The global right in the world

revolutions of 1917 and 20xx

Chris Chase-Dunn

and Jennifer S.K. Dudley

 

Institute for Research on World-Systems

University of California-Riverside

chriscd@ucr.edu

An earlier version was presented at the meeting of the Global Studies Association, Berkeley, June 14-16, 2017.  Conference Theme: Global Social Movements: Left and Right.  Session organized by Tom Reifer on “Polanyi's Double-Movement, Fascism and the Capitalist World-Economy: The Contributions of Walter Goldfrank and the Challenges of the 21st Century”

This is IROWS Working Paper #118 at http://irows.ucr.edu/papers/irows118/irows118.htm 

A translation of this article into Estonian is at https://www.espertoautoricambi.it/science/2017/07/25/uelemaailmse-oiguse-maailmas-revolutsioonid-1917-ja-20xx/  Thanks to Karolin Lohmus for translating it. 

 

v. 8-4-17  9832 words

 

Abstract: An understanding of the contemporary constellation of right-wing national and transnational social movements needs to compare the recent movements and the global context with what happened in the first half of the 20th century in order to figure out the similarities and differences and to gain insights about what could be the consequences of the reemergence of populist nationalism and fascist movements. This paper uses the comparative evolutionary world-systems perspective to study the global right from 1900 to the present. The point is to develop a better understanding of 21st century fascism, populist nationalism and authoritarian practices and to help construct a praxis for the New Global Left.[i]

 

Keywords:  fascism, world revolutions, world-system, globalization, social movements, global Left, global Right

 

Chase-Dunn Bio: Christopher Chase-Dunn is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Research on World-Systems at the University of California-Riverside. His research focuses on cities, empires, sociocultural evolution and the causes and consequences of social movements in large-scale social change.

Dudley Bio: Jennifer S.K. Dudley is a student in the Masters of Sociology Program at California State University, Northridge. Her research topics include political sociology, the student loan industry, and student loan debt and default. 

The world-systems literature on world revolutions has tended to focus on the rebellions and social movements of the Left to see how these clusterings of collective behavior from below have been related to changes in the larger structural and institutional context of world politics and capitalist development. The constellations of social movements from below have been analyzed and compared with one another in order to understand their political ideologies and social constituencies and the effects that they have had on the evolution of global institutions and regimes. But reactionary and right-wing movements have largely been left out of this analysis.

The exception is W.L. Goldfrank’s (1978; 1990) analysis of fascism in world historical perspective, a valuable review of the theories and comparative literature on 20th century fascism that builds on the approach developed by Karl Polanyi to flesh out an analysis at the level of the global system. But the rise of right-wing sects, movements and parties in the last few decades and obvious similarities between populist nationalisms and the use of symbols and tactics taken from the playbook of 20th century fascism require an update and rethinking of Goldfrank’s seminal work that also takes more recent scholarship into account.

 

The world-systems perspective

            

The world-systems perspective presents a structural interpretation of the cycles and trends that have constituted the expansion and evolution of global capitalism (Arrighi 1994; Chase-Dunn and Lerro 2014: Wallerstein 2011). It focuses on the global core/periphery hierarchy and global class relations (Amin 1980). This holistic structural approach allows us to see both the similarities and the important differences between the contemporary world historical period and earlier periods that were similar in some ways but different in others. The expansion and deepening of capitalism has occurred in the context of the rise and fall of hegemonic core powers, waves of colonization in which European powers subjugated and exploited most of Asia, the Americas and Africa, and the waves of decolonization that extended the European system of formally sovereign states to the non-core. The expansion and deepening of capitalist production and the increasing size of the nation-states that played the role of hegemons were driven by movements of resistance that were located both within core polities and, importantly, in the periphery and the semiperiphery. Each of the hegemons (the Dutch in the l7th century, the British in the 19th century and the United States in the 20th century) were formerly semiperipheral states that rose to core status in struggles with contending great powers. Their successes were partly based on their abilities to deal with resistance from below more effectively than their competitors (Wallerstein 1984).

            It is important to accurately grasp both the structural similarities and the differences between the current world historical period and earlier periods that were similar but also importantly dissimilar. The United States has been in decline in terms of hegemony in economic production since 1945 and this has been similar in many respects to the decline of British hegemony in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Chase-Dunn et al 2011). Giovanni Arrighi (2006) noted that the period of British hegemonic decline (1870-1914) moved rather quickly toward conflictive interimperial rivalry because economic challengers such as Germany and Japan were able to develop powerful military capabilities that could be used to contest the Pax Britannica. The U.S. hegemony has been different in that the United States ended up as the single military superpower after the demise of the Soviet Union. Some economic challengers (Japan and Germany) cannot easily play the military card because they are stuck with the consequences of having lost the last World War. This, and the immense size of the U.S. economy, will slow the process of hegemonic decline down compared to the rate of the British decline, but the decline of U.S. hegemony has invigorated counter-hegemonic sects and social movements of both the Left and the Right that perceive the inadequacies of the contemporary world order. 

The post-World War II wave of trade globalization and financialization faltered in 2008, but has recovered since then. A future trough of trade deglobalization similar to what happened in the 1930s could happen if a perfect storm of calamities and more powerful resistance to further economic globalization should emerge. The declining economic and political hegemony of the U.S. poses huge challenges for global governance. Newly emergent national economies such as India and China need to be fitted in to the global structure of power. The unilateral use of military force by the Bush administration further delegitimated the institutions of global governance and provoked much resistance and challenges. A similar bout of “imperial over-reach” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on the part of Britain (the Boer Wars) led to a period of interimperial rivalry and world war. Such an outcome is less likely now, but not impossible.

These developments parallel, to some extent, what happened a century ago, but the likelihood of another “Age of Extremes” (Hobsbawm 1994) or a Malthusian correction such as what occurred in the first half of the 20th century could be increased by some new twists. The number of people on Earth was only 1.65 billion when the 20th century began, whereas at the beginning of the 21st century there were 6 billion (now 7.5 billion). At the beginning of the 20th century fossil fuels were becoming less expensive as oil was replacing coal as the major source of energy (Grimes 2003; Podobnik 2006). It was this use of inexpensive, but non-renewable, fossil energy that facilitated the abolition of slavery and serfdom and made the geometric expansion and industrialization of humanity possible.

Now we are facing global warming as a consequence of the spread and rapid expansion of industrial production and energy-intensive consumption. Energy prices have temporarily come down because of fracking and overproduction by countries that are dependent on oil exports, but the low hanging “ancient sunlight” in coal and oil has been picked. “Peak oil” is approaching.  “Clean coal” and controllable nuclear fusion remain dreams. The cost of energy will probably go up no matter how much is invested in new kinds of energy production (Heinberg 2004). None of the existing alternative technologies offer low cost energy of the kind that made the huge expansion possible. Many believe that overshoot has already occurred in terms of how many humans are alive, and how much energy is being used by some of them, especially those in the core. Adjusting to rising energy costs and dealing with the environmental degradation caused by industrial production will be difficult, and the longer it takes,  the harder it will become. Ecological problems are not new, but this time they are on a global scale. Peak oil and rising costs of other resources are likely to cause more resource wars that exacerbate the problems of global governance. The war in Iraq was both an instance of imperial over-reach and a resource war because the U.S. neoconservatives thought that they could prolong U.S. hegemony by controlling the global oil supply.  The Paris Agreement on greenhouse gas emissions reached in December of 2015 implied that the powers that be were taking anthropogenic climate change seriously, but the setback delivered by the Trump administration in the U.S. is going to exacerbate the problem of compliance for both core and non-core countries. The coming of global climate change is going to increase the problems of global governance and inequalities in ways that were much less salient during the decline of British Hegemony in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  And this contextual difference is likely to produce altered forms of counter-hegemonic movements. The New Global Left has seen the rise of an important climate justice movement (Bond 2012) while the New Global Right claims that climate change is a hoax and advocates “drill, baby, drill.”

 

Collective Behavior and Social Movements

 

            Social movements and the study of collective behavior (the less institutionalized spontaneous group actions of crowds, herd behavior, fads, etc.) is an important and well-developed field in sociology with important connections with both political science and economics (e.g. Snow and Soule 2009). Much of this field is relevant for our analysis of world politics and global social movements. Movements compete with one another and generate counter-movements (Zald and McCarthy 1987).[ii]  But this field suffers from a few simplifying assumptions that become obvious when we try to apply it to world politics and world history.  One convenient, but inaccurate, assumption is that social movements are a modern phenomenon that began in the context of the European Enlightenment and secular humanism. This implies that the peasant revolts and revolutions that were legitimated in religious terms are outside the domain of the field. Recent work on revolutions recognizes that something similar to modern political upheavals was already occurring in Bronze Age Egypt (Goldstone 2014) and it is now claimed that collective behavior and social movements are likely to have played an important role in social change since the Stone Age (Chase-Dunn 2016). Religiously inspired social movements obviously continue to be important in world politics (Denemark 2008; Moghadam 2009).  The social movement literature has also suffered from the assumption that social movements generally come from “below” and so the collective behavior aspects of elite behavior has been obscured. While it is true that elites generally have better access to institutional mechanisms than non-elites, they also use informal modes of mobilization to influence and contend with each other and to mobilize non-elites. And social movement scholars have often neglected conservative, reactionary and right-wing movements, preferring to focus on the heroics of those movements that they themselves support. It is our contention that a holistic prehension of both historical and contemporary world politics needs to firmly push these conveniences aside.

 

World Revolutions

 

The institutional changes that have occurred with the rise and fall of the hegemonic core powers over the past four centuries have constituted a sequence of forms of world order that evolved to solve the political, economic and technical problems of successively more global waves of capitalist accumulation. The expansion of global production required accessing raw materials to feed the new industries, and food to feed the expanding populations (Bunker and Ciccantell 2004). As in any hierarchy, coercion is a very inefficient means of domination, and so the hegemons sought legitimacy by proclaiming leadership in advancing civilization and democracy (the Gramscian side of hegemony). But the terms of these claims were also employed by those below who sought to protect themselves from exploitation and domination. And so the evolution of hegemony was produced by elite groups competing with one another in a context of successive powerful challenges from below. World orders are those normative and institutional features that are taken for granted in large-scale cooperation, competition and conflict. World orders were contested and reconstructed in a series of world revolutions that began with the Protestant Reformation (Boswell and Chase-Dunn 2000: 53-64; Linebaugh and Redicker 2000).

            The idea of world revolution is a broad notion that encompasses all kinds of acts of resistance to hierarchy, regardless of whether or not they are coordinated with one another, but that occur relatively close to one another in time. Local rebels were not usually aware of, or connected with, one another but they were indirectly connected through the hierarchical networks of the colonial empires and the foreign services of the hegemons.

Usually the idea of revolution is conceptualized on a national scale in which new social forces come to state power and restructure social relations (Goldstone 1997; 2014). When we use the revolution concept at the world-system level many changes are required. There is no global state (yet) to take over. But there is a global polity, a world order, which has evolved as outlined above. It is that world polity or world order that is the arena of contestation within which world revolutions have occurred and that world revolutions have restructured.

 Boswell and Chase-Dunn (2000) focused on those constellations of local, regional, national and transnational rebellions and revolutions that have had long-term consequences for changing world orders. Years that symbolize the major world revolutions after the Protestant Reformation are 1789, 1848, 1917, 1954, 1968 and 1989. Arrighi, Hopkins and Wallerstein (1989) analyzed the world revolutions of 1848, 1917, 1968 and 1989 (see also Beck 2011). They observed that the demands put forth in a world revolution did not usually become institutionalized until a later consolidating revolt had occurred. So the revolutionaries appeared to have lost in the failure of their most radical demands, but enlightened conservatives who were trying to manage hegemony eventually incorporated the reforms that were earlier radical demands into a current world order in order to cool out resistance from below. It is important to tease out the similarities and the differences among the world revolutions to be able to accurately assess the contemporary situation and to learn from the past. Both the contexts and the actors changed from one world revolution to the next.

This view of the modern world-system as constituting an arena of both political struggle and economic competition over the past several centuries implies that global civil society (Kaldor 2003) has existed all along. Global civil society includes all the actors who consciously participate in world politics. In the past it has consisted primarily of statesmen, religious leaders, scientists, financiers, and the owners and top managers of chartered companies such as the Dutch and British East India Companies. This rather small group of elites already saw the global arena of political, economic, military and ideological struggle as their arena of contestation. Elites led religious and secular social movements in which masses were sometimes mobilized, as in the Protestant Reformation. And counter-movements such as the Catholic Restoration emerged in which transnational organizations such as the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) took the formed an early instance of a consciously global political party (Chase-Dunn and Reese 2011).  There has been a “global left” and transnational social movements led by non-elite actors at least since the world revolution of 1789.  Though the Haitian revolution of 1804 was mainly a revolt of slaves on the sugar plantations in Haiti, some of the leaders were literate former slaves that were inspired by the ideas of the French Revolution (Dubois 2004).

While global civil society is still a small minority of the total population of the earth, the falling costs of communication and transportation have enabled more and more non-elites to become transnational political actors and increased the extent to which local revolts are able to communicate and coordinate with one another. This said, local revolts in which actors were oriented toward local rather than global power structures have always played a role in world revolutions to the extent that colonial powers reacted to them. Global consciousness is not necessary for global consequences. An objective global interaction network of indirect connections existed long before most people became aware of it. But the spread of global consciousness has made globalization and the local/global imaginary an increasingly important and contentious aspect of world politics.   

Our earlier research has focused on what Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2006) has called the New Global Left and compares it with earlier incarnations of the global left (Chase-Dunn and Kaneshiro 2009; Chase-Dunn and Niemeyer 2009; Smith et al 2014). The global left is part, but not all, of global civil society. Other important contemporary transnational political actors are the forces organized around the World Economic Forum, and the new conservative and neo-fascist elements (Anderson, 2005; Zuquete and Lindblom 2005) the BRICs (Bond 2013) and the jihadists (Moghadam 2009).

We are amid another world revolution now. Chase-Dunn and Niemeyer (2009) have called it the world revolution of 20xx (WR20xx) (because it is not yet clear what the key symbolic year should be). They claim that it began with the anti-International Monetary Fund riots in the 1980s and the Zapatista revolt in Southern Mexico in 1994.

World revolutions are hard to study and difficult to compare with one another because they are complex constellations of events. The time periods and places to include (and exclude) are hard to judge.  They each have had different mixes of social movements, rebellions and revolutions, including reactionary movements, and have occurred unevenly in time and space.  What have been the actual and potential bases for cooperation and competition across the spectrum of progressive movements? How did some of the movements affect the others?[iii]  And how did they relate to the similar and different terrains of power and economic structures in the world-system at the time that they emerged? And how have they affected the struggles among elites in their efforts to maintain their positions or gain new advantages? And we now ask the same questions about the global right in the 20th and 21st centuries.  And we also investigate the interactions in both centuries between the sects, movements, parties and regimes of the right and the left.

Sandor Nagy (2017) contends that world history has seen a sequential cycle of progressive and reactionary revolutions and counter-revolutions. This idea is an interesting twist on the notion that progressive global elites implement reforms in response to challenges from below. The challenges have taken both progressive and reactionary forms and the victorious coalitions have been responses to both kinds. The obvious example here is the U.S. New Deal which was a response to both the global left and the global right.

 

Image result for fascismDefinitions of Fascism and World Historical Comparisons

 

            W. L. Goldfrank (1978) and Michael Mann (2004) note that fascism as a unitary phenomenon is difficult to define not only because its manifestations in different locations took somewhat different forms and paths but also because one of its key features – hypernationalism— was constructed differently in different contexts and constructed different sets of internal and external enemies.[iv]  Definitions of fascism in the scholarly literature vary in width, choice of characteristics and in emphasis on different characteristics.  Some emphasize the nature of deeds (e.g. Paxton 2004) while others focus more on ideology (e.g. Griffin 1991). Michael Mann (2004: 13) strikes a good balance between these:

I define fascism in terms of the key values, actions and power organizations of fascists. Most concisely, fascism is the pursuit of a transcendent and cleansing nation-statism through paramilitarism.

Michael Mann’s (2004) fine book on fascism and Robert Paxton’s (2004)  excellent volume published in the same both realize that this definition may not fit similar phenomena that have emerged since 1945, but they are both willing to entertain the possibility of, and to examine the nature of late 20th and early 21st century fascism.

Our studies of the New Global Left used survey research to study the network of linked movements that have emerged as the Global Justice Movement in the World Social Forum process (Smith et al 2014; Chase-Dunn and Kaneshiro 2009; Chase-Dunn et al 2014; Chase-Dunn et al 2016).  The assumption that the participants in the Social Forum process are representative of the transnational social movements of the Left in the whole world is somewhat problematic (see Reese et al 2015). But trying to locate a single venue for the global right is even harder. The only venue that might make such a study possible would be the World Economic Forum (WEF). But researchers are not allowed to carry out surveys at the WEF and the exclusivity exercised by its organizers precludes participation by counter-hegemonic activists.[v]  Nevertheless, we can try to estimate the structure of the contemporary global right and to reconstruct the constellation of movements that constituted the global right in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though this exercise will be preliminary. This effort suggests interesting issues that have yet received little scholarly attention.  We use Mary Kaldor’s (2003) definition of global civil society as all the actors who are consciously engaged in contesting power and ideology on a global scale, though our definition may include groups that go beyond most definitions of civility (e.g. terrorists).  Our conception of the contemporary global right includes, neo-conservatives, populist nationalists, anti-immigrant movements, neo-fascists and several versions of reactionary religious fundamentalism (radical jihadist and Christian identity groups).  This broad constellation of contemporary counter-hegemonic reactionary far right groups suggests interesting questions about what was going on with somewhat similar players in the world revolution of 1917 (WR1917). We know from studies of fascism that in some countries fascism was posed as secular national socialism and syndicalism, whereas in others it was formulated in religious terms. Italian and German fascisms were anticlerical. However, religion-based fascism did exist.  A perceived “ideological crisis within the state” was tied to the rise of fascism in Turkey (Jacoby 2011: 918). Paxton (2004: 203) cites examples of religious fascism such as the “Falange Española, Belgian Rexism, the Finnish Lapua Movement, and the Romanian Legion of the Archangel Michael”. [vi] But how did other religious fundamentalisms (Islam, Christianity, etc.) interact with the social movements of the right and the left in WR1917? 

Fascist movements and regimes were authoritarian attacks on democracy and the rule of law, but their hyper-nationalism further institutionalized nationalism as an important form of modern collective solidarity, and they served to provoke a cosmopolitan reaction against extreme forms of nationalism that was, to some extent, embedded in the geoculture and the international institutions that emerged after World War II (the United Nations and the international financial institutions).

 

Comparing the Global Right with the Global Left

 

            One obvious difference between much of the global right and the global left is with respect to nationalism. The global left in WR1917 was explicitly internationalist.  Most socialists, communists and anarchists believed in proletarian internationalism and condemned nationalism as  false consciousness that was promoted by capitalists to undermine the class struggle and to get workers to go to war. This was an important instance of secular global humanism and cosmopolitanism, though it was mainly understood as international class solidarity. It came to grief when the German state tricked the German socialists into voting for war credits at the outbreak of World War I, thus abrogating an agreement among the national parties of the Second International to not go to war and kill each other at the behest of their national capitalists. It was this development that sealed Vladimir Lenin’s disgust with the labor movements of the core and provoked his turn to the “Third Worldism” of the Third International.

Internationalism, transnational humanism and Global Southism (formerly Third Worldism) continue to be important characteristics of the New Global Left in WR20xx (Steger, Goodman and Wilson 2013). 

Fascist movements before and after World War I attacked the workers movements and socialist parties both because the fascists opposed class struggle in favor of organic nationalism and because they opposed the internationalism and pacifism of the Left (Paxton 2004). Attacking peasant unions and labor unions also gained the fascists the support of land owners and some large capitalists, and so was an important move for those fascist sects that were able to move on to become mass movements and to take over national regimes. But hypernationalism is also an obstacle to transnational and international cooperation and organization.  The fascists did try to organize a fascist international during the late 1920s and the 1930s (Laqueur and Mosse 1966), but their own commitment to the myths of nationalism stood in the way (Paxton 2004: 20, Fn. 83).  This was, and still is, an important difference and conflict between the global right and the global left.

             

Comparing the Contemporary Global Right with the Global Right in WR1917

 

            The global right in WR1917 was composed of reactionary conservatives still resisting the rise of centrist liberalism and the remains of a few far-right sects that had emerged in the late 19th century, especially during economic downturns. The fin de siècle intellectual climate was tired of parliamentary debates and stalemates among contending parties. Romanticism and transcendent ideologies were becoming more popular. The dislocations and defeats caused by World War I created a new opportunity for fascists, but the post War economic recovery slowed these movements down. Countries that were new to mass politics had relatively weak regimes that could not effectively deal with the problems caused by the war or the problems that came along with the global financial collapse of 1929. These problems were opportunities for anarchists, socialists, communists and for the growth of fascist sects into mass parties, especially in locations in which the left was becoming powerful and threatening.  The important point here is that fascism was itself a popular movement at first and that it was only later that it was supported by traditional agrarian and capitalist elites who saw it as preferable to dispossession by communists.  Michael Mann (2004: 21) makes the important point that the elites often seemed to overreact to perceived threats to their interests that were not actually powerful enough to dispossess them. But the result was that fascist parties were embraced by some of the old conservatives and were enabled to take state power in Italy and Germany. These, and the militarist authoritarian regime in Japan, mounted a global challenge to liberal capitalism from the right. The U.S. hegemony that emerged after World War II was justified as centralist liberalism and it was a political, military and ideological regime that had been formed in the struggle against colonialism, communism, fascism and Japanese imperialism.

Fascists need enemies to attack, but the internal and external enemies they choose vary depending on their national and international context.  Many, but not all WR1917 fascists were anti-Semitic. Mussolini only accepted anti-Semitism as a condition for his alliance with the Nazis.  Nazism was racial, but Italian fascism was a form of cultural hypernationalism that did not require racial purity. The WR1917 global right also contained movements and regimes that were authoritarian, but not fascist. The Vargas regime in Brazil and the Peron regime in Argentina was not fascist, and neither was the militaristic authoritarian regime in Japan. These are better understood as non-democratic revolutions from above in which state power was used to mobilize development, expansion and resistance to the economic domination of the Great Powers in the core (Goldfrank 1976).  These were non-fascist, but authoritarian statist responses to the crises of global capitalism and should be considered to have been part of the global right. They sometimes made use of fascist symbols and ideas, but they were not based on untranationalist movements from below.

            The contemporary global right is composed of different reactionary groups some of which hate one another. Jihadists (and Moslems in general) are a favorite enemy of the neo-fascists who claim that sharia law may be enacted in the United States because decadent liberals and multiculturalists are encouraging Moslems to take over. Jihadists attack commercialized global popular youth culture, which they see as individualist, consumerist and sexually immoral. The good news here is that the jihadists and the neo-fascists are unlikely allies.

 

Neo-Fascist Movements

 

The most common proposition is that the “conditions of interwar Europe that permitted [fascists] to found major movements and even take power no longer exist” (Paxton 2004: 173). Despite some politicians’ claims to the contrary, Western Europe is the area with the “strongest fascist legacy since 1945” (Paxton 2004: 175).  Paxton calls parties that were continuations of pre-war organizations “legacy fascists” to distinguish them from neo-fascist organizations that emerged later. Spektorowski (2016) claims that the emergence of the new right in 1960s France was based on anti-communist, ultra-nationalist sentiments and leadership.

Most neo-fascist movements do not simply regurgitate the rhetoric of the early 20th century fascist movements (Paxton 2004). They are shaped by the contemporary socio-political-economic context (Paxton 2004). Neo-fascist movements have not been as violent, and nor have they glorified violence, as much their predecessors. They are generally covert and adaptive (Fekete 2014). Neo-fascist movements “capture public spaces” (Fekete 2014: 37). Previously that meant streets, villages and newspapers. More recently that has meant cheap and rural television and radio venues, the internet and online social networks. Harris et al (2017) claim that the leadership of these movements relies on misdirection and on their supporters’ comfort with ‘alternative facts’ so they can survive in a globalized economy while pushing isolationist and racist agendas. As with the New Global Left, they are a reaction to the neoliberal globalization project, but instead of proposing an alternative form of democratic and multicultural globalization they propose reactive nationalism, xenophobia and protectionism.

Starting in the 1970s and lasting through the 1990s, Flemish nationalism in Belgium experienced a groundswell, spurred on by anti-immigration sentiments and a feeling of “alienation from the political establishment” (Paxton 2004: 187). The Flemish nationalist Vlaams Blok became the most popular radical Right party in Western Europe. It was more vicious and xenophobic than comparable movements, perhaps to its own detriment. A coalition of other Belgian parties rose to the challenge and excluded it from power (Paxton 2004).

Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National (FN) moved from sectarian peripheral politics to the mainstream in the 1980s as it reached a level of popularity not seen in the polls in decades (Paxton 2004). The FN’s political success can be attributed to a focus on immigration, employment, law and order, and cultural defense. With popularity came the ability to insert party loyalists into positions of power. The FN was able to pull other conservative parties and politicians further to the right by forcing them to address FN issues. Some traditional conservatives were able to defeat their opponents on the Left only be teaming up with the FN. Paxton (2004: Chapter 7) sees the decline of FN in the 1990s as a result of internal conflict and not a decline in popular approval. In 2002, Le Pen received 17 percent of the popular vote in the first round of the French presidential elections, eventually losing to the incumbent Jacques Chirac (Paxton 2004).  Jean-Marie’s daughter Marine Le Pen expelled him from the party in order to attract more support from the center and ran a strong campaign in the French presidential election of 2017, but she was defeated by centrist political outsider Emmanuel Macron.

In Italy in the 1990s, voters were looking for an alternative to the party insiders of the Christian Democrats (CD) (Paxton 2004). The “post-fascist” political descendants of the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI)  (the legacy organization of Mussolini) pounced on the opportunity and were rewarded with 13 percent of the vote, five ministerial portfolios, and a vice-premiership (Paxton 2004: 183).  In the years that followed, Austrians too were looking for an alternative to a long-unchallenged centrist party. They found their outsider in the Freedom Party, which presented the only non-communist option (Paxton 2004). The same anti-immigration party-line that had dominated elsewhere made its mark in the early 2000s with the Pym Fortuyn List party.

Paxton recognizes a series of events that suggest growing popularity of right wing parties and movements in the 1990s:

Ethnic cleansing in the Balkans; the sharpening of exclusionary nationalisms in postcommunist eastern Europe; spreading ‘skinhead’ violence against immigrants in Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, and Italy; the first participation of a neofascist party in a European government in 1994, when the Italian Alleanza Nazionale, direct descendant of the principal Italian neofascist party, the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), joined the first government of Silvio Berlusconi; the entry of Jörg Haider’s Freiheitspartei (Freedom Party), with its winks of approval at Nazi veterans, into the Austrian government in February 2000; the astonishing arrival of the leader of the French far Right, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in second place in the first round of the French presidential elections in May 2002; and the meteoric rise of an anti-immigrant but nonconformist outsider, Pym Fortuyn, in the Netherlands in the same month. Finally, a whole universe of fragmented radical Right ‘grouplets’ proliferated, keeping alive a great variety of far-Right themes and practices.

            Another difference between the earlier and more recent versions of fascism is the attitude toward the national state. Most of the earlier versions glorified the idea that the state should be an instrument of the purified and unified nation. The realities of state control were more complicated in both Italy and Germany, but at the level of ideology the statism was an important fascist value.  Contemporary neo-fascist movements do not glorify the state. They favor more authoritarian and interventionist state actions, but they do not glorify the state as such. This difference is one reason why some scholars prefer the term “populist nationalism” over “neo-fascism.” Another important difference is about military expansionism. Glorification of military expansionism was an important part of both Italian and German fascism.  No neo-fascist movement or party has endorsed such a policy, at least so far.  The decolonization of the whole periphery and the establishment of international organizations such as the United Nations that oppose conquests and support the sovereignty of member states seems to have foreclosed the option of a policy of formal colonialism.  Clientelism and covert interventions continue to be the main modes of exercising power in geopolitics. It is likely that neo-fascist regimes would not hesitate to employ these, but a return to military conquest seems unlikely.

            Though many of the earlier fascist movements embraced syndicalism and were anti-capitalist in their early phases, neo-fascists and right-wing populists seem to strongly support capitalism and to opposed state intervention into the economy (Hochschild 2016). This appears to be part of a continuing reaction against the welfare state that was pioneered by the rise of neoliberalism in 1970s and 1980s and continues to be an important theme in right-wing populist and neo-fascist movements.

 

Reactions to Globalization and the Future of the Global Right

 

            At present an “interlocking set of new enemies” is tearing at the status quo, including “globalization, foreigners, multiculturalism, environmental regulation, high taxes, and the incompetent politicians” (Paxton 2004: 181).  Neoliberal globalization has led to a structural transformation of the world economy, thereby providing “a new fertile terrain for far-right mobilizations” (Saull 2013: 631). The fragmented, insecure precariat no longer gathers in membership-based collective organizations (Standing 2011). A globalized economy provides opportunities to blame immigrant labor, finance capital, foreign investment, labor-outsourcing, and ineffective politicians for local economic dislocations (Saull 2013).

Spektorowski (2016) claims that racial ethno-regionalism is supplanting nationalism in the global political-economy. He argues that post-national European fascism may be the next stage in the evolution of fascism in transnational regions with a focus on preserving an “ethnic federation of European people” in the form of a “strong, dominant, and productive conglomeration” (Spektorowski 2016: 126). Neo-liberal globalization has produced winners and losers, and some of the losers are willing to support reactionary movements

Classical fascist rhetoric claimed to transcend class struggle (Mann 2004). But a divide now exists between those qualified for open sector, internationally competitive jobs and those stuck in sectors that are unable to compete globally (Kriesi et al 2006). Globally-minded progressives have become the enemy of locally-focused traditionalists (Hoschschild 2016). Despite the focus of neoliberal globalization on transnational economic development, political mobilization continues to be primarily a local and national phenomenon (Kriesi et al 2006). Individuals can only vote in their local and national elections. The European Parliament is a partial exception, but international organizations such the United Nations are lacking in their institutional ability to directly represent citizens (Monbiot 2003).

New Right movements fight an intellectual battle in addition to a political one. They seek to demonize characteristics of modern liberalism such as “materialism, individualism, the universality of human rights, egalitarianism and multiculturalism” (Griffin 2004: 295). These movements claim to restore the primacy and purity and purity of ethno-national groups, now threatened by globalization and immigration. Jacoby (2011) points to the early 2000s in Turkey to exemplify the way perceptions of state weakness contributed to the mobilization of the Right.  Griffin (2004: 297) details a variety of tactics by which neo-fascist movements have maintained and advanced their salience:

a)      Keeping the extremist agenda alive via modern methods of communication and information dissemination;

b)      Responsive adaptability to new issues and ideas regarding the “decadence” of Western civilization;

c)      Networks of variously integrated groups and individuals who are willing to carry out the vision of the leadership, even to violent ends;

d)      Subcultures that react—sometimes through criminal activity—to “exacerbated socio-economic and ethnic tensions”

e)      Infiltration of mainstream parties

f)       Subversion of democratic opposition through the injection of violent dynamics

g)      Cooption and mutation of left-wing critiques of the status quo

h)      Legitimization of neo-populist attacks on multiculturalism through positions of respectability in orthodox culture

i)       Internationalization of the fight against the secularized West by linking with right-wing movements across the globe

But Western Europeans and Americans have known mostly “peace, prosperity, functioning democracy, and domestic order” (Paxton 2004: 187) since World War II. Revolutionary masses are not at the doorstep of any politician. Openly revolutionary movements are no longer the topic of interest for political scientists (Griffin 2004). Successful modern movements are subtler than their historical counterparts. The leaders usually distance themselves from the political violence of their most ardent supporters.[vii]  The neo-fascist fringe groups do use forceful confrontation as a tactic and this is reminiscent of the fascists of WR1917 but, at least so far, lethal violence has been restricted to mentally challenged individuals who have been inspired by the rhetoric of others. Organized actions have displayed considerable political savvy in framing, as well as well- coordinated and aggressive street tactics, especially in contrast to the leftist counter-demonstrators that their actions are intended to rile. The nationally-coordinated anti-Moslem demonstrations of June 10, 2017 by Act for America were framed as anti-Sharia law and anti-female genital mutilation – apparently an effort to attract women and feminists. While the idea that Sharia law is a threat to the United States is preposterous, some of the participants apparently believed this and that Islamic law requires female circumcision. The counter-demonstrators could not support Sharia Law or female genital mutilation. The Act for America demonstrators waved large American flags and some of them had anti-communist signs and flags, but their main frame was anti-Islam.

            The energy that these neo-fascist groups have shown is disturbing, as is their degree of coordination and rather sophisticated propaganda. They appear to be trying to attract feminists from the Left. The currently low unemployment rate, the revival of housing construction and the real estate market and the Trump-induced stock market bump slow these movements down. But a new financial crisis or economic slowdown, which is eventually very likely, will increase the level of frustration that is behind the support for these neo-fascists sects and movements.

 

Anti-Immigration

 

In the modern context of globalization, those who stand to lose the most to transnational competition are the most likely to resist through calls for closed borders (Kriesi et al 2006). Anti-immigration movements have fueled the neo-fascists (Paxton 2004; Madrid 2017). Openly extreme right-wing movements have not experienced much political success in global politics. However, openly anti-immigration rhetoric has forced mainstream political parties to address immigration issues (Paxton 2004). In fact, much of neo-fascism’s political success is owed to its stance on immigration (Paxton 2004).

Following World War II, Britain and France accepted “massive immigration from Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean” (Paxton 2004: 177). Immigrant populations from Africa, the Caribbean, India, Pakistan, and Turkey brought their own social and ethnic identities that were more difficult to assimilate than earlier waves of migration. Native Europeans saw them as “undermining national identity with their alien customs, languages, and religions” (Paxton 2004: 180). Following the loss of its Algerian colony, France experienced an influx of European and Algerian settlers. The “only partially assimilated Muslim population […] provoked the anti-immigrant feelings” that led to a successful radical Right movement (Paxton 2004: 178).

By the 1970s, immigrants were not just unwelcome. These outsiders, who could be employed at a discount, had become a threat to Europeans who were suffering with “long-term structural unemployment” (Paxton 2004: 180). Immigrants came from former colonies. They brought their own cultural and religious traditions. Unlike the southern or eastern Europeans who made up previous immigration waves, this new group of outsiders did not try to assimilate quickly (Paxton 2004).

 

Fighting Fascism

 

Finding the common characteristics of neo-fascist regimes means that there may be common ways to fight fascism. Neo-fascists have found success in regions where economic strain has increased social pressures (Griffin 2004; Saull 2013). Conservative policies have created increasing economic strain for middle- and working-classes, often under the guise of fostering economic growth (Hanauer 2017). Relieving that strain can also relieve some pressure. This would mean increasing minimum wages, encouraging collective bargaining, providing comprehensive benefits, including child-care services, retraining, and publicly organized and supported health care.           In May, 2017, the centrist Emmanuel Macron beat out Marine Le Pen with a 20+ point lead (Kirk and Scott 2017). Le Pen ran on a platform that more than hinted at her father’s fascist roots. Notably, areas of France with low economic activity and low education were more likely to vote for Le Pen and the National Front (Kirk and Scott 2017; Tartar and Sam 2017). Areas with higher employment and levels of education were more likely to vote for Macron, suggesting that individuals with a buffer to economic strain are less likely to be attracted to neo-fascist rhetoric.

            While the New Right and the New Left fight for the hearts of the people, the real battle ground for power is in the institutions that protect the people. The U.S. court system, for instance, has often been the protector of civil liberties (Harris et al 2017). It was a court order, as well as protestors in airports, that halted portions of Executive Order 13769 (titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Entry into the United States, a.k.a. the Trump Travel Ban or Muslim Ban) (Liptak 2017). Voter suppression tactics such as voter ID laws, gerrymandering, and failing to make election days national holidays ensure that certain citizens are unable to use their political power. Voter suppression laws, a favored tactic of conservatives, disproportionately affect minorities and the poor (Palmer and Cooper 2012; Zelizer 2016; Zoltan et al 2017). While these tactics may not be exclusively fascist, they are giving the New Right an edge in consolidating power. 

 

Conclusion

 

            This project is yet incomplete. Our effort to reconstruct the constellation of right wing reactionary movements that were players in the World Revolution of 1917 needs much more research. What, if any, role did fundamentalist religious movements play in this earlier incarnation of the global right?  We want to look more closely at the issue of fascist international coordination and organization both in the first half of the 20th century and in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Also, because the story is unfolding before our eyes, our efforts to characterize the nature of 21st century neo-fascism and its similarities and differences with earlier incarnations remains provisional.  We need to improve our grasp of the contours of the contemporary global right and to study the relationships among its elements.

We study the evolution of the modern world-system as social scientists, but as world citizens we also want to contribute to the further articulation of the New Global Left (Chase-Dunn and Pascal 2014). In this regard, an ironic hypothesis is suggested by our comparisons so far.  Fascism in the Age of Extremes was importantly a reaction against the strength of the rising labor movement and socialist, anarchist and communist organizations that were promoting proletarian internationalism and threatening the property of the rich. Now the Left is decidedly weak, but it might gain new strength and more articulation and organization in response to the threat posed by 21st century neo-fascism. Something like this occurred in the 1930s when anarchists, socialists and communists were driven to organize popular fronts in order to combat fascism.  A democratic ecosocialist movement network could emerge to transform capitalism and to take up the job of confronting the rise of neo-fascism. Movements spur counter-movements, but this has not produced stasis in the past and this is also likely to be the case for the human future.

 

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[i] A translation of this article into Estonian is at https://www.espertoautoricambi.it/science/2017/07/25/uelemaailmse-oiguse-maailmas-revolutsioonid-1917-ja-20xx/  Thanks to Karolin Lohmus for translating it. 

[ii] Twentieth century fascists attacked socialists and communists driving the Left to replace the internecine competition among anarchists, syndicalists, socialists and communists with efforts to form popular fronts that also included anti-fascist capitalists (Chase-Dunn and Pascal 2014).

[iii] We have examined the links that anarchists (Chase-Dunn et al 2016) and indigenous rights activists (Chase-Dunn et al 2014) have with other movements that participate in the Social Forum process.

[iv] Goldfrank (1978:78) says “In contrast to the varieties of communist parties and states, the differences among the fascisms are mandated, as it were, by nationalist principles rather than mere adaptations to local traditions or political exigencies.”

[v] That was one of the main reasons that the World Social Forum was originally founded in 2001.

[vi] Even when fascism was secular it was usually formulated as a mystical essence based on either race or culture and on topophilia (sacred soil and place). 

[vii] An exception was Donald Trump’s mention of “the Second Amendment people” during the U.S. presidential campaign of 2016.