Memory in Europe

Emma C

This week we finally touch upon the theme of memory and collective memory which we have touched upon numerous times throughout the course. In particular we are looking at the Holocaust and its collective memory in Europe. What is interesting is how such an event can be remembered and experienced differently by so many different people, no two stories or retellings will be the same. The Holocaust is what we compare many right-wing groups to and the reemergence of them.

As we have discussed previous weeks is how some right-wing groups use the Holocaust to defend their actions. They compare their actions and ideas by saying, while we’re not like the Nazi’s and therefore aren’t bad. Although these groups may not be going about the same practices, they do share similar values such as national pride and migration. I think by not acknowledging certain aspects and omitting things from memory can cause harm and a disservice. Certain people may view the event through the eyes of the party they follow, and another may look at the event through the eyes of a family member who experienced it.

There are many nuances to collective memory and memory culture which can make it difficult to police who uses memory in what way. My omitting things from memory it can cause harm or minimize the true impact of the event. There is a fine line that can be easy to cross when using memory for political agendas.

Populism: Both Right and Left

Emma C

I think that looking at the concept of left-wing populism is interesting as most of the semester we have associated populism with the far-right and framed it in a negative light. Prior to this week’s readings I hadn’t associated populism with the left ever before. The Fieschi article spoke to the idea that when populism is associated with a leftwing party, that because they are left leaning, this type of populism is not bad. There is a danger in doing this, by accepting that because this populism is associated with the left party and must therefore be positive can leave us blind or ignorant to what this type of populism is doing. No matter which party populism is associated with or representing there is a possibility that it can cause harm as people believe that the democratic institutions that are in place are no longer representing their interests. If we ignore the issues left wing populism are dealing with because of its party, we are allowing it to potentially cause the same level of harm as right-wing populism.

According to March there are similarities between right and left populism in terms of ideas ideals, which is that the elites are corrupt and are the ones damaging society. Because the elites represent such a small percentage of society, it is unlikely that the elites in power understand and have the interests of the everyday person in mind. What I found interesting is that while we assume anything to do with the right is bad, both right and left have the same ideals surrounding populism, but how they deploy it is what differentiates them.

Catherine Fieschi, “A Plague on Both Your Populisms” (April 19, 2012) Open Democracy

March L. “Left and right populism compared: The British case” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations. 19(2) (2017): 282-303.

Transnationality of Ideas and Social Media

Emma C

The use of the internet and social media makes sharing messages even easier than ever. The ease of the information spreading also allows for many ideas and movements to become transnational. As we saw last week and the week before, because of the world’s connectedness, movements such as QAnon, which originate in America, gain popularity in non-English speaking countries such as Germany. In particular with the pandemic, we can see how easily misinformation can spread since anyone can post whatever they like and people tend to believe what they read on the internet. I suppose the pandemic is the perfect example of how the spread of misinformation is transnational because of the internet.

The way in which right wing groups and populism have used social media to their advantage is also a more recent phenomenon. Populism is often about the will of the people and being anti-elite, social media is the perfect breeding ground for populist movements to share their ideas. Social media is widely available to everyone and there are millions of everyday people on these sites. The everyday person tends to be the targeted audience in populism as they spread their ideas as being, “ideas of the people.” With how easily ideas can be spread, people on social media may feel that they relate to something a group is talking about and become interested in learning about their other ideas. Media and interconnectedness in the 21st century has provided right wing groups the perfect place to share their ideas.

Benjamin Krämer, “Populist online practices: the function of the Internet in right-wing populism” Information, Communication & Society, 20:9 (2017): 1293-1309

Özçetin B, “‘The show of the people’ against the cultural elites: Populism, media and popular culture in Turkey” European Journal of Cultural Studies. 22(5-6) (2019):942-957.

The Anti-LGBTQ Agenda in Poland

Emma C

The 21st century is a time when society has been most progressive in terms of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and overall being more accepting to all. There has been some pushback to this trend with some countries returning to more traditional values and ideas, many of which have right wing governments. One country in particular who has started moving back to the right is Poland with its current party in power, Law and Justice.

The Law and Justice party built their platform on right leaning traditional values. With Poland having a historically large Catholic population, it shouldn’t be surprising that the government would reflect the same values. The Law and Justice party was founded by Jaroslaw Kaczyński and his twin brother in 2001 on the basis of strong nationalistic ideas and radical viewpoints. The main focus of their platform was to build upon the idea of Polish national identity.

In this situation national identity is defined as a set of characteristics, whether it be race, culture, etc with which citizens of a nation use to identify themselves as being a part of their country. The Law and Justice party have built their notion of Polish national identity as being traditional, with gender roles, religion and a Poland first ideology. The use of national identity allows the far-right government to build an “us versus them” condition, where it is Poland, meaning those with more traditional views, against those who want to see a more progressive side to their country and do not want to return to traditional values.

An example of the “us versus them” stance taking place in Poland right now is the othering of the LGBTQ community. The Law and Justice party advertises themselves as being at the front of a crusade to save traditional family values and the LGBTQ community threatens this campaign. The government claims that the LGBTQ ideology is a movement based on foreign ideas formed from Western and foreign influence in Poland. This idea of foreign interference also fuels the “us versus them” battle in Poland, as the government advocates traditional values and says that all other mindsets are a result of foreign influence.

The tactics that the far-right government is currently using in Poland is reminiscent of other far-right groups in history. Parties build their platform on the idea of nationalism and national identity and convince their followers that they are doing what is best for their country. Traditionally these parties are governed by religious undertones, with religious values influencing policies. These policies and alignments can be harmful as state and Church are no longer separate and a party’s religious beliefs can start to govern the country. As in the case of Poland, it is harmful as a right-wing party with a Catholic leader is allowing their religious beliefs to dictate laws in the country, most notably, being that the Catholic religion does not support the LGBTQ community and this influence can be seen throughout Poland through LBGTQ exclusion zones and the government’s public disownment of the community.

Resolutions have passed creating LGBTQ Free Zones in Poland, stating that it is supporting traditional family values and that the LGBTQ community is a threat to the concept of a proper family model. The resolution states that Poland has been shaped by the centuries-old heritage of Christianity and same sex relationships are a threat to traditional Christian identity. Regions covering the population of about 10 million people have adopted the idea of LGBTQ-free zones.

With the government stating that LGBTQ people are a bigger threat to Polish nationalism than communism, it instills fear into people. Fear is one of the main ways that far-right governments control people by teaching them to fear what they do not know or understand, rather than trying to learn about the differences and share facts and information.

With Poland moving back towards more traditional Christian beliefs and values and creating anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, segregation and distrust of the community, it begs the question, will Poland be the only one? With progress towards acceptance in many areas of the globe gaining momentum, it more important than ever to continue the fight for equality and share stories of progress as sitting idly by while countries regress to a place of intolerance, hatred and distrust will only cause more harm and make the fight more difficult for the future. Poland is displaying characteristics that the rest of the world needs to pay attention to in order to support a marginalized community. Allowing those characteristics to turn into policy and mainstream thought will only fuel other countries teetering on the edge of positive change to be drawn back in to the inequitable past.

European Myths

Emma C

I think that one of the myths surrounding European identity might buckle when faced with the challenge of colonialism and mass migration as the image of Europe being this ideal place to live and continent that we should look up to is broken. We can look at the issue of mass migration, as Stone mentions in their reading about how collective memory is used and how it differs based on who is invoking it. Many people compare the European mass migration issue to concentration camps. Collective memory is then invoked as all of Europe knows closely the history involved, but depending on who you are asking, some may agree or disagree with the statement. A survivor of concentration camps may have a different view than an everyday British citizen as they each remember the event/history differently.

The way in which populists reinforce European identity is through the idea of nation building and national identity. As mentioned in the POLITICO article, many far-right groups are gaining popularity in Europe as they are filling a gap that people are missing. They are using their theories and platform under the guise of rebuilding the greatness of said country and are working to debunk myths that are harming the national identity, when in reality these groups are more often than not, at the root of many of the problems themselves.

Dan Stone, “On Neighbours and Those Knocking at the Door: Holocaust Memory and Europe’s Refugee Crisis.” Patterns of Prejudice 52, no. 2/3 (May 2018): 231–43.

 QAnon Goes European

Migration and the “Other”

Emma C

The readings this week discuss the ideas of immigration and the idea of the “other” and how ideas about these can change depending on demographic and geography. The far-rights ideas about immigration are still relevant today. As we have discussed previously the way in which these groups build their support is around the idea of nationalism. 1989 and onwards there was an increase in immigration in Europe, making populations more diverse. Far-right groups were able to use the increase in immigration to garner more support for their cause through “othering” immigrants.

The idea of the other is still seen today as far-right groups have strict ideas around migration, typically known for not supporting it. Limiting migration assists these group in building a stronger sense of nationalism and there are less foreigners entering their country and not taking the focus away from the national culture. The “other” was a tactic used in the us versus them attitude in regard to migration where if you are not born in the country or have roots there, you are considered an “other”, an outsider. Groups feel that democratic liberal institutions and ideas around migration are harming their country as the increase in diversity of the population, harms a country’s national identity.

Anna Cento Bull, “The role of memory in populist discourse: the case of the Italian Second Republic” Patterns of Prejudice, 50:3 (2016): 213-231

Christopher Molnar, “Greetings from the Apocalypse”: Race, Migration, and Fear after German Reunification” Central European History, (2021), 1-25.

How Malleable Is Fascism?

Emma C

What I found interesting from this week’s readings was the malleability of fascism and how we discussed last week, the ideas of fascism stay relevant over long periods of time. The malleability of fascism is interesting as not only has the ideology withstood time, but it has also stayed relevant and popular. As Amyot’s reading covers how fascism can be malleable as different groups with different agendas can come together over a common cause. It’s an ideology that can unite people who may not normally associate with one another because they share a common goal of believing that they are bettering their country. As was demonstrated in the many different bombings that happened, we can see how each group enacted their plan differently, but all believed in what they were doing.

We can also see how fascism is malleable through the way that the fascist and far right movement has changed today. In Chrisafis’ article we can see how the movement and groups have rebranded themselves to stay relevant in the 21st century. Typically fascism was a white mans cause, but we can see today that there are more women at the forefront in order to appear more relevant and with the times. The ideas have stayed the same, but the way that it is presented has changed from an exclusive group to one that is more open to different people that agree with the ideas.

Grant Amyot, “The Shadow of Fascism over the Italian Republic,” Human Affairs 21, no. 1 (2011): 35–43

Angelique Chrisafis, “From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: How the European far-right set its sight on women” The Guardian January 29, 2019

The 21st Century Fight for Women’s Rights

Emma C

Are women’s rights still under attack? In 2021, over 100 years since the birth of the suffrage movement and the fight for women’s rights began, it remains an ongoing battle especially in the area of reproductive rights.

Some European countries such as Ireland, are moving forwards in terms of woman’s healthcare.  On May 25, 2018, a referendum was held, and the people voted to repeal the 8th amendment and legalize abortion.  Unfortunately, even as recently as 2021, some countries are moving backwards in terms of women’s rights to govern their own bodies.  In Poland, a new law that came into effect on January 27, 2021 that bans all abortions unless it is a case of rape or incest, or, if mothers life is at risk.

Abortion laws in Poland were already strict, but the court ruled that a 1993 law allowing abortion in cases of severe and irreversible fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional, thus tightening restrictions even more. The current government in office in Poland is Law and Justice, which is a conservative type of party.

It can be frightening to see countries start to move backwards in the realm of women’s health. Poland, a predominantly Catholic country was governed by religious undertones for many years and was slowly starting to move away from a strong religious base. With the Law and Justice party in power, there is a push to move back to more traditional values, where the government has more control over what people can do based on values rooted in religion and traditionalism, restricting people’s actions so they conform to the Party’s base values.

The Law and Justice party campaigned for re-election in 2019 and won on the platform of bettering the Polish economy, and putting Polish needs first. Old-traditional ideas is what the government advocated for, similar to Trumps slogan “make America great again,”.  There was fear that Poland was losing their identity due to foreign influence and that the country was being taken away from the Polish people. The Law and Justice Party took this fear and ran with it when building their platform appealing to people’s want to strengthen the Polish economy, while not clearly outlining their other restrictive views that may not be as supported by the population.

Jaroslaw Kaczyński and his twin brother founded the Law and Justice Party in 2001 on the basis of strong nationalistic ideas, radical viewpoints and the belief that they would save the nation. These ideas are reminiscent of ideas of past fascist and authoritarian regimes that believed they were going to save the nation. Their beliefs were built from the idea that the regime had the best interests of the country and its “native” population in mind and that they were saving its Polish citizens from being invaded by foreigners. While these ideas may seem nationalistic and harmless in theory, in practice they can be quite harmful.

In today’s political climate with many progressive movements gaining popularity worldwide advocating for equal rights and access, many feel that they are slipping away from traditional ways that have served their country up until today. In Poland, the current attack on a woman’s right to choose what happens to their own body stems from a concern, manufactured from a political party, that the country has strayed too far from its Catholic roots. In order to win back the public’s trust and vote, this new stricter abortion ban that passed is a signal that Poland is not going to stray from its Catholic roots. I think a point needs to be made to more clearly delineate religion from politics. The promotion of religion as a basis of governing law has long been a popular method to encourage people to align with political parties.  It provides the illusion of credibility for some of the more restrictive laws, but also certainly excludes a portion of the population. It is unfortunate that Poland, like Texas, has based their political platform on religious grounds that are rooted in historical interpretation of a different time with little relevance in the world today.

Women should not be restricted by laws based on archaic religious principles but have the freedom to choose what happens to their bodies, no matter what religion their leaders choose to follow. Religion itself has had a very turbulent history and it seems that the quest for women’s reproductive rights to be a self-managed decision will be just as tumultuous.

The New Right Movements

Emma C

After this week’s readings about 1968 and the new right, I really enjoyed reading about countries that I am less familiar with, such as France. I hadn’t learned much about France in my earlier historical studies but reading the Bar-On article opened my eyes that a country that is today seen as very liberal, had such a strong support for the idea of the “white man.” I think it is key to acknowledge that although France is seen as a liberal country today, influences from past beliefs and movements in France can be seen today through racially targeted laws.

From the Bar-On article, what I was reminded of was how transnational many of the ideologies and beliefs of these new right groups were and how they wanted their messages to be spread beyond France’s borders, “Benoist’s website provides translations of his works in eight European languages: French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish and Czech.” (211). Prior to the postwar and the emergence of the new right before technology advanced, I think these far-right ideologies typically, stayed contained or travelled small distances. With beliefs that their messages and movements are important the way in which these types of groups operated changed. Rather than operating one group in France, with the ability to share information and people looking for change and something to believe in/belong to groups are able to mobilize supporters in other countries, making them more powerful. We can see how the transnationality of far-right groups has continued to evolve today with how easily we can communicate and share ideas internationally.

As is demonstrated in the Griffin reading there becomes almost a sense of identity crisis, “The man of the Tradition now has no legitimate structures or causes to which to belong.” (41). People who believe in the traditional values and don’t want to move forward with the way the country is progressing may feel forgotten and left behind. A person who was once a prominent member of society know feels their voice isn’t being heard. This thinking can be seen today as the world moves forward and progresses older generations whose voice once held power, feel that they are being left behind. This can cause tension in countries between generation, and it becomes traditional against progressive. Things that were being done 50 years ago, aren’t proper to be doing today. It becomes a balancing act of how to acknowledge a generation and make them feel heard, while also being progressive to keep with the times.

Tamir Bar-On, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 199–223.

Roger Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum.’” Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 8, no. 1 (Feb. 2000): pp. 35–53.

The Person Behind the Soldier

Emma C

With the topic of, “coming to terms in postwar Germany,” I can say that I learned quite a bit. What I took away from Fulbrook’s reading was how their actions truly affected some former Nazi’s. We are taught and see them as these ruthless killing machines, but Fulbrook’s reading brought the human aspect back. In particular in Zimmermann’s case we can see how after the war ended, he turned his life around and became an outstanding citizen. He got married and had four children, while working in a uranium mine and even earning the accolade, “activist of service (Verdienter Aktivist), someone who had met even more demanding criteria of sustained productivity, service and commitment.” As demonstrated throughout the trial Zimmermann truly felt remorse for the crimes he had committed and the lives he had taken. Reading about these trials allows us to see the person behind the soldier and see how truly remorseful they are and how they are trying to atone for their crimes.

What also stood out was the lengths that were taken to ensure the “denazification” of Germany. There was such a frenzy of wanting to rid Germany of any lingering Nazi’s or affects of the party in order to bring Germany back into the world’s good graces once again. There was such a fear around the resurgence of the Nazi ideals that after the war people filled out a survey where they were asked what party they voted for in 1932 and 1933, which could incriminate themselves. Everyday people who voted for the party could potentially be incriminated without having committed any true crime because people were so fearful or a resurgence.

Mary Fulbrook, “Discomfort Zones” and “Voices of the Victims” in Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp: 314-336.

W. Sollors, “Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.” German Life & Letters. Vol 71, Issue 2 (2018): 139-153.