The portrayal of the Fascist legacy has been in a full demonizing swing ever since the end of World War II. Despite their claims of objectivity, modern professors of political ideas bear resemblance to ancient Hellenic bards with their surreal mythmaking orations. Irrespective of their awe-inspiring plots, few believe nowadays in the veracity of the ancient Greco-Roman myths. By contrast, modern doubts about the truthfulness of similar modern accounts regarding the Fascist intellectual legacy must not be publicly voiced. History professors continue to boast about their “unbiased historiographic” approach, although the word “hagiographic” would be more appropriate in the description of their teaching and research endeavors. Mandatory school programs in Europe and the US resemble a curriculum in comparative demonologies. Former Fascist and National-Socialist protagonists as well as numerous pre-World War II fascist writers and artists are presented as extra-terrestrial monsters, as ever emerging multi-headed Lernaean Hydras, or worse, as howling Hitlerite hounds of Hades, all of them sharing the company of hordes of illiterate, dim-witted and weaponized (mostly German) cutthroats. Such a would-be scholarly approach in modern higher education only confirms that the word “fascism” has entirely lost its original meaning.
One must therefore welcome the second edition of the book Les Parias (The Pariahs) authored by the French scholar Christophe Dolbeau; a book that provides a critical addition to the life and death of once-prominent fascist political and cultural actors. Dolbeau focuses on the fate of dozens of well-known and lesser-known American and European artists, novelists and politicians who played a significant role in the rise and fall of Fascism; yet who due to the adverse intellectual climate, following the end of World War II were either forcibly removed from the public eye and/or whose literary works came to be caricatured as academic quackery. Dolbeau’s book, however, is by no means an attempt at political rehabilitation of those fascist individuals, nor is his book a revisionist apology of Fascism. Dolbeau solely attempts in this thick book—600 pages, replete with the dense bibliographic notes garnered from his Spanish, Argentinian, American, English, German, French, ex-Yugoslav and Russian sources, as well as from his numerous personal acquaintances with the relatives of some of those former political lepers—to provide a more nuanced perspective on their days of preeminence and their subsequent descent into eternal damnation.
Dolbeau’s book reads as a meticulous police dossier on two dozen Fascist politicians and intellectuals, offering the reader new information on their statements and encounters that were suppressed in official documents following the war. The survey of each individual actor is supplemented with dozens of additional names—names of their friends or sympathizers, or names of their military and judicial detractors—forcing the reader to keep a close track of a massive number of references and translated quotes. Overall, Dolbeau’s French prose is highly readable given that his impressive writing record has a long history of supplying his readers with similar contextual and interdisciplinary framework, always triggering a new level of suspense and …surprise.
Out of dozens of Fascist figureheads described by Dolbeau, one can here only single out a few. These are: the English profascist activist John “Jack” Amery (1912–1945), the English author James Strachey Barnes (1890–1955), the Palestinian cleric Mohammed Amin al-Husseini (1895–1974), and the two founders of Russian fascism, Konstantin Vladimirovich Rodzaevsky (1907–1946) and the American-Russian activist Anastasy Andreyevich Vonsiatsky (1898–1965). Short of recommending reading this book in its entirety, it is impossible to review here the dozens of Polish, Flemish, Slovak, Norwegian, Canadian and Australian fascists and pseudo-fascists mentioned in the book, as well as in Dolbeau’s prior works.
John Amery. Born into a prominent English family, his mother being of Hungarian-Jewish descent, John Amery, called “Jack”, developed very early a close insight to the wheeling and dealing of the English political class, which helped him later on in his own expatriate and propagandistic work on behalf of Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. A good-looking young man and a womanizer, Amery was a man of high intelligence, albeit of moody behavior, always under the influence of hard liquor even when giving public speeches or having meetings with his high National-Socialist and Fascist sponsors. He spoke fluent French, which helped him set up a large network of like-minded colleagues all over pre-World War II Europe and foster close ties with fascist collaborationist authors in German-occupied Vichy France. During the war, at his speaking and public engagements, he advocated the formation of the English anticommunist military corps St. George designed to fight side-by-side with other European volunteers against the Red Army and local communist guerrillas.
Later on, the German propaganda services and German intelligence community, headed by the Berlin English section field officers, Dr. Fritz Hesse and Dr. Reinhard Haferkorn respectively, enabled him to make a series of anticommunist speeches on the Reichsrundfunk radio program during which he advocated the necessity of a peace agreement between the embattled UK and Germany. “I very frankly told Dr Hesse that I am not interested in the German victory; what is of interest to me is a just peace that can enable us to unite and counter a real threat to our civilization.” When captured along with his girlfriend by the communist guerrillas in northern Italy, in April 1945, he pleaded guilty at his later trial in England—but refused to recant his fascist beliefs. He, along with his colleague, the Irish-American radio host William Joyce, who had become a naturalized German citizen and with whom he had frequent personal squabbles, was hanged by the decision of the British court, on December 19, 1945.
Amin Al Husseini. The expression “Islamic Fascism” sounds like an oxymoron, except when used as derogatory name-calling, which seems to be quite trendy among many neocon and left-leaning journalists in America. Yet it is worth recalling that prior to World War II a large number of Muslim politicians and intellectuals all over the Middle East and central Asia showed a great deal of sympathy for the National-Socialist experiment in Germany. Even today, German businessmen and politicians when on a state visit to Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East and Central Asia receive a much warmer official welcome than their colleagues from America, the UK and France, two former colonial powers that not long ago ruled over much of Africa and the Middle East.
The Palestinian politician under review in this book, Amin Al Husseini, was born into a respectable Palestinian family and soon became a household name in the Arabs’ anticolonial drive, adamantly opposing the arrival of European Jewish settlers in what was then the British mandate for Palestine and what was to become the state of Israel in 1948. Prior to World War I he was the main political spokesman for the pan-Arab cause, and later he advocated a military alliance with National-Socialist Germany. “He claim[ed] that the alliance of Muslims and the Reich is natural given that Islam and National-Socialism share the principle of discipline, solidarity and obedience in common.” In his numerous encounters during the WWII years with Hitler, Himmler, Mussolini and the Croatian profascist leader Ante Pavelić, he extoled “friendship, sympathy and adoration the Arab peoples have for the courageous German people and voiced support against the Anglo-Jewish coalition.”
In the last days of the war, Amin Al Husseini was residing in Germany, and unlike many local European fascist officials, or their sympathizers facing the Allied gallows, he was never arrested nor put on trial by the Anglo-American military authorities. After the war, he played a major role in endorsing the pan-Arab union and was the advisor to the future PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who attended his funeral in Beirut, in 1974.
James Strachey Barnes. James Strachey Barnes was a young English nobleman who converted to Catholicism, fully fluent in Italian and French. He started his career in the British intelligence service in 1919, yet became quickly disillusioned with British anti-German policies. Along with many English Catholic conservatives, he embraced fascist ideas and did not hesitate to put himself at the disposal of the Axis powers. Unlike his English Berlin-based rowdy compatriots William Joyce and Jack Amery, he was far more delicate in his public and radio appearances in Italy. As a personal friend of Mussolini and having close associates in the American expatriate poet Ezra Pound and the Italian-American pro-axis radio personality Rita Zucca, he became an important asset in Italy’s fascist propaganda targeting English and American troops. In his capacity as the Italian-based contributor to Father Charles Coughlin’s magazine Social Justice, which by 1939 had attained a circulation of over several hundred thousand copies, he wrote that “Italy is the hope of Europe, that is, of a civilized and Christian Europe.” And: “that one needs to expel all Jews from Europe.” By the end of the war, in April 1945, he was dismayed at the fate of his former mentor Mussolini, whose assassination and death he described as the “biggest crime since the crucifixion of Jesus.”
Konstantin Vladimirovich Rodzaevsky and Anastasy Andreyevich Vonsiatsky. Usually associated with Italy and Germany, it is hard to imagine that Fascism could also have its second birthplace in Russia. After the Bolshevik takeover in Russia by the early 1920s, there were millions of anticommunist Russian refugees who fled the country and settled all over Europe, China and North America. The neighboring province of Manchuria in China became a breeding ground for the early Russian fascist militants who, with the help of the Japanese authorities, attempted to topple the recently established communist government of the Soviet Union. Dolbeau describes a young writer exiled from Bolshevik Russia, a staunch antisemitic pamphleteer, Konstantin Vladimirovich Rodzaevsky, who founded the Russian Fascist Party and who collaborated with the war-time Japanese authorities in occupied Manchuria. However, his anticommunist projects went sour after the US had joined forces with the Soviet Union during the war. After the war he was captured and executed by the Soviet authorities.
His erstwhile Russian colleague Anastasy Andreyevich Vonsiatsky, who also fled Russia after the Bolshevik takeover, was more fortunate after the war, becoming a naturalized US citizen. Both worked briefly on the creation of a loose network of anticommunist organizations in Japan, Europe and the U.S. made up of Russian exiles, albeit with little success, weakened by internal disputes amidst Russian anticommunist expatriate circles. The U.S. and U.K. governments soon became close wartime allies of Stalin’s Soviet Union, and this had a negative impact on all fascist, anticommunist and conservative emigres the world over. As late as 1948, Edgar Hoover’s FBI kept under close surveillance thousands of German Americans and American anti-Communist sympathizers of East European origin. The Cold War against the Soviet Union reversed this policy, but for many American and European nationalists and cryptofascists of all sorts, redemption was still a long way off.
Dolbeau concludes: “These two chiefs, no doubt sincere and patriotic but also credulous, vain, delusional, and not always honest, were never up to the task. Nonetheless, despite its defaults and failures Russian fascism embodied in the 1930s a real desire for the renewal and a real effort to imagine Russia differently.”
After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and thanks to modern internet technology, the study of Fascism is increasingly becoming the subject of less condescending, hostile analyses. Political historiography after 1945 attempted to cement forever the founding myths of the liberal and communist order. It is now undergoing a revisionist process where the old verities are increasingly questioned.
At first glance Dolbeau’s book reads like a good archival source to the study of Fascism. With his encyclopedic knowledge of names and events surrounding the rise and fall of Fascism, Dolbeau did a good job of putting together a handy compendium for the study of anticommunism, and it is a great pity than none of his books have been translated into English. At the time of the publication of this book, he also published a well-annotated essay Des Américains au service de l’Axe, in the French periodical Tabou, where he deals in detail with the fate of numerous American and naturalized German-American and Italian-American professors, artists and journalists who harbored fascist sympathies, with many becoming later active participants in the Third Reich propaganda efforts. For example, he writes at length about, American profascist luminaries such as the above-mentioned Rita Zucca, as well as William Dudley Pelley, George Nelson Page, Jane Anderson, Douglas Chandler, Donald S. Day, Mildred Elizabeth Gillars, aka “Axis Sally,” Max Otto Koischwitz, including dozens of lesser-known Italian and German-American expatriates.
MoreoverDolbeau is the first French author to compose a comprehensive, encyclopedic work Face au bolchevisme: Petit dictionnaire des résistances nationales à l’Est de l’Europe (1917–1989) (Facing Bolshevism; A Small dictionary of national resistances in Eastern Europe; 1917–1988) in which he painstakingly traces every single anticommunist actor who took part in the world-wide anticommunist struggle during the course of the twentieth century, from Albania to Azerbaijan from Catalonia to Kazakhstan. Dolbeau’s earlier close ties with Croat post-WWII emigres in De Gaulle’s France, in Peron’s Argentina and in Franco’s Spain also prompted him to write several well-researched books on the rise and demise of the profascist state of Croatia. The state of Croatia remained the last ally of National-Socialist Germany, and after the communist takeover in 1945 it turned into the largest communist killing field in Europe, known later as Marshall Tito’s Federal Communist Yugoslavia.
In addition, Dolbeau’s book is also a good guideline for understanding our own present times. Contrary to widespread beliefs, we are not witnessing the end of history, nor the termination of the ideology of Communism. Quite to the contrary. The end of World War II in 1945 only came to a provisional close; it continues to rage on with communist ideas still holding ground, albeit under different signifiers and promoted by different actors. Worse than Weimar Germany, or for that matter worse than entire pre-war Europe, Europe and the USA today are sharply polarized along racial and gender lines, both waiting to implode with deadly consequences not yet seen in the history of the West. Dolbeau’s book will help us better understand the root causes of the coming catastrophes. It is an important work on the recent intellectual and cultural history of the West, reminding us that there were many intelligent, morally upright people—now expunged from history—who advocated for a different outcome.