Anti Fascism,  Europe,  The Left

Central Europe’s anti-fascist liberals

Jeffrey Herf writes in The New Republic about the anti-fascist, Israel-supporting liberals and leftists in Germany and Austria.

They know anti-Semites and reactionaries on the left and right when they see them; they do not hesitate to call a spade a spade. They think that the security of the state of Israel, along with the imperative of preventing Iran from getting the bomb, amount to moral and practical necessities. Some of them are Jewish, some are not. Most are simply liberals and even leftists who believe European traditions of anti-fascism have a special relevance when it comes to thinking and responding to the latest “isms,” particularly Islamism and the terror it so often promotes. When these intellectuals see the word Islamo-fascism, they do not rail about the abuse of language, denounce George Bush, or make furious comments about misplaced historical analogies. On the contrary, they place themselves, and belong, squarely in the progressive European tradition.

This is a significant development in the intellectual and political history of German-speaking Central Europe and perhaps for Europe as a whole. It has parallels to the “Euston Manifesto” from London, and to its American cousin, published in Washington, DC in 2006. Now it’s one thing for British leftists or American liberals to revive the language of anti-fascism of the 1940s. Churchill and Roosevelt, after all, still reign for us as icons. Although anti-fascism was also a Central European tradition, it had been drowned out, even trumped, by anti-imperialism and Third Worldism since the 1960s. But in recent years liberal and social democratic variations of the anti-fascism of the 1940s and 1950s have made common cause with a distinctive brand of left-liberalism that emerged first in Germany and then in Austria.

Among them, Herf mentions Harry’s Place guest poster and commenter Karl Pfeifer, “a journalist who has been skewering the complacency of the Austrian establishment since the 1980s and championing a reawakened liberalism.”

There is not an argument about Zionism and anti-Zionism, or Islamism and Islamophobia, or anti-imperialism or Islamo-fascism that members of this new generation have not heard many times over. Yet accusations of blind enthusiasm for the United States or Israel have very little traction for them. For its members, the slogans of anti-imperialism no longer trump the values of authentic anti-fascism, which they summon to combat rather than apologize for radical anti-Semites and enemies of Western democracy.