“Bonifica umana”

David Motadel’s New York Times opinion piece has a provocative title, which calls “internationalism” a dirty word for the far right. However, throughout the works of Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Paul Hanebrink, and Motadel’s The Global Authoritarian Moment, it appears that internationalism was closely tied to fascism. In my opinion, one of the key elements of fascism was “modernity”, whether in reaction to the international order, or the action of spreading it across the world.

                    Ben-Ghiat’s chapter focuses on the Ethiopian War and how it influenced debates of modernity. Ben-Ghiat describes Italy’s quest for “Aryanization”, “humane dictatorship” and convincing the world of fascism’s “modern and progressive nature.” I think these elements say a lot about how Italian fascists saw themselves and how they wanted others to perceive them. Ethiopian invasion was supposed to be the start of a “gigantic work…of human reclamation [bonifica umana].” I think it is clear that there was a quest for superiority of race, but in order to establish this, there needs to be an “other”. Sure, you can turn inwards to purify race, as “Aryanization” of Italy suggests, but I think that fascism, or at least the people behind it, always had larger ambitions.

                    Another interesting point that Ben-Ghiat brings up is that of the hierarchy of European nations, for which the “Others” were blamed in Italy, as well as the anti-Semitic laws. Internationalism forms an interesting link here when we connect this to Paul Hanebrinks article on Judeo-Bolshevism. Somehow, ideas became fact when they were confirmed in other nations. The fact that some Jews were Bolsheviks gave an excuse to make Jews scapegoats across Europe. It is ironic how even then “fake news” was able to take hold just because many people agreed on an idea that was not backed my much evidence, other than “some Jews were Bolsheviks.”

                    Going beyond the idea of spreading “modernity” and human reclamation, another important aspect is the alliances that were important to fascism. Motadel’s chapter describes anticolonialism as a unifying factor, or at least as a basis for alliances formed with Germany. “Delegations from oppressed, colonized and occupied lands…were coming to Berlin,” which they saw as an ally in the creation of a new world order. Even though Motadel concedes that these were marginal movements, I think they are significant enough and show that internationalism was not only an important element for fascism, but that fascism may be classified as an ideology.

                    Jumping back to Allardyce, who argues that fascism is not an ideology, I would pose a question: having studied Ben-Ghiat, Motadel, and Hanebrink, how would you respond to Allardyce’s argument that fascism is not an ideology?

Personally, I think the elements of modernity, racial purity, and “anti-Bolshevism” were ideas that were able to cultivate a large following and almost unity between unlikely partners. I think this starts to make a case that fascism could indeed be called an ideology.

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