In 1926, the League split in two, and disenchanted with Cuza’s poor leadership, Codreanu founded his own movement, the Legion of the Archangel Michael. From abject poverty and irrelevance, this group would rise to become the most powerful political force in Romania, though constantly harried and attacked by both Jewish press outlets and the other political parties who held power in a carousel, each dedicating themselves to destroying the Legion through extra-judicial murder and imprisonment.
The Jews of Romania are mentioned numerous times in the book, but unlike many tracts of the time, all of Codreanu’s anti-semitism is based on detailed anecdotal experience rather than theories about eugenics. He repeatedly quotes various Jewish papers which slander his organization, Christianity, and ethnic Romanians. He also presents the association of Jews with Communism, particularly as was witnessed in neighboring Hungary under the short-lived but devastating Bela Kun regime. The anti-semitism expressed consistently comes as a response to realities within the Romanian nation, especially startling demographic ratios concerning education, where Codreanu correctly deduces that after failing to deny the Jews political rights in Romania, unless they were deported to Palestine they would make up Romania’s elite within a generation, and this would be the death of the Romanian nation. Because of this, no matter what one’s opinions of Jews are, the author commands a justified understanding of why he felt as he did within the socio-historical context.
In 1938, an almost assured perseverance and victory of the Legion was brought to a halt by the imposition of a royal dictatorship by King Carol II who had usurped the throne with the help of treacherous politicians after his own self-exile with his mistress. With unlimited power, and seeing the Legion as an uncontrollable threat, he finally organized a special trial in which he managed to convict the immensely popular Codreanu. On November 30th, along with several of his fellow Legionaries, Codreanu was callously executed during a prison transfer. This came to be known by Romanians as the ‘Night of the Vampires’.
The Legion’s weaponized division, the ‘Iron Guard’ went into hiding, but later emerged when Carol’s grip on power was weakened by his relinquishing of Romanian territory to neighboring countries. Together with Marshal Ion Antonescu, they removed Carol from power, and the new leader of the Guard, Horia Sima became the prime minister. This ‘Legionary State’ was short-lived and with Hitler’s blessing, staunch axis ally Antonescu removed all of the Legionaries from government in a violent event falsely characterized as the ‘Legionary Rebellion’. Supposedly this is where the Legion perpetrated gruesome crimes against minorities, but the evidence for this is probably one of the least convincing examples of the era. Nuremberg convicted almost every other rightist movement in Europe except the Iron Guard who were cleared of all charges against them. This is of course never mentioned by historians eager to smear the most Reactionary force of the last century.
The chapters dealing with Legionary ideology fare very well under scrutiny though there are some points I have disagreements on, and others that I would entertain with caution as they are presented in the book. Codreanu based his entire movement around not only a commitment to nationalist principles which were obviously experiencing a boom in popularity at this time, but also a sincere Orthodox mysticism which sets the Legion apart from dull gangs like Mussolini’s Blackshirts. It would really be false to characterize the movement as either National Socialist or Fascist, it was instead profoundly Reactionary! This is likely why Evola saw its dissolution as a tragedy. Despite its own leader being executed by the monarch, the Legion was pro-monarchy. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the book is the following line:
A few glaring spelling errors are an annoyance, especially in what is supposed to be a ‘fully revised’ edition, and the the introduction by Kerry Bolton and historical overview by Lucian Tudor, while very welcome additions to the book, tend to amp up the repetition factor which can become annoyingly drawn out. This said, the content is remarkable. While mainly autobiographical, there are several sections clipped directly from the articles of prominent thinkers at the time, and a humorous section where Codreanu sarcastically parrots the contradictory and contrived accusations that were hurled at the Legion towards the end of its life. Also contained are a few photographs which look wonderful, a couple of speeches, and an account of Codreanu’s personality by his successor, Horia Sima. One improvement I would have wanted to see was a greater footnoting within the body of the text itself, since several things in the Romanian cultural context were confusing to me and could have done with some explanation.
In November, I am going to present and offer analysis of Codreanu’s ideological ideas in depth, so watch out for that post.
As a final word then, I can recommend to Reactionary readers no other text concerning heroism more than this one. As is expected, most of our coveted books are ascetic in nature and present the more contemplative side of our ideology, but this is a no holds barred account of what the heroic aspect looks like in practice. I have never sympathized with a struggle like that of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. It is my hope that all of us can emulate his boldness and determination.
(For more profile of Codreanu, head over to this article at the Mad Monarchist)