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Links 1 through 10 of 29 by Shaun Green tagged fascism

On 25 July 1936, Hitler spent the evening at Bayreuth, attending a performance of Wagner’s Siegfried. On his way back to his guest quarters at Villa Wahnfried, the Wagner family residence, he was introduced to a curious delegation that had arrived from Spanish Morocco. It was led by Johannes Bernhardt, a Nazi businessman who lived in the colony, and included another Nazi businessman and a Spanish air force officer. They had managed to get to Bayreuth with the assistance of the Nazi Party’s foreign policy organisation (the German foreign office had refused to receive them). The three men gave Hitler a short letter from General Franco, who had led a military coup in Morocco – timed to coincide with military uprisings across Spain – but was now stuck in North Africa and unable to get his army across to the mainland. Would Hitler provide transport planes, they asked, along with rifles and anti-aircraft guns?

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Treglown is right that in the recovery of historical memory, there is a danger that the search for truth and dignity will be obscured by the desire for vengeance; he quotes Javier Cercas: ‘It’s easy to say “fucking bastards, fascists”’ – easy, but not helpful. But Treglown has witnessed work that avoids such traps. He visited the small town of Almedinilla, where a new museum has been built to commemorate the Civil War, and volunteers from historical memory groups organise summer camps for young people, where they record interviews with elderly residents about their early memories; Treglown is rightly impressed with the hard work, sensitivity and creativity of the project, but seems not to recognise that it is precisely these benign, bipartisan oral history projects that are criticised by those calling for Spaniards to ‘focus on the future’.

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Francoism as a formal dictatorship is long gone, dispatched by the economic and political interests it served. But what lives on, aside from those same interests, is a particular sociological configuration of power which has never been truly challenged, above all not in its overweening sense of a quasi-hereditary right to rule. This exists today in its most unadulterated form in the Popular Party’s stronghold of Madrid, where politics has retreated into a time warp that reflects the establishment’s desire to keep politics as a concern of the old ‘families’ and their historic if now vestigial social base. It remains to be seen whether Podemos, the anti-establishment party born of the multi-form, socially radical street protest movement of 2011, can break into the closed political system in this year’s general election.

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A common and still widely accepted story of the origin of the Second World War is that it was the direct result of what happened in 1919 at the end of the Great War. The French were recklessly vengeful towards the defeated, the British callously indifferent to what was happening on the Continent, and the Americans smugly isolationist. The Allies made Germany sign a humiliating treaty and forced it to pay exorbitant reparations, enabling the rise of the Nazis to power. In this version the 1920s were merely the interlude before the consequences of a deeply flawed and wicked peace came home to roost. It is much too simple an explanation of course – apart from anything else what was everyone doing in those years? – and fails to take into account both the very real difficulties which faced the peacemakers in a world turned upside down by the Great War and the very real promise of the 1920s that the world would recover and build a stable international order.

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In Kalamata I introduce myself as an American neo-fascist with a strong interest in Greek history. Sceptically at first, later with fervour, a few members of the Golden Dawn invite me to attend meetings. Their offices tend to be located off main squares, usually in residential buildings in quiet neighbourhoods. Large Greek flags hang on the walls, along with news clippings and redrawn maps: Greece in possession of Skopje and bits of Bulgaria, Greece in possession of northern Turkey, Greece in possession of Cyprus and southern Albania. Swastikas (‘ancient Greek symbols’) are everywhere: on pencil-holders, clock faces, a paperweight. On the walls of a room in Gytheio there are reproductions of Hitler’s watercolours. Last autumn, two Dawners were gunned down by Athenian anarchists. Their profiles are pasted on refrigerators and desk drawers. No one says their names. They are just the Athanatoi, the ‘deathless ones’. Kala palikaria itan, the older Dawners murmur. ‘Those were good lads.’ They cross themselves.

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Last year I spent some time in a nice country with an aggressively tin pot government.  The intellectuals there said, "it isn't a question of 'fascism or not', but of 'how much fascism'". And so the question is: how much fascism is there in Israel?  I don't mean, how fascist is the Israeli government, since there is no way to make sense of such a question.  A state is either fascist or it isn't.  I mean, how much is fascism becoming a mainstream, everyday, accepted part of the political culture?

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Following his victory in Bradford West, George Galloway's article in the Morning Star argued that the conjunctural factors making his success possible were the same that are undoing the neoliberal consensus in France and Greece, and shortly across the EU. There are, caveats aside, obvious parallels between Galloway and Mélenchon; we will see whether a UK equivalent to the Left Front emerges. If yesterday's election results in Paris are anything to go by, you might think this a rather worrying comparison. Not only did Mélenchon not receive the 15-17% the polls promised him (far less the 19-24% an internal government poll prophesied back in April), but the Front National gained a fifth of the vote.

We should keep this in perspective.

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Well, what more is involved in 'national socialist' politics?  Nationalism, anticommunism, anti-liberalism, patriarchy, homophobia, strains of virulent biological racism other than antisemitism, social Darwinism, extreme political authoritarianism, class chauvinism, contempt for the poor and weak, etc.  It is absolutely correct to identify and attack the vicious antisemitism involved in such Nazi performance, particularly as it was a Jewish student who was assaulted.  But antisemitism won't stand in for every evil of Nazism.  I think what's really going on with such people is not just antisemitism, but more fundamentally a certain admiration for supermen, hatred for the weak and vulnerable, enjoyment in the imperial bunting, the festivities and aesthetics of domination and hierarchy.  It's not fascism, but the licensed pleasure of a class on the offensive, people who are intent on clinging on to everything they have and taking more, exhaling with gratification and relief as the opposition is violently policed, or bombed.

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The evidence of UAF placards being hosted on Whitechapel market stalls and in business windows is suggestive of hard work having paid off.  Activists spent weekends giving out thousands of leaflets, holding rallies and meetings, and working hard to consolidate support for this sort of response to the EDL.  One of the major rallies hosted over a thousand people in the East London Mosque just one week after Breivik went on the rampage, and featured Norwegian socialists and trade unionists urging East Enders not to allow fascists and racists to march on Tower Hamlets.  That argument was evidently won among large numbers of people, and it counteracted the pressure to wind down the counter-demonstration and leave it to the police.  This is how racists and fascists are defeated: patient, grassroots work, preparing the ideological terrain, organising coalitions and disorganising the opponents' strategies as much as possible. 

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John Reith, the founding father of the BBC, made much of the democratic potential of broadcasting. His concept of democracy however was rather unconventional.  In May 1933 he told an audience at Manchester University that in his view: ‘A man may be as good a democrat as any other and yet reject, in the light of philosophy, history or experience, democratic process to accomplish democratic ends’ [1]  Two years later he made a similar remark praising Mussolini for his pursuit of ‘high democratic purpose by means which though not democratic, were the only possible ones.’ [2] Reith’s fascist sympathies did not end there. Like many other British elites of that period he was quite open about his admiration for Hitler, and according to his daughter Marista Leishman, having been effectively ousted from the BBC, he came to believe that his personal calling was for dictatorship.

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