The 4th of August regime in Greece under Ioannis Metaxas has long been treated by theories of ‘generic fascism’ as a minor example of authoritarianism or at most a case of failed fascism. This derives from the ideas that the Metaxas dictatorship did not originate from any original mass ‘fascist’ movement, lacked a genuinely fascist revolutionary ideological core and its figurehead came from a deeply conservative-military background. In addition, the regime balanced the introduction ‘from above’ of certain ‘fascist’ elements (inspired by the regimes in Germany, Italy and Portugal) with a pro-British foreign policy and a strong deference to both the Crown and the church/religion. Nevertheless, in this chapter, I argue that the 4th of August regime should be relocated firmly within the terrain of fascism studies. The establishment and consolidation of the regime in Greece reflected a much wider process of political and ideological convergence and hybridisation between anti-democratic/anti-liberal/anti-socialist conservative forces, on the one hand, and radical rightwing/fascist politics, on the other. It proved highly receptive to specific fascist themes and experiments (such as the single youth organisation, called EON), which it transplanted enthusiastically into its own hybrid of ‘radicalised’ conservatism. Although far less ideologically ‘revolutionary’ compared to Italian Fascism or German National Socialism, the 4th of August regime’s radicalisation between 1936 and 1941 marked a fundamental departure from conventional conservative-authoritarian politics in a direction charted by the broader fascist experience in Europe.
During the late 1920s and 1930s, a group of Italian modernist architects, known as ‘rationalists’, launched an ambitious bid for convincing Mussolini that their brand of architectural modernism was best suited to become the official art of the Fascist state (arte di stato). They produced buildings of exceptional quality and now iconic status in the annals of international architecture, as well as an even more impressive register of ideas, designs, plans, and proposals that have been recognized as visionary works. Yet, by the end of the 1930s, it was the official monumental stile littorio – classical and monumental yet abstracted and stripped-down, infused with modern and traditional ideas, pluralist and ‘willing to seek a third way between opposite sides in disputes’, the style curated so masterfully by Marcello Piacentini – that set the tone of the Fascist state’s official architectural representation. These two contrasted architectural programmes, however, shared much more than what was claimed at the time and has been assumed since. They represented programmatically, ideologically, and aesthetically different expressions of the same profound desire to materialize in space and eternity the Fascist ‘Third Way’ future avant la lettre. In both cases, architecture (and urban planning as the scalable articulation of architecture on an urban, regional, and national territorial level) became the ‘total’ media used to signify and not just express, to shape and not just reproduce or simulate, to actively give before passively receiving meaning. Still, it was the more all-encompassing and legible coordinates of space and time in the ‘rooted’ modernism of the stile littorio that captured and expressed a third-way mediation between universality and singularity and between futural modernity and tradition better than the trenchant, inflexible anti-monumentalism of the rationalists.
In the years between the two world wars a fledgling radical force that we today call ‘fascism’ was transformed from a tiny fringe movement into a dominant international political paradigm that challenged liberal ‘mainstream’ values and violently reversed decades of progressive change. Fascism’s spectacular and devastating success underlined how limited, resented, and reversible the alleged liberal consensus was in large parts of Europe during the interwar years; and how much demand for radical ultranationalist and authoritarian alternatives lay just below the fragile veneer of the liberal-democratic mainstream. The worldwide economic crisis was a catalyst for, rather than the primary cause of, this transformation, revealing and legitimising strong pre-existing concerns and resentments, both among the elites and public opinion.
What is the relevance of this sombre historical precedent for contemporary Europe, haunted by perceptions of unprecedented existential, economic, and identity crises? How robust is the current mainstream consensus around liberal values and what kind of challenge does the continuing popularity of the radical populist right pose for ‘mainstream’ politics and society? More importantly, even if the new radical right still commands minority – though growing – support, are some of its extreme discourses becoming normalised and embedded into the mainstream?
Although the site of the ancient Circus Maximus was one of the most loaded spaces of the Fascist ‘Third Rome’, it has received limited attention as a privileged site where a dizzying array of myths and illusions were entertained, simulated, and deposited as new Fascist layers on Rome’s urban and mnemonic palimpsest. Previously a decayed, ‘unsightly’, and overcrowded hodgepodge of layers of life, history, and memory, it was substantially restored, ruthlessly emptied of its previous life, and then used for a multitude of Fascist rituals and projections (parades, celebrations, exhibitions, mass spectacles). In this article, I explore the diverse facets of the circus’s transformation in the 1930s and argue that the site was used as a prime space of enacting and simulating the full thrust of the Fascist regime’s regenerative repertoire, involving erasure and disruption of layers of the past, new additive elements and spatial practices, as well as a multitude of projections of a decidedly modern Fascist new order and temporality.
This peer-reviewed book series publishes research monographs and edited collections on modern and contemporary history. The remit of the series is broad in chronological (nineteenth to twenty-first centuries) and geographic (global coverage) terms to promote a multi-dimensional conversation on the diverse expressions of the ‘modern condition’; and on how particular ‘modern’ forces and processes shaped the world in micro- and macro-scales. The series fosters critical reflection on the study of modern concepts and ideologies; of political, cultural, and social change; of mobilities and exchanges within and across conventional borders; and of conflicts between competing actors, groups or ideas.
The series welcomes submissions from scholars of political, cultural, social, and intellectual history, as well as of scholars whose work on the modern world lies at the fruitful intersection of history, political science, cultural studies, and international relations. We particularly encourage interdisciplinary submissions that traverse traditional historical, geographical, or methodological boundaries; engage with transnational and comparative perspectives; promote long-term analysis of drivers and processes of historical change; and develop new perspectives on the fascinating plurality of modern and contemporary phenomena. We are committed to giving space to new scholarship that questions conventional assumptions about, and understandings of, the modern/contemporary world; or brings in focus previously under-studied topics and areas.
Authors who are interested in submitting proposals/full manuscripts or wish to discuss any publishing ideas that may fit the series are invited to contact either the series editor
Aristotle Kallis or the publisher at Brill,