For the Nation, Against Empire?

Sara Dix

The articles by Motadel and Ben-Ghiat highlight the themes of anti-colonialism and cosmopolitanism through the historical fascist perspective. In The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt against Empire, Motadel discusses that while fascism was out to correct certain national issues, it also aimed at creating a new world order. So fascism, inherently, is cosmopolitan to an extent.

During WWII, the Nazi regime needed to engage with outside anti-colonial movements to achieve its goal for furthering an spreading its ideologies outside of Europe. Motadel also argues that Berlin’s anti-colonial revolutions was essentially anti-imperial and it called for an international order based on the principles of the nation and not empire which appealed to many anti-colonial nationalists worldwide. These included anti-colonial revolutionaries did not represent the majority which is why they needed to band together. Even Ben-Ghiat, through her analysis of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, mentioned that even though it was meant to portray this idea of creating an Italian empire, the result meant repeated Ethiopian rebellions and failure of the Italian authorities to secure Ethiopia as its own.

Motadel mentions the Catalan situation in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and Britain’s Brexit Party who turned their backs during the Union’s anthem. While “internationalism” is considered to be hated by contemporary nationalists, it is ironic that these same nationalist groups are seeking out allies across borders and becoming the definition of “internationalism” through transnational institutions. He calls it “reactionary cosmopolitanism” where these groups are working together as a reaction to their threatened nationalist perspectives and the idea that multiculturalism and pluralism only puts a negative weight on the state.

Works Cited

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.” The New York Times (July 3, 2019).

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

One Reply to “For the Nation, Against Empire?”

  1. Hi Sara,

    I feel that you extracted many good points from the readings, and perhaps the most important one was the fact that Nazi Germany’s anti-imperial stance was still a nationalist one, with international connections. By placing an emphasis on focus on the strength of the internal state, as opposed to having colonies like the British and French empires, it’s understandable why Germany’s stance seemed so appealing to individuals and movements who had been under an imperial yoke for hundreds of years.

    I also very much agree with your idea that there is a certain sense of irony that emerges when these nationalist (and therefore isolationist) groups in the modern day both shun and embrace internationalism at the same time – though perhaps these nationalist groups see it as acceptable, since they are allying with other groups similar to them in beliefs, ideas, and perhaps most tellingly, race. France’s Le Pen and Italy’s Salvini seem to have an alliance of some sort, but would they accept a leader/group with similar ideas from, say, a country in the Middle East or Africa?


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