Saturday, September 17, 2011

Slice Four: European Semi-Fascists

This leads to the darkest and ugliest form of right-wing nationalism that both despises the liberal, cosmopolitan Jewish tradition, even as it supports Israel and Zionism – the European anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim parties, which reach degrees of nastiness that in the U.S. would not be tolerated in mainstream religion or politics, but are relegated to the margins.

I will admit to not following these European parties much, but they take a growingly nasty, semi-fascist tone. They belong to a longstanding and ugly European traditional of blood and soil nationalism, one that has a deep-seated tradition of anti-Semitism, distrusting the Jew as liberal cosmopolite without national loyalty. The current version is much the same, only it substitutes Muslims for Jews as the internal enemy and passionately supports Israel. The old hatred for the liberal cosmopolitan Jew remains, but with the assurance that they hate liberal, cosmopolitan Jews only because they are liberal and cosmopolitan, not because they are Jewish. The distinction between the good Jew and the bad Jew is made far more explicit than any mainstream politician or religious figure in the United States would dare.

To take the most exteme example, consider Anders Breivik. Jews and Zionism were not his primary concern when he opened filre on Norway's Labor Party youth, but the subject did appea in his manifesto. One commentator remarks:

Breivik's "Zionism" coexists with a virulent brand of selective anti-Semitism -- one that sees Jews as likely carriers of cosmopolitan, nontraditional values and targets liberal Jews for special loathing. In his discussion of Nazism, Breivik agrees that most German and European Jews in the 1930s were "disloyal" -- "similar to the liberal Jews today." Hitler's error, he believes, was to lump the "good" Jews with the "bad," instead of rewarding the former with a Jewish homeland in a Muslim-free Palestine.

As for the present, Breivik estimates that about three-quarters of European and American Jews, and about half of Israeli Jews, "support multiculturalism"; he urges fellow nationalists to "embrace the remaining loyal Jews as brothers rather than repeating the mistake of" the Nazis. What to do with today's "disloyal" Jews, he does not say.
Another quotes him as saying“[P]lease learn the difference between a nation-wrecking multiculturalist Jew and a conservative Jew…Never target a Jew because he is a Jew, but rather because he is a category A or B traitor.” Both observe that Breivik is by no means alone. The semi-fascist English Defense League harasses Muslims and is led by a Holocaust denier, but engages in pro-Zionist demonstations. >Meanwhile “a Belgian politician known for his contacts with SS veterans, an Austrian with neo-Nazi ties, and a Swede whose political party has deep roots in Swedish fascism,” met with members of the Israeli Knesset to express solidarity with their stuggle against Arabs.

What is going on? The most obvious answer is simply that Muslims have replaced Jews as the accepted scapegoat and since Israel is a Western outpost fighting the Muslim hoards, it must be an ally. Certainly, I think there is a great deal of truth to that, but I do not think it is the whole truth. The other part of it is that nationalists, even as they define themselves by their enemies, often each other, have a strong affinity for each other just beneath the surface.

At the risk of offending Godwin’s Law, Europe, say, 1870 to 1940 is a fine example. It was in the later 19th Century that right wing and nationalist became synonymous. * Indeed, the right wing's great claim to legitimacy was that they were more patriotic than their rivals. Right wing nationalists, if ever they seemed intellectually unfashionable, might comfort themselves with the thought that liberals with their belief in universal human rights, and socialists, with their international brotherhood of labor, might talk a good game, but can they be counted on when the chips are really down? When the test comes, we’ll see who really stands by their country in its hour of peril.**

Then Hitler invaded, and a funny thing happened. Liberals and socialists patriotically stood up for their countries, while right wing hyper-nationalists all turned out to be a pack of traitors! The remnants (and descendants) of French anti-Dreyfussards, -- who in the 19th Century fiercely protected France from one Jew falsely accused of spying for the Germans -- now collaborated en masse with German occupiers. To this day, French ultra-nationalist Jean Marie Le Pen defends the German occupation as not "particularly inhuman." The same pattern held across much of Europe -- the Arrow Cross in Hungary, the Iron Guard in Romania, the Ustasha in Croatia, Quisling's Nasjonal Samling in Norway and an impressive host of other ultra-nationalists, who regularly impugned the patriotism of their opponents, showed that they came to powe by opening collaberating with Nazi invaders. Even the extreme Zionist Lehi approached the Nazis in 1940 to propose an alliance -- Nazis would sent European Jews to Israel and cooperate with them in expelling the British!

Why should this be so? It is easy enough to explain for the liberals – they saw Hitler as an obvious threat to universal human rights. Likewise the Socialists *** saw his hype-nationalism as anathema to an international brotherhood of – well, anything. But why were so many right wing hyper-nationalists the first to cut a deal with the Nazis?

The reasons are varied. In some cases, no doubt they acted out of sincerely patriotic motives, believing that resistance was hopeless than their best chance was to cut the best deal possible. But certainly they would have accepted no such excuses if the positions had been reversed, and the liberals or socialists had been the collaborators and the right wing the resistance. Others defined themselves in terms of some enemy other than Germany and were willing to accept German support on the theory that thine enemy’s enemy shall be thy friend. But it must have become apparent before long that Germany was a far worse enemy than – well, whoever else they opposed. I can only assume that in the end, right wing super-nationalists so often turned out to be traitors who collaborated with Hitler because at some level they saw him as a kindred spirit and liked what he stood for.

As I say, it's easy to call Godwin on these comments and to accuse me of comparing support for Israel with collaboration with Hitler. That is not what I mean. I mean, rather, that ultra-nationalist cooperation with the Nazis is only the most extreme example of all ultra-nationalists being much alike under the skin. And I am saying that European semi-fascists are fond of Israel’s most hard line Likudniks, not out of any inherent fondness for Israel or Jews, but simply because they respect and admire hard line nationalism in all its forms. They despise liberal, cosmopolitan Jews because they recognize libeal cosmopolitanism, not rival nationalism, is the true opponent of ultra-nationalism. And who knows, maybe if push comes to shove, they will discover that Islamic nationalism, too, is a kindred spirit.

*It was not always so. More on this in my next post.
**Am I being anachronistic here, attributing to late 19th and early 20th Century right wingers the aggrieved resentment at being intellectually unfashionable that obviously so roils the American right today? Mayber, But I am inclined to think that this sort of siege mentality is an important part of right wing authoritarian thinking in any age.
***By socialists, I refer mostly to the Social Democrats, who retained enough of Marx to continue believing in an international brotherhood of labor (and to recognize that it could be preserved only by avoiding international wars), but not enough to take the whole revolution and class warfare too seriously. Communists, by contrast, were little more than Soviet agents. They opposed Hitler when they got the order, but no sooner.

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