Salazarism, Fascism and related political regimes: brief notes



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Salazarism, Fascism and related political regimes: brief notes.

It can be said that right-wing regimes, with conservative customs, advocates of discipline, the authority of the “Leader”, antidemocratic, with no freedom of expression and single-party system, are, on the whole, fascist or similar. At the beginning of the 20th Century, after the First World War, this type of ideology prospered. This could be observed in Italy (land of Mussolini’s Fascism) which held huge personal fascination for Hitler, in Germany. “Fascism – is a totalitarian doctrine developed by Benito Mussolini in Italy, from 1919 and during his government (1922-1943 and 1943-1945). The word "fascism" originates from fascio, a name for political or militancy groups that appeared in Italy between the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century; but also from fasces, which in the Roman Empire was a symbol for the magistrates: an axe with a handle surrounded by wooden sticks, which symbolized the power of the State and the unity of the people. The Italian fascists also became known as Blackshirts.” 1

Mussolini intended to turn Italy into a new Roman Empire, but “his” Italy only became a regional power. Hitler, a great admirer of Mussolini, created Nazism, which can be classed as “ultra-fascism”. In Nazism, besides the fascist traits, we encounter the notion of murdering people for having diseases, for having certain religious beliefs (Jehovah’s Witnesses or Judaism), or for being “sub-humans” – a key concept of Nazi racism which included all people of non-Aryan race. This regime led to the Second World War and the Holocaust. The Spanish Francoism was a fascizing regime that sprang up with the help of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Bloodthirsty, Franco led a coup d'état which culminated in the Spanish Civil War, which he won. He imposed a right-wing fascizing dictatorship. Portugal was a very interesting case (of particular importance for us). Following the implantation of the Republic (on 5 October 1910), the republican democratic regime was incapable of ensuring social order or progress. Salazar emerges from the coup of 28 May 1926. He instils a regime which he labels “Corporative”. He turns the President of the Republic into a symbolic figure. He treats Portugal as one and indivisible from Minho to Timor. He cosies up to conservative Catholic and monarchic sectors. He soon lets them know that he is not bringing back the monarchy. He creates the political police; he condones the deportation of anyone who opposes the regime, censorship of the press, and the Tarrafal concentration camp, in Cape Verde.

We should point out that Salazarism (as this regime is also known) was a kind of fascism without the fascist movement. Salazar hated crowds; he had an unpleasant voice and, basically, wanted “order on the streets and peace of spirit”. He managed to invent a variant of fascism that was essentially a rural regime with high rates of illiteracy and poverty. Football, the Roman Catholic religion, and alcoholism were an outlet for the majority of the population. Salazar wielded his authoritarian power between 1932 and 1968. “Salazarism without Salazar”, when Marcelo Caetano was in power, was overthrown in 1974. After 25 April 1974, the term “Fascism” was widely used to describe Salazarism, and the Comissão do Livro Negro (Black Paper Committee) on Fascism was created in 1978. We further find that Salazar created a “Weak Fascism”, which was different from Francoism (a lot more repressive) and very different from Mussolini’s regime or Nazism (the “hyper-fascism”).

The problem of Salazarism was that it moulded the contemporary Portuguese, making them used to the omnipotence of the State, to the lack of critical ability, to the lack of civic consciousness, to the lack of associative spirit. Other variations of this political model were Peronism and the Argentinean military dictatorship, and Pinochet’s regime in Chile. Nowadays we acknowledge the existence of several contemporary variations on fascism. In Africa, in Islamic countries, in Myanmar (formerly Burma), where strange military dictatorships maintain despotic power, the survival of antidemocratic right-wing regimes continues. It is not in any way misguided to state that the current Chinese political regime is “social-fascist” because, under the veil of a so-called Communist Party there is a strongly fascizing dictatorship and an ultra-capitalist economic system.

“Scientific socialism” or, to put it simply, “communism” was not a form of fascism. It is interesting to note that, despite a brief alliance, Nazism and Stalin’s “Communism” had their differences, since that very alliance was against nature. We put communism in quotation marks because the Communist parties have never claimed to have attained “Communism” but prefer to say they have achieved “socialism”. This regime, which practically disappeared with the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union, in 1991, was not fascism. It did not seek out obscurantism (though some people believe that it did occur with respect to the social sciences or art); in fact, the “communism” established in Russia in 1917 transformed a medieval country into the first to successfully send a satellite into space, as well as the first to send a man into space - Yuri Gagarin. All this occurred within forty years, which seems impossible, since the Soviet Union, or USSR, was the country that suffered the most casualties during the Second World War (about twenty million dead). It can be said that the so-called “communism” in the USSR also had stages, with the one led by Stalin being the harshest. This regime can be regarded as totalitarianism for the privileged, which acted on behalf of the people, with a notion of contempt for Liberty and even for Equality. Soviet leaders always had materially comfortable lives. The censorship of the press, the single-party system and military expansion, along with waging war on any form of religion make this regime a very rigid dictatorship. But there was a fundamental distinction between “communism” and fascism: personal growth was not possible in “communism”, because the means of production belonged to the state. Furthermore, “communism” did not produce a Holocaust on the scale of Hitler’s. Still, the Slavs were considered sub-humans according to Nazism and such a conviction did not exist in “communism”. The several variations of this regime like the Cuban, the various African variations, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Cambodian, or the North-Korean should be highlighted. Of these, the African variations most closely resemble fascism and nowadays only the Cuban and North-Korean “communism” remain. This last one is an especially repressive and isolating regime.

In short, it can be said that “communism”, having been a sworn enemy of fascism (but also of western democracies), resulted in a strange and dictatorial reality experienced mainly in two worlds simultaneously: the civil (poor) and the military (developed and rich). From watches to automobiles, and including space exploration, a frontier divided these two worlds. “Communism” failed largely because of it, since it disregarded light industry (which produces consumer goods that please the people) in favour of the heavy or “super-heavy” military and space industries. The omnipresence of political police, internal exile, the deportation of dissidents and even a genocide (which occurred in the aforementioned Cambodia) have impacted this political experiment very negatively. In “communist” China the panorama was very similar to that of the Soviet Union, with an overall higher rate of poverty. This regime would evolve, as we have mentioned, into a “social-fascism” when Deng Xiao Ping came to power. Ping stated his intention to create a “market socialism” which is a contradiction in terms. In reality China today is the country with the highest economic growth, but only due to a great deal of foreign investment and the use of slave or semi-slave labour. The Communist Party of China did not have the same commitment as other communist parties to invest in the cultural development of the immense population of its country. The famous work “Animal Farm” (by George Orwell) seems to be justifiably applied to political utopias, conjuring up the quote “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”.

Carlos Mota, 2010.



UTAD, Vila Real, Portugal.

Published by Raquel Almeida Moraes, PhD. UnB/UNESCO, 2010.


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