Punching Nazis: What is Fascism and How do We Survive It?
Fascism is a virus in the body of society. A Trump regime is merely the boil on america’s ass that tells us we’ve got another outbreak like the first one, which murdered ~11 million people in europe alone. It’s a disease cultivated by rank-and-file fascists (the kkk, neo-nazis, hammerskins, tradworker party, nsm, et al) and culminating in the seizure of state power by affiliated agents (eg. the majority of trump’s cabinet). To stop it, we must understand it in a way which we have historically failed to.
Fascism is a word whose dire meaning has been disastrously muddled by an inability to critically analyze and move against it. Since 1930, liberal nation-states, their media outlets, and (as a result) their citizenry, have catastrophically failed to adequately grasp the nature of fascism, let alone vigilantly prevent its resurgence. Before WWII had even ended, fascism had been reduced to a mustache and an armband in the minds of the american people. Without the ability to recognize the threat or appreciate its imminence, it has bred beneath the nose of liberal democracy and today has bloomed.
It is more than trump, it is more than an illiberal state, it is more than silencing other political positions, it is more than any and all of these dangerous, insidious reductions which do no more than take our eyes off the fascist here to, in no uncertain terms, kill us. Liberalism is incapable of honestly explaining this disease without indicting the flaws of its own foundation (ie. the benevolence of state and capital) and so has maliciously hobbled our ability to understand and confront fascism. It is time we come to grips with fascism, from ground-level movement to established regime, and learn to crush it from beneath, as a people.
So what is a fascist?
American fascism, in the rank-and-file, is the widely varying collection of violent, hegemonic ideologies which drive militant movements seeking to reify social hierarchies from which they benefit. It can be white supremacist, patriarchal, vehemently homophobic and transphobic, anti-semitic, and more. It can be fanatically christian or secular (a notable fracture among american fascist movements occurred in the 60’s and 70’s along this matter) and, although this is not at all the case in the US, fascism can even come in other theological flavors (eg. turkey under erdoğan). The following list of fascistic ideological traits by which it may be identified is by no means exhaustive and you may skip it if you desire.
Fascistic ideology includes the beliefs driving a variety of militant right-wing extremists and all the crackpot philosophy which props up their beliefs. Fascistic ideology is eclectic, sensational, fanatical, and consciously structured to be immune to reason while fawning over its own false sense of rationality (eg. race realism and its followers’ lofty regard of it as a science). It includes the frothing, atavistic regard for a mythologized past of “traditional values” and the cold, pointed dehumanization of groups of people regarded as responsible for undermining this past. It includes the belief in a mythologized “people” to which pliable minds are offered a sense of belonging (see: the more nefarious US “european” heritage movements), coupled with the belief that war is not only natural, but a people’s proving ground. From this, is drawn the common fascistic conviction that legitimacy can only come from forceful victory of one people over another. Fascism thereby comfortably includes the oft-confusing, sanitized goal called by many names such as “ethnopluralism”, pretending the intent of “co-existence” in segregated ethno-states, with the lofty intent being the aforementioned war for superiority. It is rife with paranoid populism, mysticism, and conspiracy theories (old and new) including illuminati, rothschild, “nwo”, “dark money”, and innumerably more, all carrying whiffs of what they often call “judeo-bolshevism” and other such lovely terms. Fascistic ideology teems with anti-communism and “anti-capitalism” alike, the latter being particularly nonsensical in that, as I’ll explain shortly, the fascistic state is explicitly state capitalist.
There is always more fascistic ideology out there, ever creating more fascists; more fascistic subculture will constantly arise. Fascistic and adjacent reactionary ideology ever breeds the regime’s base so long as its requisite conditions persist. If there is liberatory social progress, fascism will breed in reaction. If there is a state, fascism will breed to seize it. If there is capital power, fascism will breed to monopolize it.
So what is the regime?
The fascist rank-and-file movement breeds and prepares hayseed reactionary paramilitaries, from whites-only local biker clubs to nation-wide gangs and savvier, more insidious groups like the traditionalist worker party; but it also grooms and embraces its own champions. Some come publicly from these groups, such as Matthew Heimbach of the aforementioned TWP. Some appear (whether truly or farcically) unaffiliated, such as Richard Spencer. They are organizers, mobilizers, mouthpieces. They are sly, savvy, respectable. They grease palms, shake hands, facilitate alliances in disparate fascist groups, hone and militarize these groups in the dark or rise to prominence publicly. They know people, make friends, even operate or write for media outlets like breitbart, in the case of Steve Bannon. The regime sometimes arises by coup but, in america’s case, these champions and their collective fascist base waited at the ready and were swept up by a compatible proto-fascist electoral candidate to whom they and their base were useful. Similar examples of this mutualistic relation between rank-and-file and regimes include the grey wolves of turkey being effectively officiated by cooperation with state security forces in attacks on the PKK and the golden dawn of greece performing joint raids with state police against groups of squatters: (https://thefreeonline.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/refugees-and-occupiers-resist/) Rarely are fascist groups so brazenly officiated as in the case of the US’s new regime. The new brand of fascist is tech-savvy, soft-spoken, careful to craft a respectable veneer of considerable depth and (publicly) disavow connection to their unconscionably violent base. And so we have come to see the election of a proto-fascist president and his installation of a largely fascist cabinet with a fanatical support base of every fascist group in the country.
A fascist regime, itself, is characterized by intense centralization of control into the hands of the head of the state. Control over media, infrastructure, and the military are all likely to be highly centralized. In contrast to the liberal capitalist state wherein the state is largely an apparatus of capital power for the management of capital’s affairs, the fascist state holds capital largely as an apparatus for its affairs. In fact, the very origin of privatization originated from fascistic economic form, pioneered in mussolini’s italy: (http://www.ub.edu/graap/bel_Italy_fascist.pdf). The immediate reigning in of media reporting on white house affairs, the promise of sweeping privatization of schools and other key services under trump are all particularly salient warnings for this very reason.
The aforementioned inversion of the state-capital dynamic and the seizure of all reigns by the state is why it is often said, if simplistically, that “Fascism is the crisis survival mode of capitalism.” As you may guess by the sound of it, such a regime is not gentle to the people. True to the bait-and-switch character of a populist movement installing a new regime out of disdain/distrust of the old, the material ravages on the people are not at all eased by this new regime but must be attributed to a scapegoat instead. If the favor promised to the fascist base is to come at all, it comes at a cost. Historically, this cost has been overt, imperialist plunder carried out by the regime’s newly expanded, centralized military industrial complex. This stands in contrast (if only aesthetically) to the crumbs gleaned covertly by liberal capitalism’s habit of softer colonialism, ie. the destabilization of pre-industrial or newly-industrial countries for the purpose of harvesting inexpensive labor and resources. Suffice to say, the price will be paid at home, now. To understand what this may secondarily entail, know that early fascist regimes required the erection of what amounted to a scapegoat class. In hitler’s germany, propaganda outlets beholden to the state attributed the material woes of the people to jews, blacks, gays, communists, and others along the lines of previously entrenched social hierarchies. It is not hard to see what is already happening here in america, where the head of notoriously fascistic media outlet, breitbart, now sits in trump’s cabinet. Fascist america’s scapegoat class will include POC, immigrants, muslims, anarchists, and socialists at the very least.
In times of bounty derived from colonialism afar, the liberal state controlled by “generous” dispersal of economic crumbs and the intricate distraction of spectacle. Now, the fascist state will become insular, overtly imperialistic and globally antagonistic, deriving bounty from more brazen plunder afar and austerity at home, controlling by brutal repression and ham-handed scapegoating of entire vulnerable peoples through propaganda that is beholden to the state either by loyalty or intimidation. Police militarization and brutality will increase. Public welfare institutions, once used to project the benevolence of the liberal capitalist state, will be privatized or shut down. Expect austerity, right-to-work, and crackdowns on the right to demonstrate. Depending on just how bad it gets or how vehemently the american people band together to keep one another safe, we may well see curfews and round-ups. Don’t be surprised when guantanamo overflows. Do be enraged.
One of the most wretched, yet treatable symptoms will be a rash of fascist hate crimes and intimidation emboldened by a favorable regime. This, we have well-witnessed already. If nothing else, this we can combat.
So how do we fight back?
With the educated vigilance that could have stopped this.
With the metered militance proven to have stopped it before.
Nazi death camps were not liberated with megaphones, boycotts, or debates. In revolutionary spain, anarchists and communists met franco’s forces with rifle and bomb. In the punk community, the two strategies of non-militance and militance have been tested and honed for decades; words have never done a thing, but fists and pipes have driven nazi punks away from vulnerable communities and back into the shadows where they stewed, waiting for this dark day when they could seize a higher stage. Beneath the regimes that have come and gone, in the fashion of the old and amidst the punks of the new, anti-fascist movements have grown and become honed. Dedicated to keeping vulnerable people safe from these hate crimes, safe from this intimidation, Antifa have learned to monitor ground level fascist activity, sabotage it, mobilize a militant presence to dissuade it, and apply direct action to quell it. Antifa are leaderless, local groups of freely associating citizens committed to this defense. It is not pretty work; some of it is not safe, some of it is not legal (by the law of fascist-abiding states), but every ounce of it is a vital social duty for the protection of vulnerable people and for upholding the values of liberty and equality.
Fascism is a virus. It is intrinsically violent, as a movement historically and contemporarily proven, again and again, to carry out the unconscionable bloodshed and suffering it ideologically calls for. If it is to be put into remission, there is only one proven way: organized, militant, anti-fascist action.
If you can’t fight on the frontline or take direct action, you can be a street medic or legal observer, if you can’t be a street medic or legal observer, you can help with organization, social media, pamphlet and literature printing, bail funding, or any number of things which may need to be done. Whatever your ability or skillset, we’re here for you and we need you.
To get started, @antifaintl on twitter or antifainternational.tumblr.com can answer questions or help you find your local antifa. The information here: (https://antifascistnetwork.org/how-to-set-up-an-anti-fascist-group/) can help you set up your own group. More resources can be found here: (https://antifascistnetwork.org/2015/06/07/resources-for-anti-fascist-action/#more-3029).
I love you. I believe in you. We can make it through this.