ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

The dual nature of violence: outward aggression and inward repression in fascist ideology

Raul Carstocea
University College London
Raul Carstocea
University College London
Open Panel

Abstract

Fascism is perhaps the quintessential example of political violence, both in its ideological glorification of conflict and war, and in its style of politics. The extensive literature addressing fascist movements fails however to account for the curious case of the ‘Legion of the Archangel Michael’, the only lasting mass movement in the history of Romania and the third largest fascist organisation in Europe, which adopted a non-violent stance at a time when its popularity was increasing. The ‘Legion’ is generally considered as the most radical group in the history of Romania, and one which is responsible for the introduction of political violence in the country. Initially directed against the Jewish minority, the actions of the legionaries took the form of political assassinations, pogroms, and large-scale destruction of property. At the same time, the organisation is also known for its constructive public works projects – building roads and dams, repairing buildings, etc. These emphasised voluntarism, and attracted a great number of participants, in spite of constant state opposition and arbitrary arrests. In addition, the ‘Legion’ promoted an ideology characterised by strongly religious overtones, and proclaimed its final aims to be spiritual and transcendental in nature. In practical terms, this manifested in the asceticism visible in the actions of the legionaries, allowing Stanley Payne to argue that “the Legionnaire martyr complex created a degree of self-destructiveness unequalled in other fascist movements.” Constructive work inspired by religious principles and extreme violence sit uncomfortably with each other; the tension between the two was to be resolved in a rather unexpected manner for a fascist group: a decisive turn towards a non-violent attitude, visible from 1936 until the death of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the movement’s founder and leader, in 1938. While studies to date have focused almost exclusively on the outward destructiveness displayed by fascist groups, I plan to supplement this understanding of the human propensity for violence by taking into account its inward-directed dimension, analysed by Sigmund Freud through the concept of repression. Such an interpretation provides an excellent insight into the tension between the religiosity and asceticism upheld by the ‘Legion’ and its violence. My close analysis of the most significant tropes consistently employed by legionaries in their formulations, both public and private, allows me to identify a subtle yet solid common ground between these two. This can be explained by a dual understanding of violence: as outward, directed towards the perceived ‘enemies’ of the group (typically Jews or Romanians accused of being ‘sold’ to Jews), and inward, manifested in increased levels of repression among its members. In the present paper, based on previously unexplored archival sources in Romania, I plan to explore this dynamic in a comparative perspective that examines legionary violence in comparison with the cases of the fascist movements in Italy, France and the United Kingdom.