C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Fascism is back is Fashion

To my way of thinking, the art of good blogging may require more than simply recounting other people's facts, or reciting the contents of one's day, but must, of necessity, be brief. To that end, a precise and innovative juxtaposition is a useful tool.

On the topic of tools, today's juxtaposition is that of far-right ideologues, and their histrionic allegations of 'fascism'.

The progressive side of politics has often between too quick to throw out the 'f' word when denouncing an opponent. Today, 'fascism' has been re-appropriated by the right, and is used in conjunction with the term 'Islam', on a variety of racist and imbecilic sites of which these are but a limited sample. (Less often, but nonetheless regularly, such sites also peddle the utterly disproved notion that fascism is a variant of progressive, or even Green thought. This accusation is not even worth the time of refuting again). Before venturing to any of these sites, please be sure to wear gloves.

It is for good reason that 'fascism' is a term of fear and abuse - despite Marx's assertions to the contrary, fascism is the spectre that is haunting Europe, and much of the rest of the world, given that the destruction unleashed by the Nazis was without precedent or successor.

So what is fascism? I can think of no better, succinct definition than that provided by historian Robert O. Paxton:

Fascism may be
defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with
community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of
unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist
militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional
elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and
without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external

Where have those of us of Antipodean extraction seen such a definition made manifest? We could start by point out certain riots that occurred in the Anglophone enclaves of suburban Sydney. Despite the post-hoc apologetics offered by the usual cohort of media brownshirts, who moved swiftly to blame the riots on the 'problem' of olive-skinned victims, evidence emerged of far-right nationalist groups attempting to galvanise support for a proto-fascist movement. The rationale for rioters was one of retaliation for alleged crimes by Muslim Lebanese youth. The reprisal consisted of street (or beach) rioting, by violent drunks, egged on by Australia's own bogan stormtroopers.

Whilst the riots themselves have, thankfully, not been repeated elsewhere in the country, the mentality underlying this has persisted. I shall call this the 'fascist mentality', without any attempt to be ironic or melodramatic. For, if we look at Paxton's definition, and examine some of the unpleasant media/Internet sources I listed above, we find a disturbingly close correspondence:

- 'Obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation and victimhood'; particularly in terms of the perceived evils of 'multiculturalism', and the perceived benefits apparently afforded to minorities. There are no shortage of examples from the sources above of commenters who loudly proclaim that white, middle-class Australia (or America) is the 'victim' of Islam. Note also that the 'elites', according to the perverse logic of far-right ideology, are not those with money or power, but with 'culture', that is, the intellectual left, compared to whom everybody is supposedly impoverished.

- 'Uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites'; we have seen how one such elite, Alan Jones, had his wrist slapped for his encouragement of the riots, and we have also seen how our fearless leader, Howard, was more than willing to accommodate such encouragement. The enablers of thuggery in the media (Bolt, Blair, Devine, et. al.) also reflect collaboration with 'elites'.

'Internal cleansing and external expansion'; It must be said that examples of 'internal cleansing' have been mercifully few and far between. All the same, the calls for such cleansing are sounding increasingly less like 'dog whistles' and more like outright barking. The will to 'external expansion' is expressed through Australian military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and through vicarious support for US and Israeli expansionism. It is profoundly ironic that many of the rightards who express the most virulent contempt for Palestinians, and the most uncritical support for Israel, are precisely those who, 70 years ago, would have been baying for Jewish blood, and debating, in the German and Austrian broadsheets, possible solutions to the 'Jewish problem'. Today they content themselves with the 'Islamic problem'.

One of the best refutations of anti-Semitic stereotypes that I have encountered is in James Joyce's Ulysses. In it, a character responds to the alleged financial deviousness of the Jews by retorting that a merchant is he who buys low, and sells high, Jew or Gentile. Whilst this is pure 'common-sense', it is also, incidentally, the properly Marxist response. We might also say, today, that a criminal is he who commits terror against others, whether Jew, Christian, Gentile, Muslim, or American Republican. Unfortunately, our rightards do not read Joyce; still less do they read Marx.

A contemporary fascism in Australia needs enemies, internal and external. The external enemies are to be found in the Middle East, whilst the internal enemies (Muslims, 'liberal elites') are relentlessly demonised in the media. 'Mooslims' now assume the place that 'the Rooskies' once held - an uncontrollable menace that is supposedly supported by the cultural elite. This is in spite of the fact that, even in the face of a monolithic superpower such as the USSR, communism never came remotely close to taking root in Australia or the US.

So what are we to make of this nascent fascism amongst our rightard friends? Slavoj Žižek mentions, in his latest book, The Parallax View, that the American expansionist project, of delivering Judeo-Christian values, 'freedom', 'democracy', 'justice', is not without its 'other'. That is to say, the sexual sadism, and senseless torture of Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib is not incidental to America's project, nor is it a case of 'a few bad apples'. Rather, it is what Žižek calls the 'obscene underside', the perverse but inevitable corollary of American values of 'justice', 'freedom', etc.

The 'obscene underside' of this neo-fascism can be found in those conspiracy theorists who contend that 11/9 was the work of Jewish intriguers, who also, incidentally, control world finance and the media. These sorts of statements, quite rightly dismissed and ridiculed, are formally identical to the ravings of degenerate nationalist psychopaths, who pontificate about the 'growing threat' of conspiratorial Islam, and who cite the birth rates of various nations as 'proof' that the world is in the midst of an Islamic takeover. This, however, is no different to the 11/9 nutters who contend that the sciences of engineering or ballistics are 'proof' that the collapse of the Twin Towers was an 'inside job'. No reasonable person could abide by either theory, or accept the gross politicisation of science for such unenlightened ends.

It is striking that one paranoid conspiracy theory is routinely dismissed by individuals of all political persuasions, whilst the other is not merely tolerated, but openly supported by many sections of mainstream politics and media. Nonetheless, these are merely two sides of the same paranoid, proto-fascist coin, and are strictly equivalent. For an Australian or American to allege that Muslims are taking over the world is no different to the 1930's anti-Semites who ranted about Jews controlling world finance. That some terrorists and criminals have been Muslim is no more proof of the former than is the fact of some Jews being wealthy a proof of the latter. Of course, evidence makes little difference to these deluded souls, these botched human beings.The sooner such things are realised, the sooner the venom of these budding brownshirts, will be neutralised.