Comrades, do get it into your heads, this ‘lesser evil’ which
Year after year has been used to keep you completely out of the fight
Will very soon mean having to stomach the Nazis.
– Bertolt Brecht
Nine days after Donald Trump’s inauguration a Québec City mosque was assaulted by a violent white supremacist; numerous Muslims were shot in the back as they prayed. The attack happened in a context of multiple fascist excesses that spilled beyond the borders of the US while its new president gleefully signed orders that would ban Muslims from entering his country, target women, and make the US economy safe for the richest and whitest Americans. Everyone who still possesses an ounce of critical thought agrees that a new fascism is on the rise, that Trump’s election represents this rise, and that we are living in dire times.
If we were to be honest, however, we would have to admit that the times have been dire for a very long time, especially for those who live in the global peripheries. Try telling a teenager in Afghanistan who has grown up over the fifteen years of invasion and occupation that only now the times are dire; such a question is meaningless since the most powerful nations have always permitted fascist excess in the nations they dominate. But we don’t need to go so far as Afghanistan to recognize that dire times have been in effect, and for quite awhile, for certain populations. Under Obama it was okay, if you were a cop, to shoot whatever Black American you wanted to shoot and be exonerated. In the months leading up to the recent Trump election the US was sending its army unto Indigenous land to protect a pipeline. And up here in Canada, under the supposedly enlightened rule of Trudeau the Second, Indigenous protestors were being threatened with violence for daring to challenge the Liberal government’s own pipeline projects. Before this, Canadian politicians were signalling fascism; Trump was simply isometric to the rightward drift of Canada’s mainstream political order.
When Pinochet was dropping people out of helicopters and disappearing activists en masse that was okay because his fascism was in the service of “democracy”. When Modi’s regime enforces caste supremacy and designates all non-Hindus as inferior that’s okay as long as India accedes to imperial might and defends the economic interests of the imperialist camp. Haiti, Honduras, Afghanistan—there are too many examples of imperialist intervention that was not uncomfortable with fascism. Because who cares about fascism if it’s somewhere else? But now it’s not only somewhere else; it’s rebounded and is in the backyard of the nations that once pretended they were the locus of civilization.
Therefore, if the rise of fascism represented by Trump’s election tells us anything it is that now the repression once reserved for “other people” are going to be visited upon even more people, many of whom benefited from these past excesses. But only a short-sighted asshole would laugh about this fascist rebound; this is not a chickens-coming-home-to-roost scenario but a degeneration that will be even worse for the historically oppressed. Reality is becoming another genocidal threat for the traditional targets. Nazis are crawling out of their holes now that some of them are in positions of power. The so-called “alt-right” is repackaging and marketing white supremacy. Liberal pretenses are disintegrating as the bourgeois order closes ranks to become thoroughly and openly fascist.
Everyone wants to be a Nazi hunter just as long as the profession is imaginary. A decade ago “Nazi” was a common insult though it was generally used inaccurately, meant to signal moral failure. Every schoolboy since WW2 likes to pretend that they would have resisted National Socialism if they grew up in Germany, that they would have fought Hitler with more commitment than their forbearers. The truth, however, is that this moral fortitude is easy to proclaim in the context of fictional depictions of fascist violence but quite difficult to follow in the face of real world fascism. Where is this army of Nazi hunters at the very moment they are required? It would not be inaccurate to say that many of them are collaborating with the current fascist resurgence: some are embedded in the liberal camp, some have been drawn into Trump’s right populism and are working hard to pretend that their politics are not fascism. The problem, of course, is that the identification of fascism with evil was a hollow equivalence: there was no real definition of what fascism actually was—that it was a particular expression of capitalism—aside from it being “evil”. So now, when it is upon us again, only the left and some worried liberals are able to recognize what is happening, and the latter camp have no idea how to fight it.
The truth is that the re-emergence of fascism is a tragic historical irony. This year marks the centennial of the October Revolution, an event that produced both a state and worldwide movement that would lead the fight against early 20th Century fascism. Both this revolution and past fascisms manifested in the crucible of capitalist crisis as militant political orders diametrically opposed in their response to capitalism’s dilemma: whereas communism claimed that this dilemma could be solved by progressive social transformation, fascism sought to save capitalism by popularizing its most exterminist impulses.
Once again we are confronted with an economic crisis that is also a crisis in thought: imagine a world that transcends capitalism or imagine capitalism’s salvation through its most depraved and reactionary articulation. But in this conjuncture we lack the same kind of worldwide communist movement of the past; the reactionary imagination seems to possess an advantage. In this context The Red Flag hopes that this small intervention will contribute to the kind of counter-hegemonic movement able to undermine the fascist advantage.