From Hobson's Choice
Falangism is a manifestation of totalitarianism characterized by an origin in moribund parliamentary forms, many splintered factions under ad hoc supervision, subordinate to business management. The "ideology" is a product of these other definitional traits, and could vary dramatically depending on historical circumstances. Falangist states emerge from a bloody calamity, such as a coup or civil war, strive to placate their political base, and usually end in farce.
The most decisive feature of falangism is that it rules through decentralization; rather than a single true regime, the falangist regime is a cluster of power centers. The power centers typically have their own enforcement capabilities, such as death squads. The military is more mercenary and there is not likely to be a strong party. A good schematic is to picture the falangist regime's beneficiaries above the state and able to supervise it; the same group, under fascism, are nonetheless under the regimes' control and have little ongoing influence on it. Because of this, and the greater ease with which falangist regimes are established (relative to fascist ones), falangist regimes are much more common than the other type.
While fascism is an obvious example of tyranny, it is by no means unique. Moreover, while fascism once represented a very specific political position, by 1946 George Orwell complained "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable.'" "Fascism" is necessarily pejorative. There will probably never again be a party characterizing itself as "fascist."
Fascism is rare because it requires an extreme degree of panic by the elites; and it requires a well-developed machinery of command and control. There are a very small number of fascist states that existed in the Third World. Fascist states today reject this designation. They insist they are nationalist, defending the embattled country from some enemy without and a fifth column within. Fascist states are grandiose, campy and animated by spectacular public paranoia. They originate with a single movement (which has to rub out all competitors, including those with similar views). They come to power farcically and leave power in a bloodbath. In contrast, another form of repressive state—far more common—is the falangist regime.
La Partida Falangista was founded by José Antonio, son of the Spanish dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera in 1932. Rivera's regime had imploded because of the economic collapse of Spain during the Great Depression; but there remained large classes of people, such as the landlords, the clergy, and small business owners, who bitterly regretted the establishment of the Republic. The Falangist Party of Spain had some eccentric ambitions, such as the reconquest of the Americas, but mostly it was opposed to socialist ideologies and labor unions; it was adopted by Gen. Francisco Franco and was, once in power, an entirely ordinary, pro-business, technocratic party which simply exercised the power to squelch opposing voices.
Falangist regimes usually have grandiose rhetoric, but unlike fascist states their main enemy is their own breathtaking mediocrity. They come to power with a coup d'etat or a civil war, and they are hasty coalitions of the willing. Falangist movements repress opposition ferociously, of course, but the opposition is usually animated by the failure of the state to deliver on its promises. Hitler, by contrast, did deliver on his promises of a strong, affluent Germany; the Nazis required violence to regiment society so it could be used for eternal warfare. Fascism is ambitious, and its ambition savors violence as the ultimate challenge; falangism is pathetic and resorts to violence to evade demands.
During the 1930's, falangist-style movements took power in several Latin American countries; falangists occasionally resorted to populist ideology (see the link to PdR's speech above) but were thoroughly conventional in espousing reactionary ideology. There was always an extremely important difference between falangism and fascist regimes in Europe or NE Asia: the elites, under falangism, remained out from under the thumb of repression. From Wikipedia comes this extract of a letter by Adolf Hitler to Herman Rauschning:
Of what importance is all that, if I range men firmly within a discipline they cannot escape? Let them own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State, through the Party, is supreme over them regardless of whether they are owners or workers. All that is unessential; our socialism goes far deeper. It establishes a relationship of the individual to the State, the national community. Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.
In contrast, the repression of falangist regimes, for all their populist pretensions, was directed narrowly at labor movements, people who challenged religious orthodoxy, and ordinary citizens reduced to desperation by the ferocious neoliberal policies falangists usually favor.
Both "fascism" and "falangism" take their names from warfare, in ways that represent conformity or unity of purpose. Falangists tend to sympathize with fascist regimes because of the tremendously effective social regimentation they brought about; but usually it was agreed that the industrial enterprise of Latin American or Middle Eastern countries would not sustain the type of aggressive regulation favored by thorough-going fascism. Under fascism, state power was directed against everyone; the elites who owned banks or industries were regimented and vulnerable, and their children usually were compelled to serve in the armed forces to ensure conformity. Under falangism, the elites have their own gangs who actually find the state repression convenient, but inadequate; the death squad is a familiar fixture of falangist states. Death squads act outside of the framework of the falangist state; the elites exploit the state, but are not under it. In the fascist state, the panic of the elites allows them to submit to totalitarian rule.
(This section initially posted at The Watch, 26 April 2003)
Paxton identifies five stages in fascism's arc of flight:
- The initial creation of fascist movements
- Their rooting as parties in a political system
- The acquisition of power
- The exercise of power
- Radicalization or entropy
This is a little different from falangism:
- The initial creation of component movements (explained below)
- Some violent national passion
- The acquisition of power (usually by the armed forces)
- Elimination of opposition (long-term process)
- Humiliation, implosion
("Component movements" are organizations with diverse interests and ideologies, but a common goal. "Some violent national passion," I mean some intense bloody crisis, such as Pinochet's coup.
Falangist movements are generically different from fascism in two ways: their origin can be traced to one of many potential groups; fascist movements suffer violent mutual antipathies. For example, in the February 26th (1936) incident in Japan described vividly in the opening chapter of John Toland’s outstanding Rising Sun, the Imperial Way faction sought to seize control of the government. Suppressed by regular troops, it opened the way for Tojo Hidekei’s Control Faction to establish a totalitarian state.
The other big difference is that countries drift into fascism; falangism comes with a bloodbath. Falangism implodes, discredited; fascism descends into a blood-dimmed tide, like WW2 or civil war. The violence of the February 26th Incident was limited in scope; seven officials, including the great economist Takehashi Korekiyo, were assassinated. The "Night of the Long Knives" occurred almost eight months after the Nazi Party had secured a political monopoly).
Had one been alive at the time, and an experienced observer of parliamentary politics, the ascent of the fascists would have seemed a farce. The maneuvers in the Reichstag and the parliaments of Hungary, Austria, Romania—all were guided by helplessness and denial on the part of the elites. These were almost to a man, ultra-conservatives and aristocrats. In Germany, coalitions of every other party had desperately shut out the Communists; now a coalition excluding the Communists and the Nazis was impossible, and the Nazis were not a normal political party. Chancellor Von Papen and conservative kingpin Schleicher, along with a cabal of financiers, therefore, pushed through a “joint government” with Adolf Hitler as a stopgap measure (23 Jan 1933). After that, Hitler subordinated his reluctant, aristocratic patrons.
While the Nazis were unusual even for fascists in their ruthlessness, the ascent to power of other fascist groups was fairly similar. In all cases, foreign pressures were decisive.
Compare this to the ascent of falangist movements: in Brazil (1964), Chile (1973), Argentina (1976), there was a bloody coup d’état and a civil war. In Spain, Gen. Franco’s golpe touched off a war that killed nearly 365,000 people. Foreign intervention in the scores and scores of falangist coups, putsches, golpes, and other horrors have been influential once the killing began. In general, falangist movements are extremely xenophobic and inward looking, focused narrowly on internal enemies. Fascist regimes are not obviously civil wars; falangist regimes are, even though the enemy of the falangist regime is to be found everywhere.
Fascist movements arise gradually and require homogeneity to triumph. A splintered fascist movement is unlikely to get to first base; fascist regimes do not arise from a multiplicity of fascist groups. But falangism does. Falangism is organizationally polyzygomatic; it always arises with a host of supporting organizations. These can espouse the prevailing religion, or reject it; they can be market fundamentalists, or they can be business nationalists. Hatred of liberalism (in the political sense of the term) and social democracy is a necessary and sufficient condition. A proliferation of (potentially rival) militia is not a problem for falangism; it is a problem for fascists. Mistrust of the government and a denigration of it are obstacles for fascists, but never for falangists.
Another anxiety is the suddenness of the onset. Countries drift into fascism; but falangism arises from a violent crisis — a coup, usually preceded by extreme civil breakdown. The difference between America’s response in 1930 to the onset of the Great Depression, and that of other nations to the same crisis, has a lot to do with the relative trust with which political participants regard each other.
The Death of the Falangist State
(This section initially posted at The Watch, 8 May 2003)
Falangist regimes die in squalid, farcical ways. Though born under grievous horror and brutality, they promise victory over foreign enemies, internal subversion, inflation, recession and oral sex. They wind up failing on all fronts. Argentina's junta had no external enemies until it invaded the Falkland Islands. It arrested and put to death 30,000 persons, including many who were never charged with any crime, never booked, never publicly acknowledged to even having been in state custody; but afterwards, Argentina was swamped with a new generation of youth criminality. The new military managers of the country faced inflation of 50-100% and left Argentina with 1200% inflation. The country's economy was ravaged and the members of the junta had a penchant for raping prisoners.
President Galtieri stepped down soon after his operation in the Falklands had crashed and burned. The military had staged two coups, in,'55 and '76, to oust sitting Peronist presidents. It had staged two more, in '63 and '67, to prevent Peronist cabinets from being appointed by Radical Party presidents. In 1983 it made a secret agreement with the Peronists: immunity for democracy. Then, in '83, the Radical Party won the election and the deal was off. Pinochet made a similar deal with the Chilean government, which did not depend on any particular party winning the elections. The falangists might have sought to continue repression longer, but capitulated without a convincing struggle. They failed to make a transition to fascism. We are grateful for this; the scope of human experience being as vast as it is, even the monstrosities of Gen. Videla are eclipsed by a bona fide fascist state.
Aside from the obvious case of Franco's regime in Spain, I propose to include the following examples:
- Austria (1934-1937)
- Poland (1934-1939)
- Guatemala (1953-1986)
- Brazil (1964-1984)
- Indonesia (1965-1989)
- Chile (1973-1990)
- Argentina (1976-1983)
This article is a stub
- ↑ "Politics & the English Language," 1946
- ↑ Robert O. Paxton, "The Five Stages of Fascism," The Journal of Modern History, March 1998. Requires JSTOR access to read.
- ↑ For a profile of Gen. Videla online, see Jorge Rafaél Videla and the Argentine junta at More or Less.
- Hannah Arendt Papers
Library of Congress
- News & Journals
- NGO/University: Study of Hard-Right Movements
- NGO/University: History
- In Austria
- The Austrian Ständestaat 1934-1938
Abuchner | U. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
- The Austrian Ständestaat 1934-1938
- In Spain 1936-1975
- In Portugal 1926-1971
- In Greece 1967-1974** Athens under the Americans III: the Junta
John L. Tomkinson, History of Athens
James R MacLean (16:56, 4 October 2007 (PDT))