Declan Da Barp
The recreation of a nation around a particular ethnic group is central to the fascist ideology. Central to the ideology is that the racial purity of the “people” in question though is under threat and must be “cleaned.” The readings this week show clearly that perceived threats and ways of social engineering were largely shared across international borders throughout global authoritarian networks. The works by Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Paul Hanebrink clearly illustrate how these global networks underpinned large portions of Fascist ideology.
Anti-Semitism is seen as a central tenant of fascism, throughout popular understanding. In Ben-Ghiat’s work, she outlines how it was a late adaption within Mussolini’s movement. Prior to 1938, there was little mention of it in Italian fascist doctrine with it being almost a point of independence and pride for Il Duce (Ben-Ghiat, 148). With the formation of the Berlin-Rome Axis, anti-Jewish laws, modelled on the Nuremberg Laws, were enacted descending the country into anti-Semitism (148-149). As described in both Ben-Ghiat and Hanebrink’s Jews were characterized as subversive and alien (Ben-Ghait, 155, Hanebrink, 19). In creating the idea of the people in Italy, and in Nazi Germany, the otherness of Jews was seen as a plight on society – one that needed to be persecuted and excluded from society.
I found Hanebrink’s exploration of the international fear of Judeo-Bolshevism fit nicely within the much more localized discussions of Italian fascism’s anti-Semitism. As he states the “Jewish Question” became a sign of cultural identity but also one to rest a nation’s insecurities upon (7-9). In Italy this related to the anxieties of “backwardness” and the subordination of the Italian state – with a lot of these fears previously articulated about Southern Italy (Ben-Ghiat, 155). This allowed for a national discussion around who was and who was not Italian to focus not on the rural, poorer Southerners but rather on Jews who were an easy scapegoat for Italy’s problems.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Conquest and Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945 (University of California Press, 2004), pp. 17-45.
Paul Hanebrink, A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism (Harvard University Press, 2018), pp. 1-10, 11-45.