Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas:  jgo.e-reviews 4 (2014), 3 Rezensionen online / Im Auftrag des Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien in Regensburg herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Verfasst von: Christopher Gilley


Stefan Plaggenborg: Ordnung und Gewalt. Kemalismus – Faschismus – Sozialismus. München: Oldenbourg, 2012. 433 S. ISBN: 978-3-486-71272-8.

The First World War brought forth three new regimes proclaiming novel socio-political orders aspiring to solve the crises that had led to the recent conflagration: the Turkish republic created by the Kemalists, the Fascist state in Italy and the Soviet Union. However, of the three, only the Kemalist republic did not employ violence as a systematic means of rule, for all that it was clearly authoritarian, committed individual acts of mass murder and had been established in a bloody civil war involving ethnic cleansing on a massive scale. Guided by this observation, Plaggenborg compares Kemalism, Italian Fascism and Soviet socialism, convincingly justifying his choice of case studies on the basis of the conditions of their appearance and their contemporaneous historical development. For Plaggenborg, the regimes are not defined by their ideologies but their practices of acquiring and exercising power. In keeping with the monographs starting point, the emphasis is noticeably on Turkey. The Soviet Union, in particular, receives a much more cursory treatment.

The regimescommon origin in war presented them with similar problems regarding the creation of stable political organisations containing individuals with violent pasts. However, in contrast to the Bolsheviks and Fascists, the Kemalists did not initially try to create a broad party or mobilise the population. The leadership cults in the three states reflect this: a cult of Kemal barely existed during his lifetime; in Italy the mobilisation of a large part of the population through the self-conscious cultivation of the rulers image was the defining aspect of the regime, while Stalin employed mass staged events but maintained a controlling distance over them. Indeed, Turkey lacked the technical prerequisitesfor example, widespread literacy and a mass mediato propagate such a cult on a large scale. Therefore, unlike the Fascists, the Turkish ruling party did not fill its ranks with social groups on the peripheries of society threatened by loss of social position. Plaggenborg suggests that this is one of the reasons for the different nature of violence in Turkey.

Dissimilarities between the Turkish and Italian societies led to divergent practices of corporatism. The Kemalistscorporate system wanted to forestall the emergence of class conflicts that did not yet exist because the social prerequisites for them were absent; in Italy it aimed to deal with existing tensions. Mussolini understood corporatism as the totalitarian reconstruction of the state and social organisation, but this aspect was entirely absent in Turkey. Plaggenborg, therefore, rejects any suggestion that Kemalism was fascist. All three parties claimed a monopoly of state power in order to realise their ideals. Yet, the Kemalists employed the state of emergency only as a temporary measure, while the Fascists saw it as permanent; the former sought a return to constitutionalism, the latter did not. By contrast, the Bolsheviks hoped to drive out all remnants of the past society. Thus, both the Russian and Turkish regimes had secularising programmes, but in practice the Bolsheviks pursued more destruction than secularisation. The Kemalists took a less violent, more ambivalent direction by introducing secularisation while also trying to bring Islam under its control; indeed, the connection between being a Turk and being a Muslim remained.

In contrast to Kemalisms lack of systematic violence, Fascism turned its violence outwards to Africa after taking power, and then reimported the racism developed there to Italy. The Bolsheviks intensified and institutionalised the violence of the world and civil wars internally against the Soviet Unions population. While Plaggenborg partially grounds this in the structural reasons mentioned above, the deciding factor for him is that the Turkish elite set limits upon itself. This might sound like the counterpart to Jörg Baberowskis recent claim that Stalinist violence occurred because Stalin wished it: in Turkey, there was less violence because Kemal did not want it. Indeed, Plaggenborgs account of the Soviet Unions systematic violence certainly resembles that of Baberowski: Plaggenborg describes violence as a method of communication that changes both the perpetrators and victims, creating room for more and greater acts of brutality. Nevertheless, he is more willing to accept ideology as part of this, arguing that the Bolsheviksvision of a future socialist society helped overcome inhibitions against using violence. Moreover, with regard to Turkey, Plaggenborg also wants to know why the Kemalist elite were self-limiting. He asks whether the differences must be referred back to the Kemalistsvalues and morality: their belief in human dignity, the European Enlightenment, civic rights, the constitution and democratic principles, which both the Fascists and Bolsheviks lacked. Phrased like this, one might argue that it is in fact possible to trace the roots of the differences back to ideas, despite Plaggenborgs preference for seeing the practice of the regimes and not ideologies as their defining aspect.

This is a bold book that makes firm statements on contentious topics. Indeed, although the monograph argues strongly in favour of empirical comparison arising out of the historical development of regimes, it does devote a considerable amount of space to the debate of theoretical concepts, definitions and categories. After arguing that charisma is a function of social relations, Plaggenborg contends that the Weberian concepts of charismatic rule and the routinisation of charisma are too broad to be useful tools. He draws on Sven Reichhardts praxeological approach to fascism, but highlights the problems with praxeology, for example its inability to explain how the Italian Fascists reigned in their violence once they had come to power. Plaggenborg also dismisses the concept of political religion for Turkey and the Soviet Union as lacking a basis in the sources and consequently advises caution in applying the term to Italy. Here, one can agree that political religion is sometimes used as an extended metaphor that distorts more than it enlightens. However, perhaps Plaggenborg does not consider seriously enough the idea that the concept does identify a distinct characteristic of analogous regimes that sought to create profane utopias.

The monograph is also open to accusations that certain topics have not been sufficiently addressed or are lacking entirely. Of course, other areas could have received greater attention, but with three regimes under discussion, this would have required considerably more space. It would be fairer to say that such unavoidable omissions simply indicate what further research can be done. This in itself reveals the pioneering service of the book, namely Plaggenborgs convincing demonstration of the legitimacy and fruitfulness of a comparison of Kemalism, Fascism and Soviet socialism.

Christopher Gilley, Hamburg

Zitierweise: Christopher Gilley über: Stefan Plaggenborg: Ordnung und Gewalt. Kemalismus – Faschismus – Sozialismus. München: Oldenbourg, 2012. 433 S. ISBN: 978-3-486-71272-8, http://www.dokumente.ios-regensburg.de/JGO/erev/Gilley_Plaggenborg_Ordnung und Gewalt.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

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