One thing that really stuck out to me in the readings for this week was the Guardian article, by Angelique Chrisafis in Paris, Kate Connolly in Berlin, and Angela Giuffrida in Rome; as well as the Hyperallergenic one by Charlie Jarvis. Perhaps this is because my major is journalism, but reading more recent examples of a fascist-leaning movement than older ones brings a more meaningful understanding as it is happening in real time.
In the Guardian reading, it really struck me how more women are moving towards a nationalist populism that was once so dominated by patriarchal ideology. Perhaps it is suggested that they are moving away from feminism as the article says. However, Le Pen rejects the term “feminism” because they associate it with an instrument of leftwing nonsense, replacing it with what the definition is, “women’s rights”. The Italian rightwing populist parties are targeting women as well with controversial messages that immigration brings misogynistic cultures that threaten freedom in Europe. These immigrants are mostly from countries with high Muslim populations. It all seems like a very manipulative scheme which we have seen in the west too, particularly in the United States.
Jarvis talks in his article about a massacre at Piazza Fontana in Milan, Italy. He also touches on how far-left groups (yes, left. Not right) like the Brigate Rosse waged war against the state through kidnapping and targeted assassination. However, the neofascist cells also sowed terror with massacres such as the one at Piazza Fontana. I liked how one journalist worded it, “the bombs that changed Italy.” Jarvis makes a connection with these relationships in regard to a museum. He explains that remembrance enables reconciliation between victims and perpetrators and also between the far left and extreme right.
Of course other articles this week also touched on Italy and its fascist past and present. But these two went really well together in explaining not only what has happened previously between the left and rightwing parties and supporters in Italy, but also what has been going on recently as a “look forward” type of ideal.
Activists march in solidarity with trans people at London Pride, 2010, reclaiming the image of the pink triangle, once used as a symbol of persecution for queer and trans individuals under the fascist and eugenic mission of the Nazis.
“An imported culture war,” decry critics in response to Drag Queen Story Hour UK. Despite the organization’s commitment to inclusivity and literacy, British conservatives, TERFS, and the Far-Right see it as an attempt to “indoctrinate” the youth into foreign “woke” principles. For them, trans inclusion is not only antithetical to the British nation but a threat to the nation’s future, represented here by children. This Far-Right vocabulary is becoming increasingly popular with anti-trans groups across the political and social spectrum, as a recent study by Global Action for Trans Equality [GATE] found. As GATE sees it, the decrease in popular support for trans rights in Britain is driven by mainly Far-Right actors “enmeshing” the two ideologies. However, this perspective fails to account for the innate historical connection between transphobia and the Far-Right. This connection, often surrounding eugenic talking points on ‘moral’ health and reproduction, negotiates the place of transphobia in alarmist, nationalist claims, one that breeds an incredibly fascistic potential.
Recent queer histories reveal that transphobia, as we know it today, was unfortunately born not long after trans identities were named in western culture and science. Much of this early transphobia was (and continues to be) centred around the western, Christian gender binary; grounded in the biblical dichotomy of pure versus sinful, anything outside of that, particularly non-Christian, non-White gender-sexual constructs, was quickly labelled as “deviant.” In the fascist worldview, trans people remained “deviants” who signalled the moral decay of the nation and represented an “ideology” imposed by ‘liberal elites’ in universities, medicine, politics, etc. It was, and is, in this climate of hate that fascists attacked trans people and systemically destroyed trans culture in the name of ‘tradition’ and ‘morality’.
Today, anti-trans movements in Britain continue to propagate the image of the “sexual deviant.” When polled, the British public remained divided on many trans issues. In particular, there was less support for the presence of trans women in women’s bathrooms and other ‘women’s only spaces.’ As in earlier Far-Right ideas about trans womanhood, many transphobes present trans women and the trans rights movements as granting “male-bodied people” access to women and girls in ‘intimate’ spaces; they imply that trans women would harm cis women and girls morally or physically. This rhetoric, in presenting trans women as naturally deviant and dangerous, also biologizes vulnerability for cis women. Furthermore, children are often seen as being corrupted by the supposed ‘inherently’ sexual nature of trans inclusion and education. Not only does this present an overt moralist image of imperilled innocence around which people can rally, but it again assumes passivity in children, subtly evoking the fascist image of the paternalistic family. These assumptions ultimately uphold the gendered fascist status quo, as they have done historically.
Historically, the conflation of trans identity with ‘moral deviancy’ justified the idea that being trans was an “illness” and one that could “contaminate” the nation, which underpins eugenic anxieties about race, reproduction, and the nation. Today these ideas play out in the recent Far-Right obsession with “de-transition” narratives—stories posited by transphobes about young people regretting transitioning and professing the supposed harms that it caused to their bodies. One of the most popular pieces of anti-trans literature, Irreversible Damage: Teenage Girls and Transgender Craze, posits (falsely) that the world has seen an increase in white middle-class teen girls seeking gender affirmation surgery due to “mental illness” and being “groomed” into “thinking” they’re trans. Much like Irreversible Damage, the de-transition narratives that circulate widely in these transphobic circles emphasize the loss of “natural womanhood”, that is reproductive organs like the uterus. In centring the reproductive capabilities of middle-class white girls, these narratives continue the fascist trend of designating women as “walking wombs”. Presenting young trans men as ‘groomed’ by outsider ‘sexual deviants’ and weakening the ability of (white, middle-class) “women” to reproduce, these narratives also prop up white supremacist anxieties about race “replacement.”
Bringing the nation once again into the picture is the eugenic policy enabled by this continuation of historically fascist rhetoric on trans people and reproduction. While past fascist regimes have been more overt in their attacks on trans people, modern Britain practices passive eugenics, namely the denial of safe medical care and preventing immigration. In 2021, one in seven trans individuals in Britain reported being denied medical care; conversion therapy remained legal for trans youth longer than it did for their gay counterparts; the use of puberty blockers, a life-saving procedure in many cases, was banned for minors; trans refugees are routinely denied entry. These systemic policies, not including the numerous attacks and harassment received by trans individuals every day, are dependent on the belief that trans identity is an ‘illness’ that deviates from the “healthy norm” (that is, in their eyes, cis heterosexuality) and poses a threat to the reproductive capabilities of (as they see it, predominately middle-class, white) girls and young women. As such these actions are passed off as ‘protecting’ the nation’s youth, health, women, tradition, future, etc.
Unfortunately, transphobia is an ideology that is growing, mobilizing alongside its historical companion, the Far-Right. While identifying these historical continuities is not to say that Britain is now fascist or will rapidly become fascist, they make us aware of our blind spots in anti-fascist work. If anything, this perspective emphasizes why we must see supporting trans-inclusive initiatives and the trans community as a distinctly anti-fascist action.
The intriguing aspect of post-war politics has to be the extreme shift and impact the left and right had democratically, so much so that I believe we can still feel the effects today. Each of this week’s readings seamlessly flowed over one another to provide a detailed perspective of both the historical events and thoughts of societies who were looking to reestablish themselves. Bar-On’s work delves into this matter by discussing the birth of Nouvelle Droite and many French national’s subsequent scramble to defend cultural identity. The need for a cemented identity in France took two turns, one in a liberal standoff for the emerging adolescent portion of the population in the 1968 student riots, and the other form of cultural homogeneity.
The riots challenged the democratic foundation to change traditional institutions as well as a contempt for leftover imperialist attitudes that were embedded in the conservative system (Confrontation Paris, 1968). This far-left movement wanted to uproot the seemingly unchanging right wing to move to a new era that better represented the rapidly growing interconnectedness more youths were feeling that the access of post-secondary education was allowing them. This unprecedented confrontation between the state and students changed the cycle of conservatism, shutting down the Gaullist Regime and the economy.
In a measure of opposition Alain de Benoist (founding member of the Nouvelle Droite) sought to annihilate the far-left as it was up-rooting societies across Europe. There was a belief that hierarchy was key in maintaining a functional and secular society away from international influence. The founding of the ND provided “new spaces” for other far-right wing political parties to emerge (217, Bar-On). Benoist provided growth for the extreme right wing in Europe that can still be seen to this today, which circles back to the present day facist movements that were discussed two weeks ago, which I believe further shows how widespread and rooted the ND has become since its inception more than fifty years ago.
As I stated prior, when anlyazing each of the readings closely the remnants and more so the influence WWll has had can be easily spotted when looking at the actions and beliefs of those around this time. On one hand we see a part of society who wanted to permanently get as far away as possible from the past, seeking to change it and move their nation into the then “global/modern” liberal concepts. On the other there is a seeking out of fascist concepts, masquerading them as traditionalism, to focus on internal matters such as recementing ideas of hierarchies, ethnic identity, and Judaeo-Christian world-view. All of which are straight from Nazi rhetoric. What is interesting to me as a final thought is the internal struggle that comes up each week with these readings, there is a present “need” to hang onto the past however it seems that when it comes to discussing the past and pulling back the layers of the rationale and history behind these concepts there is almost a denial of fascists to state that what they are doing is derived from Nazism.
georgelmosseprogram. “Confrontation: Paris, 1968.” YouTube. YouTube, November 1, 2012.
Tamir Bar-On, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 199–223.
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”. 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. Fascism later turned out to be a more subtle reason to win the support of the Italian people.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.” 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.
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. 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.
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; 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.
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. Hungary too was subjugated under the Iron Curtain and was even invaded by its former Warsaw Pact allies in 1956, 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 and strongman authoritarianism that seeks to destroy the EU from the inside. Coincidentally, Orban is a close ally to Vladimir Putin.
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) and homosexuality (which has been banned in entire regions of the country since 2019).
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.
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