The Complexity of Fascism

D. Khaznadji

One of the things we mentioned last week was the complexity of fascism, that it is not black and white. I think the readings from this week exemplified this idea once again. We talked about the internationalism of fascism, that despite its emphasis on nationalism, it still needed to maintain foreign relations in order to survive. Reading the adaptation efforts made by the Francoist regime reminded me of just that. In this post World War II world, Franco was surrounded by liberal democracies. In order to maintain his grip on power, he had to make his country look more progressive. In the words of Crumbaugh, “Spain was now the nation chosen not only by God but also by millions of foreign consumers” (Crumbaugh 19). I think that the Foucauldian framework enables us to paint a much more complex picture of fascism, a more subtle one. For power is not centred around one individual anymore, but is being dispersed through many institutions.

It is in this context of fascist refinement that Spain and the United States made an alliance. In their struggle against communism, the Americans saw Spain as a necessary ally. This shows the pragmatism that reigns in political alliances, as here we do not have two fascist states flirting with each other anymore, but an official relationship between a fascist state and a liberal one. I think it is an additional good example of what we discussed last week. 

This is the sort thing that we can notice once we shift our attention from how we see fascists to how they see themselves. The other articles discussed how people in Nazi Germany protected their identity, thereby showing a sense of agency. Whether it is soldiers being able to incorporate feminine attributes to their “hard” personalities, or women covering up their homosexuality, it shows once again that fascism is not black or white. It is a complex system that was the theatre of many different citizen-state interactions, and thus must be carefully studied. 

How is far-right ideology internalized by its supporters?

By Ali Yasin

The overarching focus of this week’s readings was the appeal of fascism to its common supporters. While there is a tendency to focus on the motivations of major political and ideological figures when studying the history of fascist regimes, it is impossible to develop a complete understanding of their accession to power and subsequent forms of governance, without understanding how their far-right rhetoric seemingly connected with multitudes of ordinary people whose lives were otherwise dominated by mundane rather than ideological concerns.

As described by both Cynthia Miller Idriss and Justin Crumbaugh in their analysis the far-right in modern Germany and Franco era Spain respectively, it is often the cultural and emotional dimensions of far-right rather than the strictly political, which proves to be the most compelling to its average supporters. Although many scholars typically regard the modes of cultural representation and dissemination in fascist regimes as being antithetical to those found in their liberal counterparts, they both share a deep reliance on consumerism as a vehicle for the individual internalization of hegemonic mindsets. The tourist industry as an “art of governance” in Franco era Spain, presented the fascist state as a facilitator for entrepreneurial and social progress both personally and nationally, with many ordinary citizens associating their own individual success with that of the regime. Likewise, contemporary European far-right clothing brands often act as an initial introduction to far-right political discourses. More specifically, far-right apparel offers the wearer access to a largely undisclosed cultural space where feelings of personal and social alienation are validated and channeled into far-right narratives.

Works Cited:

Cynthia Miller-Idris, “The Extreme Gone Mainstream” IIITMedia lecture, May 2018

Justin Crumbaugh, “Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of Tourism” in Destination Dictatorship: the Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boom and the Reinvention of Difference (SUNY Press, 2009), pp. 15-41.

Fascism’s Appeal – Collectivization Resistance and Pragmatic Acceptance.

By Wesley M.

The appeal of fascism towards the citizens of a fascist country beyond the ideological aspects was that fascism attempts to brand itself as a positive way for people to connect with each other, in such a way that it would form bond that would be good for the collective society rather than individualism being encouraged. The other way fascists look to brand themselves positively is to be seen as an improvement to whatever ‘flawed’ system the country had dealt with before their rise to power with the professed goal of fixing whatever problems the country is facing currently through revitalization.

Somewhat ironically, the fascist goal of collectivization can be resisted by maintaining the very individualism that fascism is against through citizens resistance to the collectivization process. As Thomas Kühne points out in his article (discussing gender roles within the Nazi German military), the full collectivization that was encouraged (as comradeship) within the military conversely allowed for maintenance of self-identity.[1] The goal Nazi collectivization was to create ideal soldiers did not succeed wholeheartedly but was never the less very effective at creating loyal soldiers through the fascist idea of comradeship.[2]

Fascist collectivization could in fact be resisted through a citizen’s personal agency; however, the resistor would have to be careful about what issues they were resisting the regime on. For example, the collective bonds that some Nazi German soldiers created, actually allowed them a limited amount of agency, which could be used for slight resistance to Nazi regime’s more heinous policies (such as the mass executions of civilians or ethnic groups) as long as the resisting soldier’s were not seen to be blatantly going outside of his established side of gender role as a German male soldier.[3] Juxtaposing this military example of resistance with a civilian example, shown in article by Laurie Marhoefer, about how various lesbian women were able to resist Nazi-German gendered societal norms through a certain amount of discretion, probable lack of evidence (denouncements not holding up to scrutiny) or potentially even the lack of Gestapo interest.[4]

Fascism could be accepted or resisted, as Justin Crumbaugh explores in his article about the advent of tourism within Francoist Spain, incorporating tourism within the dictatorship actually allowed for the revitalization of both Franco’s image on the international stage as well as save Francoist Spain’s previously floundering economy, while not actually implementing the democratization that various world powers had previously demanded.[5] While the populace was pleased about the prosperous economy the tourism industry helped create, it also allowed for the citizens to see democratic ideals through the filtration of tourists ideas and worldviews from various democracies.[6]


[1] Thomas Kühne, “Protean Masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich.” Central European History 51, no. 3 (September 2018): 402-403, 409. doi:10.1017/S0008938918000596.

Kühne. “Protean” 390–418.

[2] Kühne, “Protean” 402-403, 409.

[3] Kühne, “Protean” 414.: A number of soldiers refused to execute civilians and while locked as being weak by the more fanatical Nazis, they were not formally punished.

[4] Laurie Marhoefer, “Lesbianism, Transvestitism, and the Nazi State: A Microhistory of a Gestapo Investigation, 1939–1943,” The American Historical Review 121, no. 4 (October 1, 2016): 1167–1195, https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/121.4.1167.; Lesbianism is not a legal crime in Nazi Germany, as Marhoefer explains in the article: Frequently accusations of gender norms being violated were compounded with assumptions of other criminal behaviours such as possible espionage.

[5] Justin Crumbaugh. Destination Dictatorship: The Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boom and the Reinvention of Difference. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009). Accessed September 25, 2021. ProQuest Ebook Central. 26.

[6] Crumbaugh. Destination Dictatorship, 31, 33-34

Bibliography:

Crumbaugh, Justin. Destination Dictatorship : The Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boom and the Reinvention of Difference. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009. Accessed September 25, 2021. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Kühne, Thomas. “Protean Masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich.” Central European History 51, no. 3 (September 2018): 390–418. doi:10.1017/S0008938918000596.

Marhoefer, Laurie. “Lesbianism, Transvestitism, and the Nazi State: A Microhistory of a Gestapo Investigation, 1939–1943.” The American Historical Review 121, no. 4 (October 1, 2016): 1167–95. https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/121.4.1167.

Fascism and Perception

C. Sen

Perception plays an essential role in understanding history, especially as it relates to fascism and far-right populism. The readings this week highlighted various elements that have occurred throughout history surrounding how fascism is perceived, interpreted, and supported. In each of the readings, each author/journalist highlights the differing elements from one’s perception of fascism differs.

In Thomas Kühne article, we are presented with the various aspects that formed a masculine Nazi soldier’s identity. shown how the perception of the idealistic masculine Nazi solder influenced and ultimately “allowed different types of soldier-men to establish male identities.”

In “Blue Angels: Female Fascist Resisters, Spies and Intelligence Officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9.”, the article highlighting the key roles that Spanish women played in facilitating espionage rings and helping prisoners escape from Spanish jails. Despite these key contributions, the piece noted that Franco and the Spanish government diminished women’s role during the civil war as “women were not considered as dangerous, and certainly not as intelligent, as men, and they supposedly could not create or run espionage networks.”

Throughout all the listed examples, one lasting impression remains with me, that fascism’s deep routed appeal, critical messaging, and presentation of ideas and beliefs rests within the eyes of the beholder. Perception shapes the connection and potential influence on an individual’s thoughts and sentiments. 

Franco in 1966 (Credit to the New York Times)

It is also worth noting that perception can be quite contradictory, differing, and hypocritical. This, I personally find, was best exemplified within Vices’s Fascist Franco’s Foreign Friends. When reporter Carla Parmenter questions Chen, the Chinese-Spanish immigrant, owner of a restaurant that pays homage to Franco, she quickly points out how Franco’s policies and practices would not have allowed immigrants like himself to live a life that he presently does. Chen quickly shuts down this idea that his life would have been any different, stating that “nobody lived badly” during Franco’s rule, with de Groot, the main subject of this piece, furthering this flawed message, saying that immigrants would have been allowed and appreciated by Franco. These two entirely factually incorrect statements by both men illustrate the depths that perceptions of fascist ideals are interpreted, misrepresented, and construed by individuals to support a message that caters to their individual interests and beliefs.

To conclude, the understanding of fascism and fascist beliefs can be interpreted and portrayed in many different manners. Ultimately, the readings illustrate the critical fact that perception and historical reality are distinct, separate entities.

Works Cited

Carla Parmenter, “Dutch Franquista” Vice Fringes, https://video.vice.com/en_uk/video/vice-dutch-franquista/5f5b98a20c4ad6583d018ee6.

Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez. “Blue Angels: Female Fascist Resisters, Spies and Intelligence Officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9.” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 53, no. 4, (Oct. 2018), pp. 692–713.

Finding in Fascism

M. Nagy

Time and again we see the importance of personal interests in following an ideology; interests that run deeper than an individuals political or societal beliefs. As Miller-Idris alludes to the reality that the individuals who make up the contemporary fascist movements are filled with people who are seeking a sense of purpose that they feel is missing from their lives.1 They are driven to these movements from a distinct lacking in their own lives, in particular, a lack of community. They view themselves as compatriots with one another, more-so than simple patriots in a common ideological cause. This in itself is an echo of the historical context of fascism in Spain in the case of Nationalist women; as Lopez and Sanchez describe, “The Auxilio Azul Maria Paz recruited individuals based on kinship and friendship. They only helped or worked with people whom they already knew… Most participants of the network ignored that they belonged to an organization and thought that they were part of a group of like minded friends.”2 The cause itself does not matter in this case, it is the communal angle that provides the leverage over the members of these groups. With the social relationships binding these groups together, they maintain a stronger and larger presence in their societies.

The value of these social connections for these people cannot be underestimated. For the outcasts, for the forgotten, and for those who simply find it difficult to find companionship in this world; a strong communal identity can be incredibly appealing, and effortless to fall into. In words dripping with fear, Tom De Groot describes that, “Democracy is shit. There’s a lot of decadence, uncontrolled immigration, invasion.”3 These are not the words of someone who is a fascist, they are the words of someone who is scared that the world they new and fought for is simply slipping away from them. Even taking the words at face value, they are unsurprising to come from an ex-serviceman; the shocking aspect is his veneration Franco, but even that seems to maintain be a facade. De Groot views his interviewer Carla Parmenter in the light that, “We’re against each other ideologically, but I think we’re friends, right?”4 If he were following in the bloody footsteps of Franco, he should not be able to see an ideological opponent in such a positive light. De Groot’s relationship and friendly candour with Parmenter should challenge his worldview, it should run in stark contrast to the teachings of Franco and the Spanish Fascists. That would be the case, if it weren’t for Parmenter pointing out that, “It seemed like Tom was more into the social side of fascism and the celebrity status he’d garnered in Spain by turning his home into a shrine to Franco.”5 De Groot was an outcast until he found a group that welcomed him in open arms. All of this leads to the very open questions that is suggested through Miller-Idris research: just how many of these individuals are simply societal outcasts craving basic human companionship and can they be reconciled back into the fold?

1 Cynthia Miller-Idris, “The Extreme Gone Mainstream” IIITMedia lecture, May 2018.

2 Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez, “Blue Angels: Female Fascist Resisters, Spies and Intelligence Officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9.” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 53, no. 4, (Oct. 2018), pp. 692–713.

3 Carla Parmenter, “Dutch Franquista” VICE FRINGES, https://video.vice.com/en_uk/video/vice-dutch-franquista/5f5b98a20c4ad6583d018ee6.

4 Ibid

5 Ibid

Agency in the Regime

Emma C

One of the themes that was present this week was the question of how much agency did people wield for and against the regime. We can see this question play out in Marhoefer’s article about homosexuality in Nazi Germany. The Nazi regime typically targeted homosexual men and prosecuted them as they made homosexuality illegal. Lesbians were still around during the Nazi regime, but weren’t specifically targeted like gay men were. Instead, the regime relied on witnesses coming and reporting lesbians, as it was not technically illegal. Witnesses who reported to the regime were more likely to raise suspicions and might be investigated by the regime themselves. People were able to wield some agency against the regime, by deciding to not report people, they were taking back what little power they had over their lives, by protecting themselves and those around them from unwanted scrutiny. Being able to show this type of agency during the regime, demonstrates how even when people have little control over their lives, they will do what they can to stand on their own.

                We can also see how soldiers were able to have some agency while serving the regime as shown in Kunhe’s article. Soldiers were expected to be embody manliness as it would help to make them a better soldier. These soldiers were able to shape themselves into the ideal of “hard” manliness and once their male identity was established without question, they were able to display some feminine qualities, such as showing affection to fellow soldiers as well as to women. Once they had established themselves as soldiers, they were able to take some agency back and show some softer sides of themselves, which went against how Nazi soldiers were expected to be. We can see how everyday people as well as soldiers in the regime were able to wield varying levels of agency against the regime.

Laurie Marhoefer, “Lesbianism, Transvestitism, and the Nazi State: a Microhistory of a Gestapo Investigation, 1939-1943” The American Historical Review 121: 4 (2016): 1167-1195.

Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

Regime Representations of Gender and Sexuality

M. Guthrie

Under a system preoccupied with the maintenance of a largely singular ideal of national character, it is safe to assume that those actively challenging fascism’s picture of the so-called ‘model-citizen’ were not exactly considered favourable or met with approval. However, Marhoefer’s exploration into the lives of lesbians and transgender folk under German fascism during the 1930s and ‘40s aligns with recent historical discussion regarding the attitudes surrounding the diversity and fluidity of gender roles and/or sexual orientation. This has likewise sparked conversations surrounding the lengths to which these standards were upheld under fascist regimes (in this case, Nazi Germany), and whether standards were more rigorous for certain types of individuals.

I was fascinated by this idea, and equally so by the ways in which individuals could therefore utilize fascism in a way that afforded them greater agency – either challenging or aligning with the state. Likewise, I felt that attitudes towards gender and sexual identity throughout this period reveal important ideas about the primacy of patriarchy – as it seems that masculinity was generally more accepted than displays of femininity.

That is not to say that women were not also expected to uphold gender roles, however Marfoefer’s case study of Ilse Totzke points out the ways in which queer women (or those not presenting as traditionally feminine) were not criminalized to the same extent as gay men. On one hand, this was due to lack of law explicitly prohibiting sexual relations between women, though I have to wonder if this is also due to the preference for expressions of masculinity.

Similarly, Kühne’s explorations of gender roles within the Third Reich depicts the “protean” expressions of masculinity amongst soldiers, adapting to include traditionally feminine traits (408). Despite the adoption of feminine tasks in programs such as Hitler Youth and later in the military, Kühne notes that “for a boy to become a real man, he had to become a woman first,” implying a kind of hierarchy in which masculine attributes become the dominant social norm (409).

Works Cited

Laurie Marhoefer, “Lesbianism, Transvestitism, and the Nazi State: a Microhistory of a Gestapo Investigation, 1939-1943” The American Historical Review 121: 4 (2016): 1167-1195.

Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

Fascism Drawing People to Flawed Idealism

Kathleen McKinnon

Fascism seems to have an element of belonging and finding people who are emotionally linked in wanting to save a “culture” and create a sense of purpose. (Cynthia Miller-Idris, “The Extreme Gone Mainstream” IIITMedia lecture, May 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHYcakSDUCE) There is an element of heroism that comes with far-right extremists that people are drawn to, as Cynthia Miller-Idris points out, there is often references to solidarity with veterans. It seems also that people want something to fight for and fascism plays on some issues that people already display such as homophobia. Many fascist regimes, like the Hitler regime or Franco in Spain, had overt elements of homophobia. (Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqKSXPiGe7U). 

These elements also seem to present in the past with those that supported the fascist regimes that they were in. In the case of Walter Hauck, for example, he was an ideal figure of a Nazi. He supported the regime and its idealism and created the image that people wanted to see of masculinity. However, that ideal was an ideal and when Huack was pictured with a baby carriage it was explained away to maintain his image. (Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich”. 393) This shows, that there have to be exceptions to the rules that were set for the regime, and then the narrative has to change to include things that it originally rejected. So if enough of the people play a role things can slowly change- there is some agency but arguably it has to be done with the right circumstances. An example of this can be the women fascists of the Spanish Civil War. Women were supposed to have traditional roles but a group managed to rise and support the regime through ways that were much more non-traditional. (Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez. “Blue Angels: Female Fascist Resisters, Spies and Intelligence Officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9.” 692 and 693). So although these women supported the regime they undermined its traditionally based standards. 

To conclude more or less, people support fascist regimes because they feel close to something or a connection to others with the same beliefs or feelings. However, in many cases, their own ideals are undermined by those within the regimes and are accepted because the regimes cannot apply standards that are so idealistic without eventually having to accept some exceptions. So that in and of itself is part of the undermining of fascism. 

Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez. “Blue Angels: Female Fascist Resisters, Spies and Intelligence Officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9.” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 53, no. 4, (Oct. 2018), pp. 692–713.

Cynthia Miller-Idris, “The Extreme Gone Mainstream” IIITMedia lecture, May 2018 youtube.com/watch?v=QHYcakSDUCE.

Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqKSXPiGe7U.

Contradictory Genders

Declan Da Barp

The perception of gender roles, sexuality, and masculinity within fascist ideology appear to be rigidly defined and static – with a domineering man controlling his wife and the perceived weakness of women and homosexual men generally. Upon a deeper study though, this is not this case. As explored in the works of Thomas Kühne, Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez a more complex and fluid understanding can be gleaned, with simple ideas of white, heterosexual, male superiority being not the only actors able to facilitate change.

            From Kühne, the Nazis defined the “hard” man to be aggressive, strong, and disciplined (394). This definition of masculinity can also be seen in the Spanish context in viewing the inverse of how López and Sánchez define Francoist women, as soft, innocent, mother-like characters (696). In this context, men were understood to be the driving force of change, with domineering Francoist and Nazi men fighting, and honorifically dying at the foot of the nation. As observed in the cover page for NS-Frauenwarte, that soldier, the farmer, and the labourer as depicted as the builders of the nation, front-facing and public, while the mother is depicted sequestered to the domestic setting, childrearing and home building (Kühne, 397). In this depiction, women are cast as secondary citizens with little agency in the political realm.

            While the nuances of Franco’s and Hitler’s fascism alter the realities for many citizens, the role of women, in theory, was quite similar. With that said, as seen observed in the role of female spies and members of the fifth column in Republican cities like Barcelona and Valencia, it is clear that women were a vital part of the social fabric within the fascist political sphere. This is further compounded when viewing how “feminine” tasks like sewing, peeling potatoes, and cleaning were divvied up within individual Wehrmacht units (Kühne, 409). This clear contradiction is perceived gender roles, the fighting women and the domestic men display the fluidity of gender within fascist society.    

Works Cited

Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez. “Blue Angels: Female Fascist Resisters, Spies and Intelligence Officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9.” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 53, no. 4, (Oct. 2018), pp. 692–713.

Fascism as System vs. Fascism as Individual

Alison Miller

What I found very interesting about the readings was the interaction of the individual and the fascist system itself. By addressing the complexities of how people interacted with and were interacted with by the state, we get a much more multi-faceted idea of how the state operated.

The concept of comrade-ship versus friendship, and Kuhne’s entire address of masculinity as flexible even under the Nazi party complicates our understanding of how fascist governments worked, and at the same time, the Marheofer reading reveals that the state’s interaction with the individual is just as pliable. There are certain fence posts that stand within Nazi law, but the degree to which the Gestapo used those laws or bothered with them was dependent on who you were, which laws you broke, and who you know.

The two articles on the Spanish Civil War also address the individual’s interaction with the state, although in a different method than the articles concerning Nazi Germany. I would say that the biggest question that arises in the Destination Dictatorship article is the time that Crumbaugh takes to speak on freedom within the Francoist dictatorship. How freedom operates in the dictatorship, even as it shifts to a different method of interacting with the world at large (i.e. Through tourism). We might also address how the Spanish dictatorship wined and dined individual members of the US government in order to gain the economic and political clout they needed to transform their economy and their international image.

The Lopez and Sanchez article, like the Marheofer article, looks to shine a light on a group mostly ignored by academia, and while doing so highlights how perceptions of women ensured that Nationalist women could operate basically unseen during the Civil War, and how after the Franco victory these women looked to simply return to their houses, with the state also ignoring certain dimensions of female action during the war.