The Nouvelle Droit and Online Discourse – Andrew Devenish

As a political movement and “cultural school of thought” formed in France in 1968, the Nouvelle Droit (or ND) gave a new paradigm for the right in Europe, allowing the right to take inspiration from CR thinkers who supported fascism. While Bor-an says the ND is not a fascist movement, it has connections and roots in fascism. When he was accused of covert racism and fascism by Roger Griffin, Alain de Benoist ardently denied these claims, instead calling himself an “anti-fascist” and “anti-racist”. Benoist does not believe that the way forward for Europe is in socialism or liberalism, and that electoral politics or violence is not the way to power. Instead, Benoist wants to implement a vision of a pan-European “Europe of a Hundred Flags” in which every regional ethnicity would have sovereignty, and the way to achieve this is through a cultural hegemony in which the ND comes to control the dominant values in society.

Bor-an argues that the ND and Benoist, with their “politically correct” language and the CR legacy of an “anti-fascist fascism” have influenced many movements on the right since the 1970s, and I would argue that these ideas continue to influence the right to this day, specifically prominently in online discourse. You can see much of the ND in political discourse online today, with many people using the “politically correct” language of the ND, with less innocuous political ideas hiding behind that language, just like with the ND itself. Specifically, the idea of the “Europe of a Hundred Flags”, is similar to the ideas that are featured prominently in right-wing political discussions online today. This is the idea that every ethnic group deserves its own sovereign identity and political organization, and that immigrants should be expelled so that each country in Europe can be its own homogenous society, with Europe as a continent being “regionally diverse”. However, there is one major difference between the ND and this online political discourse – Christianity. Since the ND is a pagan movement and much of the online right that espouses ND-esque language and views, this is one area where the two groups would have major disagreements, and as Bor-an notes, this pagan orientation is a major reason why the ND has struggled to find allies in the past. However, it hasn’t fully stopped the ND from making alliances in the past, and whether the ND and online right have any actual direct connections or not, they have many similarities in their tactics and strategies.

Reconciling nationalism with transnationalism: The Nouvelle Droite and perceived oppression

By: PSjoberg

Populism, and particularly modern right-wing populism, has developed a reputation for being somewhat inward-looking. Right-wing populist movements, after all, often create an oversimplified “Other” against which “the people” of that given nation, culture, or ethnicity feel the need to defend themselves. In this way, many brands of right-wing populism appear similar to the fascist movements of the 1930s. Also like those fascist movements, the history of modern right-wing populism appears to contain elements of transnationalism.

In Tamir Bar-On’s article “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite,” and in Riccard Marchi’s article, “The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal: A New Strategy for the Radical Right in the Transition from Authoritarianism to Democracy,” the authors discuss in detail the transnational foundations of modern populist right-wing movements. While it may seem counterintuitive for right-wing populist movements to be somewhat transnational in their behaviour – as it is shocking for 1930s fascist movements to have behaved in this way – Roger Griffin, in his article, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum’,” produces the key to this puzzle.

Griffin’s examination of the intertwining themes of metapolitics and apoliteia in the Nouvelle Droite approaches the answer: right-wing populist movements are, in essence, a combination of two different political components, (1) right-wing political ideology and (2) populist political strategy. Griffin’s discussion the concept of apoliteia describes the heavily nationalistic nature of most right-wing populist movements. Moreover, Griffin is correct in the importance he places on the Nouvelle Droite’s metapolitics and the concept of a populist Weltanschauung. Populism being more of a political strategy than an ideology is therefore prone to transnational tendencies, for the purpose of exchanging lessons and tactics across national boundaries.

This dichotomy between metapolitics and apoliteia ties in well with the concept of right-wing Gramscianism, as discussed in the Bar-On reading. While seeming like a contrarian term itself, right-wing Gramscianism perfectly describes the combination of strong identity-formation of the Nouvelle Droite (as is important in all populist and nationalist movements) with the guiding principle of anti-elitism, which transcends national boundaries.

These three discussed readings are successful at demonstrating the complex nature of right-wing identity formation in the rapidly liberalizing West European landscape in the latter half of the twentieth century, through their analysis of the dichotomy between staunch exclusive identity formation and transnational tendencies.

Sources:

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

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

Griffin, Roger. “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.

Remembering the stories of the Holocaust

The fall of the Nazi regime left many societal questions to be answered. Who was to be deemed a perpetrator? a survivor? How would this be determined? Was society at large ready to self reflect and address the horrors committed?

Werner Sollors article Everybody gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text, outlines one of the ways that were chosen to attempt to identify those that had supported the Nazi regime. One of the questions required German employment seekers to identify who they had voted for in elections prior to the war. Similarly the “Medelbogen” questionnaire asked for a self classification into one of 5 categories of offenders (major, offender, lesser offender, follower, or persons exonerated). These were just a part of the efforts of identifying perpetrators that were not as prominent as those being tried at the Nuremburg Trials. I question the successfulness of some of these methods, as for example self identification could allow perpetrators to lie or mislead their roles, something that was researched by Mary Fulbrook.

Fulbrook attempts to answer some of these questions by looking at how perpetrators dealt with the actions they had taken under the Nazi regime. Through her research she identified that perpetrators in most cases would use the strategy of self distancing by arguing ignorance or innocence in the crimes committed during the war. Further, this type of self distancing was bot only used by the nazi perpetrators, but those victims who were placed within Primo Levi’s “Gray Zone”. The Gray Zone is a moral zone where victims committed crimes themselves out of self preservation, this was the case of the Jewish Kapos or Sonderkommandos.

This was only half of the story; how would society react to the stories of the victims? Would the victims be able to speak about the horrors of the Holocaust? Fulbrook shows that victims immediately after the war tended to share their experiences amongst themselves. However, overtime this changed for a variety of reasons, but the most important was “not so much a matter of survivors “finding a voice” as of the emergence of audiences willing to listen”. One interesting point Fulbrook raises is the importance of technology in capturing these stories. She argues that technology such as VHS and Betamax meant that “No longer were there just a handful of published, literary representations, penned by a few well-known names; now hundreds of thousands of ordinary people were able to “tell their story”. I was left wondering how things would have gone if it were not for technology that allowed for these stories to be captured and more importantly widely accessible? Would people have been able to reach such a large audience with their stories? History up until this point had always been recorded by historians and therefore required to some extent a barrier to entry for the public, i.e. they had to be interested and have access to the texts. Whereas the ability of historians and groups to record the stories of survivors and distribute to anyone that had a tv meant that the barrier for entry was vastly reduced.

History as Justice: Reckoning with the post -fascist world

 

It is perhaps all too easy to declare that the global political economy exists in a post-fascist world. Not absent of authoritarian regimes or right-wing populism but these elements, often considered a threat to democracy, are reserved to the past; distancing the progressive left that dominates the ordering of our world. It is this tooling of the past that has allowed Hitler’s Nazism and Angela Merkel as the last defender of Western liberal democracy to exist in the same geographical space, separated only by time.

History itself has emerged as an important instrument in constructing a Germany beyond the Third Reich. As Joachim C. Häberlen wrote that narratives of the federal republic were juxtaposed against the extra parliamentary left from 1960 to 1970. It was then that the radical left contributed to the democratization of the Republic and the neo-liberalization of capitalism. In the dramatic historical change of Germany it is interesting to consider how does empire shed its legacy? History and narratives must be constructed to break from the past.

Flashpoints in German history were woven into the historiography that delivered the space for an alternative left to emerge. In 1968 student protests that consumed Germany and the world offered a “refounding of the Republic” as Claus Leggewie stated. Narratives were spun as Häberlen wrote, “ to use Hayden White’s terminology, as a ‘romance,’ a heroic story of overcoming evil for good” (Häberlen, 108). It were these narratives that bifurcated the identity of Germany into the divisive past and the cohesive future. The narratives of bifurcation were woven into the social consciousness of the unified Germany one no longer divided by east and west. Häberlen wrote building on Ulrich Bröckling and Andreas Reckwitz that “individuals in the contemporary, neoliberal world are confronted with cultural scripts that instruct them how to shape their emotional, mental, and bodily selves” (Häberlen, 112). It is was not simply new stories that emerged in a Unified Germany but stories to codify the self, the narrative of the alternative left carved out space in the public sphere for religious and sexual minorities alike. The bifurcating of the past championed an inclusion of identities that would otherwise cease to exist under the Third Reich. It is here that minorities of the post – fascist state have found justice through German historiography.

Mary Fullbrook’s chapter “hearing the voices of victims” speaks directly to the minority groups that were subjected to a hierarchal form of victimhood. She wrote that:

Heated discussions arose over which non-Jewish groups should receive a mention—should the exhibition include Gypsies, homosexuals, and others or focus purely on the “final solution of the Jewish question”? And which other genocides might be mentioned for purposes of comparison? (Fullbrook, 365)

The debate that Fallbrook wrote about were post-1968, in attempt to memorialize the victims of the Third Reich. It is important to consider when such debate could truly emerge as it demonstrates that there is a coming of age that takes place before history can intervene. The historical narratives that shed light on the past and return agency to individuals that were targets in Hitler’s Germany is the restorative justice mechanism of the applied aspects of the historic discipline. It is in this way that history reckons with the post -fascist world.

 

Sources

Fulbrook, M. (2018). Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Häberlen, Joachim C. “(Not) Narrating the History of the Federal Republic: Reflections on the Place of the New Left in West German History and Historiography.” Central European History 52, no. 1 (2019): 107-124.

OP/ED 1

The failure of Bernier to gain any form of momentum during this past election illuminates the complicated relation that Canadians have with there racist past and attitudes.  During the recent election Maxime Bernier and his Peoples Party campaigned on ideas and policies that were similar to those that many other populist and right leaning politicians would agree with.  However long these ideas of immigration and national identity may have circulated in the spheres of other populist parties they had thus far avoided Canadian politics and with the resounding defeat of Bernier and his party will remain absent from mainstream politics for the current future.  While this could be seen as a rejection of those kind of ideas by the Canadian people this idea of Canadians being unwilling to as publicly discuss and views towards racism and immigration has in many ways been along standing aspect of Canadian politics and ideas.  Even within the last hundred years the government and with popular support banned all immigration from all Asia with the preteen of protecting people from race related riots and to maintain a white nation.  Beyond that there is the other major issue of the treatment of natives and residential schools, issues the government and public are more than happy to allow to be kept quiet and instead discuss the greatness of Canadian multiculturalism and inclusiveness.  However when push comes to shove the government have shown many cases of an unwillingness to acknowledge or apologize for these acts unless there is a great deal of public pressure and when members of the government or community leaders make strides to mend these issues they get called for apologizing to much and this is seen as an issue and a weakness.  But when someone comes into the front and is more willingly to publicly to speak of these values and aspects of the Canadian past they are shunned and turned against by the public.  How come Canadians are willing enough to practice and allow these values away from the light.  As even to the present-day discrimination in employment and recognition are still rife in many sectors of daily life.  Despite this coloured past and legacies Canadians remain proud of the fact that they steer clear of the more overt forms of racism as seen in the US or some central European countries such as Hungary, under there current presidents, however much it may continue to simmer under the surface. The reluctance to admit and resistance to this more overt form of racism show that despite the legacies and continual attitudes, especially in certain parts of the country, mean that hopefully leaders and the brand of far right populism promoted by the Peoples Party will remain as outsiders, and there ideas dwindle with the embracement of the multicultural past of Canada. 

Shifting Attitudes Toward the Holocaust in the Postwar Period – Andrew Devenish

The postwar decades of the 20th century were a time of great change, both in how perpetrators and victims were viewed by the public. As Germany split into a capitalist side and a communist side, its approach to justice also fractured, changing further once the two halves were reunited in the 1990s. As Fulbrook points out, East and West Germany took very different approaches to prosecuting Nazis that remained in their borders as well as abroad. West Germany was more lenient – it considered “I was just following orders” a valid defense and it prided itself on the ability to show mercy to perpetrators and move on from the horrors of the Holocaust and the war. However, East Germany took a hardline stance against those who committed crimes for the Nazi party, with harsher sentences and no credibility given to the defense of following orders. However, in their own way East Germany also valued the ability to move on from what had happened in the past, as “due consideration” as given to Zimmerman’s change as he became a productive member of society, as well as the apparently real remorse he expressed in his confessions of guilt. Then, once Germany was reunified and a brand-new system had to contend with trials of Nazi perpetrators, there was a renewed desire to see them brought to justice, despite the fact that there were so few left to prosecute after so long.

We can also see shifts in the public perception of such trials over time from audience reactions to Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg as outlined by Moeller, in addition to the insights into the justice systems of Germany explained by Fulbrook. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was great public interest in Germany for things like Anne Frank’s diary and the Eichmann trial in Israel, and Kramer’s film also assisted in bringing these issues back to the forefront of the public consciousness in Germany. Many German critics focused on the lack of authentic details in the film while praising its bravery and important subject matter, whereas in the years immediately following the war, many Germans were too occupied with their own hardships to take a proper look at what hap happened with the Nuremberg Trials. As time went on, the issues of the Holocaust and Nazi perpetrators became more important in the minds of Germans.

The Complexities of Justice

The readings for this week make clear that the pursuit of justice for victims of the Holocaust expanded beyond the legal system. In his article “Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text,” Werner Sollors displays the wide reach that the project of denazification had to have as well as somewhat of its unrealistic expectations to altogether purge Nazism. The reading begs questions of what defines a Nazi and Nazism. While the questionnaire attempted to make perpetration of Nazi violence straightforward by establishing different levels of offenders, this very system actually took too narrow a focus on Nazi perpetration rather than seeing its various forms and levels. It was also contingent on people answering truthfully. This relates to an overall theme of Holocaust memory that I picked up on throughout several of the readings. This memory was something that had to be confronted by all those who experienced the Holocaust in addition to the next generation who lived under the shadow of the Holocaust as Mary Fulbrook contends. Memory was also imperative in seeking justice for victims which is something that Fulbrook complicates.

There is a certain duality in the expectation of Holocaust victims to at once relieve memories of the Holocaust, memories that are deeply entrenched with trauma, while looking into their futures and the future of their children. Fulbrook gets to the heart of how complex fair justice for all victims of the Holocaust has been. If we think of victimhood in terms of singularity rather than variation, we risk erasing certain victim groups. Fulbrook illustrates this by shedding light on the way that gay men struggled to be recognized as victims of the Holocaust. This element of the reading brought to mind our discussion of Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism and the absence of commemoration to lesbian victims of the Holocaust.

Ultimately, when considering the path to justice after the Holocaust, we need to think in terms of variation and nuance so as to properly recognize complexities.

“The good self” and the Fragebogened

It the face of self-defensive accounts and the construction of a “good self” what does this this have to say about the Fragebogened?

Sollors writes that these questionnaires were a failed experiment as they were widely unreliable. There is one question that was discussed on the German only Meldebogen that stuck out. It was in which category would they place themselves on the spectrum of the offenders? Did these people actually believe that they were not to blame because they were unaware of what was going on, if they did would that not affect the outcome of their answers to many of these questions? How much would that have altered the way in which Post-war Germany viewed these questionaries?

Also what constitutes the severity of the action by the offender?

What is known from Fulbrook is that not all victims were accepted as victims and encouraged to speak about their experiences. Roma and Sinti, as well as those experiences of gay men were not met with a willingness or sympathetic audience. What does that say about these questionnaires? They were produced for a society that came almost directly after the war. Not many Germans were willing to talk about the atrocities that happened during the war. This questionnaire was distributed by Americans, were they concerned with what happened to these people? Would what happened to these populations during the war be considered a crime? If they were confessed to would they have even been grounds for refusal of occupation?

Though, like Sollors writes, these questionnaires did not leave room for personal accounts of the war. Or the reasons in which Germans participated actively or passively, some of their answers being coercion, or opportunism. Regardless, in the attempt for the denazification of a post war Germany, by the Americans, there are many ways in which these questionnaires would have failed. Though, what these questionaries do illustrate is the lack of voice, whether it be the voice of the victim or the voice of the Germans being questioned.

After the End

By Daniel Williams


We often consider the end of a way of life, of a mindset, to be apocalyptic. We make films about the collapse of society we know it and label them apocalyptic, dystopian. It’s hard for us to comprehend a life after our understanding of society.

Perhaps that is part of why it is so difficult for us to understand how people came to grips with the end of Nazism. Nazism’s collapse was, as detailed in the Reckonings reading, a very difficult matter for regular people, many of whom had enjoyed their years living with the Nazis. Even writing this, I found I had to correct myself in writing “living *under* the Nazis”. But the truth is that many people were glad to live with the Nazi government in power, many were happy to live with its regulations, and happy to turn a blind eye to its many faults.

The article deals primarily with the concept of guilt compared to victimhood. It’s interesting when comparing this article to the previous week’s discussion on victimhood, namely whether it is possible for multiple different sorts of victims to coexist in a space, and if different victims had differing degrees of importance. In this case, we add another layer to the discussion, guilt. Who is and is not guilty, whether it is important to determine this so broadly, and how different groups and individuals managed their guilt.

Could victims also be guilty? Could nazi sympathizers still have suffered from the regime? Can we claim that those who are ‘guilty’ of sympathizing with the regime truly understood what it was they supported, even if the crimes of the regime were many and on relatively public display? Must everyone who did not engage in direct resistance be labeled guilty?

These are all problematic questions, and the segment Discomfort Zones approaches this from trying to explain how the perpetrators of supporting the Nazi regime felt like they had to defend themselves from unspoken accusations of guilt. But it also mentions a lack of closure, and that is the most important factor. There is no good answer to the above questions. Indeed, trying to understand life after a way of life is cripplingly difficult.

The Social Impacts of Nazism’s Legacies

By Christine Collins

Leading up to and during World War II, Germans faced an “us vs. them” mentality. We saw this in Hitler’s drive East in order to secure lebensraum the German people had a right to claim. Further, as discussed in previous weeks, there was strong characterization of the superiority of the Aryan, German race. This attitude was embodied by Rudolf Zimmerman, a Gestapo officer convicted of war crimes under an East German trail. A partially literate ethnic German from the farming community of Hohenbach, Fulbrook notes that Zimmerman likely enjoyed his newfound authority in the Nazi regime. Under non-war circumstances, the better educated Jews of Mielec were individuals he would have previously felt inferior to. Given the chance to gain relative power, Zimmerman took it. 

Why then, would an individual like Zimmerman feel such remorse during this war crimes trial? I believe we find the answer in comparing social factors leading up to and following the war. Prior to World War II, the German government worked hard to build up sentiments of superiority in the German people. We saw this demonstrated in Nazi leisure-time organization Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy). This program used travel to other, less prosperous countries to contrast low living standards elsewhere to the superiority of Germany’s way of life under Hitler. This is one of many ways that German’s supremacy was pushed on society. It was through social factors like this that individuals like Zimmerman were exposed to ideas of superiority that led them to embrace Nazism.

By contrast, post-war Germany was much more socially introspective. West Berlin’s Social Democratic Mayor, Willy Brandt, saw the broadcast of the of Adolf Eichmann’s trial (a high-ranking Nazi and SS official known as one of the “masterminds” behind the Holocaust) as an important lesson for Germans. Häberlan further describes the German student protests of the 1960s and 1970s as the “foundation for a democratic political culture ingrained in everyday life” and not an internal conflict to be hidden from the world. 

The film Judgement at Nuremburg further fictionalized monumental trials such as Eichmann’s for broader public consumption. While Moeller notes that reception from American and German critics varied, I think what is most striking is the fact that German audiences accepted a film written and directed by Americans. Speaking at the film premiere in Berlin, Mayor Brandy notes that while the world may judge Germany by its past actions “today it judged [them]…by their behaviour in the present.” Fulbrook further uses the example of Holocaust, a television show staring American actors, as an example where Western interpretations of the war were viewed and accepted by a German audience. 

Through these readings, we see that the legacies from World War II have dramatically transformed the values and outlooks of German people today. The retelling of German’s past has shifted from the post World War I rhetoric of “Deutschland über alles” to a more socially open society today. It is through this newfound openness that, according to Häberlan, Germany now presented as a defender of Western liberalism, a sentiment that certainly would be hard to believe some years ago.