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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Strong Man or the Monarch?

The Strong Man or the Monarch? 

It was recently asked of me what I thought of the “strong men” of the right who rose up in the last century, several of which were named, and I thought it worth answering in some detail and adding some names to the list I was given to hopefully present a better picture of my thoughts on the subject. These are those who have come to power in a country with no traditional monarch but who nonetheless remain admired by many on the right end of the political spectrum. As a proponent of “traditional authority”, which is very much out of fashion these days, it can be necessary to support someone who is less than ideal in order to move the needle in a more favorable direction. Some may be good, some may be unsavory but necessary and others may represent no more than a movement of that needle. Sometimes the best that can be said is that they are preferable to the most likely alternative. Of course, it should be obvious to all but I shall say at the outset nonetheless that my first preference is always for the legitimate monarch and nothing or no one can ever justly take their place.

First up is someone I wrote about recently, the Prime Minister of the “New State” of Portugal, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar who ruled Portugal from 1932 to 1968. For myself, I think Salazar was one of the good ones. He was certainly a man of traditional values, a staunch Catholic and one whose policies generally seemed like good ideas to me. He held the United Nations in contempt and fought to preserve the Portuguese empire overseas, taking on the forces of international communism, all of which is laudable in my book. He said he would restore the monarchy when the time was right but that time never came. Although usually described as a “fascist” dictator, his position was actually more complicated than that and there were some legitimate concerns surrounding the restoration of the monarchy. As his regime did not long survive him, I must also conclude that even if he had restored the monarchy, it might have been brought down along with his corporatist “New State”. In any event, he certainly came closer than any other post-monarchical leader of Portugal ever has. He gave King Manuel II a state funeral, lifted the ban on royals entering the country and restored their property to them, all good things. For a somewhat closer look at Salazar, read Monarchism and the Corporate State in Portugal. Again, in my view, one of the good ones.

Next on the list I was given was Admiral Miklos Horthy, regent of the king-deprived Kingdom of Hungary from 1920 to 1944. Unlike Salazar, I have very few positive things to say about Admiral Horthy. Probably the best thing I can say about him is that he was preferable to the alternative of a communist regime, which is certainly damning with faint praise. To be fair, and give credit where credit is due, it was Horthy who kicked out the communists and banned their party (he also banned the more Nazi-like Arrow Cross party) and pursued generally sound policies in as much as he sought to promote Hungarian identity and the return of Hungarian territory seized at the end of the First World War. However, any positive feelings I may have been able to muster for Horthy collapse to nothing as soon as his legitimate monarch, Emperor Charles I of Austria, who was King Charles IV of Hungary, made his first effort to return and resume his rightful place on the throne. Not only did he fail to support his king, the one he claimed to be acting on behalf of as “regent” but he actively thwarted his effort to fully restore the monarchy and this I can never forgive. True, there were some difficulties about this, but as regent none of that should have concerned him. As soon as Emperor Charles set his foot on Hungarian soil, Horthy should have stepped aside and supported His Apostolic Majesty to the best of his ability. He did not and so I would have a hard time seeing him as anything other than an outright traitor.

The third name I was given was Engelbert Dollfuss, federal chancellor and so-called “Austrofascist” dictator of Austria from 1932 to 1934. I have more time for Dollfuss than for Horthy certainly but there are some nagging issues with him. There is certainly a great deal with which I would have been in full agreement with Dollfuss and I think his regime was certainly a step in the right direction. The highly esteemed American and Catholic monarchist Charles Coulombe has said that Dollfuss was a monarchist but I cannot be so sure about that. There is just enough to make me think that he was simply being politically expedient, trying to win monarchist support without actually restoring the monarchy. Again, there is much I agree with him on and he did lift the anti-Habsburg laws passed by the first Austrian republic but I cannot help but think he did not really intend to go any farther. That said, his regime certainly was a step in the right direction as, after his assassination by the Nazis, his successor Kurt von Schuschnigg actually did agree to the restoration of the monarchy and the return of the Habsburgs only to be thwarted at the last minute by French and (mostly) British overreaction to the Italian war in Ethiopia which pushed Mussolini into the arms of Hitler, which doomed Austria as Italy had previously been the only thing stopping Hitler from taking over the country. Because of this, I have more regard for Schuschnigg that for Dollfuss when it comes to the subject of the House of Habsburg. In regards to his policies otherwise, I would have been onboard but when it comes to the monarchy, Schuschnigg acted and Dollfuss didn’t.

The last name on the list, which somewhat surprised me, was Marshal of France Philippe Petain, Chief of State for the post-republican “State of France” which operated out of Vichy from 1940 to 1944. Marshal Petain does not occupy much space in my mind and it rather surprises me that he would have any significant following today. He was never really entirely one thing or the other. For most people his collaboration with Nazi Germany has washed away his glittering reputation as a hero of World War I and forever cast him in the category of unforgivable villain. I certainly would not go that far. I can muster neither great admiration nor great hatred for Marshal Petain. In fact, while I don’t see that he did much good, the positive aspects of Petain for me rest mostly on who it is that hates him the most. The fact that he was declared a traitor by the French Republic is rather a compliment in my book. What did he do? Well, he finally laid to rest the Third Republic which makes him, to my mind, somewhat like Charlotte Corday; not a monarchist, but someone who did a service for France. He replaced the revolutionary slogan with a more sound one, rejected equality in favor of hierarchy and took many steps in the right direction. Yet, all of those steps make it all the more glaring that he did not go the whole way and restore the traditional Kingdom of France. However, it is possible the Germans would not have allowed this anyway and the German occupation stands in the way of sound and dispassionate appraisal of Petain. Such is why, again, I cannot have very strong opinions about him one way or the other. Given the German defeat and the subsequent collaborationist label given to Petain, it might have been better for the reputation of the monarchy that it was not restored.

For those I thought I would add to list, the first is Generalissimo Francisco Franco, from 1939 to 1975 the “Caudillo” of Spain. Franco was one of the good guys though as long as current mentalities hold sway he will never be given credit for it. Franco was not an ideal leader but he was certainly a necessary one. The Spanish should thank God that he decided to take action and bring down the atrocity that was the Second Republic. His promotion of the Spanish identity was good, his staunch anti-communism was good, his pushing for greater unity among the Spanish-speaking countries was good and of course it was good that he restored the monarchy, in name early on and in fact after his passing. His action in the Spanish Civil War likely saved Spain as we know it and perhaps western civilization. The republic was simply a Soviet satellite state and had the nationalists not won the war there would have been a communist foothold in western Europe and the whole continent would have been outflanked. In crushing it, Franco did the world a service. Was he perfect? No. He was a general, a military man, and ruled like one, the result being that the beneficial changes he brought to Spain were mostly only skin deep. Had he taken care to go beyond obedience and outward conformity, his party would not have lost the first post-war elections in Spain so badly. Some, I know, have blamed the King for having elections at all but, if after decades in power, Franco had done more to truly change Spain and restore the Spanish character, the elections would have resulted in a reaffirmation of the existing system and not its abandonment. As I’ve often said, Franco was like Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”, he may not have been nice, his ways may not always have been pretty but, at the end of the day, we needed him on that wall.

Finally, just because there is so much obsession over him at the moment, I will add Russian President Vladimir Putin who has been in power in Russia, either as President or Prime Minister, since 1999. Far too many people tend to condemn or praise everything he does without thinking when, in fact, he’s neither as good or as bad as most like to believe. On the positive side, he’s easily the best the leader republican Russia has had (so better than the Soviet leaders and his old boss Yeltsin), he has stood up for Russia rather than selling her out as others have done and in domestic policy he has acted to protect the Russian Orthodox Church, tried to push back against the demographic decline in Russia and has put Russian national interest ahead of world opinion on a number of fronts. All good. On the negative side he has, for short term gain or even the mere appearance of it, armed and strengthened despicable regimes that have historic grudges against Russia and designs on Russian territory. As the recent terrorist attack further demonstrates, he has also allowed in or failed to stop large numbers of illegal aliens from the former Soviet republics in for cheap labor on the absurd belief that their shared Soviet past will somehow make Asiatic Muslims and Slavic Christians blend together seamlessly. He’s no worse than most western leaders in that regard but he’s certainly no better. As for the people who should actually be ruling Russia, the Romanovs, he has again taken some very positive steps but, as I’ve said before, those very steps make it all the more incomprehensible to not go the rest of the way and restore the Orthodox Russian Empire in total as it should be.

The fact that so many still defend him, no matter what, is part of the problem and it causes any potential “strong man” to take the proponents of traditional authority for granted. In other words, give them a few crumbs and they will support you even if you don’t accomplish what they claim to be their actual goal. That is my biggest problem with these types. I don’t like them making traditional conservatives “comfortable” in the artificial societies they find themselves in. What Dollfuss, Petain or Putin offer may be better but it is by no means ‘good enough’, it is not the Austrian Empire, the Kingdom of France or the Russian Empire and no one should settle for less. By all means, back those that are moving in a better direction, back them as the means to an end, but for goodness sake do not let your support be unconditional and forget what that end goal really is.

For further reading, check these past articles:
Monarchism and the Corporate State in Portugal
Honorable Mention: Kurt von Schuschnigg
The Day Franco Restored the Monarchy
The Tragedy of the Second Spanish Republic
France: Republican By Default
The House of Hapsburg in World War II

The Superiority of Monarchy