Hello and welcome to the ongoing series called Exploration of Fascism. Each week I’ll be posting about the fascist movements that sprung up during the hey day of the early 20th century outside of Italy and Germany, the little fascisms I like to think of them as. Today we’ll start with Hungary.
Hungary is an interesting example as the reigning government for the period 1921 – 1944 is considered authoritarian conservative (Christian nationalist) and constantly vacillated closer and farther from an actual third position whilst working hard to suppress the farther “right” when it couldn’t be placated. At first glance it looks as if there were two separated fascisms in competition, but a deeper reading shows more of an evolution of a core set of ideas muddied by circumstance. To keep things manageable (nobody likes long posts) this week I’ll set the stage, next week the first abortive fascist flourishing under Gyula Comobs and then the following week (possibly two) its more ideological substantial successor: The Hungarianism of Ferenc Szalasi’s arrow cross party. So some history.
The fall out of WW1 was hard on Hungary, the dissolution of the Austrian-Hungary empire, becoming a republic, a 4 month communist revolution, back to being a republic, finally settling on a regent representing a constitutional monarchy and then coming to terms with the 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 had seen the country through the last stages of this upheaval was the commander of the national military Miklos Horthy who became said regent when all was said and done. It was Horthy’s officers who oversaw the “white terror” (great name) that followed the collapse of the aforementioned short term soviet regime, leftists of Budapest (where the revolution had been based) where brutally dealt with and, being a surprise to no-one reading this, jewish intellectuals were massively over-represented among their ranks.
Of note is that Horthy, despite being a staunch (apparently fanatical and borderline paranoid) anti-communist, did not approve of the terror and reproached his officers; you’ll see pattern as our story unwinds where the conservative leadership constantly shies away from the most radical elements whilst nevertheless employing them. With the dust cleared by 1921 Hungary was now a small poor kingdom without a true king, an identity crisis due to its core ethnicity (Magyars) split up in different territories, a strong antisemitic streak in the populace (particularly 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 burgeoning capital expansion; the perfect ground for a nationalist socialism to take form.