Europe and the Other

 

When Corneliu Zelea Codreanu formed the Romanian Fascist movement in 1927 under the guise of the Legion of Archangel Michael it indoctrinated a generation of young Romanian men into a space that they took ownership over. The process codified a ‘mens club’ that would articulate the rules of a new Romanian man while satisfying the need for belonging; a new nation, as Roger Griffin has argued, was birthed through these ‘new’ men. The movements for newness have a long history of supporting Fascist regimes throughout Europe and have been used to attract those left vulnerable to uncertainty to an ultra-nationalist cause.

Groups of people have been defined by who they are not; incorporating histories across times and spaces into re-remembered ideals that constitute the public memory, take root in the discourse of the public domain, and crystalize the identity of European states and folks positioned within them.  As Fatima El-Tayeb wrote, “through the process of civilizing the East, the West defines itself, creating an internal coherence impossible to achieve without the external Other”. Those who exist outside the tangible population and are not ‘proper Europeans,’ as El-Tayeb termed them, and the existence of the so called ‘not proper’ Europeans gives credence to a uniformed European-ness.

Those on the periphery of the mass population are forced to internalize the established rules of the ‘new’ order or exist beyond it. In context of sexuality, this is what Lisa Duggan calls homonormativity: “internalizing a conceptualization of LGBT identity that constructs legitimacy and rights along established lines, challenging neither the exclusion of those who do not or cannot play by the rules”. In context of race, it is an invitation for individuals of color to be one of ‘them’ however, as educator Gloria Wekker described whether those of color opt in or do not ‘they’ are never one of ‘them’.

Normativity is a privilege of white liberals submitting to western doctrine and not only ignoring but taking aim at the Others who remain on the periphery. El-Tayeb, notes that white gay men can often be part of the established ‘new order’ order through participation in the ‘creative’ economy. Yet their participation is accepting that those groups beyond the ‘proper’ population, such as Muslims, are an active opposition to the established order. As white gay men align with liberal western doctrine, they sanction the use of homophobia as a theoretical attack against those on the periphery i.e. Muslim populations.

Those on the periphery are “pulled between two paradoxical civilizations, as Nilüfer Göle wrote building on the work of Samuel Huntington. While modernity is reserved for the west the Others are placed in an artificial chronotype: an alternative positioning of time and space. Confronting this positionality may revel how hollow the alliances that gave rise to ‘new men’ and ‘new’ order really are and reposition diverse gay or Muslim or Othered groups from the periphery.

 

Fascism’s Facelift

Fascism in Europe has been associated with the tyranny of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco. Indeed, Fascism in these context’s as George Moose has argued “satisfied a deep need” in the public consciences “fostering a sense of belonging”. However, the need that gave rise to the WWII -era fascist regimes emerged as a product of “the crisis of the 1920s and 30s,” as Roger Griffin has termed it. A crisis that emerged under the loss of trust in the states institutional capacity to deliver for its base. Of course, the base favoured by the Third Reich, the Aryan race, is most distinct in memories of the past but each fascist regime has appealed to a similar base to drive its message.

Following the second World War, the appeal for a ‘new order’ did not bring the sense of belonging that George Moose referred to. As Griffin noted “The generalised sense of imminent socio-cultural breakdown and the prospects of renewal in a ‘new order’ had evaporated.” In a post-WWII era the crisis that had motivated thousands to the Fascist cause had disappeared leaving Fascism in a new theoretical space and in need of a new face – or facelift.

The Nouvelle Droite that originated in France in 1968 reinforces the thoughts of French art critic and journalist Maurice Bardèche who stated, “that neither fascism nor racism will do us the favour of returning in such a way that we can recognise them easily.” The state needed a way to engage in the international space once the fascist dream, that I have previously written about here, was achieved. Projecting the ideals of the state’s ‘new order’ to the world gave way for Fascism post – fascist formation: ultra-nationalism. However not the “‘palingenetic ultranationalism’ which results is profoundly anti-rational and mythic in its thrust, seeking to inspire revolutionary action rather than static contemplation,” that Griffin referred but one protecting the state against all else. The stance of protectionism allowed ultra-nationalist states to engage in a post-WWII international space while remaining unbroken from the historical lineage tied to the interwar – fascist regimes.

History as Justice: Reckoning with the post -fascist world

 

It is perhaps all too easy to declare that the global political economy exists in a post-fascist world. Not absent of authoritarian regimes or right-wing populism but these elements, often considered a threat to democracy, are reserved to the past; distancing the progressive left that dominates the ordering of our world. It is this tooling of the past that has allowed Hitler’s Nazism and Angela Merkel as the last defender of Western liberal democracy to exist in the same geographical space, separated only by time.

History itself has emerged as an important instrument in constructing a Germany beyond the Third Reich. As Joachim C. Häberlen wrote that narratives of the federal republic were juxtaposed against the extra parliamentary left from 1960 to 1970. It was then that the radical left contributed to the democratization of the Republic and the neo-liberalization of capitalism. In the dramatic historical change of Germany it is interesting to consider how does empire shed its legacy? History and narratives must be constructed to break from the past.

Flashpoints in German history were woven into the historiography that delivered the space for an alternative left to emerge. In 1968 student protests that consumed Germany and the world offered a “refounding of the Republic” as Claus Leggewie stated. Narratives were spun as Häberlen wrote, “ to use Hayden White’s terminology, as a ‘romance,’ a heroic story of overcoming evil for good” (Häberlen, 108). It were these narratives that bifurcated the identity of Germany into the divisive past and the cohesive future. The narratives of bifurcation were woven into the social consciousness of the unified Germany one no longer divided by east and west. Häberlen wrote building on Ulrich Bröckling and Andreas Reckwitz that “individuals in the contemporary, neoliberal world are confronted with cultural scripts that instruct them how to shape their emotional, mental, and bodily selves” (Häberlen, 112). It is was not simply new stories that emerged in a Unified Germany but stories to codify the self, the narrative of the alternative left carved out space in the public sphere for religious and sexual minorities alike. The bifurcating of the past championed an inclusion of identities that would otherwise cease to exist under the Third Reich. It is here that minorities of the post – fascist state have found justice through German historiography.

Mary Fullbrook’s chapter “hearing the voices of victims” speaks directly to the minority groups that were subjected to a hierarchal form of victimhood. She wrote that:

Heated discussions arose over which non-Jewish groups should receive a mention—should the exhibition include Gypsies, homosexuals, and others or focus purely on the “final solution of the Jewish question”? And which other genocides might be mentioned for purposes of comparison? (Fullbrook, 365)

The debate that Fallbrook wrote about were post-1968, in attempt to memorialize the victims of the Third Reich. It is important to consider when such debate could truly emerge as it demonstrates that there is a coming of age that takes place before history can intervene. The historical narratives that shed light on the past and return agency to individuals that were targets in Hitler’s Germany is the restorative justice mechanism of the applied aspects of the historic discipline. It is in this way that history reckons with the post -fascist world.

 

Sources

Fulbrook, M. (2018). Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Häberlen, Joachim C. “(Not) Narrating the History of the Federal Republic: Reflections on the Place of the New Left in West German History and Historiography.” Central European History 52, no. 1 (2019): 107-124.

The Need for Difference in the Fascist Cause

Wendy Lower pulls apart the idea that violence in Nazi Germany was the exclusive domain of men in her book Hitler’s Furies. It is nothing new to the field of Gender history that women are capable of violent acts that are not reserved to the gentle touch of poison or accidental death. Lower has written that the Nazi regime attracted “female activism of the most violent kind”. But what is most interesting about Lowers work is that it gives an less explored perspective of the workings of a murderous state.

“The consensus in Holocaust and genocide studies,” Lower wrote “is that the system that makes mass murder possible would not function without the broad participation of society”. If this consensus has been the case perhaps it is only though understanding the individual contributions of diverse groups of people – men, women, and youth, etc. – that we can begin to fully understand the historiography that brings regimes or murderous states to power. Lower herself wrote that terror regimes “feed on the idealism and energy of young people,” it is this that gives a state motivation at times political justification to proceed. This coupled with nurses who kill instead of treat, and teachers who abandon their school children sentencing them to certain death is a reminder that everyone has a role to play in the business of indoctrinating a ‘new’ state.

In thinking about the female role, Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez point out that during the Spanish Civil War women’s position in society was leveraged in favour of the Franco state. Women were placed in roles of espionage as they were unsuspected of such acts and were crucial to spreading the Franco – supported message. To return to the point in which Lower began, broad participation by society is needed to carry out a systemic system that takes hold of society. In this way, fascist regimes do not need to bring every member of its society to be the same but difference can be account for and exploited into achieving a diverse machinery for propaganda and messaging that ultimately results in single fascist cause.

How Diminished Trust in Canadian Government Threatens to Bring a ‘New Nation’

The movement that brought John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives to power in 1957, was not motivated by platform promises. People were motivated by their lack of trust for PC opponents. In the absence of Liberal Louis St. Laurent, Quebecers had to choose which anglophone to trust with Francophonie advancement and those in the West had to decide who would champion their values given the diminishing nature of the Social Credit party. Having to choose when there is no party to be trusted led to a system of diminishing trust in the twentieth century and has plagued our electoral process in the twenty-first. There is no guarantee that those who are governing nor those who stand to govern will abide by the plans they put forth. This has ostracized the public from the electoral process and resulted in diminishing voter turnout. Canadians have been left uncertain as to whether their government will deliver for them but when Canadians are certain is deciding the time for a government to go and they have consistently demonstrated this at the polls.

Whenever historic levels of voter turnout have been achieved, it would has not favoured the incumbent. This proved successful for Joe Clark’s minority government in 1979, Brian Mulroney’s majority in 1984 and Harper’s minority in 2006. Each time there was a significant rise in voter turnout it resulted in a change in government. However, while the rise in voter turnout had increased from the respective previous election it did not achieve the level of the last major change in government. 1979 had a 75.7 percent voter turn out followed by 75.3 percent in 1984 and 64.7 percent in 2006. While Canadians voting in mass still vote for change the electoral utility of the ‘mass vote’ is diminishing. While the Liberal victory in 2015 benefited from a 68.3 voter turnout, a 7.2 percent jump in voter turnout compared to 2011, it remains vastly diminished compared to Canada’s largest voter turnout, 79.4 percent, that occurred in the 1958 election that brought Diefenbaker’s super-majority to power (data provided by Elections Canada, Voter Turnout. 1867-2015). 

As more Canadians opt not to cast ballots, they are embracing an ostracization from the electoral process, leaving them outside the system that determines their governance. If we consider Fascism as a revolutionary form of systemic revolt there is no need to depart from the arguments of Gilbert Allardyce’s “What Fascism Is Not” and Federico Finchelstein, “Introduction: Thinking Fascism and Populism in terms of the Past”. Both authors asserted a form of Fascism that is obsessed with newness, a breaking of the past and as Roger Griffin (quoted by Finchelstein) pointed out “a longing for a new order, a new nation, not just a reformed old nation”.  If Canadians can not trust the current system to work for them then calls for separatism that has taken hold in Quebec and will continue to evolve in the West in the form of ‘wexit’, will remain the only means of breaking from tyranny.

It is not enough for those that form government to declare that despite the distribution of votes government will deliver for all. While that is a necessary part of the democratic process, it should not permit parties to play regional favourites as we have seen in the 2019 election. The decision of parties to build trust in certain regions as the Liberals have done in Toronto, the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, and the Conservative in the West fragments the country. Regional nepotism allows for our governing process to pin Canadians against each other and force some to live under the tyranny of the policy priorities of the other. It is this need that fascist ideology seeks to satisfy. The idealist Fascist cause that George L. Moose argued satisfies “a deep need for activism combined with identification,” and Canadians distrusting of the governance process to deliver and driven outside the electoral process will need both if government does not get into the business of trust building in through the process that bring them to power. Political parties favouring vying for power rather than building trust will only further divide the country until regional actions are so distinct that the formation ‘new nations’ is unavoidable.

 

The Man and the State in the Fascist Dream

This week, the readings explore ideas of masculinity, femininity and sexuality under Fascist regimes. It is perhaps Thomas Kühne and Valentin Săndulescu works that gave most credence to my assertion that the ideology and physicality of men were used as symbols of Fascist regimes. The need to both see and identify the Fascist state is a tool of transmittance of the Fascist ideology that validates the legitimacy of the state and indoctrinates others under its guiding hand; a motivator for Mussolini among other leaders and a sentiment I have previously explored here: https://hate2point0.com/2019/10/01/transmitting-fascism/ ).

The man and the state in the fascist dream are one, they are an inseparable unit where one gives living breathing life to the next. The idealist Fascist cause that George L. Moose argued satisfies “a deep need for activism combined with identification, it [Fascism] seemed to embody their vision of a classless society.” If we consider Fascism as a revolutionary form of systemic revolt there is no need to depart from the arguments of Gilbert Allardyce’s “What Fascism Is Not” and Federico Finchelstein, “Introduction: Thinking Fascism and Populism in terms of the Past”, which was read and discussed in week two. Both authors asserted a form of Fascism that is obsessed with newness, a breaking of the past and as Roger Griffin (quoted by Finchelstein) pointed out “a longing for a new order, a new nation, not just a reformed old nation”.  This week’s article by Săndulescu gives us an illustrative historical example in Codreanu’s Legion of Archangel Michael in Romania where a ‘new nation’ is constructed through a ‘new man’.

The ‘man’ of the Fascist cause was one already under the command of the regime – the solider. The favourability of Fascists regimes towards the militarization of the state positioned the solider to serve as an ambassador to its brand and transmit the very essence of the state within and outside its boarders, with the assurance of loyalty and service to the Fascist cause. “The ideal man” wrote Kühne,” embodied by the soldier, was tough and aggressive, in control of his body, mind, and psyche.” The soldiers of a militarized state had passed what Kühne referred to as “school of manliness that transformed ‘weak’ (i.e., feminine) boys into ‘hard,’ real men.” The trope of the hardened man gave the state a body that could interact with the world and demonstrate the strength of the nation. When Hitler’s Nazi’s marched, the state marched, when they were struck down the state was struck down, and when they ‘progressed’ towards an Aryan race the nation ‘progressed’ by virtue of their action.

It is here that the physicality of the solider meet the ideology of the state which served as a unifying force for the collective cause. Kühne explained that the “army served as the “school of the nation,” merging men of different civilian identities, classes, religions, and regions into a homogenous body of citizens able to replace or even dismiss their particularist civilian identities on behalf of a communal, soldierly one. ” Whichever difference may have emerged among men in Aryan Germany or the ‘new’ Romania would surely be connected by the Fascist dream.

Transmitting Fascism

 

In thinking about the culture of fascism either in Spain, Germany or Italy it is important to consider the political motivations of the state. In the case of these three fascist regimes it was in the interest of the state to engage the international community to gain a sense of legitimacy. The legitimizing power of international community is rooted in the 1933 Montevideo Convention that outlines the defining language for statehood. The ability for state to operate outside its borders was granted under the assumption the government was de jure and not simply de facto, the importance being that the latter simply governed the state, but the prior was expected to do so by the International community. For leaders like Franco Hitler, or Mussolini whose rise to power undermined the image of a new ‘more stable’ nation that they aimed to convey, it was crucial to receive support for the Fascist regimes. By recognizing the governments as legitimate governing bodies leaders like Franco were able to solidify the narrative that they were the best choice for constructing a new nation and that they had the political buy in to do so.

To appeal to the International community and demonstrate on a global stage that a fascist government was indeed the legitimate government of their respective states and that Fascism could be a legitimate governance model states opted to use tourism as a legitimizing tool for the Fascist state. In thinking about tourism, it was not uncommon in the early 20th century for other democratic states to use tourism as a form of cultural diplomacy. See more on the diplomacy in the interwar period here: https://www.age-of-the-sage.org/history/diplomacy_world_war_one.html

For Germany, the state-run tourism organization Strength through Joy (kdf) sent German’s into the what we now call the Global south in an effort to formulate a cultural exchange. German’s entering the region would transmit an image of Germany mush like Umbach has argued the photographs have done. Baranowski points out that German’s were sent to curated destinations in order to ensure that Nazi regime was seen as building a new and better life. The ‘cultural exchange’ of German’s to other places gave Germany two faces: one that faced out and was humanized by everyday German’s and one that faced inward towards the German’s of the ‘new Germany’.

Franco’s regime in Spain and Mussolini’s in Italy were not exempt from the use of touristic diplomacy. Spain brought the world to its doorstep once again showing the outward face of the Fascist state but this time it was interestingly done within Spanish boarders. Crumbaugh wrote that the development of Spain involved the “active participation of the entire Spanish population.” For Spain the culture of the ‘new nation’ was solidified against what it was and artificially created a sense of uniformity among Spaniards, particularly when juxtaposed against tourists. In Italy the OND, as De Grazia wrote, focused on the internal tourism of the ‘new Italy’. Connecting rural and urban communities across Italy to bring about a sense of collective comradeship.

Across borders and across times, what we have seen is the ability for Fascists state to enter the international community under the vail of tourism only deliver an image of the ‘new nation’ is and what the return what the ‘new nation’ ought to be to their home countries.

 

Do We Need Fascists?

In the early 20th century Mussolini became a master of narrative construction as he sought to reform Italy. However, Mussolini did not rise to power simply owed to factors outside his own control but, with the aid of narratives. Narratives that conjured fear the hearts and minds of the Italian people and painted an image that required their response. Fascism as a movement utilized the trope of a sick patient (as many veterans of war at the time once were) to argue that Italian nation had been taken by disease. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat wrote in her 2004 book Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945, Alfredo Rocco, and other nationalist thinkers such as Scipio Sighele and Enrico Corradini argued a need for “order and collective discipline at home” given the “ ‘congenital Italian illness’ of excessive individualism that had supposedly hindered Italy’s progress as an imperial force” (Ben-Ghiat 2004, 18). Mussolini continued these tropes calling Italy “unhealthy”, “sick”, “infected” and calling for “necessary hygienic action”.

Ultimately, Mussolini rose to power as the great healer that would bandage the Italian nation and pull the state from the brink of death. However, in the lead up to and the duration of Mussolini’s fascist administration there were great measures enacted to ensure that the Italian people would continue to choose the Mussolini regime as the surgical hand by which they would be rid of ‘infection’. The ‘infection’ of individualism and a troubled nation that Italians were told that they had.

This gave credence to policies enacted from 1925-1929, as Ben-Ghiat wrote, to effectively create a police state in Italy, autonomous organization such as the mafia were made to organize in line with the objectives of the nation-state. Fascist Italy made and re-made organizations and the histories that went along with them to ensure one collective narrative was shared among the Italian people. This narrative was indoctrinated by the national fascist organization known as Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND), State controlled media, and intellectuals such as Luigi Pirandello whose careers benefited from the intervention of the Fascist regime. In the case of Pirandello, Ben-Ghiat pointed out that he was recommended to the Italian Academy for his support to the nation.

The very people those being intellectuals, thinkers and artists who work to critically analyze the business of those in positions of power accepted that the “world of ideas ran on a strictly parallel course with that of the dictatorship” (Ben-Ghiat 2004, 23) and not in opposition to it. The work of intellectuals within the system were Mussolini declared it “permissible to advance objective judgments on art, prose, poetry, and theater without the threat of a veto due to an irregular party card” (quoted in Ben-Ghiat 2004, 23) kept the surgical hand of Mussolini steady.

The Italian nation ultimately needed a fascist solely because the Italian people were told they needed one. The push for intellectuals and policy makers to speak with the same breath put Italy, in the eyes of the Fascist regime, in a “privileged position” over other states. But the limits of Fascism was tested from within as the old men and ideas were faced with modernity in a Fascist sphere.

The Political Traction of the Ambiguity of Fascism

 

Totalitarianism, populism, extremism, and the plethora of isms on the right and left of the political spectrum seem to shoot from the mouth of political commentators at increasing rates. Populist, Extremist and indeed Fascist are terms that find themselves inside people’s homes and minds; with each person having a different understanding of Fascism from the rest. This is why Gilbert Allardyce has argued that “the concept of Fascism should be de-modeled, de-ideologized, de-mystified, and, above all, de-escalated”.

While Allardyce, attempts to “deconceptualizing” Fascism he has equated Fascism to a movement and argues for the separation of the fascist concept from that movement.  Federico Finchelstein wrote that Fascism is associated with evil, authoritarian regimes, and racism. It celebrates dictatorship, destroys democracy and uses violence to spread its message. Allardyce has argued that these elements are “retained to refer to a particular movement of men and ideas,” acknowledging that a collective understanding of the elements at play is only superficially imposed. Yet to speak about the “political movement” of Fascism as Allardyce himself referred to it as, one must codify specific markers of Fascisms and by this action give credence to the term.

It is important to ask if Fascism is the exclusive domain of politics, for if it is a Political movement does the discourse and memory around it need to change over time? Zeev Sternhell, much like Robert Paxton, and Allardyce associated the emergence of popular Fascism with the regime of Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. If this was the genesis for Fascism as we know it today, we must also acknowledge the political realm in which the term operated. With Fascism extending to other regions and other leaders perhaps it is necessary to maintain the ambiguity of the term to keep its utility in the political realm of which it derived.

Allardyce has argued that Hitler and Mussolini operated regimes that were different in their objective and their genesis. Yet still they stand as the two greatest examples of Fascist regimes. The agreement to use the word has connected Hitler and Mussolini and have allowed these regimes to be remembered and re-remembered by political actors. The lack of consensus on the phrase allows for Populist movements and right-wing extremism to create an illusive distance from Fascism and allow leaders to be “not technically a fascist”.