PR in fascism

The videos about the Spanish fandom of Franco’s fascism and German clothes symbolizing the ideas of the extreme far-right showed a contemporary cultural and even emotional attachment to far-right movements including fascism in Germany and Spain, to the point where it seems like the participants or rather the ones that spread it are willingly ignoring the atrocities committed under the name of fascism, so that only a romanticized side of the ideology is diffused. A nostalgia, not unlike the one associated with the good sides of communism remembered by the older generation of East European countries, appears to emanate. Acts of dressing with German clothing brands that bring to the fore elements of the fascist Nazi ideology such as the purity of the race, or of going to a café dedicated to the dictator Franco, or to participate in a commemoration of him, can be interpretated as a way to put forth the old iconic symbols of the movement to bring back the same fervor it enjoyed years ago, and maybe voluntarily only focusing on the components that serve the actual resurgences (such as the anti-immigration stance) and putting aside the former extreme actions (concentration camps).

German fascism in the 1930s and then Spanish fascism in the 1960s employed similar tactics of propaganda to try and create craze among the population, as discussed by the articles on tourism. It is interesting to note the different approaches of the two countries. Baranovski’s article depicts cruises organized by the Nazi party destined to the workers in order to promote, and kind of present to the local population of the countries visited, the German nation as a united one. In this line of thought, there were efforts in order for the passengers to mingle in ships apparently devoid of social segregation, or at least tentatively hidden. The reality said otherwise, as people stayed with others from their native region, and Party members and people from different hierarchical backgrounds behaved accordingly and had access to privileges. This traveling enabled Germans to witness for themselves their racial superiority compared to other populations, and in a public representation way, to showcase it, in an environment of propaganda where leisure and enjoyment were reserved to the ones reaching the racial standards, and the ones below were deprived of it. The analysis of German photographs of Umbach supports this comparison between people, as Germans are pictured in advantageous ways and other population are captured in lazy moments for example. These kinds of photographs also support the idea of presenting fascism in a good and positive way, which aligns with today’s romanticizing of it.

While Germans traveled outside, Franco’s Spain brought tourists in, as explained by Crumbaugh’s article. The positive image of the country was meant to be achieved by tourist coming in to visit, and the fact that people could travel was meant to show that there was freedom under the regime. The goal was to instill a sense of national pride that only fascism could bring, as with Germany. As recent (but pre-pandemic) protests against mass tourism in Barcelona happen (see https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexledsom/2019/07/12/barcelona-is-ready-to-shut-out-tourists/?sh=4c3d940f5546), one can conclude with a stretch that maybe the job was done and carried on a little too well and Spain ended up victim to its own campaign of promoting tourism!

On an amusing side note, the German fascist cruises show that surveillance by infiltration was not exclusively a feature of the communist regimes as they are well known for! Clearly all political regimes need inside informers and some got lucky and ended up with a paid vacation.

Works cited:

Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the ThirdReich(Cambridge, 2004), pp. 1-10, pp. 162-98

Justin Crumbaugh, “Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of Tourism” in Destination Dictatorship: the Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boomand the Reinvention of Difference (SUNY Press, 2009), pp.15-41.

Maiken Umbach, “Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in GermanPhoto Albums, 1933-1945” Central European History Vol. 48, Special Issue 3 (Photography and Twentieth-Century German History): 335-365.

Cynthia Miller-Idris, “The Extreme Gone Mainstream” IIITMedia lecture, May 2018https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHYcakSDUCE

Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqKSXPiGe7U

Incoherences

While reading the articles of this week, one common theme that I found interesting was the incoherence behind the fascist ideology of the Nazi portion that was supporting nationalist emergence in colonies of imperial regimes around the world, especially regarding racism and segregation. In this sense, the paper by David Motadel provided detailed general facts and the book chapter by Ruth Ben-Ghiat was a good completion with more specific examples. There is a sentence in Motadel’s article that I found particularly striking and that basically sums the incoherence: “in terms of ideology, colonial peoples were considered racially inferior, and thus could never be treated as equals, let alone partners”. This shows in my opinion how hypocritical the Nazi’s support was, and how the apparent ideological partnership between them and colonies such as Ethiopia for example, as presented by Ben-Ghiat, was really only just a game of alliances in the light of the war, seeking to weaken falling Empires by encouraging the emergence of national communities within them. The incoherence was not even concealed, as shown by the violence of Nazis against visiting members of these communities described by Motadel.

Upon listening to the podcast, A Specter Haunting Europe, it was surprising for me to learn that Jews had been associated with the creation and spreading of communism, because to me, by extension, it would mean that the people and groups making that association considered that Judaism, among other things, was behind, or rather rallied to, the communist ideology before it took over half of Europe. One of the main features of communism, from what I have learned, was its promotion of atheism. It seems interesting to say the least, and contradictory, to associate a religious group to this political ideology. I understand that it was a uniting matter for fascist and nationalist groups across Europe to have common enemies, and especially since Nazi Germany was a focal point that nationalist organizations in the colonial world were looking to, having the same enemies was a way of gaining recognition and legitimizing the nationalist path (by aligning oneself with the apparent leading fascist organization that is supporting nationalist movements). But I don’t think that the common enemies, Jews and communists, were linked in a dependant way. True, some Jews were communists and vice-versa, but Judaism, or being Jewish, certainly was not an inherent part of the creation and spreading of communism. I might be pushing this reflection a little far, but the way I see it, since the fascist Nazis were encouraging and supporting the emergence and claims of nationalist movements in colonies of imperial regimes, it would be by default supporting ethnic specificities, such as religion, whilst communism sought to eventually achieve atheist societies. To me, in this line of thought, it would make more sense that religious communities, if they had to be associated with a political current, would be so with fascist, considering its promotion of national identity (and what defines it, by extension), instead of communism. And the fact that fascism and Nazi fascist were against Jews is one more incoherence of this regime.

Works cited:

Paul Hanebrink, A Specter Haunting Europe (podcast)

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

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Conquest and Collaboration” inFascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945(University of California Press, 2004), pp. 123-130

Defining Terms, Fascism & Populism

This week’s readings were a good introduction on fascism and populism, but with complex concepts (at least for me, as someone who is not familiar with political terms and analysis), which is why the podcast at the end was a welcomed synthesis for the populism discussion.

Fascism certainly immediately brings the names of Mussolini and Hitler to mind, as shown by the article of De Grazia. I appreciated the historical background that it gave to the term, and the fact that it was written from a more personal perspective. As politics affect in the end the everyday life of people, narratives that link the theoretical matters to real life experiences are in my opinion very valuable, and they put a context around abstract concepts.

Gordon’s and Moyn’s articles used fascism as an example to illustrate their views on historical comparisons, which echoed De Grazia’s text on the fact that this political stream exists outside of the 20th century’s famous figures. On this subject, I was particularly struck by a sentence that Gordon cites in his article: “In an American fascism […] one would see not swastikas but “Christian crosses” and ‘Stars and Stripes.’ ” This was, I thought, a really good way to illustrate how fascism is adapted by its followers to the country, culture and time period into which it is found, showing that it may not be exhibited in the same way it was or in the ways it is associated with, but the ideology behind it enables a comparison.

The second portion of the readings was about populism and its sub-categories. I was surprised to learn that there are several, that range from left-wing to right-wing, but less so after reading the analysis that tells that populism is incomplete as a political ideology and should be combined with another stream. In fact, from what I understood, populism would be more of an overall view of opposition, a frame maybe, used to appeal to a majority that feels oppressed by an elite, so it could more or less be applied to any political context, and new political organizations can draw on that, as shown by several populist parties in various European countries. Have I gotten that right? What I found the most interesting in the analysis is the role of social medias, used to directly engage with the population, which would explain why most populist parties emerged in the last years. It is certainly easier and faster to propagate one’s ideas through Internet rather than newspapers!

One common point of the articles in their depiction of fascism and populism is the concept of “response”. In analysing the rise (or rise again) of these political views, it appears that either the context provided a need for a response on the political scene, or the leaders of a political party used specific events, such as mass immigration, to justify an orientation toward a political ideology. An example in this line of thoughts that I appreciated from the podcast was the antemurale mindset of Hungary, in response to the migrants coming from outside of Europe, and a desire to protect the people’s integrity against threats from “outsiders”, specifically, to “defend and revive” the native population. In this, I think that a common trait between fascism and populism is the importance it gives to the ethnicity of a country.

One thing that left me wondering is about the ideology of populism. I probably did not fully understand how it rises, so I was thinking: If it functions with an opposition between people and elite, then once the party is elected, doesn’t it become a political elite, and in so, loses its common ground with people? Or is the political elite not considered the same than other elites?

Work used:

Victoria de Grazia, “What We Don’t Understand about Fascism” Zocalo Public Squarehttps://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2020/08/13/understand-fascism-american-history-mussolini-hitler-20th-century/ideas/essay/

Peter E. Gordon, “Why Historical Analogy Matters,”NYRDaily(7 January 2020), nybooks.com/daily/2020/01/07/why-historical-analogy-matters/

Samuel Moyn, “The Trouble with Comparisons,”NYRDaily(19 May 2020),https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/05/19/the-trouble-with-comparisons/

DEMOS Identifies Four Types of Populism in European Political Parties. https://demos-h2020.eu/en/demos-identifies-four-types-of-populism-in-european-political-parties

Cas Mudde, “Populism in the Twenty-First Century: an Illiberal Democratic Response to Undemocratic Liberalism” The Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, University of Pennsylvania, https://www.sas.upenn.edu/andrea-mitchell-center/cas-mudde-populism-twenty-first-century

Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?”podcast

Presentation Morgane Bazinet

Hi all!

I am Morgane Bazinet, from Québec, Canada. This is my first year in the MA Eurus program. I was a ballet dancer for two years in Romania and Bulgaria and traveled in several East European countries, which is why I am really interested in the region, especially in the Balkans. My research project will be on the presence of the French language in the Balkans during the communist period. In light of this context, I thought that it would be relevant to learn more about political regimes. I am looking forward to a better understanding of the subject of politics in Europe, which for now is still rather nebulous to me. My Facebook newsfeed is filled with articles from my oversea friends about political events happening in their country and I hope that a background knowledge will help me to be more aware of what they imply.

On a lighter note, something important to know about me is that all my written work is supervised by my bunny 😉