Internationalism’s Relationship with Fascism

Prior to this week’s readings, I would have not considered the relationship between fascism and internationalism as ambivalent, rather I would have thought that fascism was against internationalism. However, as the articles by Motadel and Ben-Ghiat point out, fascist regimes did create networks centred around fascist ideology and had real interest in having Internationalist aspirations. In “The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt Against Empire”, Motadel showed that Berlin was a significant hub for anticolonial nationalists and had an ideological appeal to fascist (as well as other groups). Ben-Ghait focused on the Italian colonial motivations, specifically in Ethiopia. What I found very interesting in this article was that fascist groups started cultural exchange networks with other fascist groups in Europe, something that I would think would not be so intuitive at first glance. The networks created in both of these cases share two similar traits, the perceived credibility gained from connecting with other fascist groups, especially colonial aspirations (groups claimed that they their colonial aspirations were to bring modernity to the countries they conquered) and as a result of credibility came closer unity in ideological terms.

In order to support these claims of modernity and cultural change, fascist groups have to create an “Other”. The example Ben-Ghait illustrates is the “Aryanization” of Italy, which allowed Italian fascist to change the narrative around the idea Italy did in fact have a strong national identity and that be imposing racial laws, fascists could then blame “internal Others for Italy’s supposed backwardness and subordinate position in the European hierarchy”. By creating the “other”, the Italian fascists were able to unify their own identity domestically, project the claim they bring modernity to the “other” (Ethiopia), and gain credibility internationally through association with similar groups. The Hanebrink article also touches on the points above and more clearly demonstrates the idea of Othering in the interest of delegitimizing these groups for political or ideological gain. In Hanebrink’s article it is clear that while some prominent leaders in revolutions were Jewish, not all Jews were revolutionary or even shared any of the same ideas or views of these leaders. The process of “othering” the Jewish community, leading to the idea of Judeo-Bolshevism, was according to Hanebrink achieved through: “a long history of associating Jews and Judaism with heresy, misrule and social disharmony; well established beliefs in an international Jewish conspiracy, and the figure of the Jewish Bolshevik embodied in secularized form much older fears of Jewish fanaticism”. Once the idea of Judeo-Bolshevism was established, the repercussions were drastic, leading to many Jewish leaders having to distance themselves from revolutionary groups, although even this was typically limited in changing the publics view of them.

In a contemporary context, Motadel argues that internationalism and todays nationalist groups are not necessarily incompatible. This is due to internationalism as a concept presuming the existence and prominence of the nation state; nation states that can share a ‘common’ struggle that nationalists can rally around and, in some cases, work with other similar groups across borders. I think that internationalism can to some extent have a relation to nationalist and fascist practices and ideologies.

One Reply to “Internationalism’s Relationship with Fascism”

  1. To add to your discussion about the need by fascist Italy to create an “other” I would also look to Ben-Ghiat’s careful analysis of fascist cinema which she further explores in the video “Italian Fascism Empire Cinema”. Cinema was used as a tool of Mussolini to further consolidate his power. It offered an opportunity to articulate and represent what could otherwise not be articulated through different mediums while contributing to a distinct type of Italian art that fascism relied upon for its survival. For example, cinema did well to represent scenes inside the home and offer fascism’s ideal of domesticity. In terms of further “othering” through cinema, Ben-Ghiat speaks about the period of orientalism in Italian Fascist Cinema and a common plot line featuring an African man kidnapping a white woman which would have further villainized and othered African people. However, it is important to acknowledge displays of resistance that Africans made behind the scenes. Ben-Ghiat point outs that on several occasions, Ethiopian tribes were recruited as extras in these films only to turn around when they arrived on set and were told they would be playing the defeated. Fascist cinema also help to further enforce gender roles, warrior masculinity, and the man as the head of the house.

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