Wrestling with a Myth

In the last week’s postings, readings and discussion, there was a strong focus on how elements of history can be used to justify certain actions. This week, in the book A Specter Haunting Europe, we instead get a chance to see how myths develop in real time, with the concept of overarching Judeo-Bolshevism during the early 20th century.

In brief, the article deals with how the concept of Judeo-Bolshevism evolved based on both real world events and the actions of individuals and groups to promote the concept. It addresses the tactics and approaches used, often by right-wing groups, to propagate the concept that the various left-wing revolutionary groups and governments at the time were being led by Jewish persons, both men and women. The main method described is by ‘unmasking’ revolutionaries’ personal histories and displaying their Jewish origins, though not always accurately.

At its heart, the author notes, there is a kernel of truth to the allegations, that there was a number of high-ranking revolutionaries that came from Jewish backgrounds. But the author also demonstrates that much of the overarching concerns for Judeo-Bolshevism stemmed from deep fears over Jewish religion and culture, and that Bolshevism was simply the latest iteration of Jewish influence.

It is particularly pertinent to view Judeo-Bolshevism’s deconstruction in terms of what some modern persons have coined as Islamofascism. The terminology is highly problematic, conflating Islam and Fascism in a way not dissimilar to Judeo-Bolshevism. As the far right in Europe continues to grow more bold in its attempts to paint Muslims and Arabs in general as anti-democratic and dangerous, the term is beginning to become more reminiscent of things seen before.

Also of note is trying to understand the various methods in which the Jewish populations of Europe tried to combat this myth, and which were effective. From trying to justify the actions of Jewish Bolsheviks , to suggesting that they are traitors to both Judaism and country, the Jewish communities of Europe often took a variety of approaches in trying to handles the mythologizing.

Towards the end of ensuring marginalized groups are not demonized further by the extreme actions a few, it is imperative to understand which strategies worked and which did not when trying to ensure the public that not all Jews were involved in a Bolshevik conspiracy. Applying these results to the Islamofascist scare tactics used by far right members in modernity, we can hope to better prevent unfounded hatred spreading across Europe.

Fascism and Internationalism

By Arianna Axe-Paterson

Nationalism is generally a term discussed in association with Fascism. Fascists tend to care about the prosperity and political unity of their own country and that countries people. Internationalism on the other hand is not something that I myself would directly associate with fascism. Internationalism implies that there is some kind of cooperation, more than likely political, between more than one country.  Though Ruth Ben-Ghait and David Motadel have allowed me to rethink the relationship between racism and Internationalism.  That Internationalism in relation to Fascism is calculated.

Ben-Ghait discusses how Mussolini efforts were to counteract the excessive individualism of Italians. Unity of political thought and ideology of Italians. The government in fascist Italy did this through the recruitment of intellectuals to study and go to other countries to see the weaknesses of their ideologies. An example being the freedom that women had in Russia. Or they would invite people into Italy to convince other intellectuals to join the Fascist movement. The promotion of the unity of other nation was not done with the intent that Internationalism would suggest, it was still for the benefit of Italy. To prove to the world the benefit of Fascism in Italy.

Motadel’s academic article focuses more on Nazi Germany. it discusses the rise in Anti-Colonial Nationalism in Germany during the Second World War. He points out that when Germany’s attempts at colonization failed they were in a position to call for the anti-colonization, which in turn aided them when looking for allies in the war. When the hope for an alliance with Britain failed, they could use Anti-colonization nationalist to mobilize with them against the countries that colonized them. This act of internationalism was done for the benefit of Nazi Germany during the war.

What is evident in both of these articles is that the fascist relationship with Internationalism was calculated and is utilized in a way that is very nationalist. Both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany promoted the idea of Internationalism for the success of their counties. It was a calculated decision because it would benefit the unity of ideology in each country. It was never about the unity of political ideology in other countries but about strengthening their own. Motadel’s New York Times article he says that “these alliances can be fragile and full of frictions,” while these calculated choices could be beneficial they can also show how damaging the conquest of internationalism within Fascism can be.

Works Cited

Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. “Conquest and  Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945, (University of California Press, 2004), pp. 17-45.

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

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

Jewish Bolshevik? By Dimitrios Monette

While evaluating the Hannebrink reading I found myself struck by the intense and heavy amount of near comical ignorance and hypocritical nature of anti-Jewish speech and teachings. The Jews as a distinct religious people have found themselves constantly trod upon across the globe and of course in Europe as a whole. While we of course correlate the connection between antisemitism with the holocaust of the Nazi regime in the later 30’s and 40’s, it is intriguing to look just slightly farther back to view a world still so locked into what one might normally consider medieval beliefs of the Jewish peoples. Is it not hypocritical for a Christian like future Pope Pius to call the Bolshevik radicals leading the revolution that gripped the post war German city of Munich Jewish radicals? Are not they (and myself-included as a Greek orthodox believers) Jews of a different sect? It is interesting to note that while we might associate anti-Jewish sentiment with fascism of Nazism, which it should rightly be, it has also existed up right until before and likely after the rise of the Nazi regime during the second world war. The entire argument that the radical revolutionaries of the soviet ideology are inherently Jewish is a flawed one from the outset due to more traditional Jewish hatred propaganda and assumptions of the past, that being specifically the stereotype that Jews covet and crave large sums of money. While this might actually have some merit in the fact that Jews found themselves forced into the positions of bankers and lenders of money due to established Christian laws banning them from all other trades and work in Europe, this in itself destroys and notion that the Jews as a whole might be driven to lead a Bolshevik revolution. Why would the upper middle class wish to abolish their rights to individual property for the masses?  It is notable that some Jews did indeed embrace bolshevism, the key word being some “Some Jews embraced bolshevism in particular places at particular times… Poland, for example, 20-40 percent of the… Communist party in the 1920’s were individuals of Jewish origin. But only about 7 percent of Polish Jews voted for the Communist Party…”(21). I would argue this is due to the Jews being constantly viewed as an outside group, unwanted people and marginal. As a result, some Jews of course would pursue the embrace of am ideology so all encompassing as Communism, but so did many Catholics and Protestants alike. Ultimately the hatred and distrust of communism and its inherent ability to snake under the underbelly of great empires like that of Tsarist Russia and the city of Munich drove fear into the average people of europe, and looking to put a face to their attacker chose one they already disliked and found distaste in, the european jew. It is noted that “For centuries the paranoid belief that Jews performed bizarre religious rituals with fanatical and inhuman zeal resurfaced periodically…. Reinforcing religiously inspired connections to the idea that Jews were evil…”(30). It is simply easier to blame the bad guy you know, then to search for the true face of a supposed evil. 

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.

The Political Traction of the Ambiguity of Fascism


Totalitarianism, populism, extremism, and the plethora of isms on the right and left of the political spectrum seem to shoot from the mouth of political commentators at increasing rates. Populist, Extremist and indeed Fascist are terms that find themselves inside people’s homes and minds; with each person having a different understanding of Fascism from the rest. This is why Gilbert Allardyce has argued that “the concept of Fascism should be de-modeled, de-ideologized, de-mystified, and, above all, de-escalated”.

While Allardyce, attempts to “deconceptualizing” Fascism he has equated Fascism to a movement and argues for the separation of the fascist concept from that movement.  Federico Finchelstein wrote that Fascism is associated with evil, authoritarian regimes, and racism. It celebrates dictatorship, destroys democracy and uses violence to spread its message. Allardyce has argued that these elements are “retained to refer to a particular movement of men and ideas,” acknowledging that a collective understanding of the elements at play is only superficially imposed. Yet to speak about the “political movement” of Fascism as Allardyce himself referred to it as, one must codify specific markers of Fascisms and by this action give credence to the term.

It is important to ask if Fascism is the exclusive domain of politics, for if it is a Political movement does the discourse and memory around it need to change over time? Zeev Sternhell, much like Robert Paxton, and Allardyce associated the emergence of popular Fascism with the regime of Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. If this was the genesis for Fascism as we know it today, we must also acknowledge the political realm in which the term operated. With Fascism extending to other regions and other leaders perhaps it is necessary to maintain the ambiguity of the term to keep its utility in the political realm of which it derived.

Allardyce has argued that Hitler and Mussolini operated regimes that were different in their objective and their genesis. Yet still they stand as the two greatest examples of Fascist regimes. The agreement to use the word has connected Hitler and Mussolini and have allowed these regimes to be remembered and re-remembered by political actors. The lack of consensus on the phrase allows for Populist movements and right-wing extremism to create an illusive distance from Fascism and allow leaders to be “not technically a fascist”.



Vox and Fascism

For the first time in recent memory, the world’s hegemony is located in North America instead of in Europe or Asia. The shift in contemporary politics has encompassed sociopolitical issues that were meant to have been issues of the past. This is the rise of contemporary fascism.

The question does remain if the concern of rising global fascism is legitimate. Scholars in political science academia are grappling with the post-Trump victory in 2016 to determine whether or not classical fascism, defined by Griffin as “… a genus of political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism,” has reared its ugly head in the world’s hegemonic state of America and has created a trickle affect globally. Consulting fascist experts, Dylan Matthews has compiled a detailed overview of whether or not fascism is what Trump embodies in “I Asked 5 Fascism Experts Whether Donald Trump Is a Fascist. Here’s what they said.”  The consensus is no. While Trump does have some elements, the fundamental ingredients to have a fascist government are absent in his governing bodies. Despite recent social media postings touting “Trump 2024” allude to the fascist fallacy (or at the very least a grotesquely uninformed stance on American democracy) and a swath of events inspired by Trump rhetoric, the academic consensus is that Trump, at his core, is not a fascist.

Fascism in academia is conclusive on its fundamental attributes: fascism calls for a violence renaissance of a nation, systemic revolution, groupism before individualism, and is not economically focused as a central point. Conflating Trump’s history since inauguration with these focal points does not conclusively suggest a fascism, however it does translate into a right-wing populism. Trump masquerades himself as “for the people,” but exclusively travels on private jet. He does call for “rebirth” of a nation through his MAGA campaign, but fascism calls for a violence-based approach instead of policy based, which is what Trump is embarking on in his regressive legislature tendencies. Trump is an economic machine first, and an individualist second. These and fascism do not correlate for their fundamental characteristics of groupism and nationalism over individualism and economics.

Matthews employs a contemporary analysis of the American hegemonic impact on a broader political scale. The rise of right wing movements in Europe as a continental whole are not a new concept as evidenced by a series of systemic violent movements throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. What is new is what appears to be its renaissance, and the timing of recognized fascist political movements (especially those in France and Greece) have had a much more dramatic rise post-2016 which can be attributed to the hegemonic rhetoric espoused in accessible platforms. “Fascist” may not be the most accurate moniker for the Trump era on a federal and personal level for “the Donald,” but those who espouse his ideologies and commit violent acts in the name of revolution certainly continue the debate over if neo-fascism can be transferred from government to individual levels.

Some questions not answered by this article revolve around the author’s absolutist position on that the Trump regime is not fascist. While there is an acknowledgement of his extreme right wing stances, Matthews does not elaborate on the spectrum and gradients of a fascist or quasi-fascist political organization.