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“The womb it crawled from is still going strong” Brecht wrote. This sentence comes at the end of a play “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” that was never published nor staged during his lifetime, although he attempted to do so during his exile in the United States, from 1941 to 1947.
Bertold Brecht had neither published nor shown this text, because he was criticized by the most Stalinist communist movement at the time – and mostly by his politically “committed” peers – for this piece of writing done in the United-States, this parable on fascism; he was criticized for having opened out on the notion of “totalitarianisms” by extrapolating from a nazi incident in 1941 he transposed into the Chicago of the 1930s. Forced to self-criticism by his artist comrades, Brecht finally explained that his play was not meant as an extenting the notion of fascism to “totalitarianism”. He was also blamed from breaking with the rules of “socialist realism” when he moved to East Germany where he lived until his death in 1956.
That often-quoted sentence from his unpublished play, thus has a specific history, which history, in the context of the 1950s, allows us to borrow it in order to “extrapolate” ourselves on today’s fascism or fascisms, identifying them as such or using the word “totalitarianism” as a diversionary tactic so as not to disturb “the beast”.
Does being an anti-fascist, being someone who is ‘against the beast” make any sense nowadays?
I intentionally raise the question in a polemical way, in the same manner as one might ask if the term fascism does not have a passé aspect to it, and serve as something of a general password with no specific meaning?
Let’s set aside answers based on the theme of “antifascism is a working class tradition, a fundamental for anarchists” a root value from which one cannot depart. Because, other than having allowed us to write out an extra line of text, it tells us nothing of the struggle that needs to follow, nor of the changing nature of “the beast”, and, as we know, lofty words have never kept anyone from drifting away from his or her own political stance. “Traditional” anti-fascism is an oxymoron.
One can also consider procastinating bu using headings such as “the coming fascism” which avoids having to describe “the beast” we are facing, by delaying analyzing its excrements until tomorrow. This, as much in order to avoid speaking the ugly word, as an admission that “the beast” has shown often unpredictable talents to cameleon-like changes.
In fact, before being anti-fascist, one must always start by being a humanist, so as to detect those moments when “the beast” aims at destroying humanity, its social organization, its living spaces, its possibilities for living together, its ecological systems, all in the name of a higher interest, one in which, no matter what ideology it invokes, everything is always about power, property and profit. In fact, being an anti-fascist means delving under the ashes, beyond the heckling and the morbid layers of earth and dust accumulated over it by the falsifiers of history, for the intelligence that a few, who were nonetheless numerous, brought to bear on ending wars ravaging the world, aptly describing how “the beast” was not dead, and how a simple “never again” could never replace both vigilance and combat.
Rather than cultivating myths about resistance, myths the remains of which all the nationalists fought over with the communists at the time, rebuilding together Nation-States while jealously guarding the “colonies”, these ‘post-war’ anti-fascists launched their de-colonization struggles, as a natural extension of their fight against “the beast”. Nowadays, a certain Albert Camus would be shoved into the ropes as a so-called Islamo-leftist, now that philosophy can be bought at the same counter as Mein Kampf.
Thus, anti-fascism cannot be a violent reaction against despair, but quite the opposite, a humanist invitation to the struggle, be it of a minority, when facing definitions of exits from the capitalist crisis that preach for both the salvaging of profits and of political regimes described as “strong”; a humanist invitation to the struggle against the offsprings of “the beast” born in the period’s muck.
And I wish to take the time to designate, one after the other, these offsprings of “the beast” since they do not necessarily resemble one another, although they feed off one another and drink from their collective mother, their only and most identifiable common source: fascism.
This, to serve as the introduction to what will be an ongoing chronicle.
To be continued… > The Vile Beast
Image : CC Lila Montana solidary photographer-journalist
Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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