Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Antisemitism at the Intersection of Corruption and Colonialism: Continuities of Nineteenth-Century Political Rhetoric in Interwar Romania

Fri31  Mar01:00pm(15 mins)
Melville Room


Raul Carstocea1
1 New Europe College, Bucharest, Romania


The topoi of ‘corruption’ and ‘colonialism’ that had emerged in nineteenth-century Romania in connection to infrastructure projects and the anxieties related to the prominence of foreign capital therein converged into an antisemitism serving as a proxy that displaced both. This rhetoric was taken over and further radicalised by far-right and fascist politicians in post-1918 Romania. The issue of ‘corruption’ was central to the rhetoric of the ‘Legion of the Archangel Michael’, Romania’s interwar fascist movement: its specific articulation entailed not only a wholesale rejection of the contemporary Romanian political establishment, but of democracy itself as a political system that breeds corruption through the incentive structure it presents to rent-seeking elites holding temporary, potentially non-renewable office. My paper argues that the legionary movement in interwar Romania adapted and further radicalised an already-existing 19th century connection between corruption and colonial anxieties, which identified Jews as simultaneously responsible for the former and as agents of colonial powers or colonisers in their own right. Rendering this connection both more explicit and more salient helped resolve the apparent paradox of an ultra-nationalist movement that positioned itself in opposition to and was in turn opposed by the authorities of a nationalising state.