Memories Require Nuance

Declan Da Barp

The German Catechism debates laid bare the tumultuous creation of memory in the post-45 context. In the piece that spawned these debates, Dirk Moses raises a number of profoundly difficult questions about how holocaust memory was fostered and the memories that it is used to obscure – particularly that of colonial violence. Moses, quoting Franz Neumann, calls Nazism a form of “racial imperialism” (7). His comments were not without controversy. As pointed out by Neil Gregor, there is no clear other that Moses is pointing to but rather the ominous “high-priests”.

Fundamentally, these debates were part of a long history of remembrance and historical narratives that form the social milieu. As is so eloquently pointed out in Evans’ piece, the lack of a colonial narrative is not unique to Germany or Europe, but an issue here in Canada and countless other countries globally. Germany and many global north countries are changing, and these narratives are being challenged. With a colonial memory being brought to the fore, ideas of the holocaust’s uniqueness are being examined and repositioned within a much wider historical context. Nuance is being introduced into a composition of a past that was black and white – a German past rather than the past of Europe collectively. Debates, such as the German Catechism, are a crucial arena in which societal memory can be pulled apart and discussed – the voice of scholars in the public domain is a key in creating this nuance. Creating a grey narrative that views an event through a myriad of lenses promotes robust debate around tough and painful memories – ones that must be viewed within a wider context to fully understand their shortcomings.

A More Nuanced Definition

Declan Da Barp

            Still grappling with the idea of definitions, the contribution through this week’s readings broaden the scope of both along with the political and global compass. The contributions of Cas Mudde (whose work we began the course with) and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser along with those of Matthijs Rooduijn, Tjitske Akkerman, and Luke March creates a much more holistic view of populist discourse – one that is too often focused on the global north. In taking this all-encompassing view a more nuanced view can gleam and better and more robust questions can be studied in future.

            As presented by Rooduijn and Akkerman, the scale of populism provided a useful lens through which to discuss the ideas of populist scholars (193). While exclusively focusing on Western Europe, Rooduijn and Akkerman further outline left and right populism in the European context – one that has largely been defined as a right-wing movement. This is crucial is it not only shows that these left-wing populists exist, but that they express these tendencies (in western Europe) at relatively the same levels (199). Particularly given that Rooduijn and Akkerman are working off the definition established by Mudde, the importance of his and Kaltwasser’s work is key to any discussion on definitions. Their exploration of the full political spectrum of populism across the world underscores the importance of understanding the movement as a set of ideas existing in local contexts rather than an overarching ideology. Employed by the left and right, the ideas of adaptable and can act as legitimators of power (Mudde and Kaltwasser, 151). Whether it is inclusionary or exclusionary depends on the political ideology but the ways these leaders go about forging these in and out-groups exist in the same framework.

The Body Politic

Declan Da Barp

The Anti-Gender movement has sprung up across the globe and in the guise of different populist movements on the right and the left. What is clear though is that this messaging of anti-Genderism is a pernicious element in the body politic today that is a backlash of the liberalization of sex and gender in the post-68 period. While many of these campaigns materialized around the move to legalize same-sex marriage and extend rights to the LGBTQ2+ community it has morphed into a movement that aims to regulate the body, restrict reproductive, and prevent sex and gender education (Paternotte and Kuhar). These ideas are widespread and have many overlapping interests, for example in Poland of the Catholic and populist regime. In this way, it touches on the ideas mentioned earlier in the course by Mudde of a “thin-crusted ideology” (Paternotte and Kuhar). Innately, as shown in both readings this week, anti-gender activists map neatly over other pre-existing ideologies.

The idea of gender ideology being a new Marxism was a poignant one, particularly in the Polish context. Poland as described by Piotr and Paweł Zuk defines itself as Catholic and anti-Marxist. The Law and Justice Party (PiS) have added anti-genderism to their repertoire of “Others” which Poland defines itself against. Hungary has done much the same (Paternotte and Kuhar). In the context of post-Soviet Hungary and Poland, to be anti-Marxist has a real political weight to it, much the same weight that being Catholic has in Poland. Thus, the labelling of Gender as Marxist not only plays on a well-established historical dark period in Polish history it gives legitimacy to the PiS party.

Works Cited

David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-19.

Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 566–588.

A Murderer could Pass The Fit-and Proper Person’s Test

“Sportswashing launders the reputations of thugs and despots, but it also diminishes our democratic institutions.”

Nicholas McGeehan, co-director of Fair\Square

Declan Da Barp

Once a proud club, that finished runners-up in the early years of the Premier League, Newcastle United has been in the doldrums of English football. Much like the surrounding area, the football club was subject to a lack of investment that left it floundering. That was until Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the Public Investment Fund purchased the club for £300 Million.

In an instance, the Magpies became the wealthiest club in world football. This sent the people of Newcastle pilgriming to St. James’ Park, some with tablecloths on their heads and Saudi Arabian flags, to celebrate what they see as the revival of their club.

Hours after the Purchase of Newcastle United hundreds flocked to St. James’ Park, their place of worship. A place that for so long only provided pain. [Lee Smith/Action Images Via Reuters]

This was the exact reaction that bin Salman was hoping to illicit. It is one of a growing number of examples within the English Game of sportswashing.

The global reach and appeal of the Premier League have attracted the attention of nefarious actors who aim to purify their image through the game. It is time that real regulations are put into place that prevents the financial doping of clubs for authoritarian gains.

Sportswashing works and that is what is so dangerous.

Sportswashing is rather hard to define but in its simplest terms, it is the attempt by an individual, corporation, or state to cleanse its global image through sport. Or to borrow a phrase from Nicholas McGeehan, co-director of Fair\Square an organization that researches human rights abuse, and promotes accountability and the rule of law,
“Sportswashing launders the reputations of thugs and despots, but it also diminishes our democratic institutions.”

The term has a long history dating back to the fascist dictators of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

In the Premier League itself, the practice dates to as early as 2003 when Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea. While his reasons remain opaque, the Oligarch transformed a floundering Chelsea into one of the most powerful teams in the sport. His liberal attitude to spending, including two billion Pounds in his first decade, has received widespread praise.

Roman Abramovich lifting the 2012 Champions League Trophy. [Alex Livesey/Getty Images]

Abramovich has been a key Putin ally since his rise to power and has maintained his wealth while many oligarchs, including former business partner Boris Berezovsky, have lost theirs.

Despite the claims of corruption, there was no regulatory process to prevent the takeover, the first “fit-and-proper-person test” was introduced in 2004. While it promised to be a document that would prevent bad-faith actors from entering the game through ownership it is weak and spineless.

How can a man who has been deemed to have ordered the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi be judged as fit and proper?

“It has destroyed his (Salman’s) reputation, he’s desperately trying to use these types of deals to repair his image,” Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancé, told the Athletic after the takeover.  

The Premier League insists that the PIF is not Saudi Arabia; this is although the investments are controlled by bin Salman himself and the board appointed by royal decree. The takeover itself has been in talks as early as April 2020. 

Bin Salman at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final speaking with Gianni Infantino, head of FIFA. A match that other authoritarians attended such as Putin (seen in shot) and Viktor Orban.

The initial hold-up, a licencing deal between BeIN Sports, the Premier Leagues’ primary broadcasters in the Middle East – there was no issue with the PIF and bin Salman passing the owner’s and director’s test. This shows the true preoccupation of the Premier League, money. There were no issues welcoming a murderous, human right abusing regime, but rather ensuring that the broadcasting of the sport within the region was the only concern.

On October 6, 2021, the issues surrounding BeIN were resolved the Premier League welcomed its newest investor.

This indifference creates an environment for others whose aim is to manipulate, obscure, and pollute football with populism and authoritarianism. One that without proper regulation, that includes a more nuanced view of global issues – frankly one that takes seriously human rights – that the Premier League can be shielded from more bad-faith actors.

Abramovich was an early adopter but sportswashing is alive in the English game, and the League has turned a blind eye to the reality of it.

Creating A New Other

Declan Da Barp

The question of modernity is central to the European neo-liberal description of itself. And while this description of modernity rests on the claims of secularization, rationality, and the embrace of enlightenment ideals Europe also characterizes itself against that of Islam. This is no truer than in urban settings, the heart of the neo-liberal world. To use El-Tayeb’s terminology, cities are comprised of consumers, and it is the transformation of the citizen to the consumer that is the true mark of modernity within European society (82). Establishing this dichotomy through the ostracization of an underclass of labour migrants, largely from Islamic Global south countries, cannot achieve this status of the consumer. Their retention of piety is understood and presented as a lack of loyalty to the west and a failure to assimilate into Western culture; often resulting in the characterization as a fifth column (Göle, 672). This only serves to reinforce previous historical narratives.  

One that looms particularly large is the Ottomans and the 1683 siege of Vienna. Presented as a moment of pan-European victory over an invading Other. These powerful historical narratives continue on today when aiming to define who is and who is not a European but also where the geographical boundaries lie. The inclusion of Turkey in the EU is described by Göle as a “forced marriage” (676). Moreover, the liberalization of women’s rights in Western society is routinely contrasted with those in the Islamic world. The hijab, niqab, and burka have all been weaponized by Europeans to characterize Muslims and oppressive to women and thus living in a pre-modern state and thus the incongruity between Europe and the Muslim world (El-Tayeb, 83). In creating these narratives, Europe is not only defining itself but defining what it is not.

The Media and The People

Declan Da Barp

The “people” has been a topic that has come up time and again throughout the class but is central to the understanding of both the Italian Second Republic and a reunified Germany. This definition of the people had the inverse outcome of creating an “other” that the people are cast against. In the case of Germany in 1989, those people were the Turks and other asylum seekers and immigrants of non-European descent (Molner, 499). In the Italian case, it depended on the political party but central to Silvio Berlusconi’s Discesa in campo was the exclusion of communists and the political left (Bull 220). What the two have in common was the centrality of an in-group and out-group that allowed for as Bull describes “a chain of equivalence around key empty signifiers” allowing for the recreation of national myths (220). In so doing, aiming to redefine the nation around new shared ideas.

Berlusconi’s control of Italian media poses an interesting question that I believe needs to be explored much more deeply. While it is by no means true to say that he had complete control over the media Italian’s consumed, given the importance of a revisionist representation of Italian history to his political movement, Berlusconi’s media empire allowed him to broadcast his message into the homes of Italians. The “onslaught” of Berlusconi’s media empire on the Italian left must be understood within this greater idea of rewriting post-war Italian history. As seen in the German case with the war in Yugoslavia (Molner, 508), the images and narratives broadcast into their homes affected their outlook on current events; one that I believe has been overlooked for too long.  

Works Cited

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.

The Exportation of Violence

Declan Da Barp

Italy during the anni di piombo or years of lead is an invaluable case study of the violence observed during and post 68. During this period the political extremes on the peninsula combatted with each other during an incredibly fractious period in which much of the population was largely dissatisfied with the political leadership of the Christian Democratic Party which ruled the country between 1945 and 1994.  It was in these years that Italy was gripped by terrorist attacks on both the far left and the far right, coming in two distinct phases. Pre-1974 the attacks were largely carried out by the Italian far-right in an attempt to stoke the public fear of a communist takeover (Amyot, 37). The Italian far-left responded in kind by the mid-1970s perceiving the actions of the far-right to have been state-sponsored, which they largely were (Glynn, 2). Violence was an expected sight during the 1968 student protests and was harnessed by both sides moving forward but never materialized into votes, as seen in the 1968 elections which saw the return of the DC party with more votes, displaying the desire for stability – particularly amongst those on the right (Mammon, 217-218).

The importance of these ideas did not only pertain to Italian political discourse but spread throughout European extremist movements – particularly in France. Much like in Italy, the presence of Charles de Gaulle loomed large over the political milieu and those on the political extremes were unsatisfied with the current political leadership. The combination of violence and politics like seen in Italy were absorbed into the French political extreme through the Ordre Nouveau’s close connection with the Italian fascists MSI. Moreover, as influenced by the thinking of the Nouvelle Droite the New French far-right took a much more pan-European view of nationalism and racism that blended well into the Italian context. This cross-border interaction between the French and Italian far-right movements can see the further spread of political violence and its importance to the far-right movements of the 1970s and 80s.

Works Cited

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

Andrea Mammon, “The Transnational Reaction to 1968: Neo-Fascist Fronts and Political Cultures in France and Italy.” Contemporary European History, vol. 17, no. 2 (May 2008): 213–236.

Ruth Glynn, “Writing the terrorist self: the unspeakable alterity of Italy’s female perpetrators” Feminist Review (Jul 2009): 1-18

International Competition is Not a Right

Declan Da Barp

A shower of beer cups, racist chants, and monkey gestures rained down on Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham as England trounced Hungary 4-0 in a World Cup qualifying match in September. In response, FIFA fined the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) 200,000 Swiss Francs and banned fans for Hungary’s next home match.

The MLSZ is all too familiar with this punishment, marking Hungary’s fourth ban in eight years. The Hungarian’s are already serving a stadium ban handed down by UEFA following racist and homophobic chants and banners at Euro 2020.  

The Hungarian hardcore fans or Ultras, referred to as the Carpathian Brigade, stoked by the Hungarian government’s populist policies have a long history of racist and bigoted incidents four stadium bans in the past eight years. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Homophobia and racism are not unique to Hungarian fans. At Euro 2020, three black English players received a torrent of racial abuse for missing penalties that could have made England the champion. But what makes Hungary so troubling is the frequency of the events and the explicit government approval. Where in England, arrests for racial abuse follow instances of prejudice, the Hungarian Government provides mere excuses, diversion, and even outright support. Following the previous international break, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn said he “agree[s] with the fans” who decried taking a knee as a “provocation”.

The success of the current Hungarian National team is the success of Orbán. Since his party surged into power in 2010, he has created what he dubs an “illiberal democracy.” Judges, ministers, tax authorities, and, most importantly in this context, sporting organizations executives have been taken over by members of Fidesz – Orbán’s ruling party.

The racism that is seen repetitively at Hungarian soccer matches is representative of the same malice within the ruling party. With no action being taken to curb the prejudice internally, the only way to keep the game innocent is by banning the Hungarian National Team from international competition entirely.

Orbán himself has a long history with the game and has used his past as a semi-professional player to connect with the everyday man. This photo was taken of Orbán at a tournament in Felcsút in 2012 while he was playing in the Hungarian fourth-tier.  (Laszlo Balogh/Reuters)

Hungary is one of the most repressive countries in the European Union with xenophobia, racism, and homophobia commonplace. The countless examples of bigotry inside Hungarian stadiums are a reflection of the country’s lurch to the authoritarian right.

In recent years Orbán has tightened his grip over local media, in passing the “Stop-Soros Laws” cracked down on NGOs who aid migrants, and recent legislation enacted to limit the exposure of minor to “homosexual content” connecting homosexuality to paedophilia. This populist backsliding has led many experts to conclude that if Hungary applied today, they would be rejected from the EU.

And yet, no one has acted against Orbán or his regime.

FIFA and UEFA declare that they allow no room for racism and bigotry in football but allowing the continued participation of the MLSZ has permitted and encouraged these kinds of behaviours.

Ejecting MLSZ from international competition would not be without precedent. 

Referred to as the Wonder-team, the Yugoslav National Team had their chance at the Euros taken away from them due to UN sanctions placed on the country. The Yugoslav National Team made the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and Red Star Belgrade won the 1991 Champions League. The team that replaced them, Denmark, went on to win the Euros.

In 1992, Yugoslavia was engulfed in a viscous conflict with the states of the once unified Slavic Republic declaring independence. Despite the bloodshed, the Yugoslav national team was preparing for the Euros in which they had a real shot at the trophy. The team was jettisoned from the competition mere weeks before the start due to human rights abuses by Serbian paramilitary forces in Sarajevo. FIFA and UEFA removed all the former Slavic republic from international competitions, in accordance with UN sanctions.

In the case of Hungary, the governing bodies of the sport stand alone. The EU and UN have previously been inactive in combatting the threat of authoritarianism and populism throughout the world. F IFA and UEFA now have an opportunity to defend the beliefs that they claim to hold. If the football associations are serious about rooting out prejudice within the sport, they must bar the MLSZ from a cycle of international competition; all lighter attempts at rectifying the situation have been disregarded. If the governing bodies of the sport choose to turn a blind eye, they are being hypocritical to their own values and are ultimately allowing Orbán to continue his populist appeal through international sport and are complicit in his actions.

The Transnational Culture Wars of the Late 1900s

Declan Da Barp

            As discussed in previous weeks, the post-war context inextricably changed how fascists characterized and expressed their beliefs. As studied through the works by Frank Biess, Tamir Bar-On, and Roger Griffin these descriptions of the New Right and New Left were heavily informed by the memory of the inter-war fascist regimes and the context of the Cold War. At the centre of the political upheaval of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s were questions of democracy and the erosion of institutions. As seen in the case of the German Student Movement of the late 1960s, the new emergency laws acted as a catalyst for protest. Much like the New Right, the Third World was of major concern for the New Left and sought to combat the Authoritarians regimes that they saw as Western pawns, as was the case with the Shah (Biess, 197), while also defending the Vietnamese citizens using language that directly connected to the Holocaust (211-212). In so doing, the New Left defined itself against the crimes of the Nazi past and perceived the West German state backsliding into fascism.

            What was central to both the New Left and New Right was the cultural wars of the age. On the Left, this took the form of childrearing where on the Right this came in the form of anti-liberalism, anti-egalitarian, and anti-multiculturalism. To these new political movements, convincing the populous and select elites of their worldview was the key to power. As stated in Griffin’s article, the New Right saw the period as one in which to “prepare the ground” through words rather than action, for the future realization of their beliefs (39). This took the form of Journals, Think-Tanks, and periodicals which internationalized these ideas (Bar-On, 212). Similar to the French writer Renaud Camus, who spread the idea of the “Great Replacement” through his writing so too was the idea of the Nouvelle Droite and the Conservative Revolution.

Works Cited

Frank Biess, “Revolutionary Angst” German Angst: Fear and Democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2020), 195-241.

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.

Denazification, Popular Culture, and Shifting Power

Declan Da Barp

Vergangenheitsbewältigung – refers to the process in which the post-war German state came to understand and process the Nazi past. It is clear in the work of Fulbrook, Sollors, and Moeller that this process was fraught with questions of culpability and guilt on the part of the perpetrators and of intense pain and social dislocation for the victims. The process was heavily generational with the progression of highlighting the accounts of survivors to an increasing awareness of the acts of those who enacted the Holocaust. Moreover, the cultural manifestations of the post-war period showed how this was not just a question for Germany to answer but one that the Americans, who in the context of the Cold war, aimed to “terminate Nazi rule forever” (Sollors, 141).

            The effect that the denazification process had on post-war German society can be observed when comparing Fragebogen and Stanley Kramer and Abby Mann’s Judgment at Nuremberg. The works by Sollors and Moeller highlight how prevalent the past was within German culture but also the pains at which so many wanted to disassociate themselves from the Nazi past. The most striking example was the common nickname for those filling in exonerating Fragebogen being “Persil-Scheine,” a common laundry detergent (Sollors, 140).  While the images used in popular media, like Judgment at Nuremberg, illustrated the barbarities of the Nazi regime, creating a “Yardstick” of evil (Moeller, 514), it was a yardstick that no individual citizen felt they played a role in. This is evident in Fulbrook’s work, whether that be through the testimony of the schoolteacher who claimed to not know the truth of Auschwitz, or Helmut Hensel who was directly responsible for the deportation of Jew’s to concentration camps in his role as head of the Mielec Gestapo, or Dr. Hans Münch who worked closely with Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz, all were quick to obfuscate any responsibly they had. This continued well into the post-war period and the placement of many similar characters within the GDR and FRG delayed the process of denazification.

Works Cited

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, 361-377.

Robert Moeller, “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): 497-522.

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