Is neoliberalism neofascism?

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By MARCOS SILVA*

Apparently, Liberalism and Fascism are antipodes, a comfortable situation to hide their common birthplace: Capitalism

Brazil and other countries in the contemporary world experience, at the end of the second decade of the XNUMXst century, governments of extreme violence against the poor and multiple groups that suffer different social stigmas, governments that act to deepen poverty and stigmatization, to the benefit of great fortunes and elites privileged administrative areas. These experiences range from the USA to Belarus, passing through the Philippines and Libya. The use of cages to incarcerate children of illegal immigrants in the US under the Trump administration is a clear example of these policies.

Some analysts of such a universe characterize it as Neofascism. Others prefer the designation Neoliberalism.

The prefix “neo” is misleading in suggesting a pure and simple revival of something pre-existing. Because it is History, however, “nothing will be like before”, as the chorus and title of a beautiful song by Milton Nascimento and Ronaldo Bastos teach. At the same time, in the changes, there are continuities mixed with metamorphoses, tragedies turned farces, according to the classic formulation of Karl Marx, in the book The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. And the social experiences of the past leave open topics, which posterity will be able to return to, in line with Walter Benjamin's debates on revolutionary projects (and perhaps also applicable to momentarily cornered conservatives), in the essay “On the Concept of History”.

No Neofascism will fully reprise Mussolini's Italy or Hitler's Germany, but anyone can have as a program to destroy unions and other associative bodies, in addition to choosing - to eliminate - visible enemies, calling for the generalized extermination of any vestige of social dignity. No Neoliberalism will be a practical lesson from Adam Smith, but it will always be able to appeal to the hand of the Sacred Market and despise the public space, throwing social rights in the trash.

Neoliberalism is a version of itself that Capitalism staged to destroy social rights and disqualify subjects in the public scene. Apparently, Liberalism and Fascism are antipodes, a comfortable situation to hide their common birthplace: Capitalism. Fascists attacked liberal topics, which did not prevent indifference, or even sympathy, from some of their leaders in countries with a strong liberal presence in the political debate, such as the USA and the United Kingdom.

Rulers and the top administrative ranks of these different countries did not hesitate to declare themselves neoliberals, rarely do some of them define themselves as neofascists, even when they almost literally reproduce texts and public postures clearly inspired or even copied from Mussolinist Italy or Hitlerite Germany, as can be seen in the Bolsonaro government, Brazil. There is a fine cleanness about evoking liberal roots, contrary to the scandalously criminal memory of Nazi fascism. Margareth Thatcher and Ronald Reagan announced neoliberal professions of faith and were solemnly present at the funerals of John Paul II, a character who was a clear example of fierce anticommunism during the period in which he was pope (1978/2005).

This ease in the alleged liberal affiliation of politicians, coupled with the shame of being associated with Nazifascism, is symptomatic. Should analysts mimic the supposed neoliberal identity of such women and men?

This problem deserves to be associated with the strong tradition of historical culture (in addition to writings by historians, fiction, monuments, social memory) to consider Nazi-fascism an issue that ended in 1945, with the end of World War II. Certainly, sectors of this historical culture addressed the disturbing continuities of Nazi-fascism: without intending to list them, the novel The plague, by Albert Camus (1947), the play The Altona Kidnapped, by Jean-Paul Sartre (1959), and the films the nail man, by Sidney Lumet (1965), and Pigsty, by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1969). In terms of historical-philosophical essayism, the authoritative personality, by Theodor Adorno et al. (1950), and What remains of Auschwitz, by Giorgio Agamben (1998), point out issues related to the disturbing continuities of Nazi-fascism.

* Mark Silva is a professor at the Department of History at FFLCH-USP.

 

 

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