A Response to the Specter Haunting Europe

Anti-Semitism is not a new trend, nor is it particularly unique to any location. Any minority group that can challenge a perceived social order is immediately categorized as villainy and treated by the public at large as such. The European relationship to its Jewish community has participated in extreme measures to discredit and to undermine this religious group through multiple campaigns of violence. A Specter Haunting Europe examines the Soviet relationship with the concurrent rises of anti-Semitism and Communism and how a changing political order can lead to extreme violence and prejudice.

The division between pre- and post-WWII explains the foundation for the explosion of anti-Semitism. The Nazi propaganda campaigns espoused and validated a dangerous rhetoric that while had existed for centuries prior (one can refer to the Spanish Inquisition as a classical example), however the rise of Communism was seen as a global threat and the scapegoat for this threat was redirected not to the politicians at work who solidified these regime changes, but a conspiracy theory convinced that the Jewish European populations placed their unwavering support behind communism. Even prior to the aforementioned Nazi campaign, series of pogroms across Russia amounted to 250,000 Jewish deaths. Referred to as “Judeo-Bolshevism,” this myth has decided through a series of convoluted and misguided attempts at understanding a rapidly changing world order that Jewish people created Communism for world domination. Christianity acts as a vessel of paranoia – seemingly, since the Roman era when Christianity was illegal, every other group acts as an existential threat for the purpose of dismantling Christianity at its core. The introduction of Communism as its group state removed the foundation for individualism and subsequently raised the question concerning the ability for Christianity to continue. The Soviet Union became symbolic of something that Germany could “fix” for the purpose of maintaining the status quo and restoring order.

Fears of change are often misguided albeit legitimate. People grow used to a series of social norms and when a way of life is threatened, regress into violence for maintenance. This article addresses how these fears were met (callous and xenophobic violence), however there are questions to be asked about how these systemic notions of the Jewish conspiracy and their role in contemporary European politics.

The Nazi Co-operation with Anticolonial Nationalists – Andrew Devenish

David Motadel argues in his article, The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt Against Empire, that the co-operation between Nazi regime leadership and the significant anticolonial nationalist exile community in Berlin has been under-studied and under-acknowledges by historians. Motadel believes that such co-operation was more significant than most acknowledge, who believe the explicitly racist policies and racial supremacist nature of Nazi ideology left no room for such alliances between regime leadership and anticolonial leaders from the Global South. In 1941, it became official strategy in Berlin to provide assistance to anti-imperialist movements in India, North Africa, and the Middle East, yet Motadel focuses mostly on the interactions between the Nazi regime and the anticolonial community within Berlin. Motadel’s argument that these interactions are significant seems to be at odds with the military strategy of the Nazis. For example, Germany recruited heavily from their colonial prisoners of war using propaganda and came up with Asian, Indian, and Arab volunteer brigades to fight on the front lines, and it was official policy to support nationalist movements in nations under the colonial control of Germany’s enemies in order to destabilize these empires.

Motadel even writes that Hitler lamented that he had not done enough to support these colonial nations at the very end of the war. To me, these seemed like the most significant aspects of Nazi co-operation with anticolonial nationalist movements, yet the majority of Motadel’s article focuses on the political leaders of many of these movements in Berlin. The Syrian rebel leader Fawzi al-Qawuqji in Berlin is quoted by Motadel as saying, “With the German retreat on all fronts, our negotiations have been less active, and we have lost hope of achieving what we hoped for.” This suggests that the more significant aspect to the movement was the war effort. After all, if the Nazis couldn’t win the war, how could they provide aid to these nationalist movements afterward? Al-Qawuqjii needed Germany to win the war to advance his interests, so without the war effort the various organization and congresses, meetings and discussions between anticolonial leaders in Berlin, and between these leaders and the Nazi regime couldn’t amount to any success for their goals. I would like to see more from Motadel on the impacts of the anticolonial nationalist community in Berlin, and have him explain in more detail how they are more significant than they have historically been given credit for.

“Bonifica umana”

David Motadel’s New York Times opinion piece has a provocative title, which calls “internationalism” a dirty word for the far right. However, throughout the works of Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Paul Hanebrink, and Motadel’s The Global Authoritarian Moment, it appears that internationalism was closely tied to fascism. In my opinion, one of the key elements of fascism was “modernity”, whether in reaction to the international order, or the action of spreading it across the world.

                    Ben-Ghiat’s chapter focuses on the Ethiopian War and how it influenced debates of modernity. Ben-Ghiat describes Italy’s quest for “Aryanization”, “humane dictatorship” and convincing the world of fascism’s “modern and progressive nature.” I think these elements say a lot about how Italian fascists saw themselves and how they wanted others to perceive them. Ethiopian invasion was supposed to be the start of a “gigantic work…of human reclamation [bonifica umana].” I think it is clear that there was a quest for superiority of race, but in order to establish this, there needs to be an “other”. Sure, you can turn inwards to purify race, as “Aryanization” of Italy suggests, but I think that fascism, or at least the people behind it, always had larger ambitions.

                    Another interesting point that Ben-Ghiat brings up is that of the hierarchy of European nations, for which the “Others” were blamed in Italy, as well as the anti-Semitic laws. Internationalism forms an interesting link here when we connect this to Paul Hanebrinks article on Judeo-Bolshevism. Somehow, ideas became fact when they were confirmed in other nations. The fact that some Jews were Bolsheviks gave an excuse to make Jews scapegoats across Europe. It is ironic how even then “fake news” was able to take hold just because many people agreed on an idea that was not backed my much evidence, other than “some Jews were Bolsheviks.”

                    Going beyond the idea of spreading “modernity” and human reclamation, another important aspect is the alliances that were important to fascism. Motadel’s chapter describes anticolonialism as a unifying factor, or at least as a basis for alliances formed with Germany. “Delegations from oppressed, colonized and occupied lands…were coming to Berlin,” which they saw as an ally in the creation of a new world order. Even though Motadel concedes that these were marginal movements, I think they are significant enough and show that internationalism was not only an important element for fascism, but that fascism may be classified as an ideology.

                    Jumping back to Allardyce, who argues that fascism is not an ideology, I would pose a question: having studied Ben-Ghiat, Motadel, and Hanebrink, how would you respond to Allardyce’s argument that fascism is not an ideology?

Personally, I think the elements of modernity, racial purity, and “anti-Bolshevism” were ideas that were able to cultivate a large following and almost unity between unlikely partners. I think this starts to make a case that fascism could indeed be called an ideology.

Fascism versus Internationalism?

Fascism, as determined by many scholars, is sometimes contradictory and difficult to understand. For example, the ideas that fascism is very nationalistic by definition and arose to remedy problems concurring with a nation’s specific needs, are well accepted. So, if fascism is a national movement, how does it often relate or flirt with internationalism?

It may be hard to understand that nationalism and internationalism in this case can be related to one another, complementary not simply contradictory because of a western mindset. The western ontology and the remnants of modernism allow for a specific understanding of the world which puts all things in neat and orderly grids where lines are borders that cannot be crossed. It creates a dichotomous or binary vision of the world which can be dangerous, as we have seen in other articles by Gilbert Allardyce. However, even though the relationship between fascism and internationalism seem to blur fascism’s definition even more, scholars like David Motadel and Ruth Ben-Ghiat have made a case for this connection.

Motadel argues that fascism’s internationalism was established for ideological and practical reasons. Ideologically, fascism’s international entity comes from the cross-national united struggle against colonialist empires of Europe and North America. He argues that fascist nations and groups “forged a radical international against empire, characterized by transnational militancy and anticolonial solidarity” (p. 844). So, even though fascism is a national movement, it extend beyond borders to combat the fact that other peoples and community cannot be nation because of imperial powers.

It also is practical because as Ben-Ghiat argues, the fascist feared the power of other ideologies and nations if they were left uncontrolled as they though it might compromise or erase their national traditions and cultures as it can often be found in imperial colonies. In Italy, for example, intellectuals were allowed to travel to study other cultures and as they were very influential in the propagation of radical ideology in their home nation, they associated places like Russia or the United-States and women’s emancipation as bad because it interfered with what they believed to be the natural order of things with women at home, submissive to their husbands. It might then be important to look at the role of the intellectual class in disseminating radical ideas in the fascist context. It is common in other historical periods to see scholars or academics run away from systems that oppress freedom in research and the academia in general. However, according to Ben-Ghiat, most of the young intellectuals of the time in Italy fully supported the fascist government.

In brief, Motadel in his article The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt against Empire and Ben-Ghiat with Fascist Modernities help us understand the ambivalent relationship between fascism and internationalism as a means to the fascist’s end in terms of ideology and protection of such ideals. Intellectuals also had a part to play in the internationalism as they travelled to study other “enemy” nations and made connections with others which led to a transnational anticolonial movement.

Works Cited

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” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945 (University of California Press, 2004), pp. 17-45 and pp. 123-

The Far Right, Fascism, and Internationalism

By Alex Wittmann

A common conception is centered around the belief that the far right are anti internationalists. They espouse these beliefs when they claim that international institutions are, for lack of a better word “screwing” their countries and that multilateral cooperation erodes state sovereignty. As we have seen in Fascist  Modernities and in the New York Times opinion piece in particular, right wing and fascist governments cannot totally avoid internationalism, in fact they embrace an alternative one. Even if an alliance consists of just three or four nations, no matter where a movement rests on the political spectrum every side will recognize that when working together the movement is stronger. This is true for the right wing and facsist movements in the past and it is true in the present. As mentioned in the New York Times opinion piece a new European alliance of far right leaders in France, Germany, and Italy has been formed. This is done in a way to unite the movement and make it stronger. Otherwise, a right wing populist movement is likely to be written off as insignificant and specific to the domestic problems of a nation in which it is occurring, therefore it cannot grow. Multilateral alliances serve to add legitimacy and strength to right wing populist movements. Far right leaders therefore recognize the value of multilateralism in this way, as long as they cooperate with those of the same ideology. Therefore when they say that they are anti internationalists, it is not entirely true. Far right leaders will be internationalists if it serves their interest. A more extreme example is highlighted in the chapter of Conquest and Collaboration in Fascist Modernities. In 1935, when Fascist Italy invaded Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) Italy soon faced sanctions from the League of Nations and soon left altogether. As a result the policy of openness that had exposed Italy to culture trends from throughout the world through multilateralism was ended. Italy and Nazi Germany formed a close partnership to make fascsim stronger throughout the world. This included the The 1934 Montreux Fascist Parties Conference, the multilateral 1936 Anti Comintern Pact, and the cultural exchange networks between Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain as a backlash to the League of Nation’s “cultural internationalism.” One has to be mindful of listening to a far right leader indulging in the rhetoric of anti internationalism. They tend to be referring to liberal demococratic internationalism and liberal democratic institutions. One might argue that they not only want to create a “new nationalism” for their own country, but maybe a “new internationalism” composed of a united front of right wing ideologies from multiple nations.

Works Cited:

Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. “Conquest and  Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945, (University of California Press, 2004). 
Motadel, David. “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism but they Depend on it,” The New York Times.com. The New York Times, July 3, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/opinion/the-surprising-history-of-nationalist-internationalism.html.