Book review. The Legionary Movement.
I have long been a supporter of the Legionary Movement, and try to read good quality material on this topic, avoiding “hit pieces” animated by anti-Legionary bias. Thus, this book looked like an attractive offering. Alas, I was disappointed with respect to this book being a purely objective approach by the author. Unfortunately, it wasn't.
The author is obviously some sort of simpering leftist (see his bias here) who has a footnote in the beginning of the book agonizing over the use of words like “Romanians” and “Jews”- terms linked to “racist” sources. How dare you identify people by ethnicity! What a buffoon this idiot is. First, subjectively, Jews have no problem self-identifying as Jews, distinct from Romanians (and vice versa) – so how is it “racist” to recognize that these identity groups exist? Second, objectively, genetic analysis allows us to distinguish ethnic Jews from ethnic Romanians – so how is recognizing these differences something wrong and “racist?”
The author considers fascism to be a “social category,” one becomes a fascist, and does so through everyday activities, by action, one lives a fascist lifestyle, rather than following a specific ideology. There is some truth to that, but the author and others he cites follows that line too far, the idea that fascism has no ideology would certainly come as a surprise to, say, Gentile or Rosenberg. But, again, fascism is more of a secular religion, a lived experience, an existential form of politics, rather than an extremely formalized rigid theoretical ideology. One can of course move forward from that, thus underscoring the difference between authentic fascism and para-fascism. Can anyone imagine Franco and members of his conservative reactionary authoritarian regime living a fascist life, following a secular religion? The idea is ludicrous. Many of the reactionary regimes classified by political retardates as “fascist” were no more “fascist” than Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump. Fascism – contra leftist lies – is a revolutionary movement, and considering it as a “social category” and a lived experience is useful for distinguishing it from para-fascist reaction.
Putting aside the author's implied nonsense of nationalism being some sort of construct used by “social actors” to achieve goals independent of objective nationhood, we can observe how Romanian nationalism evolved, with "the other” being Ottomans, Greeks, etc., before Romanian nationhood, and then focused on the Jewish problem (Jews as "the other") afterward. Interestingly, after widespread Jewish immigration (invasion) into Romania, Romanian texts of that time characterized Jews as “sly, deceitful, ugly, smelly, cowardly, and lazy.” I’ll leave it up as an exercise to the reader to reflect on how these “stereotypes” - particularly those about “sly, deceitful,” and ugly” - seem consistent over time and space with respect to how those peoples thought about the Jews living amongst them. There does seem to be an element of consistency there. If a wide variety of peoples have the same opinion, is it perhaps the target of the opinion that needs to be looked at as the problem, rather than all of the other, varied aggrieved peoples? After decades of Holocaust propaganda and associated guilt-tripping, as well as intense social pricing against “anti-Semitism,” anti-Jewish hostility still exists, testament to the characteristics of Jews that continuously trigger these reactions among the vast array of the Gentile peoples.
As an example of the mendacious leftist approach to these issues, let us consider how the author evaluates the outbreak of aggressive nationalism and “anti-Semitism” among Romanian university students in the early 1920s. We are told that this activism was an “outlet for their frustrations;” thus, the Romanians were poorly educated and ill-prepared for the university, and were also subject to sub-standard living conditions; thus, they picked on the poor, innocent, persecuted Jews. As a specific example of mendacity by omission and implication, we can consider the Jewish cadaver controversy. The author relates the following. Jewish religious belief opposes, or at least opposed, the use of Jewish bodies for medical dissection. The Romanian students accused Jewish students of removing Jewish bodies from the school to prevent their use, but at the same time the Jewish students were very willing to dissect “Christian” (i.e., Gentile – presumably mostly ethnic Romanian) bodies. Presumably, the Romanian students, in contrast, made no distinction, and would use all bodies. I note that the author doesn’t comment on whether this anti-Jewish accusation was true (likely, it was), but instead omits any analysis of the actual facts and implies that the incident reflects hateful Romanian racist “anti-Semitism” and the “frustrations” of the students.
But, we shall consider the situation here. If the author acknowledges that Jewish religious belief is so opposed to the use of Jewish bodies for dissection (while having no such opposition for Gentile bodies), then isn’t it possible – likely even – that Jewish students would refuse to dissect Jewish bodies? Isn’t it possible that the Romanian students noticed Jewish bodies missing and “put two and two together” to realize that the Jewish students were removing the Jewish bodies to prevent their use? Isn’t it possible, and likely, that at least some Jewish students were actually removing the Jewish bodies? And isn’t it true that those same Jews would have no problem dissecting Romanian cadavers? Isn’t it possible that there was strong evidence supporting the accusation? And isn’t it reasonable that such Jewish behavior would fuel anti-Jewish feeling among Romanians? Or are we to believe that the accusation was made up over nothing, that Jewish students happily dissected Jewish cadavers in opposition to their religion, and that the whole thing was nothing more than “dumb Romanians venting their frustrations?”
What do you think?
Interestingly, the issue was resolved by the school saying that Christian students dissect Christian cadavers and Jewish students dissect Jewish ones (dissection separatism), and if the Jewish students didn’t like it, they could go study anatomy in a museum. Sure sounds to me like the medical school certainly believed that there was a problem with Jewish students refusing to allow Jewish bodies to be dissected.
Then, the author dismisses Romanian complaints of Romanians being attacked by Jews, because those attacks “were not reported by non-fascist sources,” while all instances of Romanians attacking Jews are accepted at face value by the author. Looking at how the American media of today selectively reports news, and ignores Black-on-White crime, selectively reports only rare instances of the opposite, and harps on about almost non-existent “White supremacist” violence while ignoring Antifa/BLM rioting, you can judge for yourself the probability that Jewish-leftist-establishment Romanian newspapers of the interwar period were accurately reporting instances of inter-group violence.
Broad segments of Romanian society at that time supported even the most radical of the students, including the so-called Vacarestini, led by Codreanu and Mota, who were accused of plotting assassinations in 1923. This later evolved into the broad support given to the Legionary Movement. This is contrasted to the complete lack of support given to even the most moderate pro-White activists in America, and throughout the “West.”
The continued acquittals of Romanian student nationalists – even when obviously guilty; thus, they were political acquittals – was another sign of broad support. Indeed, not only students benefited from this; in one case, a Romanian peasant was acquitted for killing a Jewish landowner with an ax based on the fact that the murder was viewed as a legitimate protest against the Jewish danger. Thus, we can assume that “over-the-top” Romanian ultranationalist behavior, while perhaps sometimes regrettable, was often provoked by Jewish misbehavior. Further, elite individuals supported the nationalist cause, and the fact that so many students were on the Far Right – unlike the “West” today – is suggestive of a broad support for nationalism in Romanian society at that time. Also, we can consider the Legion's emphasis on youth. Now, I have been critical of the Alt Right and its "youth culture," but that's not the same thing as what the Legion did. The Legion appealed to youth on the Legion's terms, on the basis of high morals and the ideal of the New Man That was unlike the Alt Right associating itself with juvenile jackassery as its own manifestation of so-called "youth culture." The Legion appealed to the best aspects of Romanian youth, while the Alt Right catered to the lowest aspects of "youthful" behavior.
Even taking the author’s biases into account, it is clear that the ultranationalist students used “intimidation and violence” to influence events to their advantage. While the Sallis Groupuscule preaches peace and pacifism – I ooze with the milk of human kindness indeed! – we can ask whether any dissident movement can achieve its goals without a bit of “intimidation and violence.” Another interesting note is the intra-nationalist feuding and fighting going on in interwar Romania, particularly that between the Legionaries and the Cuzists, which makes one reflect on the bitter, but mostly non-violent and mostly memetic, feuding and fighting within the “movement” today. At least back then, the nationalists were successful against the Left; today, it seems the only “victories” achieved are those against others on the Right. Interestingly as well, the author seems to have no problem with violence against Legionaries, such as gendarmes and other state actors attacking members of the Legion.
One can contrast the discipline and dedication of the Legionaries (even when they were being violent) with the defective freaks of Der Movement today. Codreanu exerted strict control over the behavior of the people in his movement, gave out punishments (some even arbitrary), and once, bizarrely, punished one prominent follower for no reason other than to “test” how that person “would react to an injustice that came from the head of the Legion.” Financial mismanagement and selfish enrichment, including stealing money, was harshly dealt with; this can be contrast to the grifters of the “movement” today. In contrast to “the big tent” promoted by today’s Quota Queens (we must maximize “D’Nations” after all), Codreanu emphasized quality – he asserted, “As few Legionaries and as many friends as possible…for every twenty requests to join, nineteen will be rejected and one accepted. The best one.” Can you imagine the money-hungry grifters of today being so stringent with membership (cutting back on “membership dues”)? Codreanu also made a distinction between the Legionaries who went through the persecutions of 1933 and others who joined later, when things were easier – the latter had to prove themselves with a long apprenticeship before being accepted as full-fledged Legionaries. Again compare to today’s “anything goes” attitude.
The “New Man” was the key to Legionary ideology; hence, the author quotes Codreanu:
This country is dying because it lacks men, not because it lacks [political] programs. That is our belief Therefore, we do not need to build programs, but men, new men.”
And thus, the Legionary movement was, according to Codreanu:
...more a school and an army than a political party…Everything that our minds can imagine that is nobler in soul, everything that can make our race prouder, higher, more righteous, stronger, wiser, purer, harder working, and more courageous – that is what the legionary school must produce!
One can contrast that not only to other fascist groups of that period but especially to the Far Right of today, which excuses the abysmal, degenerate “quality” of many of its members and supporters by invoking “big tent,” and which is led by “leaders” many of whom are freaks, perverts, incompetents, grifters, frauds, and those with terminally poor judgment. One can compare the Legionary work camp, where constructive practical work was done to help build character, to today’s displays of homosexual flirting and harassment at Alt Right meetings, or to folks going to inept Alt Right rallies dressed in cosplay costumes. To those who claim that work camps today would be subject to persecution and thus activists are at a disadvantage compared to the Legionaries, I reply that they should recall that the Legionaries were getting their heads bashed in regularly by gendarmes, and they were being routinely jailed. The circumstances are not the same as today that is true; for example, the Legionaries enjoyed a degree of popular support that the Far Right of today can only dream of, but, still, there was still enormous risk in all of their endeavors.
The author, of course has to tell us that the work camps mostly benefited the Legion itself rather than being purely charitable – as if that were a bad thing, and then breathlessly tells us how the Legion leveraged kinship networks to make the family “fascist.” If true, then…so? Sounds good to me. Legionary forays into business, cooperatives, restaurants, etc. was all for the good – helping the Legionaries support themselves and setting up an alternative economy competing against Jewish-owned businesses, and offering fair prices. Sounds excellent. Further, working in such restaurants there were lawyers and other professionals, who were serving lower-class customers, helping to break down intra-ethnic class barriers.
With respect to core aspects of the Legionary worldview, the author evaluates claims that the Legion, like fascism in general, was a “revolt against modernity,” and concludes that the description of “reactionary modernism” fits best – thus, the Legion promoted “traditionalist” values and a more or less specifically Romanian culture and ethos while, at the same time, accepting and utilizing modern technology. In some case, a superficial traditional veneer was plastered over modern life; thus, bride and groom would come to the wedding dressed in peasant garb, riding in a horse drawn cart, while guests would arrive by train or automobile, and the festivities would be recorded by motion picture equipment. But then the author talks about an affinity of Codreanu for a “rural utopia” and then defines “modernism” thus – “a revolt against widespread apathy in the face of the death of God and an attempt to imagine a new world of creative possibilities,” said possibilities including “chaos, violence, mysticism, and nihilism.” So, the author is all over the place here. For another view of the relationship between the Legion and technics, see this.
The author then attempts to solve these conflicts by asserting that the Legion was always more concerned with practical matters than with ideas (like “modernism”) despite that idea of the New Man being a cornerstone of Legionary ideology. Perhaps the author got lost in his own contradictions and this hand-waving “solution” was the easiest way for him to cut the “Gordian knot” of the “modernism” question.
Interestingly, some wealthy Jews contributed to the Legion, ostensibly to protect their business interests. Also, what to make of the Romanian government outlawing the wearing of shirts of varied colors (each color affiliated with a different political movement) as part of anti-uniform laws? So many colors were outlawed it is difficult to discern what Romanians were actually wearing that time – the stupidities of “liberal democracy” on full display. The book also discusses the Legion’s foray into electoral politics – so-called “fascist authoritarian democracy” – something they were more adept at than the freakshow rejects of today’s American “scene.” Unfortunately, the author does not discuss the Legion’s participation in the 1934 Montreux conference.
The book retells the end of the Legion, which underscores how vulnerable dissident social-political movements – even very popular ones – are to determined state force. The execrable King Carol declared a royal dictatorship, banned political parties, and superficially instituted some window-dressing ultra nationalist policies. Codreanu disbanded the Legion, but was still arrested for “treason” and murdered. When the Legion made a brief comeback as part of the National Legionary State under Antonescu, a falling out with that leader led to the Legion being completely crushed with state force. Remaining Legionaries in Romania were later persecuted and tortured by the communist regime. One remembers how quickly Mussolini’s regime fell as well. One should never attempt to share power with a King or a military dictator; a movement must take complete control, as did Nazism is Germany.
Essentially, the author is correct in situating fascism more as a way of living, a worldview, a conception of human-political reality, rather than a strict dogmatic ideology – hence, the “protean” nature of fascism we hear so much about from so-called “experts” like Griffin.
I remember an issue of Resistance magazine from the mid-late 1990s that had a picture of some American national socialists, with at least one of them wearing a t-shirt saying “I am born again” (or something like that) with a swastika…you get the overall picture, even if I’m off with some minor details. That is of course why – the Legionary movement being an exception to some extent – there is always some tension between fascism and traditional religion, since fascism itself is a form of secular religion. One becomes a fascist, one lives as a fascist, one believes and acts as a fascist, but there is no one single, specific overarching ideology beyond the minimalist core of “palingenetic ultra-nationalism.”
Now, in the section on the Legionary Movement and religion, the author states that one reason that Orthodox (and in some cases, Catholic) priests were attracted to the Legionary Movement was precisely because it was not a secular religion, but instead was a political movement with religious views congenial to the priests. However, I see the Legion’s emphasis on religion as an epiphenomenon of its core palingenetic values; thus, I can admire the Legion while myself being an anti-religious atheist. One must distinguish between the fundamental worldview of an entity and how that worldview is manifested in particular cultural contexts.
The book quotes Mota as advocated a life of “truth, justice, and virtue,” and one is reminded of this description of what I call “Type II fascists" -
The others did not have boots, they held up their skinny reformers’ heads severely, they wore glasses, they collected cards, and they made furious speeches.
This all fits with the Legionary emphasis on the New Man, on ethical behavior as opposed to ideology, and to “deeds, not words.” The lived experience of fascism contrasts to the navel-gazing, nitpicking political-ideological debates of Marxists and other leftists. The Legion constituted an “aristocracy of merit” that transcended class and contrasts to the “degeneracy of ineptness” of today’s “movement.”
Some final criticism of the book is in order here. The book could have used some more careful editing and proofreading. For example, Table 6.1 is a tabulation of the number of Legionary “nests” and their members in Romania over time from 1933-1937, but the table is titled “Ethnic groups in Romania in 1930,” which was actually the (correct) title of Table 1.1. Thus, Table 6.1 had the wrong title.
The overall tone of the book, which was not smooth reading, was a bit of a self-important leftist academic putting “fascists” under the microscope in a manner that is supposed to be objective, but that reflects underlying biases. I didn’t think it possible for a book about the Legionary Movement to be boring, but this author handily accomplished this seemingly impossible task. Congratulations!