This article first appeared in The Anvil Vol 7 No 1, published in February 2018.
Fascism, in various guises, is on the march in most advanced Western countries and some underdeveloped countries. The extent of its rise is related to the history and the state of society in each.
The situation is most severe in Europe, where liberal capitalists’ illusions about the “end of history” have been shattered most cruelly. Mass Fascist parties have risen in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ukraine. In Austria, they have even entered the government, while in Ukraine they were officially part of the government for a time after the Euromaidan protests. In addition, the governments of Hungary and Poland are hard Right wing national conservatives. They share some of the features of Fascism and are implementing parts of the Fascists’ program. Meanwhile, the Russian government openly collaborates with Fascists both at home and abroad.
Two factors have been driving this. Firstly, Europe is a more accessible destination than Australia, Canada and the US for migrants from the Third World fleeing poverty and oppression. It has traditionally been a source of emigration, not a destination for immigrants. Accordingly, many societies are experiencing challenges to deep seated nativist currents for the first time. The capitalist class cannot resist using cultural anxieties about immigrants to divert popular anger so they do not become targets themselves. The Fascists are able to take the capitalists’ racism to its logical conclusion, arguing forcefully for what the capitalists usually only imply.
The second factor is the failure of the European Union. The EU is a utopian project, aiming to solve the fundamental problem of Europe – the fact that the forces and relations of production there have far outgrown the suffocating confines of the nation state. While the problem is intractable under capitalism, there is no law of history that says you can’t try. Thus the EU.
What has occurred in Europe is that the project of economic and political integration has become trapped half-way. The capitalists have found they cannot drive it further, while a return to unco-ordinated national autonomy would produce economic ruin. On the other hand, the current shape of the EU is dysfunctional, producing both neo-liberal austerity and pointless bureaucracy. The Fascists advance a solution – to cut the Gordian knot of the EU and make somebody else pay the costs of its break-up. This is a recipe for war against both the enemy without and the enemy within. The parties of the political Centre, meanwhile, are like kangaroos in the headlights – doomed if they stay where they are, but frozen into immobility.
In the United States, an entrenched two party system has prevented the emergence of a mass Fascist party, but there is a plethora of new Fascist groups trying to take advantage of the social toxins released by Donald Trump. The US has its own cultural anxieties around immigration. In particular, racists are agitated by demographic trends indicating that at some future date, white people (a category subject to moveable and conflicting definitions anyway) will decrease from being a majority of society to being merely a plurality. Once again, in a society founded on genocide, slavery and violent racism, capitalists use immigrants and ethnic minorities as lightning rods for discontent and Fascists take the capitalists’ racism to its logical conclusion. While the growing Fascist current is yet to take clear organisational form, there are worrying signs that the Republican Party may be vulnerable to Fascist colonising.
In Australia, the Fascists are still marginal, having their political space largely taken up by the hard Right half-way house of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. Hanson has worked hard to keep open Fascists off her candidates’ list, though one or two have slipped through and it’s clear her party is infested with them at the grassroots. Organisationally, Fascists in Australia have proven a disaster, a pantomime on the theme of “Everybody wants to be Führer”. It would be a serious error to be complacent however, because a talented leader could come along tomorrow and unite them. Further, even disorganised Fascists can be dangerous for Muslims, Jews, African immigrants and other targets.
One thing holding back the development of Fascism in Australia, though, is the fact that the capitalist class here is conflicted about fomenting racism. While all the usual minorities still function as attractive lightning rods for internal discontents, there is an external constraint. Australia, being a European settler outpost on the edge of Asia, is vulnerable to being denounced as racist by Asian governments and locked out of trade with the region. This would be a disaster for Australian capitalists and they have so far been much more careful and targeted in their racism than in Europe and the US. There are, however, no guarantees that this will endure in the event of an economic crisis.
The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group believes the best immediate response to Fascism is an internationalist working class movement of resistance in the form of a united front. Within this, we can put forward a libertarian communist solution to the many crises of capitalism. We participate in the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism because, although it has severe flaws, it does some good work and is the only working class united front available to us at the moment. We hope to contribute to solving its problems, most importantly its isolation from the union movement, and fight for a world where Fascism is consigned permanently to the dustbin of history.
The primary problem is endemic to the human condition and nothing can be done about it – i.e., most people are morons. When there are huge numbers of refugees piling into a country it elicits all sorts of atavistic resentments in the herd, especially the most moronic segments of it, and they start becoming enthralled with fascist thinking and practices. If you want to head off fascism you need to keep a lid on immigration, otherwise the morons will start running amok. Either this or you can wait for the world proletariat to rise up and usher in an era of peace and blissful co-existence — kidding, kidding — nah, keep a lid on immigration.
So to keep a lid on Fascism we should cave in to their number one demand? Yeah, that sounds like it’d work. Not.
In the real world, Fascists need to be fought. This is a defensive task, while we build a counter-force of the international working class. Once upon a time, internationalism was, outside of questions of war & peace, a sentiment that could safely be confined to May Day statements. Now, internationalism is necessary in order to win bread & butter industrial disputes. This is because capital has created global production chains and produces for a global market. Capitalists make their investment decisions based on the relative profitability of different production sites. Since the single biggest factor influencing that is the price of labour, we have a global labour market – with or without immigration. We need to deal with that by building international solidarity, not by retreating into some national isolation.
Finally, Nihilist is incorrect in saying that most people are morons. In fact, most people are ideologically conditioned not to think. That’s quite different. If you put people in changed circumstances, many will start thinking. That’s how revolutions have occurred ever since class society emerged – at some point, given a strong enough impulse, people will break out of their ideologically imposed blinkers and start doing some thinking for themselves.
In the real world sensible people don’t entertain fantasies about proletarian revolutions when all indications are that a revolution is the last thing the idiot proletariat is going to bring about. In the real world libertarianism is a minority enthusiasm and libertarian communism a minuscule enthusiasm. With the gradual disappearance of phone boxes it must be getting very difficult for anarchist communists to find meeting places but when they do find one they might consider discussing the correlation between high rates of immigration and the rise of fascist inclinations within the mob, especially during periods when employment and remuneration levels are sluggish.
Yes, we know that we’re a tiny minority at the moment, but history has a habit of moving very quickly once the status quo becomes unviable. In addition, the growth of mass media, and further the growth of the Internet, have broken the link that used to exist between organisational size and a group’s potential to influence events. Most of the people who, a few generations ago, used to join organisations to follow their interests now sit at a keyboard and put their 2c worth in.
And the MACG have more comfortable meeting places than a phone box. We are well aware of the conditions that are giving rise to the emergence of Fascism. We just happen to think that something can be done about it.
Now we know who the seisnble one is here. Great post!
Yes, I’ve always considered ablokeimet very seisnble. I, on the other hand, am very sensible.
Self-assessment on this point is not often reliable.