Anti-Genderism vs Right-Wing Populism

Megan MacRae

The content covered this week made it very notable that although anti-genderism and right-wing populism share similarities, it would be incorrect to consider them to be entangled with each other. Specifically, the reading from Paternotte and Kuhar explicitly emphasizes the fact that these two topics should not be considered ‘the same’.

In all transparency, prior to reading this week’s materials, I would have associated anti-genderism with right-wing populism. This is due to the discourse that surrounds both of these issues. However, Paternotte and Kuhar made a great point by noting the differences between these two issues.

It is noted that while anti-genderism stems from the Catholic project and can be found in debates amongst the New Evangelization project, right-wing populism is not necessarily a religious phenomenon. Although this does make complete sense and is something I agree with, perhaps it still struck me because of how often right-wing populism uses religion in its discourse. Whether it is using religion to make a pregnant woman feel guilty for having an abortion, or imposing their faith on two gay men who are looking to get married, I do strongly feel that right-wing populists utilize religion in their discourse. Of course, I do not want to generalize right-wing populism as it is such as complex and vast issue, but this is just what came to my mind throughout Paternotte and Kuhar’s article.

The material for this week definitely brought more awareness to the needed separation between anti-genderism and right-wing populism. Although I would personally consider both of these issues to stem from places of xenophobia, I do understand that they involve various discourses and therefore it is not accurate to label all right-wing populists as attackers of gender identity.

Fascism and European Anti-Abortion Sentiment, is there a Plausible Connection?

Megan MacRae

While Democrats in the United States fight to keep women and their bodies protected from the hands of grimy Republican white men, women and pro-choice advocates in various countries across Europe may feel that the current affairs in America hit a little too close to home. 

Since Poland’s complete ban on abortions in 2020, pro-choice advocates have been discretely working to offer crucial medical services to women in need. This has led to the current trial of Justyna Wydrzynska. Wydrzynska, one of the founders of the Polish group Aborcyjny Dream Team (ADT), is currently at trial after being accused of illegally assisting a woman with an abortion. Wydrzynska allegedly provided pills to a woman in an effort to induce a miscarriage. Although the trial has been adjourned until January, Wydrzynska’s circumstance is a grim reminder of the obstacles that women in Poland face when they try to defend their bodily rights. Specifically, these dismal prompts can be traced back to the aggressive misogyny that has been present in Europe throughout history. 

When working to understand the roots behind European abortion bans and these violent forms of control over women’s bodies, a significant amount of scrutiny should be placed at the hands of fascism and its misogynistic ideals. It is understood that fascism is obsessed with control and aggression towards the ‘other’. More specifically, we should consider that it is most often governments and political figureheads that use fascism to impose control. It would be be drastic to consider every individual person who opposes abortion to be a fascist. However, when we see these massive institutions imposing aggression against minority groups, this extreme abuse of authority can be considered a fascist act. Whether this is with restrictive voting laws that diminish the voice of racial minorities, or abortion bans that force women to help boost birth rates, fascism leaves an impression on each radical gesture imposed by the far right authorities. In Poland, this has enabled the country’s government to ban abortion and take egregious action against women who go against this restraint. Fascism is an extremely intricate subject as there are multiple definitions attached to it. However, when it comes to connecting the concept with anti-abortion sentiment, we see that fascism is continuously used by powerful institutions to control women, their sexual identities, and their bodily rights.

Turning away from Poland and towards Southern Europe, we see that with the election of Italy’s new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, fascist rhetoric seems to have brought with it conversations surrounding future restrictions on abortions. Meloni has openly voiced her desire to limit abortion access and represents the Brothers of Italy party which desires to place a ban on abortions in general. Along with this, the party is also against permitting Italian citizenship to children born to non-Italian parents. Not only is the Brothers of Italy party actively working to restrict the number of Italian citizens, but the group is also pushing to provide benefits to Italian women who give birth. These efforts are considered by some to be a repeat of Benito Mussolini’s ‘Battle for Births‘ campaign. Mussolini is known for his historical fascist rhetoric and aggressive actions against non-Italian citizens during the 1920s to 1940s. Specifically, Mussolini’s ‘Battle for Births’ policy actively worked to eliminate non-white foreigners in Italy while promoting the birth of children with ‘true’ Italian blood. This policy goes hand-in-hand with fascism as it works to uphold the privilege and power of Italian nationality while reducing the importance and social position of non-white foreigners. Even more specifically, the policy was implemented by the government to control the bodies and actions of women. Therefore, it is alarming to see a new Italian party echoing the actions of Mussolini and his administration.

Although the impact of fascism on anti-abortion sentiment may be stronger in some countries compared to others, the history of fascism in Europe proves to still impact right-wing aggression today, even if minimal at times. This aggression has clearly played out through anti-abortion rhetoric across different countries in Europe. Although it may seem drastic to blame anti-abortion on fascist thought, it can be argued that when massive governments and political figureheads work to oppress racial and gender minority groups, this is an explicit act of fascism.

Racism in Germany

Megan MacRae

When reviewing how Europe, Germany in particular, treated migration, race, and democratization during the last two decades, a significant piece of information to explore is the change in perceptions around racism. This week’s readings, especially the piece from Christopher A. Molnar, illustrate the moral challenges Germany experienced after World War II.

What struck me most from this week’s material was the conversation surrounding a shift in Germany from biological racism, to cultural racism. Molnar does a significant job at highlighting how Germany’s perceptions towards race, migration, and democratization stemmed from a shift in racist attitudes among Germans. Molnar explains that unlike the racism that was prevalent in the Third Reich, postwar Germany experienced a racism that was based on cultural differences, rather than divergences between bloodlines. Among the various letters explored in the article, there were also government actions to limit the number of foreigners in the postwar country. Either through legislation, or financial efforts, it was clear that rise in foreigners living in the country made many Germans feel unsafe. This led some to believe that if Germany was to remain occupied by foreigners, the nation would collapse and a civil war could breakout, causing mass murder and extreme chaos. 

What I find most concerning about these apocalyptic thoughts is that they are born from a nation that had just reunified after a history of horror and death. I understand that the type of racism present in 1990’s Germany was different than the racism enforced by the Nazi’s, but I would have thought that a country, which had just been torn apart by racism in general, would have worked to avoid the same type of laws and belief systems that caused the country to collapse 50 years prior. I believe that I am over-simplifying the situation, but it is just something that came to mind after I finished the reading. 

The Reluctance of a Fascist

Megan MacRae

I found Charlie Jarvis’ article extremely interesting and telling of fascism in past and present Italy. Jarvis explains that after the 1969 bombing in Milan, neofascist units waged terror in Milan through massacres. Often, Italian authorities were aware of the actions of these neofascist groups. However, the museum established to commemorate the violence that occured does not make reference to the state’s involvement in this period. This is yet another instance in which a fascist state refuses to admit their part in the actions of fascist groups.

I feel that thus far in our course, we have been continuously discussing the fact that most often, fascist’s refuse to recognize that they are fascist’s. We have seen it in Italy, Germany, the United States etc. Despite the fact that individuals and groups will exhibit the core beliefs of fascism, they will vehemently deny that they are fascists. Jarvis’ article seems to echo this continuous theme. Jarvis explains that not only was Italy aware of the role neofascist’s played in the terror of 1969, but currently, the country is closer than it has been since World War II to a fascist regime. At the time in which this article was produced, the leader of Fratelli d’Italia, Giorgia Melino had yet to be elected as Italy’s first woman Prime Minister. However, she recently did secure victory and this made Italians and other democratic nations around the world quite concerned. Despite the fact that Meloni and Fratelli d’Italia descended from a fascist party, Meloni refuses to admit that her party has inherited fascist views. Perhaps this is because she knows that admitting that she and her party are fascists will cause those apart of the moderate right-wing to hesitate on voting for her. Regardless, Jarvis’ article and the current leadership of Meloni both remind me of a common theme present throughout this course; fascists are reluctant to admit their political beliefs, but their actions prove what they truly believe. 

Giorgia Meloni; New face, same regime

Megan MacRae

Unlike what some may think after skimming the recent headlines of popular news outlets, the election of Giorgia Meloni as Italy’s first woman prime minister is not a step forward for feminism or girl power. Rather, Meloni represents a hard-right wing belief system that is anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigration, and, despite Meloni’s personal statements, seemingly pro-fascist. 

Meloni is the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, or in Italian, Fratelli d’Italia. This nationalist party does little to hide the fact that they are outright anti-LGBTQ and hope to boost the Italian population through blocking abortions and ‘illegal’ immigration. Meloni helped establish the Brothers of Italy party in 2012 by shaping it to look like the National Alliance, but more nationalistic, Christian, and conservative. The National Alliance was birthed during the post-World War II Italian Social Movement and was influenced by Benito Mussolini’s fascist ideals. 

The fact that Meloni not only leads the Brothers of Italy party, but worked to establish it and shape it after a party that was founded by Mussolini supporters, makes it hard to believe her when she claims that she is an anti-fascist. Meloni has continued to contradict herself when it comes to discussions surrounding the infamous Russian president, Vladimir Putin. After Putin secured his presidency in 2018, Meloni publicly applauded him and showed her support for the autocrat. This sparked fear amongst NATO and Ukrainian allies that the sanctions against Russia which were established by Italy’s previous prime minister, Mario Draghi, would be demolished by Meloni and her government. However, when Putin invaded the Ukraine, Meloni put on a front and expressed her disproval of the president’s actions while assuring Italian voters that she would equip the Ukrainian military with weapons. Meloni’s ‘reassurance’ should be taken with a grain of salt as she has yet to take substantive action to prove that she truly is pro-Ukraine and anti-fascism. It is also incredibly difficult to believe that a politician who represents a neo-Nazi party will suddenly abandon her and her party’s core beliefs now that they have secured a win in the election. 

Meloni’s recent take on the actions of Putin can be considered a part of her strategy to appear more moderate than she truly is. Despite the fact that Meloni and her party are hard-right extremists, they are clearly aware that publicly defending this stance would cause more harm than good. Not only would Meloni divide herself from the left wing and even moderate right-wing followers, but she would face harsh criticism from politicians, journalists, and intellectuals around the globe. The efforts of Meloni to conceal her true political agenda could be considered intelligent by some, but conniving by others.

In recent years, Meloni has been compared to former United States president, Donald Trump. Despite the fact that Trump did not even try to obscure his political agenda and beliefs when running for office, there still remain similarities between the two right-wing extremists. Both Trump and Meloni refuse to accept transgender ideology as they are each stuck in their conservative, Christian ways. For Meloni, this ignorance plays out in her nationalist agenda which works to grow the Italian population by encouraging women to give birth and continue the Italian blood line. This eerily resembles Mussolini’s agenda which also worked to establish Italian dominancy through growth of the Italian empire. Like Mussolini, Meloni is clearly anti-immigration because she is looking to construct a nation that is ‘pure’ with Italian blood. Again, Meloni’s stance on gender ideology and the ‘traditional’ family makes it difficult to believe that she is unlike her fascist predecessor.

One common trend that continues to cloud around the various headlines is that Meloni is initiating a radical hard-right shift. Although Meloni and her party are radical in their political agenda, their efforts portray a direct continuation rather than a so-called ‘shift’. It was evident in the United States, and now Italy is experiencing the same phenomenon. These hard-right extremists have been around before and after the fall of Mussolini. However, there were few popular politicians who were willing to publicly take a divisive stance like the one Meloni and her party have currently adopted. Therefore, just because fascists have not been under the public eye similarly to how Meloni is right now, this does not mean that fascism had been completely wiped out after World War II. 

  1. Italy’s far-right coalition dominates in polls – The Globe and Mail
  2. Italian right-wing coalition set for majority – The Globe and Mail

A False Persona

Megan MacRae

The various articles observed this week demonstrate that political stances were significantly altered in post-war Europe. Specifically, it appears that right-wing followers observed the changing times worked to alter their ideologies in an effort to attract more citizens.

This notion is illustrated in Tamir Bar-On’s piece, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite” as they review the efforts of the French Nouvelle Droit (ND). Bar-On touches on the fact that ND’s creator, Alan de Benoist, took the group through three specific stages. The first stage occurred during the 1960s and was one that clearly supported white supremacy. The second stage focused on biological racism during the 1970s, while the third stage occurred during the 1980s and circled around cultural racism. This third stage is the prime focus because it shaped ND into a group that was a bit convoluted in the sense that they seemed to believe in equality between cultures, but rejected immigration. When Bar-On discusses the fact that ND argued against a culture being superior to another, this initially made me think that ND might have been working towards a diverse outlook. However, it quickly became clear that ND was referring to the fact that ‘white’ cultures in Europe were not superior to one another. This point was further emphasized when it became clear that ND was not against immigration as a whole, but rather they rejected non-white and non-European immigration. This was obviously in an effort to protect the ‘culture’ of various European countries from the ‘sins’ of multiculturalism. 

I can understand why some post-war European citizens would have found ND and their fellow right-wing groups attractive. On the surface, ND looks to reject fascism and racism by advertising an appreciation for each culture. However, their inclusive persona does not necessarily reflect their true beliefs. 

The Survivor

Megan MacRae

I feel that much of my knowledge about Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, the struggles of Jewish people etc. comes from studying these experiences as they occurred during and leading up to World War II. Therefore, I enjoyed this week’s discussion as it centered around what the treatment and experiences of Jewish people were like during the postwar era. 

Specifically, I enjoyed Mary Fulbrook’s take on how the postwar era transformed from a time which scrutinized the testimonies of Holocaust survivors, into a period that saw widespread empathy towards these individuals who survived Nazi Concentration Camps, Jewish Ghettos etc. Apart of me finds it difficult to understand why, after so much destruction, postwar Germany continued to view the voices of Holocaust survivors in a doubtful manner. There was evident loss, death, and devastation during the Holocaust so I would have assumed that during any Nazi trial, the word of the victim would be held with the most importance and respect. However, then I reflect on the position of a victim, who is a part of a minority group, in any justice system and it becomes clear that these individuals are often met with skepticism solely because of their identity. We see this with racialized groups, women, those apart of the 2SLGBTQ+ community etc. 

Therefore, although Germany’s postwar era eventually does transform into one that values the oral testimonies of survivors, it can be understood that there was skepticism surrounding the testimony of Jewish survivors due to the historical and contemporary treatment of victims within the justice system.

Homosexuality and Fascism

Megan MacRae

This week, I specifically enjoyed the reading from Laurie Moarhoefer. Typically, when I am asked to study the Nazi regime or other fascist dictators, there is rarely a focus on what these authorities meant for those in the LGBTQ2S+ community. Moarhoefer’s focus on such an issue brings to light yet another outlook on fascism and the attitudes of fascists. 

Moarhoefer makes it clear that although Hitler and his Nazi regime were quite homophobic in the sense that they disagreed with intimate relations between men, there seemed to have been a lack of regulation surrounding intimate relations between women. Moarhoefer approaches the issue by ensuring that the reader is aware of how the term “persecution” was used by the Nazi regime. Specifically, they make it clear that gay men were the subjects of persecution by being the targets of a police program which worked to eradicate male homosexuality. Historians argue that this program did not subject lesbians to the same treatment. Although Nazi Germany did see lesbianism as an issue that plagued society, there was no legal or physical action taken against it. Moarhoefer does touch on the fact that those in the community did use the local police force, the Gestapo, to report lesbianism, but what I find more interesting is the regime’s official neglect of queer women. 

I suppose this may be because I do not have extensive knowledge on the treatment of those in the LGBTQ2S+ community during the Nazi regime, but it does quite suprise me that even though lesbianism was a social issue, it was not one of the regime’s priorities. I had just assumed that Nazi authorities worked to eradicate anyone who did not fit in with their “vision”. This motivates me to learn more about fascist views of homosexuality during the Nazi regime.

Fascism is not as Opposed to Internationalism as it Thinks

Megan MacRae

As defined in previous readings, it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact meaning of fascism due to the various interpretations of the term. I found that this theme was echoed throughout this week’s conversations surrounding the relationship between fascism and internationalism. Such theme alluded to the fact that the far-right does not have a strict stance on whether or not they are in agreement with internationalism as it can be used to aid fascists in their battle against a common enemy. 

In David Motadel’s piece, he examines Hitler’s strategy to partner with countries from outside of Europe in an effort to fight against Britain and their colonial agenda. This theme is demonstrated as ‘anticolonial’ and shows that in an effort to work against a common enemy, fascists will utilize internationalism. However, Motadel’s article in the New York Times does make a point that not all right-wing group members agree with internationalism and therefore, the use of such remains a sensitive topic. Again, this echoes the theme that fascism does not have a single definition and therefore, one should not be attempting to define how fascism perceives particular issues.

Such complexity surrounding fascism and its relationship with internationalism is also depicted in Paul Hanebrink’s piece as they connect Judeo-Bolshevism sentiment within Europe and the United States. Hanebrink makes it clear that right-wing groups in the United States have connected racist histories from Europe, specifically Germany, Poland, and Hungary, to those of their local lands. For instance, in Charlottesville, Virginia, neo-Nazis claimed that Jewish citizens were ‘ruining’ their ‘pure’ communities. Here, such neo-Nazis are adopting the racist sentiment towards Jews from Poland, and applying it to their own lands. Therefore, we are again seeing various countries ‘unite’ in an effort to battle against a common enemy.

Although fascism is complex and loosely defined, it can be seen that fascists are not totally against internationalism, even if they believe that it is a ‘dirty’ word. 

Works Cited:

Hanebrink, Paul. A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism. Harvard University Press, 2018: 1-10, 11-45.

Motadel, David. “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism — But They Depend on It” in The New York Times. July 2019.

Motadel, David. “The Global Authoritarian Moment: The Revolt Against Empire” American Historical Review Vol. 124, Issue 3, July 2019: 843-877

A Look at the Complexities of Populism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism

I found the readings for this week quite unique. At times, in an attempt to emphasize the intricate aspects of fascism and populism, some arguments would be overly complex and unfortunately, I often found that this distracted me from the original argument that the author was trying to make. However, I still appreciated the approaches that both Finchelstein and Mudde took in an effort to emphasize the ever changing perspectives surrounding fascism and populism.

For one, Finchelstein classifies populism as a category of “authoritarian democracy”. I found this approach to populism quite unorthodox considering that Finchelstein is essentially referring to a democratic society which is blindly being ruled by an authoritative figure. Personally, I would consider this perspective to lightly tread on the boundary between democracy and dictatorship. However, since populism renounces anti-democratic institutions, I am not completely in agreement with Finchelstein’s decision to classify populism as a form of “authoritarian democracy”. Even if populism does promote majoritarian extremism, as emphasized in Mudde’s piece,  the political approach also believes in compromise and equal power, which are both vehemently renounced by authoritarian and totalitarian societies. 

When it comes to fascism, I found that Finchelstein continued to overly complex the issue, but I did find the argument surrounding fascism to be more appealing. Specifically, Finchelstein’s contention that society today is misusing the term ‘fascism’. Finchelstein makes reference to the fact that there were major figures referring to Donald Trump as a fascist during his time in office, however, just because he was prejudiced, racist, intolerant etc. that is not enough to classify Trump as a fascist. Rather, what truly makes a person a fascist is their intense desire to create an entire new nation with a new order. Instead, Trump merely wanted to reform America, or in his words, ‘Make America Great Again’, but his objective was not to create a whole new America. 

I must also note that my main takeaway from what was reviewed this week, is that fascism and populism both seem to be used as a societal tool to justify or oppose controversial decisions and actions against various groups of people.