The writings of Carl Schmitt form what is arguably the most disconcerting, original, and yet still unfamiliar body of twentieth-century political thought. In the English-speaking world, he is terra incognita, a name associated with Nazism, the author of a largely untranslated oeuvre forming no recognizable system, coming to us from a disturbing place and time in the form of fragments.
The Enemy is a comprehensive reconstruction and analysis of all of Schmitt’s major works—his books, articles and pamphlets from 1919 to 1950—presented in an arresting narrative form. The revelation of his work is that, unlike mainstream Nazi ideology, Schmitt makes a strong philosophical claim for the necessity of confrontational politics within a democratic system; a claim that has resonance in today’s hegemony of consensual politics.
This interview with Enzo Traverso was first published in L'humanité. Translated by David Broder.
June 2015 press conference of far right 'Europe of Nations and Freedom' bloc within European Parliament.
In his Les Nouveaux Visages du Fascisme, historian Enzo Traverso analyses the mutations of the European far Right movements that have emerged from "the fascist matrix."1 According to Traverso, the Left has to "offer political perspectives again" in order to occupy "the immense void" that is today being filled by both jihadism and a "post-fascism" that excludes Muslims.
Are Europe’s far-Right movements (the AfD in Germany, the Front National in France, Jobbik in Hungary…) adopting the same codes as fascism or Nazism?
Enzo Traverso: First of all, these movements do share common traits, including their rejection of the European Union, their xenophobia and their racism, in particular in its Islamophobic dimension. Beyond these markers, we can see notable differences. There are clearly neo-fascist or neo-Nazi movements, like Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, etc., whose radicalism is often linked to the extent of the crisis, even if in Greece the rise of Syriza did put a lid on this dynamic. As for France, the Front National does have a fascist matrix, and there are certainly neo-fascists in the party, but its discourse is no longer fascist. After all, it has made a considerable effort at ideological mutation, and that is one of the keys to its success. If it still advanced neo-fascist arguments it would not get a hearing, and could certainly not hope to reach the second round of the presidential election.