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The Five Faces of Fascism

February 11, 2006


Anti-Racist Action-LA/People Against Racist Terror (ARA-LA/PART)

Like the weather, everybody talks about fascism, but nobody does anything about it. Just like the barrage of deadly hurricanes that continue in record numbers this season are being fed by global warming of ocean waters, the growth of fascism is being fed by a key underlying reality. The Empire is coming face to face with its own limits and with the catastrophic consequences of its own self-destructive contradictions.

The economic “race to the bottom” of corporate globalization has de-industrialized the U.S. Simultaneously it’s created a massive over-capacity of production using labor priced below the cost of human reproduction in China, south Asia, and elsewhere.

There’s a concurrent race towards disaster between Peak Oil and Global Warming. On track one, we have the runaway train of economic and social devastation because of the soaring demand for a shrinking supply of petroleum and natural gas. On track two is the runaway destruction of the climate and the seas, through pollution by the gaseous wastes of petroleum. The only question seems to be how rapidly the tracks intersect and how total the smash-up will be.

Meanwhile, the endless war that hid beneath the surface of the “Pax Americana” has come out into the open. Domestically we see the Empire trying to contain social upheaval by militarizing the schools, the border, the police, and disaster relief. We also see the ineffectiveness of that military approach. Internationally, the US war machine is bogged down and bloodied in two land wars in Asia, Iraq and Afghanistan, trying to figure out how to deal with its problems by expanding them regionally.

In the face of these growing and intersecting crises in the political, economic and environmental spheres, fascism is once again rearing its ugly head. But like the crisis, fascism presents itself in a multi-faceted way. There are five main forces competing, contending and colluding in building a fascist response and “solution” to the problems of the Empire. Anti-fascist forces committed to human liberation and planetary survival must simultaneously challenge the Empire itself, develop solutions for the problems fueling the fascist response, and disrupt the fascist forces.

To do so, we need to get a clearer picture of the fascist elements and the contradictions among them.

Self-proclaimed Nazis, though not the largest or most serious threat, are a place to start. This is the element with the most naked racist approach, based on open white supremacy. They incorporate traditional nazi/fascist symbolism, and classic scapegoating of Jews. Particular groups within this tendency suffer setbacks, and ego drives rivalries between various “leaders.” But this faction has an opportunist tactical flexibility. It benefits from effective use of the media to magnify its forces and appeal. Nazis seize on every sign of racial friction. It appeals to younger whites with a sense of grievance about lost entitlements. They often present themselves as anti-establishment or even anti-capitalist, yet usually seek protection by the cops. They use methods of physical intimidation, as bullies do. But like all bullies, they are highly susceptible to organized physical resistance.

Clerical fascism is a second major component, also connected to an element of traditional fascism. It is based in religious fundamentalism, and often incorporates well-established and well-funded religious organizations, whether churches or lay fraternal groups. They base their appeal on a sense of moral decay under the Empire, but they are otherwise more than happy to operate within the mainstream and existing political institutions. In the U.S., we are speaking mostly about Christian fascist groups, which focus on anti-woman and anti-gay organizing, opposing abortion and other reproductive rights, gay marriage and similar issues. But in a global context, Jewish fundamentalism linked to a more secular, but still religiously-justified, Zionism is an important element of this tendency, and in the U.S., Christian and Jewish Zionists make common cause. In the colonized and semi-colonized Muslim world, Muslim fascist fundamentalism plays a role more similar to that of western Nazism, presenting itself as the voice of grievance, with an anti-establishment, “anti-imperialist” politics.

Anti-immigrant border vigilantes have resurrected the worst components of the old militia movement. They’re most interested not in replacing but in supplementing the power of the state. Although some elements engage in anti-corporate or anti-politician rhetoric, this faction, like the Christian fascists, are generally content to seek entry into, and work with, mainstream political power.

Thus the Minutemen and such vigilante projects work with the Border Patrol, or run for elective office. They sponsor propositions targeting immigrants, particularly Mexicans, and work closely with Republican and some Democratic office-holders. While professing not to be racist, they also provide a convenient conduit and nesting place for nazi and white supremacist forces. For example demonstrators at anti-immigrant protests in Orange County, CA, showed up waving swastika and Confederate flags.

This is a growth area for a mass base for fascist solutions. The state legitimizes the use of extra-governmental armed force in direct anti-immigrant action. Anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican hysteria, an outlet for white grievance, has enabled these groups to spread with Mexican and Central American migrants into the southeast, northeast, midwest and northwest, from the US “southwest,” occupied northern Mexico.

An element within uniformed and clandestine military, law enforcement, and state security forces, operating independently of the official chain of command, is a fourth component of a fascist movement. This aspect has been somewhat dormant in recent years, at least in the U.S. But the increasing use of mercenaries by the Empire, as well as concerns within the ranks and the brass about the inadequacy of current domestic and international counter-insurgency efforts, is resurrecting it. Continuing setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan could increase this component dramatically, with a possible appeal among demobilized and disoriented veterans unable to find a productive niche in civilian life.

Fascist elements within the state, the governing party and the ruling economic and political elite are the fifth element, since fascism is built from above as well as below. The Bush forces have been willing to cement one-party rule through electoral fraud and coercion. They provide red meat and marching orders to the clerical and vigilante fascists, and reward or protect fascist elements within the military and law enforcement. This will grow as the disastrous consequences of Empire, and the inability of the rulers to “deliver the goods” to anybody but an increasingly narrow stratum of the wealthy, erode popular support. The Democrats offer at best token alternatives to, if not outright reinforcement of, these approaches. This shows the systemic nature of the crisis, and the limited options available to the rulers as the crises deepen.

The strength of fascism in the U.S. in particular can only be understood when we recognize that the US political and economic system has always contained key elements of what later came to be called fascism. White supremacy, genocide, slave labor, and independent armed action outside the “authorized” use of force by the state, have always been key aspects of the US system.

The interpenetration of corporations and the state, and the incorporation of a mass base into repressive state organs, have always been found in the US because it is a settler colonial society.

Colonized people have always existed domestically within the expanding
borders of the U.S. Therefore such colonial methods of rule have always been present within the U.S.

Moreover, fascists understand, as the “left” in the U.S. mostly doesn’t, that the Empire has always been a cross-class project. The system allows independent armed action by other classes and class fractions that support the imperial project, rather than a monopoly by the state or bourgeoisie.

The only effective resistance to fascism must be a thorough economic, political and social transformation. We can’t appeal to some democratic principle or institution to forestall fascism. Passing a law, winning an election, or even impeaching or removing a president won’t do it. This is a fight to the finish for human and planetary survival.

Let’s get organized, and build the solidarity and connectivity among people to withstand a fascist onslaught and the underlying economic system and way of life that are causing the very dislocations the fascists claim to have a solution for. Individually and collectively, we must not merely abandon but actively overthrow an Empire that is destroying the planet. We need to develop a political jiu jitsu, use the force of opponents’ offensives against them.

We must take advantage of the elite’s growing inability to govern or rule in the old ways to begin to govern ourselves in self-determined ways, through solidarity, mutual aid and direct action.

In each sphere of fascist activity, we need to build alliances among the potential victims as well as counter-organize among potential supporters.

This is not about an electoral coalition based on a lowest common denominator effort to muster more votes and ‘throw the rascals out’ in favor of a new group of rascals. It’s about uniting all the disenfranchised, exploited and oppressed to build a new way of life.

The calamitous nature of the state response to Katrina on the Gulf Coast has been reinforced by their activities in the wake of Wilma’s devastation in Florida. Extreme weather will only become more severe.

Yet the ‘best’ we can expect from the state is military and police action to protect corporate property and enforce pre-existing privileges.

So we need on-going, pro-active efforts to build new forms of community, solidarity and environmental responsibility. We must create alliances among Mexican, Haitian, Asian and Muslim immigrants who are being targeted by the state and vigilantes; the women, lesbians, gay, bi, and transgendered people targeted by the Christian right; the Black/New Afrikan people targeted by the cops, courts and prisons; and working people generally. Only decolonization and self-determination provide a basis for this.

We must create a culture of resistance uniting militant young people with older generations capable of learning from past errors in order to prevent their repetition. This will allow us to confront and topple the state and fascists.

With Christian and other clerical fascism, we must identify the fault lines within the base of the fascists, as well as believers who share the religious faith but not the fascist vision of the right.

Regarding open nazis, vigorous, overt opposition as well as covert intelligence gathering and network disruption must be combined with a pro-active organizing strategy for reaching disaffected young white people. In this regard, work against not only military recruitment but also the militarist and propagandistic nature of education is important. So is a defense of young people’s health, cultural expression, and rights, including those of young women.

Immigrants’ rights organizing must proceed on the basis of a vigorous anti-corporate strategy for labor, and include solidarity with workers world wide.

Our opposition to the Empire’s military aggression must reach women and men recruited as cannon fodder, because the struggle for a better world will require that they turn the guns around.

If we don’t act to topple the Empire at its seat, the rest of the world’s people will pay a terrible price to do it for us.

This is lead editorial from “Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist
Action, Research & Education,” Volume 18 Number 5, November-December
2005. A free sample copy in the US is available on request from
ARA-LA, PO Box 1055, Culver City CA 90232. One year subscriptions are
$16 in the US, $26 outside the US, payable to “Michael Novick” at
same address.

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