In Les Nouveaux Visages du fascisme, Enzo Traverso and Régis Meyran discuss the continuities and discontinuities between the fascist movements of the twentieth century and the "post-fascist" far right of today. Olivier Doubre spoke with Traverso for the 16-22 February 2017 edition of Politis. Translated by David Broder.
You use the term "post-fascism" to characterise today’s far Right movements. What does this term mean?
Enzo Traverso: The idea of post-fascism firstly serves to characterise a political movement that is shot through with contradictions, and which has an evident fascist matrix — for that is its history, where it comes from — and in the Front National’s case a dynastic line of descent. There is an undeniable fascist hard core in the FN apparatus, its activist base, composed of neo-fascist militants of all generations. They are very active in the FN and hold onto a good part of the organisation. So there is a rift between the organisational reality of this party — or even its anthropological fabric — and Marine Le Pen’s discourse in the media or the public sphere, which is of a xenophobic, nationalist, anti-neoliberal tenor but also comes out of a social Right. Yet if the FN were a neofascist sect, or even a neofascist party, I do not think that it would be considered likely to appear in the second round of the presidential election, or even capable of being France’s biggest party. This party is thus clearly transforming, and it is trying to operate a process by which it dialectically transcends its fascist character — but without entirely rejecting it. So in order to fight this party, we have to understand what it has become.
The Israeli historian Shlomo Sand made his name with his critical re-reading of the history of Israel, nationalism and Jewish identity. Trained in the French historical school, he is also a keen observer of intellectual life in Paris. His most recent book, devoted to the decline of a milieu which he once so admired, concludes with a sombre diagnosis. Translated by David Broder.
"When an intellectual makes eulogies to the police, the army, and the forces of the state, then he is out-of-step with the history of France since Voltaire. Houellebecq accuses the government of not being sufficiently militaristic. How can we imagine an intellectual, a writer, an artist taking a stance against the authorities saying they aren’t ‘muscular’ enough? It is astonishing to see how the intellectuals dominating the debate today are against immigrants, against foreigners, against the weakest [...] This neoconservatism is a sign of the times."
Shlomo Sand, professor of contemporary history and author of The Invention of the Jewish People, discusses how capitalism’s permanent state of crisis fuels a vehement pursuit of scapegoats. Sand examines the rhetoric supporting the development of Islamo-Leftism as the major enemy of mainstream culture, in comparison with the former, Judeo-Bolshevism. This piece was translated by David Broder and edited by Sébastien Billard.