This series will explore the fascist and national socialist movements of Europe that sprung up alongside Italy’s and Germany’s during the flourishing of 3rd positionist thought in the interwar years of the 20th century. Examining both historical/political circumstance and ideological theory these articles are part of a larger project to chart the history of the 3rd way up-to the present in the hope of compiling a complete picture for modern proponents.
Since the ideologies I will explore were part of a pan-European zeitgeist and are often discussed and understood in relational to their convergence with (or lack thereof) the “big two” of Mussolini’s Fascism and Hitler’s National Socialism I have taken to referring to them in passing as the “little fascisms”. No disrespect is meant towards the thoroughness and depth of thought of any group with the use of this moniker should it occur in the discussions to follow, it is simply reference to their impact upon world history and the modern image of 3rd position politics. When Fascism is capitalised I refer to specific movements, for example Italian Fascism proper and any informally named (like the forthcoming Szeged Fascism) ideology that has the hallmarks of (a full corporatist state, the state idea ultimately above the race idea etc.), and leans closer to, that doctrine over German National Socialism. An uncapitalised fascism can be read as a “3rd position ideology”, or more specifically those ones of the period in question as opposed to post World War II evolutions.
I will begin each nations series of articles with a very brief outline of pertinent events and then set the stage for the discussion to follow with a description of the circumstances the nation found itself in after World War I. Subsequent articles will detail the major phases in the evolution of that countries brand(s) of fascism with the final instalment closing with a look at patterns identified across instances. We will start our journey with fascism in Hungary; from which Szeged Fascism (Szegedi gondola – the Szeged Idea) and Hungarism (Hungarizmus) arose.
Broadly, for Hungary, a single authoritarian conservative (Christian nationalist) party reigned for the entire interwar period (1921 – 1944) which in rhetoric and outward policy vacillated between a highly conservative liberalism and a conservative form of fascism (the aforementioned Szeged Fascism). However the core ideologues of the establishment only ever waivered from their roots in appearance and solely on an opportunistic basis with the fascistic turns always an effort to placate a persistent farther “right” (Hungarism and like-minded revolutionary fascism) which was then suppressed beyond the level of placation said establishment was willing to suffer. At first glance it may look as if there were two separate (Szeged and Hungarism) fascisms in competition for the people but in truth both shared near identical roots with the later iteration a further and more radical evolution of those roots after the failure of the first to produce real change. Unfortunately, due to circumstance and politics instead of passing the torch Szeged Fascism hung around as a tool of both the establishment and even Hitler’s regime to stymie a full revolutionary outbreak. Hungarism won, after a fashion, in the end, but only for a fleeting time in the last months of the second world war and it was such an artificial situation, brought on by compromise and war-time contingencies, that its founder and leader, Ferenc Szálasi, was disappointed to attain power in such a way.
Now to set the stage. The fall-out of WW1 was hard on Hungary: within a only a few years it had suffered the dissolution of the Austrian-Hungary empire, became a republic, had a 4 month communist revolution, went back to being a republic and finally settled on a constitutional monarchy with a sitting regent. It had also had to come to terms with the victorious western powers via the Trianon Treaty, which cost the nation 2/3rds of its pre-war territory and left 1/3rd of its native population now in foreign lands. The man who saw the country through the last stages of this upheaval was the commander of the national military Miklós Horthy, who became the regent on March 1st, 1920 and would remain so until the 15th of October 1944. Horthy had led the offensive against the short-term communist insurrection and it was his officers who had overseen the “white terror” (great name) that had followed the collapse of the Budapest soviet, where the revolution had been based, which saw leftists continually persecuted and brutalised.
Surely surprising no-one reading this, jewish intellectuals and professionals had been massively over-represented among the communist ranks and at the time the recognition of the link between the two was nowhere near the taboo it is today, with public politicians and church thinkers often using terms such as judeo-bolshevism in speech and writings. In-fact both the church and the aristocracy were steeped in long-held resistance to judaism on not only religious grounds but also due to an understanding of the cultural influence jews were inclined to wield when economically powerful. With the recently terminated Bolshevik revolution providing an object example of subversive behaviour and the jewish professional class weathering the economic turmoil of the post-war upheavals marginally better than the average Hungarian, antisemitism among the populace grew from a general standoffishness to a more active distain. The strength of this feeling at the time must not be overstated however, for most Hungarians it was really a question and concern of how to deal with the culture and integration of jews as a whole as opposed to any thought of complete expulsion (or more drastic measures). As an example, Horthy, despite being a staunch (apparently fanatical and borderline paranoid) anti-communist with the expected attendant antisemitic attitudes, did not approve of the “white terror” and heavily reproached his officers for their excesses. Here we see the first inkling of a pattern whereby the conservative leadership shies away from the most radical elements to maintain a moralist decorum whilst nevertheless recognising the same issues as the radicals.
With the dust of war, revolutions and treaties cleared by 1921 Hungary was left a small poor kingdom without a true king, an identity crisis (with its core ethnicity, the Magyars, split up in different territories), a strong antisemitic streak in the populace (particularly with the middle class and the military) coupled with a significant jewish professional class, a largely landless peasantry that worked on massive ancestral estates, high social stratification (anecdotes suggest someone’s class was glaringly obvious by their dress and manner) and the potential for large industrial capital expansion: the perfect ground for a fascism to take form.