October 2014        

Fascism in the twenty-first century

Seán Edwards

Samir Amin, “The return of fascism in contemporary capitalism,” Monthly Review, vol. 66, issue 4 (September 2014).
Patrick Cockburn, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising (New York: OR Books, 2014).

Samir Amin begins his essay with a brief discussion of the different manifestations of fascism in the 1930s, distinguishing between fascism in Germany (a developed capitalist power seeking domination), fascism in second-rank powers (Italy, Spain and Portugal), and fascism in defeated (France, Belgium) or dependent states (Hungary, Romania, Croatia).
      He notes the benign attitude of the Western “democracies” towards fascism, including Nazi Germany, and Churchill’s repeatedly expressed support for Mussolini. The Catholic Church also gave its blessing. As he says, “it would not strain credibility to describe Pius XII as an active collaborator with Hitler and Mussolini.”
      The anti-fascism of the Western powers did not long survive the alliance with the Soviet Union. Of all the crimes of the Nazis, only the genocide of the Jewish people is remembered. Of course this should never be forgotten. It is a terrible insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust that their fate is used to justify the crimes of the Zionist state of Israel.
      Organisations that collaborated with the Nazis and participated in their crimes in the Baltic, in Yugoslavia and in Ukraine were maintained and supported for decades in the West. Since the 1990s they have been re-emerging, sponsored by the EU and the United States. They show no shame: portraits of Pavelić are displayed in Croatia and of Bandera in Ukraine; veterans of the Waffen-SS parade in Estonia. Of course our press does not describe them as fascists but as “nationalists” or “radicals,” ignoring the Nazi insignia which they adopt.
      And they are not even nationalists: their programme is one of subordination to imperial power as well as chauvinistic hatred towards their neighbours.
      The re-emergence of fascism is facilitated by the silence and acquiescence of the “moderate” left, which has forgotten its anti-fascist past. There may be no immediate threat of a fascist takeover in the United States or western Europe, as there is a political consensus between the “centre-right” conservative and “centre-left” ex-social-democratic parties. People suffering from the “austerity” these parties impose on them increasingly abstain from voting, or vote for the extreme right, including fascist parties, which, alongside demagogic “anti-government” rants, incite hatred against foreigners and immigrants, especially Muslims.
      Fascism in South America, especially the military dictatorships of the 1970s and 80s, is hardly ever called fascism, perhaps because it was sponsored and maintained by the democratic United States of America. However, it fits Samir Amin’s description of the fascism of dependent states. It has been defeated by a continent-wide “explosion of popular movements,” which have achieved great social and democratic gains and display an increasing anti-imperialist (or at least anti-neo-liberal) consciousness and have put socialism back on the agenda. But considering the fascist tendencies in the Latin American right, and the continuing threats and actions of the United States, fascism also remains on the agenda.
      The reactionary Islamist programme also fits this description: it does not challenge the capitalist order, and it runs an anti-democratic police state, enforcing religious conformity. This is accepted in the West, with a tolerant reference to their different DNA. By the simple expedient of buying a few football clubs, the names of the Gulf States have become part of the scenery in Europe, and the appalling abuses of their societies are totally ignored in the press. The same press highlights the real or imagined human rights abuses of the states now being attacked by the West.
      Variants of political Islam have been in alliance with imperialism for some time. The British Empire encouraged the Muslim Brotherhood, to counter the secular Wafd party in Egypt in the 1930s, and used religion to divide Pakistan from India in the 1940s. In more recent times the United States organised and armed the most extreme Islamists in order to bring down the progressive government in Afghanistan, thereby creating Al-Qa‘ida.
      The latest manifestation of political Islam has taken the name of the Islamic State, claiming to revive the Caliphate. A book by Patrick Cockburn, The Jihadis Return, gives a detailed account of this. The jihadis—confusingly to anyone not paying attention—oscillate between being enemy no. 1 of Western civilisation and covert allies, pressed into service for “regime change” in Libya and then in Syria.
      At all times they have been supported by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, close allies of the United States. As Cockburn points out, after the atrocity in New York in 2001 the United States carefully avoided implicating either, waging war instead on Afghanistan and Iraq.
      All four wars have been presented as humanitarian interventions in support of democratic opposition forces. In regard to the stated aims, all are complete failures. But clearly the resulting chaos, with all the human suffering it entails, is quite acceptable to the imperialist powers as the next-best outcome to the establishment of a client state.
      The jihadis given the task of overthrowing the Syrian government were known to have an agenda of their own. Yet the emergence of the “Islamic State” with an even more extreme version came as something of a shock. The West has a new enemy no. 1, and the same people who sponsored and created it are now bombing the parts of Iraq and Syria that it occupies. They may be planning to use this as an excuse for attacking the Syrian government and achieving their elusive “regime change” there. The out-of-their-control Islamic State may be a shock to them, or it may have been a risk they were prepared to take. Either way, the policy of using fascist groups is not about to change.

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