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Democracy vs Fascism? January 17, 2013

Posted by smiffy in Fianna Fáil, History, Irish History, Irish Neutrality, Uncategorized.

Here’s an interesting cartoon, from the New Zealand Herald in 1933, of a rugby match in which democracy is depicted standing up against a strange bunch including Mussolini, Hitler, a figure depicted as ‘Spain’ and … someone else we know.


When I looked at it first, I thought it was suggesting that De Valera was either a fascist or linked to fascism. Looking again, I’m not so sure. The details of the picture, on the website of the New Zealand National Library,here, states that it ‘(s)hows a rugby team composed of Mussolini, Hitler, De Valera and Franco, with a football representing ‘Fascism’. They are rushing towards the goal which is defended by a man representing ‘Democracy”.

Given the date, 4 April 1933, it could hardly be Franco. So what, in the eyes of the cartoonist (Trevor Lloyd) have in common, that unites them against democracy? One interesting, perhaps coincidental, point to note is that the cartoonist  (according to this thesis) is the son of a wealthy Irish migrant to New Zealand, and grandson of a former Deputy Lieutenant of King’s County (Offaly). This may or may not have any bearing on the piece.

Many of the readers here will have a far surer grasp of the history and politics of the period than me. Would anyone care to hazard a suggestion as to what is going on in this?


1. sonofstan - January 17, 2013

No help at all, but Dev was probably the only one of the bunch pictured who ever played rugger.


2. John Goodwillie - January 17, 2013

Is it possible that the figure you say is Spain (where is this identification?) actually represents Latin America, and that the attack is actually on populism, fascism being regarded as a variety of populism?


smiffy - January 17, 2013

Thanks John. It doesn’t show up as well on the preview, but if you click on the image itself, you’ll see the full thing. The word ‘Spain’ is on the guy’s hat.


John Goodwillie - January 18, 2013

Thanks, Smiffy. The image needs to be enlarged to see it. Precisely one month previously there was founded in Spain Gil Robles’s conservative force CEDA which became the largest party in the elections that year. Possibly publicity had reached New Zealand. But this makes De Valera’s inclusion more mysterious, as he would not have been seen as a right-winger. Could the connection be that he was thought to be in league with the IRA, i.e. extra-parliamentary, anarchic, forces?


Laurence Cox - January 18, 2013

As I understand it De Valera was an explicit admirer of Salazar (who had founded the Portuguese regime in 1932) and had a number of good things to say about Mussolini (not least in relation to the incorporation of “Catholic social thought” into constitutional arrangements).


3. rockroots - January 18, 2013

President Oscar Carmona of Portugal? Founder of that country’s fascist state in 1928 but later eclipsed by Salazar. Just a guess based on the moustache!


4. reg - January 18, 2013

Given the intended audience, the background of the cartoonist and the presence of de Valera, I think it’s safe to assume that the firgure of ”democracy” isn’t a neutral manifestation of government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ as the caption intends (afterall de Valera had been democratically elected multiple times since 1917 and by 1933 been the head of numerous democratically elected governments). Instead democracy here means the British Empire’s version of ”democracy” which is white, liberal, capitalist and Protestant. I think given the intended audience this would have been taken as read.

Another interesting thing to note is that all four figures against ”democracy” are nomimally Catholic in some way. Spain is largely a Catholic country, De Valera a Catholic politician in a largely Catholic country, Mussolini was raised a Catholic and was head of a largely Catholic country and Hitler was raised a Catholic. However, the last two were not very religiously minded.


5. Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - January 18, 2013

Pure guesses on my part but de Valera was widely reviled in the 1920s and ‘30s in those parts of the British Empire closest to Britain, with New Zealand and Canada being notable examples. New Zealand experienced some agitation from its Irish communities during the Irish Revolution which drew a strong reaction from a significant Scots-Irish and Protestant population that had a considerable influence over the press. In the aftermath of the Civil War there was quite a bit of emigration by former “Loyalists” to New Zealand from all over Ireland bringing with them more animosity.

The election of de Valera and Fianna Fáil in 1932 was widely condemned in Dominion countries which opposed Irish Republicanism in most forms, a situation which worsened after FF began the process of dismantling the 1921 Treaty. De Valera started with the “land annuities” in ’32 and then the Oath of Allegiance to the British monarch after FF was re-elected on a landslide in the snap election of January 1933. After this he was regarded as the “bogeyman” of the British Empire and unflattering images and cartons were commonplace.

I would guess that this carton stems from the anti-Dev, anti-Irish stream of British thought that grew during the 1930s, though this sample is from the Dominions.


Starkadder - January 18, 2013

I read George Orwell’s “Diaries” a few months back and
there was a passage where (IIRC) Orwell lumped
De Valera and Gandhi in with Adolf, Benito and
Francisco as “Fascist leaders”- which would link
in with the stuff Reg.and Séamas Ó Sionnaigh mentioned
about democracy being percieved solely as the
realm of white British-descended Protestants. (In
fairness, I don’t Orwell was ever so crass as to
call Dev and Gandhi “Fascists” in his public writings).


sonofstan - January 18, 2013

Interesting that: Orwell definitely thought all nationalisms were bad, apart from his own brand of little Englandism, so I guess, using the sort of slippery slope algorithm where things that share one characteristic become ‘the same thing’ you could see how he would line up Dev and Gandhi on the same team as Hitler and Mussolini.


ejh - January 20, 2013

I read George Orwell’s “Diaries” a few months back and there was a passage where (IIRC) Orwell lumped De Valera and Gandhi in with Adolf, Benito and Francisco as “Fascist leaders”

Do you know where? Nortmally I know my Orwell pretty well, but this doesn’t ring any bells. There’s this, but I don’t think it’s what you’re referring to. (He also mentions de Valera in “Notes on Nationalism” but again, not in the way you describe.)


6. Dr. X - January 18, 2013

New Zealand was probably the most pro-British of the White commonwealth countries. It didn’t ratify the Statue of Westminster until 1947.

Could it be that republican democrat Dev is meant to be tackling Adolf and Benito?

Also, while there were certainly admirers of Salazar in Ireland in that era, I’ve never heard that the Spanish Bastard was one of them. And as far as his liking for corporatism goes, Joe Lee’s account of the creation of the Senate gives the picture of an institution whose corporate element was diluted from the very beginning, with most of the seats being under the control of the party machines, rather than being truly corporate. That implies some typically Dev-esque cunning intended to spike the guns of those agitating for corporatism in 1930s Ireland, rather than a sincere attempt to introduce corporatism in Ireland, in either the Salazar style or some other form.


Jim Monaghan - January 18, 2013

Treacys book on the CPI and others shows how Dev put all the then talking heads on a commission so that they could talk/bore each other to death on this.


7. Joe - January 18, 2013

Just noticed Dev is carrying a club like yer typical monkey-Paddy.


8. Michael Pidgeon - January 20, 2013

All of the people on the “attack” are – at least nominally – Catholic, which may have some bearing on it.


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