The place of the feminine under fascism

By Jim Dagg

My thoughts on the readings this week are primarily reflections on the feminine under fascism. It’s easy to observe that the male is dominant in fascism – even more so than under other systems. So, beyond baby-making and child-raising… what place does the feminine have under fascism?

Two of the readings – “Protean Masculinity…” by Kuhne and “Blue Angels…” by Lopez/Sanchez provide very interesting insights. The latter shows that during the Spanish Civil War, fascist women sometimes played non-traditional roles – in espionage, sabotage and organization. Paradoxically, they fought against women’s rights that had been provided by the existing democratic government (right to vote, divorce, education). Did they understand this? If so, what motivated them to work against their own rights? The history of the civil war was written by the fascists, and it downplayed the women’s contributions – putting women back in their “place”.

And yet the feminine is essential. In Kuhne’s article, we see that operating successfully as a hard man and a comrade would provide license for more typically feminine actions and sentiments. And these were essential to the good functioning of military units. Examples are quoted included the organizing of a Christmas celebration, and even crying for lost comrades. These types of incidents helped maintain comradely bonds among hard men – and show how the feminine was essential to the operation of predominantly-male environments.

In the “Spain’s Fascism Fandom” video-doc we see that women’s main role is in abusing women who disagree with them. While counter-protesters are being arrested, other women shout abuse at them – including sexualized language. In Marhoefer’s article we hear of an anonymous letter which denounces Totzke primarily for having a lesbian affair. We don’t know the gender of the letter-writer, but it certainly fits the pattern of attacking women who act outside of traditional roles.

The common theme of all these is that fascism values the traditional role for women. Further when some women operate outside tradition, they stand to be abused by traditional women, and their positive contributions will be hidden from the record.


By Jim Dagg

The Ben-Ghiat reading shows that Mussolini wanted an Italian-controlled empire: that’s the twisted take on internationalism for Italian Fascism. Mussolini expected that possession of his new empire would provide a means to develop and demonstrate the superiority of the Italian male, and especially the Italian soldier. Events shows that Empire was not a good fit: the military resorted to gas attacks to control the natives; and colonists – especially from the south of Italy (called “Italy’s own Africa”) – weren’t up to challenge of acting as the noble and superior manager.

Hitler wasn’t interested in overseas empire: his attention was on the European empire he wanted for Germany. Motadel’s academic article shows that he was willing to engage with anti-colonial authoritarians who might help his cause. Most of these were exiles from British colonies, who might create distraction for the British, and also serve as like-minded authoritarians in the event of successful revolution. Hitler apparently regretted not making better use of this opportunity. The fact is that he was focused on Europe and he didn’t look at that as an internationalist move, but rather as simple dominance.

Motadel’s NYTimes article identifies two Fascist initiatives that come closest to being internationalist in nature. He highlights the Spanish Civil War and the Anti-Comintern Pact. These two showed that far-right organizations time could collaborate at least to the extent of targeting a common enemy. Motadel believes today’s far-right groups will work together similarly – for example to undermine the European Union. He doubts though that more constructive international collaboration is likely, as members of these nationalist groups are highly focused on their local concerns. Historically, during WWII, suspicion and selfishness prevented constructive collaboration among the Axis partners – and Spain for that matter. Fascists mostly don’t do Internationalism.

Hanebrink’s article on the “Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism” provides more evidence of this. One of the common villainizing characterizations against Jews was that they were “root-less” border-crossers. Of course, this was combined with worse accusations, but it’s relevant to emphasize this aspect. People from away – call them internationals – are undesirable/despicable to Fascists.

Introducing me

Hi everyone!
I’m Jim Dagg. I’m the one with all the white hair.

After a very stimulating and satisfying career in high tech, I started working on a History degree back in the fall of 2019. Going back to school was – and still is! – the most exciting part of my retirement plan.

 I have fourth year standing now, but as I’m taking only two courses per semester, I will be at this until 2024: I’m in no rush. I love being a student, so after that… who knows?!

I’m happily married, with two grown and launched children – who are older than most of you! I play soccer and pickleball (try it!). I enjoy building/renovation projects, as well as gardening.

Defining Terms

I appreciate the notion, important in the Brubaker lecture and echoed elsewhere that Populism can be seen as a repertoire of elements by which to gain political support. Not a fully formed ideology on its own, it is first a style of democratic politics which can be deployed by parties of any ideology. This point it important in Mudde, who sees Populism as a “thin centered” ideology (contrasting to full ideologies such as liberalism, socialism or communism) as it only “informs” policy rather than representing a worked out system.

In Finchelstein’s view, populism re-emerged after WWII as a step back from fascism. I wonder whether fascism was shunned in other polities because its major proponents lost the war? Or was there actual revulsion at the centrality of violence in fascism (by Finchelstein’s definition). Paxton thinks fascism is also characterized by a romantic notion that the leader is in “mystical union with the historic destiny of his people”. Is such an exalted self-image of a people (and a leader) a good fit just anywhere? A combination of the latter two feels like the best explanation.

I got a new insight on the meaning of the Elite enemy in populism from Mudde’s discussion of re-politicization. In addition to the neoliberal globalization and mediated understanding of news, Mudde introduced the “rise of undemocratic liberalism”. When controversial issues like abortion and capital punishment become enshrined in law, they are “taken out of the political, most notably electoral, arena”. Immigration, and European integration are other excellent examples: mainstream political parties supported these, in spite of reservations by large portions of the electorate. Technocratic decision-making, and TINA (there is no alternative) arguments are part of this infuriating mix.