Right VS. Left Populism

By: Nicole Beswitherick

In the readings this week, we learn a lot about the differences between left and right populism – and why they aren’t the same.

In Luke March’s paper, we learn the definition and expectations of the two. He takes lots of his knowledge from Cas Mudde in saying that the influential view of populism is a ‘thin-centred’ ideology ‘that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups‘. He then lists that there is the ‘pure people’ versus the ‘corrupt elite’, and argues that politics should be an expression of the general will of the people (Mudde, 2004: 543).

Throughout the article, it is learned that right populism is primarily exclusionary, and left populism is primarily inclusionary. Basically, the right populists demarcate key groups as outsiders, and the left more so focus on policies of economic, cultural and political incorporation.

Davide Vampa helps explain the competing forms of populism and territorial politics in his writing but also helps explain the difference between left and right populism. He says there is a clear difference between the both of them in their approach to regionalism and autonomy. One represents the ‘core’ areas of the country where demands have been weaker, and the other is usually more electorally competitive in more ‘peripheral’ areas where demands have been stronger. This is in Spain, so perhaps it is different, but Vampa explains that the territorial factor seems to be the ideal element of contrast between the two forms of populism.

In Catherine Fieschi’s piece, she argues that there is no populism without democracy. To that she is correct. She helps describe what populism is by saying that it is a byproduct of democracy and it arises from a perception of betrayal of democratic promise. This helps explain why revolts against authoritarian regimes obey a different logic and don’t fall into any populist category.

Populism in recent years has undergone a renaissance on the left of the political spectrum. This is leading people to think of one of two things, according to Fieschi.

  1. “I like these people and so they cannot be populists”
  2. This is left-wing populism, so it really can’t be bad”

Overall, this week’s readings show that there is a difference in both left and right populism, and that one does not necessarily rank higher than the other.


  1. Catherine Fieschi, “A Plague on Both Your Populisms” (April 19, 2012) Open Democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/plague-on-both-your-populisms/
  2. March L. “Left and right populism compared: The British case” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations. 19(2) (2017): 282-303.
  3. Davide Vampa, “Competing forms of populism and territorial politics: the cases of Vox and Podemos in Spain” Journal of Contemporary European Studies vol. 28, issue 3 (2020).
  4. Cas Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser, C “Exclusionary vs. inclusionary populism: Comparing contemporary Europe and Latin America” Government and Opposition 48 (2013): 147–174.
  5. Davide Vampa (2020) Competing forms of populism and territorial politics: the cases of Vox and Podemos in Spain, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 28:3, 304-321,

Right VS. Left: Neofascism in Italy

By: Nicole Beswitherick

One thing that really stuck out to me in the readings for this week was the Guardian article, by Angelique Chrisafis in Paris, Kate Connolly in Berlin, and Angela Giuffrida in Rome; as well as the Hyperallergenic one by Charlie Jarvis. Perhaps this is because my major is journalism, but reading more recent examples of a fascist-leaning movement than older ones brings a more meaningful understanding as it is happening in real time.

In the Guardian reading, it really struck me how more women are moving towards a nationalist populism that was once so dominated by patriarchal ideology. Perhaps it is suggested that they are moving away from feminism as the article says. However, Le Pen rejects the term “feminism” because they associate it with an instrument of leftwing nonsense, replacing it with what the definition is, “women’s rights”. The Italian rightwing populist parties are targeting women as well with controversial messages that immigration brings misogynistic cultures that threaten freedom in Europe. These immigrants are mostly from countries with high Muslim populations. It all seems like a very manipulative scheme which we have seen in the west too, particularly in the United States.

Jarvis talks in his article about a massacre at Piazza Fontana in Milan, Italy. He also touches on how far-left groups (yes, left. Not right) like the Brigate Rosse waged war against the state through kidnapping and targeted assassination. However, the neofascist cells also sowed terror with massacres such as the one at Piazza Fontana. I liked how one journalist worded it, “the bombs that changed Italy.” Jarvis makes a connection with these relationships in regard to a museum. He explains that remembrance enables reconciliation between victims and perpetrators and also between the far left and extreme right.

Of course other articles this week also touched on Italy and its fascist past and present. But these two went really well together in explaining not only what has happened previously between the left and rightwing parties and supporters in Italy, but also what has been going on recently as a “look forward” type of ideal.

Op/Ed #1: Fascism is back on the rise

By: Nicole Beswitherick

Son of a blacksmith, born in 1883, Benito Mussolini was named after the Mexican revolutionary leader, Benito Juarez. He was a born revolutionary as people may say. Growing up, Mussolini saw the hunger and the struggles people in the working class had been experiencing; he was one of them. Later on, he became a leader of the Socialist party and editor of its newspaper but broke ties with them over an issue of Italian neutrality in WWI. When Mussolini began his banner, an army of followers soon came underway, some of them known as the “Blackshirt Militia”.[1] People funded this movement when seeing Mussolini as a tool to suppress the radical revolution that they were afraid of.

Mussolini’s fascist movement promised a lot of things like extreme radicalism and extreme conservatism. But its main goal was action, which was achieved through violence. Fascism was fought in parliament, the press, etc. The arguments and fights to get rid of it were stopped when those of the opposition had been sent off to prison, exiled, and in some other cases, murdered.[1] Fascism later turned out to be a more subtle reason to win the support of the Italian people.

A photo merging the faces of Donald Trump and Benito Mussolini, as people see a resemblance is their leadership styles [Photo courtesy of AP/Richard Drew/Salon)

In 1935, the Ethiopian war rallied nationalists more strongly around the fascist regime and showed Italians that fascism meant war. During and right before WWII, (1936-1943) there was a bigger distinction between fascism and antifascism. Underground movements were increasing in popularity, and fascism did not collapse entirely until Mussolini’s lieutenants cast him away, allied military victories got involved, and there was a rebellion of the people.[1] Although fascism did eventually fall, could it be on the rise again? Could it be seen in North America?

On 25 September 2022, Giorgia Meloni (leader of the nationalist Brothers of Italy) took the lead in a far-right victory for Italy. She is set to become the first female PM in Italy, with her party that is directly descended from the fascist movement of Benito Mussolini.[2] Meloni is known to pummel the European Union (EU), international bankers and migrants, and this has all spread concern about the reliability the nation has in the Western alliance.[3] The Brothers of Italy party had won 26 percent of the vote, the highest of any single party. In 2018, her party won only 4.3 percent of the vote.[4] This makes Meloni the “prohibitive favourite” to become the first female prime minister in Italy. Undoubtedly, the Italian population is slowly gaining interest in a far-right nationalist group.

Even though Meloni is a strong supporter of Ukraine, many of her coalition partners have a deep-rooted admiration for Vladimir Putin and have criticized sanctions against Russia.[1] This is another issue the West is seeing. Seeing as Meloni is the leader of such a far-right party which comes directly from the fascist Mussolini, it is no wonder that people are worried about a rise in fascism. It’s happening in Italy right now. But is fascism an issue in the West?

Food and gas bills are skyrocketing under the “onslaught of inflation and prolonged wage stagnation.”[5] Billions of dollars have been redirected by Western nations in this time of economic crisis to fund a war in Ukraine. The liberal class is terrified of a rise in neo-fascism and characters like Donald Trump who subserviently bid in the war industry and corporations.[5]

Brothers of Italy leader, Giorgia Meloni [Photo courtesy of Sky News Australia]

The liberal class is in debt, and that means that those who publicly denounce the foolishness of permanent war and NATO expansion, exploitation of workers in globalization, neoliberalism, etc, come increasingly more and more from the far-right.[5] This rage from right-wing people has been classified as “Christian fascism” in the United States and is making gains in Hungary, Poland, Italy, France, and others. Extremism is a holding of extreme political or religious views, also known as fanaticism. It is essentially radicalism, and there are political leaders (demagogues) who are promising moral and economic renewal, revenge on “enemies” and a return to lost glory. Remind you of a guy with orange skin, yellow hair, and who shouts, “Make America Great Again?”

Fascism has always been with us, and it might never truly go away even though it was already thought to. Far-right activists are gaining more supporters, especially over the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it may not rule out democracy, fascism and far-right nationalists are on the rise and the groups keep getting bigger.

[1] The Rise and Fall of Fascism – American Historical Association

[2] Is Italy Seeing the Rise of New Fascism? – Foreign Policy

[3] Giorgia Meloni Wins Voting in Italy, in Breakthrough for Europe’s Hard Right – The New York Times

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2022/sep/25/italy-general-election-2022-results-live-giorgia-meloni-latest-news

[5] https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/the-return-of-fascism

Nazism’s Lessons & Legacies

By: Nicole Beswitherick

The defendants in the dock at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. ——US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of John W. Mosenthal

As someone who had great grandparents who either fought on the front lines of WW2, nursed the injured or yielded crops, the topic of West Germany and Nazism is not completely unfamiliar. The main question in regard to this week’s readings is “What did coming to terms in the past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung) look like in postwar Germany?” If we look at the reading from Fulbrook, “The Diffraction of Guilt”, we see that a West German judge could still appear to have more sympathy with former Nazis than with their victims, even more than 20 years after the end of the war. It was added that a long prison sentence for the accused, in their advanced stage of life, also destroys their economic existence; and this makes it difficult to build it up again after the sentence is done (Fulbrook 323). West German interpretations of the law offer the idea that killing was a less odious crime if the victim had no suspicion that it was going to happen. From what I’ve gathered from these readings, the Nazis and West Germans were simply coming up with excuses to make their crimes come off as justifiable – which they are not.

In Sollors’ work, I found the explanation of the title of the reading quite interesting. “Everybody gets fragebogened sooner or later”, was described to summarize the American literary responses of the period (Sollors 147). It is seeming that Sollors makes many connections to America and its involvement and perhaps progression toward Nazi Germany. In Salomon’s version of the questionnaire in the chapter,  it not surprising to Sollors that Americans are viewed as the true anti-semites (Sollors 150). He tries to expand on this, but I find this particular reading did not do fantastic in translating or explaining the quotes written in German. But in Moeller’s “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” there is also a connection to Americans being that Mann asks: was postwar America inching toward Nazi Germany? (Which I will be asking in this week’s discussion for those who stumble upon my reflection). In this article, in particular, Moeller gathers the theory that Kramer and Mann used the film to reflect on what America had done, and America’s transgressions. They did this, according to Moeller, by focussing on the fatalities and presenting German fascism as a tool to measure the forms of injustice that permeated the daily life of Americans in 1961.

Works Cited:

Mary Fulbrook, “Diffraction of Guilt” and “Voices of the Victims” in Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp: 314-336, 361-377.

W. Sollors, “Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.” German Life & Letters. Vol 71, Issue 2 (2018): 139-153.

Robert Moeller, “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): 497-522.

Masculinity & Femininity

By: Nicole Beswitherick

In this week’s readings, we learn a lot about fascism in relation to the role of women and masculinity. What stood out to me was the key theme of the active participation of women in all situations of these readings and how they related to fascism, dictatorship, and masculinity. In Laurie Marhoeffer’s article, it was mentioned in a nutshell that men-men relationships were viewed as this bad and evil thing, especially by the Nazi party. As most of us can gather, homosexuality was not always as accepted as it is by today’s standards. However, while all of this was going on, while it still wasn’t considered a good thing, lesbianism was not “as bad”. The author states that asking whether lesbians were persecuted for lesbianism obscures what happened. This is because neither terms serve well in an analysis of this historical issue. Marhoeffer also includes statistics like, only 2% had a run-in of any kind with the Gestapo, and only 17% of women or “transvestites” were concerned they would have an encounter. It is also known that women are typically more affectionate and loving towards friends than men are. So criminalizing lesbianism would allow for many unfounded denunciations. In a humanities class at Carleton, I learned in my first year that in the old testament of the Christian Bible, things like this are viewed similarly from a historical standpoint as opposed to a religious one. Men-men relationships were frowned upon because to not love a woman is unmanly, but a relationship between two women was not looked upon as much because they are already the “weaker sex”. That is the summary of it anyways.

In the reading by Lopez and Sanchez, women played another key role in the Spanish Civil War by hiding and helping in the survival of men. However, they’d be murdered for it, along with other reasons. Women still fought on the front lines in this war, but the reading said it would be only about 1,000 women. I think that during this era, and of WW2 Nazi Germany, there was this strong persona of what a man should look like, and what a woman should look like. Thomas Kuhne gave a good example when showing a photograph of a man pushing a baby stroller. This was looked down upon because that was a job of a woman. This ideology has been engraved into the heads of so many men and women, and yet we wonder why there is so much toxic masculinity. Men, in this time specifically as it is the focus, were told they cannot push the baby stroller, instead, they must work, fight for their country, etc, etc. They are supposed to be these figures that are strong, powerful and brave. I think this is also partially why it was (and still is) difficult for some men when women can do the same work as them and sometimes better. It really hasn’t been until recently that society is normalizing, for example, that men can cry and show these “feminine” emotions.

Fascism: for the nation, against the empire? -Nicole Beswitherick

In this week’s readings, we learn about fascism and its conflict with internationalism. From what I gathered from the readings, largely from David Motadel and Paul Hanebrink, is that people very strongly believed that communism was a Jewish plot to destroy the nations of Europe which took hold during the Russian Revolution. Fascists instigated fears of a Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy which sparked a genocide, and was a part of what led to the hatred of the Jewish people in World War Two.

In Hanebrink’s articles, I think it is evident that this paranoia persists in today’s culture in right-wing nationalism. We see this largely in the United States today with their “patriotism”, and I believe an example in the article was of August 2017 where in Charlottesville, Virginia, white-supremicists and neo-Nazis gathered to demonstrate their disapproval of the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee – his military tactics were actually studied and used in WWII. Throughout this reading it is also evident that many people in France, Poland, Hungary, Sweden and the UK advocated strongly for a “white Europebof brotherly nations.” There is no doubt that fascism was getting to be more popular in this era of history as these far-right groups believed in a natural social hierarchy, and a subordination of individual interests for the perceived good of the nation and race. One of the literal definitions of the term. They did this by blaming Jewish “communists” – which some, yes were communist, but not the entire nation as a whole- for promoting homosexuality and multiculturalism. Which we again are seeing this today in parts of North America where these far-right groups stand. Essentially, all of these far-right groups were very anti-communist, which most people are today. However, the way they went about things in a way as fascist which is still not known to be a great thing as we’ve talked about.

In Motadel’s reading, we see that around the world, nationalist anticolonial movements were influenced by these ideals of strong leadership, militarism, by authoritarian principles of governance, and by the adoration of violence. This was also said in the reading to be superior to the liberal values of individualism, parliamentarism, and democracy.

To wrap up, we have learned this week that there are different faces or sides to fascism, and that through propoganda during the early 1900’s in which these readings are focussing on, people can be manipulated into siding with it. Not to mention Berlin’s “anticolonial nationalists illuminates the broader phenomenon of right-wing authoritarian anticolonialism that emerged in the shifting political landscape of the interwar years and reached its peak during the Second World War.”

Works cited:

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

David Motadel, “The Global Authoritarian Moment: The Revolt Against Empire” American Historical Review Vol. 124, Issue 3 (July 2019): 843-877. AND https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/opinion/the-surprising-history-of-nationalist-internationalism.html

Defining terms: Fascism vs. Populism

During the readings for this week, as we have all read, the terms fascism and populism come up often.

When defining the term fascism, a lot of examples had come up, particularly in the reading by Frederico Finchelstein. There, I enjoyed the definition of the term populism as “a political form that thrives in democracies that are particularly unequal…” etc. But yet, this also proves that populism is capable of undermining democracy without breaking it. Finchelstein put it into good words by saying if populism extinguishes democracy, it becomes a dictatorship.

With regard to fascism, I liked that Donald Trump was a key topic of conversation. I found it interesting, yet it made sense to me, that Roger Griffin did not see Donald Trump as a fascist because of his own definition of the term. In his definition, for someone to be fascist, they need to have a longing for a new order, a new nation, and not just an old reformed one. Trump’s catchphrase is “make America great again” which to me, indicates that he did not necessarily want to go a new way in government, but back to how it used to be, I’m assuming prior to Obama. So by this definition, Griffin is correct in saying that Trump is not a fascist.

I am running a bit long here, but I just wanted to add lastly that there was a question in one of the readings about if fascism has really returned from its 1945 grave. As of now, I would agree that fascism hasn’t truly come back as much as others may disagree. Not by true definition. However, populism seems to be the bigger issue now as there is a rival between the common people and the “elites” or the 1%.

“Deus Vult!” A phrase with many meanings

I am choosing to write on last week’s readings for now, but I see everyone is writing on this week’s readings. Worst comes to worst I do two reflections this week…

The phrase “Deus Vult!” or “God wills it”, is a phrase I have heard a few times before, but I had never known what the term really meant or why it was being used.

It seems that shouting the phrase could be very innocent, but in a decade of Trump supporters, Islamophobia and other issues, the term has almost a new meaning. In the reading by Sal Hagen on this phrase, we learn that it is a historical catchphrase that was intended to align people into recapturing the Holy Land. Therefore, it has become a more far-right catchphrase that is slightly problematic.

Although it was interesting to learn that it was not just Americans who began to use this phrase in a more extreme right way, it also fueled Israel’s far-right and the Brazilian far-right as well. However, in either case, it is used to promote a more white and Christian perspective and to extend cases of Islamophobia.

Something that I continue to struggle with is that Christians claim to be loving and accepting of all people, but then you have these cases in multiple areas where the far-right of these groups are hating on others. Which you would believe to be the opposite going off of what they tell others. Alas, that is more on the side of my opinion, so I will stop there.

I think using the phrase as a meme can be funny and innocent in a particular context with friends. However, to use a catchphrase in terms of hate is a bit ridiculous. However, it seems that everyone needs to hate someone. In the reading of the Brazilian far-right, it is interesting that the government used another phrase, “Brazil above everything, God above all,” which is a religious twist on a slogan from the Nazi Party.

There’s much I could talk about on this phrase but I will leave it here for now.


Hey everyone! My name is Nicole and I’m in my fourth year of Journalism here at Carleton, minoring in history. History, especially European history and the history of WW2, is a subject that my parents engraved into my head as being both important and interesting since I was a kid.

I have always had an interest in European history, more so in England as my great grandparents came from there after the Second World War. Before everything that has been occurring in the news lately, I have also always been fascinated by the Royal family as a topic of history going back to King Henry VIII.

I am excited to see what this semester brings, and I look forward to getting to know all of you a little bit better.