Vlad Țepeș League
Vlad Țepeș League
Liga Vlad Țepeș
|Youth wing||Tineretul Țepist (to 1930)|
National conservatism (Romanian)
|Political position||Center-right to Far-right|
|National affiliation||National Union (1931–1932)|
Antirevisionist League (1933)
Anti-Bolshevik Front (1935)
The Vlad Țepeș League (Romanian: Liga Vlad Țepeș, LVȚ), later Conservative Party (Partidul Conservator, PC), was a political party in Romania, founded and presided upon by Grigore Filipescu. A "right-wing conservative" movement, it emerged around Filipescu's Epoca newspaper, and gave political expression to his journalistic quarrels. Primarily, the party supported the return of Prince Carol as King of the Romanians, rejecting the Romanian Regency regime. It achieved this goal in 1930, but failed to capitalize on the gains. LVȚ and PC monarchism was generally moderate and within the classical political spectrum, reclaiming the legacy of the old-regime Conservative Party; however, the League idealized efficient government by dictatorial means, and its fringes grouped ultra-nationalists and fascists.
Always a minor force, the PC relied on support from larger parties: the Democratic Nationalist Party (PND), the People's Party (PP), and eventually the National Peasants' Party (PNȚ). While its more radical members left to join the Iron Guard, Filipescu stated his opposition to fascism, and, eventually, to the authoritarian tendencies of King Carol, who ultimately banned all political parties but the National Renaissance Front. The PC suspended itself in March 1938, and Filipescu's death in August put a definitive end to its activities.
LVȚ was founded in June 1929 by Filipescu, a former politician of the pre-World War I Conservative Party. He had later helped establish the right-wing PP, but expelled by Alexandru Averescu, allegedly for insubordination and factionalism. Fluctuating between several parties and trying to revive the conservative movement, he had been affiliated with the PNȚ, ultimately returning to the PP in early 1927. This was the period of a Regency regime, which looked after public affairs for the minor King Michael I, and which Filipescu resented. He revived the old Bucharest Conservative daily Epoca, directing it against establishment politicians and, in particular, against Barbu Știrbey, his lover Queen Marie, and the domineering National Liberal Party (PNL).
Although widely tipped as a PP front-runner, Filipescu left the party when Averescu asked him to stop attacking Știrbey. The League was centered on Epoca, but also put out two political newspapers in the provinces: Timpul (Râmnicu Sărat) and Tribuna Liberă (Râmnicu Vâlcea). Founded to appeal to centrist conservatives and monarchists, it grouped some members of the old landowning class, together with industrialists such as the Armenian-Romanian Alfred Cerchez. Other major figures were Alexandru Periețeanu (as the economic doctrinaire), H. Oteteleșeanu (as adviser on cultural issues), and N. Miclescu.
The League was nevertheless an eclectic movement: existing alongside "a plethora of 'leagues' and 'guards', more or less secretive, more or less prone to violence", it also hosted national conservatives and fascist sympathizers, including Amos Frâncu and Gheorghe Cantacuzino-Grănicerul. The former had previously organized the ultra-nationalist and antisemitic Cross Brotherhood of Transylvania, as well as an episodic National Radical Peasants' and Workers' Party. The League's youth wing, Tineretul Țepist, was organized by the Aromanian Gheorghe Beza, who also had flirtations with the local far-right.
With its choice of name, the group honored the medieval prince, Vlad the Impaler, who was ruthless against corruption. Vlad was notably the protagonist in a 1930 play by Ludovic Dauș, which documented his many violent repressions and hinted at his necessary return. This cultural nod was reviewed by the humorist Nae Dumitrescu Țăranu, who doubted that Filipescu cold ever fulfill the promise: even in the event that all "scoundrels" and "exploiters of the country" would find themselves impaled on Filipescu's orders, some would bribe the executioner and have their stakes fitted with "comfy stools". As noted in 1932 by the review Le Monde Slave, the Vlad reference condensed the League's own "political romanticism": "it wants to purify public life using strong measures, if need be through blood and iron, that is to say by dictatorial means." Its violence was "a verbal violence, within the limits of legality."
As early as August 1929, journalist I. Hașegan noted that Filipescu's group had opportunities created for it by the other political players, capitalizing on their mistakes. Between the other parties' internecine "fight for extermination" and "infamies", the "reactionaries" could "garner sympathy and adhesion from all around." The League's consequent demand for a ban on political parties remained particularly controversial, and caused the League to be seen as a "fascist element" in Romanian society, or, as noted by Filipescu himself, a "retrograde" faction. However, Filipescu's anti-democratic idealization, deplored by Le Monde Slave, did not go as far as to demand a putsch. He noted that dictatorship was an ideal for later on, and that the LVȚ only hoped to prepare the terrain for its application.
Despite becoming known abroad as Romania's "Baby Fascist", Filipescu openly rejected Italian fascism, which he often derided in his Epoca articles. His "extreme" approach was also directed against local fascists, such as in July 1930, when he demanded the reintroduction of capital punishment, especially for his former associate Beza. Beza, who was also working as an interviewer at Epoca, had been arrested after attempting to kill PNL minister Constantin Angelescu. According to his own testimony, he was paid to do so by the Iron Guard, a leading far-right movement. Beza also recalled that, also in 1930, he merged Tineretul Țepist into the Guard—though its activists continued to act independently, and eventually seceded violently in 1934.
Monarchism and dissent
An instrumental purpose of the LVȚ was redirecting support for the exiled Prince Carol, who wished to return to Romania and depose his son. Filipescu was seen as the prince's "most devoted friend" and "one of [his] confidants". As acknowledged by Cerchez, the League had the Carlist agenda for a primary objective. Carol returned triumphantly in June 1930, after a months-long national press campaign in which Epoca represented the moderate side. Throughout the interval, Filipescu debated with the more radical Carlist Nae Ionescu, who had been harshly critical of the Romanian Regency regime. According to Le Monde Slave, the similarities between Filipescu and Ionescu ended where Filipescu became anti-theoretical, "honest and trenchant", "one of the last examples of Romanian conservatives."
In early 1931, the LVȚ stood by the PNȚ government of Iuliu Maniu, criticizing the opposition's demand for early elections. Filipescu asked for, and was granted, the prefecture of Ilfov County, wishing to present himself as a model administrator. Nevertheless, the League contested the 1931 general election as part of the National Union alliance, which was headed by Nicolae Iorga, the incumbent Prime Minister, and his PND. According to La Revue Slave, Epoca had an important part to play in the agitation leading up to the elections, supporting Iorga's ideal of government by technocrats. The Union won 289 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, of which the LVȚ took five, propelling Filipescu to Senate.
At a League congress held at Bucharest's Tomis Hall that November, Filipescu was reelected League president. He was seconded by a Central Council, or Sfat, whose members were also elected during the congress. On that occasion, Filipescu announced that the LVȚ was primarily a conservative movement indebted to Britain's Conservative and Unionist group (which he described as a "traditional organism" rather than a party), and also a direct successor to the defunct Romanian Conservative Party. On March 10, 1932, he took his party out of the governing alliance, censuring Iorga's fiscal policies in the wake of the Great Depression. In particular, Filipescu and his followers rejected debt relief promises as an attack on economic liberalism.
Also that day, Filipescu reformed the LVȚ, formally reclaiming for the title of "Conservative Party" (PC). It used as its logo "two triangles formed by two lines crossing" (⋈). In the recall elections of July 1932 the PC ran alone, winning just 0.62 of the vote nationally, and thus failing to meet the electoral threshold. As a PC representative, Periețeanu participated in the civic movement for the Little Entente and against Hungarian irredentism. Called "Antirevisionist League", it also grouped figures from the PNȚ, PNL, and National Agrarian Party. The Conservatives then formed a cartel with the PP during the December 1933 election, but registered dismal results.
By 1934, when Filipescu tried to win himself a seat in the by-elections of Ilfov, the party was moving closer to the democratic opposition movement formed by the PNȚ against King Carol. Filipescu and Maniu agreed that Carol was an autocrat, and, according to rumors, began flirting with republicanism. In August 1934, Filipescu hosted in Bucharest a grand reception in honor of Maniu. In March 1935, objecting to Carol's state of emergency and censorship regime, he approached the PP, the PNȚ, the Radical Peasants' Party (PȚR) and the Georgist Liberals for a tactical alliance. This was weakened by the PȚR, which insisted that Maniu had tolerated corruption and was therefore unfrequentable.
Filipescu continued to view economic nationalism as engendering disaster with its debt-relief programs, which, he argued, were akin to "Bolshevism". Also in 1935, he and Aurel Vlad set up an "Anti-Bolshevik Front", touring the country to persuade the masses not to vote for such measures. In 1936, the group still described itself as "essentially dynastic" and "essentially nationalist". By then, it had lost some of its supporters on the right, including Cantacuzino. They were either attracted into the more successful Iron Guard, or tried to reestablish the old LVȚ with support from the anti-Carlist General Ion Antonescu. The PC's prominent cadres included moderates Periețeanu, Costin Sturdza, Emil Ottulescu, Ilie Pănoiu, Gheorghe Budișteanu and Stan Perșinaru. At some point during that interval, Vlad was attested as a card-carrying member of the PC, and a party eminence—alongside Filipescu, Ottulescu, and Periețeanu.
For his part, Filipescu was a staunch critic of the Guard's fascism, particularly alarmed by the possibility of an alliance between Romania and Nazi Germany. In December 1936, at the Conservative Club, he spoke in favor of a "moderate-party" union against both fascism and communism, criticizing the Romanian far-right as faux conservatives. As he noted, none of the fascist and pro-fascist groups actually stood for "property rights", their nationalism being neither "civilized" nor "generous". In 1937, he had reached the conclusion that fascism was also a facet of "Bolshevism", and demanded that the state mobilize its resources against antisemitic agitation. While he acknowledged the theoretical existence of a "Jewish Question", Filipescu remained committed to non-violence and spoke of Jews as "siblings of another race". Although critical of the Popular Front, he insisted that Romania could only rely on the strength of her friendship with France.
As noted by Georges Oudard, the PC never stood a chance to regain power, but became noted for advocating "the sanity of economic and financial orthodoxy against the temptations of a coming world". The party criticized all attempts at furthering the land reform, and, through Periețeanu, proposed abandoning the gold standard for the Romanian leu, favoring fiat money as the "best economic policy"—although, as Filipescu had argued in 1931, this measure was seen by the PC as tragic. Periețeanu also wanted the state to withdraw from any regulation of foreign trade.
During the local elections of early 1937, the PC formalized its alliance with the PNȚ and Social Democrats, with underground support from the Romanian Communist Party. This pact, ridiculed from the right, was meant to curb the rise of the Iron Guard and the National Christian Party (PNC). Its bid failed, again due to PȚR opposition. Filipescu himself ran on the PNȚ list for the Yellow Sector of Bucharest, during which time the far-right publicized his links to Jewish businessmen.
By late 1937, Filipescu, Averescu and Cantacuzino were involved in secret talks to create a right-wing monarchist "national union" around the PNC; that projected government coalition would have also involved the PȚR and the Georgists. Filipescu declared his skepticism with such dealings and favored the PNȚ, demanding a transitional but "authoritarian" government under the PNȚ's Ion Mihalache; this solution, he argued, could reinforce public order and shield the country's minorities from persecution. However, as running mates in the general elections of December 1937, Filipescu's Conservatives closely followed the Maniu party line, which brought them into a "non-aggression pact" with the Guard.
The PC was effectively banned in early 1938 by Carol's National Renaissance Front, which absorbed politicians from the PP, the PNL, and many other parties; it survived until March, when Filipescu suspended its activities indefinitely, citing the international situation as his rationale. This claim was ridiculed by the National Christian Țara Noastră, which noted that the Conservatives had become inconsistent, "useless and ridiculous." Epoca survived until July 15, 1938, closing down due to a combination of censorship and financial hurdles. In August, Filipescu died after failed surgery to treat his heart condition.
|1931||Part of the National Union|
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- Armand Călinescu (contributor: Al. Gh. Savu), Însemnări politice 1916–1939. Bucharest: Humanitas, 1990. ISBN 973-28-0164-6
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