What Does Fascism Look Like?

Let me first apologise – my ‘three part’ series “Are Women Oppressed?” is taking its time: only part 1 has been written so far. I’m working on a book, which I hope to announce soon – this (and caring for a young child) has sapped my available blogging time. Tangentially, the book will cover the same subject area as this post: the renewed rise of fascism, and the need to reinvent the left as a progressive force once again.

The book will be announced soon, I hope. please join my mailing list to learn more. I will also be dropping my pseudonymity… who is MoronWatch? Watch this space…

Inevitably, a comment on the first post accused me of being “reactionary”. This makes my point. The new, conservative left uses the language of the old, progressive left but without the understanding that was once there. The “Are Women Oppressed?” series is to demonstrate this point: the old organs of the left – including the feminist movement – have become reactionary. Their language is similar, but their goals have reversed. The new claim of “female oppression” (which has only really surfaced in the past few years) is a fascistic one with the purpose of turning back the clock on women’s rights. All progressive movements will decay, if they’re allowed to survive long enough.

I hate to pull rank (OK, cancel that – I enjoy it), but I have impeccable left-wing credentials. I descend from a century of socialists and communists, and was very active on the left from the late-70s and through into the 90s. I had – still have – links into the old revolutionary movements, including the ANC’s radical generation. 35 years ago, the bright young things were tempted by the fragmented Trotskyist movement. Today, smart young people in politics appear to be clustering around libertarianism. The point for progressives then is to make the case for left-wing libertarianism, as I have tried to do.

Fascism is a deep, socially conservative, anti-sex, authoritarian and anti-science ideology. It is neither inherently right nor left. Yes, the left is correct that 1930s fascism, born in Italy and then in a more extreme form in Germany, was a right-wing movement. That doesn’t mean it will be this time around. The key thing to understand about fascism is that it comes from the grassroots, not from above. It is the mob, mobilised to attack progress. That’s why it is the most frightening of all political tendencies. To see how 21st century fascism might look, don’t get too distracted by the UKIP types. They are the dying embers of the old fascism, endlessly rehashing old xenophobic messages. It’s no accident that the typical UKIP voter is older than average. The creation of UKIP, in the longer run, will be beneficial to the centre-right. The Tories have shed their most poisonous tendencies and are thus able to move back towards the centre. This will benefit them in the mid-term.

Where are the young fascists? Those are the ones to watch.

A look at the No More Page 3 campaign gives a hint. hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition against female nudity: the progressive feminists of the 1960s would be horrified. Although it operates under a veneer of feminism, those who have encountered the movement close-up have found it to be heavily religious in nature. This campaign has united Britain’s largest trade union with the girl guides… The old anti-rape organisations that emerged from the Women’s Lib era have given up chasing rapists, and put their names to a movement that seeks to claim women’s bodies are dangerous and must be covered up. They are blaming women for rape, though a little more subtly than the old “don’t dress like a slut” brigade. If the campaign had called itself British Mothers for Chastity, the left might have been suspicious. But fascism moves on; it is a worm that seeks to embed itself in the softest spots of society. If masquerading under the banner of “women’s rights” is to tactical advantage, that’s where it will be found.

When the British Christian morality movement fizzled out, its ideas found a new home. If you can’t beat feminism, you reinvent it as a wholesome, pure, anti-sex idea. NMP3 has cleverly used the left’s tribal hatred of the Sun and Murdoch… and what’s not to hate? But the Sun’s heyday is long gone. It is a declining force, and so makes for an easy target. To see the ranks of the organised left march in (goose-)step behind a closeted Christian morality campaign is worrying indeed.

The anti-racism movement has gone the same way. Just as with “female oppression”, the new shout of “white privilege” didn’t originate in the civil rights era, or in the anti-racism movement of the 70s and 80s. It’s a new slogan, and created with the intent of turning back the clock on equality, and trying to redefine people by their skin colour. Tellingly, this expression seems designed to taunt poor, white, working-class people into joining ranks with the far-right. It is good, old-fashioned race-baiting. A century after the peak of European power, and with China, India and even Africa rising, now fascists have decided to proclaim the end to racial equality with the creation of the bogus idea of white privilege. Attacking racial equality is the home turf of fascism. Only the slogans have changed.

In South Africa, fascism today means that immigrants are lynched by locals. This isn’t the first time – it happened on a larger scale in 2008, and back in the 1940s. If this was happening in Europe, the left might understand what was going on, but when black people kill other blacks, they don’t recognise fascism in action. Instead, ludicrously, this is blamed on “the legacy of Apartheid” or colonialism. And so the left has adopted the most colonial type of thinking. Black people, they seem to think, are like children who copy the bad habits of we white adults. It doesn’t seem to cross their minds that Africans are just as capable of xenophobic brutality, for their own ends, as we are. Just as elsewhere, the old South African heart of progressivism – the ANC – has imploded, become conservative and corrupt. The ANC’s new generation of leaders have enriched themselves. So has the left-wing “outsider” opponent to the ANC, Julius Malema: simultaneously a “revolutionary” and a multi-millionaire who spreads racial division. Once a revolution is done, the revolutionary organs will rot.

The very concepts of “left” and “right” have dissolved into meaninglessness. Progressives need to take a step back and re-examine their beliefs: equality, individual liberty, democracy and evidence-based thought form the bedrock of progressivism. The last great liberal era – of anti-colonialism, anti-racism, women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights – was a full half-century ago. Nostalgia for the good old days of revolution, Labour, trade unionism and equality is blinding the new left to the reality of the new fascism. It’s time to move on.

12 thoughts on “What Does Fascism Look Like?”

  1. The South African “legacy of apartheid” argument could be (and has been) made with equal force about the rise of ISIS and the history of dictatorship/US aggression in Iraq and Syria (in both cases with some, but limited, merit, because brutalised people are more likely to react with brutality). Whilst I don’t particularly like the term “Islamofascism”, it does describe ISIS’ philosophy.

    The interesting aspect of your post is whether progressive movements contain the seeds of their own decay (the “four legs good, two legs better” syndrome, if you like), and how you deal with that. Not sure I can offer constructive answers on that one. The best recent examples (of not decaying) I can think of would be Mandela and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Jose Mujica.

    1. Yeah… I’ve found myself making these arguments often enough, and need to check myself. It’s fair to say that the aftermath of Iraq war of 2003 is still ongoing, but to say that the ‘legacy of Apartheid’ is the main cause of events is more dubious, and claiming the ‘legacy of colonialism’ affects African politics 50 or 60 years later is really stretching things! In South Africa, the Zulu leadership has always been a reactionary force – it fought on the side of Apartheid much of the time. So the Zulu king’s racist comments are same old, same old.

      I don’t think progressive movements contain the seeds of their destruction, so much as that no successful movement will give up when it’s won (especially with funding and jobs involved). This is why many gay people loath the ‘gay rights’ movement, most women reject feminism, and most black people want nothing to do with ‘konscious’ blacks railing against ‘white privilege’. In London, Stonewall recently ran horrendous ads on the tube saying “Some people are gay – get over it!” It’s hard to see what they’re trying to achieve, other than show their funders that they’re still doing something…

      Perhaps, human nature is naturally conservative, so all successful bodies will be taken over by conservatives in time once the Mandela figures die off.

  2. Religion drilled the idea into people that sexual expression is shameful. Even when people become less religious and more “progressive”, the shame associated with sexual expression remains ingrained.

    That is why so-called progressives shamed the Page 3 models, and the people who looked at them even more. The religious “With lust in your heart” just turned into the more progressive “Objectification”.

    Strangely, male homosexual sexual content rarely has “objectification” allegations thrown at it. Except maybe if these idiots want to argue that gay men hate each other.

    That is maybe because men (even if they are gay men) are seen as “strong”, and thus can’t “objectify” each other… Sounds pretty sexist to me.

  3. Another excellent article, but while I can accept your call to arms in the name of Enlightenment values I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion that left and right are now meaningless. Yes, as you have said previously, many on the left are lost in the “fog of identity politics”, and have become conservatives masquerading as progressives. But the Left for me has always been about addressing economic injustice, and gross inequality is as great an issue around the world as it has ever been. The Right, even the more liberal among them, do not care about this issue, and they tend to ally themselves with the powerful on many other issues too (Israel being a good example). Frustration at the authoritarianism and intolerance of the middle-class Left has led me to read and follow many libertarian types, with whom I tend to agree on issues such as No More Page 3 etc. But even those who claim to be “Left Libertarians”, such as some of the spiked-online writers, look a lot more like good old-fashioned right-wingers to me. You are one of the few exceptions to this, a libertarian who is not stupid enough to think we should pay no tax. I’ll march for a new Enlightenment, I’ll even march with liberal right-wingers, but I can’t abandon the notion of the Left and ignore the economic elephant in the room.

    1. Thanks; yeah, we’re broadly on the same page. I agree regarding the Spiked people – they swing around a lot in their positions, and seem to be on the “Islam is an enemy of enlightenment so Israel is good” crap.

      Regarding economic justice – yes it’s important, and as I wrote previously, the community/state/whatever you want to call it can provide universal services so long as the economy works and delivers taxes. As the economy advances, the community can decide to add more universal services – that’s basically what’s happened with social democracy since WW2. But 30 years ago there were 4 million unemployed and no minimum wage. Now millions more people, less than a million unemployed and a minimum wage. I don’t believe the zero-hours thing is as terrible as Labour claim either – people have a working flexibility that didn’t exist in the 80s. Polls seem to show that people on zero hours are happier than the anti-capitalist protesters are claiming.

      However, the left is determined to convince people that economic inequality is growing, and I’m becoming sceptical of that. Part of the reason that the left is finding new oppressed “identity” groups to defend is that the old genuinely oppressed group – the hungry – is vanishing. Worldwide, hunger has been consistently falling as a share of the population for at least 20-30 years. Sure, there’s more genuine need in Britain than there was in 2008. That’s for 3 reasons: 1) The economic crash, 2) Stupid and unnecessary austerity policies (Keynes was right!) 3) The move of unskilled work from rich to poor countries – we lose, they win.

      I think we have only one fundamental problem for government to sort out: not enough housing. I predict whoever wins the election will start to take that problem seriously, and it won’t be that hard to fix. It just looks bad right now, because it’s been getting worse for the past 3 decades.

  4. It depends (as it always does!) how you define economic inequality. As you say, global hunger levels are decreasing (part of the reason is the migration of unskilled work to poorer countries), but global income and asset inequalities are rising (the top 1% now own far more of global wealth than they did, say, 20-30 years ago). This is particularly marked in the US (where the banks have been buying back the properties they foreclosed on, then letting them to the former owners)!

    You’re right about housing, particularly in the South East. The shortage of accommodation has created an asset bubble (inflated house prices). This has been happening for so long, though, that any future attempt to tackle the issue will need to tread fairly carefully, to avoid leaving large numbers of home owners in Negative equity, which in turn might drag down the economy.

    1. On inequality, I’ve come to accept, to some extent, the right is increasingly right. When inequality means food or not, healthcare or not, a home or not, it’s important. When it’s Range Rover or Fiesta, Rolex or Swatch, Boob job or Wonderbra it becomes less important. As the world gets wealthier (so long as it keeps getting wealthier), disparities mean increasingly little. The fact that the poor used to vote for the left, and now often don’t is a good sign of that. These messages on inequality are being swallowed by student radicals, not working class people. Today’s billionaires can’t buy much of significance that nobody can get, so they are actually climbing over each other to leave the biggest lasting legacy. Being super-rich buys you the opportunity to cure malaria, educate thousands of African children, or whatever. Gates, Buffett and others are going that way.

      You have to wonder why the left is so excited about Piketty. He has updated our old Marxist idea that capitalism inevitably leads to widening division and catastrophe, when the lesson of the past few decades is the opposite. I’ve seen some debunks of Piketty’s numbers and reasoning, but they’re largely from libertarian think tanks, etc. so I’m cautious about them.

      Left-wing populism is rising. That might be a good thing, or we might be about to kill off the system that has fed more people than ever before in human history, which would be really stupid.

      1. When inequality means food or not, healthcare or not, a home or not, it’s important.

        …and I think you’ll find that that’s the situation that transpires when inequality is higher. Inequality also matters when it means proper nutrition or junk food and when it means that the life chances of the poor are curtailed.

        When it’s Range Rover or Fiesta, Rolex or Swatch, Boob job or Wonderbra it becomes less important.

        I think you’ll find that that happy state of affairs comes about when inequality is lower.

        The fact that the poor used to vote for the left, and now often don’t is a good sign of that.

        Actually, that goes back to the defeats of the 1980s, which resulted from the left turning in on itself instead of taking the fight to the real enemy, allowing itself to be vanquished. It’s certainly not because the poor are better off now than they were then (they’re not – real incomes for those at the bottom remain below where they were in the early 1970s).

        These messages on inequality are being swallowed by student radicals, not working class people.

        Evidence?

        You have to wonder why the left is so excited about Piketty. He has updated our old Marxist idea that capitalism inevitably leads to widening division and catastrophe, when the lesson of the past few decades is the opposite.

        AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Thanks for the laugh!

        That might be a good thing, or we might be about to kill off the system that has fed more people than ever before in human history

        It might have fed more people in absolute terms than ever before, but given that we have a bigger population than ever before and that it’s been consistently growing, that’s not really saying much. The thing to look out for is if it’s fed more people in proportionate terms than ever before. Can you demonstrate that that’s the case?

        1. I don’t agree about the 80s… the left didn’t collapse because it was a disorganised shower. It collapsed because its traditional supporters preferred Thatcher’s message to theirs. It only turned in on itself because its message no longer chimed beyond a clique (of which I was a part). The defining TV character of the late 80s was Loadsamoney.

          “It might have fed more people in absolute terms than ever before, but given that we have a bigger population than ever before and that it’s been consistently growing, that’s not really saying much. The thing to look out for is if it’s fed more people in proportionate terms than ever before. Can you demonstrate that that’s the case?”

          It’s most definitely the case, the numbers are indisputable, and this is what dented my Marxist fervour. I was waiting for global capitalism to inevitably collapse, and instead it fed the global poor. That Bastard!

          http://www.ifpri.org/publication/2014-global-hunger-index

          You should know this, as should everyone. The fact that you don’t illustrates the problem. Why is the left trying to make people believe that the world is getting worse when it clearly isn’t? There’s plenty to fix (house-building, as I said, is a big priority), but you can’t fix what is really wrong when your narrative is based on trying to convince people that EVERYTHING is wrong.

          Let’s defend and extend our health service, restart public house-building on a mass scale, increase investment in public education, invest in mass transit, ensure the benefits safety net supports those who needs it… the usual stuff of social democracy.

          1. I don’t agree about the 80s… the left didn’t collapse because it was a disorganised shower. It collapsed because its traditional supporters preferred Thatcher’s message to theirs.

            Sorry, but that’s utter bollocks! Thatcher never gained any large scale working-class support outside of the Southeast of England and parts of the Midlands. Indeed, the Tories’ vote in Scotland and the north of England started to collapse under Thatcher. Unskilled workers mostly stuck with Labour. There were, it is true, a sizeable contingent of skilled workers who were disenchanted with Labour, but they by and large turned to the SDP-Liberal alliance, not the Tories. This is hardly consistent with the claim that the left’s demise was because ‘its traditional supporters preferred Thatcher’s message to theirs’.

            It is, however, consistent with my contention that the left was defeated in the 1980s due to its disunity. The SDP-Liberal alliance was, after all, a product of the civil war that tore apart the Labour party in the early ’80s. The effect of this civil war was twofold: it was not only crucial in and of itself in terms of making the Labour party unelectable in 1983, since divided parties never win elections (just ask John Major)*; it also spawned the SDP, which then jumped into bed with the Liberals, meaning that Labour now had to compete for those who had historically constituted part of its core vote with a significant rival force on the centre-left.

            *This, incidentally, is further corroboration of my view that the left was defeated as a result of its divisions.

            The defining TV character of the late 80s was Loadsamoney.

            It’s worth pointing out that Loadsamoney was a Cockney. There’s a good reason for that, I think, namely that the individualist, materialistic notions of aspiration that Thatcher promoted resonated overwhelmingly with a particular section of the working class, concentrated in the Southeast of England, as opposed to the working class elsewhere in the country, where they never really gained traction to anything like the same extent.

            It’s most definitely the case, the numbers are indisputable, and this is what dented my Marxist fervour. I was waiting for global capitalism to inevitably collapse, and instead it fed the global poor. That Bastard!

            http://www.ifpri.org/publication/2014-global-hunger-index

            Thanks for the link. I’ll follow it and come back to you on it later.

            Let’s defend and extend our health service, restart public house-building on a mass scale, increase investment in public education, invest in mass transit, ensure the benefits safety net supports those who needs it… the usual stuff of social democracy.

            Agreed. Those are all vitally important things to campaign for.

  5. “Black people, they seem to think, are like children who copy the bad habits of we white adults. It doesn’t seem to cross their minds that Africans are just as capable of xenophobic brutality, for their own ends, as we are.”

    The most racist thing any white person can think is that black people are capable of racism. This author is so obviously racist unless they happen to be a minority in which case they so obviously aren’t. Racist elephant raping dicks!

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