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Capitalism’s Bad Seed: “Confronting Fascism” Urges Us To Re-Examine The Far Right’s Rise

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Fascism never appears in public as its secret parasitic self but always in some other grandiose guise. — J. Sakai, “The Shock of Recognition” in “Confronting Fascism”

“Fascism” was the top word looked up last year in Merriam-Webster. The rise of Donald Trump and the violent, xenophobic nationalism he emboldens have provoked new fears among Americans, and among left-leaning white Americans in particular, many of whom are experiencing real anxiety about the direction of our country’s politics for the first time.

One debate is simply definitional, with pundits and political analysts across the political spectrum seemingly unable to agree on what fascism is, and how we’ll know if and when our government turns in that direction.

“Confronting Fascism” from Kersplebdeb, distributed by AK Press.

Another segment of the population, including the growing numbers of black-clad radicals out in the streets confronting white supremacists and nationalists, are convinced this debate is coming decades late and that the current regime and the violent reactionaries attacking minorities in its name are self-evidently fascist. “Confronting Fascism: Discussion Documents For A Militant Movement” from Kersplebdeb and AK Press should appeal to people in both camps, and help those in the former make their way into the latter.

I was already in the second category, even before I survived a fascist attack at a “March 4 Trump” rally earlier this month. I sought out “Confronting Fascism” to educate myself about the struggle we’re currently facing, and what opportunities and tactics we can use to fight back (beyond simply punching nazis in the face). “Confronting Fascism” isn’t so much about these physical confrontations, but about confronting the root causes and diverse effects of fascism.

Fascism is not a room full of capitalist bosses or lackeys saying, “OK, we’re gonna institute fascism now.” No, fascism is a movement made up of lots and lots of disgruntled people. And if we are to be successful in fighting fascism, then this is where we have to begin. — Xtn of Chicago ARA, “Introduction” to “Confronting Fascism”

It’s widely agreed that fascism arises out of capitalism, that it’s actually a byproduct of capitalism’s most destructive forces. From one perspective, even the rise of Daesh in the Middle East is a fascist perversion of Muslim culture that’s provoked by the depravities of global capitalism’s endless quest for fossil fuel and the other valuable resources of the region. Closer to home in the U.S., we can see how millions of white Americans, infamously beset with “economic anxiety,” helped to elect a White House full of openly nationalist demagogues.

The essays in “Confronting Fascism” argue that, while there’s truth in conventional definitions of fascism, we must look beyond the idea of fascism as a tool of capitalism. While Trump and others like him appeal to these “disgruntled people” for votes, there’s also an anti-capitalist and anti-globalist element within fascism that acts in opposition to the powerful. This can make fascist movements dangerously appealing to some of the same people we hope to reach as radicals. Further, the left also errs by assuming that fascism always follows a certain blueprint, frequently that of Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy. But just because we haven’t had a Beer Hall Putsch doesn’t mean our country isn’t headed off a very steep precipice.

Fascism is a revolutionary movement of the right against both the bourgeoisie and the left, of middle class and declassed men, that arises in zones of protracted crisis. — J. Sakai, “The Shock of Recognition” in “Confronting Fascism”

While readers seeking a deeper understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of both fascism and anti-fascism will find a lot to consider and discuss in this book, it won’t offer much advice about the day to day struggle. Though the book touches on a couple notable confrontations from the past two decades, there’s little insight offered into the street tactics that helped antifascists win the upper hand.

“Confronting Fascism” is also written in somewhat dense, academic language, particularly the first essay, “Fascism & Anti-Fascism” by Don Hamersquist. Readers without a firm grounding in radical political philosophy may struggle through some passages, but will hopefully still be rewarded for those struggles. J. Sakai’s “Shock” does a great job of unpacking the ideas in Hamersquist’s essay, making them more accessible and applicable to this political moment (even though both were written before the rise of President Trump), but the book must be read in order for full comprehension, since Sakai’s essay is intended as a response to Hamesquist.

[Fascism] is a male movement, both in its composition and most importantly in its inner worldview. This is beyond discrimination or sexism, really.  Fascism is nakedly a world of men.” — J. Sakai, “The Shock of Recognition” in “Confronting Fascism”

I particularly appreciated how Sakai acknowledges the intersectional nature of the struggle, and specifically targets fascism’s patriarchal nature. This makes these essays seem particularly applicable to 2017, where radicalized “pick up artists” and so-called “men’s rights activists” (actually reactionary sexists of the worst kind) have grown from laughable internet trolls to a deadly social and political force.

If you’re dedicated to resisting the Trump regime, then “Confronting Fascism” makes an important addition to your reading list. It helped me connect a lot of dots I’d noticed before, but hadn’t seen the links between clearly. The book offers valuable new tools for analyzing the unique ways fascism is manifesting in the current crisis.


Capitalism’s Bad Seed: “Confronting Fascism” Urges Us To Re-Examine The Far Right’s Rise by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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