The parallels of neofascist and populist spillover

By Melyssa Clark

The spread of neofascism in the 1960s and the 1970s between Italy and France can been seen to mirror the spread of the populist movement in that there is a spillover effect between countries who share in a similar set of political or cultural crisis.

Within Italy during the 1960s, fascism within the political system was never completely eliminated as the MSI party was allowed to continue and civil servants, who were employed under the fascist regime, were kept in the government. Moreover, the start of the strategic use of tension with the student revolt, allowed for the “deep state” to bolster support for authoritarian leadership as a solution to civil violence, which was framed to be done by the far left.

Similarly political, societal, and civilian crises existed in France during the same time, which created an environment similar to Italy in creating an appeal to fascist ideology. In turn, after the popularity of de Gaulle waned, the far-right started to create the New Order, whose goal was to create the French version of the Italian MSI party.

When looking at the current state of populism within Europe, it parallels the spread mentioned above as similar crises within different member state of the EU have similar rhetorical outcomes. For example, the migration crisis has not only led to a xenophobic response from various populist parties but also a call to female voters in the need to support these policies as migrants are framed as threatening women’s rights.

France’s National Rally Drawing on Environmentalism’s Racist History

By Melyssa Clark

The far-right, traditionally, has been characterized as climate denialists; however, there has been a shift amongst some far-right parties to adapt their messaging on climate change as a means to appeal to a broader range of voters, who are concerned by and feel the effects of climate change. Attempts to address environmental policy within the far-right’s political platform has been met with criticism, namely for being nationalist and ineffective. The approach that has been taken by the far-right to the environment is not novel and can be seen as a re-emergence of previous and was already widely accepted solutions posed to environmental concerns.

In how it is understood today, the field of environmentalism has been considered to be left leaning with international efforts that focus on cooperative solutions. However, the earlier developments on solutions to environmental issues were perceived had to have strong racist underpinnings.

Scholars such as Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich were two influential figures in the environmental space both of whom framed impacts on the environment as stemming from the overpopulation occurring in the global south. Solutions to the perceived issues of overpopulation was framed as a call for depopulation and was an idea that was widely embraced by prominent environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club. This approach overlooked the impact of consumption and how developed countries have a greater contribution to environmental degradation than those with larger populations and that populations within the global south will be impacted the most by climate change. Consequently, the ideas promoted by Ehrlich were used to promote anti-immigration agendas.

The re-emergence of these racist and anti-immigrant responses to address environmental concerns can be illustrated through France’s far-right party’s, the National Rally, inclusion of environmental policy in their platform. This shift most notably occurs between the leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine Le Pen.

As previously discussed, Jean-Marie Le Pen falls into the traditional category of far-right leaders’ response to the environmental politics, which consists of denying the human contributions to climate change. Even with his dismissiveness towards climate change, Le Pen echoed Ehrlich’s concern to overpopulation and stated that Ebola could serve as a solution to the population explosion and Europe’s immigration problem.

When Marine Le Pen took over as President for the National Rally in 2011, she sought to broaden the scope of the party in order to attract more voters. This included the development of an environmental policy called the ‘New Ecology’. The push for including environmental policies into the National Rally’s platform became important most notably of which was in the most recent 2022 national French elections. Both Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron fought to attract Jean-Luc Melenchon’s environmentally conscious voters in the second round of elections.

Although Le Pen has incorporated the environment into the National Rally’s platform, it has been met with a wide variety of criticism for being nationalistic and a form of greenwashing. Additionally, Le Pen has also tied the environment to anti-immigration rhetoric in stating that migrants “do not care about the environment [because they] have no homeland”.

In turn, the far-right’s approach to environmental policy has gone beyond being simply denialist and has rather drawn from previous widespread and racist interpretations of environmental solutions. This can be exemplified through France’s National Rally’s nationalist, xenophobic, and anti-immigrant solutions to environmental problems. However, these approaches to the environment are concerning as they can lead to larger implications than just ineffective policy. Ehrlic’s framing of overpopulation as being an environmental issue is still fairly recent and the recirculation of these ideas into public discourse can lead to racist environmental policies being considered as an acceptable solution.

The Importance Culture of Gender Roles to Fascism

By Melyssa Clark

Culture is an important institutional mechanism through which fascist ideology has attached itself to be more appealing. From this week’s course material, this is achieved, namely, through gender roles and attaching those roles to be of service to the state. Kuhne illustrates how the Nazi’s constructed masculinity served as a means to justify societal power hierarchies as well as a way to depict the ideal soldier. Moreover, masculinity, as presented to soldiers, allowed for the justification of killing others as well as the development of the importance of the collective over the individual as discussed in the concept of comradeship. Despite protean masculinity existing during the Nazi regime that allowed flexibility to men to show more traditionally feminine traits, there were limits to the frequency and the extent that this was acceptable that was only permissible after the hardness of masculinity was already established.

Similar trends are also discussed by Lopez and Sanchez in highlighting the importance that traditional female gender roles played for the Nationalists during the Spanish civil war. As discussed in the article, Nationalist women were encouraged to play along traditional female gender roles and also having that role be associated with being a “true Spaniards”. Although the participation in espionage did not fit with the feminine architype to help Nationalists, traditional roles and power dynamics were still applied. Women who participated were still idealized to be well directed and controllable by men as well as to remain virtuous. The culture of women’s gender that was constructed by Nationalists still exists today amongst Franco supports. This is best depicted in the Vox video where Francoists reacted to the ideology of feminism as well as towards the protesters.

The Ironic Use of Internationalism Amongst the Far Right

By: Melyssa Clark

Internationalism has been used by the far right as a framing tool to promote a narrative that seeks to vilify a group and create division between the people and the elites. As illustrated in “The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism”, Hanbrink discusses how the way in which tying Jewish folks to an international conspiracy helped bolster the narrative of Judeo-Bolshevism. Despite using internationalism as a tool to frame otherness, the far right, ironically, uses it as a highway to spread its ideas and collaborate with others in the international sphere. Just as Hanbrink outlined the use of internationalism as a means to vilify Jewish folks, it was also a means through which the vilification was communicated. Namely, through the unmasking of Jewish Bolshevik leaders as well as through émigrés who recounted their stories. Internationalism as a means of transporting ideas was also used as a pragmatic war tactic by the Nazi regime in which anti-colonial sentiments were stoked as a means to destabilize the United Kingdom and France’s global empires. In addition to the spread of anti-colonial propaganda, the Nazi’s also spread ideas of nationalism, which moved towards being more militant and ethnic in nature.

The ironic and pragmatic use of internationalism by the far right is ongoing. However, there is a limited scope in which they are able to operate as a collective since they have more limited commonalities and can disagree on issues outside of those linked directly to nationalism. Despite the fact that they may be split on a variety of policy goals, the participation of the far right within international settings should not be viewed without caution. Within the European Parliament, the far-right has become a more prominent group over the years. This group has often interacted within the institution with the goal to disrupt the developments of policies and use it as a means to voice right wing nationalist ideologies.

The Importance of a Leader?

By: Melyssa Clark

History is an important tool in which we can trace back threads to the past in adding our understanding of how contemporary events are not created from a rupture. This is depicted through this week’s course material that traces back how modern populism is derived from Fascist ideology that emerged from Italy in 1919. The support for both of these ideologies are fuelled by crises that create division amongst insiders and outsiders within society as well as a political system. Although the authors work at contributing to a better understanding of populism as a term, whether in isolation or through a path dependency approach of a historical comparison to fascism, there is one important idea that various authors alluded to that could be further developed. That idea being the use of an actor-based approach that highlights the important role that populist leaders have in these movements. One of the main definers of populism is the division between “the people” and “the elites” effectively, this creates a need for collective action to have the people’s voice heard and remove the elites from power. In turn, it’s important to have a charismatic leader who is able to frame various crises through the democratized media and create a call to action to mobilize “the people”. The most cohesive example amongst the authors that illustrate this is Trump’s rise to power in 2016. Brubaker highlights Trump’s likability, relative to Clinton, and the means through which he uses the media to frame issues to create distrust of institutions and elites amongst the public.

Introduction – Melyssa Clark

Hi All,

I’m a master’s student in the EU stream of the the European Russian and Eurasian Studies (EURUS) program. For my undergrad degree, I majored in political science with a double minor in French and business studies. Topics that I’m interested in studying are domestic EU politics, environmental politics, and populism. My MRP topic will focus on analyzing the European Parliament’s right-wing populist party’s response to the European Climate Law.

A little about me personally, I’m originally from Alberta and as a result of having the Rocky Mountains in my backyard, I’m an avid hiker/backpacker. The most recent and longest backpacking trip that I’ve done was the West Coast Trail. Some other hobbies of mine include cycling, photography, cross-country skiing, refinishing antique furniture, and collecting plants.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk! Looking forward to a great class with you!