International Nationalism – Then and Now

By: Willem Nesbitt

Both of David Motadel’s articles explore the idea of how nationalist and fascist movements, while espousing assertions of homogeneity and a focus on the nation-state, employ the use of international relations to bolster and strengthen their causes. An interesting thread that links both articles is the continuity of this internationalism from the rise of fascism in the mid-twentieth century into the modern day. With parties advocating for a wide range of fascist and nationalist ideas as tepid as opposing the EU and policies (in the case of Nazi Germany) as extreme as genocide, these nationalist movements separated by over seventy years employ similar tactics regarding international cooperation.

                Over the course of the Second World War, Germany increasingly took favour towards associating with nationalist and anti-imperialist movements in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The influence of Nazi Germany was appealing to these nationalist movements and leaders thanks to what they saw as “a global order based on nation-states, not multiethnic empires” (Motadel, p. 845) spearheaded by Germany, and this attraction sees parallels in modern-day nationalist movements. With the European Union grappling with the effects of an isolationist Britain and the rise of right-wing nationalism in members such as Poland and Czechia, Europe again is seeing a re-emergence of nationalist parties and leaders associating with one another – like with the German and Italian alliance in the 1930s, we can see similar patterns emerging in Le Pen’s and Salvini’s Franco-Italian cooperation. In an increasingly connected world, one which has come to see the increased use of the anti-Semitic dog whistle “globalist,” the international connections of nationalist movements have reappeared once again, an ironic statement, to say the least.

Trumpism and Fascism, Analogies and Comparisons

By: Willem Nesbitt

Each of this week’s readings all touch on the common themes of fascism and populism in our contemporary society, but a clear opposing duo emerges from Peter Gordon’s and Samuel Moyn’s articles. The two articles clearly stand opposed in view even at the phrasing of their titles, but what I found most interesting were the common opinions that the authors held. Despite their various disagreements on the topic of comparisons between Trumpism and fascism, Gordon and Moyn’s discussions do align occasionally, most prominently when discussing the idea that the use of certain terms or comparisons can result in their diminishment and meaning. Gordon, on the topic of the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s stance on the equation between Nazi concentration camps and American detention centers, believes that the museum officials “harbor the fear that the Holocaust will become little more than a polemical weapon in ideological contests between left and right,” and Moyn similarly believes that “Comparison is always a risky tool; it leads to blindness, not just insight.” For all the disagreement between the articles, the instances where the authors do agree on certain elements reveals that there is a thin line that must be tread when using a historical event as an analogy or comparison for a moment in the modern day.

            These two readings reveal themselves to be an interconnected and intrinsically linked duo that tread common ground, at times in disagreement, and other times in a most interesting harmony. Given that Moyn’s article seems to be an almost direct reply to Gordon’s (especially through Moyn’s mimicking of Gordon’s Apples and Oranges theme), I am left wondering if Gordon has since read Moyn’s opposing stance, and how exactly he would feel towards it. There is certainly more of a conversation to be had between these two opposing camps one year on from the publishing of these articles, particularly with the ongoing death throes of Trump’s presidency.

Works Cited:

Gordon, Peter E. “Why Historical Analogy Matters.” The New York Review of Books, January 7, 2020.

Moyn, Samuel. “The Trouble with Comparisons.” The New York Review of Books, May 19, 2020.

Willem Nesbitt – Introduction

Hello everyone,

My name is Willem, and I am a fourth-year history undergraduate at Carleton. My studies so far have primarily focused on ancient history and Indigenous Canadian history, the latter of which I have had the pleasure of pursuing further through the various co-op positions I have held during my time at university, but I also have a personal interest in 20th century European history.

Growing up, I always had an interest in the topic due to the presence of events such as the World Wars or the Cold War in our media. From movies, to video games, to books, these experiences fostered my initial interest in the topic, and from there, I discovered a more personal attachment I have to the topic. Both of my grandfathers served in the Royal Canadian Airforce during the Second World War, and my paternal grandfather’s cousin, Walter Clifford Nesbitt, was killed in action during the Battle of Ortona. I also had the good fortune to visit Europe a few years ago, and while there, I visited places such as Terezin concentration camp in Czechia and Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands. These personal connections of mine to the events of the time period has inspired me to study more of the era, leading to me taking this course.

I am very much looking forward to this class and what I will learn from it. I feel that the topics we will cover are both of great interest in the historical sense, but also may shed a lot of light on the current events in our world and help deepen my understanding of how we got here, and where 2021 may take us next.

As for a little bit about myself, apart from my interest in history, I also have a variety of hobbies. First and foremost is music, in which I have been teaching myself over the last number of years how to play regular and bass guitar. I also spend my time reading (recently Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series), and playing video games (Dark Souls, lately). I am looking forward to getting to know all of you, and I wish you all the best of luck with all of your classes this semester.