Is there a danger of fascism today?

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jk1921
Is there a danger of fascism today?
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Is there a danger of fascism today?. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

jk1921
There are a number of

There are a number of problems with this article:

1.) First, what does it mean to say there is (or isn't) a fascist danger? If all factions of the bourgeoisie are equally reactionary; if the real danger for the proletariat in developing its consciousness is the extreme left of captial, then why would there be (or not be) a specific "fascist danger"? There is a bit of incoherence here.

2.) The essential features of "democratic" state capitalism are far from obvious and its even further from obvious that it is more efficient at derailing working class consciousness than Fascist/Stalinist state capitalism. The article assumes what it needs to explain. Is democratic state captialism "real" or is it pure mystification. Are there real democratic structures that have a life of their own to some extent or are they pure superstructure designed to mystify the working class and thus can be abandoned when the historical conditions for fascism arise?

3.) The article seems stuck in this vision of the life of the bourgeoisie in which it is characterized by a kind of hyper-rationalism, all-knowing conspiratorialism. It won't install fascism untill the objective conditions for it are right. I don't think history works that way. This assumes that the bourgeoisie always acts rationally, which it doesn't. Democracy may be an essential ideologial tool for mystifying the working-class, but don't count on the bourgeoisie to always know that. The unions are important in mystifying the working class too, but there is an insurgent faction of the bourgeoisie that is intent on destroying them. The bourgeoisie doesn't always act in its own best interest all the time. It may be possible for a fascist movement to sniff power as a result of political decomposition--even though the working class remains undefeated in the sense of not having suffered a physical and ideological crushing. We need to acknowledge a little more historical contingency and avoid the overly forumalic schemas.

4.) I think fascism is more than just a form of state capitalism. Wilhelm Reich identified a "mass psychology" of fasicsm that has as it base a kind of authoritarian personality structure (which is itself a social phenomenon). That personality type is alive and well today as witnessed in parts of the Republican Party/Tea Party of the U.S. As such, there is always a fascist danger. Even if the democratic features of state captialism won't be abanonded anytime soon in the central countries, this doesn't mean there isn't a part of society, or even part of the working class,  marked by an attitude towards "authority" that is highly destructive to class consciousness. Part of developing class consciousness is overcoming these emotional attachments to authority. This pscyhology can exist in nominally democratic states.

5.) There are some countries today that one could plausibly describe as "fascist," but i'll concede that the article was probably talking about the central countries.

6.) What bothers me the most about this article is the sense I get in reading it that the ICC thinks there is "nothing new under the sun." Something to the effect of, "Yes, there may be a profliferation of right-wing parties right now, spewing some pretty nasty stuff, but it doesn't really fit the story we want to tell, so it must not be particularly important." Or, in Lukacs words, "So much the worse for the facts."

7.) The example of the Tea Party wanting creationism taught in schools as evidence of their nasty right-wing credentials strikes me as odd. If that were the worst thing the Tea Party wanted, then they would hardly warrant a distinct political movement and would feel quite at home within the old Republican Party. How about property requirements for the franchise, direct election of Senators and voter literacy tests? Not quite fascism, but certainly not "democratic" either. Or how about "othering" the current President, questioning his very legitmacy to hold office, implanting the most vile and insipid racialized discourse into the Presidential race, suggesting Mexicans crossing the border should be electrocuted or shot or just belief in the most crass conspiracy theories--some of which are straight out of 1930s Europe?

 

Demogorgon
Very briefly, my thoughts for

Very briefly, my thoughts for what they're worth.

1) I think the term "fascist danger" is a rhetorical term drawn from how the Left generally present it.

2) I can only presume it means the formal democratic mechanisms, like voting in governments. As for why they're more effective, they are the main form of government employed by the central capitalist powers today. China is an exception but we can see there are real problems in containing a fractious proletariat in an industrialised economy in the absence of democratic mechanisms. From my cursory reading, the Chinese bourgeoisie seem to be permanently worried about social stability.

Certainly, both the fascist and Stalinist regimes were effective during war-time with an already-defeated working-class. Are they as effective outside of that environment? Stalinism collapsed dramatically in Russia. On the other hand, Putin's revival of Russian fortunes is orientated around authoritarianism.

3) This needs a more developed response than I can offer here.

4) I thought the "authoritarian personality" was from Adorno. Furthermore, while Adorno concentrated on its role in fascism, I'm sure other commentators identified elements of the type in pretty much all political spectrums. I'm also a bit confused - on the one hand you suggest this personality and the "mass psychology" is specific to fascism, but then go on to demonstrate quite effectively its role in the democratic state capitalisms.

5) Not much specific to say here

6) I'm not sure this question can be resolved outside of a general debate on the questions raised. On the other hand, it suggests that we do need to find new ways to present old arguments. Not sure where I stand on this.

7) While certainly not doubting the TPs reactionary bigotry, there is a strong libertarian wing in the American right which I'm not sure was present within fascism. Whatever the realism of the project, many of them seriously seem to want to unravel the state and there's also a hostility to big capital. Contrast this to Nazi rhetoric from the 25-Point Programme about nationalisation and that the "the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens". In practice, while not nationalising many industries (at least not formally) the Nazi state certainly mounted an enormous project of disbanding small capitals and implementing a forced centralisation of capital.

This last point alone is what prevents any rational bourgeoisie from seriously engaging in such a political project - of course, that leaves open the question about just how "rational" the decomposing bourgeoisie of today actually is which needs further discussion and development.

jk1921
Yes, it was Adorno who

Yes, it was Adorno who authored the Authoritarian Personality, but the idea is there in Reich also and on the left more broadly. I didn't mean to suggest this personality type was specific to fascist states. I don't think I said that anywhere. In fact, that's my point. It undergirds a certain "fascist mentality" that is present in society and as such it seems to be a huge mistake to conceptualize fascism as only a form of state capitalism.

Its true that there is a major libertarian wing in the American right, but it is a confused, mixed-up bunch and whatever their libertarian verbiage (primarily on economic themes) there is a profound authoritarianism there as well. Christopher Hedges identified "American Fascism" with the the religious right--which is in the Tea Party mix as well. Whatever, I think it is a major "stick your head in the sand" moment to underestimate all this and continue to argue that there is no prospect of fasicsm because the "objective" conditions haven't ripened. It seems there is some tension in the ICC between many of its old schemas and the possible implications of decomposition, which it seems that it has perhaps not come to terms with fully.

On the issue of the "undefeated" working-class on which this presumption hinges: I have enough difficutly getting people I talk to to accept the working class still exists; when they admit it exists they often can't see it as anything other than a mass of hopeless souls who have become completely unmoored from their own class interests--hardly a bulwark against fascism. Regardless, one of the features of decomposition, I have heard it said, is that it is now possible for the communist alternative to become impossble without a direct defeat of the working-class.

Demogorgon
I don't think anyone would

I don't think anyone would dispute that capitalism in both its economic and political expressions has a deeply authoritarian nature, especially in the epoch of state capitalism. But I don't think "authoritarian" automatically equals "fascism". I think it's more a question of whether permanent authoritarianism takes democratic or fascist forms.

I appreciate what you say about the TP movement; I totally agree that it's a classical expression of decomposition. The interesting thing about the TP movement though in comparison with the fascist movements of the 30s is the general cohesion of the ruling class. The TP strikes me as being in danger of getting out-of-control of the dominant factions of the bourgeoisie. The tendency towards irrational and "hard-to-control" reactionary factions first being manipulated in order to push forward certain electoral results but then taking on a life of their own can be traced back easily as far as Reagan and the development of groups like Moral Majority (and I've no doubt there were earlier pre-cursors).

The fascism of the 30s on the other hands largely came to power with the consent of the ruling class. Italian fascism was decapitated by its ruling class when the war went badly. German fascism proved more resilient although this was probably due to the knowledge that the Stalinists would over-run and exterminate the entire German bourgeoisie if they lost - a wonderful motivator to maintain a united front.

I don't have time to do justice to the debate about the undefeated working class and decomposition, save to say that I think we're at a dangerous juncture. If the working class is unable to develop its struggle (regardless of a frontal crushing defeat) we're screwed anyway. Whether we call it fascism or not, an unrestrained capitalism is bound to generate all sorts of revolting movements and regimes that will make life extremely unpleasant for us all.

Alf
dangers...

jk raises some important points about the implications of decomposition. There is certainly the danger of a slow, agonising defeat of the working class rather than major confrontations as in the post 1917 period. This could certainly - at a given point in the future -  give rise to monstrous forms of capitalist rule. It's also true that decomposition increases the irrationality and fragmentation of the ruling class (although it can also make it more corrupt, secretive and conspiratorial).

In retrospect I had a problem with the title of the article because it doesn't define what is meant by 'danger'. I think the basic thrust of the article is correct in arguing that fascism is not on the agenda as a governing force in the central countries and that democracy remains by far the more effective means for containing the working class. But if you're an immigrant or asylum seeker or gypsy living in Greece, for example, groups like the Golden Dawn are certainly a danger - not because they are likely to take over the country but because they are quite likely to beat you up or murder you in the street. Similar stories for Russia and elsewhere. These are clearly the advanced expressions of capitalist decomposition, which is not sufficiently integrated into the article.

A further qualification however: in Britain, the English Defence League is a recent counterpart to some of these fascist street movements. But they do have real problems in mobilising on a massive scale. The recent fiasco in Walthamstow (see the website annex to the fascism article) is a significant sign of their weaknesses.   

 

jk1921
Ok, I agree to some extent

Ok, I agree to some extent with Demo that "fascism" (as a form of government of states) was really an historical phenomenon of the period corresponding to the crushing of the revolutionary wave and that historical moment probably will never be repeated. But, I think decomposition needs to be taken seriously and if we follow through the logic some form of nasty authoritarian rule dispensing with the formalities of democracy is possible without a direct defeat of the working class. I agree with Alf that it is not likely anytime soom, but I do think phenomena like the Tea Party in the United States are ominous. Demo's analysis of the Tea Party is correct, but the levels of confusion, misplaced anger and ideological hardening it emobdies seems like fertile ground for a kind of demagogic saviour to emerge and rally these forces. It has not gotten near this point yet, but I think it could in the future. Its funny though, many TPs think Obama is the fascist saviour for the other side!

I do think Reich, et al.'s ideas on the psychology of fasicsm need to be taken seriously. Its true that it would be wrong to equate an authoritatian mindset with a facist state, but it is upon this base that obedience to the state and the system is in part built whether it is fascist, democratic or whatever. Its a serious problem for the development of class consciousness. There are of course other means of legitimating the system, but this would seem to be a particularly tough nut to crack.

Still, the thing that gets me the most about this article is the idea that fascism is a kind of technique that the bourgeoisie decides at some point to implement. I think this idea reflects a flawed view of what the bourgeoisie is, how it operates, etc. The image is one of an almost ominipotent foe that is in complete control of itself and complete control of the social situation. This view may have been appropriate during the "high period" of state captialism--the 60s, 70s, 80s, etc., but today it just seems really outdated. Decomposition has really rendered this view obsolete. There is too much contigency, too much chaos even in the life of the bourgeoisie for this view to be convincing. I think it is appropriate to talk today about a crisis of state capitalism--even if its still state capitalism.

Demogorgon
"Its a serious problem for

"Its a serious problem for the development of class consciousness."

On this point, I think there can be no disagreement.

As for the point about the ruling class becoming more openly despotic, I think this is will become a growing tendency regardless of whether the class develops its struggle or not (except, of course, in a revolutionary situation).

We've already seen the iron fist of the democratic state wielded in Britain against the student movement two years ago and more recently against the Occupy movement in the US. The current confrontations between miners and the police in South Africa, not to mention the "authoritarian democracy" of the Putin regime already mentioned.

On the other hand, it's precisely the democratic mechanism that helps legimitate this despotism. Those regimes where democracy is more noticeably hollow (again Putin springs to mind) seem to have problems with containing dissent (even if this dissent is not yet "proletarian"). The Arab Spring also waved the flag of democracy for the masses who labour under the yoke of "official" dictatorship, showing that the ideology still has great power. It also shows that even those regimes forced to adopt democracy are unable to dispense (at least not easily) with the application of state brutality.

Part of the nature of decomposition, which springs fundamentally from the impasse between bourgeoisie and proletariat, is this general fragmentation of the ICC calls the "historic course". Like a blocked river, it no longer flows in a clear direction but instead floods the banks, making it much more difficult to perceive its currents.

jk1921
Agreed

Demogorgon wrote:

"Its a serious problem for the development of class consciousness."

On this point, I think there can be no disagreement.

As for the point about the ruling class becoming more openly despotic, I think this is will become a growing tendency regardless of whether the class develops its struggle or not (except, of course, in a revolutionary situation).

We've already seen the iron fist of the democratic state wielded in Britain against the student movement two years ago and more recently against the Occupy movement in the US. The current confrontations between miners and the police in South Africa, not to mention the "authoritarian democracy" of the Putin regime already mentioned.

On the other hand, it's precisely the democratic mechanism that helps legimitate this despotism. Those regimes where democracy is more noticeably hollow (again Putin springs to mind) seem to have problems with containing dissent (even if this dissent is not yet "proletarian"). The Arab Spring also waved the flag of democracy for the masses who labour under the yoke of "official" dictatorship, showing that the ideology still has great power. It also shows that even those regimes forced to adopt democracy are unable to dispense (at least not easily) with the application of state brutality.

Part of the nature of decomposition, which springs fundamentally from the impasse between bourgeoisie and proletariat, is this general fragmentation of the ICC calls the "historic course". Like a blocked river, it no longer flows in a clear direction but instead floods the banks, making it much more difficult to perceive its currents.

 

Agreed, but once again; l don't think we should assume the bourgeoisie always knows what is in its best interests all the time.

Demogorgon
I'm not sure we do. After

I'm not sure we do. After all, in the 80s we said the dominance of the left in France was a mistake and in the 00s that the Bush Jnr government represented the difficulties of the US bourgeoisie to get its house in order and form a government best able to defend its interests.

jk1921
True Enough

Demogorgon wrote:

I'm not sure we do. After all, in the 80s we said the dominance of the left in France was a mistake and in the 00s that the Bush Jnr government represented the difficulties of the US bourgeoisie to get its house in order and form a government best able to defend its interests.

 

Yes, that is true. But I fear old habits die hard as witnessed in the article under discussion here. It never countenances the possiblilty that perhaps the social and political situation might get out of control enough that the bourgeoisie (or the main factions thereof) might simply be unable to prevent the rise of a fascist/authoritarian state. The tone of the article is that fascism (or whatever might be a modern expression of such a form of the state) cannot happen until the bourgeoisie sits down and decides to implement it and not until the working-class is beaten. If the bourgeoisie is this omnipotent--we have no chance.

Although perhaps that is what the article is saying? "If we get to a point where fascism is possible, we are beaten anyway, so don't worry about it"?

Hawkeye
Is there a danger of fascism today?

Having noted the main article and all subsequent comments so far, here are some points which seem relevant to the main subject.  On the differences between the thirties and 2012, surely an important and key difference is that vast amounts of goods used in Europe and elsewhere are manufactured in various countries of Asia, notably in China (both mainland and Taiwan).  It seems likely that this will steadlily increase, with results which can foreseen upon the situations of manufacturing workers in Europe so far as jobs are concerned, no matter what might be the present and future views of all concerned.  For instance, I recently bought quite a warm smart coat from Primark for thirteen pounds!  Whilst jobs are lost in Europe, workers here on low income can to some extent get by in that there is access to such cheap goods produced by intensively exploited  labour abroad.

As to what might be described as a 'fascist movement' in Europe, whereas supporters of Mosley were openly fascist circa WWII, nowadays a prominent supporter of his now runs a website  europeanaction.com  in which he claims that 'fascism is dead, lets bury it'  and campaigns for 'Britain First in Europe a Nation'.  That website should not be confused with another of similar wording,  european-action.org, which is based in Switzerland and is openly opposed to 'democracy' and so on.

Within the subject on the ICC website concerning Gypsies, mention in comment has been made of the website  Roma-Daily-News'  which reports on numerous attacks organised by right-wing organisations, notably in eastern Europe. The fact that they seem to have gained support by numbers of non-Gypsies living in the vicinity of often materially substandard homes in which Gypsies find it hard to survive remains dangerous and disturbing.

It seems to me that an ideological problem is that whereas Marxists seem to regard the international proletariat as more or less homogenious, it does not all live on a sort of trans-proletariat thin air. Locality is essential, feet on the ground somewhere or other, whether or not workers have 'a country'.  Thus when numbers of workers feel forced to seek better situations by moving into other localities, many of which are already quite densely populated, it cannot automatically be assumed that they will be made welcome.  Before someone leaps into charges of racism, the situations would apply even if the entire population of the world only had green skin.  A maoist website has shown a poster calling for the victory of the people of 'the third world', which raises questions as to the interrelations between workers of the world.  In the sixties there was a great emphasis on empathy with workers in less developed lands, which has been described as 'xenophilia', as distinct from the 'xenophobia'  of fascist organisations. The material facts of trans-world improved communications, news, and gradually advancing international understanding, 'globalisation' and education all bear on the ideological states of workers worldwide, as, of course, do workers' struggles in various forms.

 

Fred
Something from left

Something from left com.

Military Coup in Greece?

Letter from a Greek Comrade

To Vima is one of the most ‘serious’ papers in Greece and it has played a key role in the politics of the country for about a century. So, the article cited below is not an accident. Apart from an attempt to terrorize people (‘be good, because the army is coming’), it reflects the plans of some top circles of the bourgeoisie and the state.

See: keeptalkinggreece.com

keeptalkinggreece.com
Under the current serious situation in Greece the ruling circles are planning to declare a state of emergency in view of a danger of an uncontrolled social explosion and a disorderly state bankruptcy.

The fascists of the ‘Golden Dawn’ will play a key role in the near future. The traditional centre-right party, which is called New Democracy, is disintegrating under the weight of the harsh economic policy that has to be implemented. Under this situation in the rightist camp, it is possible for the ‘Golden Dawn’ to be the dominant power of the right. Their influence is growing rapidly and for the time being they don’t show any signs that they respect parliamentary legality. Quite the contrary. They act outside the official structures of the system, as assault groups (squadras) against immigrants with open police collusion. (half of the police are already fascists). And their next target will be the leftists of all shades.

At the same time they organize mechanisms of mutual help for the poorest strata of society (popular canteens, markets with cheap goods and blood donations “for Greeks only”). They show the dynamics that a communist group would have in a revolutionary situation. In the national elections of 2009 they took 0,29% (19.636). In the national elections of 2012 they took 6,97% (441.018). Now their percentage is at least 10%. The deep economic and political crisis is leading a majority of the population into poverty. Massive and violent social explosions are surely on the agenda. The state is preparing for massive repression by all means possible, acting in the name of democracy and order. The situation is heading towards a political polarisation between the powers of ‘Golden Dawn’ and Syriza. It is a situation of a potential civil war.

Andreas

Sunday, October 7, 2012