessive force. Unrealistic assessments of the political opportunity structure, by both the left and the right, thus inspired the outbursts of violence that tinged the interwar years with “fire and blood” and turned them into a virtual “civil war” (Traverso 2016). This explosion of cruelty and the disproportionate victimization of the left were further fueled by a serious skew that distorts people’s choices – the second cognitive mechanism highlighted in my bounded rationality approach. As psychological research demonstrates, people commonly weight gains much less heavily than losses of objectively equal magnitude: They attach much more importance to a loss than to an equivalent gain (Kahneman and Tversky 2000: chaps. 7–11; Kahneman 2011: chaps. 26–28, 31; Zamir 2014). For instance, people are significantly more upset after losing twenty dollars than they are happy when finding a $20 bill. This lopsided aversion to losses boosts the number of opponents of drastic change and reinforces their determination to resist this change and combat its proponents with full force. Asymmetrical loss aversion thus created an uphill battle for the revolutionary left while strengthening the hand and clenching the fist of the counterrevolutionary right. After all, efforts to spread revolutionary communism promised huge gains but also threatened enormous losses. As these gains carried much lower psychological weight than the costs, the advocates of profound transformations remained relatively limited in number; however, they faced a broad phalanx of opponents, determined to use all means at their disposal. Combined with the resource advantage of elites, who as winners from the status quo had special reasons to anticipate massive losses, this skewed alignment of sociopolitical forces accounts both for the uniform defeat of the radical left and the exceptional violence inflicted on the vanquished. Intense fear of loss drove the reactionary right to perpetrate unspeakable atrocities. In sum, cognitive-psychological mechanisms are decisive for explaining the extraordinary trouble and turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s, especially the shocking descent into inhumanity. My bounded rationality approach is crucial for capturing the tragedy of an era when Europe went “to hell” (Kershaw 2015). This line of argument helps account for the frequent eruption of ill-considered revolutionary challenges, the exceptional harshness of the counterrevolutionary reaction, the rise of ultraviolent fascism, and its coercive suppression in most cases – phenomena that conventional rationalism cannot fully explain. After all, these twists and turns of

14

Introduction

interwar regime developments were shaped by excessive hopes and fears, while careful assessments and prudent choices were conspicuous by their absence. It was this triumph of unreason that caused the surplus of bloodshed and heartbreak.

     By relying on a bounded rationality approach, this book diverges from major extant theories. Obviously, it disagrees most directly with conventional rational choice, whose ideal-typical postulates about human information processing and decision-making have been thoroughly and systematically falsified by cognitive psychology (Kahneman, Slovic, and Tversky 1982; Thaler 1992; Kahneman and Tversky 2000; Gilovich, Griffin, and Kahneman 2002; Zamir 2014). Of course, outside the laboratory, in the real world of politics, people’s systematic deviations from standard rationality are hard to assess and impossible to prove. The fundamental difficulty of ascertaining self-interests (e.g., short-term or long-term?) and rational choice’s ability to retro-infer actor interests from their action, which can make a wide range of behavior look rational, exacerbate this problem. To provide evidence for my bounded rationality approach despite this interpretive flexibility, I invoke neutral third parties, namely the historians researching interwar politics, in the many case studies in this volume. These experts commonly highlight actors’ misperceptions, such as stark overestimations of the communist threat, and the corresponding excessive responses, especially the atrocity of anti-communist repression; specialists similarly stress overestimations of the fascist threat in several countries and the striking cruelty of governmental counter-terror. Because these experts are uninvolved in Political Science’s debate over rationality, they can count as objective witnesses. As the following chapters amply show, their judgments provide overwhelming evidence for my theoretical approach by emphasizing how much crucial actors in their perceptions and actions diverged from thorough, balanced information processing and reasoned, proportionate action. Despite their disagreements on how rationally people behave, both rational choice and bounded rationality share the assumption that political actors primarily pursue self-regarding interests. Constructivism, by contrast, diverges from both these frameworks by highlighting the role of norms and values as more fundamental motivations than interests (Meyer and Rowan 1977; DiMaggio and Powell 1983; Beckert 2010: 155–59).

The Limitations of Alternative Approaches

15

Accordingly, constructivism suggests that waves of regime change arise from “norms cascades” (Finnemore and Sikkink 2001; Sikkink 2011), which are driven by progress in moral principles. As liberal maxims spread across the world, guarantees for human rights and democratic regime forms will sooner or later spread as well. But these conventional versions of constructivism with their probabilistic expectations of ideational advance and normative improvement have obvious difficulties explaining the massive autocratic wave of the interwar years with its appalling political setbacks and human tragedies. History did certainly not move forward, but backward, and violently so. Whereas constructivism foresees an ongoing tendency toward progress, the 1920s and 1930s saw many striking reversals, culminating in the catastrophe of WWII and the holocaust. The historical trend drastically turned around, away from the nineteenth century’s gradual advancements. Even historicist versions of constructivism, which abandon expectations of uniform, linear progress and acknowledge fundamental changes in the Zeitgeist, are not fully persuasive. These arguments relativize the notion of progress: It depends on the norms and values prevailing in each specific era. From the late nineteenth century onward, liberal optimism ceded before a groundswell of cultural pessimism, which rested on the questioning of reason and brought the growing celebration of darker, fiercer forces (Bracher 1982: part I; Burrow 2000; Buruma and Margalit 2004). Accordingly, an intellectual climate spread in the early twentieth century that extolled traditional “life” rather than efficient, calculating modernity; that valued emotion, myth, and sheer willpower over reason; and that depicted the world as ruled by conflict and struggle, rather than deliberation, negotiation, and compromise (e.g., Sorel [1908] 1999; see Sternhell 1994: chap. 1). The strong would carry the day! In line with this reversal in predominant ideas, many people during the interwar years found right-wing regimes attractive, and this allure facilitated their spread (e.g., Sontheimer 1978; Herf 1984). Fascism and authoritarianism, which revolved around forceful, dynamic, and unconstrained leadership, elicited fascination and support. As liberal democracy looked feckless, decadent, and doomed, new forms of reactionary rule based on the demagogic mobilization of the popular masses seemed necessary for fortifying the body politic, protecting national survival, and guaranteeing a promising future. Charismatic leaders would turn the people into a vibrant organic community and conquer a powerful place on the international scene. Through this determined harnessing of popular energies, the nation would gain the strength to defend itself

16

Introduction

against any danger, especially left-wing revolution. These reactionary ideas gave right-wing regimes their own, genuine appeal. During the 1920s and 1930s, autocrats proudly called themselves dictators (e.g., Primo de Rivera [1930] 2018; Ferro 1939) and intellectuals explicitly advocated dictatorship (e.g., Cioran [1931–37] 2011: 179–95). This undemocratic climate helped inspire the reactionary riptide. But this illiberal Zeitgeist constituted a broad stream of heterogeneous currents, rather than a clear blueprint for regime change (Sontheimer 1978). Consequently, this normative atmosphere had only limited causal force and cannot explain specific political actions; actors retained considerable room for maneuver in pursuing their interests. Indeed, despite decades of deepening cultural pessimism, the Western democracies’ victory in WWI helped to propel an initial wave of democratization, which induced the new countries in Central and Eastern Europe to adopt liberal, anti-authoritarian constitutions! Democracies’ subsequent overthrow did not directly emanate from the Zeitgeist either. After all, the autocratic model with the greatest normative attraction during the 1920s and 1930s was fascism (Hamilton 1971); but only one country, Germany, followed Italy’s precedent and adopted fullscale fascism. Many other leaders, even Mussolini admirers, prioritized their self-interests, imposed conservative authoritarianism, and suppressed fascist movements. These elites sought to cement their own domination rather than ceding to fascism’s charismatic leaders. Thus, political interests, not normative appeal, carried the day. Fascism with its dynamic energy and mobilizational drive looked attractive – but also uncontrollable and risky. Consequently, fascism exerted its own deterrent effects. To preserve their political clout, establishment sectors preferred stodgy but safe authoritarianism. Despite fascism’s enormous appeal, the autocratic wave of the interwar years therefore saw a proliferation of elitist, exclusionary authoritarianism, rather than exciting, transformational fascism. Thus, the ideational and normative appeal of fascism often backfired. Where this attraction gave rise to strong fascist mass movements, established elites perceived threats to their own preeminence and therefore turned against the violent hordes and their charismatic leaders. Indeed, in several countries conservative sectors spearheaded preemptive coups designed to keep fascist groupings out of power, as Chapter 8 shows. Thus, with all the enthusiasm that it elicited and with the demonstration effects it triggered, fascism exerted its own deterrent effects, which proved more influential in actual politics. Out of a paradoxical but compelling

The Limitations of Alternative Approaches

17

logic, a number of Mussolini admirers instituted authoritarian dictatorships that suppressed Mussolini’s disciples inside their own countries. In sum, constructivism cannot easily account for the riptide of democratic breakdown. Its conventional expectations of normative progress are challenged by this dramatic regression. Even historicist variants that invoke the changing Zeitgeist cannot explain it very well as the infrequency of fascism’s spread shows. Ideational developments help set the stage for political regime cascades, but constitute an atmospheric background rather than directly shaping regime outcomes. Whereas constructivism highlights soft external influences arising from normative diffusion, other theorists argue that hard power drives waves of political change; after all, powerful countries often push their own regime type on other nations (Owen 2010; Boix 2011; Gunitsky 2014, 2017). But these arguments cannot account for the interwar reverse wave either, when no country commanded hegemony in Europe. The most distinctive mechanism highlighted by these theories,3 coercive pressure, was mostly inoperative (Møller, Skaaning, and Tolstrup 2017: 564, 582–83). Italy was too weak to impose fascism on other countries, even on tiny neighbor Austria, which skillfully resisted Mussolini’s pressure (Maderthaner and Maier 2004; Pasteur 2007: 157–62). And Germany regained overwhelming strength only in the late 1930s. But by then, the reverse wave had already unfolded for two decades! Therefore, most autocratic regimes did not result from great power pressure; foreign involvement was rare, and coercion even more so. Moreover, when Hitler, from 1938 onward, did use military might to destroy democracy, he mostly refrained from installing fascist regimes in conquered territories. To promote Germany’s strategic interests in WWII, he preferred cooperation with established elites and their authoritarian regimes, rather than with fascism’s arbitrary leaders and their uncontrollable mass base. Thus, contrary to the great-power literature, the world leader of fascism did not impose fascism on the world. In conclusion, foreign interference, especially coercive force, had little impact on the reverse wave. Although violence was rife during the interwar years, great power influence, especially imposition, did not propel the autocratic riptide. In sum, neither ideas and values nor great power pressures convincingly explain the massive spread of authoritarianism and fascism during 3

Gunitsky (2017) also considers the economic incentives provided by great powers and their regime model’s normative appeal.

18

Introduction

the 1920s and 1930s. Instead, political interests were crucial. Yet as the preceding section clarified, actors did not pursue these interests in conventionally rational ways, but employed cognitive-psychological mechanisms and therefore acted haphazardly and precipitously. Consequently, my bounded rationality approach offers the best account of the largescale destruction of democracy.

 Enriching Studies of Diffusion: The Importance of Deterrent Effects By documenting the importance of the double deterrent effect – the backlash against communism as well as fascism – this book contributes to the study of political and institutional diffusion. The burgeoning literature on this topic has focused primarily on forces of attraction that make an innovation’s spread more likely. Authors highlight various engines of propulsion, which range from demonstration effects and learning to normative or symbolic appeal and competitive imitation (e.g., DiMaggio and Powell 1983; Dobbin, Garrett, and Simmons 2006). Not everybody, however, sees an innovation as beneficial. At the same time as promising gains for some, a change can also threaten losses for others. Given the diversity of interests in complex societies, many departures from the status quo are not Pareto-optimal. Losses loom especially when change is profound, as in the redistribution of wealth or power. Obviously, a communist revolution ranks extremely high on this scale. The installation of fascism, which empowers an uncontrollable, violenceprone leader, holds serious risks as well. While these dramatic transformations promise (!) substantial improvements for the broad population, many groupings, even supposed beneficiaries, in fact anticipate losses. Many workers, for instance, whom communist redistribution claimed to favor, rejected the attacks on religion or patriotism that Lenin’s disciples also advocated. Most importantly, elites have reason for fear, seeing their power and privileges under assault, which they can defend with their ample resources and political influence. Asymmetrical loss aversion further skews the line-up of contending forces in these redistributive battles. The unequal valuation of gains and losses helps explain why the precedents of radical transformation that shook up politics during the interwar years, namely the Russian Revolution and the extreme reaction of fascism, most often found fewer and less powerful advocates and imitators than firm adversaries and fierce

Contributions

19

enemies. No wonder that the attempts to emulate Lenin’s success universally failed, suppressed by harsh reactionary violence. Similarly, the efforts to follow in Mussolini’s and Hitler’s footsteps achieved little success, with the sole exception of Hitler’s takeover in Germany. In most cases, status-quo defenders, dead-set on forestalling radical left- or rightwing change by imposing conservative authoritarianism, won out. The preponderance of deterrent effects, fueled by asymmetrical loss aversion, thus drove the reverse wave. The prevalence of repulsion is crucial for explaining both the victory of counterrevolution over revolution and the subsequent victory of elitist authoritarianism over totalitarian fascism. My findings suggest that the diffusion literature needs to go beyond its focus on contagion and demonstration effects and systematically consider deterrent effects as well. As the contagion metaphor implies, this literature is inspired by medical analogies, which see bodies as passive victims of a disease vector. But political actors are far from passive; they have conscious agency and react to challenges. Therefore, they tend to assess innovations in light of their interests. Then they respond to changes that threaten losses, either with defensive measures or by combating the proponents of harmful transformations. Such counter-attacks do not only cement the status quo but also make future efforts at promoting drastic change less likely. With these reactions, conservative sectors move the polity away from the initial innovation. Due to deterrent effects, a highstakes precedent can hurt its advocates’ cause by prompting a determined backlash and impeding the precedent’s further replication. A revolution, for instance, tends to provoke the proliferation of counterrevolution, as Chapter 4 documents. By documenting these deterrent effects and uncovering their roots in asymmetrical loss aversion, this book helps fill a gap in diffusion studies. Enriching Studies of Diffusion: Complex Processes, Divergent Outcomes By mapping and explaining the complex intersection of various demonstration and deterrent effects, this book makes another contribution to diffusion studies, which mainly focus on direct impulses that unleash clear-cut waves. Yet this literature has difficulty uncovering the undertows and crosscurrents that often affect innovations’ spread. In particular, the frequently used statistical techniques inevitably have to rely on simplifying assumptions and miss important indirect and even “contradictory” influences across cases. As highlighted in the preceding subsection, drastic changes often have a polarizing impact by inspiring some

20

Introduction

groupings to initiate emulation efforts, while scaring others into fighting these replication attempts. Where these counteracting effects are fairly equal in strength, a statistical analysis, focusing on the unchanged outcome, may well code this case as absence of diffusion; however, it would overlook the demonstration and deterrent effects that in fact played out. Moreover, many diffusion processes unfold with irregular time frames and are therefore hard to detect in statistical investigations, which have to stipulate uniform lag structures. Several fascist leaders, for instance, tried to imitate Mussolini’s 1922 “March on Rome” many years later, as Austria’s Heimwehr did with “an abortive ‘march on Vienna’ in 1931” (Pauley 1981: 75; Kirk 2003: 19), and Belgium’s Léon Degrelle with a “March on Brussels” in late 1936 (De Wever 2009: 477). Moreover, Hitler, who had spearheaded his “March on the Feldherrnhalle” in 1923 already, kept learning from Mussolini’s takeover even after this emulation effort failed; once he realized that the Italian dictator’s success had depended on elite support, the Nazi leader plotted his own path to power accordingly. Statistical studies would have difficulty capturing the isomorphic imitation attempts that erupted at such varied times, not to speak of the delayed, complex impact of the Italian precedent on Hitler’s Machtergreifung (power grab). To capture the spread of communism, fascism, and authoritarianism comprehensively, the present book employs qualitative research (like Weyland 2014, 2019). In particular, it seeks to unravel the complex intersection of forces of propulsion and repulsion and thus demonstrate how the double deterrent effect shaped the riptide of autocracy. Only such an in-depth analysis can elucidate the monumental reverse wave of the 1920s and 1930s. Enriching Studies of Autocracy: The Rare Success of Fascism With its attention to deterrent effects, this book also contributes to the growing literature on autocracy, especially the analysis of fascism and authoritarianism. Given the world-historical significance and unprecedented destructiveness of Germany’s National Socialism, research on the interwar years has focused primarily on this totalitarian regime type, its emergence and repercussions. Gunitsky’s (2017: chap. 4) excellent book, for instance, analyzes the 1930s as “the fascist wave.” Similarly, Berman’s (2019: chaps. 11–12) monumental study of European regime developments pays special attention to the rise of Italian fascism and German Nazism. What this understandable focus tends to neglect, however, is that

Contributions

21

fascism’s spread faced tremendous obstacles and fierce resistance. Therefore, fascist regimes remained exceedingly rare during the 1920s and 1930s; instead, democracy fell mainly to authoritarian rule (overviews in Oberländer 2001; Pasteur 2007). By systematically analyzing the spread of authoritarianism, this study helps to rectify the imbalance of extant scholarship. Fascism has received disproportionate attention (Linz 2000: 182–83), whereas the much more common proliferation of authoritarian rule appears as an afterthought, as in Luebbert’s (1991: 258–66, 272–77) brief discussion of the “irrelevance” of “traditional dictatorship” for Central and Western Europe. By offering a more encompassing and balanced analysis of the interwar reverse wave, this book tries to give authoritarianism its due. Rather than being a rudimentary, deficient version of fascism, this regime type had its own logic and political significance, as Juan Linz (1964, 2000, 2002) emphasized over the decades. In fact, because authoritarian leaders outmaneuvered, controlled, and combated fascism, they forestalled its triumph in numerous countries (Payne 1995: 250, 274–76, 312–16, 324). Conservative dictators thus limited the destructive repercussions of this new totalitarian model. For these reasons, Chapters 7 and 8 offer an extensive analysis of authoritarianism’s spread during the 1920s and 1930s. Enriching Studies of Fascism: Transnational Connections among Distinct Regimes My investigation of the demonstration and deterrent effects that drove the autocratic wave also contributes to the analysis of fascism by extending and deepening the scholarly understanding of this regime type’s transnational dimensions. Most extant studies of fascism’s rise focus primarily on domestic structures and developments, which of course were crucially important (e.g., Luebbert 1991; Mann 2004). But the wave-like nature of anti-democratic reversals suggests that external factors mattered as well. When international causes are considered, attention centers on common shocks such as the Great Depression or global power transitions (Gunitsky 2017: chap. 4). Such specific impulses cannot have been decisive for autocracy’s proliferation, however, which unfolded slowly over two decades, both before and after 1929, for instance. This book therefore joins recent studies by highlighting processes of political learning and the inspiration provided by the new model of fascism (e.g., Bauerkämper 2006; Pinto 2014). Fascist movements,

22

Introduction

of course, were heavily influenced by Mussolini’s and Hitler’s precedents. Moreover, authoritarian rulers often imported some fascist innovations, such as paramilitary youth movements, single parties, and propaganda agencies (Kallis 2016; Pinto 2017). In this way, elitist conservatives sought to borrow ideological fervor and mobilizational dynamism from fascism and create bottom-up support for their top-down domination. Highlighting these amalgamation efforts, several scholars have postulated the emergence of hybrid regimes that fused authoritarianism and fascism (Dobry 2011; Pinto and Kallis 2014; Kallis 2016; Roberts 2016; Pinto 2017). My book joins these authors by analyzing transnational influences on autocratic regime developments. However, I examine not only fascism’s demonstration effects but also its deterrent effects, as explained in a prior subsection. Moreover, I question the hybridization claims. After all, authoritarian rulers imported fascist elements primarily for instrumental, opportunistic reasons and for conjunctural, temporary purposes, especially when facing extremist challenges. As soon as the danger passed, these dictators neglected, squeezed, and eventually suffocated the fascist imports, which they had always watched uneasily and controlled jealously. Consequently, the foreign shoots transplanted from mobilizational regimes did not flourish when grafted onto the tough roots of exclusionary, elitist authoritarianism. Rather than blossoming into genuine hybrids, these alien innovations quickly shriveled up in this arid atmosphere (Linz 1976: 9; Pasteur 2007: 81–86; Tálos 2013: 147, 450, 467–70). The finding that authoritarianism and fascism never really mixed has broader relevance for studies of fascism. There was a substantial gulf between this novel regime type, which was so distinctive of the interwar years, and authoritarian rule, which had long preceded fascism’s rise and has far outlived its global downfall in 1945. These two species of autocracy differ greatly. Although conservative authoritarians and fascist totalitarians shared ideological orientations such as anti-communism, anti-liberalism, and intense nationalism, and although they often sought to form tactical alliances, they never fused into organic joint movements, but always maintained their identities, interests, goals, and strategies. Each side tried to use the other for its own purposes, especially to grab power – and then to subjugate or suppress its former ally. Consequently, a balanced integration between these two different types of autocracy proved unviable. This unbridgeable divergence was confirmed by the sad fate of the only real effort at authoritarian–fascist

Contributions

23

fusion, namely Romania’s National Legionary State of 1940 (Iordachi 2014). From the beginning, this unique amalgamation experiment suffered from unsustainable tensions, and it quickly exploded into allout civil war, as Chapter 8 discusses. As the infertility of mules proves that donkeys and horses belong to different species, so the incompatibility of fascism and authoritarianism, as shown by the sterility of fascist imports in authoritarian dictatorships and by the immediate self-destruction of the one attempt at fusion, suggests that these two forms of reactionary rule are clearly different regime types. The reason for this incompatibility was that fascism pushed hard for a thorough transformation guided by an ambitious ideological vision,4 whereas authoritarianism embodied the conservative effort to guarantee stability and order. Accordingly, fascism sought to concentrate and expand power absolutely, whereas authoritarianism maintained limited pluralism. Fascism accepted no restraints on the leader’s despotism, while authoritarianism restrained its use of coercion. After all, fascism assiduously pursued a millenarian ideological vision, whereas authoritarianism was vague in its guiding ideas and flexible in its goals. In its chiliastic drive, fascism forcefully mobilized the citizenry and developed a violent dynamism. By contrast, authoritarian rulers sought to de-politicize the population, exclude citizens from politics, and monopolize governance among the small ruling elite (Mosse 1966: 22). This exclusionary, antipolitical tendency accounts for the lack of lifeblood that fascist imports found inside authoritarian dictatorships, a crucial obstacle to the formation of hybrid regimes. With these important differences to authoritarianism, fascism falls under Juan Linz’s (1964, 2000, 2002) seminal concept of totalitarianism, which came in left-wing, communist versions (Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism) and in right-wing, fascist versions (Italy’s Fascism and Germany’s National Socialism). As the basic types of autocracy, authoritarianism and totalitarianism diverge substantially in structure, dynamics, and societal base (Bracher 1982: 122–29, 253–59). Authoritarianism is hierarchical, exclusionary, and non-participatory and therefore finds sustenance among elite sectors and establishment forces, which anchor its support base (Linz 2000: 159–69). By contrast, totalitarianism arises from the power grab of personalistic leaders – often outsiders – with monopolistic claims to rule, who draw support from energetic, activist

4

For renewed emphasis on the ideology of fascism, see Eley (2013: 24–27, 59–83, 140–49).

24

Introduction

mass movements (for Italy, see Gentile 2005: 181–90, 196–201, 245–48). Accordingly, authoritarianism seeks to preserve the established order, whereas totalitarianism pushes to forge a new society and polity and even transform human nature. To pursue its ambitious ideological goals, totalitarianism suppresses all independent agency and imposes much tighter, more comprehensive and thoroughgoing control than authoritarianism (Linz 2000: 67–70; Linz 2002: 29, 43, 52, 64–69). By documenting these crucial distinctions between authoritarianism and totalitarianism, including fascism (similar Berg-Schlosser and Mitchell 2000: 35–37), my study diverges from the recent hybridization claims. This finding has broader conceptual implications because it challenges the questioning of qualitative differences that pervades the new literature on autocratic rule (see, e.g., Levitsky and Way 2010; Schedler 2013).5 Contrary to this embrace of conceptual gradualism, my research finds a substantial gulf between different species of autocracy. Because authoritarianism and fascism each formed a coherent system with its own inner logic, there was a clear difference in kind, not merely some differences in degree along specific variables, such as power concentration or the fierceness of repression (cf. Gerschewski and Schmotz 2011). This finding corroborates classical approaches to conceptualization (Sartori 1970, 1984), which postulated and systematically clarified these qualitative distinctions.

Enriching Studies of Fascism: Explanation without Apologetic Implications As this study does by emphasizing the double deterrent effect, innumerable scholars from various disciplines have highlighted the crucial importance of communism, especially the Russian Revolution, in helping to prompt the reactionary backlash driving the interwar reverse wave.6 5

6

Mann (2004: 43–48), for instance, depicts fascism as the most severe and repressive of four types of authoritarianism that lie on a continuum (p. 44) – but then admits that “fascism provided a discontinuity” (p. 47). See, for instance, Carsten (1982: 176, 182–83, 187–88), Griffin (1993: viii), Payne (1995: 76–78), Wirsching (1999: 514–16), Bernecker (2002: 22–23, 103, 150–51, 185–86, 208, 248, 255–56, 266–68, 456, 460–61, 474), Mann (2004: 76–77), Paxton (2005: 19, 44, 60–61, 68, 70, 81, 84, 88–89, 102–5, 110, 116, 195), Pasteur (2007: 12–16, 206), Markwick (2009: 340–44), Paxton (2009: 550, 554), Peniston-Bird (2009: 436–38), Pugh (2009: 490, 493), Tumblety (2009: 510–11, 517–18), D’Agostino (2012: 165, 170, 174), Gerwarth and Horne (2012a: 42, 44, 51), Kershaw (2015: 229–30);

Contributions

25

Finding one of its main planks in anti-Bolshevism and arising out of violent struggles against left-wingers in Northern Italy, fascism, in particular, emerged in response to radical socialism (Markwick 2009).7 Whereas authoritarianism had long preceded WWI, fascism formed immediately after and partly in reaction to Lenin’s revolutionary takeover. Explanatory efforts must recognize this genealogy; communism mightily contributed to fascism’s emergence via a reactive dynamic of challenge and response. Given the ease with which analyses of fascism provoke strident criticisms and scholarly controversies, this finding of an interactive connection between left-wing revolution and right-wing counterrevolution requires a crucial clarification: My study does not blame communism for fascism, nor does it try to excuse the atrocities of the right by highlighting the threat from the left. Moreover, I do not attribute historical responsibility for the autocratic reverse wave of the 1920s and 1930s in equal portions to both sides of the ideological divide, thus exculpating the predominantly right-wing perpetrators of widespread cruelties and massive crimes. In particular, although I follow Nolte’s ([1963] 1979) seminal study on fascism by highlighting the important link between revolutionary challenges and counterrevolutionary reactions – as many other authors do,8 most prominently the recent study by Traverso (2016) – I reject Nolte’s specific, provocative claims of a causal link between Stalinist and Nazi crimes (Nolte 1987c: 29, 32–33; Nolte 1987b: 45–46). Given the obvious sensitivity of this topic in Germany, Nolte’s ill-considered discussion points on this topic incited a noisy and rather nasty “fight among historians” (Historikerstreit) (Piper 1987).9 To avoid any misunderstandings, the amply supported and therefore undeniable finding of a significant link between revolution and counterrevolution does not imply that the historical responsibility for reactionary

7

8 9

Gerwarth (2016: 153–67). Partial agreement, partial disagreement in Linz (2000: 15–16, 24). Spanish fascist Ramiro Ledesma Ramos ([1935] 2017: 44) highlighted: “Fascism’s first incompatibility, of an unresolvable type, manifests itself against the Marxists. So unresolvable that only the most relentless violence is a solution.” See Note 6. From a center-left perspective, Traverso (2016: 1, 25–30, 53) highlights “the European civil war” that Nolte (1987a) studied from a center-right perspective. Retrospective observers such as Geppert (2016) marvel at this ill-tempered brawl among reputable scholars. In recent years, similarly bitter fights have erupted elsewhere, as in Portugal (e.g., Meneses 2012) and Spain (e.g., Álvarez Tardío and Rey Reguillo 2012: especially 4–7; Ealham 2013; and responses by Blaney 2016, Rey Reguillo 2016b, and Villa García 2016).

26

Introduction

regime changes and their consequences falls on the radical left, which provoked this backlash with its overeager promotion of drastic change. After all, as my bounded rationality approach highlights, the right did not assess the threat of communism in thorough and systematic ways, nor did it respond with proportionate means to protect its interests. Instead, cognitive shortcuts produced serious overestimations of the leftist menace, and asymmetrical loss aversion prompted disproportionate countermeasures. Therefore, rather than using the amount of force that was necessary for averting leftist revolution, conservative elites and fascist movements vastly overreacted and engaged in overkill. As numerous scholars have emphasized (e.g., Kershaw 2015: 107, 133), their crackdowns were unnecessarily brutal, causing many more victims than mere defense against left-wing uprisings required. Moreover, their dictatorial regimes, whose imposition was prompted by excessive fears, ushered in orgies of violence, clearly worse than called for by the consolidation of power. Interwar right-wingers thus diverged from the commands of instrumental rationality in unleashing exorbitant cruelty. The present book does not only follow innumerable historical analyses in emphasizing these excesses but also highlights deviations from conventional rationality to explain them. My emphasis on bounded rationality leaves no room for exculpatory tendencies or apologetic implications. Instead, I stress that many of the crucial political events of the interwar years, including the right-wing suppression of left-wing uprisings and the installation of many autocracies, resulted from misperceptions and skewed choices. By documenting how conservative authoritarians and totalitarian fascists overrated the danger of communism and employed excessive means to avert this specter, I am far from excusing their actions. In sum, by resting on a bounded rationality approach, my backlash argument does not have apologetic intentions or exculpatory implications. Through their strong deterrent effects, the Russian Revolution and the imitation efforts of the radical left undoubtedly helped to prompt reactionary responses, including the rise of fascism, and to stimulate the imposition of autocracy in many countries, directly or indirectly. But the fears driving these responses were clearly excessive due to cognitive heuristics, and reactionary measures went far overboard due to lopsided loss aversion. By emphasizing these significant deviations from political rationality, my explanation does not excuse the crimes of the right with the provocations of the left.

Research Design, Sources, and Case Selection

27

 , ,    A prior subsection has emphasized the complexity of the interwar reverse wave, which was deeply shaped by a double, nested deterrent effect; statistical analyses would face difficulties in trying to unravel this multilayered web of diffusion processes, pushed and pulled by counteracting forces of propulsion and repulsion. This study therefore relies on qualitative research and comparative-historical analysis. It draws mainly on the ample and rich secondary literature, which has produced studies of monumental significance (Bracher [1955] 1978; Nolte [1963] 1979; Luebbert 1991; Payne 1995; Kershaw 2000, 2015). While the bulk of writings focus in a lopsided way on fascism and therefore on Italy and Germany, there are also numerous investigations of other nations and their authoritarian regimes and democracies (e.g., Oberländer 2001; Capoccia 2005; Pasteur 2007; Doumanis 2016; Pinto and Finchelstein 2019). Although coverage is thin for some interesting cases, such as Estonia in the early 1930s (exception: Kasekamp 2000), the work of historians provides ample material for most countries. To examine the perceptions and calculations that informed political decisions, to unearth evidence of inspiration and learning, and to document the operation of cognitive mechanisms, this book also relies on large numbers of primary sources. Among these texts are major political proclamations (Hitler [1925] 2016; Mussolini [1932] 2018; Liebknecht 1974; Salazar 1977), speeches (Ebert 1926; Salazar 1948), interviews (Ferro 1939), letters (Maderthaner and Maier 2004), diaries (Carol II 1995; Vargas 1995; Kessler 1999; Goebbels 2008; Codreanu 2015), and transcribed or summarized conversations (Picker 2009). I also read many memoirs (e.g., Noske 1920; Müller 1924, 1925, 1926; Mussolini [1928] 1998; Scheidemann 1929; Codreanu 1939; Starhemberg 1942; Horthy [1953] 2011; Gil Robles 2006). Furthermore, I collected original documents about Getúlio Vargas’ dictatorship (1930–45) in the Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil (CPDOC) of the Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro; and about the installation and institutionalization of António Salazar’s autocracy (1932–69) in the Arquivo Nacional da Torre de Tombo in Lisbon. This book examines many countries in Europe and Latin America, although the reverse wave of the interwar years had global repercussions (Larsen 2001) and affected even faraway nations such as Japan (Hofmann 2015). Besides practical considerations of research

28

Introduction

background and language competence, the methodological concern of avoiding stark causal heterogeneity motivated this self-limitation. Because large parts of Africa and Asia were still under colonial rule, these continents do not offer much opportunity for systematic comparative analysis that would hold the regional context constant. Specifically, the analysis concentrates primarily on Europe. After all, the epicenter of the autocratic earthquake lay in the Old Continent, where large swaths suffered its repercussions. Most of Southern, Eastern, and Central Europe installed authoritarian or fascist rule; and West European nations that managed to maintain democracy saw the rise of extremeright or fascist movements, which flourished especially in Belgium and France (De Wever 2009; Tumblety 2009; overview in Bauerkämper 2006: 90–165). Where similar efforts occurred in Latin America, they were inspired by Southern European precedents and models (Deutsch 1999; Larsen 2001; Finchelstein 2010). For these reasons, Europe deserves special attention. The study investigates a large number of countries in some depth. This broad coverage is crucial for capturing the complexity and internal heterogeneity of the interwar reverse wave. As explained previously, the reactionaries of the 1920s and 1930s had two autocratic regime options, authoritarianism and fascism. Moreover, the tensions and conflicts between the advocates of these divergent models resulted in diverse paths toward dictatorship that combined cooptation and repression in varying ways and sometimes advanced via preemptive coups. For these reasons, the book features a chapter on Germany, which as the only country to follow Italy in instituting full-fledged fascism holds special interest; the world-historical significance of National Socialism also justifies an in-depth analysis. Moreover, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, and Spain receive considerable attention. After all, Italy gave rise to the fascist model. Hungary was the first country to institute authoritarianism after WWI, in direct response to an attempt at communist revolution; Budapest then also saw a regime insider’s effort to move toward fascism in the 1930s. In Brazil, Portugal, and Spain, conservative authoritarians used fascist movements to install or consolidate exclusionary autocracy; yet these countries experienced very different levels of leftist threat, which ranged from high in Spain to middling in Brazil and low in Portugal. In Estonia, Romania, and Austria, by contrast, conservative authoritarians imposed autocracy on their own to keep surging fascist movements from seizing power.

Central Concepts

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Because the cascade of dictatorship did not take hold everywhere, it is also crucial to examine contrast cases. Chapter 9 focuses on the main “challenged survivors” (Capoccia 2005: 7) and “analytically interesting ‘near misses’” (Capoccia and Ziblatt 2010: 943–44), where democracy escaped from major problems and acute threats. In France, political liberalism faced several rounds of challenges, especially from the radical right during the 1930s, but the party system demonstrated resilience and allowed a somewhat damaged democracy to survive until the German invasion of 1940. In Finland – interesting due to its underlying similarities to Estonia – a problem-plagued democracy narrowly escaped from a strong fascist challenge by eliminating the perceived threat from the revolutionary left and thus taking the wind out of the far right’s sails. And in Czechoslovakia, a party coalition kept radical left-wingers and radical right-wingers at bay and safeguarded democracy throughout the autocratic wave. Finally, Argentina shows how a belated fascist impulse, which gathered steam only during fascism’s global defeat in WWII, softened into populism, yet soon assumed an increasingly authoritarian character. These case studies document the intricate unfolding of democratic breakdown and autocratic installation. The investigation focuses on major “episodes” (Capoccia and Ziblatt 2010: 940–44) in which regime change was on the agenda, especially revolutionary challenges, counterrevolutionary reactions, advances of fascist movements, and conservatives’ imposition or hardening of authoritarian rule. By demonstrating the crucial importance that the perceived danger of communism or the surge of fascism had on these episodes, the empirical chapters substantiate the book’s main argument about the double deterrent effect.

  To allow for easy dialog with the extant literature, this study tries to employ standard definitions of major concepts. Accordingly, I conceive of democracy in mainstream Dahlian terms as equivalent to liberal pluralism, and use these terms interchangeably. Moreover, I use the seminal distinction of authoritarianism and totalitarianism introduced and thoroughly explained by Juan Linz (1964, 2000, 2002; see also Bracher 1982: 122–29), which underlies my questioning of recent claims of authoritarian–fascist hybridization. Two notions of central importance for this book, however, are not easy to pin down, namely fascism and reactionary rule. As regards

30

Introduction

fascism, there is an overabundance of conceptualizations, whereas for political reaction, there is a dearth (Mayer 1971: 35–36; Lilla 2016: ix).

Fascism “Generic” fascism, as a notion that goes beyond the Italian case, has proven exceedingly difficult to define (see recently Roberts 2016: 3–17; Griffin 2018: 26–33). Reasons for this problem include the predominance of charismatic, personalistic leadership, which can give fascist movements peculiar political and ideological orientations, such as the divergence between Italian fascism and German National Socialism on biological racism. Moreover, fascist ideology, designed by political practitioners – not theorists like Marx – was comparatively vague, lacked codification, and oddly combined retrograde and modern elements (see especially Sternhell 1986 and Griffin 2007). Consequently, it was not very clear what fascism’s vision and end goal really were.10 And with its heterogeneous social composition and catch-all nature, fascism also lacked a specific class character (see recently Griffin 2018: 18, 28). Therefore, extant definitions are not fully satisfactory.11 Even the most ambitious effort, Griffin’s (1993: 26; see 26–50; see also Griffin 2018: 34–46) characterization of fascism as revolving around “a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism,” has significant problems (criticism in Eatwell 2001: 27–28; Roberts 2016: 12–13, 35). Its emphasis on nationalism as fascism’s genus fails to capture Mussolini’s African colonialism and especially Hitler’s drive for a vast racial empire in the East (Traverso 2016: 104–5, 124), which went far beyond any nationalism (see, e.g., Nolte 1987a: 535–36; Linz 2000: 120; Snyder 2015: 33–37, 241;

10

11

Mussolini’s ([1932] 2018) “doctrine of fascism” formed only during the gradual regime installation in the 1920s, as the Duce himself stressed (pp. 12–14), and always remained vague. And Hitler developed his guiding vision of a Germanic racial empire in the East, which Snyder (2015) highlights (yet with questionable scholarship: Herf 2017: 230–33), mainly in his unpublished second book and then in his private “table talks” during WWII (Nolte 1979: 487–500; Jäckel 1981: 48; see also Schieder 2017: 10). Yet during his long quest for power before 1933 and during the consolidation of his regime thereafter, Hitler deliberately disguised these outlandish goals to win and maintain support (Snyder 2015: 36, 43). Linz (1976: 12–15) developed a “multi-dimensional typological definition of fascism,” but its high complexity does not situate fascism in a broader conceptual field, something Sartori (1984) recommends.

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Schieder 2017: 37–40). Indeed, the last major handbook of fascism did not embrace Griffin’s definition, but left the conceptual question open (Bosworth 2009b: 4–6). Interestingly, however, despite continuing definitional debates, scholars largely agree on fascism’s extension, especially the set of fascist regimes. Most historians (e.g., Payne 1995: 245; Bauerkämper 2006; Paxton 2009: 548–50, 563–64) and social scientists (e.g., Linz 2000: 23–24, 116–28; Mann 2004; Griffin 2018: 5)12 call only Mussolini’s and Hitler’s dictatorships fascist.13 These scholars also agree on the main radical-right movements that count as fascist, namely the Heimwehr and the local Nazi Party in Austria, Léon Degrelle’s Rexists in Belgium, the Integralists in Brazil, the Veterans’ Movement in Estonia, the Lapua Movement in Finland, the Arrow Cross in Hungary, Rolão Preto’s Blue Shirts in Portugal, the Legion of the Archangel Michael aka Iron Guard in Romania, and the Falange in Spain. To subsume this largely consensual list of fascist movements and regimes under a working definition, the present study starts from the finding that fascism never really fused with authoritarianism. What precluded hybridization was the totalitarian impetus of fascism, which differed fundamentally from the stability orientation of elitist, demobilizational authoritarianism. Given this basic characteristic of fascism, evident in its millenarian vision, inexhaustible dynamism, and quest for absolute power, it makes sense to conceive of fascism as a type of totalitarianism. With this move, the study employs the approach to conceptualization advocated by Giovanni Sartori (1970, 1984), who thought of concepts as hierarchically ordered along a “ladder of abstraction.”

12

13

As a recent exception, Riley (2019) calls Franco’s military regime in Spain and Romania’s royal dictatorship fascist – but with an idiosyncratic, excessively loose definition of fascism as “authoritarian democracy” (Riley 2019: xx–xxi, 2–6). The only case that is unclear (e.g., Mann 2004: 208–11) is Austria’s Dollfuß–Schuschnigg regime (1933–38), which scholars often label as “clerical fascism” (discussion in Pyrah 2007) or simply “Austrofascism” (e.g., Thorpe 2010; Tálos 2013). But regime founder Engelbert Dollfuß explicitly rejected the fascist label (Dollfuß 1994: 185, 208), and his successor Kurt Schuschnigg (1937: 291–92) also highlighted the distance of his corporatist authoritarianism from totalitarian fascism. Indeed, on a crucial characteristic of fascism, namely comprehensive political mobilization, the Austrian autocracy differed substantially from Mussolini’s Italy and especially Nazi Germany (Pammer 2013: 397–99). Therefore, the Dollfuß–Schuschnigg regime does not qualify as fascism (Peniston-Bird 2009: 450–51; Reiter-Zatloukal, Rothländer, and Schölnberger 2012: 8–9; Botz 2014: 141; Botz 2017: 165; nuanced assessment in Kirk 2003: 22–26).

32

Introduction

Accordingly, I define fascism per genus et differentiam as the rightwing variant of totalitarianism. This definition follows Linz’s (2000: 116–28) seminal discussion of totalitarianism, while aligning with the recent conceptual analysis of Roberts (2016: 274; see also 209–11, 247, 284–85), who “found totalitarianism the most useful differentiating principle” of fascism, by contrast to authoritarianism. Using Sartori’s procedure and situating fascism in a taxonomical hierarchy locates this notion systematically vis-à-vis other regime types, an important advantage for a book on regime change. And by elucidating fascists’ tensionfilled relationship with the advocates of authoritarian rule (see Linz 2002), the classification of fascism as a variant of totalitarianism proves its conceptual validity and analytical usefulness.14 This notion of fascism covers both Mussolini’s and Hitler’s dictatorships,15 which shared a strong mobilizational drive and high power concentration. Subsumption under a common label, however, does not deny the two tyrannies’ differences. Whereas Italian fascism sought to strengthen the state and pursue belated imperialism, National Socialism constituted a much more ambitious and radical project in its genocidal racism and its push for a slave system in Eastern Europe (Snyder 2015). Internally, Germany’s despotism was fiercer, more impositional, and therefore more totalitarian than Italy’s autocracy, which cooperated with established power centers such as the king, the military, and the church, whereas National Socialism subjugated all other actors. But recent studies show that Mussolini’s regime also had inherent totalitarian tendencies (Gentile 2005: 173–89, 196–201, 265–69). Despite their significant differences, the two cases of fascism, which also coincided in their intense anti-communism, anti-liberalism, anti-rationalism, and vitalism, thus fit my definition. Whereas my definition of fascism as a variant of totalitarianism emphasizes its institutional differences from authoritarianism, its ideological characterization of fascism as right-wing, which highlights its antagonism to communist totalitarianism, stresses underlying similarities between energetic fascists and conservative authoritarians – the other side of their tension-filled relationship: As right-wingers, they often made common front against radical left-wingers.

14 15

For a very thorough and instructive application of the totalitarianism concept to fascist movements in France and Germany, see Wirsching (1999). On “Nazism as fascism,” see recently Eley (2013).

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Admittedly, fascism’s lack of a clear ideological doctrine created some ambiguities on the left–right dimension. In fact, quite a few fascists, most prominently Mussolini, had emerged from the political left (Sternhell 1994; Berman 2006: chap. 4); and some self-proclaimed fascists, such as Otto Strasser’s group in Germany, embraced socialism in a nationalist version, sought to overturn socioeconomic privileges and hierarchies, and thus had ideological affinities with the left (Nolte 1987a: 158–61; Mommsen 2016: 398–401, 416–21; for another case, see Ledesma Ramos [1935] 2017: 36–38, 44, 92, 156, 201). But Sternhell’s (1986) provocative claim that ideologically, French fascism was “neither right nor left” is not broadly applicable. Fascism’s vastly predominant currents clearly gravitated toward the far right and forcefully imposed this orientation on their movements, for instance, by expelling Otto Strasser from the NSDAP. Therefore, it is conceptually valid to define fascism in ideological terms as right-wing. This study conceives of right-wing ideas in conventional terms: They rest on a pessimistic, Hobbesian anthropology (cf. Mayer 1971: 48, 52), which highlights constant risks of conflict and struggle. To avert these threats, right-wingers advocate imposition and coercion to guarantee stability; see hierarchy, elitism, and discipline as the proper basis of order; reject egalitarianism; and limit or firmly control bottom-up pressures. The polity that the right seeks to preserve, restore, or regenerate resembles a steep pyramid with distinct layers and corresponding differences in attributions, responsibilities, and privileges. According to this definition, the right ranges between two poles, namely conservatives and fascists. Confident in the clout of established elites, conservatives perceive a less intense threat of conflict. Accordingly, they see existing structures, especially cultural tradition, the family, clientelistic networks, and the professional status ladder, as reliable foundations of order, which needs to be preserved, in times of crises through fortification via an authoritarian regime. Fascists, by contrast, see dangerous enemies lurking everywhere and fear that order is deeply threatened or has already been shattered.16 Fascists therefore advocate a massive total onslaught against the evil foes and energetic moves to re-found a strong, unchallengeable order that places the revered hierarchies of the (mythical) past (cf. Stanley 2018: chap. 1) on a stronger, modern

16

Nolte (1979: 486, 492, 502, 507) perceptively argues that Hitler’s whole worldview rested on deep anxiety (Angst).

34

Introduction

foundation. Fascists called for a profound regeneration and total transformation of politics – a totalitarian effort. Thus, they were radical reactionaries.

Reactionary Rule This discussion of right-wingers’ quest for bolstering hierarchical order leads to the concept of political reaction, which is frequently used, but rarely defined. Interestingly, during the interwar years, reactionary orientations were particularly widespread, affecting large segments of the political right. The reason was that conservatives faced a fundamental conundrum after the catastrophe of WWI, the Bolshevist revolution and its revolutionary repercussions elsewhere, and democracy’s spread to most of Central and Eastern Europe: The elitist, hierarchical order that they wanted to maintain had crumbled or collapsed. Their definitional goal, namely to conserve the existing system, no longer aligned with their substantive preferences. Because conservatives embrace only gradual, organic, evolutionary change, they refused to acquiesce to the drastic transformations of the late 1910s and early 1920s. Therefore, they sought to recuperate the status quo ante, rather than defending the current status quo. They rejected the new (dis-)order and wanted to restore the old one. Thus, the world-historical breakpoints that ushered in Hobsbawm’s (1996) age of extremes left conservatives in an “impossible” situation. Even those who for pragmatic reasons sought to accept the change of parameters, such as Weimar Germany’s Vernunftrepublikaner,17 still looked backward with nostalgia and were prepared, even eager, to take advantage of opportunities to resurrect the prewar system. Because their ideas and values were anchored in the recent past, many conservatives tried hard go beyond pure conservation, turn the clock back, and promote a restoration of the old order. Thus, they adopted a reactionary posture. Defined here in literal – not polemical – terms (Mayer 1971: 48–49; Hirschman 1991: 8–10; Lilla 2016: xxii–xxiii; Robin 2018), political reaction denotes the determination to undo significant political change, especially discontinuous breakdowns, and to recover or recreate the prior system. The reference point and goal for these regressive efforts gives rise to the distinction between moderate reaction, which is palatable to 17

These were monarchists who “reasonably” resigned themselves to the new republic.

Central Concepts

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conservatives, and radical reaction, the fascist project.18 Moderate reactionaries are those who, after a recent transformation, regard a return to the immediately preceding order as viable and promising and therefore promote its simple restoration (E. Weber 1976: 441; Kann 1978: 300–1). A prominent example were the French legitimists who simply reenthroned the Bourbon dynasty in 1814, after the 1789 revolution and Napoleon’s defeat (see Kissinger [1957] 2013). By contrast, radical, profound reactionaries highlight the inherent vulnerability of the old order, as proven by its very downfall, and seek a much stronger, more resilient system. For this purpose, they resort to earlier, older political models but they also try to fortify those revived structures with new elements and modern instruments (cf. E. Weber 1976: 451–54). Thus, the more doubts that reactionary sectors have in the solidity of the collapsed system, the more they move – following a paradoxical logic – in opposite directions, namely both far back into (mythical) history and far ahead to cutting-edge modernity. In this contradictory vein, Hitler sought to (re-)create the Germanic farmer and warrior state of the Middle Ages, while marshaling advanced modern science, such as industrial extermination technology and innovative jet planes to pursue this atavistic goal (see Lilla 2016: 139; Robin 2018: 40, 51–52; Traverso 2019: 98–105).19 In regime terms, moderate reactionaries believed that traditional elite rule remained politically viable and therefore advocated excluding the masses from meaningful participation by imposing hierarchical, nonmobilizational authoritarianism. By contrast, radical reactionaries were convinced of the sociopolitical weakness of traditional elites and saw the need for re-founding the political order on the basis of mass participation. But as radical right-wingers committed to inequality and hierarchy, they enlisted charismatic leaders to control and subjugate the masses, use plebiscitarian acclamation and induced mobilization to sustain totalitarian rule, and turn their most fervent followers into shock troops that should exterminate their enemies and intimidate the old elites. In some sense, they promoted a revolutionary form of counterrevolution (Traverso 2016: 233–36).

18

19

MacKay and LaRouche (2018) draw a similar distinction for international relations and exemplify it similarly with post-Napoleonic restoration via the Concert of Europe and Hitler’s aggressive revisionism of the Versailles treaty. The Islamist caliphate ISIS displayed the same “contradictory” tendencies by employing modern social media for its retrograde goals (Shane and Hubbard 2014).

36

Introduction

While embracing these different strategies, the right-wing movements that proliferated during the interwar years in response to the specter of communism shared a firm set of reactionary orientations. These rightwing ideas and the goal of turning the political clock back inspired and shaped the authoritarian and totalitarian dictatorships that sought to avert the world-revolutionary threat with full force. The 1920s and 1930s saw the biggest wave of such reactionary regimes that the world has ever witnessed.

    Chapter 2 systematically presents the book’s theoretical approach. After acknowledging the contribution of various causal factors to democratic breakdown during the interwar years, it highlights the fundamental role of the double deterrent effect. Because established elites saw both revolutionary communism and its most potent antidote, counterrevolutionary fascism, as serious dangers, they used their preponderant power capabilities to impose conservative authoritarianism as a safeguard in many countries. These threat perceptions and dictatorial reactions were driven by basic mechanisms of cognitive psychology. With their deviation from standard rationality, heuristic shortcuts and asymmetrical loss aversion gave rise to striking misperceptions and overreactions, which help account for the proliferation of autocracy and the horrendous “unnecessary” bloodletting of the 1920s and 1930s. The book’s empirical core consists of two parts, which examine the immediate impact of the Russian Revolution in Chapters 3 and 4 and then analyze its indirect repercussions, including the role of fascism, in Chapters 5 through 9. Chapter 3 documents how Lenin’s success quickly stimulated a wave of radical-left emulation efforts, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. But as Chapter 4 shows, status-quo defenders everywhere squashed these precipitous uprisings. The reaction to this early riptide included the emergence of fascism in Italy, which arose in direct struggle against leftist contention. The quick and decisive defeat of communists’ early replication efforts did not reliably guarantee sociopolitical stability, however. Instead, as Chapter 5 discusses, communism survived in Russia, and Lenin’s disciples eagerly proselytized, organized, and agitated across the globe. As the world-revolutionary threat kept looming, mainstream sectors remained fearful and searched for stronger protection than liberal democracy

Organization of the Study

37

seemed to guarantee. In this setting, fascism emerged as an attractive regime model that could reliably protect against communism. Chapter 6 explains how fascism – exceptionally – managed to seize power in crisis-ridden Germany. In this fairly modern society, conservative elites had sufficient clout to undermine liberal democracy, but not enough control to impose authoritarianism and block a fascist upsurge. For apparent lack of alternatives, the NSDAP (National-Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – National-Socialist German Workers’ Party) eventually gained power, which Hitler immediately used to push toward totalitarianism. Chapters 7 and 8 then analyze the much more common imposition of conservative authoritarianism in less developed countries, where establishment sectors kept fascist movements under control. Chapter 7 discusses the complex and tension-filled relations of these right-wing groupings. It explains how fascist movements emerged in many countries, but how establishment sectors subdued them to hierarchical, exclusionary forms of autocracy. Interestingly, however, these authoritarian regimes often imported elements of fascism, though only as instruments for their own top-down rule, and even as weapons against domestic fascists. The long Chapter 8 examines the main pathways toward autocratic imposition through a series of country cases. In Spain, Brazil, and Portugal, conservative elites commanded clear predominance and used fascist movements as mere auxiliaries for installing elitist authoritarianism. In Austria, Estonia, and Romania, by contrast, fascist movements achieved a striking upsurge. Deeply scared, conservative establishment sectors prevented fascist power seizures through authoritarian self-coups. Similarly, authoritarian stalwarts in Hungary obstructed a regime insider’s efforts to push toward full-scale fascism. To complete the analysis of regime developments during the 1920s and 1930s, Chapter 9 investigates the edges of the autocratic wave. The analysis focuses on Finland, France, and Czechoslovakia, which faced important attacks from the fascist right, yet succeeded in maintaining liberal democracy. Then I explore the unusual case of Argentina, where a fascist project emerged in the mid-1940s, yet the global de-legitimation of fascism in 1945 prompted its transformation into authoritarian populism, which subsequently turned into a model in Latin America. The concluding Chapter 10 summarizes the book’s central findings about the repercussions of the double deterrent effect. Then it emphasizes that cognitive-psychological insights are crucial for understanding the tremendous turmoil and terrible death toll of the interwar years. The

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Introduction

subsequent section stresses that the horrors culminating in the 1940s exerted their own deterrent effects, which fostered the revival of political liberty and democratic consolidation in Western Europe. Because democracy has in recent years faced a right-wing populist challenge, the last section highlights how this threat differs from fascism. This study of the past thus helps to calm present fears.

2 Theory: The Double Deterrent Effect and the Bounds of Rationality

This book argues and documents with a wealth of historical evidence that the monumental reverse wave of the interwar years was profoundly shaped by intense fears of communism as well as the determined rejection of fascism, especially by powerful conservative elites. This double deterrent effect was provoked by the demonstration effects that the novel regime models of Soviet-style communism and of Italian and later German fascism inspired. In fact, these counteracting diffusion dynamics of communism and fascism were intimately connected and reinforced “the symbiotic relationship between revolution and counterrevolution” (Traverso 2016: 48; see also 225–26). Because radical left-wingers eagerly tried to emulate the Russian Revolution, statusquo defenders perceived a dangerous threat from Bolshevism and therefore defended their interests and values with all means. This counterrevolutionary impulse played a primary role in the rise of fascism in Italy, and it gave this new political model enormous appeal among rightwingers. Yet as fascist movements mobilized and gained strength in many countries, establishment sectors came to see these radical, violence-prone upstarts also as a threat. While these conservative elites liked to employ extreme-right paramilitaries as shock troops against the left, they were wary of their uncontrollable dynamism and their charismatic leaders’ push for totalitarian domination. Powerful establishment forces were therefore driven by a second deterrent effect to keep the fervent fascist hordes at bay and subjugate them to their own control through the imposition of non-mobilizational authoritarianism. The resulting conflicts among the reactionary right gave the massive backlash against the 39

40

Theory: The Double Deterrent Effect

perceived threat of communism particular complexity. Consequently, democracy’s downfall advanced along different paths: Fascist mass movements seized power in Italy and Germany, whereas conservative elites installed authoritarianism in many other countries, though in two distinct ways. In Austria, Estonia, and Romania, establishment forces spearheaded authoritarian coups to prevent rising fascists from taking power, whereas in countries such as Brazil, Portugal, and Spain, conservative sectors used weaker fascist movements as auxiliaries for their own seizure or consolidation of autocratic power. Before I disentangle these intersecting demonstration and deterrent effects, the first subsection highlights the unique complexity of the interwar riptide through a comparison with other reverse waves. Whereas these instances of autocratic imposition or hardening emerged from a simple, straightforward backlash against revolutionary challenges, such as the French Revolution of 1789 or the Cuban Revolution of 1959 (Weyland 2019: chaps. 5–8), the 1920s and 1930s saw more diverse regime developments. There was a double deterrent effect; moreover, various other problems and crises, such as legacies of war, persistent ethnic conflicts, and the Great Depression, played crucial roles as well. But although this unusual problem load weakened democracies here and there, it cannot account for the breadth of autocracy’s sweep, which resulted from the rejection of communism as well as fascism. The second subsection examines this double deterrent effect in systematic depth. Finally, the third subsection explains the micro-foundations of my argument, which are drawn from cognitive psychology. Political forces across the ideological spectrum clearly deviated from conventional rationality and acted in misguided, imprudent ways. Fired up by the Soviet precedent, the radical left spearheaded precipitous, ill-considered challenges, while the right and center reflexively overrated the danger of revolutionary communism. This excessive fear induced status-quo defenders to combat left-wing subversion with unnecessary violence, and it contributed to the later imposition of autocratic rule as a protective shield. Moreover, especially after Hitler’s totalitarian Machtergreifung in Germany, conservative elites in other countries also overestimated the menace of fascist movements and rashly abolished political liberty, most strikingly through preemptive self-coups in several countries. By fomenting these unreasonable actions and reactions, bounded rationality aggravated the political tragedy of the interwar years.

The Exceptional Complexity of the Interwar Reverse Wave

41

        An Unusual Multitude of Problems Among anti-democratic regime cascades, authoritarianism and fascism’s spread during the 1920s and 1930s was the most complex by far. Unusually, a double deterrent effect played a crucial role, as explained in the next subsection. Several other factors also contributed to the frequent destruction of democracy. The painful legacies of WWI, economic shocks such as hyperinflation and the Great Depression, ethnic tensions and nationalist resentments, and the political-institutional dysfunctionalities of inexperienced democracies put severe strain on liberal regimes. There was a unique accumulation of risk factors and crises (Hobsbawm 1996; Mazower 2000; Kershaw 2015). Considering this unprecedented coincidence of problems, it is less surprising that many democracies fell, than that quite a few survived (Cornell, Møller, and Skaaning 2017), if sometimes narrowly (Capoccia 2005). By contrast to the complex advance of fascism and authoritarianism in the post–WWI era, other reverse waves resulted primarily from a direct backlash against a revolutionary challenge. As my last book demonstrated, institutionalized military rule in Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s was provoked by the Cuban Revolution (Weyland 2019: chaps. 5–6). The regressive involution of England’s liberal regime and the hardening of European monarchies from the 1790s to the 1820s was a response to the French Revolution. Similarly, the Iranian Revolution of 1978/79 triggered autocratic deepening throughout the Middle East and contributed to Turkey’s military coup in 1980. And the “color revolutions” in the post-communist world induced Vladimir Putin and other post-Soviet autocrats to tighten their reign and squeeze the political opposition and civil society (Weyland 2019: chap. 8). Compared to all these reverse waves, the interwar cascade arose from the complex intersection of various important factors. Problems that had little impact on other reactionary backlashes played a substantial role during the 1920s and 1930s. Any account therefore needs to consider this multi-causality. First of all, WWI had severely strained societies and caused several deleterious repercussions. Paradoxically, although this armed cataclysm felled all combatant autocracies and ended with the victory of Western

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democracies, it also undermined the liberal faith in progress and reason that the preceding century with its socioeconomic and political advances had nurtured (Kramer 2009). Moreover, the new democracies that emerged from the ashes started with a heavy burden. Four years of mass slaughter had brutalized millions of men (Mosse 1999: 15–17; Gerwarth 2016; Traverso 2016: 101–3, 153, 168–83), hindering their reintegration into civilian life (see e.g., the autobiographical account of Höß [1947] 1963: 34–36) and creating a pool of fighters for paramilitary and radical forces. No wonder that war veterans formed the backbone of several fascist movements emerging in the 1920s and 1930s, ranging from Italy to Estonia (Kasekamp 1993, 2015). Except for the post-Napoleonic era of autocratic restoration in Europe, none of the other reactionary waves were fueled by such collective PTSD. During the second half of the twentieth century, Latin America, for instance, was spared large-scale warfare. Most guerrilla movements inspired by the Cuban Revolution were so weak and fleeting that their determined suppression did not have traumatic repercussions, certainly not of a magnitude comparable to WWI. As regards economic challenges, devastating hyperinflation weakened several liberal regimes in Central and Eastern Europe during the early 1920s, most prominently and consequentially Germany. Shortly thereafter, the Great Depression created tremendous economic and social hardship across the world during the 1930s, discredited existing democracies, and strengthened their radical enemies. By contrast, no massive economic shocks afflicted Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s, when many democracies collapsed (Mainwaring and Pérez-Liñán 2013: 101, 110–13). And the hardening of Middle-East despotism after the Iranian Revolution coincided with the regional boom caused by the second OPEC oil price increase. Similarly, the backlash against the postcommunist color revolutions led by Putin also occurred during a petroleum-fueled bonanza. During the interwar years, ethnic resentments and nationality conflicts added fuel to the fire consuming so many democracies. The dismantling of four multi-ethnic empires in and after WWI (Habsburg, Hohenzollern, Ottoman, and Romanov) created many new states with contested borders and serious religious and ethnic tensions. Mistrust and contention were rife in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, where titular nationalities aggressively asserted their hard-earned interests and rights. The newly dominant forces excluded and discriminated against minority groupings, which often counted on support from neighboring countries. Hungary, for

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instance, had suffered grievous mutilation, losing three quarters of its Habsburg-era territory – an inexhaustible source of trouble in a volatile region. The territorial winners, in turn, such as Romania and Yugoslavia, struggled to integrate a congeries of nationalities and religious groupings into new nation states. As ample research shows, democracy has notorious difficulty surviving in such conflictual settings (Linz and Stepan 1996: chap. 2). To a greater or lesser extent, these ethnic and nationality problems contributed to numerous breakdowns in Eastern Europe, most clearly in Yugoslavia in 1929. Once again, there was no equivalent in other reverse waves, except the suppression of the European revolutions of 1848–49. The spread of re-foundational military regimes in Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s, for instance, affected a region of consolidated nation states. And in the Mid-Eastern reaction to the Iranian Revolution and the authoritarian rollback against the color revolutions, internal tensions and communal conflicts were not nearly as important as during the interwar years. Last, but not least, the striking advance of democracy after WWI, especially in the new states of Central and Eastern Europe, created many fledgling, fragile regimes that faced risks of collapse from the beginning (Kershaw 2015: 121–34). The eagerness to emulate the most advanced nations, the Western democracies, had implanted liberal pluralism in structurally unpropitious settings, namely backward societies suffering from stark inequalities, ethnic cleavages, and economic shocks (Gunitsky 2017: 6, 32–37; Leonhard 2017). Indeed, democracy often fails at first try because a viable institutional framework tailored to a country’s specific conditions is difficult to construct; moreover, actors newly liberated from longstanding autocracy insist on pushing their pent-up demands and are reluctant to engage in compromise, the lifeblood of democracy (Huntington 1991: 17, 25, 42). This weakness and immaturity helped destroy some democracies soon after their foundation, as in Poland in 1926, yet these problems exerted their deleterious effects throughout the interwar years, as in Estonia in 1933/34. Once again, no similar democratic overstretch and subsequent retrenchment occurred in Latin America after the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Indeed, the new democracies of Colombia and Venezuela, both inaugurated in 1958, survived the authoritarian riptide. By contrast, the old democracies of Chile and Uruguay, instituted in 1932 and 1942, succumbed. The other reactionary cascades affected regions where few liberal democracies had emerged in the first place. As there was no democratic overstretch to reverse, they brought mainly the hardening of

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existing authoritarian regimes through intensified repression and a further curtailment of very limited, precarious liberties. In sum, the interwar years stand out because a torrent of problems and challenges bore down on often weak democracies. Due to this accumulation of difficulties, the massive advance of autocracy had multi-causal origins, different from other authoritarian riptides. Legacies of total war, unprecedented economic crises, ethnic conflicts and problems of statehood, and democratic inexperience and institutional weakness affected countries that were also in the throes of the double deterrent effect. While confronting these acute issues and strains, many interwar democracies also suffered from underlying limitations and vulnerabilities associated with low development levels. In most of Eastern and Southern Europe, agriculture prevailed while industrialization and urbanization had not advanced very far. Poverty was widespread, mass education deficient, and social indicators deplorable (Janos 1982; Berend 1998). Elites often took advantage of economic destitution and social inequality to control substantial parts of the population through clientelistic networks, which stunted citizens’ political autonomy. Personalism and patronage politics distorted and undermined institutional rules. Political parties lacked organizational strength and programmatic commitments, and civil society was incipient, often confined to a few urban centers.As a wealth of research shows, low modernization hinders democratic survival (Lipset 1959; Rueschemeyer, Stephens, and Stephens 1992: 13–27; Przeworski and Limongi 1997; Teorell 2010: 54–59). This structural “backwardness” (Janos 1982; Berend 1998) was a root cause for democracies’ collapse across Eastern and Southern Europe. The lack of socioeconomic advancement created weaknesses and vulnerabilities that proved fatal when the above-mentioned problems and challenges occurred. By contrast, Europe’s more developed North and West preserved democracy, as Cornell, Møller, and Skaaning (2017, 2020) recently highlighted. Central Europe constituted a transition zone with mixed outcomes, namely, breakdowns in Austria and Germany, yet survival in Czechoslovakia, which was significantly more developed than its Eastern neighbors. Yet while socioeconomic development helps account for the crossnational differences in regime outcomes during the interwar years (BergSchlosser and De Meur 1994: 256–57), the massive wave of autocracy diverges from the diachronic expectations of modernization theory, which foresees gradual progress toward political liberalism and democracy. The drastic and sustained reversal of the predicted trend shows the

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crucial importance of the multitude of difficulties and crises besieging democracies during the 1920s and 1930s. Only because of this unusual problem load did the weaknesses resulting from socioeconomic backwardness pave the way for autocracy. While modernization explains the differential resilience of liberal-pluralist regimes, the moving causes of democratic breakdown and autocratic imposition arose from the multiple pressures afflicting democracies. Underlying structural conditions account well for the pattern of regime outcomes, but they do not elucidate the push factors, causal mechanisms, and processes of democratic breakdowns and authoritarian and fascist regime formation. The Impact of the Problems and Challenges Facing Interwar Democracies How much impact on the reverse wave did the variegated challenges and fragilities have? The different problems would have predicted a jumble of setbacks, with democratic breakdowns here and there, yet probably followed by renewed advances, especially after economic crises passed. But in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s, political regime development was strikingly unidirectional, almost uniformly away from liberal democracy; a massive groundswell of regression prevailed (Huntington 1991: 14–18; Kailitz 2017; Cornell, Møller, and Skaaning 2020: chap. 2). None of the specific difficulties just examined can explain this broad sweep of autocracy’s proliferation nor the processes and mechanisms driving it. The theories highlighting these factors are therefore not fully convincing for the interwar years (Berg-Schlosser and De Meur 1994: 276). Legacies of total war and problems of incipient statehood did not prove uniformly important. After all, the undemocratic groundswell reached beyond the new nations arising after WWI and affected longestablished countries in Southern Europe and Latin America as well. Similarly, former participants in WWI fell under dictatorship, yet so did neutral nations such as Spain and Brazil. Moreover, authoritarianism and fascism were imposed both in countries that had emerged victorious (for instance, Romania and Italy) and those suffering defeat (such as Hungary and Germany). Consequently, WWI experiences cannot account for the massive reverse wave. Despite their unusual severity, economic crises were not decisive for autocracy’s proliferation either, as Cornell, Møller, and Skaaning (2020: chap. 5; see also Linz 1978a) recently confirmed. During the 1920s and 1930s, lengthy recessions did significantly boost radical-right vote shares

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(De Bromhead, Eichengreen, and O’Rourke 2013: 390–95), but fascists’ increasing support did not doom democracy. Instead, extreme-right parties won government power only in Italy and Germany; and even after the Great Depression, they achieved drastic electoral upsurges that provoked the preemptive imposition of conservative authoritarianism only in Austria, Estonia, and Romania (see Chapter 8).1 In general, economic crises do not predict interwar regime developments. Democratic breakdowns happened not only in nations scorched by hyperinflation, such as Austria and Poland, but also in countries that avoided this scourge, such as Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Similarly, not all countries devastated by the Great Depression fell under dictators (see recently Kershaw 2015: 231–32). Indeed, autocratic impositions occurred in fairly equal numbers both before and after 1929 (see table 1.1). Thus, Black Friday did not make a huge difference for the authoritarian wave, which started in Hungary in 1919, a full decade earlier. Germany, where the Great Depression clearly fomented the NSDAP’s electoral breakthrough that eventually led to Hitler’s Machtergreifung, remained exceptional. In general, economic crises do not play a crucial role in democracy’s downfall, as wide-ranging recent research shows (Przeworski 2019: 30–31). Other problems invoked by scholars also had only a limited impact. Country case studies often highlight specific institutional dysfunctionalities, but these particularistic arguments do not add up to a persuasive overarching explanation. Prominent concerns focus on the overly powerful position of the president in Germany’s Weimar constitution, which allowed for rule by emergency decree via the infamous article 48 (Bracher [1955] 1978: 43–52; Schulz 1975: 269–72; Bernhard 2005: chap. 2). But other specialists bemoan the executive branch’s unusual weakness in the Baltic countries, where legislative assemblies reigned supreme (Von Rauch 1995: 76–79, 146–48). But these specific accounts highlight divergent problems and do not explain the autocratic riptide as such. The “universal failure of democracy in parliamentary regimes . . . in that period” (Metcalf 1998: 346) also casts doubt on a more general argument, namely Juan Linz’s (1990; Linz and Valenzuela 1994) forceful claims that presidentialism seriously threatens democratic stability. In the 1920s and 1930s, however, parliamentarism revealed striking 1

Where authoritarian leaders used fascist movements as auxiliaries for instituting or hardening dictatorships, as in Brazil, Portugal, and Spain, they would probably have acted and succeeded on their own, even without extreme-right help.

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vulnerability; accordingly, even Linz’s (2002: 11) later work acknowledges “the crisis of parliamentarism” during the interwar years. Indeed, the last wide-ranging analysis did not find that the system of government significantly affects regime survival (Cheibub 2007). For all these reasons, institutionalist approaches, predominant in political science during recent decades, do not offer very strong, convincing accounts of this reverse wave. The great-power argument presented in chapter one (Owen 2010; Boix 2011; Gunitsky 2014, 2017) cannot easily explain the autocratic wildfire either. During the 1920s and 1930s, foreign pressure and imposition played only a very limited and belated role. Due to their intense nationalism, right-wingers across the world were reluctant to look like puppets or instruments of fascist Italy or Nazi Germany (Hagemann 2001: 74, 81, 94; Larsen 2001: 733–38).2 Moreover, Italy lacked the strength to push its regime model successfully, and Nazi Germany gained such clout only during the mid-1930s. Therefore, great-power influence cannot explain the autocratic reverse wave, which had started in 1919 already. Interestingly, moreover, even in the territories he dominated or conquered, Hitler allowed for fascist regimes only rarely (e.g., Croatia: Trifkovic 2011: chaps. 6, 9). Instead, he found the stability imposed by authoritarianism more beneficial for the Axis war effort; strategic interests displaced ideological predilections. Consequently, Germany’s fascist leader did not do much to promote fascism abroad.3 This reluctance to spread his ideological model became strikingly obvious in Romania, where Hitler consistently cooperated with authoritarian rulers and consented to their brutal suppression of a powerful fascist movement, which desperately pleaded for his support (Heinen 1986: 376, 427–29, 444–53; Sandu 2014: 170–71, 190, 332, 345, 353–54). Therefore, great-power theories, even Gunitsky’s (2017: chap. 4) recent account of the 1930s, cannot easily explain the interwar cascade. Finally, intellectual challenges arising from the spread of cultural pessimism (Bracher 1982: part I; Burrow 2000; Buruma and Margalit 2004) discussed in Chapter 1 played only an indirect role. This change in the Zeitgeist certainly inspired increasing doubts in liberal democracy and

2 3

Efforts at maintaining some independence occurred even in a least likely case, namely tiny Slovakia’s relations to mighty Nazi Germany from 1939–45 (Tönsmeyer 2007). Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy did promote fascist ideas across the world, however, targeting especially their expatriate communities, which were extensive in Latin America (Gentile 2001; Hagemann 2001).

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helped prepare the ground for autocracy’s proliferation (Linz 2002: 47–53). But this ideational change operated in a loose, atmospheric way and did not directly affect reactionary regime installation. After all, fascism, the novel model evoking the greatest enthusiasm (Hamilton 1971), spread very little from its origin in Italy; only Germany adopted it full-scale. Even Mussolini admirers refused to import fascism and installed authoritarianism instead, both in Europe (Oberländer 2001; Pasteur 2007) and Latin America (Deutsch 1999). Thus, the enormous appeal of fascism failed to prompt much emulation. Regime change did not simply follow the Zeitgeist; instead, most elites preferred stodgy and unexciting, but more predictable and safe authoritarianism. Even autocrats who opportunistically and temporarily emulated select pieces of the fascist toolkit, such as Portugal’s António de Oliveira Salazar, categorically rejected core features of Mussolini’s regime, especially its totalitarian drive for unlimited power and its penchant for violence (Ferro 1939: 175–81). Indeed, fascism’s contagion effects were outweighed and overpowered by its deterrent effects. While inspiring many people, this innovative regime model also scared many others, especially conservative politicians and societal elites. Because those groupings commanded great clout, fascism provoked stronger aversion than support. The resulting backlash to this new model of reactionary rule, which had emerged as the best antidote to the other new model of “the age of extremes,” namely revolutionary communism, brought forth the double deterrent effect, which profoundly shaped autocracy’s spread during the interwar years. Above and beyond all the problems and challenges discussed before, this double deterrent effect was the common impetus behind the wave-like sweep of democratic collapse. The inordinate fear of communism and then the strong concerns about fascism were the principal driving forces of the autocratic groundswell engulfing so many countries during the 1920s and 1930s. Under the spell of cognitive shortcuts activated by Lenin’s 1917 success, many political forces saw a risk of Bolshevik revolution even where communism commanded little support. Similarly, Hitler’s resolute power grab fueled intense concern about fascist takeovers (Traverso 2016: 259–60) and provoked rash defensive reactions, including preventive palace coups. The apparent assault from the radical left and the pressures from the radical right were the principal causal mechanisms propelling the massive autocratic cascade of the interwar years. To save their countries from communism, and then from fascism as well, established elites spearheaded

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a wave of democratic breakdown. Attention therefore turns to the double deterrent effect, which provides a crucial complement to the factors discussed so far.

   :   ,    Communist Revolution and Its Monumental Impact The Russian Revolution profoundly transformed politics in Europe, and the world more broadly (recently Daly and Trofimov 2017; Rinke and Wildt 2017). After years of total war had already strained the sociopolitical order to the breaking point, Lenin’s surprising takeover caused an earthquake that shattered the prevailing political coordinates and opened up previously unthinkable options, which created great opportunities for some, but severe risks for others. Suddenly, deep-reaching revolution producing a total systemic transformation appeared on the political agenda. By establishing the feasibility of ambitious ideological projects, the Russian Revolution drastically expanded the scope of conflict and turned politics into an all-out struggle over messianic salvation versus satanic damnation. Yet while the frontlines in these titanic clashes were clear and sharp, their outcome was utterly unpredictable; consequently, fundamental uncertainty and “confusion” reigned (Kurzman 2004: 333–39; see also Ermakoff 2008: xxiii, 192–93; Vincent 2016: 388–94). The Russian Revolution came as a shock to left-wingers and rightwingers alike. During the preceding decades, the redistributive demands prompted by “the social question” had effectively de-radicalized. While still professing adherence to Marxism, socialist and social-democratic parties had in practice shelved the quest for revolution and pursued reforms through participation in elections and parliament, as Eduard Bernstein’s ([1899] 1991) revisionism recommended (Berman 2006: 35–46). This strategy looked promising because social-democratic parties were steadily gaining electoral strength and parliamentary experience. The exertions and strains of WWI seemed bound to bring the final breakthrough because the working class would be rewarded for its indispensable contributions to the patriotic cause with additional socioeconomic and political concessions. The future thus seemed to lie with nonrevolutionary gradualism as the best path to success (Miller and Potthoff 1986: 44–54, 60–63).

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Yet this whole line of thinking suddenly faced a massive challenge when Lenin’s followers “stormed” the Winter Palace. As the Bolsheviks forcefully seized power, retained it against fierce resistance, initiated a profound overhaul of the socioeconomic order, and resolutely installed a totalitarian dictatorship, global politics dramatically changed: Socialist revolution was possible, after all. With all its dreadful costs, the total overhaul envisioned by radical Marxists now turned into a real political option (Furet 1999: 62–68; Eley 2002: 152–55). This unexpected innovation exploded the longstanding parameters of politics. Questions that seemed settled were suddenly opened up anew. Because the public agenda now extended to fundamental issues that had never been raised before, the scope of conflict drastically expanded. Politics assumed wholly new dimensions and turned into a struggle over ambitious projects and grand visions. The range of possibilities grew vastly, and so did the uncertainty facing actors of all stripes. As “agents face[d] a broader than typical range of options” and as “their choices from among these options [were] likely to have a significant impact on subsequent outcomes,” they confronted a critical juncture of enormous importance (Capoccia and Kelemen 2007: 348). In the resulting struggles over communism’s millenarian project, the stakes were monumental, involving life or death for thousands, soon millions of people. Ultimately, the fight came down to political power; outcomes depended on which side could dominate the other. Therefore, while conflicts over socioeconomic distribution added much fuel to the fire, political issues and political resources, especially control over the state and its military force, proved crucial. Even in Russia itself, a political organization – Lenin’s vanguard party – had seized power, not “the working class”; moreover, only determined coercion and military might enabled the Bolsheviks to retain power. Indeed, Lenin won because he temporarily suspended communism’s socioeconomic goals by encouraging peasants to grab land for themselves – an opportunistic concession that Stalin then brutally reversed by forcefully collectivizing agriculture (Skocpol 1979: chap. 6). As in the Russian precedent, in all subsequent conflicts during the interwar years, political forces and organizations took the lead and mostly shaped the outcomes, not socioeconomic groupings and class forces. Business and labor, peasants and landowners clearly mattered a great deal, and their distributional divergences aggravated tensions and provoked struggles. But the leading actors in all these troubles and travails, which had the greatest involvement and impact on political

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regime developments, were political leaders, organizations, and institutions, such as presidents, parties, mass movements, and militaries (in general, see recently Geddes, Wright, and Frantz 2018: 7–10; see also Capoccia and Ziblatt 2010: 949–51). Theories that prioritize distributional issues (e.g., Acemoglu and Robinson 2005) and class relations (e.g., Rueschemeyer, Stephens, and Stephens 1992: see espec. 104–5, 109–11, 121) make only a limited contribution and are not fully convincing.4 In the “age of extremes” (Hobsbawm 1996; see also Bracher 1982; Mazower 2000) ushered in by the Bolshevist takeover, politics clearly reigned supreme (Berg-Schlosser and Mitchell 2000: 20). By inflaming political-ideological conflict, the Russian Revolution had, of course, a divergent impact on different political forces, depending on their interests and values. While people sympathetic to Lenin’s bold project felt inspired, those who harbored reservations or fears were repelled. Thus, the Bolshevist overhaul exerted both demonstration and deterrent effects. Left-wing extremists in many countries sought to follow Lenin’s footsteps (Fayet 2014), while a broad gamut of forces, ranging from the right to the moderate left, was determined to block and combat these replication efforts. These anti-Bolshevist sectors saw the “successful” Russian Revolution as a threat (Wirsching 2007: 146–53), and their worries grew with the quick wave of communist emulation attempts. The stimulus that Bolshevism’s demonstration effects gave to the extreme left thus reinforced the deterrent effects on the right, center, and reformist left. The following two subsections examine these forces of attraction and repulsion in turn. Demonstration Effects of the Russian Revolution The rash of revolutionary efforts galvanized by Lenin’s takeover was fueled primarily by a sudden change in feasibility judgments. Whereas over the preceding decades, left-wingers had come to doubt whether a rapid, total transformation of society could be effected, the Bolsheviks’ feat dramatically proved the actual possibility of revolution. In fact, the seemingly unchallengeable Romanov autocracy collapsed with surprising ease (Skocpol 1979: 98–99). And in the resulting vacuum, a small contingent of communists seized power with equal ease – and then retained it against all odds. What a stunning success! 4

See in general Ertman (1998: 485–87, 490–92); Collier (1999); Haggard and Kaufman (2016); and Geddes, Wright, and Frantz (2018: 45–57).

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In the eyes of left-wingers across the world, the Russian Communists thus proved that a profound, comprehensive social revolution was distinctly possible. The Bolshevist precedent inspired hope because it occurred under such unlikely circumstances. After all, Tsarist rule had been the firmest autocracy in Europe; if this mighty fortress crumbled, then other, less fearsome states would be even easier to topple. Moreover, socialist revolution won out in a society that looked very unpropitious from a Marxist class perspective. Capitalism was only in its early stages; consequently, the proletariat, the main revolutionary actor, was minuscule in size and organized in narrow-minded economistic unions, as Lenin himself (1967: 35–38) complained. That communism nevertheless triumphed showed the impact of political agency and suggested what difference sheer willpower could make. Given that Russia’s revolutionary vanguard managed to turn the peasantry from a “sack of potatoes” (Marx [1852] 1971: 117) into foot soldiers of radical change, then the chances of revolution should be even higher in countries with a large working class. Moreover, now that the weakest link of imperialistic finance capitalism was cracked, the world revolution was bound to sweep into Central and Western Europe, which advanced capitalism made ripe for socialist transformations. Thus, for far-left circles, the Russian Revolution strikingly proved the feasibility of socialist revolution (Luebbert 1991: 194–95). Profound change suddenly seemed possible. Given that such a massive transformation could happen in backward Russia, Lenin’s spark would also ignite the communist flame in the industrialized countries to the west. These drastically revised feasibility judgments informed a wide range of efforts to emulate the Bolshevists’ assault on power and overhaul the existing order from bottom to top. Thus, the Russian Revolution exerted powerful demonstration effects. Chapter 3 amply documents that the principal causal mechanism triggering a riptide of communist uprisings, especially in Central Europe, were the possibility assessments suddenly reshaped by the Russian Revolution. Innumerable statements by left-wing extremists and prospective revolutionaries show that the Bolshevist takeover induced them to update their probability calculations drastically. By contrast, there is little evidence that the Russian events augmented the normative appeal of communism and altered left-wingers’ fundamental political values. After all, Lenin’s takeover plunged the country into years of cruel civil war, totalitarian oppression, economic self-destruction, starvation, and national dismemberment, as not only ideological enemies but even

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other leftists such as Germany’s Social Democrats did not tire of highlighting.5 As “Bolshevism” revealed itself as “a barbaric Asiatic caricature of scientific Socialism” (Scheidemann 1929, vol. 2: 247; see also Kautsky [1918] 1981: 82; Orlow 1982: 199), observers who were not ideologically committed to communism before had no reason to attribute greater normative value to this apparent disaster. Those who had embraced socialist revolution already, however, were fired up by the feasibility judgments derived from Lenin’s takeover. The new belief in the possibility of thoroughgoing transformation inspired left-wing extremists in a wide range of countries to spearhead imitation efforts. If Russia’s Communists had succeeded, why could their brethren across Europe, and maybe the rest of the world, not achieve similar feats? Based on these updated probability calculations, from 1918 onward many armed uprisings erupted as radical leftists undertook frequent attempts at forceful takeovers (Hobsbawm 1996: 65–69; Richers 2007: 91–96; Priestland 2016: 88–91; Beyrau 2017: 72–74). These emulation efforts were particularly frequent and intense and seemed to have the greatest chances of success in the unsettled, war-battered countries of Central and Eastern Europe, particularly Germany (Angress 1972; Broué 2006). But even faraway Spain, which as a neutral nation avoided the strains of WWI, experienced a “Bolshevik triennium” with numerous strikes and revolts (Ucelay-Da Cal 2017: 257–59). As the Spanish example suggests, these attempts to promote revolutionary change were widespread and, thus, surprisingly indiscriminate. Marxist doctrine would have targeted advanced capitalist countries, such as England, France, and Germany. But while Germany was clearly in the line of communist fire, so was a stark variety of other countries, ranging from Spain to Hungary, Finland, and even Brazil. This enormous diversity suggests that radical leftists “got carried away” by the inferences derived from the Petrograd success. They were not guided by systematic feasibility judgments that considered the specific opportunities, obstacles, and risks facing attempted takeovers in each particular setting. Instead, the Soviet precedent made them jump to the conclusion that socialist revolution was possible virtually anywhere and everywhere. In sum, the Russian Revolution unleashed powerful demonstration effects and propelled a wave of isomorphic imitation attempts. Taking 5

Merz (1995: 175–79, 182, 185); see also Kautsky ([1918] 1981: 57, 65–68, 74, 88, 103); Ebert (1926, vol. 2: 126–27); Noske (1920: 61); Bernstein ([1921] 1998): 50, 147–49; Scheidemann (1929, vol. 2: 262).

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inspiration from Lenin’s example, leftist radicals all over the world, particularly in Europe, made determined assaults on power and tried hard to promote socialist revolutions. These contentious initiatives, often advanced with the force of arms, also drew on advice and support from the USSR. Moreover, radical left-wingers sometimes attempted to cooperate across countries; for instance, Hungary’s Soviet Republic of 1919 influenced the fleeting Council Republic in Munich and sought direct connections to the Bavarian comrades. For these reasons, it certainly seemed that left-wing extremism was on the advance. Deterrent Effects of the Russian Revolution This upsurge of leftist radicalism scared most other political segments, however, ranging from the right to the social-democratic left. Based on their self-interests, political goals, and ideological convictions, these forces rejected the revolutionary transformation promoted by Lenin’s disciples. What communists saw as enormous improvements, they condemned as dangerous destruction with dire consequences for socioeconomic and political progress. For them, the terrible suffering in the nascent USSR conclusively proved these fears. Therefore, they tried hard to spare their own countries this disastrous fate and combated the advance troops of the communist world revolution with full force (Merz 1995; Bernecker 2002: 22–25; Pasteur 2007: 12–16). For these reasons, the riptide of communist revolts inspired by Lenin’s takeover prompted a corresponding wave of determined counterrevolution. As left-wingers mobilized to attack the existing system, rightwingers, centrists, and moderate leftists mustered all of their resources to squash these efforts and prevent their recurrence. Left-wing contention therefore drew resolute, often brutal repression. Most of these battles were highly lopsided: The small numbers of left-wing radicals spearheading isomorphic emulation efforts provoked the formation of a broad phalanx of forces that suppressed these uprisings. In fact, moderate leftwingers were particularly incensed because their gradual, reformist strategy was premised on the impossibility of successful revolution. For them, therefore, the feasibility judgments that inspired Lenin’s emulators were potentially disruptive – and especially objectionable. Because Social Democrats had thought through this problem so thoroughly and had debated it extensively, they condemned the precipitous revolutionary attempts of the radical left as ill-considered, irresponsible adventurism, if not lunacy (Müller-Franken 1928: 252–53; Scheidemann 1929: 280,

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291; Keil 1947: 135, 138). They also denounced these uprisings as a relapse into the obsolete putschism of nineteenth-century revolutionaries (“Blanquism”: Bernstein [1921] 1998: 50, 147–48, 180; see also Wirsching 2007: 140–45). With their numerical preponderance and their advantage in organizational and coercive resources, these broad coalitions uniformly defeated the attempts to push toward communism. The riptide of revolutionary emulation hit a brick wall of counterrevolutionary containment. Most often, these victories were quick and decisive. Thus, the feasibility judgments that left-wing extremists drew from the Soviet precedent found drastic disconfirmation in the barrages of gunfire unleashed by establishment and reformist sectors. The indiscriminate efforts to spread profound transformation to the widest range of countries proved illusionary everywhere; not a single nation fell under communism.6 While the Russian Revolution had induced left-wingers to jump to facile conclusions about its replicability, this optimism was quickly revealed as unwarranted and baseless. Instead of the proliferation of ambitious progressive change, there was a counter-wave of efforts to protect the foundations of the established order. The universal defeat of far-left uprisings allayed the acute fears and occasional panic that had initially gripped status-quo defenders. But these clear-cut victories over Lenin’s most extremist emulators did not put to rest the broader concerns about the demonstration effects emanating from the Russian Revolution. After all, Soviet rule in Russia survived its neardeath experience in the fierce civil war of 1918–1920, and the communist leadership continued to promote world revolution (Daly and Trofimov 2017: 108, 111, 116, 120–23). Accordingly, further revolts erupted across the globe for years, though with diminishing frequency, as in Estonia in 1924, Indonesia in 1926, and Brazil in 1935 (Hobsbawm 1996: 71). Moreover, radical leftists sooner or later learned from the drastic failure of direct, armed assaults on power, changed their strategy, and sought to broaden their influence through organizational and electoral efforts, as the Comintern recommended (Vatlin and Smith 2014: 189–90). They tried hard to capture trade unions and form or infiltrate political parties. Because many governments sooner or later restricted or outlawed communist agitation, these efforts often proceeded in 6

Even the longest-lasting effort, in Hungary in 1919, collapsed after four months (see Chapter 4).

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clandestine ways; left-wing extremists created front organizations with deceptive names. This subterranean approach exacerbated the fears of establishment sectors, who had difficulty assessing the real strength of their mortal enemies. Due to this uncertainty, thinking in worst-case scenarios often prevailed so that centrist and especially right-wing politicians suspected every left-winger of being a communist. Fear of subversion thus helped to keep concerns over revolutionary machinations alive. The persistence of these worries weakened support for liberal democracy and strengthened right-wing groupings, many of which had only conditional tolerance for democratic rule, if they were not committed to authoritarianism from the beginning. In the eyes of conservatives and reactionaries, liberal safeguards and democratic pluralism aided and protected communists, the sworn enemies of economic and political liberty. Democratic rule was too soft and ineffectual to eradicate the revolutionary threat definitively. As Mussolini ([1932] 2018: 21) proclaimed with typical bombast, “Liberalism is now on the point of closing the doors of its deserted temples because nations feel that . . . its indifference in political and moral matters causes, as it has already caused, the sure ruin of States.” Instead of democracy, a stronger type of rule that would concentrate power and unsheathe the sword was required. Thus, the continuing efforts to promote communism, now through organizational and electoral activities, also exerted powerful deterrent effects that boosted the anti-communist, yet also anti-liberal and increasingly antidemocratic right. The Rise of Fascism: Radical Counterrevolution The Russian Revolution’s deterrent effects had an additional repercussion that profoundly shaped the autocratic wave of the interwar years: The backlash to Bolshevism provided a powerful impulse for the emergence of fascism, which appeared as a particularly effective model for reactionary counterrevolution.7 Adherents of this new ideology believed that the unprecedented threat posed by communism required unusually strong safeguards through totalitarian counter-mobilization. In their view, the authoritarian rule with which conservative elites sought to guarantee sociopolitical stability could no longer fulfill its pacifying purpose. In mass societies, where large numbers of people craved political 7

See Carsten (1982: 176, 182–83, 187–88); Payne (1995: 76–78); and Paxton (2005: 19, 44, 60–61, 68, 70, 81, 84, 88–89, 102–5, 110, 116, 196).

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participation, the citizenry’s coercive exclusion that hierarchical, nonmobilizational authoritarianism entails (Linz 2000: 159–69; Linz 2002: 64–69) enabled left-wing radicals to garner support with their promises of dramatic social improvements. Communists with their clandestine, subversive tactics could take advantage of authoritarianism’s omission and fill the vacuum left by the neglect of the masses. Where the established regime did not absorb citizens’ participatory energies, its extremist foes could skillfully occupy the void and recruit foot soldiers for their revolution. Communism’s special threat thus seemed to expose the congenital weakness of conservative authoritarianism. The political exclusion of the populace was risky, as the very downfall of Tsarist autocracy in Russia suggested. Status-quo defenders now faced dangerous enemies that incessantly promoted their radical projects with direct appeals to the masses. Therefore, elitist rule could no longer ensure stability. Given the radical left’s Siren songs about the leveling of social inequality, even repression, the principal control instrument of authoritarian dictators, could prove insufficient for controlling the population. These doubts about authoritarianism’s capacity to protect the sociopolitical order against the unprecedented communist threat helped to give rise to the most ambitious and radical project for fortifying autocratic rule, namely fascism (overviews in Payne 1995; Mann 2004; Bosworth 2009c; Griffin 2018). As the greatest political novelty of the interwar years, fascism was fed by despair about the shattering impact of WWI’s senseless mass slaughter and by profound fear about the unprecedented danger arising from the Russian Revolution. As the eruption of Bolshevism fundamentally jeopardized the sociopolitical system, important right-wing forces found themselves at a loss about how to regain stable ground under their feet. Mussolini’s fascism and Hitler’s even fiercer version then appeared as promising solutions to this conundrum. Through a thoroughgoing political transformation that went far beyond authoritarian stabilization efforts, fascism promised to eradicate the left-wing threat and install a firm order that sustained clear hierarchies through totalitarian mobilization and forceful integration of the populace. A frontal, violent attack on communists, Marxist socialists, and other “enemies of the people” would eliminate the seeds of conflict, avert revolution, and help to forge a tight “people’s community” (Volksgemeinschaft). Individuality and plurality would merge into the collective unity embodied in an outstanding leader, who guided the people on a millenarian quest for redemption and

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salvation. In this way, disagreement would (be made to) disappear, bottom-up contention would become impossible, and sociopolitical stability would reign forever. Thus, fascism depicted itself as the perfect antidote against the subversive tendencies of communism (Nolte [1963] 1979). This radical project of counterrevolution forged an unusual blend of atavistic and modern elements (Griffin 2007, 2018; Müller 2011: 101–24; see also Bracher 1982: 158–60; Herf 1984). Mussolini’s fascism emulated the Caesars of ancient Rome with its hierarchical authority structure revolving around a supremely powerful leader (Griffin 2018: 68–69; see also Mosse 1999: 30–35). Yet it was also adapted to the twentieth century by resting on popular mobilization and mass integration, which allowed the charismatic Duce to keep established elites, such as conservative politicians, the king, and the church under control. While rejecting the rationalization and legalization of authority that characterizes the modern age (M. Weber 1976: 122–30), fascism had modern features of its own by employing cutting-edge technology (Mosse 1999: 27–28) and by forging a novel political system, all-encompassing totalitarianism. Accordingly, fascism sought to win over the population with advanced propaganda techniques, rather than excluding it through traditional elitist, oligarchical domination. Thus, fascism embodied a unique combination of old and new features (E. Weber 1976: 451–54; Mosse 1999: chap. 1; Griffin 2007), of backward- and forward-looking goals and strategies, as contemporary observers highlighted (Sforza 1925: 362–65; Armstrong 1933: 595). This strange mixture, which made fascists “the revolutionaries of counter-revolution” (Hobsbawm 1996: 117),8 was even more remarkable in Hitler’s National Socialism (Bracher 1982: 170–82). This fiercest variant of fascism pushed the Italian original’s totalitarian tendencies to the maximum. The Nazi leader concentrated absolute power and turned polity and society into an efficient machine for pursuing his backwardlooking goals with ultra-modern techniques. The NS regime derived its biological racism both from recent pseudo-scientific theories and from mythical images of the Germanic warriors of Roman times. Similarly, Hitler pursued his anachronistic project to enslave the Slavs and create a German settler state in Eastern Europe (Snyder 2015; Traverso 2016: 104–5, 124) with high-tech tanks and novel jet airplanes (Müller 2011: 8

This revolutionary impetus was particularly strong among fascism’s more left-leaning currents, such as Spain’s national syndicalism (Ledesma [1935] 2017: 36–38, 45, 92, 156).

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121–23). And the Holocaust, the “final solution” of the centuries-old “Jewish question,” used the most advanced procedures and mechanisms of bureaucracy, science, and industry. Thus, the greatest irrationality of goals drew on instrumental rationality and up-to-date technology for its means (Herf 1984: 189). Of course, with its unprecedented combination of very old and very new components, National Socialism differed fundamentally from conservative authoritarianism with its veneration of the recent past and present. Because its energetic dynamism contrasted with the apparent weakness, exhaustion, and decadence of liberal democracy, fascism quickly exerted substantial demonstration effects. In the eyes of many people battered by WWI, shocked by the Russian Revolution, and assailed by hyperinflation and later the Great Depression, this novel regime type looked like a great recipe for salvation and redemption. After the unprecedented destruction and atrocities that National Socialism soon caused, observers often forget fascism’s enormous appeal during the interwar years. Besides common people, many intellectuals, artists, writers, philosophers, and scientists across the world admired Mussolini (Hamilton 1971; Melograni 1976: 233; Sternhell 1994: 237–58; Mosse 1999: chap. 5; Kershaw 2015: 452–55). A whole group of young Romanian intellectuals, for instance, including brilliant writers such as Emil Cioran ([1931–37] 2011: 73–80, 98–99, 107, 140–49, 189–90) and Mircea Eliade,9 fell under Mussolini’s and Hitler’s spell and supported fascist movements inside their own country. To all these people, economic and political liberalism looked incapable of coping with the fierce ideological battles provoked by Lenin’s power grab. As a more forceful regime seemed necessary for withstanding the communist challenge, fascism’s concentrated strength appeared uniquely promising.10 After emerging in Italy during the early 1920s, fascism therefore started to spread. Imitative movements, which often used similar symbols such as uni-colored shirts, sooner or later emerged across Europe and the

9

10

Eliade’s autobiography presents a whitewash and even claims distance from Hitler and fascism (Eliade 1981: 292; Eliade 1988: 9–11, 63–66). However, he supported the fascist Legion of the Archangel Michael from 1935 onward and even campaigned for it actively in the election of December 1937 (Petreu 2005: 59, 63, 67–68, 71–72, 187, 206, 211, 214–15). Accordingly, Cioran ([1931–37] 2011: 73–80, 98–99, 107) celebrated National Socialism’s vitalistic force and destructive energy and went so far as to proclaim his great admiration for Hitler when asked to comment on the Nazi leader’s mass massacre of the SA leadership in mid-1934 (Cioran [1931–37] 2011: 140–51).

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world. In fact, a number of radical right-wingers sought to emulate Mussolini’s “March on Rome.” Because none of these audacious assaults on power succeeded, fascist leaders and their parties moved toward the effort to use elections for overcoming democracy with democratic means – strikingly, just like communists did after the failure of their own emulative uprisings (Loewenstein 1935a: 579–82). With this cunning strategy, some extreme-right movements won considerable mass support, especially in parts of Central and Eastern Europe, yet also in faraway Brazil. Citizens were often receptive to fascism’s allure because they thought that Mussolini’s achievements in Italy, and then Hitler’s early domestic and international successes (Mosse 1999: 3–4, 37–38), held crucial lessons for their own countries. For these reasons, fascist organizing surged across Europe and beyond, especially during the 1930s (Hobsbawm 1996: 116–17; Gunitsky 2017: chap. 4). Totalitarian Fascism and Authoritarian Conservatism: Attraction and Rejection Through its extremism in the fight against Marxism and the regeneration of sociopolitical order, fascism unleashed not only demonstration effects but also strong deterrent effects. Even among the counterrevolutionary right, the new regime model stirred up intense debate and conflict. Because fascism pushed for profound transformation rather than simple restoration, it drew stark ambivalence from powerful establishment sectors, such as traditional politicians, the military, big business, large landowners, and religious leaders. On the one hand, these elites saw fascist movements as welcome collaborators because they most energetically attacked the left. Therefore, they could serve as useful shock troops against communists and Marxist socialists, whom establishment groupings feared as their most dangerous foes. As Gunitsky (2017: 105) highlights, citing Payne (1995: 16), these “common goals led to ‘numerous instances of tactical alliances’ between fascists and conservatives.” On the other hand, however, the simple syllogism, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” was questionable, because fascism’s very forcefulness and its unaccountable and unpredictable leaders held their own risks. What if fascists used brutal force not only against the left, but turned on establishment sectors as well? Fascists wanted to enforce clear hierarchies, but under their own predominance, rather than as mere agents and auxiliaries of the old elites. Indeed, in the radical analysis of fascism, those elites’ selfishness and incompetence were responsible for the very

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emergence of the far-left threat; unresolved problems in the ancien régime had allowed the communist challenge to arise in the first place. The left’s reliable eradication and the guarantee of lasting stability therefore required the fascist leader to subjugate these hapless elites to a new totalitarian system. As right-wing extremists embraced an “anti-conservative radicalism” (Eley 2013: 79), fascism carried grave danger for establishment sectors as well. Fascism’s uncontrollable leaders, who could count on fervent, violence-prone mass support, jeopardized elite power and privileges. Alliances with fascism were a pact with the devil (Blinkhorn 1990; Payne 1995; Linz 2002). To avoid these risks, most establishment sectors clearly preferred conservative authoritarianism to fascist totalitarianism. As Chapter 1 explained, authoritarian rule rests on hierarchical, top-down control and denies political influence to the masses (Linz 2000: 159–69). This static regime type thus cements the preeminence of sociopolitical elites; it forestalls and, if necessary, suppresses bottom-up challenges. In this way, authoritarianism seeks to avert not only the revolutionary threat of communism but also the radical push of fascism’s fervent mass movements. Authoritarianism enshrines top-down rule, with the old elites on top.11 Therefore, the fascist project of giving a plebiscitarian leader total power provoked a strong backlash among these establishment groupings. During the interwar years, conservatives’ embrace of exclusionary authoritarianism was therefore fed by a double deterrent effect. First, the specter of communism stimulated severe doubts in democracy’s defensive capacity and induced a strong preference for right-wing autocracy. Second, this powerful counterrevolutionary reaction was divided on which type of autocracy to install. Here, conservative elites also feared fascist totalitarianism and advocated hierarchical, non-mobilizational authoritarianism as a crucial safeguard not only against the radical left but also the radical right. While they opportunistically cooperated with fascist movements to fight the danger of communism, they then sought to subject these violent hordes to their own domination. In particular, they were determined not to fall under the indomitable sway of fascism’s charismatic leaders. In sum, whereas left-wing radical Régis Debray (1967), inspired by the Cuban Revolution, would later preach “revolution in the revolution,” conservative sectors during the interwar years spearheaded a counterrevolution in the counterrevolution, combating the 11

On the crucial differences between conservative authoritarianism and fascist totalitarianism, see also Luebbert (1991: 258–67, 273–77).

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spread of communism while simultaneously trying to forestall the radical reaction of fascism. The double deterrent effect, which entailed ideological, political, and sometimes armed conflicts among right-wing counterrevolutionaries, deeply shaped autocratic proliferation during the 1920s and 1930s. As conservative authoritarians and fascist totalitarians collaborated in allout attacks against the extreme and not-so-extreme left, they undermined and overthrew liberal democracy in many countries. Yet the type of autocracy instituted on these ruins depended on the power balance between established elites and fascist mass movements, which in turn reflected a society’s modernization level. Due to its remarkable blend of modern and atavistic features, fascism benefited from sociopolitical modernization, which allowed for dynamic mass mobilization and the emergence of large-scale fascist movements. By contrast, in more traditional, “backward” countries (Janos 1982; Berend 1998: 22–32), conservative elites sat firmly in the saddle and limited recruitment opportunities for fascism, which therefore never reached uncontrollable strength. Specifically, urbanization, industrialization, and the corresponding erosion of clientelistic domination in the countryside weakened established elites and facilitated the enlargement of fascist movements, as Peukert (1993) demonstrated for Germany (see also Ziblatt 2017: chaps. 8–9; more broadly, see Luebbert 1991: 278–82). Similarly, fascism arose in Italy’s more modern north, not the backward, elite-ruled Mezzogiorno. By contrast, less developed, predominantly rural countries featured stronger establishment sectors, hindering fascist mobilization among popular groupings. Charismatic leaders, therefore, had fewer followers and could not overpower the old elites. Instead, those advocates of authoritarianism managed to subdue or repress fascist movements and impose non-totalitarian dictatorships across Eastern and Southern Europe (Luebbert 1991: 258–66; Payne 1995: chap. 5). Consequently, whereas autocratic reverse waves usually have uniform outcomes, such as anti-communist military rule in Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s (Weyland 2019: chaps. 5–6), regime outcomes differed substantially in the democratic recession of the interwar years. The radical counterrevolution pursued by totalitarian fascism provoked a fork in the road. Only Italy and Germany took the fascist route on their own (Weyland 2017), before Nazi aggression helped spread fascism during WWII. In most countries where democracy suffered overthrow, conservative elites inflicted clear, if not brutal defeats on fascist movements and installed authoritarianism (Payne 1995: 250, 274–76, 287–88,

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312–16, 324; Oberländer 2001). Thus, the regressive regime cascade of the 1920s and 1930s was predominantly authoritarian, not fascist. As Bermeo (2003: 22) and Pasteur (2007: 7–9, 205–6) highlight, this fact is underappreciated in extant scholarship, due to the world-historical significance and destructive impact of fascism, especially National Socialism. Thus, fascism provided high-energy fuel for the autocratic cascade – but mainly through its deterrent effects. Radical right-wingers’ eagerness to emulate Mussolini and Hitler, especially during the 1930s, prompted forceful reactions from conservative elites. Where establishment sectors clearly predominated, they used fascist movements as political instruments to impose or harden authoritarian rule, yet then subjugated them to these top-down dictatorships, as in Brazil (1937), Portugal (1930s), and Spain (1936–39). Where fascist movements surged and seemed close to seizing power, as in Austria (1933/34), Estonia (1933/34), and Romania (1937/38), conservative elites spearheaded authoritarian coups specifically to avert this risk. Interestingly, two of these instances of “preventive Bonapartism” (Trotsky 1934) occurred soon after Hitler’s Machtergreifung, which taught shocked conservatives across Europe that an effort to tame a rising fascist movement through an apparently allpowerful elite coalition could quickly fail and instead pave the way for a violent totalitarian regime, as contemporary observers highlighted (e.g., Armstrong 1933: 589–93). Nazi Germany’s scary precedent thus boosted a backlash that kept fascist movements elsewhere out of power and blocked proliferation of this new regime model of radical counterrevolution. Interestingly, these authoritarian regimes had considerable politicalinstitutional solidity; in fact, those that managed to stay out of WWII, namely the dictatorships of António Salazar in Portugal and Francisco Franco in Spain, survived for decades after fascism’s downfall in 1945. By contrast to this stability, which induced Linz (1964) to derive the conceptualization of a distinctive authoritarian regime type from the Spanish case, fascism was inherently doomed (see recently Griffin 2018: 88–90). With its feverish dynamism and urgent quest for violent expansion, this novel regime type proved so (self-)destructive that it combusted almost as quickly as it had arisen (Mosse 1966: 25–26). Thus, the complex proliferation of right-wing dictatorships during the interwar years clustered into three paths, namely fascist takeover, conservative use of fascist auxiliaries for imposing authoritarian rule, and preemptive coups to forestall fascist power seizures. These paths are depicted in Table 2.1, which scores the cases listed in Table 1.1.

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 . Pathways to reactionary autocracy during the interwar years (in bold the three paths toward right-wing autocracy highlighted in this book; in italics direct backlash against leftist radicalism) 1919 1922 1923 1923 1926 1926 1926 1928 1929 1932 1933 1933 1934 1934

Hungary Italy Bulgaria Spain Poland Lithuania Portugal Albania Yugoslavia Portugal Germany Austria Estonia Latvia

1934/ 35 1936 1936/ 39 1937 1938

Bulgaria Greece Spain Brazil Romania

authoritarian backlash against communist revolution fascist victory against leftist radicalism authoritarian backlash against agrarian radicalism authoritarian backlash against leftist radicalism reversal of democratic overstretch fear of left-wing radicalization and precedent of Poland authoritarian response to endemic instability authoritarian takeover in undemocratic society authoritarian stabilization against ethnic tensions authoritarian usage of fascist auxiliaries fascist victory against left and conservative right preemptive self-coup against rising fascism preemptive self-coup against rising fascism preemptive self-coup against rising fascism and precedent of Estonia coup and self-coup driven partly by rising fascism authoritarian response to endemic instability authoritarian usage of fascist auxiliaries in backlash against leftist radicalism authoritarian usage of fascist auxiliaries preemptive self-coup against rising fascism

In conclusion, the double deterrent effect deeply molded the interwar reverse wave and drove its unusually broad scope and striking depth. As many political forces, especially powerful establishment elites, found themselves caught between the revolutionary threat of communism and the radically counterrevolutionary threat of fascism, they often imposed authoritarianism to navigate the treacherous course between Scylla and Charybdis. Bolshevism’s rise and strong, persistent demonstration effects caused a momentous backlash that undermined support for seemingly weak, defenseless democracy. Yet this right-wing reaction pitted the advocates of conservative authoritarianism against the fanatics of totalitarian fascism. With its enormous appeal, fascism provoked its own deterrent effects, which induced conservative forces to use their resource advantages to keep its plebiscitarian leaders out of power. Therefore, the double deterrent effect brought the massive proliferation of hierarchical, exclusionary authoritarianism.

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-:     The double deterrent effect rested on micro-foundations that helped turn political struggles particularly fierce. Adding fuel to the tragedy of the interwar years, political forces of all stripes did not act on the careful, thorough, and balanced calculations of conventional rationality. Rather than pursuing their interests with the best-possible, proportional means, they relied on the simplifying mechanisms documented by cognitive psychology. Innumerable experiments and field studies show that regular people cannot live up to rational choice’s ideal-typical maxims. Instead, they use the perceptual shortcuts and skewed choice mechanisms imprinted in humans’ cognitive architecture (Simon 1955; Kahneman, Slovic, and Tversky 1982; Kahneman and Tversky 2000; Gilovich, Griffin, and Kahneman 2002). By avoiding the complicated, timeconsuming procedures of Bayesian updating and comprehensive probability estimation, these inferential tools facilitate decision-making in the tremendous complexity of the real world. These shortcuts and reflexive choice propensities come at a price, however: the risk of distortions and mistakes. While often fairly close to the mark – and therefore evolutionarily viable – these cognitive mechanisms can significantly deform perceptions and warp choices, especially in the rarefied, fast-changing settings of modern politics. Whereas inferential shortcuts worked quite well to inform the fight-or-flight reflexes of early hominids, they face great difficulty in dealing with complex macrophenomena, such as predicting the effective risk of a communist revolution and determining the optimal means for forestalling this (mis?)perceived threat. Cognitive Shortcuts As psychological studies demonstrate, human information processing does not faithfully reflect objective reality. People commonly use inferential shortcuts to process overabundant, uncertain information and derive quick, yet facile, conclusions (Kahneman, Slovic, and Tversky 1982; Gilovich, Griffin, and Kahneman 2002; Kahneman 2011). Two cognitive mechanisms that are especially relevant for political decision-making are the heuristics of availability and representativeness, as social scientists have documented (Kuran and Sunstein 1999; McDermott 2004: 57–69; Levy 2013: 310–12, 316–17; Weyland 2014, 2019; Vis 2019).

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The availability heuristic shapes people’s attention and memory recall by attaching disproportionate weight to dramatic, vivid events, compared to less striking occurrences that hold equal, if not greater, objective relevance. The prototypical example is that people who witness a car crash tend to slow down immediately. In this way, they illogically let one striking occurrence reshape their assessment of the advantages and risks of speeding, which – from a rational perspective – should reflect all their prior experiences and be virtually unaffected by a single new data point. In line with this inferential shortcut, US debate over gun control peaks right after a mass shooting, although almost every day, larger numbers of Americans fall victim to murders committed with firearms; however, this quotidian bloodletting has become so normal as to draw little attention. Distortions caused by the availability heuristic can have substantial repercussions for people’s lives. After the terrorist attacks of 9/ 11, many Americans feared plane rides and switched to car travel instead – but driving is much more dangerous than flying. As a result, scholars estimate that about 1,500 additional people died, the tragic product of a basic cognitive shortcut (Gigerenzer 2006). As the availability heuristic distorts information intake, the representativeness heuristic suggests problematic inferences by inducing people to overestimate similarities and discount underlying differences, for instance by neglecting statistical base rates. For instance, people draw excessively firm conclusions from small samples, failing to understand the role of chance factors. By improperly fixating on superficial similarities, they estimate the likelihood that 60 out of 100 births will yield boys as similar to that of 600 males out of 1,000 births: After all, the proportion is the same! But, of course, the latter result is much less probable, given the larger sample. People see the similar percentage yet overlook the crucial difference in the statistical base (Kahneman and Tversky 1982: 38–46). This overestimation of similarities makes people jump to conclusions about the applicability and relevance of foreign events. They easily believe that an unexpected development in a neighboring country may well recur at home. Impressed by the external precedent, they see excessively strong and close parallels across borders and tend to neglect relevant differences. These distorted beliefs helped induce millions of people across the Arab world to protest after the eviction of Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in early 2011, hoping to oust their own autocrats as well (Weyland 2012). Immediately after Ben Ali’s downfall, people in Cairo, for instance, rashly inferred they could achieve the same feat (tweets reprinted in Idle and Nunns 2011: 27–28) and force democratization as

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well. But these ill-founded expectations suggested by the representativeness heuristic were soon dashed by the re-imposition of a fiercer tyranny in Egypt, and the explosion of civil wars in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The initially widespread hopes of following Tunisia into democracy remained unfulfilled and instead helped provoke the unintended consequence of political deterioration in several countries. Cognitive deviations from standard rationality ended up having substantial political repercussions and grave human costs. In sum, the shortcuts of availability and representativeness shape and potentially deform information processing in the complex, fluid world of politics. They hold special sway during unexpected, shocking transformations, when regular political parameters are upended and new highstakes options suddenly open up, as in the case of the Russian Revolution. During such major upheaval, actors find it exceedingly difficult to conduct standard rational calculations; they may not even manage to specify their own interests, not to speak of determining the best ways and means of pursuing them. Whereas rational choice has most purchase in stable settings and predictable situations (Tsebelis 1990: 32–38), cognitive distortions and reflexive choice mechanisms are particularly crucial and impactful in times of profound trouble and turmoil, when uncertainty is extreme and utter “confusion” (Kurzman 2004: 333–39) often prevails.

Disproportionate Loss Aversion Cognitive shortcuts have an especially profound impact on decisionmaking when they activate people’s disproportionate aversion to losses. Contrary to the rational-choice assumption that benefits and costs carry the same weight, humans weigh losses much more heavily than gains. In a classical experiment, people who were asked to sell – and thus lose – a commemorative mug charged approximately twice the price that those who were instructed to buy – and thus gain – this mug were willing to offer (Thaler 1992: 64–66; Kahneman 2011: 295–97). The lopsided importance of costs means that losses are not compensated by gains of objectively equal magnitude. Judged from a rational perspective, people worry excessively about costs. Therefore, they undertake much greater efforts to avoid losses than to achieve gains. Their curve of subjective utility has a significant skew: It is much steeper in the domain of losses than the domain of gains (Kahneman and Tversky 2000: 3; Kahneman 2011: 283). This fundamental asymmetry prompts great, even fierce,

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determination to defend the status quo against deterioration, while giving the quest for improvements less impetus. People’s loss aversion shapes political decision-making and action, especially on high-stakes issues concerning the redistribution of resources or reallocation of power. Whenever clear, visible gains and losses are involved, a profound asymmetry appears: Potential losers fight with much greater energy to forestall this negative prospect than winners mobilize for pursuing their hopes. To defend what they regard as their well-deserved endowments and acquired rights (Thaler 1992: chap. 6), people make allout efforts to block threatening changes. Consequently, the proponents of a transformation, especially a revolutionary overhaul, face a steep uphill battle, confronting a phalanx of determined status-quo defenders. Challenges by left-wing radicals prompt a strong conservative reaction and forceful backlash. As the perceptual distortions arising from cognitive shortcuts activate asymmetrical loss aversion, political choices and aggregate outcomes deviate substantially from conventional rational-choice predictions. Cognitive Micro-mechanisms and Organizational Macro-structures Because politics involves collective action and aggregate decisions, cognitive mechanisms, which operate at the individual level, are in the political world mediated by organizational structures. Indeed, the literature on bounded rationality has long emphasized that well-designed organizations can compensate for deficits and problems caused by individuals’ deviations from standard rationality (Simon 1976; March and Simon 1993; Bendor 2010). With their division of labor and specialization, organizations rely on expertise, foment the accumulation of experience, and can improve their performance over time by learning from trial and error (see recently Saunders 2017). Moreover, by encompassing a variety of perspectives and orientations, organizations tend to foster discussion and deliberation, which can filter out problematic inferences and reduce distortions. Therefore, properly constructed organizations better approximate the norms of thorough information processing and rational decision-making than individuals. These benefits, however, depend on organizations’ specific features. They appear where recruitment is meritocratic and top officials value competence and performance over personal loyalty or ideological fervor. Moreover, they tend to prevail in organizations that include a plurality of viewpoints, rather than promoting homogeneity and conformity. Results

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are better where leaders do not insist on simple obedience, but encourage constructive suggestions and even accept critical feedback. Whereas stiff competition induces business enterprises in a wellfunctioning market to prize efficiency and approximate standard rationality, political organizations are more likely to run up against the bounds of rationality. After all, political groupings pursue diverse short- and long-term goals, thus lacking clear yardsticks for performance assessments. Moreover, the “opacity” of the complex political world (Pierson 2000: 259–62) also hinders the construction of rationality-enhancing procedures and mechanisms and makes learning by trial and error difficult. For these reasons, political organizations differ enormously in internal structure. Some achieve a good understanding of the prevailing political constellation and navigate opportunities and constraints with considerable skill. But other groupings have a tenuous grasp on political reality and spearhead initiatives that have minimal chances of success. Specifically, broad-based parties, such as the massive formations of Social and Christian Democracy, incorporate a diversity of orientations. This pluralism facilitates the vetting of inferences suggested by cognitive heuristics and allows for debates about the wisdom of acting in the asymmetrical fashion arising from loss aversion (see, e.g., Goldinger 1980). The more these organizations employ democratic rules of internal decision-making, the better they are able to filter out some of the distortions created by cognitive mechanisms. They tame their members’ propensity to jump to conclusions and prevent choices that are clearly unpromising and imprudent. Usually, therefore, broad-based parties refrain from initiating challenges that are not attuned to the prevailing balance of power. While still unable to live up to the ideal-typical maxims of rational choice, especially during times of political turbulence and heightened uncertainty, such pluralistic, “open” organizations diminish the deviations from optimal standards and thus achieve less tightly bounded rationality. By contrast, narrow groupings, especially ideological sects (Traverso 2016: 204–5),12 privilege unity and forgo the benefits of open debate. Because internal critics suffer denunciation as enemies and dissenters are purged, the distortions resulting from cognitive shortcuts tend to reign supreme. Due to conformity pressures, the inferences derived via the 12

For instance, Eliade (1988: 69), an intellectual who for years was close to Romania’s fascist Legion of the Archangel Michael, highlights that it “had the structure and vocation of a mystical sect.”

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availability and representativeness heuristics are not double-checked. Homogeneity can breed “groupthink,” the mutual reinforcement of suggestive views, however problematic they are (Esser 1998; McDermott 2004: 249–55; Schafer and Crichlow 2010). This hothouse atmosphere exacerbates deviations from rationality and breeds political initiatives that are unlikely to achieve their often overambitious goals. Firm hierarchy also has deleterious repercussions. Inside the military, for instance, subordinates execute orders and refrain from questioning their generals’ perceptions, viewpoints, and choices. Strong esprit de corps discourages the airing of disagreements. The intense effort to forge cohesion and thus guarantee an effective fighting force silences diversity. Problematic inferences held by the top leadership can therefore flourish inside the military. Accordingly, most militaries during the interwar years acted out of a strong overestimation of the communist threat. Loss aversion then induced officers and soldiers to crack down hard against left-wing radicals and spearhead the imposition of autocracy as a safeguard against revolutionary risks. In sum, organizational structures can mitigate the problems and distortions that cognitive shortcuts and asymmetrical loss aversion cause at the individual level. Pluralistic, internally democratic parties are especially well-positioned to achieve these improvements. By contrast, organizations that privilege unity of purpose and top-down command over diversity and debate tend to miss these benefits. Homogeneity-seeking groupings at the ideological poles and the hierarchical military stand out in this respect. Due to their determination or their power capabilities, these not-veryrational actors can seriously affect political life, by drastically challenging the established order in pursuit of their millenarian goals, or by protecting this order with excessive repression. Despite the efforts of broad-based parties to act with prudence, these problematic actors turned the interwar years into an inferno of life-and-death struggles in which liberal democracy frequently perished. Cognitive Mechanisms and the Political Turbulence of the Interwar Years Inferential heuristics and asymmetrical loss aversion are crucial for understanding the massive reverse wave and its disproportionate violence. Cognitive shortcuts help explain why both the radical left and the radical right initiated ill-considered replication efforts that had exceedingly low chances of success and provoked costly countermeasures. Left-wing

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attempts to emulate the Bolshevik revolution uniformly failed and prompted fierce backlashes by a broad range of status-quo defenders. Driven by loss aversion, the enemies of Lenin’s disciples employed exorbitant force and unnecessary brutality (Read 2008: 45, 71, 75–78, 122–23, 151). Moreover, while deep fear of communism contributed to the emergence of fascism, the threat to elite interests posed by charismatic leaders and their violent mass movements caused a backlash as well. Loss aversion induced establishment forces to control, combat, and subjugate the fascists and impose authoritarianism as protection not only against leftwing radicals but also right-wing radicals. Cognitive mechanisms held tremendous sway because the Russian Revolution sent shockwaves around the globe. By shattering the established coordinates of politics and unleashing unprecedented ideological battles, the Bolshevist power grab suddenly devalued the accumulated stock of political experiences and disrupted rational information processing and systematic probability assessments. The earthquake radiating out from Petrograd caused profound uncertainty. In this confusion (cf. Kurzman 2004), with rumors running wild,13 people grasped at the straws of inferential shortcuts, which thoroughly shaped their judgments. Lenin’s striking success drew enormous attention via the availability heuristic and inspired expectations of similar events in many other countries, in line with the representativeness heuristic. Interestingly, these expectations of replication affected political actors across the ideological divide, thus demonstrating their roots in cognitive shortcuts; they resulted neither from wishful thinking by aspiring revolutionaries nor from strategic fearmongering by scheming reactionaries. Instead, all groupings shared the prediction of revolution’s likely spread, despite the ideological hostilities dividing them. The inferences drawn via cognitive shortcuts inspired radical leftwingers to imitate the striking Soviet precedent; consequently, they rashly spearheaded uprisings in a wide range of countries. These indiscriminate challenges struck enormous fear into their conservative adversaries, who relied on inferential heuristics as well. As these shortcuts activated asymmetrical loss aversion, status-quo defenders mobilized all their resources to crush extreme-left emulation efforts. Thus, what revolutionaries saw as promising substantial gains, their adversaries dreaded as threatening equivalent costs. Yet because losses weigh much more heavily, this scary 13

On the role of unverifiable rumors, see recently Jones (2016: 31, 43, 55, 63–64, 96–97, 180–83, 188–89, 266, 331).

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prospect motivated all-out attempts to combat the radical left. Due to this fundamental asymmetry, relatively few people supported revolutionary initiatives, whereas a wide range of forces fought back, employing all means at their disposal. The skewed valuation of gains versus losses thus prompted the backlash propelling the interwar wave of autocracy. This cognitive mechanism helps explain why counterrevolutionaries blocked all left-wing efforts to imitate the Russian Revolution; and why they resorted to brutality, inflicting grievous suffering on many revolutionaries. Cognitive shortcuts and loss aversion also elucidate the subsequent conflicts and struggles among left-wingers’ enemies, which pitted conservative elites against fascist movements. While useful as street fighters against Bolsheviks and other radicals, Mussolini’s and Hitler’s disciples posed their own threats to elite interests by pushing for an overhaul of power relations through the installation of totalitarianism. Therefore, loss aversion induced conservative sectors to be wary of fascists as well. Threat perceptions became particularly acute after Hitler seized power, immediately shook off the supposed stranglehold of establishment forces, and resolutely marched to full-scale dictatorship (Traverso 2016: 259–60). As Germany’s fascist genie so easily escaped from the bottle, conservative elites across Europe and beyond came to fear replications, as suggested by the availability and representativeness heuristics. Due to loss aversion, therefore, they preemptively imposed authoritarianism in several countries to forestall the overrated risk of fascist power grabs. Thus, cognitive mechanisms also fueled the second deterrent effect highlighted in this study, namely conservative elites’ efforts to prevent emulative power seizures by fascist upstarts inspired by Mussolini and Hitler. As inferential shortcuts led to overestimations of the radical-left threat and as loss aversion motivated drastic countermeasures, these mechanisms similarly guided conservatives’ reactions to the radical right. With these two-front struggles, establishment elites shaped political regime developments during the interwar years. The principal victim was liberal democracy, so often trampled to death by the combat boots of these contending forces. Because liberal pluralism seemed to allow for communist agitation and fascist mobilization, scared elites closed down electoral politics and discarded political freedom to safeguard their interests and predominance. In conclusion, fundamental mechanisms of cognitive psychology provide solid micro-foundations for the double deterrent effect that drove autocracy’s proliferation during the 1920s and 1930s. In an era of

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unusual uncertainty, inferential shortcuts made actors overestimate the ease of profound transformations, instilling excessive hopes among challengers, while causing deep fear among status-quo defenders. As challengers disregarded prudence and pushed hard for drastic change, their opponents resisted with full force. Because loss aversion induced conservative forces to combat their enemies on the radical left as well as the radical right, communist revolution uniformly failed, and the fascist quest for power was mostly unsuccessful as well. Due to these struggles, however, in many countries democracy broke down, and was forcibly replaced by authoritarian rule.

 This chapter has highlighted the double deterrent effect as the main moving cause of the interwar reverse wave. The shocking Russian Revolution and the USSR’s world-revolutionary ambitions instilled dread among status-quo defenders and inspired a powerful backlash. As defense against communist subversion became an overriding priority, rightwingers gained strength and boldness. Because democracy’s openness and tolerance looked weak, established elites and many citizens sought to fortify political authority by dismantling liberal safeguards and installing autocracy. Perceptions of radical-left threat thus turned people against democracy and drove them toward conservative authoritarians or fascist totalitarians. Yet conflict arose over what type of autocracy to impose. Established elites preferred authoritarian rule, whereas new fascist movements fought hard for totalitarian despotism. These tensions prompted a second deterrent effect: Concerns about fascism’s risks induced conservative powerholders to tame or repress radical-right leaders and their fanatical followers. Shocked by Hitler’s Machtergreifung, established elites spearheaded preemptive coups where extreme-right movements seemed about to take power. And where conservative sectors clearly dominated, they used fascist help to destroy democracy and impose authoritarianism, subjugating their erstwhile allies thereafter. In many countries, liberal pluralism did not survive the struggles pitting conservative elites against both ideological extremes. The double deterrent effect had particularly tragic consequences because the underlying threat perceptions were exaggerated and this dread then provoked disproportionate reactions. Because cognitive shortcuts distorted information processing and loss aversion deformed choices,

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deviations from political rationality abounded. Rather than assessing radical activities with careful intelligence and responding with wellcalibrated countermeasures, status-quo defenders overrated the danger and combated it with excessive force; and as they abandoned political liberalism, they submitted to the arbitrary, unaccountable authority of dictators. Structural weaknesses and conjunctural crises made democracies in Eastern, Southern, and Central Europe especially vulnerable to the deleterious repercussions of the double deterrent effect. WWI left behind legacies of violence, nationalist resentment, and ethnic conflict, with which new democracies with their sometimes dysfunctional institutions had difficulty coping. Hyperinflation and the Great Depression added to this unusual problem load. Countries in Europe’s North and West, by contrast, avoided many of these problems. Moreover, advanced modernization and longer experience gave their democracies resilience against radical-left and radical-right threats. Spared the ravages of the double deterrent effect, these nations survived the autocratic riptide.

3 The Soviet Precedent and the Wave of Isomorphic Emulation Efforts

While prepared by years of carnage in WWI, the “age of extremes” was ushered in by the Russian Revolutions of 1917: the Tsar’s downfall in February and especially Lenin’s power seizure in October. Both these striking events, particularly the Bolshevist takeover, immediately drew enormous attention across the world. Their political repercussions deeply shaped interwar politics and unleashed the conflicts and reactions that propelled the autocratic riptide. As communism turned from a theoretical utopia into a concrete regime option, left-wingers in many countries felt inspired to emulate this new model through armed assaults on power. Predictably, these isomorphic imitation efforts provoked massive repression by status-quo defenders, which Chapter 4 analyzes. Yet despite their initial defeats, communists kept promoting world revolution throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Because in many countries democracy seemed too weak and unable to cope with this threat, scared conservatives advocated the polity’s fortification through dictatorial means. The perceived danger of Bolshevism thus discredited democracy, drove citizens to support rightwingers, and directly or indirectly contributed to autocracy’s imposition across Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe, as Chapters 5–8 show. Thus, the Russian Revolution triggered the interwar reverse wave. As Chapter 1 mentioned, many scholars highlight the crucial impulse that the specter of communism gave to the rise and appeal of fascism and authoritarianism. This chapter examines the immediate impact of the Bolshevist power grab in stimulating a rash of precipitous emulation attempts. The underlying assumption that Lenin’s success was widely replicable, which prompted these ill-planned uprisings, reflects the cognitive shortcuts of my bounded rationality approach. While the availability heuristic 75

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suggested the tremendous importance of Russia’s stunning precedent, the representativeness heuristic induced left-wingers elsewhere to overrate the similarities to the political situation in their own country. These cognitive shortcuts thus boosted assessments of revolution’s feasibility, inducing radicals to make a headlong rush to imitation. The following analysis documents these misguided judgments and their political consequences. The immediate tsunami of emulation efforts stimulated by the Bolshevist takeover brought contentious stirrings across a wide range of countries, uprisings in several nations, and temporary power grabs in a few places, such as Hungary and Bavaria (see recently Priestland 2016: 88–89). Consequently, the years from 1919 to 1923 saw enormous sociopolitical turbulence, especially in Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe. Predictably, however, these extremist initiatives activated status-quo defenders’ loss aversion and therefore drew quick, forceful countermeasures, which uniformly defeated the radical left, as Chapter 4 will analyze.

          Russia’s October Revolution, in which Lenin’s Bolshevists resolutely captured power, was a dramatic event that triggered the heuristics of availability and representativeness. Observers of all stripes, across Europe and the whole world, were immediately impressed. The overthrow of the Tsarist autocracy in February 1917 stimulated widespread enthusiasm among leftist and centrist forces, and the October Revolution had an even more profound, though polarizing, effect, firing up the left while scaring the right (Hobsbawm 1996: 65–69).1 The “never-imagined ease and speed” with which the Tsarist regime fell in February (Runkel 1919: 45) and with which the Bolshevists seized power in October induced people in many other countries to jump to the conclusion that their own regimes were also highly vulnerable: Why not challenge them right away? As historian Paul Dukes (1979: 133; also 111–32, 152–68) concludes, “there was no substantial part of the inhabited world completely unaffected by the immediate impact of the 1

For Italy, e.g., see Procacci (1968: 157–66); for the Italian Socialist Party, Lindemann (1974: 53–63); Ravindranathan (1989: 17, 22, 26–27); for Mexico, Spenser (2009). Stewart (1946: 223–26) examines contentious efforts stimulated by the Russian Revolution in England and Canada.

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Russian Revolution.” In Romania, for instance, “the news of the February Revolution provoked a flurry of excitement among socialist groups” (Karchmar 1983: 142). Even faraway “Lisbon came to be convinced [in late 1917] that it was about to be the theater of the downfall of the whole social organization and that a Soviet regime would succeed the decrepit machine that had been functioning for so many centuries.” As a contemporary newspaper reported, “Lisbon looked to strangers like a Petrograd,” where Lenin had just seized power (Duarte 1941: 52–53). The impact on Germany, the country widely seen as most susceptible to revolutionary contagion, was especially momentous. Due to the Russian events, “the revolutionary idea was strengthened to such an extent that it explosively attained a breakthrough,” a moderate eyewitness stressed (Runkel 1919: 45). The stunning revolutionary precedents drew enormous interest, especially from social-democrats and socialists (Müller 1924: 79, 96; Spartakus 1958: 302–5; Liebknecht 1974: 358, 589, 679). “The news from Russia was followed very attentively” (Müller 1924: 79), one of Germany’s leading Revolutionary Shop Stewards, a farleft grouping, emphasized.2 The unlikely success of an armed minority of communists in taking power in October 1917, in maintaining control against all odds, and in quickly imposing a host of fundamental changes had particularly powerful repercussions and provoked a stark polarization of political opinion (Eley 2002: 121, 124, 138, 220–29; Daly and Trofimov 2017: 47–64). On the one hand, far-left groupings in many other countries, such as Romania (Karchmar 1983: 141–46), celebrated these feats and reflexively inferred they could be replicated at home. Therefore, these radicals undertook a wave of precipitous imitation efforts. On the other hand, ample right-wing and centrist sectors, who also regarded the Bolshevist triumph as an indication of the established order’s brittleness, were determined to forestall any replication of Lenin’s takeover (Merz 1995: chaps. 12–18; Wirsching 2007: 147–56). Therefore they combated far-left stirrings with all means, including disproportionate force. This overshooting reflected the tremendous fear that the Bolshevist Revolution and the widespread, ill-considered emulation attempts evoked.

2

For some left-wing radicals, the Russian Revolution’s impact went beyond politics. As the widow of communist Eugen Leviné, a leader of the Bavarian soviet republic of April 1919, reports, “The breath of the Russian revolution had an immediate effect on our personal life. It opened new perspectives and magically swept away our squabbles” (Leviné-Meyer 1973: 41).

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Most fundamentally, the shock of the Russian Revolution created profound uncertainty, which pervaded political thinking during the interwar years (Vincent 2016: 388–89, 394; in general Kurzman 2004). Lenin’s surprising success shattered the widespread assumptions about the solidity of the existing sociopolitical system that had taken root across the world after the forceful suppression of the revolutionary upheavals of 1848 and the Paris Commune of 1871. While the radical left now saw unexpected confirmation of its utopian hopes, ample sectors ranging from the right to the moderate, social-democratic left were suddenly shaken out of their sense of normality. As the longstanding coordinates of the political world seemed to collapse and totally new possibilities opened up, even experienced leaders lost the ground under their feet, and impressionable youngsters got carried away, in different ideological directions. To cope with this deep uncertainty and trace a path in the resulting confusion, people applied the cognitive shortcuts of bounded rationality. Reliance on inferential heuristics was especially pronounced because people across Europe lacked reliable information about the complicated, fluid developments in Russia; even leftist sympathizers had little in-depth knowledge (Bassler 1973: 256, 260; Müller 2010: 160; see also Kautsky [1918] 1981: 73–74; Dittmann 1995: 757–58). “The news about the new Russia arrived in a rather meager fashion” (Müller 1924: 96), a left-wing socialist admitted. Mainstream Social Democrats complained that the available reports about Lenin’s activities were deficient, even outright false (Scheidemann 1921: 153–54). The Russian civil war hindered systematic reporting, and the stark disagreements about the communist experiment undermined the objectivity of the sparse news that did arrive in the West (Zarusky 1992: 86–90). Direct links between the leading Bolsheviks and radicals elsewhere were confined to a few people, often operators of questionable trustworthiness. Typical for the world of bounded rationality, this prevailing lack of clarity gave inferential heuristics free reign. The Russian Revolution therefore had a tremendous impact on people’s thinking. Due to the availability heuristic, these unexpected events profoundly shaped perceptions and judgments. Political leaders across the ideological spectrum were riveted, and even common people, such as a patriotic German sailor who left behind an extensive diary, eagerly tried to follow the unfolding Russian Revolution (Stumpf 1967: 306–11). These striking developments helped to “alter . . . the psychology of the people,” a leading German Social Democrat observed (Scheidemann 1929, vol. 1: 342). As an American reported from Petrograd, “I am filled with great surges of

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feeling over all it means to the world and the progress of human liberty – this century advance that has been made in a few days” (reprinted in Daly and Trofimov 2017: 78). In similar terms, a left-wing socialist in Germany saw the Russian February Revolution “as tremendous progress on the path toward liberty for Russia and the world” (Haase 1929: 141; see also 42–43). And a Revolutionary Shop Steward claimed that, “when the revolution and the overthrow of the Czar was reported from Russia, the workers gained new hope” (Müller 1924: 79). The representativeness heuristic also molded people’s inferences, making them overestimate the similarities between the Russian precedent and their home countries. Because the Bolshevists had quickly managed to take power and overturn the socioeconomic order, a wide range of observers came to believe that the sociopolitical systems of their own countries were also brittle and that replication efforts had good chances of success. Even conservatives in Germany, for instance, marveled at the “success” of the Russian Communists – and feared its repetition (Wirsching 2007: 147–56). Left-wingers, in turn, jumped to the conclusion that they could successfully challenge their authorities as well (Morgan 1982: 307–8; Eley 2002: 152). A leader of Germany’s Revolutionary Shop Stewards reported: The toppling of tsarist rule in March 1917 gave the revolutionary movement in Germany a concrete goal . . . When on 8 November 1917 the German press reported the overthrow of the Kerensky government, the victory of the Bolshevists, and the victorious revolution of workers, soldiers, and peasants, there was no longer any doubt in the circles of oppositional workers about what was possible and necessary in Germany, and the reports of the German press about the Russian Revolution . . . demonstrated the path and the instruments for the goal. Certainly conditions in Russia differed from Germany, but what the Russian peasant managed to accomplish should be even more feasible for the German industrial worker with his socialist training and organization! (Müller 1924: 96; similar statements cited in Broué 2006: 90–98; see also Plättner [1919] 2012: 164)

A socialist politician in Germany saw the “breakdown of the Tsarist regime” as momentous; in his view, “its immediate psychological impact on the mood of the German working class was enormous” (Dittmann 1995: 503). A former left-wing extremist remembers that “[t]he Russian Revolution seemed to confirm all my [radical] ideas and expectations and stimulated my drive toward activity” (Geyer 1976: 57). In his perception, “[t]he events in Russia were a powerful stimulus for the revolutionary illusions on the left of the German labor movement” (Geyer 1976: 62; see

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also 63–64, 95). A communist agreed: “In Germany, since the February Revolution of 1917 all who had preserved some of the old [=radical leftist] ideals and goals had begun to become active” (Pieck 1959: 365). The proto-communist Spartakus Group rejoiced that “the revolution in Russia won out so quickly within a few days,” extolled this “great historical drama,” and derived a suggestive question: “Russia frees itself. Who will free Germany. . .?” (Spartakus 1958: 302, 304, 305). Spartakus leader Karl Liebknecht (1974: 358) also stressed the “tremendous importance of the domestic political repercussions/the internal changes in Russia on the other countries/the fact that Russia is no longer tsarist, for the internal political situation in all other European countries as well, especially Germany.” Thus, the representativeness heuristic induced people from diverse, even opposite, ideological camps to overrate the similarities between the Russian precedent and the political situation elsewhere. As regards Germany, radical leftists, such as Spartakus’ Liebknecht, quickly inferred that their nation was next in line in the unfolding world revolution (Liebknecht 1974: 358, 589, 643, 646, 662, 677–79, 681). “Under the magical spell of the Bolsheviks’ ascent to power only a year earlier” (McAdams 2017: 113), the newly formed Communist Party proclaimed in early 1919: “Germany will be the council republic of the working people, which . . . will be a shining example for the workers of other countries, which together with the council republic of the Russian workers will call the workers of England, France, Italy under the banner of revolution” (leaflet reproduced in Müller 1926: 221). A radical leftwinger argued along similar lines: “The council idea and the council system in its practical form have been brought to us from Russia . . . This, in fact, made it rather easy to introduce it in Germany because practical examples are always compelling . . . Therefore, in comparison to Russia, it should be child’s play [my emphasis] to lead the revolution to victory in Germany because we do not have to engage in all sorts of experiments” (Plättner [1919] 2012: 164). Right-wingers, centrists, and even mainstream Social Democrats, such as moderate SPD leader Philipp Scheidemann (1929, vol. 2: 225, 243–46, 262–63, 279–84, 291–93), also believed in the easy replicability of the Bolshevist takeover, but of course they feared this very outcome – with an intensity that left socialist Wilhelm Dittmann (1995: 564) calls “almost pathological.” By the end of 1918, in Scheidemann’s (1929, vol. 2: 291) perception, “the tide of Bolshevism rose higher and higher throughout the Empire.” Accordingly, Scheidemann (1929, vol. 2: 293) claimed that

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without the SPD’s determined efforts to combat the radicals, “the Bolshevist wave would have swept away all the barriers we had constructed with such trouble to ensure the life of the democratic Republic” (Scheidemann 1929, vol. 2: 284). Thus, like their communist enemies, the representativeness heuristic made status-quo defenders and reformists see the chances of revolution as high. As McAdams (2017: 113) comments, they “mistakenly interpret[ed]” radical stirrings as “signs of an imminent social explosion on the scale of Russia’s October Revolution.” Interestingly, these expectations of imminent revolution fueled by cognitive shortcuts prevailed not only in the Soviet Union’s European neighborhood, but also on the other side of the globe. In several South American countries, left-wing and labor unrest erupted in 1918/19 (Deutsch 1999: 61–63, 67, 80–82, 111; see also Dukes 1979: 166–67; Albert 1988: 237, 249). In Brazil, for instance, the Russian Revolution had “a strong catalyzing effect.” Indeed, “the first news of the takeover of power by the Bolsheviks offered a renewed stimulus to the labor movement to . . . retake the offensive.” Specifically, “the news that arrived were motive of jubilation and stimulus to achieve the same goal and ‘to do things like in Russia.’” Accordingly, in early 1919, “the main leaders of the working class in the country’s capital [Rio de Janeiro] . . . resolved to try an assault on power” (Roio 2007: 63, 65, 67, respectively; see also Albert 1988: 266–70). At the other extreme of the ideological spectrum, among conservatives in Argentina, “[w]hat was new in 1919 was the growing obsession . . . with the surreptitious hordes of Bolsheviks, with the Red Flag, and with the idea, which sprang from Russia’s fate in 1917, that in democracy lay the seeds of revolutionary anarchy” (Rock 1993: 64–65). Thus, even west of the Atlantic and south of the Equator, the availability and representativeness heuristics led a variety of political observers to attribute disproportionate importance to Lenin’s precedent and to infer the easy replicability of communist revolution. As the belief in communism’s good chances of proliferation was shared by political enemies at opposite poles of the ideological divide, it clearly resulted from heuristic shortcuts, not from wishful thinking by the left or strategic fear-mongering by the right. Observers of all stripes converged on “a sense that revolution was spreading like a contagion” (Fayet 2014: 109). The commonality of this perception reflected people’s cognitive architecture; it cannot have arisen from their interests, which differed starkly. Of course, these antagonistic interests then drove the divergent decisions and actions that these widespread perceptions inspired different political forces to undertake. The inferences derived from the Russian

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Revolution via the representativeness heuristic induced left-wing extremists to initiate a rash of daring emulation efforts, whereas right-wingers, centrists, and even moderate left-wingers pursued the diametrically opposite goal, namely to forestall and combat violent revolution (Daly and Trofimov 2017: 52–55). Thus, both sides of the ideological divide diverged from conventional rationality because they were swept up by the impulses unleashed by Lenin’s success; however, leftist efforts at diffusion prompted rightist counter-diffusion, bringing a series of violent clashes.3

-     –     Due to the inferences derived via cognitive shortcuts, the Russian Revolution unleashed a quick wave of isomorphic imitation efforts (see recently Gerwarth 2016: 118–59). As Lenin’s Communists had achieved striking success with an armed attack on the government, their ideological brethren in a wide range of countries employed the same strategy, hoping to replicate this feat. After 1917, there was “revolution in the air!” Accordingly, radical leftists used the slightest opening to initiate a revolutionary assault on governments, as in Berlin and Bremen in January 1919, Budapest and Berlin again in March, and Munich in April (Fayet 2014: 115–18), with an abortive effort even in faraway Rio de Janeiro (Roio 2007: 67–68). Because Lenin’s triumph made the chances of success appear so high, the first round of assaults in early 1919 was spontaneous, ill-considered, and lacking organizational preparation. These precipitous emulation attempts originated from radical fringe groupings, distant from the broad-based organizations of Social Democracy. In Berlin, for instance, a haphazard, heterogeneous assemblage of militants of the recently founded Communist Party, Revolutionary Shop Stewards, and Spartakists took the lead; the Spartakus League itself was a loose grouping (Waldman 1967: 136; Luban 2017: 47–48, 51) that drew its very limited support primarily from the unorganized underclass (Lindemann 1974: 41–44; Mommsen 2016: 39). In the chaotic, almost tragicomic offensive by left-wingers in 3

In his comprehensive analysis of the “German revolution,” Kluge (1985: 93–94) highlights these distortions by accusing radical leftists of an “illusionary infatuation with grabbing power” while criticizing mainstream Social Democracy for its “irrational” reliance on repressive forces. Zarusky (1992: 92–95) offers a nuanced assessment of the rationality issue.

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Munich, anarchist writers spearheaded the first council republic – detached, politically inexperienced intellectuals (Klemperer 2015: 113, 117, 124–25, 129–30), who did not even find backing from the local communists.4 And when Russian-born communists soon took over and pushed toward harsh Bolshevism, they lacked any strategy or capacity for establishing their hold over arch-conservative Bavaria (Gerwarth 2018: 243–45). Similarly, in Finland, recently formed, undisciplined Red Guards dragged the reluctant Social-Democratic Party, which was losing control of the situation, into an armed uprising (Kissane 2004: 974–76; see also Hodgson 1967: 47–53; Kirby 1975: 216–20; Alapuro 1988: 154–55). In line with a central argument of Chapter 2, these unorganized, often youthful sectors were especially susceptible to the rash, distorted inferences suggested by cognitive shortcuts. Whereas organizational leaders rely on better information-processing capacities, and therefore have wider bounds of rationality, individuals lack these organizational advantages and are much more easily swept up by the availability and representativeness heuristics. These shortcuts hold particular sway over young people, who lack political experience to ground their judgments (Traverso 2016: 205–8); and over political amateurs like the “coffee house anarchists” (Evans 2003: 158–59) and “literary bohemians” who decided to become revolutionaries in Munich (Schmolze 1978: 268; on their utterly unsystematic decision-making, see 267–70, 289). Inferential distortions are further exacerbated in situations of profound uncertainty, as they prevailed after the chaotic end of WWI, the collapse of long-ruling dynasties and empires, and the momentous Russian Revolution. As the ground was shaking and the political opportunity structure was covered in dense fog, unorganized people eagerly resorted to cognitive shortcuts, which provided the illusion of clarity. No wonder that the contentious initiatives that emerged under these conditions deviated starkly from prudent cost– benefit calculations. Political rationality was conspicuous by its absence. A Wide Range of Emulation Efforts The number and diversity of countries that experienced severe bouts of emulative contention offer further evidence for the operation of cognitive shortcuts. Given the risks of radical challenges, standard rationality would have counseled caution: Left-wingers should have targeted only 4

Their rootlessness soon led several members of this self-appointed vanguard to embrace nationalism and move dramatically toward the right (Schulz 1975: 564, 576–77, 709–11).

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the rare country that was especially ripe for revolution. Yet contrary to such a careful, discriminating approach, rebellions erupted in many variegated settings. Due to the representativeness heuristic, extreme leftists clearly overestimated the similarity between Russia in 1917 and the condition of their own country. Jumping to the conclusion that the Bolshevik success was broadly replicable, they started a welter of emulation efforts across Europe. Yet this stark deviation from rational considerations meant that these imitation attempts occurred in objectively unpropitious settings; therefore, they uniformly failed. Scholars marvel at these miscalculations. Historian Ivan Berend (1998: 139), for instance, argues that “[t]he revolutionary attempts . . . were adventurist and refused to analyze the balance of forces objectively. They believed with almost religious fervor in the world revolution.” As his colleague Frances Carsten (1988: 211) characterizes “the atmosphere of 1918–19 in many European countries, all counsels of caution, all more realistic assessments of the situation were swept away.” Extreme leftists “grossly overestimated their own strength” and proceeded with “amateurism and adventurism” (Carsten 1988: 214, 220). Similarly, Ivo Banac (1983: 2–3) highlights the rise of “revolutionary expectations where there was no real basis for them at all. At no point during the Red Wave were the new Communists of Eastern Europe capable of seizing power.” These expert assessments corroborate my claim that Lenin’s disciples disregarded conventional standards of rationality. Remarkably, in November 1918 even conservative Switzerland saw a countrywide “general strike of a clearly revolutionary character” (Rappard 1923: 298; Bernecker 2002: 266–68). This radical challenge arose from spontaneous worker mobilization, which pushed the unions into action. Conservatives were scared by “rumors with respect to the threatening danger of Bolshevism, of revolution, of anarchy, of terrorism” (Swiss bankers’ association cited by König 1998: 38). Intense loss aversion prompted the government to convoke farmers’ militias for confronting the strikers. To avoid a bloody showdown, union leaders, whose organizational position allowed them to act with looser bounds of rationality and greater prudence, ended the strike unconditionally. Betraying the depth of statusquo-defenders’ fears, the government nevertheless imprisoned the top unionists. Moreover, this failed mass contention had lasting consequences, discrediting the unions for decades. It also poisoned Swiss relations with the USSR, which was accused of fomenting the unrest – falsely, as the opening of Soviet archives in the 1990s revealed (König 1998: 37–40). In the Netherlands, even the long-time leader of the moderate Social Democratic Workers’ Party, Pieter Troelstra, was carried away by a

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sudden bout of radical fervor in November 1918 and spontaneously “proclaimed that the working classes would now take power. But no one had prepared for such a revolution, and the socialist leader was soon forced to back down” (Blom 2006: 428). This impulsive effort to follow the path traced by Lenin and his German emulators (see below) was illconsidered and lacked any chance of success. Driven by cognitive shortcuts, which reigned under high uncertainty, this abortive initiative provoked distrust and hurt this social-democratic party for years.5 Altogether, a surprisingly wide range of countries experienced leftwing contention inspired via inferential shortcuts by the communist takeover in Russia. Interestingly, radical uprisings were clustered in Russia’s neighborhood, where Lenin’s success was cognitively most available. Furthermore, hope for Soviet military support added a rational consideration; after all, despite its distortions, bounded rationality is a form of rationality. Yet even in these settings, extremist initiatives were ill-attuned to the political opportunity structure and unrealistic, demonstrating how tightly bounded this rationality was. Among these countries in Russia’s vicinity, Germany suffered the greatest, longest-lasting upheaval.

      ?      According to Bolshevist doctrine, Germany was next in the “inevitable” advance of the world revolution unleashed by Lenin’s precedent. Therefore, the country experienced many determined and prominent imitation efforts. From 1918 to 1923, armed radicals repeatedly tried to take power, at the national or provincial level. These isomorphic emulation attempts began in Berlin, with the “Spartakus Uprising” of January 1919. This first assault stimulated its own wave of imitation efforts in some industrial cities, especially Bremen. Interestingly, the quick and ruthless suppression of these spontaneous challenges did not extinguish the revolutionary fervor. Instead, extreme left-wingers’ firm belief in the replicability of Lenin’s success, a typical product of the representativeness heuristic, for years inspired numerous further rebellions, especially renewed fighting in Berlin in March 1919, the Munich council republics 5

Interestingly, despite their strong left-wing orientation, Austria’s social democrats also opposed and suppressed communist emulation efforts. For instance, in June 1919 they led “armed socialist units to arrest 115 communist functionaries in order to prevent any kind of revolutionary adventure” (Berend 1998: 136).

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of spring 1919, the Ruhr War of March–April 1920, violent turmoil in Central Germany in March 1921, and communist challenges in Saxony, Thuringia, and Hamburg in October 1923 (Broué 2006: 272–81, 362–78, 491–503, 755–78, 794–816). The political context suggests the extremist goals and antidemocratic impetus of these attempts at spreading revolution.6 Immediately after the Kaiser’s ouster in November 1918, Germany’s provisional government of mainstream and independent Social-Democrats, with the noteworthy approval of a national assembly of workers and soldiers’ councils, convoked constituent assembly elections for mid-January 1919. In this way, the new left-wing administration quickly sought to found a pluralist democracy (documents in Michalka and Niedhart 1980: 24, 26, 38–44, 54, 57; Keil 1947: 30). Direct popular legitimation would allow for creating a stable sociopolitical order and for marginalizing Lenin’s sympathizers, who commanded little electoral support.7 To counteract these consolidation efforts and promote their own revolution, left-wing extremists opposed early elections with all means;8 the nascent Communist Party (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands – KPD) rejected participation by a lopsided vote of 62 to 23 (Winkler 2000: 388). In fact, left-wingers were eager to grab power before the vote result would reveal their status as a tiny minority.9 With this purpose in mind,10 they incessantly challenged the provisional government in December 1918 (Kessler 1999: 37–43, 46),

6

7

8

9

10

As left-wing radical Emil Barth (1919: 130) highlighted, “the call for the National [Constituent] Assembly meant the prevention of dictatorial measures by the Revolution.” Gerwarth (2018: 235) recently highlighted left-wingers’ eagerness to attack democracy. Orlow (1982: 192–302). Even Independent Social Democrats such as Hugo Haase (1929: 236), who strongly criticized the mainstream SPD, acknowledge that the rejection of quick constituent assembly elections was inspired in the Soviet precedent and that this radicalism had only minority support, even among workers. Aware of the latter fact, radical socialist Curt Geyer (1976: 110–11) explicitly advocated a “dictatorship by the minority”! See documents in Michalka and Niedhart (1980: 27, 33, 35, 44–46, 66, 68); Geyer (1976: 78–79, 86). Similarly, Rosa Luxemburg ([1918] 2012) forcefully rejected the national assembly as an example of bourgeois parliamentarism. To highlight this fundamental weakness, a mainstream Social Democrat defied the Spartakus Group explicitly at the national meeting of workers’ and soldiers’ councils, “they may run in the election, then we will see who [= how many] will back them”! (Max Cohen-Reuss quoted in Michalka and Niedhart 1980: 41). In a leaflet of early January 1919, the KPD convoked “male and female workers, soldiers, and sailors” for the “fight against the National Assembly . . . the laughable product of the capitalist counterrevolution” (reproduced in Müller 1926: 220–21). See also Nettl (1969: 443, 452–53). Similarly, Bremen’s radical-left council republic initially tried to impede the constituent assembly election inside the city (Kuckuk 2010: 73).

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demanded its overthrow (e.g., Pieck 1959: 442, 448), and launched a frontal assault in January 1919.11 The “Spartakus Uprising” in Berlin Cognitive biases induced radicals to emulate the Bolshevist Revolution at all cost by inciting armed conflicts and uprisings (Pieck 1959: 412–78; Liebknecht 1974: 643, 646, 662, 677–79, 681; Weitz 1997: 84; Pesendorfer 2012: 83–86, 152–56, 166; Luban 2017: 51–54). Jumping at any apparent opportunity to imitate Lenin’s precedent and determined to forestall the constituent assembly elections, the Spartakus League and Revolutionary Shop Stewards undertook a spontaneous and ill-planned attempt to unseat the social-democratic government in January 1919 (Bernstein [1921] 1998: chap. 12). Because these extremists lacked any firm organization and recruited followers from unorganized segments of the working and under-class (Lindemann 1974: 41–44; Mommsen 2016: 39), they were easily swept up by cognitive shortcuts and the resulting inspiration by the Bolshevik precedent. Although rational assessments of the prevailing power constellation would have urged caution, these sectarian groupings fell prey to “political fever”; their “sense of responsibility . . . lay buried in the effervescence of illusions,” as even a left socialist lamented (Müller 1925: 35–36). Rosa Luxemburg herself despaired about her comrades’ “somewhat childish, half-baked, narrow-minded radicalism” (cited in Nettl 1969: 475; see also Leviné-Meyer 1973: 66; Dittmann 1995: 631). But words of caution could not contain the revolutionary euphoria derived via inferential heuristics from the Soviet triumph. Spartakus leader Liebknecht (1974: 588–89) stressed that “the Russian Soviet Republic . . . stirs up those left behind [in the world revolution], fills vacillators with courage, and boosts everybody’s energy and determination by a factor of ten.” Seeing the SPD administration as analogue to the Kerensky government (Liebknecht 1974: 623), which the Bolshevists had toppled in Petrograd, he constantly called for emulation (Liebknecht 1974: 582, 643, 646, 66, 677–79, 681, 688–90; see recently Pesendorfer 2012: 166–67). As soon as mass mobilization got under way in Berlin in 11

The government, of course, highlighted this antidemocratic impetus in its desperate effort to win support against the Spartakus Uprising. A leaflet of early January proclaimed: “Spartakus is now fighting for total power. The government, which in the course of ten days wants to carry out the free decision of the people over its own fate, shall be toppled with violence. The people shall not be allowed to speak. Its voice shall be suppressed” (quoted in Müller 1926: 57; similarly 233). SPD politicians made similar appeals in Stuttgart (Keil 1947: 136).

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January 1919, Liebknecht and his fellow radicals plunged into a frontal attack on the government (Nettl 1969: 478–83; Luban 2017: 57–58, 61). In trying to exploit an unclear, chaotic situation, the hasty revolutionaries initiated a badly prepared imitation attempt (Pieck 1959: 463–69 and especially 472–73; cf. Barth 1919: 132; recent analysis in Jones 2016: 183, 190–91, 206). This so-called Spartakus Uprising emerged from protests against the government’s legal dismissal of Berlin’s far-left police chief. As huge crowds gathered and the mainstream Social-Democratic government seemed to have only precarious control,12 Spartakus leaders and Revolutionary Shop Stewards rashly inferred that the opportunity for grabbing power had arrived (Müller 1926: 32–36; Ledebour 1954: 91–93). A haphazard revolutionary committee declared the incumbent administration “deposed” and proclaimed its own rule. Armed extremists besieged government buildings and occupied newspaper offices, including the social-democratic Vorwärts (Forward). But contrary to their role model Lenin, the self-proclaimed revolutionaries lacked anything resembling a disciplined vanguard party. Therefore, they failed to act in a resolute way and instead dithered and hesitated. Eventually, the crowds dispersed, and the uprising faded (Pieck 1959: 472–73; Waldman 1967: 231, 234–35; Broué 2006: 236, 242). Left-wing socialist Emil Barth (1919: 132) complains that the rebellion was based on irresponsible “information” about strong support from soldiers, which did not materialize; “and a thousand times more irresponsibly organized was the struggle, which was totally without leadership.” Revolutionary Shop Steward Richard Müller (1926: 76; similarly radical socialist Geyer 1976: 90–92) frowned, “The intoxication with illusions [of the revolt’s first day] was followed by a terrible hangover, and then a frightful confusion took over, which finally ended in a wild panic.” Independent Socialist Wilhelm Dittmann (1995: 637) concurs that “for a fight against the Ebert-Scheidemann government every precondition was lacking.” This sudden revolutionary challenge initially caught the government in a weak position (Müller 1926: 39–40; Scheidemann 1929, vol. 2: 290–91). After all, the loyalty and discipline of the war-worn, tattered army were uncertain (Kessler 1999: 7, 9, 42–43, 51, 54). But the SPD 12

Noske (1920: 69, 71); Bernstein ([1921] 1998: 193, 196, 199); (Kessler 1999: 42–43, 51, 54); on the government’s weakness, see Scheidemann (1921: 214–17, 228, 231, 234–35, 238). Waldman (1967: 235–38, 243) also stresses the government’s initial vulnerability.

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could count on its powerful party organization and extensive union wing. Through this mass mobilization, the government demonstrated its widespread support, soon tipping the balance of street contention against the militants.13 As this success shows, the hasty effort to emulate Lenin’s power grab inherently had low chances of success; it reflected the distortions caused by cognitive shortcuts, rather than careful cost-benefit calculations, which even the communist Luxemburg unsuccessfully tried to impress on her comrades. Tragically, affected by the same heuristic inferences, mainstream Social Democracy then over-reacted as well, crushing the faltering rebellion with unnecessary violence, as Chapter 4 shows.

Radical Spillover to Bremen How much left-wing extremists were under the spell of cognitive shortcuts is revealed by the fact that the ill-fated Spartakus Uprising – after its defeat! – stimulated protests and rebellions in several other German cities, such as Brunswick, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, and Leipzig.14 This proliferation of radicalism went farthest with the council republic declared in Bremen (Carsten 1988: 148–50, 218; Broué 2006: 263–65). Left-wingers there had long maintained close connections to Russian Bolshevists (Carsten 1988: 16, 147, 211). After the Kaiserreich’s collapse, Bremen’s worker and soldiers’ councils charted a radical course; extreme leftists also did unusually well in local elections. The news of the Spartakus Uprising and its brutal suppression spurred further polarization. Consequently, the ultra-left excluded mainstream Social Democrats, condemned as traitors to the cause of world revolution, from city government. Then they went so far as to proclaim the dictatorship of the proletariat (Kuckuk 2010: 68–70, 77). Any systematic assessment would have shown that this isolated upsurge of radicalism had infinitesimal chances of success. An assault on government power in Berlin was already unrealistic because the rest of the country was unlikely to follow this revolutionary foray; an isolated coup in the capital would soon be squashed. If the Spartakus Uprising is explicable only via the distortions caused by bounded rationality, then the imitation effort in Bremen, a medium-sized provincial city, bordered on 13 14

Müller-Franken (1928: 255, 264). Provincial governments employed the same strategy, e.g., in Stuttgart (Keil 1947: 135). See in general Waldman (1967: 254–55); Wehler (2010: 398–99); for Hamburg, Paschen (2008: 82–87).

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irrationality, as historian Hans Mommsen (2016: 60) judges. Yet “Bremen’s Communists believed that with the eruption of the January Uprising i.e. Spartakus Uprising in Berlin, the German revolution had entered a new phase: As in Russia the February Revolution was deepened by the October Revolution, now in Germany the November Revolution would be followed by the January Revolution, the bourgeois revolution by the socialist revolution” (Kuckuk 2010: 69–70). Notably, however, the far-left in Bremen made its coup only after the government’s counterrevolutionary victory in Berlin! Therefore, the probabilities of success were practically nil.15 In fact, as government troops surrounded Bremen, the declaration of a council republic was quickly revoked. “The proletariat” – or rather, its self-proclaimed vanguard – renounced its dictatorship as hastily as it had imposed it. Thus, due to the prevalence of cognitive heuristics, inspiration from Lenin’s success provided a remarkably strong impulse – powerful enough to override any lessons provided by the failed Spartakus Uprising in Berlin. As a communist leader from Bremen wrote, “we wanted to set an example proving that what had been possible in Russia was also possible in Germany” (Jannack 2012: 152). But the Social-Democratic government quickly revealed this belief as illusionary by easily reconquering the rebellious city. Even in Berlin, the squashing of the Spartakus Uprising did not deter left-wingers from spearheading another armed rebellion only two months later. In March, renewed street fighting quickly escalated and assumed “a much more serious civil war character” than in January (Kessler 1999: 82; see also 83–90). These bitter clashes, inflamed by atrocities on both sides, cost approximately 1,200 lives – but predictably did not topple the government (Jones 2016: 251–78). Thus, cognitive shortcuts and the resulting eagerness to emulate the Bolshevik example led left-wing extremists into the same cul-de-sac repeatedly. Their bounds of rationality were so tight as to preclude learning from painful experiences.

The Council Republics in Munich Despite the costly failures in Berlin and Bremen, radical leftists soon undertook similar emulation efforts in a particularly unpropitious setting, 15

Bremen radicals reached out to the militant workers of the heavy industries in the Ruhr valley, but extremists there pushed for the economic goal of “socializing” the factories, rather than the political goal of establishing a proletarian dictatorship (Broué 2006: 266–69).

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namely arch-conservative Bavaria (Jones 2016: 290). In spring 1919, anarchists, left-socialists, and communists seized power in Munich and sequentially installed two council republics. These bold takeovers were inspired by the Russian Revolution as well as its emulation in Budapest, where a communist regime was installed in March 1919 (discussed later).16 A leader of Munich’s first revolutionary adventure, intellectual Erich Mühsam, afterward wrote to Lenin, “On March 21, the news of the declaration of the council republic in Hungary hit here like a bomb . . . Speakers in popular assemblies found enthusiastic approval for their appeal to emulate the Hungarian example . . . The positive news from Budapest . . . multiplied the Communists’ activism” and helped to prompt “the anticipation that the Bavarian Soviet Republic was an ideal goal that could be achieved in short order” (Mühsam 1920/29: 140, 142; see also 145, 148–49, 151, 175). In April, Munich radicals indeed instituted a council system, which quickly turned into a soviet republic under communist leadership. The Central Revolutionary Council of Bavaria proudly announced, “The Bavarian Council Republic follows the example of the Russian and Hungarian peoples . . . Long live the world revolution!” (reproduced in Schmolze 1978: 271). Similarly, Mühsam (1919: 247) exulted, “In alliance with revolutionary Russia and Hungary the new Bavaria will extol the revolutionary International and pave the way for the world revolution!” (original emphasis). He was convinced that “the establishment of the Council Republic in Bavaria was an eminently significant event for the world revolution” (Mühsam 1920/29: 149; similar hopes reported in Schmolze 1978, 334–35). As left-socialist Ernst Toller reports, the ill-planned installation of a Soviet-style regime was spurred by the facile inference that “what succeeded in Russia must be successful here as well” (Toller [1933] 2009: 86; similarly Schmolze 1978: 335). Accordingly, “decisive political influence was won by a few Russians, merely because their passport certified them as Soviet citizens. The grand deeds of the Russian Revolution bestowed each of these men with a magic glow; experienced German Communists looked up to them as if blinded” (Toller [1933] 2009: 110). In fact, Lenin soon telegraphed an extensive action program of thirteen exhortations (reproduced in Neubauer 1958: 74–75). Obediently, the eventual leader 16

Neubauer (1958). On the impulse provided by Hungary’s pro-communist regime, see Leviné-Meyer (1973: 84); Kluge (1985: 132–33); Read (2008: 151); and Jones (2016: 290, 294).

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of this revolutionary experiment, Russian-born communist Eugen Leviné, announced, “We’ll proceed as in Russia” (Toller [1933] 2009: 94). In their political initiatives, radical leaders indeed took a great deal of inspiration from Soviet Russia and Soviet Hungary (Neubauer 1958: 75–90). Admiration for these Bolshevist precedents swept away rational calculations and prompted emulation efforts that were highly unrealistic and badly planned (Leviné-Meyer 1973: 85–87, 92, 94; Schmolze 1978: 289–92, 301–2). As even left-wing socialist Richard Müller (1926: 195) stressed, “all the political and military preconditions for the proclamation of a council republic were missing.” In the rest of Germany, “the [revolutionary] movement had been squashed”; therefore, the radical stirrings in Munich were “isolated” and unviable. In fact, with national help the displaced state government aborted this attempt to replicate the Russian Revolution by replicating the repression of Berlin’s Spartakus Uprising. In retrospect, even its protagonists regarded this bold experiment as rash and premature (Mühsam 1920/29 167, 174) and admitted their colossal mistake (Toller [1933] 2009: 96, 112). The Incessant Repetition of Isomorphic Emulation Efforts As this analysis of radical-left power grabs in Germany during early 1919 shows, extremists were caught up in cognitive heuristics, fell for problematic inferences, and started revolutionary uprisings in hopeless circumstances. That this happened repeatedly demonstrates the tightness of their bounded rationality, which long precluded learning from disastrous experiences. Pro-communists were so captivated by Lenin’s success that they threw prudence to the wind. The availability and representativeness heuristics gave the Soviet precedent an overwhelming force that precluded any thorough assessment of the actual constellation of power. Strikingly, despite these early failures, radicals continued to spearhead unrealistic uprisings in subsequent years as well (Broué 2006: 272–81, 362–78, 491–503, 755–78, 794–816). As these emulation efforts kept overestimating the feasibility of replicating the Bolshevik success, they invariably turned into “stillborn revolutions” (Angress 1972: 121–22). “Each was a bigger fiasco than its predecessor,” Eric Weitz (2007: 91), a specialist on German communism, emphasizes. Such ill-planned rebellions, quickly crushed by bloody governmental repression, occurred during the Ruhr War of March 1920 (Eliasberg 1974), the “March Action” of 1921 (Angress 1972: chaps. 4–7; Lindemann 1974: 249, 281–86; Dittmann 1995: 806–8; Weitz 1997: 103–8), and the revolts in

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Central Germany and Hamburg in October 1923 (Angress 1972: chaps. 12–13; Mommsen 2016: 191–94). Every one of these imitative rebellions suffered definitive defeat (Nolte 1987a: 84–106; Wehler 2010: 397–406). As Chapter 4 explains, the demonstration effects of Lenin’s success ran afoul of the even more powerful deterrent effects that the Bolshevist triumph provoked as well: Reaction invariably crushed revolution.

  –   :     Strong inspiration by the Soviet precedent and the resulting belief in the imminent advance of the world revolution (Kun 2011: 63, 72, 74, 76, 197–98) also prompted Hungary’s Communists to take power in March 1919. Due to special domestic and international circumstances, however, they won office via negotiations rather than an armed assault; consequently, they co-governed with the Socialist Party (as Lenin had initially done as well). But because the new unity government adopted a hard-left program, the communists managed to enact very radical measures. The Habsburg Empire’s collapse in late 1918 opened the floodgates to popular mobilization, stimulated in part by the Russian precedent. Already in mid-1918, communist leader Béla Kun (2011: 72) had exulted: “At the present moment, the Hungarian proletariat is talking and, actually, acting Russian.” In his view, “the Russian proletarian Republic is not waiting in vain for the international revolution . . . In Austria-Hungary the crisis has matured” (Kun 2011: 19). Seeing strong analogies to Russia in 1917 (Kun 2011: 47–50), he predicted that “the revolutionary tide in Austria” was about to get under way (Kun 2011: 61; see also 67, 69, 71–72). With respect to his home country, “Kun stated: ‘The one-year existence of the Russian dictatorship of the proletariat leaves no doubt that we must duplicate its course in Hungary’” (cited in Völgyes 1971: 160). As WWI came to an end, democratic reformists and mainstream socialists first ran provisional governments in Budapest. Yet severe domestic turmoil and Hungary’s mutilation by the victors of WWI undermined the grip of these administrations (Deák 1968: 134–35; Vermes 1971: 41, 46–50, 53, 59–60; Berend 1998: 124–26). Hope for Soviet military support against Hungary’s rapacious neighbors and their Western great-power allies then allowed the communists led by Lenin’s disciple Kun to engineer a unity government with the socialists in March 1919 (Tökés 1967: 123, 134–35, 142–45, 163, 173, 205, 213). The

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expectation that the Hungarian Soviet republic would further propel the revolutionary wave in Europe (Kenez 1971: 80) and that communism’s spread would, in line with Marxist doctrine, erase national boundaries (cf. Kun 2011: 44) and thus make Hungary’s severe territorial losses irrelevant provided strong additional impulses for the radical-left experiment. These hopes inspired by the Bolshevist triumph gave the Hungarian Communists control of the government without the need for the violent uprising that the party’s left wing had planned (Tökés 1967: 149).17 Although the installation of the Budapest Soviet republic thus differed from the Russian precedent (Völgyes 1971: 164–65), cognitive inferences derived from Lenin’s success were crucial for its emergence. Particularly important was the belief in the global advance of Bolshevism, which implied “Communist Hungary’s self-appointed and Moscow-inspired task as the center for the spreading of world revolution in Eastern Europe,” as Rudolf Tökés (1967: 144; see also Berend 1998: 129) argues. This expert highlights that “it is difficult to find a rational explanation for the patchwork quilt of dogmatic armchair socialism, shrewd psychology, faulty logic, messianic zeal, and cunning schemes that comprised the leading ideological and pragmatic assumptions of the first month of the Hungarian revolution . . . Both assumptions depended on Russian aid and the outbreak of revolutions abroad . . . [T]he revolutionary leadership implicitly accepted both eventualities as future certainties. These psychological crutches, irrational and farfetched as they might have been, were the most important ingredients of . . . ‘the will to revolution’” (Tökés 1967: 145). In the terminology of this book, cognitive shortcuts, which derived excessive expectations from the Russian precedent, were driving forces in the establishment of Hungary’s radical regime. Budapest Communists acted with tightly bounded rationality. As a consequence, the Hungarian Soviet Republic charted an incredibly bold course by enacting profound domestic transformations and by trying to export revolution to other countries. On the external front, the new regime conquered Slovakia and installed a fleeting soviet republic (Toma 1958). It also linked up with the council republic in Munich and tried to foment a communist uprising in Vienna (Rothschild 1974: 149; Carsten 1988: 101–3, 219, 226–38; Read 2008: 237).

17

An earlier coup attempt, inspired by the Spartakus Uprising in Berlin (Völgyes 1971: 163), had failed quickly (Rothschild 1974: 143).

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Internally, the communists got the new government to impose widespread factory nationalizations and turn large rural estates into state farms. By not distributing land to the peasants and landless laborers, they even bested their role model Lenin and stayed closer to collectivist Marxist doctrine by avoiding the creation of private property and decreeing socialist ownership (Tökés 1967: 185–88, 216; Dreisziger 1968: 21–22; Eckelt 1971: 73–75, 80–86; Kenez 1971: 76–78; Janos 1982: 193, 199; see also Deák 1968: 136–38). These radical left-wingers also socialized urban property so that poorer people received – or forcefully occupied – living space in the homes of better-off citizens. Moreover, the Hungarian Soviet Republic attacked religious institutions and practices and cracked down on artistic and intellectual freedom (Rothschild 1974: 147–48). Needless to say, these ambitious, dogmatic, and dictatorial assaults on the established order provoked a great deal of enmity while failing to garner significant support (see, e.g., Gioielli 2015: 109–20). For instance, local-level peasant uprisings erupted across the country (Bodó 2011: 138). Kun and his dogmatic comrades responded with increasing repression, including assassinations and torture (Tökés 1967: 153–54, 158–59; Carsten 1988: 243), further inflaming the conflict (Read 2008: 238–40). The international front brought no relief either. Lenin, embroiled in a dangerous civil war at home, did not manage to send any military aid. The predictions of Europe-wide social revolutions proved completely illusory. Thus, the rationales for acquiescing in the communist cogovernment soon evaporated. In summer 1919, therefore, “a ‘popular counter-revolution’, [which] consisted of a nation-wide, anti-communist resistance movement of mainly peasant composition . . . destroyed the Hungarian Soviet Republic” (Deák 1968: 129; see also Tökés 1967: 192–94; Kenez 1971: 86). Moreover, its Romanian enemies defeated Hungary’s ramshackle Red Army and occupied Budapest. After their withdrawal in late 1919, right-wing military leaders established authoritarian control, as Chapter 4 analyzes in depth. The case of Hungary’s chaotic Soviet Republic demonstrates the powerful effects of the heuristic inferences derived from the Russian Revolution. The wild idea that a revolution in Budapest would help propel the communist riptide unleashed by Lenin in 1917, topple dominoes across Europe, and thus bring Hungary relief in its territorial conflicts with its greedy neighbors initially held some appeal for broader sectors. This twisted calculation, a product of bounded rationality, enabled the communists to win government power and enact their

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radical program, which trumped even the USSR by anticipating the collectivization of agriculture (Dreisziger 1968: 21–22; Völgyes 1971: 168–69). But as Béla Kun and his left-wing comrades had jumped to conclusions, they soon fell into an abyss. The Hungarian Soviet Republic suffered a disastrous failure, with lasting consequences for the despoiled country: It was the first nation that after WWI fell under authoritarian rule, as the next chapter explains.

         The Northwestern periphery of the Russian Empire also experienced revolutionary uprisings prompted by Lenin’s success. As the Baltics and Finland were part of the Tsar’s realm, these conflicts resulted not only from emulation efforts by native radicals but also from Bolshevik attempts to control the edges of the crumbling empire. For ideological reasons, Lenin and Trotsky were particularly eager to spread communism westward. After all, they hoped that their own precedent would set in motion a world-revolutionary chain reaction and quickly affect Germany, then France and England. Accordingly, the Baltics were the stepping stone to Germany (with Hungary’s Soviet republic opening another route to Central Europe). For these reasons, Bolshevist attempts at exporting revolution reinforced the efforts of Baltic and Finnish radicals to imitate Lenin’s triumph. Already, in 1917/18 a wave of fierce conflicts had erupted along the Eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. Immediately following Russia’s October Revolution, Bolshevist groupings took power in the Baltic regions of the old Romanov Empire. Local communists, based on strong support and close guidance from Petrograd, suppressed nascent independence movements, which had advanced the farthest in Estonia. Initially, these extremists received considerable backing from industrial workers and landless rural poor, especially in Latvia (Berend 1998: 134), where they also found many followers among soldiers (Plakans 2011: 302–3). But with draconian measures and frequent terror (Lieven 1993: 57–59; Von Rauch 1995: 39, 45, 58–59, 62), radical leftists quickly undermined their position, particularly in Estonia (Brüggemann 2006: 215–17; Plakans 2011: 296). Moreover, Lenin’s imperious dissolution of Russia’s constituent assembly in January 1918 glaringly revealed communism’s antidemocratic impetus (Von Rauch 1995: 38). This arbitrary coup strengthened the determination of Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians to push for independent nationhood.

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After German troops occupied the Baltics from February through November 1918 and drove out the communists, these left-wingers returned as soon as the Kaiserreich collapsed. After all, Lenin saw conquest of the littoral as crucial for exporting Bolshevism to Central Europe, particularly Germany (Von Rauch 1995: 51; Berend 1998: 134). A chaotic year of fighting followed. Countless skirmishes and battles pitted Moscowsupported communists against incipient national governments, who received varying support from remaining German troops, Finnish volunteers in Estonia, Polish contingents in Latvia and Lithuania, British naval units, “white” Russian counterrevolutionaries, and adventurers pursuing their own gain. Shared aversion to communism brought enough military cooperation among these heterogeneous forces to fight Soviet advances to a standstill (Von Rauch 1995: 49–70; Plakans 2011: 301–7). Facing a dangerous civil war at home, Lenin placed priority on securing his own reign in Russia. Therefore, he eventually signed peace treaties that guaranteed Baltic states’ independence. The spread of revolution, fomented by Soviet military intervention, was thus halted. After averting the Bolshevist threat, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian nationalism also moved against German, Polish, and “white” Russian domination. By playing these divergent forces off against each other (for Estonia, see Brüggemann 2003), the new nations eventually consolidated their autonomy. A similar sequence of events played out in Finland. Bottom-up worker mobilization inspired by the Petrograd events, combined with the involvement of Russian soldiers, prompted a panicked response from right-wing and centrist forces, which induced left-wing radicals to start a bloody civil war raging from January to May 1918. What facilitated the outbreak of this fierce conflict was the collapse of the Russian state, which had since 1809 controlled the Grand Duchy of Finland and had abolished the Finnish military (Hamalainen 1979: 77). When the Romanov Empire crumbled in the Russian Revolution, the door seemed open for an extremist power grab (Alapuro 1988: 152–53, 156, 189, 194–95). Radicalized by the precedent of the Bolshevik takeover, which they interpreted via the availability and representativeness heuristics, Finnish workers and young left-wingers immediately, in November 1917, jumped to the conclusion “that a revolutionary situation now existed in the country.”18 Therefore, they wanted to act on their own initiative and 18

Kirby (2006: 161); see also (Smith 1958: 19–22). Alapuro (1988: 168–69) implausibly denies that the Bolshevik takeover had an impact, but then (190) does acknowledge its effect.

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disregard the caution embraced by many union leaders and especially the parliamentary social-democratic party.19 Documenting this divergence between prudent organizational officials and mass actors swept away by cognitive shortcuts, a leader recorded in his diary, “[I] became wise during the November strike. Then when all others became crazy” (cited in Hamalainen 1979: 47; see also documents in Kirby 1975: 189–90, 196–200, 229–30). The impulse to emulate Lenin’s triumph inspired the bald demand of a Finnish left-winger, who had witnessed the Petrograd events first-hand (Hodgson 1967: 62): “We must follow the Russian tactic and make a social revolution” (cited in Kirby 1975: 220; see also 216–19). The radical left indeed formed militias and red guards to prepare the seizure of power during a massive general strike. But by marshaling all their remaining influence, the Social-Democratic leadership narrowly avoided an immediate assault on the government in November 1917 (Alapuro 1988: 193–94; see also Smith 1958: 27–28; Hodgson 1967: 30–36, 39–50). Under the spell of the same cognitive shortcuts as the extremist red guards, conservatives and centrists clearly overestimated the breadth and strength of support for a Bolshevik-style revolution among Finnish Social Democrats (Hodgson 1967: 58–60). Fearing a replication of the Russian Revolution, they therefore created their own armed formations. Because the independent state emerging in Finland lacked a military and police force, the center-right government in January 1918, when radical-left agitation surged again, turned these paramilitaries into official state organs (Hodgson 1967: 51–52; Alapuro 1988: 171–72, 193–94). Worried in turn about marginalization and suppression, the radical-left militias now took up arms and “carried out a coup d’état.”20 To prevent a conservative hegemony and promote their own ideological projects, they tried to conquer power. But, partly to win broader support during the civil war, they did not immediately enact their revolutionary goals and

19

20

Smith (1958: 23–28, 33–34); Hodgson (1967: 30, 59–63); Hamalainen (1979: 46–51, 115); Alapuro (1988: 161–73, especially 167–70); see also documents in Kirby (1975: 193–95). Haapala and Tikka (2012: 74; similarly 76). Interestingly, the parliamentary leaders of the Social-Democratic Party did not endorse this move to armed struggle and attempt at revolution. As in Germany, party officials had longstanding experience in politics and commanded established procedures for information processing and debate. Accordingly, they acted with looser bounds of rationality and advocated prudence, disavowing the radical efforts to imitate the precedent of Communist Russia.

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refrained, for instance, from the nationalization of business (Smith 1958: 55; Alapuro 1988: 174–75; Kirby 2006: 162). Rooted in the industrial working class, the “Reds” controlled the urban areas in Finland’s south, whereas the “Whites” predominated in the rural regions. Because both sides were evenly balanced, fighting was intense, dragged on for months, and cost about 50,000 lives (Gatrell 2010: 569) – a terrible toll for a population of 3.1 million (see also Haapala and Tikka 2012: 82–83). Eventually, German support allowed the Whites to defeat the Reds, whose surviving leaders fled to Soviet Russia and formed the Finnish Communist Party in Moscow (Hodgson 1967: 80–84; Kirby 2006: 171). Thus, another fairly spontaneous bout of contention, which escalated into an attempt to replicate Lenin’s power grab, proved unsuccessful.

 As this chapter shows, inspiration by the stunning Russian Revolution induced radical leftists in a wide range of countries to undertake a host of quick emulation efforts. What Lenin had achieved in Petrograd suddenly seemed feasible across Europe and the world. As the availability heuristic drew tremendous attention to the first communist takeover, the representativeness heuristic suggested its easy replicability. Carried away by these cognitive shortcuts, left-wingers in many nations jumped to the conclusion that they could also succeed with the armed seizure of power. That these precipitous uprisings were concentrated in Central and Eastern Europe, close to the epicenter of the revolutionary earthquake and to Soviet troops, shows the rational kernel in bounded rationality. Yet this rationality was tightly bounded: These emulation efforts were rash and illplanned; they erupted in a wide variety of countries with diverse and mostly unpropitious power constellations; they were incessantly repeated even after earlier defeats; and they erupted far away as well, even in Rio de Janeiro. Many people risked – and quite a few lost – their lives due to the misleading inferences derived from the Soviet precedent via cognitive heuristics. Together with the Russian Revolution, which created a communist regime promoting world revolution, this wave of radical imitation efforts fueled the autocratic groundswell of the interwar years by instilling deep fear in a wide range of status-quo defenders. Suddenly, they seemed to face the threat of extremist takeover and profound, painful transformations. Interestingly, these sectors shared the same fundamental inference

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that cognitive heuristics suggested to Lenin’s disciples, namely that the existing sociopolitical order was precarious and that a revolutionary assault had good chances of success. Yet, of course, what lit up the radical left with euphoria filled the right, center, and even the moderate left with dread. The following chapter examines how these forces reacted to the unexpected challenge.

4 The Suppression of Isomorphic Emulation Efforts and Its Limited Regime Effects

After Chapter 3 analyzed the overeager attempts of radical leftists in many countries to imitate the communist takeover in Russia, this chapter highlights the excessive reaction of status-quo defenders. Interestingly, just as the availability and representativeness heuristics inspired in radicals the illusion of the easy replicability of the Bolshevist revolution, so these same heuristics instilled tremendous fear of this – for them scary – outcome in conservatives, centrists, and even moderate left-wingers. Thus, cognitive shortcuts deeply shaped the perceptions and inferences of political actors across the ideological spectrum. Due to these heuristic inferences, Lenin’s striking success suggested the fragility of the established order to political forces of all stripes. But, of course, what gave leftists hope sent shivers down the spine of status-quo defenders. Given their own interests, a communist revolution would cause dramatic losses. The specter of Bolshevism therefore activated people’s disproportionate loss aversion, breeding a fierce determination to forestall radical transformations. The asymmetrical valuation of losses versus gains thus fueled the interactive dynamic highlighted in this study: Communist efforts at diffusion prompted anti-communist counterdiffusion. The precedent that excited the radical left operated as a dreadful deterrent for a broad arc of sectors ranging from the right to the moderate left. This coincidence and interaction of demonstration and deterrent effects, which produced a wave of violent conflicts after late 1917, had two important characteristics. First, because the desire to achieve gains has significantly weaker motivating force than loss aversion, there were limited numbers of emulative revolutionaries, yet a much broader 101

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phalanx of forces opposing them. Radical minorities faced strong counterrevolutionary majorities. And because these wide-ranging sectors included elites that commanded enormous power capabilities, especially relatively organized coercion,1 Lenin’s followers never had a realistic chance. Consequently, their isomorphic emulation efforts suffered uniform defeat, as Chapter 3 stressed. Second, the asymmetrical valuation of losses over gains induced statusquo defenders to crush radical imitation attempts with all means, including brutal force. The ferocity of this counter-diffusion, which exceeded instrumental needs and utilitarian calculations, is noteworthy – one of the puzzles motivating this book. This overkill reflected the distortionary impact of loss aversion, a fundamental psychological mechanism. The fierceness and cruelty that look anomalous and “unbelievable” from the perspective of standard rationality arose from the twisted workings of bounded rationality. Scholars uninvolved in Political Science’s debates over rationality, who can therefore count as neutral, objective judges, commonly lament the extraordinary, rationally unnecessary violence that establishment sectors unleashed against communist emulation efforts (e.g., Bernecker 2002: 104, 185–86, 248–49; Gerwarth 2016: 72–75, 99, 125, 131, 139–40, 151–52, 166–67). For instance, Rothschild (1974: 154, 150) criticizes the “mindless carnage” perpetrated by Hungarian reactionaries after the collapse of the 1919 communist regime: “In the classic pattern of counterrevolutions, the white terror . . . dwarfed the red excesses.” Similarly, Mommsen (2016: 68–69) laments that after defeating the Bavarian Soviet Republic, the victorious military “installed a reign of terror that by far dwarfed the red terror.” Haapala and Tikka (2012: 73) also highlight “the often unpredictable and irrational nature of the violence during the [Finnish] Civil War.” Gerwarth and Horne (2012b: 13) deplore that “counter-revolutionary bands . . . acted with such savagery across Central and Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the First World War.” Based on figures from Austria, Germany, and Hungary that show the stark disproportionality of the “white terror,” Kershaw (2015: 107) concludes, “The violence of the counter-revolutionaries knew few

1

With the autocratic empires’ defeat in WWI, established militaries, even the Prussian war machine, crumbled; and in the new states of Central and Eastern Europe, militaries had yet to form. The years after 1917 therefore saw a chaotic proliferation of paramilitary forces, ranging from worker militias to warlords’ private armies (Gerwarth and Horne 2012a, 2012b; Gerwarth 2016).

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bounds. It invariably went far beyond the revolutionary violence that they claimed to be combating.” Remarkably, this counterrevolutionary sequence of exaggerated fears of “communism” and excessive repression of left-wing stirrings unfolded in South America as well, far away from the epicenter of Lenin’s revolution. As a wave of socialist and anarchist contention and labor unrest swept across the region in 1918/19 (Dukes 1979: 166–67; Albert 1988: 237, 249; Deutsch 1999: 61–63, 67, 80–82, 111), status-quo defenders cracked down hard. Given the effective weakness of worker movements and left-wing parties, this reactionary reflex lacked a rational justification. But “the Russian Revolution of 1917 . . . promoted a generalized, great fear of communism” (Korzeniewicz 2000: 43; also 42–44). Thus, the specter of Bolshevism activated inferential heuristics and asymmetrical loss aversion even across the Atlantic Ocean. Interestingly, however, the violent backlash against left-wingers’ precipitous emulation efforts rarely destroyed democracy. Instead, statusquo defenders’ easy and definitive defeat of revolutionary uprisings helped to give many democracies a temporary lease on life. Autocracy only emerged where communists had managed to occupy national power, namely in Hungary (1919), and where leftist challenges were severe and persistent and the resulting confrontation turned particularly raw, namely in Italy (1922; see Gentile 2012). Interestingly, the specific way in which right-wingers suppressed this radicalism – through military conquest in Hungary, yet paramilitary violence wielded by Benito Mussolini’s newly rising fascist movement in Italy – then shaped the type of dictatorship that the winners installed. Hungary fell under top-down, de-mobilizational authoritarianism, whereas Italy slid into mobilizational totalitarianism. Because these different forms of autocracy presaged a crucial gulf in the interwar reverse wave and because Italian fascism turned into a hugely influential model, this chapter’s second half examines these two cases in depth.

          Inferential Heuristics and the Fears of Status-Quo Defenders The repressive orgies of counterrevolutionaries were driven by the deterrent effect of the Soviet precedent, which caused immense fear, initially bordering on panic. Due to cognitive inferences derived from Lenin’s

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triumph, right-wing and centrist forces, which had the most to lose from a radical-left revolution, believed that communist imitation efforts had good chances of success. But the resulting anxiety was excessive and superseded rational considerations. As scholars highlight, “there was no close correlation between the actual size of the revolutionary threat and the fear of Bolshevism” (Gerwarth and Horne 2012a: 44). In Germany, for instance, “even if the actual threat of a Bolshevik revolution . . . was minimal, the perception was very different indeed” (Gerwarth and Horne 2012a: 42). Benjamin Ziemann (2011: 391) bemoans the “hysterical reaction of a bourgeois public, which perceived Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht as the trailblazers of an imminent Bolshevist revolution,” although their Spartakus League clearly lacked the requisite strength to repeat Lenin’s seizure of power. Wehler (2010: 206–7) also highlights how exaggerated the widespread “fear of a ‘red toppling’” of the societal order was by emphasizing the weakness “of the German Communists . . . a tiny, internally divided splinter grouping suffering from deep infighting and lacking a program and a strategy. . . . Given the constellation of power of those years, the Communists had not even the breath of a chance of success . . . Under the prevailing balance of forces, there was no risk of a serious danger of Bolshevism that the minuscule sect of left radicals who looked up to the Soviets could have posed.” Indeed, anxiety about an imminent radical takeover was widespread across Europe. In Hungary, for instance, Admiral Miklós Horthy ([1953] 2011: 95) foresaw that the liberal revolution of late 1918 would “slide down the slope to Bolshevist chaos.” In the Netherlands, there was considerable “fear . . . that revolution would not stop at the German border”; therefore, “many authorities were exceedingly nervous” (Blom 2006: 428). And in Sweden, “the wave of revolution in Russia frightened the forces of order everywhere” (Scott 1988: 477). Even in England, a general worried in January 1919 that an unruly “soldiers’ delegation bore a dangerous resemblance to a Soviet” (reported in Read 2008: 58). Fears of Bolshevist contagion were particularly common and intense in Germany, the prime target of revolutionary emulation efforts. Centrist historian Friedrich Runkel (1919: v), for instance, believed that through the Spartakus Uprising, “a radical minority wanted to erect a proletarian dictatorship” (Runkel 1919: 146). This eyewitness saw “everywhere the flames of Communist agitation lapping up” and reported as “a certain fact . . . that the Russian Soviet government supplied the left-radical group . . . with money and weapons” (Runkel 1919: 174, 202). Harry

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Kessler, a left-liberal aristocrat, dreaded “the wave of Bolshevism surging in from the East,” regarded “the catastrophe of a bloody Bolshevism” as likely, and saw a serious risk that “the Bolsheviks,” and “with them the Red terror, gains the day” (Kessler 1999: 52, 84, and 9, respectively). Similarly, “Nobel Laureate Thomas Mann, normally not an alarmist, feared that a Communist coup d’état in Berlin was imminent . . . and that the revolution in Vienna threatened to ‘become anarchy and Bolshevism’” (reported in Gerwarth and Horne 2012a: 44). The depth and breadth of these fears became evident in the population’s relief and enthusiasm after the suppression of communist emulation efforts. After the defeat of the Spartakus Uprising, for instance, an observer reported: “Great joy among the middle-class public” (cited in Gerwarth 2018: 216). More vividly, a teacher noted in his diary during Munich’s “liberation” from the extremist council republic: “10:20 am. At this moment, loud hoorays induce me to go to the window. What is going on? A soldier of the governmental troops . . . arrives . . . followed by an innumerable crowd. Everybody shouts, ‘Hooray!’ ‘Bravo!’ People wave their handkerchiefs, everybody looks out their windows, applauds, the excitement could not be bigger” (reprinted in Schmolze 1978: 362). Similarly, a university lecturer claimed in a contemporary newspaper article, “nine tenths of Munich greeted the liberators with jubilation” (Klemperer 2015: 168; similarly 161–62, 165). This widespread sense of relief, which another witness confirms (Schmolze 1978: 363), demonstrates the pall that revolution had cast over good parts of the population.

The Sway of Cognitive Mechanisms over Center-Left Organizations Interestingly, the perceptions of grave danger arising from radical leftists’ isomorphic emulation efforts were not confined to right-wing and centrist sectors, but extended to social democracy as well. Soon after Russia’s October Revolution, when information was sparse and uncertainty ran high, cognitive shortcuts held strong sway even over the officials of broadbased organizations, including the leaders of social-democratic parties. Although, in principle, pluralistic organizations provide for better information access and internal deliberations, under the chaotic conditions of 1918/19 social-democratic leaders were also affected by the heuristics of availability and representativeness. Consequently, their political rationality was bounded, though less tightly than the perceptions and decisions of common people and unorganized crowds. Even organizational leaders

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displayed distortions in judgment that shaped their actions and reactions. These “least likely cases” demonstrate the strength of cognitive shortcuts. Accordingly, although German Social Democracy was probably the best-organized party in all of Europe, many prominent politicians perceived Bolshevism’s spread as a significant risk (see recently Jones 2016: 78–79, 83–84). SPD leader Philipp Scheidemann often highlighted this danger (Scheidemann 1929, vol. 2: 225, 243–46, 262–63, 279–84, 291–93; cf. Von Baden 1927: 580). When party president Friedrich Ebert assumed government power, Scheidemann promised the outgoing Imperial Chancellor that “my party will take care that Germany will be spared Bolshevism” (reported by Müller-Franken 1928: 78). Consequently, Scheidemann firmly backed the armed suppression of the Spartakus Uprising. In his conviction, expressed with the subjective certainty typical of the representativeness heuristic, the government “had to try to hold on to their authority . . . because otherwise Bolshevism would, as sure as fate, have swamped the German people” (Scheidemann 1929, vol. 2: 293, my emphasis). In a leaflet distributed during this fierce conflict, SPD politicians presented the options starkly, namely: “Freedom, not terror. Democracy, not dictatorship. German socialism, not Russian Bolshevism” (quoted in Müller 1926: 78–79). In the same vein, Chancellor Ebert exhorted: “The German workers should look at [Bolshevist] Russia and be warned!” and rejected the “putschist [armed-revolutionary] tactics” of proto-communists (Ebert 1926, vol. 2: 123; similarly 76). Another SPD leader accused left-wing socialists of advocating the “slavish imitation of Russian methods” (Müller-Franken 1928: 66). Gustav Noske (1920: 55), who spearheaded the infamous crackdown against the Spartakus Uprising, saw as one of his two main goals the “prevention of the [imminent] chaos” arising from “the transfer of Russian Bolshevism to Germany. The repercussions of the council system on Germany, however, were bound to be infinitely more destructive than they had – as a deterrent example – become obvious in Russia” (Noske 1920: 61). Similarly, the social-democratic newspaper Vorwärts was full of horror stories about Soviet Russia and dire warnings against radical-left attempts to imitate the Bolshevist approach in Germany (Merz 1995: chap. 9). Theorist Eduard Bernstein, who elaborated the revisionist strategy effectively followed by the SPD (Berman 2006: 14–16, 35–44), called the Spartakists “diligent pupils of the Russian Bolshevists” (Bernstein [1921] 1998: 106). In his view, Karl Liebknecht “worked according to the Bolshevist model and probably with Bolshevist support” (Bernstein

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[1921] 1998: 179). Indeed, Bernstein claimed “that agents of the [Russian] Bolshevists had direct involvement in all of these actions,” namely the violent protests of 1918/19 (Bernstein [1921] 1998: 195). He charged that “the Bolshevist government of Russia was spending millions for the purpose of putting Germany in a state of inner decomposition, which should make possible the proclamation of a council republic in line with its model” (Bernstein [1921] 1998: 182; see also 202). In general, mainstream social democracy saw the biggest menace to Germany’s nascent democracy arise from “Bolshevist agitation” (Hoegner 1979: 36). They felt compelled to fight a difficult “defensive struggle” against radical socialists and communists, “unless we wanted to . . . let the Bolshevist chaos take over” (Keil 1947: 129–30; similarly Müller-Franken 1928: 13, 75). Similarly, a Bavarian SPD politician highlighted “the victory of Social Democracy over Bolshevism.” In his view, “the world-historically significant event of the [social-democratic vs. radical-leftist] struggles of the year 1919 was to keep Bolshevism far away from German territory” (Hoegner 1979: 44 and 39, respectively). An SPD delegate in Germany’s constituent assembly summed up the party’s important accomplishment, “that the German revolution did not follow the example of the Russian” (quoted in Matthias 1972: 115; see also Dittmann 1995: 557). Historical experts commonly bemoan the unreasonable, exaggerated threat perceptions of the mainstream left. Carsten (1988: 174) frowns that “the moderate Social Democrats . . . grossly overestimated the radicalism” of the workers and soldiers’ councils emerging in Germany’s November Revolution of 1918. Geyer (2010: 218–19) concurs: “That the majority Social Democrats . . . could fall prey to the idea of an acute Bolshevist threat indicates a drastic restriction of their capacity for valid perceptions.” Similarly, Winkler (2000: 390) judges that “for the excesses of the counter-violence . . . [that Social Democracy applied against communists] there was no justification.” In sum, even the SPD suffered the distortionary effects of inferential heuristics. Social democrats’ excessive sense of peril was noteworthy, given the party’s better information processing capacity and its longstanding political experience, which turn it into a “least likely case” for biases resulting from cognitive shortcuts. Yet during the exceptional uncertainty prevailing soon after the Bolshevik revolution and immediately following the German Empire’s collapse (eyewitness accounts in Kessler 1999: 8, 10, 40, 53, 56), even center-left organizational leaders overestimated the replicability of Lenin’s success.

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       Due to the mechanisms of bounded rationality, a wide range of established political forces across Europe concluded from the Bolshevik precedent that radicals had good chances of grabbing power. Therefore, these status-quo defenders cooperated in squashing extremists’ hyperactive rebellions with excessive force. Pervasive fear and asymmetrical loss aversion triggered a disproportionate reaction, which brought surprising brutality (Nettl 1969: 443-61; Wehler 2010: 206–9, 398–99). Establishment forces acknowledged their fear-driven determination to crack down hard. As a striking example, when moderate Social Democrat Gustav Noske faced the Spartakus Uprising, he said, “Someone needs to become the bloodhound,2 I do not shy away from this responsibility” (Noske 1920: 68). For these reasons, radicals’ use of violence, which was fairly limited and targeted, drew massive repression that was much more extensive, indiscriminate, and cruel (Kershaw 2015: 107).3 During the Hungarian Soviet Republic, for example, red terror cost about 500 lives (Gioielli 2015: 54), whereas the white terror unleashed after Béla Kun’s eviction brought about 1,500–2,000 killings (Hanebrink 2006: 88, n. 24; Bodó 2011: 133, n. 1); 75,000 additional people suffered imprisonment (Tökés 1967: 214–15). Similarly, in the Finnish civil war, Reds murdered 1,649 compatriots, but Whites slaughtered 8,380 people – outside of battle! This death toll amounts to 0.97 and 4.55 per thousand of the population.4 Historians highlight the usage of “particularly brutal forms of violence” and the “rapid escalation of extreme violence in a country with strong civic institutions” (Haapala and Tikka 2012: 84). Hungary also saw remarkable cruelty (Gioielli 2015: 76–77, 95–100). The Baltic wars of national liberation resembled the uncontrolled mass slaughter, rape, and pillage of the infamous Thirty Years’ War of 1618–48, exposing the civilian population to “brutal reprisals” (Von Rauch 1995: 67). 2 3

4

In 1918/19, radical leftists commonly insulted SPD leaders with this term (see, e.g., Müller 1926: 19, 41; Scheidemann 1929, vol. 2: 280). What exacerbated this asymmetry was the stark bias of the justice system, especially in Germany, which punished left-wing violence harshly while treating right-wing coup makers and assassins with scandalous leniency (Neumann 1984: 44–48). Arosalo (1998: 148); see also Alapuro (1988: 176–77, 201–2); Haapala and Tikka (2012: 82–83); and for details Smith (1958: 27, 34, 40, 55–56, 72, 82–84, 88–91).

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Remarkably, excessive crackdowns were not confined to Europe, but happened in the Americas as well. In faraway Argentina, for instance, labor strikes and anarchist stirrings provoked a “tragic week” of severe repression in January 1919, which entailed large numbers of killings (Rock and dos Santos 1971: 178–83, 213). This outburst of counterrevolutionary violence was prompted by fears of “the imminence of a government of soviets due to social revolution” (Silva 2011: 109; see also 102–3, 112, 185), which left-wing radicals reinforced by proclaiming solidarity with the Russian Revolution and Berlin’s Spartakus Uprising (Silva 2011: 116, 198; see also Albert 1988: 252, 266). Yet despite this imprudent rhetoric, the concerns of status-quo defenders were far-fetched and “totally unfounded” (Devoto 2005: 155); no revolution was in fact planned, and this spontaneous labor mobilization was not led by communists. Nevertheless, “white terror” brutally squashed the strikes and protests (Silva 2011: 197–99, 225, 235, 243–44). Even the United States, where innate, unshakeable commitment to liberalism creates strong immunity to communism (Hartz 1955), experienced a serious “red scare” in 1919. As revolutionary contagion from Europe fomented comparatively radical demand-making by workers and other disadvantaged groupings, fear, if not panic, spread among establishment sectors. Business and the government, at the national and state level, therefore reacted with great intransigence and employed considerable repression (Read 2008: 51–55, 92, 99–102, 183–91, 213–27, 255–65, 304–8, 313–17). The most notorious and consequential overreaction to communism occurred in Germany. Because, with the defeat in WWI, the military was crumbling and state authority became precarious, high uncertainty reigned. In this fluid setting, even the organizational leaders of social democracy fell under the sway of cognitive shortcuts. Intense loss aversion induced them to crack down hard on the extreme left. Communist insurrections evoked exaggerated fears and therefore drew disproportionate countermeasures. While radicals incessantly spearheaded noisy street protests and attempted armed uprisings at any apparent opportunity, their effective power bases were minimal. After all, the SPD and its trade union wing encapsulated large segments of the working class in disciplined organizations. Consequently, the revolutionary left commanded only limited support and lacked realistic chances of success. But fears of communism prompted harsh responses to extremist initiatives, such as the Spartakus Uprising and the council republics in Bremen and Munich. As Chapter 3 mentioned, the spontaneous, haphazard

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assault on the social-democratic government in Berlin was running out of steam after the SPD and its unions mobilized their mass base. This political victory could have resolved the conflict without additional bloodshed. Yet the specter of Bolshevism induced the government to have remaining army units and new Freikorps retake the city and shell the bulwarks of diehard militants. This military crackdown entailed numerous excesses and atrocities, especially the assassination of Spartakus leaders Luxemburg and Liebknecht, which occurred days after the uprising’s suppression. These outrages were perpetrated mainly by government troops, yet also by the incensed population; a mob even tried to lynch one of Liebknecht’s teenage sons (chilling eyewitness account in Kessler 1999: 52–53). Ample sources document these horrific violations,5 which even government leaders do not deny (Noske 1920: 72–76; Müller-Franken 1928: 268–72).6 A similarly tragic sequence of events played out shortly thereafter in Bremen, where inspiration from the Spartakus Uprising stimulated the declaration of a council republic and “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” This radical experiment quickly suffered financial strangulation, however. Moreover, military forces sent by the national government encircled the rebellious city and thus deprived the extremist adventure of any viability, as even its protagonists recognized. Yet although the radicals offered to capitulate under certain guarantees (Kuckuk 2010: 76, 78), the SPD leadership insisted on unconditional surrender – and had Bremen occupied by force. Seventy people died in these “unnecessary bloody clashes” (Mommsen 2016: 60).7 Atrocities were especially rife in the re-conquest of Munich, because in a last desperate move, a communist leader of the council republic had ordered the execution of ten upper-class hostages. This senseless red terror, which according to local resident Thomas Mann aroused “tremendous rage among the bourgeois population” (diary entry quoted in Gerwarth 2018: 248; similarly Klemperer 2015: 159–63), provoked a 5 6

7

See e.g., Müller (1926: 62–68, 70); Kessler (1999: 83–90); recent comprehensive analysis in Jones (2016: 5, 9, 210–19, 233–38). The SPD leadership was shocked and dismayed at these atrocities, especially Liebknecht’s and Luxemburg’s murders, which soiled and devalued its victory over the uprising. As Müller-Franken (1928: 272) reports, “I have rarely seen Ebert so upset” (very similarly Scheidemann 1929, vol. 2: 294–95 about his own and Ebert’s reaction). Another outburst of counterrevolutionary violence occurred in Berlin in March 1919, brutally suppressing a renewed left-wing uprising and causing over 1,000 deaths (see recently Jones 2016: chap. 7).

The Political Consequences of Counterrevolutionary Violence 111 paroxysm of white terror. The bloody street fighting, which according to Bernstein ([1921] 1998: 217) caused heavy losses among government troops and Freikorps as well, killed about 600 people (Schmolze 1978: 368–75, 378–82). Even worse, the winners thereafter used mass executions to eliminate a good part of the council republic’s leadership and put thousands of their supporters on trial (Klemperer 2015: 177, 184; Jones 2016: chap. 8; Gerwarth 2018: 245–46).

      Thus, during the heightened uncertainty created by the stunning Russian Revolution and under the impression of cognitive shortcuts, even social democracy overreacted to leftist imitation attempts and bloodied its hands, often after victory had already been secured; therefore, these outbursts of violence went beyond conventionally rational calculations. Worse even in broader political terms, and with ominous consequences for later regime developments, the SPD felt compelled to make problematic alliances with reactionary forces, such as the remainder of the Kaiser’s military and freshly formed militias, the infamous Freikorps (Bernstein [1921] 1998: 182, 201–2, 222; Bassler 1973: 245–47). The perceived need to accommodate both these mainstays of the old imperial order and the seeds of later extreme-right movements exacted significant costs in hindering a more decisive break with the authoritarian past and a clean start for the new democracy. Due to these deviations from full political rationality, the Weimar Republic suffered from birth defects that crippled it from the beginning and helped to bring about its later downfall.8 These uncouth and compromising alliances were driven by fear of radical-leftist mobilization, which Karl Liebknecht, in particular, sought to foment with his declaration of a German Socialist Republic on the very day when the Kaiser fell and revolution erupted in Berlin. Consequently, the very next day, provisional chancellor Friedrich Ebert (SPD) forged an agreement with the old military leadership to cooperate in stabilizing the fluid situation and combating the risk of Bolshevism (see recently Gerwarth 2018: 193–94). This pact was important in securing Germany’s transition to parliamentary democracy through the quick convocation of a constituent assembly. Charting this representative8

Bernstein ([1921] 1998: 202) recognized these deleterious consequences quickly, while Moore (1978: chap. 11) assessed them in particular depth.

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electoral path effectively marginalized the mushrooming workers’ and soldiers’ councils that sprouted up in imitation of the Soviet model (Luxemburg 1970: 204–5; Dittmann 1995: 508, 566, 579, 587; see also Kolb 1979: 95). But the serious downside of this collaboration of the reformist left with the imperial military (Reichswehr) was that plans for thoroughly restructuring the armed forces and subjecting them to effective civilian control were quickly shelved (Bracher [1955] 1978: 215–26; Carsten 1988: 72–74).9 After all, the army leadership conditioned its support for the precarious government headed by social democracy, which the generals had long distrusted, on keeping the military’s command structure intact. Deep-reaching reform was therefore out of the question. As a result, the military turned into an autonomous “state within the state,” an alien relic of the conservative Kaiserreich in the new progressive republic (Carsten 1988: 299; Wehler 2010: 415–19). Consequently, the democratic governments could never fully rely on their incongruous ally. While energetically combating the radical left, the military was unwilling to suppress equivalent challenges from the right, as army leader Hans von Seeckt coolly indicated when facing a dangerous coup attempt (Kapp Putsch) in 1920. In this crisis situation, von Seeckt insisted on nonintervention with the notorious line, “Reichswehr does not shoot at Reichswehr” (Wehler 2010: 407). Deprived of military backing, the civilian government had no option but to draw on its massive labor support and declare a general strike, which soon asphyxiated the uprising. Worse even was Social Democracy’s collaboration with the new Freikorps, militant hordes of former soldiers brutalized by four years of total war and alienated from civilian life. Many of these paramilitary adventurers had fought on the killing fields of the Baltics and Eastern Europe that the collapse of Imperial Russia had opened up. In these utterly lawless areas, where a nightmarish variety of ideological movements, ethnic groupings, and private armies battled each other to annihilation, these hardened fighters had engaged in orgies of destruction and unspeakable atrocities (Gerwarth and Horne 2012b; Gerwarth 2016). Because in 1918/19, the war-weary army melted away and left the provisional government denuded of protection, the Ebert administration confronted the Spartakus Uprising by convoking Freikorps. And because the radical left kept spearheading many subsequent uprisings across the 9

For the contrast with Austria, where military reform did go forward, see Carsten (1988: chap. 3).

The Political Consequences of Counterrevolutionary Violence 113 country, the new democracy continued to use the new paramilitary formations for counterrevolutionary repression. Therefore, these fervently anti-communist and particularly cruel forces for years had fairly free rein, before the army finally flushed them out in the mid-1920s (Bracher [1955] 1978: 228). Besides violating human rights and trampling the rule of law, the many atrocities committed by Freikorps against revolutionary emulation efforts deepened the gulf among the German left and forestalled any cooperation between social democrats and communists (Gerwarth 2018: 220). This lasting enmity came to haunt both forces during the later rise of National Socialism, when the German Communist Party (KPD) did not prioritize the fight against this most dangerous enemy; instead, the party targeted its fiercest attacks against what it denounced as the “social fascists” of the SPD. This mistargeted hostility facilitated the political advance of German fascism and its eventual takeover of the government. Tragically, while aggravating the disunity among the left, Social Democracy’s determined and unnecessarily brutal suppression of the radical left did not endear the party to the “bourgeois” center and center-right. This segment of the political spectrum always maintained its ideological distrust of the officially Marxist SPD, reinforced by cultural distance from the proletarian milieu. Therefore, social democracy did not benefit from its counterrevolutionary victories by winning new support. Instead, the insurrectionary hyper-activism of the extremist left provoked a process of polarization that strengthened the right at the expense of the center and center-left. This backlash, driven by obsessive fear of communism, is clearly visible at the local and regional level. After all, the sites of ultra-leftist uprisings turned into seedbeds for antidemocratic right-wingers, in Germany and across Europe. It is no coincidence that the first authoritarian regime installed during the interwar years emerged in Hungary, which had suffered through a chaotic Soviet Republic in 1919. Similarly, Hitler made his first attempt at seizing power in 1923 in Munich, a city still traumatized by the disastrous revolutionary experiments of 1919. And Benito Mussolini’s fascist movement gathered its strength in Italy’s North, which had been most affected by the labor strikes and agrarian unrest of the “red biennium” of 1919–20, when the country seemed to teeter on the verge of revolution (Sassoon 2007: 24–25). Due to loss aversion, far-left challenges prompted reactions of far greater magnitude. Revolution provoked counterrevolution, and the resulting polarization had a lasting impact on the areas most directly affected by these struggles.

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Beyond the regions directly scarred by the left’s revolutionary adventures, the resulting polarization also had crucial repercussions at the national level. In Germany, for instance, the fierce conflicts provoked by radical attempts to follow in Lenin’s footsteps caused both the SPD and the left-liberal German Democratic Party to lose large vote shares in the parliamentary elections of 1920 already (Gerwarth 2018: 288). This stunning defeat cost the main democratic forces their majority, while benefiting semi-loyal or openly disloyal groupings, both on the right and the radical left (Carsten 1988: 300; Winkler 2000: 415–16). Consequently, the Weimar Republic quickly came to stand on precarious political ground, lacking a firm base of support. In sum, the incessant revolutionary stirrings of Lenin’s disciples and the fear-driven counterrevolutionary response of establishment forces got Germany’s new democracy off to a rocky start and hindered its consolidation in subsequent years. Due to cognitive shortcuts and the scary inferences derived from the Bolshevist Revolution, reformist parties made excessive concessions to reactionary forces, especially the old military and new Freikorps. As the analysis of the German case in Chapter 6 explains, the unreformed military then played an important role in the country’s authoritarian turn from the late 1920s onward, which set the stage for the eventual descent into fascism. It is important to stress, however, that the dangerous legacies of these early conflicts did not condemn the new democracy to death. A number of fledgling regimes have managed to overcome serious birth defects, as the case of Finland after its violent civil war shows. There, the brutal repression of the radical left in 1918 did not preclude the emergence of a functioning democracy in the 1920s (Alapuro 1988: 204–8), which then managed to sustain itself against a powerful fascist upsurge in the early 1930s (Siaroff 1999; Capoccia 2005: chap. 6; see Chapter 9). Similarly, after the “third wave of democratization,” Chile consolidated a wellfunctioning democracy in the 1990s despite tight institutional limitations imposed by the outgoing military dictatorship. Thus, serious initial problems and lasting political constraints are not necessarily fatal for a new civilian competitive regime. As regards the Weimar Republic, its eventual descent into Nazi despotism does not prove the inherent unviability of the fairly progressive regime inaugurated with the ambitious constitution of 1919 (see Orlow 1982 and recently Gerwarth 2018: 10–27). Retrospective determinism lacks theoretical validity. After all, the new democracy developed considerable vibrancy (Weitz 2007) and made significant advances toward

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stability from 1924 onward. As explained in Chapter 6, it took new challenges, especially the exogenous shock of the Great Depression, to make the risks created by the counterrevolutionary birth defects truly fatal.

          Extremist attempts to imitate Lenin’s success and their brutal suppression brought enormous turmoil and violence to a number of Central and East European countries, and the problematic legacies of these conflicts weakened new democracies. Yet despite the fierceness of the counterrevolutionary backlash, it is noteworthy that these radical challenges rarely provoked the installation of reactionary dictatorships (Kershaw 2015: 133–34). Instead, however battered, liberal democracy survived in many countries after this rash of early conflicts. This salutary outcome prevailed despite repeated communist uprisings in Germany, despite fierce civil wars in Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania, despite some radical attempts in Austria and lesser stirrings in the Netherlands and Switzerland, and despite an outburst of violence in Argentina. Only in two countries did the anti-communist backlash directly bring the imposition of autocracy. Hungary fell to authoritarian rule immediately after the defeat of the Soviet Republic in 1919; and after rising through violent combat against widespread left-wing contention, Italian fascism came to power in 1922 and established a totalitarian dictatorship thereafter. Given the intense fears of communism that gripped many status-quo defenders immediately after WWI, this infrequent installation of dictatorship is noteworthy. Why this variation in regime outcomes, despite the common challenge arising from radicals’ isomorphic emulation efforts? What can not explain the divergence in political paths is external pressure from Western great powers, which after WWI promoted liberal pluralism and insisted on democracy as a precondition for recognizing the many new states emerging in Central and Eastern Europe. In particular, the reactionary Hungarian leaders who imposed authoritarianism after the (self-)destruction of the Soviet Republic also faced this conditionality (Horthy [1953] 2011: 101–2, 107–8, 123; see Lorman 2006: 16). Yet while these fervent counterrevolutionaries backed off from their initial plans to create an open military dictatorship (Rothschild 1974: 152–53; Ormos 2007: 72–76), they managed to engineer a non-democratic regime

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despite French and British pressure. They simply hid the real power concentration behind an electoral, semi-liberal façade, while using manipulation, intimidation, and repression to distort and effectively suspend democratic mechanisms (Janos 1982: 212–13, 216, 224; Payne 1995: 132, 268; Mann 2004: 241). In this sneaky way, they forged an early example of “competitive authoritarianism” (Levitsky and Way 2010). Prior experience with liberal and electoral institutions was not decisive either. Certainly, Finland had benefited from “the presence of democratic norms and institutions” since the nineteenth century (Kissane 2004: 969; see recently Orzoff 2016: 264). Yet although it had lived under a competitive regime since unification in 1861, Italy suffered a dramatic autocratic regression. Conversely, the Baltic countries lacked a liberal background, but avoided the immediate installation of authoritarianism; indeed, Estonia and Latvia maintained hyper-parliamentary regimes until 1934. Thus, the past did not reliably shape the post–WWI era. The Impact of Revolutionary Threat on Regime Trajectories While great power influence and historical experience do not provide convincing explanations, perceptions of revolutionary danger mediated by cognitive mechanisms can explain the differences in regime trajectories. As this study shows, the specter of communist diffusion, fueled by the representativeness heuristic, activated disproportionate loss aversion and provoked defensive counter-diffusion. Accordingly, it was decisive how this action-reaction dynamic played out in each case. How acute was the perceived risk of communist revolution? And how high was status-quo defenders’ capacity for resistance? Interestingly, this defensive resilience depended mainly on political – not military – factors. Where mainstream political parties had organizational density and the state commanded institutional strength, left-wing extremism had low chances of success. Moreover, where the struggle against communism intersected with the effort to achieve national independence, as in the Baltic States and Finland, surging nationalism weakened the radical left. Either one of these factors immunized polities against future infection by the Bolshevist virus and thus sustained the institution and survival of liberal democracy. As regards the severity of the perceived threat, extremist uprisings, inspired by distortionary shortcuts, were haphazard and unrealistic. Once the broad phalanx of status-quo defenders employed massive, targeted coercion, these precipitous efforts uniformly suffered defeat.

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After these decisive victories, the initial panic of establishment sectors gradually subsided. Because communists lost so clearly, anti-communists concluded that the danger had passed. Regular, institutional politics could now resolve remaining problems and conflicts. Therefore, liberal pluralism seemed to hold low risk. Once the nightmare of a surprisingly savage civil war had ended, Finland, for instance, quickly instituted a functioning democracy. Former enemies now faced each other in the electoral arena and advanced their contending interests and ideologies with civil means. For these reasons, liberal democracy emerged in most countries that had initially suffered radical attempts to follow Lenin’s footsteps. While everywhere isomorphic imitation efforts quickly failed, they did, however, vary in intensity across countries. From the center of Europe toward the northwest, radical adventures were so impulsive and illprepared that they caused only minor disturbances. For instance, the general strike in Switzerland and “Troelstra’s mistake” (Blom 2006: 428) in the Netherlands proved episodic; similarly, communist plots in Austria, fomented by emissaries of Hungary’s Soviet Republic, were aborted before they could erupt (Carsten 1988: 230–38). These rash moves backfired by discrediting their initiators and deterring further challenges. They did not shake confidence in liberal pluralism, but on the contrary confirmed widespread democratic commitment among mainstream forces. The same outcome prevailed after many local challenges in Germany, e.g., those stimulated by the Spartakus Uprising. While radical groupings in numerous cities made grandiloquent pronouncements and undertook protest demonstrations and sympathy strikes, they did not seriously push their ideological projects with armed force. Therefore, their opponents did not feel compelled to resort to violence either. After some maneuvering, the democratic forces prevailed, for instance in Hamburg (Paschen 2008: 82–134). In other instances, however, Bolshevist efforts to export communism or local attempts to import the new creed posed much graver threats. As examined in Chapter 3, in the Baltic States and Finland, the October Revolution caused immediate spillover effects and ignited fierce, destructive civil wars. Moreover, in Hungary and Munich, extremists proclaimed Soviet Republics and exercised dictatorial power for weeks or months. Finally, in Italy, an intransigent, “maximalist” Socialist party and a militant labor movement fomented numerous contentious strikes, factory occupations, and land conflicts and seemed to create a serious danger of revolution. These traumatic experiences gave rise to much deeper and

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more lasting threat perceptions. Predictably, scary extremist action provoked calls for determined reaction. The Defensive Capacities of Status-Quo Defenders What proved crucial in the face of more serious far-left danger were the defensive capacities of status-quo defenders. Two types of political factors seemed to offer sufficient protection: Liberal democracy emerged where mainstream parties had firm, broad-based organizations, or where surging nationalism marginalized Bolshevist sympathizers as “foreigners.” As regards political organization, social-democratic parties like the German SPD, which encapsulated millions of workers in comprehensive party and union networks (Bartolini 2000: chap. 6; Eley 2002), limited political space for extremism and gave democracy a reasonably solid foundation. While the SPD never won a majority of votes, it allied with the equally well-organized Catholic Center and a more fluid left-liberal party. In 1919, this Weimar Coalition was confident in its governing capacity. At the same time, right-wing sectors that were skeptical or hostile to democracy knew after the Kaiserreich’s recent collapse that they could not govern against the SPD and its allies, nor easily suppress them. Organizationally based resilience thus sustained national-level democracy despite continuing radical challenges at the local and regional level. Institutional strength also proved important in Argentina, where the relatively well-organized Radical Civic Union managed to maintain democracy after the shocking explosion of violence in the “tragic week” of early 1919 (Rock and dos Santos 1971; Silva 2011). Where mainstream parties commanded organizational strength and broad support, democracy actually was a useful mechanism for keeping surviving radicals sidelined and ineffectual. After all, given the asymmetrical valuation of gains vs. losses, there were few extremists, whereas the variety of moderate forces held a large, often overwhelming majority. Therefore, elections promised to certify convincingly what widespread political backing the establishment sectors enjoyed; by contrast, their meager vote results would reveal that communist appeals to “the working class” largely fell on deaf ears. In elections, thus, disproportionate loss aversion had salutary political consequences. Bounded rationality helped to give mainstream forces good reasons to trust in the viability of liberal democracy and its capacity to marginalize far-left challengers. Because extremist emulation efforts were inspired, stimulated, and frequently supported by Russian Communism, nationalism also served

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as a powerful defensive shield. This protective mechanism had special strength where fairly cohesive ethnic groupings sought to achieve independence from the nascent Soviet Union. In Finland and the Baltics, bloody civil wars between left-wing radicals and status-quo defenders coincided with the struggle for national sovereignty. Because the extremists who took up arms counted on Bolshevist help and sought to extend the socialist world revolution initiated by Lenin,10 their rightist and centrist enemies could enlist nationalism: They de-legitimated their foes as alien, Russian agents (Balkelis 2012: 127–29; Haapala and Tikka 2012: 74–75). In Estonia, for instance, “social revolution in its Soviet form, it appeared, was an imported [type of rule] that did not hide its ‘foreign’ nature” (Brüggemann 2006: 220; similarly 222; see also Von Rauch 1995: 35, 56; Plakans 2011: 301). In Finland, communism was widely seen as an “evil, Russian-inspired doctrine”; consequently, “outrage . . . united Finnish- and Swedish-speaking ‘whites’ alike in their condemnation of the impious, treacherous ‘reds’ who pledged their allegiance to the outlawed Finnish Communist party in Soviet Russia” (Kirby 2006: 169 and 168, respectively). Indeed, when the civil war started in January 1918, the counterrevolutionaries called for a “fight against traitors to the freedom of the Fatherland” (cited in Smith 1958: 37; see also documents in Kirby 1975: 225, 230, 234, 241–42; and Alapuro 1988: 198–200; Luostarinen 1989: 128–30, 134). After these “treasonous” radicals suffered defeat and their surviving leaders revealed their true loyalties by escaping to the USSR (Hodgson 1967: 80–82, 111–12), the winners stood on firm political ground. The combination of nationalism and anti-Bolshevism commanded widespread support (Hamalainen 1979: 13–14, 117; Plakans 2011: 302), diminishing the perceived risk of renewed extreme-left challenges. The outlawed communists, who resumed political participation under innocuous labels, gained only limited support and faced the constant threat of prosecution, if not persecution (Vardys 1979: 328–29). For instance, soon after Finland’s Socialist Workers’ Party, a front for clandestine communists, won 14 percent of the vote in 1922, the government imprisoned its parliamentary representatives and confiscated its party finances (Kirby 10

The “Estonian Workers’ Commune,” for instance, “expected the victory of world revolution to be a matter of weeks rather than months” (Brüggemann 2006: 216). On the Soviet idea that takeover of the Baltic States would carry the Bolshevist revolution to Germany, see Von Rauch (1995: 51, 73).

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2006: 171–72; see also Capoccia 2005: 145–53). And when the Estonian Communist Party, which had won 10 percent of parliamentary seats in 1923, “was brazenly arrogant to claim power by force,” its December 1924 coup quickly “floundered and was suppressed within hours. Its political result was the collapse of the Communist party on the one hand and the rebirth of Estonian national consensus on the other” (Vardys 1979: 329; details in Von Rauch 1995: 110–16). Because the newly independent nations rejected Bolshevism and supported crackdowns against radical left-wingers, they could afford political openness and liberty for the wide range of mainstream groupings. The victors therefore instituted democratic regimes. After the bloody eradication of the initial imitators of Lenin’s Russia, the limited remaining threat could be controlled with targeted repression and did not seem to require the fortification of the political regime via autocratic rule. In the eyes of crucial elites and the majority of the citizenry, the body politic had sufficient immunity to allow for liberal democracy. In sum, political party organization or nationalism, especially aversion to Russia, offered a strong defense against Lenin’s disciples and thus served as “sufficient conditions” that gave mainstream forces confidence in their ability to block communism. Although the Baltic States, Finland, and Germany faced serious or repeated attempts at revolutionary emulation, the decisive defeat of these ill-planned adventures allowed for liberal democracy. While the backlash to radical contention brought serious human rights violations, the victory of targeted counterrevolution helped to avoid the imposition of autocratic rule in many countries.

         The Installation of Authoritarian Rule in Post-Revolutionary Hungary Only in two cases did the “red years” of 1919–21 (Lindemann 1974) usher in dark decades of dictatorship. In Hungary and Italy, the combination of particularly severe and sustained left-wing challenges and the organizational weakness of mainstream political forces, especially on the right half of the ideological spectrum, proved fatal. Moreover, nationalism did not seem to guarantee reliable immunity either. Hungary’s Soviet Republic ravaged the country for months, as Chapter 3 analyzed. While the south of Finland also suffered under leftwing revolutionaries in early 1918, their Magyar counterparts imposed a

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much more radical program, including the collectivization of agriculture (Rothschild 1974: 147–48). Moreover, the communist-led Kun regime employed worsening terror. Because these measures created heavy costs for a wide range of sectors, they activated intense loss aversion and caused a lasting trauma. As communist domination in Hungary was significantly more painful than in southern Finland, Magyar nationalism also offered much less of a protective shield. Whereas the Finns won their independence against Russia, Hungary was dismembered by its Slavic and Romanian neighbors and the Western powers. Therefore, Soviet Russia actually looked like a desirable ally against the hungry vultures ripping apart the Habsburg carcass (Ormos 2007: 36–40). In fact, the desperate hope of averting this national tragedy through Lenin’s military assistance had been one of the main motives for installing the Soviet Republic in the first place (Tökes 1967: 132–35, 142–46). Thus, Hungarian nationalism lacked the antiRussian animus prevailing in Finland. And as the tensions and conflicts with the rapacious neighbors persisted throughout the interwar years, nationalism did not seem to offer reliable protection against risks emanating from Russian Bolshevism. Furthermore, Hungary’s political party system had low governing capacity and the state lacked infrastructural power. The chaotic end of WWI and the new nation’s territorial dismemberment pulverized the liberal formations that first took the helm (Ormos 2007: 22–24, 31). Traditionally, the socialist party had commanded considerable organizational strength (Rothschild 1974: 141), but its collaboration with Kun’s disastrous Soviet Republic and the subsequent counterrevolutionary repression left it in tatters. After the communists’ eviction, politics resembled an organizational wasteland. What political force could have sustained a liberal democracy? Instead, embittered reactionaries, who themselves needed a great deal of foreign help,11 eventually occupied the capital with military force and imposed an authoritarian regime. The victorious right-wingers categorically rejected democracy and depicted political liberalism as a foreign import inappropriate for Hungary (Hanebrink 2006: 80–82, 118–20; see Bethlen 1925: 455). In particular, they condemned the democratic revolution of late 1918 for paving the way for the calamitous Soviet Republic (Dreisziger 1968: 23; Gioielli 2015: 79–80). As later prime minister István Bethlen complained, 11

Romanian troops vanquished Hungary’s Soviet Republic; only after their withdrawal mediated by France did Admiral Miklós Horthy’s right-wingers take over.

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“First came the [liberal] Károlyi Revolution with its own particular défaitism, which infected the whole living organism of the nation and reduced its power of resistance to a minimum; and this preparatory artillery attack was followed . . . by its logical consequence – the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’” (Bethlen 1925: 452; similarly Horthy [1953] 2011: 95). Because in their eyes, democracy inevitably led to communism, reactionaries distrusted civilian competitive rule and installed an authoritarian regime (Janos 1982: 235). Yet because the Western powers insisted on democratic procedures as a precondition for signing the peace that Hungary desperately needed (Horthy [1953] 2011: 101–2, 107–8, 123), the counterrevolutionary regime covered its authoritarian core with semi-liberal and electoral formalities. In the terminology of contemporary political science, Admiral Horthy and his military friends thus created a competitiveauthoritarian regime, which allowed some opposition forces to operate, but fraudulently engineered electoral victories for official candidates.12 In sum, for a double reason, namely a traumatic communist experiment and the weak organizational capacity of liberal democratic forces, Hungary was the first European country in which left-wing diffusion brought reactionary counter-diffusion that ushered in an autocratic regime. Thus, the interactive approach advanced in this study explains the unusually early establishment of authoritarianism in Budapest. The Installation of Fascist Rule in Pre-Revolutionary Italy If in Hungary months of communist dictatorship activated powerful loss aversion and stoked the backlash toward reactionary autocracy, then in Italy particularly widespread, persistent, and contentious left-wing challenges paved the way for the emergence of fascism and its quick rise to power (Bosworth 2002: 133, 138–40, 149; Bermeo 2003: 27–28). After the Soviet Republic in Budapest had suffered military defeat, reactionary elites sought to secure the sociopolitical order through top-down statebased control and enforced de-politicization via a fairly traditional authoritarian regime. In Italy, by contrast, conservative elites supported a massive society-based campaign of violent attacks on left-wingers, which allowed the leader of the new paramilitary movement to claim power and establish a mobilizational and increasingly totalitarian 12

Szabó (2008) overrates the importance of formal institutions in calling the Horthy regime a limited, restricted democracy.

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system,13 creating the novel model of fascist dictatorship (recent overview in Berman 2019: chap. 11). Italy’s pronounced social, regional, and religious inequalities and cleavages gave rise to a socialist party (Partito Socialista Italiano) that was unusually radical. Its political isolation deprived this PSI of policy efficacy, discrediting its reformist wing and strengthening calls for revolution (Lindemann 1974: 5–6, 8–9, 23–25; Corner 2002: 279–83, 292). Rapidly increasing party and union membership in the 1910s weakened organizational firmness and discipline, subjected the party to strong pressures from its mass constituencies, and further diminished the influence of the moderate parliamentary leadership over the militant new cadres. Consequently, “since 1917 [the party] had been looking to Moscow” (Seton-Watson 1967: 511), “and it quickly came under the spell of the soviet model” (Riley 2019: 46). In fact, the Russian Revolution and its apparent emulation in Germany in November 1918 induced the PSI to “call for the immediate ‘institution of the Socialist Republic and the dictatorship of the proletariat’” (Eley 2002: 170; see also Procacci 1968: 166–67; Sabbatucci 1996: 45, 48, 50). Thus, by contrast to its counterparts in Europe’s northwestern half, which charted a reformist, social-democratic course and rejected the siren song of communism,14 the PSI was deeply impressed by Lenin’s success and moved in a revolutionary direction, at least with its extremist pronouncements and bold demand-making.15 This radicalism stimulated the outbreak of mass contention. In the words of expert Paolo Farneti (1978: 130), “the political leadership of the Massimalisti [the PSI’s extremist faction], their dream of an Italian October Revolution, was initially responsible for the wave of strikes that allied the middle and upper classes against socialism.” Radical sectors of labor indeed fomented an upsurge of conflict, making 1919/20 the biennio rosso – the two red years (Bosworth 2002: 140–41; Eley 2002: 169–72; Riley 2019: 44–47). Workers in Northern Italy’s industries started a host of strikes, which employer intransigence often turned violent. This escalation culminated in a wave of factory occupations in 13

14 15

While Italian fascism was long depicted as comparatively benign, recent research has properly emphasized its systematic use of violence and totalitarian character (Gentile 2012: 88–89; Hagenloh 2016: 353–55). Schulz (1975: 30–31) and Corner (2002: 275, 286, 294) highlight the striking contrasts between the PSI and Germany’s SPD. Hilton-Young (1949: 82–83, 88–90, 98–103); Seton-Watson (1967: 524–26, 548); Lindemann (1974: 53–63); Ravindranathan (1989: 26–27); Knox (2007: 219–20).

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mid-1920, which seemed to proceed “in accordance with the Russian revolutionary formula,” as liberal politician Carlo Sforza (1925: 359) suspected. Labor activists indeed demanded the outright socialization of industry and the PSI seemed to be moving toward revolution (HiltonYoung 1949: 104–6, 109–12, 122; Lindemann 1974: 235–38). No wonder that this direct challenge to property made business and conservative politicians tremble with fear. Their “sense of existential threat” (Lyttelton 2004: 36–39; Knox 2007: 311, 313) triggered intense loss aversion. For rising fascist leader Benito Mussolini ([1928] 1998: 114), the factory occupations were “an example of Bolshevism in action” that revealed “the incredible weakness of the government” – and that therefore called for patriotic Italians to take the initiative and “defend the public order at any price” (Mussolini [1928] 1998: 117). Perhaps even more importantly,16 agrarian elites faced similarly radical threats. Peasants and landless laborers took over land, especially in the fertile Po Valley and Central Italy, but also in the poor South (SetonWatson 1967: 521–24; Lindemann 1974: 119). Unaccustomed to such defiance, landowners overestimated the danger (Sforza 1925: 365) and desperately sought help to protect their property and maintain social control. The resulting widespread conflicts resembled “a rural guerrilla war” (Knox 2007: 247; see 247–50, 276–77, 313, 317; see also Read 2008: 167–71). In addition, the municipal elections of late 1920 shockingly gave the Socialist Party, which fomented this contention, control over many towns and villages in the rural conflict zones. Facing radical administrations that would support bottom-up mass pressures and impose redistributive reforms exacerbated the fears of landowners, farmers, and conservative political forces (Squeri 1983: 327–36). Certainly, left-wingers were often much more revolutionary in rhetoric than in their actual behavior (Sabbatucci 1996: 49; Eley 2002: 171–73). For instance, the massive factory occupations ended with a negotiated withdrawal, which preserved business property. After this retreat, “Bolshevism . . . was already dying out in 1920 and 1921,” as a liberal observer highlighted (Sforza 1925: 367; similarly Farneti 1978: 18–21). Yet the radicalism of a major party and the breadth of popular contention made status-quo defenders perceive unusually serious and sustained threats. 16

In line with Luebbert’s (1991: 295–303) classical analysis, historians (Corner 2002: 277–78, 289–90, 293) and political scientists (Wellhofer 2003: 93, 98, 101, 104) stress fascism’s roots in agrarian conflict.

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At the same time, the defensive capacities of establishment sectors seemed low. Liberal and conservative parties resembled clubs of notables and won support through clientelism and corruption (Lyttelton 2004: 8–10; Riley 2019: 36–37). With their weak party organizations, these groupings were ill-prepared for the adoption of proportional representation in 1919, which resulted in a clear victory of the better-structured socialist and Catholic parties (Seton-Watson 1967: 549–50; Lindemann 1974: 89–90). Liberals and conservatives found a coalition with the new Catholic Popolari unappealing because under the influence of the Pope’s social doctrine and the Russian Revolution, that party was quite leftleaning (Smith 1959: 325–26; Seton-Watson 1967: 512–14); it even developed a radical wing of “white Bolsheviks” (Foot 1997). For these reasons, Italy experienced frequent changes in government with low performance in decision-making and problem solving (Lyttelton 2004: 32–35, 40; Knox 2007: 268–74, 361–62). In particular, status-quo defenders did not form a cohesive phalanx and effectively contained and opposed the radical forces. Furthermore, the Italian state had traditionally lacked infrastructural power, as evident in the mafia’s stubborn persistence (Berman 2019: 135–38). Even in the better-administered Northern regions, the police proved unable to combat the post–WWI unrest, stretched thin by the multiplicity of challenges in various cities and vast rural areas (Knox 2007: 275–76, 310, 364). Whereas in Germany, military units and governmentrecruited Freikorps decisively defeated the armed communist uprisings, Italy could not reliably marshal state coercion. Consequently, the biennio rosso seemed to threaten a descent into social chaos and political disintegration (Hilton-Young 1949: 90–92, 97, 103). Would this weak state crumble as in Russia in 1917, enabling radical sectors to grab power and impose the dictatorship of the proletariat they kept announcing? At the same time, ideological polarization gave rise to a number of organizationally inchoate right-wing forces. Italian nationalism, inflamed during WWI and further stoked by a disappointing peace settlement, allowed these groupings to recruit eager, fervent supporters. These violence-prone youngsters hated their “internal enemies” as much as the country’s external foes (especially the Slavs of new neighbor Yugoslavia). After all, Italy’s Socialists had opposed the war effort, contrary to their counterparts in other European countries, like Germany. With this unusual lack of patriotism, the party drew nationalists’ ire and deepened the gulf between the ideological camps. It was out of this hot stew of nationalism and anti-leftism that fascism arose.

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The most dynamic force that combated the radical threat arising from left-wing contention were self-defense units and paramilitary groupings that squashed extremist strikes and property takeovers with brute force (Farneti 1978: 17, 22–23). These bands, joined together into the fasci di combattimento, were headed by Benito Mussolini, a former socialist leader whom the war-time upsurge of nationalism had turned into a right-winger promising to vanquish “Bolshevism” (Hilton-Young 1949: 118). Abetted by the ineffectual police and military and financed by business people and landowners, the fascists drowned the left’s revolutionary illusions in an orgy of violence.17 As Mussolini’s ([1928] 1998: 167) autobiography boasted,18 “To crush a strike the government was powerless, but a new strength had been substituted for the government!” Because left-radicals misunderstood and underestimated this assault from hordes of right-wing paramilitaries (Sabbatucci 1996: 51–52), they did not effectively fight back. As Mussolini’s Black Shirt movement swelled from 21,000 in late 1920 to approximately 320,000 in May 1922 (Lill 2002: 379), its power increased enormously. Soon these armed reactionaries terrorized Italy’s democratic and liberal forces as well. Because the police and military refused to rein them in and actually provided clandestine support, fascist groupings took effective control of whole towns and regions, undermining the authority of elected officials. Mussolini’s rising movement thus replaced Italy’s state organs in commanding and employing ever more organized coercion. With the seemingly irresistible growth of fascism, Mussolini soon became a significant force in national politics. As socialist reluctance and moderates’ distrust precluded an effective anti-fascist coalition (Sassoon 2007: 120–22), sociopolitical elites, including veteran statesman Giovanni Giolitti (Hilton-Young 1949: 123–25), believed that the only chance for restoring normality lay in accommodating the Black Shirt leader. Contained by an alliance with conservative politicians and hemmed in by the military, king, and church, Mussolini would – so the hope went – have little latitude. Once this outsider had to shoulder government responsibility, he would surely become less intransigent and transgressive (Sassoon 2007: 25, 101, 132, 135–36). Moreover, after

17

18

Bosworth (2002: 150–57, 163–64); Lyttelton (2004: 39–41, 52–71); Knox (2007: 314–24); Sassoon (2007: 90–103); Gentile (2012: 88–89); Gerwarth and Horne (2012a: 44–45); also Payne (1995: 93–101). Mussolini ([1928] 1998: 117–22, 124–28, 134, 163, 167–68) celebrated fascist violence, which he depicted as a defensive response to Russia-inspired radical-left provocations.

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winning power and commanding the organs of the state, he would demobilize his shock troops – and could thus be controlled. With these calculations in mind, established elites decided not to resist the farcical March on Rome, Mussolini’s masterstroke of “psychological warfare” (Lyttelton 2004: 86; see Sassoon 2007: 9–15); instead, they opened the door to the intruder and appointed him as head of government (Lyttelton 2004: 90–98; Knox 2007: 367–71). Yet although the first Mussolini administration contained important representatives of conservative parties and establishment sectors (Bosworth 2002: 177–80), it quickly became clear that the fascist leader had no intention of calming down; instead, he resolutely pursued ambitious “revolutionary” goals (cf. Mussolini [1928] 1998: 175–78, 184, 190–91, 197). For this purpose, he kept his paramilitary forces mobilized, turned them into an official militia that “conferred on [his] régime . . . a great reserve strength” (Mussolini [1928] 1998: 207), and continued to employ violence to destroy the opposition (Gentile 2012: 85, 99–103). While fascist terror targeted especially the left, it extended to democratic centrists as well and intimidated the right. In this way, Mussolini dismantled liberal safeguards, concentrated power, and demolished Italy’s democracy from within. Garnering mass support through the distribution of plentiful patronage, Il Duce engineered an overwhelming electoral victory in 1924 (Bosworth 2002: 192–93), which guaranteed his party a lopsided majority in parliament. After effectively imposing a dictatorship in 1925, Mussolini turned his regime ever more totalitarian as an all-encompassing propaganda campaign and the charismatic leader’s theatrical performances before mass audiences complemented the continued use of violence (Gentile 2005: 178–201). Fascism gave the world a new regime type, namely a reactionary autocracy of a dynamic, mobilizational character that kept society and politics in a comprehensive stranglehold. As Chapter 1 explained, this model of right-wing totalitarianism differed starkly from authoritarian rule, in which a dictator or small elite monopolizes politics while demobilizing and depoliticizing the citizenry. Whereas authoritarian rulers want the people to stay out of politics, fascists as typical totalitarian leaders induce and force the population to participate in politics and contribute with full effort to the leader’s goals (Linz 2000, 2002; recently Berman 2019: 214, 232; for Italy, see Gentile 2005: 245–48, 265–69). Indicating his transformational ambition, Mussolini marked a new era: He complemented the official calendar by having citizens count the years since the March on Rome as well.

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The Suppression of Isomorphic Emulation Efforts Why Authoritarianism in Hungary, yet Fascism in Italy?

Both Italy’s novel model of fascism and Hungary’s more conventional authoritarian regime resulted from counterrevolutionary reactions to radical-left efforts stimulated by the Bolshevik revolution. Why such dissimilar regime types? An important proximate cause lay in the different nature of the extremist challenge. In Hungary, communists had (mis-) governed for months, provoking hostility with their red terror and their over-ambitious, dogmatic transformations such as rural collectivization (Hanebrink 2006: 71–76). As a result, this radical-left experiment crumbled from the inside and then fell through defeat in international war. Thereafter, reactionary military force easily suppressed the remnants of left-wing extremism and enforced the restoration of the sociopolitical order. The army formed by Admiral Horthy thus guaranteed the counterrevolutionary victory. While paramilitary squads continued to exact revenge (Bodó 2011; Gioielli 2015), this white terror, a legacy of loss aversion, was not “necessary” for the ideological struggle, which was already won. The predominance of top-down coercion, cemented through the marginalization of the terrorist squads in 1920–21 (Bodó 2011: 141), paved the way for a hierarchical, non-mobilizational, typically authoritarian regime. In Italy, by contrast, status-quo defenders faced a multitude of leftwing strikes, protests, and rebellions erupting in various regions with widespread popular participation. Yet the Italian state seemed too weak and ineffectual to extinguish this extremist trouble and turmoil. As the state failed to guarantee stability by employing top-down coercion, a vacuum appeared that a new force arising from society would fill. In the action–reaction dynamic highlighted in this book, the proliferation of radical-left contention prompted a mass-based, bottom-up strategy of right-wing repression. The main purveyors of this counterrevolutionary violence were Mussolini’s fascist gangs (Mussolini [1928] 1998: 117–22, 124–28, 134, 163, 167–68). Their anti-left impetus was so strong that on several occasions they escaped from their leader’s control and undermined temporary compromises with mainstream groupings that Mussolini sought in his opportunistic quest for acceding to power (Lyttelton 2004: 72–75, 78). When the Duce did win the premiership through the March on Rome, he thus commanded a massive paramilitary force that allowed and induced him to establish comprehensive hegemony over Italian politics and society. Enforced mobilization and incessant ideological indoctrination gave rise to a totalitarian regime, which by

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contrast to Hungarian authoritarianism sought to politicize society. Thus, different experiences with extremism dialectically shaped the nature of right-wing reaction and the resulting regime type. The structural foundation for this difference in autocratic trajectory lies in the modern industry and agriculture of Northern Italy, where fascism emerged, compared to the “backwardness” of Hungary’s socioeconomic and political development (Janos 1982: 285–87; see in general Luebbert 1991: 258–66). Politically, Italy had enjoyed decades of liberal, competitive, albeit oligarchical parliamentarism, whereas, under Habsburg rule, the Hungarian parliament had played a restricted role and the gentry had dominated politics. Because the sociopolitical base for radical mobilization in Hungary was limited, a traditional authoritarian regime could restore and maintain sociopolitical stability. In Italy, by contrast, only the novel regime type of fascism with its fervent mass base could control a more modern society by totalitarian means (Linz 2002; Gentile 2005). While this divergence between conservative authoritarianism and fascist totalitarianism appeared at the very beginning of the interwar reverse wave, Chapters 7 and 8 demonstrate how profoundly it shaped autocratic regime trajectories in the Eastern and Southern half of Europe throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

 After Chapter 3 examined the rapid wave of emulative revolution inspired by the Bolshevist takeover in Russia, this chapter analyzed the reaction of status-quo defenders, namely determined counterrevolution. Predictably in the world of bounded rationality, radical-left efforts at isomorphic diffusion provoked reactionary counter-diffusion, which proved uniformly successful and managed to forestall or reverse the dreaded proliferation of communism. Interestingly, the opposing sides in these violent conflicts employed the same cognitive shortcuts and were inspired by shared inferences from Lenin’s feat, namely the belief that established regimes were brittle and that left-wing revolution was likely to spread. Of course, divergent interests then prompted deep enmity: As left-wing extremists sought to follow the Soviet example, right-wingers, centrists, and even moderate leftists combatted them with all means. This skewed alignment of hostile forces shows that asymmetrical loss aversion induced a much wider range of sectors to block radical transformation than to promote it – an important reason for the stark failure of these isomorphic emulation efforts. Thus, mediated by organizational structures, cognitive-

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psychological mechanisms propelled an outburst of brutal clashes, which definitively blocked the spread of communism. The immediate backlash to the Russian Revolution did not doom liberal democracy, however. While anti-Bolshevist repression was often brutal and excessive, in most cases it defeated radical challenges decisively. Why then seek shelter under unaccountable, arbitrary autocracy? Accordingly, this paroxysm of violence brought the destruction of democracy only where the danger seemed most acute. Unusually, Soviet-style rule gained a hold over Hungary; and in Northern Italy, left-wing radicalism was particularly widespread and persistent. Given the political and organizational weakness of status-quo defenders in those two countries, reactionaries resorted to massive violence. Reliance on military force in Hungary then ushered in exclusionary authoritarian rule, whereas a mushrooming paramilitary movement in Italy imposed mobilizational totalitarianism. Yet while those two nations traced the distinctive regime paths that antidemocratic reaction during the interwar years would take, the large majority of European countries first gave liberal pluralism a chance. These democracies faced serious ideological challenges and threats, however, not only from the radical left, but soon from the radical right as well. These sources of severe political turbulence are the subject of the next chapter.

5 Persistence of the Communist Threat and Rising Appeal of Fascism

Chapter 4 showed that the wave of isomorphic efforts to replicate the Russian Revolution provoked a ferocious backlash and uniformly suffered defeat at the hand of determined, excessively brutal repression. Left-wing diffusion thus drew right-wing and centrist counter-diffusion, which decisively forestalled Bolshevism’s spread. Interestingly, however, this strong reaction rarely brought the destruction of democracy and the imposition of dictatorship. Only in nations where communism temporarily took hold, as in Hungary, or where the established state failed to curb large-scale, recurrent leftist contention, as in Italy, did autocracy emerge soon after WWI. Moreover, these two dictatorships differed profoundly: Italy’s emerging fascism contrasted with Hungary’s competitive authoritarianism. Thus, the wave of precipitous challenges by the extreme left did not prompt an equally crisp, widespread wave of democratic breakdown. While status-quo defenders commonly employed exorbitant force to crush the rash attempts to emulate Lenin’s triumph, they did not overreact so much as to abolish democracy as well. In the world of bounded rationality, establishment forces were overly fearful of emulative rebellions and therefore engaged in overkill; however, they were not gripped by total panic and did not abandon any consideration of the actual power constellation, which showed their lopsided superiority and clear capacity to squash communist revolts. Indeed, the ill-planned and haphazard nature of leftist uprisings facilitated their decisive suppression; as concentrated outbursts of coercion extinguished these immediate threats and often prevented their recurrence, the overthrow of recently installed democracies seemed neither necessary nor likely to elicit the requisite backing. 131

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These bloody victories allayed the fears of anti-communists and induced most moderate-left and centrist forces, especially broad-based parties such as Social Democracy and Christian Democracy, to end their emergency-driven support for unleashing governmental coercion and paramilitary violence. As the initial crisis caused by the quick proliferation of communist rebellions eased, these pro-democratic groupings reaffirmed their commitment to human rights and the rule of law, core principles of liberal democracy. Consequently, in many countries the fledgling regimes instituted after WWI made gradual advances toward greater stability. But while radical-left hopes for a quick world revolution proved illusory and the new Soviet model failed to spread, communism did retain its hold over Russia, which also promoted its diffusion with great energy. Lenin and his comrades eventually achieved a hard-fought victory in the Russian civil war and managed to consolidate their totalitarian regime. Moreover, the Soviet Union used the new Communist International (Comintern) to foment revolution across the world, targeting especially Central and Eastern Europe. Consequently, the communist threat remained alive. Established sociopolitical forces continued to face a latent enemy. Indeed, with Soviet encouragement and support, communist movements came to operate in virtually every country, working hard to increase their influence in politics and society with the ultimate goal of revolutionary overhauls. Lenin’s disciples sooner or later learned from the failure of the initial armed efforts to emulate the Bolshevist power grab. Therefore, radical leftists backed away from impetuous violent uprisings and moved to patient proselytizing and organizing. For this purpose, they took advantage of liberal democracy, with its guarantees of ample freedoms, and sought to gain a foothold in the party system and the trade unions. As more and more countries tried to block communist advances through bans and prohibitions, radical left-wingers increasingly operated in secretive ways, infiltrating existing groupings or founding new, innocuous-looking front organizations. By fueling suspicions that many left-wing formations could be Trojan horses controlled by communists, this subversive approach aggravated the concerns of status-quo defenders. For all of these reasons, the definitive defeat of the immediate rash of armed rebellions did not put to rest status-quo defenders’ perceptions of revolutionary threat. Because the communist virus retained a powerful international presence and tried to infect many domestic polities as well, right-wing, centrist, and even center-left forces continued to see danger.

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How could they immunize the existing system against persistent efforts at radical transformation? How could they protect themselves once and for all from the pernicious designs of extreme-left revolutionaries? To these worries and quandaries, Italy’s novel model of dictatorship offered a drastic solution. After all, Mussolini’s fascism did not only arise through direct attacks against serious leftist contention but also, after gaining power, this reactionary totalitarianism stabilized the sociopolitical order and achieved considerable success on the domestic and international front. For these reasons, fascism came to look like an unusually effective recipe for eradicating communism, reinvigorating a polity, and strengthening a nation. This new regime type therefore drew enormous attention and won strong attraction among a wide range of sociopolitical forces and even many intellectuals, artists, and scientists. Perhaps the radical right could guarantee definitive protection against the radical left? The persistence of the communist threat thus boosted the appeal of fascism, as highlighted in Chapter 1. In the world of bounded rationality, where striking challenges prompt significant overreactions, one ideological pole dialectically heightened the attraction of the opposite. This polarization, which induced both sides to fight for supremacy with all means, fueled the monumental battle that tore apart democratic politics during Hobsbawm’s (1996) “age of extremes.” Interestingly, the clash of millenarian ideological visions also mobilized conservative status-quo defenders and centrist adherents of liberal democracy, creating multiple fluid frontlines (Bracher 1982). In many countries, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, these fierce conflicts destroyed liberal pluralism, trampled to death by the heavy boots of the contending forces. Because of the double deterrent effect discussed in Chapter 2, however, neither one of the ideological extremes won out in the regime conflict; in fact, they did not even prompt full-scale emulation in other nations, with the important exception of Germany. Due to the interests and power capabilities of conservative elites, it was not communism and fascism that spread but hierarchical, exclusionary authoritarianism. Establishment sectors abhorred the costs and risks not only of left-wing revolution but also of right-wing totalitarianism. Because they doubted the defensive capacity of liberal democracy, they sought protection in the strong arms of authoritarian rulers, which would forcefully guarantee order and stability by suppressing both of the ideological extremes. Before Chapters 6 to 8 explain how autocracy proliferated along various pathways, the present chapter documents the persistence of the communist threat and the appeal of the fascist antidote.

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     The Survival of the Soviet Union and the Political Activism of Communists In the eyes of status-quo defenders, their decisive defeat of radical-left efforts to emulate Lenin’s success did not eliminate the danger of communism. After all, Russia’s Bolsheviks narrowly won the brutal civil war and managed to consolidate their grasp over most of the old Romanov Empire. By building “socialism in one country,” they demonstrated the viability of a profound revolutionary transformation and turned the Soviet Union into a model for left-wing extremists across the world: Marxism could finally boast a concrete example of a fundamental alternative to capitalism and “bourgeois democracy.” Moreover, the USSR eagerly promoted communism’s spread. The Soviets bolstered their admirers and disciples in other countries with financial subsidies and political directives. In early 1919, Lenin founded the Communist International as a worldwide association of radical left-wingers. The Comintern instigated the formation of communist parties all over the planet and guided their subversive activities (Bernecker 2002: 368–70; Vatlin and Smith 2014: 187–90; McAdams 2017: 102–5, 135–36). For establishment sectors, the Bolshevist great power and its constant attempts to incite profound, radical transformations constituted a significant threat. While nations bordering the USSR, such as Romania, had special reason for concern, even faraway Latin America was a target for communist organization and agitation (Pinheiro 1991; Spenser 2009). Soviet involvement exacerbated the concerns of status-quo defenders about any stirrings by domestic radicals; regardless of their actual strength, these internal activists drew suspicion and fear as potential beachheads of the communist great power. The Soviet Union and its world-revolutionary ambitions thus created and reinforced a common menace for most countries. Encouraged by the Russian Bolsheviks’ success, radical left-wingers across the globe indeed sought to win support by forming or infiltrating political parties, trade unions, and other associations. From this organizational basis, they persistently pursued their revolutionary cause. They often participated in elections, trying to win political influence or at least advertise their transformative goals. Political liberalism and democracy provided considerable room for these proselytizing efforts by guaranteeing crucial rights such as freedom of speech and assembly. Where

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democracies then restricted these rights to stem the advance of their sworn enemies, as often happened during the 1920s and 1930s, communists sought to evade these bans by creating new organizations with innocuous names or by taking over non-communist groupings in clandestine ways. This move to organizational efforts and electoral politics reflected an often reluctant change of strategy.1 Sooner or later, Lenin’s disciples learned from the undeniable failure of the isomorphic efforts to emulate the October Revolution. Because the disastrous defeat of these armed uprisings created terrible costs, a reality check eventually prompted a correction of the overoptimistic inferences that radical left-wingers had originally derived from the Bolshevist takeover via the availability and representativeness heuristic. After all, while the bounds of rationality impair the capacity for properly evaluating costs and benefits, they do not totally preclude learning, but merely slow down unavoidable adjustments. After banging their heads against the wall until they had been bloodied repeatedly, left-wing radicals slowly faced up to reality. Because the prevailing constellation of power became painfully obvious, they finally realized that violent power grabs were futile (for Germany, see Broué 2006: 308–12). For these reasons, left-wing extremists gave up the effort to replicate the Bolshevist power grab directly, and begrudgingly entered the electoral arena (McAdams 2017: 116). The self-proclaimed vanguard thus resigned itself to the need to win over “the working classes” through persuasion. Specifically, they would need to gain power from the bottom up, rather than making a Lenin-style coup and then imposing the true path to socialism from the top down. While this fundamental change in revolutionary strategy was driven by the uniform, decisive crushing of armed uprisings, it was also encouraged and facilitated by the fact that this anti-Communist repression did not entail the imposition of dictatorship in most countries, as Chapter 4 explained. Outside Hungary and Italy, democracy survived the initial outburst of severe conflict; and with its guarantees of political rights and electoral openness, liberal pluralism offered a propitious setting for radical-left proselytizing and organization building. Why risk violent death when democracy opened much less dangerous avenues for advancing one’s political goals and appealing for support? Thus, democracy helped domesticate left-wing radicals; as long as they were far from 1

On the internal debates and conflicts about this strategy shift, see e.g. Lindemann (1974: 284–85).

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power, they had incentives to work through the official institutions and avoid violent challenges. From the perspective of conservatives, however, the downside was that liberal democracy did not definitively forestall the radical-left threat. On the contrary, it allowed communists to act openly as regular, legitimate political forces; and where restrictions were imposed, liberal guarantees made it difficult to enforce them resolutely. Thus, instead of eliminating left-wing extremism, democracy gave it considerable room of maneuver. For the moment, the communist wolf was eating chalk and hiding its dangerous fangs under sheep’s clothing. But as soon as an opportunity arose, it would again make a determined bid for power and unleash revolution – so conservatives feared. In their eyes, democracy failed by keeping the danger alive. Widespread Fears of Communism For these reasons, many political forces continued to worry about the communist menace and deplored democracy’s congenital weakness. Radical right-wingers were, of course, particularly obsessed with these threats. Hitler’s Mein Kampf ([1925] 2016: 965–67), for instance, accused left-wing extremists of taking shameless advantage of the opportunities offered by liberal democracy.2 To close these loopholes, it was crucial to effect “the excretion of the Marxist poison from our Volk’s body” and “declare on Marxism the war of annihilation” (Hitler [1925] 2016: 1721). In similarly dramatic terms, the draft “Memorandum [that Hungarian conservative] Miklós Horthy [considered sending] to Twenty-Three Heads of State on Joining Forces against the Soviet Union” in 1932 warned that “human civilization cannot be saved . . . so long as a dangerous purulent abscess like Soviet Russia is tolerated on the body of mankind.” This fear, which induced the Magyar head of state to call for an international anti-communist crusade “to strangle this satanic power,” reflected the traumatic experience of the Béla Kun dictatorship. After “Hungary [had] felt the horrors of the Soviet régime on her own body,” Horthy accused “Soviet Russia [of] conducting a war of annihilation against the whole world” and of sponsoring “subversive activities throughout the world. It maintains a troop of terrorists at home, a legion 2

Of course, after his failed coup of 1923, Hitler employed the same cynical strategy, as he himself highlighted (Hitler [1925] 2016: 895)!

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of inciters and agents abroad” (reprinted in Szinai and Szücz 1965: 55, 57; see also 90). Many right-wingers harbored these fears of communism. Portugal’s archconservative dictator António de Oliveira Salazar highlighted the threat that had arisen with the Russian Revolution: “With it, a de-facto situation emerged that would bring the gravest future complications, infecting [contagiando] nearby countries and extending the threat to all races of the world.” Due to subversive activities by socialists and “Communists, the maximalist enemies of all organized society, . . . disorder turns profound and prolongs itself in time, severely aggravating the problems.” In Salazar’s view, countries now lived “under the black threat of Bolshevism” (Relatório 1932: 9–11, folhas 52–54). Even across the Atlantic Ocean in remote South America, Brazilian strongman Getúlio Vargas highlighted the danger of communism in a private letter to a confidant when preparing his dictatorial coup of 1937 (Vargas 1937: 2; for these fears, see also Melo 1936; Maciel 1937: 2; and Kubitschek 1979: 59, 72). In sum, the Soviet Union with its persistent world-revolutionary efforts and its eager disciples across the globe instilled deep fear among a wide range of status-quo defenders and right-wingers. In their eyes, radical-left subversion seriously menaced the sociopolitical order. Scholars commonly depict these concerns as exaggerated and equate them with la grande peur, the irrational panic gripping popular groupings at the start of the French Revolution (Lefebvre 1979). By evoking this famous case of excessive threat perceptions to characterize conservative anxieties in countries ranging from Brazil to Spain and Germany (Pinheiro 1991: 85; Ranzato 2014; Jones 2016: chap. 1), these observers emphasize that status-quo defenders clearly overestimated the communist menace. As a leading historian concludes, “The fear of the Left, particularly of Bolshevism, was hugely out of proportion to the Left’s actual power, or even potential for power, in most of Europe” (Kershaw 2015: 297). These scholarly assessments corroborate actors’ significant deviations from standard rationality, which this book attributes to cognitive shortcuts activated by the striking and scary precedent of the Russian Revolution. The Political Efforts of Communists: Successes and Limitations How successful were radical left-wingers’ persistent attempts to prepare the spread of revolution? With their embrace of political organization and electoral politics, communists operated in practically every country. Their

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efforts to win footholds in the party system and the union movement often made only halting progress, but advanced quite far in several European countries (Bartolini 2000: 112–19). Interestingly, success was particularly pronounced in some nations scarred by the initial wave of armed uprisings, such as Finland and Germany. Despite the fierce backlash prompted by these ill-considered revolutionary adventures, communists soon managed to win substantial political support. In fact, the brutality of anti-Bolshevist crackdowns discredited the moderate left and thus facilitated extremist recruitment efforts (for Germany, see Weitz 1997: 109; Wehler 2010: 399–405; for Finland, Hodgson 1967: 89). In Finland, communists recovered with surprising speed from their bloody defeat in the civil war and from the white terror. Although tainted by close association with the national enemy, the Soviet Union (cf. Luostarinen 1989: 128–30, 134), where the Finnish Communist Party was formed (Hodgson 1967: 81–90), they soon found considerable backing in the union movement and garnered 14 percent of the vote in the 1922 elections (Capoccia 2005: 142; see also 141–53). The radical left achieved this temporary upsurge despite a militant program calling for the “vigorous prepar[ation] for armed revolution” and “an iron dictatorship of the workers . . . [that] is not to be replaced by democracy” (Kirby 1975: 244; see also Hodgson 1967: 85–88). Indeed, they garnered this support although “the government used every means at its disposal to repress the ‘public’ Communist organizations” (Capoccia 2005: 148; see also Hodgson 1967: 121). To make headway in this hostile terrain, communists resorted to clandestine infiltration (Hodgson 1967: 93–94), which targeted labor and youth organizations, and even the Finnish military. Their German brethren achieved similar success, facilitated by the openness of the Weimar Republic, which initially imposed fewer prohibitions. Moreover, mainstream social democracy’s moderation in the revolutionary crisis of 1918/19 and its frequent use of brutal repression against Lenin’s disciples opened up considerable political space on the far left. Whereas their more hardcore Austro-Marxist approach allowed Austria’s Social Democrats to marginalize the communists,3 Germany’s SPD continually faced an energetic enemy on its left flank. Indeed, while, during most of the 1920s, the vote share of mainstream Social Democracy stagnated, the KPD achieved gradually increasing support from 1924 onward. In November 1932, the communists won 16.9 percent, close 3

This political achievement came, however, at the cost of serious polarization among the main democratic parties, as analyzed in Pelinka (2017: chaps. 5–6).

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to the NSDAP’s 18.3 percent of 1930. The KPD recruited with particular success among the unemployed (Wirsching 1999: 180–82, 401–10); thus, it received a significantly larger boost from the Great Depression than its Social-Democratic competitors and even its National-Socialist enemies (Weitz 1997: 156–62). During democracy’s terminal crisis in the early 1930s, the communists therefore looked like a serious contender for power. Even in faraway Latin America, communist parties formed, often with Comintern guidance and support. Radicals established a substantial foothold in several countries, ranging from revolutionary Mexico to conservative Brazil (Schmitt 1965: 3–15; Goldenberg 1971: chap. 2; Pinheiro 1991; Spenser 2009). Because underdevelopment kept the “industrial proletariat” small, communists tried – with varying success – to mobilize support among other sectors, including the peasantry (Spenser 2009: 258–63) and even the military, one of their favorite targets in Brazil (Pinheiro 1991: 195). While actively proselytizing and organizing among urban sectors, especially the working class, communism suffered from a significant limitation both in Europe and Latin America: The radical left faced great difficulty mobilizing mass support in the countryside. While Marxist doctrine did not attribute revolutionary potential to the rural population, written off as a “sack of potatoes,” Lenin’s takeover in Russia had been greatly facilitated by the massive peasant uprising of 1917 (Skocpol 1979: 99, 135–40, 210). This uncontrollable explosion of rural discontent had pulverized the Tsar’s crumbling army and fueled the collapse of state authority, which created the power vacuum exploited by the Bolshevists. Inspired by this revolutionary precedent, communists could have targeted ruralites in the “backward” economies of Eastern and Southern Europe (Janos 1982; Berend 1998). In fact, “[t]he voices of the least well-off smallholders and the landless were strengthened by the Russian revolutions, which deeply influenced the peasant movements all over East-central Europe and Finland by spreading the idea of ‘land to the tiller’” (Jörgensen 2006: 87). Thus, in 1918/19, there was a potential for forceful, even revolutionary, demand-making in the countryside. To forestall this threatening prospect of agrarian radicalism by alleviating rural grievances, many East European countries quickly enacted wide-ranging and profoundly redistributive land reforms. In this way, they sought to reduce the dramatic inequalities in rural property and preempt revolutionary demands from radical left-wingers. Fear of communism thus motived a rash of preventative reforms (see for Romania,

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Rothschild 1974: 281, 290–91). This redistribution went especially far in the Baltic countries (Jörgensen 2006: 65, 71, 73; Readman 2007: 274), which achieved national independence through a mix of civil war and international war. Because Bolshevism constituted both an internal and external threat, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were determined to forestall renewed revolutionary upheaval. Political elites were aware of the anti-revolutionary impact of land reform. Russian-German communist Karl Radek (1962: 164), for instance, reports that Polish General Władysław Sikorski, soon-to-be prime minister, commented immediately after WWI: “You won [in Russia] because the peasant joined the worker. We will not let that happen. We will enact an agrarian reform.” Ethnic nationalism provided further impetus for radical land redistribution, often decreed with only minimal compensation for prior owners. Across Eastern Europe, smallholders and landless laborers frequently hailed from the new titular nationalities, whereas ethnic minorities, now stigmatized as “foreigners,” controlled large swaths of land. In Estonia and Latvia, for instance, Baltic-German nobles, long dominant in the countryside, turned into easy targets for expropriation (Vardys 1979: 332–33; Jörgensen 2006: 66, 71, 87; Kasekamp 2010: 113–14). In Transylvania, incorporated into Romania after WWI, Hungarian aristocrats suffered the same fate (Hitchins 1994: 322–23, 347–55). Finland also enacted land reform targeted in part at the traditional Swedishspeaking elite; yet, like everywhere else, rural redistribution served mainly as insurance against communism (Kirby 2006: 174, 187). By creating or strengthening large masses of peasant proprietors and middle farmers, these preemptive reforms cemented sociopolitical stability (Jörgensen 2006: 89–91). Communists failed to find receptivity for their revolutionary propaganda. Instead, conservative parties maintained strong support in the countryside. By giving elites a partisan base and guaranteeing them substantial influence in parliament and the government, the legacies of land redistribution sustained democracy in countries such as Finland and, for many years, in Estonia and Latvia as well. And when threats to liberal pluralism did emerge, they rarely came from the radical left (as with Estonia’s small communist uprising in late 1924), but mostly, and most powerfully, from the radical right, namely the fascistleaning Lapua Movement in Finland and the Estonian veterans’ movement (see Chapters 9 and 8, respectively). Thus, agrarian reform fulfilled its main purpose of limiting support for communism. In sum, radical left-wingers achieved considerable albeit varying success in urban areas, but found little resonance in the countryside. With

Fascism as a New Model of Counterrevolutionary Fortification 141 this uneven support, communism was unable to win elections. But with their oft-proclaimed revolutionary goals and their continuing willingness to employ violence, Lenin’s disciples and Stalin’s followers seemed to constitute a significant threat to the established order. For conservative sectors, communist agitation and organization demonstrated democracy’s weakness and required stronger countermeasures. How could the established system gain immunity against the Bolshevist virus?

        The nagging doubts in democracy’s resilience prompted the search for alternatives that would offer reliable protection against communist revolution. After all, ample right-wing and centrist sectors saw pluralist regimes as inherently weak and vulnerable to radical-left subversion (Sontheimer 1978; Merz 1995). Real safety seemed to require thorough, lasting immunization against the Soviet virus. How could nations debilitated by the devastations of WWI, which plunged several countries into hyperinflation, withstand the world-revolutionary drive of communism? Desperate to strengthen the established order against left-wing danger, right-wingers advocated nondemocratic, autocratic rule with its concentrated power and willingness to employ ruthless coercion. The Context of a Changing Zeitgeist: The Spread of Cultural Pessimism The doubts about democracy’s strength and capacity to withstand radical threats became critically acute with the imposition of communism in the USSR. Yet they had begun to emerge earlier. During the late nineteenth century, the Zeitgeist turned to cultural pessimism and a thorough questioning of reason (Bracher 1982: part I; Burrow 2000). Whereas in earlier decades, rapid industrialization and urbanization and amazing advances in science and engineering had inspired soaring faith in progress, the turn of the century saw a comprehensive backlash, fed by Nietzschean nihilism, Spencerian social Darwinism, Freudian emphasis on the subconscious, and Sorelian celebration of myth and violence. Under the barrage of these fierce intellectual challenges, enlightenment hopes started to wither and proto-fascist ideas emerged (Sternhell 1994; Passmore 2009). Belief in progress then suffered a knockout blow from the senseless mass slaughter of WWI (Kramer 2009; Müller 2011: 16). The Great Depression with its economic collapse and social catastrophe delivered

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the coup de grace. These disasters undermined liberal confidence that free individual initiative coordinated by rule-bound competition would bring increasing well-being, nurture a vibrant civil society, tame coercive power, and make politics work for the greater good of the citizenry. In this context of waning faith in liberalism, the Russian Revolution gave birth to its mortal enemy: Communism with its dynamic vigor and worldrevolutionary mission appeared as a new and especially grave threat. For all these reasons, liberalism and democracy no longer embodied wellbeing and progress, but looked weak and vulnerable. The liberal virtues of pluralism and tolerance paradoxically allowed liberty’s enemies to gain strength. Laissez-faire caused turbulence and crises in the economy, fostered decadence in society, and eroded social community (Gemeinschaft) and cultural tradition, jeopardizing the remaining anchors in a fast-changing, chaotic world. Most basically, reason appeared like the plaything of deeper, stronger, and much darker forces, which had to be controlled in novel, non-liberal ways. Charismatic leaders needed to step in, mobilize the vital energies of society, and build a tightly integrated, organic order that exuded the fortitude to withstand any enemy challenge. Salvation, especially from the danger of communism, seemed to lie in fundamental alternatives to liberal pluralism. Thus, contrary to the normative assumptions underlying modernization theory and constructivism, ever broader sectors questioned that the future lay in liberalism and democracy. In their eyes, recent historical catastrophes disproved enlightenment promises and brought forth dire challenges, particularly communism, that called for a less “civil,” more vigorous response. Since life was governed by fiercer, meaner forces than rationality, survival required a power so concentrated and fearsome that it could withstand existential struggle. During the interwar years, these illiberal, antidemocratic ideas attracted increasing numbers of followers (Sontheimer 1978; Bracher 1982). Strength through Fascism? The Appeal of Mussolini’s New Model The search for alternatives to liberal democracy and a reliable safeguard against communism found an attractive model in Mussolini’s Italy. Fascism looked like a great recipe for defeating leftist ferment, restoring and guaranteeing order, and strengthening the state, domestically and internationally (Adinolfi 2007: 30–35; Bosworth 2009a: 262–66; Markwick 2009; Kershaw 2015: 228–30). After all, as Chapter 4 showed, the fascist movement had arisen through the violent defeat of

Fascism as a New Model of Counterrevolutionary Fortification 143 widespread radical contention; its political power rested on armed prowess. The Black Shirts had put decisive closure on the red biennium, ensuring that Italy would not turn “red.” In the turbulence of postwar Europe (Gerwarth 2016), this counterrevolutionary success drew attention across the ideological divide, and strong admiration from rightwingers. Hitler, for instance, highlighted in 1942 that “without him [Mussolini] Italy would today be Communist . . . He had the merit to hit the inner force of Bolshevism for the first time decisively and thus to demonstrate before the whole world that even in the 20th century one could still give a people a national orientation” (in Picker 2009: 658). Perceptive observers immediately saw the historical significance of fascism’s triumph. A left-liberal aristocrat noted in his diary on October 29, 1922, immediately after Mussolini’s takeover: In Italy the Fascists have attained power through a coup d’état. If they retain it, then this is a historic event which can have unforeseeable consequences, not only for Italy but the whole of Europe. It may be the first step in the successful advance of the counter-revolution. Until now . . . counter-revolutionary governments have still at least behaved as though they were democratic and peace-loving. Here a frankly anti-democratic and imperialist form of rule gains the upper hand again. In a certain sense Mussolini’s coup d’état is comparable (in the opposite direction, of course) to Lenin’s in October 1917. (Kessler 1999: 195)

Thus, keen international commentators understood the tremendous relevance of fascism’s rise – as a crucial countermove to the Bolshevist Revolution. Mussolini exploited this historical potential and skillfully translated his movement’s paramilitary victory into political success. His theatrical “March on Rome” demonstrated the ease with which rightists could take power and wipe away a decrepit democracy. With the help of continued repression, Il Duce destroyed the socialists and outmuscled and intimidated liberals and conservatives, including his erstwhile allies, who had opportunistically backed his accession to the premiership. By the mid1920s, Mussolini had dismantled liberal democracy from the inside and established a dictatorship that turned ever more totalitarian. He kept economy and society in a stranglehold through state corporatism and through government-controlled leisure-time organizations and youth movements (Dogliani 2009: 186–94). Moreover, the Duce flooded the media with a stream of propaganda that extolled his economic and foreign-policy accomplishments (Melograni 1976: 231). After all, he managed to (coercively) pacify a conflict-ridden society, promote

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economic development via state-led industrialization, and boost Italy’s international clout and prestige (Hamilton 1971: 67–69; Gregor 1979; Bosworth 2002: 227–52; Berman 2019: 227–32). Even a US political scientist acknowledged “the very real and substantial achievements of Mussolini” (Spencer 1927: 542). Because the Duce “made Italy great again,” fascism came to appear as far superior to liberal democracy and as an unassailable bulwark against communism. Exactly as the Russian Revolution had activated the availability and representativeness heuristics and had elicited enormous attention, observers of all stripes were now struck by Mussolini’s new regime model (Hoepke 1968: 12–15; Melograni 1976: 231–33; Bauerkämper 2006: 166–74). Hitler, for example, stressed in 1942 “that what the Duce and under him fascism accomplished was unheard of, regardless of whether one thought of the innumerable industrial ventures, the construction of new schools and hospitals or the colonial projects” (Picker 2009: 658; see also 335–36). Similarly, Portugal’s ambassador in Rome wrote hymnic reports praising fascist innovations, such as mechanisms of plebiscitarian acclamation, systematic propaganda efforts, and organizations for social control (Lima 1935, 1937).4 A Brazilian observer was equally awestruck, highlighting that “the Italy of today [was] purified by the creative energy of Mussolini . . . the supreme architect of this resurrection” (Silveira 1934: 1). Besides innumerable political officials, even from Britain (e.g., Melograni 1976: 233), many world-class writers, artists, and philosophers highlighted Mussolini’s success, and quite a few admired or even revered the Duce.5 While especially strong in Europe (D’Agostino 2012: 174), this attraction extended overseas as well. Mussolini had a substantial fan club in Japan (Hofmann 2015) as well as in Paraguay (Seiferheld 2016: 105–7) and Peru (Guarnieri 2007: 94, 101, 132–36); even some of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s aides took inspiration from rejuvenated Italy (Brands 2008: 374, 385; Pasetti 2019: 148–51).

4

5

His predecessor, however, made fun of Mussolini’s charismatic performances in an official report: “[Mussolini’s] discourse in Milan was heard by an enormous and delirious crowd. Mr. Mussolini always brings with himself an enormous and delirious crowd. With that [crowd] he must have left today from Milan for Cremona. That crowd is part of his luggage” (Castro 1934a). Leading intellectuals of other countries also revered their domestic fascist leaders, such as Romania’s Emil Cioran and Mircea Eliade (Ioanid 2009: 403), who after WWII achieved considerable acclaim in European cultural circles.

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  ’ “  ” –    A Limited Wave of Imitation Efforts Again like Lenin’s takeover in October 1917, which had stimulated a wave of imitation efforts, Mussolini’s feat provided similar inspiration, in this case for the extreme right.6 Initiating fascism’s transition from a movement to a regime type,7 the March on Rome drew particular attention and admiration. Looking back after almost two decades, Hitler regarded “the March on Rome 1922 [as] one of the turning points of history. The fact alone that one can do that gave us a boost” (cited in Picker 2009: 76). The leader of Romanian fascism, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu (1939: 57), exulted when he “heard of the mighty fascist upsurge: the March on Rome and the victory of Mussolini. I was so happy about it as if it were a victory by my own fatherland.” In fact, a publication sympathetic to his Legion of the Archangel Michael called Codreanu “Romania’s Mussolini” (cited in Heinen 1986: 189). Indeed, extreme rightists quickly jumped to conclusions about the replicability of Mussolini’s feat. Like the Bolshevist revolution, this audacious power grab activated the heuristics of availability and representativeness and propelled isomorphic imitation efforts as well. As the Italian fascist had spearheaded the March on Rome, there were several actual or planned “marches on” other seats of power, especially in Germany and Hungary, yet with echoes and stirrings elsewhere. Even in France, Georges Valois’ Faisceau were considering a Mussolini-style takeover in 1926.8 Due to these emulation attempts, leading expert Karl Dietrich Bracher (1980: 118) speaks of “a first fascist wave [that] moved Europe” during the early and mid-1920s (similarly recently Kallis 2016: 6

7 8

On the breadth of fascism’s appeal, see Hamilton (1971) and Schulz (1975: 284, 440–41). On the “great enthusiasm and excitement” among Hitler’s entourage in Munich, see Ludecke ([1937] 2013: 101, 117) and Weber (2016: 373); see also Cassels (1963: 146). For German right-wingers more broadly, see Rosen (1957: 19) and Schulz (1975: 441–42, 453). For Spanish business people, see González Calleja (2005: 25–27). In turn, Germany’s democratic government feared an immediate replication of the “March on Rome” (Hoepke 1968: 266). As Mussolini ([1932] 2018: 12–14) himself emphasized, fascism as a regime model and “doctrine” was only fully developed after the takeover of power. Levey (1973: 294–97); Soucy (1986: 185–88); Horne (2012: 229–30); on the Faisceau and their inspiration in Mussolini, see also Carsten (1982: 79–80); Sternhell (1986: 91–118); and Tumblety (2009: 511–12).

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305–9, 317–18). Indeed, like Lenin’s triumph, the March on Rome for many years maintained its attraction as a model for fascist assaults on power. In 1936, for instance, a fascist movement initiated a “March on Budapest,” yet failed miserably to shake Hungary’s increasingly authoritarian regime (Szöllösi-Janze 1989: 107). In early 1938, when they had achieved an electoral upsurge but faced a powerful hostile king, cadres in Codreanu’s fascist movement considered emulating Mussolini’s example as well (Sturdza 1968: 105–6). And in democratic Belgium, Léon Degrelle’s far-right Rexists tried to organize a “March on Brussels” in October 1936 (Capoccia 2005: 114). In line with this book’s argument that reactionary moves were a backlash to radicalism, imitation of the March on Rome went especially far in Budapest and Munich, which in 1919 had suffered the most traumatic experiments in revolution. Communist overhaul and red terror had left behind strong counterrevolutionary sentiments and resentments. As mentioned in Chapter 4, the sites of those disastrous soviet republics had therefore turned into hotbeds of extreme-right conspiracies (for Munich, see Mommsen 2016: 198–203). No wonder Mussolini’s feats fell on especially fertile ground and stimulated quick replication efforts. Most importantly, Hitler turned into a prominent fascist leader and undertook his first attempt on power in this setting (Weber 2016). Interestingly, by going farthest in Munich and Budapest, the isomorphic efforts to replicate Mussolini’s precedent displayed greater selectivity than the radical-left attempts to emulate Lenin. A crucial reason was the pivotal role that political organizations and state institutions played for these far-right initiatives. Whereas communist challenges often emanated from loose groupings, such as the Spartakus League or the assemblage of anarchist intellectuals in Munich, fascist power grabs counted on established elites, reactionary parties, and military circles. And although the armed forces with their insistence on discipline and uniformity differ in their internal decision-making from broad-based, pluralistic parties, they do have some capacity for information processing and deliberation, and therefore shy away from rash adventures. Military reluctance and resistance, in turn, posed serious obstacles to fascist plans to seize power. After all, reactionaries need to enlist the armed forces in their fight against the radical left or at least ensure their tacit approval, as Mussolini managed to do in Italy. Thus, the military commands effective veto power over radical-right efforts to take over the state.

Emulation of Mussolini’s “March on Rome” – and Its Failures 147 Predictably, the armed forces were wary of fascist paramilitary movements. While they appreciated violent thugs’ willingness to do the “dirty work” of repressing the radical left, they feared for their own monopoly over organized coercion. Moreover, fascism’s energetic bottom-up mobilization and charismatic leadership threatened the discipline and hierarchy that the armed forces hold dear. And the unconditional pursuit of millenarian ideological goals diverged from the military’s conservative determination to safeguard its own institutional integrity. While fascism was by nature daring, the armed forces tend toward prudence. In particular, they shy away from risky adventures such as precipitous power grabs inspired by foreign experiences that may not fit domestic conditions. As regards the Hitler Putsch of 1923, for instance, a decisive obstacle to the Mussolini-inspired hope to trigger a “March on Berlin” was the opposition of Reichswehr commander Hans von Seeckt. The general certainly was a reactionary to the bone, whose monocle made him look like a fossil from the Kaiserreich (photo and caption in Weitz 2007: 117). In fact, von Seeckt harbored authoritarian plans himself, but sought to use Germany’s multifaceted crisis of 1923 to achieve them in formally legal ways: He expected that battered by fierce conflict with France, hyperinflation, and communists’ revolutionary stirrings, the civilian authorities would delegate him dictatorial powers (Vogelsang 1962: 41–44; Mommsen 2016: 184–85, 195; see documents in Deuerlein 1974: 190–91; Michalka and Niedhart 1980: 90–93). As head of a longstanding state organization, however, von Seeckt “was too realistic and hardheaded to believe in the many plots, ventures, and dreams of the radical Right” (Weitz 2007: 116; see also Bracher 1980: 120–24; Mommsen 2016: 185, 194–95, 211). Precisely because “his ambition was to restore the might of the army” (Weitz 2007: 116), he wanted to keep the military out of day-to-day politics (Sauer 1978: 227–30), and therefore rejected Hitler’s overtures (Hanfstaengl [1957] 2005: 92). In particular, von Seeckt refused to cooperate in the Nazi leader’s coup attempt, which he – based on the institutional capacities and interests of the Reichswehr – regarded as ill-considered and overly risky (Kershaw 2000: 204). Because the regional military commander in Munich, infected by the radical-right milieu of the early 1920s, had an ambiguous posture, Hitler did start his Mussolini-inspired plot. But when the Bavarian military and police quickly pulled back, this bold gamble collapsed (Kershaw 2000: 208–9). In sum, whereas the isomorphic emulation efforts of the radical left frontally attacked established elites and institutions, those of the radical

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right needed cooperation or at least acquiescence by those influential forces. Because the powers-that-be commanded organizations that had somewhat looser bounds of rationality, they were reluctant to rush into adventures.9 Instead, they assessed the political opportunity structure with greater realism. Therefore, they supported radical right-wingers only when they saw special opportunities or severe threats. For instance, the menace posed by the “red biennium” was crucial for Italy’s power holders to back Mussolini’s fascism and accept his government takeover, as Chapter 4 discussed. Due to the veto of establishment sectors, especially the military, plans to follow in Mussolini’s footsteps advanced to actual challenges only in a few settings, under more restrictive conditions than the radical left’s revolutionary emulation efforts.

Fascist Emulation of Mussolini: Hitler’s and Gömbös’s Failed Attempts In settings traumatized by revolutionary regimes, however, radical rightwingers commanded significant political strength and seemed to have some room for maneuver. These political novices and upstarts lacked broad-based, strong organizations; instead, a welter of tiny parties, paramilitary bands, and personalistic leaders competed with each other. As these splinters were deficient in political experience and had low capacity for information-processing,10 they operated with tight bounds of political rationality. Because the representativeness heuristic held sway, right-wing radicals overestimated the replicability of Mussolini’s success and rashly inferred that they could pull off the same feat. They overrated the similarity of their national political contexts with Italy and failed to consider that Mussolini’s very success served as a warning for other rulers, making a similar challenge less likely to succeed. Due to these miscalculations, the isomorphic emulation efforts spearheaded by bottom-up fascist movements suffered uniform failure – just like the equivalent attempts by the radical left. Only a Mussolini-inspired power grab based on a different strategy, namely a top-down military coup, achieved its goal, in Spain in 1923.

9 10

Therefore, right-wingers in Lithuania abandoned the idea to grab power in early 1923, a plan inspired by Mussolini’s recent success (Lopata 2001: 111–12). Indeed, the reception of Italian fascism in Germany was mostly based on superficial information; thorough studies of the new model were rare (Hoepke 1968: 133, 178–80, 304–14).

Emulation of Mussolini’s “March on Rome” – and Its Failures 149 The most prominent effort to imitate the Duce occurred in Munich, a city shell-shocked by the chaotic council republics of 1919 (Kershaw 2000: 109–16). Bavaria’s capital was the caldron of anti-communist reaction in which “Adolf Hitler became a Nazi” (Weber 2016), turning from a politically rootless soldier into a fanatical ultra-rightist. Mein Kampf attributed this metamorphosis to the German revolution of November 1918 (Hitler [1925] 2016: 549–57; Weber 2016: 12–13, 30, 102, 114–15, 139),11 which Hitler saw as a cynical move by the JewishCommunist world conspiracy to prepare its bid for total power (Hitler [1925] 2016: 1321–33).12 Mussolini’s striking example then gave Hitler’s emerging leadership among the extreme right an important boost.13 Observers came to see this supremely gifted orator as “the Bavarian Mussolini” (Weber 2016: 353; see 345–85). Indeed, Hitler now began to view himself as more than an auxiliary “drumming up” support for other leaders; instead, he started to act as the top leader whom Providence had anointed to become the savior of his adopted fatherland. Thus, Mussolini’s success helped convince the aspiring Führer that he was destined to fulfill the same redemptive mission in Germany (Kershaw 2000: 180–84, 289). After all, the Duce had demonstrated how an energetic and ambitious upstart could outmaneuver established elites and engineer his own accession to power. Mussolini’s precedent induced Hitler and his entourage to propagate a determined Führerkult (cult of the leader), claiming supreme leadership on the right side of the spectrum (Hanfstaengl [1957] 2005: 141; see Kershaw 1987: 20–31). For instance, Hitler overhauled his strategy for self-promotion. Whereas he had long avoided any photographs to build a sense of mystery, in October 1923 he commissioned official portraits in heroic poses and mass-distributed these images on picture postcards (Weber 2016: 414–15). Impressed by his Italian role model (Hoepke 1968: 125–28, 133), Hitler plotted a replication by trying to organize a march on Berlin (see Hitler’s statements in Deuerlein 1974: 213–14; see also Schulz 1975: 430, Schieder 1996: 119–20; Ullrich 2013: 166; Weber 2016: 402). The 11 12 13

Weber (2016: 163–73) argues, however, that this inner transformation resulted primarily from the Versailles Treaty imposed on Germany. On the interwar right’s tendency to see Bolshevism as a Jewish conspiracy, see Beyrau (2017: 76–77). Evans (2003: 184–86). Hitler established contact with Mussolini before the latter’s “March on Rome” (Ludecke [1937] 2013: 50–51, 57–60; see also 101, 108–9, 112, 114, 117; Hoepke 1968: 125, 133, 304; Schulz 1975: 427; Schieder 1996: 110–11).

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concentration of reactionaries in Munich and the Bavarian aversion against Prussia’s social-democratic government seemed to offer good chances for winning support for this emulative effort. Several other right-wingers, some inspired by Mussolini’s power grab as well, were considering similar projects (Röhm 1934: 226–28; Bracher 1980: 118–19, 124–15; Mommsen 2016: 210–16; background in Broszat 1993: 9–28). Moreover, in the course of 1923, the Weimar Republic skidded from crisis to crisis, including France’s occupation of the Ruhr industries, a punishing hyperinflation, and a new round of communist rebellions in October. Trying to strike before democratic forces could restore stability and determined to establish his predominance over other conspirators (Mommsen 2016: 211–14), Hitler boldly attempted to drag his hesitating half-allies into a challenge against the national government. For this purpose, he audaciously kidnapped Bavaria’s reactionary leaders and pushed them to support his wild project (Deuerlein 1974: 192–96; Bracher 1980: 125–28; Ullrich 2013: 172). But offended by this upstart’s presumptuousness and his forceful arm-twisting, these civilian and military officials refrained from supporting the adventure. Instead, they mobilized police and military against the self-appointed Führer’s precipitous power grab. When Hitler desperately tried to turn the tide through a mass demonstration,14 this “March on the Feldherrnhalle,” a public monument in Munich, suffered governmental repression (eyewitness reports in Deuerlein 1974: 198–200). After an ignominious flight, Providence’s presumed darling landed in jail (overview in Broszat 1993: 28–37). The precedent of Italian fascism clearly encouraged Hitler’s emulation effort.15 The Duce’s success was a crucial inspiration for the “Bavarian Mussolini” and induced some elites and common people to support the Führer, albeit with vacillations.16 The representativeness heuristic played

14

15

16

Interestingly, this daring move rested on Hitler’s hope to elicit widespread spontaneous support (Mommsen 2016: 213–14). It thus bore striking similarities to the equally delusional expectations of the Spartakus League when it initiated its armed assault in January 1919. Mussolini, however, refused to be associated with this harebrained scheme and kept his distance from Hitler’s emissary in fall 1923 (Ludecke [1937] 2013: 107–14; see also Cassels 1963: 148–50). Ludecke ([1937] 2013: 65–66, 69). The Reichswehr’s head in Bavaria, for instance, General von “Lossow spoke – presumably with Mussolini’s ‘March on Rome’ in mind – in favor of a march on Berlin and the proclamation of a national dictatorship” (Kershaw

Emulation of Mussolini’s “March on Rome” – and Its Failures 151 a decisive role by suggesting that efforts to follow Mussolini had good chances of success. Yet once again, this cognitive shortcut provided problematic guidance. In actuality, the constellation of political forces in Munich differed greatly from Italy. Hitler’s fledgling party was much weaker than Italy’s fascists in 1922: Whereas Mussolini had dominated large regions through systematic violence and intimidation, Hitler failed to control a single neighborhood of Munich. No wonder that Hitler’s Putsch, which was “hastily concocted,” “rushed and improvised” (Weber 2016: 405, and Ullrich 2013: 169; similarly Kershaw 2000: 208, 213) and which even the Führer and his early sympathizers later decried as “improvised and premature” (Hitler quoted in Meissner 1950: 128) and as “disorganized and amateurish” (Hanfstaengl [1957] 2005: 102; similarly 109), quickly became an abysmal failure.17 In Hungary, radical right-winger Gyula Gömbös, who was being marginalized by the non-fascist authoritarian regime imposed after the downfall of the calamitous Soviet Republic (Lorman 2006: chap. 5), organized a similar conspiracy and planned a “march on Budapest” (Ránki 1971: 68). Immediately following the Duce’s March on Rome in late 1922, this pro-fascist leader mobilized reactionary extremists in the governing “Unified Party” and sought to win power from inside the postrevolutionary regime. When this attempt foundered on opposition from anti-fascist conservative elites, Gömbös decided to challenge the authoritarian incumbents frontally. For this purpose, Gömbös drew on contacts with Hitler and other leading reactionaries in Munich and intended his power grab to coincide with Hitler’s Putsch.18 Thus, inspiration from Mussolini was reinforced by coordination with other isomorphic emulators, showing the strength of diffusion from the Italian precedent. On the day before the planned coup, however, Admiral Horthy’s authoritarian regime uncovered these plans, cracked down, and prevented an uprising (Sakmyster 2006: 137–38; see also Lorman 2006: 165). This backlash shows that Mussolini’s example did not only have a stimulating impact on potential imitators but also a deterrent effect on established

17 18

2000: 204; see Röhm 1934: 226–28). When Hitler precipitously started his coup attempt, however, von Lossow backed out. For the backlash against Hitler among the German right, see, e.g., Jackisch (2014: 173–75). Nagy-Talavera (1970: 71–72); Rothschild (1974: 173); Sakmyster (2006: 135–37). Gömbös had established these contacts to Munich-based reactionaries in earlier years, trying to create a “White International” of anti-Bolshevist counterrevolutionaries (Sakmyster 2006: 71–74, 81; see also Ludecke [1937] 2013: 102–3, 112).

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rulers, who forcefully suppressed replication. As the Bolshevist success unleashed both diffusion and counter-diffusion, so the rise of antiBolshevist fascism also exerted opposite effects; and as in that earlier wave of crosscurrents, counter-diffusion driven by asymmetrical loss aversion won the day. In Hungary – as throughout Europe during the interwar years – conservatives feared radical leftism and kept it suppressed through an authoritarian regime, yet they also disliked fascism and used similar means to nip it in the bud. The abortive emulation in Budapest thus demonstrates the complex ways in which diffusion and counter-diffusion interact.

Authoritarian Inspiration from Mussolini: The (Temporary) Success of Primo de Rivera The only successful regime change inspired by Mussolini occurred in Spain in 1923 – but it diverged from the fascist precedent in process and outcome. When General Miguel Primo de Rivera imposed a dictatorship, he claimed “it was ‘Mussolini’s seizure of power’ that showed him what he ‘ought to do’ in order ‘to save’ his own country” (Ben-Ami 1983: 71; see also 190–91; similar quotes in Rial 1986: 122; Mann 2004: 305; see also Payne 1998: 100–2; Albanese 2016: 134–35).19 Indeed, the Spanish king in late 1923 “introduced Primo to [Italy’s] King Victor Emmanuel as ‘my Mussolini’” (reported in Rial 1986: 56). Due to this inspiration, the Spanish dictator and his aides kept consulting with the Duce over the years, for instance when planning to institutionalize their autocracy through a new constitution (Payne 1999: 33–35, 37). While Primo de Rivera followed the Italian precedent more faithfully than Hitler and Gömbös by responding to widespread left-wing challenges, he deviated substantially from Mussolini in his strategy of taking power and the regime he installed. Thus, Hitler and Gömbös undertook isomorphic imitation attempts – and immediately failed. Primo, by contrast, adapted Italian lessons to Spain’s political conditions and achieved considerable success (but his authoritarian regime decayed much faster than Mussolini’s fascism). After all, in line with the organizational argument of this book, the Spanish general headed a military organization and 19

Similarly, General Manuel Gomes da Costa, who in 1926 overthrew Portugal’s flawed liberal regime, claimed: “I will try [to install] a dictatorship shaped by the lessons of Primo de Rivera and Mussolini” (Ditadura Moldada nos Ensinamentos de Primo de Rivera e Mussolini 1926).

Emulation of Mussolini’s “March on Rome” – and Its Failures 153 therefore faced looser bounds of rationality than Hitler, the personalistic leader of an amorphous movement, and Gömbös, leader of an informal coterie. The political challenges that provoked Primo de Rivera’s coup resembled Italy before Mussolini’s power grab. Similar to the biennio rosso, Spain from 1918 to 1920 experienced a trienio bolchevique (Bolshevik triennium) with labor unrest in industrial areas, especially Catalonia, and fierce land conflicts in the agricultural South (Bernecker 2002: 184–86; González Calleja 2005: 22–27; Lannon 2007: 144–45; Berman 2019: 165–66). While leftist agitation subsided after 1921, “obsessive fear of revolution” persisted among “panic-stricken” status-quo defenders.20 Moreover, “strikes, labor violence, and other signs of discontent were on the increase [again] in 1923” (Rial 1986: 37). Thus, like the rise of Mussolini’s fascism, Primo’s coup was a reaction to sustained and ongoing leftist contention. By contrast, Hitler and Gömbös plotted their emulation efforts in settings traumatized by scary revolutionary experiments, but after their definitive suppression. But whereas Primo de Rivera followed Mussolini more closely by extinguishing a radical threat, he diverged in his method of takeover and, correspondingly, in the type of autocracy he instituted. As Chapter 4 highlighted, Italian fascism arose from the bottom-up as a paramilitary mass movement combating left-wing contention; violent success in innumerable localities prepared the push for national power. By contrast, Primo de Rivera executed a military coup from the top down and then used state coercion to suppress conflict across the country (Bernecker 2002: 186–89; Herold-Schmidt 2004: 392–98; González Calleja 2005: 40–47, 53–62). Because Primo’s seizure of power rested on hierarchical command over the military, he installed nonmobilizational authoritarianism (González Calleja 2005: chap. 3). By contrast, Mussolini and his paramilitary mass movement ushered in dynamic fascism with totalitarian tendencies. The structural reason for Primo’s different regime preference was Spain’s low level of modernization. Accordingly, left-wing contention in Spain had less intensity and a narrower geographic concentration than in

20

Quoted in Mann (2004: 305). Mann invokes the fading of contention to criticize Marxist claims that Primo’s coup was a “functionally required” instrument in the class struggle. Instead, he highlights the excessive, “unnecessary” intensity of conservative fears – which this book explains by recourse to cognitive heuristics activated by the scary Soviet precedent.

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Italy. Whereas the biennio rosso affected Italy’s whole North and the poor South also saw land conflicts, Spain’s trienio bolchevique was more confined to industrial Catalonia and rural Andalusia (Bernecker 2002: 184–86; Herold-Schmidt 2004: 387–88, 392–93); the whole heartland around Castile, where conservative elites retained enormous clout, was little affected. Moreover, left-wing contention in Spain diminished after 1921. Thus, while Italy and Spain faced similar radical threats, their intensity, force, and persistence were significantly lower on the Iberian Peninsula. Consequently, a lower dosage of autocracy – authoritarianism rather than fascist totalitarianism – sufficed for extinguishing this threat. Thus, the Duce’s Spanish admirer did not copy fascism, but imposed an authoritarian regime (Ben-Ami 1983: 189–90; Albanese and Hierro 2016: 11, 14, 22, 35). Rather than using mass mobilization and paramilitary violence to subjugate society through totalitarian pressure, Primo de Rivera governed with the hierarchical control and depoliticization typical of authoritarian rulers. Yet despite these crucial divergences from Mussolini’s fascism, Primo looked to Italy for specific institutions to import. In particular, his government sought inspiration in the corporatist system of interest representation designed in Rome (Rial 1986: 206–11; Payne 1998: 102; Gónzalez Calleja 2005: 138–42, 154–58; Sánchez Recio 2017: 200–4). Yet because Primo “was closer to the Social Catholic Tradition” than to Mussolini’s novel ideology, his version of corporatism “was different from the Italian one: not as totalitarian, more plural and less compulsory” (Albanese and Hierro 2016: 20; see also 18–21; and Ben-Ami 1983: 292–93). His reliance on hierarchical, non-participatory authoritarianism soon came to haunt Primo de Rivera, however. When his attempt to institutionalize the regime through a new constitution encountered widespread resistance (Rial 1986: 117–19; Gónzalez Calleja 2005: 147–53), he could not draw on fascist-style mass mobilization or systematic violence to overcome opposition. The citizen movement and “apolitical” party that he had promoted from the top down never elicited much popular commitment.21 Instead, this “Patriotic Union was the most confused initiative of a regime conspicuous for its contradictions” (Rial 1986: 105; see also Ben-Ami 1983: 153–55; Gónzalez Calleja 2005: 164–200;

21

In general, military dictators face notorious difficulties in stimulating popular involvement from the top down and in institutionalizing political participation (Huntington 1968: 242–55).

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Riley 2019: 89, 94). Lacking firm and fervent support,22 Primo relinquished power in 1930 – a rare democratic transition during the interwar years. In conclusion, Mussolini’s success inspired Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship in Spain, but this autocracy differed substantially from the Italian precedent. By installing authoritarianism rather than fascism, the Spanish general charted a course taken by many reactionary leaders during the interwar years. Although Italian fascism drew great admiration and although right-wingers in other countries imported bits and pieces of this model, they rarely copied full-scale fascism. Instead, they averted the perceived threat of communism and avoided the risky dynamism of fascism by imposing exclusionary, non-mobilizational authoritarianism.

 This chapter has traced the political-ideological context of the dramatic and costly regime struggles during the interwar years. By showing how communism survived the brutal counterrevolution examined in Chapter 4, and by demonstrating how fascism won broad and strong appeal as the most powerful antidote to left-wing radicalism, the discussion has elucidated the two poles of this “age of extremes” (Hobsbawm 1996; similarly Bracher 1982; Mazower 2000). How could liberal democracy survive on the battleground among those millenarian visions, which were diametrically opposed in ideological content, yet alike in totalitarian fervor? And how would powerful status-quo defenders try to safeguard their interests and values: by supporting liberal democracy, ceding to one of the extremes, or seeking refuge in the strong arms of conservative authoritarian rulers? During the interwar years, the communist threat persisted, even after radicals’ quick efforts to imitate the Bolshevist success had uniformly failed. After all, the Soviet regime survived the civil war and turned into the global promoter of revolution. Inspired by this success and supported by Moscow, radical-left organizations came to operate across the globe. In several nations, most prominently Germany, communists managed to garner increasing support and became serious contenders for power. And where repression induced them to employ clandestine tactics, the 22

As Chapter 8 highlights, Primo’s son José Antonio responded to his father’s political failure by forming a fascist movement, the Falange (Payne 1998: 104–7; details in Payne 1999: chaps. 4–7).

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difficulty of assessing their true strength also fueled threat perceptions. Right-wing and centrist forces therefore lived in continued fear of communism. The perceived danger of left-wing revolution made democracy look weak. After all, liberal freedoms gave communists room for maneuver; and where democracies imposed bans, their sneaky enemies adopted subversive tactics. Because democracy did not manage to extirpate the radical-left virus, stronger regime types that concentrated power and used determined repression seemed necessary for averting the communist menace. Therefore, the new model of fascism looked like a promising antidote to left-wing revolution. Consequently, a wide range of political forces, as well as intellectuals, philosophers, and artists, fell under Mussolini’s spell. Proving its defensive capacity by suppressing the radical contention plaguing Northern Italy, this novel regime type seemed tailor-made for the epic struggle against communism. By erecting a dictatorship sustained by mass support and by seeking totalitarian control over society, fascism promised to conjure the leftist threat definitively. Mussolini’s political innovation therefore gained enormous appeal across the globe. In a remarkable repetition at the opposite ideological pole, Mussolini’s successful power grab also stimulated immediate emulation efforts, just as Lenin’s bold takeover had done before. And just like the precipitous uprisings unleashed by radical left-wingers, the urge among radical right-wingers to undertake a “march on” their national capital ended in striking failure, as the emblematic case of Hitler’s “Beerhall Putsch” shows. Both of these sets of ill-considered adventures were spearheaded by self-selected extremists whose ideological sects gave free rein to cognitive shortcuts. While the dramatic Russian Revolution activated the heuristics of availability and representativeness for radical left-wingers, the audacious March on Rome similarly got radical rightwingers carried away. The resulting deviations from standard rationality inspired rash imitation efforts by both these groupings, which uniformly ended in disastrous failure, as Chapter 4 showed for the extreme left, and the present chapter for the extreme right. Unfortunately, however, the victories of establishment forces in these initial battles did not end the war over the grand ideological projects of communism and fascism. Instead, like Lenin’s disciples, Mussolini’s followers recovered from their early failures, adjusted their political

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strategies, and kept pursuing their totalitarian goals throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Subsequent chapters analyze how the resulting conflicts destroyed democracy in many countries. This examination begins with the high-profile case of Germany, where the attempt to install full-scale fascism exceptionally achieved success – with cataclysmic consequences.

6 The German Exception: Emulating Full-Scale Fascism

With the abysmal failure of the initial attempts to replicate the March on Rome, the diffusion of fascism seemed to end faster than it began. As Chapters 7 and 8 explain, despite the tremendous appeal of Mussolini’s innovation, its spread as a full-scale regime faced enormous obstacles. While many authoritarian rulers borrowed bits and pieces of the new toolkit, they rejected the mobilizational dynamic of fascism and used limited fascist imports, such as paramilitary movements and propaganda agencies, only as instruments for fortifying their own exclusionary, nonmobilizational type of autocracy. Thus, like communism, fascism as such diffused very little during the interwar years. The exception was of course Germany – and what a momentous and consequential exception it was! Germany was unique in establishing fullscale fascism; and it adopted a version more extreme than Mussolini’s prototype. After taking power, Hitler proceeded in a more brutal and tyrannical way than his Italian role model, whom he revered.1 Internally, he quickly enforced comprehensive, thoroughgoing dominance, imposed Nazi control over almost all societal groupings (Gleichschaltung), and forged a more rigorous totalitarian system than the Duce ever did. And internationally, he pursued the conquest of extensive Lebensraum in the East and quickly built an aggressive military machine (see recently Snyder 2015). Why did Germany alone import fascism, and in such an uncompromising variant? 1

Schieder (1996: 73–75). Hitler kept “a monumental bust of Mussolini” in his office (Kershaw 2000: 343). And Goebbels (2008: 448) gushed in 1930: “Magnificent, this Mussolini! My big contemporary role model. On him one can lift oneself up.”

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The Dangerous Mix of Democracy’s Weaknesses and Strengths 159

    ’    The root cause of this unusual development was the odd combination of weaknesses and strengths that characterized the Weimar Republic, as analyzed especially by Detlev Peukert (1993: 33–51). Born from a partially successful, partially aborted revolution, this democracy emerged with serious birth defects but also important strengths. Reactionary forces, which retained powerful institutional bastions, especially in the military, the bureaucracy, and the judiciary, chipped away at democracy and promoted authoritarian alternatives. But the Weimar Republic also had many defenders, especially the well-organized Social Democratic and Center parties and their affiliated unions. Their support for pluralist democracy, demonstrated with a military coup’s defeat in 1920, ruled out the coercive imposition of autocracy. After the failure of his own coup attempt in 1923, Hitler therefore combated democracy with its own means by building an energetic electoral movement, which ballooned to overwhelming size in the Great Depression. Conservatives, by contrast, lacked widespread, strong support and failed to decree authoritarianism from the top down in 1932 and to contain Hitler’s fascist movement in 1933. In other words, reactionaries were strong enough to undermine democracy but too weak to install an authoritarian alternative. Democratic parties were strong enough to prevent an authoritarian takeover for many years. But paradoxically, democracy’s long resilience induced radical rightists to emulate Mussolini’s mobilizational, totalitarian model of autocracy and thus outflank both the democratic parties and their authoritarian adversaries. What played into the Nazis’ hands was the threatening prowess and subversive activism of Germany’s Communist Party. After all, the “need” to crush the KPD was, together with antiSemitism and fervent nationalism, Hitler’s main plank for garnering mass support and for winning acceptance from elites, including big business and the military (Wirsching 1999: 514–17). Thus, due to democracy’s very resilience, only the fascists, not the conservatives, managed to replace liberal pluralism with their own regime model.2 Tragically, because it took a fervent mass movement propelled by a charismatic leader to overcome democracy, the successor regime was 2

Mann (2004: 358) perceptively highlights: “Though fascists did not believe in democracy, it was vital to their success.”

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not demobilizational, moderately repressive authoritarianism, like most other autocracies during the interwar years. Instead, what prevailed was mobilizational, brutal totalitarianism. Indeed, because Weimar democracy was stronger and more vibrant than Italy’s liberal regime and because it therefore took Hitler much longer than Mussolini to gather the requisite strength to overturn it, the version of fascism imposed in Germany was fiercer and more totalitarian than the Italian original. The structural root cause of this exceptional fascist takeover was Germany’s higher level of modernization, compared with Eastern and Southern Europe, where authoritarianism proliferated. Advanced social mobilization underlay the relative strength of democratic organizations, the limited command of conservative forces over popular sectors, and the corresponding capacity of a fascist movement to win over millions of rootless, “available” supporters. In the underdeveloped countries of Eastern and Southern Europe, by contrast, liberal and democratic forces remained weak and conservative elites controlled masses of people, especially via clientelism. In these “backward” settings (Janos 1982; Berend 1998), top-down authoritarian imposition could take hold and guarantee sociopolitical stability, for instance by averting the perceived threat from the radical left. In advanced Germany, by contrast, military coups and exclusionary authoritarianism were no longer politically viable; only a broad-based, comprehensive assault from the bottom up, which employed quasi-democratic means, could install autocracy – in its totalitarian, fascist variant. Hitler’s incredible charisma, attested even by critics,3 enabled him to arouse this mass support (see reports by Goebbels 2008: 515–16, 622, 639–40, 765; see also Lepsius 1978: 61–65) while simultaneously maintaining unchallenged control. This unusual coincidence of bottom-up energy and top-down direction brought the only full-scale replication of Mussolini’s regime model during the interwar years.

  ’   Scholars have thoroughly documented the multiple fractures plaguing Germany’s new democracy (e.g., Schulz 1975: 233–73; Bracher 1978: 3

Austria’s anti-Nazi right-winger Rüdiger von Starhemberg (1942: 82) reported after a personal meeting: “As was his custom, he looked me straight in the face, and once again I felt the extraordinary magnetism of his eyes. I fought against it. We had grown too far apart for me to feel any great sympathy with him . . . How repulsive his face really, how ugly his hands . . . And yet I could not be blind to something that I could only call attractive and compelling.”

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14–25; Peukert 1993: 32–34, 38–40; Evans 2003: 78–102; recent discussion in Ziblatt 2017: 259–63). As Chapter 4 mentioned, radical-left efforts to emulate the Bolshevist revolution induced mainstream social democracy during the chaos of 1918/19 to forge an alliance with the conservative army leadership and to enlist proto-fascist Freikorps. As a result, the military never submitted to civilian control but retained considerable autonomy (Sauer 1978: 212–39). During the crisis years after 1929, leading generals used this latitude to pursue their own political projects, focused on rearmament and recuperation of Germany’s geopolitical strength. Because these goals found limited support among democratic parties, especially the SPD, the top generals started to move in authoritarian directions. Moreover, the Freikorps’ brutality fomented a climate of violence (cf. Broszat 1976: 132–33), which induced various political parties and veterans’ organizations to create their own armed formations. The resulting street battles spiraled out of control during the polarization of the early 1930s. Germany’s descent into virtual civil war (Goebbels 2008: 670–73, 708–11; see also Bracher 1978: 374, 381, 427, 484, 506, 542; Wirsching 1999: 575–94, 601–32008) then intensified calls for restoring “law and order” – via non-democratic rule. Moreover, repeated left-wing uprisings, their harsh suppression, and continued radical agitation deepened the gulf between mainstream social democracy and its communist enemies.4 This division limited the electoral base of the SPD and hindered Weimar’s democratic parties from winning a majority of votes. Moreover, when democracy faced growing reactionary challenges in the early 1930s, old hatred kept the communists from joining social democracy in its desperate efforts to sustain the tottering regime and forestall Hitler’s triumph. On the contrary, the KPD directed its worst attacks against the SPD as “social fascists” (Schulz 1975: 702–5; Bracher 1978: 524, 534; Michalka and Niedhart 1980: 278–79; Bois 2017: 158; McAdams 2017: 232–33). In fact, on several occasions the communists joined Hitler’s NSDAP in obstructing attempts to combat the crisis and rescue democracy (Mommsen 2016: 433, 536–37, 582–83). The KPD’s increasing use of violence and growing vote shares (Bracher 1978: 263, 297–98, 319, 323, 441; Wirsching 1999: 234–57, 428–30, 550–51, 582–84) also scared conservatives and centrists and made them susceptible to appeals by reactionary and fascist forces. 4

Tragically, by suppressing radical uprisings, the SPD lost support on the left, but did not win new backers among “bourgeois” groupings, which distrusted its self-proclaimed Marxism.

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In sum, the early conflicts examined in Chapters 3 and 4 created lasting fault-lines and distortions that made the Weimar Republic vulnerable when the economic recovery of 1923 to 1928 was rudely destroyed by the Great Depression. These fractures, combined with older weaknesses such as German liberalism’s crippling defeat in the 1848 revolutions and its cooptation by Bismarck, seriously jeopardized democracy’s survival, as scholars have convincingly shown. Of course, in some form or other, Germany’s new democracy shared such problems with many of the other liberal regimes emerging in Europe after WWI. Those widespread difficulties undermined civilian competitive rule across the region. But the resulting autocracies diverged sharply; whereas most of Central and Eastern Europe fell under authoritarian rule, only Germany adopted totalitarian fascism. Why that unique outcome?

    ’  While facilitated by the birth defects of Germany’s new democracy, the exceptional triumph of National Socialism originated – surprisingly – in the very strengths that the Weimar Republic had as well. Although it lacked the loyalty of the Kaiserreich’s mainstays, such as the military, large landowners, and reactionary politicians, the regime inaugurated in 1918/19 commanded strong support from equally powerful sociopolitical forces, especially the trade unions, the massive SPD, and the similarly well-organized Catholic Center party. Commanding firm organizations, these democratic forces had great resilience, as they demonstrated during the crisis of the early 1930s, when they helped deter open violations of the constitution and the installation of authoritarian rule.5 Moreover, large numbers of citizens preferred democracy, as electoral results from 1919 to early 1932 consistently showed. Moreover, the Weimar Republic enjoyed unprecedented liberty and enormous vibrancy in society and culture. New ideas flourished, creative experiments abounded, and cities like Berlin were pulsating with energy (Weitz 2007: 11, 24–27, 42, 82). Many people and groupings wanted to preserve this lively atmosphere and therefore rejected any moves toward authoritarianism. 5

Advocates of authoritarianism made their most daring move by using their temporary control of the national government in mid-1932 to remove Prussia’s social-democratic administration. But because this “coup” was not formally unconstitutional, the SPD did not respond with mass protests; instead, it appealed to the Supreme Court (Vogelsang 1962: 243–50).

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Due to the strength of democratic forces, a military coup in March 1920 failed miserably, running afoul of a general strike called by the trade unions. The even quicker collapse of the Hitler Putsch confirmed the unviability of armed assaults on power. Consequently, right-wing forces learned that they could not overthrow democracy through a frontal attack. As the failure of the authoritarian projects of the early 1930s proved (see later), the open imposition of autocracy was infeasible in a society as modern and pluralistic as Weimar Germany, where liberaldemocratic values commanded substantial support. The new democracy’s resilience forced its most determined enemies to combat it from the inside. Reactionary extremists noticed that they could achieve success only by exploiting the political latitude guaranteed by democracy; after winning power through elections, they could use it to dismantle the electoral regime. This new, Machiavellian strategy disadvantaged Germany’s conservative forces: Their main power capabilities, capital and coercion, were not easy to translate into votes. After all, in a modern, mobilized society, where elite control through clientelism had weakened even in the countryside, conservative parties faced difficulties winning broad and firm mass support, especially from the ample lower classes. Instead, the electoral route privileged new, more plebeian rightwing groupings that employed brand-new campaign techniques and demagogic rhetoric to appeal to the interests and values, passions and resentments of broad cross-sections of the citizenry (Loewenstein 1935a: 579–82). Only such an energetic, dynamic mass movement could achieve electoral prowess. Once its charismatic leader gained power in formally legal ways, he could suffocate democracy in paralegal ways. Fervent support from a mass movement also allowed and encouraged this leader to impose deep, comprehensive control over state and society and thus found a totalitarian regime. Paradoxically, thus, the very strengths of the Weimar Republic induced its mortal enemies to devise a political strategy that – when a severe crisis turned democracy’s equally serious birth defects lethal – ushered in a nondemocratic regime that went far beyond authoritarianism in its profound transformation of politics, its repression of rights and liberties, and its extremist ideological project. Whereas authoritarian dictators monopolize power, depoliticize society, and promote limited changes in cooperation with established forces, fascist leaders are vastly more ambitious: They pursue ideological visions with boundless energy, at enormous political and human cost. Such a destructive – and quickly selfdestructive – regime arose in Germany due to the odd incongruence of

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the preceding democracy. The Weimar Republic was weak enough to fall, but strong enough not to fall easily to an authoritarian coup; instead, it took a massive totalitarian movement to bring it down – and replace it with a brutal dictatorship.

       As argued so far, the fractured, tension-ridden nature of Germany’s first democracy created vulnerabilities and opened up some risks of autocratic involution (while foreclosing other dangers such as military coups). But vulnerabilities do not necessarily turn fatal; doomsday scenarios often remain unrealized. What, then, were the driving forces that undermined Weimar democracy and set the rise of fascism in motion? These moving causes, which during the unusual opportunity created by the Great Depression led to the unique replication of fascism, had international and domestic roots and sources. On the external front, the frustrated grab for European predominance, the defeat in war, and the punishing Versailles Treaty instilled intense sentiments of violated nationalism in wide segments of the population (see now Smith 2020: 291–302, 327–42). The serious setbacks in international affairs, especially painful for a relatively new nation, activated strong loss aversion (cf. Broszat 1976: 132) and prompted an urge for recovery. After all, Germany’s demographic, industrial, and military potential made a resumption of hegemonic ambitions feasible.6 Thus, the country was in a structurally unstable, politically untenable geopolitical position. Recently vanquished and now held down by the victors, especially France, Germany was too strong and dynamic to accept its prostration. Instead, many sectors were determined to shake off the shackles of Versailles and restore Germany’s power.

6

Interestingly, Turkey, which also suffered defeat in WWI and large-scale dismemberment thereafter, quickly recovered its national unity and international strength by winning the brutal War of Independence (1919–23; see McMeekin 2015: part III). This striking success drew considerable attention in Germany, including the nascent Nazi movement, which came to revere Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as a role model (Bracher 1980: 124; Mommsen 2016: 213). As Ihrig (2014: chap. 2) highlights, Atatürk’s international success became an important stimulus for Hitler’s 1923 coup attempt (similarly Hoepke 1968: 125–28; Bracher 1980: 118). But with his March on Rome, Mussolini was the more important inspiration for Hitler’s domestic political strategy (Hoepke 1968: 128; contrary to Ihrig 2014: 68, 70, 88, 91, 98). After all, Hitler tried to grab power as a politician like Mussolini, not a general like Atatürk.

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Internally, moreover, the threat from the radical left seemed to persist. Domestic and international communists long focused their subversive efforts on Germany as the decisive next domino in the world revolution. Given the country’s strategic location, its advanced economy, and its massive labor movement, a takeover in Germany was pivotal for the progression of socialism. Revolution in Central Europe’s powerhouse would trigger a chain reaction and doom capitalism across Europe. Even after the decisive defeat of all isomorphic attempts to replicate Lenin’s armed seizure of power,7 radical leftists, who joined the Communist Party, therefore maintained their contestatory hyperactivism throughout the Weimar years (Weitz 1997: 84, 158). But like the Nazis after the failure of the Hitler Putsch, the communists also readjusted their political strategy and decided to use liberal democracy for advancing their totalitarian goals, as Chapter 5 explained. The KPD began to participate in elections, tried to infiltrate the trade unions, and mobilized for contentious street action. With over 350,000 members (Angress 1972: 72–73, 85; Weitz 1997: 98), it became “the first massbased communist party outside of the Soviet Union” (Weitz 2007: 104; similarly Priestland 2016: 92). The KPD achieved considerable success at the polls, winning vote shares above 10 percent with a steady upward trajectory after 1924 (see Bracher 1978: 263, 319, 323, 441; Bois 2017: 157). Its greatest triumph, with almost 17 percent in late 1932, made it the third largest party, not far behind the SPD. Moreover, the KPD engaged in innumerable public protests and armed confrontations, especially with equally violent right-wingers (see ministerial report in Michalka and Niedhart 1980: 265–66; see also Weitz 1997: 161–71, 186–87; Evans 2003: 237–42, 265, 270). Even a former party member, historian Detlev Peukert (1993: 153), admits that “the KPD . . . played a considerable part in giving an increasingly violent turn to the political quarrel at the end of the 1920s.” In fact, the Interior Ministry in late 1931 saw a communist insurrection as a significant threat for the coming winter (Patch 1998: 249). Predictably, these contentious activities, together with the KPD’s electoral successes, aggravated fears among right-wing and centrist sectors (Evans 2003: 238, 240, 242, 299; Kershaw 2015: 210). The growing danger that the radical left seemed to pose exacerbated doubts in the new democracy. That the left-wing enemies of liberty took advantage of liberal 7

Eventually, this “putschist” strategy drew criticism even inside the KPD (Levi [1921] 2009).

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guarantees to promote the overthrow of the established order seemed to reveal liberalism’s internal contradiction and congenital weakness. Reactionary sectors among the citizenry and among Germany’s powerful elites had never genuinely committed to democracy (Sontheimer 1978). While some right-wingers came to accept the Weimar Republic for lack of a feasible alternative (Vernunftrepublikaner = republicans and democrats out of instrumental rationality), others used their resources and influence to undermine the new regime, especially once the catastrophe of the Great Depression seemed to offer opportunities for undemocratic machinations. Of course, the specter of communism also played a major role in the rise of the radical right. This perceived left-wing threat boosted the NSDAP’s mass support and allowed it to win backing from economic and political elites. Moreover, anti-communism was intertwined with nationalism and anti-Semitism, forming a powerful syndrome of resentments that held substantial mass appeal. After all, as disciples of Lenin and followers of Moscow, communists looked like traitors par excellence (Evans 2003: 240). Accordingly, Hitler ([1925] 2016: 1725) proclaimed: “On the day that in Germany Marxism is broken, truly [Germany’s] shackles will break for ever. For, never in our history have we been defeated by the strength of our foes, but always only by our own failings and by the enemies in our own camp.” In reactionaries’ eyes, the prominent role of Jews among hard-left leaders, as exemplified by Rosa Luxemburg and several activists of the Munich council republic (Kershaw 2000: 114–16), also created a strong association between anti-Bolshevism and anti-Semitism. Accordingly, “Marxism and the Jew were synonymous in Hitler’s mind” (Kershaw 2000: 245; see also 243–46), as is amply evident in Mein Kampf (Hitler [1925] 2016: 229–31, 615, 837–53, 873, 979, 1135, 1719; see also Jäckel 1981; Snyder 2015: 19–29). Thus, anti-communism was a crucial ingredient of the noxious cocktail that right-wing extremists served their audience (see, e.g., Jones 2014a: 91–92). In particular, it helped Hitler launch his political career in Bavaria in the early 1920s (Evans 2003: 178, 197; Weitz 2007: 98). Hitler’s propagandistic self-promotion also shows the special appeal that anti-communism held for the broader public. Because this gifted orator provoked skepticism, if not rejection in “public opinion” with his fervent anti-Semitism, attacks on Bolshevism looked politically more effective. Therefore, in Mein Kampf, the Führer deliberately misrepresented his own political trajectory. Whereas in 1918 and early 1919 he had been rather indifferent, if not sympathetic to the revolutions in Berlin

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and Munich (Weber 2016: 11–13, 30–31, 81–86), he retroactively falsified his story by attributing his political awakening to the overthrow of the Kaiserreich in November 1918. So cataclysmic was this earthshattering event that the temporary blindness caused by poison gas in WWI recurred, as Hitler ([1925] 2016: 553–57) claimed. With this dramatic twist, Hitler sought to depict himself as the left’s innate enemy – almost victimized by the Munich soviet republic as well (Hitler [1925] 2016: 561). Because this account was clearly designed to boost the Führer’s political support, it shows where he saw the strongest fears and resentments that he could tap into – namely in anti-communism.

     ’  In this setting, Germany’s radical right ended up embracing the same basic strategy for seizing power that the radical left had adopted after the defeat of its early efforts to replicate Lenin’s armed power grab. Because the equivalent attempts at the isomorphic imitation of Italian fascism had failed as well, the extreme right came to pursue an institutional path and tried to advance its totalitarian goals through electoral mobilization combined with street contention. Hitler made this reorientation after the abortive coup of 1923. As this disastrous failure induced even this fanatical ideologue to reflect, the Führer realized that he had misunderstood the Duce’s success8 – a typical product of cognitive shortcuts. As Hitler acknowledged later, “I followed Mussolini’s example too closely.”9 Due to the availability heuristic, which leads to the overestimation of dramatic events, he had attributed excessive importance to armed fascists’ siege of Italy’s capital; and then the representativeness heuristic had made him jump to the conclusion that such a frontal attack would also work in Germany.10 But in fact, the March on Rome was merely a bluff, not a violent conquest (Lyttleton 2004: 84–86; 8 9

10

Albanese (2016: 111–12) highlights the difficulty of understanding the March on Rome and its success. Quoted in Pese (1955: 123); very similarly Meissner (1950: 128); see also Schieder (1996: 120–21); Lyttelton (2004: 433); and Schieder (2017: 12, 21). Indeed, around the time of the Hitler Putsch, Mussolini called the National Socialists “fools” (buffoni – quoted in Rosen 1957: 37, n. 106). After Mussolini’s success, one of Hitler’s close aides announced: “What a group of courageous men managed to do in Italy, that we can do in Bavaria as well. The Mussolini of Italy we have here as well. His name is Adolf Hitler” (quoted in Pese 1955: 120).

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Sassoon 2007: 9–15). As the last step in a comprehensive strategy, it achieved success only after three prior accomplishments, namely electoral advancement; violent control over good parts of the country; and the systematic courting of established elites (Eatwell 2011: 173). In late 1923, Hitler had lacked all three of these preconditions; no wonder that his audacious coup collapsed quickly. This big mistake eventually penetrated Hitler’s tight bounds of rationality and forced the Führer, imprisoned after his failed coup attempt, to face the actual constellation of power. In response, he revamped his political approach and decided to take over the democratic system from the inside (Bracher 1980: 129). In this way, he shifted to the complex strategy that Mussolini had actually employed and that had brought success in Italy (Schieder 1996: 120–22). Consequently, Hitler started to comply with legal rules and to pursue the electoral route (Hanfstaengl [1957] 2005: 151–52; see Schulz 1975: 590–98, 636–37, 676; Bracher 1978: 322, 332–33); yet at the same time, he continued to send his violent shock troops into street fights against their far-left enemies (Schulz 1975: 205, 368; Schieder 2017: 50). Moreover, like his Italian role model (see Sassoon 2007: 106–14), the Führer sought support from and tactical alliances with conservative establishment forces – but only to make use of these dupes for his own ultimate goals (Bracher 1978: 364–66; Schieder 1996: 119–21). Thus, Hitler adopted an opportunistic, Machiavellian strategy of using democracy to win power and then abolish democracy (see documents in Deuerlein 1974: 328–37, 347–48, 350, 363; see also Loewenstein 1935a: 580; Evans 2003: 198–99; Weitz 2007: 342). As Joseph Goebbels announced in 1928: “We are entering the Reichstag in order to supply ourselves in democracy’s arsenal of weapons with its own weapons. We become Reichstag deputies to paralyze Weimar democracy with its own assistance . . . Mussolini entered parliament as well . . . We come as enemies! Like the wolf irrupts in the herd of sheep, so we come” (quoted in Bracher 1980: 154; similarly Hitler [1925] 2016: 895). With this sneaky effort to misuse liberty, Hitler laid the groundwork for his later political success. While the Weimar Republic’s stabilization after 1923 kept the Führer politically marginal for years, the Nazi movement systematically acquired the capacity to pounce on any opportunity that would open (Bracher 1978: 94, 111). That chance then came with the Great Depression after 1929 (Lepsius 1978: 50–61).11

11

Hitler’s “legal” strategy faced opposition inside the Nazi movement, especially from the paramilitary Stormtroopers (SA) (Kershaw 2000: 347, 349, 365; Turner 1996: 72–73),

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After his quick release from prison, Hitler remained handicapped by a ban on speech-giving. Unable to reestablish his political leadership in the public arena, he also faced difficulties restoring his autocratic authority within his own movement and party (Schulz 1975: 364–419; Kershaw 2000: 259–79). But gradually, this skillful operator outmaneuvered internal rivals and promoted unconditional loyalists who had fallen under the spell of his amazing charisma;12 some underlings, like Goebbels, revered their Führer like a god.13 As a tightly unified movement, the NSDAP became the most dynamic, politically promising force on the radical right. Consequently, it absorbed many of the fragmented groupings and splinters that had proliferated on the extremist fringe (Sontheimer 1978: 279–83, 291; Kershaw 2000: 269, 297, 334). The NSDAP thus stood ready to capitalize on the shattering impact that the Great Depression would soon exert on conservative and liberal parties. While Hitler’s personal predominance, the charismatic glue holding the NSDAP together,14 precluded firm party institutionalization, other Nazi politicians did manage to translate the fervent backing of his core supporters (cf. Hitler [1925] 2016: 903–7, 919) into a comprehensive and dense organization.15 Second-in-command Gregor Strasser built up a

12

13

14

15

whom the NSDAP leadership had difficulty containing (Goebbels 2008: 639, 681–82, 685). Moreover, it seemed to reach a cul-de-sac with President Hindenburg’s adamant refusal in 1932 to appoint Hitler chancellor (Deuerlein 1974: 397–98, 405–6; Kershaw 2000: 374–75; Mommsen 2016: 489, 560–61, 587, 624, 630). Even after this seemingly definitive defeat, however, Hitler refused to make another violent power grab through a “March on Berlin” (Deuerlein 1974: 397, 402; Kershaw 2000: 400), which the SA forcefully demanded (Vogelsang 1962: 262–63, 266, 309; Mommsen 2016: 504, 561, 583; see also Goebbels 2008: 681–82, 685). Lepsius (1978: 61–68); Kershaw (2000: 294–302, 325–29, 346–51); Mommsen (2016: 388–89, 394–95). For personal accounts of conversions caused by Hitler’s charisma, see Goebbels (2008: 260–67, 404) and Ludecke ([1937] 2013: 20–22, 111, 275–76). Goebbels soon heightened this Führerkult (Kershaw 1987) to the maximum, attributing to Hitler’s “supernatural” capacities true miracles (cf. Max Weber [1976: 140–41] on charisma): “We have learned that Politics no longer is the art of the possible. What we want is according to the laws of mechanics unattainable and unfulfillable. We know that. And nevertheless we act on this insight, because we believe in the miracle, in the impossible and unattainable. For us politics is the miracle of the impossible” (quoted in Schulz 1975: 404). See especially Lepsius (1978: 61–65). Barely contained by Hitler’s supremacy, strong tensions, resentments, and conflicts raged among leading party officials, as evident in Goebbels’ (2008: 190, 197, 301–2, 385, 429, 478–80, 497 510–12, 606, 610, 694–96, 763) hateful diary entries. For years, the NSDAP managed to combine charismatic personalism and bureaucratic organization because Hitler focused on sloganeering agitation and electoral campaigning while leaving command over the party apparatus to organization leader Gregor Strasser

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countrywide network of party offices and a broad gamut of specialized organizations for women, youngsters, workers, small farmers, students, and even specific professions.16 Marginalized young men and demobilized Freikorps members were especially eager to join the party’s paramilitary formations (Schulz 1975: 487–91). In this way, the NSDAP appealed to the whole citizenry and groomed innumerable local leaders. Therefore, the NSDAP recovered from the failure of 1923 and steadily grew. “By 1928 the party already had over 100,000 members” (Mergel 2011: 434). Its extensive organizational grid then managed to integrate the masses of new members and cadres who flocked to the party after 1929. Whereas many suddenly successful parties get overwhelmed by an enormous influx, disintegrate, and decline – a risk that Hitler ([1925] 2016: 1483–85) highlighted in Mein Kampf – the potent combination of organization and charisma enabled the NSDAP to master this challenge.17 Because Hitler campaigned with general slogans and simultaneously appealed to the widest range of specific interests, the NSDAP’s support base was unusual in its social breadth (Kershaw 2000: 332–34). Its competitors drew on a defined and therefore limited constituency, such as workers, the middle class or Catholics; the corrosive impact of the Great Depression aggravated this fragmentation, leading, for instance, to the emergence of a homeowners’ party (Schulz 1975: 589; see Bessel 1991: 121–22). By contrast, the combination of nationalism and socialism, of reactionary and revolutionary themes, gave the NSDAP support across the social pyramid. In fact, Hitler deliberately attacked the worsening societal fragmentation and the class struggle incited by the communists. Instead, he promised a solidaristic “people’s community” (Volksgemeinschaft) (Kershaw 2000: 330–32),18 a communitarian appeal

16

17

18

(Mommsen 2016: 407). But the divergence erupted when Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher sought to co-opt Strasser in December 1932. To assert his unchallengeable predominance, Hitler destroyed Strasser’s power base by dismantling most of the organization built up in years of patient efforts, which had allowed the party to absorb the mass influx of members and voters after 1929 (Mommsen 2016: 610–15). Schulz (1975: 367, 466, 483–85, 548–49); Bracher (1978: 94, 98, 106–10); Kershaw (2000: 259, 270, 300–4, 333); Evans (2003: 207, 212–16, 229); Weitz (2007: 346); Mommsen (2016: 389–94, 404–7, 415). The Nazis’ organizational scheme partly copied the communist cell structure (Wirsching 1999: 449–51). By contrast, Hungary’s fascist Arrow Cross movement, which won a striking vote success in 1939 that equaled the NSDAP’s result of 1930, suffered a quick decline thereafter because it lacked strong party organization and a countrywide network of offices (Rady 2014: 268). These collectivist appeals harkened back to the potential for “mass totalitarian integration” (Peukert 1993: 49) that the public upsurge of patriotism at the outbreak of WWI

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to citizens’ craving for “belonging,”19 which was especially strong in the Weimar years (Sontheimer 1978: 250–52). As its mass base swelled after 1929, the NSDAP indeed became Germany’s first Volkspartei (people’s = catch-all party) (Peukert 1993: 27–40; Evans 2003: 225, 229, 257–58, 261; excellent contemporary analysis in Michalka and Niedhart 1980: 287–89). This comprehensive social range gave the NSDAP a crucial advantage over its right-wing competitors, which targeted particularly narrow sectors. Whereas the reactionary German-National People’s Party (Deutschnationale Volkspartei – DNVP), for instance, was heavily elitist and drew predominantly from the upper crust and well-to-do middle class (Beck 2008: 19, 24–25), the NSDAP, led by social upstarts, recruited from the “little people,” including low-ranking employees, small farmers, workers, and the unemployed (Falter and Hänisch 2013). By appealing to the bottom of the social ladder as well, the party even drew supporters away from the SPD and KPD. Consequently, it combated “Marxism” not only through violent rhetorical and physical attacks (Schulz 1975: 220, 227, 359, 412–13; Wirsching 1999: 443–47, 461–62) but also by trying to win over the left’s labor base – with some, albeit limited results (Schulz 1975: 721; Evans 2003: 263–65, 294–95). This broad popular appeal gave the NSDAP great chances of electoral success and allowed it to break through the threshold hemming in the right during the 1920s. In turn, this majoritarian potential was crucial for beating democracy with its own means. If Hitler could win power through electoral success, then he could use this power to close down elections and establish a fascist dictatorship. Another advantage of the Nazi movement was its special appeal to Germany’s youth.20 Many right-wing groupings, such as the reactionary DNVP, exuded stodgy elitism and were run by older men who – besides their ideological goals – pursued the economic interests of specific sectors, such as big business (see the early experiences of Goebbels 2008: 90–91; on the DNVP in early 1932, Goebbels 2008: 618–21). By contrast, the NSDAP was plebeian, dynamic, “idealistic,” and led by fairly young

19 20

had revealed and that the myth of a tight soldiers’ community, forged at the front under Ernst Jünger’s “thunderstorms of steel,” kept awake (Sontheimer 1978: 98–106). On the underlying similarities with social democracy’s communitarian ethos, see Berman (2006: 5–6, 13–17, 125–26, 148–51, 204–7). Bracher (1978: 101–5, 124, 327, 350, 356); Kershaw (2000: 331, 335, 408); Evans (2003: 207, 213–14); Mommsen (2016: 422–23, 445); for background, see also Peukert (1993: 89–95); see in general Linz (1976: 33–40, 43–47); Mosse (1999: 13–14).

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newcomers.21 Accordingly, mixed in with its reactionary orientation, it exuded an anti-elitist, “revolutionary” energy and employed strikingly modern means, such as new communication and transportation technologies (Peukert 1993: 236–40; Weitz 2007: 347–49). All these features attracted young people, including prominent students (Bracher 1978: 132–34; Kershaw 2000: 307–8; see also Broszat 1976: 135–37). Indeed, the party deliberately targeted the new generation with its youth movements, which in their emphasis on Hitler’s charisma subtly suspended parental authority; moreover, they provided youngsters with a peer community and a strong sense of belonging (Kater 2004: 10–12, 16–18; Dogliani 2009: 195–98). In these ways, the NSDAP groomed growing circles of deeply committed, fervent supporters. These willing agents were a big asset in election campaigns, which the party conducted with unprecedented, overwhelming élan. The Nazi youth also fought with great ferocity in street battles with left-wingers, especially communists, which the NSDAP deliberately provoked to reinforce the specter of the Bolshevist threat (Evans 2003: 266–70, 285; Mommsen 2016: 418, 502–5 531–36, 556).

      Whereas Hitler used the second half of the 1920s to build up the NSDAP’s political and organizational strength, his direct competitors on the right suffered from underlying weaknesses (recently Ziblatt 2017: chaps. 8–9). Initially, however, the gradual spread of reactionary ideas gifted right-wingers considerable electoral success; for instance, the nationalist DNVP became the second strongest party in 1924. Moreover, the proliferation of Freikorps after 1919 gave rise to various paramilitary groupings, especially the veterans’ movement Stahlhelm (Steel Helmet). Interestingly, both DNVP and Stahlhelm were fascinated by Mussolini and established direct connections to the fascist regime (Hoepke 1968: 248–49, 272–76, 284–86, 288–93); the Duce, in turn, who long dismissed Hitler as an excessively radical, marginal outsider,22 bet on those groupings to undermine the Weimar Republic and promote 21

22

The Nazis’ frenetic pace, driven by ideological dedication and absolute devotion to Hitler’s charisma, is evident in the diaries of Goebbels (2008), who enjoyed few good nights of sleep. Mussolini only started to establish contacts with Hitler and his entourage once the NSDAP achieved striking electoral success from mid-1930 onward (Goebbels 2008: 518, 607).

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the spread of fascism (Hoepke 1968: 253–59; Schulz 1975: 621, 650–51; Bauerkämper and Rossoliński-Liebe 2017: 9; see also Brüning 1970: 221, 434; Schieder 1996: 87, 93, 96–97, 102–7). The DNVP and Stahlhelm commanded important assets. Ideologically, they were standard bearers of determined anti-communism, a popular plank (see, e.g., Jones 2014a: 91–92). Moreover, the party counted on support from big business, East-Elbian landowners, generals, and highranking bureaucrats. Beyond these elites, it also had substantial backing among middle sectors, such as shopkeepers, professionals, and farmers (Beck 2008: 19, 24–25). The Stahlhelm put tens of thousands of fighters into the streets, at least for parades. But the right also suffered from structural and organizational weaknesses (Mommsen 2016: 318–22; Ziblatt 2017: 279–83, 300–5, 315–18). A crucial problem was increasing fragmentation (Schulz 1975: 280–81, 515–16; Bessel 1991: 121–22; Jones 2014b). Reactionary parties and paramilitary groupings proliferated during the Weimar Republic, with frequent internal splits and re-combinations.23 Consequently, their political fate fluctuated greatly, as evident in the volatility of the DNVP vote: After winning 20.5 percent in 1924, its vote share steadily decreased, to 5.9 percent in mid-1932. As this fluidity suggests, reactionary groupings lacked firm societal bases and institutional discipline. Moreover, the DNVP did not have the professional cadres that, for instance, Britain’s Conservative Party boasted. Consequently, the DNVP was missing the country-wide network of party offices that gave its British equivalent such a comprehensive presence and guaranteed its electoral solidity (Ziblatt 2017). More basically, conservative and reactionary elites had lost the traditional authority that upholds sociopolitical hierarchy in less developed societies. During the nineteenth century in Germany, and during the twentieth century still in more backward Eastern and Southern Europe, established elites counted on popular deference and controlled common people through longstanding mechanisms such as clientelism. Yet Germany’s rapid modernization, industrialization, and urbanization had eroded this “natural” verticality. The tremendous disruptions of WWI, post-war turmoil, hyperinflation, and finally the Great Depression further loosened people’s ties to their status-superiors. Therefore, conservative 23

On the DNVP, see Bracher (1978: 75–78, 276–78, 291, 299, 310–13, 363); Beck (2008: 30–82); Gasteiger (2014: 57–60, 64–65, 70); Jones (2014a: 83–85); Ziblatt (2017: chaps. 8–9).

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and reactionary elites no longer commanded automatic support and lacked reliable instruments for marshaling and controlling the masses, even in the East-Elbian countryside (Bessel 1991: 119–25; Broszat 1993: 114; Peukert 1993: 230–35, 260–61, 281; Mommsen 2016: 366, 382; Berman 2019: 243–44). Furthermore, right-wingers suffered from a fundamental dilemma. Operating in the Weimar Republic with its exciting cultural vibrancy, social liberation, and political freedom (Weitz 2007: 11, 24–27, 42, 82), they sought to turn the clock back – but to what? Conservatism, strictly defined, would certainly not work, because what these sectors wanted to conserve no longer existed (Schulz 1975: 278–9, 282). What, then, did they want to restore? The Kaiserreich had just collapsed, after the Emperor and his top generals had suffered striking failure in WWI. Moreover, the Second Empire had long looked politically untenable. The electoral growth of democratic parties, especially the contestatory SPD, had jeopardized a fairly authoritarian constitution that had kept the government unaccountable to parliament. Thus, internal disjuncture and tensions had abounded. Because many reactionaries did not want to resurrect the Kaiserreich’s incongruous regime, they developed an enormous variety of ideas, plans, and institutional schemes. They also sought inspiration in foreign experiences, especially Mussolini’s Italy with its corporatist projects, which the DNVP and the Stahlhelm admired (Schulz 1975: 621, 650–51, 733–34; Schieder 1996: 102–7; Evans 2003: 95; Mommsen 2016: 317). Moreover, they updated – or retroactively “constructed” – legacies of the German past. Their very disorientation became obvious in the muchused slogan of the “conservative revolution” (e.g., Mommsen 2016: 369–73; see also Schulz 1975: 563–74; Herf 1984). More and more, however, this ideological confusion gave rise to a toxic stew, fueled by three sources of resentment and hatred, namely anti-Marxism, antiSemitism, and militant nationalism. While these basic elements were shared (Weitz 2007: 333–42), shifting groups of reactionaries combined them in diverse ways (Braatz 1971; Sontheimer 1978). What this overabundance of odd ideas and projects was missing was a political leader who could aggregate them and channel them into a project for winning power. Consequently, right-wingers were longing for a Führer who could fulfill this task (Sontheimer 1978: 214–22; see also Bracher 1978: 16, 54, 122; Weitz 2007: 337–38). As the young Goebbels (2008: 94; see also 90–91, 107) exclaimed: “We in Germany are lacking a strong hand . . . Germany is longing for the One, the Man . . . Lord, show

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the German people a miracle! A miracle!! One Man!!!” Of course, Goebbels would soon find his redeemer; and for Germany more broadly, the NSDAP was offering a savior – if only the need for salvation would arise.

      This chance for a dynamic charismatic leader to mobilize large masses of supporters and unify the right emerged with the Great Depression, which shattered the socioeconomic and political stabilization achieved by the Weimar Republic after 1923. The economic collapse hit Germany particularly hard (comparative data in Middleton 2016: 187–89; see also Bracher 1978: 327, 344, 356, 385; Lepsius 1978: 50–61; Peukert 1993: 249–57; Weitz 2007: 122; Mommsen 2016: 439–50; Berman 2019: 245–46). Socioeconomic deprivation exacerbated interest conflicts and political disagreements. Business and labor fought ever harder over the worsening costs of the crisis, while large landowners clamored for protection and subsidies. The military insisted on resources for rearmament to recuperate Germany’s international strength, whereas the SPD pushed for using these funds to sustain the welfare state (Vogelsang 1962: 49–50, 56–57; Mommsen 2016: 514–16, 593). Under these tensions, the Great Coalition ranging from the SPD to the center-right German People’s Party (Deutsche Volkspartei – DVP) fell apart in mid-1930 and proved impossible to resuscitate.24 Conservative and reactionary politicians, business elites, and military leaders pressed for a move to the right, which would advance their interests and causes while undermining democracy and preparing a turn toward authoritarianism. Reactionary President Paul von Hindenburg, a leftover of the Kaiserreich supported by the ever more powerful army leadership, entrusted this right-wing project to conservative center politician Heinrich Brüning. Because the president and the new head of government wanted to marginalize the left-wing SPD, they were prepared to employ presidential decree powers, which the constitution reserved for emergencies (Vogelsang 1962: 76–78, 100–1; Brüning 1970: 161–64, 182).25 Because without SPD backing the chancellor faced majority opposition 24 25

Contemporary analysis reprinted in Michalka and Niedhart (1980: 269–70); see also Vogelsang (1962: 66–70); Patch (1998: 69, 82–88, 90–96); Mommsen (2016: 349–54). Thus, Brüning and Hindenburg moved toward “delegative democracy” (O’Donnell 1994).

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in parliament to his orthodox adjustment measures, he called new elections.26 But Brüning’s hope to extend his support proved illusory. On the contrary, his “responsible” austerity policies hurt the electoral prospects of mainstream conservatives. The DVP, representative of big business, suffered a stark drop, while the reactionary DNVP saw its vote share halved (Ziblatt 2017: 326–28). The severe crisis instead swelled the ranks of the fascist right, which campaigned with wild promises and broadside attacks on the establishment (Linz 1976: 93–100; Patch 1998: 98–100). As the great winner, the NSDAP achieved a stunning breakthrough with 18.3 percent of the vote, which brought a nine-fold increase in its parliamentary delegation. Because mainstream parties did not give Brüning a parliamentary majority and because openly authoritarian solutions lacked sufficient support, the government continued to rely on presidential decrees, increasing their use over time (Ziblatt 2017: 319–24). Thus, the executive, sustained by the president and the military (Vogelsang 1962: 184–85, 189, 198–99; Strenge 2006: 140), effectively took over the task of legislation, while the Reichstag convened ever more rarely, acquiescing in its marginalization (Bracher 1978: 52–56, 301–8; Mommsen 2016: 434–37, 486). Even the SPD begrudgingly embraced this parliamentary toleration to keep the NSDAP out of power and thus “take care that Germany will not suffer Italy’s fate, where fascism managed to triumph,” as SPD leader Rudolf Breitscheid explained (quoted in Michalka and Niedhart 1980: 297; see Broszat 1993: 123–25; Berman 2006: 109–14).27 In light of the deepening Depression, the party feared that Brüning’s ouster and new elections would further strengthen the ideological extremes. After all, many unemployed people joined the communists; and the NSDAP ceaselessly campaigned among economically desperate farmers, shopkeepers, and small businessmen and among status-threatened employees and professionals. As Brüning’s tough austerity kept aggravating the hardships, state and municipal elections revealed growing left- and right-wing extremism; the

26

27

Brüning’s true intentions and ultimate goals remain unclear. Patch’s (1998) apologetic analysis claims that Brüning did not pursue antidemocratic restoration – but the chancellor mentioned this plan in his memoirs (Brüning 1970: 146, 194). Other historians therefore draw a fairly authoritarian and reactionary picture of Brüning (e.g., Peukert 1993: 258–61; Weitz 2007: 122–23, 163, 351, 353; Mommsen 2016: 357, 382, 434, 490, 525). Chancellor Brüning and military leader Kurt von Schleicher made some surprising overtures to Hitler (see, e.g., Brüning 1970: 192–97), maybe partly to scare the SPD and thus push it to tolerate Brüning’s government (Strenge 2006: 72).

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NSDAP, in particular, increased its support by leaps and bounds, mostly at the expense of the mainstream right, center-right, and even the protestant liberal center (Broszat 1993: 113–14). By mid-1932, Weimar democracy had lost majority support. About 15 percent of Germans chose communism and its “dictatorship of the proletariat,” while 40 percent preferred autocratic reactionaries; among those, one quarter embraced conservative advocates of elitist authoritarianism, whereas the other three quarters followed Hitler’s call for plebeian fascism.

    ? With the political advance of reactionary forces, President Hindenburg increasingly pressured Brüning to move to the right and eventually dismissed the hesitant chancellor in mid-1932 (Vogelsang 1962: 124–25, 185, 201–4, 208, 414–15, 459, 471; Patch 1998: 71, 220, 232, 238, 253, 269). The principal holders of institutional power, especially Brüning’s aristocratic successor Franz von Papen, President Hindenburg, the military leadership, big business,28 and large landowners, now sought to replace the hollowed-out democracy with some form of authoritarian rule. An exclusionary, demobilizational regime was meant to marginalize the democratic parties, especially the SPD, but also keep the NSDAP out of power. After all, conservative authoritarians feared the Nazis’ totalitarian ambitions, rejected their massive paramilitary violence, despised their rabble-rousing demagoguery, and condemned their fanatical promises.29 Many took an intense personal dislike to Hitler, whom Prussian aristocrat Hindenburg loathed; consequently, the WWI Field Marshal long insisted that he would never, ever, hand over government power to “the Bohemian corporal.”30

28

29

30

Contrary to Marxian arguments and class approaches (e.g., Rueschemeyer, Stephens, and Stephens 1992: 109–11), big business did not have much political influence on democracy’s downfall; leading generals and the camarilla around President Hindenburg were crucial (see especially Turner 1985: 103–4, 228–29, 304, 346; also Mann 2004: 196–97). For many years, even Hitler’s role model Mussolini did not bet on the NSDAP, but had closer connections to less radical right-wingers (Schulz 1975: 429–30; Patch 1998: 186, 193). After all, Hitler’s fanaticism, which diverged from Mussolini’s willingness to compromise with establishment forces (see Sassoon 2007: 106–14), seemed to preclude a takeover of power. Kershaw (2000: 371); see also Vogelsang (1962: 261, 264–65, 320–21, 376–79); Broszat (1993: 152–53, 169); Connelly (2020: 253). Hitler’s Austrian birthplace, Braunau on Inn, was often confounded with Braunau (now Broumov) in Bohemia.

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But how to deal with Hitler’s massive movement, which in regional and national elections held from April to July 1932 averaged 35 to 40 percent of the vote? This upsurge turned the NSDAP into the largest parliamentary party by far; together with the equally obstructionist communists, it could paralyze legislative operations. The NSDAP also commanded a potent paramilitary force comprising about 400,000 fighters by mid- to late 1932 (Kershaw 2000: 365, 410). The military was reluctant to crack down on these Stormtroopers (SA) for fear of civil war. After all, the communists might exploit such a conflagration and unleash a two-front struggle. Moreover, ideological affinities among right-wingers, centered on anti-communism and nationalism, had allowed the NSDAP to win strong sympathies, even support, inside the military, as the army leadership noticed as early as 1930 (Vogelsang 1962: 81–83, 90–91; Sauer 1974: 36, 39; Patch 1998: 138–39, 252; Evans 2003: 248–49; Strenge 2006: 59, 74–76, 187–88; Mommsen 2016: 512–13). Consequently, would soldiers follow orders and attack their fascist brethren, or would intense political loyalties make military discipline crumble? For these reasons, the Reichswehr preferred to avoid a conflict with the Nazi paramilitaries.31 The political, electoral, and military strength of Germany’s fascist movement, which grew dramatically from 1930 to 1932, put the proauthoritarian conservatives who now held institutional power (Vogelsang 1962: 184–85, 189, 198–99, 450–57) before a difficult dilemma. While they certainly did not want Hitler to seize power and impose his unaccountable, totalitarian rule, they saw the Nazis – if properly tamed – as useful auxiliaries for their own political projects. After all, the fascists could help keep the dreaded communists at bay; Hitler himself advertised this service to establishment sectors.32 Moreover, the NSDAP’s fervent nationalism would unify the country domestically and help Germany regain its international strength. And the SA constituted a reservoir for the military, helping to evade the severe limitations on troop strength imposed by the Versailles Treaty (Vogelsang 1962: 234, 446–49, 471–72; 31

32

Reichswehr leader Schleicher also feared that the suppression of the Nazi movement would drive many members to the KPD, which he saw as the most dangerous foe, partly due to its close USSR connections (Strenge 2006: 58, 77, 137, 165, 167, 172). When appealing to elites, Hitler deliberately stressed his determination to destroy “Marxism,” while downplaying his anti-Semitism (Kershaw 2000: 286–87). Nevertheless, big business long maintained distance (Turner 1985: 88–89. 97–99, 113, 115, 127, 134–35, 170–71, 188, 216–19, 235, 244–45, 272–75, 279–88, 303–4, 312, 328–29, 341–43; Kershaw 2000: 357–59, 414).

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Bracher 1978: 411, 426; Strenge 2006: 77–78, 98, 107; see also Brüning 1970: 160, 552–55). Conservatives’ ambivalent position toward fascists, whom they sought to keep under control, but also use for their own purposes, led in Germany – like in many other countries – to attempts to coopt, domesticate or divide the NSDAP (see Nolte 1987a: 206–12). This was the plan of Reichswehr leader Kurt von Schleicher, who in 1932 turned into Germany’s main political strategist (Vogelsang 1962: 129–30, 135, 185, 203–4, 256–58, 316–17, 325; Patch 1998: 220–24; Kershaw 2000: 366, 371). It was Schleicher who had persuaded President Hindenburg to replace conservative Chancellor Brüning with reactionary Franz von Papen (Mommsen 2016: 524). Drawing on Schleicher’s contacts with Hitler,33 the new head of government then sought to obtain NSDAP toleration or backing for his cabinet of stodgy elitists. Yet Papen’s concessions to Hitler, especially the dissolution of the Reichstag, allowed the NSDAP to make additional big advances. The July 1932 elections more than doubled the Nazi vote share to a stunning 37.4 percent. Hitler now claimed Germany’s chancellorship, invoking the precedent of Mussolini, whom Italy’s king had installed because of the Fascist movement’s political and paramilitary strength (Vogelsang 1962: 263–64; Schieder 1996: 122; Knox 2007: 380). But President Hindenburg brusquely rejected this bid, calling the aspiring dictator on his antidemocratic goals (Vogelsang 1962: 479; Deuerlein 1974: 397, similarly 406). In response, the Nazi leader frontally attacked von Papen’s reactionary “cabinet of the barons” (Goebbels 2008: 667, 672, 687, 691, 704; see Beck 2008: 74–76), betraying his informal dealings with the conservative establishment, especially the Reichswehr leadership (Vogelsang 1962: 189, 196, 200, 205–6, 209, 233, 459; Strenge 2006: 95–101, 105–10, 118–20, 131–35, 150–51). The July elections also resulted in further gains for the communists, which scared conservatives and even centrists (Nolte 1987a: 203). The antidemocratic forces of KPD and NSDAP now held a “negative majority” in parliament, which paralyzed decision-making. As the radical right and the radical left fed on each other’s advance, democracy fell to the clash of revolutionary and counterrevolutionary projects. The Papen government was now denuded of political support (Mommsen 2016: 33

Schleicher had held several secret meetings with Hitler and back-channeled sensitive information to the NSDAP (Goebbels 2008: 612, 643–44, 650, 652, 657–58, 663–64, 667).

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526–27, 530–31, 548–49),34 suffering a catastrophic defeat on a noconfidence motion by an unprecedented 42 vs. 512 votes (Kershaw 2000: 386). This setback made it impossible for Chancellor Papen to continue his predecessor Brüning’s approach of governing with presidential decree powers under Reichstag toleration. Having few options left, he deviated from Schleicher’s plan to draw the NSDAP into governmental responsibility and instead tried to marginalize the fascists and to replace democracy with exclusionary authoritarianism. For this purpose, he intended to overhaul the constitution to erect an autocratic “new state” with an allpowerful presidency and an appointed second chamber.35 In diverging from Italian fascism (Schotte 1932: 54), elitist Papen sought to institute non-mobilizational, hierarchical authoritarianism, similar to the Estado Nôvo (new state) that Portugal’s dictator António Salazar was preparing to impose.36 To facilitate this openly antidemocratic project (Braatz 1973), Papen destroyed the last major power base of Germany’s democratic parties by dislodging the SPD-led government of Prussia and having a reactionary ally appointed as presidential commissar (Vogelsang 1962: 238–50; Broszat 1993: 147–50).37 But an open violation of the democratic constitution and imposition of authoritarianism required military backing. The Reichswehr leadership, however, lacked confidence that it could maintain control over both the radical left and the radical right (Broszat 1993: 155–56, 160; Kershaw 34

35

36

37

Big business, however, strongly approved Papen’s reactionary approach, while keeping distance from the NSDAP, which relentlessly attacked this project (Turner 1985: 272–91). Schotte (1932: 45–48, 54–56, 65–70); Braatz (1971: 575–78, 583–84); Bracher (1978: 56, 462, 465, 468, 471–79); see also Vogelsang (1962: 200, 210, 271, 305); Kershaw (2000: 372, 379, 384); Mommsen (2016: 549, 559, 565, 577–80). Mussolini had also proclaimed a “Stato Nuovo” (Gentile 2005: 175–77), but Papen lacked the mass base that had allowed the Duce to establish his dynamic, totalitarian fascism; instead, Papen drew support exclusively from elite sectors, just like Portugal’s Salazar. Chapters 7 and 8 offer in-depth analyses of many instances in which nondemocratic admirers of Italy’s fascist leader installed non-fascist, typically authoritarian dictatorships. Because democracy was already severely weakened, the main democratic parties, including the SPD, which had governed Prussia as a democratic bastion throughout the Weimar years, lacked the strength and will to offer determined resistance to this coup (Meissner 1950: 237–38) – as the party and its unions had done in facing down the Kapp Putsch in 1920. One reason for this omission was the threat from the Nazi paramilitary formations, which were eager to “defend the state” against a “Marxist uprising.” The mass unemployment caused by the Great Depression also hindered use of the strike weapon (Mommsen 2016: 540, 544–46).

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2000: 396; Strenge 2006: 92, 168–70, 186–88). Fascists and communists, which together commanded majority support, were likely to protest against exclusionary autocracy, maybe in coordination, as suggested by Nazi support for a tumultuous KPD strike in Berlin in November 1932.38 Moreover, the downfall of Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship in Spain in 1930 (see Chapter 5) indicated the fragility of military-based rule (Strenge 2006: 18; see also 123, 203). Last but not least, General Schleicher did not want to fight the Nazis, but use their paramilitary formations to reinforce the army. Indeed, he had for years sought to tame the NSDAP and attract what he saw as its responsible wing to form a government on a solid basis (Strenge 2006: 13, 77, 97–98, 107; Mommsen 2016: 547–48, 558–59, 590). Because the military therefore refused to back his openly unconstitutional, antidemocratic project,39 the isolated Papen fell in late 1932. The effort to install reactionary authoritarianism thus failed in Germany (Bessel 1991) – contrary to many countries in Eastern and Southern Europe, as Chapters 7 and 8 show. The top-down imposition of exclusionary, demobilizational autocracy seemed too risky in a modern society, where a mobilized citizenry gave elitist conservatives little support. Instead, in a severe crisis many people followed the siren calls of militant radicals of the left or especially the right (Peukert 1993: 264–71, 280–81). Therefore, the authoritarian project’s failure did not bring the resurrection of the emasculated, suspended democracy, but paved the way for mobilizational, fascist totalitarianism.

     Desperate to break the political deadlock, Reichswehr Minister Schleicher now took the helm. Noticing that the Depression had finally bottomed out, he sought to win broader support for governing with presidential decrees by stimulating economic recovery, especially with an ambitious jobs program. This move sought to attract Germany’s unions as well as the self-proclaimed “socialist” wing of the Nazi movement (Strenge 2006: 185, 199, 204–8; Mommsen 2016: 586, 593, 596, 601–5). The political

38 39

Goebbels (2008: 709–12); see also Strenge (2006: 164–65). For joint actions by communists and Nazis over the years, see Bracher (1978: 442–43, 505, 516, 535, 564, 595). Papen (1952: 246–50); Vogelsang (1962: 377, 385, 388–89, 392); Bracher (1978: 589–91); Mommsen (2016: 588–93).

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conjuncture looked propitious for this cooptation effort. After all, the NSDAP had for the first time in years lost many votes in the Reichstag elections of November 1932, causing serious concerns in the ranks and exacerbating tensions among the leadership.40 Hitler, in line with Mussolini’s advice of “no compromises” (cited in Knox 2007: 383), stubbornly insisted on grabbing full government power. But another wing of the NSDAP was eager to join a coalition government lest the party’s electoral fortunes decline further (Wirsching 1999: 586–87; Mommsen 2016: 610–16). Cunning Schleicher courted this current’s leader, Gregor Strasser (Kershaw 2000: 395, 399; see Vogelsang 1962: 275, 328, 340–43, 361, 365–67). By dividing the NSDAP, the new chancellor hoped to keep Hitler out of power and govern until economic recovery would deflate the Nazi movement and move German politics into calmer waters again. While trying to domesticate the Nazi movement in order to use its energies for his nationalist and militaristic goals, Schleicher was also driven by a new concern. He feared that if left in the political wilderness, the NSDAP could quickly decay and disintegrate, leaving millions of discontented rootless people available for communist mobilization.41 After all, the KPD won its highest-ever vote in the November elections, whereas the NSDAP declined significantly. This new downward trend shook up the heterogeneous, faction-ridden NSDAP with its notoriously volatile support base.42 What if millions of disaffected citizens switched their protest vote and fell for the wild promises of communism (Schildt 1995: 391–92)? The specter of a surging KPD, which Schleicher had long regarded as the main enemy, gave his plan to absorb many Nazi followers added urgency (Strenge 2006: 58, 77, 137, 165, 167, 172). Thus, the fear of communism, which this book highlights, played an important role as well. For these reasons, the new chancellor pursued the unusual project of forging an ideologically encompassing “transversal front” of trade

40

41

42

Goebbels (2008: 715, 717). While strongly supporting Hitler’s intransigence, Goebbels knew that the Nazi movement depended on continued forward momentum and that setbacks seriously jeopardized its cohesion (Goebbels 2008: 553, 629–30, 637, 677–78, 691). Observers of various stripes foresaw this possibility. E.g., in 1931 a leading SPD politician expressed the fear that the communists would benefit the most from the likely decline of the NSDAP, which he saw as a volatile protest movement (Schulz 1975: 674–75). Whereas the NSDAP won millions of new voters after 1929, it also lost many again in subsequent elections (Childers 1984: 50–53). Thus, the mass base of this catchall party fluctuated greatly.

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unions, the Strasser wing of the Nazi movement, and various paramilitary formations.43 But the SPD vetoed participation by the socialist unions (Vogelsang 1962: 329, 338, 350). Moreover, Hitler’s unchallengeable dominance prevented the NSDAP from dividing and left Strasser isolated (Goebbels 2008: 728, 731–32, 734–37, 741, 744–53). Schleicher’s crosscutting alliance therefore failed to materialize (Schildt 1995: 404–13). Moreover, Schleicher’s turn to economic state interventionism and his overtures to the unions displeased big business and large landowners, who distrusted the self-styled “social general” (Turner 1985: 304–8). While Germany’s economic elite had long disliked Hitler and opposed his singleminded quest for power,44 the military chancellor’s sudden turn to the left now made some entrepreneurs wonder whether the Nazi leader was, perhaps, the lesser evil (Mommsen 1979: 125–28, 133–34; Neebe 1983: 155–56).45 Because Schleicher failed to win new supporters but antagonized the powers-that-be,46 his government fell even more quickly than Papen’s.

     How could Germany finally get a viable government again? To cope with urgent problems, such as the ongoing economic crisis and the looming threat from the growing KPD (Patch 1998: 283–85; see also Kershaw 2000: 405–9), the protracted stalemate between the conservative establishment and the fascists had to be overcome. The main stumbling block was Hitler’s mass-based veto power, which had caused Papen and then Schleicher’s downfall (see Kershaw 2000: 379–80). As Goebbels (2008: 726) gloated, “One will have to resort to us, because another solution of the crisis is impossible.”47 Although the Nazi movement had started to 43

44 45

46 47

Meissner (1950: 251–52, 257); Vogelsang (1962: 328–29, 337–38); Strenge (2006: 173–80, 185, 199, 204–8); Mommsen (2016: 586, 594, 601–5); see also Goebbels (2008: 658, 689). See the definitive analysis by Turner (1985: 88–89, 97–99, 113, 115, 127, 134–35, 170–71, 188, 216–19, 235, 244–45, 272–75, 279–88, 303–4, 312, 328–29, 341–43). Because the military leadership, President Hindenburg, and his entourage made the main political decisions (Turner 1985: 103–4, 228–29, 304), big business did not play an important role in Hitler’s Machtergreifung, however (Turner 1985: 314–26, 346). Turner’s exceedingly thorough research corrects earlier suggestions, for instance by Bracher (1978: 600, 603, 606), which attributed some influence to business interests. The political impasse that felled Schleicher becomes evident in the cabinet debate documented in Michalka and Niedhart (1980: 350–54). During this time, Nazi leaders also had significant contacts among Mussolini emissaries (Goebbels 2008: 736–37).

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lose support, the main decision-makers, which the marginalization of parliament confined to a reactionary coterie around President Hindenburg (Turner 1996: 166, 168, 178–82), concluded that the only realistic – and formally constitutional – option lay in sharing government responsibility with the NSDAP (Meissner 1950: 265, 271; Berman 2019: 249–50). Hitler’s unshakeable condition was, however, to become chancellor. Most of Germany’s political and economic elites, starting with President Hindenburg (Vogelsang 1962: 376–79), who grasped Hitler’s totalitarian intentions, continued to have serious concerns about this risky prospect. Because there seemed to be no way around the powerful Nazi leader, however, the presidential entourage begrudgingly agreed to a deal that sought to minimize the threat posed by Hitler’s chancellorship. In the new government of January 30, 1933, conservatives headed most important ministries; and of course, they controlled powerful bastions in state and society, namely the presidency, the military, the commanding heights of the economy, and the mainstream media.48 In these ways, the powersthat-be hoped to contain and domesticate Hitler, his fervent mass movement, and his paramilitary forces.49 Moreover, they expected that government responsibility would induce the Nazi leader to shelve many of his outrageous slogans and promises (cf. Strenge 2006: 78, 107, 116, 220); throughout history, many other originally radical forces – not least the SPD, especially after the Kaiserreich’s collapse in late 191850 – had moderated and become “reasonable” when taking over governmental decision-making and administration. Hitler skillfully played to these expectations by appearing to back off from his demand for total power (Meissner 1950: 254–55, 261) and by accepting a cabinet with minority NSDAP representation. Therefore, the appointment of the largest party’s leader, who suggested he would seek a parliamentary majority (cf. Turner 1996: 150–51, 158–59), looked less risky and undemocratic than the 48

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Schieder (2017: 16–17) suggests, though without strong evidence, that one reason why conservative elites trusted in this containment strategy was the precedent of Mussolini, who even after his consolidation of dictatorial power faced constraints arising from Italy’s king, the military, and the church. Fascinating discussion among right wing leaders quoted in Michalka and Niedhart (1980: 357–58); see also Kershaw (2000: 419–21). See Patch (1998: 221). The expectation that the NSDAP would moderate in government was widespread in the early 1930s (Meissner 1950: 231; Deuerlein 1974: 340–41; Strenge 2006: 57, 98; Mommsen 2016: 433, 519; see also Vogelsang 1962: 445; Turner 1996: 22). Foreign observers, such as the London Times (Deuerlein 1974: 388), shared this view.

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alternative being considered,51 namely the return of ex-chancellor Papen, whose stark political isolation would have required the imposition of an openly authoritarian regime.52 But the expectations of containing the Führer’s dictatorial ambitions were quickly revealed as illusions. After all, Hitler ensured that his paladins controlled Germany’s interior ministry and Prussia’s powerful state police. Moreover, with Schleicher’s downfall, a general with Nazi sympathies took over the Reichswehr Ministry: “[Hitler] is very content with him,” Goebbels (2008: 758) confided (see also Vogelsang 1962: 375; Sauer 1974: 46–56; Kershaw 2000: 443; Mommsen 2016: 634). The new chancellor thus had considerable control over state coercion. By contrast, the ministries occupied by conservatives, such as economy and finance, could not hinder Hitler’s quest for total power. Goebbels (2008: 757–58) dismissed these appointments as insignificant: “Those are cosmetic mistakes (Schönheitsfehler)” that “have to be erased.” Indeed, the conservative cabinet members immediately disagreed among each other, losing all capacity to tame Hitler (Broszat 1993: 201–6). Thus, the new chancellor faced little effective constraint from his conservative cabinet. Hitler also bested his reactionary allies through mass mobilization, as demonstrated by the six-hour-long (!) parade of his jubilant supporters upon his appointment, the beginning of a revolution for Goebbels (quoted in Michalka and Niedhart 1980: 360; see Bracher 1978: 635–36). Moreover, the Stormtroopers unleashed a wave of officially condoned violence (Bracher 1979: 116–18). Most importantly, Hitler persuaded 51

52

Turner’s (1996: 170–71) claim that there was another option, namely a military dictatorship as a viable alternative to Hitler’s chancellorship, seems unpersuasive. As internal documents (cited e.g., in Bracher 1978: 639) make clear, the military leadership was extremely reluctant to sustain a government that lacked a political basis, fearing a general strike – perhaps supported by both communists and Nazis – if not a civil war (see also Vogelsang 1962: 375, 377, 385, 388–89, 392; Mommsen 2016: 631, 634). Moreover, President Hindenburg had lost trust in General Schleicher, who in late November 1932 blocked Chancellor Papen’s dictatorial plans by alleging the military’s incapacity to withstand a civil war, yet who in January 1933 claimed the opposite (Vogelsang 1962: 373, Strenge 2006: 214–18). In general, Hindenburg, despite his reactionary contempt for democracy, felt bound by his oath on the Weimar constitution and was unwilling to embark on an openly unconstitutional experiment. What made the appointment of Hitler acceptable to the president was the formal constitutionality of a cabinet that commanded a near-majority in parliament and that claimed to seek additional support from the Center Party (Mommsen 2016: 630–32, 637). Meissner (1950: 260, 265, 271); Vogelsang (1962: 373, 382–84, 386, 388–89, 491–92); Bracher (1978: 628, 632); Mommsen (2016: 625, 631–32, 637, 639). In fact, Goebbels (2008: 754–55) threatened, “If Papen comes back (to the chancellery), there will be a revolution within two months.”

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President Hindenburg to call another election – which he promised to be the last one, ever. . . (Michalka and Niedhart 1980: 357; similarly Goebbels 2008: 759). In this contest, the fired-up NSDAP, now in control of the government, was bound to achieve major gains. In sum, Hitler quickly shredded the apparent straightjacket that conservatives had imposed. Dynamic fascism easily overpowered the advocates of authoritarianism. In line with this book’s backlash argument, the Führer invoked anticommunism to prepare his ruthless push toward fascist totalitarianism (Broszat 1993: 205; Nolte 1987a: 33–38). NSDAP propaganda attacked primarily “Marxism” and depicted the March 1933 elections as a choice between Bolshevism and National Socialism (Goebbels 2008: 759, 763).53 Accordingly, Stormtrooper terror targeted the communists (Sauer 1974: 236–42; Kershaw 2000: 409, 439–43, 453–55). Thus, the Nazi leadership counted on deep fears about the radical left, which were indeed widespread among elites and citizens. To justify his quest for concentrated power, Hitler promised extinguishing any revolutionary threat – through totalitarian hyper-mobilization rather than authoritarian demobilization. In retrospect, these fears of “Marxism” appear vastly exaggerated. Historian Hans Mommsen (2016: 559 and 535), for instance, bemoans “a widespread psychosis” and “a truly neurotic-looking antiCommunism, which had gripped broad segments of the middle-class (‘bourgeois’) public” by 1932. Similarly, Kershaw (2015: 210) marvels at the “panic at the growing support for the Communist Party . . . and the wildly exaggerated prospect of a communist revolution [that] had gripped the middle classes.” The cognitive mechanisms highlighted in this book can account for this excessive anxiety. As the KPD “had 6 million voters” while “for the Russian Revolution fifty thousand Bolshevists had been enough” (Deuerlein 1974: 366), the representativeness heuristic fueled fear. Heuristic shortcuts held special sway given the existential uncertainty caused by years of devastating socioeconomic crisis, escalating sociopolitical turmoil, and institutional drift. In this “phase of extreme political disorientation” (Mommsen 2016: 581; see eyewitness reports in Deuerlein 1974: 354, 411; also Vogelsang 1962: 278), people faced enormous difficulty making sense of fast-changing events. Therefore,

53

Hitler used similar anti-Marxist appeals to cement his support among the military leadership (Michalka and Niedhart 1980: 372).

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citizens and even organizational leaders resorted heavily to the inferential mechanisms of bounded rationality. NSDAP leaders carried this anti-communism to the extreme by interpreting and framing the arson attack on the Reichstag in late February, which a lone former Marxist probably perpetrated (Kershaw 2000: 456–58, 731–32 n. 112), as a systematic communist attempt to incite a nationwide uprising (Bracher 1979: 119–27). Hitler and his confidants used the Reichstagsbrand to crack down on the left and whip up mass support (Beck 2008: 107–12). As Goebbels (2008: 769) exulted, “Now we can go for it all!” Yet notwithstanding this immediate political usage, ample evidence suggests that top Nazis sincerely believed their own conspiracy theory and were genuinely frightened (Goebbels 2008: 768; see also Kershaw 2000: 457–58; Beck 2008: 107–82008). An eyewitness from the police, for instance, “found the Reich Chancellor [Hitler] in a near-hysterical state” and “thought that the whole atmosphere resembled that of a madhouse” (Kershaw 2000: 458). This panic reveals how deep the fear of communism was that gripped the radical right and helped drive its totalitarian plans, as a central argument of this book claims. The Reichstagsbrand and its political exploitation by the Nazi leadership heightened to a fever pitch citizens’ anxieties about the communist threat (Beck 2008: 3, 28, 110–12), which helped boost the NSDAP vote share to 43.9 percent, enough for a seat majority in the Reichstag in coalition with the reactionary DNVP. This success, in turn, allowed Hitler to install his dictatorship with formally legal means. Under strong pressure, parliament passed a broad “law of empowerment” (Ermächtigungsgesetz) in March 1933 (Ermakoff 2008), the juridical foundation for the Nazis’ totalitarian autocracy (Broszat 1969: 99–117; Bracher 1979: 222–36). Certainly, however, Hitler complemented this apparently constitutional dismantling of the constitution with plenty of illegal terror. While Jews suffered discrimination and harassment, the initial outburst of violence was targeted mostly at the “Marxist” parties KPD and SPD and their trade unions (eyewitness reports in Kessler 1999: 445–49; see also Ermakoff 2008; 61–69, 215–16). Yet strikingly, even the NSDAP’s rightwing coalition partners as well as established elites, including business and the state bureaucracy, faced intimidation and even repression (Beck 2008: 3–5, 11–12, 88, 129–38, 228–33, 236–42). Culminating its longstanding attack on “traditional hierarchies and conservative values” (Beck 2008: 155; see 299–303), the Nazi movement destroyed any remaining constraints and grabbed absolute power. Reaching beyond

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the political arena, it imposed forceful control over major societal organizations (Broszat 1969: 117–29, 180–218; Bracher 1979: 247–69, 279–98; Turner 1985: 335–36; Beck 2008: 233–36). Finally, in mid1934, Hitler consolidated his totalitarian dictatorship by purging his own movement, assassinating the Stormtrooper leadership and other reactionary rivals (Broszat 1969: 267–73; Sauer 1974: 324–64; on popular approval, see Kershaw 1987: 84–93).

    (-)     Germany thus became the only country that fully emulated the Italian precedent by instituting a fascist regime. Indeed, Hitler went beyond his role model Mussolini by quickly imposing unadulterated totalitarianism and by preparing for aggressive imperialism, which soon incinerated much of Europe and eventually consumed his own dictatorship. Why was German fascism so extreme? One facilitator was Germany’s economic and military potential, which eventually enabled Hitler to conquer half of Europe, whereas the Duce failed to defeat poor Greece (Clogg 2002: 118–19). Its energetic drive to restore Germany’s international power helped the Nazi movement win domestic support for its rise, government takeover, and regime consolidation. For instance, a principal reason why General Schleicher refused to repress the Nazi paramilitary formations was to use them in rebuilding the army. In general, the NSDAP’s insistent demands and the Hitler government’s determined and initially successful efforts to undo the humiliation of Versailles, secure Germany hegemony in Europe, and pursue territorial expansion in the East were crucial for ensuring that the Führer received backing from reactionary politicians, established elites, and growing parts of the citizenry, probably a substantial majority by the mid- to late 1930s (Kershaw 1987: 124–29). Conjunctural factors also helped Hitler win increasing support, which he used to pursue his totalitarian vision. When he became chancellor, recovery from the Great Depression had begun. His government boosted this upswing through massive economic expansion, targeted mainly toward rearmament and war preparation. The resulting drop in unemployment brought relief to the long-suffering population and corroborated the Führer’s charisma. Combined with his accomplishments on the international front, this success, which was much more striking than

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Mussolini’s achievements, strengthened his support as well as his dictatorial clout. Hitler therefore had the latitude to push toward full-scale totalitarianism, concentrate power through repression such as the massacre of the SA leadership, and advance his ambitious ideological goals, especially the conquest of Lebensraum in the East. Most importantly, however, the difficult trajectory of the Nazi movement led to the iron totalitarianism and combustive dynamism of Hitler’s regime. As this chapter argued, Germany installed fascism, not authoritarianism, because Weimar democracy was hard to topple and because exclusionary, top-down autocracy proved unviable in this modern, mobilized polity. It took a fascist movement of mushrooming size to take over democracy from the inside and then install a particularly potent dictatorship that marshaled and controlled mass involvement through charismatic leadership. In fact, facing innumerable obstacles during his lengthy effort to take power, Hitler built up a fervently committed, highly energetic fighting machine that – once he became chancellor – quickly steamrolled all political and institutional constraints, took total control of politics and society, and then unleashed a world war and unprecedented genocide. Precisely because the Nazi leader needed much longer than Mussolini to win office, he forged a movement that was significantly more powerful and overwhelming than the fasci. Therefore, Hitler managed to push his fanatical goals to the extreme, domestically and internationally. Whereas Mussolini continued to face political limitations even as a dictator, as his eventual eviction by Italy’s king shows, the Nazi leader commanded unlimited power (as the old elite’s inability to eliminate him on July 20, 1944 confirms) and used it to the fullest, with disastrous consequences.

 Germany was the only democracy during the interwar years that emulated Mussolini’s new regime model and installed full-scale fascism. Despite the widespread admiration for this powerful antidote to communism, no other country followed the Duce by instituting right-wing totalitarianism. As this chapter shows, the German exception arose from the Weimar Republic’s combination of weaknesses and strengths. The fragmentation of democratic forces, the persistent power bastions of reactionary elites, and the exaggerated fear of communism created profound vulnerabilities and brought the emasculation of democracy during the Great Depression. Temporarily, reactionaries sustained by President

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Hindenburg and the army leadership had the upper hand. But the fragility of conservative influence and the mobilization of the citizenry precluded the imposition of exclusionary, hierarchical authoritarianism, as happened in many backward countries of Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America. Conservative weakness allowed for the advance of fascism (see recently Ziblatt 2017), and democracy’s strength paradoxically induced Hitler to chart a course that in the end allowed him to win office in formally legal ways. After all, Weimar did not fall to his Putsch of 1923, which attempted the isomorphic emulation of Mussolini’s March on Rome. Hitler therefore embraced mass mobilization and elections and sought to defeat democracy with democratic means – complemented, however, by paramilitary violence, especially against “Marxists.” Conservatives’ lack of command over large population sectors allowed for the explosive growth of this plebeian fascism during the crisis of the early 1930s. After reactionary groupings around President Hindenburg had marginalized the SPD, its stunning electoral success gave the NSDAP virtual veto power over government formation. Once efforts to bypass, coopt, or divide the fascist mass movement failed, those reactionaries reluctantly installed Hitler, trying to tame and contain his totalitarian ambitions. But the boundless energy of his fervently committed followers allowed this charismatic leader to push aside all safeguards and barriers and quickly impose a totalitarian dictatorship. Thus, Hitler finally succeeded in following his much-admired role model Mussolini. The sinuous route he had to take, however, made the German variant of fascism much fiercer and more extreme than the Italian original. Inadvertently, mainstream right-wingers had paved the way for a fascist regime that diverged substantially from their own political preferences. By using their institutional power, often inherited from the Kaiserreich, conservative elites undermined democracy and thus facilitated the fascist takeover. While wary of the Nazis’ plebeian radicalism, they hoped to use this mass movement for fostering their own goals, especially the elimination of the communist threat and the recovery of Germany’s geopolitical weight. But boosted by the fallout of the Great Depression, the fervent energy of fascism overpowered these establishment forces. Thus, while the institutional strength of reactionary elites pushed Germany toward autocracy, the political weakness of these reactionary elites, especially their feeble mass support, enabled Hitler to outflank them and replace the battered democracy with a totalitarian dictatorship.

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The two factors highlighted in this book, namely the deterrent example of Bolshevism and the attractive model of Italy’s fascism, played important roles in Germany’s descent into right-wing despotism. Anticommunism, which the Nazis fused with anti-Semitism, boosted support for conservative and reactionary forces and in turn fueled right-wing hostility to democracy. Dialectically, the perceived threat from the KPD, which grew stronger during the early 1930s, drove citizens into the arms of the NSDAP and prompted established elites to acquiesce in Hitler’s appointment as chancellor. After all, the NSDAP seemed useful for combatting the radical left; and plans to combat the radical right foundered on the fear that the communists would take advantage of such a conflict for their own revolutionary causes. Thus, concerns initially aroused by the Russian Revolution contributed in important ways to fascism’s advance in Germany. Mussolini’s success in destroying the left and his new recipe for building an unassailably strong regime also played a significant role. The Italian precedent provided a powerful inspiration to Hitler and his supporters, including reassurance during the lean years from 1924 to 1928. As the fascist dictator commented, “the Brown Shirt [Nazi uniform] perhaps would not have appeared without [Mussolini’s] Black Shirt” (cited in Picker 2009: 76). As a decisive start, Mussolini’s example of 1922 encouraged this marginal demagogue to claim leadership as the Führer and pursue a predestined mission as Germany’s savior. After the isomorphic imitation of the March on Rome had led the young NSDAP into a cul-de-sac with its premature coup in 1923, a more careful assessment of Mussolini’s systematic, multipronged way of winning power helped to inform Hitler’s embrace of a (pseudo-)legal strategy. Over the years, the Nazis kept looking up to fascist Italy, trying to establish contacts, and receiving advice during their final advance in 1932. Thus, although the causal weight of Mussolini’s example is difficult to measure (Goeschel 2012: 489), it contributed in several ways to the unique installation of National Socialism in Germany (comprehensive recent analysis in Schieder 2017). German conservatives failed in their opportunistic efforts to employ the fascist mass movement for their own, more limited goals. Once they had begrudgingly handed over government power, their desperate attempts to domesticate and contain Hitler proved strikingly unsuccessful. Interestingly, however, similar initiatives succeeded across Southern and Eastern Europe during the interwar years. Because in those nations where liberal democracy fell, conservatives won the contest with fascists,

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through cooptation or repression, there was a massive wave of authoritarian rule. While many victorious conservatives admired Mussolini and while numerous authoritarian regimes imported elements of fascism, such as propaganda agencies and paramilitary youth organizations, they did not emulate the new model as a full-scale regime. How fascism contributed to these breakdowns of democracy, and how authoritarianism proliferated – rather than fascism! – is the topic of the next two chapters.

7 The Spread of Fascist Movements – Yet of Authoritarian Regimes

After Chapter 5 highlighted the tremendous appeal of Mussolini’s new fascist model, Chapter 6 explained why Germany, inspired in part by the Italian precedent, installed full-scale fascism. National Socialism took hold because in this modern country conservative elites had limited control over the mass population and therefore lacked the clout to impose their preferred regime, authoritarian rule, to replace the democracy that they had battered (Peukert 1993). Instead, a mobilized citizenry allowed for the dramatic rise of a fascist mass movement that overwhelmed the conservative elites. Profiting from the Great Depression and invoking the perceived threat posed by a growing communist movement, Hitler’s energized party completed the destruction of liberal pluralism and went so far as to impose harsh totalitarianism. By following Mussolini’s path all the way and installing a fascist dictatorship, the Central European powerhouse remained the exception, however. The reactionary regime type that spread in Eastern and Southern Europe and in Latin America during the interwar years was not mobilizational totalitarianism, but de-mobilizational authoritarianism (Pasteur 2007: 7–9, 81–82, 205–6). No other country in the world imported true fascism on its own initiative; only Germany’s geopolitical hegemony and temporary military prowess allowed for the creation of some fleeting fascist regimes in Eastern and Southeastern Europe during WWII. Even the Austrian autocracy of 1933–38, which scholars have labeled as some type of “fascism with adjectives” (cf. Collier and Levitsky 1997), such as clerical fascism or Austro-fascism (e.g., Tálos 2013; Wiederin 2012: 41), “was far from a fascist regime” with its stodgy 193

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Catholic corporatism.1 Indeed, regime founder Engelbert Dollfuß made a point of avoiding the fascist label and doggedly resisted strong pressures from Austria’s international protector Mussolini, who pushed hard for the emulation of his novel regime model.2 Thus, what proliferated during the 1920s and 1930s was not totalitarian fascism but conservative authoritarianism (Payne 1995; Linz 2000, 2002). Why this wave of authoritarian regimes? What was the impact of the causal factors emphasized so far, namely fear of communist revolution and – as a reaction – appeal of the fascist counter-model? While clearly not the only cause of the interwar reverse wave (as Chapter 2 explained), the scary specter of the extreme left played a basic role by shaking precarious liberal and democratic regimes. In particular, this widely shared dread is crucial for explaining the wave-like nature of authoritarianism’s spread. After all, this reactionary riptide swept up winners and losers of WWI (e.g., both Romania and Hungary); old and new countries (e.g., Spain and the Baltics); polities with serious ethnic conflicts and contested borders, and those without (e.g., Yugoslavia and Portugal). A common denominator in this tremendous diversity was the perception of left-wing threats, exacerbated by the frequently clandestine approach of communist subversion and the promotion of this extremism by the powerful Soviet Union. Certainly, fear of left-wing radicalism was often wildly exaggerated. The availability and representativeness heuristics led many sectors to overrate the significance and replicability of Lenin’s stunning success. Blown out of proportion by cognitive shortcuts, the frightening Russian precedent sent shivers down the spine of conservative and even centrist groupings. A wealth of evidence suggests that many of these threat perceptions were genuine and sincere, reflecting real fears, as Chapter 5 documented. Certainly, some actors also sought to foment this panic for strategic reasons, propagating manipulated information and worrisome rumors to advance their self-interests or ideological causes. But this instrumental usage of the communist scarecrow achieved its effect only 1

2

See recently Botz (2014: 141); Botz (2017: 165); see also Peniston-Bird (2009: 450–51). Different from Italian and German fascism, “the Dollfuß-/Schuschnigg-dictatorship did not rest on a rising new party, which could unite large masses of the population behind itself” . . . “in no way can one speak of a powerful movement that coherently followed the Führer principle” (Reiter-Zatloukal, Rothländer, and Schölnberger 2012: 8–9). Goldinger (1980: 271); Kindermann (1984: 66, 72); similarly Brook-Shepherd (1962: 163, 166, 201–2). On Dollfuß’s passive resistance, see documents in Maderthaner and Maier (2004: 24–25, 31, 39, 44, 46, 58–60).

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because of the genuine fears that the targets of these calculated distortions harbored. The very impact of strategic manipulation thus shows that the concerns about the radical left were widespread and deep-seated among the citizenry. The perceived danger of left-wing revolution fostered doubts in democracy, which seemed to suffer from a fatal flaw: Liberal safeguards gave liberty’s sworn enemies room for maneuver and thus facilitated their subversive activities. Democracy looked especially vulnerable where it confronted other serious problems, especially ethnic conflicts or socioeconomic crises, such as hyperinflation, recession, or mass unemployment; and where it suffered from institutional deficiencies, such as the governmental instability and weak executive authority of the assemblytype democracies in the Baltic countries. In different mixes, this panoply of challenges undermined support for liberal pluralism and aggravated concerns about the threat from the radical left. Whereas democracy seemed to be overwhelmed by problems, autocracy with its concentrated authority and determination to employ coercion promised much greater protection, including immunity to the Bolshevist virus. For these reasons, the right, with its growing aversion to democracy, won increasing support in Europe and Latin America during the 1920s and 1930s. In less modern societies with unconsolidated democracies that faced a particularly high problem load, as in Eastern and Southern Europe, the imposition of some type of reactionary autocracy was becoming ever more likely. No wonder, then, that fascism drew widespread attention and great admiration. After all, this novel regime type promised the strongest guarantee against revolutionary challenges, the reliable protection of domestic order through conflict suppression, and a good chance of fortifying a country’s international position. The deterrent effect of communism and other grave challenges thus raised the attraction of fascism. The specter of the radical left played a crucial role in boosting the radical right. Consequently, fascist movements formed and grew all across the globe, even in polities with longstanding liberal and democratic traditions, such as Britain and France (comprehensive overviews in Payne 1995; Paxton 2005; Bosworth 2009c). But as highlighted, the reverse wave of the interwar years brought mostly the spread of conservative authoritarianism, not totalitarian fascism. Even the initial successes that Mussolini and then Hitler achieved did not stimulate full-scale imitations. Except for Germany, the homegrown fascist movements that sprouted up across Europe and Latin America and were inspired by the Italian or German models uniformly

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failed to take power on their own. The main reason was that in these less modern polities, established, traditional elites maintained a great deal of social control and political clout; consequently, fascist movements grew much less dramatically than in advanced Germany with its independent and mobilized citizenry. Moreover, these conservative elites also learned from Mussolini’s and especially Hitler’s takeover, which quickly demonstrated the enormous downsides of fascist totalitarianism. Precisely because the containment efforts of Germany’s authoritarian elites strikingly failed, their counterparts across Europe and Latin America were determined to avoid this mistake and prevent a fascist power seizure with all means. Thus, fascism quickly exerted its own deterrent effects, which blocked the diffusion of this novel and seemingly appealing regime model. Interestingly, in the less developed countries of Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America, conservative elites with their overwhelming sociopolitical clout did manage to contain fascism. Through a variety of tactics that ranged from cooptation to violent repression, they imposed or strengthened the regime type that they preferred, namely hierarchical, demobilizational authoritarianism. How the conflict-ridden relations between establishment sectors and fascist upstarts played out depended on the power constellation and political conjuncture of each country, which gave rise to two distinct patterns of regime development. First, where established elites clearly predominated, conservative stalwarts used fascist movements as shock troops to install non-fascist autocracies, as in Brazil in 1937 and in Spain during the late 1930s; and once they sat firmly in the saddle, they subordinated these auxiliaries to their own authoritarian domination. Similarly, Portugal’s authoritarian incumbent consolidated and hardened his arch-conservative regime in the early to mid-1930s by using pressure from a rising fascist movement against more liberal sectors, yet then subdued and eventually repressed these right-wing extremists. Second, by contrast, where fascist movements were surging in support, as in Austria in 1933/34, Estonia and Latvia in 1934, and Romania in 1937/38, conservative elites forestalled the risk of a fascist takeover by overthrowing battered liberal democracies and imposing non-participatory dictatorships. To extinguish the extremist threat, these preemptive autocracies employed determined repression, which was especially brutal in Romania. Interestingly, one way that the authoritarian regimes emerging through both of these paths sought to gain strength for taming and subduing fearsome fascist movements was by emulating some elements of fascism

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itself. By creating their own paramilitary formations or governmentcontrolled parties, for instance, they tried to win some mass backing and draw support away from their radical-right competitors. But conservative authoritarians always maintained top-down control and never transformed their autocracies into dynamic, mass-mobilizational dictatorships. Consequently, the foreign imports mostly remained empty shells; government parties, for instance, elicited only weak commitment and lacked the fervor of fascist movements. Indeed, incumbent rulers let these alien elements wither away once they had averted the threat of fascism. Thus, borrowing from the fascist toolkit did not turn these autocracies into fascist totalitarianism; instead, they always remained elitist, hierarchical types of conservative authoritarianism. In sum, the global rise of fascism affected regime development in variegated, complex, and even contradictory ways. In some countries, fascist movements helped install authoritarian rule, whereas elsewhere they posed an acute threat that authoritarian coups sought to preempt. Even more strikingly, authoritarian dictators often repressed domestic fascists while simultaneously learning from foreign fascists. There was one important commonality, however: These heterogeneous tendencies uniformly had deleterious, often lethal, consequences for liberal democracy. Whether authoritarian leaders cooperated with fascist challengers or preempted and suppressed them, the main victim was political freedom. By whatever path, dictatorship proliferated while political pluralism suffered compression. Thus, although fascism as a regime type did not spread beyond Germany, the allures of Mussolini’s new model and the widespread formation of fascist movements provided strong impulses for the authoritarian wave of the interwar years. Interestingly, this anti-democratic impact resulted primarily from fascism’s deterrent effects and the drastic countermeasures imposed by conservative elites. Thus, like its ideological opposite, communism, fascism proved far more important by prompting determined, powerful counterdiffusion than by stimulating successful diffusion.3 3

My analysis of fascism’s regime impact, developed independently in 2015 and published in an early version in 2017 (Weyland 2017), coincides in many ways with the excellent studies of Kallis (2014, 2016), which I first encountered in March 2017. Following Linz (2000, 2002), Eatwell (2001: 34–38), and recently Bauerkämper and Rossoliński-Liebe (2017: espec. 3), however, I regard the distinction of authoritarianism and totalitarianism as fundamental and therefore differ from Kallis’s (2016) claim that fascism and conservative authoritarianism often formed true hybrids. Instead, as this and the following chapter show, fascism and authoritarianism nowhere achieved a real integration, not even in the

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The present chapter examines how the emergence of fascist movements and their tension-filled relationships with the conservative advocates of authoritarian rule propelled the spread of reactionary autocracy during the 1920s and 1930s. The next section analyzes the fear of communism that directly or indirectly drove the proliferation of dictatorships. The section after that highlights how in response to this threat, fascist movements sprouted up across Europe and Latin America, while the subsequent section exemplifies these processes by focusing on Romania, where the third most powerful fascist movement after Italy and Germany emerged. The section following that presents the principal reasons why, contrary to Italy and Germany, fascist movements universally failed in their determined quest for power. This section, the chapter’s theoretical core, emphasizes the political clout of conservative elites and elucidates their strong preference for authoritarianism over fascism The final section examines why, despite their aversion to full-scale fascism, many authoritarian regimes imported bits and pieces of the fascist model – but soon let these alien graftings wither on the vine.

       :     In line with this book’s central argument about the double deterrent effect, the fear of revolutionary Marxism was a fundamental motive for the rise of the reactionary right and the proliferation of reactionary dictatorships during the interwar years. This chapter examines the indirect impact of this threat via the emergence of fascist movements, which created new allies but also dangerous competitors for conservative establishment sectors. Before examining this complex new cleavage and its repercussions, the present section analyzes how the fundamental backlash to communism directly shaped regime developments. In the 1920s and 1930s, dread of communism ran high, even after the early efforts to emulate Lenin’s bold power grab had everywhere been defeated. The specter of Bolshevism scared conservatives and even centrists all over the globe, as Chapter 5 highlighted. Viewed from a rational perspective, perceptions of communist threat were often excessive and sometimes bordered on paranoia. The reason was that the Russian Revolution activated the heuristics of availability and representativeness farthest-going attempt, Romania’s National Legionary State of 1940/41 examined in Chapter 8.

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and stimulated expectations of easy replicability. Moreover, the conspiratorial approach of communists, which concealed their real strength, exacerbated uncertainty and thus induced their opponents to keep resorting to cognitive shortcuts. Consequently, worries about communism prevailed in Europe as well as faraway Latin America. The wave of radical labor contention and revolutionary uprisings after WWI left lasting legacies of fear. Even in Portugal, for instance, which had experienced “red danger” from 1919 to 1922 (Bernecker 2002: 208), threat perceptions lingered thereafter, despite the actual weakness of radical-left forces (e.g., Carvalho 2013: 12–13). Similarly, in Argentina, the massive strikes and protests of the “tragic week” of 1919 created a traumatic precedent (Devoto 2005: 127–30); consequently, a wide range of sectors held fears of left-wing revolution in subsequent decades (Waisman 1987; Rock 1993: 112, 128–29, 133–35, 139, 146–52). This sense of danger was reinforced in Eastern Europe by the proximity of the Soviet Union, which kept promoting its world-revolutionary goals. In Romania, for instance, radical-right organizing originated in the Northeast, close to the menacing communist power. Acute concerns about communism caused a direct backlash that fueled the imposition of dictatorship in a number of countries. For instance, “the great fear” of the radical left was the predominant motive for Spain’s brutal descent into authoritarianism during the second half of the 1930s (Ranzato 2014), as discussed in Chapter 8. Similarly, the move toward autocracy after Bulgaria’s anti-populist coup of 1923 was prompted by a “halfhearted effort by the Communists to undertake a revolution” (Bernecker 2002: 248; see also 474; Whetstine 1988: 84–85; Berend 1998: 132–33). A massive communist bomb attack in 1925 that tried to blow up the country’s political leadership then provoked a further reactionary backlash (Groueff 1987: 142–49; Crampton 2005: 153–54). Fear of the radical left also guided the royal dictatorship that Tsar Boris III instituted after another coup in 1934 (Chary 2007: 124–29; see also Poppetrov 1988: 537). Similarly, perceptions of a communist threat – however far-fetched – played a role in the installation of the Metaxas dictatorship in Greece in 1936 (Papacosma 2007: 179–83; Pelt 2014: 201, 209). The destruction of Lithuania’s democracy also resulted directly from left-right polarization. The 1926 coup dislodged a government “widely perceived as a dangerously leftist alliance” that had “under socialist pressure” made parliament “pass some very unpopular economic

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measures that . . . strongly upset influential political forces”; for instance, cuts in the army budget antagonized the military (Vardys 1978: 70–71; see also Misiunas 1970: 91–94; Rothschild 1974: 378–79; Pasteur 2007: 138). In fact, the Catholic opposition party “compared the leftist coalition with the regime of A. Kerensky in Russia 1917, which was followed by the October power grab of the Bolshevists” (Lopata 2001: 113; see also 110, 116, 139–40). Widespread dread of the radical left allowed the coup makers to claim they had preempted a planned communist takeover (Lopata 2001: 119–20; Kasekamp 2010: 108). But expert Joseph Rothschild (1974: 379) judges, “the original Catholic involvement in this coup was myopic and proved a political blunder.” This “misjudgment” sacrificed political liberty and helped a group of “ultranationalists” entrench their dictatorship, which the Christian democrats quickly came to oppose – but to no avail (Rothschild 1974: 379). Thus, excessive fear stoked by the Bolshevik precedent brought a distinctly suboptimal regime outcome, a product of bounded rationality. In numerous other instances, concerns about the radical left contributed to the imposition of autocracy in interaction with other problems and challenges. Nagging worries about communism exacerbated discontent with the teething problems of the many new democracies instituted after WWI. The fragmentation of party systems, the lack of democratic experience, and the resulting deficits in governability created a sense of vulnerability across Eastern Europe. When these countries suffered unprecedented economic crises, especially hyperinflation in the 1920s and mass unemployment in the early 1930s, these concerns turned acute and prompted determined reactionary countermeasures. In Estonia, for instance, a communist coup attempt in late 1924 punctured confidence in the new democracy with its constitutionally weak executive leadership. The shocking challenge stimulated reform attempts to create a powerful presidency, which intensified during the Great Depression, provided a popular cause for the emergence of a radical-right movement, and in these ways helped to provoke the authoritarian coup of 1934 (Vardys 1978: 72–73), as Chapter 8 discusses. In other cases, the fear of communism operated as a background factor, not a proximate cause of democracy’s downfall. In Yugoslavia, for instance, communists had achieved considerable organizational and electoral success from 1919 to 1921, which instilled intense fears among establishment sectors and provoked the party’s prohibition and banning (Benson 2001: 27, 32–33, 36; Nielsen 2014: 43–44). But the principal reason for the royal dictatorship imposed in 1929 was the incessant acute

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conflicts among the heterogeneous ethnic and religious groupings making up this newly founded country,4 which paralyzed democratic decisionmaking (Benson 2001: 45–46, 52; Nielsen 2014: 41, 45–51, 57–73; Connelly 2020: 377–79). In Poland, anti-Russian nationalism reinforced the strong rejection of communism (see Pilsudska 1941: 273, 280, 284, 287–88, 292–93). Indeed, in the Russian–Polish War of 1920, the restored nation defeated the Bolshevist armies’ effort to push the world revolution into Central Europe (Pilsudska 1941: 301; Lukowski and Zawadzki 2006: 225, 229–30). But it was incessant politicking, infighting, and corruption among Polish politicians, a product of pronounced party fragmentation, that triggered the 1926 coup by the father of Polish nationhood and victor of 1920, Marshal Józef Piłsudski (Pilsudska 1941: 279, 329, 334). Indeed, the new authoritarian regime initially did not have a right-wing orientation and even won support from Poland’s socialist party (Davies 2005: 311–12, 404; Lukowski and Zawadzki 2006: 240–42). Over time, however, the war hero’s rule turned more dictatorial and moved in a conservative direction; both trends grew stronger after the marshal’s death in 1935 (Davies 2005: 313–14; Lukowski and Zawadzki 2006: 242–49). In sum, there were some instances during the interwar reverse wave when anti-communism played only a limited role. Overall, however, fear of the revolutionary left was intense after Lenin’s success and prompted a widespread and powerful reaction, in direct or indirect ways. Consequently, many cases of autocratic imposition had clear counterrevolutionary goals. The perceived threat of Bolshevism constituted the common factor that explains the wavelike nature of democracy’s overthrow during the 1920s and 1930s. The fundamental backlash to communism boosted the reactionary right, inducing conservative elites to turn to authoritarian rule and giving rise to a new current, totalitarian fascism. Specifically, fears of communist revolution were a principal reason for the formation of fascist movements, which recruited many followers and won toleration or support from conservative elites by battling the radical (and the not-so-radical) left. Anti-communism often fused with antiSemitism because left-wing parties had disproportionate shares of Jews among their leaders and militants, especially in Eastern Europe (Mann 4

Interestingly, one factor that exacerbated inter-ethnic hostility and made King Aleksandar concerned about Croat intransigence was that due to some tactical pronouncements and bluffs by Croat leaders, their opposition to Serb predominance was perceived as inspired by Bolshevism (Nielsen 2014: 45–46, 48–50).

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2004: 240, 270; for Hungary, see Connelly 2020: 394; for Germany, see Kershaw 2000: 114–16). Indeed, right-wingers’ wild conspiracy theories equated these two types of “enemies of the people,” who personified the corrosive repercussions of cosmopolitan modernity on tradition, nationhood, and Christianity. For instance, Romania’s fascist leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu (1939: 349), whose autobiography railed in the vilest terms against communists and Jews, flatly stated, “When I say ‘Communist,’ I mean primarily the Jew.” With this poisonous blend of anti-communism and anti-Semitism, fascists invoked widespread fears and prejudices to boost their popular support. Fascism’s rise then contributed mightily to the imposition of authoritarianism, as the numerous country cases examined in Chapter 8 document. In this indirect way, concerns about communism exerted another powerful impact on the autocratic wave of the interwar years: Dread of the radical left boosted the radical right. Yet due to the double deterrent effect, conservative elites feared and fought not only the radical left but also the radical right; rejecting fascist totalitarianism, they installed or hardened authoritarian rule instead. Thus, fear of communism contributed to the proliferation of dictatorships not only by provoking a direct reaction (as the first section highlighted) but also indirectly by stimulating an extreme-right backlash, which in turn allowed and prompted conservative elites to fortify political order via exclusionary, hierarchical authoritarianism. As the specter of left-wing totalitarianism helped propel the rise of right-wing totalitarianism, powerful establishment sectors combated both ideological extremes by imposing or reinforcing nonparticipatory dictatorships. In sum, the reverse wave of the interwar years advanced in twisted, refracted ways. While the Russian Revolution provided a crucial original trigger, the emergence of fascist totalitarianism created an additional fault line that also caused powerful earthquakes. Outside Germany, conservative authoritarians emerged victorious from these battles. The main casualty, however, was liberal democracy, destroyed by the assault of all these hostile forces.

    :      Virtually every country in the world, even the United States with its longstanding liberal democracy, saw fascist movements arise during the 1920s and 1930s. In a few nations of Western and Northern Europe,

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these fringe groupings remained mere nuisances. Yet even in some established democracies, such as Belgium and France, these reactionary challengers found surprising numbers of followers (De Wever 2009; Tumblety 2009). In several countries of Central and Eastern Europe, fascist movements achieved substantial organizational, electoral, and paramilitary strength. During the 1930s, radical-right offshoots in Austria, Estonia, Hungary, and Romania expanded so much that they looked like a serious threat. Fascism also flourished in Latin America, especially in Brazil, yet also Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay (Trindade 1979; Deutsch 1999; Sznajder 2001; Klein 2004; Finchelstein 2010; Seiferheld 2016). Fascism’s proliferation had crucial internal causes. Some of its roots lay in the nineteenth century, which had given birth to modern nationalism and anti-Semitism. Yet as the wave-like nature of fascism’s advance suggests, external stimuli were also crucial. After all, fascism owes its very emergence to Mussolini’s Italy, and its later emulation in Nazi Germany provided an additional impetus. Chapter 5 examined the first ripples of this diffusion process, namely the rash efforts to replicate the March on Rome. Because these plans to imitate the Duce’s audacious takeover uniformly failed, fascist movements mostly abandoned direct assaults on power. Instead, they concentrated on organization building, mass mobilization, and electoral efforts, while also intimidating their enemies and undermining the existing regime through street violence. The catastrophe of the Great Depression and the dramatic advance of the German NSDAP further boosted the fortunes of extreme rightwingers. In some countries, such as Estonia in early 1934 and Romania in 1937/38, their popular support swelled to such an extent that they seemed to have good chances of winning power in the next election.5 While originally stimulated by Mussolini’s takeover in Italy, the growth of fascist movements received a strong impulse from Hitler’s Machtergreifung and from his achievements in fomenting economic recovery, diminishing mass unemployment, and strengthening Germany’s international position. For instance, Hungary’s reactionary head of state, Admiral Miklós Horthy ([1953] 2011: 146; see also 136), highlighted with reference to Germany’s dictator, “There can hardly have been a single person in the length and breadth of Europe who took no interest in the rise of the man . . . who . . . was now achieving the most 5

For Estonia, see Kasekamp and Toomla (2012: 32–33); for Romania, see Nagy-Talavera (1970: 295–96); Heinen (1986: 355–56): Sandu (2014: 145–48); Schmitt (2016: 245, 249, 251, 254–55).

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remarkable successes in every field.” Similarly, as a student in Berlin in late 1933, Romanian intellectual Emil Cioran ([1931–37] 2011: 80) was fascinated with Nazi Germany’s “passion for a fertile and creative barbarism, its capacity for infinite daring.” And in 1937, he confessed: “I believe there are – even in Germany – few people who hold greater admiration for Hitler than I do.”6 If conservative authoritarians like Horthy and brilliant essayists like Cioran were impressed,7 then fascists were elated and derived strong encouragement from Hitler’s early triumphs. Romania’s Codreanu, for instance, exalted the Führer, “who in the year 1933 wrestled himself to a magnificent victory and who unified the whole German people under his great command alone” (Codreanu 1939: 57; see ibid, 115, 413–15; see also Heinen 1986: 226, 325; Sandu 2014: 28, 60, 77–79). The inspirational impact of Hitler’s Machtergreifung extended as far as Paraguay, firing up one of the first Nazi parties formed outside Germany, as early as 1929 (Seiferheld 2016: 84–86, 91–92). Applying the heuristics of availability and representativeness, fascists across the world jumped to the conclusion that with redoubled mobilizational efforts they could accomplish similar feats. Interestingly, the demonstration effect of the Nazis’ success proved powerful although Hitler provided only limited financial and political support to fellow fascists and the extreme-right movements arising inside Germany’s sphere of interest were, as fervent nationalists, often wary of the Nazi regime’s aggressive imperialism.8 Despite their high hopes inspired by Hitler’s initial success, however, fascist movements never managed to seize power on their own, without geopolitical pressure or military support from Nazi Germany. Where these upstart groupings seemed to have realistic chances of taking control of the government, via ballots as in Estonia or via bullets as in Austria, conservative elites forcefully blocked their ascent by imposing authoritarian rule or by violently defending an existing non-fascist autocracy. 6

7 8

Cioran ([1931–37] 2011: 189–90). Chillingly, immediately after Hitler’s massacre of the SA leadership in mid-1934, Cioran ([1931–37] 2011: 140), when asked to comment on these “events, which shocked the whole world,” professed: “There is no politician in the contemporary world who instills a greater liking [‘Sympathie’ in the German translation] in me than Hitler.” Interestingly, democratic party leaders sometimes uttered similar eulogies, as Iuliu Maniu of Romania’s National Peasants’ Party did in late 1937 (Vago 1975: 243–44). For instance, although Latvia’s fascists “adopted . . . the near-Nazi greeting of . . . ‘Kampf Heil’” and one of their leaders held “great admiration for Hitler,” they also were distinctly “anti-German” with “their simplistic slogan, ‘Latvia for the Latvians’” (Von Rauch 1995: 152).

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Ironically, Hitler’s Machtergreifung helped to provoke these repressive responses by suggesting to status-quo defenders what would happen if a fascist movement were allowed to advance unchecked and take over. Thus, the Nazis’ brutal push toward totalitarianism, which immediately drew global attention (e.g., Armstrong 1933: 589–93), exerted strong deterrent effects that played an important role in forestalling fascism’s further spread (for Romania, see Heinen 1986: 191, 226–27, 238, 241; Sandu 2014: 79–80).9 Hitler’s political success thus contributed to his imitators’ failure. Indeed, conservative advocates of authoritarianism were scared and revolted by Hitler. For instance, soon after highlighting the Nazi leader’s “most remarkable successes in every field,” Hungary’s Horthy ([1953] 2011: 146; see also Dreisziger 1968: 42) commented on “the bloody June 30th, 1934,” the massacre of the SA leadership: “This justice of vengeance with neither judge nor tribunal had profoundly shocked me.”10 That Hitler’s victims included his immediate predecessor as chancellor, conservative general Kurt von Schleicher, must have reinforced Horthy’s revulsion: Would he suffer the same tragic fate after a fascist takeover in Budapest? Even a fervent Mussolini admirer wrote his friend, Brazil’s conservative strongman Getúlio Vargas, about “Hitler, the Wagnerian butcher of the macabre blood carnival of Bavaria” [where the SA leadership had recently been slaughtered] and added that “Hitler is a dangerous explosive” (Silveira 1934: 4). As a contemporary political scientist concluded, “the action of June 30 had a sobering effect on the enthusiasts for dictatorial rule all over the world” (Loewenstein 1935a: 590). Austria’s Christian-Social conservatives also expressed their aversion to the Hitler regime in internal discussions among party leaders. In April 1933, the defense minister claimed: “The experiment Hitler [is] certainly dangerous, an unbelievable danger for Germany. Probably the experiment will end in failure” (Goldinger 1980: 238). And in May 1933, a conservative politician denounced the German Machtergreifung: “They have pushed [all political parties] to the wall, brutally. Every right of 9

10

In response to Hitler’s rise, left-wingers also transformed their strategy. In a complete turnaround, the Comintern stopped targeting social democracy as the main enemy (“social fascists”) and now sought alliances with the center-left to form anti-fascist “popular fronts” (McAdams 2017: 223, 236–41). This reorientation did not forestall internecine infighting among the left, however, which turned most bloody during Spain’s Civil War (McAdams 2017: 242). Allegedly, even Mussolini rejected “this abominable and repulsive spectacle” as “savage barbarism” (quoted by Starhemberg 1942: 170).

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freedom is being kicked with feet” (Goldinger 1980: 245). Even openly, in a book published at the height of the Nazi regime’s ascendancy, Portugal’s arch-conservative dictator António Salazar voiced his discomfort: In Hitler’s “totalitarian state . . . humans exist only for the aggrandizement and glory of the state. . . . A state that is so strong won’t shy away even from the most exaggerated violence” (Salazar [1937] 1977: 69–70). Thus, the Nazis’ resolute power grab in Germany sent shivers down the spines of conservative sectors by suggesting the tremendous risks inherent in fascist totalitarianism. To prevent such a fascist takeover that could quickly overpower them, the powers-that-be struck when they still commanded predominant force (Mann 2004: 238). They did not want to miss their last chance of maintaining control, as their German counterparts, who underestimated the Nazi challenge, had done. In this vein, authoritarian forces in Hungary and Romania employed determined, even brutal, coercion as soon as the main fascist parties achieved a sudden jump of their vote shares to 16–20 percent (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 152–55, 293–301; Szöllösi-Janze 1989: 152–54, 250–52; Sandu 2014: 144–57). In contrast, the NSDAP had been allowed to build on its dramatic surge to 18.3 percent in 1930 and keep expanding; and once it then garnered 37.4 percent in mid-1932, it had become too massive to repress – and soon thereafter ended up seizing power.11 Alerted by the German precedent, conservative adherents of authoritarianism across Europe and Latin America never allowed fascists to advance so far, but aborted their rise immediately after the first striking upsurge. Many fascist movements, however, never reached the strength to have a realistic prospect of taking power. They did not manage to turn into catch-all parties that drew a wide range of protest voters, as the NSDAP had done during the Great Depression. A basic obstacle to fascism’s growth was the sociopolitical clout that established elites retained in “backward” Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America (Janos 1982; Luebbert 1991: 258–59; Berend 1998; Sundhaussen 2001: 341–46; Pasteur 2007: 9–10, 39–50, 206). Whereas urbanization and industrialization had corroded elite predominance in Germany (Peukert 1993: 33–51), in less modern nations a limited part of the citizenry was susceptible to mobilization by radical upstarts. Large proportions lived in the countryside, where landowners used clientelism and labor repression 11

Larsen (2011: 25–28) contrasts the NSDAP’s unimpeded upsurge in the early 1930s with the stunted electoral development of fascist parties in Western and Northern Europe.

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to ensure their domination. Conservative elites therefore prevailed in elections, hindered fascist advances, and maintained a stranglehold over the government. Consequently, radical-right movements often were small and fleeting; many remained confined to the extremist fringe or soon faded back into insignificance. Moreover, in countries ranging from Spain to Hungary, and even tiny Latvia (Rothschild 1974: 375), a welter of small fascist groupings emerged in the 1930s; this fragmentation meant weakness. Ironically, Mussolini’s and Hitler’s precedents could prove so powerful – by inspiring a number of imitators inside a single country – that the resulting dispersion kept all of them powerless. Fascist movements depended on personalistic leadership. Only a few leaders, however, such as Romania’s Codreanu, commanded such magnetic charisma that they secured total loyalty from their own followers and drew many members away from competing groupings.12 But extreme-right chieftains often lacked this extraordinary gift – and therefore headed minor, marginal groupings or flash movements that quickly faded. For all of these reasons, fascist movements in many countries remained more of an irritant or occasional problem, rather than posing a serious threat. In sum, fascist movements proliferated during the interwar years, but were often limited in size, won small vote shares (Bermeo 2003: 25), and commanded little fire power (for Eastern Europe, see now Connelly 2020: 409–32). While these weaknesses prevented many of these groupings from having a significant regime impact, some played a role as auxiliaries of conservative elites that helped to combat left-wing forces and to install authoritarian regimes. Chapter 8 documents this pattern by examining the cases of Brazil, Portugal, and Spain, where fascist movements served as shock troops for (aspiring) dictatorial rulers. Only a few extreme-right groupings achieved greater political success, which made them – and their conservative adversaries – believe that they could soon grab power. This scary prospect then induced the conservative establishment to crack down hard and forestall any fascist takeover, as the case studies of Austria, Estonia, and Romania in Chapter 8 document. To show how a radicalright movement could obtain this unusual opportunity, which then quickly turned to disaster, the following subsection investigates the

12

For Hitler, see Kershaw (1987); for Codreanu, see Iordachi (2013). Eyewitness Rosie Waldeck ([1942] 2013: 29–30, 35, 196) was impressed with the persistence of Codreanu’s charisma even two years after his assassination.

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emergence of the most potent fascist organization outside Italy and Germany, Romania’s Legion of the Archangel Michael aka Iron Guard.

      As the strength of conservative elites limited recruitment opportunities for fascist movements, how did the Iron Guard in backward, largely rural Romania manage to advance steadily and finally achieve a striking upsurge that seemed to take the fascists close to power – before they suffered violent repression by conservative elites (Chapter 8)? The unusual growth of Romanian fascism resulted from structural elite weakness and the abandonment of peasants and workers, combined with the incredible charisma of political leader, avenging savior, and religious mystic Corneliu Zelea Codreanu.13 With his supreme confidence in his millenarian mission and his demonstrative authenticity as a son of ˘ Romania’s provincial heartland,14 the smashingly good-looking Capitan captivated his followers and drew a devoted circle of disciples (Schmitt 2016: 86–94, 191–200). As he practiced fascism as a comprehensive way of life and spread his gospel of redemption to a destitute citizenry neglected by the governing elites, he gradually gained more supporters. But of course, Codreanu’s success had crucial structural preconditions. Most important was the deficient land reform enacted after WWI, when Romania was still predominantly rural and overall quite poor. To prevent “a feared massive peasant uprising” inspired by the Bolshevist takeover in Russia (Hitchins 1994: 348; similarly Rothschild 1974: 281, 290–91), Romania’s weak state redistributed large swaths of property, but did not offer the new owners financial and technical support; therefore, many peasants lived in abject poverty (Rothschild 1974: 290–93; Heinen 1986: 35–36, 101–2, 151–52; Connelly 2020: 259, 392–93). While perpetuating social need and discontent, this hasty preemptive reform also had corrosive political repercussions. The abolition of large holdings undermined elite control over the peasantry, dissolved clientelistic linkages, and prompted the downfall of the conservative party (Sturdza 1968: 28; Nagy-Talavera 1970: 254; Livezeanu 1990: 219–20; Hitchins 1994: 352, 377, 382). Because the Liberal Party, which ran the 13 14

Italian rightwinger Julius Evola ([1938] 2015: 65–66, 71, 101), who met Codreanu in early 1938, offers striking testimony of this charisma. The brief “autobiography” of his top aide Ion Moţa, reprinted in Moţa and Marin ([1923–37] 2019: 53–56), highlights this theme.

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government in the 1920s, was mainly urban-based (cf. Maner 2001: 444–45), many peasants were not tied into partisan networks. These destitute smallholders were receptive for Codreanu’s quasi-religious appeals (Sandu 2014: 211–13). Thus, as in Germany, the erosion of elite predominance debilitated conservative forces and opened space for fascist outsiders (Heinen 2013: 140–47; Iordachi 2014: 242). The Legion of the Archangel Michael soon took advantage of this opportunity. To move beyond its origins as an anti-communist and antiSemitic student movement and win a larger popular following, it undertook herculean mobilization and organization efforts in the countryside (Heinen 1986: 194–98, 227–35; Schmitt 2013: 279; Sandu 2014: 288–98; see also Moţa and Marin [1923–37] 2019: 53–56). Years of patient recruitment in godforsaken villages (see Codreanu 1939: 331–38, 371, 410), which demonstrated the Iron Guard’s anti-elitist impetus and won support from Orthodox clergy and rural schoolteachers (Maner 2001: 456–57; Haynes 2014: 177, 183–84; Clark 2015: 77–83, 211; Connelly 2020: 404–6), paid off in the 1930s. As this disciplined fascist movement entered elections, it won slowly increasing vote shares. Behind the façade of parliamentary democracy, however, establishment parties used voter intimidation and fraud to maintain control of the government (Hitchins 1994: 377–80, 409–12; Maner 2001: 434, 438–41, 444–47; Clark 2015: 97–98). Facing these obstacles, the Iron Guard long employed a shifty approach (Sandu 2014: 50, 69–70, 74–76, 86–88, 119, 196, 229, 290–95), alternating between electoral efforts and violent attacks on government officials.15 Yet the threat of state retaliation and the success of its mobilizational work, which won it growing numbers of committed followers (Codreanu 1939: 405–7, 436; see Heinen 1986: 381–96; Sandu 2014: 298–322), induced the Legion from 1934 onward to concentrate on the electoral route and move away from violence, albeit inconsistently.16 After Codreanu’s fascists gained a base in the countryside, they tried hard in the mid-1930s to recruit in Romania’s cities as well. For this purpose, they appealed to the anti-communism that had firm roots in this neighbor of the Soviet Union and of Hungary, which had suffered 15

16

Clark (2015: 31–38, 42–44, 50, 57, 61, 75, 96, 99–104, 107–10, 246) recently documented this penchant for violence. See also Codreanu (1939: 53, 127, 130, 156, 185) and Iordachi (2013: 22, 35, 38, 42). Clark (2015: 151, 211). Codreanu (1939: 329, 347, 369, 412) claimed that he urged the Legion to adopt a legal electoral strategy from 1929 onward – and tries to justify the violence that his underlings continued to perpetrate as purely defensive or retaliatory.

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through a Soviet Republic in 1919.17 In Romania, fears of communism indeed ran high after WWI (Müller 2001: 484–87; Schmitt 2013: 289, 295, 303, 311, 313) and left lasting memories (Sandu 2014: 308–9). Furthermore, as in much of Eastern and Central Europe (Pasteur 2007: 14), the specter of communism was associated with alleged Jewish machinations (Codreanu 1939: 16–18, 35, 41, 58–59, 338, 344, 349; see also Clark 2015: 89). Because anti-Semitism festered with great virulence among the populace, it provided a strong boost for anti-communism as well (Schmitt 2013: 301–2) and induced people to support the far right, whose conspiracy theories and hatred of Jews assumed hysterical proportions.18 The Iron Guard emphasized anti-communism when starting its strikingly successful campaign to win over urban workers in Romania’s fledgling industries (Sandu 2013: 172–73, 297–302; Schmitt 2013: 278, 314–19, 334–40, 344–45, 358–59). Given the “ever-present irrational fear of Communism” that prevailed in the country (Heinen 1986: 308; similarly 260; see also Sandu 2014: 307–8), the Legion managed to achieve significant support. In late 1937, it won its greatest electoral success with 15.58 percent of the official vote, an impressive result in Romania’s illiberal semi-democracy. As the entrenched ruling party lost its longstanding majority (Sandu 2013: 156–58), the Iron Guard seemed to have great chances of further growth. While Romanian fascism, which emerged immediately after WWI, was mostly homegrown (Schmitt 2013: 304–9) and had distinctive features with its intense religiosity,19 foreign precedents also provided important impulses. Codreanu revered Mussolini, writing in panegyric terms: “The hero Mussolini . . . was for us a radiant star that filled us with joyful hope. For us he was the living proof that the Hydra [of Judeo-Communism] can be defeated, a confirmation of our own prospects for victory” (Codreanu ˘ 1939: 58; see also Kallis 2016: 308). Similarly, the Capitan celebrated

17 18

19

Romanian fascists kept invoking the specter of Hungary’s fleeting communist regime (Schmitt 2013: 289, 301–3). Codreanu (1939: 28, 42, 47–48, 65–78, 99, 107, 151, 227, 350, 374). Codreanu (1939: 57) was “proud” to serve German students as “their teacher in anti-Semitic questions” when he spent some time in Berlin in late 1922! This religiosity included a mystical cult of redemption through sacrifice and death (Codreanu 2015: 23–24, 45–48; see also Clark 2015: 194–210), which culminated in fervent veneration for two Legionary leaders killed on General Franco’s side in the Spanish civil war (see, e.g., Moţa and Marin [1923–37] 2019: 3, 7, 23–24, 41, 70–71, 90–91, 113).

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Hitler’s Machtergreifung of 1933 (Codreanu 1939: 57) and extolled how the Nazi leader “goes from victory to victory!” in overcoming difficult obstacles and winning power against all odds (Codreanu 1939: 413–14; see also 115) – a feat that Codreanu of course hoped to replicate. Hitler’s Balkan admirer even pledged: “Within 48 hours after the victory of the Legionaries, Romania will have a close alliance with Rome and Berlin and in this way advance on the path to its historical mission” (Codreanu 1939: 441). Indeed, the precedent of Hitler had a powerful impact on the Legion’s political fate – uplifting at first, yet shattering thereafter. The NSDAP’s government takeover encouraged Codreanu to seek power via elections, “the same as Hitler” (Codreanu cited in Haynes 2007: 114; see also Heinen 1986: 205). It also inspired the Legion to redouble its mobilizational efforts by instilling unusual hope and confidence that success was foreordained (Sandu 2014: 28–30, 77–83; Schmitt 2016: 131–39, 144). This faith, inspired by the availability and representativeness heuristic, made the Iron Guard ill-prepared for the determined, brutal repression that establishment forces soon unleashed (Schmitt 2016: 253–56). This backlash, in turn, reflected the strong deterrent effect that Hitler’s triumph exerted on Romania’s political elites (Heinen 1986: 227, 238; Sandu 2014: 79–80, 82–85). An important hardliner noted in his diary that he pushed King Carol II to take measures against domestic “Hitlerist movements” and exulted when the government cracked down hard on the Iron Guard in 1933/34 (Calinescu 1999: 191, 200;20 Sandu 2014: 78, ˘ 83–86). In equally contradictory ways, German developments also affected the Iron Guard’s fortunes by changing Romania’s international context. Hitler’s political victory and Germany’s subsequent recovery tilted the balance of geopolitical power in Central and Eastern Europe. Germany’s resurgent hegemony gave an additional boost to Balkan fascism, as British diplomats highlighted (cited in Vago 1975: 250–51, 260–61). But in a nationalist reflex, the looming great power also induced Romanian establishment forces to defend their national autonomy by containing and even repressing Hitler’s domestic admirers and potential allies, as King Carol II (1995: 234) stressed in his diaries. In Romania, thus, a hasty land reform that corroded elite control but left the peasantry poor, combined with zealous anti-communism and anti-

20

On Calinescu’s role and ever closer relationship with the king, see Ilie (2017). ˘

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Semitism, allowed an exceptionally charismatic leader and his committed disciples to build up a strong fascist movement, which in the late 1930s seemed close to taking power. The increasingly successful Legion also attracted support from distinguished Romanian intellectuals such as Emil Cioran, Mircea Eliade, and Mihail Manoilescu (Heinen 1986: 353; Sandu 2014: 202–3, 218–20) and drew attention from foreign observers such as Italian right-wing extremist Julius Evola ([1938] 2015: 65–68, 76–77). The sustained advance and eventual surge of Romanian fascism remained unusual, however. In most less-developed countries of Eastern Europe, stronger elite predominance never allowed fascist movements to achieve such strength, or they took off only episodically, as in Estonia (Chapter 8). In conclusion, the 1920s and especially the 1930s saw a proliferation of fascist groupings across the globe. This diffusion wave resulted from the political appeal and normative attraction of the new regime model, which promised the polity’s energetic fortification and reliable protection against “enemies of the people,” particularly the revolutionary left. However, most of these fanatical movements remained numerically small, organizationally fragmented, and politically isolated. Only in a few countries, namely Austria, Estonia, and Romania, did these upstart challengers ever have a chance of taking power on their own, that is, neither as junior partners of authoritarian forces (like the Falange in Spain’s civil war) nor as protégés of hegemonic Nazi Germany (like Croatia’s Ustaša during WWII). Why did the global appeal of fascism not propel the proliferation of fascist regimes?

    –   Fascism promised the strongest, most thorough cure of the ailments plaguing crisis-ridden democracies, including immunization against communism. Power concentration by a charismatic leader commanding mass support would guarantee governability, crush internal enemies, and strengthen the country internationally. Yet despite the great appeal that this novel ideology exuded and despite the worldwide proliferation of fascist movements, fascism as a full-scale regime rarely spread to other countries. This new model experienced surprisingly little diffusion, understood as a wave of uncoerced adoptions of a foreign innovation (cf. DiMaggio and Powell 1983). Instead, what proliferated during the interwar years was conservative authoritarianism, which differed substantially from fascist totalitarianism

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(see especially Linz 2000, 2002; see also Berend 1998: 341–45). Even Mussolini fans who claimed to follow the Duce’s footsteps, starting with Spain’s Primo de Rivera (Chapter 5), actually imposed nonmobilizational, elitist dictatorships. Why did fascism’s normative appeal not exert greater force, shape regime developments, and produce the isomorphic imitation expected by constructivists and sociological institutionalists? Why did the Zeitgeist not carry the day? What hindrances blocked the causal mechanisms highlighted by ideational theories, which attribute great strength to novel ideas and values (Meyer and Rowen 1977; DiMaggio and Powell 1983)? Obstacles to the Spread of the Fascist Regime Model The main reason for the infrequency of fascism’s diffusion was the ambivalent stance of powerful conservative elites vis-à-vis this innovative model: Clear sympathies coexisted with strong reservations. Essentially, conservative authoritarians and dynamic fascists stood in a love–hate relationship. They shared many reactionary orientations, such as antiMarxism, anti-liberalism, and nationalism; however, they also had substantial ideological and political differences, especially in the depth and ambition of their goals and in the ways and means of pursuing them (Linz 2002; see also Blinkhorn 1990). As regards similar convictions, conservatives and fascists both embraced sociopolitical hierarchy and forceful top-down domination. However, they disagreed on who should command the apex of this starkly unequal order. Conservatives insisted on maintaining the leading role of established elites, whereas fascists pushed for installing their charismatic leader at the top. Conservatives wanted to preserve and cement the existing sociopolitical system, but fascist upstarts intended to overpower established elites and assert their own supremacy (Luebbert 1991: 258–66). In a nutshell, while conservatives’ basic approach was static, fascism was dynamic: Its regenerative (“palingenetic”: Griffin 2007) impulse was future-oriented and transformational, with a clear anti-conservative edge. In crisis-racked democracies, conservatives wanted to turn the clock back by imposing non-mobilizational authoritarianism. Fascists had much more ambitious goals, which mixed modern and atavistic elements and aimed at a thoroughgoing, comprehensive overhaul. They pursued the total penetration of state and society and intended to push even the traditional elites from the driver’s seat, especially by imposing their

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personalistic leader as the unchallengeable authority running a totalitarian system. Given their shared insistence on sociopolitical hierarchy and rejection of egalitarianism, a strong affinity between conservative authoritarians and fanatical fascists was their fear of the radical left. But while established elites saw fascists as useful shock troops for extirpating the danger of communism, they also worried about the ultimate outcome of such violent campaigns. What if domineering fascist leaders and their zealous, brutish supporters sought to defeat not only the radical left and crush other political forces but to displace even the established, mostly conservative, elites? Understandably, those elites were unwilling to “rule [themselves] out” through a “collective abdication” (cf. Ermakoff 2008). Instead of ceding power to an uncontrollable mass movement and its unaccountable leader, they insisted on authoritarian rule to cement their own predominance. Conservative politicians therefore refused to give up the levers of government; business people feared arbitrary, ideological or amateurish, incompetent interventions in the economy; and the military did not want violent paramilitary hordes to undermine its monopoly over organized coercion (Linz 2002: 64–69). Thus, basic self-interests made conservative sectors averse to fascism; they preferred authoritarianism with its exclusive and exclusionary elite control. Many conservatives also disliked the coarse, plebeian style of fascist movements, found their leaders’ simplistic demagoguery and ideological fanaticism repulsive, and despised these upstarts, who often hailed from lower rungs of society (Linz 2002: 43). The extreme right violated traditions of political propriety and jeopardized the natural hierarchy of politics and society – though not as radically as the scary communists did. Therefore, while conservative authoritarians often sought to use fascist movements for instrumental purposes, especially in fighting the left, they always tried to maintain control and rein in their allies once they had rendered their services. Outside Germany, conservative elites and authoritarian rulers succeeded in these Machiavellian efforts. In less modern countries, establishment sectors clearly predominated; this asymmetry could be so pronounced that the uneasy alliance between conservatives and fascists resembled principal–agent relationships more than marriages of convenience. And where fascist movements temporarily gained threatening strength, conservative elites drew on the military to squash these challenges. In these ways, established elites managed to impose their preference for stable authoritarianism and averted fascists’ push for mobilizational totalitarianism (Blinkhorn 1990).

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An inherent contradiction arising from fascism’s fanatical nationalism often posed an additional obstacle to the cross-national diffusion of fascism. While the reactionary attack on the radical left could give rise to international cooperation, fascist nationalism impelled a hostile, aggressive stance toward a country’s neighbors, which is by nature difficult to multiply. After all, fascism seeks to breed winners in the Darwinian struggle for international power: But how many winners can there logically be, and how can they get along with each other?21 In particular, would the foreign admirers and imitators of Mussolini and Hitler get into conflict with the original model countries, great powers Italy and Germany, which pushed their own foreign-policy interests in Europe?22 Or would emulative fascist movements and new fascist regimes submit to the model country’s power – and thus abandon their own drive for national aggrandizement? The aggressive nature of fascism thus created a fundamental dilemma and hindrance to its diffusion. This problem had dogged even Hitler, Mussolini’s only successful imitator. After all, admiration for the Duce violated pan-German nationalism because Mussolini in the 1920s conducted a ruthless Italianization campaign in largely German-speaking South Tyrol, which Italy had gained after WWI.23 The Nazi leader had to go through difficult contortions to justify his ideological affinity to the oppressor of this centuries-old German territory (Hitler [1925] 2016: 1589–97). Austria’s radical rightists of the 1930s, wedged between the two fascist great powers, faced a particularly complicated two-front battle (Peniston-Bird 2009: 439, 442, 446). Ideological sympathies for Mussolini-style corporatism were held in check by resentment over the loss of South Tyrol and wariness about the Duce’s hegemonic ambitions. And the magnetic appeal of National Socialism – in its Austrian and German currents – risked the political independence of this new German-speaking country with its contested identity, which indeed disappeared from the map with the Nazi Anschluß of 1938.24 Thus, fascism’s aggressive nationalism hindered its cross-national proliferation.

21 22 23

24

Perceptively, British diplomats understood this dilemma (Vago 1975: 251, 261). See in general Larsen (2001): 733–38; for the case of Italy and Portugal, see Kuin (1993a: 8). The festering wound of South Tyrol curtailed Italian fascism’s appeal among the German right in general (Hoepke 1968: 134, 159–68, 276–79, 290; Schieder 1996: 84, 93, 100–1, 110–14). French imitators of National Socialism faced the same dilemma (Orzoff 2016: 270). This issue even became acute in Latvian right-wingers’ relations with Nazi Germany (Von Rauch 1995: 152–56).

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In conclusion, efforts to emulate Italian fascism or German National Socialism ran up against an inner contradiction and faced basic resistance from conservative elite sectors. The former obstacle was not decisive, as Hitler’s example suggests. Much more important were the reservations of established elites, who did not simply “fall for” the novel regime model – and who certainly did not want to fall over it! Crucially, those conservative sectors commanded massive power capabilities, including organized coercion, and therefore managed to subdue and defeat threatening fascist movements. Decision-Making among Conservative Elites In pushing their preferences for conservative authoritarianism over fascist totalitarianism, established elites drew not only on stark resource advantages but also tended to rely on decision-making procedures that loosened the bounds of rationality somewhat. By contrast, fascist movements with their charismatic leader and weak institutionalization were especially susceptible to the distorted inferences resulting from cognitive shortcuts. Therefore, fascist challengers often fell prey to vast overestimations of their prospects, as the abortive “marches on” their national capital show (Chapter 5). Conservative elites, by contrast, better understood the prevailing balance of influence and knew how to use their power capabilities effectively. Their less-bounded rationality helped establishment sectors contain or defeat fascist movements and push through their own preference for exclusionary authoritarianism. In line with the arguments of Chapter 2, established elites tended to conduct more thorough cost–benefit assessments than did fascist leaders because they commanded organizational mechanisms for collective discussion and decision-making and had considerable political experience (cf. Weyland 2016: 224–26). After all, these sectors often headed organizations that provided structured advice and guaranteed some degree of internal deliberation. While not as broad-based and pluralistic as, for instance, the German SPD, conservative parties and business associations had decision-making bodies that engaged in debate, vetted perceptions and opinions, and thus filtered out the most problematic inferences derived via cognitive shortcuts (see, e.g., Goldinger 1980). The military with its hierarchical command structure was less prone to open debate, but generals frequently held informal discussions among each other. Moreover, establishment forces benefited from their long trajectory in politics, which provided a great deal of knowledge and experience.

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Whereas many fascist leaders were untested upstarts and outsiders who lacked a thorough understanding of the power constellation, conservative politicians had held political responsibility for years, if not decades. Moreover, they had forged contacts and connections among each other, which facilitated information exchange and the calibration of their probability assessments. Although WWI, the Russian Revolution, and the emergence of Italian fascism shook up old certainties, these sectors tended to have a comparatively thorough understanding of the configuration of powerful actors and their political capabilities. Due to these two advantages, conservative elites tended to operate with looser bounds of rationality and a better grasp of the political opportunity structure. Therefore, these establishment sectors adopted a differentiated posture toward fascist movements and Mussolini’s new regime model: They picked and chose those elements that seemed to serve their own interests, while eschewing and opposing those holding serious risks. In this opportunistic fashion, they tried to use radical-right movements for their own purposes, but controlled their plebeian dynamism and contained or subjugated their charismatic leaders. Their better understanding of the available options helped conservative elites win out in their negotiations and conflicts with the rising forces of fascism. Despite their organizational and experiential advantages, however, conservative elites were also affected by cognitive distortions arising from heuristic shortcuts. After all, the tremendous uncertainty pervading the “age of extremes” with its novel ideological projects and not-well-tested regime models was difficult to process with anything approaching full rationality. Instead, misperceptions were common, and establishment sectors often overestimated the threats they faced, both from the radical left and the radical right. Their fears of communism and their estimates of the likelihood of fascist power seizures were quite exaggerated. Interestingly, these intense worries resembled the excessive concerns that status-quo defenders including social democrats had harbored when facing the early radical-left efforts to emulate Lenin’s takeover. In the face of this unprecedented challenge, even the well-organized parties of the reformist left had panicked, as Chapter 4 explained. In a similar vein, conservative elites showed exaggerated dread, both in their constant fear of communism and in their concerns about the risk of fascism. Thus, looser bounds of rationality did not mean un-bounded rationality. Nevertheless, just as social democrats had acted more rationally than the precipitous emulators of Bolshevism, so conservative elites drew on better information processing than fascist movements and leaders. This

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greater degree of rationality helped establishment sectors to marshal their overwhelming power capabilities in calculated ways, coopt, control, or crush the radical-right upstarts, and block their millenarian project of totalitarian domination. Structural Reasons for the Proliferation of Authoritarianism As conservative elites opposed the installation of fascist regimes and pursued this goal with reasonable aptitude (given their looser bounds of rationality), their ability to control or defeat extreme right-wingers and impose their own preference for authoritarianism depended on their sociopolitical clout. In Eastern and Southern Europe and in Latin America, conservative elites held clear predominance over fascist movements. In contrast to modern Germany, establishment forces commanded ample socioeconomic, political, and military resources in these underdeveloped countries, whereas fascist upstarts won only limited popular and elite support. Therefore, conservative elites managed to avert replications of Hitler’s Machtergreifung and the installation of full-scale fascism; instead, they defended or imposed hierarchical, demobilizational authoritarianism. Germany’s embrace of fascism remained the big exception. In the “backward” settings of Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America (Janos 1982; Luebbert 1991: 258–66; Berend 1998: chaps. 1–2; Sundhaussen 2001: 341–46; Pasteur 2007: 9–10, 39–50, 206), conservative elites maintained control over substantial parts of the citizenry, especially through rural clientelism. Because large numbers of people continued to live in the countryside, landowners, clergymen, and other notables commanded a great deal of influence. Conversely, incipient industrialization and urbanization limited the proportion of more mobile and rootless citizens (see Schmitt 2013: 347–49, 357–59), who were particularly susceptible to demagogic appeals, eager to seek protection and redemption from a charismatic leader, and happy to find a community inside fervent mass movements. The predominance of conservative elites restricted fascists’ room for recruitment. Outside Germany, where the NSDAP achieved a sustained upsurge, these upstart groupings remained limited in size, electoral prowess, and paramilitary force. As distinct minorities, they were also narrow and skewed in their social composition. As marginal forces that disproportionately attracted young men, fascist movements with their strong proclivity toward violence often formed hordes of rowdy thugs. Therefore, many fascist movements had little appeal for regular, law-

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abiding citizens. Their failure to represent the broader population further reduced their political clout (Vincent 2016: 398–400). Moreover, their disorderly conduct also exacerbated the aversion of conservative elites, reluctant to let “barbarian” henchmen take power and run roughshod over their longstanding rights and privileges. Limited in strength, radical-right movements were no match for conservative elites, who could count on the military to employ organized coercion. For fascists, direct assaults on the government therefore held few prospects. Resource asymmetries and frequent vote fraud made the electoral route unpromising as well. Incapable of seizing power on their own, right-wing extremists could be tempted to enter alliances with stronger conservative forces and accept subordinate positions in government. For these reasons, establishment sectors often tried and succeeded in coopting, dividing, side-lining, or repressing these fanatical, plebeian movements; even where temporary upsurges seemed to give fascist groupings a chance to seize power, they were quickly crushed. When interwar democracies fell in Eastern and Southern Europe and in Latin America, they therefore fell uniformly to conservative authoritarianism. For these reasons, the interwar years, often depicted as the era of fascism, did not see the proliferation of fascist regimes. Despite the normative and political appeal of Mussolini’s new model, a less exciting and innovative regime type spread, namely exclusionary hierarchical rule. In fact, the very appeal of fascism helped propel this authoritarian wave: In several cases examined in Chapter 8, establishment sectors averted the perceived risk of fascist takeovers by imposing conventional dictatorships.

         There was another interesting ripple in the interwar reverse wave, however: Although fascism did not spread as a complete regime, numerous elements of fascism diffused widely across Europe and Latin America. During the 1920s and especially the 1930s, many dictators followed Mussolini’s and then Hitler’s example and founded governmentcontrolled mass parties, youth movements, or paramilitary forces; created propaganda agencies; or built up their secret police. In a striking twist, these institutional instruments of fascism were imported by the same conservative authoritarians who tried hard to keep fascist totalitarians out of power. How and why did this apparently schizophrenic, but

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actually calculated and opportunistic, proliferation of fascist innovations in non-fascist regimes come about?

The Opportunistic Import of Fascist Tools by Authoritarian Rulers Precisely because elitist status-quo defenders sought to prevent a takeover by radical-right upstarts, they often strengthened their own authoritarian regimes by borrowing political tools of fascism. These selective imports, which Mussolini and Hitler stimulated by promoting the spread of fascist innovations across the world (Gentile 2001; Hagemann 2001), were designed to alleviate the fundamental risk inherent in de-mobilizational authoritarianism, namely the governing elite’s isolation from the citizenry and its interest groups. Due to this distance between ruler and ruled, conservative authoritarians commanded little reliable support from large segments of the population. Moreover, the exclusion of the mass citizenry facilitated opposition mobilization. Deprived of political voice, discontented people could fall for the appeals and promises of regime critics. Consequently, conservative elites were always vulnerable: Under the surface of stability and depoliticization, trouble could brew, and then unexpectedly erupt (cf. Pelt 2014: 209–10). And when facing sudden challenges, authoritarian rulers could only resort to repression. But a badly targeted crackdown was risky. Indiscriminate violence threatened to backfire and inflame the opposition (cf. Kalyvas 2006: 151–60). Reliance on massive force would also strengthen the military and create praetorian temptations to grab power (Svolik 2012: 127–38). Aware of these deficiencies and dangers, authoritarian rulers were interested in the support-building instruments of fascism, especially when perceiving threats from a resurgent left – or from a rising fascist movement. Menacing conjunctures induced them to look beyond their normal aversion to fascism and borrow some mechanisms and institutions of this dynamic, totalitarian regime type. On a number of occasions, as in Austria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, and Romania during the 1930s (Iordachi 2014; Kasekamp 2017a), these partial imports resembled actual immunization efforts: Conservative rulers adopted fascist innovations in a limited dosage to strengthen their resistance against surging fascist movements. Thus, foreign fascism gave authoritarians means to foil the domestic installation of fascism. Cunningly, these establishment forces turned some of Mussolini’s innovations against Mussolini’s aspiring emulators.

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Intent upon safeguarding their authoritarian regimes and determined not to open the door to full-scale fascism, these conservative autocrats proceeded in a deliberately half-hearted way: They sought to import some bottom-up fascist energy and marshal it for their own goals, yet without undermining their top-down control and elitist rule. They tried to engineer enough popular support to consolidate their authoritarian command but avoided empowering forces or creating organizations that could turn against them. Thus, these authoritarian rulers carefully walked a tightrope – yet always erred on the side of hierarchical control. Therefore, as soon as the radical-leftist or radical-rightist threat had passed, they backed away from these opportunistic attempts at partial imitation and let the fascist imports wither away. In line with this book’s main argument, conservative sectors borrowed from fascism with particular eagerness when confronting a challenge from the extreme left. Whenever the scary specter of communism appeared, authoritarian rulers tried hard to create some (counter-) mobilizational capacity or expand propaganda efforts to counter left-wing “demagoguery.” Yet once they had averted the threat, they soon wound down these alien elements. Moreover, throughout this selective and temporary imitation of fascist institutions, the regime remained fundamentally authoritarian. Above all, the incumbent ruler maintained firm topdown control and ensured that the fascist imports would not develop an independent mobilizational dynamic that could threaten his preeminence. In this vein, Portuguese autocrat António de Oliveira Salazar toughened his arch-conservative regime with fascist components to prevent any spillover of left-wing radicalization from neighboring Spain in the mid-1930s. Yet as soon as reactionary General Francisco Franco defeated the Spanish left, the dictator in Lisbon gradually deactivated the fascist imports, as Chapter 8 examines. Similarly, Romania’s King Carol II tried to reinforce his royal dictatorship by creating a fascist-style government party – ironically, with the goal of surviving and overcoming the political advances and terrorist assaults of the fascist Iron Guard. Authoritarian regimes in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia undertook similar efforts (Connelly 2020: 426, 430–31). In sum, fascist imports helped conservative rulers stabilize their authoritarian regimes and combat their enemies, especially left-wing or right-wing radicals. Yet because the main goal was to maintain authoritarianism and strictly avoid a slide into full-scale fascism, the borrowed fascist elements were deliberately contained and never flourished. In an authoritarian setting, they remained alien components that lacked

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bottom-up energy and did not achieve great political efficacy. Conservative dictatorships with their top-down, exclusionary nature were unable – and unwilling – to stimulate genuine mass involvement. Governmental efforts to induce the populace to contribute to the ruler’s goals did not elicit the enthusiastic commitment that ideological fanaticism and charismatic leadership whipped up in fascist movements and regimes. The disciples and followers of Hitler or Romania’s Codreanu, for instance, dedicated their whole lives to the chiliastic cause and willingly incurred enormous sacrifices. There was no way for an aloof, laconic dictator like Portugal’s Salazar, formerly a university professor of finance (Ferro 1939: 75–78, 185–88, 192), or a frivolous playboy like Romania’s Carol II (Bucur 2007: 91–94) to get people fired up to defend their rule with similar fervor! No wonder, then, that the regime parties and paramilitary organizations that conservative authoritarians formed never really came to life (Pasteur 2007: 81–86). The limited number of people who joined “went through the motions,” yet lacked the fighting spirit that infused Mussolini’s and Hitler’s original models. Most members were conformist office holders or opportunistic office seekers, not dedicated activists. Thus, the fascist elements that were grafted onto authoritarian regimes often remained empty shells.25 Expert Joseph Rothschild (1974: 311, 313) therefore dismisses these imports as a “pseudo-radical, semifascist burlesque . . . [that] never developed any authentic dynamism.”26 Consequently, this borrowing did not transform the nature of the host regimes. Despite the partial copying from fascism, these elitist autocracies remained solidly authoritarian and did not turn totalitarian.

The Unusual Proliferation of Corporatism Compared to this selective and half-hearted borrowing, one component of Mussolini’s new regime model spread more widely. The corporatist system of interest representation held especially broad appeal because it had ideological roots beyond fascism. While enacted first in Italy in 1926/ 27, this organicist scheme of functional class integration originated in the medieval guild system. Rediscovered in the nineteenth century, it gained 25

26

For Eastern Europe’s authoritarian regimes, see Janos (1970: 217–19); for royal dictatorships in the Balkans, Sundhaussen (2001: 339); for Austria, Brook-Shepherd (1962: 105–8) and Pammer (2013: 397–99). For the Austrian case, see Pauley (1981: 159–63).

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crucial support from papal encyclicals in 1891 and 1931, as part of the Catholic Church’s own crusade against communism (Houlihan 2017).27 Corporatism also won adherents among political economists because the main goal of its twentieth-century versions was to conciliate business and labor, avoid class struggle and Marxist agitation, and guarantee a smooth industrialization process (Manoilescu 1934; Morgan 2009). With these goals in mind, Mussolini began installing such a system of governmentguided societal representation soon after consolidating his dictatorship. The Duce then codified its guiding principles with his famous Carta del Lavoro in 1927, which turned fascist corporatism into a model with enormous global appeal (Pasetti 2019: 144–48) and with immediate influence, for instance on Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship in Spain (see, e.g., Ben-Ami 1983: 290–99). Due to its diverse roots among various currents of the right and beyond, corporatism diffused in a broad wave (see recently Pinto 2017, 2019b), outside of specific threatening conjunctures. Many authoritarian rulers adopted corporatism in the constitutions that sought to institutionalize their regimes. After all, this structure of collaborative decisionmaking promised to guarantee stability and hierarchy, prevent the atomistic decomposition resulting from liberal individualism, and forestall the class conflict fomented by Marxists. Corporatism thus offered a traditionbased scheme for ordering complex modern societies and forging cooperation among different classes and sectors. In this way, it promised a more reliable safeguard against communist subversion than sheer repression. Corporatism’s appeal thus reflected right-wingers’ underlying concern about the spread of radical leftism that arose with the Russian Revolution and remained virulent throughout the interwar years. In line with this book’s main argument, both conservative authoritarians and totalitarian fascists were drawn to an institutional structure that seemed to immunize the ailing body politick against the communist virus. Due to the precedent of fascist Italy, the Catholic encyclicals, and corporatism’s longstanding historical roots, a wide range of authoritarian regimes enshrined corporatist provisions in their constitutions, laws, or labor regulations.28 With the papal endorsement via Quadragesimo Anno

27 28

On the Catholic embrace and advocacy of corporatism, see Pasteur (2007: 54–56, 153) and Roberts (2016: 104, 132–34). Overviews in Pinto (2014: espec. 93) and Pinto (2017: espec. 9); thorough and wideranging analyses in Pinto, ed. (2017), Pinto and Finchelstein (2019), and Pinto (2019b).

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in 1931, corporatism diffused especially among Catholic countries,29 both in Europe and Latin America.30 But the corporatist wave also swept beyond this cultural zone by reaching Lutheran Estonia and Latvia in the Northeast of Europe (Kasekamp 2017a), and Orthodox Greece and Yugoslavia in the Southeast (Kallis 2017; Petrungaro 2017). Thus, corporatism was the component of Italian fascism that spread to the broadest, most diverse range of countries, with some echoes even in the United States under FDR’s New Deal (Pasetti 2019: 148–51). Interestingly, while the Carta del Lavoro – together with the Pope’s encyclical (Roberts 2016: 104, 132–34) – provided the main impulse for the massive proliferation of corporatism, in many ways this static instrument of conflict avoidance fit better in authoritarian regimes with their limited pluralism, than in dynamic fascism with its centralizing totalitarianism. After all, the unbounded charismatic leadership that drove fascism was averse to firm institutional structures and reluctant to give societal groupings the slightest autonomy and involvement in decisionmaking. Accordingly, Hitler never instituted corporatism in Germany but completely revamped the trade unions and had the Nazis take control of business associations (Broszat 1969: 117–29, 180–218; Bracher 1979: 247–69, 279–98). Even Mussolini, who announced the principles of corporatism in 1926/27, was reluctant to institutionalize the system; only in 1939 did he finally implement corporatist structures.31 Authoritarian rulers, by contrast, did not seek total power, but based their regimes on an accommodation with conservative elites. Tripartite mechanisms of interest representation fit their de-mobilizational project well. Corporatism furthered sociopolitical stability by submitting trade unions to government control32 and by establishing a good deal of 29

30 31

32

On the role of Catholicism, see Pollard (2017). See for Portugal Adinolfi and Pinto (2014: 165) and Cardoso and Ferreira (2017); for Spain Rial (1986: 206–7), Jerez Mir and Luque (2014: 183), and Sánchez Recio (2017); for Austria Tálos (2013: 123–45) and Botz (2017), and for Brazil Moraes (1978) and Martinho and Pinto (2007). On corporatism’s attraction and spread in Latin America, see recently Pasetti (2019: 151–55), Pinto (2019a: 111–13, 134–36), and especially Pinto (2019b). Morgan (2009: 157–60); Pinto (2017: 10–12); Adinolfi (2019: 6–7, 14–22). Interestingly, therefore, authoritarian regimes that passed detailed corporatist laws inspired by the Carta del Lavoro, especially Salazar’s Portugal and Dollfuß’s Austria – rather than Italy itself – served as specific inspirations for other authoritarian rulers, such as Brazil’s Vargas or the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas in Greece (Pinto 2017: 33; Kallis 2017: 285–86). Union resistance was a crucial reason for the halting and incomplete implementation of corporatism, however, especially in a country with a powerful socialist labor movement such as Austria (Brook-Shepherd 1962: 152–53, 158).

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influence over business associations, but by allowing for some consultation as well. Therefore, while rarely enacted in full and while not affecting actual power relations and decision-making very deeply (Roberts 2016: 49–52, 132–40), corporatist structures were institutionalized faster and farther under many authoritarian regimes, such as Austria (Wiederin 2012),33 Brazil (Moraes 1978; Pinto 2019b: 68–83), Estonia (Kasekamp 2017a), Latvia, and Portugal (Cardoso and Ferreira 2017), than in the original innovator, Italy. Even the non-totalitarian dictatorships imposed greater governmental control than advocated by corporatist theorists, who sought to foment a good deal of cooperative self-regulation among societal sectors.34 Autocratic rulers’ interest in clear predominance overrode Catholic teachings and the ample literature on corporatism. In sum, this fascist innovation contributed significantly to the strengthening and hardening of many authoritarian regimes during the interwar years.

Fascist Imports – but Authoritarian Regimes While fascism’s enormous appeal and the initial successes of Mussolini and Hitler propelled a great deal of borrowing, these fascist imports did not undermine the authoritarian nature of the importing regimes. Instead, the transplants from dynamic totalitarianism did not flourish under sober, stodgy, and exclusionary authoritarianism. These alien elements always remained limited in their effectiveness and subject to quick atrophy or abandonment. In particular, mobilizational mechanisms like regime parties, youth movements, or paramilitary forces never elicited much participatory commitment or developed independent energy. What grew organically in the vibrant jungle of totalitarianism found little nourishment and space in the staid, trimmed yard of authoritarianism. That fascist shoots did not prosper when grafted onto authoritarian roots holds major conceptual and theoretical significance. This incompatibility corroborates the validity of the longstanding distinction between totalitarianism and authoritarianism, which Juan Linz (1964, 2000) explained most convincingly and applied productively to the study of interwar dictatorships (Linz 2002). Despite their family resemblance as 33 34

Even dictator Kurt Schuschnigg (1937: 246–47, 293–95) acknowledged that corporatism’s implementation advanced more slowly than hoped. For Austria, e.g., see Tálos (2013: 123–45); for Portugal, Cardoso and Ferreira (2017: 175–77); for Spain, Sánchez Recio (2017: 210).

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members of the reactionary, right-wing camp, these two regime types form different species. Attempts at creating hybrids (see recently Pinto and Kallis 2014; Kallis 2016) were rare and lacked viability, as the rapid implosion of Romania’s National Legionary State confirms (Chapter 8). Rather than effecting a true fusion with fascism as a regime, authoritarian rulers who sought a political boost from fascist imports deliberately contained and controlled these alien elements and deviated little, and only temporarily, from exclusionary, de-mobilizational trajectories. This path dependency is most visible in the longest-lasting autocracies installed during the interwar years, Salazar’s Portugal and Franco’s Spain, which by the 1950s had turned into immobile fossils. But although the import of fascist elements did not transform authoritarianism’s nature, it further depressed political liberty. To the extent that government-controlled mass parties, youth movements, paramilitary forces, propaganda agencies, and secret police forces were at all effective, they moved countries even farther away from democracy. Consequently, competitive authoritarianism hardened into full autocracy; dictatorships turned more controlling and repressive; common citizens enjoyed even less room; and oppositionists suffered harsher repression. By offering incumbent rulers an ample toolkit for concentrating and consolidating their power, fascism thus provided another impulse for the predominantly authoritarian wave of the interwar years.

 This chapter shows that, despite its tremendous appeal, outside of Germany fascism spread only in bits and pieces during the interwar years. The new regime model, which offered the strongest antidote to communism, inspired imitative movements in a wide range of countries, but radical-right upstarts succeeded only exceptionally in taking power; therefore, fascism rarely diffused as a full-scale regime (except as a product of Nazi imposition during WWII). And while Mussolini’s and Hitler’s successes induced many authoritarian governments to embark on emulation efforts, these imports remained confined to selective elements of fascism, which lacked the dynamism to transform authoritarian rule into fascist totalitarianism. For these reasons, the 1920s and 1930s saw the proliferation of authoritarian regimes that in their conservative insistence on elite rule and hierarchical order differed greatly from fascism’s regenerational ferment and mobilizational dynamism.

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Given the normative attraction of Mussolini’s innovation, its rare diffusion is surprising. The main reason is that established elites strongly preferred exclusionary, hierarchical authoritarianism to fascism’s uncontrollable totalitarianism. While both currents of the reactionary right cooperated in fighting the specter of communism and in undermining liberal democracy, they disagreed on the replacement regime. Both sides saw the enemy of their enemy only as a temporary ally, whom they wanted to use for their own purposes, and then overpower and subjugate. Opportunism, not love, guided the relationship of authoritarian conservatives and totalitarian fascists. In the resulting tensions and conflicts, conservative establishment sectors nearly always won out. Except for Germany, elites commanded predominant sociopolitical clout. Because Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America were much less developed, mechanisms of elite control such as rural clientelism were fairly widespread, whereas the mobilizable urban masses receptive to charismatic leaders were still limited in size. Therefore, fascist movements never achieved the massive groundswell of support that could have pushed reluctant conservative elites to cede government power. Because fascists garnered only low to middling support in Europe’s periphery and Latin America, conservative elites remained in control and imposed or maintained authoritarian rule, sometimes in opportunistic cooperation with fascist movements, sometimes via preemptive coups to block the extreme right’s ascent. The following chapter examines through country case studies how the complicated relationship between conservative authoritarians and fascist totalitarians brought the proliferation of autocracy during the 1920s and 1930s and how, depending on the relative strength of the reactionary right’s two wings, these processes of authoritarian imposition clustered into two distinct paths.

8 Conservative–Fascist Relations and the Autocratic Reverse Wave

The preceding chapter elucidated the paradox that despite its strong normative and political appeal, fascism rarely spread and did not find full-scale adoption outside Germany. Instead, powerful establishment sectors that rejected liberal democracy for its presumed weakness imposed conservative authoritarianism rather than totalitarian fascism. In the installation of this hierarchical, exclusionary type of autocracy, fascist movements played different roles, depending on their political and paramilitary strength. Wherever conservative sectors clearly predominated, fascist movements merely provided the shock troops with which these elites combated their enemies, especially the radical left; once the fascists had fulfilled their task as auxiliaries, they were subjugated to authoritarian rule. By contrast, when radical right-wingers surged in strength and seemed about to take power on their own, status-quo defenders repressed this acute threat, often quite violently. In these instances, conservative elites destroyed democracy and imposed authoritarian rule to forestall a fascist takeover. Thus, when fascists helped defeat the left, they contributed to the counter-diffusion against the perceived threat of communist diffusion. By contrast, when fascist challenges themselves prompted autocratic crackdowns, these regime changes were part of a second process of diffusion and counter-diffusion: Where fascism grew to a threatening degree, this spread of radical-right movements provoked its own conservative reaction. In these cases, democracy’s overthrow was triggered by an acute threat not from the communist left but from the fascist right, which in turn had grown in part out of fear of the communist left. Accordingly, a secondary sequence of diffusion and counter-diffusion was nested in the right-wing backlash against the revolutionary left – giving rise to the double deterrent effect that 228

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this book highlights as the fundamental mechanism driving the autocratic reverse wave. Thus, fascism’s rise as an extreme counter-model to communism made diffusion processes during the interwar years unusually complex. As Chapter 2 explained, this reverse wave was not one clear, crisp surge, but a jumble of riptides and undertows. Yet, despite this complexity, the spread of fascist movements powerfully contributed to democracy’s downfall, along both paths of autocratic imposition. Regardless of whether fascists were the frontline henchmen or the first victims of the new dictatorships, political liberalism suffered the main damage. Across Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America, rising fascism helped cause democracy’s forcible replacement by autocracy – or the hardening of existing authoritarian regimes. As regards the latter development, Portugal’s António de Oliveira Salazar, for example, managed to transform an unstable military regime into a durable dictatorship by playing more liberal-leaning sectors off against emerging groupings of radical right-wingers. Similarly, in Hungary’s competitiveauthoritarian regime, the strengthening of fascism in the 1930s led to growing power concentration and harsher repression, moving the country toward full autocracy. In sum, fascism propelled the reverse wave of the interwar years by assisting or provoking the overthrow of democracy in many cases, as well as the exacerbation of extant authoritarian regimes. To explain these complex developments, the next section begins by examining the cases of Spain, Brazil, and Portugal, where conservative elites used fascist movements to impose or harden authoritarianism, and then subjugated their erstwhile allies to their own exclusionary, demobilizational rule. This section is followed by sections investigating Estonia, Romania, and Austria, where conservative status-quo defenders preempted fascist power grabs by overthrowing democracy, repressing the extreme-right challengers, and installing hierarchical authoritarianism. The subsequent section analyzes Hungary, where authoritarian incumbents in the 1930s contained a radical-right regime insider who tried to transform the existing autocracy into fascist totalitarianism. In all of these struggles advancing along different pathways, conservative establishment sectors uniformly won – while the main loser was political freedom.

         Their fundamental ideological affinities as right-wingers, especially shared anti-communism, anti-liberalism, and nationalism, prompted

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frequent efforts by conservative, authoritarian elites and fascist movements to collaborate. But due to their equally important ideological and political differences (Blinkhorn 1990), each side wanted to use the other as an instrument to achieve its own goals. Therefore, distrust and rivalry were rife. These tensions often erupted into violent conflicts, which their command over organized coercion invariably allowed conservative authoritarians to win. Where established elites had predominant influence and control over police and military, conservative groupings and their leaders opportunistically used fascist movements to attack their political enemies, especially left-wing parties and unions, and thus win or consolidate dictatorial power. Because the advocates of elitist, exclusionary authoritarianism often lacked widespread popular support or paramilitary strength, they temporarily relied on radical right-wingers as auxiliaries for boosting their strength. In line with this book’s central argument, they sought this instrumental collaboration especially when perceiving a significant threat from the revolutionary left. Yet as soon as conservative authoritarians had grabbed or consolidated power, they used their institutional positions, especially command over organized coercion, forcefully asserted their supremacy, and marginalized or suppressed their former allies. Thus, they reneged on the promised or suggested cooperation with fascist movements and subordinated the extreme right to their autocratic will. Fascist movements, of course, did not want to remain junior partners. Therefore, they cooperated with authoritarian conservatives only in the hope of overpowering these elite sectors and claiming the top spot for their charismatic leader. Fascists thus wanted to use conservative forces as stirrup holders to swing themselves into the saddle, as Mussolini and then Hitler had so skillfully done. Consequently, these upstart movements allied with establishment forces only during fluid conjunctures, when seeing a chance to grab power for themselves. By contrast, when wellentrenched conservative autocrats sought to coopt rising fascist movements, those newcomers rejected the Machiavellian offer. Such political absorption would have siphoned the mobilizational energy out of fascist movements and turned them into empty shells. Thus, due to their fundamental goal differences, political cooperation between conservative authoritarians and fascist totalitarians never rested on a stable compromise. Instead, each side tried hard to gain the upper hand and subdue their tactical ally. The precarious nature of these opportunistic collaboration projects reveals again the underlying gulf between these divergent types of right-wing politics. They never formed a true,

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organic hybrid. Instead, each side in this instrumental cooperation merely waited for a good chance to overpower the other. In Southern and Eastern Europe and in Latin America, elite predominance uniformly guaranteed conservatives victory in these struggles, which ushered in authoritarian – not totalitarian – rule. Using Fascism to Impose Authoritarianism via Civil War: Franco in Spain The most dramatic case of this cunning use of fascist support unfolded in Spain in the late 1930s, when the military coup makers around General Francisco Franco enlisted the fascist Falange to defeat the left-wing defenders of the democratic republic in a lengthy, bloody civil war. Yet once the new dictator achieved victory, he instituted traditionalist authoritarianism, rather than fascist totalitarianism. Accordingly, he deprived his earlier allies of political influence and assigned them only limited roles in his hierarchical, de-mobilizational regime. Instead, conservative establishment sectors, especially military generals, the Catholic Church, clientelistic politicians, large landowners, and business people, sustained the long-lasting autocracy. The different currents of the reactionary right forged a temporary alliance and cooperated in a violent regime change because they faced a serious threat from a rather radical left,1 which became especially acute in the mid-1930s and turned even graver after the civil war erupted in July 1936. After all, Spain’s Second Republic underwent a process of ideological radicalization and political polarization that eventually escalated to dangerous levels. The downfall of Miguel Primo de Rivera’s authoritarian regime in 1930, examined in Chapter 5, opened the way for spiraling mobilization. By prohibiting the old parties, the dictatorship of the 1920s had weakened traditional political elites and had corroded the clientelistic linkages through which they had controlled good parts of the citizenry, especially in backward Spain’s rural areas with their large populations (Payne 1999: 41; Herold-Schmidt 2004: 398–400; Casanova 2014: 13, 28; Riley 2019: 87–92). In the new democracy instituted in 1931, party competition stimulated reform efforts that the initially fragmented conservative sectors (Grandío 2016: 122, 128) had difficulty containing. Fueled by rivalries between 1

Lannon (2007: 144) emphasizes, “The fundamental agenda in Spain . . . throughout the 1920s and 1930s was social revolution and how to avoid it.”

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anarchists, communists, and socialists,2 Spain’s left and center-left “unwisely” and “prematurely” (Loewenstein 1935b: 758) spearheaded ambitious transformation projects (good recent overviews in López Villaverde 2017: 301–54; and Berman 2019: 269–73). Most important and controversial were stringent anticlerical measures (Gil Robles [1968] 2006: 54, 207; Linz 1978b: 153, 167–68, 178, 180; Brinkmann 2017: 413–15), a sharp reduction in the size of the bloated military, a forceful revamping of rural labor markets (Macarro 2012: 42–46), and land reform, which was designed to rectify the stark inequality in property ownership and alleviate the grinding poverty of small peasants and landless laborers (Casanova 2014: 39–53). As conservative sectors, which took radical rhetoric at face value and overestimated the danger (Carter 1936: 653), saw increasing threats to their core interests and ideological causes, loss aversion induced them to mobilize their own forces, coordinate their activities, and offer fairly intransigent opposition.3 The fluidity and fragmentation of Spain’s party system brought frequent government crises and significant shifts in the ruling coalition. After the left and center-left dominated from 1931 to 1933, the center-right and a newly formed, encompassing Catholic and right-wing party (Álvarez Tardío 2012: 68–77) controlled the helm in 1934 and 1935, stopped the reformist impulse, and blocked or reversed earlier changes.4 In response, the left and center-left set aside their substantial disagreements,5 formed a Popular Front (Payne 2006: 143–69), and won a narrow victory in a hotly contested election in early 1936, which was marred by incidents and irregularities (Gil Robles [1968] 2006: 473–75, 490–95, 519–20, 541–51, 555–72; Ranzato 2014: 92–93, 128–30). Thereafter, Spain’s left-wingers resumed their push for profound and wide-ranging change with redoubled energy (Ranzato 2014: 171–73, 202, 319).

2 3

4 5

Linz (1978b: 145, 149, 162–63, 167, 186); Schauff (2006: 31, 43, 45, 48, 52); see also Payne (2006: 277–91). Gil Robles ([1968] 2006: 86, 94–95, 189–90, 821–22); Casanova (2014: 81–86, 100–3, 136–42); Grandío (2016: 125). Gil Robles ([1968] 2006: 173, 176, 179, 185, 188, 804), the leader of the main right-wing party, admits the narrow-minded defense of their privileges by important elite sectors. Gil Robles ([1968] 2006: 118, 165–67, 185–87); Payne (2006: 107–14, 134–35); Casanova (2014: 119–20); López Villaverde (2017: 53–59). These differences on major issues, especially property ownership, were openly mentioned in the manifesto for the 1936 election, reprinted in Bernecker (1980: 64, 67–68). On this issue, see Payne (2006: 162–63).

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The country’s zig-zag course added fuel to the fire of sociopolitical polarization. All sides saw their expectations jeopardized (Linz 1978b: 154–55, 186). The initial enactment of profound reforms activated intense loss aversion among the right, which held exaggerated fears of communism (Grandío 2016: 133, 139), while the reforms’ subsequent blockage or reversal similarly activated loss aversion among the left (Araquistáin 1935: 257), which held exaggerated fears of fascism (Puigsech 2016: 98). As conflict increased, both ideological poles radicalized (Schauff 2006: 26–28, 31, 48, 57, 64–66; González Calleja 2011: 387–93). Seeing how democracy had enabled the advance of the left and how electoral competition had propelled reform efforts, more and more conservative sectors came to embrace authoritarian rule as an essential safeguard (González Calleja 2011: 28, 51, 60, 66–68, 120 173; Casanova 2014: 137–46, 169–71; Blaney 2016: 417–18). Leftist sectors, in turn, lost trust that democracy would allow for effective change and therefore came to advocate revolution (Buchanan 2002: 40, 48; Macarro 2012: 46–57). And because left-wingers were more prone to initiate contentious collective action, their radicalization proved especially deleterious for the fate of Spanish democracy (Payne 2006: 54–55, 71–84, 94–95, 134–35, 144, 352–53, 360–61). Indeed, anarchists, who had always rejected liberal democracy (Gabriel 2016: 105–11; see also Payne 2006: 20–22), spearheaded three uprisings. More consequentially, after the left’s electoral defeat in 1933, the radical wing of the Socialist Party prepared a revolution (Rey Reguillo 2012: 77–79). When the moderate right entered the government in late 1934, left-wing socialists unleashed a wave of strikes across the country, which culminated in “an ill-advised revolt” (Loewenstein 1935b: 758), namely a bloody and brutally repressed uprising in the northern mining region of Asturias.6 Predictably, as the radical left resorted to revolutionary violence in its defensive struggle against right-wing advances and in its resolute push for profound transformations, the right became ever more fearful (Gil Robles [1968] 2006: 139–45, 159, 268, 488–89) and its extremist sectors intensified coup plotting (Schauff 2006: 35–36; Ranzato 2014: 102–3, 146–49, 212). The failed revolution in Asturias was therefore a break point in the unraveling of Spanish democracy, 6

Schauff (2006: 31–33); Casanova (2014: 65–73, 114–17, 130–135, 178–80, 183); Ranzato (2014: 29–33, 38–44, 61). Mann (2004: 311–15, 318–20) depicts the effective threat posed by the left as limited, and conservative fears as exaggerated, which is in line with this book’s central argument.

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instilling bitterness and distrust on both sides of the deepening ideological divide (for the radical left, see Araquistáin 1935) and intensifying political and ideological polarization (Linz 1978b: 176–78, 181–83, 187–91). International experiences, which actors’ reliance on the heuristics of availability and representativeness exaggerated in their significance and applicability to Spain, exacerbated radicalization, inflamed conflict, and thus undermined commitment to democracy. After all, fascist movements advanced throughout Europe from the early 1930s onward. Most importantly, after his Machtergreifung in early 1933, Hitler crushed Europe’s most powerful labor movement with surprising ease and installed a totalitarian dictatorship; and in early 1934, conservative autocrat Engelbert Dollfuß violently destroyed Austria’s Social Democratic Party as well, as discussed later. These shocking precedents rang alarm bells among the left, which came to interpret conservative resistance to its own radicalism as steps toward a fascist takeover – a catastrophe that the left was determined to forestall with all means, including the uprising of October 1934.7 Indeed, whereas the right saw the ill-fated revolt in Asturias as a proactive assault on power, the radical left depicted it as “a ‘preventive revolution,’ chiefly inspired by the fatal example of German Socialism, which surrendered [to Hitler] without a struggle, and of Austrian Socialism, which was vanquished in a struggle that came too late” (Araquistáin 1935: 252; see also 251, 256–58; and Payne 2006: 71–72, 345). Swept away by cognitive shortcuts, radical socialists saw even the political activity of the moderate right, which had committed to the electoral route, disavowed fascism (Álvarez Tardío 2012: 71–73, 76–77), stayed away from coup plotting, and did not use the Asturias revolution as a pretext to push for the imposition of authoritarianism (Linz 1978b: 177–78, 191), as “undisguised Fascism. All of this, and what was sure to follow, was Fascism – not frank and rough . . . as in Italy and Germany – but astute and concealed, as in Portugal [and] Austria” (Araquistáin 1935: 252, 257; similarly 261).8 Considering these problematic analogies drawn via the representativeness heuristic, the leading US historian of Spain during this time period, 7

8

See quote reproduced in Gil Robles ([1968] 2006: 639); see also Ledesma ([1935] 2017): 101, 140; Prieto ([1936–37] 2000: 16–18); Schauff (2006: 30, 48); and Ranzato (2014: 36–37, 43). “Very few” socialist leaders tried to counteract these misperceptions and exaggerated fears and warned that “‘supposing that there was preparation for fascism in Spain’ would be an error” (quoted in Álvarez Tardío 2012: 75).

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Stanley Payne (2006: 353), judges: “The Spanish left drew the wrong conclusions from foreign examples in every case, whether those of Russia, Italy, or central Europe. The political analyses carried out by . . . the revolutionary left . . . had the effect more of masking than illuminating key realities.” A recent expert concurs, regarding the “alarmism of the left [as] immeasurably exaggerated” (Brinkmann 2017: 419). In a prescient analysis that foresaw Spain’s descent into reactionary autocracy, a contemporary political scientist had already condemned “the follies of the Spanish extremists” (Loewenstein 1935b: 759). Facing these revolutionary impulses, the right, in turn, which had never firmly committed to democracy,9 and which tended to see communism behind every major reform proposal, now felt encouraged to confront left-wing initiatives with all means (Herold-Schmidt 2004: 403–4). In these ways, Hitler’s high-profile takeover in Germany and other autocratic experiences in Europe exacerbated the tensions and divisions in Spain. Interpreted in the distorted ways arising from cognitive shortcuts, these foreign precedents induced left-wing forces to embrace revolutionary strategies (Casanova 2014: 117–19, 126–36, 168–69, 180; Ranzato 2014: 43), while motivating the most reactionary sectors to move toward violent resistance and coup preparations (Gil Robles [1968] 2006: 201–6, 365–67, 380, 484; Casanova 2014: 86–90, 156, 172–76).10 Radicalization and polarization accelerated with the Popular Front victory of early 1936, which brought a renewal and further intensification of the reform drive (Rey Reguillo 2012: 181–83; Casanova 2014: 159–60, 198; Berman 2019: 278–79). The range and depth of socioeconomic measures adopted by the left-wing government, which included hard-core groupings led by a “Spanish Lenin,”11 scared establishment sectors. Their power was at stake as well, because massive land reform was bound to undermine the control of traditional elites over the peasantry and to weaken clientelistic politicians (Payne 2006: 218–21); economic state interventionism would diminish the clout of big business; and

9 10 11

Gil Robles ([1968] 2006: 201, 572) admits this weak commitment. See also Grandío (2016: 123, 126, 132–34, 138, 145) and Rey Reguillo (2016a: 149–53). The leader of the large right-wing party formed in 1933, however, always stayed away from coup plotting (Rey Reguillo 2016a: 157–59). Gil Robles ([1968] 2006: 449–54, 650–52, 684–87); Ranzato (2014: 225–29, 235–37, 300, 331–32); see also the contemporary observations of Carter (1936: 654, 661). The radicalization of one wing provoked strong tensions and conflicts inside the Socialist Party, where in the words of one leader, “hateful phobia has substituted the magnificent camaraderie that united us before” (Prieto [1936–37] 2000: 22; see also 25–26).

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politically motivated appointments undermined the unity of the military. Moreover, some changes escaped governmental regulation; in particular, land-hungry peasants took agrarian redistribution into their own hands by illegally occupying large holdings.12 Similarly, anticlerical groupings incinerated numerous churches (Ranzato 2014: 254–65), and a wave of strikes erupted in mid-1936 (Payne 2006: 253–58). Due to these left-wing pressures and predictable right-wing resistance, disturbances, unrest, and violence erupted all over the country and “led . . . to an atmosphere of undeclared civil war, attested to in statements by all the leading politicians” (Linz 1978b: 180; see also 188, 192–93; Payne 2006: 183, 190, 193–95, 221–24, 239–41, 264–68, 297, 306, 327, 357–64).13 The main anarchist union, of course, publicly celebrated this massive upsurge of popular contention in May 1936: “The masses themselves proceeded to action, there was no way of containing them . . . [There were] thousands and thousands of expropriations, church burnings, general and partial strikes in the country, which all ended with unprecedented success for workers” (document in Bernecker 1980: 115). A contemporary British observer also highlighted the “radicalization of the masses” and “the pressure from below of social-revolutionary forces” (Carter 1936: 651, 657; see also 658; see recently Brinkmann 2017: 425–26). Conservative elites thus seemed to face multiple and fundamental assaults on their influence, privileges, and rights. As bottom-up pressures mounted, they saw the sociopolitical order tumbling and believed that Spain was sliding into chaos.14 Consequently, in 1936 elite sectors and, increasingly, middle-class groupings were gripped by “the great fear” of a true revolution.15 The leader of Spain’s major right-wing party, José 12

13 14

15

See documents in Bernecker (1980: 210–19); see also Schauff (2006: 46); González Calleja (2011: 307–9); Ranzato (2014: 109–11, 115–23, 175–82, 189–91, 197–98, 285–94, 298–300). Indeed, radical Socialist Luis Araquistáin (1935: 261) already wrote in 1935, after the repressed revolution of October 1934 in Asturias, “The civil war continues.” Gil Robles ([1968] 2006: 628–60, 672–75, 682–87, 704–7, 765–70, 823–27); Payne (1999: 187, 189, 204, 211); Casanova (2014: 161–64). While López Villaverde (2017: 409; see also 65) denounces claims of “chaos and unstoppable violence” as a “myth,” his own analysis amply documents the severe conflicts and violence erupting in 1936 (pp. 373–90). See especially Ranzato (2014: 107, 123, 167, 190, 368–69); see also Carr and Fusi (1989: 2–4, 16). As González Calleja (2011: 329–39) emphasizes, these threat perceptions were exaggerated, and there was deliberate fear-mongering as well. But Ranzato’s (2014) thorough study shows that a good deal of this panic was genuine and reflected real concern.

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María Gil Robles ([1968] 2006: 681, 684), saw “a climate of civil war” in which “the visible heads of revolutionary extremism . . . made efforts to make a violent confrontation inevitable.” Due to these threat perceptions, establishment forces fought back, fueling the spiral of violence that was engulfing the country (Rey Reguillo 2016b: 433–34). Moreover, growing numbers of generals joined the coup plotting (Gil Robles [1968] 2006: 498–500, 623–24; Payne 2006: 199–200, 308–15). When this radicalization and polarization started to escalate, the eldest son of former dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera in late 1933 founded the Falange (Phalanx) and in subsequent years merged several radical-right splinter groupings into his fascist movement and its paramilitary wing (González Calleja 2011: 138–72). Ideologically, José Antonio Primo de Rivera’s effort was inspired especially by Mussolini’s regime in Italy;16 politically, it took encouragement from Hitler’s recent takeover in Germany, which demonstrated fascism’s prospects of success (Casanova 2014: 92, 95; see also González Calleja 2011: 156–57). By trying to win mass support for right-wing totalitarianism (Casanova 2014: 468), the new leader of Spanish fascism also sought to avoid the vulnerability of his father’s authoritarian regime, which had crumbled due to its weak support base.17 Through mobilizational efforts, the son sought to lay the ground for a stronger, more resilient dictatorship. Moreover, with his paramilitary forces, he intended to crush the radical left, for instance by offering the center-right government his counterrevolutionary services during the Asturias rebellion of late 1934 (González Calleja 2011: 236–41).18 But due to the clout of conservative elites in Spain’s backward society (Carr and Fusi 1989: 7–10), the Falange made only very slow advances in

16

17

18

Payne (1999: 161–62, 234); Albanese and Hierro (2016: 28–34). To emphasize this ideological parentage, Primo de Rivera scheduled the Falange’s founding meeting for the eleventh anniversary of Mussolini’s “March on Rome” (González Calleja 2011: 169). Payne (1999: 43, 73, 75, 116). General Franco also sought to avoid the weaknesses of Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship (Payne 1999: 39, 240, 242, 259–60). Therefore, during the civil war, he already began to institute a firm organizational structure (Payne 1998: 108), in which he forcefully integrated the Falange, thus thwarting the younger Primo de Rivera’s ultimate goals. One of Spain’s early fascist leaders, Ramiro Ledesma Ramos ([1935] 2017: 171–77, 198–99, 201–4), criticized the Falange for not taking better advantage of the counterrevolutionary opportunity provided by left-wing preparations for revolution. But establishment forces left little room for fascist power grabs as the military quickly repressed the radical-left uprising of October 1934.

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its initial years.19 After all, large landowners, business people, the Catholic Church, and the military defended their privileges on their own, and with the electoral victory of a new moderate-right party in 1933, they hoped to block and reverse the earlier reform efforts (González Calleja 2011: 200–1, 247; Casanova 2014: 113, 119–21, 126–27). The Popular Front triumph of early 1936, however, foiled these conservative expectations and provoked calls for more dramatic countermeasures against the renewed advance of the left (Vincent 2009: 372). The resulting upsurge of polarization and contention drove many new supporters into the Falange’s ranks.20 In turn, the left-wing government soon responded to the growing fascist threat by imprisoning the Falange leadership and by executing the young Primo de Rivera early in the civil war (Payne 2006: 192–93). As Spain slid into the inferno of bloody fratricide (Ranzato 2014: 324–30), his martyrdom motivated additional recruits to join the fascist movement (Casanova 2014: 247). Because in 1936 both poles of the ideological spectrum saw a revolutionary situation arise, coup plotting by the right intensified (Payne 2006: 308–15; González Calleja 2011: 340–52; Ranzato 2014: 335–60; López Villaverde 2017: 393–98, 412–18). Interestingly, the predominance of conservative elites among right-wing groupings entailed reliance on this top-down, typically authoritarian countermeasure, rather than on bottom-up mobilization along fascist lines, which the Falange was too weak to foment anyway. This contrasted with Italy, where Mussolini’s shock troops suppressed the left with massive violence and thus prepared the seizure of government power (Linz 1978b: 144, 192, 197). But the military uprising of July 1936, triggered by left-wingers’ assassination of a prominent right-wing leader (Payne 2006: 315, 332–34), brought only partial success. The coup leaders did not manage to grab national power, as Miguel Primo de Rivera had done in 1923. Instead, Spain was so deeply split that the republican government retained its grip on good parts of the country. Unusually, the armed forces themselves divided: A substantial minority, about a quarter of the officer corps (Mann 2004: 339), defended the incumbent democracy, often out of principled commitment to legality (Linz 2002: 66). Moreover, leftist

19 20

Ledesma ([1935] 2017: 209–15); Blinkhorn (1990: 129–30); Payne (1999: 115, 134, 164–65, 183–84); Gallego (2016: 186–87, 194–96, 201); Riley (2019: 110). Gil Robles ([1968] 2006: 573, 688–91, 709); Payne (1999: 199, 207); Herold-Schmidt (2004: 415, 430); Parejo Fernández (2012: 142–48); Casanova (2014: 92, 96, 155, 169); Ranzato (2014: 33–34).

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parties and labor unions, fired up especially by militant anarchists and radicalized socialists, were determined to combat the right-wing plotters and formed militias in industrial and mining centers and among the rural poor. For these reasons, the coup makers unexpectedly faced widespread armed resistance and were compelled to fight a dangerous civil war (Casanova 2014: 187–92). In fact, because the republican government controlled most of the major cities and industries (Lannon 2007: 154), the rebellious officers initially found themselves in a precarious position (Carter 1936: 647; Gil Robles [1968] 2006: 726–28, 743–45; Vincent 2009: 373–74). Pressed to the wall (Ranzato 2014: 365), General Franco and his coconspirators were eager to complement their regular troops with fascist militias that compensated for their limited military training with ideological fervor (Gil Robles [1968] 2006: 728–36; Schauff 2006: 141). The Falange, in turn, aware of its weakness and incapacity to grab power on its own (Gil Robles [1968] 2006: 716–18; González Calleja 2011: 276–79, 362–69, 395), was willing to support the rebellious officers and fight fanatically for the counterrevolutionary cause (Payne 1999: 170, 172–74, 197–201, 204–5). The fascists also helped the generals mobilize civilian support and thus alleviate the military’s political isolation. By contrast to the conservative, traditionalist elites in the coup coalition, “the Falange offered the prospect of modernity and dynamism” (Vincent 2009: 374; see also 379; and Linz 2002: 67). A crucial motive for the fascists to join the coup makers was that the civil war’s outbreak unleashed massive revolutionary efforts by the radical left, which spearheaded a rash of factory and land expropriations.21 Moreover, anticlericalism provoked an orgy of violence against the Catholic Church, costing approximately 6,800 priests and nuns their lives (Herold-Schmidt 2004: 423–24; Schauff 2006: 108–9; Casanova 2014: 258). Many right-wing politicians and disloyal military officers caught in areas controlled by the republican forces were massacred as well.22 21

22

See documents in Bernecker (1980: 192–219, 326–49); see also Herold-Schmidt (2004: 433–36); Schauff (2006: 78, 81, 107–11); Casanova (2014: 199, 205, 294–304). Leftwing radicals had threatened for years that a coup would unleash a full-scale revolution (e.g., Araquistáin 1934: 470; see also 466). The outburst of violence and collapse of state authority in Spain’s Republican areas were “without precedent in other civil wars of the period” (Villa García 2016: 420) and suggest the strength of the revolutionary ferment that was brewing even before the coup. As Buchanan (2002: 43, 50–51) emphasizes, the republican administration was no longer very democratic. Strikingly, Riley’s (2019: 92–105) in-depth analyzes barely touches on the tremendous radicalization of Spain’s Second Republic and the outburst of revolutionary violence in 1936.

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In retaliation, the rebel forces inflicted even more widespread, brutal repression on left-wingers, unionists, and other suspicious elements in the territories they conquered (Mann 2004: 342–44). Thus, the eruption of a full-scale revolution, which the coup attempt had sought to forestall but which it paradoxically ended up provoking, pushed Spain into a paroxysm of violence, especially in the second half of 1936 (Ruiz 2012: 193–96; Casanova 2014: 201–4, 218, 249). Recent investigations suggest that right-wingers killed about 100,000 people, and leftwingers 55–60,000 (Payne 1999: 246; Ruiz 2012: 187; Casanova 2014: 223, 407).23 This extreme polarization drove many young people, even women, to join the Falange, which therefore grew to a much larger size (Blinkhorn 1990: 132–33; Schauff 2006: 139). By late 1936, the fascist movement had 36,000 members battling the left, more than all other right-wing militias combined (Payne 1999: 242–45; Casanova 2014: 348). Besides reinforcing the military at the front, these zealous fighters also played a major role in the repression of their ideological enemies and committed innumerable atrocities (Payne 1999: 245–49; Casanova 2014: 188–89, 201, 226, 228, 230–33). While the Falange hoped that victory over the radical left would pave the way for realizing its totalitarian ideological vision, General Franco pursued his own plan to restore the traditional sociopolitical order and cement it by imposing an authoritarian regime. Typically, thus, both fascists and conservatives sought to use their ally for their own ultimate goals. From the beginning, however, the military leadership was in the driver’s seat, given their command over organized coercion and the Falange’s limited strength. As early as late 1936, the army subordinated the fascist militia to its control in order to coordinate the counterrevolutionary forces in the dangerous civil war (Casanova 2014: 349–50). Soon thereafter, General Franco used the weakening of the Falange’s leadership after José Antonio Primo de Rivera’s execution to imprison fascist diehards, decree the Falange’s fusion with other reactionary formations, and put himself – not a fascist – at the helm of this single party.24 And when Franco began to reconstruct the collapsed state in early 1938, he assigned most of the crucial ministries, such as defense and finance, to military officers or traditional conservatives. Falangists received only less powerful 23 24

Thomas (2017) provides an openly ideological perspective on this issue. Payne (1999: 259–73); Herold-Schmidt (2004: 430); Schmidt (2004: 448–49); Casanova (2014: 350–55); Riley (2019: 106).

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positions, though in areas that were especially salient for their ideological vision, such as capital–labor relations. The fascist officials, of course, sought to promote their own ambitious goals. For this purpose, they borrowed heavily from Italy by instituting corporatist arrangements modeled on Mussolini’s Carta del Lavoro, as Falange founder Primo had advocated (Payne 1999: 276, 281, 297–98; Casanova 2014: 357–59, 469). Interestingly, the crafty Franco also gave his emerging autocracy somewhat of a fascist veneer. As one example, he embraced the Führer principle with his title el caudillo de España (see Payne 1999: 260, 269). But the title’s second half – por la gracia de Dios (by the grace of God) – signaled Franco’s Catholic conservatism and firm alliance with the traditionalist church hierarchy. Thus, Franco gave Spain’s fascists a role in his incipient autocracy, but guaranteed his own predominance by accumulating top positions such as military commander and head of state (Schauff 2006: 138–39). Besides the goal of using the Falange’s fanatical energies for defeating the radical left, Franco’s concessions and gestures toward fascism were also designed to guarantee military assistance and political support from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany (Preston 1990: 138–41). Because the coup makers failed to dislodge the Republican government quickly and instead faced a determined counterattack, they clamored to the two fascist great powers for help. This support allowed the rebellious officers to escape from dire straits early on: On Italian and German planes, Franco transferred reliable troops from Spain’s Moroccan protectorate to the homeland, where the Republican government had the upper hand right after the uprising (Casanova 2014: 194–95, 261–62, 268–69). Soon, tens of thousands of fascist paramilitaries, “volunteer” troops from Italy, and air force units from Germany fought on Franco’s side. Moreover, the Axis powers supplied ample hardware and ammunition (Casanova 2014: 268–69, 278–79, 380; listing in Schauff 2006: 188). In return for this massive assistance, Italy and Germany hoped to imprint their ideological model on Spain’s nascent autocracy and win a compliant ally for their aggressive, imperialist plans on the international front. Accordingly, Mussolini’s and Hitler’s emissaries pressured Franco to unify his political supporters in a fascist-style single party (Albanese and Hierro 2016: 41–43, 47–48). To please his international benefactors, the Spanish caudillo made concessions to the fascist Falange and imported some Italian and German innovations, such as corporatist labor representation (Payne 1999: 276, 281, 297–98; Casanova 2014: 343, 350, 359). Thus, Franco insinuated his willingness to jump on the fascist bandwagon.

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But Spain’s new dictator acted in a purely opportunistic way and prioritized his political self-interests and Spain’s national interests (Payne 2008: 39, 45). Consequently, soon after he had won the civil war, he changed course. Once he no longer depended on the backing of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, he turned his autocratic regime away from fascism and moved systematically toward traditionalist, Catholic authoritarianism (Payne 1999: 363–66, 387–89, 401–2; Albanese and Hierro 2016: 41–43, 49). Moreover, Franco failed to reciprocate for all the foreign help and refused to join his former benefactors in WWII, despite strong pressure from the German dictator (Payne 1999: 330, 333–37). Although the Falange pushed as well for Spain to participate in the attack on the homeland of Bolshevism, Franco insisted on keeping his civil-war-ravaged nation out of another epic struggle and allowed only a division of volunteers to fight in Russia (Schmidt 2004: 452–53; Payne 2008: 137–40, 146–54). In reaction, Hitler complained bitterly about Franco,25 criticized his failure to spearhead a “national revolution” along totalitarian lines, and highlighted the differences of Spanish authoritarianism from Italian fascism and German National Socialism (Picker 2009: 516, 612–13). The Spanish case thus demonstrates great powers’ limited capacity to spread fascism. Although Franco had for years depended on Italian and German help, he got away with disappointing his patrons by instituting conservative authoritarianism. Outside of Germany’s direct sphere of influence in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, vertical influence had surprisingly little impact. The theories of great power promotion discussed in Chapter 2 elucidate only a small part of autocracy’s spread during the interwar years. Similarly, after winning the civil war Franco further clipped the Falange’s wings and gradually diminished its political clout and role in the autocratic regime (Carr and Fusi 1989: 25–27; Schmidt 2004: 448–49; Vincent 2009: 377–78). Conversely, traditional elites, especially the reactionary Catholic Church, big business, and large landowners, who benefited from the violent reversal of land reform, gained even greater predominance. Moreover, the military remained the unshakeable core of the dictatorship. With the coercive re-imposition of sociopolitical stability, any efforts at mass mobilization died down, and government 25

Payne (1999: 334, 336). Right-wingers across the world, even in faraway Argentina (Halperin Donghi 2003: 241), criticized Franco’s refusal to have Spain join the crusade against the center of international communism.

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propaganda focused increasingly on cementing arch-conservative values. The Axis defeat in WWII gave the caudillo even more latitude to rein in the Falange and mark the distance of his conservative authoritarianism from fascism (Preston 1990: 143–47; Albanese and Hierro 2016: 52–54). In sum, Franco skillfully used Spain’s fascists to crush the radical, increasingly revolutionary left and institute a hierarchical, demobilizational autocracy, the very prototype of authoritarianism, as distinct from fascist totalitarianism (Linz 1964; see recently Rey Reguillo 2016a: 159–65; and Berman 2019: 257, 281–83, 328).26 Because the Falange had won significant support only during the radical upsurge and stark polarization of 1936, it lost influence quickly when the conflict moved to the military arena during the civil war, and even more after that struggle ended. Spanish fascism helped overthrow democracy and defeat “communism,” but the ultimate winners were conservative advocates of authoritarian rule. Using Fascism to Impose Authoritarianism via a Self-Coup: Vargas in Brazil Conservative adherents of authoritarianism also enlisted fascism to defeat their foes, boost their own power, and install a full-scale autocracy across the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil. Averse to the constraints imposed by a fairly liberal constitution in 1934, President Getúlio Vargas used political backing from the fascist Integralismo movement founded by Plínio Salgado to impose an authoritarian dictatorship with a palace coup in late 1937. Vargas had first taken power through a military coup in 1930, which dislodged the oligarchic republic instituted after the Brazilian empire’s downfall in 1889. The new president then embarked on a program of conservative modernization, stimulating economic development through state interventionism and coopting the nascent working class through paternalistic social programs. But powerful liberal sectors and business people in São Paulo, which had played a leading role under the preceding oligarchic regime, started a dangerous uprising in 1932. Although Vargas won the civil war, he had to make significant concessions in a new constitution, which created a formally democratic regime (Lima 1986: 84–85, 95–96; Camargo, Pandolfi, et al. 1989: 19, 26–30; Hentschke 1996: 314–20). While Vargas managed to engineer his 26

In a very ideological and unconvincing discussion, Ealham (2013: 201), by contrast, calls Franco’s regime “totalitarian.”

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election as president (Silva 1980: 52), the new charter confined him to one official term and required elections for his successor in early 1938. In 1937, the incumbent’s leading supporters indeed picked a candidate to take over the baton. However, this prospective successor, José Américo de Almeida, quickly charted a surprisingly independent path, adopted a strident populist discourse, and signaled an ideological move to the left (Levine 1970: 140–41, 144; Camargo, Pandolfi, et al. 1989: 165–68, 175–79). Established elites, military leaders, and middle-class citizens grew concerned about this unexpected radicalism (Camargo, Pandolfi, et al. 1989: 183, 187–88, 239). An independent politician reported: “José Américo began to campaign as if he were an opposition candidate . . . He scared all the politicians, all of them, really” (reported in Lima 1986: 127). A regime insider expressed shock: “Zéamerico is a demagogy [sic] supported by the Communist organization,” and claimed that the candidate had ample connections to radical-left groupings. “We are marching toward a Popular Front . . . And this turns into Spain . . . It is grave, very grave” (Maciel 1937: 2–3; see also Carvalho 1999: 68–69). Vargas himself saw a threat to his conservative, state-controlled development strategy – and his plan to exercise continuing influence as the power behind the throne. Therefore, the incumbent decided to abort the electoral process and impose an authoritarian dictatorship (Camargo, Pandolfi, et al. 1989: 225). To prepare this drastic move, which he planned very “rationally,”27 Vargas invoked the danger of communism, which had enormous salience in Brazil. After all, in November 1935, left-wing sectors in the military,28 supported by communist leaders and emissaries of Moscow, had started a violent uprising in major cities, which the government suppressed only after considerable bloodshed (Levine 1970: 106–12, 115–22; Camargo, Pandolfi et al. 1989: 41–52; Pinheiro 1991: chap. 17). This scary challenge from the revolutionary left, which did pose a realistic threat (Kubitschek 1979: 59; D’Araujo 2000: 16, 18), instilled deep fear in elites and broad population sectors and induced them to offer strong support

27 28

D’Araujo (2000: 15); see also Levine (1970: 148, 176). Camargo, Pandolfi, et al. (1989: especially 103, 119 n. 5, 209–30, 239) analyze these systematic preparations. As Brazil’s main communist leader, Luiz Carlos Prestes, highlighted, communism easily gained a foothold inside the armed forces (Prestes 1991: 88), where in the 1920s the reformist, nationalist tenentes (lieutenants) movement had emerged. In fact, Prestes himself was a former officer and tenente leader (see also Pinheiro 1991: 195, 217, 296).

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for guaranteeing “law and order.”29 In particular, “the army remained profoundly shocked by the rebellion of 35,” as an important general confessed (reported in Lima 1986: 208; see also 100, 107, 128, 133, 207). No wonder that the attempted revolution prompted a firm alliance between Vargas and the military leadership (Camargo, Pandolfi, et al. 1989: 41, 54–60, 252–53; Carvalho 1999: 64, 68; see also Kubitschek 1979: 72). The 1935 insurrection was a critical juncture that turned anticommunism into a powerful force in Brazilian politics for many years to come. Indeed, the military deliberately kept the specter alive through annual commemorations of the rebellion (Fausto 2006: 75–76). Leading Vargas aides seem to have genuinely feared the radical left. Accordingly, when justifying his dictatorial coup of 1937 in a private exchange with a friend and high-ranking official, Oswaldo Aranha, Vargas (1937: 2) appealed to these fears by highlighting “the recrudescence of the Communist campaign under the cover of political agitation” and reported that “the armed forces . . . noticed the alarming advance of the upsurge of Communism.” Another regime insider wrote to Aranha that “Communism in Brazil is neither a joke nor an invention [but] something much graver than one supposes” (Maciel 1937: 2). Similarly, in 1936 Portugal’s ambassador in Rio de Janeiro informed his foreign minister about a communist provincial uprising, unrest in the capital, and “reports that Brazil could wake up from one hour to the next transfigured into a Soviet republic” (Melo 1936). Thus, even a foreigner without a direct stake or manipulative interest believed in the ease of a radicalleft takeover. Moreover, contemporary experiences in Europe, especially the revolutionary tendencies among Spain’s Popular Front and the subsequent civil war, helped to keep the communist threat salient. For instance, Brazil’s Commercial Attaché in Rome highlighted “Communism [as] the major danger for humanity and for us principally” (Sparano 1937: 2). In this letter of mid-1937, he warned Vargas about “the entry of most dangerous elements . . . Brazil can from one moment to the next fall into chaos or the abyss, how it happened in Spain and is about to happen in France,” which had a Popular Front government as well. Another regime insider also called attention to contemporary Spain as “the tragedy that still bloodies Europe” (Maciel 1937: 5). Thus, Vargas’s entourage perceived an ongoing, looming threat from the radical left. 29

Vargas’ private diary does not suggest any strategic effort to exploit the uprising for political purposes (Vargas 1995, vol. 1: 444–50).

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Given these widespread genuine concerns, Vargas invoked the scarecrow of communism strategically to justify his long-planned power grab of late 1937,30 when he canceled the upcoming presidential election, imposed full autocracy, and decreed a new constitution. Shortly before this self-coup, the secret service of the fascist Integralismo movement had drawn up a scenario of another “possible Communist rebellion in order to prepare an Integralista response” (Deutsch 1999: 304; see also Trindade 1979: 178 n. 28). Inadvertently or deliberately, military leaders took this supposedly communist Plano Cohen for real and handed it to Vargas, who published it to create support for his self-coup (Camargo, Pandolfi, et al. 1989: 210–225, especially 213–16; D’Araujo 2000: 18–20; see also Lima 1986: 125, 132, 208–9). While this episode shows the calculated use of an invented radical-left threat, the political payoff of this ploy, in shoring up backing for Vargas’ authoritarian move among the citizenry and especially the military, suggests the extent and depth of anti-communist concerns in Brazil. The president’s overthrow of the formally democratic regime therefore provoked very little resistance. The most fervent anti-communists were the Integralists of Plínio Salgado, Brazil’s – and Latin America’s – largest fascist movement with several hundred thousand members.31 While influenced by Hitler, Portugal’s Salazar, and other European right-wingers (Levine 1970: 97–99), Salgado’s “primary model . . . was Italy. Admittedly confused and undirected prior to his European trip in 1930, Salgado returned . . . a year later ecstatic over Mussolini’s accomplishments” (Levine 1970: 81). After he had met the Duce in person, Salgado commented: “I left Italy with the program for action” (cited in Trindade 1979: 76; see also 73–75, 119). Other Integralist leaders also took inspiration primarily from Mussolini (Trindade 1979: 248–50; Bertonha 2013: 225, 228–29, 30

31

The new dictator stressed “the recrudescence of the Communist upsurge” in the speech announcing his coup, and the new constitution evoked the “baneful imminence of civil war” resulting from “Communist infiltration” (cited in Carone 1982: 11, 142). Vargas also highlighted the “efficient combating of Communism” when he justified his autocratic regime to German and Italian audiences in newspaper interviews (cited in Silva 1980: 100–2). Deutsch (1999: 248, 282); Pinto (2019a: 129). As with many fascist movements, scholarly estimates of membership vary greatly, from 200,000 (Deutsch 1999: 281) to more than one million. In mid-1937, the Integralists claimed 1.35 million affiliates, but that number included teenagers and was probably inflated, e.g., through the non-deletion of members who had left the movement (Cavalari 1999: 34). Maio and Cytrynowicz’s (2007: 42) estimates of 500,000 to 800,000 members and 500,000 among Brazil’s three million voters seem most plausible.

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232, 237–38). As a result, the movement that Salgado founded in 1932 was thoroughly inspired by Italian fascism in its radical and comprehensive ideology, its hierarchical, leader-centered organizational structure, and its elaborate set of symbols and rituals.32 This admiration for foreign fascism also affected the movement’s militant cadres. In a survey administered in 1970, 56 percent of former mid- and top-level leaders of Integralismo listed “sympathy for European fascist regimes” as a motive for their adherence, second only to “anti-Communism” with 65 percent (Trindade 1979: 153; see also 152-55, 157-58, 268-69). Integralismo also maintained close contacts to Mussolini’s government, which offered financial subsidies and political and ideological advice (Diffie 1940: 412–25; Silva Seitenfus 1984: 514–31; Bertonha 2000: 93–96). Thus, by comparison to other fascist movements, especially in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, Integralismo was more of a foreign import and less homegrown. Yet, while emulating the main tenets of the Italian model, Salgado and his leading disciples made some adaptations to Brazil, for instance by emphasizing religious themes. Given the crucial importance of nationalism for the radical right, they also claimed – rather paradoxically – that Italian-inspired Integralismo sought to recover Brazil’s national essence! At the same time, they loudly attacked liberaldemocratic principles as foreign imports that did not fit their country’s needs, and that allowed for the rise of the most dangerous enemy, communism (Cavalari 1999: 146, 149, 151). Typically, the Integralists’ most fundamental tenet was anticommunism, proclaimed at every opportunity, and the single most important motive for citizens to join the fascist movement (Trindade 1979: 152–59, 240–41, 256–57). Consequently, the radical-left uprising of late 1935 gave Salgado’s organization a big boost by providing striking proof of the revolutionary threat (Klein 2004: 27, 41; see also Lima 1986: 128–29, 207). The fascists increased their mass membership and won numerous supporters inside the armed forces by beating up on any subsequent stirring of left-wing agitation (Silva 2007: 212–13). For this reason, also, the government deliberately tolerated the fascists, despite their totalitarian goals. After all, wide segments of state and society continued to see communism as a menace, especially due to the clandestine, subversive approach it adopted after the suppression of the 1935

32

Trindade (1979: 277–78); Hentschke (1996: 330–31); Cavalari (1999: 212–14); Trindade (2001: 475, 493–97); Silva (2008: 66–67).

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revolt. As Salgado denounced, revolutionary Marxism acted like “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”; his propagandistic writings inveighed in apocalyptic terms: “Bolshevism is Satan himself, the archangel of envy, of intrigue, of criminal darkness” (cited in Cavalari 1999: 150 and 149, respectively). To President Vargas, Integralismo proved useful for combatting communism and preparing his self-perpetuation in power (Hilton 1972: 16–18). Whereas his political clout had hitherto depended greatly on fluid alignments, “deals,” and intrigues among state governors and other regional elites, the rising Integralists constituted the only national-level party, which also commanded a paramilitary wing (Deutsch 1999: 248, 254, 282). In Brazil’s disaggregated political system, the fascist movement was an unusually cohesive force – though not nearly as strong and cohesive as the military, of course. Noticing this imbalance, the Integralists sought to infiltrate the armed forces in order to prepare their own eventual bid for power. Due to ideological affinities, Salgado indeed won many political sympathizers, which the Army Ministry in 1937 estimated as a quarter of army officers and half the navy (Levine 1970: 147; Lima 1986: 207; see also 90–91, 158; Hilton 1972: 14–16; Klein 2004: 48–49). But the military leadership zealously guarded its hierarchical command (Hilton 1972: 29; Deutsch 1999: 303; Klein 2004: 70). This top-down control precluded any independent initiatives by Integralist officers, especially a coup. In fact, under the shock of the communist uprising of 1935, the military leadership forged an ever firmer alliance with President Vargas, seen as the best guarantor of sociopolitical stability. At the same time, the fascist movement’s mass base – while sizable – remained limited, both in numerical and social terms.33 This clear minority of Brazilian citizens would certainly be insufficient for an electoral victory, as even Mussolini’s sympathetic diplomats realized (Silva Seitenfus 1984: 512, 520–22; see also Klein 2004: 18–19). Integralismo drew supporters primarily from the middle class and made few inroads into the nascent working class and especially the vast rural population (Hilton 1972: 5–6; Trindade 1979: 131–38). In the countryside, landowners and traditional politicians maintained firm control through clientelistic networks (Klein 2004: 55–57; see also Levine 1970: 159). The 33

One obstacle that the Integralists faced arose from their sympathies for and connections to the German Nazis, which allowed critics to question their nationalism and attack them as agents of a foreign great power seeking to subjugate Brazil (Hilton 1972: 10–11; Klein 2004: 47, 62, 81–82).

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Integralists did not wield substantial fire power either, especially after Vargas outlawed party militias. Consequently, Brazil’s fascists lacked the capacity to seize power on their own. In the mid-1930s, Salgado therefore moderated his strategy. Forsaking a violent assault on government power,34 he committed to legality and sought gradual electoral advances, especially in the campaign for Vargas’s presumed succession (Trindade 1979: 163, 176–78; Deutsch 1999: 265–66; Klein 2004: 23–26, 79). To justify this shift before the more activist, contentious wing of his movement, which feared an abandonment of true fascism (Deutsch 1999: 304; Klein 2004: 52–54), he and his top aides invoked the success that Hitler had achieved with this pseudodemocratic approach (Klein 2004: 18, 28; see also Trindade 1979: 246). In fact, when Salgado realized that Vargas would cancel the elections and retain the presidency extra-constitutionally, he moderated further and embraced full collaboration.35 An alliance with the power-hungry president, which Mussolini’s Italy encouraged as well (Sparano 1937: 1), would boost the fascists’ influence and prepare Integralist hegemony over the coming autocracy (Hilton 1972: 20, 23). Thus, Salgado now hoped to take power from inside the future dictatorship, sooner or later. Due to their affinity with Vargas’ anti-communism, the Integralists were therefore eager to serve as the mass base for the authoritarian takeover of 1937. While the incumbent relied primarily on the military to secure his power grab, an allied movement’s street presence could offer added protection against counterdemonstrations or protests.36 Therefore, the main architect of Vargas’ self-coup and authoritarian constitution, Francisco Campos (Campos 1937; Silva 2008), allegedly approached the Integralists with an enticing suggestion: “Movements like yours never take power in isolation, without alliances . . . Movements like yours come to power through alliances . . . And the alliance that I regard as useful for you is the one with Getúlio . . . Who will benefit the most from this alliance will be you” (reported in Lima 1986: 110; see also 107–9). 34

35 36

A radical minority among Integralist leaders, however, tried to prepare a coup and therefore sought substantial financial support and arms shipments from fascist Italy. Italian diplomats in Brazil supported this plan, but Mussolini’s foreign minister eventually vetoed it out of fear of antagonizing President Vargas (Silva Seitenfus 1984: 514–24). Early contact in April 1937 reported by Aranha (1937). During the communist uprising of November 1935, Salgado had already offered his counterrevolutionary services by promising the president “that one hundred thousand Green Shirts stood at the disposal of the federal government to preserve order” (Levine 1970: 97).

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Aware of their limited clout, Brazil’s fascists accepted this Machiavellian deal and agreed to support Vargas’ dictatorial takeover. For this purpose, Salgado sought to deter potential opponents shortly before the long-planned coup by having uniformed Integralists parade through downtown Rio to the presidential palace, where Vargas greeted the marching fascists. Interestingly, however, while Salgado claimed to have mobilized 50,000 supporters, Vargas (1995: 79) in his diary put the number at a mere 20,000 and the police estimated 17,000 – not very impressive for the large capital of a huge country (Levine 1970: 95, 159; Carvalho 1999: 69; Klein 2004: 65–66). Thus, while Vargas made use of fascist support, he was fully aware of the effective constellation of power, which clearly favored him over Salgado. To prepare the imposition of authoritarianism, Vargas and his leading civilian and military aides consulted with Salgado on some important issues (Salgado 1938, 1939; Vargas 1995: 78). For instance, Campos showed the draft of the new corporatist constitution to the fascist leader (Klein 2004: 63–64; Silva 2007: 218, 227–28) – whereas the civilian members of Vargas’s government saw only the finished document, on the day before the self-coup (Vargas 1995: 82)! In these ways, Vargas and his aides suggested that Integralismo would form the political base of the coming authoritarian regime (Hilton 1972: 21–22). Specifically, the president promised the Integralist chieftain the education ministry, which would have allowed for the indoctrination of Brazil’s youth, an attractive prospect for the fascists’ ideological project (see Cavalari 1999: 41–74, 99–102, 155–56). These contacts convinced Salgado that he and his followers would play a major role in the autocracy and could sooner or later transform it into a fascist dictatorship. But the scheming Mussolini admirer was in for a rude awakening. Instead of basing his regime on bottom-up support from the Integralists, Vargas exercised power from the top down, based on solid military backing. The dictator did not use the fascists as his official regime party, as they had hoped; instead, he prohibited all parties, including the Integralists.37 Thus, as soon as Vargas sat firmly in the saddle, he created a hierarchical, elitist, and exclusionary autocracy that had no room for Integralismo (Levine 1970: 158–61). Stunned and stung by this ostentatious marginalization, the fascist leader refused to accept his consolation 37

Initially, Salgado acquiesced in his party’s dissolution and accepted the ministerial offer, but then backtracked due to internal resistance inside Integralismo, it seems (Vargas 1995, vol. 2: 85, 88–90, 106, 109, 113–14).

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prize, the education ministry. In a long letter to Vargas (Salgado 1938), as in his later deposition before the political police (Salgado 1939), the rebuffed ally reminded the dictator of his services as well as of Vargas’ promises, and bitterly complained about this betrayal, but to no avail (see also Silva 2007: 215, 225). Frustrated at being outmaneuvered so blithely, the radical wing of the Integralist movement tried to take power through armed uprisings in early 1938, but the military easily squashed its attack on the presidential palace (McCann 1969: 21, 25–26; Levine 1970: 163–65; Klein 2004: 71–72; Fausto 2006: 136–37). The government then suppressed the fascists with a host of sanctions and soon forced Salgado into exile to Portugal. The Brazilian case thus shows how a savvy conservative leader used a significant fascist movement for his own purposes, namely the installation of an authoritarian regime. The Integralists deterred any opposition to Vargas’ self-coup and helped legitimate this power grab with their own anti-communist propaganda; yet their ideological stridency also made the aspiring dictator appear moderate and reasonable, and thus acceptable to broad population sectors (Klein 2004: 66). Yet, while benefiting from these fascist contributions, Vargas always remained in control, based on his skillful political alliances and firm military support. The Integralists lacked the mobilizational and paramilitary strength to extract the political reward they had expected, namely major influence in the new autocracy. Rather than getting to the doorstep of power, Brazil’s fascists had the door slammed in their face. And through his own anti-communism and nationalism, Vargas took the wind out of the radical right’s sails and foreclosed a move to fascism. Yet while Vargas dismantled Brazil’s main fascist movement after installing his authoritarian regime, he and several top aides also admired Mussolini and Hitler and took inspiration from their dictatorships in imposing an unchallengeable autocracy38 and fortifying it with corporatist structures (see recently Pinto 2019a: 127–34; Pinto 2019b: 68–83). The 1937 constitution literally copied core provisions of Italy’s Carta del Lavoro to institute a state-corporatist system of union and business organization designed to forestall class struggle (Campos 1937: 42–43;

38

This obvious inspiration aroused grave concern in the US government, which feared that Vargas had acted under direct Italian and German influence and would ally with Europe’s fascist great powers (Evening Star 1937; Levine 1980: 69–70). Brazil’s ambassador undertook enormous efforts to counteract these fears, which lingered for years (Evening Star 1940). But there is no evidence of any European influence on Vargas.

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Moraes 1978: 243–47). The 1939 law regulating this constitutional mandate then imposed an obligatory union tax along Italian lines. The “Consolidation of Labor Laws” of 1943, which governed Brazil’s industrial relations for decades to come, also had strong fascist inspirations (Moraes 1978: 253, 269, 282–83; see also Gentile 2014: 87–88, 91–100). Remarkably, the influence of Mussolini’s model persisted even at a time when Brazil, allied with the United States, was preparing to join WWII against fascism in Italy! But while borrowing from European fascism, Vargas instituted nationalist authoritarianism – a non-ideological dictatorship fomenting state-led industrialization and guaranteeing sociopolitical stability (Fausto 2006: 71, 91–92). This de-mobilizational regime diverged fundamentally from fascist totalitarianism, as “theorists” of this Estado Novo (new state) highlighted,39 and scholarly analyses confirm (Levine 1970: 172–75; Trindade 2001: 483). Typically, an interpreter of the new constitution approvingly quoted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s dictum, “For now, the people must not be concerned with politics. It’s enough that they take care of the fields and the businesses” (Barata 1938: 143). As its guiding spirit, Vargas’ regime emphasized cooperation and harmony, polar opposites of the aggressive energy and destructive impulses cultivated by fascism. Vargas deviated from Mussolini’s and Hitler’s totalitarian models by not creating a government-controlled mass movement or a regime party (Levine 1970: 151, 172; D’Araujo 2000: 13). One probable reason is that Salgado (1938: 7) had advocated such a “unity party,” which remaining Integralists could infiltrate and eventually use for a fascist challenge to Vargas’ authoritarian regime from the inside. To avoid a similar risk, the youth organization that Brazil copied from the Portuguese copy of an Italian innovation (D’Araujo 2000: 35–36) remained limited in size; upon Vargas’ insistence, it refrained from adopting a paramilitary orientation, which a more fascist-leaning minister advocated (Levine 1970: 166). Thus, Brazil’s president borrowed less from fascism than many European dictators did, who were eager to fortify their authoritarian regimes against right-wing or left-wing extremists (see Chapter 7). By contrast, the South American dictator no longer faced any realistic threat 39

Barata (1938: 37, 50, 66, 163); Vieira (1981: 41–43, 84–85); Fausto (2001: 9–11, 47–48); see also Vargas’ brief rejection of totalitarianism cited in Silva (1980: 102). Even Brazil’s most prominent communist, Luiz Carlos Prestes, diverged from his party’s anti-fascist line by emphasizing that Vargas’ regime was not fascist (Prestes 1991: 93–96).

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from the revolutionary left or any pressure from an independent fascist movement; therefore, he could rely on unadulterated, exclusionary authoritarianism to guarantee stability. In sum, Vargas skillfully used support from Integralismo to overthrow the liberal regime enshrined in the 1934 constitution and impose a hierarchical, de-mobilizational autocracy. As soon as he had established his dictatorship, he denied the fascists any significant influence and quickly suppressed them. Given their limited strength, Salgado and his followers were unable to fight back effectively. While the widespread fear of communism that the availability heuristic kept virulent after the left-wing uprising of 1935 had allowed fascism to grow to a considerable size in Brazil, this advance was clearly insufficient to permit an independent bid for power. Therefore, Vargas managed to manipulate the Integralists by tempting them with suggestions of power sharing, but reneged once the fascists had assisted him with his self-coup. As in Spain, a conservative leader imposed an authoritarian regime with support from a fascist movement – and then quickly subjugated his extreme-right allies. Using Fascism to Consolidate and Harden Authoritarianism: Salazar in Portugal While in Spain and Brazil, conservative elite politicians used the backing of fascist movements to erect new dictatorships, in Portugal a reactionary grouping inside an unstable, faction-ridden military regime took advantage of extreme right-wingers to marginalize an initially powerful more liberal current and found a hierarchical, exclusionary, and very durable autocracy. Too ambitious a political experiment for a particularly backward country (Wheeler 1978: 3, 62–63, 155–58, 253–55; Birmingham 2003: 141–42, 152–53), the Portuguese republic inaugurated in 1910 had never sunk firm roots. Violently interrupted by an insurrection led by Major Sidónio Pais in late 1917, who instituted Europe’s first dictatorship of the twentieth century, it was precariously restored after Pais’s assassination in late 1918 and a brief civil war in early 1919. From 1921 onward, coup plots and attempted rebellions, inspired in part by Mussolini’s March on Rome and Primo de Rivera’s coup in neighboring Spain (Wheeler 1978: 188, 209, 212; Albanese 2016: xii, 140–54), frequently agitated political life. With the autocratic precedents of Italy and Spain in mind (Albanese 2016: 162, 172–73, 177), right-wing military and political groupings colluded in mid-1926 and unseated a party that had used widespread

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clientelism and manipulation to perpetuate its stranglehold on the government (Wheeler 1978: 166–71, 226–27, 244, 256). But the new dictatorship was highly unstable as well and suffered constant challenges, including protests, rebellions, and coup plots.40 After all, this precarious regime faced considerable opposition from defenders of the liberal republic; and it rested on various groupings that embraced divergent political projects (Salazar 1948: 60–65; Pinto 1994: 76–92; Mesquita 2007: 55–66; Rosas 2013: 75–76). One important current combined conservatism and moderate liberalism, advocated a competitive-authoritarian regime, and foresaw a handover of power to electoral politicians sooner or later. Another, reactionary current steeped in Catholic corporatism sought a permanent dictatorship that would keep the electoral arena closed, exclude the citizenry from all political decisionmaking, and institute an elitist, hierarchical autocracy. Moreover, extreme-right currents fearful of Bolshevism (Pinto 1994: 83, 96, 102, 106, 121, 148) and inspired by Italian fascism (Pinto 1994: 48–51, 54–56, 79, 94, 181) had many adherents among lower ranks in the military (Madureira 2000: 153). The intermediate, reactionary wing was headed by a young civilian, university professor António de Oliveira Salazar. Leader of an archconservative Catholic grouping, this public finance specialist (!) became indispensable to the stumbling military regime, which soon faced a huge budget crisis. Appointed as finance minister in 1928, Salazar miraculously balanced public accounts – and leveraged the urgent need for expenditure discipline to gain veto power over the rest of the government (Madureira 2000: 77–78, 81, 85; Rosas 2013: 88–94). In fact, by concentrating ever more influence, the taciturn technocrat soon advanced to the premiership. From this vantage point, Salazar systematically pursued a comprehensive, ambitious political project, namely to institutionalize the precarious authoritarian regime and turn it into a solid hierarchical autocracy (Salazar 1948: 36–37, 60, 65, 95, 133, 377–86). The main concern behind his proposed constitution was the guarantee of sociopolitical order (Salazar 1948: 51–52, 79–91, 133, 335–36),41 which he saw jeopardized by the revolutionary impulses of communism, as promoted by the 40

41

Wheeler (1978: 235–47); Pinto (1995: 142, 147, 152–53); Madureira (2000: 9, 18–21, 25–26, 39–43, 47–48, 52–53, 100–5, 140–41); Rosas (2013: 28, 34, 53, 56–57, 64, 67, 70–73, 77–81). The enormous instability and sociopolitical turmoil of the first republic had given rise to a generalized quest for “order” that went beyond conservative sectors (Wheeler 1978: 224).

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Soviet Union (Rosas 2013: 39, 47, 87, 124). Thus, although Portugal faced only a weak radical-left threat, this Catholic conservative perceived a significant risk that he sought to combat by consolidating and hardening the unstable dictatorship.42 Accordingly, when proposing his authoritarian constitution in 1932, Salazar highlighted the Russian Revolution, which (as mentioned already in Chapter 5) “would bring the gravest future complications, affecting [contagiando] nearby countries and extending the threat to all races of the world.” Because of “Communists, the maximalist enemies of all organized society . . . disorder turns profound” (Relatório 1932: 9–11, folhas 52–54), Portugal’s dictator warned. To avert this revolutionary danger and ensure stability, Salazar’s constitution foresaw a corporatist system of labor and business representation designed to forestall class struggle. Moreover, the government and the state would greatly gain in strength, whereas parliament would serve primarily for acclamation and command little effective clout; it would provide some space for establishment politicians with liberal leanings to allow for monitoring their political activities (Relatório 1932: 19–26, folhas 62–71). In general, however, the ascendant dictator sought to limit political debate, suspend electoral competition, and entrust all important government tasks to technical experts (Madureira 2000: 90–91; Rosas 2013: 32–37, 107, 123, 129). Thus, he wanted to entrench a hierarchical and de-mobilizational, strictly authoritarian regime – a viable project in a particularly underdeveloped country (Gallagher 1990: 158–61, 166–68).43 To achieve predominance inside the wobbly dictatorship and dislodge the advocates of competitive authoritarianism from their initial command over the leading positions, especially in the military, the crafty Salazar temporarily aligned with far- and extreme-right groupings (Madureira 2000: 90, 156–58; Rosas 2013: 96–97, 100, 106, 110–12, 117, 123–24). Those hardcore reactionaries in turn, inspired strongly by Italian fascism (Pinto 1994: 54–56, 79, 94; Madureira 2010: 134), sought greater clout to push the head of government away from his stodgy conservatism 42 43

Some extreme-left agitation, and the corresponding threat perceptions, persisted into the 1930s (Madureira 2010: 248–55, 259–60, 298–308, 314). Interestingly, Salazar’s draft constitution, which includes the dictator’s handwritten notes, makes no specific reference to Italian fascism. Instead, while mentioning in general terms that foreign suggestions were considered, it emphasizes that “the structure of the [New] State . . . needs to be adapted intimately to national possibilities” (Relatório 1932: 15–16, folhas 58–59).

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(Madureira 2000: 156, 161–64; Madureira 2010: 137–42, 169–71, 265–66). They therefore unified and formed a fascist organization in the early 1930s, the National Syndicalist Movement. Leader Francisco Rolão Preto, an ardent Mussolini admirer (Pinto 1994: 48–51), intended to abolish all remnants of political liberalism, copy the corporatist framework of Italian fascism, and institute mass-mobilizational totalitarianism. Hitler’s dramatic advance and triumph in Germany boosted Preto’s hopes that his movement could soon win hegemony in and over Portugal’s dictatorship (Pinto 1994: 133–35, 246; Madureira 2010: 37–38, 133; Rosas 2013: 134, 137). Typically, thus, elitist conservatives and dynamic fascists entered into tactical collaboration, but pursued quite different end goals. As was common in underdeveloped countries during the interwar years, the conservative advocates of authoritarianism had significantly greater clout than Preto’s fascist upstarts. Moreover, Salazar skillfully played off the two opposing wings among the dictatorship’s supporters, pitting the moderate adherents of competitive authoritarianism against the fascist radicals (see, e.g., Madureira 2010: 139–49). By mediating between these opposing poles, the cunning autocrat boosted his own predominance. In particular, he gradually removed moderate officers from military command posts and established civilian control over the armed forces (Rosas 2013: 211–21; see also Pinto 1994: 284, 287–88). With prudent determination, he thus foreclosed the coup risk, a crucial step in solidifying the authoritarian regime. Simultaneously, Salazar kept the National Syndicalists under control, who tried hard to exert autonomous pressure and push the regime toward fascism.44 To thwart this looming threat, the dictator moved to coopt and decapitate Preto’s organization (Pinto 1994: 240, 244–45; see also 91). He therefore offered the “Blue Shirts” official recognition – if they replaced their leaders.45 Of course, because charisma was essential for totalitarian dynamism, a fascist movement without its original leader would be as weak and vulnerable as the Bible’s Samson without his long hair. But the clout that Salazar had already accumulated made a direct confrontation dangerous for Preto’s movement. 44

45

In 1929, Salazar had already rejected the proposals of a cabinet colleague who had been ambassador in Rome that Portugal adopt fascist innovations such as Mussolini’s Carta del Lavoro and a people’s militia (Kuin 1990: 104–5). Adinolfi and Pinto (2014: 160). Salazar had used the same tactic against an earlier radical-right organization out of which the National Syndicalists emerged (Madureira 2000: 164–65).

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Facing two unattractive options, the National Syndicalists divided – which guaranteed their defeat. More and more fascists abandoned their leader, pledged loyalty to the stodgy dictator, and found refuge especially in the new corporatist institutions (Pinto 1994: 249–51, 298–99; Madureira 2010: 266–72). The recalcitrant wing sought to maintain its autonomy but faced growing harassment and, soon, repression, which made its numbers dwindle (Pinto 1994: 237–39, 255–65; Rosas 2013: 134, 139–42). In fact, Salazar outlawed National Syndicalism in 1934 and drove Preto into exile. When the remaining Blue Shirts responded with an uprising in 1935, the authoritarian ruler suppressed fascism definitively (Pinto 1994: 279–84; Payne 1995: 314–16), though less brutally and “far more smoothly than [it happened] in . . . Spain, Romania, [and] Brazil” (Gallagher 1990: 163). Thus, by first using and then emasculating Portugal’s main fascist movement, Salazar managed to turn an unstable, precarious military dictatorship into a well-entrenched, durable authoritarian regime. In this way, he also sought to avoid the brittleness that had made Miguel Primo de Rivera’s autocracy in neighboring Spain crumble recently (Adinolfi 2007: 53–55). To guarantee institutional solidity, Salazar instituted state-corporatist structures of interest representation (Salazar 1948: 86–89, 283, 340–44; Pinto 1995: 181–87; Madureira 2010: 198, 222–30), allied firmly with established elites, especially the Catholic hierarchy (Carvalho 2013), and resolutely controlled and excluded the plebeian masses. Some of Salazar’s steps toward institutionalization, such as the import of corporatist provisions from Italy’s Carta del Lavoro, had strong fascist roots.46 Moreover, Lisbon sent a number of study missions to Italy and received advice from Mussolini emissaries (see, e.g., Castro 1934c; Lima 1935; in general, see Pinto 1995: 165, 174–75, 199, 207). Yet despite these contacts and the partial borrowing, Salazar explicitly highlighted his distance from fascism.47 Above all, the dictator, who cultivated the image of a stern disciplinarian rather than a demagogic rabble rouser, rejected the quasi-religious nature of the Duce’s charismatic leadership cult, the violent tactics of Mussolini’s movement, and the totalitarianism of the

46

47

Lucena (1976: 209–22) highlights the copying from fascist Italy, yet Kay (1970: 51–54, 59–63) and Martinho (2007: 65) see fewer similarities to the Italian model. Interestingly, even Portugal’s Socialist Party embraced corporatism (Madureira 2010: 150, 153). Mussolini’s emissaries criticized Salazar’s distance from fascism (Kuin 1990: 106–7, 111).

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regime in Rome.48 As a deliberate alternative (Santos 2019), Salazar consolidated hierarchical, elitist authoritarianism (Pinto 1995: 204–7; see also 76–79, 171–75, 191–92; Meneses 2009: 162–71). But despite his strong reservations, the opportunistic dictator soon made greater concessions to fascism to avert a perceived left-wing challenge. In the mid-1930s, threats emerged in neighboring Spain, where the Second Republic slid toward radicalism.49 After the Popular Front victory in early 1936, the “great fear” of communism gripping Spanish conservatives (Ranzato 2014) affected the Portuguese autocrat as well and instilled dread in the government and its supporters (if not “hysteria”: Rosas 2013: 83; see also 14, 87, 172–73, 213–14, 330; and Payne 2006: 269). In fact, Spain’s radicalization had spillover effects by stimulating leftist agitation in Portugal (Rodrigues 1996: 43, 64–69). Loss aversion therefore induced Salazar to fortify his authoritarian regime with some weapons offered by the fascist arsenal (Kuin 1993b: 566; Bernecker 2002: 460–61; Rosas 2013: 151). Therefore, Salazar now collaborated more closely with advocates of the Italian model, such as Mussolini admirer António Ferro, whose propaganda secretariat won greater attributions, for instance in censorship.50 Moreover, Salazar gave some leeway to former National Syndicalists who had joined his regime in 1933/34 (Rodrigues 1996: 15, 36–46). Initially, he had prevented these opportunistic adherents from pursuing their fascist ideology by transforming regime institutions such as corporatism into closer copies of the Italian original. But confronted with left-wing radicalization across the border, the autocrat became more receptive to their proposals (Rodrigues 1996: 46–57, 199–200). Besides creating a government-controlled youth organization along fascist lines, Salazar even allowed the formation of paramilitary shock troops, the Portuguese Legion, which could defend against extremist spillover from Spain.51 Moreover, he sought to tighten his control over the population 48

49 50

51

Salazar (1948: 333–34, 336–37, 342); Salazar (1977: 67–70); interview with Salazar in Ferro (1939: 176–81, 250–51); see also Mesquita (2007: 100–1, 121); Rosas (2013: 174–75); Santos (2019: 54–55). Gallagher (1990: 165). During the preceding years, Salazar had closely followed Spain’s shifting political developments (Madureira 2010: 205–6, 276–77). While the Salazar regime borrowed mainly from fascist Italy, Germany was the main source of inspiration for this innovation (Adinolfi 2012: 612–13, 616; see also Madureira 2010: 233). See especially Rodrigues (1996); see also Kuin (1993b); Pinto (1994: 279–83); Meneses (2009: 137–45). Salazar also used this militia’s formation to put pressure on the armed forces and thus enhance his control over the military (Rodrigues 1996: 57–62, 198).

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by instituting a leisure time organization along the lines of Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany (Rosas 2013: 330, 339–41). In all these ways, Portugal’s authoritarian ruler temporarily replicated fascist innovations to secure and fortify his own predominance (Pinto 1995: 181–83, 195–99, 207). But these opportunistic imports played a much less dynamic and comprehensive role in Salazar’s conservative autocracy than in Mussolini’s energetic dictatorship, not to speak of Nazi totalitarianism (Gallagher 1990: 173). Created from the top down by the government (Rodrigues 1996: 33, 49) and grafted onto an exclusionary hierarchical regime, the youth movement and the militia developed only a limited range of activities and had difficulty eliciting fervent participation. The reclusive Salazar, who clearly lacked Mussolini’s and Hitler’s mass appeal (Ferro 1939: 185–86), had little mobilizational capacity. In fact, the dictator strenuously and successfully resisted right-wingers’ efforts to make the militia a dynamic fighting force along true fascist lines (Rodrigues 1996: 16, 113–23). Instead, he insisted on firm control by his conservative government (Rodrigues 1996: 73, 103, 106, 200–). Consequently, while replicating fascist innovations in their formal organizational structure, the youth movement and militia never gained the energetic force and political clout of the original models (Kuin 1993b: 555–73; Rodrigues 1996: 197–98). Their comparatively limited membership went through the motions, but lacked the ideological commitment or charismatic calling motivating many Italian fascists and German Nazis to “heroic” self-sacrifice. Moreover, as soon as the radical-left danger passed with Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War, Salazar began to starve these fascist imports of political attention and resources. And once the anti-communist fervor elicited by Hitler’s 1941 attack on the Soviet Union died down, the Portuguese government actively wound down these mobilizational organizations, which archconservative Salazar with his insistence on hierarchical order had always distrusted (Kuin 1993b: 555–73; Rodrigues 1996: 103, 157–58, 198). Their inherent lack of bottom-up energy, resulting from their top-down creation, soon made these alien transplants wither away. This limited rise and quick decline, evident in the Portuguese Legion’s membership (Rodrigues 1996: 89, 93–94, 158–59), shows that the dictator was far from turning fascist. Instead, he had borrowed from the fascist toolkit only to shield his thoroughly authoritarian regime against a passing threat. When the scary conjuncture was over, Salazar’s opportunistic nods toward fascism ended as well. Always firmly in the saddle, he had not risked losing control to totalitarian dynamism.

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In sum, Portugal’s skillful autocrat used a limited fascist movement to help him defeat more liberal groupings of politicians and generals. By pitting divergent right-wing sectors against each other, Salazar managed to subordinate them all, integrate them into his conservative authoritarian regime, and thus overcome longstanding factionalism. In this way, the ascendant dictator turned an unstable military regime into an exceedingly durable autocracy (Rosas 2013: 74–156; see also Martinho 2012: 102–5). Then, when facing Spanish radicalism in the mid-1930s, Salazar again used support from fascist-leaning forces and imported several components of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s models. But now as well, he firmly controlled the reins and hollowed out these foreign elements once the scary conjuncture passed. Thus, the stolid archconservative did not let fascist upstarts push him toward mobilizational, totalitarian fascism (Pinto 1994: 308–10), but built and maintained a typically authoritarian, elitist and non-participatory regime.

      While conservative leaders in Spain, Brazil, and Portugal used fascist movements to impose or consolidate authoritarian regimes, in other countries, ascendant fascism fueled the autocratic reverse wave in more paradoxical ways, namely by inducing conservative sectors to overthrow liberalism and democracy to prevent a fascist takeover. Where surging fascist movements seemed on the verge of seizing power, establishment sectors forcefully blocked this scary prospect through preemptive selfcoups. Thus, fascism itself, whose rise was fueled by the perceived threat of communism, turned into a threat that conservative elites forestalled by imposing hierarchical, exclusionary rule. These panicky moves were informed by the deterrent effect of Hitler’s cunning way of winning power through electoral and formally democratic means, and then using his triumph to escape from conservative containment efforts and brutally claim total predominance. After this worrisome precedent, established elites across the globe were determined to stop fascist movements’ advance in time, even with dictatorial and repressive means. Thus, Hitler’s feat caused shockwaves that helped prevent its repetition (Linz 1976: 101–2). Like communism, fascism proved so dangerous and fearsome to establishment sectors that it exerted its own deterrent effects. In these tragic cases, liberal democracy fell neither to a revolutionary challenge from the radical left nor a counterrevolutionary assault from the radical right, but to a conservative effort to keep both extremes out of

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power and guarantee sociopolitical stability through anti-mobilizational, depoliticizing authoritarianism. Like communism, fascism with its energetic quest for ideologically driven totalitarianism posed such a virulent threat that it prompted a massive reaction and led its desperate opponents to sacrifice democracy in several countries. Such conservative moves to block fascist takeovers through authoritarian palace coups occurred in a mini-wave soon after Hitler’s Machtergreifung in Austria in 1933/34, Estonia and Latvia in 1934, and a bit later in Romania in early 1938.52 In the late 1930s, Hungary’s competitive-authoritarian regime hardened as well in response to the rising Arrow Cross movement, turning toward closed autocracy (see next section). In all these cases, the Nazi specter served as a crucial warning for conservative elites, who took what they regarded as the last chance for blocking its replication. In fact, Hitler’s striking success in overpowering Germany’s establishment sectors induced their counterparts in other countries to overrate the danger of fascism. Due to the availability and representativeness heuristics, establishment forces overestimated the risk that right-wing extremists could replicate Hitler’s feat and overwhelm them as well. And in Estonia, they saw radical rightists as more fascist – and therefore dangerous – than they may actually have been. To avoid subjugation by these totalitarian hordes, they cracked down hard, preventatively overthrew democracy, and secured stability through authoritarian rule. Thus, Hitler’s dramatic example activated cognitive heuristics that, while encouraging fascists to make bids for power, prompted conservatives to block such takeovers with all means. Like Lenin’s success in Russia, Hitler’s success in Germany set in motion efforts at diffusion as well as counter-diffusion. And like the earlier radical-left precedent, this radical-right precedent stimulated counter-diffusion that proved much stronger and more successful than diffusion. The Struggles of Baltic Conservatives with Fascist Movements Due to the cognitive shortcuts highlighted in this book, an overestimation, if not partial mis-perception of a fascist challenge occurred in Estonia and Latvia, dooming liberal democracy shortly after the Nazi Machtergreifung. Facing an upsurge of extreme-right mobilization, 52

In Bulgaria, fascist mobilization also helped provoke the imposition of a royal dictatorship in 1934/35 (Crampton 2005: 158–62; see also Groueff 1987: 226–29).

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worried mainstream politicians led by the new countries’ “founding fathers” spearheaded preemptive coups and imposed authoritarian regimes. While both countries had for years experienced politicalinstitutional problems and were hit hard by the Great Depression, it was the specter of a fascist takeover made salient by Hitler’s triumph that provoked a conservative backlash and prompted dictatorial imposition, especially in Estonia, and then via quick and direct imitation in Latvia as well. In Estonia, an ultra-parliamentary democracy had long suffered from party fragmentation and frequent governmental instability (Metcalf 1998: 336–37, 342, 346; Varrak 2000: 117; Kasekamp and Toomla 2012: 39). This weak liberal system gradually lost support in the 1920s and then seemed incapable of coping with the Great Depression. A communist coup attempt backed by the USSR in 1924 (Konstantin Päts Fund 1974: 58–59) had revealed democracy’s vulnerability, prompted a shift toward the right, and spurred demands to strengthen executive power (Vardys 1978: 72–73; Kasekamp 2000: 33, 104). During the economic crisis of the early 1930s, right-wing sectors pressed ever harder for constitutional reform to institute a powerful presidency that could effectively combat the country’s problems. Their underlying goal was to push Estonia in an illiberal, even nondemocratic direction, which Baltic cousin Lithuania had already charted through an authoritarian coup in 1926. The driving force behind this transformation project was a veterans’ movement, the Union of Participants in the Estonian War of Independence. After starting in the 1920s with a conservative orientation, this Vaps Movement turned more extreme in the early 1930s and moved toward fascism. This radicalization was inspired by the emergence of fascist movements across Europe, the dramatic advance of the German Nazis (Kasekamp 2000: 69–70; Valge 2011: 806, 808), and the strength and political virulence of the extremist Lapua Movement in Finland (Raun 1987: 15; Von Rauch 1995: 148–49; Kasekamp 2000: 1–2, 38, 71–72), a country with linguistic and cultural similarities and longstanding political connections with Estonia.53 As young men flocked into the veterans’ movement, it turned ever more strident in its anti-liberalism, nationalism, and anti-communism, proposing bills to combat Marxism 53

Raun 1987; De Meur and Berg-Schlosser 1996: 455, 462. Finnish volunteer contingents had joined Estonians in their independence war against Russian Communists (Smith 1958: 128–30; Kasekamp 2000: 72), fighting “for Estonian liberty from the Bolshevik reign of terror” (report cited in Kirby 1975: 246).

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and ban the Socialist Party (Kasekamp 2000: 53, 68). Moreover, it developed the energetic dynamism that sets fascism apart from conservatism (Parming 1975: 55; Siaroff 1999: 114–15). While not holding the top position, the Vaps movement’s most active leader, young and charismatic Artur Sirk, sought to win predominance and pushed for embracing fascism. For this purpose, Sirk employed a demagogic discourse, modern propaganda techniques, and paramilitary mobilization. The fascist metamorphosis of the veterans’ movement aroused grave concern among Estonia’s mainstream parties. The Socialists forcefully attacked the hatching dragon and depicted Sirk and his disciples as followers and protégés of Adolf Hitler.54 Given the recent experiences of Finland’s Lapua movement (see Chapter 9) and the Nazi power grab, centrist and conservative politicians also came to see the radicalizing veterans as fascist challengers (Bermeo 2003: 34; Kasekamp 2017b). Due to the heuristics of availability and representativeness, they overrated the cross-national parallels and perceived the Vaps movement as fullscale, dangerous fascists. In their perception, these right-wingers “showed a good deal of totalitarian ideology and practice” (Konstantin Päts Fund 1974: 60).55 This fear-inspiring perception, a typical product of bounded rationality, was exaggerated, however. While the Vaps movement shared a number of ideological tenets and political tactics with fascism, it also differed in important ways, especially in organizational structure and politicalinstitutional goals. The energetic Sirk was turning into the main leader, but was still far from total predominance; thus, the Vaps movement did not revolve around the charismatic Führer principle (Kasekamp 2000: 83–84), as true fascist movements did. Also, the Estonian right-wingers did not advocate democracy’s replacement by dictatorship, not to speak of totalitarianism. Although it is impossible to know their true and ultimate goals, especially if they had won power, their political demands and proposals diverged starkly from the German Nazis, for instance. Therefore, the Vaps movement was not fully fascist,56 although it was moving in that direction. 54

55

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Kasekamp (2000: 41, 68); Valge (2011: 806–8). In fact, however, the Vaps movement had only limited contacts with the Nazis and received no German funding (Valge 2011: 794, 803, 805). Because President Konstantin Päts perished in detention after the Soviet takeover in 1940, he did not leave behind memoirs. But this commemorative publication by his former fraternity brothers probably captures his broader thinking. For a careful and convincing assessment, see Kasekamp (1993); also Kasekamp (2000: 65–73, 82–88); Varrak (2000: 120, 123, 127). Employing a looser, ideology-centered

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In the early 1930s, despite occasional violence, the Veterans’ League was taking a democratic and electoral route to advance its causes, especially the strengthening of political authority. For this purpose, it forcefully demanded a constitutional reform to create a powerful presidency. Because the mainstream parties did not want or manage to enact this change and thus resolve the brewing political crisis (Parming 1975: 45–48, 65), the veterans’ movement forced a plebiscite in 1933, which it won with an overwhelming 73 percent (Kasekamp 2000: 47–48). Due to this groundswell of support, confirmed in municipal elections in January 1934, the upcoming presidential and legislative contests of April 1934 were likely to hand victory to this extreme-right force.57 To prevent what the mainstream parties saw and depicted as an imminent fascist takeover, acting President Konstantin Päts, a traditional conservative,58 spearheaded a preemptive palace coup in March 1934, imposed a fairly soft authoritarian regime, and outlawed the veterans’ movement (Konstantin Päts Fund 1974: 60–61, 97; Lieven 1993: 69; Kasekamp 2000: 100–6). As longstanding leader of the farmers’ party, one of Estonia’s strongest, and as a father of national independence in 1918, Päts counted on widespread backing. In fact, the Socialist Party, which was especially convinced of the Vaps movement’s fascist nature, supported this anti-democratic rescue effort (Kasekamp 2000: 102–3). It soon paid the political price for this rash inference and possible misperception when President Päts outlawed all parties and clung to power long after definitively suppressing the radical-right challenge (Kasekamp 2000: 122–30; Pajur 2001: 176–82, 185–86). In fact, he took advantage of a desperate coup attempt that remnants of the veterans’ movement prepared in late 1935 to crack down hard;59 thereafter, he consolidated power through another constitutional reform in 1937 (Metcalf 1998: 339, 342, 344–47; Pajur 2001: 199–201).60

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concept of fascism, Kasekamp (2015: 160–62, 168) recently classified the Vaps movement as fascist, however. Von Rauch (1995: 150); Kasekamp (2000: 50, 56, 61–63, 101); Pajur (2001: 166, 169); Plakans (2011: 327). Kasekamp (2017b) argued, however, that the presidential election would probably have gone into a second round, which an anti-Vaps alliance was likely to win – but not with candidate Päts, who therefore had a strong self-interest to block the election with his self-coup. As Taagepera (1974: 408) highlights, “Päts . . . always remained critical of [Mussolini’s] Italy” and “had negative attitudes toward Hitler.” Pajur (2001: 170–71) suspects that this alleged Vaps coup was a governmental fabrication. In Taagepera’s (1974: 410–11) interpretation, however, the 1937 constitution could have allowed for gradually returning to democracy.

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In sum, the self-coup destroyed democracy to prevent the likely electoral victory of an extreme-right force that was moving toward fascism. The salient experiences of the Finnish Lapua movement and the German Nazis, however, led mainstream parties to see the veterans as more fascist than they actually were and thus to overestimate the threat. Päts’ preemptive coup was probably an overreaction, driven by a mixture of genuine misperception and self-interested exaggeration. Of course, it is impossible to determine whether democracy’s overthrow allowed Estonia to avoid a much worse fate, namely fascist totalitarianism (see, e.g., Kasekamp 2000: 106). What is clear, however, is that a radical-right challenge prompted a conservative authoritarian reaction; the partial diffusion of fascism provoked forceful counter-diffusion, which – typically – carried the day. Päts’s success in averting an apparent fascist threat triggered strikingly isomorphic imitation only two months later in neighboring Latvia.61 That country also had a parliament-centric democracy with all its troubles, and in the early 1930s suffered from grave economic problems and political tensions as well. In this similar setting, the agrarian party led by the Estonian leader’s virtual Doppelgänger, Kārlis Ulmanis, Latvia’s father of national independence, sought to preempt any effort by domestic rightwingers to imitate the Estonian veterans’ push for a strong presidency, which had allowed those Estonian extremists to garner such strong political support. To forestall such a threat in Latvia, Ulmanis’s party spearheaded its own power-concentrating project of constitutional reform. But party fragmentation in parliament blocked this attempt to avoid Estonia’s troubles (Rothschild 1974: 375–76). Therefore, worried about the stirrings of domestic fascists, Ulmanis quickly followed Päts’s precedent, overthrew liberal democracy by palace coup in May 1934, and established an authoritarian regime (Rogainis 1971; Vardys 1978: 74–76; Von Rauch 1995: 154). This move sought primarily to sideline and suppress the extreme-right Thunder Cross movement, which had even stronger fascist tendencies than Estonia’s Vaps movement and which took considerable encouragement from Hitler’s recent takeover in Germany.62 However, in fact, the Thunder Cross was

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A confidant’s diary reported, “Ulmanis told Päts that he had followed his example” (Kasekamp 1999: 598 n. 42). Lieven (1993: 70); Von Rauch (1995: 152–53); Kasekamp (2010: 110). Given its racism and anti-Semitism, Kott (2015: 174–75, 182–88, 191–92) classifies the Thunder Cross as fully fascist.

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much weaker than the Estonian veterans and stood no chance of taking power in the foreseeable future (Feldmanis 2001: 220–21). Thus, Latvia’s right-wing radicals posed no realistic threat to liberal democracy (Ščerbinskis 2011: 192; Hanovs and Tēraudkalns 2013: 22; Kott 2015: 181). Nevertheless, Latvia’s political forces harbored significant fears of fascism, which the region-wide advance of extreme-right movements and especially Hitler’s triumph made salient (Berend 1998: 320; Feldmanis 2001: 222). In this context, Estonia’s recent precedent, together with the broader authoritarian wave unfolding in Europe,63 induced Latvia’s mainstream conservatives to emulate their northern neighbor and forestall any fascist challenge. External diffusion thus complemented domestic concerns and helped trigger Ulmanis’s authoritarian self-coup. Because the threat that Latvia’s authoritarian regime claimed to preempt lacked acuteness and because the coup therefore found more limited support than in Estonia (Rothschild 1974: 376), Ulmanis prevented opposition by governing more autocratically than Estonia’s Päts (Feldmanis 2001: 227; Stranga 2012: 52, 56; Hanovs and Tēraudkalns 2013: 39–42). The Latvian dictator quickly banned political parties, abolished parliament, and constructed corporatist institutions modeled on fascist Italy (Von Rauch 1995: 155–56; Butulis 2001: 253–54; Feldmanis 2001: 228–31), with which Latvia established fairly close relations. But despite some borrowing from Mussolini, especially in style and discourse, the Baltic country maintained an authoritarian, not fascist, regime (assessment in Stranga 2012; see also Vardys 1978: 77–78). Then in mid-1940, the Soviet Union occupied all three Baltic States, forcibly imposed communist totalitarianism, and thus inflicted the fate that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania had narrowly avoided after Lenin’s revolution in the late 1910s, as Chapter 3 analyzed. In sum, Estonian and Latvian democracy fell to authoritarian regimes determined to keep right-wing totalitarians out of power. The rise of fascist movements provoked the downfall of democracy – but not the adoption of fascism; instead, the new dictatorships repressed the extreme right-wingers. Hitler’s scary victory reinforced this backlash by activating cognitive shortcuts that brought exaggerations and partial misperceptions of the actual threat. The two Baltic coups thus demonstrate the interaction of diffusion and counter-diffusion that this book highlights. As so common during the interwar years, conservative status-quo defenders won out over extremist challenges – but the main victim was political liberty. 63

To justify the 1934 coup, regime supporters highlighted that, “in early 1934 Latvia was an island in the midst of dictatorships” (Butulis 2001: 252).

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The Struggles of Romania’s Conservative Authoritarians with a Persistent Fascist Movement Conservative elites faced particularly powerful and protracted challenges from right-wing radicals in Romania, where – after Italy and Germany – the third-strongest fascist movement emerged, as Chapter 7 showed. Confronting an extreme-right upsurge, status-quo defenders imposed a royal dictatorship in early 1938, repressed the fanatical upstarts, and brutally assassinated most of their leaders. But this conservative autocracy crumbled in 1940, allowing the remnants of the deeply rooted fascist movement to regain considerable clout. A military dictator therefore initiated a power-sharing experiment – an exceptional attempt at conservative– fascist cooperation during the interwar years. But the violent turmoil fomented by the fascists and their clear quest for totalitarian dominance soon provoked another bloody crackdown, which finally suppressed the fascists and enabled the military ruler to impose a de-mobilizational, typically authoritarian regime. Thus, due to the unusual strength of Romania’s fascist movement, the unlucky country underwent two rounds of authoritarian imposition, both times enforced with frightening violence. As Chapter 7 explained, the zealous Legion of the Archangel Michael aka Iron Guard, led by the charismatic Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, built an increasing circle of unconditionally committed disciples after the late 1920s. Patient mobilizational and organizational efforts among longneglected sectors initially targeted the countryside. In the mid-1930s, the fascists then appealed to the urban working and middle class, rapidly expanding their followership (Schmitt 2013). From the early 1930s onward, the rise of this religious–political sect (Eliade 1988: 69) caused concern among Romania’s semi-democratic governments, which responded with occasional harassment and repression. Under the impression of Hitler’s takeover in Germany, conservative hardliners saw Romania’s “Hitlerist movements” as a significant threat and gloated when governmental “repression [was] beginning with fury” (Calinescu 1999: 191). ˘ Such fears, however, did not prevent King Carol II from trying first to use the Legion for his own purposes,64 similar to the cunning maneuvers of Spain’s Franco, Brazil’s Vargas, and Portugal’s Salazar. The king, who sought to suffocate Romania’s illiberal democracy and extend the royal 64

British diplomats suspected that the king therefore tolerated or subsidized the Legion (Vago 1975: 25–26, 172–76, 187, 204, 305), partly out of fear of communism (Vago 1975: 227).

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powers granted by the constitution (Bucur 2007: 96–102), approached the Legion with bold cooptation proposals in 1936–37. To turn this antielitist movement into a mainstay of his authoritarian regime project, the crafty monarch wanted to take over the Legion’s leadership while appointing the fascists’ original chieftain Codreanu as prime minister (Müller 2001: 487; Sandu 2014: 131–32, 397). With this ambitious plan, Carol sought to create a mass base for his planned autocracy. But after Hitler’s “magnificent victory” in Germany, which Codreanu (1939: 57, 115, 413–15) celebrated as an uplifting precedent (see also Köpernik 2014: 19), the fascist leader – employing the availability and representativeness heuristics – was convinced that his growing mass following would soon allow him to take power on his own (Haynes 2014: 179). In order not to compromise his outsider challenge to Romania’s established elites and clientelistic parties of notables, the ˘ Capitan therefore rejected the king’s domestication project (Heinen 1986: 312–14, 360, 370; Iordachi 2014: 242–43). Thus, Hitler’s success encouraged the Iron Guard to continue in its totalitarian quest for complete control and reject an alliance with, not to speak of subordination to, conservative forces intent upon cementing traditional hierarchies and containing bottom-up mobilization. Indeed, in 1936 and 1937 the Legion achieved rapid advances with its energetic recruitment efforts and drew enormous sympathy for two Legionary “heroes” fallen in the Spanish Civil war (Sturdza 1968: 100; Calinescu 1999: 334–35). As a worried politician told King Carol in ˘ December 1937, “I can feel the movement to the right like a stampede of wild horses” (cited in Ioanid 1992: 482). In the parliamentary contest later that month, “despite electoral pressure and terror . . . in effect the government was defeated by the opposition for the first time in a Romanian election” (Shapiro 1974: 54–55), as Carol II (1995: 233) bemoaned in his diary. Even more shocking was the Iron Guard’s 15.58 percent of the vote, an unprecedented success for an outsider party.65 This dramatic upsurge seemed to foreshadow a likely triumph in the new elections scheduled for March 1938 (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 295–96; Vago 1975: 269, 274; Hitchins 1994: 419; see also Codreanu 1939: 444–45; Shapiro 1974: 84). Codreanu himself hoped for a clear success

65

Maner (2001: 461–62); Clark (2015: 215). Indeed, this official figure was falsified; the Legion’s actual vote amounted to 22 percent (Haynes 2007: 120; Sandu 2014: 145–46; Schmitt 2016: 245).

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(Schmitt 2016: 251), which would permit a legal takeover of power (similar to Hitler in January 1933). In addition, rumor had it that the Legion commanded “a sort of assault militia which includes around 10,000 men,”66 who were eager for action and, according to their official slogan, “ready to die.” The government certainly feared an extreme-right coup in late 1937 and early 1938, developing “a sort of psychosis about an armed takeover of power” (Sandu 2014: 133; see also 140). Some Iron Guard cadres indeed considered in early 1938 making their own “March on Rome” with 400,000 of their supporters (Sturdza 1968: 105–6; Sandu 2014: 154). But Codreanu was aware of the Legion’s unpreparedness for governing and of its organizational weaknesses and military limitations (Sandu 2014: 143, 147–48, 356–57, 396, 404); therefore, a forceful push would hold high risk. In fact, the defense minister warned him that any uprising would be suppressed (Vago 1975: 299). Moreover, the fascist leader did not want to plunge his country into a civil war similar to Spain, where two leading Legionaries, sent to help Franco’s forces, had recently died (Schmitt 2016: 253–55). Yet, despite Codreanu’s hesitations, the king and his conservative entourage feared an Iron Guard seizure of power, via electoral or violent means. This threat perception gained additional virulence via the availability heuristic: After all, a similarly surprising upsurge (18.3 percent in the 1930 elections) had prepared the ground for Hitler’s takeover soon thereafter. Alarmed about the imminent prospect of a fascist victory, many establishment forces and influential generals therefore pushed King Carol to declare a royal dictatorship (Fischer-Galati 1971: 113, 117–18; Vago 1975: 40, 43, 48, 268–75, 305; Heinen 1986: 312–14, 364–79; Maner 2001: 462, 467). The king himself was full of fear, both about Romania’s sociopolitical stability and his own personal safety, as he indicated in his diaries (Carol II 1995: 232, 234;67 see also Hohenzollern-Roumania 1988: 172–73, 175, 184, 186, 190; Sandu 2014: 144). One of Carol’s closest aides highlighted these concerns in his own contemporary notes. After describing the weakness of “all [other] parties 66

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Evola ([1938] 2015: 70; similarly 81); see also Schmitt (2016: 228–29). Interior Minister Calinescu (1999: 368) referred to this militia as a threat in a royal audience in January ˘ 1938. The rumors were probably exacerbated by memories of the Iron Guard’s “death teams” and “punishment teams” of 1933 and 1936 (Sandu 2014: 111; Clark 2015: 100). Unfortunately, the king’s published diaries cover the 1930s very sporadically. The events of late 1937 are discussed only in one summary entry for November 2 through December 31 (Carol II 1995: 230–35). Day-by-day entries then start on May 18, 1938, omitting the royal dictatorship’s installation in February 1938.

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[which] have lost their dynamism,” Interior Minister Armand Calinescu ˘ (1999: 371–72) commented in an audience with the King: “The only popular and dynamic force is the Iron Guard. But this [force] has a revolutionary character. Her triumph would surely be a catastrophe for the state.” Shortly thereafter, he warned Carol II in another meeting: “The big problem remains the Iron Guard . . . They want revolutions. Why not pre-empt” (Calinescu 1999: 378; see also 373–74). ˘ While the king and his entourage genuinely dreaded the Legion’s political–electoral upsurge and its penchant for violence and terrorism, which had already claimed the lives of important government officials, they also used the danger of a fascist takeover instrumentally. Carol II invoked this specter to advance his longstanding quest for autocratic domination, which he had systematically prepared by employing divideand-rule tactics to weaken all establishment parties (Rothschild 1974: 304–10; Heinen 1986: 160–65). This mixture of authentic threat perceptions and their strategic invocation is common in the complex world of politics; sorting out each motive’s relative weight is practically impossible. But, of course, threat perceptions are only of strategic use if the targets of instrumental appeals believed in the danger – as many Romanians did (Heinen 1986: 361–62, 366–69). Thus, in direct or indirect ways, the menace of the Iron Guard played a crucial political role. To forestall a fascist power grab and “meet the revolution from below with revolution from above” (Waldeck [1942] 2013: 33), in February 1938 the monarch swept away the remnants of Romania’s democracy, passed an authoritarian constitution, and outlawed all political parties and movements (Iordachi 2014: 243).68 Scared by Codreanu’s recent advance, important party leaders who had long opposed King Carol’s power hunger now accepted his dictatorship. The monarch indeed moved to eliminate the untamable Iron Guard and thus cement hierarchical control. Therefore, he 68

Seeing threats emanate from surging fascism, yet also from resurging communism, other Balkan countries also imposed royal dictatorships. In Bulgaria, establishment sectors responded to rising fascism (Whetstine 1988: 89–90; Poppetrov 2001: 388–93) by installing an authoritarian regime in 1934, which King Boris III then took over in early 1935, marginalizing military coup makers (Crampton 2005: 158–62; Poppetrov 1988: 537–41, 545). The monarch was determined to prevent a takeover by Mussolini’s and Hitler’s sympathizers (Connelly 2020: 428–29), and he combated the revitalized communists as well. Thus, as was common during the 1930s, a conservative autocrat fought both ideological extremes (Chary 2007: 126–30). Interestingly, however, Boris III felt so firmly in the saddle that, for years, he did not import fascist instruments for fortifying his regime, such as a government-run party (Poppetrov 1988: 548–49; see also Groueff 1987: 235–37, 241–42).

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soon followed his tough Interior Minister’s recommendations, imprisoned ˘ the Legion’s leadership (C˘alinescu 1999: 378–81), and had the Capitan condemned to ten years of hard labor. As the Iron Guard’s new chief, young hothead Horia Sima, responded to this repression with retaliatory violence and a coup plot (Vago 1975: 372; Müller 2001: 489; Clark 2015: 220–21), the king soon had the leading fascist prisoners, including Codreanu, executed in cold blood (Sturdza 1968: 118–20; NagyTalavera 1970: 301; Payne 1995: 279–89; Ţiu 2009: 19–38). But this brutal decapitation did not succeed in suppressing the fascist movement. Instead, the cowardly murder, which the Legion saw like ˘ Christ’s crucifixion, turned the Capitan into a martyr and reinforced the fascists’ quasi-religious appeal to sacrifice.69 Moreover, the remaining Iron Guard fought back and assassinated the mastermind of Carol’s dictatorship and Codreanu’s execution (Müller 2001: 476–79). In response, the government intensified its repression, massacred two to three Legionaries in each county, and displayed their corpses publicly as a deterrent (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 304; Ţiu 2009: 107–9; Iordachi 2014: 248). Yet this state terror, which killed about 2–3,000 Legionaries (Köpernik 2014: 48), did not manage to eradicate the Iron Guard. While violently fighting the fascist challenge, Carol II instituted an authoritarian regime that rested on military support and cooperation with established elites, including the leadership of the officially prohibited parties (Hitchins 1994: 420–22). This royal dictatorship diverged fundamentally from fascism. Instead, the autocracy’s architect, Interior Minister Calinescu (1999: 372), saw as his main model “the German ˘ pre-war system [which] depends only on the sovereign, not the parliament.” Thus, his main source of inspiration was not Mussolini’s or Hitler’s new models, but the old and collapsed Kaiserreich! Due to its hierarchical character, Carol’s regime lacked firm support among the citizenry. After all, the interior minister highlighted as one of its “practical results: . . . the evocation of a new spirit; business card: I don’t do politics” (Calinescu 1999: 380). ˘ But in light of the continuing Iron Guard threat (Calinescu 1999: 380), ˘ the population’s total exclusion could be risky. To patch up this Achilles heel, Carol II looked to fascist Italy and Nazi Germany for remedies. As an admirer of Hitler’s and Mussolini’s powerful leadership (Maner 2001: 441–42), he tried to import several elements of fascism to fortify his 69

Codreanu (1939: 54, 283–84, 309, 422); Nagy-Talavera (1970: 266, 269, 318–19); Ioanid (2004: 437–38); Haynes (2013: 90, 99, 102–9); Clark (2015: 194–95, 202–10).

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authoritarian regime, especially against Romania’s fascists (Iordachi 2014: 248–53). Typically for an elitist autocracy, however, the monarch’s efforts to boost his personal leadership and win popular support fell on deaf ears (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 296, 302, 342). The single party that Carol created from the top down remained faction-ridden and failed to provide a firm, reliable base for his rule.70 Above all, it did not elicit much, if any, commitment and enthusiasm from citizens (Hitchins 1994: 423–24). As an expert concludes, “by contrast to fascism . . . the royal dictatorship did not dispose of any charismatic or revolutionary capacity for mobilization” (Müller 2001: 481). Similarly, the youth movement and state-controlled leisure organizations that the king borrowed from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany remained empty shells.71 As a specialist judges, “the king’s concerted efforts to enlist and indoctrinate the youth were largely unsuccessful, this top-down approach to youth mobilization contrasting sharply with the efficient grassroots proselytizing methods promoted by the Legion” (Iordachi 2014: 252; similarly Vago 1975: 234, 250). Because Carol II instituted typical authoritarianism without a popular base, his regime quickly crumbled when facing external shocks. Once the king had to make humiliating territorial concessions to Hitler’s international allies in 1940, “popular demonstrations, many of which were coordinated by remnants of the Legionary movement, forced Carol to abdicate” (Haynes 2014: 180–81). Had Romania’s fascists ultimately won their long struggle against the royal dictator? With Carol’s downfall, however, army leader Ion Antonescu took power. To overcome the persistent conflict between conservative authoritarians and radical fascists, the new autocrat initiated an unusual experiment in power sharing. He founded a “National Legionary State” that gave the Iron Guard full participation in the government. While the general headed the executive branch and placed his aides in crucial positions, Codreanu’s successor Horia Sima became vice-premier, the Legion nominated important ministers, and an Iron Guard sympathizer managed to control the police (Heinen 1986: 430–33; Müller 2001: 491). Essentially, the fascist movement should serve as the government’s

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Heinen (1986: 366); Maner (2001: 464–68); Müller (2001: 474–78); Bucur (2007: 108); see also eyewitness Waldeck ([1942] 2013: 23, 36–37). For all these reasons, Riley’s claim that Carol II undertook “a clear attempt to impose a fascist regime ‘from above’” and his classification of the royal dictatorship as “statist fascism” (Riley 2019: 142, 113) are unconvincing.

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political wing, while Antonescu controlled most of its administrative and military wing (Iordachi 2014: 254–59). By giving Romania’s fascists government influence, Antonescu also sought to win Hitler’s favor, who had extended Germany’s hegemonic influence over the Balkans. Interestingly, however, this unprecedented cooperation effort unraveled quickly and turned into “a big failure” (Ţiu 2009: 176; Deletant 2014: 281–83). Conservative authoritarians and dynamic fascists found collaboration exceedingly difficult, as an Iron Guardist who served as Antonescu’s foreign minister emphasizes (Sturdza 1968: 168–71, 207, 211–12; see also Iordachi 2014: 256–59; Köpernik 2014: 53–54, 58–61, 64–69, 73–76). Because these different right-wing groupings were committed to divergent causes and projects, they could not forge a viable compromise in this “impossible diarchy” (Sandu 2014: 323; see also 329–57; Heinen 1986: 433–42). After all, Antonescu and his conservative elite supporters sought authoritarian stability, whereas the Legion wanted to propel totalitarian transformation, including elite turnover. The fascists, as outsiders, also had difficulty nominating competent cadres for public offices, thus threatening the governability and performance that Antonescu wanted to guarantee (Hitchins 1994: 462–64). Moreover, Iron Guardists commonly abused their new power for petty goals, especially personal enrichment and simple revenge, and they continued to employ arbitrary, illegal violence, for instance by massacring many of the royal dictatorship’s exofficials (eyewitness reports in Waldeck [1942] 2013: 200–3, 209, 245–47, 268, 278–83, 290–92; see also Clark 2015: 222–28). The resulting disorder and chaos quickly discredited the Iron Guard before the citizenry (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 326–30). And, of course, these outrages and atrocities undermined Antonescu’s typically authoritarian quest for “law and order” (Waldeck [1942] 2013: 213, 216, 245, 283; Deletant 2014: 281–83). Due to these basic divergences, neither side sought longstanding collaboration, but sooner or later wanted to push for predominance, if not total power (Hitchins 1994: 458; Müller 2001: 494–95). Serious tensions therefore erupted within weeks (Ţiu 2009: 165–76; Clark 2015: 227–29). Nazi Germany’s mediation efforts, designed to stabilize Romania, guarantee Germany’s oil and food supply, and prepare the 1941 attack on the Soviet Union, proved ineffectual as well (Köpernik 2014: 59–60, 65–66, 88). As both Antonescu and the Legion realized how precarious the powersharing arrangement was, they readied themselves for the inevitable showdown. Violent conflict indeed exploded after a mere four months. The Iron

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Guard started an uprising in January 1941 (Ţiu 2009: 177–84; Köpernik 2014: 82, 87, 94, 96), committing many further atrocities (eyewitness report in Waldeck [1942] 2013: 346–47). With the approval of Hitler, who preferred authoritarian stability over chaotic fascism in this satellite country (Köpernik 2014: 78, 89, 93, 96), Antonescu cracked down resolutely, and with brutal success (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 325–27; Iordachi 2014: 262–63; Clark 2015: 229–32). Command over the military, a crucial asset of authoritarian rulers, proved decisive. Nowhere did a fascist movement ever win an armed fight; with their control over organized coercion, conservative forces were unbeatable in this arena. Following his decisive victory, Antonescu banned the Legion and ruled alone as a military dictator in a hierarchical, exclusionary regime. After the fascists had shown their true colors in all their horrors, the new round of heavy-handed repression finally proved effective in suppressing the Iron Guard definitively (Payne 1995: 391–97; Mann 2004: 288–95; Ţiu 2009: 190–99). While Antonescu sought to legitimate his authoritarian rule with plebiscites, he made no effort to stimulate mass mobilization and create a regime party, drawing a clear distance to fascism (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 294, 312, 315, 328–29). As a knowledgeable observer concludes, “Nothing could be more erroneous than to consider the Antonescu regime Fascist after February 1941. It was an old-fashioned military dictatorship . . . an updated status quo ante” (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 343–44; similarly Hitchins 1994: 469, 476–78). Strikingly, Hitler also backed this authoritarian regime because it served Germany’s economic and political interests much better than an inexperienced, unruly horde of fascists would; thus, even the fascist hegemon put instrumental considerations ahead of ideological sympathies.72 The rapid implosion of Antonescu’s unique collaboration project corroborates that conservative authoritarianism and mobilizational fascism, despite right-wing affinities, invariably stood in fundamental tension.73 As a leading Romanian expert highlights, “the main stumbling block . . . was the cleavage between the conservative right and the fascist Legion”

72

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The conflict between Antonescu and the Legionaries caused tensions among Nazi officials, however: NSDAP and SS members supported their fascist brethren, whereas German diplomats and military officers backed the authoritarian dictator. Müller (2001: 496–98) systematically compares and classifies Carol’s royal dictatorship, the National Legionary State, and Antonescu’s military regime. Unconvincingly, Ioanid (2009: 399) classifies the first and third as fascist, while Iordachi (2014) calls all three regimes “hybrid totalitarian experiments”; but the striking instability of the royal dictatorship and especially the National Legionary State demonstrates the fundamental incompatibility of authoritarianism and fascism, which Iordachi (2014: 264) stresses as well.

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(Iordachi 2014: 264). Hybrids quickly proved unviable. A main reason for this incompatibility was fascists’ conviction in their inevitable triumph, which made real compromises with authoritarians look unnecessary and inadvisable. This optimistic belief was fueled by the precedents of Mussolini and Hitler. Because charismatic leaders claimed total predominance, enforced conformity, and limited internal debate, fascist movements were highly susceptible to the problematic inferences suggested by cognitive shortcuts. Due to their deficient information processing and lopsided decision-making, they fell for rash inferences inspired by foreign successes. None of these optimistic beliefs came true, however, as is common in the world of bounded rationality. Instead, conservative elites won the power struggles against surging fascists and imposed authoritarian regimes, as happened in Romania both in 1938 and in 1941. The Struggles of Austrian Conservatives with Fascist and Nazi Movements Austrian conservatives, firmly rooted in the Habsburgs’ Catholic and corporatist traditions, faced especially complex challenges during the interwar years. Political conflict in the mutilated country revolved around the stark division between the industrialized metropolis of Vienna and the backward, rural hinterlands. The “red fortress” of the capital was dominated by a powerful, doctrinaire Social-Democratic Party, which diverged from its moderate German counterpart by remaining “an orthodox radical Marxist movement” (Bartolini 2000: 81);74 its ideological pronouncements instilled exaggerated fears in status-quo defenders (Kindermann 1984: 55–59; also Brook-Shepherd 1962: 29–32). By contrast, in the heavily religious provinces the arch-conservative ChristianSocial Party prevailed (Pelinka 2017: chaps. 5, 6, 10), allied with smaller German-nationalist groupings (Simon 1978: 84–93). Acute disagreements over religion (Walterskirchen 2004: 33–37), resentments exacerbated by a left-wing uprising in 1927, and the punishing fallout of the Great Depression frayed the willingness to compromise and fomented radicalization among the political right, fostered by the reactionary groundswell in Europe. Consequently, ongoing efforts to stabilize democracy by forging agreements between Social Democrats and Christian-Socials 74

Christian-Social leaders, such as Kurt Schuschnigg (1937: 68, 108, 147, 214), emphasized the Social Democrats’ radicalism.

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increasingly ran afoul of deepening divides (Brook-Shepherd 1962: 50–77; Simon 1978: 104–7). Moreover, democracy’s fate in this small country, wedged between powerful Germany and Italy, was heavily shaped by external developments, especially those neighbors’ descent into reactionary autocracy. From the 1920s onward, Mussolini promoted his regime model by supporting the paramilitary Heimwehr (Home Defense Guard) and pushing it toward fascism.75 The NSDAP’s rise in Germany then boosted the Austrian Nazi party, Hitler’s fifth column in his home country. In the early 1930s, these extreme right-wingers started a determined push for power with the mix of electoral mobilization and violence that worked so well in Germany (Peniston-Bird 2009: 441–43). When Hitler became chancellor in Berlin, he gave his Austrian followers forceful support (Tálos 2013: 496, 501, 537–42), with the ultimate goal of incorporating Austria into a greater Germany (Anschluß). This expansionist project, however, drew stubborn opposition from Hitler’s fascist role model Mussolini, who claimed the alpine country as part of Italy’s sphere of influence (Walterskirchen 2004: 147–64). As Austria’s Christian-Socials understood, “Mussolini . . . has no interest that the Nazis take over in Austria. For him, the Nazis are a pure movement toward Anschluß” (in Goldinger 1980: 229). Austrian conservatives thus faced the strongest ideological and geopolitical cross-pressures of any country during the interwar years. To navigate this lions’ den, the Christian-Social Party tried, with strong backing from the Catholic Church (Ebner 2013: 164–68; Tálos 2013: 240–52), to play the rival forces off against each other. Specifically, they combated their most dangerous adversaries while making temporary concessions to weaker contenders. To keep the Austrian Nazis out of power, the Christian-Social leadership under Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß reluctantly granted the Mussolini-supported Heimwehr fascists participation in the government (Brook-Shepherd 1962: 88–89, 96; Kindermann 1984: 72–73; Walterskirchen 2004: 101, 107–8). Yet Hitler’s impressive advance in 1932 and triumph in 1933 gave an “enormous impetus” to the Austrian Nazis (Starhemberg 1942: 100), who achieved striking electoral gains in 1932 (Simon 1978: 107–9; Pauley 1981: 78–86, 89–90, 102–3, 121). This unexpected upsurge “created a sensation” (Starhemberg 1942: 82) and struck excessive fear, 75

Starhemberg (1942: 90–94, 104, 108–9); Dollfuß (1994: 176–77, 244–45, 350); Maderthaner and Maier (2004); Peniston-Bird (2009: 438–40, 443–44).

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if not panic, among establishment sectors, especially the conservative Christian-Socials, who dreaded the extremist, violent opponents on their far-right flank. This fear prompted a desperate determination to fight the Nazi threat. Remarkably, a Christian-Social politician “declare[d] that in the fight against the NS, I will link up even with the devil” (cited in Walterskirchen 2004: 143). A study based on interviews with surviving participants captures these exaggerated threat perceptions, which suggest the operation of the cognitive shortcuts highlighted in this book (BrookShepherd 1962: 76):76 Hitler’s triumph in Germany dragged the Austrian Nazi Party abruptly onto its feet again, and indeed made the puppet look a great deal bigger than it was, with disastrous consequences for Austria. The National Socialists’ successes in the Austrian provincial elections of 1932 were mistaken by the Vienna psephologists [= analysts of elections and voting statistics] as heralding a political landslide, when in fact their main feature was merely an internal shift of loyalty within the pan-German camp as such. This miscalculation contributed powerfully to that dread which made Dollfuss – and Schuschnigg after him – shrink back before the challenge of new parliamentary elections in Austria. The challenge became greater the longer it was evaded.

Thus, while firing up Hitler’s disciples in Austria, the striking German precedent made conservative establishment forces overestimate their successes and see a similar tsunami approaching. The availability and representativeness heuristics boosted imitation efforts among Austria’s National Socialists – yet they also inspired excessive fear among their moderate-right opponents. In reality, however, the potential growth of the Nazi vote was probably limited. After all, Austria’s main parties, the Social Democrats and the Christian-Socials, consistently commanded about 80 percent of voter support; and those two camps had proven immune to the Nazis’ electoral advance in Germany and were suffering only limited erosion in Austria during the early 1930s (Simon 1978: 107–9). But although the actual risk of a Nazi avalanche was low, Hitler’s stunning success in Germany, interpreted via the heuristics of availability and representativeness, made Austria’s leading politicians foresee a replication. Accordingly, right after the German Nazis’ electoral victory of March 5, 1933, Chancellor Dollfuß warned Christian-Social leaders of an imminent “National-Socialist wave sweeping across Austria . . . If we get into that flood, we’ll be finished. We’ll be the future battlefield” (in Goldinger 76

This emphasis on miscalculations and mistakes is noteworthy because Brook-Shepherd is sympathetic, even biased, toward the Christian Socials and Chancellor Dollfuß.

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1980: 132–33). In response, the Christian-Social Minister of Defense advocated, “This wave must immediately be hacked off” (in Goldinger 1980: 135). Soon thereafter, another Christian-Social politician expressed his excessive dread: “If the Nazi win a mere 30 percent of the vote, they will get the dictatorship” (in Goldinger 1980: 181). Due to these exaggerated threat perceptions, Dollfuß blocked the Nazis’ insistent demand for new elections (Kindermann 1984: 150, 155, 196). After all, conservative politicians feared that “new elections today mean a debacle . . . New elections . . . would bring an extraordinary loss [because] the development among the people approximates . . . Germany [where] millions [even] upper Bavarian farmers, the firmest type of people, voted Nazi” (in Goldinger 1980: 151, 153). Thus, “the Christian-Social leadership panicked . . . frightened by [a] rather improbable bogy . . . [It] contrived to postpone new elections . . . [making] a costly error” (Brook-Shepherd 1962: 87–88). Even more consequentially, the deterrent effect of this radical-right threat was the main reason for the Christian-Social incumbent to take advantage of a political accident, keep parliament closed after March 1933, and assume increasing dictatorial powers. To forestall the usage of democracy by democracy’s worst enemies (Starhemberg 1942: 109–10), the conservative chancellor himself strangled democracy. Notably, Dollfuß moved toward authoritarianism right when Hitler pursued his dramatic Machtergreifung (Kindermann 1984: 63–68; Tálos 2013: 38, 52–63, 502–3; Botz 2017: 146–47). Specifically, Austria’s government enforced the suspension of parliament immediately after the German Nazis’ abovementioned electoral victory (Dollfuß 1994: 122–28, 137–39). Thereafter, Dollfuß governed based on obscure and controversial emergency provisions adopted during WWI, employing an authoritarian equivalent to the infamous Ermächtigungsgesetz with which Hitler built his totalitarianism (Ermakoff 2008). But rather than imitating his former compatriot by imposing a fascist dictatorship, Dollfuß erected a conservative authoritarian regime and used its antidemocratic mechanisms to combat the Austrian Nazis to his right, and the Austro-Marxists to his left. To succeed on this dangerous “march in between two abysses” and “conduct our war against both fronts,” as Christian-Social leaders framed their struggle (Goldinger 1980: 154, 238), the chancellor outlawed the Nazi party and resolutely combated its campaign of violence,77 while also 77

Seeing the electoral route foreclosed, Austria’s Nazis employed intensified terror (Gunther 1934: 310–11; Brook-Shepherd 1962: 194, 198, 215, 225–26), culminating in the bloody coup attempt of July 1934 (Brook-Shepherd 1962: chap. 8).

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banning the Social Democrats’ paramilitary formation. Dollfuß’s authoritarian regime thus employed determined coercion, even reintroducing the death penalty and threatening its usage against “terrorists.” With his step-wise self-coup, Dollfuß instituted a Catholic authoritarian regime that combated the domestic Nazi party and rejected integration with Germany. Although the new dictator drew support from the fascist Heimwehr,78 he built a conservative autocracy that differed qualitatively from the mass-mobilizational fascism pushed hard by Austria’s protector and Heimwehr funder Mussolini.79 Imposed by an incumbent government from the top down and consolidated through a corporatist constitution, the Austrian dictatorship lacked the bottom-up dynamism and fervent popular commitment of Italian fascism. Indeed, Dollfuß deliberately evaded Mussolini’s constant pressures to install full-scale fascism (Maderthaner and Maier 2004: 24–25, 39, 46, 58–61). With unfulfilled promises, limited concessions, and passive resistance, Austria’s chancellor kept his international protector at bay. While facing the pushy advocates of Italian fascism and the violent hordes of National Socialism on the right, Dollfuß also had to contend with the powerful and radical-sounding, though reformist, AustroMarxists on the left. Interestingly, the Social-Democratic leadership refrained from frontally combating the gradual institution of conservative authoritarianism in order not to provoke a government attack and not to open the door for a brutal Nazi onslaught. But in early 1934, a local socialist grouping responded to a police provocation with armed resistance, which immediately triggered a countrywide uprising. The authoritarian regime took advantage of this opportunity and crushed the left in a violent struggle that Christian-Social politicians framed as bringing “either victory of the Dollfuß government or Bolshevism” (Goldinger 1980: 357). By employing brute Heimwehr and military force,80 the chancellor also sought to deflate the radical right by satisfying its

78

79 80

The fascist Heimwehr, though boosted by Mussolini’s support in 1933/34 (Wohnout 2012: 21–22), did not seriously endanger the authoritarian regime leadership because it suffered from organizational fragmentation and ideological divisions (Wenninger 2013: 512–14; Pelinka 2017: 128). Documents in Maderthaner and Maier (2004: 24–25, 31, 39, 44, 46, 58–60); see also Wohnout (2012: 20–21, 27–29); Tálos (2013: 14, 26–29, 40–44, 63, 491). Simon (1978: 115–17); Tálos (2013: 279–83). In late 1933, Dollfuß had told ChristianSocial leaders, “If [the Social Democrats] make stupidities, we will proceed with all brutality” (Goldinger 1980: 280). As Starhemberg (1942: 125, 132) admits, the uprising’s repression included atrocities such as extra-judicial executions (also Simon 1978: 117).

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eagerness for attacking “Marxism” and to concede one of Mussolini’s insistent demands.81 After destroying the Social-Democratic labor movement, Dollfuß allegedly planned a violent attack against Austria’s Nazis as well (Starhemberg 1942: 149). But Hitler’s disciples anticipated this move and started an ill-organized uprising in July 1934, which killed the chancellor himself (Kindermann 1984: 94–110, 196–207; Schafranek 2013: 110–14). Successor Kurt von Schuschnigg squashed this rebellion with full force, drawing on Mussolini’s support to keep Nazi Germany from interfering. As a Heimwehr leader had demanded, “We must meet National Socialist terrorism with even worse terrorism” (Starhemberg 1942: 103). The resulting crackdown, which landed thousands of Austrian National Socialists in camps and jails (see Schuschnigg 1937: 319–20), hardened the authoritarian regime further (Pauley 1981: 105–12, 138, 165; Kindermann 1984: 157–58; Wohnout 2003: 152–53). Because Italian threats forced Germany’s dictator to back off from his native country and domestic coercion kept the Austrian Nazis at bay (Schafranek 2013; Tálos 2013: 283–85, 502–3), new dictator Schuschnigg managed to stabilize the conservative authoritarian regime, which was reinforced by elements of Catholic corporatism (Gunther 1934: 314–16; Maderthaner and Maier 2004: 31–32, 44, 49). As soon as the autocrat sat more firmly in the saddle, he marginalized the Heimwehr (Schuschnigg 1937: 300–7; Wohnout 2003: 156–57; Tálos 2013: 64–65, 199, 208–12; Wenninger 2013: 518–22). Typically, thus, the authoritarian ruler subjugated the domestic fascists. But this temporary relief was short-lived for international reasons: Germany’s strength kept surging. When Hitler started forcefully to revise the Versailles peace settlement, his first target was Austria, which he incorporated into his totalitarian dictatorship in early 1938. Despite the eventual, externally determined outcome, this unusual case demonstrates the domestic strength of conservative forces and their desperate efforts to avoid both a Nazi takeover and a fascist transformation. Indeed, the machinations of Dollfuß and Schuschnigg exemplify both of the conservative–fascist relationships examined in this chapter: The authoritarian rulers employed support from the fascist, Italy-oriented Heimwehr to establish a hierarchical, elitist autocracy – and keep the more radical, terrorist Austrian Nazis out of power. Thus, Dollfuß and 81

According to Portugal’s ambassador in Rome, fascist Italy stood ready to help Dollfuß crush Social Democracy (Castro 1934b: folhas 5–6).

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Schuschnigg used fascists for their own, conservative authoritarian goals, as Franco, Vargas, and Salazar did; and these goals included suppressing another, more threatening current of fascism, just as Päts, Carol II, Antonescu, and Boris III did. Thus, due to Austria’s unfortunate location, in between sorcerer Mussolini and his master-apprentice Hitler, the political and ideological frontlines in this exceptional case were even more fragmented than in the remainder of interwar Europe; remarkably, even different wings of fascism fought each other. As happened throughout the reverse wave, however, the principal casualties were freedom and democracy. Conclusion: Imposing Authoritarianism to Preempt Fascism This subsection has offered particularly striking evidence for the double deterrent effect. In several countries, elitist status-quo defenders overthrew liberal democracy to prevent rising fascist movements from taking power. What triggered these preemptive self-coups was an acute threat not from the radical left, but the radical right. While conservative authoritarians cooperated with fascists when perceiving a strong challenge from left-wing revolutionaries, they otherwise sought to keep these fanatical, violent promoters of reactionary totalitarianism at bay. Therefore, when these upstart movements seemed about to seize power, status-quo defenders closed down democracy and imposed conservative authoritarianism. The upsurge of the radical right, which in turn had emerged in opposition to the radical left, was seen as a grave danger by conservative statusquo defenders. Elites dreaded not only the revolutionary challenge of communism but also the dynamic, totalitarian transformation sought by fascism. The menace posed by Mussolini and Hitler’s admirers gained special salience in 1933, when Germany’s new dictator easily broke through conservatives’ containment efforts and subordinated these previously powerful sectors to his unaccountable, omnipotent leadership. Scared by this precedent, establishment sectors in other countries were eager to prevent similar power grabs – and therefore suppressed growing fascist movements with coercive means. Due to this nervous overreaction, three of the four preemptive self-coups occurred immediately after Germany’s descent into totalitarianism, in 1933/34. These fierce struggles among non-democratic right-wingers, which invariably ended with fascists’ defeat and the imposition or hardening of conservative authoritarianism, demonstrate the importance of the double deterrent effect for democracy’s destruction during the interwar years.

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    - While in Estonia, Romania, and Austria, establishment sectors preempted power seizures by fascist outsiders, in other countries, authoritarian rulers blocked fascist transformation efforts by regime insiders. Thus, conservative groupings defeated not only fascist challenges pushed from the bottom up but also those initiated from the top down. After all, Mussolini’s innovation often had powerful adherents among the founders of reactionary dictatorships, who sometimes used their positions inside the authoritarian regime to push toward totalitarian fascism. Any effort to overcome the gulf between autocratic regime types was by nature difficult, however. How to move from static, de-mobilizational authoritarianism to dynamic, mobilizational fascism? Conservative status-quo defenders feared a loss of control and stubbornly resisted what they saw as a leader’s quest for omnipotence. Those sectors commanded major power capabilities, including military coercion, especially where the existing autocracy had achieved consolidation and built an alliance of supporters. The “seizure group” (Geddes, Wright, and Frantz 2018) that had imprinted its authoritarian stamp when founding the dictatorship managed to defend its elitist, non-participatory nature against internal turncoats who came to push for its fundamental transmutation. Conservative containment therefore foiled insider efforts at fascist metamorphosis. Certainly, in Germany in 1933, such a conservative taming strategy had failed quickly and spectacularly. But this dam break happened only because Hitler headed a massive popular movement and pushed for totalitarianism immediately after assuming government power. In this unsettled situation, overwhelming, violent mass mobilization managed to dislodge conservative groupings, as Chapter 6 analyzed. By contrast, in the established authoritarian regimes of Europe’s underdeveloped periphery (Sundhaussen 2001: 341–46), containment strategies uniformly succeeded in blocking projects of fascist metamorphosis. In these settings, conservative elites commanded predominant influence, whereas fascist-leaning regime officials had difficulty stirring up fervent mass support from the top down. Indeed, the scary German precedent steeled authoritarian incumbents’ resolve to prevent their countries from following Hitler’s totalitarian path. Thus, the double deterrent effect operated again, disadvantaging fascism and favoring conservative authoritarianism.

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Taming a Fascist Regime Insider in Hungary’s Authoritarian Regime The most important case of a fascist insider project and its successful containment occurred in Hungary, where conservative authoritarians around head of state – Regent – Miklós Horthy managed to control right-wing extremist Gyula Gömbös, who won the premiership in 1932 and sought to follow Mussolini’s and Hitler’s footsteps. Gömbös had promoted extreme-right ideas since the abortive communist revolution of 1919 (see Chapter 3), which had radicalized part of Hungary’s right (see Chapter 4). With the paramilitary squad he had created to fight the Soviet Republic, fascist-leaning Gömbös had supported Horthy’s counterrevolutionary takeover. But after extirpating the communist challenge, the Regent moderated and returned to his conservative roots (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 53; Sakmyster 2006: 81). With the re-imposition of order and the reversal of the communist land reform, conservative elites recovered their hold over good parts of the citizenry, especially in the countryside of this “backward” nation (Janos 1982; Mann 2004: 241, 257). Horthy, therefore, instituted a competitive-authoritarian regime, which engineered electoral victories for its long-governing conservative prime minister, István Bethlen, through widespread clientelism, pressure, and intimidation (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 55–64; Rothschild 1974: 158–66; Wittenberg 2014: 221–23). With stability guaranteed, Horthy marginalized right-wing radicals like Gömbös. The Hungarian fascist admired Mussolini from the beginning,82 earning the nickname “Gombolini” (Dreisziger 1968: 35; Pinto 2014: 103). In the early 1920s, Gömbös also maintained contacts with the German Nazis (Ludecke [1937] 2013: 102–3, 112). The Magyar rightwinger sought to organize a “White International” that would frontally combat communism in Eastern and Central Europe and even in the tottering Soviet Union itself (Sakmyster 2006: 71–74).83 Moreover, in coordination with Hitler’s coup plan, Gömbös intended to replicate Mussolini’s March on Rome in late 1923 (Sakmyster 2006: 134–38; see also Ormos 2007: 242), but the police foiled his preparations, as Chapter 5 mentioned. After his failure to overthrow the conservative authoritarian regime, Gömbös for years languished as head of a weak opposition party. 82 83

Nagy-Talavera (1970: 71–74, 81); Zeidler (2014: 125); Kallis (2016: 310). On this project, see also “letter of Erich von Ludendorff to Miklós Horthy” of August 19, 1920, reprinted in Szinai and Szücz (1965: 26–29).

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Horthy’s competitive authoritarianism turned more precarious during the Great Depression, however. Widespread hardships fueled renewed radical-left agitation, which evoked the trauma of the Soviet Republic, and boosted the radical right (Szöllösi-Janze 1989: 90; Sakmyster 2006: 169–70). Moreover, fascist movements were advancing all across Europe, especially in Germany. Domestic discontent and regional demonstration effects strengthened right-wing forces inside the regime and beyond (Rothschild 1974: 170–71; Sakmyster 2006: 170; see also Janos 1982: 260–61). Facing pressures, Horthy felt compelled to appoint Gömbös, who had seemingly moderated and returned to the government fold, as prime minister in 1932. While Gömbös’ ultimate plans are not completely clear (Zeidler 2014: 133–35), the available evidence suggests that he intended to transform Hungary’s authoritarian regime from the inside into totalitarian fascism. The new prime minister maintained close contacts to Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany and took much inspiration from these models (Dreisziger 1968: 45–46; Berend 1998: 310; Ormos 2007: 241–43). In fact, he allegedly promised a leading Hitler aide in 1935 to impose totalitarianism and anti-Semitism (Kónya 1969: 319, n. 65; NagyTalavera 1970: 95, 99, 101, 103; Sakmyster 2006: 183; Zeidler 2014: 132). But the conservative head of state, who retained ultimate control, continued to harbor strong reservations about Gömbös’ fascist leanings (Horthy [1953] 2011: 139–40, 142). Therefore, he imposed significant limitations on the prime minister to forestall any push to full-scale fascism.84 For instance, Gömbös was compelled to forego radical land reform, which would have undermined rural clientelism and greatly weakened elite control (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 88–92; Janos 1982: 287–88; Zeidler 2014: 127). The entrenched power of Hungary’s conservative establishment limited the prime minister’s room of maneuver inside the regime (Ormos 2007: 237, 243, 253–55, 259–60). Moreover, in stark contrast to Mussolini and Hitler, Gömbös was not leading a fascist mass movement, and he undertook no efforts to mobilize widespread popular support (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 77; Carsten 1982: 173; Ormos 2007: 243, 261). Hungary’s small and fragmented fascist movements, which had formed independently (Payne 1995: 270–71), rejected cooptation where Gömbös attempted it; indeed, he mostly tried 84

Dreisziger (1968: 33–34); Rothschild (1974: 172–73); Szöllösi-Janze (1989: 90); Sakmyster (2006: 172–73, 179–80).

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to repress extreme right-wingers (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 106–13; Berend 1998: 310; Mann 2004: 243; Riley 2019: 179). The resulting lack of a mass base crucially limited the prime minister’s political clout. For these reasons, Gömbös’ effort to push Hungary toward fascism advanced only haltingly. Gradually, he eroded the stranglehold of the conservative establishment, which actively and passively resisted his initiatives (Kónya 1969: 305–7, 311–13, 321–28; Ormos 2007: 237, 243, 253–55; Zeidler 2014: 128–33). He also appointed more radical rightwingers to cabinet ministries and military command posts (Ormos 2007: 257, 261, 266, 315; see also Kónya 1969: 314–15). Hungary’s aspiring Vezér (= Führer, Duce) also tried hard to reorient the stodgy government party toward mass mobilization (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 94–95). But this top-down effort to transform a patronage machine run by notables into a dynamic fascist movement made only slow and limited progress. Moreover, Gömbös immediately demanded new elections (see 1933 document reprinted in Szinai and Szücs 1965: 62). After all, government influence over the voting process would enable him to purge conservative politicians and promote radical right-wingers. But his conservative opponents long resisted this ploy, which resembled Hitler’s push for new elections in early 1933, a crucial step in the totalitarian Machtergreifung (Rothschild 1974: 172). For some unknown reason, Horthy suddenly relented in early 1935 and granted Gömbös’ request (Kónya 1969: 328–30). The prime minister immediately took advantage of this opportunity. With massive government patronage and intimidation, he engineered an election triumph, which broke conservatives’ stranglehold over the party system and boosted radical-right influence in parliament (Rothschild 1974: 174–75; Ormos 2007: 256–57). Gömbös expected this breakthrough to allow for a move toward full-scale fascism. The legislature, however, was not the main seat of power in Hungary’s competitive-authoritarian regime. Conservatives’ well-entrenched strength in state and society continued to limit Gömbös’ latitude and brought noteworthy setbacks for his transformation project. For instance, the prime minister did not manage to institute a corporatist system of interest representation inspired by the Italian model (Zeidler 2014: 132). This plan, which may have also tried to trim the role of parties and parliament (Kónya 1969: 317–21; Ormos 2007: 241–42, 251), faced outspoken opposition from powerful business associations, and resistance from the weakened unions and the social-democratic party (Ormos 2007: 254, 257–60, 316–17).

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More broadly, Gömbös’ growing influence provoked the formation of an opposition coalition of conservative party politicians, state officials, landowners, and business people that leaned on the main power holder, Regent Horthy (Rothschild 1974: 175; Sakmyster 2006: 184; Ormos 2007: 258–60; see also Kónya 1969: 310–12, 322–23). Hitler’s scary precedent helped to motivate their resistance. The conservative establishment’s leader, ex-Prime Minister István Bethlen, expressed in a highprofile speech his fear that Hungary “will become a guinea pig for immature, bizarre ideas imported from abroad. We are going to see more toying with National Socialist ideas, party totalitarianism, the formation of SS and SA units and similar things, economic planning and corporate systems, which will jeopardize the peace, order, credit and security of the country” (quoted in Ormos 2007: 256; on this speech, see also Kónya 1969: 331–32). This conservative counter-pressure forced a compromise that “in the longer run meant the failure of Gömbös’ plans” for a fascist transformation of the government party (Szöllösi-Janze 1989: 90), the prime minister’s main instrument for regime change. Most importantly, Gömbös’ push toward fascism worried conservative Horthy, who held well-known misgivings about Hitler, especially after the Nazi purges of “the bloody June 30th, 1934” (Horthy [1953] 2011: 146; see also Dreisziger 1968: 42). To stop his own prime minister’s dangerous transformation project, the Regent claims that he decided to dismiss Gömbös. Allegedly, he refrained from this drastic step only because the PM unexpectedly fell ill in early 1936 and then died later that year (Horthy [1953] 2011: 142; see also Dreisziger 1968: 49; Nagy-Talavera 1970: 100; Sakmyster 2006: 185, 192, 199; Ormos 2007: 259). Thus, due to persistent obstacles posed by well-entrenched conservative forces, Gömbös failed to transform Hungary from conservative authoritarianism to fascist totalitarianism (Vago 1975: 265; Carsten 1982: 173; Ormos 2007: 259–60). Gömbös’ long and unsuccessful struggles show the difficulty of overcoming the gulf between the two main types of reactionary autocracy. Contrary to recent hybridization claims (cf. Dobry 2011; Kallis 2016; Roberts 2016; Pinto 2017), right-wing authoritarianism differed greatly from fascism. A regime insider without mass support could not bridge this gap. Instead, the conservative taming strategy that failed so rapidly and drastically in Germany in 1933 succeeded in Hungary shortly thereafter.85 Interestingly, one important reason for Gömbös’ failure was the 85

Pittaway (2009: 385). In fact, conservative resistance succeeded again when Prime Minister Béla Imrédy in 1938 embraced fascist radicalism (Nagy-Talavera 1970:

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deterrent effect of Hitler’s success, which exacerbated conservative resistance. Moreover, Hungary’s “backwardness” (Janos 1982; similarly Berend 1998) gave traditional elites enormous clout and long limited the opportunities for fascist mobilization. Indeed, Gömbös “fell between two stools,” stifled by conservative authoritarians and distant from Hungary’s incipient, fragmented fascist movements. Fascism’s installation from above, without fervent popular support, was not a winning formula (Szöllösi-Janze 1989: 95).86

Continuing Conservative–Fascist Struggles and the Hardening of Hungarian Authoritarianism With Gömbös’ failure, Hungary had not definitively averted the extremeright challenge, however. Instead, in the late 1930s, charismatic Ferenc Szálasi won over fascist-leaning regime insiders left orphaned by Gömbös’ death (Ormos 2007: 257, 266) and gathered a snowballing popular following (Szöllösi-Janze 1989: 101–16). Fascism’s advance across Europe, as manifested in Codreanu’s surging Legion in neighboring Romania and in neighboring Austria’s Anschluß to Nazi Germany (Sakmyster 2006: 207), gave Szálasi’s Arrow Cross movement additional boosts. Hitler’s regime, which Szálasi visited for weeks in 1936, served as a particularly important model (Szöllösi-Janze 1989: 107–8, 209, 217). But facing competitive authoritarianism, not the electoral openness of a democracy as Hitler had in Germany, the ever more potent Arrow Cross

86

136–37, 146–50; Wittenberg 2014: 227–28). Gömbös’ adversary Bethlen again spearheaded the resistance (see blistering “Memorandum” reprinted in Szinai and Szücs 1965: 112–20), which convinced Horthy soon to dismiss Imrédy (Vago 1975: 406; SzöllösiJanze 1989: 122–24). Similar to Hungary, conservative containment efforts succeeded in Lithuania during the late 1920s and early 1930s. When Prime Minister Augustinas Voldemaras moved toward fascism, he seemed to threaten the authoritarian regime that President Antanas Smetona had imposed with a 1926 coup (discussed briefly in Chapter 7). To promote his extremeright turn, Voldemaras, “this would-be Lithuanian duce” (Misiunas 1970: 102), fostered the “overtly fascistic ‘Iron Wolf’ paramilitary organization” (Lieven 1993: 66) and used it for advancing his ideological ambitions. To forestall this intra-regime challenge, Smetona in 1929 dismissed Voldemaras and soon dissolved the Iron Wolf (Rothschild 1974: 378–79). Hardcore fascists, however, went underground and “staged repeated coup attempts to bring Voldemaras to power” (Lieven 1993: 66). After the most dangerous such challenge in 1934, the president finally imprisoned his former prime minister and thus managed to suppress the fascist threat definitively (Misiunas 1970: 103–5). In these ways, Lithuania’s conservative authoritarianism blocked an internal transformation into totalitarian fascism.

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first sought to induce extreme-right military officers to dislodge the conservative government in a coup (Nagy-Talavera 1970: 129–31, 134; Vago 1975: 214, 252; Sakmyster 2006: 196, 203–4, 208). Despite strong fascist sympathies,87 however, many officers refused to defy Regent Horthy, who condemned the military’s infiltration and threatened radical-right “subversives” with drastic retaliation: “At one time already we showed, in 1919, that we were able of cleaning our country and nation of subversive elements, and I may assure the country even now that we have forgotten nothing of what we were capable of doing at that time” (reprinted in Szinai and Szücs 1965: 98, 100). Thus, after conservatives had unleashed “white terror” against the communist left and its effort to emulate Lenin’s totalitarian regime, they now invoked this traumatic experience against the fascist right and its plan to imitate Hitler’s totalitarian regime – a clear indication of the double deterrent effect. Unable to seize power via the military, the Arrow Cross turned to the bottom-up route that fascists across Europe, especially role model Hitler, had charted. Szálasi promoted mass mobilization, built up paramilitary formations, and participated in elections (Vago 1975: 354–56, 366–67). The Arrow Cross indeed achieved a scary success in the parliamentary elections of 1939, when radical right-wingers together captured about a quarter of the vote.88 Interestingly, Szálasi’s party won disproportionate vote shares in the cities (Szöllösi-Janze 1989: 165–73; Berend 1998: 312; Rady 2014: 267–68), whereas continuing elite control over the peasantry made them not nearly as successful in the countryside. Consequently, the conservative establishment became ever more fearful and gripped by “widespread phobia against Szálasi” (Ormos 2007: 278). Bethlen warned against the “agitation” and “revolutionary style of the Arrow-Cross men” that threatened, in a “revolutionary flood,” to bring “a declaration of war on the parliamentary system” and constitutionalism. As the conservative stalwart urged the government to “suppress any revolutionary activities and demagogy” coming from the fascist right (reprinted in Szinai and Szücs 1965: 115–16), Horthy’s authoritarian regime fought back against the Arrow Cross upsurge with frequent

87 88

Observers estimated that 50–90 (!) percent of the army embraced fascism (Szöllösi-Janze 1989: 194–95, 197–99). Nagy-Talavera (1970: 152–54); Janos (1982: 270–71); Szöllösi-Janze (1989: 153–64); Sakmyster (2006: 231).

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prohibitions, constant harassment, and targeted repression.89 Under trumped-up charges, for instance, they imprisoned Szálasi from 1938 to 1940 (Sakmyster 2006: 212; see also 224, 231, 248–49). Because the conservative establishment demonstrated its determination to keep the Arrow Cross out of power (Carsten 1982: 175–80; Payne 1995: 273–76), fascist mobilization declined in the early 1940s quite rapidly (SzöllösiJanze 1989: 129–33, 207–8, 250–53; Ormos 2007: 361). Yet while conservative elites managed to contain and defeat fascist challenges coming from above as well as from below, these conflicts turned Hungary’s competitive authoritarianism ever more autocratic. Gömbös’ advance introduced more heavy-handed methods of domination than the electoral manipulation prevailing before, for instance by centralizing control over the government party. Thereafter, the determination to cripple the Arrow Cross movement induced Horthy and his aides to become ever more illiberal and repressive. In late 1940, for instance, the Regent urged his prime minister “to confront the Arrow-Cross leaders with the threat that the party will be suppressed if they upset the situation, and the leaders stood against the wall [to be executed] . . . Energetic action must be introduced by proclaiming martial law” (reprinted in Szinai and Szücs 1965: 152; see Szöllösi-Janze 1989: 257). Thus, fascist initiatives first brought and then provoked a hardening of Hungary’s nondemocracy, which by the late 1930s turned into a full-scale dictatorship. Once again, even where fascism lost the political struggle, the consequences for liberty were dire.

 The preceding case studies explain why fascism did not spread nearly as far as its ample normative appeal suggested. Outside Germany, this new regime type proliferated only under the coercive umbrella of the Wehrmacht during WWII. Most conservatives, even Duce admirers, preferred non-mobilizational authoritarianism to fascism’s dynamic totalitarianism. In the less-developed countries of Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America, these establishment sectors commanded preponderant power capabilities, whereas fascist movements usually remained small and weak or achieved only short-term upsurges that were decisively repressed. 89

Nagy-Talavera (1970: 120–21, 127–29, 134–38, 142, 151, 155, 159–60, 163–64); Szöllösi-Janze (1989: 109, 111, 115, 120–21, 124, 148, 198, 252, 257).

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Obviously, then, fascism’s missionary ideology did not carry overwhelming force and propel direct emulation. Fascism’s attraction did not push aside the ideological and interest-based reservations of powerful conservative groupings. Rulers, politicians, and common citizens did not feel irresistibly compelled to join an extreme-right bandwagon. Instead, they assessed fascism’s fit with their own convictions and goals. Elites, in particular, evaluated the new model’s usefulness for dealing with the challenges confronting them and assessed its contributions to their own political interests. Their elitist preferences and predominantly conservative attitudes made them reject the wholesale emulation of Mussolini’s innovation; instead, they opportunistically picked and chose from the fascist tool kit. Although the interwar reverse wave was not at all a riptide of fascism, the novel ideology powerfully affected the proliferation of autocracy. After all, in countries such as Brazil, Portugal, and Spain, conservative leaders used fascist movements to impose or harden their own authoritarian rule. Moreover, in Estonia, Austria, and Romania, establishment sectors overthrew deficient democracies to prevent domestic fascist movements from seizing power; rising fascism thus provoked the imposition of authoritarianism. Consequently, the double deterrent effect highlighted in this book prompted the installation of conservative dictatorships not only as a safeguard against the radical left but also the radical right. Thus, fascism’s rise damaged liberalism and democracy not only where the new regime type found direct imitation, as in the exceptional case of Germany. Instead, noxious effects also prevailed where fascist movements helped conservative sectors establish authoritarian regimes and where they seemed close to taking power – a risk that established elites forestalled by imposing exclusionary, hierarchical autocracy. In many countries, therefore, the obstacles to fascism’s diffusion did not bolster liberal democracy, but contributed to the installation or hardening of authoritarianism. After all, in “backward” Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America, fascists’ strongest opponents were conservative elites – who did not defend democracy, but imposed or fortified traditional dictatorships (Linz 2002: 29, 43, 52, 64–69). Thus, although fascism as a full-scale regime rarely spread, the proliferation of fascist movements contributed mightily to democracy’s downfall and the authoritarian groundswell of the interwar years.

9 The Edges of the Autocratic Wave: Battered Democracy and Populist Authoritarianism

The preceding chapter demonstrated how in many countries, conservative elites imposed authoritarian regimes and kept fascist movements under control, often with considerable repression. Thus, during the interwar years, hierarchical, exclusionary authoritarianism often blocked the establishment of fascist totalitarianism. Indeed, preemptive coups occurred where radical-right challengers seemed to have a realistic chance of seizing power. But as indicated throughout this study, the reverse wave of the 1920s and 1930s was unusually complex. The autocratic riptide produced diverse undercurrents and ripples and varied in its destructive effects. Moreover, democracy did not collapse uniformly under the anticommunist assault of authoritarianism and fascism; instead, liberal pluralism survived in a number of countries or, occasionally, fell to other problems. Above all, Northern and Western Europe preserved democracy (until the German conquests of WWII). Modern societies, fairly wellorganized political parties, strong liberal legacies, and reasonably secure nationhood, together with victory in WWI, kept fascist movements weak. In most of these settings, extreme right-wingers never seriously threatened democracy, which maintained resilience and consolidation. The extant scholarly literature has convincingly explained democratic survival in these nations (Luebbert 1991; recently Cornell, Møller, and Skaaning 2017, 2020; see also Svolik 2015). More interesting for this study than these immune democracies are cases where strong fascist movements did emerge and make real bids for power, yet conservative elites lacked the clout or motivation to block their takeover by imposing de-mobilizational authoritarianism; instead, 291

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through a variety of counter-measures, liberal and democratic forces managed to preserve democracy. Consequently, democracy persisted in Finland, France, and Czechoslovakia, however battered or bruised (Capoccia 2005). And just as the democratic breakdowns examined in Chapter 8 followed diverse paths, so its survival in this disparate set of countries – old and new; industrialized or strongly rural; ethnically homogeneous or heterogeneous – resulted from different sources of strength. The most dramatic case of a near-death experience occurred in Finland, where memories of the bloody civil war of 1918 and perceptions of a resurging far-left threat spurred mushrooming fascist-leaning mobilization from 1929 onward. Yet whereas a few years later a strikingly parallel development in culturally and politically similar Estonia (cf. De Meur and Berg-Schlosser 1996: 455, 462) provoked a preemptive coup by conservative elites,1 in Finland the hard-pressed democracy narrowly escaped a breakdown by proving responsive to extreme-right demands. By eliminating all remaining communist threats, the mainstream parties proved their defensive capacity, deflated the fascist challenge, and secured conservative support for political liberalism. When the extreme right nevertheless attempted a forceful power grab, its isolation from mainstream conservatives condemned it to failure. As a result, Finland managed to maintain democracy – an unusual success in an unlikely setting (cf. De Meur and Berg-Schlosser 1996: 438). France also faced significant far-right challenges, both in the mid1920s and the mid- to late 1930s. After all, the democracy instituted in the 1870s suffered from deep ideological divisions that had caused several revolutionary uprisings as well as strong reactionary reflexes during the nineteenth century. No wonder, then, that in response to occasional leftist advances, radical-right movements temporarily flourished during the interwar years. Their division and the organizational capacities of democratic parties and a vibrant civil society limited their appeal, however. And as left-wing radicalization was kept in check, right-wing radicalization also leveled off. Though damaged by frequent conflict, French democracy therefore survived fascist challenges. Czechoslovakia, a new country of great ethnic diversity, achieved surprising democratic resilience. The numerical strength of the Czech population and its parties’ capacity to gain support and alliance partners 1

For a comparative analysis of regime developments in Finland and the Baltic states, see Readman (2007: 286–89).

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from the Slovak and German minorities allowed for the creation of a fairly stable majority coalition, which ensured governability throughout the 1920s and 1930s. A strong impetus for cross-party cooperation arose from the country’s precarious international position, wedged between Germany and Austria and with a numerically substantial, discriminated, and discontented German-speaking minority concentrated along the borders. Indeed, encircled Czechoslovakia maintained democracy in part to retain the support of democratic great powers, especially France. The ruling party coalition managed to keep communist challenges at bay during the 1920s and cope with an increasingly radical-right, Nazi-influenced German movement during the mid-1930s. Given its international weakness, however, Czechoslovak democracy fell to Hitler’s assault in 1938/39. In various ways, thus, Finland, France, and Czechoslovakia managed to deal with extremist threats from the left and the right and preserve liberal democracy despite considerable turbulence. This resilience in the face of economic crisis (the Great Depression), longstanding ideological divisions (France), the legacies of recent civil war (Finland), and serious ethnic tensions (Czechoslovakia) is remarkable. The success of these “challenged survivors” (Capoccia 2005: 7) demonstrates the limited draw of fascism and authoritarianism even during an era that proved so dangerous for democracy. While these democracies averted fascist challenges based on their domestic strengths, Argentina avoided fascism due to a change in global parameters. In the Southern Cone nation, a delayed move toward fascism ran afoul of fascism’s international defeat in WWII. Mussolini admirer Juan Perón adjusted to the catastrophic downfall and worldwide delegitimation of right-wing totalitarianism by moderating his emulation project and embracing ideologically diffuse populism instead, which found broad popular resonance (Germani 1978; Finchelstein 2017). As his mobilizational success soon allowed this ambitious leader to achieve political hegemony, he moved toward competitive authoritarianism. Thus, Perón broke the patterns of the interwar years, when authoritarianism arose from top-down imposition and coups, whereas bottom-up mass mobilization brought fascism. With his innovation, Perón himself turned into a model for Latin America’s populists (Finchelstein 2017). This chapter examines first the three challenged democracies, in descending order of similarity with the cases analyzed in Chapter 8. Consequently, the discussion starts with Finland’s narrow escape, turns to France’s struggles with far-right movements, and then to

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Czechoslovakia’s surprising stability. The last subsection analyzes Argentina’s exogenously driven avoidance of fascism and embrace of populism.

     Finland: The Failure – or Partial Success? – of Fascist Mobilization The communist threat’s importance as the most basic impulse for the interwar reverse wave becomes clear in Finland, which narrowly avoided autocracy in the early 1930s. In this country, where the trauma of a bloody civil war and the close-by Soviet Union gave the Bolshevist danger particular salience, democracy proved capable of definitively forestalling left-wing revolution. Communism’s successful suppression drained support from a burgeoning fascist movement and induced conservative forces to side with democratic parties, which forged a broad coalition and thus safeguarded democracy. As broad-based, relatively well-organized parties demonstrated their capacity for problem-solving and ensured governability, radical-right demands for autocracy weakened (Siaroff 1999: 112–13). Democracy’s survival is noteworthy because Finland looked like a “most likely case” for a breakdown (Siaroff 1999: 107, 113–14; Karvonen 2000: 129, 151–52). Pushing for independence after a century of Russian dominance, this new country immediately slid into a ferocious civil war. As Chapter 3 discussed, radical socialists inspired by Lenin’s Bolshevists imposed their control on the main urban areas for three months, before the vengeful assault of “white” units crushed their reign and inflicted even worse terror. Deep wounds kept festering thereafter. Nevertheless, despite legal obstacles and prohibitions, communists backed by the Soviet Union energetically agitated and organized in semi-clandestine ways (Hodgson 1967: chap. 5). They fought an uphill battle because much of the population despised them as agents of world revolution and Russian imperialism. Moreover, the socialists, who had sided with them in the civil war, reoriented during the 1920s, fully embraced liberal democracy, and joined the fold of Scandinavian Social Democracy.2

2

Raun (1987: 13) highlights Finland’s strong orientation toward Scandinavia, especially Sweden.

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Yet although the communists did not have a realistic chance of taking power, conservative and right-wing sectors traumatized by the purgatory of temporary “red” rule continued to overrate this menace. During the 1920s, therefore, Finnish governments employed repressive measures to combat any revolutionary stirrings (Capoccia 2005: 145–53). Communist organizing proved hard to extinguish, however, and the labor movement saw a radical-left resurgence in the late 1920s (Kalela 1976: 105, 111; Karvonen 2000: 144–45, 152). In this context, a deliberate communist provocation in 1929 triggered the spontaneous emergence of an extreme-right mass movement (Siaroff 1999: 117–18; see also Hodgson 1967: 135–36), which quickly spread from a remote rural area to engulf the whole country. This fascist-leaning Lapua movement insisted on the complete extirpation of communism and combated any traces of revolutionary threat through a good deal of violence.3 Under the massive pressure of the radical right, conservative forces also hardened their stance. Announcing a “March on Helsinki” in 1930, an obvious imitation of Mussolini’s power grab (Alapuro and Allardt 1978: 132), the Lapua movement managed to push for a slew of additional anticommunist measures. In response, the besieged government and parliament bent the rule of law to close any remaining space for radical leftism and definitively preclude revolution with a range of stringent prohibitions and restrictions (Capoccia 2005: 157–62). Yet ironically, the Lapua movement’s success in effectively achieving its central anti-communist goal ushered in its decline and saved Finnish democracy from impending destruction (Kalela 1976: 115–20; Carsten 1982: 167–68; Alapuro 1988: 209–10, 214, 217; Karvonen 2000: 148–53; Kirby 2014: 143–44, 148). As democracy managed to resolve the supposed problem, why abolish this regime? Conservatives who had supported the extreme right in its fight against communism therefore distanced themselves from the fascists after this victory (Capoccia 2005: 139–40, 163–65). They were unwilling to help this impetuous, uncontrollable popular movement take national power and institute a mobilizational dictatorship that could well jeopardize the elite interest of maintaining a hierarchical sociopolitical order. Thus, the important division between radical-right plebeian forces and more moderate, 3

As a radical-right protest movement without an outstanding charismatic leader and a broader ideological vision (Kirby 2014: 145–49), the Lapua movement constitutes a borderline case of fascism; however, after its political defeat and decline in 1932, its hardliners formed a true fascist party (Alapuro and Allardt 1978: 135).

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traditional, and exclusionary conservatives, which seriously hindered fascism’s spread during the interwar years, prevented the downfall of Finnish democracy during this critical juncture. Because this regime demonstrated its ability to suppress a perceived threat, pivotal sectors found its replacement unnecessary and inadvisable (Alapuro and Allardt 1978: 130–33, 137–39). After all conceivable danger had passed, there was no reason to abandon liberty and submit to an unaccountable, arbitrary autocracy. As the Lapua movement saw the opportunity for capturing the government slip away, it radicalized its strategy and made a desperate attempt at seizing power through an armed rebellion in early 1932. But mainstream conservatives joined with centrists and moderate left-wingers to support the government’s suppression of the extreme-right challengers, and the army obeyed the civilian leadership (Stover 1977: 748–49). After this defeat, the Lapua movement was outlawed, and its leaders imprisoned (Karvonen 2000: 148–49, 154–55). To prevent a recurrence of such a serious crisis, the democratic government imposed numerous restrictions on the extreme right and thus hindered its activities (Capoccia 2005: 167–69). These defensive mechanisms helped keep a fully fascist successor to the Lapua movement confined to the political margins; therefore, it never managed to endanger democracy (Capoccia 2005: 170–73). Thus, extremist escalation backfired by prompting a defensive alliance among mainstream parties, which ended up stabilizing Finland’s shaky democracy.4 In conclusion, because Finland’s democracy with its broad-based, reasonably well-organized parties proved capable of controlling and then extinguishing the radical-left threat, a powerful radical-right movement that arose in response to this menace narrowly failed to overwhelm democracy and push toward a fascist regime. The success of Finnish parties in coping with the extreme-right challenge then also took away any temptation for conservative elites to initiate a preventive coup and keep the proto-fascists out of power by imposing authoritarian rule. In a comparative perspective (see Chapter 8), it is noteworthy that the “fathers of Finnish independence,” Pehr Svinhufvud and Carl Mannerheim, did not take the route of their Estonian counterpart Konstantin Päts; namely, installing authoritarianism to keep right-wing extremists out of power (see Von Rauch 1995: 148–55; Kirby 2014: 147–49). Instead, Finland’s 4

Through a similar centripetal effect, a fascist uprising in 1938 ended up stabilizing a fledgling democracy in faraway Chile (Sznajder 2001: 583–85, 591–92).

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battle-tested democracy escaped the risks posed by both currents of the political right, namely radical fascists as well as conservative elites with (potentially) authoritarian leanings. After democracy emerged from a radical-left challenge in the late 1910s, it also escaped from a radicalright challenge in the early 1930s. France: The Limits of Fascist Mobilization As Finland’s new, violence-scarred democracy survived the menace of a massive fascist-leaning movement, so France’s longstanding democracy, which had withstood earlier bouts of ideological polarization and reactionary challenges, managed to cope with a series of significant fascist groupings and radical-right parties as well. One of Europe’s oldest democracies, the Third Republic instituted in the 1870s – after the Paris Commune and civic strife as brutal as Finland’s – eventually overcame its rocky start and gradually achieved consolidation (Engels 2007: 19–30; Hanson 2010: 1034–53). The legacies of ideological conflict, which had originated during the French Revolution after 1789, prompted important right-wing surges, as in the Dreyfus Affair that erupted during the 1890s. But a vocal and vibrant civil society in this modern, politically sophisticated country provided determined and eventually successful responses (Engels 2007: 75–92). Nevertheless, by some major accounts (Nolte [1963] 1979: 61–67, 90–190; Sternhell 1986, 1994), France was the birthplace of (proto-)fascism. After all, Georges Sorel’s ([1908] 1999) theories of myth and violence strongly influenced Mussolini (Sternhell 1994: 199–206), and Charles Maurras’s reactionary Action Française served as an inspiration and model for radical-right movements across the world, especially in the “Latin” countries of South America and Southern Europe, including Romania (e.g., Moţa and Marin [1923–1937] 2019: 35, 46). In this ideologically divided and conflictual polity, which according to contemporary scholarly observers “live[d] in a state of perpetual civil war” (Benda 1935: 293) and “in permanent danger of a revolution” from the radical right or the radical left (Loewenstein 1935b: 771), several fascist-leaning movements arose during the 1920s and 1930s (see especially Soucy 1986, 1995). While emerging from longstanding reactionary roots, this radical-right efflorescence came as a surprise to many observers. Indeed, France did not share important risk factors that propelled the emergence of right-wing extremism elsewhere (Loewenstein 1935b: 770–71). After all, this old nation state had an ethnically homogenized

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citizenry and a democracy that by any standard counted as consolidated. Moreover, as a WWI winner, France did not harbor the traumatized nationalism that drove many Germans and Austrians into the arms of National Socialism. And because the Gallic state was much stronger than Italy’s (Paxton 2005: 72–73), it avoided the widespread labor contention and leftist turmoil that allowed Mussolini’s fascists to win support by brutally restoring “order.” Last but not least, the Great Depression hit France less hard than many other countries, limiting the upsurge of discontent that helped propel the wave of fascist movements in the 1930s. Yet even in this infertile terrain, several fascist movements were formed. While never unified under a single supreme leader, together they won hundreds of thousands of members, followers, and voters, up to a million in 1938 (Austin 1990: 186, 189; Soucy 1995: 114, 242; Wirsching 1999: 480, 484, 495). Indeed, Benda (1935: 286, 289) regarded French fascism as “really dangerous to democracy” and highlighted that its “onslaught has enjoyed a distinct success with the younger generation.” Thus, France was not as “allergic to fascism” (cf. Dobry 2011; Kestel 2014) as the country liked to believe after the catastrophe caused by the German Nazi regime (Tumblety 2009: 507–8; see also Wirsching 1999: 507–13). Instead, rightwing extremism found substantial support, which eventually fed into the vicious Vichy regime installed under Nazi tutelage (Nord 2015), especially from 1942 onward (Austin 1990: 194–96). Fascist movements appeared in two waves, during the mid-1920s and the mid- to late 1930s. Directly or indirectly, this clustering was influenced by Mussolini’s takeover in Italy and the Nazi Machtergreifung in Germany. The main radical-right leader of the 1920s, Georges Valois, was very impressed by a personal encounter with the Duce, seemed to “regard himself as a possible French Mussolini” (Levey 1973: 285), called his own movement the Faisceau des Combattants et des Producteurs, and prepared a political-paramilitary coup modeled on the March on Rome (Levey 1973: 294–97). Mussolini also held strong appeal for the new crop of fascist movements emerging in the 1930s (Soucy 1995: 80–84, 116–17, 140–42, 217), whereas Hitler’s influence was more ambivalent. While the Nazi leader’s political triumph served as an inspiration, his aggressive foreign policies posed a growing threat; but interestingly, even this looming danger provided an impulse for right-wingers by creating the apparent need to replace a weak and hapless democracy with a much stronger, totalitarian regime (Soucy 1995: 81–84, 139–43, 217–18, 222–23, 315–17; Berman 2019: 179–80). The Italian and German precedents thus provided various kinds of impulses for fascism’s rise in France.

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Stronger than these inspirational influences, however, were the deterrent effects of “communism,” in line with this book’s backlash argument. The two waves of French fascism were direct reactions to a temporary strengthening of the left (Wirsching 1999: 274, 280–98, 467, 475–80; Paxton 2005: 68–69; Engels 2007: 196–99). When, in 1924 and 1932, left-wing party alliances won elections, conservatives came to feel threatened, and extreme right-wingers feared communism. In response, leaders inspired by Mussolini (Soucy 1986: 18–24, 89, 92, 163–64, 211–12; Soucy 1995: 116–17, 140–41) founded fascist movements and paramilitary formations (Soucy 1986: 20. 27, 39, 87, 219; Soucy 1995: 27, 107, 313–14). Yet the first upsurge during the 1920s remained episodic. As soon as the left-wing coalition fell apart and conservative forces regained government power in 1926, these reactionary groupings quickly declined as well (Levey 1973: 296–97; Soucy 1986: 185–89, 217; Wirsching 1999: 298). During the 1930s, this sequence of left-wing action and right-wing reaction recurred, yet the fascist challenge turned more dangerous and lingered longer. The recreation of a leftist party alliance in 1932 again triggered right-wing counter-mobilization, which culminated in a massive, yet spontaneous and confused assault on parliament in February 1934 (Jenkins 2006). This outburst of contention, unexpected even by the leaders of reactionary groupings, was spearheaded by a heterogeneous congeries of forces, comprising extreme right-wingers, a veterans’ movement, and the Communist Party; it did not constitute a coordinated, planned coup attempt (Austin 1990: 177; Soucy 1995: 29–33, 107–11; Wirsching 1999: 473). Leaderless and heterogeneous, it emerged from the exceptional confluence of democracy’s ideological enemies and a fluid mass of protesters incensed by a recent fraud scandal, as an establishment politician claimed (Herriot 1934: 604–6). Immediate and effective countermeasures by France’s democratic parties, starting with the replacement of a center-left governing coalition by a center-right alliance (Raithel 2017: 231), prevented a recurrence of such a drastic street assault on major government institutions (Wirsching 1999: 604–9). The radical-right backlash was even stronger and more sustained from 1936 onward, when a “Popular Front” including the socialists and communists won elections, embarked on a social reform program, and unleashed an unprecedented wave of strikes (Austin 1990: 182–93; Soucy 1995: 33–36, 115–19, 175, 204, 242). The scary fact that in neighboring Spain a much more radical Popular Front government had initiated apparently revolutionary transformations in early 1936 (cf.

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Payne 2006: 291–93), and that the resulting polarization had prompted a right-wing coup and bloody civil war, intensified concerns in France and gave an additional impetus to fascist organizing (Soucy 1995: 35, 116–17; Kennedy 2014: 189). Because in France, “the right viewed the Popular Front as the coming of the apocalypse” (Berman 2019: 181), fascist groupings prospered in 1936 and 1937. But the quick dissolution of the Popular Front soon ushered in a downswing; and the comparatively limited reform projects that the French left had in fact pushed kept the fascist backlash from turning into open, violent counterrevolution (Engels 2007: 200–4; Tumblety 2009: 508, 517–18; Kennedy 2014: 183, 188–89). Yet the gradual strengthening of the left that had spawned the Popular Front; the unprecedented inclusion of the communists in the governing alliance; and the traumatic experience of that government for many establishment sectors prevented a dissipation of the radical right, as had happened in the 1920s. Instead, fascist groupings retained a good share of their supporters, which in 1936/37 had numbered in the hundreds of thousands (Soucy 1995: 35–36, 114–19). As the radical right formed parties and entered elections, it turned into a significant player in French politics, inducing a stark rightward shift among some established politicians and parties as well (Jenkins 2006: 345–46, 349–51). In line with these tendencies, and in response to the greater polarization of French politics, the center-right government replacing the Popular Front in 1938 increasingly governed with the help of delegated powers and enabling laws (Raithel 2017: 234, 239–41). Thus, French democracy suffered executive power concentration and parliamentary erosion, slowly moving in the direction charted by the Brüning government during the penultimate phase of the Weimar Republic. Yet despite this worrisome democratic backsliding, a far-right takeover in Paris was not in sight. Instead, conservative and centrist control of the government limited the draw of fascist mobilization from 1938 onward (Soucy 1995: 242). Moreover, as the perceived leftist threat eased with the rapid dissolution of the Popular Front, the existing extreme-right groupings lacked the urge to unify for the sake of defense. Because no single leader managed to achieve charismatic supremacy (Benda 1935: 294; Loewenstein 1935b: 772; Soucy 1995: 247, 318–19), France’s right-wing radicalism remained organizationally fragmented. For these reasons, fascists had no realistic chance of seizing power along the Seine. During the late 1930s, they did not pose an acute threat to democratic survival. The Vichy regime arose out of France’s initial defeat in WWII, not from domestic developments. This autocratic regime did feed on the hollowing

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out of liberal democracy during the late 1930s, however, and it ended up recruiting heavily from the far-right milieu that had emerged in the preceding decade (Austin 1990: 194–96; Nord 2015). In sum, the travails of France’s democracy during the 1920s and 1930s corroborate the direct impact of perceived left-wing challenges on rightwing reactions that this book highlights. After all, French fascists “regarded Marxism as the number one threat to the nation” (Soucy 1995: 175). As in so many other countries, anti-communism thus provided the basic impulse for the emergence of the extreme right (Austin 1990: 179, 184–87). But in France, counterrevolutionary reflexes and fascist tendencies were fettered by the party system. The fragmentation of left-wing forces made threats episodic (Raithel 2017: 234, 237) and thus reduced the perceived need for reactionary countermeasures. Moreover, democratic parties, which commanded considerable strength in this modern, liberal society and longstanding democracy, demonstrated significant though diminishing capacities for response, most clearly in the crisis of early 1934. For these reasons, liberal pluralism in France withstood the regional wave of autocracy, albeit with painful bruises. Czechoslovakia: Late Fascist Mobilization against a Solid Castle While in France a consolidated democracy in an old, ethnically homogenized nation state survived significant far-right challenges, in Czechoslovakia a fledgling democracy in a new, ethnically heterogeneous country displayed a surprising capacity to avoid or marginalize problems from the far left and the far right for many years. Indeed, even when facing a growing, externally inspired and supported challenge from the ever more fascist Sudetendeutschen movement (Cornwall 2014), the regime headquartered in the Prague Castle (cf. Orzoff 2009) managed to persist for years, falling only to Nazi Germany’s overwhelming power. This striking democratic resilience despite the regional wave of autocracy, which from 1933 onward encircled this lonely outpost of political liberalism in Central and Eastern Europe, resulted from general causes and special factors. As regards causes that commonly favor democracy (cf. Berg-Schlosser and Mitchell 2000: 19; Cornell, Møller, and Skaaning 2020: chap. 4), the country’s Czech core, Bohemia and Moravia, was highly industrialized, urbanized, and quite modern;5 this advanced 5

Rothschild (1974: 76, 86–87, 91–92, 134); De Meur and Berg-Schlosser (1996: 433, 453, 462); Berend (1998: 20–22).

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development contrasted starkly with the “backward” countries of Eastern Europe (cf. Janos 1982), which uniformly succumbed to dictatorship. Correspondingly, Czechoslovak parties had a programmatic orientation and represented societal interests (Rothschild 1974: 95–98; Campbell 1977: 158–64), rather than relying mainly on clientelism or serving as personal vehicles for leading politicians. Combined with a rather firm internal organization (Rothschild 1974: 94; Campbell 1977: 167), these characteristics allowed for coalition formation, which ensured reasonable governability. An educated public and a vibrant civil society sustained this pro-democratic party system. While resting on these general causes, Czechoslovakia’s governing coalitions were reinforced by special factors, both domestic and international. First, facing a strong and unhappy German minority, Czech politicians had powerful incentives to maintain political cohesion and to reach out to their Slovak colleagues. Indeed, they pursued a nation-building project designed to forge Czechs, slightly less than half the country’s population, and Slovaks, another 16 percent, into a single predominant grouping (Berend 1998: 163–68, 190–92; Connelly 2020: 344–49). For this purpose, governments relied on the backing of Czech parties and sought support from their Slovak counterparts. Thus, Czechoslovakia’s specific ethnic alignment prompted efforts to create a Slavic majority block formed by a five-party coalition called Pĕtka (Mamatey 1973: 108–10, 126–42; Rothschild 1974: 103–6), which gave the new democracy a solid organizational foundation. Once this forceful nation-building effort had advanced for years through preferential treatment for Czechoslovaks and the systematic marginalization of German-speakers (Rothschild 1974: 92–93, 104; Kopstein and Wittenberg 2010: 1098–99; Connelly 2020: 338, 347, 353, 359–60), political realism allowed for some bridge building across this ethnic gulf. After all, ideological differences increased among Czechoslovak parties as the political agenda moved beyond nationbuilding. Parts of the German population, in turn, resigned themselves to their minority status and sought to pursue their interests by seeking negotiation and compromise (Mamatey 1973: 109–10; Rothschild 1974: 81–82). These shifts in issue salience, away from ethnicity and toward program and ideology, allowed for a new majority alliance to form in 1926, which included agrarian and Christian-democratic parties representing Sudetendeutsche (Rothschild 1974: 110–12; Campbell 1977: 165; Bradley 2000: 100–1). This important realignment, which overcame an impending crisis of governability (Kopstein and Wittenberg 2010: 1102–5), was crucial for safeguarding democracy.

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Second, Czechoslovakia’s problematic international environment also fostered the maintenance of liberal pluralism. The core regions of Bohemia and Moravia were surrounded by mutilated Austria and revisionist great power Germany, and their border areas harbored a strong German minority that initially sought incorporation into Austria and broader fusion (Anschluß) with Germany. Thus, “Czechoslovakia’s international position made it a vulnerable victor” of WWI (Orzoff 2009: 136). This dangerous situation induced the Czechoslovak parties to maintain their governing coalition; “external crisis” prompted “internal compromise” (Bradley 2000; see also Mamatey 1973: 129; Connelly 2020: 382, 411). Moreover, the country’s leadership zealously sought support from the West’s democratic great powers, which it found especially by allying with Germany’s main adversary, France (Rothschild 1974: 80; Bradley 2000: 102; Orzoff 2009: 137–45). As a condition, this international protector, a motherland of political liberalism and among the oldest democracies in Europe, demanded the preservation of liberal democracy in Czechoslovakia. Indeed, the urge to win Western backing had long induced important Czech politicians to depict their country as inherently committed to pluralism, tolerance, and popular sovereignty. While a combination of fact and fiction, this systematically constructed and eagerly promoted “myth of the Castle” – meaning both Prague’s castle, seat of the presidency, and the whole country as a fortress of democracy during the turbulent 1920s and 1930s (Orzoff 2009) – precluded any clear moves toward autocracy, such as the coup that Józef Piłsudski spearheaded during the crisis year of 1926 in Poland (cf. Kopstein and Wittenberg 2010: 1105–6). In sum, Czechoslovakia’s endangered international position provided another impulse for the preservation of liberal pluralism. Based on this unusual combination of strengths, Czechoslovak democracy showed remarkable resilience throughout the interwar years, by contrast to the rest of Central and Eastern Europe. In the 1920s, the fledgling regime survived significant challenges from the radical left, including a communist attempt at rebellion in 1920 and additional farleft stirrings in 1926 (Mamatey 1973: 104–6; Rothschild 1974: 104–5; Bradley 2000: 93–94, 100; Capoccia 2005: 74). Interestingly, the governing party coalition felt so firmly in the saddle that it did not outlaw Lenin’s contentious disciples, but left them free rein, which allowed the aspiring world revolutionaries to win 10–15 percent of the vote throughout the 1920s and 1930s. This persistent but limited radical challenge provided another reason for the governing party alliance to retain its

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cohesion, thus inadvertently bolstering democracy’s survival (Campbell 1977: 159–60). For years, a similar effect emanated from the re-inflammation of the Sudetendeutschen conflict and that minority’s increasing move toward fascism from 1933 onward (Rothschild 1974: 127–30; Cornwall 2007, 2014). This challenge, strongly inspired by Hitler’s triumph across the border and by the quick recovery in Germany’s international strength (Capoccia 2005: 77–81), induced even greater determination among the Czechoslovak parties to sustain their cooperation and thus guarantee continued governability (Campbell 1977: 159). Based on their politicalorganizational strength and backed by France’s support, the governing coalition parties combated the growing threat from the radical right more forcefully than they had responded to the radical left. Whereas the Moscow-steered Communists remained free to operate during the 1920s and 1930s, extremist Sudeten groupings faced an increasing set of prohibitions and limitations (Capoccia 2005: 82–98). The government’s heavy-handedness helped to dissuade this discontented segment from frontally challenging the regime and state. Instead, the main Sudeten party chose the electoral route (Cornwall 2014: 214) – and shockingly won the highest vote share of any party in 1935. As it was ethnically based, however, this extreme-right party faced a low support ceiling. Because it would therefore be unable to use elections for seizing power, Czechoslovakia’s political establishment saw no need to close down democracy through a preemptive self-coup, as happened in Austria, Estonia, and Romania (see Chapter 8). Yet while the German minority’s radicalization did not lead to the destruction of Czechoslovak democracy from the inside, it provided the main pretext for Hitler to pursue his expansionary international goals, which in 1938/39 neither the comparatively strong Czechoslovak army (Rothschild 1974: 131–32) nor the Western powers were willing to resist with the force of arms. In the end, thus, the Castle fell to a foreign assault. In sum, building on the strong foundations of a modern society and a fairly well-organized and programmatic (albeit fragmented) party system, Czechoslovakia’s democratic leadership managed to turn adversity into advantage. Significant but limited challenges from the radical left and from a resentful ethnic minority reinforced the main parties’ determination to forge and maintain an alliance that guaranteed governability and democratic stability. Moreover, the country’s precarious international position, surrounded by Germany and Austria and with many Germanspeakers along the border, prompted the quest for protection by Western

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great powers, which required democracy’s preservation. For these reasons, the Castle (cf. Orzoff 2009) for two long decades withstood the rising wave of autocracy that swept up one of the country’s neighbors after the other. In the end, however, the German exception examined in Chapter 6, namely the installation of full-scale fascism in Central Europe’s great power, gave rise to overwhelming external pressure that finally overpowered Czechoslovakia’s exceptional democracy. This late victim of the interwar reverse wave thus fell to foreign imposition, providing some evidence for a prominent line of theorizing (cf. Boix 2011; Gunitsky 2014, 2017).

   :    –   As mentioned throughout this study, outside Italy and Germany the spread of full-scale fascism occurred only under geopolitical hegemony or military conquest by the Nazi regime. Because fascist movements in Eastern Europe were comparatively small and weak, they could not seize power without great power assistance; and only Hitler’s Germany had the necessary clout after the late 1930s (Gunitsky 2017: chap. 4). Accordingly, German predominance helped induce Romania’s dictator Antonescu to form the National Legionary State with the fascist Iron Guard in 1940 (Heinen 1986: 38, 421–22). Moreover, German conquest allowed the bloodthirsty Ustaša in Croatia (Hoare 2009: 420–24; Trifkovic 2011) and the Arrow Cross movement in Hungary to grab power, however fleetingly. The opposite development occurred in Argentina in the mid-1940s: Fascism’s global defeat in WWII forestalled the emergence of a fascist regime,6 despite a strong domestic impulse. After all, from mid-1943 onward, Army Colonel Juan Perón, an ardent admirer of Mussolini, used his increasingly powerful position in a reactionary military regime to stimulate worker mobilization and union organization. By building a mass movement, he sought to win power and then institute an energetic, encompassing autocracy, probably along totalitarian fascist lines.7 With the collapse of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in 1944/45, however, the 6 7

See in general, Griffin (2018: 91–93). Falcoff (1993: 392–94, 398–99) argues based on a long personal interview in 1968 that Perón’s personal experiences in Italy in 1939/40 reinforced his fascination with fascism and shaped his political outlook throughout his career.

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ambitious leader pulled back from this emulation effort and softened his project to install populist authoritarianism, which lacked the clear ideology, penchant for violence, and totalitarian drive of fascism.8 As a personalistic leader elected in 1946, he used his widespread popular backing to overpower his adversaries. In this way, he secured his unchallenged preeminence and quickly moved toward competitive authoritarianism. The populist drive toward authoritarianism enlists mass participation and popular mobilization like fascist totalitarianism, but forms a regime that is far less monopolistic, oppressive, and penetrating (Finchelstein 2017). This competitive authoritarianism keeps the opposition offbalance through discrimination, harassment, and selective repression, but does not try to destroy it through extensive torture and killings. It rests primarily on voluntary popular support based on attraction, inducements, and cooptation, rather than on ritualistic acclamation regimented through coercive command and imposition. Thus, whereas Germany’s ascendancy in the late 1930s and early 1940s had allowed some comparatively weak fascist movements to take power and impose fascist regimes, Germany’s cataclysmic defeat and the global de-legitimation of fascism induced an unusually strong fascistleaning movement in Argentina to forego full-scale fascism when capturing and exercising power. After the international balance of power had temporarily tipped in favor of fascism’s emulation, the “hegemonic shock” resulting from WWII (Gunitsky 2017: 152–60, 176–96) permanently foreclosed fascism’s further diffusion. Because fascism lost all appeal, Perón abandoned his initial regime project, relied on populism, and installed competitive authoritarianism. Interestingly, Perón’s innovation – populism with inherent tendencies toward authoritarianism – became an influential model of its own, especially in Latin America (Finchelstein 2017). Numerous politicians and rulers took inspiration from the Argentine precedent and tried to emulate Perón’s mass-mobilizational path to personal predominance and political hegemony. The Argentine general’s success held special appeal for (former) military officers ranging from Colombia’s Gustavo Rojas Pinilla to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, who used Argentine Peronist Norberto Ceresole as one of his main early advisers.

8

Whereas Lewis (1980: 256) classified Perón’s populism as fascist, Waldmann (1974: 269–309) and Finchelstein (2017) demonstrate the substantial, qualitative differences between fascism and populism, including Peronism.

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How, then, did fascism transmute into populism in Argentina? As so often during the interwar years, the rise of fascist forces originated in fears of left-wing revolution (Waisman 1987). And once again, these perceptions of radical peril were clearly excessive. Certainly, as in many European countries, a radical challenge had erupted in the aftermath of the Bolshevist revolution, namely the massive worker unrest of the “tragic week” in January 1919. Though quickly and brutally suppressed, this radical contention left a lasting trauma (Devoto 2005: 127–30). But Argentina had a moderate Socialist Party (Walter 1977) and a weak Communist Party, and anarcho-syndicalist stirrings faded in the 1920s. Realistically speaking, therefore, no danger of revolution existed. Nevertheless, the continuing domestic concerns and Argentina’s strong orientation toward Europe gave a variety of right-wing doctrines from France, fascist Italy, and later Nazi Germany resonance and influence along the River Plate (Dolkart 1993: 78–79, 87–88, 91; Devoto 2005: 251–53). In the 1920s, therefore, a multitude of nationalist, reactionary, and radical-right groupings were formed (Rock 1993: chap. 4; Deutsch 1999: 78–86, 90–96, 105–6; Spektorowski 2003; Devoto 2005: chaps. 3–4; Finchelstein 2010: chaps. 2, 4). At that time, however, economic growth undergirded the political predominance of the democratic Radical Party, which ensured governability and stability. While strong among intellectuals, right-wing and fascist ideas therefore found little popular support (Piñeiro 1997: 70–88; Deutsch 1999: 193). Yet the Great Depression hit export-dependent Argentina hard and contributed to democracy’s overthrow in 1930. Military dictator José Uriburu, inspired by Mussolini’s Italy and supported by Argentina’s extreme-right intellectuals, sought to institute corporatist authoritarianism (Romero 1968: 229–33; Germani 1978: 171–72; Deutsch 1999: 196–200; Devoto 2005: 290–303; Finchelstein 2010: 68–69; Finchelstein 2019: 241–43; Pinto 2019a: 114–17; Pinto 2019b: 31–39). But the lack of an extreme-right mass movement and the failure of Uriburu’s haphazard and belated efforts to mobilize popular support impeded this emulation effort. Uriburu’s project foundered on divisions inside the military, where his corporatist-autocratic wing was no match for strong conservative and moderately liberal currents (Potash 1969: 43–48, 60–61, 69–74; Deutsch 1999: 199–204; Spektorowski 2003: 64, 83–86, 89–90). After Uriburu’s downfall, Argentina’s political and economic elites installed a competitive-authoritarian regime that used electoral manipulation and fraud to engineer victories for oligarchical politicians.

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Exclusionary rule during this “infamous decade” (1932–1943), however, left many citizens dissatisfied, especially workers in Argentina’s growing industries (Brown 2011: 198–201). In response, the Radical and Socialist parties joined a coalition with the weak communists, which was inspired by the Comintern’s Popular Front strategy (Rock 1993: 128–29, 133–35, 139; Halperin Donghi 2003: 53–59, 127–36, 145–52, 206). This electorally powerful opposition alliance, which would come close to victory in the 1946 contest (Potash 1980: 44–46; Finchelstein 2010: 169), sent shivers down the spine of conservative establishment forces. The recent experiences of Argentina’s former mother country, Spain, where the Popular Front victory of 1936 had unleashed a revolutionary upsurge followed by a bloody civil war, activated the representativeness heuristic and reinforced these threat perceptions (Piñeiro 1997: 113–16, 141–43, 172–73; Halperin Donghi 2003: 57, 101–5, 206). The exaggerated fears of status-quo forces triggered loss aversion and helped to prompt a reactionary military coup in mid-1943, which was designed to block the elections scheduled later that year (Rock 1993: 139–40). Among the right-wing officers who quickly gained predominance in the new dictatorship, Juan Perón soon stood out by pursuing an innovative political strategy, namely energetic mass mobilization (Potash 1969: 209–16, 234–42; Walter 1993: 102–7). After all, the ambitious colonel had witnessed the crucial role of mass support for Mussolini’s fascism during a lengthy stay in Italy in 1939/40; by contrast, in the early 1930s, he had seen how the lack of popular backing had foiled Uriburu’s authoritarian-corporatist project, in which he had initially participated. Now, in the mid-1940s, Perón noticed that the citizenry’s exclusion during the “infamous decade” (Waldmann 1974: 50–59) created an unusual opportunity for a charismatic leader to mobilize large numbers of people, push aside the manipulative establishment forces, and gain personal predominance.9 Taking advantage of this political opening,10 Perón eagerly used his governmental positions to mobilize a fervent mass following (Potash 9

10

Perón’s turn to the masses antagonized his longstanding allies, the reactionary Nationalists, who were elitist and preferred hierarchical, exclusionary authoritarianism, not the populist variant that Perón ended up installing (Rock 1993: 154–55, 173–74; Piñeiro 1997: 272–75). Interestingly, no significant fascist mass movement had emerged in Argentina during the 1930s. This absence is surprising. After all, Argentina had featured a stronger extreme right than Brazil and Chile in the 1910s and 1920s (Deutsch 1999: 5, 7, 57, 78, 105, 193), and Brazil saw the comparatively powerful Integralismo movement arise during the

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1969: 227–28, 244–46, 267, 286; Rock 1993: 138–42). The savvy leader first targeted Argentina’s long-neglected workers, wooed them with generous socioeconomic benefits, and pushed them into a well-organized union structure (Germani 1978: 174–85). With his personal magnetism, appeals to economic nationalism, and advocacy of state-guided development, this quickly rising leader also won growing support in the backward regions of Argentina’s interior. Perón’s novel efforts to mobilize Argentina’s socially excluded workers also pursued the counterrevolutionary goal of forestalling left-wing radicalism (Waisman 1987: chaps. 6–7). While firmly rooted in the political right, the ambitious colonel saw the neglect of the “social question” that emerged with industrialization as a danger to stability and an opportunity for extreme leftists to garner support (see Perón’s 1944 speech cited in Brown 2011: 202). Perón’s longstanding fear of “Communism” was exacerbated by Spain’s recent fate, where deep social problems had unleashed revolutionary pressures (Finchelstein 2019: 245). After personally witnessing the devastation wrought by the Spanish Civil War during a visit in the early 1940s, the aspiring leader sought to preempt similar bottom-up contention in Argentina by alleviating unfulfilled social needs. In 1944, therefore, “he appealed to the propertied classes to support his concessions to labor to prevent a Communist revolution. Argentina resembled pre-civil war Spain, he insisted” (Rock 1993: 151; see also 146–49). Similarly, Perón warned in 1945: “If we fail to carry out a peaceful revolution, the people will lead a violent revolution” (cited in Rock 1993: 152). Thus, through its deterrent effect, “communism was one of the primary causes of Peronism” (Finchelstein 2019: 248). Thus, Perón’s courting of the popular masses was also designed to safeguard sociopolitical order. Perón’s innovative strategy, and its political success, were very unusual. Few military leaders promote widespread popular mobilization and organization,11 and those who try regularly fail (Huntington 1968: 233–37, 243–45). After all, the hierarchical, vertical approach of the armed forces has little affinity with citizen participation; and top-down efforts do not easily elicit bottom-up involvement. Consequently, even

11

1930s. On the general reasons for fascism’s relative weakness in Latin America, see Hennessy (1976: 256–60), and on Argentina, Dolkart (1993: 93–94). As Chapter 8 discussed, Hungary’s Prime Minister Gyula Gömbös (1932–36), a former military officer, refrained from stimulating mass mobilization, one of the main reasons for the failure of his plan to transform his country’s conservative authoritarianism into totalitarian fascism.

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Peru’s military regime of 1968–75, which benefited many population sectors with progressive reforms, proved unable to stimulate mass participation and win reliable backing (Stepan 1978: 182–89, 293–95, 314–15). By contrast, in two short years, Perón managed to mobilize a widespread, intensely committed mass following by claiming to represent the long-neglected interests of the working classes and providing ample social benefits and help in organization building (Waldmann 1974: 181–99; Germani 1978: 174–85). The savvy colonel realized that Argentina’s eternally fractious military (Potash 1969: chaps. 1, 8) could not secure his rule. Instead, he needed a second leg to stand on, namely popular support, which was important for street contention and crucial for electoral legitimation (Germani 1978: 173). The importance and striking success of Perón’s novel strategy was demonstrated when, in late 1945, hundreds of thousands of workers demonstrated and forced their idol’s liberation from imprisonment by a rival military faction, which had tried to block the meteoric ascent of whom they saw as the Argentine version of Mussolini (Potash 1969: 271–82; Germani 1978: 185–89; Brown 2011: 201–4). While the regime goals that Perón pursued from 1943 to 1945 are impossible to ascertain precisely, strong indications suggest that he would, in principle, have liked to move toward fascism (Germani 1978: 173). After all, during a long sojourn in Italy, he had become fascinated with Mussolini’s right-wing totalitarianism.12 Moreover, the military dictatorship that he helped to install in 1943 had a strong pro-Axis wing.13 As a result, US diplomats saw and depicted Perón as an inveterate fascist, even after he donned populist sheep’s clothing in the run-up to the democratic elections of 1946 (Potash 1980: 39–43), in which he clearly and cleanly defeated the previously mentioned coalition of centrist and left-wing parties. Regardless of his underlying convictions and predilections, however, and despite ample borrowing from fascist labor policies (Spektorowski 2003: 188, 193, 199), the victorious president never tried to institute fullscale fascism. Although he soon undermined democracy, won reelection in a tainted, unfair contest in 1951, and created a competitiveauthoritarian regime, he did not subjugate all societal organizations, 12 13

Falcoff (1993: 392–94); Rock (1993: 145–49, 153); Deutsch (1999: 330–31); Spektorowski (2003: 188, 193, 199, 245 n. 38); Finchelstein (2017: 22, 165). Potash (1969: 117–20, 184, 196–98). Some officers were strongly pro-Nazi, as expressed in a strident manifesto cited in Romero (1968: 244–45).

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create a monopolistic totalitarian party, and unleash systematic paramilitary violence and widespread police repression. Compared to Mussolini’s and Hitler’s dictatorships, Perón’s rule was mild, tolerant of considerable pluralism, and vague in its guiding ideas, rather than based on a strict ideology. For instance, opposition parties won more than a third of the vote in 1951, a feat impossible under fascism. For these reasons, Perón’s regime qualifies as populist authoritarianism, not fascism (see recently Finchelstein 2017; the classical analysis of Germani 1978; and in general Linz 2000). The main reason why Perón settled for populism and competitive authoritarianism, rather than pushing for full-scale fascism, was the dramatic turnaround in the global ideological struggle. In 1943, when the reactionary military junta grabbed power in Argentina, Nazi armies still occupied large swaths of Europe. After D-Day in mid-1944, however, the Axis was clearly headed toward defeat; and US pressures on countries in the Americas, its primary sphere of influence, grew ever stronger.14 Given the impending victory of the Western democracies and collapse of the fascist model, who would still want to institute right-wing totalitarianism, especially in an export-oriented country dependent on trade with the West? While Perón was an admirer of Mussolini, he was certainly not a Don Quixote. Consequently, Argentina’s aspiring leader transformed the regime model that he had embraced during fascism’s global ascendancy (Finchelstein 2017: xiii–xiv, 7–8, 17–24, 98–102, 109–25, 150–52). Perón abandoned fascist goals and embraced populism,15 which Radical Party head Hipólito Yrigoyen had pioneered in the 1910s and 1920s. As the ex-president had drawn his main support from the middle class, Perón reached further down in the social pyramid by targeting workers and poorer sectors, whose interests had been neglected during the “infamous decade” (Germani 1978: 173–74). In this way, Argentina’s new charismatic leader built up a strong union movement and a labor-based party. Relying on this powerful base, the populist colonel did not only defeat the Radicals and their leftist coalition partners in the free elections of 1946 (Potash 1980: 44–46; Walter 1993: 106–9) but also energetically concentrated power and suffocated democracy thereafter (Waldmann 1974: 14

15

For Argentina, see Potash (1969: 165–69, 221–22, 243, 248, 258); Potash (1980: 1–2, 39); Walter (1993: 104–6); Finchelstein (2010: 167–68); see also Waldmann (1974: 62–71). Germani (1978: 172, 180–81); Finchelstein (2010: 165–70); Finchelstein (2019: 246–47).

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87–104; Potash 1980: 103–7). As the president gradually and systematically strangled political liberty, Argentina fell under a populist variant of authoritarianism (Finchelstein 2017). Thus, in this unusual case, the reverse wave of the interwar years had a delayed effect and led to the downfall of democracy only after the end of WWII. Yet precisely because of this delay, the regime outcome was not fascist totalitarianism, but populist authoritarianism, a far less oppressive type of autocracy. As in Eastern Europe and the Balkans during the late 1930s and early 1940s, in Argentina during the 1940s, the international balance of power shaped the proliferation of fascism, yet in the opposite direction. Whereas German hegemony had lifted relatively weak fascist movements into power, the Nazis’ defeat induced an incipient strong fascist movement to renounce fascism, use a populist strategy to win power, and institute competitive authoritarianism.

 As the autocratic wave of the interwar years arose from a complex interplay of problems and challenges, and as this massive regime reversal unfolded in diverse ways and produced different regime outcomes, so the configurations of factors that allowed some “challenged survivors” (Capoccia 2005: 7) to preserve democracy were heterogeneous. Some basic underlying factors clearly mattered, especially the greater modernity of Czechoslovakia and France. In Finland, the most different and unusual case of democratic persistence (see De Meur and Berg-Schlosser 1996: 438), the country’s strong gravitation toward more modern Sweden (Raun 1987: 13) served as somewhat of a functional equivalent. But specific factors, namely differences in structural conditions, historical legacies, and actor strategies, also proved important. For instance, Finland’s democratic parties appeased a surging fascist movement by forcefully suppressing the perceived communist threat, whereas Czechoslovakia’s coalition governments long did not face significant pressures from the radical-right, and therefore allowed a similarly strong Communist Party free rein. In France, by contrast, the temporary strengthening of the left, both in the mid-1920s and in the mid- to late 1930s, provoked substantial reactions from the extreme right. But the quick easing of threats emanating from the fragmented left deflated the fascist response as quickly in the 1920s and turned it away from direct assaults and toward party building and electoral mobilization in the late 1930s, which did cause some damage to political liberalism.

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As this comparative assessment suggests, underlying these countryspecific developments was the dynamic of left-wing action and rightwing reaction that this book has highlighted as its most fundamental theme. Exaggerated fears of radicalism and revolution bred defensive mobilization and counterrevolution. Yet, whereas this ideological clash helped bring down so many democracies during the interwar years, in the three countries surveyed here, democratic parties managed to contain or disarm their extremist adversaries, avert or limit conflict, and thus preserve liberal pluralism during very turbulent times. Besides analyzing the limits of the authoritarian and fascist reverse wave and the survival of battered democracies, this chapter has also examined the special case of Argentina, where a strong but late fascist impulse was deflected into populism and electoral authoritarianism. The global defeat and delegitimation of fascism induced its strong sympathizer Perón not to follow in Mussolini’s and Hitler’s footsteps. Instead, this ambitious leader diluted and softened the novel blueprint by using top-down popular mobilization to win an open election, establish political hegemony, and then move toward competitive authoritarianism. Much less violent, dynamic, and dictatorial than fascist totalitarianism, the Argentine innovation then turned into a regime model across Latin America, helping to set in motion a regional wave of populism ranging from Brazil in the Southern Cone to Colombia in the continent’s northwest.

10 Conclusion

As the preceding chapters have documented with a wealth of historical evidence, the interwar reverse wave arose most fundamentally from a massive backlash to a dramatic revolutionary challenge, like other such cascades (Weyland 2019: chaps. 5–6, 8). But this autocratic riptide unfolded in particularly complex ways because two deterrent effects, driven by profound fear of revolutionary communism and by serious concern about counterrevolutionary fascism, were nested inside each other. First, the Russian Revolution and the rash emulation efforts it triggered with its world-revolutionary ambitions prompted a powerful reaction from status-quo defenders, who doubted the resilience of liberal democracy against the communist threat and who therefore advocated right-wing autocracy as a protective shield. Second, and unusually, in this reactionary backlash there was a division between most established elites, who preferred conservative, topdown, non-mobilizational authoritarianism, and upstart charismatic leaders and their fervent, violent mass followers, who spearheaded a dynamic bottom-up push for mobilizational, fascist totalitarianism. Interestingly, the resulting tensions and conflicts among the anticommunist right had a lopsided impact on political regime developments. Although the interwar years are commonly depicted as the era of fascism, these totalitarian extremists rarely won the battle among reactionary sectors. They managed to overpower conservatives only in those new, unconsolidated democracies that had achieved a higher level of modernization, which weakened traditional elites and opened up space for mass mobilization, namely Northern Italy and Germany. By contrast, in the many “backward” countries of Eastern and Southern Europe (cf. Janos 314

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1982), the continuing predominance of sociopolitical elites limited fascist recruitment and enabled establishment forces to control and subjugate, or to crush and repress rising radical-right movements. Thus, the double deterrent effect created a fork in the road of regime developments. A narrow path led to fascist totalitarianism, and a much broader avenue to conservative authoritarianism. This big difference in outcomes was unique. By contrast, other reactionary cascades resulted from straightforward backlash dynamics and led to the same type of autocracy across whole regions, such as military dictatorships in Latin America after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and hardened despotism in the Middle East after the Iranian Revolution of 1978–79. This conclusion first summarizes the book’s main argument by discussing the different aspects of this double deterrent effect. The third section then turns to the excessive intensity and cruelty of the sociopolitical struggles motivated by this nested backlash. The historical record showed that actors of all stripes employed disproportionate violence. As the micro-foundation of my argument highlights, they deviated from conventional rationality and relied instead on the heuristic shortcuts and asymmetrical loss aversion documented by cognitive psychology. As leftwingers were carried away by unrealistic hopes in revolutionary advances, right-wingers were gripped by excessive fear and therefore squashed extremist rebellions and other forms of “subversion” with full force. Moreover, as status-quo defenders lost faith in the defensive capacity of liberal democracy, they embraced dictatorships that unleashed uncontrollable repression and, in their fascist variants, committed unspeakable atrocities. Driven by exaggerated threat perceptions, important sociopolitical forces exposed themselves to tremendous risks. Thus, political rationality was clearly bounded during the revolutionary troubles and counterrevolutionary turbulence of the interwar years. Thereafter, the subsequent section discusses how the tragedy of the interwar years prompted its own powerful backlash. The catastrophic downfall of fascism discredited this regime model and precluded its reemergence during later counterrevolutionary waves, such as the hemispheric reaction to the Cuban Revolution in Latin America. Moreover, immediately after WWII, this strong deterrent effect brought the uniform resurgence of liberal democracy where the victorious Western democracies held sway. While the United States and its allies guaranteed redemocratization in the defeated nations, such as Germany and Italy, domestic forces also learned from fascism’s tremendous costs and therefore tried hard to reconstruct democracy in more sustainable ways. For

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this purpose, they employed institutional engineering, usually to good effect. How does this historic resurrection of democracy hold up before the political challenges facing the contemporary world, especially the surprising spread of right-wing populism, even in advanced industrialized countries, as Donald Trump’s shocking election shows? Is the third millennium seeing the beginning of a revival of fascism, as a number of observers fear (Connolly 2017; Stanley 2018; see also Wirsching, Kohler, and Wilhelm 2018)? By drawing conclusions from the preceding analysis, the fifth section allays these concerns. After all, this book confirms the distinctiveness of fascism and its categorical differences from authoritarianism. Nowadays, projects to install violent totalitarianism guided by a millenarian ideological vision are not on the horizon. If concepts are used with any precision, then observers need not worry about a revival of fascism. This book has also documented the very special circumstances of interwar politics, rocked by an exceptional coincidence of structural problems and conjunctural crises. The Russian Revolution posed a threat of unique, world-historical proportions, which provoked the strongest, most dramatic and wide-ranging backlash in history. The rise of fascism, which then added fuel to the hellfire (cf. Kershaw 2015), is inexplicable and ununderstandable without this menace from the world-revolutionary left. Thus, the interwar years constituted the most acute “age of extremes” ever (Hobsbawm 1996; see also Bracher 1982; Mazower 2000). None of the issues and difficulties facing the contemporary world approximates this magnitude, by far. According to the fundamental principle of physics, “no action – no reaction,” anything resembling the fear-driven backlash of the 1920s and 1930s, especially the emergence of violent, dictatorial mass movements, is therefore exceedingly unlikely. While the limited problems of the early twenty-first century have certainly given rise to overreactions and resentful excesses (“build the wall!”) – due again to the bounds of rationality – they are not paving the way for a resurgence of fascism. Moreover, in the advanced industrialized countries, where democracy has taken firm roots, a descent into authoritarianism is highly improbable as well. The book therefore ends with reassuring conclusions that can put worried observers of present-day politics at ease.

        This book demonstrated in Chapters 3 and 4 that the Russian Revolution, which opened up a critical juncture of monumental proportions (cf.

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Capoccia and Kelemen 2007), quickly stimulated eager emulation efforts, yet simultaneously provoked powerful deterrent effects. As Lenin’s disciples across Europe and other regions jumped to the conclusion that the world revolution was nigh and eagerly sought to spread the new communist gospel, status-quo defenders often shared this heuristically inferred belief in the precariousness of the existing order – and therefore were determined to stamp out left-wing subversion in all its forms. The Soviet precedent’s attractions for the left thus aggravated threat perceptions among the right and center. These fears of the enormous costs resulting from radical transformations activated asymmetrical loss aversion, which prompted all-out efforts to combat the left and fortify the established system, with massive coercion in the short run (Chapter 4) and the imposition of reactionary dictatorship in the medium run (Chapters 5 through 8). This powerful backlash undermined support for liberal democracy, widely seen as lacking sufficient armor against revolutionary risks. The novel threat from the left thus strengthened the reactionary right, bringing a substantial shift in political-ideological orientations that affected regime developments. Indeed, the first-ever communist revolution caused such a profound shock that it helped provoke the emergence of a striking counter-model, namely fascism, as discussed in Chapter 5 (see also Markwick 2009). While this novel type of reactionary autocracy had forerunners and ideational roots in the late nineteenth century and while WWI provided powerful impulses for the extreme right by inflaming nationalism and brutalizing millions of young men, a decisive additional impetus for fascism’s rise was its promise of reliable protection against the scary specter of Lenin’s communism. As Chapter 4 showed, Mussolini gained influence and soon won power through violent attacks against radical leftists, who seemed to push Italy to the brink of revolution. With the subsequent move toward dictatorship and the consolidation of reactionary totalitarianism, the Duce turned fascism into the strongest fortress against the apparent communist threat. Yet while fascism emitted enormous ideational, normative, and political appeal, as chapter five highlighted, it carried the risk of killing the patient with an overdose of bitter pills. Fascists saw communism as so threatening that they sought to combat the left with large-scale violence, the total concentration of power, and the comprehensive penetration and control of society. But in the eyes of establishment sectors, this all-out reaction would overturn existing hierarchies and thus threaten their own positions as well. After all, conservative politicians, military generals, the

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clergy, large landowners, and big business would have to cede command to fascism’s charismatic leaders, who would gain ample latitude for unaccountable, arbitrary decisions. Although these dangers seemed less severe than the leveling revolution pursued by Lenin’s disciples, they fueled serious concerns about fascism as well. Powerful status-quo defenders therefore tried hard to avoid both the fires of communism and the frying pan of fascism. Instead, they strongly preferred the hierarchical stability of exclusionary, elitist authoritarianism. Therefore, as Chapters 6 to 8 showed by analyzing major episodes of autocratic regime change (cf. Capoccia and Ziblatt 2010: 940–44), the interwar reverse wave was shaped by a second backlash effect, nested in the broader reaction of right-wing counter-diffusion against left-wing diffusion. While powerful conservative sectors tried at all cost to defeat the communist virus, they also sought to avoid the overly strong vaccine of fascism. To maintain their top-down control over politics and society, they wanted to defend themselves against the bottom-up movements of the radical left as well as the radical right, though in different ways. While they cracked down on radical revolutionaries with stern hostility and often brute force, they tried to defang fascist challengers through cooptation, divide-and-rule tactics or, as a last resort, coercion. Thus, despite basic ideological affinities with the radical right, they were prepared to employ all means at their disposal, as the Iron Guard’s cruel repression in Romania shows (Chapter 8). In fact, in several cases it was the deterrent effect of fascism that directly triggered the overthrow of liberal democracy or the hardening of authoritarian rule. While fear of communism constituted a crucial underlying cause, the upsurge of fascist movements and the perceived risk of their power seizure motivated preemptive self-coups or the fortification of existing dictatorships. The specter of fascism turned especially salient after Hitler’s Machtergreifung in Germany and the surprising ease with which the NSDAP leader shoved aside the conservative elites trying to tame him. While the Nazis’ quick march toward totalitarianism inspired radical right-wingers in numerous countries, this nascent wave of extreme-right diffusion – typically – provoked strong counter-diffusion, which nipped fascism’s proliferation in the bud. Like Lenin’s followers, the imitators of Mussolini and Hitler foundered on determined conservative resistance. Thus, during the interwar years, intense concerns about communism caused a political groundswell toward the right, yet strong concern about fascism induced conservative elites to shy away from the radical right.

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Driven by this double deterrent effect, these establishment sectors imposed authoritarian rule as a safeguard against challenges emerging from both poles of the ideological spectrum. New regime models, namely communism on the left and fascism on the right, drew enormous attention, exuded wide-ranging appeal, and induced significant groupings to promote their diffusion with tremendous energy and self-sacrificing commitment. But these millenarian efforts – especially those of the radical left, but also those of the radical right – aroused profound fear among powerful sociopolitical elites and therefore prompted forceful counter-diffusion. Communist and fascist movements undertook countless efforts to emulate the precedents of Lenin and of Mussolini and Hitler, respectively; but status-quo defenders responded with a host of counter-measures and – with the striking and hugely consequential exception of Germany – managed to avoid full-scale contagion, often at considerable cost. The most tragic aspect of these innumerable battles over diffusion and counter-diffusion was the collateral damage that they almost invariably inflicted on liberal democracy. So often during the 1920s and 1930s, conservative sectors who were determined to forestall a communist revolution and/or a fascist takeover ended up killing political liberty. As politics turned into fierce ideological struggles, liberal tolerance was frequently trampled to death. Although the fervent advocates of millenarian projects rarely won out, their defeat came at the price of large-scale coercion and authoritarian imposition. The worst enemies of democracy usually lost – but in this process, democracy was lost as well. This double backlash, with the deterrent effect of fascism nested in the deterrent effect of communism, gave the interwar reverse wave its great complexity. Due to the causally connected emergence of two opposed models of dictatorship, the frequent downfall of democracy in Southern, Eastern, and Central Europe and in Latin America did not advance in one uniform process, as happened in other autocratic regime cascades. Instead, diverse waves of diffusion and counter-diffusion unfolded as political actors of various stripes learned from and responded to striking precedents, especially Lenin’s revolutionary coup in Russia, the emergence of the fascist counter-model in Italy, and its high-profile emulation in Nazi Germany. In these diffusion processes, deterrent effects usually overpowered demonstration effects. Therefore, precisely because Lenin succeeded in Russia, his disciples in other countries had much lower chances of replicating the Bolshevist takeover; each one of their emulation efforts quickly failed because status-quo defenders counter-mobilized. Similarly,

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precisely because Mussolini and then Hitler managed to take power, their followers in other countries had much lower chances of success as well; that Hitler managed to follow in the Duce’s footsteps remains the tragic and world-historically disastrous exception. Yet the German fascist’s unlikely feat then sounded the alarm bells across Europe and Latin America and induced conservative authoritarians to avoid further repetitions at all cost. Thus, through the interactive dynamic of diffusion and counter-diffusion, a striking success – whether achieved by the radical left or the radical right – helped to cause a long string of subsequent failures. These backlash effects, with their riptides and undertows, gave regime developments during the interwar years their dizzying, topsy-turvy characteristics. The ground was constantly trembling under political actors’ feet. Forces that seemed ascendant during one moment were outmaneuvered or crushed at the next moment. Sectors that had long seemed powerful faced sudden challenges that threatened them with downfall or destruction; but then they managed to parlay old resources and employ new tactics to end up staying on top. These rescue efforts, however, commonly had one important victim, namely liberal democracy. As different political and ideological groupings engaged in all-out struggles for survival and predominance, liberty was so often destroyed. A comparison with other reactionary regime cascades shows the unusual complexity of the interwar reverse wave. The installation of authoritarian regimes in Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s, for instance, unfolded in a much more straightforward fashion. As Castroite communism provoked powerful deterrent effects, radical-left emulation suffered uniform defeat, and sooner or later military coups ushered in conservative, anti-communist authoritarianism (Weyland 2019). Thus, the basic deterrent effect highlighted in this book, namely right-wing reaction to the perceived threat of left-wing revolution, was decisive. As a sufficient cause, counter-diffusion operated in a direct, clearly visible fashion. As the contrast with the interwar years suggests, the relative simplicity of this regional reverse wave reflected the absence of a broadly attractive, politically viable counter-model forged by the radical right. While some old fascists of the interwar years, such as Plínio Salgado in Brazil, played minor roles in the institution of conservative authoritarianism,1 and while some extreme-right movements emerged, especially anti-communist death

1

These continuities are examined and emphasized for Argentina by Finchelstein (2017).

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squads in Argentina, they remained marginal. Instead, conservative forces, led in most countries by powerful professional armies, commanded clear and unchallenged predominance among the right-wing adversaries of communist revolution. The military was confident in its capacity to defeat its radical-left enemies and did not need help from violent hordes mobilized by fascist leaders, whose activities instead threatened to undermine its cherished monopoly over coercion. The Russian Revolution, however, was a more momentous shock than the Cuban Revolution four decades later. By 1959, the limited appeal of communism and the strong deterrent effects it stimulated had already become clear. Moreover, status-quo defenders had learned how to “deal with” left-wing extremists effectively. Also, states had gained further institutional strength and militaries had professionalized, in Latin America with ample help from the United States. And, of course, fascism had become discredited by its terrible atrocities and its self-destruction in WWII; consequently, after 1945 this extreme-right regime model has found only very marginal support across the globe. In contrast to the Cuban Revolution in Latin America, the emergence of the first communist regime in human history and Lenin’s takeover of a great power stimulated particularly intense threat perceptions, which provoked exceptionally strong backlash effects. Therefore, left-wing radicalism helped to spark right-wing radicalism and bring forth the fascist counter-model. Furthermore, as the brutalities of WWI had left behind masses of fighters who found reintegration into civilian life difficult, fascist leaders encountered fertile ground for their recruitment efforts. The rise of fascism then prompted the second deterrent effect, which caused the tensions and clashes among the counterrevolutionary right so distinctive of the 1920s and 1930s. Comparisons with the Latin American coup wave of the 1960s and 1970s thus highlight how unusually complex the earlier reverse wave really was.

         What gave the demonstration and deterrent effects that drove the reverse wave of the 1920s and 1930s their special force and particularly pernicious impact was that the underlying perceptions and choices often deviated starkly from the norms and principles of rational decision-making. The hopes of the left and the fears of the right did not directly reflect objective opportunities or dangers in the real world. Instead, cognitive

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heuristics caused substantial distortions, which instilled wild overoptimism in some sectors of the left, while striking broad segments of the right and center with excessive dread. As both sides of the ideological divide were carried away by inferential shortcuts and jumped to unwarranted conclusions, left-wing groupings initiated rash, ill-considered efforts to pursue their illusory goals; and a strong phalanx of status-quo defenders overreacted by squashing these unrealistic uprisings with disproportionate force and grave damage to political liberty. Cognitive deviations from standard rationality thus exacerbated the violence and cruelty so characteristic of the interwar years (see recently Gerwarth 2016). Politics turned even more bloody than the clash of ideological projects and millenarian visions would have predicted and “required.” All sides engaged in significant overkill; there was a stark surplus of terror. What rational reason existed, for instance, for the cowardly murder of Rosa Luxemburg in January 1919, days after the haphazard, unplanned “Spartakus Uprising” had already been definitively defeated? Similarly, the red terror and especially the subsequent white terror in the Finnish and Baltic civil wars of 1918–19 and in the Hungarian revolution and counterrevolution of 1919 went far beyond any targeted repression pursuing the consolidation of power (Traverso 2016: 46–48, 56).2 Moreover, why did Spain’s Franco continue to execute thousands of prisoners months and years after winning a clear victory in the bloody civil war, which had seen a shocking outburst of atrocities committed by his left-wing adversaries as well, such as the assassination of approximately 6,800 Catholic priests (Traverso 2016: 90)? This “unbelievable” excess of violence was fueled by the misperceptions and misjudgments resulting from cognitive shortcuts and skewed choice weights. Due to these mechanisms of bounded rationality, leftwingers tried with all means to advance their extremist plans under circumstances that were clearly unpropitious for revolutions. Whereas rational assessments of the political opportunity structure would have counseled patience, groupings carried away by Lenin’s feats rashly struck nevertheless. Right-wingers, in turn, also overestimated the chances that these unpromising initiatives would achieve success; therefore, they used the sledgehammer of massive coercion to swat at these wasps. The 2

The wanton massacres in the Baltic States in 1919 left even Rudolf Höß, not a fainthearted soul as later commander of the Auschwitz extermination camp, aghast (Höß [1947] 1963: 35).

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horrendous “fire and blood [of] the European civil war” (Traverso 2016) went far beyond what any rational calculation would have expected; they resulted to a considerable extent from the cognitive distortions documented by decades of psychological research. The noteworthy fact that political actors across the ideological spectrum displayed these clear deviations from rationality and that these sworn enemies often coincided in fundamental perceptions, especially by overestimating the likelihood of revolution, shows that these problems did not have their root cause in strategic interests or ideological commitments. In particular, they were not due to wishful thinking by the left or deliberate fearmongering by the right. Instead, they arose from inferential shortcuts hardwired in humans’ cognitive architecture, which people of all persuasions commonly and automatically use. These heuristics inspired belief in the ease of profound sociopolitical transformations, which then gave rise to the over-optimism among left-wingers as well as the grave worries and sometimes panic among right-wingers. Thus, these shared perceptions, due to divergent self-interests and ideological commitments, prompted different, radically opposed courses of action, namely revolutionary adventures by leftists and counterrevolutionary carnage by rightists. As Chapters 3 and 4 showed, the Russian Revolution of 1917 was crucial in setting this escalation of misperceptions and misjudgments in motion. The stunning ease with which the Romanovs’ centuries-old autocracy collapsed in February, and Lenin’s surprising capacity to take power in October and impose profound transformations against all odds, drew tremendous attention across the world in line with the availability heuristic. Because this shortcut induces people of all stripes to overestimate the significance of dramatic, vivid events, the unexpected rise of communism on the prominent stage of a European great power was on everybody’s mind. Then the representativeness heuristic, which makes people emphasize and overestimate similarities, produced the widespread belief that the established order in other countries was also brittle and that radical revolution could well proliferate: “The world [seemed to be] on fire”! (Read 2008). Two of the principal shortcuts unearthed by cognitive psychologists (Kahneman, Slovic, and Tversky 1982; Gilovich, Griffin, and Kahneman 2002) thus fueled the over-optimism and resulting revolutionary hyper-activism among the left, as well as the equivalent dread and fierce counterrevolutionary determination among the right. Due to these deviations from standard rationality, both sides acted with considerable irresponsibility – and many of them ended up paying a heavy price,

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adding to the phenomenal death toll of “the European civil war” (Nolte 1987a; Wirsching 1999; Traverso 2016). One main reason for these lopsided outcomes was that among statusquo defenders, the distorted perceptions of revolution’s likelihood and the resulting leftist uprisings activated asymmetrical loss aversion. Whereas Lenin’s disciples highlighted the benefits of radical redistribution for exploited and oppressed population sectors, establishment groupings predictably feared steep costs, if not utter destruction. Beyond the specific price imposed on elites, the very effort to overturn the sociopolitical order was bound to cause huge transitional damage, as the economic, political, and human disaster in Lenin’s Russia showed. These interest-based concerns, which reflected overestimations of revolution’s likelihood, were aggravated by the disproportionate valuation of losses, one of the most fundamental mechanisms uncovered by cognitive psychology. Because losses hurt significantly more than gains gratify, the prospective losers mobilized in much greater numbers and force than the supposed winners. Adding to the resource advantages of elites, this skewed alignment of sociopolitical forces helps explain the strikingly uneven outcomes of the battles of the interwar years. In these all-out contests, left-wingers always lost; right-wingers carried the day. Paradoxically, yet predictably in the world of bounded rationality, while the rise of Russian Bolshevism had provoked these monumental struggles, it was not communist revolution that spread but anti-communist counterrevolution. As the left tried hard to move forward, the right forcefully moved history backward. The ill-considered quest for dramatic progress provoked a stark regression. Core findings from cognitive psychology are crucial for explaining this striking reversal, which other approaches have difficulty understanding. Asymmetrical loss aversion also helps account for the determined conservative reaction to growing fascist movements. The extreme right’s monopolistic concentration of power in an unaccountable leader, the totalitarian penetration and domination of society, and the penchant for violence posed considerable threats to establishment forces as well, as Hitler’s unscrupulous march into dictatorship confirmed. What fascist movements saw as gains instilled fears of losses in many sectors of society, including sociopolitical elites. Consequently, loss aversion prompted coercive responses to advancing fascism. While tempered by underlying ideological affinities and the frequent hope to use fascist hordes as shock troops for battling the left, conservative distrust of rising fascist movements ran high. Where extreme-right outsiders rejected attempts at

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cooptation, they therefore drew forceful counter-measures, which could easily escalate to violent repression. In particular, loss aversion drove the preemptive self-coups against fascist upsurges in Austria, Estonia, and Romania; it also contributed to the hardening of authoritarianism in Brazil, Hungary, and Portugal, as Chapter 8 analyzed. In sum, the bloodletting of the interwar years was exacerbated by cognitive distortions and deviations from standard rationality. Misperceptions inflamed ideological battles as the striking, but singular, cases of Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler inspired excessive belief in the feasibility of replicating these ambitious transformation projects. As aspiring emulators pushed forward with overoptimistic energy, their adversaries overreacted out of asymmetrical loss aversion and tried hard to squelch these overrated threats. Where establishment sectors saw the sociopolitical order under threat, they usually insisted on guaranteeing stability by imposing authoritarian rule. In this multitude of conflagrations, the far right and especially the far left suffered grievous costs – but the main victim was liberal democracy.

       As the preceding section highlighted, bounded rationality aggravated the tragedy of the interwar years, which culminated in the phenomenal destruction wrought by Hitler’s National Socialism (Mosse 1966: 25–26). With WWII and the Holocaust, the first half of the 1940s ranks among the bloodiest lustra in world history. But this unspeakable catastrophe then exerted its own deterrent effects, motivating a great deal of salutary learning (Mazower 1998: 182–211, 286–92). After all, bounded rationality differs from complete irrationality in expecting the eventual updating of beliefs in light of accumulating evidence; while these corrections are not nearly as quick and systematic as postulated by rational choice, they do tend to diminish the gap between subjective views and changing objective circumstances. Of course, only somebody inhumanly dense would not have learned from the disaster wrought by the Nazi regime! The political impact of this learning, however, depended on the interests and ideological convictions of the predominant actors; for Europe after 1945, that meant first and foremost the victorious allied powers. Obviously, the Soviet Union drew very different conclusions than the Western democracies, trying to protect itself against any future attacks from “class enemies” by occupying Eastern Europe as a security perimeter

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and imposing communism across that region. Conversely, the United States and its allies made sure that liberal democracy emerged west of the Iron Curtain. The Western victors also learned from the problems caused by the Versailles Treaty, foregoing territorial gains and soon including the vanquished countries, even Germany, in their networks of economic, political, and eventually military cooperation. Thus, after a total, definitive military victory, great power influence indeed shaped political regime developments in the conquered territories directly (see recently Gunitsky 2017: chap. 5). Moreover, political elites and common citizens in the defeated nations also learned from the horrors of National Socialism (Bracher 1982: 271–90). Except for some isolated diehards, a large majority longed for a new beginning and was determined to avoid the mistakes of the recent past. Due to the discrediting of fascism, in particular, and right-wing extremism more broadly (Berman 2019: 284–94), democracy arose from the ashes in greater strength than before. In Ian Kershaw’s (2015) words, after “Europe [had gone] to hell,” it soon moved “back” from the inferno and tried hard to make liberty flourish with renewed vigor. Political actors of all persuasions sought to learn from the cataclysm. While radical “antifascists” jumped to the problematic conclusion that communism offered the best alternative, the brutal oppression of Stalinist Russia made this extremist counter-position unpersuasive to most Westerners, who rejected totalitarianism as such, in any ideological coloring. Instead, the devastation caused by fascism gave a strong boost to liberal democracy and silenced most of its right-wing critics; even conservative advocates of authoritarianism were tainted by their frequent tactical alliances with fascists or their overconfident domestication efforts, which had proven so misguided in 1933 in Germany. Thus, political learning caused a massive backlash that buried fascism as a viable regime option. This model, which had exuded strong appeal during the interwar years, turned into a taboo with high toxicity, in Europe and at the global level. Therefore, when fears of communist revolution became acute again, as in Latin America after Fidel Castro’s takeover in 1959, fascism did not reemerge as a mass movement. Instead, worried status-quo defenders almost uniformly opted for conservative authoritarianism imposed by the military, as mentioned in the first section of this chapter. In the former heartland of fascism, Europe, the categorical rejection of this extreme-right model prompted a resumption of the trend toward liberal progress, which had gathered steam in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but had then been so drastically interrupted during the

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interwar years. Many countries that had experienced strong political tensions and fierce regime contention during the 1920s and 1930s emerged from the ravages of WWII with a much deeper, more widespread commitment to democracy, and a determination to make pluralist, competitive rule work. Even the operation of strong Communist parties in France and Italy did not shake this regime consensus; left-wingers’ credible embrace of the electoral route in turn reassured their adversaries and limited dangerous polarization. Thus, across Western Europe, extremism gave way to greater moderation, polarization was contained by consensus on basic principles and values, and conflict was increasingly mediated by compromise. After people had suffered or witnessed the horrors of tyranny, the benefits of political liberalism, starting with the protection of human rights, gained much greater salience (for Germany, see Grosser 1974: 128–30). It became clear that despite all its frustrating wheeling and dealing, politicking and gridlock, pluralist democracy held the fundamental advantage of protecting liberty against abuses by the state. This revaluation of political liberalism also induced ideological moderation. Stung by the fierce battles of the 1920s and 1930s, most political forces came to accept that ambitious transformational projects did not deserve precedence over the preservation of democracy (Bracher 1982: 271–90). As the torments of autocracy instilled in most relevant actors a willingness to make democracy work, they also learned from the problems and failures of liberal regimes during the interwar years how to make democracy work. New constitutions, therefore, sought to avoid the flaws of preceding charters. Because Germany had particular reasons to learn from the recent past, the country’s Basic Law of 1949 rested on a critical assessment of the Weimar constitution and tried hard to design an institutional configuration that would function better. For instance, to prevent a purely negative majority of extremists from obstructing governability – a problem that had facilitated Hitler’s final push for power in 1932 – the new charter stipulates the constructive vote of no-confidence: Parliament can oust a government only via “positive” agreement on electing a new chancellor (Schmid [1949] 1979: 517–18). The Basic Law also strengthened liberal-democratic protections against subversion by extremists,3 thus creating a “well-fortified democracy” (wehrhafte 3

Some of these defense mechanisms had already been introduced during the Weimar years (Gerwarth 2018: 289–90; see in general Capoccia 2005: chap. 3), but they had not been very consistently applied, especially against right-wing groupings.

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Demokratie) that can effectively fight back against the enemies of liberty. And to discourage the rise and survival of radical splinter parties – what the NSDAP had been throughout the 1920s – electoral legislation introduced a substantial 5 percent vote threshold for representation in parliament. In all of these ways, institutional engineers sought to forestall any repetition of the problems and mistakes that had contributed to democracy’s downfall in the 1930s. In conclusion, political learning, stimulated by the trouble and turmoil of the interwar years and especially by the disaster of WWII and the Holocaust, prompted the widespread repudiation of autocracy, especially fascism, and boosted support for pluralist democracy in Western Europe. The obvious failure of right-wing totalitarianism caused its own powerful backlash, which brought a reaffirmation of political liberty. Liberal progress therefore resumed after the cruel interlude of the 1920s to mid1940s. History advanced in twists and turns, but advance it did, albeit in uncertain and precarious ways.

      - ? Is democracy now threatened again as political liberalism has sunk into malaise and as authoritarian regime types seem to gain increasing support in some regions of the globe? Indeed, the populist wave that has swept across the world in recent years and that has affected even many advanced Western democracies, as indicated by the surprising election of Donald Trump, has led to concerns about a potential resurrection of fascism, as mentioned in the introduction. Can the present examination of “the era of fascism” during the interwar years shed light on the current predicament? In particular, is there a risk of fascism’s revival? Worried observers emphasize that the right-wing fears and resentments stoked by many contemporary populists, especially in Europe and North America, have similarities to the demagoguery promoted by Mussolini and Hitler. Once again, charismatic leaders seek mass support by whipping up fervent nationalism, by fomenting intense nostalgia for a bygone golden age, by calling insistently for “law and order,” and by inciting hostility against religious, ethnic, and racial minorities. Do these echoes suggest that fascism is on the rise again (Connolly 2017; Stanley 2018; Traverso 2019)? At first sight, this book with its emphasis on backlash dynamics may seem to provide further reason for concern. After all, the recent upsurge of right-wing populism has a certain counterrevolutionary dimension. While

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also impelled in very powerful ways by structural changes in the economy (Gest 2016; Eatwell and Goodwin 2018; Iverson and Soskice 2019: chap. 5), the populist wave embodies a reaction against the “silent revolution” of postmodern value change (Inglehart 1977) that the Western world has undergone in recent decades. This comprehensive questioning of authority and tradition and the powerful quest for societal emancipation and individual autonomy have undermined the old normative order, as evident, for instance, in unprecedented efforts to redefine the venerable institution of marriage. Population sectors distant from the cultural vanguard spearheading this value change, such as older generations and rural residents, have come to view this normative progressivism as a threat to their established way of life and as a harbinger of societal chaos, as exemplified in their perceptions of lurid crime, “uncontrollable” mass immigration, and Islamic terrorism. In response, the demand to stop, if not reverse, this erosion of longstanding values has become more urgent and louder (Norris and Inglehart 2019). Conservative sectors yearn for returning to a glorious past, as captured in Donald Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again.” Right-wing populism thus feeds off a reactionary impulse (cf. Robin 2018). But upon closer consideration, the preceding analysis suggests that this partial cultural backlash is exceedingly unlikely to bring a revival of fascism in any conceivable form, both for conceptual and theoretical reasons. As the definitional discussion in Chapter 1 – inspired by Linz’s (2000) distinction between authoritarianism and totalitarianism – explained and as the analysis of the serious tensions and often fierce conflicts between conservative authoritarians and fascist totalitarians in Chapters 6–8 corroborated, fascism forms a distinctive, special regime type. This extreme-right type of rule differs greatly from authoritarianism by embracing a radical, violent project for a totalitarian transformation of politics and society, guided by an ambitious ideological vision. Consequently, fascism profoundly diverges from the illiberal democracies and competitive authoritarian regimes that a number of populist leaders, ranging from Alberto Fujimori in Peru to Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, have installed (Weyland 2018: 329–31). Today’s right-wing populists, including President Trump, clearly lack the millenarian ideological goals and violent dynamism that drove the brutal dictatorships of fascism. In their opportunism, they are far less ambitious in their political projects and do not promote basic alternatives to liberal democracy. Conceptual precision requires highlighting these

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fundamental differences. Applying the term fascism to present-day populists, even when softened by qualifying adjectives (“aspirational fascism,” Connolly 2017), is invalid. Such “conceptual stretching” (Sartori 1970) is also misleading by suggesting the need for all-out resistance, including contentious protest and civil disobedience; after all, if fascism really were on the rise again, opponents might have to fight fire with fire. But such a confrontational approach is unpromising and counterproductive for reining in populist leaders and for forestalling the damage they can do to liberal democracy, as the striking failure of the fierce, contentious opposition against Venezuelan populist Hugo Chávez during the early 2000s shows (Gamboa 2017). Because populist leaders thrive on confrontation and actively seek to provoke “enemies,” out-of-control opposition plays into their hands. Especially in advanced industrialized countries with their institutional strength, the opposition to populism is well-advised to channel its participatory energies into conventional institutions, primarily the electoral arena, as the Democratic success in the US midterm elections of 2018 corroborates (Weyland 2020: 402). Depicting right-wing populists like Donald Trump as scary (proto-fascists can only disrupt this calm yet effective containment strategy. Thus, my insistence on the categorical difference between fascism and right-wing populism arises not only from the quest for conceptual clarity but also from the interest to avoid the confrontational trap that populist leaders of all stripes commonly set for their liberal-democratic opponents. Besides highlighting crucial conceptual differences, the present study also demonstrates the distinctive causes for the emergence of fascism, which diverge from the problems plaguing present-day democracies. Once again, apparent similarities – in this case, between the turn against liberal progress around 1900 and the backlash against postmodern value change after 2000 – can be deceptive. During the interwar years, liberalism and democracy faced much more profound questioning and more intense rejection than during the last decade, even among most supporters of right-wing populists such as Donald Trump. Moreover, fascism was not the direct product of a darkening Zeitgeist, namely the cultural pessimism spreading from the late nineteenth century onward (Burrow 2000). These illiberal ideas were amorphous and heterogeneous and did not uniformly lead toward fascism. Most importantly, normative appeal does not directly shape regime developments. After all, this book highlights that despite its tremendous attraction

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during the interwar years, fascism rarely found adoption as a full-scale regime. For all these reasons, the cultural resistance against ultraliberal value change and the normative resentments that have arisen in recent years will not lead to a reemergence of fascism. As this study showed, a decisive trigger of fascism was the concrete, dramatic challenge emanating from the Russian Revolution. Mussolini and Hitler’s project of radical counterrevolution arose and attracted a good deal of support because it looked like a crucial safeguard against the menace of communism. During the interwar years, the radical right only won mass backing where broad population sectors perceived an acute threat from the radical left and therefore sought protection via the dynamic force of fascism. The early twenty-first century does not face any threat of this magnitude, especially in advanced industrialized countries. Communism has virtually disappeared, confined to the hermetic realm of the Kim dynasty in North Korea and the “living museum” of Cuba. Who would want to emulate these sad remnants of an ideology that has clearly lost its luster (Furet 1999)? An update of Barrington Moore’s famous equation (cf. Moore 1966) would suggest, “no communism – no fascism.” Certainly, the Western left, weakened by economic globalization and the rise of new issue cleavages, is unwilling and unable to push its original demands for profound socioeconomic redistribution; therefore, it does not pose any significant danger to elite interests that would prompt a forceful reactionary reflex. Other major threats to the sociopolitical order are not on the horizon either. While Islamic fundamentalism sparks occasional attacks, this terrorism is much too sporadic to provoke broad demands for a profound backlash. Donald Trump’s Muslim travel bans are certainly not the first step toward fascism. Thus, there is no risk of drastic shocks that could provoke widespread acquiescence in – not to speak of clamor for – a fascist reaction. The absence of an acute hostile challenge that could make liberal democracy again look weak also suggests that the wavelike imposition of authoritarianism is unlikely, especially in advanced industrialized countries. Coups, still common during the interwar years, are becoming rare worldwide (Bermeo 2016: 6–8). The gradual suffocation of democracy that many observers associate with populism (see most prominently Levitsky and Ziblatt 2018) is not imminent either. The longstanding democracies of North America and Western Europe, which rest on strong institutional frameworks and are sustained by energetic, vigilant civil societies, have achieved a high degree of consolidation (cf. Svolik 2015;

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Cornell, Møller, and Skaaning 2017, 2020). Due to their economic diversification and social safety nets, they are fairly immune to major shocks and show resilience even in the face of crises (Wibbels 2006). Thus, the causal factors that have allowed populist leaders to strangle democracy here and there – though much less commonly than is often implied – do not threaten advanced industrialized countries. The fears that have spread in recent years are derived from a few outstanding cases of populist destruction of democracy; fueled by the availability heuristic, these concerns do not withstand more systematic scrutiny, which shows the frequent failure of populist power grabs – and the corresponding survival and recovery of liberal democracy (Weyland 2020). For these reasons, an authoritarian wave, not to speak of a massive riptide as during the interwar years, is exceedingly unlikely. In sum, the present study, both with its conceptual implications and its theoretical arguments, suggests that observers need not worry about a resurgence of fascism, as long as the term is used with any precision. Without a dramatic revolution – or a similarly drastic challenge – there will not be support for radical counterrevolution. Liberal malaise and even right-wing populism do not directly bring forth reactionary extremism; they are unlikely to lead to the spread of authoritarianism as well, especially in Western countries. The contemporary world faces a multitude of problems, ranging from climate change to stark social inequality and issues of cultural integration, but resurgent fascism or an upsurge of authoritarianism are not among them.

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Index

Action Française, 297 adventurism, 54–55 age of extremes, 50–51, 75–76, 133, 155–56, 316 agrarian elites, 124 agrarian radicalism, 139–40 agrarian redistribution, 235–36 agrarian reform, 140–41 agriculture, 44 Almeida, José Américo de, 244 anarchists, 233–34, 238–39 ancien régime, 60–61 Anschluß (greater Germany), 215, 276, 287–88 anti-Bolshevism, 24–25, 130, 137–38 anticlerical measures, 231–32 anti-Communism, 22, 32, 115, 132, 149, 209, 247–50, 295, 320–21 anti-Semitism intertwined with, 166, 191, 211–12 appeal of, 166–67 counter-diffusion by, 101 dictatorships of, 7 Iron Guard and, 210 military rule and, 62–63 NSDAP and, 187 repression of, 14, 135–36 rightwing extremism and, 301 rightwingers and, 229–30 anti-fascist coups, 10 anti-liberalism, 32, 229–30 anti-rationalism, 32 anti-Semitism, 166–67, 174, 209–10

anti-Communism intertwined with, 166, 191, 211–12 nationalism and, 159–60, 166, 203 totalitarian and, 284 Antonescu, Ion, 271–75, 305 Aranha, Oswaldo, 245 Argentina, 29, 199, 202–3, 293–94, 305–12 Great Depression and, 307 Radical Party, 306–7, 311–12 Socialist Party, 306–7 armed rebellion, 90 armed uprisings, 135–38 Arquivo Nacional da Torre de Tombo, 27 Arrow Cross (Hungary), 31, 261, 287–89, 305 Asturias (Spain), 234 asymmetrical loss aversion. See loss aversion Atatürk, Mustafa Kemal, 164, 251–52 austerity, 176–77 Austria, 9, 17, 31, 63, 85, 117, 202–3, 212, 215 Christian Socials, 205–6, 267–79 conservative elites in, 196 conservative struggles with fascism in, 275–81 Hitler and, 267–77 self-coups in, 324–25 Social Democracy and, 138–39 Social Democratic Party, 234, 275–76, 280 status-quo defenders and, 229 Austrian Nazi party, 276 Austro-fascism, 193–94

367

368

Index

authoritarianism, 4, 7, 225–26 advocates of, 162 Catholic, 242, 279–80 competitive, 115–16, 255–56, 283–84, 305–6 complex advance of, 41 conservative, 10–11, 45–46, 57–64, 129, 177–81, 193–94, 196–97, 212–13, 227–28, 242–43, 267–75, 286–87, 320–21, 326–27 conservative elites and, 227 de-mobilizational, 103, 185–86, 220, 282, 291–92 descent into, 316 dictatorships, 16–17, 23, 243–44 elitist, 18–19, 317–18 exclusionary, 9, 15–16, 61–62, 133, 160, 216, 225 fascism differences from, 315–16 fascist regime-insiders, authoritarian containment of, 282 fascist takeovers preempted by, 260–61, 281 fascist tools imported by, 220–22 fortification of, 219–20 growing literature on, 20–21 hardening dictatorships, 46 hardening of, 43–44, 229, 253–60, 287–89, 324–25 Hungary, fascist regime insider in authoritarian regime of, 283–87 Hungary, hardening authoritarianism in, 287–89, 324–25 Hungary, installation of, 120–22 Hungary and, 113 ideas shaping, 36 imposed with fascism, 229–53 imposition of, 70–71, 73, 202 incompatibility of fascism and, 22–23 installation of, 116, 155 interwar reverse wave and, 195–96 Latin America, installation of authoritarian regimes in, 320–21 Lenin and, 24–25 nature of, 226 non-mobilizational, 39–40, 56–57, 153–54, 213–14 proliferation of, 212–13, 218–19 reactionary, 181 rule of, 29 spread of, 17–18

stability imposed by, 47 totalitarianism and, 24, 197–98, 225–26, 329 traditionalist, 231 types of, 63 upsurge of, 332 violence against fascist totalitarians by conservative authoritarians, 11–12 autocracy, 249, 314 actors newly liberated from, 43 basic types of, 23–24 demands for, 294 double deterrent effect and, 20 elitist, 280–81 exclusionary, 28 fascism as reactionary form of, 127 growing literature on, 20–21 imposition of, 70, 115–16 interwar years and, 56–57, 312 interwar years installation of reactionary autocracies during, 4–5 Italy, autocratic regression, 116 non-fascist, 204–5 non-mobilizational, 158 paths to, 64 reactionary, 127, 198, 276 reverse wave of, 198–202 Romanov, 51 transnational influences on, 21–24 backlash against Communism, 18 counterrevolutionary, 115 against Cuban Revolution, 12 against fascism, 18 against leftwingers, 103, 122–23 dual backlash dynamic, 316–21 reactionary, 41–42, 199, 314–15 rightwing, 228–29 to Russian Revolution, 130 backwardness, 44–45, 129, 160, 173–74, 253–54 Baltic-German nobles, 140 Baltics, 96–99, 112–13, 118–19, 261–66 Banac, Ivo, 84 Basic Law of 1949 (Germany), 327–28 Bavaria, 75–76, 90–91 Bayesian updating, 65 Beerhall Putsch, 156 Belgium, 10, 27–28, 145–46, 202–3 Ben Ali, Zine El Abidine, 66–67

Index Berend, Ivan, 84 Berman, Sheri, 20–21 Bernstein, Eduard, 106–7, 110–11 Bethlen, István, 121–22, 283, 286–87 biennio rosso, 125, 152–54 biological racism, 29–31 Bismarck, Otto von, 162 Black Friday, 45–46 Black Shirt movement (Italy), 126–27, 142–43 Blue Shirts (Portugal), 31, 256 Bolshevism, 75–76, 166–67, 191, 217–18, 242, 294 admiration for, 92 anti-Bolshevism, 24–25 eruption of, 57 exporting, 97 fascism and, 151–52 fear of, 101, 103–5, 198–99 Germany and, 104 global advance of, 94 Mussolini and, 126 precedent set by, 87 repression of, 130 rise of, 64, 324 risks emanating from, 120–21 socioeconomic order overturned by, 79 street fighters against, 72 success of, 83–84 threat of, 139–40 Bolshevist Revolution. See Russian Revolution Boris III (Tsar), 199 bounded rationality, 11–14, 26, 69, 78, 84–85, 105–6, 131 inferential mechanisms of, 186–87 interwar years and, 321–25 liberal democracy and, 118 looser, 152–53, 217 products of, 199–200, 263 tightness of, 92, 94, 168 twisted workings of, 101–2 Bracher, Karl Dietrich, 145–46 Brazil, 28, 59–60, 202–3, 229, 320–21 authoritarianism, hardening of, 324–25 Commercial Attaché, 245 Communism and, 244–45 Integralists, 31 self-coup in, 243–53 Breitscheid, Rudolf, 176–77 Bremen, Germany, 82, 85–86, 89–90, 110

369

Brüning, Heinrich, 175–77, 300–1 brutality, 11, 70–72, 108, 137–38, 160–61, 321 Bulgaria, 261 Calinescu, Armand, 269–71 ˘ Campos, Francisco, 249–50 Carol II (King), 211–12, 221–22, 268–69, 271–73 Carsten, Frances, 84 Carta del Lavoro (Mussolini), 222–23, 241, 257–58 Catholic authoritarianism, 242, 279–80 Catholic Center, 118, 162 Catholic Church, 222–23, 231, 237–40, 242–43 Catholic corporatism, 254 Catholic Popolari (Italy), 124–25 causal heterogeneity, 27–28 center-left governing coalition, 299 center-left organizations, 105–7 center-right, 113 Central Revolutionary Council of Bavaria, 91 Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil (CPDOC), 27 Ceresole, Norberto, 306–7 Chávez, Hugo, 306–7, 329–30 Chile, 43–44, 114, 202–3 Christian Democracy, 69, 132 Christian Socials (Austria), 205–6, 267–79 Cioran, Emil, 59, 144, 203–4, 211–12 class struggle, 255 clientelism, 160, 173–74, 218–19, 227, 231, 253–54, 283 clientelistic networks, 33–34, 44, 62, 248–49 Codreanu, Corneliu Zelea, 145, 201–2, 204, 207–8, 267–68 base gained in countryside, 209–10 execution of, 271 Machtergreifung and, 210–11 quasi-religious appeals of, 208–9 success of, 208, 270–71 coercive pressure, 17 cognitive deviations, 12, 65 cognitive heuristics, 99–100, 261, 321–22 Russian Revolution and, 76–82 cognitive inferences, 103–4 cognitive mechanisms, 13, 27

370

Index

cognitive mechanisms (cont.) center-left organizations and, 105–7 political turbulence of interwar year