Electronic Newsletter of the ECPR-SG on Extremism & Democracy
Vol.1, No.4, Winter 2000
Assistant Editor: Karen Thomson
This is the fourth and final newsletter of our first year of publication. Moreover, it is the first with our new name: e-Extreme (thanks to Karen Thomson). During the first full year of existence, the standing group has grown to almost 170 members from some 30 different countries - we have members in Western Europe (102, of which 47 from the UK), Northern America (32), Eastern Europe (18), and other countries (9, most notably Israel).
In terms of other indicators, the group is composed of 140 men and 27 women (roughly 85:15). The large bulk of members are teachers at universities, though some 20 are PhD students, and 10 are non-academics (e.g. journalists). Finally, in terms of (sub-) fields of study, 118 focus primarily on the extreme right, 8 on the extreme left, 8 on extremism in general, 9 on new social groups (including environmentalists and Green parties), 21 on religious extremism, and 19 on other topics.
Overall, we are very happy with the interest there has been in our activities. In the coming year we plan to both consolidate and expand the group and its activities. We hope that you will be able and willing to help us with this task. You can do this by:
1) Mentioning our group to colleagues who work in the field of extremism and democracy. We are particularly interested in increasing the number of PhD students, East Europeans, and people working in fields other than the extreme right.
2) Providing us with feedback on our activities, including the newsletter.
3) Sending us information of use to the group, so that we can include it in the newsletter.
4) Continuing to agree to review books for the newsletter (thanks!).
Let us take this opportunity to thank you all for your cooperation and to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Since January 2000, I have been working as a researcher for the European Center for Minority Issues, which is based in Sarajevo. Prior to this I taught at the Department of International Relations and European Studies of the Central European University, Budapest. My main research interest is contemporary nationalism in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and I am currently completing a PhD at the University of Vienna, entitled “Serbian Nationalism from the Death of Tito to the Fall of Milosevic”.
My main publications include: Bosnien-Herzegowina und Libanon im Vergleich, Die historische Entwicklung und das politische System vor Ausbruch des Bürgerkrieges (Sinzheim: Pro Universitate Verlag, 1999), “Bosnia-Herzegovina and Lebanon: Historical Lessons of Two Multireligious States”, Third World Quarterly, vol.21, no.2 (April 2000), pp.269-328; “Muslim Identity in the Balkans Before the Establishment of Nation States”, Nationalities Papers, vol.28, no.1 (March 2000), pp.13-28; “The Conflict in Former Yugoslavia as a ‘Fault Line War’? Testing the Validity of Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’”‚ Balkanologie, vol.3, no.1 (September 1999), pp.33-48; “Cyberwar or Sideshow? The Internet and the Balkan Wars”, Current History, vol.99, no.635 (March 2000), 124-128; and “Sanctions Against Yugoslavia - A Counter-productive Foreign Policy Tool?”, Peace and Security, vol.31 (December 1999), 37-46, and co-edited with Dzemal Sokolovic, (eds.) Reconstructing Multiethnic Societies: The Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000),
I am an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, Yale University. I received my PhD from Harvard University in 1999, and my dissertation, entitled “Redeeming the Past: the Regeneration of Communist Successor Parties in East Central Europe” received the 2000 Gabriel Almond Award for Best Dissertation in Comparative Politics from APSA. I have also completed an MPhil in Social and Political Theory from Cambridge University.
I was a visiting researcher at the Czech Academy of Sciences, Comenius University, the Polish Academy of Sciences, and the Central European University, as well as a Brookings Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, and a Fellow at the German-American Center for Visiting Scholars, during 1998-9. More recently, I was awarded the Harvard Academy for Area and International Studies Post-Doctoral Fellowship.
My research interests include political parties in nascent democracies, institutional transformation, ethnic and nationalist mobilization, the changing role of the post-communist state, and the historical legacies of authoritarian regimes.
I have published articles on the communist reform efforts and on policies of societal control under communism in East European Politics and Societies, and an article on the effects of party reputations on coalition formation is forthcoming in Comparative Politics. I also have chapters on the communist successor parties in an edited volume by John Ishiyama, entitled Communist Successor Parties in Post-Communist Politics, and in a forthcoming volume edited by Grzegorz Ekiert and Stephen Hanson, on the legacies of the communist era. A book based on my dissertation will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2001.
The Information and Research Center “Panorama” evolved from the newspaper “Panorama” which began publication in April 1989. For the first year and a half the newspaper was edited illegally under Soviet rule. Since its beginning “Panorama” has specialised in the detailed description of the life of new political organisations, the peculiarities of their views, the circumstances of their emergence and development, the specific features of relations between these organisations and processes inside them, and the clarification of the positions of individual political leaders and their comparison.
Since 1991 “Panorama” has published about 200 books of small circulation on authorities, political parties, political and business leaders, mass-media, regional problems and so on. It has also set up an original hyper-text system “Labirint”. At present this database contains data on the following areas: political parties, public organisations, parliamentary factions, state structures, trade unions, commercial businesses, banks and mass media throughout the former Soviet Union; biodata on politicians, top-ranking state officials, outstanding businessmen and other public persons from all over the former Soviet Union; data on Russian regions. The data are organised into a system of cross-referenced files (articles) divided according to the above-mentioned areas. Labirint includes about 27000 files (about 160 Mb of text).
Since 1989, Panorama has been closely following the rise of extreme nationalism in Russia. Our first publication concerning the extreme right was "Pamyat", a collection of the extreme nationalists’ materials prepared by V. Pribylovsky. Over the past years Panorama has produced several reports on this subject. At the beginning of 1996 it published a comprehensive report “Political Extremism in Russia” (A. Verkhovsky, V. Pribylovsky, A. Papp). This book includes not only detailed factual information but also extensive analysis; it deals both with the extreme left and the extreme right. In August of 1996, 5000 copies of this report were published thanks to the financial support of the Moscow Anti-Fascist Center.
In 1996-1999, Panorama published a further five books: “National-Patriotic Organisations in Russia. History, Ideology, Extremist Tendencies” (A. Verkhovsky, V. Pribylovsky), “Russian Leftists – from the Moderates to the Extremists” (A.Tarasov, T.Shavshukova, G.Cherkasov), “Ethnic Separatism in Russia” (T. Muzaev), “Nationalism and Xenophobia in Russian Society”, “Political Xenophobia. Radical Groups. Mentality of the Leaders. Role of the Church” (both by A. Verkhovsky, V. Pribylovsky, E. Mikhailovskaya).
Our most recent project was a series of papers about Anti-Liberal, Pro-Isolation and Nationalistic Tendencies in the Election Campaigns of 1999-2000. All of these papers are translated into English. The results of our work are also presented on Panorama’s server at: http://www.panaroma.ru/ in the section “Nationalism, Extremism and Xenophobia” (http://www.panorama.ru/works/patr) including six books (in Russian) and the series of papers (in English and Russian), listed above, and a list of extremist and radical sites on the Russian Internet.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (general, esp. for Vladimir Pribylovsky)
email@example.com (for Ekaterina Mikhailovskaia)
Phone: (095) 290-4810 (and fax)
OnCourse is a free and non-commercial Internet system for teachers and lecturers looking for English textbooks, CDROM’s, and Multimedia for the courses they teach. OnCourse enables teachers to reach the world’s leading educational publishers by simply filling in ONE on-line form in which they provide descriptions of their courses. The completed form is then submitted over the Internet to OnCourse, who in turn sends it to publishers -world wide - who specialise in the subject area of the course described by the teacher. A publisher who has a suitable text may then send the teacher a complimentary copy for evaluation. To fill in an OnCourse form, go to - http://www.pubtext.com -- and click on OnCourse
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: firstname.lastname@example.org .
· Allensworth, Wayne, The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998, xiii + 350 pp., USD 23.95 (pbk).
Reviewed by Andreas Umland (Ural State University, Ekaterinburg)
Wayne Allensworth has produced a valuable addition to the growing literature on Russia’s new nationalism and right-wing politics. Perhaps most significantly, he approaches the varieties of Russian nationalism with a professed initial sympathy - or, at least, understanding - for some basic concerns of the Russian nationalists. He does not hide his apparent belief that - not only with regard to the Russian case, but in general - communal solidarity, the capability to empathise with others, or the simple ability to grasp our own world would be impossible without some degree of particularism - including nationalism. It gives his analysis of Russian nationalism a distinctly hermeneutic dimension.
After a concise, but informative review of the history of Russian nationalism since the late 18th century, the author provides well-researched presentations and insightful critique of the ideas of Solzhenitsyn, late and post-Soviet Christian nationalism, the pre- and post-Soviet Black Hundreds, émigré, Soviet and post-Soviet National Bolshevism, Zhirinovskii, the Russian neo-Nazis, the post-Soviet nationalist intellectual debate, and post-Soviet reform nationalism. His theoretical basis for dissecting and juxtaposing these varieties is mainly the sociological and anthropological literature on the sources and nature of nationalism, above all on the debate between the “structuralists” (emphasising the functionality of nationalism), and “primordialists” (stressing the constituent role of national identity for human identity). The summary of this debate given as an introduction is worth reading on its own, and provides Allensworth with some useful theoretical and conceptual tools to decipher and interpret the messages of the various Russian nationalist agendas. His book can thus be characterised as a good addition to both the methodology of studying Russian nationalism and its theoretical comprehension. The quality and breadth of his empirical analysis of post-Soviet Russian nationalism makes it the best comprehensive overview of this spectrum available in English so far.
In spite of its innovativeness, usefulness and general reliability, the concepts and typologies which Allensworth uses to define, characterise or summarise the various brands of Russian nationalism are not always well-chosen. The theoretical literature on the origins and development of nationalism and its relation to modernisation, is by itself not sufficient for capturing the basic distinctions between various right-wing political agendas. Allensworth has, to be sure, provided an important guide to a consistent structuring of political spectra in general and the Russian party system in particular, by explicitly associating the concepts of the “left” with universalism (including internationalism and, in the Russian context, liberalism) and of the “right” with the varieties of particularism (pp. 26, 112). However, his few references to some writings on human nature - among them a disputed essay by Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz (On Aggression) - provide little guidance on how to sub-divide in an informative way the political Right in Russia and elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Allensworth tries to conceptualise the permutations of Russian nationalist ideology without paying much attention to the theoretical literature on ideologies. Whereas he is able to make at least some, partly useful suggestions concerning the differentiation of different types of conservatism (the instrumental vs. content-type), his disregard of the literature on generic and comparative fascism confuses his argument about some of his most important cases. When he uses the term fascism, it is not entirely clear whether he refers to Italian Fascism or generic fascism. For instance, it remains unclear what he meant when he wrote that Nikolai Lysenko’s National-Republican Party’s less developed racism is “blurring the line between protofascist and proto-Nazi organizations [the latter concerning, above all Alexander Barkashov’s Russian National Unity - A.U.].” (p. 237) According to the findings of comparativists, there have been elements of racism in early Italian Fascist ideology too. Nazism, according to the emerging consensus among theorists, should be conceptualised as a variety of generic fascism. Neither the program of the RNU nor that of the NRPR should be characterised as "proto-" - i.e. not yet fully developed - ideologies. Both agendas constitute detailed prescriptions for political action, and how to build a future Russian state.
Equally, it is not clear why one would distinguish between Zhirinovskii’s and Dugin’s agendas, on the one hand, and that of - what Allensworth has conceptualised as - the “national revolutionaries”, on the other. Both have also explicitly spoken of a “national revolution”. Allensworth misses here an important dividing line within the Russian extreme right by not explicitly introducing the category of mimetic fascism which could be usefully applied to Barkashov’s RNU, his prime case of a “revolutionary nationalist” party. There is little use giving credit to the RNU’s claim that its employment of the swastika represents a genuine attempt of reviving an ancient Orthodox or pagan Russian symbol (p. 225). The swastika and other related symbols or ideas of the RNU are simply copies from Germany. They should be identified as such, and be seen as the most important feature characterising the barkashovtsy. Herein - and not in the degree of the RNU’s radicalism, as suggested by Allensworth - lies the crucial difference to Zhirinovskii and other Russian fascists who have been more cautious in their usage of non-indigenous ideas and symbols.
In spite of these and some other confusing conceptualisations, Allensworth’s study is an important step forward in the belated scholarly interpretation of one of the more disturbing developments in post-Cold War politics.
· Antohi, Sorin and Vladimir Tismaneanu (eds.), Between Past and Future. The Revolutions of 1989 and Their Aftermath, Budapest: Central European University Press, 2000, GBP 17.95, ISBN 963-9116-71-8 (pbk).
Reviewed by Petr Kopecky (Sheffield University)
This edited volume provides reflections on the first decade of what has been labeled by many as ‘postcommunism’; that is, the transformation towards democracy and a market economy of the block of communist states in Eastern Europe. The book is a collection of essays which were presented at a conference, held at the Central European University in Budapest in March 1999, ‘celebrating’ the tenth anniversary of communism’s collapse in Eastern Europe. It contains papers by a number of prominent public intellectuals -- many actively involved in the 1989 events -- and scholars from Eastern Europe, as well as by scholars from the West, who have been engaged in the assessment of postcommunist democratisation from a variety of theoretical and empirical perspectives.
The book is neither centered around a tightly defined theme, nor does it provide any coherent treatment of a particular set of issues. It is divided into four main sections: Meanings of 1989: Present Significance of the Past; Winners and Losers in the Great Transformation; Vulnerabilities of the New Democracies; The New Europe: Prospects for Cooperation and Conflict; followed by concluding reflections written by Timothy Garton Ash. These sections appear to be introduced mainly for the sake of editorial convenience, offering unfortunately very little help to the reader’s orientation throughout the presented material. For example, the section on the New Europe alludes to the now increasingly studied aspect of postcommunist democratisation -- its international dimension -- yet only one chapter in that section (by Bartlomiej Kaminski) really addresses the issue. The other chapters could have easily been placed elsewhere in the book. To judge this work, therefore, one has to look at the quality of its individual contributions, rather than at the book as a whole. And, in all fairness to the editors, this is precisely what the book is supposed to do: to stimulate intellectual exchange by presenting polemical and original material, even if it is at the expense of terminological and methodological homogeneity (and sometimes clarity).
If one looks at the list of contributors, it will come as no surprise that one theme which prompted many pieces in this volume is the role of intellectuals in post-communist Europe and, closely related to it, the development of civil society in the region. Some of the activists of 1989, such as Radim Palous, Adam Michnik and Milos Haraszti, offer the reader critical views on postcommunist societies in their respective countries, with a touch of nostalgia towards the set of ideas that informed the 1989 revolutions and which were encapsulated in the ideals of civil society, civility, consensus and alternative politics. They are accompanied by a piece by Vladimir Tismaneanu, who praises the legacy, both moral and political, of former dissidents and who sees the role of democratic intellectuals (read dissidents) as a crucial counterweight to the (perceived) nationalist, anti-Jewish and populist frenzy in contemporary Eastern Europe. In a similar vein, Garton Ash asks in his concluding remarks “Where and what is the class of 1989?” (p. 402), after ambiguously referring to the ‘normality’ of the young generation in the region. These contributions are marked not so much by their overestimation of what civil society and ‘independent intellectuals’ can achieve in a democratic society -- a position that is partly countered by a balanced contribution by Jeffrey C. Isaac and also, one should note, by the critical view of Michnik towards the role of dissidents after 1989 -- but more by their underestimation of a younger generation of intellectuals, journalists, scholars and business leaders in the region. This younger generation has been, with varying speed among the countries of the region, replacing the first postcommunist elite, i.e. the (ex)-communists as well as the anti-communists, and it is a generation not necessarily burdened by either the dissident past or the demagoguery of the so-called ‘dark forces’ of Eastern Europe.
Indeed, it seems that many of these exaggerated and pessimistic judgments of (the results of) democratisation in Eastern Europe relate to our different understanding of what can be achieved within ten years, given the powerful legacy of the communist party hegemony. This is a topic addressed in an excellent contribution by Valeria Bunce, who takes the question further and asks whether different trajectories (which she documents) of democratisation experienced in Eastern Europe are really different trajectories or, rather, are all the same overall trajectory. Similarly grounded and polemical contributions in this volume include two great pieces by Kazimierz Poznanski and Katherine Verdery, both concentrating on interpretations of economic reforms in the region.
All in all, this is a book that will serve many intellectual tastes and interests, and that will certainly prove thought provoking for anyone who reads it. Though it is not much more than an edited collection of conference proceedings, I recommend it to anybody who wants to witness the analytical depth and span with which the meaning of 1989 can be approached.
· Berg-Schlosser, Dirk and Jeremy Mitchell (eds.), Conditions of Democracy in Europe, 1919-1939. Systematic Case studies, London, Macmillan (Advances in Political Science), 1999, 503 pp., GBP 60.00, ISBN 0-333-64828-5 / 0-312-22843-0 (hbk).
Reviewed by Giovanni Capoccia (European University Institute)
Whether to structure a book on the basis of a succession of country studies or thematic comparative analyses is a long-standing dilemma in comparative politics scholarship, which is normally solved by striving to achieve the best possible compromise between these two extremes. Berg-Schlosser and Mitchell, backed by their large international research team and several years of research, have played it both ways, and have published the results of their comparative analysis of the determinants of democratic breakdown and survival in interwar Europe in two volumes, one structured according to each format.
Thus, this edited volume, the first of the two, which uses the ‘country-chapter’ structure, should be seen (and ultimately assessed) within the context of the broader research project, which is in short to produce a second edited collection, in which comparative studies of the most important social, economic and political determinants of regimes in interwar European countries will conclude the analysis. The research project in question has a comparative breadth that has no equal in the literature on interwar Europe. Eighteen countries are analysed: Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. This makes for more than two thirds of all European countries, and the sample is devised to include not only the major cases of democratic breakdown, but also several countries in which democracy survived, thereby offering an important complement to the existing literature.
The long introductory chapter contains two substantial contributions: a focused and exhaustive review of the literature and the elaboration of a general theoretical framework. In this chapter, the editors discuss all the most important approaches to the problem of the persistence or collapse of democracy in Europe between the wars. After summarizing the main hypotheses linked to these approaches, they assess their explanatory value in relation to the regime outcome in all countries included in their own analysis, and present in a synoptic table the results of this useful and interesting comparative assessment of the various theories. However, the discussion of the results of such an assessment is a little anti-climatic in relation to the width and focus of the literature review. A more detailed discussion of at least the most striking ‘anomalies’ of most theories, as well as of the overwhelming number of ‘mixed results’ that most theories yield in relation to a large number of cases, would have been desirable in this context, and would have greatly enhanced the utility of the preceding literature review.
In outlining their own theoretical framework, the editors make their basic contention clear from the start: the crises of interwar European democracies have been “political in nature”, and therefore political factors (political decisions of elites, institutional patterns, the role of intermediary associations, the process of coalition formations) should be given prominence in the overall explanation (p. 20). The structural factors, however, should not be left out of the picture, as they constitute the background against which political variables should be analysed. What the authors aim to do is “steer clear from the pitfalls of a premature and overgeneralizing historical materialist determinism on the one hand and the overly personalizing…and individualizing approach of many conventional historians on the other” (Ibid.).
This approach goes to the heart of one of the most important current debates in comparative politics: what is the impact of the decisions taken by political actors, and how do structural constellations influence both such decisions and their consequences? However, this volume does not help us understand to what extent the authors succeed in fulfilling this ambitious program. The framework that they outline is explicitly designed to guide the country-specific analyses, and includes all the important variables —the social and political systems and their components, the influence of the international system on them, the main intermediary structures, and the output factors such as the bureaucratic, repressive and welfare apparatuses— on which information is to be collected (p. 39). More parsimonious explanations can then be elaborated on the basis of the knowledge so far acquired, and this is a matter for the second volume (see p. 22 and p. 464-465).
Although not all of equal value, the country chapters largely fulfill their task defined above. Following roughly the same structure, they include —with different additions and modifications according to the peculiarities of each case— three broad facets of the social and political systems of each country: the main social cleavages and their politicisation, the sub-systems of the intermediary structures (parties, interest groups, main social movements), and the main “dynamic factors”, i.e. the most important developments (internal, international, economic) during the period analysed, and in particular during the crisis’ peak.
To sum up, it is difficult to give a definitive assessment of this book in isolation from the forthcoming second volume, where the general findings of this important research endeavor should acquire a clearer profile. There are several respects in which this first volume per se stands out as a very important contribution to the existing literature, and of these at least two should be noted. First, the coverage of a large number of cases in a comparative framework, with regard to which a particular mention should be made for the inclusion of countries which had until now largely escaped the attention of comparativists. Second, the inclusion of structured, comparable data: virtually all the chapters include (at least) data on the class structure, on several economic and social indicators, and on important politico-institutional variables of a country. In these respects, it is not difficult to predict that this book will be a future reference text.
· Tore Bjørgo, Racist and Right-Wing Violence in Scandinavia. Patterns, Perpetrators, and Responses, Oslo: Tano Aschehoug 1997, GBP , ISBN 82-518-3665-4 (pbk).
Reviewed by Lena Berggren (Umea University).
Few people in Sweden could, in the late 1980s, anticipate what was going to happen during the following ten years with the racist, right-wing and neo-Nazi scene in Sweden. At that time, the movement was small, insignificant and rather introvert. The 1990s, however, witnessed a steady growth and development of racist, right-wing and neo-Nazi organisations, networks and enterprises of different kinds not only in Sweden but in Scandinavia as a whole. For example, Sweden is now one of the most important countries in the lucrative production and distribution of White Power music, and has been for many years.
Even though it is starting to become a little dated when it comes to the most current events, Tore Bjørgo’s dissertation, commercially published in 1997, offers fascinating and comprehensive insights into this development in Scandinavia, especially in the 1990s. The study is concerned with three of the Scandinavian countries -- Sweden, Norway and Denmark -- but due to uneven access to accurate source material and previous research, a strong emphasis is put on Sweden. The main focus is on racist violence, but the author also provides the reader with both an interesting theoretical discussion and an overview of the general development of right-wing and neo-Nazi political groupings in the Scandinavian countries during the 1980s and 1990s.
The author is very careful, and rightly so, in pointing out that racist violence is not always ideologically motivated or carried out by neo-Nazi skinheads. On the contrary, Bjørgo’s study strongly suggests that the most overt racist violence (attacks on refugee centres, vandalising of shops owned by immigrants, acts of direct violence against people with a foreign appearance etc.) is usually carried out by perpetrators who are not organised in neo-Nazi or right-wing groupings. In the majority of cases these attacks are spur of the moment, where drugs or alcohol combined with group pressure sadly play a very important role. These acts can, and often do, function as a gateway to these kinds of organisations and networks, though, especially when these groups, which usually consist of young men who through these actions can create quite a lot of excitement in smaller communities, simultaneously are being stigmatised as neo-Nazis by the community in which they live, and are approached by more ideologically aware people who try to recruit them into the movement.
In addition, Sweden has also seen a few ’lone wolves’, i. e. people who act alone. Perhaps the most notable example was the Swedish ’Laser Man’ who in the winter of 1991-92 shot 11 immigrants and one police officer with a laser gun, killing one person and seriously injuring a number of the other victims.
The more ideologically motivated racist violence is, more often directed against people or organisations conceived of as ’traitors’ to the white race, thus following the logic of the ’ZOG’ conspiracy theory which has been imported to Scandinavia during the 1990s and has become very important within the right-wing scene. A number of killings and attacks, which occurred during the years after Bjørgo’s study was published, further strengthen this conclusion.
A third ’kind’ of violence investigated in the study is the wave of ideologically motivated terrorist acts that swept through Sweden, especially in the early 1990s. This wave was associated with what became known as the VAM (Vitt Ariskt Motstånd, White Aryan Resistance) network. In short, it included crimes such as bank robberies and burglaries of police stations and military stores which were necessary for the group to obtain the money and weapons needed to fight the coming racial war. Fortunately, the network failed in pursuing the second phase of this imagined scenario, since most of its leading figures were caught and put in jail. A number of attacks were carried out though, including a booby-trapped bomb in the central railway station in Stockholm in late December 1991. This was followed by demands for the release of one of the imprisoned bank robbers, and it was followed by 23 hoax bomb threats (most of them probably copycat crimes) against ferry terminals and railway stations, virtually paralysing the New Year traffic in 1991.
The issue of the influence of extensive media coverage is very relevant to the rise of the VAM in the early 1990s. The whole VAM ’affair’ was staged on the front pages of Swedish newspapers, and it is clear that in this case, the extensive media coverage helped to trigger copycat crimes all over the country. The complex role of the media is discussed in one of the last chapters of the book - it convincingly shows that in Scandinavia during the 1990s, media coverage worked in both directions, i.e. facilitating and inhibiting violent tendencies.
Much more could be said about this comprehensive study of racist and right-wing violence in Scandinavia, which not only offers an overview of what has happened in Scandinavia during most of the 1990s, but also contains more general discussions, useful for anyone interested in this field. Bjørgo’s study is also one of the far too few studies on Scandinavia, past and present, available in English and thus to a larger audience.
· Cohen, Shari J., Politics without a Past, London and Durham: Duke University Press, 1999, 281 pp., 12.95 GBP, ISBN 0-8223-2378 (pbk).
Reviewed by Erika Harris (University of Leeds)
Cohen’s book is a welcome contribution towards the understanding of political developments in the early years of postcommunism in Central Europe. Particularly impressive is her treatment of socio-psychological effects that communism bequeathed on the populations of these countries, namely cynicism and the loss of ideological and historical bearings. Cohen provides an excellent account of communist treatment of history as “organized forgetting” (p.38).
The book which consists of eight chapters is about Slovakia and its troubled transition to democracy. The introductory chapter introduces the main theme of the book: elites with no ideological commitment (“mass elite”, p.5) and particular to postcommunism. The second chapter examines communist interpretation of history. The third and the fourth chapters offer a historical narrative of Slovak political and national development prior to communism, including the wartime Slovak State whose clerico-fascist leadership carries a direct responsibility for the deportation and death of tens of thousands of Slovak Jews. The fifth chapter of the book charts the communist period. Logically, the last two chapters move to the postcommunist period and explore the prominence of ‘mass elites’, exemplified by Vladimir Meciar and the rise of nationalism in Slovakia. The conclusion argues that at the centre of explanations of postcommunist politics should be “the pervasive lack of historical consciousness” (p.179).
Notwithstanding the fact that this is an impressive study of postcommunism, the book paints a somewhat one-sided and incomplete picture of Slovakia in its historically and politically most demanding period. One of the reasons could be that the author was researching her book in the early nineties when Slovakia was indeed overwhelmed by national mobilisation which led to the break-up of Czechoslovakia; considering the current political developments in Slovakia the book feels out of date. More important, however, is that for all the book’s focus on nationalism, it misses a deeper understanding of nationalism on various levels: a) it underestimates nationalism’s close relation to democratisation, and related to this, its role as an integral part of the democratisation process(es), particularly in the newly independent states; b) all national ideologies are prone to invention and particularly ‘re-invention‘, therefore it is puzzling that the author puts so much emphasis on the absence of ‘family stories’ for the construction of ‘historical consciousness’. Slovakia is not devoid of ‘family stories’ (if anything there is a surplus of those), but as with all ‘stories’, only some of them are ‘usable’ for the purpose of constructing a sympathetic historical consciousness, so necessary for a new state seeking a justification of its own existence as well as international recognition.
There is no doubt that the Slovak population, with its dramatic national past and its lack of political maturity, has given too much room to manoeuvre to unscrupulous elites, who are now losing their grip over the politics of Slovakia; regretfully very slowly. That said, Slovak nationalism is not different from any other nationalism, in fact it shows the same quality as all other nationalisms: it wanes parallel to the decline of elites who exploit it. Cohen’s account of Slovakia exaggerates the role of the Slovak State in postcommunist Slovakia, and consequently, it belittles the role of ‘ideological elites’ (i.e. the Public Against Violence movement) who brought democracy to Slovakia.
· Declair, Edward G., Politics on the Fringe. The People, Policies, and Organization of the French National Front, Raleigh: Duke University Press, 1999, 261pp, GBP 11.95, ISBN 0-8-2232-399-0 (pbk).
Reviewed by Valérie Lafont (CEVIPOF)
In the story of long term failure of the extreme right in France, Declair intends to analyse how the French Front National has expanded during the 1980s and 1990s, by looking at its organisation and leaders. The leaders are the most interesting focus of attention because they possess "the firsthand knowledge of the factors that helped or hindered the party development" and of "the strategic choices they made" (p.8). Through a delicate approach - leaders are not observers, but actors, and what they rationalise as strategic choices might largely have been involuntary - it enriches a far too often neglected area in existing work on the extreme-right. The data sources – 29 qualitative interviews conducted in 1988 with leaders, plus questionnaires based on the Eurobarometer surveys – are rich.
For the author, the FN is a "natural continuation of an omnipresent political tradition in French society" (p.12) and its success is primarily due to its implantation in this cleavage structure (p.46) -- though most FN voters have no links with the traditional extreme right. Furthermore, what concretely links its elite to the past? People and organisational networks, literature, familial political socialisation? The author only mentions a superficial convergence in ideas. Action Française (AF), Vichy, the Poujadists, the OAS and Tixier-Vignancour’s party have completely different profiles: it is bold to say that they all manifest one French extreme right tradition that appears unchanged in the FN. Quite correctly, however, Declair insists upon the FN’s extraordinary capacity to absorb each and every small group in the extreme right stream, but neglects to analyse how the FN plays this refuge role, how the leaders assess such cohabitation, how ideological training, once assured by close groups such as AF, in such a politically and socially heterogeneous party is organised, and how contemporary networks such as the New Right stream influence younger activists.
Declair names the presidential capacity of the FN leader and the behaviour of existing parties, as two other factors of success. Le Pen had indeed been central as probably the most charismatic figure among political professionals. Certainly, early alliance agreements with the parties of the centre-right also helped the FN in its legitimisation process. Yet the correlation with the fall of the PCF is unclear: that the FN “is attracting an ever increasing number of disaffected voters from the opposite end of the political spectrum” (p.48) is false. Granted, more and more workers and people living in precarious conditions have been voting for the FN, yet they are rarely leftist: a vote for the FN is all the more probable if people belong to the right (Mayer, Ces Français qui votent FN, 1999). Combining quality of leadership and organisation, and political and institutional context by way of explanation is interesting. Yet the analysis ends superficially because it remains stuck to synthetic political theory and neglects looking at the data in depth.
Indeed the lack of use of qualitative data is a source of great disappointment: what a pity to collect such rich data, under such difficult conditions (p.145), and then to forget them. A scientific explanation based upon 29 cases is possible because each detailed case can be informative about precise social and political processes: the explanation then pays more attention to the content of the processes than to its weight. Yet, in this book, there is almost nothing about the content of the interviews except for some short, barely analysed, quotations. The method chosen by Declair consists of a statistical sorting of his 29 cases! Thus, the attitudes of the FN elite and of French voters are compared using interviews carried out in 1988 and (Eurobarometer) surveys conducted in 1993 and 1995, a period of major changes in the FN’s electorate. Consequently, how accurate are the findings that FN leaders are more patriotic than the French public, more preoccupied by abortion, immigration and moral change, and less by social issues such as unemployment?
The same is true of the perfectly legitimate question about the social composition of the elite. Following Birenbaum (Le Front national en politique, 1992), Declair identifies three groups : the founders, the notables, and the new recruits, and shows some differences -- in one case between 7,5% and 14% (p. 148) -- in political sensibility, political socialisation and level of education. But what do these differences really mean?: do new recruits have a genuine socially oriented profile? What are the consequences for the choices made by the FN?
In addition, the analysis of the female vote is too short : from the electoral results and surveys of 1993, Declair concludes that the gender gap characterising the FN vote no longer exists. The results of the subsequent elections of 1995 and 1997 (p. 186), show the contrary… Indeed the gender gap varies depending on social status, education and religion. And for the first time in 1997, (only) one group of women – the workers – voted as much as men for the FN.
Lastly Declair emphasises the exceptional loyalty of FN voters and the rapid pace of the FN’s unique expansion in a context of generally declining party membership. The splitting of the FN challenges his conclusions, but in fairness no one could have foreseen that development.
Overall, then, in spite of stimulating questions, the dramatic lack of attention paid to data analysis means that this book brings nothing new to research on extreme right parties.
· DiCanio, Margaret, Encyclopedia of American Activism: 1960 to the Present, Santa Barbara, etc.: ABC-CLIO, 1998, 322 PP., USD 75.00, ISBN 0-87436-899-5 (hbk).
From the announcement:
This book provides readers with “a unique resource that focuses on the people, events, movements, organizations, and issues associated with activist movements in late-twentieth-century America, covering the political spectrum from the Weathermen of the 1960s to the militias of the 1990s. (…) Here is just a sample of the compelling A-to-Z entries included in this volume: People as varied as Joan Baez, Morris Dees, David Duke, Jane Fonda, Martin Luther King, Jr., Timothy Leary, Ralph Nader, and Andrew Young. Events ranging from Bloody Sunday (1965) to the occupation of Alcatraz (1969) to the Million Man March (1995). Movements as diverse as the anti-land-mine movement, the Asian-American movement, the civil rights movements, the gay liberation movement, and the sanctuary movement. Organizations ranging from the Gray Panthers and Greenpeace to the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Women’s Sex Workers Project. Issues such as black studies, homelessness, nonviolence, sweatshops, and urban renewal.
The Encyclopedia of American Activism’s usefulness is enhanced by numerous illustrations and extensive cross-references. A comprehensive bibliography and throrough subject index round out this valuable reference to high school and college students and teachers, as well as anyone interested in exploring this turbulent period of our history.”
· Gerd Koenen, Utopie der Saeuberung: Was war der Kommunismus?, Berlin: Alexander Fest Verlag, 1998, 452 pp., ISBN 3-8286-0058-1 (hbk).
Reviewed by Andreas Umland (Ural State University, Ekaterinburg)
With this broad survey of 20th century Russian history, the prolific German historian and publicist Gerd Koenen presents an impressive contribution to the current German debate about the so-called “Black Book of Communism”. As the title indicates, Koenen tries to clarify what the nature of communism (i.e. regimes that labelled themselves this way) was. His review starts with World War I and ends with the fall of the Soviet empire. It is filled with a plethora of revealing empirical details and thought-provoking interpretations and conceptualisations of Leninist and Stalinist ideas and policies. Koenen extensively compares Lenin with Mussolini, and Stalinism with Nazism. Lucidly written, it constitutes an excellent introduction to the Soviet experience.
Interestingly, Koenen acknowledges that he himself, like some authors of the mentioned “Black Book”, went through a phase of sympathising with communism. He emphasises the continuities between Leninism and Stalinism. On the other hand, however, he also argues that there have been discontinuities between Marxism and Leninism. Koenen sees in Lenin, as in Mussolini, a “revolutionary bellicist” whose “turn-away from all historical goals of the workers movement and Marxism [meant] the development of an entirely new, original doctrine that was later called Leninism.” (p. 38) “Lenin’s and the Bolshevik’s break with the historical workers movement [a break] that constituted the starting point of modern communism meant, in several regards at once, a reversal [Verkehrung] of what was called until then socialism.” (p. 404, emphasis in original)
Although this is a valid corrective to the approach of the editors of the “Black Book of Communism”, who seem to see a straight line between Marx and the Gulag, to this reader it remained unclear what Koenen proposes as an alternative conceptualisation of Leninism as a non-Marxist ideology. His usage of the term “cleansing” in this context is problematic in so far as this concept is heavily, and, far more aptly, used in the study of ultranationalisms and fascisms. To extreme nationalists it has been much clearer what body was to be cleansed from which elements. In the Soviet case, instead, ‘cleansing’ could apply to everybody. Under Stalin, in fact, ‘purging’ applied, at times, relatively more frequently to members of the Communist Party and state apparatus than to those outside the elite stratum. Whereas in the case of Nazism the idea of ‘cleansing’ was at the core of the ideology, in Lenin’s and, partly, Stalin’s case the direction of the purges and other repressions of certain, sometimes ill-defined, social groups was difficult to predict or to explain. With the reappearance of official Russian nationalism under Stalin, to be sure, the persecution of non-Russians became a more plausible endeavour. The terror against the nationalities could thus be put under the heading ‘cleansing’. One would still have to point out though that the Soviet-Russian crypto-nationalist regime aimed rather at assimilation than destruction of the USSR’s non-Slavic nationalities. In any case, Koenen does not seem to regard the ideology and policy innovations under Stalin as sufficiently significant to draw a sharp line between Leninism and Stalinism. Thus the question about the usefulness of his conceptualisation remains.
Notwithstanding this critique, Koenen’s survey is to be praised for its high density of revealing observations and interpretations, and excellent style. Despite presenting the reader with a fairly detailed history of the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, the book makes easy reading, and forces one to re-think communism.
· Renton, Dave, Fascism. Theory and Practice, London: Pluto Press, 1999, 155pp., GBP 35.00, ISBN 0-7453-1475-9 (hbk) / GBP 10.99, ISBN 0-7453-1470-8 (pbk).
Reviewed by Stein Ugelvik Larsen (University of Bergen)
With the breakdown of communism one would have assumed that the trust in Marxism/socialism as the only alternative to fascism would have been less pronounced in the scholarly debate among those who regard themselves as belonging to the ‘left’. However, Renton contends that “The clearest most effective antidote to racism is the politics of class” (p.110) and that “working class unity” is the most effective tool with which to fight fascism today. In his introduction he asserts that the purpose of his book is to offer a “radically different and critical theory of fascism” (p. 3). In the concluding chapter he also offers means of how to stop fascism, drawing upon former Marxist theory which he holds still valid today, as he sees no difference between neo-fascism today and ‘classic’ fascism.
The contention that (neo-)fascism can only be defeated by crushing the capitalist system was at the heart of the ‘anti-fascism’ coming from the East for years and functioned as a cover-up for the most cruel repressions before, during and after the Second World War. A strange omission in Renton’s book is critique of the tactical blunder of the Comintern theory of 1929 to split the ‘class movement’ top-down by depicting and opposing the social democrats as ‘social fascists’, and thus opening the way for Hitler to destroy the labour (class-) movement: “There were voices arguing for left-wing unity against fascism, unfortunately, the impact of their theories on the practice of the significant battalions of the German left was minimal” (p.36-37). Renton is particularly interested in the theory of Leon Trotsky, yet his murder by the Soviet regime stands in very strange contrast to Renton’s praise of how Marxist class-movements can liberate us from fascism.
Juan Linz once said that the most efficient way to fight fascism was to prohibit/destroy nationalism. With Renton’s (Marxist) recommendation to destroy capitalism, we have two proposals which taken together will bring a revolution to politics, but also pre-empty it with content: a (neo)-fascist free world without nationalism and capitalism. And this is exactly what Stalin did! I do not think this approach to a theory of understanding fascism is the one to follow in the years to come.
Having said this, I do recommend this as a very clear and argumentative book – not uncommon among ‘leftists’ writers. They often cleverly de-mask political realities and bring out the essentials of political practice. And they have a strong moral point of view, much coming from the experience of the fascists’ merciless treatment of communists and leaders from working class organizations. This is also Renton’s main point, who in general argues that we have to understand the difference between analysing fascism as a dependent or as an independent variable (a point of view which I have exemplified in Fascism outside Europe). He attacks what he calls the “liberal theories which dominate the academic studies of fascism”. What they do (wrong) is focus on the pronounced ideology of fascism thus trying to understand fascism in the way the fascists themselves wanted to be seen. Ideology cannot be understood separated from political practice, Renton holds, and it is a gross misunderstanding to ‘read out’ political practice by studying programs and written proclamations etc.. When you study fascism as an independent variable i.e. what they did (the ‘effect of fascism’) you get the right understanding of what fascism was about, and then you can also transcend the problem of analyzing fascism from the fascists’ own premises.
This is an interesting point of view, and Renton then goes on to try to analyze fascism as an independent variable by looking at its ugly deeds, most notably the Holocaust, commenting on ‘Holocaust denial’ as a theme within (neo-)fascism today. The problem with independent-variable analysis is that very many different political regimes did very much the same as fascism in terms of cruelty and repression, if not to the extent of the industrial killings of the Jews. Therefore one has to single out the ‘particular’ effects of fascism which differ from effects of other regimes. That theory has still not been formulated.
On the dependent variable analysis much is still missing and Renton’s conclusion on the destruction of fascism is not the best, even if capitalism in the inter-war period certainly contributed to the rapid rise of fascism both in and outside Europe. The problem with this analysis of fascism so far is the effort to use the heralded ‘generic approach’ which is a “prison of ideas” (his description of the approach by the aforementioned ‘liberal theorists’) when trying to look at the ‘roots of fascism’ from the Italian case. A theory of fascism has to be based on a general ‘cause’ from where the Italian case can be tested. Therefore, I think we have to look for the blend/combination of independent variables which emerged in Europe and elsewhere, and which made fascism possible. Capitalism surely is part of the story, but as we know, the most efficient capitalist countries were the ones where ‘classical’ fascism had the least impact. We thus have to look into the dependent-variable theory with a more sophisticated approach than the simple one-variable relationship.
In conclusion, the Renton book is fresh and useful reading, even if I disagree on several points. I also have a strong sympathy with his recommendations for fighting (neo-) fascism today.
· Shahak, Israel and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, London: Pluto Press, 1999, 176 pp., 11.99/35.00 GBP, ISBN 0-7453-1276-4/1281-0 (pbk/hbk).
Reviewed by Ami Pedahzur (University of Haifa)
Shahak and Mezvinsky’s book is refreshing in its new perspective on Jewish fundamentalism and therefore serves as an important contribution to the knowledge in the field. In academic terms, however, it has several flaws which are caused mainly by the authors’ selective use of sources as well as their eagerness to make a political statement.
The authors’ main aim is to provide a thorough assessment of fundamentalism in Israel. They describe in some detail the origins, ideologies, practices and overall impact of fundamentalism upon society. They emphasise the messianic tendency as they believe that this is the most influential and dangerous. The authors define Jewish fundamentalism as generally opposing human freedoms, especially the freedom of expression. In regard to foreign policy the fundamentalists have continuously opposed any and all withdrawals from territories occupied by Israel since 1967. Moreover, Jewish fundamentalists have advocated the most discriminative proposals against Palestinians. In essence, the authors’ contention is that Jewish fundamentalism is essentially hostile to democracy because it opposes equality for all citizens and therefore poses a considerable threat to democracy in Israel. Though well presented, most of these arguments have already been discussed in earlier works, especially Ehud Sprinzak’s The Ascendance of Israel’s Radical Right. (Oxford University Press, 1991).
Another argument made by the authors is that modern Jewish fundamentalism, is tightly connected to earlier versions of the fundamentalist phenomenon. Therefore, they try to trace the history and background of fundamentalist manifestations. They also make an attempt to put the Jewish fundamentalist phenomena in a wider perspective. In their words: “What occurred in Jewish fundamentalism is not dissimilar to what occurred in other forms of fundamentalism. Some innovations have been made, largely to disguise true intent. The predominant wish ideologically is to return to the supposedly ‘good times’. In the case of the Jewish variety of fundamentalism, the idea is to use modern methods to achieve the power to re-establish the traditional way of life in an effectual manner”. Once again, this is an interesting statement that could have been made much more convincing by using some comparison to other fundamentalist or extremist movements (even contemporary ones).
Thus, though well written, the book leaves the reader wondering. On the one hand it tells the story of the Zionist-Religious as well as the ultra-Orthodox social and political camps, in great detail, so that the reader will understand the dangers emerging from this growing fundamentalist camp. On the other hand, the absence of a clear theoretical framework, or even a consistent historical description, lessens the book’s importance. It is also somewhat puzzling that the authors strongly attack English language academic literature on Israeli politics. The most important works about Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, including some critical works, have been written in the English language (for example, the comprehensive works of Sprinzak, Peled and many others). Hence, the authors’ decision not to use reliable academic sources and to base most of the arguments on Hebrew newspapers is not totally convincing.
· Scotchie, Joseph (ed.), The Paleoconservatives, New Voices of the Old Right, New Brunswick: Transactions Publishers, 1999, 212 pp., GBP 22.50, ISBN 1-56000-427-4 (hbk).
Reviewed by Göran Adamson (LSE)
Hermann Hesse was a conservative author. The manner in which Harry Haller, the leading character in Der Steppenwulf, being confronted with a friends ‘bourgois’ portrait of Goethe, ends the dinner in despair, grabs his hat and umbrella, and rushes out on to the street, is a typical example of a form of conservative, highly sensitive reaction against the soothing purpose of art in the eyes of the rising middle class.
And yet, was he conservative? The conservative, we are taught, holds national values in high esteem. This Hesse did not do. At the same time as Theodor Adorno thought that poetry after Auschwitz was no longer possible, Hermann Hesse declared that ‘nationalism’ in all its connotations was a spent concept. Thus, whereas culturally Hesse was conservative, politically he was not. A similar mixed approach towards conservatism can be applied to a number of others, among them, the anti-fascist George Orwell and the American playwright Arthur Miller, repeatedly harassed during the McCarthy era. The reason why I believe this distinction is important is that whereas culture in the eyes of Hesse, Orwell and Miller was ‘useless’ in the best sense of the word, it cannot- to any orthodox adherent to political conservatism- fail to be transformed into a mere tool for the sake of that old political concept called the nation.
Covering essays on, among other topics, taxation, pluralism, and nationalism, the edited book gives a broad and interesting insight into some of the academic discussions on which the current American conservative value-system rests. If we allow ourselves to study the articles in The Paleoconservatives in the light of the dichotomy as suggested above - do they on the whole share the non-instrumental cultural conservative values of Hesse and others? Or is instead the cultural sphere used, reduced and abused into a mere political tool?
The answer is not obvious. In ‘The quest for tradition’, quoting Wyndham Lewis’ Rude Assignment, the author describes with sincere concern the sad imbalance between someone happy with the current culture of western society and someone who is not: ”..and there is no action of (the) (..) ‘smart’ man that is more aggravating than the way in which he will turn upon the critic of the social scene (...) and accuse him of ’despising the people.’” The aim seems rather to be to liberate the citizen from a populist domination than to make him subservient to any nationalist framework.
This pleasantly non-instrumental impression is further strengthened by the progressive tone of W.E. Hocking, who observes that ”no art today can bear to speak simply in terms of beauty and affirmation”, a conclusion which draws a sobering demarcation line to that tempting perception of art as a form of ‘absence’ and relaxation in the process of capitalist production.
However, these examples are no more than scattered lights against a background of persistent conservative self-righteousness. Generally, the instrumental and subservient function of cultural values for the sake of nationalistic concerns dominates completely among the essays in this book. Russell Kirk, author of The Conservative Mind, states that ”a society seems to have thrived when it obeyed the dictates of tradition, and seems to have suffered when it sought to substitute some new moral or social scheme for prescriptive wisdom”. Prescribed by whom? And what wisdom? Germany in the Thirties? And who, except the nationalist fanatic, would today dare to use the concept ‘dictates of tradition’? Even more abhorrent, a few pages further on Kirk suggests that man should ”obey (...) ”the contract of history (…) in gratitude and fear”. A human being characterised by ‘gratitude and fear’ is, I would argue, on the verge of mental extinction.
As in one of those pieces of subtle advertising, the author tells the tale of the old octagonal house, and once the innocent reader is emotionally caught by its sad fate (demolition) the trap snaps upon his nose. The story is not about a house, nor tradition, not even about culture. These were the tools. The purpose is- again- about that wholly unjustified creation of a nationalist myth. Once that old house had filled its purpose, it was thrown away, creating a pile of wood similar to the one made by those abhorrent town-planners in the story.
The Paleoconservatives does not, of course, fail to discuss the seemingly innocent concept of ‘cultural pluralism’, a compulsory ingredient in any right-wing attempt in favour of nationalism in all its sinister permutations. A sweet fruit of efforts within the French new right in the 1970s, the concept has since consisted of a ‘modernisation’ of the right wing rhetoric. In short, the old right wing biological clubfoot, i.e. concepts such as ‘race’ and ‘blood’ was exchanged for ideas with an unmistakably tolerant ring -- ‘pluralism’, ‘belonging’, ‘diversity’. ”A culture”, the author Richard M. Weaver explains, seemingly unaware of the key concept’s dubious connotations, ”is like an organic creation in that its constitution cannot tolerate more than a certain amount of what is foreign or extraneous.” (my emphasis) This is probably not the way any liberal adherent to pluralism, such as David Nicholls, would have put it. Weaver does not, one might reasonably suspect, defend ‘cultural pluralism’ as a non-instrumental and unhampered idea, but favours instead the new right catch word ‘ethnopluralism’, i.e. pluralism within barbed wire.
· Thurlow, Richard, Fascism In Britain: From Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts to The National Front, London: I.B. Tauris, 1998, 298 pp., GBP 12.95, ISBN 1-8-6064-337-X (pbk).
Reviewed by Steven Woodbridge (Kingston University)
The extreme right in Britain continues to produce a small but steady flow of studies. Although a younger generation of scholars have taken much interest in the British context over the last ten years, Thurlow remains one of the pioneers, his special strength being a masterly knowledge of how the British state ‘managed’ and successfully contained fascism during the interwar period.
In the 1987 edition of “Fascism in Britain”, Thurlow included ground-breaking material and new perspectives on how the police, MI5 and the Home Office dealt with the potential public order threat posed by the British Union of Fascists (BUF). The revised and updated 1998 edition does not alter the main arguments; it is still mainly a historical account of British fascism which explores the complex relationship between fascist theory and practice and aims to describe the evolution of a number of ideological ‘traditions’ common to both the interwar and postwar extreme right. This objective is broadly achieved and Thurlow points to important elements of continuity between the fascism of the 1930s and postwar movements such as the National front (NF) and the British National Party (BNP). However, the author is on firmer ground when writing about the interwar version of fascism, which he backs up with judicious use of Government files and other archives. The treatment of post-1945 developments is less sure of itself.
Thurlow opens the book by considering the early years of the twentieth century when a ‘radical right’ began to emerge, a right that was arguably distinctive from Edwardian conservatism. It was obsessed with both the ‘decline’ of the country and its people and with antisemitic ideas. The pre-1914 radical right put forward a strong critique of the liberal establishment in Britain and this was continued after the First World War. Thurlow avoids making too many comparative points, but what clearly united the radical and extreme right throughout Europe during the 1920s and 30s was a conviction that liberalism and democracy were unable to find solutions to Europe’s ‘crisis’ and ‘decadence’. He correctly identifies Oswald Spengler as one of the key figures behind this critique and, at various points during his study, he successfully outlines the extent to which British fascists during the early 1930s held an ambivalent and complex fascination with Spengler’s ideas, an attitude that John Tyndall and NF ideologues also held during the 1970s (pp.264-66).
He also considers the extent to which the ‘British Fascisti’, launched in 1923, merely adapted radical right ideas already in existence in Britain, or borrowed ideas from the Italian model of fascism, an area that still remains somewhat neglected by analysts. But it is when discussing the BUF that Thurlow shows himself at his best. Chapters 3 and 4 provide the general, historical background to the formation, structure and impact of the BUF, effectively analysing Mosley's role in this process, while chapter 5 presents a clear investigation of the ideological dimension to the Blackshirt movement.
Indeed, the revised edition of ‘Fascism in Britain’ reinforces Thurlow’s thesis that, despite the failure of British fascism, one of the reasons why the BUF remains of great interest to scholars of fascism is that Mosley’s movement produced a notably coherent and developed ideological programme. Thurlow takes into account the recent work by Griffin and Eatwell on generic fascism and points out that the BUF’s detailed political programme is a good example to study when considering the features that may constitute the ‘fascist minimum’.
Chapters 6 and 7 are more problematic. The book as a whole was evidently thrown off course slightly by the release of new and important archival evidence by the Public Record Office (PRO) during the mid-1980s. Four separate batches of Home Office files -- known collectively as the ‘Mosley Papers’ - were released after pressure by an alliance of Left-wing MPs, former Mosleyites, and historians. Thurlow was determined to make extensive use of this new material during the course of the book. Large parts of chapters 6 and 7 are devoted to a very detailed examination of the evidence contained in the Mosley Papers on the intricate and secretive events of 1939-40 and on the decisions involved behind the state’s internment and closure of British fascism in May, 1940. The level of detail leaves much less room for post-1945 developments, which are covered in the last quarter of the book.
The three chapters on post-1945 neo-fascism from the 1987 edition remain intact. The only new material is a 10-page chapter (11), entitled ‘Terminal decline?’, located just before the unaltered concluding chapter. In this new chapter he surveys events since 1985 and argues that, since the fragmentation of the NF during the 1980s, Britain’s extreme right has shown few signs of revival. Apart from a brief success in local politics by the BNP in East London in 1993, neo-fascists in Britain have made little headway at the electoral level. Thurlow suggests that lack of organisation, leadership and resources has resulted in the extreme right exhibiting symptoms of continued disintegration, echoing the 1987 edition of his book. Chapter 11 does not introduce any new perspectives or theories and functions largely as an opportunity to update new references in the historiography. The value of Thurlow’s book for readers thus remains strongly in his thorough grasp of the interwar period, not with his assessments of more contemporary trends.
· Andrew Tickle and Ian Welsh (eds.), with a foreword by Václav Havel, Environment and Society in Eastern Europe, New York: Longmann, 1998, 192 pp., GBP 16.99, ISBN 0-582-22763-1 (pbk).
Reviewed by Máté Szabó (Eötvös Loránd University)
The study of the environment and society is an interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary challenge for the social sciences. This challenge is taken up less by the social sciences in post-communist Eastern Europe than in Western Europe, so this is a pioneering enterprise by two British scholars, who collected studies on this topic within the former communist bloc. In some ways, this volume, bears all the positive and negative traits of being the first of its kind. An immense, and for most readers unknown amount of material is presented in studies of the environment-society relationship in Russia, the former German Democratic Republic, former Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary. But on the other hand, the authors did not find a way to integrate the country studies. Consequently, our knowledge on the individual countries’ efforts to manage their environmental problems is enriched in many ways, but we do not get a comprehensive picture of the common heritage, strategies, problems, etc. of the region in the respective subject.
Do we have a “region” composed of the countries analysed in the collection of studies? The mainstream of social research on post-communism differentiates between East Central Europe, constituted most notably by the new NATO member and EU-accession countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary), the former GDR, integrated into NATO and the EU-through its unification with West-Germany, and the conflict-ridden Russia, being Eastern Europe in the sense of periphery and an aged empire at the same time. To what extent is it legitimate to trace these three types of social realities as a common entity in the volume?
Another worrying phenomenon is the uncertain character of the problems related to the environment-society relationships, which do not allow generalisation of common argumentation beyond the respective countries studied. While environmental politics is one of the main issues in the chapter on the former Czechoslovakia, we do not get any information on this aspect from the otherwise brilliant chapter on the former Soviet Union. The chapter on Eastern Germany deals with the consequences of reunification, without focusing on the environmental movement, while the chapter on Hungary does. Neither the editors’ introduction nor their conclusion gave the authors or the readers a clear sense of what the volume is about. Instead we are presented long but less original reasoning on civil society, democratic transitions, gender, Chernobyl, regionalism and sustainability. With some exaggeration, I could imagine that these chapters would fit well with many other volumes on different subjects and different areas of the world at different times. The editorial work did not make a great impression on me, nor , I suspect, on the contributors’ performance -- the latter is to be interpreted as a compliment to the authors.
If one sees this book as a collection of studies with very different foci and without any common interpretative frame, then it is a treasure of interesting information on environmental movements, environmental consciousness and environmental politics, without comparisons. I was impressed by the case study on the former Soviet Union, yet could not find much originality in the study on the former GDR -- but one has to state that this is the most well-researched case because of the multitude of East and West German studies, whereas much less work has been done on the Soviet-Russian case. The chapter on former Czechoslovakia stands out as it was prepared by the former federal post-communist environmental minister, who died in 1995, finished by one of the editors, Andrew Tickle, and honoured with a foreword by the Czech president, Václav Hável, who knew Josef Vavrousek from the pre-1989 underground .The Polish chapter studies the concept of environmental consciousness on the basis of public opinion research methods, while the Hungarian chapter employs regional mobilisation studies of a qualitative nature. In their own way, both are good performances, but it is clear that each member of the band plays his or her own song without common score notes or a conductor.
Overall, the quality of the studies is really high, as although the “book was originally conceived in 1991” (editors, xv) it must have been finished mostly around 1994-1995, and has preserved the “fragrance” of their message for five years, until “the threshold of a new millennium” (V. Havel , xi).
· Tismaneanu, Vladimir, Fantasies of Salvation. Democracy, Nationalism and Myth in Post-Communist Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998, 216 pp., £22.00, ISBN 0-691-04826-6 (hbk).
Reviewed by Cas Mudde (University of Edinburgh)
Fantasies of Salvation is a collection of essays on the first years of post-communism by Vladimir Tismaneanu, one of the foremost American scholars on Eastern Europe. To those familiar with his work, the book presents a bundling of his major essays, which have appeared earlier in Common Knowledge, East European Politics and Societies, and Partisan Review. For those new to his work, the book will show Tismaneanu as a shrewd but worried observer of post-communist politics and societies as well as a passionate advocate of the role of the former dissidents.
The main thesis in the book is that “intellectuals played a key role in bringing about the demise of communism, and intellectuals remain a vitally important force in shaping the future” (p.4). Studying post-communism from a political philosophical point of view, he argues that Eastern Europe today stands at the crossroads, in which decisive choices have to be made: “either to embrace the values of individual autonomy, accepting an order based on tensions, contradictions, and risk, or to reject modernity in the name of collective dreams of salvation” (p.35).
In most of the chapters Tismaneanu mainly sketches the general mood of the post-communist societies, describing the different ways in which these two scenarios are presented in individual countries. His picture is gloomy: “In short, the end of communism, the revolutions of 1989, and the ambiguous legacy of anti-politics have created a world full of dangers, with traditional lines of demarcation completely disintegrated and new forms of radicalism simmering under the carapace of pseudo stability” (p.22). While he sharply rejects the too popular view of Eastern Europe as a traditional hotbed of nationalism, pointing to the liberal traditions within sections of the societies, he ends up painting a picture which is not much brighter; in which the people are full of fear, confusion and hatred, populists and nationalists are everywhere, and the democrats are without any ideas or power. Worst still, the only hope for democracy, the old dissidents, are being scorned by both the people and the new leaders, who, by the way, are the former communists.
Two chapters focus more clearly on specific aspects of post-communism. In “Is the Revolution Over?”, he discusses the complex issue of decommunisation. In addition to presenting an interesting empirical account of how different countries and groups have dealt with the issue, he advocates his own view that decommunisation and lustration are necessary and should be pursued, despite all practical problems, if post-communist societies ever want to become truly democratic. In “A Velvet Counterrevolution”, Tismaneanu deals passionately with the way in which the dissidents are perceived nowadays, both by the elites and masses in their own countries and by fellow-intellectuals in the West (most notably authors in The New York Review of Books). He rejects virtually any critique of the dissidents, decrying their fallen status within post-communist politics and societies. For him, dissidents like Vaclav Havel, Adam Michnik, Miklos Haraszti are still the only moral fibre of East European societies, without whom democracy hardly stands a chance.
To be honest, there is much with which I disagree in this book. Partly this is because the chapters are from the early and mid 1990s and sound quite outdated at times. For example, for countries like Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Tismaneanu’s picture of looming nationalism and chaos has little relevance these days. Indeed, most East-Central European countries have firmly chosen the democratic path, and though extremism and populism are still present, there is little to fear for their democratic future. True, the situation in most of South Eastern Europe (or the post-Soviet space, with which he barely deals) is more dire, though, despite the recent developments in Romania, seems to be looking up (Croatia, Serbia).
Tismaneanu’s passionate and uncritical support for the dissidents is another bone of contention. For someone so worried about populism, it is remarkable that he does not see the clearly populist elements of the dissidents’ ‘anti-politics’, which he so often praises. It is to an extent also the legacy of the moral politics of the dissidents that prevents consensus and co-operation in today’s East European politics.
However, despite these points of critique, and the repetition in the chapters, Fantasies of Salvation is an insightful account of the first years of post-communism. While copying a more general, gloomy tone, it does away with much of the short-sighted visions of Eastern Europe as a static, homogeneous hotbed of nationalism. Both democracy and nationalism are identified and qualified, which results in a major contribution to the study of ‘the dark side’ of post-communist politics.
Rather than providing reviews of publications, this section intends simply to bring publications within the broad field of extremism and democracy to the attention of our readers. With the ongoing growth in the number of journals it is hard to keep track of what is published. We therefore urge our members to keep us posted about recent publications of interest to the group’s members.
· Antonio, Robert J., “After Postmodernism: Reactionary Tribalism”, American Journal of Sociology, vol.106, no.1, July 2000, 40-87.
· Backes, Uwe, “Gefahr gegen Rechts?”, Internationale Politik, vol.55, no.9, September 2000, 35-42.
· Bird, Karen L., “Racist Speech or Free Speech? A Comparison of Law in France and the United States”, Comparative Politics, vol.32, no.4, July 2000, pp.399-418.
· Burchell, Jon, “Here Come the Greens (Again): The Green Party in Britain During the 1990s”, Environmental Politics, vol.9, no.3, Autumn 2000, pp.145-150.
·Cacho, Lisa Marie, “The People of California are Suffering’: The Ideology of White Injury in Discourses of Immigration”, Cultural Values, vol.4, no.4, October 2000, pp.389-418.
·Cremet, Jean, “Ein “Partei des neuen Typs”? Die NPD zwischen NS-Nostalgie und Nationalbloschewismus”, Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, no.9, September 2000, 1079-1087.
·De Master, Sara and Michael K. Le Roy, “Xenophobia and the European Union”, Comparative Politics, vol.32, no.4, July 2000, pp.419-436.
·De Mendelssohn, Felix, “The Return of the Repressed: Is Austria a Racist Society?”, Patterns of Prejudice, vol.34, no.4, October 2000, 13-22.
·Downey, Dennis B., “Domestic Terrorism: The Enemy Within”, Current History, vol.99, no.636, April 2000, 169-173.
·Elander, Ingemar, “Towards a Green Welfare Economy? The Green Party in Sweden Since the 1998 Parliamentary Election”, Environmental Politics, vol.9, no.3, Autumn 2000, pp.137-144.
·Elazar, Dahlia Sabina, “Electoral Democracy, Revolutionary Politics and Political Violence: The Emergence of Fascism in Italy, 1920-21”, British Journal of Sociology, vol.51, no.3, 2000, pp.461-488.
·Evans, Jocelyn A.J., “Contrasting Attitudinal Bases to Euroscepticism Amongst the French Electorate”, Electoral Studies, vol.19, no.4, December 2000, pp.539-561.
·Eyal, Gil, “Anti-Politics and the Spirit of Capitalism: Dissidents, Monetarists, and the Czech Transition to Capitalism”, Theory and Society, vol.29, no.1, February 2000, pp.49-92.
·Funke, Hajo and Lars Rensmann, “Kinder der Einheit: Die soziale Dynamik des Rechtsextremismus”, Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, no.9, September 2000, 1069-1078.
·Gandesha, Samir, “Neo-Conservatism: A “Third Way” for Canada?”, The European Legacy, vol.5, no.2, April 2000, pp.187-193.
·Gelber, Katharine, “Hate Crimes: Public Policy Implications of the Inclusion of Gender”, Australian Journal of Political Science, vol.35, no.2, July 2000, 275-289.
·Goldsborough, James, “Out-of-Control Immigration”, Foreign Affairs, vol.79, no.5, September-October 2000, pp.89-101.
·Harper, Beatrice S., “Small Parties in the New Bundesländer: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen in Brandenburg”, German Politics, vol.9, no.2, August 2000, pp.89-108.
·Harvey, Colin J., “Dissident Voices: Refugees, Human Rights, and Asylum in Europe”, Social & Legal Studies, vol.9, no.3, September 2000, pp.367-396.
·Hassan, Lisa, Deterrence Measures and the Preservation of Asylum in the United Kingdom and United States, Journal of Refugee Studies, vol.13, no.2, June 2000, pp. 184-204.
·Higgins, Nicholas, “The Zapatista Uprising and the Poetics of Cultural Resistance”, Alternatives, vol.25, no.3, July-September 2000, 359-374.
·Hooghe, March and Benoit Rihoux, “The Green Breakthrough in the Belgian General Election of June 1999”, Environmental Politics, vol.9, no.3, Autumn 2000, pp.129-136.
·Hough, Daniel, “’Made in Eastern Germany’: The PDS and the Articulation of Eastern German Interests”, German Politics, vol.9, no.2, August 2000, pp.125-148.
·Ishiyama, John, “Institutions and Ethnopolitical Conflict in Post-Communist Politics”, Nationalism & Ethnic Politics, vol.6, no.3, Autumn 2000, pp.51-67.
·Jandl, Thomas, “Environmental Activism and Democratization in Russia”, Helsinki Monitor, vol.11, no.3, 2000, 33-41.
·Jaschke, Hans-Gerd, “Sehnsucht nach dem starken Staat – Was bewirkt Repression gegen Rechts? ”, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B39, 22 September 2000, 22-29.
·Knight, Robert, “Contours of Memory in Post-Nazi Austria”, Patterns of Prejudice, vol.34, no.4, October 2000, 5-11.
·Kraus, Vered and Yuval Yonay, “The Power and Limits of Ethnonationalism: Palestinians and Eastern Jews in Israel, 1974-1991”, British Journal of Sociology, vol.51, no.3, 2000, pp.525-551.
·Lubbers, M. and P. Scheepers, “Individual and Contextual Characteristics of the German Extreme Right-Wing Vote in the 1990s. A Test of Complementary Theories”, European Journal of Political Research, vol.38, no.1, August 2000, pp.63-94.
·Lynch, Philip, “The Conservative Party and Nationhood”, The Political Quarterly, no.71, no.1, January-March 2000, pp.59-67.
·Maryniak, Irena, “Extreme Measures”, Index on Censorship, vol.29, no.5, September-October 2000, pp.78-82.
·Merlingen, Michael, Cas Mudde and Ulrich Sedelmeier, “Constitutional Politics and the ‘Embedded Acquis Communautaire’: The Case of the EU Fourteen Against the Austrian Government”, Constitutionalism Web-Papers, No..4, 2000. http://www.qub.ac.uk/ies/onlinepapers/const.html>
·Mirkovic, Damir, “The Historical Link Between the Ustasha Genocide and the Croato-Serb Civil War: 1991-1995”, Journal of Genocide Research, vol.2, no.3, 2000, pp.363-373.
·Monaghan, Rachel, “Single-Issue Terrorism: A Neglected Phenomenon?”, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol.23, no.4, 2000, pp.255-265.
·Nagorski, Andrew, “The Politics of Guilt”, Foreign Affairs, vol.79, no.3, May-June 2000, pp.18-22.
·Oren, Ido, “Uncritical Portrayals of Fascist Italy and of Iberic-Latin Dictatorships in American Political Science”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol.42, no.1, January 2000, pp.87-118.
·Payne, Stanley G., “Review Article: Historical Fascism and the Radical Right”, Journal of Contemporary History, vol.35, no.1, January 2000, 109-118.
·Peleg, Samuel, “Peace Now or Later?: Movement-Countermovement Dynamics and the Israeli Political Cleavage”, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol.23, no.4, 2000, pp.235-254.
·Pfahl-Traughber, Armin, “Die Entwicklung des Rechtsextremismus in Ost- und Westdeutschland”, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B39, 22 September 2000, 3-14.
·Phuong, Catherine, "Freely to Return': Reversing Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Journal of Refugee Studies, vol.13, no.2, June 2000, pp.165-183.
·Poutrus, Patrice G., Jan C. Behrends and Dennis Kuck, “Historische Ursachen der Fremdenfeindlichkeit in den neuen Bundesländer”, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B39, 22 September 2000, 15-21.
·Rallings, Colin and Michael Thrasher, “Personality Politics and Protest Voting: The First Elections to the Greater London Authority”, Parliamentary Affairs, vol.53, no.4, October 2000, pp.753-764.
·Rose, Richard, “The End of Consensus in Austria and Switzerland”, Journal of Democracy, vol.11, no.2, April 2000, 26-40.
·Rubinstein, W.D., “Jews in the Economic Elites of Western Nations and Antisemitism”, The Jewish Journal of Sociology, vol.42, nos.1-2, 2000, pp.5-35.
·Schröder, Buckhard, “Rechtsextremismus im Internet”, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B39, 22 September 2000, 49-54.
·Shpiro, Shlomo, “Barking or Biting? Media and Parliamentary Investigation of Right-Wing Extremism in the Bundeswehr”, German Politics, vol.9, no.2, August 2000, pp.217-240.
·Shubart, Wilfried, “Pädagogische Konzepte als Teil der Strategien gegen Rechtsextremismus”, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B39, 22 September 2000, 40-48.
·Smith, Tom, “'Bataille’s Boys’: Postmodernity, Fascists and Football Fans”, British Journal of Sociology, vol.51, no.3, 2000, pp.443-460.
·Sommer, Henrik, “Bringing Nonviolence Back Into the Study of Contentious Politics, Politikon, vol.27, no.2, 2000, pp. 255-275.
·Stamatov, Peter, “The Making of a “Bad” Public: Ethno-National Mobilization in Post-Communist Bulgaria”, Theory and Society, vol.29, no.4, August 2000, pp.549-572.
·Ter Wal, Jessica, “The Discourse of the Extreme Right and Its Ideological Implications: The Case of the Alleanza Nazionale”, Patterns of Prejudice, vol.34, no.4, October 2000, 37-51.
·Turner, Royce, “Gypsies and Politics in Britain”, The Political Quarterly, no.71, no.1, January-March 2000, pp.68-77.
·Van Amersfoort, Hans and Jan Mansvelt Beck, “Institutional Plurality: A Way out of the Basque Conflict?”, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol.26, no.3, 2000, pp.449-467.
·Wagner, Bernd, “Zur Auseinandersetzung mit Rechtsextremismus und Rassismus in den neuen Bundesländer”, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B39, 22 September 2000, 30-39.