From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue Jun 10 11:00:49 2003
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 19:15:57 -0500 (CDT)
Shawn Ewald <email@example.com>
Subject: [EMMAS] FASCISM AND WHAT IS COMING—from forthcoming issue of
------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent: Mon, 09 Jun 2003 16:43:12 -0700
From: Michael Novick <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: (LA@) FASCISM AND WHAT IS COMING--from forthcoming issue of 'Turning the Tide'
There are, roughly speaking, three views of fascism out there: 1) the way fascism presents itself; 2) the way competing rulers, and competing strategies and ideologies within imperialism present it; and 3) the way working class oriented revolutionaries, whether anarchist or socialist, have traditionally seen it. I think all those views are wrong, but I'll sketch them out. I think incorrect understandings of fascism reflect incorrect understandings of class society and colonialism.
Fascism presents itself as revolutionary, anti-capitalist and
anti-communist, nationalistic and militaristic, a vanguard that welds
volk into a fighting machine in which a new state
and social order is created that purges weakness, sentimentality, and
alien influences, particularly insofar as it defends
Competing imperialist ideologies and rulers, generally speaking, portray fascism as uniquely totalitarian, nationalistic, militaristic, racist, religiously and xenophobic, to which anti-gay and anti-woman have been added more recently.
Communist and anarchist analyses have tended to portray fascism as
reactionary, anti-working class but using racial and religious
scapegoating to manipulate workers into lining up behind an iconic
maximum leader. Sexual repression, particularly latent or
repressed homoeroticism, is often emphasized. All three views portray
fascism as the master of propaganda and spectacle, (and as noted, as
nationalistic and militaristic).
What's wrong with these views? How can a more correct understanding guide anti-fascist practice?
Fascists, rival imperialists, and euro/worker-centric communists and
anarchists, all have, for purposes of their own, reasons to disguise
the true nature of fascism, and to distinguish it categorically from
less evil forms of class society and
oppressive/exploitive rule. Fascists want to present themselves as
revolutionary anti-capitalists (may even believe they are) in order to
cement a mass base and mass participation in their effort.
Other rulers and imperial ideologies/strategies want to portray
fascism as evil incarnate, the bogey man in comparison to whom their
exploitation, oppression, militarism and repressive measures look
benign or justified. They use fascism as a threat to dangle if
resistance steps up—
Look how much worse things can be;
we're the best deal you're going to get. Kind of
moi, le deluge—unite with your own bourgeoisie because
fascists would be so much worse.
Euro/worker-centric socialists and anarchists are blinded to the true
nature of fascism—and of their own projects --because they
believe their approach will run their advanced industrial societies
better (that is, deep down they still accept the empire). In some
cases they are actually seeking an alliance with
bourgeoisie, with whom they can make common cause against the
If all these views are wrong, what is right? People understand that
there is a vital connection between imperialism and fascism. As the US
has become more openly imperialist, there is a common widespread fear
fascism is on the immediate horizon here, coming from the
Bush administration. But to really understand what is going on, we
need to take a step back to get a clearer and more valid picture of
the real context of empire and class society within which fascism
European nation states are better understood as empire states. Great Britain/UK, France, Spain, Sweden, etc. were each an empire in themselves, consolidated within a territory and an economic bio-region through the leadership of the bourgeoisie (leadership therefore implying the independent participation of other classes and strata, whose efforts were cohered and subsumed into the bourgeoisie's project). Germany and Italy— where fascism emerged most fully and triumphally— both had failed to consolidate such empire states completely or in a timely manner. The fascists set themselves the task of accomplishing what their bourgeoisies had failed to do—propel Germany and Italy into full domestic empire state status and full international participation in carving up the rest of the globe. (This is actually quite similar to what happened in the Czarist Russian empire, where the communists set themselves the task of completing the revolution the Russian bourgeoisie had proven itself incapable of carrying out, particularly in agriculture).
So, we see that fascism in Europe, particularly German and Italian
fascism, set itself the task of completing the empire-state building
process that their bourgeoisie had proven incapable of carrying
out. For Germany, especially, this meant redrawing the map of Europe
itself, and building an extensive empire within the heart of
Europe. This ultimately proved intolerable to the British (and the
US), who thus delineated Hitler's Germany in particular as beyond
the limits of
acceptable imperialist behavior.
But Hitler's philosophy, ideology and mechanisms of rule were rooted in imperialism, in lessons learned from US empire building and 'race relations'—reservations, sterilization, white supremacist mass organizations, mass merchandising. Some of the cells which formed Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party were actually composed of former members of the US KKK who returned to Germany in the 20's after the US Klan collapsed. Nazi views and practices also grew out of the German colonial experience in Africa, where they carried out a mass genocide of the Herero people of Namibia (aka German Southwest Africa). The Nazi party distinguished itself from other right wing parties and movements, however, in its willingness to develop armed power outside the alleged 'monopoly' of the state, and to carry forward independent action based on other class strata, regardless of bourgeois dictates.
In general, fascism can best be understood as bringing the methods of
imperial rule in the colonies into the metropole. In the colonies,
genocide has been the rule, not the exception, of imperial
Democracy is only for a select few of settlers;
dictatorship and slave labor applies to the indigenous and other
colonized people. The corporate model developed in colonial
enterprise. The first corporations were the colonizing
corporations—British East India Company, Hudson's Bay
Company, etc.— who could bear the costs and risks of
colonization because of shared and limited liability, and exercised
state power directly over the colonized territories and
populations. The mass base of participation in colonial rule came via
the settler population, who participated actively and often
independently in land grabs and extermination without waiting for
All this was translated to the metropole by Hitler, however he may have defined or proclaimed his system. Except that the mechanisms— dictatorship, slave labor, corporatization of the state and society, mass participation in militarism, looting and oppression independently of the bourgeoisie—were seen operating directly within the German population at large, including against its racially and ethnically defined minorities, and its European neighbors.
To say there is no difference between capitalism and imperialism in
general, and fascism in particular, is wrong. Fascism is a form of
imperialism in extremis, moved to taking desperate measures in the
name of survival (often, but not only, because of the strength of its
conscious opposition). The degree to which fascism must emphasize its
mass appeal and its revolutionary face is a measure of the weakening
of the grip of
normal imperial and colonial thinking within the
working classes, and of their allegiance to the deal they got. It is
important to understand that saying imperialism sometimes take fascist
form is not the same as attributing fascist to a ruling class
plot. All forms of imperialism, especially 'modern'
imperialism and colonialism, have always been cross-class projects, in
which working and other
subordinate classes have always
participated independently and directly, not merely under the
direction of the bourgeoisie or
Where there is not a revolutionary anti-capitalist and
anti-imperialist threat manifest in the ranks of working and oppressed
people, fascism may still appear necessary or desirable to the rulers
or other strata because of other threats or other weaknesses of the
bourgeoisie. What's more, fascist regimes are not necessarily
going to ally with each other because of ideological
affinities. Alliances will shift between and among
'democracies' and 'dictatorships' just as they did
before, during and after World War II. So we may see US Christian
fascists opposing Arab Muslim fascists or Hindu supremacist
anti-fascism does not preclude simultaneous
fascist initiatives in their own society. Similarly, state and
bourgeois-based fascist elements may move against other fascist forces
within their own society, particularly those that emphasize the
anti-elitist face of fascism. Fascism has always presented itself as a
competing ideology for state building and economic advancement in
colonized societies in opposition to anarchist, communist and other
socially-liberatory ideologies. While such fascisms have often been
subordinate to larger imperial forces, to the extent they prove
capable of or interested in independent action, the fascism of
imperial powers will define them as a particularly critical enemy.
The US is a special case because the US is a settler colonial, as well as an imperial society. It has always had elements of what became known as fascism operating within its society and state against internally colonized and enslaved populations and territories. The mass participation and base for this has fundamentally been the white settler population (although people of color have at times been incorporated, in a neo-colonial or modified settler role).
Fascism is Already Here
This is what George Jackson meant when he said fascism is already here. It was not rhetorical hyperbole or meaningless substitution of 'fascism' for 'capitalism.' The Black colony and especially Blacks within the prison system (the new plantation/reservation = concentration camp) lived and live under conditions of fascism (including a cross-class racist alliance of white supremacist prisoners and guards who uphold the rule of the bourgeoisie and its state). But this is not true only in the prisons. The channeling of Black youth into prisons, parasitic criminal organizations, the military or neo-colonial regulation systems is a manifestation of fascist-style domination and incorporation of a threatening population. The fundamental basis of white privilege is that white working people are spared such fascist methods of rule so long as they remain loyal.
So there are substantial mass strata (including among white workers)
for whom fascism of the more modern,
European form has appeal,
as well as sectors of the bourgeoisie and of the bureaucratic
governing class who are accustomed to and predisposed towards fascist
style rule. However, the turn to fascism does imply a change in the
composition, structure, powers and rationale of the state, and in the
forms of domination and exploitation of the metropolitan working
class. The types of oppression and exploitation that have been
directed at the (internally) colonized population begin to make
themselves felt against the settlers as well, even as they are being
courted and propagandized to adopt a new and more intimate and
totalitarian identification with the rulers and empire.
I think this does describe what is happening in the US today. How better to understand the consolidation of support for Bush even as the economy sinks from the toilet into the septic tank? It is happening primarily from the top down - orchestrated by the Bush regime and its supportive faction of the bourgeoisie. Only secondarily is it driven from the bottom up (more so from clerical fascist forces and neo-confederates closely allied to the rulers, less so from the white proletarians and petty bourgeois elements who are drawn into neo-nazi and other armed and violence prone formations. That means we must seriously prepare for situations of much more naked repression, perhaps akin to those which pertain in the colonial and semi-colonial areas—the dirty war in Argentina, the Pinochet regime in Chile, the death squads in Central America, the Israeli Occupation Forces in Palestine, etc.
These statist, imperial forces see quite clearly that the economic and environmental crises facing their system require a re-incorporation of mass support on a different basis than the old imperial bribe. They also foresee and openly promise a period of 'endless war' and increasing militarization of the entire society. Less openly, but no less relentlessly, they are girding up for a military showdown with China. The prospect of taking on that battle, in the context of a dwindling economic pie of which they are taking a larger share, necessitates both increased repression and inventive methods of obtaining consent, for which 'fascism' is as good a code name as any.
The reason it's important to consider whether Bush is building a fascist state in the US is not a matter of semantics but of survival. Or perhaps more currently, we need to understand exactly how the rulers are transforming the nature of the state, and what initiatives will be undertaken by or allowed for non-ruling class forces to push forward fascism independently of the rulers. In a certain sense, whether we call it fascism is immaterial. The question is, what room do we have to maneuver, what timetable do we have to operate on, what methods of organization and struggle are appropriate or likely to be successful in the current period? The timetable and nature of organizing, as well as the means of struggle appropriate and necessary to pursue, will be affected by the nature of the state we confront. So will the kind of alliances we can make and the type of organizations we build.
Fascism, however we
define it, has meant a particularly brutal
and harsh form of governance within imperial metropoles, a much more
active pursuit of genocide, a more naked and totalitarian form of
domination of labor and other mass organizations. This is not a
linguistic question. Other forms of social and political organization
are also capable of such excesses. In the third world, imperialism has
long operated through dictatorial, militaristic puppet regimes that
carried out bloody repression. Whether those can correctly be called
fascist is arguable—they are responding to pressures from
above and outside their own societies and often have a limited mass
base within. But if we are facing anything close to that, we need to
adjust our organizing dramatically.
I think the current political context in the US, whether we label it
fascist or not, calls for a whole range of things connected to the
idea of more clandestine struggle (I am not thinking of illegal or
armed action here). Nonetheless, we do need to incorporate the same
from-below fascist forces have long grasped - that
independent political action must make use of all forms of struggle
and all means of exerting countervailing power.
We need to strategize based on an understanding that mainstream media
work is almost entirely pointless, at least as currently
conceived. The FCC has put the finishing stroke on a set of media
regulations that will finalize the transformation of
entertainment into corporate/state
propaganda. Previous court rulings have made it clear that freedom of
speech and the press are essentially protected only for corporate
interests. Mainstream electoral work in an era where the Supreme Court
and ruled and enforced the doctrine that there is no individual right
to vote in the US is similarly pointless. I think some alternatives
are happening --developing our own media, pirate radio, webcasting,
using indymedia— but remember, the Internet is closely monitored
and subject to being choked off. I think we might want to look back
into bulletin board systems (direct connect phone call into a computer
storing information). We need to cultivate media that serve people of
color—there was a significant difference between the attitudes
of people of color towards the war, and the coverage of the war in POC
media (even bourgeois, mainstream, corporate POC media) than those of
the white population and the general media. Chicken or egg
doesn't matter here, but in NY, Chicago, LA, Atlanta etc. there
are Black, Spanish-language, Asian and other
media outlets that still provide a little room and outlet that is
unavailable in general-audience print and broadcast media.
Relatedly, we need to focus more energy on less public forms of organizing—something besides demonstrations. I think we need to organize deeper and more sustained initiatives of our own away from public scrutiny, not simply reacting to state and fascist provocations, and. We need to listen more, both as a means of intelligence gathering on the enemy but also understanding what's on the minds of the people we want to work with and among. We need to develop community-based grass roots anti-racist and anti-empire work that has some endurance and that rewards people in the doing of it. I am not saying to abandon confrontation with nazis, but the public venues are going to be increasingly controlled and subject to massive repression. The same holds true for anti-globalization protests at WTO-type gatherings. We need to think about methods of infiltration and subversion, as well as counter-organizing a base for anti-racist culture and resistance among people who would otherwise be drawn to the nazis.
We need to build a legal/self defense component into all our work, anticipating busts, frame-ups and harassment. We need to build stronger outside networks of support for people locked down, materially and otherwise. There needs to be thought about safe houses, cultivation of supporters who never do anything public to identify themselves with the anti-racist movement, secure means of covert communication, transportation and release and dissemination of information. In other words, we need to adopt some methods of organization better suited to conditions of occupation or fascism, and to the extent we can get at all ahead of the curve on this, it will be a lot easier to do, and a lot likelier to survive the repression. We need to think about building redundancy in all that.
Organizing and outreach into the prisons and the military are
vital. These spheres, along with workplace organizing, have always had
some of the characteristics of occupation or fascism that impede open
organizing. They are vital areas in which to work (the degree of state
and bourgeois repression applied in these arenas under
democracy being a measure of their strategic importance). They are
an important proving ground of our ability to organize under such
conditions as well as our capacity to craft a message and practice
that engages the people we want to reach. This is also true for work
with high school students, for many of the same reasons (especially as
the military increasingly penetrates the schools).
A key to understanding fascism is grasping, and countering, the appeal
fascism makes to women. The male-dominated left tends to discount the
revolutionary potential of women, the need for a strategy to deal with
the role of violence in the lives of women and children, and the
efforts of fascists to present themselves as the answer to women's
problems. A fuller discussion and an attempt to develop practice based
on a deeper understanding of those issues must take place in a
sustained way. They definitely relate to this whole period. The state
has moved into this arena in various ways. Bush's use of Afghan
women as justification for launching his war on Al Qaeda, the Taliban
and Afghanistan is one clear example. Another notable one is creation
by the Pentagon of a network of organizers out of
whose job it is to maintain morale and support for the war efforts
among the families of the troops.
Faith-based groups some of whom are hard-core pacifists, must be
addressed in an anti-fascist strategy, just as
Catholics formed one base of anti-fascist resistance in Hitler's
Germany. Such groups also have a long history of civil resistance,
sanctuary-type activities regarding unjust immigration policies, and
otherwise breaking the law or doing secret work for reasons of
conscience. I think we might be able to learn a great deal from
them. I invite responses and discussion of these ideas. We are
printing some here and will have further responses and dialogue in the
next issue of Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action,
Research & Education.