Does the Nationalist Fear Internationalism? Not Exactly.

By Bryce Greer

Does the nationalist fear internationalism? Not exactly. On the contrary, when looking at the history behind nationalist and fascist moments in the 20th century, one in its own repetition today, the nationalist fits within the concept of internationalism. David Motadel’s “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism – But They Depend on It” expresses concern for the idea of nationalist internationalism. From a contemporary standpoint, looking at July of 2019, he describes a far-right alliance of the European parliament, all forming under one goal, to undermine the European Union. Indeed, what appears from the article is nationalists forming together into an international league, and although they speak of nationalist rhetoric, their international alliance does not prevent them from their nationalism.  

Motadel voices his concern to a national internationalism and the analogy to the 20th century becomes striking in his work “The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt Against the Empire.” A less-spoken history is that of Nazi Germany’s pragmatic decision to align themselves with anti-colonial nationalists under banner, and this was to bring down the imperial powers of the Allies. Berlin was a haven for the nationalist internationalism. Despite disagreements to the Aryan supremacy of Nazi rhetoric, anti-colonist nationalists from Africa, India, the Middle East, etc. flocked to Germany due to their shared hate toward the imperial world orders. Allied through fear and the idea of liberation, it was clear that nationalists could pragmatically find an international alliance.

Yet, it is not just pragmatism that can allow for the alliance but rather the simple notion of having only one common goal or ideology. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s Fascist Modernities reveals fascist Italy had its own imperialist mindset, yet this did not stop an international league of nationalists. To compare Motadel and Ben-Ghiat, anti-colonists found an ally with Nazi Germany through their distain against the oppressive Allied imperial orders. Italy, an imperialist themselves, found an ally with Nazi Germany for a shared ideological goal of bringing civilization to the “uncivilized” – a form to the Aryan supremacy. Fear is a strong method for nationalist internationalism. It becomes the rhetoric of “us” versus “them” that brings the nationalists under one banner. It is the “Other,” rather it be the imperialists who differ from the pragmatic goals of the anti-colonists, or the “uncivilized” for fascist Italy or even Judeo-Bolshevism, as Paul Hanebrink speaks of in A Specter Haunting Europe. Even today now, immigrants continue to be an “Other” for some of Europe’s nationalist leaders.

Therefore, it is not internationalism that the nationalist fears. Rather, as Motadel states, it is colloidal internationalism, a liberal internationalism that seeks to remove any existence of nation-states, that they fear. So, to combat this, nationalist internationalism, even through all their own disagreements, is formed and strives to exist for the sole purpose of keeping the existence of their nation-states alive.

Works Cited:

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Conquest and Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945
(University of California Press, 2004), pp. 123-130.

Paul Hanebrink, A Specter Haunting Europe : The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018.

David Motadel, “The Global Authoritarian Moment: The Revolt Against Empire” American
Historical Review Vol. 124, Issue 3 (July 2019): 843-877.

David Motadel, “The Far-Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism – But They Depend on It.” New York Times (July 3, 2019).

One Reply to “Does the Nationalist Fear Internationalism? Not Exactly.”

  1. Hi Bryce,

    You make some really good points on internationalism and that nationalists don’t really fear it itself, but the liberal internationalism that threatens their homogenous cultural ideology. I found that really interesting when Motadel pointed that out the irony that nationalists will reach out to other nationalist groups around the world while simultaneously despising internationalism that promotes multiculturalism and pluralism.

    – Sara

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