Over the past two years, a wide swathe of scribblers and would-be éminence grises have arisen to “confront the rising tide of fascism” that allegedly was loosed upon the land by the election of Donald Trump. Undoubtedly the nasty narcissistic white nationalist game show host president gave certain license to hooliganism, nativism, and various vigilante militias, such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. But, except in a few instances, moments where these would-be partisans zeroed in on actual fascist groups that have been alive and well in America for decades, the unfortunate reality is that they’ve only made situations worse.
First, of course, we need to be clear about what fascism is and, more importantly, what it is not. Vijay Prashad has written eloquently about this in his Red Star Over the Third World:
In 1950, Aimé Césaire, the communist from Martinique, one of the clearest voices of the 20th century, looked back at the long history of colonialism that was coming to an end. He wanted to judge colonialism from the ashes of Nazism, an ideology that surprised the innocent in Europe but which had been fostered slowly in Europe’s colonial experience. After all, the instruments of Nazism – racial superiority as well as brutal, genocidal violence – had been cultivated in the colonial worlds of Africa, Asia and Latin America… What had come to define fascism inside Europe through the experience of the Nazis – the jackboots and the gas chambers – were familiar already in the colonies. This colonial fascism, Césaire argued in Discourse on Colonialism, needed to be emphasized… It pretended to distinguish itself from fascism, then considered essentially evil, and to resurrect itself in a paternalist and benign form. Césaire would have nothing to do with that. Colonialism and fascism shared too much at the level of effects – in terms of how they appeared to their victims… Fascism was a political form of bourgeois rule in times when democracy threatened capitalism; colonialism, on the other hand, was naked power justified by racism to seize resources from people who were not willing to hand them over. Their form was different but their manners were identical.
Fascism, whether the Italian formulation given by Mussolini or the more refined, diabolical version formulated by the Nazi Party, was always a form of colonialism. “And then one fine day the bourgeoisie is awakened by a terrific boomerang effect: the gestapos are busy, the prisons fill up, the torturers standing around the racks invent, refine, discuss… Before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it,” wrote Césaire. To make things even more concrete, at one point, the aspiration for lebensraum, expanding German living space eastward into Mitteleuropa and the Soviet Union, was called a Monroe Doctrine for the Third Reich!
America has already accomplished what Hitler dreamed of doing. James Q. Whitman writes in his monograph Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law “Setting up a distinct legal/racial regime for the Jews was of course the core idea of the Nuremberg laws, and the American treatment of the Indians was later to be invoked as a precedent for German conquests in the East. What horror we all ought to feel when we learn that [head of the Nazi Party Office for Legal Affairs and later Governor-General in occupied Poland] Hans Frank referred to the Jews of Ukraine as ‘Indians’ in 1942.” In practical terms, we already have a name for fascists in America and it is spelled C-O-P-S. The actual anti-fascists in our society, the ones that face down these forces regularly (and pretty reliably without the support of AntiFa), are working class Black women, the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts who often bear the largest brunt of the repercussions of our concentration camp system, the prison-industrial complex.
What I take issue with regarding the whole AntiFa thing is the superficial, ahistorical grandstanding that takes on all the features of a performance as opposed to a serious political strategy of protest grounded in the reality of our current landscape. Certainly direct action can and should include a theatrical dimension in order to communicate to the target audience of potential supporters the political message. But when that political message is predicated upon delusions of grandeur as opposed to actual political realities, one where a hodgepodge of symbolism from the Second World War is thrown into a blender in order to accommodate a desire to carry on in a fashion resembling a GI Joe skit, my respect quickly wanes, particularly when the skit claims that American settler-colonialism is somehow of a lower degree of extremity and violence than a European political project that aspired (but ultimately failed) to reach the successes of the American antecedent. Furthermore, when the predominantly-male participants use the protest as justification to trot out the absolute worst possible aspects of toxic masculinity and gun culture, ultimately in order to wave their dicks around in public while grunting monosyllabic nonsense and political charlatanism, you are playing with fire that very quickly can and will burn innocent bystanders, most often intimate partners and/or minor children as well as, in the case of a certain individual in Providence, calling a veteran Black female housing activist and organizer a farm animal (a matter I will return to in a forthcoming entry in this series). And that is frankly abhorrent bullshit.
Glen Ford, the executive editor at Black Agenda Report, laid out a white-hot analysis in a brilliant column in September 2018: “Two contending, yet interrelated, forms of fascism are vying for supremacy in the U.S. Both fascisms are anchored in the leadership of their respective duopoly parties, which together monopolize the national political conversation. Thus, fascism is ‘mainstream’ politics in the United States, as reflected in the daily diatribes between the warmongering, Russian stooge-hunting, neo-McCarthyite, corporate Democratic ‘Resistance’ and the race-mongering, Dixiecrat-Republican, law and order-loving (but also white mob rule-friendly) troglodytes aligned with Donald Trump.”
Here is a brilliant interview with Ford on Chris Hedges’ show where he explains this further.