By Alex Wittmann
A common conception is centered around the belief that the far right are anti internationalists. They espouse these beliefs when they claim that international institutions are, for lack of a better word “screwing” their countries and that multilateral cooperation erodes state sovereignty. As we have seen in Fascist Modernities and in the New York Times opinion piece in particular, right wing and fascist governments cannot totally avoid internationalism, in fact they embrace an alternative one. Even if an alliance consists of just three or four nations, no matter where a movement rests on the political spectrum every side will recognize that when working together the movement is stronger. This is true for the right wing and facsist movements in the past and it is true in the present. As mentioned in the New York Times opinion piece a new European alliance of far right leaders in France, Germany, and Italy has been formed. This is done in a way to unite the movement and make it stronger. Otherwise, a right wing populist movement is likely to be written off as insignificant and specific to the domestic problems of a nation in which it is occurring, therefore it cannot grow. Multilateral alliances serve to add legitimacy and strength to right wing populist movements. Far right leaders therefore recognize the value of multilateralism in this way, as long as they cooperate with those of the same ideology. Therefore when they say that they are anti internationalists, it is not entirely true. Far right leaders will be internationalists if it serves their interest. A more extreme example is highlighted in the chapter of Conquest and Collaboration in Fascist Modernities. In 1935, when Fascist Italy invaded Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) Italy soon faced sanctions from the League of Nations and soon left altogether. As a result the policy of openness that had exposed Italy to culture trends from throughout the world through multilateralism was ended. Italy and Nazi Germany formed a close partnership to make fascsim stronger throughout the world. This included the The 1934 Montreux Fascist Parties Conference, the multilateral 1936 Anti Comintern Pact, and the cultural exchange networks between Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain as a backlash to the League of Nation’s “cultural internationalism.” One has to be mindful of listening to a far right leader indulging in the rhetoric of anti internationalism. They tend to be referring to liberal demococratic internationalism and liberal democratic institutions. One might argue that they not only want to create a “new nationalism” for their own country, but maybe a “new internationalism” composed of a united front of right wing ideologies from multiple nations.
Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. “Conquest and Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945, (University of California Press, 2004).
Motadel, David. “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism but they Depend on it,” The New York Times.com. The New York Times, July 3, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/opinion/the-surprising-history-of-nationalist-internationalism.html.
Up until very recently, I have always thought that populism and fascism are the same thing. There was also a time when I considered leaders such as US President Donald Trump and Brazil President Jair Balsanaro to be fascists. After this week’s readings, I have come to the conclusion that Trump and Bolsanaro are purely populists. They are not fascists, at least not yet. The major reading that changed my mind on this concept was Finchelstein’s From Fascism to Populism in History. Finchelstein’s article taught me that there is a major difference between Populism and Fascism. First of all I can wholeheartedly agree with the concept that populism is not limited to the right and right wing movements. The author refers to populism as an “ideological pendulum” swinging between the left and the right. The key concept that populism contains is a deep distrust of the ruling elite, a popular desire of the masses: especially those who believe that they have been left behind in their political system by the ruling elite, combined with the mass following of a leader in which supporters believe is strong and the belief that a single leader is the solution to the problem. This is the blanket umbrella of populism ideals that both right wing and left wing populism espouses. As the author notes, the distinct differences between left and right wing Populism is that left wing populism considers anyone opposed to their movement as enemies of the people. Right wing Populism connects those opposed to their views as enemies of the people based on their race, ethnicity, or country of origin. It would seem in this view that racism runs more rampant on Populist movements from the right. One key difference between populism and fascism that I learned was that Populism is essentially an authoritarian version of democracy. Fascsism exists in an undemocratic institution with dictatorships that espouse violence to gain power, dismantle democratic institutions, and enact violence on minorities or those of a different ethnicity. The author makes it clear however that populism can become fascsim, and as soon as a populist leader begins to dismantle emocratic institutions, cheques and balances, and incite violence, that is when populism turns into fascsim. This can mean that the rise of populism on the right is incredibly dangerous. Even though the author insists that the morphing of populism into facsim is rare, it can still happen. Therefore in order to prevent Populism from morphing into Facsim, one must hope that a country has strong democratic institutions that would prevent a radical leader from dismantling them. The only area in which I disagree with the author is when he mentions that populist leaders do not celebrate dictatorships. This is not entirely true. In 2018, Donald Trump cozied up to and praised Kim Jong Un and his Regime in North Korea. Bolsanaro has expressed and admiration of the former dictatorship that was in power in Brazil in the 1960s. I therefore believe that when populist leaders begin to encite such admiration, they threaten democratic institutions posing the elements of risk in populism turning into fascsim.
Finchelstein, Federico, “Introduction: Thinking Fascism and Populism in terms of the Past,” in Federico Finkelstein, From Fascism to Populism in History (University of California Press, 2017).