York alumnus launches new book, Where Have all the Fascists Gone?

Where Have all the Fascists Gone? is the title of a new book by York alumnus Tamir Bar-On (BA ’90, MA ’91) being launched Tuesday, Feb. 19, by the Founders College Intellectuals & Society Symposium and the York University Bookstore.

The launch takes place in the Senior Common Room, 305 Founders College, Keele campus, from 4:30 to 6:30pm.

Where Have all the Fascists Gone? (Ashgate Publishing Co., 2007) traces the cultural, philosophical, political and historical trajectories of the French Nouvelle Droite in particular and the intellectual European New Right (ENR) in general. It also examines the ENR world view as an ambiguous synthesis of the ideals of the revolutionary right and new left. 

"In general, my book is an attempt to more rationally understand fascism, to relate it to its mortal communist "enemy", and to see how fascist ideas survive in the new millennium," says Bar-On.

He believes future fascists in Europe and North America will be less conspicuous and will deny the fascist label. The book starts with the historical and ideological origins of the ENR and the roots of the right wing, followed by the birth and development of the ENR in France and the relationship of the ENR to the extreme right and neo-fascism. It also looks at the Nouvelle Droite during the 1980s and 1990s along with the birth of the Nouvelle Droite in 1968 France.

"What was unique about them [Nouvelle Droite] was that they in a sense tried to revise a quasi-fascist legacy using older right-wing ideas – conservative revolutionary – in conjunction with the influences of the New Left, also born in 1968," says Bar-On, who received his PhD from McGill University and now teaches politics and sociology at George Brown College, Toronto, and political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ont. "This Nouvelle Droite has been influential in allowing for the rise of the extreme right-wing parties in Western Europe, such as the Front National in France, who like the Nouvelle Droite deny the fascist label. It is my contention that if fascism or a variant of it will come back, it will be through non-violent, metapolitical or legal means as espoused by the Nouvelle Droite."

Left: Tamir Bar-On

The topic of fascism interests Bar-On for many reasons. "This was a movement in the inter-war years in Europe, as well as a regime in power – Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany – that animated millions against the prevailing liberal, socialist and conservative solutions. There was no country that was not seduced by fascism. It led to terrible consequences such as one-party rule, the charismatic leadership cult and the slaughter of political, cultural and religious minorities in a systematic, scientific manner. And intellectuals jumped on the fascist bandwagon. This is what really interests me as an intellectual."

What Bar-On sees as the wedding of rational and irrational forces in the fascist world view during the inter-war years, also piques his interest. "Beneath the rhetoric of both right and left, there was a belief among leading fascist ideologues that this ideology would save the nation from the "catastrophic" forces of secularism, modernity, materialism, liberalism and socialism."

Fascist ideas and their consequences are ethically flawed, says Bar-On. He attempts to deconstruct those fascist ideas in Where Have all the Fascist Gone? 

His articles have appeared in prestigious journals such as his critique of the war on terror in International Politics (2005); an Anglo-German debate on fascism in Deliberation, Knowledge, Ethics (2004); and an interpretation of the ENR in The European Legacy (2001). More recently, his "A Critical Response to Roger Griffin’s ‘Fascism’s new faces’," was published in Fascism Past and Present, East and West (Ibidem-Verlag, 2006), edited by Roger Griffin, Werner Loh and Andreas Umland. Griffin wrote the preface in Where Have all the Fascists Gone? Also during 2006, Bar-On contributed four major articles to World Fascism: A Historical Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO).

Food and refreshments will be served at the launch. RSVP by Friday, Feb. 15, to Michael Legris by phone at ext. 22078 or by e-mail at mlegris@yorku.ca.