The Right and the Making of Postwar Political Culture

AHA Session 88
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
New York Ballroom East (Sheraton New York, Third Floor)
Federico Finchelstein, New School for Social Research
Federico Finchelstein, New School for Social Research

Session Abstract

In the past years, the Right has drawn renewed attention among historians. It was assumed that the ideologies of the Right that emerged in the prewar period—such as fascism and Nazism—had perished in 1945, with only radical “neo-fascist” movements remaining on the fringes of the political mainstream. The recent debate on the nature of contemporary “populism,” however, raises the question of the link between historical fascism and the new Right that has surged to prominence over the last decade. This panel examines right-wing traditions across the 1945 divide, reconsidering the imprint of the prewar Right on postwar political culture. While we have studies of neo-fascist movements, we know much less about the careers, networks, and thought of the many thousand ideologues, officials, and intellectuals who had supported prewar regimes of the Right, and who found new lives in the politics and culture after 1945. Taking a transnational approach, the papers in this panel trace the transwar careers of right-wing individuals in Italy, Spain, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and Japan, exploring their role in such disparate areas as Cold War anti-communism, decolonisation, and conservative thought.

After World War II, then, the Right did not go away. In countries such as Spain and the Republic of China, it clung to state institutions; in Japan and Italy, it sought to shape a discourse about state power and world order. Rhiannon Evangelista examines the journey of Giuseppe Bottai from high-ranking Fascist in the 1930s to political commentator and consultant in the 1950s, focusing in particular on the network of Fascists and Mussolini-sympathizers that surrounded the former minister after the end of the regime. Nicolas Sesma takes up the case of Luis Díez del Corral, a francoist theorist who, after the end of the Second World War, reconverted his radical discourse into conventional conservative rhetoric, but without breaking the ties with a global network of former fascist thinkers. Brian Tsui analyzes how Chiang Kai-shek refashioned People’s Livelihood, the theoretical basis of the conservative revolution in China, for Cold War Taiwan in the early 1950s.Reto Hofmann explores the transwar career of Yabe Teiji, a theorist of the prewar Japanese New Order, showing how his postwar networks reveal a broader pattern of ideological transformation that informed the making of postwar conservatism.

The panel sheds light on the agendas of the postwar Right, its domestic audiences and transnational networks, thus expanding our knowledge of the strategies adopted by the Right to reinvent itself—and remain relevant—in the second half of the twentieth century.

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