This section includes book reviews of 600-900 words, as well as some book notes of 100-200 words, on books of particular interest to the members of our group. If members either have a review that they consider of interest to the SG, or a recent book of their own, which they would like to see reviewed in the newsletter, please contact Cas Mudde at: email@example.com.
Christoph Burgmer (ed.,) Rassismus in der Diskussion. Berlin: Elefanten Press 1999, 176 pp., DM 25.00, ISBN 3-88520-730-3 (pbk).
Reviewed by Andreas Umland (Ural State University at Yekaterinburg)
In this short collection of nine interviews, Christoph Burgmer has assembled a number of prominent European specialists and one US-American expert on racism in the contemporary Western world. All the main sub-fields and issues of contention in racism are presented in a succinct way. Burgmer examines the history of racism with Robert Miles (Glasgow), the construction of 'the other' with Edward W. Said (New York), the relationship between colonialism and racism with Albert Memmi (Paris), xenophobia in Germany with the writer Günter Grass (Germany), anti-Semitism with Wolfgang Benz (Berlin), antigypsism with Wolfgang Wippermann (Berlin), the relationship of sexism and racism with Birgit Rommelspacher (Berlin), racism in the mass media and among elites with Teun A. van Djik (Amsterdam) and the relationship between cultural identity and racism with Stuart Hall (Birmingham).
Almost all of the contributions are dense discussions of some of the most pressing issues in racism studies, such as the range of ascriptive ideas covered by the concept of racism, or the spread of racist stereotypes in the thinking of 'ordinary people' in contemporary Western Europe and North America. One of the less persuasive contributions is that of Albert Memmi, who extends the concept of racism to assertions about the morphological and sexual difference between men and women (p. 46), which is in open contradiction to, for instance, the contribution of Rommelspacher. He compares human society with animal groups, and says at one point: "Lions too drive out non-lions from their group." (p. 51) Racism, in Memmi's interpretation, becomes a fluid, over-stretched concept that loses much of its cognitive value.
This notwithstanding, Burgmer's little booklet can be recommended as a rich collection of a wide variety of partly conflicting interpretations, evaluations, definitions, and explanations of racism. It can serve as a useful tool for those who need a concise overview of the prominent issues discussed in contemporary racism studies.
Alexander Cockburn, Jeffrey St. Clair and Allan Sekula, 5 Days That Shook the World. Seattle and Beyond. London; New York: Verso, 2000, 119 pp., GBP 12.00, ISBN 1-85984-779-X (pbk).
Reviewed by Cas Mudde (University of Edinburgh)
This is one of the several booklets published in the aftermath of the "Battle of Seattle", in which sympathisers or activists describe life in the anti-globalisation movement. This collection of essays mainly provides personal accounts of three US anti-globalisation demonstrations; against the WTO meeting in Seattle (November-December 1999), against the World Bank talks in Washington DC (April 2000), and outside the National Democratic Convention in Los Angeles (August 2000). The central question of the book is: how successful was Seattle?
The picture created is one of heroism, camaraderie and victory of the anti-globalisation "street warriors", on the one hand, and of cowardice, panic and violence of the police (and 'the establishment' more generally), on the other hand. In addition, the 'moderate' anti-globalisation forces are scorned for withdrawing support from "the true heroes of the Battle of Seattle" (p.59), thereby preventing an even bigger victory.
Though this book is mainly a (at times pathetic) display of self-celebration, written for sympathisers, within the thick cloud of propaganda and bravura is at least some insight into the practices of the various groups that make up the US scene. And, as long as anti-globalisation movements remain to be largely ignored by academics, this is some of the best information one can find.
George E. Lowe, It Can Happen Here: A Fascist Christian America. 2 vols., 2000, 492 & 264 pp., USD16.00/ISBN 0-7388-2926-9 (pbk); USD 25.00/ISBN 0-7388-2925-0 (hbk); USD 8.00/ISBN 0-7388-9830-9 (e-book) (per volume).
Reviewed by Russell F. Farnen (University of Hartford)
This book explores traditionalists vs. fundamentalists, Nazi precedents for Christian fascism, what a fascist Christian America looks like, old and new doctrines like anti-Semitism such as in the New (versus the 'Jew') World Order, and other heresies necessary to understand why and how America is moving toward fascist authoritarianism. This book is an eye opener and a good read.
The title is based on the antithetical viewpoint expressed in Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here (describing right-wing politicians and their fundamentalist supporters who tried to take-over the US government). Lowe maintains that danger is real in contemporary America. US religious fundamentalists control many politicians so their biblical views are linked to Reagan's and (George W.) Bush's Star Wars, SDI, and ABM plans. These are manifestations of their quest to allow saved, born-again Americans to experience the rapture and survive a nuclear strike against the 'rogues' in Iran, North Korea, China, or Russia. Lowe concludes, "If we are not to be subjected to another and even more dangerous president, it is imperative that the intellectual, political, and journalistic leaders of our imperilled nation closely examine the lessons of this book" (p.14).
This book can be bought from XLibris Corporation, through their website: http://www.xlibris.com
Leonid Luks (ed.), Der Spätstalinismus und die 'jüdische Frage': Zur antisemitischen Wendung des Kommunismus. Schriften des Zentralinstituts für Mittel- und Osteuropastudien 3. Cologne, Weimar, Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 1998, 293pp., DM 58.00, ISBN 3-412-01998-4 (pbk).
Reviewed by Andreas Umland (Ural State University)
The collection, to which Luks contributes a brief foreword, contains in the following order: a revealing victim's report on Stalinist anti-Semitism; a pertinent analysis of the emergence of Stalinist anti-Semitism; an informative report on documents on the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee; an investigation into how much the Soviet people knew about the Holocaust; a close analysis of the 'doctors' plot' affair; a description of elements of the destruction of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee; some remarks on the relationship between the Soviet Union and Israel in 1945-53; revealing victims' observations on the fate of the Jews of the Baltics in 1945-53; an analysis of the Slánsky trial; a brief description of the situation in which the Hungarian Jews found themselves after 1945; and appraisals of communist policy towards the Jewish minority of Rumania in 1944-53, and of the relationship between Polish and East German Stalinisms and the so-called Jewish question. A survey by Luks of the ambiguities in the rise of Stalinist anti-Semitism concludes the collection.
The essays are of varying depth and length and constitute an incomplete mosaic rather than a complete picture of the phenomenon. Nevertheless, in so far as most contributions are informative and relevant, this book will become obligatory reading for everybody interested in the subject, and the editor is to be congratulated for assembling such a multi-faceted collection of contributions. It should receive wide attention in Sovietology, Jewish studies and among students of nationalist movements, extremist political ideologies and totalitarian regimes.
Jens Mecklenburg (ed.), Braune Gefahr: DVU, NPD, REP - Geschichte und Zukunft. Berlin: Elefanten Press, 1999, 304 pp., DM39.90, ISBN 3-88520-721-4 (pbk).
Reviewed by Andreas Umland (Ural State University)
Bernd Wagner's two very informative essays on East Germany set the standard for this book which brings together a number of excellent contributions. In the first part, Jens Mecklenburg and Fabian Virchow introduce the DVU, Benno Hafeneger the NPD, and Hajo Funke and Claudia Dammann Die Republikaner. In the second part, Ralf Ptak analyses the socio-economic aspects of these parties' programmes and rhetoric, and Richard Stöss, Benno Hafeneger and Trosten Niebling the candidates and results of the extreme-right in the 1998 Bundestag elections. Christoph Butterwege and Benno Hafeneger examine the activities of right-wing extremists in regional and local parliaments, while Claudia Dammann investigates the success of the extreme-right among trade union members and Frank Jansen reports on 'everyday experiences' of right-wing extremism in East Germany. Wolfgang Wippermann criticises the approach of the German Verfassungsschutz (constitutional protection organisation), and 'extremism studies' to the problem of right-wing extremism. Hajo Funke concludes the volume by proposing a four-point programme of action against right-wing extremism.
Among the most interesting of the chapters are those by Ralf Ptak and Claudia Dammann that link the ultra-nationalist and socio-economic dimensions of the extreme-right's programmes. Ptak argues that economics has been a secondary, subordinate issue to ethnocentric politics, while Claudia Dammann uncovers a variety of effects that trade union membership has on support for the far-right, which challenge the traditional stereotype of trade unionism as a shield against right-wing extremism.
In conclusion, Mecklenburg's collection can be characterised as a very timely, varied and informative contribution to the study of contemporary German right-wing extremism that will become an obligatory point of reference for future studies in this field.
Michael Minkenberg, Die neue radikale Rechte im Vergleich. USA, Frankreich, Deutschland, Opladen: Westdeutscher, 1998, 411 pp., DM 54.00, ISBN 3-531-13227 (pbk).
Reviewed by Cas Mudde (University of Edinburgh)
Over the past decade, the German political scientist Michael Minkenberg has made a name for himself with several high-quality English language comparative articles. Most tended to be part of a larger study, which was published in 1998 in German under the title "The New Radical Right in Comparison. USA, France, Germany". It is the most comprehensive study on the topic so far; theoretically well-grounded and written with empirical rigour. As a classic Habilschrift, it is not an easy read. However, his thorough and insightful discussion of the contemporary radical right in all its aspects (political parties, social movements, and intellectuals) does make it essential reading.
Though some might be put off by the strict 'Inglehartian' theoretical framework, and question the homogeneity of the different aspects of the radical right, it can only be hoped that the author will publish an English version soon, as this book should be core reading for all scholars of the contemporary extreme right.
Kyösti Pekonen (ed.), The New Radical Right in Finland. Helsinki: Finnish Political Science Association, 1999, 225 pp., USD 20.00, ISBN 951-96131-9-6 (pbk).
Reviewed by Cas Mudde (University of Edinburgh)
Until now, Finland has been one of the forgotten countries in the comparative study of the contemporary extreme right. This book will, despite its limited circulation, hopefully end this. It includes much needed information on both the 'new' and the 'old' radical right in Finland, and attempts to discover (a) whether Finland is an exception to the current upsurge of radical right parties in Western Europe, and (b) if so, why this is. In addition to some fairly weak theoretical, conceptual, or comparative chapters, the book includes various interesting and useful case studies of radical right organisations as well as of radical trends within (parts of) Finnish society.
Although the book is mainly written by experts of Finnish politics in general, rather than of the (Finnish) extreme right, and includes a lot of repetition and some awkward English, The New Radical Right in Finland is a vital addition to the international literature on the radical right and will hopefully enable the integration of Finland into the wider comparative study of the phenomenon.
For more information about how to order the book, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Slavoj Zizek, Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? London; New York, Verso, 2001, 280 pp., GBP Ł16.00 (hbk), ISBN 1-85984-792-7.
Roger Eatwell (University of Bath)
Terry Eagleton's endorsement on the back cover should serve as a warning for anyone who approaches this book expecting a relatively conventional discussion of the totalitarian model. Eagleton describes Zizek as: 'The most formidably brilliant exponent of psychoanalysis, indeed of cultural theory in general, to emerge from Europe in some decades.' The result is a predictable mix of insight and rambling, vague and often banal assertions. Zizek begins from the common Marxist attack on the totalitarian model as a means of de-legitimising the leftist critique of liberal democracy. There is unquestionably an element of truth in this, although it must be added that among some social scientists the totalitarian model has come back into favour in recent years (admittedly often conservative ones, such as Giovanni Sartori). Zizek scores some good points against recent intellectual fashions, such as post-modernism. However, most students of empirical politics, or comparative political science, will struggle to make much of many of the gems in this book, such as (p.252): 'The hard lesson of Virtual Sex is not that we no longer have "real sex", intense contact with another person's body, simply a stimulation engendered by substanceless images which bombard us from the screen. Rather, it is the much more uncomfortable discovery that there never was "real sex".' Big Brother has clearly been fooling me for years!
Edward J. Arnold, (ed.), The Development of the Radical Right in France: From Boulanger to Le Pen. London; New York: Macmillan; St. Martin's, 2000, 312 pp., GBP 47.50, ISBN 0-3337-9037-5 (hbk).
Martin A. Schain (New York University)
The Development of the Radical Right in France tells us a great deal about the ideas that have united the large variety of radical right movements during the past 120 years, but very little about the development of these ideas and the political forces that have drawn upon them. The fourteen essays in this volume (including a preface by the editor) are uniformly interesting, and occasionally brilliant, but they are connected only by a number of overlapping ideas.
Nevertheless, the themes that unite these essays give us a snapshot of what has linked these manifestations of what Pascal Perrineau has called national-populism in France. The first and most important of these themes is what it means to be part of the French nation. All of the movements analysed in this volume have professed some form of biological/racial determinism. In this sense, France is a closed nation, under siege by 'foreigners' both within and without. The second theme, decadence and corruption, follows from this. The essential French nation is plagued by a disease that is fomented by a conspiracy (the third theme) within the political system. Therefore, it follows that only revolutionary restoration can overcome the conspiracy and cure the disease.
Thus, what is extreme about the extreme right is its revolutionary, anti-system orientation. Nevertheless, for most of the period covered by this volume, the radical right has been marginal and unable to mobilise large numbers of followers and/or voters. Only under the Fifth Republic has the radical right demonstrated the ability to mobilise large numbers of voters and become a political force in the normal interplay of democratic politics. However, the National Front has neither advocated nor sought the overthrow of the regime.
Roger Griffin argues broadly that the new right in Europe and France has cleverly adapted its ideas and strategies to "a post-war political habitat that is inhospitable to overtly racist, anti-liberal, and revolutionary demands for the overthrow of liberal democracy and the creation of a new order." (241) Nevertheless, he is reassured by their inability to disguise their kinship with inter-war fascism, because this will inevitably condemn them to be systematically marginalised. However, this ignores Pascal Perrineau’s analysis of the political success of the National Front, and the ability of the radical right in France to define the agenda of what he calls "the closed society," and to alter the boundaries of the left-right divide. This is supported by the analysis of Jean-Yves Camus, who argues that the fundamental difference between the historical extreme right in France, and that which emerged in the 1980s, is less that of political success, but rather "a revolution in mentalities." The former had been reduced to a marginal political force that represented the ideas of the past. The latter is capable of seeing itself as a force fit for governing with alternative ideas that are widely accepted. (213) Indeed, under these circumstances, the democratic process (historically opposed by the extreme right) works for them, and reinforces the new variation on old themes.
The essays on previous epochs in France suggest that although the movements and ideas of the extreme right were generally marginal, they were not external to the political system, and at several key moments they were carried and reinforced by political actors who emerged from the republican tradition, most notably during Vichy and during the period of (and just after) the Algerian War. What is striking about the accounts of these periods is the way in which the radical right program became important in the hands of those who did not come from its marginal tradition. As the perceptive essay by Chebel d'Appollonia emphasizes (189), this perspective tends to reinforce the historical view of Vichy as a manifestation of the very French "...nationalist, authoritarian and xenophobic tradition that it represented." Similarly, as Jean-Yves Camus points out, although the movement that opposed Algerian independence was led by officers with "irreproachable credentials as resistance fighters," the ideas and many of the emerging personalities of the extreme right "... orchestrated the Algerian conflict, which took on a particular meaning in their overall view of the world." (209) Ultimately, this movement initiated the political expression of an anti-arab racism that forms the core component of extreme-right ideology today. (210)
In many ways, Pascal Perrineau's brilliant and suggestive essay is a fine conclusion to this volume. He emphasises that the electoral success of the extreme right is related to a new social and economic climate in European societies, i.e. a post-industrial form of individualism. The development of a more open, more diverse, more global society and economy has generated an electorate of those who feel they have been ‘winners’ in this process, and those who feel that they are in the process of progressively losing ground. "The Front National understood well before other parties that a new divide was in the process of being implemented and is now occupying the front lines of the closed society." (269) This divide, he argues, has been solidified by an updated version of classic extreme right ideology.
In conclusion, this collection of fine essays deserves to be read and pondered.
Sarah Ashwin, Russian Workers: The Anatomy of Patience. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1999, 224 pp., GBP 40.00, ISBN 0-7190-5611-X (hbk).
Reviewed by Vlad Mykhnenko (University of Cambridge)
The issue of the alleged patience of East Europeans under brutal social consequences of post-communism has recently attracted wide attention from the academic community. Russian Workers is a long awaited and thorough case study in a field previously occupied mostly by broad international or even inter-continental comparisons. Sarah Ashwin's book is a product of an intensive ethnographic study of a Siberian coal mine at 'Vishnovka', the most southern Kuzbass town of Kaltan.
The book's primary concern is "the puzzle of workers' passivity in the face of the assault on their living standards in the post-communist period" (p. 27). Ashwin's question is "not so much why workers do not protest – in extreme circumstances they do – but why the action that they do take is so ineffective" (p. 2). Weak workers' organisational capacities are claimed to be the central problem in this regard. Thus, Ashwin "attempts to explain both the failure of the official trade unions and the reasons why workers have proved unable either to reform the former communist trade unions from below or to form their own organisations" (p. 2).
The first chapter provides an extensive theoretical discussion about Soviet social stability and workers' integration under state socialism. The next two chapters introduce and describe in every possible detail the coal mining community under investigation, stressing the fundamental role the mine plays in the village. The author’s penetrating sociological analysis as well as her in-depth knowledge of local everyday life provide the reader with a vivid picture of Russia’s depressing post-communist reality. The depictions vary greatly; from post-shift drinking sessions of miners to their yearning for a true khozyain- "a paternalist of god-like beneficence, who has an interest not only in profit, but also in stewardship" (p. 74).
Chapter 4 considers some attempts made by the local trade unions to adapt to the new economic conditions, while chapter 5 concludes that neither the mine nor the shop trade union committees effectively represent workers: "instead they function mainly as part of the social and welfare infrastructure of the enterprise" (p. 119). Chapter 6 claims that the existence of a 'contradictory' consciousness among workers, inherited from the communist system, explains why workers have not organised outside the union to defend their interests. Ashwin explains that "workers identify strongly with the ideal of the united labour collective despite their acute awareness of the deep division which exists within this supposedly solidaristic entity" (p. 121). In Chapter 7 the author asks why it has proved impossible for workers to realise their collectivist potential even at the grass roots. The specific contradictory consciousness again comes into play: "in the same way as the director is seen as the 'representative' of the enterprise in the 'outside world', line management represent the interests of collectives within the enterprise" (p. 36). Chapter 8 questions other alternatives used by workers to survive under post-communism, besides the apparently failed self-organisation. Workers appear to adopt complementary strategies of individual salvation through secondary employment or domestic food production. On the other hand, they continue to be locked into 'paternalist authoritarianism' and 'alienated symbolic collectivism' inherited from the past.
Thus, the main claim of this book is that the relative patience of Russian workers "is not primarily a personal or a strategic failure, but is a structural problem, related to the form of trade unions’ insertion within the communist system" (p. 17). The author's answer lies in the position of the enterprise within the post-Soviet economy, when "trade unions end up representing the interests of the labour collective as a 'supplicatory unity' rather than the specific interests of workers" (p. 181). Ashwin maintains that since the enterprise is generally regarded as a besieged entity rather than a profit-making concern, "the director remains a father figure, expected to protect the remnants of the labour collective from the chill winds of neo-liberalism" (p. 186). Given the growing fragmentation of the Russian working class, the book’s conclusion inspires no particular hopes for workers to ever realise their interests in collective self-organisation.
There are only a few weaknesses in this book. Ashwin begins with a statement that is taken for granted among Western commentators of the Left, that is "Communism was replaced by the 'market Bolshevik' practice of the reformers and their sponsors in the international financial institutions, according to which the creation of a market economy took priority over […] the immediate well-being of the population" (p. vii). Nonetheless, the author does not pay much attention to the alleged neo-liberal policies of Russian 'market Bolsheviks' nor does she elaborate on the correlation between market economy and the well-being of the people. The World Bank is attacked occasionally for its advice to restructure the coal industry and close loss-making mines, since such policies endanger "the fate of the generations thus condemned to a life without work" (p. 56). Unfortunately, the reader is left wondering whether there are other ways to sort out the dying industry.
This notwithstanding, Ashwin fully achieved her stated aim to solve the puzzle of workers' passivity. This admirable purpose, the enormous number of conducted interviews as well as in-depth treatment of the ethnographic data make this volume a unique study of the radical social changes taking place in Russia. It is well organised, well structured, clearly written, and is suited for an advanced audience of Eastern European politics, sociology, and social anthropology.
Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, New York and London: The Guilford Press, 2000, 499 pp., USD 21.95/ USD 42.00, ISBN: 1-57230-562-2 (pbk)/1-57230-568-1 (hbk).
Reviewed by Simon Baalham (Oxford Brookes University)
This book packs a great deal of history and a wide variety of taxonomic strata of groups between its covers. Starting in 1676 with a rebellion in the Virginia colony that resulted in the issuance of a 'Declaration of the People' it finishes up with the Clinton impeachment trial and millennial hysteria at the end of the last century.
Whatever the omissions, and they are inevitable in a book covering such a broad canvas, its strength lies in the way it tracks the core issues that link these disparate elements. These are racist and anti-Semitic forms of xenophobia bent on identifying a scapegoat for society's ills; a type of economic ethic Berlet and Lyons refer to as producerism, "a doctrine that champions the so-called producers in a society against both 'unproductive' elites and subordinate groups defined as lazy or immoral" (p6); the application of a conspiracy theory to explain the decadent state of society; and the tendency to view time, especially the immediate future, in terms of millennial crisis.
By organising their material around these Leitmotivs the authors produce a coherent and highly readable survey of the bewildering profusion of phenomena associated with both revolutionary and reactionary forms of populism, as well as its religious and secular manifestations. The way these seemingly antithetical positions and perceptions, held by numerous different groups, interact and machinate is brilliantly and concisely illustrated in Appendix B (p.419), showing in graphic form how the far right of the Republican party today can, on certain issues, be in sympathy with neo-Nazi groups such as the National Alliance. This is important because it extends and redefines the boundaries of the discipline, both temporally and geographically, for those theorists who believe that fascism was not confined to inter-war Europe.
At first sight this approach might seem rather simplistic and heuristically unhelpful. After all the left is just as capable of mobilising fear and anxiety in order to court the populist constituency as the far right. However, the authors display astute understanding of the sharp distinction between conservative groups that perceive their national community to be in need of protection from threats to its cohesion and moral health and those for whom its revolutionary transformation can safeguard the future.
This analysis draws on Roger Griffin's model of fascism, which identifies its core as the vision of national palingenesis or rebirth. However, the authors introduce a significant modification to his model by stressing the structural affinity of the myth of national rebirth to that of apocalyptic Christianity. This results in them labelling some religious millennialists as fascist. Although this taxonomy works well for groups such as Aryan Nations, whose highly racist version of Christianity is tied up with the idea of a racially pure nation state, their assertion that Christian Reconstructionists are fascists is more questionable. Intolerance, prejudice, and the aim of establishing an undemocratic theocratic state does not make them fascist according to any current model of fascism other than the one explored by Walter Laqueur in Fascism: Past Present and Future according to which Islamic fundamentalism represents a 'new' variant of the genus. Their persecution of the dreaded other is based on belief, not race, ethnicity or nationality. This would classify Christian Reconstructionists in the same heuristic category as fundamentalist Muslims such as the Taliban, whose judgement of people is based on the conviction that the non-believer is errant and requires enlightenment. This contrasts with the bigotry of cultural and biological racism which sees a person’s cultural or genetic heritage respectively, as the main criterion for assessing his or her worth as a human being.
Where the book does work well is in its undermining of the old paradigm of left/right politics. To this end it illuminates the racism of trade unions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and traces the introduction of Third Positionist politics right across the marginalised political spectrum of modern America. The main value of this volume to political scientists and historians alike is that it provides a comprehensive overview of a radical right political culture which over the last four hundred years has at certain moments had a major role in shaping the ethos and policies of mainstream politics, even if it has frequently remained marginalised from them. The analysis substantiates the assumption that these groups are linked but is drawn sharply enough to distinguish the truly revolutionary from the extremely reactionary.
However, it is to the political activist fighting the far right that this book is most pertinent, which is not surprising considering the backgrounds of the two authors. The danger of enacting knee-jerk draconian measures to combat racism and fascism are no more clearly defined than by the creation of the House of Un-American Activities and the acts of accompanying legislation passed to fight the extreme 'Patriotic' right e.g. the Ku Klux Klan, and Fascist and Nazi sympathisers in the1930s. It was these tools Joseph McCarthy used in the following decades to attack the left and centrist ground in American politics. The book emphasises the need to take marginal repugnant views seriously in order to combat them. As the authors point out, many of them arise from legitimate grievances. Addressing these problems together with rehabilitative education is the only real solution.
Costa Pinto, Antonio, The Blueshirts: Portuguese Fascists and the New State, Boulder: Social Science Monographs, 2000, 271 pp., USD 34.50, ISBN 0-888033-928-9 (hbk).
Reviewed by Tom Gallagher (University of Bradford)
In Portugal, the Blue Shirts (also known as the National Syndicalist movement) briefly threatened the conservative Catholic dictatorship of Dr. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar in the early 1930s. Radical right-wingers who saw themselves as authentic fascists were bitterly disappointed by Salazar. His main aim was to minimise change and maximise stability by using the police state methods of the twentieth century to keep alive an essentially nineteenth century social order.
Antonio Costa Pinto has produced a well-researched profile of the Blueshirts, offering stimulating comparisons with other fascist movements. The lengthy first chapter traces the origins of National Syndicalism back to the Lusitanian Integralist movement which provided the chief intellectual opposition to the liberal republic which was in existence from 1910 to 1926. The Integralists were dominated by aristocrats and landowners and were firmly elitist in their intellectual outlook. The youngest among their number, Francisco Rolao Preto (aged 17 when Integralism emerged in 1914) fell under the influence of Georges Sorel and Georges Valois. Much of Preto’s efforts were expended on 'nationalising' the working class. But the Portuguese Right was not galvanised by the threat of red revolution, as would be the case next-door in Spain. The lengthy first chapter further includes profiles of the bewilderingly numerous series of right-wing groups which sprang to life during the final years of the parliamentary republic. The author convincingly shows why conservatives had the initiative over fascists in the military dictatorship that followed the 1926 coup:
"There are structural conditions specific to Portuguese social and political developments from the end of the nineteenth century onwards that obviously differentiate this case from those where classic fascism emerged... Portugal embarked on the turbulent period after the First World War without experiencing some of the contradictions between domestic and foreign policy highlighted by studies of fascism. The 'national question' in Portugal, for example, had been solved. 'State' and 'nation' were unified reflecting the country's homogeneity. There were no national or ethnic minorities. Portugal did not wish to alter its frontiers…It embarked on the 'age of the masses' without experiencing the radicalisation generally associated with the rise of fascist movements." (pp. 48-9)
Chapter 2 describes how the Blueshirts emerged as a revolutionary alternative with a programme largely borrowed from Italy and France. Their Portuguese version of fascism was attractive to junior army officers and members of the liberal professions. Despite being the undisputed leader, Rolao Preto emerges as a shadowy figure whose charisma and organising qualities are not really outlined. Nevertheless, National Syndicalism made a big impact in the conservative north-west, the only area where efforts to recruit workers really bore fruit. This was the most Catholic corner of Portugal and Costa Pinto might have asked whether the success of Portuguese fascism in such a region in fact reflected hostility among some social groups to clerical power.
In chapter 4 an illuminating comparison is made between the Blue Shirts and the National Union (Uniao National: UN), the anaemic official movement with which Salazar hoped to make a dictatorship without politics. In Chapter 5, the steps it took to dismantle National Syndicalism are described. Overtures to middle-ranking Blueshirts to put aside their radicalism and accept positions in different branches of the corporativist state were successful. Religious publications increasingly warned against 'pagan and agnostic nationalism'. The Blueshirts found it increasingly difficult to function because of censorship and the frequent banning of its meetings. Chapter 6 traces the fate of the movement after it was wound up by the regime in 1934. Coup attempts and the open identification of the hard-core with the Axis cause when Portugal remained neutral in World War II, are described. However, Rolao Preto lacked influential support from the fascist powers and the movement remained peripheral as long as Nazi attention was concentrated on other parts of Europe.
The book has surprisingly few interviews with surviving ex-Blueshirts, a movement which enjoyed a membership of several tens of thousands at its height. If Costa Pinto had gone on to describe Rolao Preto's passage to the anti-Salazar opposition in the 1950s, his analysis might have opened up some intriguing lines of enquiry.
In some respects, the more radical of the young captains who overthrew the dictatorship in 1974 were not unlike their counterparts 50 years earlier who had gravitated towards a radical nationalist organisation seeking to evangelise the workers; one thinks for instance of the movement for 'cultural dynamisation' which briefly enlivened the 1974-75 revolution. In some instances, the young Maoist militants of the Reorganised Movement of the Party of the Proletariat, who played a big role during phases of the revolution, hailed from a similar background to young Blueshirts and were drawn to revolution for revolution's sake. Just like the militants of the Blueshirts, many moved on to respectable bourgeois careers. Rolao Preto himself became a judge under Salazar (although Costa Pinto fails to describe his later career), while one of the leading Maoists, Durao Barroso is today leader of the main right-of-centre opposition party in Portugal.
In conclusion, the book firmly locates the Blueshirts in the context of European fascism at high tide. But it is a pity that Costa Pinto failed to place the Blueshirts in the long-term context of Portuguese politics where some interesting parallels could have been made.
Julie V. Gottlieb, Feminine Fascism. Women in Britain's Fascist Movement 1923-1945, London: I. B. Tauris, 2000, 388 pp., GBP 39.50, ISBN 1-86064-544-5 (hbk).
Reviewed by David Renton (Edge Hill College)
How should a historian or sociologist write about a movement which they naturally dislike? In general, it seems to me that there is a useful balance to be drawn between understanding and critique. Those historians who see their task as being merely to record the decisions of a movement, will tend to repeat the claims made by that group. So the problem with empiricism is that it can produce a naïve and uncritical view of the past. Yet an entirely-critical history faces its own problems. If you don't understand where a movement came from, then how closely can you judge the decisions taken by its protagonists?
These tensions are especially clear when it comes to the history of women and fascism, a field of intense historical controversy. The most important recent work on women and fascism published in English is Martin Durham's recent book Women and Fascism, which dwelt on the paradox of women's support for an anti-feminist movement. Durham has tended to see women's support for fascism as evidence that fascism must somehow have represented the genuine interests of women. Martin Durham in turn has come in for sharp criticism from historians closer to a feminist or socialist politics, who tend to see fascism as the negation of women’s objective interests.
Although influenced by Durham's approach, Julie Gottlieb's Feminine Fascism takes a different approach. Indeed her book explicitly rejects the argument that fascism could be seen as a form of feminist politics. With her North American background, Julie Gottlieb has more understanding of the women's movement, and perhaps also less desire to provoke a row. Instead, Gottlieb makes the alternative claim that fascism could be 'feminine'. There is a sense here that fascism should be seen from the outside.
In other respects, though, Feminine Fascism is similar to Durham's work. Both base their answers on a study of the external forms of fascist politics - a belief in the speeches and the pamphlets, as a form of political languages whose meaning can be taken as read. The influence of a cultural method expresses itself in an occasional over-indulgence of the claims made by fascists. For example, Julie Gottlieb takes seriously the suggestion that the British Fascists had 400,000 members in 1933 (p. 30), when contemporaries had a top estimate of 400. She states that the British Union of Fascists (BUF) lost at Cable Street not because they were outnumbered by about 90 to one, but because Mosley was in a hurry to fly to Berlin in order to marry (p. 195). Gottlieb also makes too many unsubstantiated references to the 'idealistic' or 'revolutionary' character of the few women fascists. Despite her belief in the importance of female fascists, the material in her book would substantiate equally well the opposite interpretation, that outspoken women were a barely-tolerated minority in the BUF.
There are two points however, at which I would definitely commend Julie Gottlieb's argument. The first is in her consideration of the suffrage movement. Asked to explain why (some) ex-suffragettes could become fascists, Gottlieb points to an authoritarian strand within the suffrage movement. Maybe feminist historians have too readily assumed that the earlier movement was entirely composed of Sylvia Pankhurst's revolutionary sisters. To see the obstacles that this younger Pankhurst faced, is to make more sense of her brave decision to break with her family around 1914. Gottlieb also makes a splendid attack on the demagogic politics of Camille Paglia.
If at times Feminine Fascism appears to send out mixed messages, then perhaps its tensions are the contradictions of life. The reader encounters a popular movement which combined its aspirations for mass support with a profound ideological elitism. We also observe the tension between the historians' desire to understand, and their natural disinclination to grant pardon. This is not a definitive history of women’s involvement in British fascism, but it is one of the best that we have so far.
Richard Griffiths, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Fascism, London: Duckworth, 2000, 165 pp., GBP 14.95 (pbk), ISBN 0-7156-2918-2.
Reviewed by Roger Eatwell (University of Bath)
During the 1930s and 1940s, the left-wing British publisher, Victor Gollancz, ran a book series entitled 'The Intelligent Man's Guide to....' It was part of a wider publishing enterprise (including the Left Book Club), which sought to enlighten the masses, to create socialists through education. Sixty years on, the British publisher Duckworth has a new series, whose titles encapsulate an element of progress: women are now seen as potential readers. But the left-wing mission has gone. Of the opening titles in the new series, several are written by right-wingers (including three by the intellectual bête noir of the British left, the polymath academic philosopher Roger Scruton). The target market is more the intelligent layperson, who seeks an opinionated introduction.
Richard Griffiths, former Professor of French Studies at King's College London, in many ways admirably fulfils this brief. He rejects traditional left-wing analyses of fascism, which have tended to see it mainly in terms of its socio-economic function (stabilising capitalism in crisis). Similarly, he rejects the historian's primary concern with the regime practices of different manifestations of fascism (although the book includes brief, broad surveys of the main allegedly fascist movements/regimes).
Instead, Griffiths portrays fascism as a revolutionary movement, based on a serious ideology - a line which has emerged from a growing number of commentators in recent years. Largely following the Israeli historian, Zeev Sternhell, he sees fascism as in many ways stemming from intellectual origins which were 'neither Right nor Left'. Like Sternhell, Griffiths also traces the fertile French roots of fascist ideology, for instance in the philosophy of Henri Bergson or the more politically-oriented writings of Georges Sorel. The latter, for Griffiths, was the very epitome of the intellectual who defies neat left-right classification.
Given the acceptance of this line, it is somewhat surprising that Griffiths sees Action Française as strongly imbued with fascism. Most commentators who hold that it was conservative more than revolutionary, would challenge Griffiths' claim that it was a 'mass' movement. Although Action Française's key theorist, Charles Maurras, sometimes talked of 'propensities to socialism', he tended to see this more in terms of social concern and responsibilities (a strong strand in British One Nation conservatism, which was certainly not fascist).
However, this is a legitimate area of debate. Perhaps a more serious weakness even within Griffiths's self-defined parameters, is a lack of any serious discussion of German thinkers/ideology (a weakness shared with Sternhell, although the latter rejects that Nazism was truly fascist, seeing it more as a form of atavistic, racist nationalism). Here the intellectual origins of fascism seem more clearly right-wing. Self-styled German fascists, or proto-fascists, who termed themselves 'socialist' are almost invariably better seen as 'anti-capitalist' rather than left-wing.
The section on the post war 'extreme right' is perhaps the weakest. Griffiths is wary of calling parties like Le Pen's Front National 'neo-fascist'. He argues that this 'is above all because of the new vagueness surrounding the term in popular usage. It is also because, unlike the Thirties, there is no longer a consensus, on the part of the "radical Right" movements themselves in claiming the term 'fascist'. However, even-during the inter-war years, 'fascism' was more a term of abuse from opponents than a self-label (the Nazis rarely referred to themselves as fascist). Moreover, one might have hoped that an intelligent layperson's guide would have chanced its arm rather more, and sought a clear short definition.
Nevertheless, these are in the main academic disputes, and this remains an erudite and opinionated book, which can be read with profit by its target audience (and fellow scholars of fascism).
Thomas Grumke, Rechtsextremismus in den USA, Opladen: Leske+Budrich, 2001, 275 pp., DM 36.00, ISBN 3810028681 (pbk).Reviewed by Hans-Georg Betz (York University)
Thomas Grumke's book on right-wing extremism in the United States is a welcome study of a phenomenon which, despite the Oklahoma City bombing, has gained too little attention from scholars working on the radical right in Europe. This is somewhat puzzling since the American extreme right in many ways represents an ideal type of right-wing extremism and could therefore serve as a useful point of comparison for the analysis of the radical right in Western Europe and elsewhere.
As Grumke demonstrates in his chapters on ideology and organisations, the American extreme right is profoundly nativist, racist, anti-Semitic, and above all supportive of, and prone to, violent action. In short, it is truly extremist. The most prominent example is William Pierce's book The Turner Diaries, which inspired the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. But other groups too have actively promoted violence to stop 'race-mixing' and above all, to fight the federal government, which they see as the seat of all evil.
Grumke provides an excellent overview of the range of organisations and conspiratorial groups that make up the lunatic fringe of American society. What makes his empirical work particularly outstanding is his lack of inhibition to personally communicate with the major figures on the American extreme right (via email). And he gets striking responses. Thus several major figures, including Pierce, tell the author that the major influence on their political beliefs was reading Hitler's Mein Kampf. Grumke's book also shows to what degree most major recent ideological developments on the international extreme right have been heavily influenced by the American extreme right. This has clearly been the case with Holocaust denial, but also with the notion of white resistance (the attempt to save the white race from alleged extinction), which has made its way into extremist circles in Europe.
Some of the groups which Grumke analyses will strike the reader as outlandish, if not outright bizarre. These are particularly those groups that adhere to a racist type of pseudo religion, Christian Identity. Grumke does an excellent job to distil the essence of this rather influential strand of right-wing extremism and make it intelligible. One of the most prominent organisations subscribing to this view was Aryan Nations. The organisation was recently bankrupted when it lost a multimillion-dollar lawsuit to the Southern Poverty Law Center. As a result, Aryan Nations lost the right to use its name and was also forced to shut down its website. Grumke devotes several pages to the emergence of a new right-wing extremist "virtual community" in cyberspace, which links different groups across the world. But the analysis is too rudimentary to allow the reader to gain a sense of the explosive growth and increasing sophistication of the net-based distribution of hate.
If Grumke's empirical work is outstanding, the same cannot be said about his analytical framework. Grumke tries to import recent sociological frameworks and largely fails. For one, these frameworks have been developed to explain the appeal of right-wing radical parties. But none of the groups in the States are political parties vying for mass support. In the introduction, the author refers to a number of factors that are crucial to understanding the American extreme right: the fact that American society traditionally has been a violent society; the central role religion plays in American life; and the strong suspicions of central government that is an intricate part of American identity. Unfortunately, the author fails to develop these different strands into a coherent narrative that could serve as a persuasive framework for his empirical work. The author also fails to analyse the roots of American racism and its perpetuation by academics as exemplified, for example, by The Bell Curve or the work of the Canadian sociologist J. Philippe Rushton. As a result, the book falls somewhat short of its potential.
Oleksii Haran' and Oleksandr Maiboroda (eds.), Ukraiins'ki livi: mizh leninizmom i sotsial-demokratieiu. Kyiv: KM Academia Publishing House, 2000, 256 pp., ISBN 966-518-052-5.
Reviewed by Vlad Mykhnenko (University of Cambridge)
"The Ukrainian Left: Between Leninism and Social Democracy" is the first comprehensive attempt by Ukrainian political scientists to evaluate the most popular end of the country's political spectrum. The main focus of this edited volume is Ukraine’s four major political parties of the (far) Left, i.e. the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the Village Party, and the Progressive Socialist Party. The main idea of the volume is that the Ukrainian Left faces two major alternatives: it is supposed to choose between (a) communism and social democracy, and (b) Ukraine’s independence and a new union with Russia.
Part I provides a historical background on socialist and communist ideas in Ukraine. Special attention is paid to the process of disintegration of the USSR and the ban of the CPSU in 1991. In Part II the problem of (what they see as) 'the Left Renaissance' in the country is analysed. Two chapters in Part II are devoted to organisational strengths and ideological strands of the four parties, while another three chapters provide a detailed account of the 1994 electoral successes and the parliamentary activities of the Ukrainian (far) Left. Part III deals with the electoral and parliamentary failures of the leftist parties and their candidates during the 1998 parliamentary elections and the 1999 presidential contest in Ukraine. In Part IV, finally, the claimed retreat of the Ukrainian Left, after their loss of the parliamentary majority in early-2000, is analysed. In the concluding chapter, the editors evaluate some scenarios concerning the development of Ukraine's political spectrum.
Altogether, this edited volume leaves the reader with rather mixed feelings. The book provides some interesting insights as well as very rich descriptive data about political life in Ukraine since the late 1980s. Moreover, the volume contains a large number of informative charts, tables, indexes and photos. The research is based on the most current Ukrainian sources and the volume’s footnoting is extensive. The main question, however, is whether this volume fulfils its purpose of having "a calm and academic discussion of the issue concerned" (p. 7). It does not have a clear research question nor does it possess any theoretically connected hypotheses. The reader is provided with no idea about the specific aims and methodological apparatus of the research. The book has no 'road map' and is poorly structured. It is even hard to understand who is the exact author of a particular chapter. Furthermore, the book is full of value judgements and normative statements. It seems that the entire volume is supposed to inspire some radical change among Ukraine’s leftist politicians, so they would finally become 'truly Ukrainian' and 'normal European' national communists or social democrats.
Notwithstanding all the evident weaknesses of this book, it may still be a valuable contribution to the library of any (Ukrainian-speaking) specialist of the Eastern European Left, Ukrainian politics or history. Especially, given the fact that this paperback volume can be purchased at Kiev bookshops for about 2 USD.
Frederick J. Simonelli, American Fuehrer: George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazi Party. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press 1999, 206 pp., USD 29.95, ISBN 0-252-02285-8 (hbk).
Reviewed by Mark A. Potok (Southern Poverty Law Center)
As the militia movement that characterised much of the American radical right in the 1990s fades, a harder-edged, more Nazified scene has emerged to take its place. It is in this context that Frederick Simonelli's excellent study of George Lincoln Rockwell and his American Nazi Party should be read and appreciated as a remarkably clear-minded, original and well-written study of the roots of American neo-Nazism.
Simonelli's biography, informed by extraordinary access to a variety of sources including private archives, operates on two levels: as an insightful examination of Rockwell's dysfunctional early family life and its role in creating a personality that was forever consumed with misogyny, sexual machismo and authoritarianism; and as an analysis of Rockwell's remarkable, and under-appreciated, political legacy.
George Lincoln Rockwell was the first child of George Lovejoy "Doc" Rockwell, an egotistical vaudeville comedian with little interest in his children, and Claire Schade Rockwell, a talented toe dancer and child stage star who became a submissive and largely ineffectual woman when she married Doc, remaining so even after their divorce nine years later. Claire and her children moved in with her sister, Arline, a tyrannical and humourless woman who beat down young Link, as he was known, at every opportunity. Rockwell was full of rage for Arline throughout his life. In a revealing letter written to his mother a year before his 1967 assassination, Rockwell alternated between enraged diatribes about the "bullying" he endured at Arline's hands, and what he saw as the "gangs of Jews, Negroes and Commies" who were similarly "bullying" his country. Although Simonelli doesn't purport to fully explain Rockwell's psychology, Rockwell’' relationships with his father, mother and aunt go a long way toward explaining his boiling fury.
The book then traces Rockwell's development as he marries, divorces, marries again and is left by his adored second wife. It recounts his time at Brown University, then at a New York City art school, and his tours as a naval aviator that began in 1941 and ended with his promotion to a full commander - a title he would use for the rest of his life. It describes his earliest encounters, in the early 1950s, with the ideas and the men who then animated the American radical right. And it identifies the year 1958 as Rockwell's "personal political Rubicon," when he broke with other fringe groups, took up the swastika and created the American Nazi Party.
The party, based in a shabby Arlington, Virginia, house that came to be known as "Hatemonger Hill," was not particularly successful. By all accounts, it was never able to muster more than 200 "storm troopers" – and usually considerably less than that. For almost all of Rockwell's active years as a Nazi (1958-67), his followers ate poorly and were housed in terrible conditions. Believing that publicity was the lifeblood of his movement, Rockwell pulled off a number of attention-seeking stunts – but more often than not, he was stymied by the "quarantine" imposed on him by American Jewish leaders who sought to convince newspapers and other media that Rockwell was best not covered at all.
Simonelli also discusses at length Rockwell's connection to a fanatical German follower, Bruno Ludtke, who provided the American with an unending store of personal adulation, information about the first stirrings of European Holocaust denial, and links to non-American neo-Nazis that helped make Rockwell one of the first internationalists on the traditionally isolationist American radical right. Indeed, this internationalism was enshrined in the principles adopted by the World Union of National Socialists that Rockwell co-founded in 1962 and long led.
But in many ways, the heart of Simonelli's book lies in the three-pronged Rockwell legacy that he describes. First, Rockwell established the concept of "White Power," expanding Hitler's vision of the master race to include Slavs, Greeks, Spaniards and others without Aryan roots – a brilliant and successful gambit in a nation largely peopled by immigrants from all over Europe. Second, he became "the first postwar American neo-Nazi to appreciate the strategic necessity of Holocaust denial," and, in fact, succeeded in popularising the idea that Jews had pulled off a "monstrous and profitable fraud" long before Willis Carto, commonly seen as the father of American denial. Third, based on a cynical understanding of Americans' persistent religiosity, Rockwell married the generally atheistic ideology of orthodox Nazism to Christian Identity, a grossly heretical reading of the Bible that describes Jews as biologically satanic and people of colour as soulless. Rockwell actually despised Christianity as a Jewish-inspired myth, but was quite willing to use the Bible in an attempt to gain more popular support – a strategy that crystallised effectively in later groups like the Aryan Nations, which seamlessly joined Christian Identity with neo-Nazism.
Today, these legacies form part of the bedrock that underlies the American -- and indeed, to some extent, the European – radical right. "To simply say that [Rockwell] failed," Simonelli concludes, "is to dangerously underestimate the ultimate course of the struggle. ...Rockwell's legacy remains in those who carry on his work. For them, his words and deeds reach beyond those people he touched and inspire new generations of racists and anti-Semites. ... Leashing George Lincoln Rockwell did not leash the beast forever. Each generation must confront that demon anew."