Fascism and crime



In “normal” times, crime is hidden and then solved with individual punishment that reconciles bourgeois society with itself. In moments of crisis, fascism publicly exalts crime. Through crooked ways, he breaks with individual guilt and reveals the social roots of crime.

“The here scares me / not yesterday or tomorrow” (Bruno Palma)

In your Nazi Literature in America[I] Roberto Bolaño constructed fictional biographies of literary sub-celebrities. They transit through spaces where fallen aristocrats and underworld profiteers meet; they cross paths in their lives with real people from the political and, particularly, cultural world.

One has the impression that only the mixture of reality and imagination accounts for an irrational movement. The life of an Argentine poet, the imagined Edelmira Thompson Mendiluce who rose to the oligarchy landlord, is much more believable than Bolaño's brief allusion to the Brazilian short story writer (this real one) Ruben Fonseca, a former police chief and IPES ideologist[ii], think thanks of the Brazilian extreme right financed by foreign companies to prepare a coup in Brazil[iii].

Those writers are always people of acceptable conviviality. Often mediocre, in important exceptional cases like Pound or D'Annunzio. They move from high circles to secret societies and explain confusing ideas without causing confusion. Rather, they pass off as the eccentricities of artists. One of them is to serve as a link between the mansion and the bas-fond, between legalized theft (surplus value) and crime.

Misunderstood philosophers, poets without renown, decorators, outcasts, lackeys, hermits, psychopaths, a member of the Brazilian death squad and Ruben Fonseca himself parade through Bolaño's imaginary fascism. protégé and warm shores of the dictatorship. But the characters of Nazi Literature in America they are not mere allegories of violence nor are they isolated from high circles by a watertight partition.

The Collector by Ruben Fonseca, for example, is a lumpen poet, vigilante, rapist and murderer who joins forces with a bored rich woman. He can then move from individual homicides to collective terror. His trajectory of brutality is surrounded by naturalistic and vulgar prose and is not as convincing as Bolaño's meticulous historical and literary construction.

Fonseca's collector enters the apartment of a rich young woman and her rape needs a detailed description for the story to be told. work. Between his world and that of those who “ow him” there are no uncertainties or a zone of twilight and transition. In Bolaño, the eccentric does not penetrate the secret upstairs only through explicit brutality. There is a common and gray area between the established and the outsiders, between established aesthetics and kitsch.

The crime

Certainly, there is nothing more fashionable than showing a suspect in the dining room. pour épater le bourgeois.

The attraction that high society feels for the underworld was demonstrated by Hannah Arendt[iv]. The idea of ​​the perfect crime in which brutality coexisted with refined manners and murder with games of intelligence never abandoned police stories. At the Dream Romance of Arthur Schnitzler there is a parallel society allowed only to elite initiates.

Marx ironically wrote that the criminal not only produces crimes, but also the police, professors of criminal law, judges, locks, art, literature and even moral sentiments in the public. Egress from the “superfluous” population, the criminal does something even more important: “breaks the monotony and daily security of bourgeois society”[v].

When simply not using their own public agents in illegal actions, the reserved services of the police always resorted to criminals, maniacs, social failures or simple envious people as informants (goose, in the old Brazilian slang).

What fascism allowed was an exchange of positions in which right-wing paramilitary militias could carry out police work without the shackles of justice and the limits of the law. And the police could become a kind of legal protection and information service for the fascists.

Economic Basis

The process of capital accumulation in the XNUMXth century generated three by-products: a wealthy and self-confident upper bourgeoisie; a growing industrial proletariat; and a floating population that formed both a reserve to regulate the price of labor power and the lumpen proletariat without an economic function.

This rabble collected from all classes, however, could serve both crime and state repression, espionage and neocolonialism. It could embody both an occasional tattered finger and an aristocrat infatuated with secret conspiracy theories of Jews and Freemasons.

In “normal” times, crime is hidden and then solved with individual punishment that reconciles bourgeois society with itself. In moments of crisis, fascism publicly exalts crime. Through crooked ways, he breaks with individual guilt and reveals the social roots of crime. He finds the culprits of his own crimes in a race, a political group or an external enemy. With that pretext, it manages to repress any social discontent and wins the support of the dominant classes because it defends them better than the usual judiciary bodies.

But fascism only violates institutions that were already demoralized. To defeat a real or imagined revolution, the armed forces, the courts, the press, and even the police need to disprove their neutrality, abandon their rites, discredit their speech, and violate due process of law. In the name of combating crime, institutions become somewhat criminal; and the real criminals pass themselves off as half-honest politicians. The fascist does not force his way in through democracy, he just kicks in a door that has already been opened for him.

It is for no other reason that police heroes (always fictional, of course) do justice with illegal methods and immorally defend the morals of citizens. Fascism is a frontier phenomenon between illegality and legality and therefore finds in the police a source of recruitment.

The social left tends to attribute crime to general causes, eliminating individual responsibilities[vi]. This is certainly not convincing for anyone who believes they may be the victim of a criminal. That fascism exalts crime in defense of Order is no contradiction. That it considers it a collective phenomenon and still manages to appeal to insecure individuals is the explanation of its success.

* Lincoln Secco He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Gramsci and the Revolution (Avenue).


[I]Bolano, Roberto. Nazi Literature in America. Trans. Rosa Freire D'Aguiar. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2019. The book is from 1996 and was written imaginarily in the near future. His gaze into the past seems strangely directed at our present. And we must take its title seriously. He speaks of America, the same one that at some point came to be governed by fascists in Brazil and the United States.

[ii]Djurovic, Camilla. Impressions from the right: the editorial action of IPES (1962-1966). University of São Paulo, Master's Dissertation (in progress), 2020.

[iii]That Fonseca later had a book censored and reinvented his past as that of a liberal democrat does not matter here. About his career, see: Corrêa, Marcos. “Scenes of a perfect marriage: the political bureaucratic action of the writer José Rubem Fonseca at Ipes between the years 1962/1964”. Third Bank, no. 21, Aug.-Dec. 2009, pp. 65-78.

[iv]Arendt, H. Origins of Totalitarianism. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2012, pp. 229 and 274.

[v]Marx, K. Added Value Theories, VI Trans. Reginaldo Sant'Anna. São Paulo: Bertrand, 1987, p. 383.

[vi]In the transition from the Dictatorship, the experience and narrative of the communist threat was replaced in Brazil by crime, with “discourses that spring from an absolutely proto-fascist logic”. Pierucci, Antonio Flávio (1987). “The foundations of the new right”. New Studies CEBRAP, n. 19, Dec 1987, p. 32. From this angle, it seems that Rubem Fonseca continued in a less conscious (and therefore more convincing) way to propagandize fascism. See Lisias, Ricardo. “From Ipês to the Police – Rubem Fonseca’s work during redemocratization”, Intellectus, Year XVIII, n. 1, 2019.

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