For the Nation, Against Empire?

Sara Dix

The articles by Motadel and Ben-Ghiat highlight the themes of anti-colonialism and cosmopolitanism through the historical fascist perspective. In The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt against Empire, Motadel discusses that while fascism was out to correct certain national issues, it also aimed at creating a new world order. So fascism, inherently, is cosmopolitan to an extent.

During WWII, the Nazi regime needed to engage with outside anti-colonial movements to achieve its goal for furthering an spreading its ideologies outside of Europe. Motadel also argues that Berlin’s anti-colonial revolutions was essentially anti-imperial and it called for an international order based on the principles of the nation and not empire which appealed to many anti-colonial nationalists worldwide. These included anti-colonial revolutionaries did not represent the majority which is why they needed to band together. Even Ben-Ghiat, through her analysis of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, mentioned that even though it was meant to portray this idea of creating an Italian empire, the result meant repeated Ethiopian rebellions and failure of the Italian authorities to secure Ethiopia as its own.

Motadel mentions the Catalan situation in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and Britain’s Brexit Party who turned their backs during the Union’s anthem. While “internationalism” is considered to be hated by contemporary nationalists, it is ironic that these same nationalist groups are seeking out allies across borders and becoming the definition of “internationalism” through transnational institutions. He calls it “reactionary cosmopolitanism” where these groups are working together as a reaction to their threatened nationalist perspectives and the idea that multiculturalism and pluralism only puts a negative weight on the state.

Works Cited

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

David Motadel, “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier than Internationalism – But They Depend on It.” The New York Times (July 3, 2019).

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

Fascism & The New Italian

By: Vincent Larocque


In this weeks reading and Youtube video had the idea of remaking and reworking the perceptions of the image of the average Italian as well as the Italian state itself.

In “Conquest and Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy by Ruth Ben-Ghiat observed the attempted creation of the new Italian “no longer becoming, but IS a soldier” amongst other ideals set forth by Mussolini and the Italian Fascist government. The theme of of renewal or change is present in the article as Italy was undergoing a type of identity crises all the while seemingly copying and trying hard to relate to the Nazi regime in Berlin. Mussolini and other Italian Fascist were off put by the Nazi’s bid to become the undisputed rulers of the “new Europe” and Italian fascists grew alarmed at the unequal relationship between Berlin and Rome since they considered themselves to be equal. As such, this accelerated the idea of Italians to become “a race of hard edged conquers” and even more alarming were the 1938 racial laws that sought to define Italians as Aryans by instituting a campaign of cultural reclamation (bonifica della cultura) and copying anti-Jewish measures for Mussolini’s plan of Italian “Aryanization” to overcome the national inferiority complex.

The idea of the “New Italian” is also present in the video presented of the week “Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema” where Italian cinema at this time reinforced Fascist racial and labour policies. The Italian style cinema, which has been compared to 1930’s Soviet realism, focuses on the “new man’ archetype where it is centered around the Italian male and has heavy connotations to Italian colonialism. Through film and because Italian colonial holding are not as historical and mostly new reflected a way to disengage audiences with domestic troubles, “don’t worry about what is going on at home when we are trying to re-create the Roman Empire” and through the cinematic experience of idealizing the Italian male, it could create a colonial history and behavior that reflects all the ideals of Fascist Italy.

Sources

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

Ben-Ghiat, R. (2015, April 9). Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema. New York University. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch v=ZbFFLXVvtXc&ab_channel=CasaItalianaNYU

Does the Nationalist Fear Internationalism? Not Exactly.

By Bryce Greer

Does the nationalist fear internationalism? Not exactly. On the contrary, when looking at the history behind nationalist and fascist moments in the 20th century, one in its own repetition today, the nationalist fits within the concept of internationalism. David Motadel’s “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism – But They Depend on It” expresses concern for the idea of nationalist internationalism. From a contemporary standpoint, looking at July of 2019, he describes a far-right alliance of the European parliament, all forming under one goal, to undermine the European Union. Indeed, what appears from the article is nationalists forming together into an international league, and although they speak of nationalist rhetoric, their international alliance does not prevent them from their nationalism.  

Motadel voices his concern to a national internationalism and the analogy to the 20th century becomes striking in his work “The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt Against the Empire.” A less-spoken history is that of Nazi Germany’s pragmatic decision to align themselves with anti-colonial nationalists under banner, and this was to bring down the imperial powers of the Allies. Berlin was a haven for the nationalist internationalism. Despite disagreements to the Aryan supremacy of Nazi rhetoric, anti-colonist nationalists from Africa, India, the Middle East, etc. flocked to Germany due to their shared hate toward the imperial world orders. Allied through fear and the idea of liberation, it was clear that nationalists could pragmatically find an international alliance.

Yet, it is not just pragmatism that can allow for the alliance but rather the simple notion of having only one common goal or ideology. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s Fascist Modernities reveals fascist Italy had its own imperialist mindset, yet this did not stop an international league of nationalists. To compare Motadel and Ben-Ghiat, anti-colonists found an ally with Nazi Germany through their distain against the oppressive Allied imperial orders. Italy, an imperialist themselves, found an ally with Nazi Germany for a shared ideological goal of bringing civilization to the “uncivilized” – a form to the Aryan supremacy. Fear is a strong method for nationalist internationalism. It becomes the rhetoric of “us” versus “them” that brings the nationalists under one banner. It is the “Other,” rather it be the imperialists who differ from the pragmatic goals of the anti-colonists, or the “uncivilized” for fascist Italy or even Judeo-Bolshevism, as Paul Hanebrink speaks of in A Specter Haunting Europe. Even today now, immigrants continue to be an “Other” for some of Europe’s nationalist leaders.

Therefore, it is not internationalism that the nationalist fears. Rather, as Motadel states, it is colloidal internationalism, a liberal internationalism that seeks to remove any existence of nation-states, that they fear. So, to combat this, nationalist internationalism, even through all their own disagreements, is formed and strives to exist for the sole purpose of keeping the existence of their nation-states alive.

Works Cited:

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

Paul Hanebrink, A Specter Haunting Europe : The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018.

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

David Motadel, “The Far-Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism – But They Depend on It.” New York Times (July 3, 2019). https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/opinion/the-surprising-history-of-nationalist-internationalism.html

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.

Antisemitism and Anti-Colonial Liberation: How these Movements Worked Hand in Hand in the Second World War

By Austin Pellizzer

In David Motadel’s article, The Global Authoritarian Movement and the Revolt Against Empire, we see the relationship in which Hitler’s Germany and many anti-imperialist movements at the time joined hand in hand to fight the common enemy, the imperial powers of Britain, France, and Holland, to name a few. However, while touched on briefly, Motadel’s piece underemphasized the importance of how ideology played in the alliances of said groups. Such examples can be seen concerning the ‘Palestinian’ national Al-Husayni in which he discusses his hatred for “International Jewry and colonialist counties” (872). Another notable antisemite who Motadel failed to go in-depth with was the Syrian rebel leader Fawzi al-Qawuqji (843). While Motadel’s article uses the Mufti of Jerusalem as an example of the hatred and antisemitism Muslim and Arab Leaders used to align themselves with the Nazi regime, I can not help but feel much of Germany’s allies used the ideas of ‘anti-colonial struggles’ (872) to push their hateful rhetoric of the Jewish populations as simply part of the European colonial struggle. While this article as a whole was not to look solely at the motives of why these groups joined forces, the lack of background given to the commonalities of ideological antisemitism leaves this article wanting and aspects much to be still desired. 

With looking a the Nazi allies and the ideological commonalities of Motadel’s article, the complimenting piece which also helps to cement the idea of anti-Semitic theories used by the Axes powers, was the thoughts of how Judeo-Bolshevism lead to the spread of communism. In the podcast, A Spector Haunting Europe, The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism, Paul Hamebrink discusses the notion of how the Jewish communities in Europe themselves pushed and helped to create the political force of communism in Europe seen in the 1917 Russian revolution and into the 1920-30s. While Hamebrink connects the way this conspiracy was used to turn populations against their neighbours, it was not looked at how the communist ‘Jewish question’ was used by the fascist parties of Germany and its allies in the Second World War. This connection would have helped to see how it was used to keep the notion alive in post-war Eastern Europe (like Hungary), but also the West and into today’s rise of far-right anti-Semitic narratives pushed in many political spheres concerning Euroscepticism and other prominent ideologies today. 

The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend

By: Andreea Gustin

When discussing ideologies such as fascism or nationalism, we often focus at the national level. This week’s readings, however, allowed us to further explore these ideologies through an international lens and understand how and why far-right groups may turn to international cooperation.

David Motadel’s New York Times opinion piece, “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism – But They Depend on It” demonstrates how internationalism can bring nationalist groups together in unlikely ways in order to further common goals. Nationalism and internationalism by name do not seem as though they would be compatible in their goals. However, as can be seen through this week’s sources, nationalism and internationalism can be quite complementary to one another. 

This is idea is further demonstrated through Motadel’s “The Global Authoritarian Moment: The Revolt Against Empire” which highlights the Third Reich’s support during World War II of anti-colonial and anti-imperial movements throughout the British and French colonial empires. Upon reading this source, I found myself taken aback by the irony of it – Nazi Germany, which claimed the racial superiority of the Germanic race or the “Aryan” race, trying to assist in revolutions by colonized populations against other white Northern European states. At first, this did not quite make sense to me, but as I continued reading, I began to understand that although fascism may be a national movement, it goes beyond in order to achieve a common goal. In this case, the common goal was to promote anti-colonial solidarity and ensure that other people’s national identities are not compromised by imperial powers. 

This week’s sources showcased that nationalist internationalism is both ideological as well as pragmatic. Through these readings, it was made clear that although nationalist and internationalist efforts may not always see eye to eye, sometimes it is necessary for them to come together in order to battle a common enemy. 

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

Europe’s Paradoxical Relationship with Tradition

By Absalom Sink

As Gloria Wekkers writes in her book White Innocence, the celebration of Zwarte Piet—Saint Nicholas’ “Moorish helper” usually portrayed by a white person in blackface, and played as a —remains a mainstay of Dutch Christmas celebration, despite increasing controversy over the racistracial’ implications of the character. Supporters of the Zwarte Piet minstrelsy often wrap their defense of the practice in the flag of tradition; white Dutchmen and women perceive themselves at risk of being “deprived” of a tradition that reaches back into their youth and beyond. Wekkers gives the example of a woman who “introduces herself as a sociocultural worker and says that black people do not realize how much pain it causes whites to hear that Black Pete is a racist figuration.” Wekkers’ interlocutor, a stand-in for countless other Dutch, imagines herself and her family the victims of “blacks [who] do not realize how hurtful it is to have to give up a figure that you have grown up with and who has given you so much joy.” Forget the people who actually feel uncomfortable or hurt by the depiction of Piet; forget that, as Stuart Hall says, “stereotyping tends to occur when there are gross inequalities of power.” This is a matter of tradition! Europeans clearly must hold traditions to be sacred, right?

Ah, but then we get to Nilüfer Göle’s article, “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam.” Here we read of European Islamophobia, which pits Europe as a “secular site of modernity” against the foreignness of Islam, which no less a figure than Pope Benedict XVI implied to be incompatible with “reason” and “rational values.” As Göle explains, “many Muslims defend Islam as the religion of their parents; Islam them with a source of resistance to acculturation and an opportunity to bind with their heritage.” The tradition of Islam both provides a link to ancestry and acts as a bulwark against the cultural alienation of trying to acculturate in a society that insists on recognizing immigrants as Other. And from thence springs the fear, the “phobia” in Islamophobia. By presenting an alternative to the European ‘secular’ consensus (which nonetheless frequently makes reference to a Christian cultural basis), Islam brings with it the spectre of counter-hegemony. Recognizing a Europe in which Islam has a place—not just in its present, but throughout its history, first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and now across the continent—means “become aware that the hegemony of European chronotopes (time-space) over the definition of modernity is weakening.” Islam is a threat to that hegemony, just as the controversy around Zwarte Piet is a threat to the white Dutch hegemonic culture within the Netherlands.

So, one could suppose that the threat of erosion of hegemony is what leads to the disconnect on the subject of tradition. But questions remain. How do Europeans—Western Europeans, in particular—reconcile their progressivism with their own cultural conservatism? How does Belgium ban the niqab while neighbouring Netherlands clings to blackface Zwarte Piet? Could it have anything to do with the fact the former is seen as a mark of the foreign Other while the latter is a Dutch tradition, ostensibly “indigenous” in nature? What makes some traditions, even those rooted in religion, compatible with ‘European secular modernity’ while disqualifying others?

… ‘he asked rhetorically, already having a good idea as to the answers.’

Works Cited

Göle, Nilüfer. “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam.” New Literary History 43, No. 4 (Autumn 2012): 665-685.

Wekkers, Gloria. White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2015.

Metapolitical Chimerism of the Nouvelle Droite

By Absalom Sink

The protests of 1968 are often held up as the apotheosis of the New Left—to borrow from Hunter Thompson, the “high water mark[…] where the wave finally broke and rolled back”—as the student activism that undergirded them generally failed to meet their revolutionary aims. But as this week’s readings make clear, 1968 also served as a critical inflection point in the trajectory of the ultranationalist right: the French protests of May ’68 provided a crucial impetus for the genesis of a French, and later transnational, “New Right.”

Tamir Bar-On’s “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite” examines the ideological influences Alain de Benoist’s ‘Nouvelle Droite’ (ND), and the factors that allowed it to transcend national boundaries and become a transnational cultural and metapolitical movement. Bar-On predicates the ND’s success on the prolific output of its ideological architect, de Benoist, on the movement’s ability to metamorphose following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and its adoption of Gramscian hegemonic theory. The latter stems from de Benoist and his fellow travelers’ “hatred and envy for the [left] 1968ers”: the mass-mobilization of leftist activists and students had shown the radical right the extent to which left-wing politics had captured “hearts and minds”. The goal of the ND, then, was to “regain cultural power from the liberal left by regaining the ‘laboratories of thought,’” that is, through the creation of a web of think-tanks, journals, conferences, and by carving out spaces in universities sympathetic to ND discourse.1

Key to this right-wing neo-Gramscianism was a necessity for transmission and adoption of ND ideology and ethos beyond France. After all, communism, egalitarianism, socialism, liberalism all would continue to exist outside France even if ‘defeated’ within France, and thus might reenter the French cultural discourse. The fight would need to be transnational in order to succeed.2 The attempt to export ND abroad met with varying levels of success; Richard Marchi’s “The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal” argues that Portugal’s Nova Direita “seemed influenced less by the content and more by the methods of the French ND,” and adopted ND tactics like Gramscianism, while eschewing aspects like the ND’s anti-Christianism.

With all that said, it is crucial to recognize that even the French ND is not a static entity; rather, it is a metapolitical chameleon, changing its colours to camouflage its ideological underpinnings within the broader politico-cultural discourse. At core, the New Right is a “transnational ideological cocktail,” a chimera born from disparate parts, and everchanging to match the prevailing political conditions in such a way that it can always be tugging the discourse to the right.

1This right-wing Gramscianism has been reflected again in recent years in alt-right and far-right discourse about shifting the “Overton Window”

2 Similarities to Italy’s attempt to export fascism in the interwar years is not coincidental; as both Bar-On and Roger Griffin make plain, the self-described ‘superfascist’ Julius Evola was a key ideological influence on the French ND.

Works Cited

Riccard Marchi, “The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal: A New Strategy for the Radical Right in the Transition from Authoritarianism to Democracy,” Patterns of Prejudice 50, no. 3 (July 2016): 232–52.

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

Roger Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum,’” Modern & Contemporary France 8, no. 1 (Feb. 2000): pp. 35–53.

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (New York: Random House, 1972)