This audio essay reintroduces the operative inquiry behind the arguments and themes, concepts and flights of fancy in the six written essays I have posted to date on my website Ghosts of Anti-Fascism Past, hosted at Antifa.live.com. There is a method behind the madness.
The subject of my inquiry can be captured in the phrase ‘Anti-Fascism and Socialist Strategy’. It can in turn be divided into three questions: What is fascism? What is anti-fascism? How does socialist strategy weigh in our answers?
The Three-wheeled Stair Climber.
Theory is important.
Political thickets within political traditions.
The central contradiction at the heart of contemporary anti-fascism is here, in the inadequacy of both the liberal and socialist traditions to theorize the relationship between fascism and capitalism.
Progressives generally fight fascism, even if they misunderstand it. Many socialists have the tools with which to better understand it, but refuse to fight it. This has been the situation for close to a decade.
Neo-fascism is not an epiphenomenon of capitalism, but a constituent component of it.
Both traditions fail to grasp parallel developments underway since 2010 in culture and ideology, on the one hand, and political economy on the other. These developments I outline in the essay GOT Und Uber.
Laundry Lists–Umberto Eco’s ‘Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackshirt”
The short-lived ‘scholars consensus’ on fascism.
(Post)Modernism and progress are not incompatible with neo-fascism.
The liberal fight against fascism is always limited to resistance, never rebellion, much less Revolution.
A bastardized popular front.
Liberals will form alliances with fascists when there is the possibility of displacing an ‘authoritarian’ menace–of the right or left–because they are incapable of recognizing the authoritarianism and domination at the center of their own political philosophy and practice.
‘Patrician Socialist’ explanations of fascism–Jacobin Magazine and Blog, New Left Review, The Socialist Register, and Louis Proyect’s work as the Unrepentant Marxist. Most adept at demolishing liberal and progressive approaches to fighting fascism that throw workers under the bus or engage in election time histrionics. They generally do not believe fascism in the 21st century exists, only ‘right wing populism’ as an expression of capitalist rule. If fascism doesn’t exist as a discrete political movement, much less a dangerous and growing political movement, then to fight it is essentially shadow boxing, a theater of the absurd designed to mobilize workers and the ‘petit-bourgeiosie’ to support the lesser evilism of democrats at election time; a cynical anti-fascism that amounts to the anti-fascism of fools.
The touchstone document of this perspective within socialist thought is Bhaskar Sunkara’s 2011 article “A Thousand Platitudes: Liberal Hysteria and the Tea Party.” Seven years after its first appearance “A Thousand Platitudes…” remains the dominant editorial line of Jacobin Magazine and Blog and the most articulate expression of that political line to date.
Tensions within the Left.
Stathis Kouvalakis’s article “Borderland” in New Left Review (no. 110, March/April 2018) lays out what I call the “political geography of white nationalism” that lies at the heart of the European Project. From this we can begin to theorize a relationship between neo-fascism and capitalist institutions and structures. Contrast this article with “The Return of the Repressed”, in the same journal (no. 104, March/April, 2017) by the sociologist Wolfgang Streeck. The passage that is emblematic of a head-up-the-ass understanding of 21st Century neo-fascism is the following:
“Domestic conflicts are also foreseeable where cultural symbols are concerned. Will enhanced ‘populist’ appreciation of the natives require a devaluation of immigrants in the broadest sense? And can the left succeed in paying a credible cultural tribute to those lately woken from their apathy?”
While I applaud Streeck’s pillorying of the “bourgeoisified left”, the split within Die Linke over ‘immigration’ that he apparently supports is anathema to anti-fascists and socialists alike. It also flows directly from the word salad in the quote above, if anything could be said to flow from it. Streeck argues that this same globalist left wants (white) workers to genuflect to neoliberal ‘open border’ policies, effectively giving up their jobs to ‘immigrants’. How then does he explain the racist thrust of Brexit in the absence of credible threats to the jobs of those workers? Or the fact that the ‘surge’ in refugees from war afflicted countries in the Global South took place three years ago, but Chemnitz last week? I cannot reconcile these two articles, so different are they from one another. But where is the tension noted? Where is the argument between the two, and a resolution? Nowhere, because it is unacknowledged.
Consider the differences between the Greek fight for Oxi and against the Troika compared to Brexit. If, like Louis Proyect, you insist on a “unit of analysis” that is class, and apparently only class, you cannot possibly explain how racist anti-immigrant policies in England drove the debate over Bexit without an influx of refugees ‘to cause’ the fear and be exploited by elites. Go ahead, look at the comparative paltry number of refugees entering England at the time of Brexit. On the other hand anti-Brexit forces, far from wielding a bomb such as that of Oxi (defused by the Patrician socialist Tsipras) found themselves forced to uphold the EUs cynical ‘open borders’ alternative, itself a construct that incorporates the political geography of white nationalism within it. What a fucking miserable situation. Something else is needed–from the left and below.