Introduction

Michaela Bax-Leaney

Hi all! My name is Michaela, and I am in my fourth and final year of a combined honours in journalism and history. I’m primarily interested in public history, particularly North American public history, as well as collective memory and knowledge management. I particularly enjoy studying history through the lense of gender and sexuality. As a journalist, my interests bend towards food, arts, and culture writing, covering Indigenous communities, and foreign affairs.

This course felt like the perfect intersection of my two degrees, especially given what we’ve seen unfold so close to home in the last few weeks in the lead up to Joe Biden’s inauguration. I’m really excited to delve into the theoretical concepts and break them down and connect to the present day – that’s an act that’s been a core focus of my time at university, and something I believe in very strongly. Journalism is inherently better when it is informed by and aware of the past.

This week’s Challah!

Outside of the classroom, I really love to bake and cook (as the people who’ve been stuck inside with me for the last 10 months can attest!) I’ve also been trying to get back into reading for pleasure, and am looking forward to travelling more in a world where 70% or more people have been vaccinated! I’ve really only been outside of Canada once – I lived in Tanzania for a summer – so that’s something I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do again soon. Looking forward to the term!

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.

Introduction

Sara Dix

Hello everyone!

My name is Sara and I’m in my fourth-year of Global and International Studies, specializing in European and Russian Studies, and I’m also minoring in American Sign Language. I enjoy learning about history in general, but I’m more focused on European history.

A couple years ago, I also took Professor Evans’ 19th Century Germany course and I completed a Balkans history course last semester so I’m looking forward to this course! I think it’ll be really interesting to learn about populism and authoritarianism, especially since it relates so much to events that have happened in more recently. I unfortunately haven’t gotten to travel to Europe, but I do want to at some point. I was going to go to Ireland last summer for my international experience requirement, but that fell through due to COVID-19.

As for personal interests, I enjoy creative writing, reading, playing video games, and watching anime. I have been lucky enough to still be able to play Dungeons & Dragons with my groups online. Lastly, I included a photo I took of my pet axolotl, Norman, as I figured he will bring you guys some happiness during this tough time in lockdown.

Bryce Greer – Introduction

Hi all!

My name is Bryce, and I am currently working through my fourth year in the history department as I prepare for my honor’s thesis by Fall 2021. I have taken a few courses that deal with more modern history like War and Society in 20th century Britain or the history of the U.S. borderlands. My passion, however, (and where I have focused much of my studies) has always been the Middle Ages, and I minor in Greek and Roman Studies as well.

In terms of this class and what I know of it, I can say I may be a millennium or two behind. Although as an aspiring Medievalist, I have come across the issues found in the misconceptions of the Middle Ages and how the history has been used by right-wing populist groups today. After the first week of readings for this class, I feel, even in my lack of knowledge about 20th century fascism, populism, and authoritarianism, that my understanding of the medieval past can offer counterpoints in the topic itself, from its unique perspective.

Beyond the scope of this class, my focus in history has allowed me to place my creativity and love for history together. I have spent much of my time trying to change the popular culture of history by adopting video games, films, historical fiction, etc. as methods of telling accurate history to a broader audience. In terms of interests, however, I have been engrossed by the philosophical concept of Neoplatonism and its equally divided impact on both Medieval Christianity as well as the study of Occult practices, further growing into the study of magic and witchcraft from the Classical Period all the way to early modern Europe.

Although I may not have much of a background for a class on 20th century Europe, and especially topics like populism and authoritarianism, I hope that I may use the ideas and concepts from this class to combat even places like popular culture and its creation of stereotypes and misconceptions of the past. I am eager to learn and get to know more of what is to be offered. I am also excited to hear from others and their opinions and own perspectives that they bring to the table as well.

Introducing Myself

Emma Bronsema

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This is a picture I took of an old beetle parked on one of the streets in Athens Greece, May 2019.

My name is Emma and I am currently finishing up my degree in Global and International studies, with a specialization in global and transnational history, and a minor in German. I have a passion for 20th century European and Canadian history. More specifically occupied Netherlands during the Second World War, and the migration of young dutch people to Canada. 

In the spring of 2019, I had the opportunity to spend a month in Europe. For three of those weeks, I was in Mainland Greece, going to dozens of museums and historic sites. I was also able to go on many hikes, explore different cities, and eat incredible food. My last week in Europe was spent in the Netherlands. While there, I immersed myself in the culture and learned more about my heritage. I also fell in the quaint little city known as Delft. My trip reinforced my interest in European history.

I aspire to work in the public history field and for a company such as ICOM or UNESCO. This past year, I worked at the Diefenbunker Museum. I conducted research on the Cold War and largely contributed to the online exhibit on Igor Gouzenko.  During my time there, I worked with both adults and children, and explained the history of and surrounding the Bunker. On my tours, I made connections from local experience and importance of the cold war, to the global experience and importance. 

Apart from history and travelling, I thoroughly enjoy a good book and a hot cup of tea. I also love photography, and both listening to, and playing, music. And I look forward to further diving into and learning more about 20th century European history during this course.

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 😉

Andreea Gustin – Introduction

Hi everyone!

My name is Andreea and I am a fourth year Public Affairs and Policy Management student. I specialize in communications policy and strategic public opinion. In my second year at Carleton, I decided to minor in history after taking a first year 20th Century Europe history course which I ended up loving.

I’ve had the chance to take a few European history courses — some focusing on Europe as a whole, others focusing on specific areas like Rome or Russia. I’ve also taken some thematic history courses focusing on topics like Madness or Witchcraft.

My family immigrated here from Romania when I was very young and they often discuss the history and hardships that came with it which sparked my interest in European history and better understanding the problems of that time.

I’m really looking forward to this course and specifically learning more about social implications of fascist, populist and authoritarian governments. I can’t say I know too much about the topics of this course but I hope I’m able to gain a better understanding of how changes in government structures affected ordinary people throughout Europe and what kinds of lasting impacts this may have had.

Introductions

Students – welcome! This is where we will be doing the digital work for our class, including where you will post weekly commentaries and upload your Op/Ed assignments. You will create your own separate site, with separate address, for the blog assignment. It seems confusing at first, but it will be clear enough soon.

You are not required to post anything for our first class January 13th. I will need to set up your ID and profile here on WordPress, by sending you an email to join this page. For ease’s sake, I’ll use your cmail account. Once you are inside, you will set up your profile and start uploading some text. Don’t worry, it takes a few kicks at the can but WordPress is really intuitive and you’ll figure it out quickly!

Here are some things to bear in mind. When you go to our site, and log in, you will see your dashboard on the left hand side of the page. Select post and add new to create a new entry. Clicking it will open a window for you to compose your thoughts. You can add images or just plain old text. To the right of the text box is a vertical with several options. I have set up a series of categories to organize your entries each week. Tick box 1. Students Introduce Yourselves (not blog entries). This is important, because it helps categorize your posts according to theme. Also be sure to add your name just under the title for each post you make. It allows us to see who is writing what (strange WordPress glitch).

Once you have written a few things about yourself, and selected box 1, you are ready to publish it. Maybe click preview to see how it looks. If you like how it reads, click publish and it will be live!

It is that simple. Now, if you find it challenging and can’t figure it out, don’t worry. In class, we’ll spend a little time walking through things. Write your reflection piece and either upload it to our site or bring it to class and we’ll get it up and running by the end of the session.

In the meantime, try it out. Don’t forget to click 2. Defining Terms for the second week’s reflections (and so on). And send me an email if you are having trouble.

See you in class!

Watchin’ the Tide Roll Away?

By Absalom Sink

It’s becoming a tiresome cliché, isn’t it? Almost as tiresome as the cliché from a few years ago: that of a ‘rising tide of far-right populism’ in Europe. And while that old number is still getting plenty of play, it seems like every month there’s a handful of new articles and op-eds pontificating on whether the ‘populist tide’ has peaked and begun to ebb.

To be fair, I can understand the urge behind writing pieces like those. The ‘populist right’ has been dealt a number of blows this year. There was the “stunning rebuke” against populism in Slovakia with the election of centre-left, liberal Zuzana Caputova. Just over a week ago in Bologna, Italy, a rally held by the populist Matteo Salvini and attended by a little under 6000 supporters was counter-protested by between 12000 and 15000 people. Similarly, far-right rallies held last week by Pegida in Dresden and the ultranationalist NPD in Hannover were dwarfed by counter-protesters. And it’s hard not to see 13500 people marching in Paris against Islamophobia as a raised middle finger aimed at the Rassemblement National (RN), the political embodiment of Islamophobia in France. Finally, let’s not forget the “collapse of the far-right” in the Austrian election this past September, when the FPO lost 10% of the overall vote as compared to the last election because of a corruption scandal.

The problem is when we try to use events like these to extrapolate out over the whole of Europe. In fact, just framing it as the populist right is problematic. Certainly, there are transnational connections between populist movements/parties, but there is no single, monolithic populism. These groups cooperate to the extent that it’s practical. But if, say, Germany’s AfD were to suddenly founder, it’s a fair bet that the Swiss Peoples’ Party and the RN and the Sweden Democrats—far-right populists, all—would let them sink before risking their own positions. By lumping all these groups together when declaring that the ‘populist tide is receding’, we massively oversimply a complex transnational political situation.

Aside from oversimplifying things, there’s also the worry that such statements might make voters complacent; believing the threat to be behind them, voters might have less impetus to vote. The problem is a number of far-right populist parties in Europe still have fairly robust polling numbers. Germany’s AfD has held steady at 13-14% in the national polls for two years, while in Thuringia’s state election last month it came second, with over 23% of the vote. In France, Marine Le Pen’s RN is actually leading the presidential poll, hovering around 28%. Even in Austria, where the ‘Ibiza affair’ saw the FPÖ drop by 10% in the last election, they picked up enough seats that they were able to maintain their coalition government with the winning ÖVP. How can we claim that far-right populism has peaked when a party like the ‘formerly’ fascist Sweden Democrats are poised to become the biggest party in their country, and could conceivably with the 2022 election?

My point in all of this is simply that journalists and political observers alike should be wary of making sweeping declarations on the state of far-right populism. Europe is bigger and more diverse than we sometimes recognize; when we’re talking about an entire continent, it’s worth remembering that high tide happens at different times in Helsinki, Finland and Cadiz, Spain. The same goes for the metaphorical tide. While populism might ebb in one region, it can still be in flood in another.

Europe’s Radical Right: Cultural Descendant of the Nouvelle Droite

By Absalom Sink

Two weeks ago, we read and discussed the rise of the Nouvelle Droite (ND), first in France, and then in a broader, pan-European context. Crucial to the formulation of the ND was its retreat from the political arena into the realm of culture, the realm of “metapolitics”. Seeing in the protests of 1968 the sway that the Left held over cultural institutions—particularly institutions of higher education—far right figures led by Alain de Benoist ostensibly abandoned politics and moved instead to open up cultural space in which later generations of Far Right thinkers and politicians might act; they appropriated from the Left Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, and worked to sow the seeds of a counterhegemonic bloc.

From this week’s readings, I would argue that the experiment is something of a qualified success. Certainly, most of today’s so-called Radical Right1 have not taken up de Benoist’s neopagan ritualism. And the populist, self-described “democratic” nature of Radical Right movements is inherently contrary to the ND’s anti-democratic, elitist formulation. But as the readings make clear, there are crucial threads linking the ND and the Radical Right. Chief among them is ethnopluralism. As Ina Schmidt explains, “Ethnopluralism is an ideology of the far right, which is no longer directed against foreign ethnicities, but rather against cultures—understood as being irrevocably connected with certain values, practices, and habits.” Essentially, it is a form of cultural racism, as opposed to the biological racism of yore, popular with fascists. By shifting the focus of their xenophobia from “race” to “culture”, Radical Right groups avoid the charge of racism and open ideological space between themselves and fascist forebears. It’s the ideological sleight of hand that lets Islamophobes respond to charges of racism with the stock sentence “Islam isn’t a race!” And as we’ll recall from Tamir Bar-On’s article, it is the same semantic shift that de Benoist and his followers made in the 1980s, moving from biological racism to the anti-multicultural “Europe of a Hundred Flags”.

It does not really matter that groups like Pegida or the Front National don’t adhere entirely to the roadmap laid down by the ND. Remember, the goal of the ND was simply to create the cultural space in which Far Right ideals might be taken once more into the political sphere—ideals like the abandonment of liberal democracy, and at least since the 1980s, of ethnopluralism over multiculturalism. By achieving broader cultural acceptance, as evinced by de Benoist’s Prix de l’essai from l’Académie Française and glowing coverage in Telos, the ND was able to open that political space it desired. It now needed political actors to take up the mantle. As both Zack Beauchamp—in his interview with our old friend Cas Mudde—and Pietro Castelli Gattinara show, a series of events in 2015 would provide the spark for an explosion of Radical Right movements to occupy that space, a sort of Far Right Big Bang.

According to Mudde, “the core of the ideology of the radical right includes three features: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism.” Nativism, he says, is essentially a form of xenophobia that dictates that a state should only be inhabited by people who are “native” to it.2 Authoritarianism revolves around the belief that society should be “strictly ordered”, and in which any social issue becomes treated as an issue of security—the example Mudde gives here is the treatment of drug crises as “something to be cracked down on” through law and order, rather than as a public health issue. Finally, populism boils down to another “us versus them” dichotomy, this time between “the elites”—typically mainstream political figures, but with a healthy helping of wealthy proponents of liberalism, like the far right’s bogeyman George Soros—and “the real people”.3 2015 brought a confluence of factors that served to empower nascent Radical Right movements throughout Europe. First, the refugee crisis, stoked nativist fears throughout Europe. Terror attacks, starting with Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015, fueled authoritarian tendencies and calls for increased vigilance, particularly against ‘outsiders.’ Finally, the lingering effects of the 2008 financial crisis and the aftershocks that threatened the structural integrity of the EU undermined the existing economic liberal order and played into populist anti-elitist rhetoric.

Julius Evola knew he would never see a truly resurgent fascism in his lifetime; it is entirely possible that Alain de Benoist never thought he’d see the ideological seeds he sowed bear fruit. But a series of external shocks—a financial crisis originating in the United States, revolutions throughout the Middle East leading to a nearly decade-long civil war in Syria, the rise of ISIL, and the largest refugee crisis since the Bosnian War—provided the cover for a broad range of Radical Right political movements to spring up in the cultural niche carved out by the ND.

1Borrowing here from Cas Mudde’s differentiation between “Extreme Right” and “Radical Right”, in which the former rejects democracy outright in favour of revolution aiming for authoritarianism, while the latter merely rejects aspects of liberal democracy, like pluralism and minority rights, while still claiming to adhere to democratic principles. Castelli Gattinara helps to further clarify, explaining that radical right groups “locate themselves outside the political mainstream but without intending to replace democracy with an authoritarian order.”

2Remember, though, from our very first class, when we grappled with the question of “who is really ‘native’ to a given place?” The Magyar people claim ownership of Hungary, even though they are likely to have arrived significantly later that the ancestors of today’s Slovenes within the borders of Hungary. Likewise, how “native” is a person who calls themselves an “Anglo-Saxon”—itself an incredibly fraught term—to Britain?

3”The real people” has become something of a shibboleth for Far- and Radical Right groups, differentiating them from Left populists; as Jan Werner-Muller explains, the term serves to “other” any who don’t fit with the “majority”, while also delegitimizing any other groups and figures vying for power.

Works Cited:

Beauchamp, Zack. “An expert on the European far right explains the growing influence of anti-immigrant politics”. Vox. May 31, 2016 https://www.vox.com/2016/5/31/11722994/european-far-right-cas-mudde

Bar-On, Tamir. “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 199–223.

Castelli Gattinara, Pietro. “Framing Exclusion in the Public Sphere: Far-Right Mobilisation and the Debate on Charlie Hebdo in Italy.” South European Society & Politics 22, no. 3 (Sept. 2017): 345–364.

Schmidt, Ina. “PEGIDA: A Hybrid Form of a Populist Right Movement.” German Politics & Society 35, no. 4 (Winter 2017): 105–17.

“The Dangers of Populism” Interview with Jan Werner Mueller, Council of Europe (March 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahtvsNU2bkk