The Impact of the Past on Contemporary Responses to Political Extremism: The Cases of Poland and Spain

Aleksandra Moroska-Bonkiewicz*, Angela Bourne

*Corresponding author

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Scholars have argued that historical context shapes national choices about responses to extremism. The influence of Nazism on Germany’s ‘militant democracy’ is the paradigmatic example. However, authoritarian experiences have also mobilized in rejection of militant measures. The relevance of historical experiences may thus depend on how the past is ‘remembered’ and ‘mobilized’ for political ends. We approach this puzzle by examining how states appeal (if at all) to experiences of authoritarianism when debating responses to extremism, and whether this reflects shared ways of ‘remembering’ the past or ideological divisions. We compare Spanish and Polish strategies, discourses justifying choices and the role of historical memory therein. We argue that mobilization of historical experiences draws on shared ways of ‘remembering’ their own past, Europe’s shared authoritarian legacy, the ideological positions and interests of speakers. This finding undermines arguments that a state’s own historical experiences necessarily shape policies of democratic defence and supports the arguments that a so-called ‘European community of memory’ exists and influences decisions regarding responses to extremism. It strengthens arguments about the importance of ideology and political interests in decisions about democratic defence.
TidsskriftJournal of Contemporary European Studies (Print Edition)
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)464-476
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - 2020

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