Fascism, from Mussolini to Christchurch massacre

This November 2010 video from Israel says about itself:

Dr. Iael Nidam-Orvieto, the Editor-in-Chief of Yad Vashem Publications discusses the topic of: “Fascist Italy and the Jews: myth versus reality”.

This video is the sequel.

From the Spui25 site in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 22 March 2019:

A century of fascism?

In cooperation with NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Fascism. Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies (Brill)

In 1932 Mussolini predicted that the 20th century would be ‘un secolo fascista’, a ‘fascist century’. However, the Axis Powers were defeated in 1945 and attempts to revive his movement have failed. March 2019 marks the centenary of the formation of the first Fascio in Milan, and is an ideal moment to assess just how badly Mussolini misjudged how politics would evolve in the future.

Roger Griffin will consider the factors that could explain Mussolini’s delusion that fascism was becoming the dominant ideology of the modern age, and what ultimately condemned the socio-political experiments undertaken by the two fascist regimes to abject failure, sealed with their crushing military defeat in April[/May] 1945. However, having refuted the duce’s prediction for the political climate over the next 70 years, Griffin then considers how radically the perspective changes if ‘secolo’ is taken to mean, not a century, but ‘a hundred years’. In particular, it poses the question whether the apparently inexorable rise since the end of the Cold War of xenophobic populism,

Here, and further on, the historian Griffin, like many others, uses the word ‘populism’ wrongly and ahistorically. As it historically was a movement in especially the southern USA, against Big Business and refusing to support the racism then rampant in the USA, especially the south.

identity politics, and the emergence of various new forms of right-wing movements and states, both secular and religious, might not be considered an argument for seeing Mussolini’s prophecy fulfilled, at least in part, even if far removed from the official Fascist dream of a new Italy whether in Russia, Hungary, Turkey or Brazil. So was Mussolini right after all, or at least more right than wrong? And what can liberal humanists and social democrats do about it? Moderated by Robin te Slaa.

Roger Griffin is Emeritus Professor in Modern History in the School of History, Philosophy and Culture at Oxford Brookes University. He is an expert on the socio-historical and ideological dynamics of fascism, as well as the relationship to modernity of violence stemming from various forms of political or religious fanaticism, and in particular contemporary terrorism. His theory of fascism as a revolutionary form of ultranationalism driven by palingenetic myth has had a major impact on comparative fascist studies since the mid-1990s. His latest book is Fascism: An Introduction to Comparative Fascist Studies (Polity 2018).

I think there are valuable elements in Professor Griffin’s analysis of fascism. My criticism is that it looks like Griffin sees fascism in a perspective of history of ideas; in which the origin of ideas is other ideas. History of ideas is a worthy subject of research. However, ideas do not evolve in a vacuum. They evolve in certain types of societies. There is not only the ‘superstructures’ of the world of ideas; but also the substructures of the social context in which these ideas evolve. Eg, will there be as much fascism in a society with much equality as in a corporate monopoly capitalist society with very much inequality? What is the influence of a society which is capitalist but which also has relics from feudalism (like Germany when they helped Hitler to become dictator in 1933)? Should there not be emphasis on the fascists’ aim of crushing the labour movement? What is the influence of wars? Both Mussolini’s fasci death squads and Hitler’s SA and SS paramilitary troops originated from ex-World War I officers and soldiers. They had been taught, being soldiers, that killing people supposedly is not criminal but heroic. And today, much neonazi violence is influenced by the endless NATO regime change wars.

Meanwhile Professor Griffin has held his Amsterdam speech on 22 March. Dutch daily De Volkskrant has a translation in its 23 March 2019 edition by Leo Reijnen.

I have translated parts of Reijnen’s translation back into English. With probably, mistakes creeping in from translating something twice.

Mussolini foresaw a fascist century. Is he still right?

For a long time the fascists seemed to have disappeared from the world stage. We celebrated too soon, historian Roger Griffin regrets. Is this the “fascist century” that Mussolini foresaw?

Benito Mussolini made a prediction in the 1932 Enciclopedia Italiana. He wrote that the 19th century had been one of socialism, liberalism and democracy, but that the 20th century did not have to be the same. There were, he claimed, good reasons to believe that it would be the age of “authority”, of “the right”, a fascist age.

When Mussolini made his prediction, fascism was on the rise. Liberalism had been discarded by authoritarian regimes in more and more countries, and Nazism, which had only 2.6 percent of voters in 1928, now stood at 37 percent. At the same time, both obscure and prominent Western intellectuals announced the “downfall of the West” and came up with draconian solutions to cope with the crisis of civilization.

So Mussolini sensed the spirit of the time well. A few months after Hitler became Chancellor, he wrote: “We are in the middle of a time that we can describe as the transition from one type of civilization to another. The ideologies of the 19th century collapse and nobody wants to defend them anymore.” He then explains that socialism is “mummified by Marxist dogmas” and that many democrats and liberals believe that the demo-liberal phase of Western states is over‘. But fortunately: the “new fascist ideas that are emerging in all countries of the world” will mature in time to guarantee a positive future for humanity.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, many liberal democracies had given way to authoritarian states. Franco had prevailed in Spain; Italy, Germany and Japan had formed the “Axis”. Around Christmas 1941, Operation Barbarossa had made spectacular progress in the fight against the Soviet Union and the Wehrmacht had not yet been defeated in the decisive battle for Moscow. Three weeks before that, Axis ally Japan had destroyed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor. At that time, the prospect of a nazified ‘Brave New World’ was not exactly a dystopian fantasy: France and the rest of Northern Europe would form the ‘European New Order’, Eastern Europe would become a cluster of Nazi vassal states, Japan would rule over the Far East, Africa would be fully colonized by European fascist and authoritarian states, and Latin America would be in the hands of fascist dictators. …

The defeat of fascism

It went differently. On August 15, 1945, the three Axis powers were defeated and occupied by their arch-enemies: the communists and the liberal democrats. …

In the early 1990s, when the Cold War was coming to an end, the threat of fascism had almost disappeared and Francis Fukuyama could confidently predict that the clashes between fanatical ideologies that had determined the history of humanity would permanently belong to the past. Fortunately (from a liberal point of view) “History” had come to an end. Mussolini had simply been wrong. …

The rebirth of fascism

History, however, is a kaleidoscope of perspectives that change as major new developments force us to rewrite the story of how we interpret it. For suppose we do not see that century of Mussolini as the 20th century, but as the “one hundred years since the beginning of fascism”? Then the story we tell ourselves changes drastically. Because when Fukuyama finalized his article, the civil wars driven by mutual ethnic and religious hatred in Yugoslavia just got underway and [ex Pentagon Iraq war soldier] Timothy McVeigh and David Copeland were preparing for the deadly attacks they would commit in Oklahoma and London respectively.

Both were partly inspired by The Turner Diaries, the fictional diaries of a white racist who becomes a guerrilla fighter for the “Organization” successfully participating in the decisive war at the end of the 20th century. In it, the Aryan majority ultimately defeats all people who are “genetically unfit” by race or ideology and then exterminates them; first in the United States and then in the rest of the world. McVeigh had taken the idea of ​​blowing up a government building with a bomb in a delivery van from that book. It is a kind of modern Mein Kampf dedicated to “the great Adolf Hitler.” In 1998 the Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund (NSU) was established in Germany, a terrorist organization that would commit ten murders

More, according to some estimates.

, three bombings and fourteen bank robberies. Together, these attacks on the rule of law outlined the contours of new forms of fascism that would not be revealed until later.

During the same period, US “alt-right” fascists felt sufficiently strengthened by the rise of officially approved populism in their country to emerge and openly support the president. Supporters of extreme right-wing solutions to the growing worldwide problems of (in)equality and social integration have also found their place under the broad umbrella of the populist organizations that you find today in all Western countries, sometimes even as a government party or coalition partner.

Regarding those who remain faithful to the revolutionary vision of original fascism: some neo-Nazi splinter groups now take the NSU as an example.

Including German policemen.

Other figures act on their own, such as the American Dylann Roof (the perpetrator of the shooting in a black church in Charleston)

Roof was not a ‘lone wolf’.

, the Briton Tom Mair (the neo-Nazi killer of … politician Jo Cox)

Mair was not a ‘lone wolf’.

and the Norwegian Anders Breivik

Breivik was not a ‘lone wolf’.

(who shot dead 69 participants in a socialist summer camp for young people because in his eyes the Workers’ Party had promoted the mass immigration of Muslims). And now last week in New Zealand, Brenton Tarrant created an even more “sophisticated” example for fascist extremists who want to end the “genocide of the white race“. These terrorist attacks show that without being affiliated with a uniformed organization or “leader”, you can conduct powerful “action propaganda” for millennial fantasies of ethnic apartheid, cultural cleansing, forced repatriation, and the final struggle of a race war: an alternative “end of history”. …

Tarrant developed his politicized hatred via the worldwide web, there he gathered information about extremism and terrorism, bought his weapons there, streamed his massacre live and published his “manifesto”. …

This over-estimates the Internet. Tarrant had many conservations with the extreme right when he was in Europe and elsewhere. Before his massacre, he was a member of a New Zealand gun club said to have more extreme right members. That, it is said, provided him with his weapons.

Tarrant’s manifesto shows that neo-Nazism is the primary ingredient: on the first page is the black sun, the logo of “universal” Nazism

Also present in the logo of today’s Ukrainian Azov battalion.

Azov battalion symbol

This picture (also reproduced on the Facebook page of the Dutch NVU nazi party) shows the symbol of the Ukrainian Kiev government’s Azov battalion; source: here. It is the wolfsangel, or wolf’s hook. Which used to be a symbol in Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS. It was also the symbol of the Dutch nazi party NSB in the 1930s and 1940s.

The Azov battalion logo has, behind its black wolfsangel, also another nazi SS symbol, depicted in white: the ‘schwarze Sonne‘ or black sun.

, taken from the pattern on the floor of the northern tower of Wewelsburg castle, which Heinrich Himmler had rebuilt. It looks like a combination of a spider web and a swastika. Multiculturalism and Islam – issues that did not play a role in the Third Reich –

There were very few Muslims in nazi Germany. However, the fight against multiculturalism, then referred to as ‘evil’ Jewish, Roma and other ‘un-German’ influence, was part of nazi ideology.

are the main symptoms of the social decline that must be eliminated. Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the interbellum, is also an important influence for Tarrant. However, there are also contemporary influences. The title of the manifesto is “The Great Replacement”, a reference to the 2012 theory of Renaud Camus: because the birth rate of the “whites” is falling and that of other ethnic groups is rising, Western civilization will gradually fall into barbarism and transform Europe into Eurabia. Tarrant’s example for the ideal terrorist attack against Islamization is Anders Breivik. Like some germs, fascism shows remarkable resilience when it comes to adaptations to the radically changed post-war socio-political environment. Although it is always necessary to be careful with disease metaphors: the Nazis also used them frequently to justify mass eradication. …

If that is the case, then we must conclude that the centenary of the formation of the first fasci is marked by the emergence of an alliance of anti-democratic, anti-pluralist and anti-humanist forces, while the defenders of human rights and egalitarianism are increasingly in the defensive. In some countries they are already standing with their backs to the wall, sometimes even to a prison wall. In that sense, Mussolini’s prediction of a “century of the right” seems less megalomaniac than twenty years ago. For four years, Dutch media such as de Volkskrant were silenced by the occupying power of the Third Reich and its collaborators.

We live in a time when carefully planned fascist acts of terror can provoke horrifying retributions by Islamist counterparts, and where the obsession with “differences” threatens to marginalize the liberal belief in shared humanity. This is not a time when democrats, whether they are religious or not, must keep quiet.

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