POPULAR ALLIANCE 1921-1923
Author: Velichko Georgiev
After the First World War social and political struggles in Bulgaria intensified. The bourgeoisie, which was one of the main perpetrators of the disastrous outcome of the sustained efforts for solving the Bulgarian national question, was losing its political positions. On the other hand, there grew the democratic peasants' movement, with the Bulgarian Agrarian Union and the revolutionary communist movement at the head. For some time, the Bulgarian Agrarian Popular Union became a ruling factor and pursued a policy of anti-bourgeois orientation.
Under the circumstances the bourgeoisie exerted all its strength and sought opportunities to defend its interests. To this end it worked along several lines. The bourgeois party front was activated and reorganized: the United Popular Progressive Party and the National Liberal Party were established; in July 1922 the "pro-Antente" parties — the Democratic, the United Popular Progressive, and the Radical Party — formed a political group called the Constitutional Bloc whose goal was to replace the agrarian government with their own by constitutional means. At the same time, the officers and the intellectuals who were under bourgeois influence, stirred up. A whole system of organizations emerged whose purpose was to struggle against the agrarian rule and the communist movement. Attempts were made at improving the professional organization of bourgeois business. Some organizations of bourgeois non-partisan character such as the Great Freemason's Lodge, joined the struggle for defending the interests of the bourgeoisie and worked for the unification of the entire bourgeois camp.
In this process there emerged some organizations of strong nationalistic character which were influenced by fascism quickly developing in Italy. Those were the Bulgarian Popular Union "Kubrat", the Bulgarian Nationalistic Bloc, and the Union of Soldiers. However, they failed to spread their influence among the supporters of the bourgeois system.
Representatives of big business (Bulgarian and foreign) also joined in the efforts for the consolidation of the disunited forces of the bourgeoisie. They acted through the United Popular Progressive Party and through sections of the Democratic Party and the National Liberal Party. On the 21st October 1921, they set up a political formation which they called the "Popular Alliance". They gave it their financial and every other support and assigned it the mission of popularizing the idea of the establishment of a united bourgeois political front with active anti-agrarian and anti-communist purpose.
The Popular Alliance developed as a non-numerous elite political organization of a section of city bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia (military and civil) connected with it. It set up its branches in most of the district centers throughout the country. The program and ideology of the Popular Alliance represent a mixture of principles typical of the arsenal of traditional bourgeois parties, the stress being on the concepts widely spread in the world at that time of the necessity of consolidating the bourgeois state machine, of active policy of state interference in the economic life, of flexible social policy, of creating national and social unity under the bourgeois banner.
The Popular Alliance worked hard to popularize the idea of establishing a united bourgeois front. To a certain degree it contributed to the creation of the Constitutional Bloc and exerted efforts for coordinating the oppositional and anti-communist activity of all bourgeois forces. It encouraged the anti-governmental activity of some national liberation organizations and first of all of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. The Popular Alliance actively participated in the preparation and the staging of the military take-over on the 9th June 1923 and became a mandatory of the Military Union in the forming of the Ninth-of-June Government. In this way, with the help of all champions of the bourgeois system, it turned into a ruling factor.
In the six-party coalition government the Popular Alliance took a central place and, with the support of many bourgeois factors and mainly of the Military Union, it was striving for an independent political role in the bourgeois camp, for becoming a leader and designer of the new political regime in Bulgaria. Several were the characteristic features of the regime which was taking shape: a trend towards strengthening of the state machine and of its repressive bodies in particular; a consistent and active anti-communist and anti-agrarian stand; a trend towards narrowing of traditional bourgeois liberalism, and encouragement of intense nationalism. The Popular Alliance was well-disposed to the advent of fascism especially in Italy.
In order to be able to realize its intentions after the coup, the Popular Alliance tried to broaden its organizational structure by establishing branches in almost all district and most of the regional towns. However, it could not spread in the villages. With the aid of the Military Union and of other factors, the Popular Alliance tried hard to create a socio-political basis of the regime through the coalescence of all bourgeois parties, it taking the lead. In this respect it was actively supported by the United Popular Progressive Party which, to avoid losing control over the Popular Alliance, even joined in its ranks in July 1923.
The struggle of the Popular Alliance to impose on all bourgeois parties a coalescence in a big bourgeois formation was simultaneous with the struggle of the Bulgarian Communist Party to create a united front of all democratic forces in Bulgaria with the goal of overthrowing the Ninth-of-June Government and establishing a workers' and peasants' government. At the end of August 1923, the Bulgarian Communist Party succeeded in laying the foundations of the united front together with the then-forming left wing of the Bulgarian Agrarian Union. At the same time the Popular Alliance, using the advantages of power, enforced the formation of a united bourgeois political front by proclaiming the establishment of the Democratic Alliance on the 10th August 1923. This was preceded by the formal merger of the United Popular Progressive Party and the Popular Alliance and the merger of the Democratic Party and the Radical Party in a Union of Democracy (on 2nd August 1923). Due to the opposition of the Bulgarian Workers' Social Democratic Party and of the Radical Party, the National Liberal Party dropped out of the ruling Ninth-of-June Coalition. That is why, despite the will of the greater part of its members, it remained outside the Democratic Alliance.
The process of consolidation of the bourgeois political front under the auspices of the Popular Alliance ran parallel with the beginning of a process of polarization of its partners in rule and in forming new parties. This process reached its climax at the end of 1923 and developed even further in 1924.
In August and September 1923 an orchestrated process of building up the Democratic Alliance as a party coalition began, where the Popular Alliance became one of the constituent fractions which aimed at performing a uniting and leading role. The Popular Alliance played an important part in the drawing up of provisional statutes of the Democratic Alliance in which the views of the constituent parties on the organizational issues were predominant.
Some party functionaries who had their political baptism in the Popular Alliance, subsequently became the founders of such formations as the Bulgarian Popular Union "Kubrat", the Union of Bulgarian National Legions, the "Zveno" Political Circle, the National Society for Political Revival (Fascists), the National Social Movement, etc., which promoted the spread of fascism in Bulgaria.
In September 1918, Tsar Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son Boris III in order to divert anti-monarchic revolutionary tendencies. Under the Treaty of Neuilly (November 1919) Bulgaria ceded its Aegean coastline to Greece, recognized the existence of Yugoslavia, ceded nearly all of its Macedonian territory to that new state, and had to give Dobrudja back to Romania. The country had to reduce its army to no more than 22,000 men, and to pay reparations exceeding $400 million. Bulgarians generally refer to the results of the treaty as the "Second National Catastrophe".
Elections in March 1920 gave the Agrarians a large majority, and Aleksandar Stamboliyski formed Bulgaria's first peasant government. He faced huge social problems, but succeeded in carrying out many reforms, although opposition from the middle and upper classes, the landlords and the officers of the army remained powerful. In March 1923, Stamboliyski signed an agreement with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia recognizing the new border and agreeing to suppress Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), which favoured a war to regain Macedonia from Bulgaria. This triggered a nationalist reaction, and the Bulgarian coup d'état of 9 June 1923 eventually resulted in Stamboliykski's assassination. A right-wing government under Aleksandar Tsankov took power, backed by the army and the VMRO, which waged a White terror against the Agrarians and the Communists. In 1926, the Tsar persuaded Tsankov to resign, a more moderate government under Andrey Lyapchev took office and an amnesty was proclaimed, although the Communists remained banned. A popular union including the reorganized Agrarians won elections in 1931 under the name "Popular Bloc".
In May 1934 another coup took place, removing the Popular Bloc from power and establishing an authoritarian military regime headed by Kimon Georgiev. A year later, Tsar Boris managed to remove the military regime from power, restoring a form of parliamentary rule (without the re-establishment of the political parties) and under his own strict control. The Tsar's regime proclaimed neutrality, but gradually Bulgaria gravitated into alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
Aleksander Tsolov Tsankov (29 June 1879 - 27 July 1959) was a leading Bulgarian right wing politician between the two World Wars.
Professor of Political Economy at Sofia University from 1910 onwards, he took a leading role in the overthrow of the government of Aleksander Stamboliyski in 1923 and was chosen to head the coalition that succeeded the deposed Premier. The coup was able to succeed as the Bulgarian Communist Party took a neutral attitude towards the Agrarians rather than supporting Stamboliyski. He became Prime Minister of Bulgaria on 9 June that same year and continued in the role until 4 January 1926. His Premiership was marked by deep internal struggles with the Bulgarian Communist Party, which Tsankov repressed mercilessly, declaring Martial law and outlawing the Communists in 1925 following an attempt on Tsar Boris's life and a bomb attack on the St Nedelya Cathedral. His actions led to Comintern denouncing the government as a "vicious Bulgarian fascist clique", whilst he later turned his attentions on the Agrarian Peoples Union, who were also suppressed, albeit less ferociously. A brief invasion by Greek troops followed and, although they did not stay long following condemnation by the League of Nations, the country was left crippled by debt and Tsankov was removed from office after failing to secure a loan for the country. By this point any support for Tsankov had dwindled as the people tired of his reign of terror.
After being removed from the political mainstream, Tsankov began to develop an admiration for Fascism and soon became a supporter of Adolf Hitler. In 1932 he set up his own National Social Movement largely in imitation of the Nazi Party. The movement proved fairly unimportant (although it did represent a further fragmentation of the governing coalition), lacking the support of "Zveno" and failing to secure Nazi approval, which was largely reserved for the Union of Bulgarian National Legions. Nonetheless, Tsankov was appointed by the Nazis in 1944 as Prime Minister of the Bulgarian Government in Exile set up in Germany in response to Kimon Georgiev's Fatherland Front government.
After the Second World War, Alexander Tsankov fled to Argentina and died in Belgrano (Buenos Aires) in 1959.
Picture 1: Sample illustrations on the text above.
(i). The second national catastrophe in 1918 lead to a crisis in the party and political system of the country. The public influence of Socialists and Agrarians rose sharply at the expense of the traditional parties. Meanwhile, totalitarian trends emerged in this country. They found their expression in the establishing of the Popular Alliance (1922), where members became non-party bankers and intellectuals, people from IMRO and the army circles, united in the Military League. Prof. Alexander Tsankov headed the Alliance.
Copyright © 2009 by the author.