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I like dictionary definitions. At the letter F, under ‘fascism’, you find:
“(1) Doctrine, nationalist and totalitarian political system Mussolini established in Italy in 1922. (2) Doctrine or political system tending to establish the same type of totalitarian regime in a State. “
One notes that the semantic drift in which, from “Italian fascism” one arrives at “totalitarianism” is already contained in the definition. That drift in itself would deserve an entire article, which exists elsewhere. (In French).
But I won’t go looking any further before using the word when applied to what we are collectively experiencing nowadays, in terms of searches for political exits to the crises caused by a bloated economic system, victim of its own obesity, a destructive predator of life, of planetary ecology, of human relationships in general and of the societies they generate.
Because this is not about history repeating itself, but rather about an ever-deepening crisis, one whose jolts over the last century have given rise to such responses as fascism and all of its singular variants, leading to their ultimate expressions, nazism and stalinism, at both ends of the spectrum. Mentioning both of those in the same sentence does not mean placing them at equality or in competition; it is simply a way of mentioning their world-wide influences in the spectrum of fascisms.
A closer look is warranted at those regimes in the second half of the 220th century that were defined as “totalitarian” or as “dictatorships” based on a neo-liberal doctrine, and which served as the alpha and omega of policies in the last forty years, crowned by financial capitalist globalization. A recall of both Pinochet and Thatcher (who were close friends) and of their enthusiastic support for the “market” would be useful.
In 1917, a certain Lenin, published a work titled “Imperialism, Ultimate phase of capitalism”; needless to say, the work has acquired more than a few wrinkles, but it analyzed how a world war, exacerbated nationalisms and economic wars were attempts at non-negotiated solutions to the crises in a system already ill from its own contradictions. Borrowing an analytical key from him does not mean approval of what followed in the uses made of it by the October Revolution. However Italian fascism, which serves as the yardstick for the concept, matched up well with his anticipated analysis, one he was not alone in expressing.
We might then draw a few lessons from history. Not in order maintain a permanent stance of denunciation of resurgent naszism, but as a reminder that the underlying trends for a crisis are still there, and that responses analogous to previous ones , even if widely adapted and grounded in other national myths, could rise from the shadows surrounding chaos. Fascism has yet to speak its final word.
But should this serve as an excuse for cramming under the same heading every anti-humanistic political demonstration or belief with a totalitarian vocation, preaching a war of civilizations and national indrawing? Bluntly stated, is political islamism such as that found in the most developed forms of ISIS, on the one hand, and a Trumpian populist fascism destined to serve as models. For my part, I would answer in the negative. Precisely because they do not answer, either in a durable or in a momentary way, capitalism’s need for economic survival. In that sense, they are less “durable” than are China or Russia, to mention only those two. These casual and internationally “tolerated” fascisms are part of the global market, not in order to disrupt it, but so as to find in it their nationalist interest through the widening of capitalist globalization, and using it to enrich their financers and their oligarchies. Each in its own way, we have here fascisms using the capitalist motor and which have established internal totalitarianisms they have made the whole world accept. The Putin model is a good export product. The Chinese model is still too “exotic” to tempt Westerners, but we only need observe the gesticulations around questions of “human rights” to undersand the majority of Western States have already drawn their balances and gone to market. And here’s to the velvet hand in the silken glove.
I do not mean to suggest that the occult hand of a grand capitalist plot rules the world.
What we see are only convergences in interests, in order to defend the survival of a system presented everywhere as the only alternative to poverty, so-called “human misery”, violence and…anarchy. And these converging interests are not only a concept. They are structured in G8s, G20s as well as at the WTO or NATO, along with the multiple subdivisions where one finds the cream of the “investors”. States even serve as their backbone, for “the good of the nations”. I forgot the EU, free-trade agreements as well as “common sanctions” imposed against unruly or quarrelsome countries. All this is a reality, and humanism is not a topic in these gatherings.
The climate and the ecological crisis add to the inherent crises in a system that has not taken into account the fact the planet’s resources are not inexhaustible, or at a minimum, has pushed off the reckoning into the future, and has not taken the full measure in the daily growth of its predatory and destructive power through industrial efficiency, including in the area of the “production” of waste and their effects on the living. Interestingly enough, up until now, only literary or cinematographic anticipations provided all this a fascist end point – and not only since yesterday. Science-fiction is a treasure trove in this regard. Let’s close the brackets here, but the books exist, and among them, the very best.
All the media, politicians, official “philosophers”, a number of “cultured” people providing opinions, have thrown the word fascism to the dunghill of history and only pull it out as an insult, when required for this purpose, if given a prefix such as islamo, or crypto, as the case may be. These same ones do everything they can to “demonize” the term, the better to de-demonize the germ carriers. Since Prévert, we know that intellectuals love playing with matches.
And even when speaking of the political tandem dominating Turkey, the term barely comes to their lips. Turkey, fascist? On occasion in a headline, but only because it is “islamist”. And yet, if ever there was one, there stands a “republic” for appearances only, one that composed with and continues to compose with fascism, while slowly working its way into neo-liberalism. As a regional power, it is now courted economically as well as for it capacity in holding back the migratory consequences of wars, of climate change and of the jolts and rumblings of world crises. We have here a useful fascism, one not attempting to create geopolitical crises for its own sake. The solution found by the EU therefore consists of financing it in order to have some influence on the excesses. Its durability is uncertain.
A longer bracket, since we are on Kedistan.
“The army won’t let it happen”
This sentence was emblematic at the end of political discussions in the early 2000s in Turkey. It could just as well be completed by an “inchallah”. But it was mainly heard in families said to be secular, in the upper middle classes of large cities, such as Istanbul and Ankara. The Turkish army was venerated in those communties as protectors of a Kemalist nation, one and indivisible, against a red enemy or an islamist one. Yes, on can consider one’s self secular, and be a fascist too.
The second half of the 20th century had seen deep inequities aggravated in Turkey between what was known as deep Anatolia, the East with a Kurdish majority, certain regions on the Black Sea and the expanding metropolis. This also led to accelerating rural exodus of populations moving to large towns as laborers, in order to serve those fully benefiting from the social elevator of the said Kemalist republic, an elevator coupled with the country’s capitalist development, already advantageous for European delocalizations for production of common consumer goods, one where divisions in labor are important such as with textile, for example. Cars followed as did “domestic” consumer goods.
At first, this period was one of economic conglomerates taking advantage of a regulated domestic market, then of privatizations, all the way to open liberalism, then neo-liberalism in keeping with the rise of capitalist globalization. These developments had important social consequences, in terms of enrichment for some and growing social and territorial inequalities, especially since Turkish demography was on the rise. These periods were also marked by “military coups” from the 1960s to the 1990s, justified each time in the name of “order and civil peace” and “in defence of the Republic”. Each of these coups, although occurring in a different context each time, ended up impressing the minds of those who were not directly affected by their consequences, since they were “on the right side of the fence”, that of growth, or members of the State’s plethoric administration, in the best Kemalist tradition. And even though one President considered a liberal (Menderes) and two of his ministers were sentenced to death and executed in 1961, this did not stop this saying from being popular all the way till 2010. The army, coming to the rescue of order and security, especially that of goods. Today, fascists and islamists share power and corruption, while on the best of terms with the EU. Militarization remains pervasive but the reins are in the hands of one man only. Kemalism can be part of the equation when it is in power and ostracizes sections of the people on ehtnic and religious grounds.
Were I to work my way across a world map and point how who in Asia, in the Midle-East, in Africa or in South America could easily be known under this name, this article would not suffice, the same being true within the EU itself, where some States are seriously thinking of donning the uniform.
Attempting to define a pure fascism would be perfectly idiotic and a stupid approach.
These fascisms are products of history and even of crossings within history. Nazism was one, borrowing from an arsenal of ideological racism, clearly personalized. Wars and genocides mark their passage. On the European continent, since 1915 in Turkey until the 1990s in ex-Yugoslavia, including the Shoah, these genocides are a reminder that if the victims of fascism are different each time, nothing can challenge this word as the perfect expression of a political threat, still available to ‘solve” crises. On this topic, the competition between “memorials” on these matters of genocide only becomes the more ignoble and even worse when it serves as a screen to justify a colonization in Palestine, for example, or for setting up back-to-back the Gulag and the Nazi camps, as being two abominations belonging to the past, on the right and on the left – the better to have us forget that the embers of fascism still glower under the ashes.
Getting back to the second part of the definition, I keep in mind again the terms of “political doctrine or system”. I understand the word doctrine as meaning ideology. And this is where there begins a perverse dialectic between this economic system in crisis and the rise of ideological solutions with wide rallying appeal as an exit strategy. Fascism is one of them, and populism walks alongside in those liberal democracies no longer able to respond with successful decisions. And please don’t mention leftist populism in my presence. As soon as nationalism is involved, it turns to the beast’s advantage.
This fascist idoelogy regarding the need for a strong power, a providential personality on the Bonapartist model to insure “security”, the defense of private property, of the “dominant values” secreted by the capitalist market, spreads like gazoline on the social body, with the help of the media who obtain large audiences from it. Add to this racism which divides and opposes, identitarian nationalism as a galvanizer, the designation of migrations as scape-goats, and you have the picture of the current situation in France, among other countries.
I do not wish to paraphrase a well-known title that spoke of insurrection, but I do believe their authors should think on it. What emerges from chaos is not always revolutionary, even if it gives itself the title. Under its outward appearances, fascism is conservative. And feeding the premises, by accentuating chaos, is deadly, when the roles are reversed. We’re not about to ressuscitate Gramci.
Which brings us to the question “must we defend the democratic and liberal status quo in order to escape from it?
This is the matter for another article.
Getting back to Kedistan, it is our job to see what answers provide those subjected to it, as in Turkey. An analysis of the Kurdish movement’s dissensions on the matter of armed struggle, depending on the contexts, along with analyzes on various conceptions of the State, and thus of nationalism, would help in formulating an answer.
But chaos is not a choice. It asserts itself when we look away. And fascism is quick to show up, superimposed on our shadow.
The illustration to this article is by Nour Mabkhout, borrowed from the Montreal student newspaper “Le Délit”, with thanks.
Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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