Playing with the Fire of History


Falsifications and contradictions are often involved when it comes to far-right ideologies. Last week we saw how history can be altered by populist regimes in order to serve a particular agenda: how some perpetrators are not only rehabilitated but glorified; and how the horrors of the past become normalized, something people should “move on” from. 

This week, the readings presented once again this aspect of the far-right machinery. In mind I have the example of Corneliu Codreanu, the Romanian fascist, who painted bolshevism and liberalism as Jewish plots. The glorification of his memory by Polish far-right groups, though Polish and Romanian right-wing radicals did not have much of relationship in the 1930s, show how people can appropriate a history, mix it with their own experiences and make it their own. This, in a nutshell, explain what Hanebrick meant by “Communism is gone, but the idea of Judeo-Bolshevism refuses to go away”. The capacity for an ideology to transcend time through constant adaptations is partly what makes it so persistent, despite being no longer officially relevant. 

Another interesting example in Hanebrick’s introduction was the idea of modern antisemitism being rooted in medieval prejudice. This immediately got me to think about the blood libel accusations, and how those evolved over time. From trying to find a scapegoat for the humiliations of the crusades to justify the murder of Stalin, one can see here the capacity of antisemitic sentiments to re-invent themselves. 

This brings me to Sholamit Volkov, whose argument about antisemitism being a cultural code really spoke to me. The notion that the complex social, economic and technological changes in late 19th century Europe were simplified to the idea of a “Jewish question” seems so simple, but nevertheless crucial to develop. The answer to that “Jewish Question” — that is, getting rid of Jewish populations, whatever the means —, is an easy way to make sense of the complex changes in society, which makes it attractive to potential followers. Antisemitism is thus a tool for cultural identity, a way to obscure certain issues amplify others. Its significance in relation to its particular historical context helps us understand the persistence of such an ideology. 

Perhaps this new perception can also explain the internationalist dimension to right-wing radicalism. After all, despite several points of friction, they share more or less some basic core values: white-Christian purity and intolerance towards minorities to name only these. Considering what has been said already in this post, the embrace of internationalism by far-right political parties despite their supposed hatred of it, makes a little more sense. It is through such processes that we can better understand those reactionary movements. After all, to quote Motadel: “We dismiss the internationalization of right-wing politics at our own peril”. 

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