The Stability of Right-Wing Anti-International Internationalism

Jake Rooke

When one thinks of fascism, nationalism, or nativist projects and regimes in history and contemporary politics there seems to be the creation of a binary paradigm – that nationalism and internationalism are incompatible. That these paradigms cannot co-exist and must function in parallel. Why would a nativist and regime ideologically devoted to national tribalism cooperate with other regimes that deploy similar insular narratives? Accordingly, the binary paradigm crystalizes and adheres to a false narrative that fascist obedience and anti-internationalism are ideologically pure. Instead, there is a common cause in their approach that creates an internationalism that transcends nativism. This can be better understood through two methods: first, an ideological adherence to right-wing nationalism and second, a pragmatic realization that ideological purity is inflexible in an international environment that has immeasurable socio-political differences. Motadel’s (2019a; 2019b) articles balance these and display how anti-internationalism when projecting internationally, is still a global moment. Therefore, this authoritarian international doctrine can be better understood as an anti-international internationalism. The interconnections and unity between fascist nationalists are their ideological disdain for liberal internationalism and by a pragmatic understanding that your enemy’s enemy, is also your enemy. However, larger questions arise out of the stability of this authoritarian internationalism.

It is unknown what relationship Nazi Germany would have had with Mussolini’s Fascist Italy if the Axis had won. How would these two powers, or better yet, an Asian society such as Japan have been able to constructively cooperate in the international system with tribal devotions? This question also begs how other right-wing nationalist movements, with a plethora of racial and cultural distinctions, such as those in Motadel’s (2019a) article, would have been regarded in an international system devoted to conceptions of racial superiority, nativism and hyper-militarism. As Motadel (2019a) shows, the fascist regimes found it useful to harbour and support anti-imperial right-wing members of the global south for mainly pragmatic gain. That is, these would-be fascist leaders, aligning with the Axis would have caused an intra-empire movement to topple colonial authorities in the British and French colonies. However, it is unclear what the cost of such support for independence from Empire would have been, and how the fascist regimes would have extracted these costs from their new global south collaborators. Once the Allies had fallen and the ideal of the fascist nation-state became the proto hegemony, it is logical to assume that Nazism’s intermestic war-time strategy would have become more ideologically insular, and looked for ways to exploit those they saw as racially inferior and also militarily weaker. The global moment, for authoritarians, was a means to an end, as nativism adheres to an asymmetrical and zero-sum discourse. This winner-takes-all would result in the smaller nation-states either collaborating to prevent dominance or accepting a new fascist structured hierarchical neo-imperial system. It is unclear how a smaller fascist nation-state such as Egypt or Iraq would have survived in the face of blatant survival of the fittest geopolitics.

This anti-international internationalism propagated by right-wing populists globally is again gaining adhesion through a similar pragmatic understanding. This understanding of quasi-unity derives from their ideological disdain for liberal internationalism and what they see as a growing threat against the nation-state and the pure people. This begs a similar question to before: how would these right-wing populists and soft-nationalists, such as the Brexit Party’s Farage or Le Penn’s National Rally cooperate in an international system directed by anti-internationalism? It is plausible, that once the need for anti-international international pragmatism had exhausted itself, they would turn to more ideologically driven insular visions in their nation-state. Here is where conflict would arise. For in an international global authoritarian moment, where nativism devotes itself to hierarchy and for example, ‘America First’ policies, cooperation is impossible once pragmatism is eroded and your enemy’s enemy is vanquished. By overtly stating one’s nation as ‘First’, it communicates that others will come last. This mixed with militarism and the decoupling of interdependence is how global conflicts arise.

Works Cited:

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

Motadel, D. (2019b, July 03). The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism – But They Depend on It. Retrieved January 24, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/opinion/the-surprising-history-of-nationalist-internationalism.html

One Reply to “The Stability of Right-Wing Anti-International Internationalism”

  1. You make extremely interesting points about the actual endgame of these ideologies: is there such a thing as a stable international system designed by nationalists, or will it always be shuddering as strong groups try to conquer smaller groups, with those smaller groups fighting for their independence and backed in that fight by other strong groups trying to prevent the growth of their rival?
    With that in mind, one might almost wonder if it’s in the interest of those smaller states – you mention Iraq and Egypt – for nationalism to succeed on a local scale (just enough for them to achieve their goals) but fail at a global level (to reduce the threat of them being invaded by a stronger neighbor seeking resources). As it is, many countries secured help from nationalist movements to gain their own independence from colonial governance, and were then able to build their nations in a relatively peaceful world after the re-establishment of a more structured world order after the end of the Second World War.

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