Fascism and Liberal Democracy

Image: Cyrus Saurius


Fascism is not simply a desperate response by the bourgeoisie to an imminent revolutionary threat, but the expression of a crisis of alternatives to the existing order.

of fascism

Fascism can be classically defined as an ideology, a movement and a regime. It thus designates, in the first place, a political project of “regeneration” of an imaginary community – in general the nation[I]– which presupposes a vast purification operation, that is, the destruction of everything that, from the fascist point of view, would obstruct this ghostly homogeneity, hinder its chimerical unity, distance it from its imaginary essence and dissolve its profound identity.

As a movement, fascism is growing and gaining a wide audience, presenting itself as a force capable of challenging the “system” but also restoring “law and order”; It is this profoundly contradictory dimension of reactionary revolt, an explosive mixture of false subversion and ultra-conservatism, that makes it possible to seduce social strata whose aspirations and interests are fundamentally antagonistic.

When fascism manages to conquer power and transform itself into a regime or more precisely into a state of exception, it always tends to perpetuate the social order, despite its “anti-system” and sometimes even “revolutionary” claims.

This definition makes it possible to establish a continuity between historical fascism, that of the interwar period and what we will call neo-fascism, that is, the fascism of our times. As we will see later, asserting such continuity does not imply being blind to differences in contexts.

crisis of hegemony

If its supposed rise takes place against a background of structural crisis of capitalism, economic instability, popular frustrations, deepening social antagonisms (of class, race and gender) and identity panic, fascism does not become the order of the day only when the political crisis reaches a level of intensity that becomes insurmountable within the framework of established forms of political domination, that is, when it is no longer possible for the ruling class to ensure the stability of the social and political order through the ordinary means associated with liberal democracy and through the simple renewal of its political staff.

This is what Gramsci named hegemony crisis (or “organic crisis”), whose central component is the growing inability of the bourgeoisie to impose its political domination by fabricating a majority consent to the order of things, that is, without a significant increase in the degree of physical coercion. To the extent that the fundamental element that characterizes this crisis is not the impetuous emergence of popular struggles, much less an uprising that would create deep fissures in the capitalist State, this type of political crisis cannot be characterized as a revolutionary crisis, even if the crisis of hegemony may, under certain conditions, lead to a revolutionary or pre-revolutionary type of situation.

Such inability stems, in particular, from a weakening of the ties between representatives and those represented, or, more precisely, from the mediations between political power and citizens. In the case of neo-fascism, this weakening is reflected in the decline of traditional mass organizations (political parties, trade unions, associations), without which “civil society” is little more than an electoral slogan (think of the famous “civil society personalities” ), promotes the atomization of individuals and thus condemns them to impotence, making them available for new political affections, new forms of adhesion and new modes of action. Now this weakening, which makes the formation of mass militias largely superfluous for the neo-fascists, is the very product of bourgeois policies and the social crisis that they cannot fail to engender.

In the case of the fascism of our time (neofascism), it is obvious that they are the cumulative effects of the policies followed since the 1980s, as part of the “neoliberal” response of the western bourgeoisies to the revolutionary wave of the 1968s, which have been successful everywhere – in different proportions, depending on the country – to more or less acute forms of political crisis (increased levels of abstention, gradual disintegration or sudden collapse of parties in power, etc.), creating the conditions for a fascist dynamic.

By launching an offensive against the organized labor movement, by methodically breaking all the foundations of the post-war “social compromise”, which depended on a certain relationship between classes (a relatively weakened bourgeoisie and an organized and mobilized working class), the ruling class gradually became incapable of building a composite and hegemonic social bloc. Add to this the strong instability of the world economy and the difficulties faced by national economies, which profoundly and severely weaken the credit that populations can give to the ruling classes and their confidence in the economic system.

As the neoliberal offensive has made mobilization in the workplace more difficult – especially in the form of a strike – by weakening unions and increasing precariousness, this discontent tends increasingly to express itself elsewhere and in different ways:

– Electoral abstention growing everywhere (even if it is sometimes reduced when a given election is more polarized) and reaching levels often never seen before;

– A decline – progressive or brutal – by an important part of the dominant institutional parties (or the emergence within them of new movements and figures, such as the Tea Party and Trump, in the case of the Republican Party in the United States);

– The emergence of new political movements or the rise of once marginal forces;

– The outbreak of social movements that develop outside the traditional frameworks, that is, essentially outside the organized labor movement (which does not mean without any link with the political left and the unions).

Neo-fascists manage, in certain national contexts, to integrate themselves into vast social movements (Brazil) or to provoke mass mobilizations themselves (India); it also happens that his ideas permeate certain fringes of these movements. However, this is usually not enough for neo-fascist organizations to transform into mass militant movements, at least at this stage, and extra-parliamentary struggles tend more towards ideas of social and political emancipation (anti-capitalism, anti-racism, feminism, etc.) than for neo-fascism. Although lacking strategic cohesion and a common political horizon, sometimes even unified demands, these mobilizations generally point to the objective of breaking with the social order and there is a concrete possibility of an emancipatory bifurcation.

In all cases, the political order is deeply destabilized. It is evidently in this type of situation that fascist movements can appear - in different social groups and for contradictory reasons - both as an essentially electoral response (at this stage at least) to the decline of the hegemonic capacity of the dominant classes, and as an alternative to the political game traditional.

alternative crisis

Contrary to the common idea (in part of the left), fascism is not a simple desperate response of the bourgeoisie to an imminent revolutionary threat, but the expression of a crisis of alternative to the existing order and a defeat of the counter-hegemonic forces. If it is true that fascists mobilize fear (real or not) of the left and social movements, it is actually the inability of the exploited class (proletariat) and oppressed groups to constitute themselves as revolutionary political subjects and to engage in an experience of social transformation (even limited) which allows the extreme right to appear as a political alternative and gain the support of very diverse social groups.

In the current situation, as during the interwar years, facing the fascist danger does not only mean leading defensive struggles against authoritarian hardening, anti-immigration policies, the development of racist ideas, etc., but also (and more profoundly) that the exploited and oppressed manage to unite politically around a project of rupture with the social order and take advantage of the opportunity presented by the crisis of hegemony.

The two moments of fascist dynamics

In the first stage of its accumulation of forces, fascism seeks to give its propaganda a subversive appearance and to present itself as a revolt against the existing order. He does so by challenging both the traditional political representatives of the dominant classes (on the right) and the dominated classes (on the left), all of whom are guilty of contributing to the demographic and cultural disintegration of the “Nation” (conceived in a fantasic way, as a more or less immutable): the first would favor “globalism from above” (in the words of Marine Le Pen), that of “cosmopolitan” or “stateless” finance (with the anti-Semitic connotations that inevitably carry such expressions), while the second would feed the “globalism from below”, that of migrants and racial minorities (with the full range of traditional xenophobia inherent in the extreme right).

Making the “Nation” the solution to the crimes – economic crisis, unemployment, “insecurity”, etc.– invariably attributed to what is considered foreign by him (in particular everything that has to do directly or indirectly with immigration), the fascism claims to be an “anti-system” force and to constitute a “third way”, neither right nor left, neither capitalism nor socialism. The failure of the right and the betrayals of the left lend credence to the fascist ideal of a dissolution of political divisions and social antagonisms in a "Nation" that is finally "regenerated" because it is politically unified (in reality placed under the control of fascists), ideologically unanimous (i.e., deprived of any means of publicly expressing any form of protest) and ethno-racially “purified”, in other words, freed from groups considered intrinsically “alien” and “unassimilable”, “inferior” and “dangerous”.

The fact is that, in a second moment, what could be called its “plebeian” or “antibourgeois” moment occurs (a character that fascism never completely renounces, at least in speech and which is one of its specificities), the Fascist leaders aspire to forge an alliance with representatives of the bourgeoisie – usually through the mediation of bourgeois political parties or leaders – in order to seal their access to power, use the State in their favor (for political ends, but also for personal enrichment, as all fascist experiences have shown and regularly illustrated by judicial convictions of representatives of the extreme right for embezzlement of public funds), while promising capital the annihilation of all opposition. Of the initial pretensions to a “third way”, nothing remains, fascism proposes nothing but to make capitalism work under the regime of tyranny.

Fascism and the Crisis of Oppressive Relations

The crisis of the social order also presents itself as a crisis of oppressive relations, a dimension that is particularly acute in the case of contemporary fascism (neofascism). The perpetuation of white domination and oppression of women, as well as gender minorities, is in fact destabilized or even threatened by the rise on a global scale, very unequal depending on the country, OF anti-racist, feminist and LGBTQI movements.

Collectively organizing themselves, revolting respectively against the racist and heteropatriarchal order, speaking with their own voice, non-whites, women and gender minorities become increasingly autonomous political subjects (which in no way prevents divisions , especially if there is a lack of a political force capable of unifying subordinate groups).

In response, this process cannot fail to awaken racist and sexist radicalizations that unfold in various forms and directions, but find their full political coherence in the fascist project. This indeed articulates the delusional representation of an ongoing or already occurring upheaval in domination relations (with these varied mythologies of “Jewish domination”, “the great replacement”, “reverse colonization”, “anti-white racism”, “feminization of society”, etc.) to the fanatical will of oppressive groups to maintain, whatever the cost, their domain.

If the extreme right opposes feminist movements and discourses everywhere, if it never breaks with an essentialist conception of gender roles, it can sometimes, depending on political needs and national contexts, adopt a rhetoric in defense of women's rights and sexual minorities. They then go so far as to silence some of their traditional positions (prohibition of abortion, criminalization of homosexuality, etc.), and enrich the range of nationalist discourse with new tones: this will make “foreigners”[ii]those responsible for the violence suffered by women and homosexuals. Female nationalism and homo nationalism thus make it possible to reach new segments of the electorate, gain political respectability and, in the process, deflect any systemic criticism of heteropatriarchy.

Fascism, nature and environmental crisis

The crisis of the existing order is not simply economic, social and political. It also presents itself, in particular because of current climate change, as an environmental crisis.

Neofascism currently appears divided by the morbid phenomena associated with the Capitalocene. Most neo-fascist movements, ideologues and leaders minimize global warming, or even openly deny it, defending an intensification of extractivism (carbo-fascism). On the other hand, certain currents that can be qualified as ecofascists claim to constitute a response to the environmental crisis, but do little more than revive and compose as “ecology” the old reactionary ideologies of the natural order, still associated with traditional ideas of performances and hierarchies. (of gender in particular), but also of closed organic communities, in the name of “racial purity” or on the pretext of “incompatibility of cultures”. Likewise, they tend to use the supposed urgency of the disaster to appeal for ultra-authoritarian (eco-dictatorships) and racist solutions (their neo-Malthusianism almost always justifies, according to them, a growing repression of migrants and an almost total ban on immigration). .If the latter remain largely a minority when compared to the former and do not form mass political currents, their ideas undeniably develop and permeate neo-fascist common sense, so that an ecology of identity emerges as an environmental field of struggle to the antifascists. This cleavage also refers to an intrinsic tension in “classical” fascism, between a hypermodernism that exalts big industry and technology as markers and levers of national power (economic and military), and an antimodernism that idealizes land and nature as centers of authentic values ​​with which the Nation must reconnect in order to find its essence.

Fascism and social order

If fascism wants to appear as an alternative to the existing order (and succeeds at least in part), if it often comes to present itself as a (national) "revolution", it is not simply the spare wheel of the current state of affairs, but the means of removing all opposition to ecocidal, racial, and patriarchal capitalism; in other words, an authentic counterrevolution.

Unless we take his word into account – and thus validate – his claims to be on the side of the “little ones” or the “no position”, to mobilize the “people” and to constitute a program of social transformation that is favorable to him , or to adopt a purely formal / institutional definition of the concept of “revolution”, made simply synonymous with regime change, fascism cannot be described as “revolutionary”: on the contrary, all its ideology and all its practice of power tends towards the consolidation and reinforcement, by criminal methods, of relations of exploitation and oppression. More profoundly, the fascist project intensifies these relations, to produce an extremely hierarchical social body (from a class and gender perspective), standardized (from the point of view of sexualities and gender identities) and homogenized (from an ethnic-racial point of view). . Imprisonment and mass crime (genocide) are not fortuitous consequences, but an inherent potential of fascism.

Fascism and social movements

Fascism maintains an ambivalent relationship with social movements. To the extent that its success depends on its ability to appear as an “anti-establishment” force, it cannot be content with frontally opposing protest movements and the left. Thus, fascisms – “classic” or current – ​​do not cease to borrow part of their rhetoric from these movements to form a powerful political and cultural synthesis.

To this end, three main tactics are employed:

– The partial recovery of elements of critical and programmatic discourse, but deprived of any systemic dimension and any revolutionary objective. Capitalism, for example, is not criticized in its foundations, that is, insofar as it is based on a relationship of exploitation (capital / labor), it presupposes private ownership of the means of production and also coordination by the market, but only in terms of its globalized or financialized character (which allows, as we said above, to play with the old anti-Semitic tones of the classic fascist discourse, which still has its appeal among certain fringes of the population). It is understandable, from this point of view, that criticisms of free trade, and even more the appeal to “protectionism”, have every chance, if they are not coherently linked to the objective of breaking with capitalism, to ideologically strengthen the extreme right.

– The diversion of rhetoric from the left and social movements to make it a weapon against “foreigners”, that is, against racial minorities. This is the logic of the aforementioned femo-nationalism and homo-nationalism, but also of the “nationalist” defense of secularism: although the far right has throughout its history opposed women’s and LGBTQI rights or the principle of secularism, some some of its currents (in particular, the current leadership of the French Front National/Régénération Nationale) now claim to be better advocates, which in the latter case implied a complete redefinition of secularism.

– Or the inversion of feminist or anti-racist criticism, by stating that the oppressed became the oppressors. Therefore, an ideologist in the process of accelerating fascisation could recently state the following “We are in an anti-white and racialist communitarian regime, in other words, a reverse apartheid” (Michel Onfray, philosopher with media success). Likewise, we regularly see Eric Zemmour or Alain Soral (promoters of neo-fascism) claim that men are now dominated by women and therefore prevented from realizing their dominant essence. This type of discourse is the best way to appeal, without saying so explicitly, to a supremacist operation of “reconquest”, that is, of white or male affirmation.

Fascism and Liberal Democracy

Liberal and fascist regimes do not oppose each other as democracy and domination would. In both cases, the submission of proletarians, women and minorities is achieved, intertwined relations of exploitation and domination are implanted and perpetuated and a whole series of violence inevitably and structurally associated with these relations; in both cases, the dictatorship of capital over society continues. They are, in reality, two distinct forms of bourgeois political domination, that is, two different methods by which subordinate groups can be subjugated and prevented from carrying out a revolutionary transformation.

The shift to fascist methods is always preceded by a set of renunciations, by the ruling class itself, of certain fundamental dimensions of liberal democracy. Parliamentary arenas are increasingly marginalized and circumvented, as legislative power is assumed by the executive and government methods become increasingly authoritarian (decree-laws, ordinances, etc.). But this transitional phase between liberal democracy and fascism requires, above all, the increasing limitation of freedom of organization, assembly and expression, or even the right to strike.

It is without much diffusion that authoritarian hardening occurs, which increasingly makes political power rest on the support and loyalty of the repressive state apparatuses, dragging it into an anti-democratic spiral. Thus, an increasingly rigid safety net supervenes on working-class and immigrant neighborhoods; demonstrations prohibited, prevented or severely repressed; preventive and arbitrary arrests; expedited trials of protesters and increasing use of prison sentences; increasingly frequent layoffs of strikers; reduction of the scope and possibilities of union action, etc.

To say that the opposition between liberal democracy and fascism resides in the political forms of bourgeois domination does not mean that anti-fascism, social movements and the left should be indifferent to the decline of public liberties and democratic rights. Defending these freedoms and rights is not sowing the illusion of a State or a republic conceived as a neutral arbiter of social antagonisms. It is to defend one of the main conquests of the popular classes during the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, namely, the right of the exploited and oppressed to organize and mobilize to defend their working and living conditions. It is the essential basis for the development of class, feminist and anti-racist consciousness. But it also asserts itself as an alternative to the de-democratization that neoliberalism brings in its own project.

Fascism works specifically to crush all forms of contestation, whether revolutionary or reformist, radical or moderate, global or partial. Wherever fascism becomes a practice of power, that is, a political regime, in a few years or even a few months, nothing or almost nothing remains from the political left, from the trade union movement, or even from the forms of organization of minorities, or that is, of every stable and crystallized form of resistance.

There, where the liberal regime tends to deceive subordinates by co-opting a part of their representatives and incorporating some of their organizations in the form of a coalition (as minority participants, with no active voice) or negotiations (the so-called “social dialogue” in which the unions or associations play the role of a pretext) or even by integrating some of its claims, fascism intends to destroy all forms of organization that cannot be assimilated to the fascist state and to eliminate the very aspiration of collective organization outside the framework of fascist organizations or those close to them. Fascism presents itself as the political form that promotes the almost complete destruction of the self-defense capacity of subalterns – or their reduction to molecular, passive or clandestine forms of resistance.

It is necessary to note, however, that in this work of destruction, fascism cannot obtain the passivity of a large part of the social body solely by repressive methods or by speeches directed at one or another scapegoat. It can only stabilize its rule by satisfying the immediate material interests of some groups (unemployed workers, impoverished small employers, officials, etc.), at least those who, within these groups, are recognized by the fascists as “true nationals”. In a context of abandonment of the popular classes by the left, one should not underestimate the force of attraction of a discourse that promises to reserve jobs and social aid for these so-called “true nationals” (who, it will never be said enough, that in the fascist vision are not defined by a legal criterion of nationality, but by a criterion of origin, therefore ethno-racial).

Fascism, “the people” and mass action

If fascism is sometimes falsely described as "revolutionary" because of its appeals to the "people" or because it would intervene through the action of the "masses", in a superficial analogy with the labor movement, it is because very different things are mixed under the headings " people” and “action”.

The “people”, as the fascists understand it, does not designate a group that shares certain conditions of existence (in the sense in which sociology speaks of popular classes), nor a political community that includes all and all united by a common will. of belonging, but rather an ethno-racial community fixed once and for all, bringing together those who would come from “right here” (whether the criterion of belonging to the “people” is pseudo-biological or pseudo-cultural). This is actually equivalent to a social body devoid of enemies (the “foreign party”, as Drumont and Zemour say, fascist propagandists, the first from the late XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century and the second, today).

As far as fascist action is concerned, it oscillates ideally between punitive expeditions carried out by armed groups (non-state gangs or sectors of state apparatuses that are autonomous or in the process of being so)[iii], the military-type march or the electoral plebiscite.

If the first affects social struggles and, more globally, subordinates (striking workers/ethnic-racial minorities, women in struggle, etc.), in order to demoralize the opponent and clear the ground for fascist implantation, the second is aimed at aims to produce a mass symbolic and psychological effect, to mobilize affections in favor of the leader, the movement or the regime, while the third aims to passively ratify the will of the leader or the movement by a group of atomized individuals.

If fascism effectively appeals to the masses, it is not to encourage their autonomous action based on specific interests (class politics) favoring, for example, forms of direct democracy where collective discussion and action are discussed, but to support the fascist leaders and give them a weighty argument in negotiations with the bourgeoisie for access to power. Popular participation in fascist movements – and even more so in regimes – is for the most part commanded by the top for its purposes and in its forms and presupposes the most absolute deference to those who would be destined by their nature to command.

There are, however, forms of mobilization by the base in the first moment of fascism, by the plebeian branches that provide its shock troops by taking seriously its anti-bourgeois promises and its pseudo anti-capitalism. When, however, the political crisis deepens and the alliance between the fascists and the bourgeoisie takes effect, tensions appear between this bourgeoisie and the leadership of the fascist movement. The latter will always try to get rid of the leadership of these militias[iv], while seeking to channel them by integrating them into the fascist state under construction.

In reality, as far as action is concerned, fascism has never offered the masses but the choice between passive or vocal obedience to the fascist leaders and the manganello[v], repression, often going to the point of torture and murder in fascist regimes, including some of their most fervent supporters.

A posthumous and preventive counter-revolution.

Fascism is a counter-revolution « posthumous and preventive[vi].Posthumous insofar as it is nourished by the failure of the political left and social movements to rise to the historical situation, to constitute themselves as a solution to the political crisis and to initiate an experience of revolutionary transformation. Preventive, because it aims to destroy in advance everything that could nourish and prepare a future revolutionary experience: explicitly revolutionary organizations, but also anti-racist, feminist and LGBTQI movements, self-managed places of life, independent journalism, etc., that is, the smallest form of contestation of the order of things.

Fascism, neo-fascism and violence

It is undeniable that extra-state violence in the form of mass paramilitary organizations played an important, albeit arguably overestimated, role in the rise of the fascists – which distinguishes them from other reactionary movements that did not seek to militarily organize the masses. It happens that, at least at the present time, the vast majority of neo-fascist movements are not built from the activation of mass militias and do not have such militias (with the exception of the Indian BJP and, to a lesser extent, in terms of implantation of pasta, the Hungarian Jobbik and the Golden Dawn in Greece).

There are different hypotheses to explain why neo-fascists are unable or unwilling to build such militias:

– The delegitimization of political violence, particularly in Western societies, which would lead political parties that constitute paramilitary structures to electoral marginality;

– The absence of an experience equivalent to the First World War, in terms of brutalization of populations, that is, the habit of exercising violence, which would make available to the fascists masses of men willing to enroll in a perspective of exercising violence through the militias armed fascists;

– The weakening of the ability of labor movements to structure, organize and supervise, trade union and politically, the popular classes, which means that the fascists of our time no longer have before them an opponent that it would really be essential to break by force in order to impose, which would require an apparatus of mass violence;

– The fact that States are much more powerful today and possess instruments of surveillance and repression of a sophistication incomparable to that of the States of the interwar period, and thus the fascists of today can feel that the violence of the State is enough to annihilate, physically, if necessary, any form of opposition;

– Finally, the strategically crucial character for neo-fascists to distinguish themselves from the most visible forms of continuity with historical fascism and, in particular, with this dimension of extra-state violence. It is necessary to remember, from this point of view, that the “Front National” was created in 1972 in France from a strategy of respectability developed and implemented by the leaders of the “New Order”, an undeniably neo-fascist organization.

These hypotheses allow us to insist on the fact that the formation of mass militias was made necessary and possible for fascist movements in the very particular context of the interwar period.

But neither the formation of armed bands, nor even the use of political violence, constitute the peculiarity of fascism, either as a movement or as a regime: not that they are not centrally present, but other movements and other regimes, not belonging to the constellation of fascism, resorted to violence to gain or maintain power, sometimes killing tens of thousands of opponents (not to mention the legitimate use of violence by liberation movements).

The most visible dimension of classic fascism, the extra-state militias are, in reality, an element subordinated to the strategy of the fascist leaders, who use them tactically in accordance with the demands imposed by the development of their organizations and the legal conquest of political power, which they assume. , since the interwar period, and even more so today, to appear somewhat respectable, keeping the more visible forms of violence at bay. The strength of fascist or neo-fascist movements is then measured by their ability to deal – depending on the historical situation – with legal and violent tactics, « war of position » and « war of movement », using Gramsci's categories.

The fascitization process

The victory of fascism is the joint product of a radicalization of entire sectors of the ruling class, for fear that the political situation will escape them, and a social entrenchment of the fascist movement, ideas and affections. Contrary to a common representation, well suited to absolve the ruling classes and liberal democracies of their responsibilities in the rise of fascists to power, fascist movements do not conquer political power as an armed force seizes a citadel, by an action purely external to itself. take, like a military attack. If they generally manage to obtain power by legal means, which does not mean without bloodshed, it is because this conquest is prepared by a whole historical period that can be referred to by the expression fascisation.

It is only at the end of this process that fascism can emerge – obviously today without saying its name, and disguising its project, given the universal opprobrium that has enveloped the words “fascism” and “fascist” since 1945, both as a (false) alternative to various sectors of the population and as a (real) solution for a politically pressured ruling class. It is then that, from an essentially petty-bourgeois movement, it can become a true mass, interclass movement, even if its sociological core, which sustains it, continues to be the petty bourgeoisie: small independent workers, liberal professions, executives medium.

forms of fascitization

Fascism expresses itself in multiple ways, through a wide variety of “morbid symptoms” (to use Gramsci's expression again), but two main vectors can be highlighted: the authoritarian hardening of the State and the rise of racism. If the former evidently has the State's repressive apparatuses as its main field of expression (with this specific actor of fascisation constituted by police unions), we must not forget the primary responsibility of political leaders, in the French case from Sarkozy and Hortefeux to Macron and Castaner via Hollande and Valls (PS). And if police violence is part of the long history of the State and the police, it is the crisis of hegemony, that is, the political weakening of the bourgeoisie, which makes it increasingly dependent on its police, which increases strength, but also autonomy, the latter[vii]: the Minister of the Interior no longer tends to lead and control the police, but to defend them at all costs, increasing their resources, etc.

The rise of racism also combines the long history of the French state, a former imperial power in which colonial and racial oppression occupied – and continues to occupy – a central place, and the short history of the political field. Faced with the crisis of hegemony, the extreme right and sectors of the right – in the understanding that these political forces represent different class fractions – have the project to solidify a white pad, capable of bringing a form of social commitment to an ethnic-racial base, through a policy of systematic eviction of non-whites or, in other words, racial preference. Moreover, by constantly emphasizing the danger that migrants and Muslim women would pose to public order, but also to the cultural integrity of the “Nation”, these forces justify the license granted to police forces in immigration neighborhoods and against migrant women. , the increase in repression of social movements, in short, state authoritarianism. Thus, we can speak, in the words of the writer and black leader Aimé Césaire – of a wildness, process of savagery – of the ruling class, which appears above all through practices and devices of repression directed first against ethnic-racial minorities and then against social mobilizations (yellow vests, trade unions, anti-racists, anti-fascists, environmentalists, etc.). But savagery is also emerging, more and more common, in the form of public statements (imagine what is said in private…): We think of this former Minister of National Education and ubiquitous media intellectual, in this case Luc Ferry, calling on the police to “use their weapons” against the gilets jaunes; think of this swarm of ideologues, Zemmour being just the tree that hides the forest, that made media and editorial Islamophobia a booming industry.

What does state fascitization mean?

State fascisation must therefore under no circumstances be reduced, especially in the first phase that precedes the conquest of political power by the fascists, to the integration or appearance of fascist elements recognized as such in the apparatuses of maintenance of order (police, army, justice, prisons). On the contrary, it functions as a dialectic between the endogenous transformations of these apparatuses, the result of political choices made by bourgeois parties over almost three decades (all oriented towards the construction of a “penal state” on the ashes of the “social state”, to to use Loïc Wacquant's categories), and political power – mainly electoral and ideological at this stage – of the organized extreme right.

To put it simply, the fascination of the police does not express itself and cannot be explained mainly by the presence of fascist militants within it, or by the fact that police officers vote massively for the extreme right (in France and elsewhere), but by its strengthening and empowerment (in particular of the sectors responsible for the most brutal tasks of maintaining order, in immigration districts, against migrant women and, secondarily, in mobilizations). In other words, the police are increasingly emancipating themselves from political power and the law, that is, from any form of external control (not to mention undetectable popular control).

The police, therefore, do not become fascist in their functioning, only because they would have gradually been devoured by fascist organizations. On the contrary, it is because its entire functioning becomes fascised – obviously to varying degrees depending on the sector – that it is so easy for the extreme right to spread its ideas within it and take root. This is particularly visible due to the fact that we have not witnessed in recent years a progression in the union's police force directly linked to the organized extreme right (France Police-Indignant Police), but a double process: the emergence of factional mobilizations coming from the base (but covered by the summit, in the sense that they were not subject to any administrative sanctions); and the right-wing radicalization of the main police unions (SGP-FO Alliance and Police Unit).

A contradictory and unstable process

The process of fascisation is eminently contradictory, as it stems in the first place from the crisis of hegemony and the hardening of social confrontations, and, therefore, it is highly unstable. This is by no means a royal road for the fascist movement.

The ruling class can, in fact, succeed in certain historical circumstances in provoking the emergence of new political representatives, in integrating certain demands of the subordinates and, thus, building the conditions for a new social compromise (which allows not having to cede power political power to the fascists in order to maintain their economic power)[viii].However, it is unlikely that the ruling classes will be led, in the current context, to accept new social commitments without a sequence of high-intensity struggles that impose a new balance of power that is less unfavorable to the popular classes.

If the process of fascisation does not necessarily end in fascism, it is also because the fascist movement, like the ruling classes, confronts the political left and social movements. The success of the fascists ultimately depends on the ability – or, on the contrary, the impotence – of subordinates to victoriously invest in all fields of political struggle, to constitute themselves as an autonomous political subject and to impose a revolutionary alternative.

After an electoral victory of the fascists: three scenarios

If the fascists' conquest of political power – usually by legal means, let us repeat – is a crucial victory for them, it is not the last word in history. A period of struggle necessarily begins the day after this victory, which can happen – depending on the political and social balance of power, on the struggles fought or not, depending on whether they are victorious or defeated:

– either for the construction of a fascist dictatorship or military police (when popular movements suffer a historic defeat and the bourgeoisie is politically very weakened or divided);

– either for bourgeois normalization (when the fascist movement is too weak to build an alternative political power and there is an important popular response, but not enough to go beyond a defensive victory);

– or in a revolutionary sequence (when the popular movement is strong enough to gather important social and political forces around it and engage in a confrontation with bourgeois forces and the fascist movement).

of anti-fascism today

If anti-fascism appears, first of all, as a reaction to the development of fascism, therefore a defensive or self-defense action (popular, anti-racist, feminist), it cannot, however, be reduced to hand-to-hand combat with fascist groups; and even more so because the tactics of building fascist movements in our time give less space to mass violence – except doubtless in India, as we said above – than in the case of “classical” fascism. (see thesis 15). Anti-fascism makes the political struggle against extreme right-wing movements a central axis of its struggle, but it must also set itself the task of promoting the common action of subordinates and of stopping the process of fascisation, that is, of undermining the political conditions and ideological frameworks in which these movements can thrive, take root and grow, destroying everything that promotes the spread of fascist poison in the social body. However, if we take this double vocation of anti-fascism seriously, then it must be conceived, not as a monothematic struggle against the organized extreme right, which would work independently of other struggles (trade union, anti-capitalist, feminist, anti-racist, environmentalist, etc. .), but as the defensive reverse side of the struggle for social and political emancipation, or what Daniel Bensaïd called the politics of the oppressed.

Evidently, it is not a question of conditioning the formation of an anti-fascist front to adherence to a complete and precise political program, which would mean, in reality, renouncing any unitary perspective, since then it would be a question of each force imposing its own political projects and strategic to others. It would be even more inappropriate to demand from those who aspire to struggle here and now against fascism or the dynamics of fascisation mentioned above, to present patents of revolutionary militancy. However, anti-fascism cannot have opposition to far-right organizations as its only compass if it really aspires to defeat not only these organizations, but also and above all the fascist ideas and affections that spread and take root far beyond. He cannot fail to make the connection between the anti-fascist struggle, the need to break with racial, patriarchal and ecocidal capitalism, and the objective of another society (which we will call ecosocialist).

The case is complex, because it is not enough for anti-fascism to assert its feminism or anti-racism, criticize neoliberalism or call for the defense of “secularism”, to reveal the reactionary character of neo-fascism. As the far right has appropriated at least part of the anti-neoliberal discourse, it has tended more and more to adopt a rhetoric in defense of women's rights, uses a pseudo-anti-racism in defense of "whites" and positions itself as a protector of secularism. , anti-fascism cannot be content with vague formulas on the subject. It must obligatorily specify the political content of its feminism and its anti-racism, or even explain what should be understood by “secularity”, under penalty of leaving blind spots in which neo-fascists never fail to locate themselves (“Femonationalism”, denunciation of “racism anti-white” or falsification / instrumentalization of secularism), but also under penalty of falling behind the neoliberals (who have their own “feminism”, that of the 1%, and their “moral anti-racism”, usually in the form of an appeal to mutual tolerance) . Likewise, it must clarify the political horizon of its opposition to neoliberalism or its criticism of the European Union, which cannot be that of a “good” finally regulated national capitalism.

Furthermore, recent years have brought to light the need for anti-fascism to become fully involved in the political – necessarily unitary – battle against the pressure for authoritarianism. Let the latter speak out against thousands of Muslims, dragged through the mud, prosecuted, monitored, discriminated against, publicly disqualified, sometimes arrested, for being suspected of “radicalization” (therefore constituting an “enemy of the Nation”, real or potential), against the migrants (deprived of rights and harassed by the police), against residents of immigration neighborhoods (crossed by the most fascist sectors of the repressive forces, who enjoy almost total impunity), or against social mobilizations increasingly severely repressed by the police and by the courts (movement against labor legislation, yellow vests, etc.).

We see how the challenge for anti-fascism is not simply to forge alliances with activists from other causes, which would leave each partner unchanged, but to redefine and enrich anti-fascism from perspectives that arise in union, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, feminist or environmental struggles, fueling the latter with anti-fascist perspectives. It is in this condition that anti-fascism will be able to renew itself and progress, not as a sectoral struggle, a particular method of struggle or an abstract ideology, but as a common sense that permeates and involves all emancipation movements.

*Ugo Pallet is professor of sociology at the University of Lille. Author, among other books, of The possibility of fascism (La Découverte, Paris, 2018).

Translation: Lidia Codo

Originally published in the electronic magazine setback.


[I] Civilization – “white” or “European” – can also play this role, as well as race (“Aryan” in Nazi ideology), even if the latter referent has been rendered politically unsustainable, on a massive scale, by the genocide of Jews in Europe. Europe.

[ii] A highly expandable category as it includes all those who, whether or not they have the nationality of the country, are not considered genuine natives (in the case of France, the so-called “native Frenchmen”, “true Frenchmen”, etc.). From this point of view, a recent European immigrant – naturalized or not – will be considered by the extreme right as less of a foreigner, at least if he is white and of Christian culture, than a Frenchman born in France of parents born in France, but whose grandparents would have coming, for example, from Algeria or Senegal.

[iii] Let us mention, in the contemporary French case, the anti-crime brigades.

[iv] read up to Airresistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht.

[v] Name given in Italian to the instrument with which he was beaten, particularly worker militants or anyone who opposed the fascists. O truncheon and their use were the object of something of a cult in Fascist Italy.

[vi] Here we return to Angelo Tasca's formula in his classic book Birth of fascism. 

[vii] Which allows it, in the case of France, to directly target political forces today (we remember the demonstration of police unions in front of La France Insoumise headquarters, a left-wing political formation, led by Mélanchon) and to demonstrate without authorization, with weapons and vehicles service, often hooded, without any administrative or judicial sanction.

[viii] The case of Roosevelt and the New Deal in the United States of the 1930s, which did not allow the crisis of American capitalism to be overcome (it would be necessary to wait for the war to do so), but which suspended the said crisis.


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