The magnanimous middle ground and maintaining colonial order
Mainstream media is currently riding high on the trend of equating anti fascism to neo nazism. There is a plethora of “Both side” arguments, claims of violence and authoritarian silencing, whataboutism and free speech pearl clutching. The good progressive, the docile liberal is in a tizzy. Their centrism threatened by the loud presence of the antifa, a looming figure that is portrayed as even more dangerous than the advocacy of genocide and racial cleansing emanating from the side of the nazis. Antifascism, now that is the real danger.
No matter how many reports emerge of the organised nature of right wing violence or the continuation of online campaigns and tactics that have become a global phenomenon, the good centrist will decry all violence as “equally bad” flattening historical facts, survival or even the concept of justice itself. What remains unsaid, however, is that the centrist yearns for a return to the undisturbed status quo of capital: a state in which we are neatly divided into consumer/ labourers and everyone knows their place and the good social order remains undisturbed.
The attacks on antifascist actions are not an isolated phenomenon, though. Their contemporary genealogy can be traced to the white feminist attacks of intersectionality (“a divisive concept”), the hit pieces against Black and NBWoC feminists that emerged in the wake of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and the endless stream of anti identity politics screeds that have been a staple of mainstream media for the past couple of years. Identity politics, they claim, is either a neoliberal or “globalist” construction that threatens both the right and left with its emphasis on individualist emancipation at the expense of, depending on the side of ideology you heed, the very existence of white people or the much coveted unity of the left under the banner of class. However, the role of the State itself in the creation, enforcement and bureaucratization of these so called identities remains equally unchallenged from both sides. It’s as if racial, gender or sexual taxonomies had emerged as Tumblr hashtags and not as State policies dating back centuries.
The centrist is preoccupied with all this “violence”. The fabric of order is disturbed by in-your-face resistance. What the centrist will not say is that they are mostly preoccupied with governmentality. Maintenance of the capitalist order requires the production and enforcement of docility. Especially, a capitalist order based on precarious labor conditions, vulnerability of life and a systematic emptying and dismantling of welfare policies, enforced by increased militarisation and surveillance. A subject that resists is dangerous to the perpetuation of these conditions. Or, to borrow (again) from Foucault, this predatory capitalism depends on the constant production of citizens best suited to fulfill government policies. The biopolitics of capitalist control require a form of “consumer self government”, individuals regulated from the inside.
After emptying and dismantling the State from its functions in support of the vulnerable and the creation of precarious living conditions, the current attacks on anti fascist activism could be seen as a continuation through the “emptying of dissident subjectivities”. Existing in dissidence has always been a dangerous proposition: since the creation of racial, gender or sexual taxonomies that set the basis for modern day capitalism, the coloniality of power has ensured that a specific order remains firmly in place. Resistance to this order, in turn, created dissident subjectivities, the much maligned “identities” that people dared name themselves after. If the State or the institutions that support the State handed out hierarchies, reclaiming these hierarchies, elevating them and celebrating their achievements in resistance becomes the ultimate form of dissidence. Emptying these subjectivities and replacing them with a flattened “consumer/ labourer” is then a sine qua non requirement for the continuation of this order. These “identities” reclaimed as “dissident subjectivities” through their mere existence, denounce the foundational grounds of capital: colonial predation, racialized humanity and a hierarchical order for sex and gender. The centrist would, of course, prefer if these subjectivities had remained opaque. Since that cat is out of the box, condemning the supposed violence that emanates from this resistance is now their next best strategy.
The centrist, like the bureaucrat, preaches “prudence”, their so called middle ground is nothing more than a strategy of risk management. They are “cautious”, they will extol the virtues of “common sense”, “good judgement” and “negotiation”. What they always omit is that their centrism is just whiteness by another name. Since the construction of whiteness as “the neutral or Universal”, the supposed middle ground is also the site of decision making. The centrist “objectively” evaluates all facts and declares this or that to be correct, this or that to be the truth, etc. In fact, the centrist is the gatekeeper of the colonial order. The centrist is driven and imbued by “governing mentality”. If, governmentality in our contemporary capitalist order requires the production of docile bodies, the centrist lives and breathes “governing mentality”. To quote Mitchell Dean in “Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society”,
The idea of mentalities of government […] emphasizes the way in which the thinking involved in practices of government is explicit and embedded in language and other technical instruments but is also relatively taken for granted, i.e. it is not usually open to questioning by its practitioners. To say that these mentalities are collective is not necessarily to identify them with specific social groups or classes, although it might also be possible to examine the relation between the different mentalities of specific ruling or subordinate groups.
If either side threatens to disturb the historical order, the centrist, in a magnanimous act of decision making will return things to the way they should be. Nobody should be too happy, nobody should be too oppressed.
In this context of centrist magnanimity and dispensing of fairness, resistance to forceful docility becomes a dangerous idea. Neo nazi organization and activism, as long as it can be described as “fringe” or an ethnographic curiosity rather than a danger to the survival of specific groups of people is not taken as a deadly threat to the current state of affairs which has always been dependant on these hierarchies. Ultimately, the nationalist right wing are just an extremist expansion of the colonial order and, if brought into the fold, not a real threat after all.
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