Historians have tended, until recently, to treat both inter-war Fascism and Anti-Fascism as almost exclusively European (and to a lesser extent as providing minor themes in the history of the USA, Canada and Australasia). But over the last decade there has been a strong development of studies approaching Fascism as a global phenomenon, (especially in regard to Latin American and South Asia), and of studies of transnational Anti-Fascist campaigns. Current scholarship has also seriously challenged the idea that ‘Anti-Fascism’ was simply a manipulative Stalinist slogan. New work has particularly stressed that although the communist movement played a central part in it, Anti-Fascism was much broader, embracing a range of social-democratic, liberal, pacifist, anti-colonial, feminist, anarchist and other groups. Moreover, the post- Second World War iterations of Anti-Fascist discourse and organization have provoked new research, and been given a particular edge by current political controversies around ‘free speech’ in opposition to Fascism.
These new perspectives on Anti-Fascism have so far had relatively little impact on Southern African historiography. We are therefore calling for papers for a special issue of South African Historical Journal, on the theme of ‘Anti-Fascism in Southern Africa’. We hope to organize a workshop around the papers accepted by the editors in South Africa in mid-2021.
In the existing Southern African scholarship, there has been some significant work on African nationalist and worker protests against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, and on the predominantly white Anti-Fascist servicemen and veterans organizations, the Springbok Legion and the Torch Commando. And there are numerous references to Anti-Fascist activity in the extensive South African literature on the Ossewa Brandwag and other fascist movements. There is an awareness in some of the literature on the Congress Alliance and Umkhontho we Sizwe of the role played by Second World War veterans, with a particular Anti-Fascist orientation originating in their wartime experiences, in the politics of the 1950s and beyond. However, Anti-Fascism in South Africa, as a subject in its own right is distinctly underexplored. And little is known (at least by South African scholars!) about the role of Anti-Fascism in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Perspectives on the impact of notions of Anti-Fascism on black activists, intellectuals and movements on these issues especially need more research.
The study of anti-fascist articulations in southern Africa need to be connected to transnational networks and the circulation of ideas, practices and people within southern Africa and further across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Anti-Fascism has in recent scholarship been framed as an inherently global history, but at the same time it has been acknowledged that it had distinct national characteristics and trajectories. Important areas remain underrepresented, under-researched, and unconnected to ongoing global discussions. Southern African histories of Anti-Fascism represent here a significant new field where future contributions will not only enrich African historiographies but in a significant way advance the ways we can connect, analyze and compare anti-fascist manifestations on a global level. How has southern African Anti-Fascism been recast during the past century against domestic fascist movements and parties, international pressure from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and other fascist sympathizers? How did ideas of Anti-Fascism correspond to local demands for democratization, the liberation from imperialism and racial hatred?
An important sub-theme for consideration is the question of the extent to which oppositional political movements in Twentieth Century southern Africa understood the racist political regimes of the region as Fascist, and therefore the extent to which they thought of themselves as anti-fascist. The history of debates and discourse on these questions need to be mapped out. The governments of Salazar and Caetano certainly appeared to many Mozambiquans and Angolans as classically fascist (despite some half-hearted attempts at political reform from the 1950s). But we need to know more about the notions of Fascism and Anti-Fascism figured in the debates of Portuguese colonial political dissidents and African nationalist movements. While few scholars would today classify the apartheid regime as fascist, there is no doubt that the political experiences in the fascist era, as well as the presence in the National Party of many individuals who had identified with Fascism in the 1930s and 1940s, did lead to a strong tendency in the Communist Party and the Congress Alliance to view the government as fascist. Indeed, ‘fascist’ was a consistent characterization of the state, second only to the theory of ‘colonialism of a special type’, in ANC rhetoric. The Unity Movement made strong use of anti-fascist rhetoric from the 1940s, already effectively characterizing the Smuts government as indistinguishable from the Nazis. The political effects of these strands of thinking require investigation. Moreover, there were links between elements of the apartheid and Rhodesian UDI regimes with Fascist, quasi-Fascist or extreme right-wing movements in the US, the UK, Germany and elsewhere during the liberation struggles and more needs to be known about the extent to which liberation movements responded to these developments.
Themes for the proposed special issue of the South African Historical Journal could include, but are not limited to, the following:
- South African responses to the rise of Italian Fascism, 1919-1935.
- South African responses to the rise of Nazism, 1919-1932.
- Anti-Fascism and resistance in Angola and/or Mozambique from 1926 to the Second World War.
- Boycotts and protests against Nazi Germany in South Africa 1933 to 1939.
- Refugees from Nazi Germany and other interwar fascist regimes in southern Africa.
- Protests against the ‘Greyshirts’ and other fascist groups in South Africa 1933-1939.
- Connections between anti-fascist groups in South Africa and international Anti-Fascist mobilization, 1933-1939.
- South African responses to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia.
- Discussions on the relation between European colonialism and fascism / "Colonial fascism" in southern Africa
- South African responses to the Hitler-Stalin pact.
- 1930s Anti-Fascism in Zimbabwe and/or Zambia.
- Opposition to Nazi organization in Namibia 1933-1939.
- Opposition to the South African branches of the Nazi Party, 1932 onward.
- Responses to the Spanish Civil War in southern Africa.
- Communist Party of South Africa ‘front’ organizations and Anti-Fascism.
- Opposition and Resistance to the Ossewa Brandwag.
- New perspectives on the Springbok Legion and its affiliated organizations.
- Anti-Fascism in the wartime discourse of African nationalism.
- Anti-Fascism in South African visual arts and/or theatre and/or newspapers 1933-1945.
- South African writers and Anti-Fascism
- New perspectives on the Torch Commando.
- Southern African Jewish communities and Anti-Fascism 1933-1945.
- Opposition to Holocaust denialism in South Africa.
- The role of World War II veterans in the Congress Alliance and/or MK.
- The impact of Anti-Fascist ideologies in the rise of the liberation movements in Angola and Mozambique.
- Did Anti-Fascist histories play a part in the ANC’s turn to armed struggle?
- The influence of Soviet/ eastern bloc representation of Fascism on the southern African liberation movements.
- How were representations of Nazism/ Fascism deployed in the southern African liberation movements?
- Opposition to pro-South African / pro-Rhodesian campaigning by UK and/or European and/or US fascist and right-wing populist groups from the 1950s onwards.
- Campaigns against the AWB and other fascist groups, before and after the end of apartheid.
- How are accusations of fascism deployed in contemporary South African politics?
Decisions on the acceptance of proposals will be notified by 15 June 2020. Full research articles should be submitted by 31 May 2021.
We will submit an application to present these papers in sessions in a workshop at the next conference of the Southern African Historical Society to be held in June 2021. Please note that we are unable to offer travel funding for the workshop.