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International Conference Program: Trajectories of Antifascism

The Department of History, Rutgers University, is pleased to announce the international conference, 

Trajectories of Antifascism

March 3-4, 2017

the Academic Building, West Wing, 6th floor (RCHA room), 15 Seminary Place,
New Brunswick, NJ.
Worries abound about a return of fascism. Already in 2015, the New York Times surveyed the growth of nationalist and authoritarian movements in Austria, Russia, Turkey and beyond, to proclaim a “growing debate over global fascism.”  “This is how fascism comes to the United States,” declared a 2016 Washington Post op-ed article about the rise of candidate Donald Trump. Since the November election in the United States, ever more observers recall Germany in 1933 in order to sound the alarm about the anti-democratic perils of the Trump presidency. And attention now turns to France, where the National Front has announced that its time has come in language that echoes the rhetoric of Vichy. These analyses all invoke the history of 1930s Europe in order to uncover suggestive traces of interwar fascism in present day developments. Curiously, debates about fascism make little or no mention of the antifascist global movement that once existed to oppose it. Antifascism has been forgotten as a historical force and discounted as a source of critical thinking about xenophobic and exclusionary politics.
There was a time when antifascism fired the imaginations of men and women around the world. In the 1930s, activists who believed themselves to be part of a global movement for racial and economic justice gathered in linked but diverse communities from Paris and Barcelona to Belgrade and Moscow. Some of Europe’s best known writers convened antifascist congresses and called for the defense of the Enlightenment and humanistic values. Condemnations of “fascist” barbarity inspired anti-Nazi resistance from France and Italy to the furious Soviet war against Germany in the East. But after the war, antifascism appeared to wither. The 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had dismayed many antifascists. Now, Communist regimes in the East brazenly made the ideal into a weapon they used to consolidate their power and eliminate their enemies. The “anti-fascist protective wall” that divided Berlin is only the most famous example. In the West, a new anti-totalitarian politics imagined the Soviet Union as an equivalent threat to liberal societies and pushed antifascists to the margins. Outside Europe, the Cold War imposed its bifurcated view of the world on struggles for independence and sovereignty, even if the antifascist thought of the 1930s left its mark on anti-colonial and pan-African movements of the postwar, and people and movements in Latin America contributed to the articulation of antifascism over many decades.

Today, antifascism has been largely reduced to an embarrassing memory. A moralizing history of 20th century intellectuals has transformed the lived experience of antifascist activism into biographies of young men and women whose ideological zeal blinded them to the reality of Communist tyranny. Where  antifascism lives on is in the symbolic repertoire of marginal “antifa” movements and in the slogans used by Russian nationalists in Moscow and Donetsk to justify acts of aggression in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, new historical museums across the former East use the idea of “double totalitarianism” to obscure the history of racism, antisemitism, and indeed fascism in their own societies.

Can “antifascism” offer renewed analytic or political potential to scholars and citizens today? The global rise of right-wing nationalism, compounded by the migration crisis in Europe, suggest that the moment has come to reconsider the legacies of antifascism, to chart its varied trajectories across Europe and beyond and to probe their significance for our own time.

Our historical exploration of the trajectories of antifascism will be followed in Fall 2017 by an open conference, to be held in Germany and organized in cooperation with the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung), on the contemporary significance and implications of antifascism, especially for the aims and means of civic education in Germany and Europe.  
Trajectories of Antifascism
International Conference
Rutgers University, March 3-4, 2017
Co-sponsors: Rutgers School of Arts & Sciences, the Department of History, and the Center for European Studies

Friday, March 3

10:00   Welcome and introductions

10:30-12:30  Panel 1:  Antifascism as Internationalism

Kasper Braskén (Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland)
“Creating a Global Visual Culture of Antifascism: Changing Images of ‘Antifascist Action’ and the ‘Fascist Other’, 1923–1939”

Bertrand Metton (Queens College)
“Travel as an Antidote to Fascism: The French Youth Hostel movement and the Europeanist Ideal in the 1930s”

Glennys Young (University of Washington)
“The Spanish Civil War, Soviet Antifascism, and Soviet Internationalism: The Case of the Cuban Revolution”

2:00-4:00  Panel 2:  Narrating Antifascism, Antifascist Experience

Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi (University of California at Santa Barbara)
“Ordinary Antifascism: Italy, 1943-45”

Anna Hajková (University of Warwick)
“Oranges, Donkeys, Communism: Legacies of Antifascism in the Czechoslovak Interbrigadists”

Volker Benkert (Arizona State University)
“Young Antifascist? The last GDR Cohort Born around 1970 and the Transmission of Antifascist Ideas”

4:30-6:00  Keynote address: Victoria De Grazia (Columbia University)
"Fascism's Global Trajectory, 1935-1945"

Saturday, March 4

9:00-10:45  Panel 3:  Soviet Uses of Antifascism
William Chase (University of Pittsburgh) and Olga Novikova (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)
“The Many Faces of Antifascism”

Andrew Sloin (Baruch College)
"Kto Fashist? [Who is a Fascist?] Jews, Nazis and Stalinist Antifascism”

Gintare Malinauskaite (Humboldt University of Berlin)
“Antifascism and the Soviet Legal System: The Holocaust and War Crimes Trials in Soviet Lithuania”

11:00-12:45  Panel 4:  Cold War Reactivations of Antifascism

Grey Anderson (Sciences Po, Paris)
“Between Public Safety and Republican Defense: Antifascism and the Origins of the French Fifth Republic”

Patrick Iber (University of Texas at El Paso)
“Antifascism in Exile: Mexico and the Foundations of The Cultural Cold War”

Kirsten Weld (Harvard University)
“Antifascism and Spanish Civil War Memory in Allende’s Chile”

2:00-4:00  Panel 5:  Antifascism and Antitotalitarianism: Ideological Erasures and Displacements

Emma Kuby (Northern Illinois University)
“Antifascism in the Cold War? Nazi Camp Survivors Investigate Franco’s Prisons, 1952”

James Chappel (Duke University)
“Eugen Kogon and the Transition from Antifascism to Antitotalitarianism, 1933-1950”

David Greenberg (Rutgers University)
“Archibald MacLeish and the Development of Liberal Antifascism”

4:30-5:30  Concluding Discussion

Those intending to attend the conference are asked to pre-register by sending their name, institutional affiliation, and email address to Anna Nath:

Conference venue:  Rutgers Academic Building, West Wing, 6th Floor.  15 Seminary Place.  New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Public parking nearby is very limited. The venue is easily accessible via train and bus. 

Organizers:  Paul Hanebrink and Jochen Hellbeck, Department of History, Rutgers University


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