Fascism's Return: Scandal, Revision, and Ideology since 1980

By Richard J. Golsan | Go to book overview

Richard Wolin


Designer Fascism

The "positive nihilism" of Nietzsche has no other sense than this: one can build only where the ground has been razed…. If we want to give birth to a New Right, everything remains yet to be done. And given the delay to be made up, we have about a century in which to succeed. Which means there isn't a minute to lose. Alain de Benoist, Les Idées à l'endroit

Many discussions of right-wing extremism in contemporary Europe have focused on comparisons with Weimar Germany. There is a natural tendency to perceive parallels between the neofascist movements that are making inroads across the European political landscape today and what I would like to call "historical fascism": the first wave of fascist movements that swept across Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Such comparisons can be seductive, but they must be approached cautiously, for a number of reasons.

Although neofascism bears important ideological affinities with the fascisms of yesteryear, it is extremely unlikely to attain power or to exercise a destabilizing effect analogous to that of historical fascism. In this respect it is important to understand that historical fascism was a phenomenon highly specific to the interwar period. It was very much a response to a series of crises -- extreme political instability, economic catastrophe, and the Bolshevik threat -- that emerged on the European scene following World War I. Its spirit of militarism and imperialistic quest for living space led to unprecedented dislocations and cataclysms -- according to some estimates, during World War II 50 million people (most of them, of course, civilians) lost their lives in the European theater alone. This is a phenomenon very few in Europe -- including most of today's neofascist leaders -- are anxious to repeat. One should also recall that the leading fascist parties of the interwar period had at their disposal mass paramilitary organizations (the SA in Hitler's case and the squadri in Mussolini's), whose function was to foment disorder as well as to terrorize the opposition. Thus, the orientation of the interwar fascist parties was avowedly extra- and anti-parlia

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