Defying Definition: The Complexities of Modeling Fascism by Aimee Brown

In our ongoing struggle to define fascism, several of this week’s readings broach the question of which model is more appropriate, the fascist minimum (what characteristics something must have in order to be fascist) or the fascist repertoire (a selection of qualities from which fascists can choose). As a case study, Benjamin Bland considers Britain’s National Front (NF) which was an old-fashioned neo-Nazi organization in the 1970’s with a focus on racially-motivated anti-immigration policies. However, the NF found itself outmaneuvered by Margaret Thatcher who co-opted its anti-immigrant rhetoric into her own successful election campaigns. With its formerly radical position now mainstream, the NF had to change course and, in the 1980’s, it began to pursue a Third Way. The Third Way presented itself as an alternative to both capitalism and communism, and as providing a spirituality that preserved both individual and national identity. This approach was transnational in nature as all national identities, as long as they were kept separate from each other and distinct, were deemed worthwhile, even non-white ones. Within the Third Way formulation, immigration was blamed upon capitalism, so racism was channelled into anti-globalization, a position consonant with support for non-white separatisms. However, transnationalism ultimately worked to problematize racism, the raison d’être of the NF in the first place, and the party imploded. Bland’s article serves to illustrates that, while the fascist repertoire can allow for variety and negotiation (as evidenced by the NF and the Third Way), whatever variety and negotiation there is can come into conflict with core tenants of fascism like white supremacy. This potentiality is also evidenced by the article from “The Guardian” on how the far right has made more of an effort to appeal to women. The strategy is to channel concern for the maintenance of women’s rights into anti-immigration sentiments and Islamophobia. This is successfully increasing the popularity of fascism amongst women, but, as was the case in the Bland article, at the cost of creating tension with a core fascist tenant, this time that of male supremacy. Taken together, then, these two articles seem to demonstrate that neither the minimum nor the repertoire can be entirely discarded as a model. Like many things related to fascism, they exist in tension with each other.

2 Replies to “Defying Definition: The Complexities of Modeling Fascism by Aimee Brown”

  1. I also found it quite interesting in the Guardian article showing the far right doing its best to appeal to women and their voice in society. In my opinion I wasn’t sure if this was a positive or negative thing, on the one hand of course giving women the ability to speak out on terms that have oppressed them for centuries is always a step in the right direction. But there is always the thought that is are they really doing this to help women gain rights or are they doing this to further their own agenda.

  2. Though I don’t disagree with your analysis of the readings, I feel as though these articles also represented the realization that these movements to garner more general support. Similar to the attempt of the Nouvelle Droite to create a pan-European movement, I feel as though NF was looking to garner more support for their ideas from abroad. The example of far-right movements focusing on including women also feels like a similar attempt to add groups with similar (though perhaps sometimes contradictory) views to one’s list of allies. Rather than conclude that these movements cannot distance themselves from the model, I feel that these reflect a realization that the model MUST change if it is to be successful.
    -Felix

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: