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New Left Review 104, March-April 2017

gopal balakrishnan


The Alternate Modernity of the Inter-War Right

In the tumultuous European aftermath of the First World War, the breakthroughs of mass democracy confronted a right-wing backlash that came to adopt anti-status quo pretentions historically identified with the left. The spectacle of industrial warfare was felt to have possessed a higher world-historical significance, cruelly travestied by post-war upsurges of subaltern classes demanding social reforms bordering on revolution. In post-war Italy and Germany, the armed exploits of demobilized veterans and patriotic volunteers offered a bonding experience of collective violence, celebrated in a discourse of heroic resistance to governments of national humiliation. Spengler’s assessment of this outcome expressed the exasperation felt by men of property and education: ‘The Labour leader won the War. That which in every country is called the Labour Party and the trade union, but is in reality the trade union of party officials, the bureaucracy of the Revolution, gained the mastery and is now ruling over Western Civilization.’ [1] Oswald Spengler, The Hour of Decision, New York 1964, p. 147. A miscellany of opposition to the welfare state, godless Marxism and a more nebulously conceived cultural levelling, the ‘revolution from the right’ was essentially a call to true elites to stand their ground against a world-wide revolt of the masses.

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Gopal Balakrishnan, ‘Counterstrike West’, NLR 104: £3

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