Op/Ed #1: A war of fascist aggression that will not end well

Jim Dagg

Vladimir Putin said that he was launching his “special military operation” in order to deal with “neo-nazis” who persecuted a peaceable ethnic Russian minority. In his speech on the day of the invasion (February 24, 2022), he said “We will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.” We will “stop this nightmare, this genocide of millions of people who rely only on Russia, only on us”. On the second day of Russia’s “special operation”, an ambulance brought a small boy to a children’s hospital in Kiev. His parents died in the shrapnel of exploding shells, as they drove through the city. The boy survived the attack but needed emergency surgery to stabilized him. Even so, he was not in good shape, showing little sign of brain activity. It’s not clear whether the boy survived.

Since coming to power as the chosen successor to an enfeebled Boris Yeltsin at the end of 1999, Vladimir Putin has succeeding in building a fascist state. This statement is supported by the two-element definition provided by British historian Roger Griffin: creation/exploitation of populist ultra-nationalism and promoting the idea of regeneration of a great nation that his been under threat. Putin’s favourite tactic is to accuse the West of disrespect and aggression against the Motherland, in order to build Russian fear and outrage. This plays on both elements of the definition.

Further, Putin claims that Ukraine is historically one with Russia – with roots as far back as the 9th century. Harking back to medieval roots is a favourite tune of fascists and other right-wingers in Europe and beyond. Other former USSR states with significant Russian minorities (such as the Baltic states) are worried that, a Putin success in absorbing Ukraine might make them next. This pattern was exploited in the late 1930s by the Nazis who claimed to be saving persecuted ethnic Germans when they stole a chunk of Czechoslovakia.

So Putin is, in some ways, following in Hitler’s path. That said, there are fascists who are good at war, and fascists who are not. Hitler spent years building a military mindset in his people, establishing their belief in their duty to fight and fight well for the Fatherland. He built a formidable fighting machine. Putin, we are told, also spent a decade in reforming the Russian military. And yet, the Russian air force is absent from the skies of Ukraine. A 40-mile convoy of tanks and other military equipment was stalled for weeks on the road to Kiev, before turning back to Belarus in disgrace.

More recently, Ukraine regained thousands of square kilometers in a couple weeks. It doesn’t yet feel like the Soviets chasing the Nazis out of Ukraine, but it’s getting there. And just last week, someone – maybe using marine drones – blew up part of Putin’s favourite bridge (joining Crimea to Russia’s north Caucasus). In retaliation, Putin used 83 cruise missiles, worth an estimated $500M USD, in a single day, on non-military targets. Western military experts have, since July, pointed to evidence that Russian supplies of such missiles is limited. Does that sound like a wise use of resources by a leader focused on winning a “special military operation”? No, it sounds like a wounded leader trying to demonstrate strength to his people, in the most effective way he can manage.

Speaking of the home front, Putin and his defence minister announced plans on September 21 to mobilize reserve troops, numbering up to 300,000. This seems motivated by the unexpected loss of large numbers of troops in the conflict to this point. Polls quoted at this time showed a majority of Russians in favour of the “special operation”, but only a minority supporting mobilization. Demonstrations against the mobilization and the war broke out in Moscow and over 30 other cities in the following days. 1300 people were arrested and some apparently were issued draft notices. Assuming that the most-eager and best-trained soldiers were already fighting, what can be expected from the next wave of soldiers? Two videos circulating in Russia in October showed men in uniform who claimed to be a group of 500  recent draftees. “They complain of ‘animal-like’ conditions, of having to buy their own food and bulletproof vests.”

Ukraine has a demonstrated will to fight, and the support of a united West. As per CNN, Russia has “poor and inflexible leadership, sour troop morale, inadequate logistics and hardware beset by maintenance issues”. It won’t happen soon, but Russia will lose this war.

Op Ed #1, The Resurgence of Fascism

By Liam McCrorie

If I were to tell you 10 years ago that fascism would be on the rise again soon, I am sure you would not believe me, or at least have a hard time believing me. I would have a hard time believing that as well, 10 years ago I would have said that we are living in one of the most progressive times in history. People in marginalized groups were getting more rights and gaining better standings in society. But with all this progressiveness, came push back from the far-right. And by today this has manifested itself as fascist and far-right groups popping up all over the world. These groups that seem to be all about taking rights away from people seem to be gaining a lot of traction, but why?

Fascism, and fascist parties have always had their supporters, but not to this degree. Typically, far-right groups would only have small followings of mainly white men, but now we can see men and women of all nationalities supporting far-right movements. For example, the Latinos for Trump movement, a large group of Latinos who supported and voted for Trump, even though Trump had so many anti-immigration policies which affected many Latino people in a negative way, such as building a wall across the Mexican-U.S. border, and separating families at the border. Women are also supporters of these far-right movements, typically Christian women who want to block other people from access to rights, to be more in line with the Bible. Think of what happened with the Supreme Court back in June when they overturned Roe v. Wade.

By now far-right political parties are part of the norm and are seen everywhere, we can definitely say that there is a rise of fascism sweeping the world. Lately we have seen the Italians elect the first fascist leader since Benito Mussolini. Giorgia Meloni leads the Brothers of Italy party a far-right political party with neo-fascist roots. Although she denies the party is fascist, her policies and actions speak otherwise. The party is fervently against same-sex marriage and for LGBTQ couples to adopt children. They are anti abortion and hold up other Christian values they believe to be important. Meloni is also extremely anti-immigration, just like other right wing parties, and she even is a believer and spreader of the Great Replacement Theory, which many fascist parties rely on to attract a base of white nationals who hate immigrants.

Meloni is just one of many far-right leaders who are gaining a lot of popularity, and in her case becoming leader of her nation. There was Donald Trump a few years ago, who was extremely far-right and used populism to gain popularity with the voters, promising to ‘Make America Great Again’ by fixing the economy and getting rid of immigrants and ‘others’, who are a threat to society. And in Sweden the Sweden Democrats are one of the biggest parties, and they have Neo-Nazi roots, and have similar policies to Meloni and Trump, mainly to stop immigrants from coming to their country and ruining it for the white people who already live there. There are many other far-right populist leaders like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and even in Canada far-right groups are beginning to get some traction. The Peoples Party of Canada is a fairly new party, only founded in 2018 by Maxime Bernier, who is also their current leader. While not as extreme as some other parties, they are still looking to reduce immigration in Canada, as well as doing less to combat global warming, all in the name of a better economy.

The economy seems to be the biggest factor in why people seem to be attracted to the far-right, and if the economy is working good for them then they can look past the more extreme policies some of these parties want to implement. This is seen everywhere like the Latinos for Trump, who by all means should hate Trump, but instead will look past all his racist and anti-immigration rhetoric, because he is building a better economy which could help them as individuals, even if it is damaging to Latino communities as a whole. These far-right leaders are on the rise all over the world for a variety of reasons and are gaining more and more popularity by the day. Its hard to say what will happen in the coming years but the rise of Fascism is making the future look very worrying.

The EU cannot prevent the rise of Populism

By Felix Nicol

“Let’s preserve the peace and security of Hungary” poster from Orbán’s election campaign. Photo: Raketir / Shutterstock. Source

The spread of populist movements in Europe in recent times has become an increasingly problematic issue for the European Union, especially when observing the democratic backsliding in Hungary. Recent news that the EU may look to suspend funds vis-a-vis Hungary as a result of the country’s illiberalism shows the commitment of the EU to ensuring the return of liberal, democratic values to Hungary. As a reply the Hungarian government has put forth two anti-corruption laws it intends to put in place. Though seemingly promising, a deeper analysis would suggest that these laws are insufficient in suppressing Orbán’s illiberal democracy. In fact, it should be doubted that the EU has any coercive power in returning liberal values to its illiberal member states.

Though the EU funding in question makes up 9% of the Hungarian GDP, it is clear that Orbán does not find himself particularly threatened. In fact, when looking at Hungary’s proposed anti-corruption laws, it needs to be understood that the democratic institutes of the country are often only democratic on the surface. In this regard, the effectiveness of the EU’s leverage of funding comes under question. Even if they were to have stronger requirements as recommended by some, it is unlikely that further institutional reform will change the situation of the country. For this reason, the EU likely needs to look for further leverage to truly get Orbán’s regime under control.

Yet what does the EU have left to leverage? When taking in the historical context, the options look even murkier. In discussions with potential members, the EU is known for using their “carrot and stick” methods, using membership as a key driver of political reform. Hungary is no stranger to this, as prior to its own accession to the EU, reform in the country was certainly driven by potential membership. It is also important to understand in this context that the EU already has a set of laws, the acquis communautaire, that potential states must adhere to in order to be truly accepted into the Union. Under this understanding, the implications of Hungary’s move towards an illiberal democracy underlines key flaws in the underlying democratic framework of the Union, which should look to protect and continue its own democratic values. That is to say, despite having respected all of the requirements the EU put in place for candidacy, Orbán’s populist movement was still able to move away from the liberal democratic institutions that were put in place. If the EU was unable to ensure Hungary remained democratic through its acquis communautaire, what tools does it have left?

Furthermore, it is important to recognize that with the rise of other populist movements, it may become increasingly difficult to even apply restrictions towards Hungary. While Poland has long held good relations with the country, the rise of more populist movements in the EU could suggest increased leverage in the EU for populists. With Italy’s Giorgia Maloni showing ties to Orbán, as well as Sweden’s radical right-wing party with neo-Nazi roots show that support on an EU level is present. With the growing support of populist movements, the abilities of the EU to effectively fight these movements is put into question even further. In this regard, with the questionable viability of the EU’s legislative abilities in preventing the rise of illiberalism, reconsideration is in order if it wishes to retain its liberal democratic ideals.

Despite the focus on Hungary for its particularly pronounced departure from the liberal norms of the EU, it should not be assumed that it is alone in its departure from these values. The previously mentioned Poland has aligned itself with Hungary precisely because of their similar values, providing each other with a partner in antagonizing the Union. Furthermore, in a world where the labeling of parties like Orbán’s FIDESZ as “‘fascist’, extremist or far-right” does nothing to delegitimize them, reconsideration of the tools used to ensure continued liberal democracy are in order. A step away from tools like the EU’s acquis communautaire and financial incentives is necessary, and perhaps more effort in remedying the root causes of populism are in order. Recognition of certain factors such as anti-immigrant sentiment or economic insecurity as underlying factors for the growth in populism is important, but consideration on how these might be improved is necessary. Otherwise, liberal democracy risks pushing an increasingly diverse group towards the populist movements it looks to prevent.

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

Op/Ed #1: Populist Parties in the Former Eastern Bloc; the USSR’s Last “Parting Gift”

Jacob Braun

The flag of the Soviet Union is lowered for the last time and replaced with the flag of the Russia, December 26th 1991. Source

On December 26th, 1991, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was dissolved into its 15 constituents— signifying the end of the Cold War. The capitalist western powers were finally able to reach through the Iron Curtain and begin the arduous process of democratization within states formerly subjugated by the Warsaw Pact, marking an era of increased European political and economic interconnectedness. However in the liberalization process of states such as the former East Germany, Poland and Hungary, the USSR had left behind the perfect storm of conditions for today’s populist parties to emerge; steeped in anti-establishment, anti-elitist and ultra-traditionalist rhetoric. The democratization experiment was something unfamiliar to most, and certainly had the possibility for improvement following the western powers’ first attempts in the aftermath of the Second World War. In my opinion though, we’ve gravely mishandled this situation which has allowed for the growth of a dangerous “populist plague.” If not properly amended, the inevitable takeover of Europe by right-wing populist parties will have dire consequences. 

Life behind the Iron Curtain was very harshly regimented. One’s loyalty to their local communist party was of utmost importance to the authorities, lest they allow capitalist dissidents to run amok. Essentially, from 1946 to 1991 a herculean campaign of repression was undertaken across eastern Europe to foster the collectivization of society. After the dissolution of the USSR however, all of this oppressive architecture would vanish— finally allowing for these states’ transitions to democracy to occur. Initially, cooperation between western institutions and former communist states went smoothly. As time went on though, the groups most repressed by the USSR became more agitated and active in national politics; seeing organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) as no more than mimics of their former Soviet overlords. An odd combination of nostalgia for the Soviet period and hatred for its communist governance combined to propel groups like the Alternative for Germany (AfD), Fidesz and the Law and Justice Party into the forefront of European politics. 

East Germany was perhaps one of the more repressive states to have existed during the Cold War. So, how has a party rooted in authoritarian conservatism been able to rise to prominence? Under the auspices of the Soviet Union and the watchful eyes of the Stasi (East Germany’s secret police, one of the most effective in history), the East German identity was shifted away from the individual and instead towards the community. The state was to be the most important organ in everyone’s lives— and individuals were solely cogs in the machine of the advancement of socialism. Post-reunification, many young Germans born in the territories of the former East Germany felt they had no identity to rely on[1]; a major factor for AfD politicians to take advantage of. If populism can offer a solution for problems caused by the former East Germany, prospective voters are more than willing to overlook its racist and xenophobic leanings.

A German man holds up a sign reading “Respect for German Culture” at an AfD rally. Source

The Fidesz Party of Hungary adopted a similar strategy to that of the AfD— filling a void for voters with the promise of problem solving through direct democracy, as well as attacking democratic European institutions interpreted as detrimental to Hungary’s future[2]. Hungary too was subjugated under the Iron Curtain and was even invaded by its former Warsaw Pact allies in 1956[3], which would understandably cause many Hungarians to be weary of supranational institutions. Although a light amount of skepticism can be healthy, the skepticism promoted by Viktor Orban is rooted in antisemitism[4] and strongman authoritarianism that seeks to destroy the EU from the inside. Coincidentally, Orban is a close ally to Vladimir Putin.

A Fidesz Party poster depicts George Soros and other Orban rivals holding wire cutters, insinuating they will cut the border fence and allow migrants to enter the country. Source

While AfD and Fidesz take advantage of the nostalgic aspects of populism, the Polish Law and Justice Party associates more with its religious aspects. Under Soviet State Atheism, Poland’s majority Christian population was severely repressed. Following the dissolution of the USSR however, this bottled-up religiosity was allowed to run wild; entrenching itself among far-right politicians and used as a tool to demonize the decadent west. Poland’s Law and Justice Party seek a return to Christian tradition and to do away with western degeneracy, such as abortions (which they have banned outright since 2021)[5] and homosexuality (which has been banned in entire regions of the country since 2019)[6].

Law and Justice Party supports using religious imagery in support of the party’s controversial judicial reforms. Source

It is apparent that populist parties have their roots in the totalitarianism of the former communist sphere. The USSR laid the foundations for today’s turbulent political climate, which has been exploited by its successor state, Russia, as a means to destabilize the west. This is an issue which must be recognized— if we do not prescribe the accurate antidote for the plague of populism, we will certainly lose this second Cold War we find ourselves in.


Why young eastern German voters support the far-right AfD – Deutsche Welle

The Secrets to Viktor Orban’s Success – Foreign Policy

Remembering the 1956 Hungarian Uprising – Radio Free Europe

Viktor Orban’s anti-Semitism problem – Politico

How woman are resisting Poland’s abortion ban – Aljazeera

Polish Court Rejects Case Against ‘LGBT-Free Zones’ Activist – Human Rights Watch

Op/Ed #1: How Putin Accidentally Split the Populists

Owen Billo

Russia’s 2022 Victory Day Parade, celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany. Source: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2022-05-08/Live-Russia-holds-2022-Victory-Day-military-parade-19S7jIWaiUo/index.html

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has revealed a serious divide among the populists of Europe -a divide which springs from Russia’s relationship with nationalism- and this couldn’t be better for the European Union (EU).  The first thing to understand for this argument is that politically radical populism in Europe often correlates with euroscepticism (ie. disapproval of the EU).  A political divide among populists, then, would potentially undermine the unity and political power of euroscepticism as well.  The EU also faces challenges from uncooperative member states, mainly Poland and Hungary, which always had each other’s backs against liberal EU policies.  However, Poland and Hungary have very different opinions on Russia, which they’ve previously been able to work around, but now it’s become impossible for the anti-Russia Poland to ignore Hungary’s pro-Russia-turned-neutral stance.

So, what does this political divide among Europe’s populists look like specifically?  On the far right, it appears as one side valuing ‘European identity’ and perceived anti-communism more while the other values anti-globalism more.  On the far left, it appears as a more simple East vs. West divide.  The divides on both left and right are also deeply related to Russia’s relationship with nationalism and its communist past.

That last one should be explained first.  As much as the USSR might have tried to be multicultural through its Policy on Nationalities, it was still formed from the Russian Empire and its Russian identity never went away.  Certainly in the Western world, “Russia” and “USSR” were essentially synonyms.  After World War Two the Policy on Nationalities was still in effect, but was greatly overshadowed by the dominance of Russian nationalism: Russian was the universal language, Russia was viewed as a ‘big brother,’ and there was a popular perception in the USSR that “the Russian People defeated the Germans.”  This was the moment that Soviet identity shifted from Marxism to Russian nationalism, and from working class heroes to Russian heroes.  We can still see this intimate mixture of Soviet identity and Russian nationalism in modern Russia, notably with the Soviet-imagery-filled Victory Day parades put on by Putin’s regime.

With this view of Soviet history, the divide on the far left is quite understandable: one faction is loyal to the USSR and views modern anti-Western Russian nationalism as the successor to the USSR’s anti-Western Russian nationalism, while the other is loyal to Marxism and views Russian nationalism as a force corrupting Marxism.  A good example is Germany’s The Left party, which is on the verge of splitting between more Western and more anti-Western factions on the issue of Russia.  Similarly, France’s old-school, anti-Western socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon has received significant pushback from more modern leftists on his positive views on Putin.

Returning to the populist far right, we can see a slightly more complicated divide arising from this view of Soviet history.  There’s the anti-globalists who associate Russia’s anti-Westernism with anti-liberalism and anti-globalism, contrasted with those who fearfully view the continuation of Russian nationalism as neo-Sovietism and anti-Europeanism.  Just like their far left populist counterparts, the far right populist Alternative for Germany is showing major cracks between the anti-globalist and anti-Russian factions.  On a slightly different note, France’s far right populist Marine Le Pen, long known for her anti-globalist euroscepticism, has only recently walked back her support for Russia.  Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s new Prime Minister, did the same, although her partners in government, Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, have been more reluctant.  And the UK, even though it’s no longer in the EU, has a similar divide between former Brexit allies Boris Johnson (anti-Russia) and Nigel Farage (previously pro-Russia, now neutral).  On the other, firmly anti-Russia side, there is of course Poland as well as the far right populist movements in Sweden, Spain, and Portugal.  These far right populists sharply contrast with Putin’s far right populist friends in other governments like Hungary.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson walking together in Kyiv. Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-61052643

What we can gather from all this is that radical eurosceptic populists are now divided along the lines explained above.  Currently, those who were previously viewed in the post-Brexit chaos as constituting a major threat to the EU now appear too preoccupied walking on eggshells around Russia to be a serious threat.  They can no longer put up a united front against the EU, which has serious potential for helping the EU to flourish.  Russia’s invasion has also forced many radical eurosceptic populists to re-evaluate their beliefs, as we’ve seen.


Berlusconi Draws Backlash for Appearing to Defend Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine – New York Times

Boris Johnson: West Can’t Let Putin Get Away with Murder – Politico

EU’s Top Court Rejects Appeal By Hungary, Poland, Over Bloc’s Rule-Of-Law Tool – Radio Free Europe

French Election: What Exactly is Marine Le Pen’s Stance on Russia and Vladimir Putin? – Euronews

Germany’s Die Linke on Verge of Split Over Sanctions on Russia – The Guardian

Germany: Far-Right AfD Conference Halted Amid Ukraine War Infighting – DW News

In Pictures: Russia’s Victory Day Parade – BBC News

Italian Far-Right Leader Giorgia Meloni, Once a Putin Admirer, on Course to Become Country’s First Female Prime Minister – The Globe and Mail

Italy’s Salvini Says West Should Rethink Sanctions for Russia – Politico

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, The Veteran Leftist Standing in the Way of a Macron-Le Pen Rematch – France 24

Nigel Farage Says Ukraine Invasion is Result of EU and NATO Provoking Putin – Independent

Portuguese Nationalist Party Chega Utterly Condemns Putin’s Ukraine Invasion – Essential Business

Soviet Policy on Nationalities, 1920s-1930s – University of Chicago Library

Spain’s Vox Party Says Ukrainian Refugees, Not Muslims, Should be Welcome – AA News

Splitting Up Europe’s Authoritarian Alliance – Euractiv

The PopuList – Created by The Guardian

The Soviet Union Never Really Solved Russian Nationalism – Aeon

Who is Jimmie Akesson, Leader of Sweden’s Soaring Far-Right? – France 24

OP/ED#1 – Modern Authoritarian Snapshot: Viktor Orbán and his Anti-LGBT Legislation

Viktor Orbán is a classic example of a modern day authoritarian that I have noticed in spite of many headlines featuring him, he has slipped under the radar when it comes to general discussions that criticize him. The Hungarian Prime Minister’s recent legislation preventing LGBT content from being in schools or kids TV, shows that he is a man who wants more and more control of the nation he presides over. He is however not the first case in recent European history of anti-LGBT mobilizations. Starting as early as the mid-2000’s, “the Catholic Church, conservative groups and political parties mobilized against the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the same-sex marriage bill from 2004 (Aguilar Fernández, 2010, 2013).”1 Another example can be seen with Russia’s 2013 law against “gay propaganda.” Similar circumstances like these would also pop up in Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, France, Slovakia, and all share in common that they come down to petty policy debates, and only really seek to combat what is labeled as “gender theory” or “gender ideology”.2 Just like with Orbán, these incidents also all share in common that they represent a gross overreaching of authority that undermines the idea of democracy to the core.

The aforementioned legislation regarding LGBT content being blocked off, showed a complete disregard for the basic rights of the LGBT community, and in spite of pleas by European Human Rights officials and boycotts by politicians not in favor of the change, it still went through. These actions against the LGBT community only serve to erode relations with them that have so carefully been built upon not just in Hungary, but globally over many decades. Orbán has been labeled as a result of these actions as a tyrant, bigot, and autocrat, while his party has even been called out for essentially acting as a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” On the note of this last label, he is also alleged to have Hungarian state media under his control, and even has supposedly rigged elections in his favor, but whether this is true remains uncertain, though evidence points towards it indeed potentially being the case. If it is true, election rigging is certainly one of the hallmarks of an authoritarian leader.

It is evidently clear that Orbán seeks a traditionalist and conservative society that is not very inclusive. In fact, Orbán aligns himself with the idea that he is establishing an “illiberal state”, and even went as far as to say on the matter, “Societies that are built on principles of liberal democracy will probably be incapable of maintaining their global competitiveness in the upcoming decades and will instead probably be scaled down unless they are capable of changing themselves significantly” (Orbán, 2014). Yet again we see another hallmark of an authoritarian leader, labelling anything that is progressive in the slightest as being in some way, shape, or form an inferior system with inherent flaws, that make it a less desirable option. Based off of what has been looked at thus far, I think it is fair to say that Orbán is a man that bears some of the traits of an authoritarian leader.

The primary issue with the new legislation above all else is that it fundamentally ignores the potential for it to have “tragic effects on the mental wellbeing of young LGBT people.” For a legislation that seems to pride itself on the fact that it is protecting the young minds of those who are under 18, it simultaneously does the exact opposite. Dunja Mijatović, who is the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights exclaims, “The proposed legislative amendments run counter to international and European human rights standards. It is misleading and false to claim that they are being introduced to protect children.”

So what can be done on the matter? It is difficult to say as a regime change is likely the only chance for the new law to be reversed. Though with how much authoritarian control Orbán has over the country and its media, this may be a difficult task that will take some time.

Viktor Orbán – Image from www.populismstudies.org

HIST4606A Sources:

1 David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 7.

2 David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 7-8.

Outside Articles:






Normalizing Nationalism through the Language of Human Rights.

By: Ali Yasin

Columbus Day has always courted controversy, more so than nearly any other holiday. Its celebration across the Americas, as well as in Italy and Spain, has often been a battleground for activists and scholars on both sides of the political spectrum. This year the debate seems to have reached new heights as US President Joe Biden weighed in on the subject. He’s the first American president to acknowledge the “painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations”, during his commemoration of Columbus Day. [1]

Many Americans see this recognition as overdue and somewhat timid considering the extent of Columbus’ personal cruelty, let alone the countless other crimes committed over the centuries of imperialism in the Americas. On the other side of the Atlantic however, a host of current and former Spanish politicians have harshly criticized Biden’s comments. Members of the conservative Popular Party and more hard-line populist Vox have come to the defence of the long dead Spanish Empire and its brutal conquest of the Americas. Santiago Abascal, the leader of Vox, argued that Spanish people should feel a sense of pride when remembering the actions of the Spanish Empire, what he described as “an empire of human rights”.[2] This line of thinking was echoed across the Spanish political right, with colonial conquest being portrayed as a noble quest to discover the new world, create prosperity, and spread Christian humanism.

Almost any historian of colonial Latin America would find these claims baffling as they’re in reference to the same empire which worked hundreds of thousands of Quechua people to death, operating a single sliver mine at Potosi Bolivia, the same mine which produced 80% of the worlds silver at the time, making the Spanish Empire the richest in Europe.[3] It’s difficult to see how any reasonable person could describe the colonization of the Americas as anything other than blatant and murderous exploitation. Columbus himself set this tone early as he routinely punished the native Taino people with mutilation, death, and infanticide when they failed to produce the tributes of gold and silver he demanded.

The Spanish right’s depiction of colonialism as a humanitarian undertaking is puzzling not only because of its misrepresentation of actual history, but also because it defends nationalist attitudes using the language of human rights. Although seeing Trump-style populists using terms like humanism to protect their sense of grassroots nationalism may seem strange to many in North America, scholars of right-wing populism in Europe have studied this trend for decades now. Unlike the far-right movements of the early 20th century, the “New Right” rejects the use of violence as an immediate means to seize power, while still seeing themselves as a revolutionary movement. They instead argue that their role as revolutionaries is to transform the cultural landscape and bring their views back into mainstream politics.[4] Ironically, this strategy was first proposed by Italian Socialist Antonio Gramsci while imprisoned under Italy’s fascist regime during the 1930’s, leading some to describe the New Right as the Gramscians of the right.

This may explain why the modern populist right has focused so much energy on what they call the “culture wars”. It may also explain why their use of humanitarian language to describe colonialism, so closely resembles the statements made recently by Emmanuel Macron in defence of French colonialism. Despite often being seen as a bulwark against right wing populism in Europe, president Macron took the same defiant stance when questioned on France’s colonial history in Algeria and the rest of Africa. He described the history of colonialism in Algeria as being “entirely re-written” and “based not on truths” but “on a discourse of hatred towards France”. Going even further to undermine the suffering inflicted on Algerians during their experience of French colonialism, which included having roughly one third of their entire population killed during the initial conquest, Macron stated “these are only stories of wounds… the problem is that many people are irreconcilable towards one another”.[5]

It seems that despite the supposed political gulf between them, both far-right populists and avowedly anti-populists liberals in Europe, feel compelled to defend not only the imperial pasts of their nations, but more importantly the historical narratives which have been built around them. Narratives that serve the purpose of unifying inherently diverse people around collective national agendas and justifying the exploitation which comes with those agendas, regardless of how divorced from the complex realities of actual history these narratives are. If both the most liberal and illiberal forms of our current political system are dependent on the same constructed narratives to justify their often exploitive actions, can neo-liberalism actually offer a compelling alternative to illiberal populism, or are both simply part of the same political spectrum and facilitating one another?

[1] Hedgecoe, Guy. “Spanish Right Attacks Biden over Columbus and Conquests.” BBC News, 12 Oct. 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-58882832.

[2] Casey, Nicholas. “In Debate Over Conquistadors 500 Years Ago, Spanish Right Sees an Opportunity.” The New York Times, 9 Oct. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/09/world/europe/spain-conservatives-conquistadors.html.

[3] Forero, Juan. “Bolivia’s Cerro Rico: The Mountain That Eats Men.” NPR, 25 Sept. 2012, https://www.npr.org/2012/09/25/161752820/bolivias-cerro-rico-the-mountain-that-eats-men.

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

[5] Bensaid, Adam. “France’s Silence over Colonial Crimes Ensures Confrontation with Algeria.” TRT World, 14 Oct. 2021, https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/france-s-silence-over-colonial-crimes-ensures-confrontation-with-algeria-50756.

Photo Credit: Al-Jezeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2019/4/26/spain-is-in-danger-of-falling-into-the-hands-of-the-far-right

Women of the far right and the historic appeal of fascism

Michaela Bax-Leaney

Two women gathered at a rally in support of former President Donald Trump. “2017.03.04 Pro-Trump Rallies Washington, DC USA 00401” by tedeytan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Many of the infamous images of insurrection from January 6th feature men – Podium Guy Adam Johnston, Viking Guy Jake Angeli, and the man with his feet propped up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk Richard Barnett all come to mind as the obvious examples. Yet there were also plenty of women there that day.

There was Gina Bisignano, who, to quote HuffPost reporter Ryan Reilly, “stormed the Capitol in a Louis Vuitton sweater.” There was Dawn Bancroft and Diana Santos-Smith, who as NBC News reported, were arrested in connection with a video in which they claimed to have been in search of Pelosi in order “to shoot her in the friggin’ brain.” Ashli Babbitt, the first reported casualty of the day, was a virulent QAnon conspiracy theorist, the New York Times reported

Following the 2020 U.S. election, a New York Times exit poll found that 55 per cent of white women voters cast their ballots for Trump, compared to 44 per cent for Biden. While there is plenty of discourse back and forth over what exactly to make of that number, and semantic debates about its accuracy, there is a simpler truth that the number tells us: the alt-right appeals to white women, and not just a few of them. 

In looking to the historic participation of women in fascist regimes, we see that there is precedent for the appeal of fascism and the far right to white women in particular, despite these being causes that, some would argue, are detrimental to their interests.

As historians Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez note, in seeking to understand the motives of women, too often that understanding relegates women to “merely supportive roles,” when the reality is that women were active and enthusiastic contributors to their causes. And those causes, as López and Sánchez explain, included active and enthusiastic support of fascist regimes such as in Francoist Spain.

Led by Pilar Primo de Rivera (center left), a group of Spanish women Falangist leaders, representing the Nationalists, were welcomed in Berlin by members of the Nazi Women’s Workers’ Division.

And yet while there are documented instances of this participation, López and Sánchez argue that these remain understudied. This is in large part due to the fact that the study of ordinary conservative women tends to exist in opposition to the values of gender-focussed historians. While the actions of women in leadership may be reviled, they can still be understood as some form of feminism.

Analogous to today might be someone like Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. While not a fascist, Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the highest court in the U.S. sparked many discussions about the dichotomy she embodies. She is only the fifth woman to serve on the court, out of the 114 justices in U.S. history, and yet for many women she represents a powerful threat to the rights of women, particularly around reproductive rights. But a degree of understanding is extended to her because, despite all of that, she is still a woman seizing power in a male-dominated arena; there’s an air of feminism to it.

Yet as the historian of Nazi Germany, Claudia Koonz, showed us in her book, Mothers of the Fatherland, ordinary women were both drawn to and complicit in fascism.

Feminist scholar Catharine R. Simpson writes that although “many societies deprive women of power over themselves, women still have power to exercise. Women, though Other to men, have their Others too.” She calls to mind the ownership of Black slaves, both men and women, by white women in the U.S., as well as Koonz’ point that women in Nazi Germany did participate in genocide, both actively and passively.

Italian historian Daniella Rossini describes how, in Italy from 1911 to 1912, there was a marked shift within the Italian feminist movement to more closely align themselves with Italian nationalism, throwing their support behind the colonization of Libya. Rossini argues that the war, and the promise of a new Italy, strengthened those bonds, and soon Italian women found themselves part of a regime which in turn sought to stifle them.

In shifting focus to the present day, many have theorized what appeal 21st century iterations of the far right hold for women, and notably white women. Annie Kelly argued that QAnon held a natural appeal for mothers, given the rhetoric within QAnon advocating “Freedom for the Children.” In the Guardian, Angelique Chrisafis, Kate Connolly, and Angela Giuffrida found that these allegiances are attributable to financial hardship, which disproportionately affects women, and populist messaging warning feminists that immigration will result in a women’s rights backslide.

But what is certain is that it is not a new phenomenon, and when seeking to ascertain motive and understanding, we should be reminded of the wide range of experiences and circumstances which have historically brought women into the fold of the far right.