Part two of our series on fascism and the far-right features an interview with Diana Garvin about her research into Italian fascism’s attacks on women’s autonomy, as well as the inspiring ways that women resisted the fascist regime. It also features a conversation with Matthew Lyons about his work documenting far-right groups in the US and the ways misogyny has grown within them.
Editor’s note(s): This episode was recorded just after the Jewish new year. And the reason it felt like more than 2 years since we talked with Matthew Lyons is because it was actually 3!
Listen to Part 1 of the “Fascism and the Far-Right” series which includes two conversations about the history of fascism. We first spoke with Gord Hill about the history of anti-fascist movements and the connections between fascism and colonialism. We then spoke with Shira Klein about how to understand the widespread Jewish support for fascism that existed in interwar Italy.
Show Notes: Episode 44 – Fascism and the Far-Right (Part 2)
–The Soda Stream boycott
–‘Trudeau Wearing Blackface: Details Emerge of a Third Incident,’ The Guardian
–Andrew Scheer Invokes Anti-Immigrant Politics as Election Nears
–Co-Founder of Rebel Media Managing Andrew Scheer’s Campaign
–‘Canadian Media Is Very Politely Covering a Far-Right Party,’ Vice News
–‘The Federal Parties Embarrassed Themselves Over Bill 21 During the Election,’ The Globe and Mail
–‘Wexit Founders are Far-Right Conspiracy Theorists,’ Vice News
–2018 misogynist mass killing in Toronto
–‘Toronto Library Hosts Anti-Trans Rights ‘Feminist,’ Saying It Already Hosted Neo-Nazis, So Why Not,’ Vice News
–Andrew Scheer’s Anti-Choice Politics
–‘Canadian Abortion Rights Group Condemns Cinema Chain Over Anti-Choice Film,’ The Guardian
–‘Between National Populism and NeoFascism: The State of the Far Right in Quebec in 2019,’ Montréal Antifasciste
–Far-right demonstrations continue at Lacolle border crossing in Quebec
–Treyf ep 34 What the Hell is Going on in Quebec?
–Treyf ep 27 Anti-Muslim Violence in Quebec
–‘Anti-Fascism Beyond Machismo: Gender, Politics, and the Struggle Against Fascism,’ The Tower
–Treyf ep 21 The Alt Right (with Mathew Lyons)
–The Futurist Manifesto
–Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (‘voluntary militia for national security’) aka the Blackshirts
–Italy’s Colonization of Ethiopia
–Faccetta Nera (‘little black face’), song by Renato Micheli
–Terra Madre (‘mother earth’), film by Alessandro Blasetti
–‘Italy’s Fertility Day Posters Aren’t Just Sexist – They’re Echoes of a Fascist Past,’ The Guardian
–The Bachelor Tax
–The Institute of Sex Research
–The Story of Magnus Hirschfeld, Founder of the Institute of Sex Research
–‘In Italia Sono Tutti Maschi,’ (‘In Italy, They’re all Men’) graphic novel by Luca de Santis & Sara Colaone
–‘A Gay Island Community Created by Italy’s Fascists,’ BBC News
–‘Towards a Gay Communism’ by Mario Mieli, Page 112 (on the European left’s failures to embrace queer liberation)
–‘Singing Truth to Power: Melodic Resistance and Bodily Revolt in Italy’s Rice Fields,’ Diana Garvin
–Video of people spontaneously singing ‘Bella Ciao’ as Matteo Salvini (leader of the far-right Lega party) steps on an airport bus
–5780 Radical Jewish Calendar
–Three Way Fight
–Other writing by Matthew Lyons
–The White Power Movement Works to Overthrow US government after Vietnam, an interview with Kathleen Belew
-‘What Gamergate Should Have Taught us About the ‘Alt-Right’,’ The Guardian
-‘Canada Occupies Unique Space in ‘Manosphere’ of Extremist Violence,’ National Observer
–2014 misogynist mass killing in Isla Vista
–Diversity of Tactics
–Never Again Action
–Launch of ‘Jews Against ICE’ week of actions
–Tisha B’Av actions against ICE and migrant detention
–‘Making “Never Again” More than a Slogan,’ Jewish Currents
–October 3rd Day of Action Against Migrant Detention in Canada
-‘Migrant Detention in Canada,’ The Dominion Podcast
–‘Weinfeld: In Praise of Radical Jewish Anarchist Radio,’ Canadian Jewish News
Sam: I’m Sam.
David: I’m David.
Sam: And this is Treyf.
Sam: Welcome back to Treyf!
David: The only Jewish podcast to oppose every political party running in Canada’s current election campaign.
Sam: Hashtag give the land back.
David: That’s a good hashtag.
Sam: Thank you, on a much less pressing note…
David: Oh, please!
Sam: (laughter) Happy new year and welcome back to the pod!
David: Oh yeah, happy fifty seven eighty.
Sam: They said it couldn’t be done and yet we’re here.
David: I mean, I hope that by including the Jewish year we’re not suggesting that the world is actually less than 6000 years old?
Sam: We’re not doing that at all, David. I think we are simply noting that the Jewish calendar is five thousand seven hundred and eighty years old.
David: Oh, yeah, I like that. That the calendars that old, not the thing that the calendar is measuring, which I guess is the age of the earth?
Sam: Yes. Which, as we are all aware, is simply 4000 years old.
David: (laughter) You heard it here first!
David: So it’s actually been a while since we’ve been in the studio together.
Sam: Everything’s so different here. There’s new microphones…and that’s pretty much the only difference.
David: A lot of things are broken that weren’t broken before. (laughter)
Sam: Well I actually have some big news, David.
David: Oh, what is it?
Sam: It’s big news on the bubble water front.
David: Like carbonated water?
Sam: You are aware that I’m quite a fan.
David: Yeah. So what’s the big news?
Sam: As a Jewish individual who does not believe in the Zionist project, I had a really hard time when Soda Stream hit the market.
David: Oh, because it was on the boycott list?
Sam: It was on the boycott list. I like bubbled water, I consume a lot of it, but I couldn’t use a home device because I did not want to support said project.
David: And there’s no other companies on the market?
Sam: So David Zinman, let me tell you something.
David: Oh, you found one.
Sam: I found an alternative. (laughter)
David: We don’t want to say the company name do we?
Sam: That is true. Send us an email if you want the tip. (laughter) It is pretty accessible and online on the internet. So I’m very happy that I am now able to make bubble water via a machine that is not on the boycott list.
David: Yeah, for all you bubbleheads out there.
David: Wait, why bubbled water and not carbonated water?
Sam: David, there’s actually differences but this is not the time and place to go into it.
David: Okay. So moving closer back to the sort of milieu of the podcast…
Sam: Which is what, David? What do we do on this podcast?
David: We talk about radical politics.
David: We are both Jewish.
David: And sometimes we talk about Jewishness.
Sam: Ding ding ding.
David: And today on the show, we’re continuing our series of episodes about fascism and the far-right, which has unfortunately only become more relevant over the break.
Sam: Yeah, there’s the Canadian federal election that’s happening where there’s a mainstreaming of racism – anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiments. In Quebec, You have the CAQ, the Coalition Avenir Québec, which is the party in power that has passed laws that are explicitly anti-Muslim and is really moving forward on a very racist platform. So Quebec and Canada right now are seeing a spike in broader racist politic.
David: And at the same time, we’re also seeing a rise of anti-feminist and misogynist discourse. A year ago, there was the misogynist mass killing in Toronto and over the summer, Canada’s biggest theatre chain screened and then publicly defended an anti-choice propaganda film. And now with the national election, we’re seeing one of the main political parties being led by an anti-choice candidate.
Sam: And with all this going on, the fascism suite that David and I have been working on feels ever more important.
David: Yeah, the main question of this series is how is what we’re seeing today different or similar to things that have happened before?
Sam: And so for today’s episode, we talked to two different people to address two pieces of that question.
David: Yeah, we spoke with Diana Garvin, who’s an assistant professor at the University of Oregon, about the ways that Italian fascism restricted women’s autonomy after gaining state power and how that history relates to what we’re seeing today.
Sam: We also talked with Matthew Lyons about his book, Insurgent Supremacists: The US Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire. And for all you Treyfsters out there..
Sam: Matthew Lyons is, in fact, a second time guest.
David: Yeah, it’s funny to think- so we had Matthew on almost exactly two years ago to talk about the rise of the Alt Right. And at that time, the Alt Right was this extremely novel idea that we were reaching out to people to better understand. And it’s kind of wild to think about that as only being two years ago.
Sam: Yeah, this is certainly not the best timeline.
David: And on that positive note, this is your episode of Treyf for the second of Cheshvan 5780.
Diana Garvin: My name is Diana Garvin and I’m an assistant professor of Italian at the University of Oregon. I study politics and power from fascism to neo-fascism. So when I write, I focus on women’s lives under fascism. So, how working, cooking, child-rearing, and reproductive health care change under dictatorial state systems. And when I teach, that emphasis, so the lived world of fascism, is at the forefront. And that means everything from the black voting cards that are tucked into wallets, baby dolls with their right arms held up in a permanent Roman salute, the smell of blue mold, wood smoke, the taste of castor oil…the millions dead can fry the senses, and then you get disengagement. And you need engagement with history to show why we cannot do this again.
Sam: I just want to say that is the best introduction we have ever gotten…
David: That was so good!
Sam: …in four years of doing this radio show.
Diana Garvin: That’s kind of you to say!
Sam: So we wanted to talk broadly about the role and character of misogyny in Italian fascism. But before we jump into that, how did you first get into this work?
Diana Garvin: I was lucky to have some wonderful professors in graduate school. My advisor Medina Lasansky was central. And they encouraged me to examine politics and power in everyday life. And that was material expression… so food, architecture, music, fashion, bodies. And the idea was that objects and places incarnate abstract ideas and they make them easier to follow and easier to understand. And I came across a famous historian of fascism, Benedetto Croce, who famously called fascism a parenthesis in Italian history. But looking at all of these objects, again, the fashion, the music, the food, I started to think well no, that can’t be right. Fascism acts more like a magnifying glass. It blows up violent tendencies that are always there, but are often inactive or ineffective. So fascism hands it a doctor’s stethoscope, a professorial chair, or a judge’s gavel. It offers the license to speak and act on hate. And that’s why I continue to study it.
David: So I’m just thinking about what you’re saying about focusing on everyday lived experiences. And increasingly we’re seeing these shootings and attacks by misogynists. And most of the people carrying out these attacks seem to emerge from the sort of men’s rights activist, pickup artist milieu, which has been acting as sort of an intake valve for new members of the far-right. And so I’m wondering if this has happened before. Looking back, was misogyny part of how fascists would recruit young men?
Diana Garvin: In fact, there is a historical corollary for this. So if you go looking for a parallel demographic in the past, something that’s going to mirror the current incel milieu, where were young, white, male, disgruntled people gathering? Interestingly, you end up in the Arts. So historically, fascism intersected with popular culture in the Arts through futurism. This art movement began with young angry men who were largely unsuccessful in their careers before futurism takes hold. They were young, male, and most importantly, they were unemployed. But what people forget is the futurist group was not only an arts group, but it was also a political party in 1918, which was absorbed by the fascist party one year later. Like fascism, futurism, glorified virility, youth, it sought to shake decadent liberal Italy by ushering in a new era that was going to be marked by speed, technology, and war. Burning the museums, as one of the manifestos went. And misogyny was central to this, because women along with the other side of those dichotomies: so the past, the foreign, nature, emotion, were vilified as antithetical to futurist values. So you can think of this group as being a historical corollary to the incel milieu or even extended rants on 4chan. In both cases, it’s an angry group of young men gathering in bars with like minded compatriots to moan, writing manifestos, then as now. In fact, the first words of the futurist manifesto, which is written in 1909, just before fascism, went: We want to glorify war, the only cure for the world… militarism, patriotism -all the things that they’re celebrating- and the list ends with contempt for women. The futurists were not widely popular, but they drove the conversation because they were provocateurs. So even if people did not widely adopt these values that early on, the ideas spread across poetry, art, photography in a way that puts a misogynist view that would be normally way out on the fringe in the centre of conversations. Even if it’s just to denigrate their views, it does legitimize them as part of the conversation. And this group historically then fed directly into the Fasci di Combattimento, so that’s the fighting group.
David: So you’re talking about this effort to sort of bring misogyny into the center of Italian culture – was that successful over time?
Diana Garvin: Yes, I would say so. As we were discussing earlier, fascism tends to pick up threads of hatred in society that are already there. It doesn’t invent them, but it does blow them up, and it does use them for its own purposes. Misogyny operates quite a bit like racism under fascism. In fact, they often share a common effect. Both decide whose humanity is disposable. But when combined, they become more of the sum of their parts, producing historically specific forms of abuse. And those are the elements that you see flourishing under fascism. Recruiters for the Milizia Volontaria (Fascist militia) would stand outside of barbershops and bars. So you can think of this as the historic parallel to contemporary incel chatrooms. It’s where you’d go to hang out with other disgruntled unemployed young men. And here the Milizia Volontaria handed out a specific form of propaganda. And these were postcards featuring the Venere Nera or Black Venus. So these were photos of East African women and on the back of those postcards, they had a phone number and address for the military enlistment offices. So the idea here is that the colonies were where you went to become a man. You see a conflation of territorial and sexual conquest on one side and the other of these postcards. It offered East African women as an alternative to Italian women. The assumption made by this propaganda is that Italian women have some say in who they will have sex with, but that East African women can be taken by force. And in another difference, many of the women in these cards are heartbreakingly young. They are prepubescent, appearing to be about 12 to 14 years old. So the state was targeting men for a place in the fascist party via sexual and territorial conquest. And it’s advertising the opportunity to let baser impulses run wild.
David: And what what was the effect of that on Italian society at the time, what did that mean in terms of how people were seeing women?
Diana Garvin: Oh, so you see a lot of shifts in terms of how gender roles become more narrowed and prescribed under the fascist regime. You start to see some of these ideas hit the mainstream, first via cartoons. One of the most popular misogynistic archetypes was introduced in a cartoon which was called Le Cocktail. And it showed an emaciated woman bent over a bar stool in a long, elegant dress, taking a drag on a cigarette. And this frigid intellectual urbanite became vilified as the crisis woman. So she was one pole of the fascist dichotomy of good and bad women. On the other side was the messiah. So she was the large, florid, fertile country woman assumed to be very socially conservative. So you start to see these images pop up as a joke, not something that people deeply mean, something that’s made fun of. But then it starts to filter into conversations. So you see these two figures hop from fringe publications to mainstream films. I’m thinking of the director Blasetti’s film Terra Madre, so Mother Earth, in which the protagonist is forced to choose between two figures who embody the crisis woman on one hand and the country woman on the other. You even start to hear some of these ideas in popular songs. I had mentioned the Milizia Volontaria’s postcards of the Black Venus. Those ended up in some of the popular music of the day. One of the most common songs was called Faccetta Nera, which means little black face. And the lyrics, once again conflate sexual and territorial domination. One of the most memorable lines is, “and the only slavery you will know is the slavery of love.” So what is ostensibly a military invasion is cast as a love poem.
David: I mean, one thing that really struck me about this time is cookbooks had sections added on how to address cuts and bruises that happened in the home. Was was there an increase in domestic violence during this period?
Diana Garvin: So it’s very difficult to say because this is not something that Istat, the state run census, would have tracked. But there are ways to examine this question as a historian. And during this period, there is a shadow body of recipes which are essentially recipes to address violence in the home and also for contraceptive purposes. In terms of the first, you will see the occasional knowing mention which says, okay if you have this type of a cut or a bruise, put this type of meat on a bruise for this long, you’ll need something large, it needs to be something cold, you can’t do it too long because you’ll need to serve this afterwards. Along with small, heartbreaking, knowing jokes. You did not have to travel too far for this to happen to you, you also don’t have to travel too far to mend it. All of these things are very suggestive. To get more definitive proof, every once in a while you’ll find a Rosetta Stone among the diaries or letters. For me, that was a diary at a tiny archive outside of Arezzo in Pieve Santo Stefano, which is the diary archive. And one woman spoke very directly, in this case about the second body of recipes, which were recipes for contraception and abortion. Many of them have a kernel of truth but most of them do not work very well. It was commonly believed during this time period that Parsley was an abortifacient. And seeing one diary that spoke directly about using parsley tisanes for that purpose suddenly clarified this strange, persistent use of parsley teas that is widespread across other cookbooks and diaries. Along those lines, you also see euphemistic references to how women would abort in private if they didn’t have access to a midwife. Jumping off of kitchen tables was the most common choice.
Diana Garvin: Yeah, that may be a harder one to get into.
Sam: Wow wow wow. So how central was the question of women’s reproductive autonomy to the political program of the regime in Italy?
Diana Garvin: It was incredibly central to their political program. In terms of misogynistic policies, they focused largely on what was called pronatalism. And that is the idea that Italian women, assumed to be straight and white, are supposed to have more infants. The idea is that a large population meant political dominance and power on an international stage. And it’s important to note that this idea is once again common on the far-right today. It largely because of migration fears, and it’s still very popular as a rallying point in incel chatrooms. So during the fascist period, this idea entered legislation via the Rocco Code. This new legislation defined abortion as a crime against the integrity of, quote, the health of the race. So once again, we see another form of prejudice entering in and dovetailing with misogynistic sentiment. And the Rocco Code was part of a larger legislative change. This Code created a new category of crime and that was crimes against procreation.
David: So what what were the effects on women that came out of this push? What would that mean for women?
Diana Garvin: Inducing abortion became a crime under the Rocco Code. But the largest change that this new legislation produces is the industrialization of women’s health care. The fascist regime created the Board for the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood. They built new state run hospitals. They offered child care courses, soup kitchens for breastfeeding mothers. So while these interventions may sound progressive, the point was to move health care out of the home and into the clinic where it could be monitored by medics affiliated with the fascist state. This went after women’s health care providers who offered more choices. Under fascism abortions were largely provided by midwives. So parts of the Rocco Code chipped away at midwives’ ability to help their clients. They restricted access to tools so these women were not allowed to use forceps, and they disbarred them from integrating into the profession. So they were not allowed to enter clinics. This would have largely affected working class women who were the most reliant on state systems for help. So if you were a woman who has no financial choice but to use a state funded obstetric clinic, every element of your early child care is going to be controlled by the state. But you might ask, where was the money coming from? This board was funded by the Bachelor tax. This was a tax put into play in 1926 and it was a tax on all able-bodied men who remained single. While this may seem to include a large portion of society, it was specifically targeted on gay men, forcing them to pay for straight women’s increased procreation. So these ideas have continued to resonate in Italian society. In fact, in 2017, the far-right group Forza Nuova pasted ads all over Rome that echoed this intersection of misogyny and homophobia and racism as well. So one of those posters said, “births at historic lows, Italy needs children, not gay marriage and immigrants.” So while women’s reproductive choices connect ostensibly separate issues, they have acted and continue to act as a fulcrum that connect multiple issues for the far-right. And the reason that some of these ideas from the fascist period have continued to resonate in Italy lies in the fact that Italian fascism never had a Nuremberg. There was no reckoning. Any public sector job required PNF membership. After the war in the 1940s, purges were very unpopular because it was very difficult to say who was a, quote, true fascist. But the result was musical chairs. Ex-fascists stayed in power, boards took on new names. In fact, the Board for the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood was folded in with the Ministry of Health, and is ostensibly still active. In fact, they’re still awkwardly pushing for pronatalism. Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party introduced financial incentives to encourage couples to conceive. A baby bonus provided low and middle income families with about 80 to 160 euros per month. And more controversially, the ministry promoted #Fertility Day in 2016. But the point is this. Today’s Ministry of Health, whether ruled by the left or the right, never got rid of the old infrastructure. And unless directly confronted, the system perpetuates antiquated approaches to women’s bodily autonomy.
David: So over the past few years, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the Institute of Sex Research, that operated in Germany in the 20s. You know, the term trans came out of that institute, Trans women were on staff there, They even did gender confirmation surgeries there. And it was a big target of the Nazis and their supporters. They destroyed the institute, burned their books in the streets. And I was wondering if there was anything comparable to this in Italy, of fascists specifically targeting trans women in this way? Or if not, just what it meant for gender roles to become increasingly narrow during this time.
Diana Garvin: What you see in fascist Italy is in some ways the reverse of the Nazi closing of the Sex Institute. Mussolini, almost by accident, created the country’s first openly gay community. So the idea of being gay or trans, anything that confounded traditional gender roles was to be eliminated from society. And Mussolini quite literally exiled many of these different people. Specifically, he sent them to the Tremiti Islands. So those are in the Adriatic Sea, if you think of Italy as the boot, they’re just above the spur of the boot. So it began with the exile of forty five men who were believed to be gay from the city of Catania in Sicily. They were rounded up by the prefect of police and sent into internal exile. This episode has largely been forgotten but some historians are now digging into the oral histories of this period. And it turns out that many of the men who were sent there realized that this was going to be the rare space where they were expected to be gay in public. It’s the first time in Italy where you see cross dressing at large, in a specific geographic area. Many of these men in letters home described it as being a shameful episode for their relationships with their families. At the same time, others note that there was a burst in artistic creativity. The actual surveillance that happened on the island was fairly minimal. So men were confined to the dormitories in the evenings from 8 p.m. on but during the day they were largely left to their own devices. Other oral histories look back fondly on the theatrical productions they put together, the fact that they were allowed to wear dresses in public on the island. And this was during a period where if you appear to be a femminella, so this was the slang Italian word for a gay man in the 1930s, you could not be identified as such in public. The police would arrest you. But on the Tremiti Islands, men recalled being free to dress in women’s clothing and no one would say anything. There were accounts of romance and even physical fights over potential lovers. So it is in contrast to the deeply conservative towns and villages of the interior. In many ways, looking at this phenomenon more broadly, it was a move to send non fascist approved sexualities into exile. And it was supposed to make continental Italy more masculine. This story has been wonderfully recounted in a recent graphic novel which is called ‘In Italia Sono Tutti Maschi’, In Italy, They’re all Real Men. And on one hand, it shows how gender roles were narrowing in Italy to such an extent that large portions of the population could no longer be included. But again, you also see this in Socialist Party meetings. For example, women who dressed in men’s clothes and spoke out at Socialist Party meetings were also roundly reprimanded by higher members of the party. So while we want good and evil to exist in clearly delineated categories, sometimes the truth is far more mixed and prosecution of gender identity exists outside of fascism as well.
Sam: So shifting a little bit to the question of resistance, what did women’s resistance look like during this period? And then how did the regime go after those who continued to fight for women’s autonomy at the time?
Diana Garvin: There were many groups who resisted. And a particularly interesting case is the Mondina. So Mondina were migrant agricultural workers and they were an all female workforce. They came to weed rice in northern Italy. So you can think of the Mondina as Mussolini’s dream girl, she is the ultimate paisana. Again, big, florid, potentially fertile. They were a large rural bloc. They seemed to be the answer to pronatalism. They seemed to be the answer to the battle for grain, because they could produce more domestic grains. The problem is that these women identified with the international working class. And in addition to being the birthplace of fascism, that area was also a hotbed of anarchism, socialism and communism. These woman saw fascism as counter to their interests and they had a very unique form of protest. They created extremely elaborate work songs and these songs instructed women who were new to the fields in international communist history. They also instructed women in turn taking. They created tight unity through different song corps and different work teams would pass songs along the field, changing them as they went. So as they were teaching music, they were also teaching how to pass leadership seamlessly. And it was that musical training that later allowed them to shut down the rail system. They were able to get the eight hour work day during the heart of fascism.
Diana Garvin: Yeah, they were. They weren’t the only ones striking, there were plenty of male urban strikes in the factories as well, but they were arguably more successful. And in fact, those songs actually are still important today. So Bella Ciao, the song is now identified with the World War 2 resistance, and it’s ostensibly the song of a partisan who is leaving to fight the fascists. Originally, that song was written and sung by migrant female agricultural workers and it’s a family saying goodbye to their breadwinner. She’s a rice weeder heading out to the fields. But some of the resistance was private. An example of this would be the women who chose to self abort. Towards the end of their lives, women who contributed testimonies to the diary archive recall how their choice to self-induce an abortion was a form of resistance. Looking at cookbooks and diaries, there is a shadow body of medicine composed of abortifacients and what was believed to be contraceptive control. And women passed these ideas between one another, just like you would any other recipe. The idea was if the state cannot help you, that maybe your friend down the lane could.
Sam: You’ve spent a lot of time studying the rise of fascism in Italy, and its consequences. And we’re now seeing the rise of far-right and fascist movements around the world. What do you think we can learn from this period? And do you think there’s value in taking those lessons and applying them to the context today?
Diana Garvin: Whether we’re talking about the past or the present, misogyny originates in the same places. So this can be bars or chat rooms and it is typically young white men who are unemployed. They externalize that embarrassment as rage. But what’s also important to remember is who doesn’t succumb to this. And historically, this was men whose work, even if it was just odd jobs, connected them with the community in a care-taking role. And this was especially true of Italian working class men. So the issue today isn’t just unemployment in depressed areas. It’s also about what type of employment could potentially be offered. Because what you do over and over every day creates who you are. And so much good can come from health care, nursing, elder care. But traditionally the caring professions, nursing, but also teaching, social work, have been female dominated and consequently undervalued and underpaid. So this is why a lot of men in economically depressed areas aren’t doing this kind of work – it’s a mix of social, economic and educational barriers. But it can be done. Do that on a large enough scale, And you would see a new model of masculinity, one that’s grounded in being a caring adult.
David: And what do you think are the legacies of the forms of resistance that took place at this time, whether it’s the Mondina or whether it’s the more private resistance to the restrictions on abortion?
Diana Garvin: The legacies of those movements lie in creativity. When faced with a totalitarian system, it forces you to think about what hasn’t been dreamed of yet. In the case of the Mondina with their work songs, those songs come up in any moment of protest, whether it’s the late 1960s or it’s the moment that Matteo Salvini steps on an airport bus. Whenever confronted with a new threat of totalitarianism, that spirit resurges and it teaches people that there’s always a place you can go to foster that kind of spark.
David: So I think that’s actually a good note to end our conversation on. Diana, thank you so much for talking with us about this, we both learned a lot from this conversation. It was really great to meet you over the phone!
Diana Garvin: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I really I really appreciate getting some of these ideas to a broader audience.
David: I mean the pleasure is ours!
Sam: Yeah. Thanks so much.
Ariana Katz: Hello, beautiful Treyf listeners. This is Ariana Katz from the Radical Jewish Calendar Project, and I’m here to tell you that the fourth Radical Jewish Calendar is now available for purchase at BuyOlympia.com. Bring in 5780 with twelve gorgeous months of original Jewish art. This calendar is so special because it runs on the Hebrew calendar and it doesn’t smoosh our juicy Jewish months to fit into Gregorian pages, like other Jewish calendars out there. It marks Jewish history and holidays alongside political history and holidays. One of my favourite coincidences on this year’s calendar was learning that February 24th is both Judith Butler’s birthday and Octavia Butler’s Yarzheit. We also have some freaky, beautiful Rosh Hashanah cards from artist Megan Smith. You can get some cards and a calendar all today at BuyOlympia.com, just search Radical Jewish Calendar in the search bar. Calendars are $12 to $36, a sliding scale plus shipping and we ship worldwide. Once you get your calendar, post a selfie and we’ll share it with the rest of the radical Jewish Calendar social media world, with #radjcalselfies. We can’t wait to see your beautiful faces, shana tova!
Matthew Lyons: Hi, I’m Matthew Lyons and I am an anti-fascist researcher and writer. I’ve been doing this kind of work for 25, 30 years now. I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I write semi-regularly for the radical anti-fascist blog Three Way Fight and put out some books and other things, too.
Sam: Well Matthew, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. This is your second time on Treyf Podcast so thank you for coming on after speaking to us already!
Matthew Lyons: Happy to do it.
Sam: So we wanted to start with a kind of bigger picture question. We invited you on the show to talk about Insurgent Supremacists, your book that came out last year. You’ve been studying far-right movements for more than 25 years, like you said. So why did you decide to put this book together now?
Matthew Lyons: Well, in a sense, it was stocktaking of work that I’d been doing but it seemed like kind of a moment where not only has there been an upsurge of far-right activity, but the character and the role that it’s played in US politics has really shifted. I mean, obviously, the 2016 election of Donald Trump is a pretty grim milestone in U.S. political history. And I was in the process of working on the book at that time, so I certainly didn’t write it with that in mind. But to the extent that that moment reflected a larger process, it speaks to the climate and the larger forces that I was concerned about.
David: In the introduction to the book, you write that you’ve scaled back your emphasis on the concept of fascism and I’m wondering why you made that decision?
Matthew Lyons: I mean, fascism is a term that gets used a lot. It’s a term that carries a lot of emotional power. But people have a lot of different ideas about what it means. And so when you start talking about this or that movement or this or that political figure as fascist, there is a danger of getting mired in debates about what is your definition of fascism. And I agree or I don’t agree. And I mean, I think that the concept of fascism is potentially very useful and powerful as a tool of analysis and something to strategize around. But I also think it can be a distraction. And so, I mean, there are sections of the book that go into an analysis of fascism. But in terms of the larger framework, I wanted to step outside of that and use categories and terms that get more substantively at what are the actual dynamics, what are the actual politics that we’re dealing with, without bumping up against people’s preconceptions about is this or is this not fascist. And so the category of far-right is something that I settled on, something that is clearly related to fascism, but is maybe a little bit less loaded in terms of people having a very fixed notion of what that means.
Sam: So we’re leaving the fascism term to the side, at least for the purposes of the book. And then how did you get to the definition of far-right and what does the term mean for you?
Matthew Lyons: So the way that I’m using the term far-right in the book, Insurgent Supremacists, and in my work generally over the last several years, I’m talking about political organizations and political currents that first of all regard human inequality as desirable or natural or inevitable and regard the existing political system as illegitimate, as something that should be disrupted or overthrown or at least broken away from in some sense. It cuts across a lot of the standard ideological divisions that people draw. For example, it includes political currents that focus on race, but it also includes political currents that focus on gender or focus on other notions of how to build up social hierarchy. And the part about rejecting the legitimacy of the existing political system, to me, that speaks to a particular shift in right wing politics, specifically within the US over the last several decades. Where if we’re looking, for example, at white supremacists, up until the 1960s, you had groups such as the Ku Klux Klan that were all about a very explicit, virulent, brutal kind of racist ideology. But they saw that as something that was about defending the existing order. After the 1960s, many of the groups that upheld this kind of politics came to believe that their vision of the world was no longer something that could be achieved within the existing political framework. And so instead of talking about defending traditional hierarchies, they start talking literally about overthrowing the government. And some of them literally took up arms against the US government in order to bring that about. And understanding that and recognizing that as a distinct current within the larger right wing constellation is something that is a real focal point of my work. And specifically the Insurgent Supremacists book.
David: Another important current within the current far-right here is the men’s rights activist, pickup artist, sort of milieu. This current played a big role in consolidating and growing the alt-right, especially since 2014 and GamerGate. And given how central it’s been, I’m a bit surprised that most of the writing and analysis out there about the far-right doesn’t actually deal with the role of this current in much depth. I mean, you talk about it in your book, but why do you think that this is often overlooked?
Matthew Lyons: Well, I think that people often focus on issues of race when they’re talking about the far-right. And what their concept of the far-right is tends to centre on race. And that’s a major component that needs to be addressed. I mean, white nationalism is a major force within the far-right no matter how you frame it. But it’s not the only major force. And gender and sexuality in combination is another axis that deserves major attention. And that’s been demonstrated in the past few years. I mean, in some ways the alt-right, because of the influence of the manosphere and the pickup artist scene and men’s rights activist scene, because of that influence, the alt-right was actually even worse in terms of gender politics than some white nationalists. You had a situation where people writing on Stormfront, which was for many years the leading neo-Nazi web forum, people on Stormfront were criticizing the alt-right for being too misogynistic. There’s just this bizarre situation. So if you’re just focusing on white nationalism, and misogyny and patriarchy is just sort of an afterthought, you totally missed that because you just don’t have a framework for it. You know, the manosphere – an umbrella term that includes various subdivisions such as men’s rights activists, pickup artists and incels which stands for involuntary celibates, and other – it’s this online subculture where they pioneered a lot of the kind of tactics that the alt-right then took into other political forums. So GamerGate, for example, in 2014 or thereabouts, was this campaign to silence and stifle women in and around the computer gaming industry, whether they were programmers or reviewers or women trying to take an active role in the discussion. It was an effort to suppress that. And part of what they did was they would target individual women and just bombard them with massive sustained campaigns of not just invective, but threats – rape threats, death threats, kinds of things that caused women to flee their homes out of fears for their physical safety. So that was something that the manosphere pioneered. And then a couple of years later, the alt-right took those same tactics and turned them against opponents of Donald Trump. And they used a lot of the same kinds of mechanisms of gathering people online to target specific individuals, bombarding them with rape threats and death threats, or if they were men, rape threats and death threats against their wives or daughters. Very scary and very powerful use of online forums that came from the manosphere. 2014, by the way, was also the year when Elliot Rodger, who was a manosphere figure who carried out a mass killing, where he shot, I think he killed about six people and injured many more, and put out this manifesto that basically said that he was being victimized by women who were refusing to have sex with him and so therefore women should be killed en masse. And this is a kind of misogyny that is outside the framework of what we had seen before. I mean, the Christian right, for example, has been promoting patriarchal politics for decades, but it’s done it within the framework of this kind of mythos of the patriarchal family. You know, women need to be dutiful wives, dutiful daughters and so on. But what we’re seeing with the manosphere and then with the alt-right absorbing a lot of that misogyny in turn, is the kind of patriarchal politics where it’s not about the family, it’s not about building up patriarchal relationships in that sort of institutionalized way. It’s about predation. It’s about just using women and discarding them or or destroying them.
Sam: So you end Insurgent Supremacists by writing that a politics of liberation calls us to defeat both the far-right and the existing power structure. Can you explain what that means to you?
Matthew Lyons: What I’m talking about is the idea that as leftists, we face different kinds of threats. On the one hand, there’s all of the institutionalized systems of social hierarchy and oppression that make up most of our world and that are intensely violent, dehumanizing and that need to be dismantled and overthrown. The far-right, it’s rooted in that reality, and it’s about intensifying it in all kinds of ways, but it’s also, as I was saying before, an oppositional movement. It’s a movement that wants to dismantle existing political system. It’s a movement that feeds on people’s sense of disempowerment as well as people’s sense of their privilege and their power being under attack from below. So the struggle against the far-right is something that needs to be waged in a different way than the struggle against institutionalized systems of power and oppression. Again, they’re interconnected. So it’s not like we’re all going to rally together to defend democracy against the far-right extremists. We don’t live in a democratic society so that’s not a good framework for opposing the far-right. What I envision and what I’ve been advocating is kind of a two pronged strategy. On the one hand, there needs to be broad based, diverse coalitions against various far-right forces where people can oppose them in a variety of different ways that complement each other. The idea of diversity of tactics. At the same time, it’s also important to maintain and further develop more focused radical initiatives that oppose the entrenched larger systems of power and oppression that make up the larger social fabric. These are words that are easy to say but translating those into movements, that’s the challenge. But I hope that at least that framework of thinking about it can help provide some useful perspective for people in terms of how to fit these different pieces together.
David: Well, I think that’s a good note to end on. Matthew, thanks so much for coming on the show and talking to us about this.
Matthew Lyons: Thank you very much for the opportunity. I really appreciate it. I appreciate what you guys do.
David: Thank you, thanks. Vice versa!
Sam: It’s Yom Kippur, 1900 in New York City. The Fraye Arbeiter Shtime invites all free thinkers to gather in Clarendon Hall for singing recitations and performances fitting for this occasion, The Yom Kippur Ball.
David: It’s time for Shkoyakh!
David: Welcome one and all to Shkoyakh.
Sam: Bienvenue a Shkoyakh!
David: Did you miss it, Sam, over the summer?
Sam: I’d say seven shkoyakhs out of ten I missed it.
David: Yeah, I had so many that I wrote down or thought about and I’ve totally forgotten them all.
Sam: This sounds like it could be a lie, but it’s not – I actually wrote down a bunch of shkoyakhs and lost the piece of paper.
David: Ahhh, dog ate your homework?
Sam: (laughter) Okay David, dog eating homework aside, what is your shkoyakh for this forty fourth episode of the Treyf podcast?
David: So this is a very belated shkoyakh, but I want to give my shkoyakh to the Never Again Action network.
Sam: That is likely a group that was on both of our shkoykah lists over the summer. So for folks who do not know what this Never Again Action network is and what it did, what did they need to know?
David: Well, the first thing I should say is that it’s a really new group, the network formed around the end of June where folks mobilized around 200 people to blockade a detention center in New Jersey. And that was part of what became a week of action against ICE across the country. And then in August, for Tisha B’av, local chapters participated with Truah in, again, dozens of actions across the country against ICE and migrant detention. They’ve been partnering with migrant led groups like Cosecha and Mijente. It’s been really interesting, really exciting, and really moving both to see this activism happening, but also to see it at a scale that I just don’t think anyone was expecting a few months ago.
Sam: Yeah, and I think these actions have just flooded the Treyf Twitter feed for the last couple of months.
David: Yeah, it’s been amazing. And they’re not the only ones doing this work. I mean, in New York City, Jews for Racial Economic Justice have been very active in this work, organizing a lot of very inspirational demonstrations. And just going online and seeing these news reports where folks that we know through the show are front and centre talking very stridently, very eloquently, and very movingly about why they’re there and the need need to stop migrant detention and deportation, it’s just been fantastic. So a huge shkoyakh to both folks under the umbrella of the Never Again Action network, but also everybody who’s been participating in this mobilization against migrant detention, against ICE, against deportations all across the stolen territories now known as America.
Sam: That’s a big time shkoykah from Treyf podcast.
David: So, Sam.
Sam: Yesss, David!
David: (laughter) What is your Shkoyakh for this episode?
Sam: My shkoyakh is way more personal. So I’d like to give my shkoykah to someone by the name of Winifred Brown a.k.a. Winnie a.k.a. my grandmother. My grandfather passed away last month and she’s been having a rough time and she sometimes listens to the podcast. She has shown endless love and support and has been such a wonderful person in my life. And I want to give a massive shkoyakh to her for being just an inspiration for so many people in my family.
David: That’s really nice! And obviously seconding that shkoyakh. I hope that she’s listening, I didn’t realize that she listened to the show sometimes.
Sam: So we talk about it. I’ve played it for her sometimes…
Sam: The issue of the pod really came to the fore in the summer when the Canadian Jewish News wrote a short piece about yours truly.
David: Oh, it broke through into her world!
Sam: And because everyone gets that newspaper in Canada who is institutionally related to Jewishness, I guess, we had a whole conversation where she sat me down at the beginning is like, so what is anarchism?
David: That was really nice.
Sam: And we had a wonderful talk about that. So, yeah, shout out to Winnie, a.k.a. Nanny. Thank you for being you.
David: I think that’s a really nice note to end the shkoykah on.
Sam: She’s one of few people to have gotten double shkoyakhs.
David: A very esteemed cohort.
David: So that’s our show for today. Thanks for listening, as always.
Sam: David, are you aware why the number 44 is significant? It is, in fact, the exact number of candles that are in a box of Hanukkah candles.
David: The old 44 size box.
Sam: Exactly, that’s why this episode is so important.
David: On the note of Jewish holidays, if you would like a calendar that will help you keep track of Jewish holidays…
Sam: Wow, beautiful segue!
David: And has a radical leftist politic behind it, we will have links in the show notes of how to order the new Radical Jewish Calendar for 5780.
Sam: Incidentally, my Radical Jewish Calendar is upstairs in the Treyf mailbox, which I have to go pick up after we record this. I would also like to mention that we have been working on a new web site. It is located at wwww. treyfpodcast.com.
David: Same place as the old website.
Sam: (laughter) But it’s a little shinier and the search functions are a little better. If you can just visit it, surf around, send some feedback.
David: Yeah, send Sam an e-mail with what you think.
David: Anything else that we should say?
Sam: Oh yeah, give us a positive rating. Five stars. Five stars, five stars.
David: If you want.
Sam: No, please do.
David: And I mean, it’s rough times out there right now. So I just want to wish everybody listening a new year of hope. And resistance. And to just be kind to each other out there.
Sam: We will see you next month.
Sam: Treyf podcast is Sam Bick and David Zinman. A huge thanks to CKUT 90.3 FM where we record this podcast under the shadow of the giant cross of Secularism on occupied Kanien’kehá:ka territory.
David: Thanks to Saxsyndrum and Socalled for the music you heard in the episode and to everybody who helps make Treyf podcast happen.
Sam: You can follow us on all of the social medias at Treyf podcast, T-R-E-Y-F. We’re on Instagram, on Twitter, on Facebook, and you can also check out the brand new Treyf podcast dot com website.
David: Please send any comments, suggestions or hate mail to treyf podcast at gmail dot com.
Sam: And as always, more episodes soon.
Outtake (Sam): How to keep an android from going to log screen.
Outtake (David): That’s a good search.
Outtake (Sam): Wow this is…. please don’t put this in the podcast.
Outtake (David): (laughter)