The Arrow Cross. The Ideology of Hungarian Fascism. A conceptual approach

Level: 
Doctoral
Thesis author: 
Aron Szele
Academic Area(s): 
Status: 
Completed
Year of enrollment: 
2008/2009
Thesis supervisor: 
Balázs Trencsényi
CEU unit: 
Department of History
Thesis abstract: 

I arrived in Budapest in the beginning of 2007, as an MA student at the CEU, to an atmosphere of tension and discontent. Hungary, by that time, was gripped by a recession and a general dissatisfaction with the powers that be coming from a significant section of the population. The loss of credibility of the political left, and the subsequent rise of the right-wing, in its conservative and far right manifestations, was palpable. As a Hungarian coming from the diaspora, I had the quality of a semi-outsider, and had a unique perspective, being accustomed to Hungarian culture, but not its contemporary politics. I could not help notice the situation, and contrast it to that of my native country, Romania, where the far right had all but died out as a political phenomenon. As a historian, I attempted to interpret the situation in a diachronic manner, comparing past situations to the present. As asymmetrical as these comparisons were, they opened up my interest in investigating a hitherto under-researched area, that of the far right and fascist ideologies in interwar Hungary. These past political projects were conspicuously present in the symbolism and legitimacy of the contemporary far right, which glorified the interwar period. Reading further into the material that became available to me, I came across certain trends of interpretations that seemed implausible and anachronic (see the literature review). Beyond simple intellectual curiosity toward the topic, I attempted to explain the apparent populist and mimetic leftist rhetoric of both the interwar fascism and contemporary far right.
The dissertation is structured into three major chapters, which constitute the body of the thesis. The first chapter is dedicated to explaining the current state of the research on the topic, and attempts to place my work within the major international historiographic debates on the subject of fascism. It also provides the reader with the needed socio-political context, in order to show the political, intellectual and social background which gave birth to fascist ideology in Hungary. This also includes external influences, for I have partly explained the phenomenon as a product of domestic tendencies and adaption of foreign ideologies. The second chapter contains the actual results of my research, structured into four major sub-chapters, each dedicated to a certain group of ideas or concepts. In the first sub-chapter, I attempted to discuss the attempt of interwar fascism to create a certain type of national community through discourse and practice, and to define the nation on ethno-racial terms, all the while attempting to place Hungary as high up as possible in a European new world order. Closely following this, the second part of the chapter discusses the role of the narrative of leadership and charisma in creating hierarchies of power within state and society. These hierarchies were formed a binomial between leadership and the people, who were also given an important role, as fascism attempted to level social difference in favor of an organic community of the people, with a singular leader. This kind of definition of the people constitutes the topic of my third subchapter. The final sub-chapter of the second part of the thesis analyzes the narrative in which these concepts of people, nation, and leader were arranged. The narrative theorizing was disguised as historicist, but ultimately was an a-historic and anti-historic theory. The Hungarian nation would enter into a new phase of existence that would constitute the end of history, a sort of perpetual golden age. In the final chapter, I provided the conclusions to my work.