The Far-Right’s subtle attempt at re-legitimizing their movement into acceptability within mainstream politics has met with marked success. Why have the democratic governments struggled greatly against this rising tide of neo-fascistic groups when the fascists were defeated in 1945? Well to answer, I’ll explore a quote from a 2014 Marvel film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, specifically where Armin Zola is describing how the Fascist/Nazist terrorist organization HYDRA has returned from within the democratic security organization S.H.I.E.L.D.
What we did not realize was that if you tried to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly. After the war, S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded, and I was recruited. The new HYDRA grew, a beautiful parasite inside S.H.I.E.L.D. For 70 years, HYDRA has been secretly feeding crises, reaping war.
There’s a lot to unpack within this for explaining how the real-world fascist movements have regrown within our current era.
The first thing is this line “What we did not realize was that if you tried to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.” Referencing how fascists post-1945 changed tactics from fighting the system, to instead work from within the system in order to re-establish their own legitimacy in the public eye and one day regain their former power from the willing masses. This working within the system strategy became a heckuva lot easier because of how many fascists were able to evade justice after World War II due to Cold War realities necessitating the reintegration of various fascistic officials into a democratic societal structure to help with the war effort against the communist forces of the Soviet Union (for example see Operation Paperclip on Wikipedia). This decision by the victorious powers inadvertently allowed many fascists the opportunity to be able to successfully reintegrate into society.
Upon reintegrating then the fascists had to 1. capitalize on or 2. create the necessary conditions that would ensure their return to power (This will be explored below). For capitalizing on necessary conditions one has to look no further than the French’s Nouvelle Droite (ND) giving various French far-right leaders the focus on cultural hegemonic preservation, specifically preserving “‘authentic’ regions of Europe against the onslaught of non-European immigrants.” Contemporarily this refers to European difficulties accepting Islamic culture, which combined with the migration crisis of the past decade, has allowed for far-right neofascist ideas to seem acceptable within many European countries, such as Hungarian fascist leader Viktor Orban legally promoting repression and anti-immigration loss against his ‘Other’ Muslim migrants.
The second relevant quote’s part is where Zola says “The new HYDRA grew, a beautiful parasite inside S.H.I.E.L.D. ” This can be used to explore how fascists have been able to undermine democratic institutions from within in a wide variety of countries. In postwar Italy for example neofascists were able to achieve deep state influence from 1970s-1990s behind the scenes as well as directly through their wide network of supporters in key positions within the Italian government, military, civil service, which in turn recompensed their lack of public power. This turns us to the final relevant part of the quote is “For 70 years, HYDRA has been secretly feeding crises, reaping war.” This is relevant because it can be used to explore how fascists have been able to use the destabilization within the democratic structures over the past several decades in order to destabilize society. For example postwar Italy had un-persecuted fascists retaining political connections, allowing neofascists to use the high level of influence let them orchestrate various conspiracies against the Italian democracy from within, while preventing any politically left party gaining power, with the eventual result being Italy’s government being exposed as corrupt, which in turn allowed for the re-legitimization of the Italian far-right within the public political sphere as an acceptable alternative. In addition a more contemporary example would be how a destabilized France has far-right Marine Le Pen seeking support of other far -right leaders like Orban to support her on topics such as France’s problems with migrants and the EU to shore up her power bases before the election.
Looking at the world today, have geopolitical issues such as migration become so fearful and have democratic institutions become so ineffective “that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security” which could lead to neofascist/far-right groups gaining power en masse? The answer is worth pondering as the upcoming French and Hungarian elections loom.
“Operation Paperclip.” In Wikipedia, November 11, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Paperclip.
Amyot, Grant. The shadow of fascism over the Italian Republic. Humaff 21, 35–43 (2011). http://link.springer.com.proxy.library.carleton.ca/article/10.2478/s13374-011-0005-9.
Chadwick, Lauren. “Why Are France’s Far-Right Politicians Paying Visits to Viktor Orban?” Euronews, October 29, 2021, sec. World. https://www.euronews.com/2021/10/29/why-are-france-s-far-right-politicians-paying-visits-to-viktor-orban.
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. https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2011.585013.
Kalmar, Ivan. “Islamophobia and anti-semitism: the case of Hungary and the ‘Soros Plot” Patterns and Prejudice Vol. 54 (1-2) (2020): 182-98. https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2019.1705014.
Moeller, Robert. “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): 497-522. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerhis/ght065.
Russo, Anthony, and Joe Russo. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 2014. https://www.amazon.ca/Captain-America-Soldier-Blu-ray-Bilingual/dp/B00KHD5FK0/ref=tmm_trd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=.