First Response: The Significance of Italian Fascism

Italian fascism is credited with being the first fascist state in mainland Europe in the 20th century and for providing a model that other authoritarian states sought to emulate or expand on. While whether it was the first to engage in extreme state control can be debated, the impact that Italian fascism had on the ideologies of other authoritarian state is very evident.

One of the readings this week was a primary source document by Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile that outlined what the considered some of the essential tenets of fascism. A key quote from this reading that embodies Italian fascism (and all fascism) is “he Fascist idea is embodied in the State. It is for the individual insofar as the individual coincides with the State, [which is] the conscience and the universal will of Man in his historical existence” . All individual needs and characteristics must be ignored for the benefit of the construction of the state. Mussolini, as shown as well in the Ruth Ben-Ghiat reading, was more pragmatic about the controls his state put into place. In comparison to Hitler, “For Mussolini and most of his officials, unlike the Nazis, national prerogatives almost always took precedence over racial ones” is used to describe the process in which they instituted anti-Semitic laws.

However, attempts to portray Italian fascism as the ‘nicer’ version is both useless to debate and also untrue. The casualties of their war with Ethiopia are examined in the Ben-Ghiat reading, as well as the lack of recognition of the atrocities committed. Comparatively, they pale against the holocaust but framing the atrocities of two separate regimes against each other in order to diminish the significance of one is not a fair examination of the events. Overall, the readings do a good job of outlining what was significant about Italian fascism and gives some context as to why it is often overlooked in popular understanding, at least compared to Nazi Germany and the USSR: their fascism was more pragmatic and focused the outright slaughter less on people inside the regime.

Sweeper: History, A Glamourized Tale?

This week’s lecture and readings focused on the Middle Ages and the 20th-21st century’s imagination, which can taint historical accuracy. Our group touched upon many different ideas, one that intrigued me the most was the idea that what we believe to be entrenched in our society is important to study, because many times this box that we are put in is created by people. Therefore what we think is an absolute can actually be quite arbitrary.

To put this into better context, our group focused on the Geary reading which talked about nationalism throughout time. Our group discussed how nationalism was widely ignored until it could be used for political gain. We started noticing that people tend to reuse the past for specific reasons, something that was also touched up in the Kaufmann reading. What interested us was how we first thought that nations were the way they were because of a shared culture amongst its people. However, we soon learned that in many situations, nations were build by conquest, where one more dominant culture takes over and weakens other cultures until they fade and become homogeneous. We related this to British culture invading what would be Canada, and dominating first nations people.

Just as the Medieval Ages is tainted by romantic imagery, so is our idea of nationality. So I will leave you with some questions to ponder. Does Canada have a Medieval past? When does Canada’s history start? Finally, why is Parliament gothic?

Introduction

Hello! My name is Anita, and yes I am a little late to the party due to some technological issues. However, what I lack in technological savvy I make up for in curiosity, primarily in the past! For the first three years of my undergrad I majored in Law, however while accidentally taking a history coarse in the winter semester of 2017, I discovered that history was one of my passions (once again, better late than never). I am currently double majoring in Law and History with a minor in Sexuality Studies. After my undergrad I plan on attending Law School.

I have always been intrigued by the idea of fascism. It may have started from reading books like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or my grandpa’s war stories about Nazi Germany. Either way, I am extremely excited to learn more about fascism, and populism which I am not as familiar with. I believe we are living in an extremely interesting time politically, but can’t wait to see what the past can teach us!

First Response Week 1 Middle Ages

In the article Race, racism and the middle ages, Amy Kaufman focuses on white supremacy, hate crimes and violent acts in the Middle Ages. Amy compares modern ‘alt right’ movements with the grand titles and aggressive military regimes to that of medieval times. She also argues how modern notions about medievalism are shaped through the contemporary ideas about the Middle Ages which have been shaped over time through public perception and depicted through film and other media. She states that the popular sentiment for many of those who discuss the middle ages is based around myths which feed their imagination, and based less around factual history. Amy argues that there are many white men who fantasize about medievalism in order to cope with their changing status in society, from dominant and powerful to a more equal position with women and people of all races. She then argues how these kinds of sentiments contributed to the creation of violent and hateful organizations such as the KKK.  The KKK, which was formed after the Civil War in the US, was a cult which worked to re-establish and maintain the supremacy of the white male in society. One of my concerns with this article is the way the author sometimes uses the term ‘alt right’ very generally, or in direct connection or relation to violent organization such as the KKK. Amy does not exactly define what she means by ‘alt right’ and although the organizations she talks about could be considered ‘alt right’, when she uses the term on its own it blurs the lines between ‘alt right’ movements which are socially acceptable and those which are hateful and violent.

Sweeper: The role of Populism in Nation Building

Marc Saurette’s lecture on the misinterpretation of history and it’s use within populist movements formed the foundation of our group’s discussion on the wider role of populism in the creation of the nation state. As Professor Saurette demonstrated, purposeful misinterpretations of medieval history has formed the basis of populist rhetoric which has been used by both modern and historic hate groups in order to stigmatize ethnic and religious minorities. What is often ignored however is that this same populist rhetoric of an ethnically homogeneous population and an “us verses them” mentality has also been an essential element in the creation of the European nation state. Take for example the creation of modern Germany which exists in an area historically populated by a multitude of both German and Non-German ethnic groups which was never a single homogeneous national entity. In the pursuit of a nation state the nationalist founders of modern Germany advocated the ahistorical view of a unified and homogeneous German people which were threatened by their Non-German neighbors, namely the Slavic peoples. This rhetoric is remarkably similar to the rhetoric used by the Nazi movement in Germany to justify their genocidal expansion eastward in pursuit of “living space” for the German people. While the negative impact of this misuse of history cannot be ignored, our group also discussed the role of populist rhetoric and the myth of an ethnically homogeneous population in maintaining stability within a state. As members of our group noted, much of the violence and instability that has plagued both Africa and Asia following the decolonization of the mid 20th century has been rooted in ethnic and religious conflict. This is in no small part due to the creation of artificial states by European colonial empires for the purpose of dividing territory among themselves, which fail to correlate to existing ethnic and geographic boundaries. This is further compounded by the fact that colonial powers often encouraged ethnic division and conflict within their colonies in order to destabilize opposition to their rule. This was tragically demonstrated in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide in which ethnic tensions between the Tutsi and Hutu populations resulted in the massacre of nearly a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The strife that led to the genocide had its roots in the colonial system established by the Belgian rulers of Rwanda which placed the Tutsi minority in a position of authority over the Hutu majority in order to prevent the creation of a common Rwandan identity which could lead to opposition to their colonial rule. This policy of exacerbating pre-existing ethnic division contrasts sharply to the domestic policy pursued by colonial European powers such as France which aggressively sought to break apart local ethnic identities in favor of a homogeneous French national identity in the pursuit of domestic stability. This has led our group to conclude that the stabilizing effect of populist rhetoric as well as it’s ability to induce collective action, is in large part responsible for the reoccurring and drastic rise in both the popularity and scope of populist movements during times of crisis throughout modern history.

Sweeper: Race as the New Religion

During the class discussion we turned to the question of why the medieval era is held as the epitome of the white nationalist sentiment. We proposed the answer that the medieval era appealed to notions of purity for some white supremacists. A perceived pseudo-history, where Europe is ethnically homogeneous, appeals to the white nationalist sentiment. Globalism has been portrayed as the enemy of white racial purity, as the harbinger of immigration and diversity, and the medieval age to them, represents a time before it.

It was interesting to explore the notion that race and the idea of having race did not really exist prior to colonization. In the medieval era, religion served to be the great divider – people did not identify strictly with race, but they did have a conception of being Christian. The idea of Christian vs. Jewish and Muslim has very close ties to the racial rivalry dynamics today. In some sense we have seen social division evolve from being predominantly religious based, to now include racial divisions. The white nationalist fantasy of a homogeneous medieval age is unfounded when one considers the immense territory of the Christian world.

We asked why the white nationalists chose to epitomize Medieval Europe and not for example the classical age and Rome. One theory could be the immense diversity within the Roman world – its inclusion of Persia, Libya, and Egypt, for example. These facts fly in the face of the white supremacist sentiment.

Sweeper: Never Ending Racism

 

Friday Jan 19th, the Medieval times were discussed with the guest Professor and how it’s represented in Pop-culture today, such as movies, TV Shows, Books and what not, but a major “plot” has been ignored when medieval times are represented, and that is: racism.

 

Yesterday during the group discussions, a few points have been mentioned about how medieval times are considered (sometimes) to be a great or heroic time for the Europeans, and mostly because it is believed that there were no immigrants, and at the time conquering other parts of the world and the beginning of colonialism were considered to be glorious and important to spread their culture and religion.

 

Another discussion was held about how Medieval Europeans, who were mostly Christians, were racist towards the Jews and how they were represented in the culture. Jewish men were depicted to be very feminine to a point that many believed that Jewish men menstruated. Racism was so severe that it portrayed the Jews as if they were not even humans, people actually believed they had tails, horns, and big noses.

 

Then it went from Jews to the indigenous in the “New World”, after that were black people and the slave trade in Europe and North America, then back to Jews during WWII in Nazi Germany, even in Canada where boats full of Jewish refugees were rejected and sent back to Europe.  Nowadays it’s islamophobia.

 

This is important because it shows that with every generation a new “enemy” is created, just because they don’t sound, or look like the dominant race or religion. This (obviously) creates a divide between people, and leads to deaths of millions of innocent citizens that have lead normal lives.

Sweeper: Societal Nostalgia

Throughout the readings and discussion this week, nostalgia was brought up a few times. Nostalgia was a topic that focused on in my group for part of the debate. However, the analysis always focused on personal nostalgia. But, no one living today was alive anytime near the Middle Ages or even the 19th century. However, “Make America Great Again” only applies if you believe America was ever great. So, what made America great? And when was it great?

I believe that life was not better for anyone back then. It is true that the wealth and rights gap between whites and other races was huge, but even the wealthiest people then could not buy themselves a life expectancy or the items people have today. Therefore, that message resonated because people believed it was better, even though for someone living now to have been alive during the second coming of the KKK, they would have to be just under 100 years old. Thus, it is not personal nostalgia that sold this message; it is societal nostalgia. It is the actions of groups like the Daughters of the Confederacy who, according to Amy S. Kaufman in her article Medievalism and the KKK, “sponsored the very Confederate monuments we’re still fighting about today.”. They also published works defending and even praised the Klan. I believe this distinction is important because it changes how best to address the problem. If someone were merely nostalgic, it is theoretically possible that demonstrating that life was not better then would lead to them accepting that conclusion. However, societal nostalgia is more difficult as a society only began believing it because a specific portion of society found sources and information that they considered credible enough for them to form this opinion. Thus, merely demonstrating that they are wrong is not enough. One must prove that their sources are also wrong, and this is harder as can be seen in the fights to take down Confederate statues.

Therefore, while it might seem a simple technicality, it must be specified that while some might be intentionally overlooking history, others have fallen victim to a society that allows for negative nostalgia to flourish.

Introduction

Hey everyone, my name is Gradey Todd, and I am a third-year undergrad student with a major in political science and a minor in math. I know it is an odd combination but before I was at Carleton, I studied applied sciences at Cegep (in Quebec) so I continued along with it in University. My focus at Carleton has been more on policy but I picked this course because of the increasing talk of fascism in the world. I believe that further understanding of such terms and concepts could help me both as a world citizen and a university student. Therefore, while I will most likely switch back into a natural science stream after I graduate, I am excited to learn about fascism and the other concepts we will discuss in this class. I hope we will have a great semester discussing and learning together.

Sweeper Response #1

The topics taken up by our group in class was rather ho-hum–not in the sense of it being boring but in the sense that it was all rather routine (Donald Trump, right wing populism, etc)–but something that had particularly caught my attention in the readings was something that had not (in my opinion) really been given enough of a focus, which is unfortunate because there would have been much to discuss. When I had read the Kaufman article, something that had struck me is that whenever race-based, right wing nationalist outbursts occur, there is usually some kind of sexual component involved, the first example being observable in the Ku Klux Klan. Since these are people who take their inspiration from romanticized Arthurian-type knights and orders (Sir Shining Armor rescuing Princess Helpless) it shouldn’t really considered surprising but when the topic of sex keeps resurfacing, one can’t help but wonder. The article later describes the terrorist Dylann Storm Roof (yes, Storm is his real middle name) as telling his future victims that they were (paraphrasing) raping “our” women. As I was reading this, it brought me back to one of my British history classes where we were discussing the Notting Hill Race Riots of the 1950s. To make a long story short, the riots were started in a neighborhood where an influx of immigrants (which is to say non-white, non-British people) had become entirely noticeable to the “native” population. Really, the riots began when a black man was having a public argument with his white wife. A group of people defending the woman evolved into a mob and from there exploded into further chaos. The reasons for the riot given by those who were rioting bounced between complaints about having to compete with immigrants for employment to believing that they shouldn’t have to tolerate non-white men having sex with their white women. For more, see the links at the bottom of this post. I personally find this sexual component found in right wing/extreme right wing populist movements fascinating, even when they become childish and asinine, one example being the alt-right’s bizarre obsession with cuckolding. One does have to wonder about what sort of pornography these people look at. I think it would be worth reading into, this binding together of apparent fear of sexual inadequacy and right wing ideology and fanaticism, in more depth in the future.

 

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/white-riot-the-week-notting-hill-exploded-912105.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6675793.stm