The resurgence of fascism



Lula opted for an anti-fascist front that incorporated segments of the center-right linked to the 2016 coup to expand the range of alliances

The 2022 Brazilian elections were marked by the centrality of the debate on fascism as an institutional threat to liberal democracy in the country. Such a discourse gained hegemony in the vast coalition that supports the candidacy of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and brings together an arc that ranges from a significant part of the liberal center-right involved in the 2016 coup to broad segments of the left. The breadth of this alliance and the strong emphasis on its unity conditions, however, a superficial and limited reading of the phenomenon of fascism, which is now restricted in the country to the action of the Bolsonarist extreme right, disconnecting it from the historical context that promoted it, of the historical block in which it was founded and the geopolitical dynamics of conflicts in which it is inserted.

After decades of hegemony of liberal thought during the New Republic, which propagated the thesis of the high degree of institutional consolidation of Brazilian democracy and its ability to absorb social conflicts, the 2016 coup hit full popular sovereignty, revoked political rights, limited the representative system, criminalized social policies through Constitutional Amendment 95, and opened the space for the election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018. This formulation touched on class conflicts in Brazil and the overwhelming evidence of the limits of Brazilian redemocratization during the New Republic, as the economic, political, institutional and ideological consolidation of the segments involved with the articulation, management and legacy of the coup d'état, even contrary to legal provisions.

The absence of transitional justice violated the American Convention on Human Rights to which Brazil is a signatory and the control of the media monopoly, financial capital and agribusiness over the State violated several articles of the 1988 Constitution, even though an attempt was made to remove items , such as paragraph 3 of article 192, in 2003, which limited real interest rates in Brazil, but was never applied by majority decision of 6×4 of the STF, to which contributed the corporate prerogatives of the judiciary, far from the control popular and under strong pressure and lobbying by the rentiers.

The ideological hegemony of liberalism penetrated expressive sectors of the Brazilian left and their analysis errors regarding the configuration of our State and foundations of our democracy disarmed them to deal with the emerging social and political conflicts, facilitating the institutional rupture and the subsequent neoconservative turn. Analysis errors about the disputes and the character of the forces in confrontation may imply ephemeral advances and new regressions. In this text we seek to promote a reflection on fascism as an ideology and political force, its resurgence and the risks it poses to Brazil and Latin America in the XNUMXst century.

We address the conditions of its emergence, its links with liberalism, with anti-modernist and anti-enlightenment traditions, its specificity and contradictions as a political form, its central dimensions that allow us to refer its historical and contingent variations to the same concept, as if does with liberalism and socialism, despite the immense diversity of forms in which they have historically appeared.


Liberalism, fascism and temporality of the capitalist world-system

Since the 1980s, fascism has regained relevance in debates in the contemporary world, after its colossal defeat in the 1940s, with the reconstruction of the European extreme right, moved by opposition to peripheral and semi-peripheral immigration, mainly Arab, which became expressed in the creation and strengthening of its parties and in the pioneering experience of participating in a coalition government in Austria in 2000-2005. However, it remained relatively contained as a political and ideological force due to the broad protagonism of liberal internationalism that guided the reconversion of US hegemony towards the pretense of asserting its unipolarity and global governance in the post-Cold War period, subordinating Europe through the strengthening of NATO and its expansion to the east.

Liberal internationalism was mainly responsible for the third world wave of democratization analyzed by Samuel Huntington (1991), preceded by the one established between 1828-1926, driven by the French Revolution and the independence processes in the Americas, and by the one from 1943-1962, associated with the defeat of Nazi-fascism and the processes of national decolonization and liberation. The third wave of democratization, which Huntington situates after the Carnation Revolution in 1974, actually begins with the explosion of social and anti-imperialist movements against post-war military Keynesianism, but it is subsumed and appropriated by the neoliberal offensive that the United States start to lead with the support of Great Britain and Germany.

Both the first and second waves of democratization implied inverse movements and the author raises the possibility that the process is repeated, implying the exhaustion and reversal of the third wave. Regardless of the limits of Huntington's scheme, strongly centered on the European and American experiences and the liberal concept of democracy, and the possible inaccuracies of periodization, we consider it useful for providing us with a long-lasting framework for analyzing the cyclical movements and the historical limits of the liberalism to direct the reproduction and expansion of the capitalist world-system.

Liberal internationalism is based on the pretension of the United States to impose worldwide the combination of economic neoliberalism, political liberalism and geopolitical realism, reserving the privilege of exercising asymmetries in function of its national interests and of North American exceptionalism, both in terms of it refers to the protection of commercial, productive, financial and military interests, regarding the control of international institutions or the use of unilateral actions. For this they use the strength of their financial, ideological and military power.

The gold standard of his political doctrine is liberalism with limited social compromises, adjusted according to the zone of the world-system. They establish zones of strategic interest, but the universalism on which they are based tends to expand and divides the world into free spaces, under their leadership, and totalitarian ones, to be conquered through their moral and ideological direction, through hybrid wars, sanctions, blockades or interventions military. US liberal universalism tends to multiply international conflicts, collides with geopolitical realism, but is not radically opposed to it, seeking to incorporate it subordinately to its leadership. This opens up the space for the concept of regime change, which liberal neoconservatives handle by leaning towards the use of the hard power and progressives for the use of soft power.

If George W. Bush articulated the failed coup d'état in Venezuela (2002), the successful one in Haiti (2004) and intervened in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama joined the coups d'état in Paraguay (2012) and Brazil (2015). ), intervened in Libya, maintained the war in Afghanistan, and supported the civil war against Bashar al-Assad. Latin America and the Caribbean, included in the space of regional hegemony of the United States, since its projection to the western hemisphere with the Monroe Doctrine, endorsed by its later domination of the Atlantic, are the object of strategies of moral leadership, domination and containment both by liberal internationalism, in the progressive or neoconservative version, and by realistic thinking, which prioritizes power maintenance strategies, puts the liberal creed in the background, and considers democracy to be part of North American exceptionalism.

Liberalism, despite prioritizing intellectual and moral leadership, does not rule out institutional rupture against representative political systems through the use of manipulation, fraud or force, since it includes among totalitarian regimes those that Alexis Tocqueville called in Democracy in America the tyranny of the majority. These refer not only to those that prioritize the pursuit of equality to limit the concentration of income and wealth, as characterized by the French author, but also those that, based on the support of large popular majorities, privilege national sovereignty to the detriment of international arrangements driven by the centers hegemonic.

This opens up the space for an alliance with fascism. Ludwig Von Mises, in his book Liberalism in classical tradition (1927), hailed Benito Mussolini on the grounds of having saved Europe from barbarism, defined fascism as a Western force, permeated by the civilizing principle of private property in contrast to Eastern Bolshevism, and pointed out that the difference between liberalism and fascism is not in the use of violence, but in the centrality given to it. For Ludwig Von Mises, the victory against Bolshevism could only be completely achieved in terms of ideas, fascism offering only an emergency and provisional solution.

Em Omnipotent government; the rise of total state and total war (1944), if Ludwig Von Mises was concerned with equating Nazi-fascism and Bolshevism as expressions of totalitarianism, he also endeavored to show their differences, pointing out in favor of the former the interest in preserving and promoting private property despite subjecting it to to your direction. Friedrich Hayek, in The principles of a liberal social order (1966) and in Law, Legistation and Liberty (1979), pointed out in what he called unlimited democracies the main source of totalitarianism in modernity, a problem already evidenced in The Road to Serfdom (1944), and defended the establishment of transitional dictatorships to destroy them and reestablish, when possible and without fixed deadlines, contained democracies, restricted by the limits imposed by private property, a euphemism to hide capitalist accumulation.

For him, individual freedom is the supreme value and democracy is just a means to achieve it, liberalism is the antithesis of totalitarianism and democracy of authoritarianism. For this reason, it took sides, in its nomenclature, with authoritarian liberalisms against totalitarian democracies, which is why it collaborated with the dictatorships of Salazar in Portugal, Pinochet in Chile and with the pro-liberal coups d'état that were established in the Southern Cone in the years 1960 and 1970.

If Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig Von Mises and the members of the Society of Mont Pellerin represent a specific vision of liberalism, became the dominant liberal paradigm from the 1980s onwards, with the adherence of the big bourgeoisie in central countries to neoliberal policies and institutions to reverse the offensive of trade union and social movements and contain or destroy the demands expansion of social and individual rights. On the other hand, for Latin America and the Caribbean, the differences in the United States between progressive liberals and conservatives have always been very small, given the link between dependent accumulation patterns and the super-exploitation of workers, which implied logistical and political support for attempts of coups d'état, or military interventions, successful or not, by reformist liberals, such as John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Barack Obama, or conservatives, such as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. .bush.

The instrumental use that liberalism intends to make of fascism raises contradictions and conflicts to a greater or lesser extent. The use of violence against the representative system and popular sovereignty strengthens patrimonialism and state monopoly, threatening the relative autonomy and centrality of business monopolies that liberalism wants to impose. Norberto Bobbio in Dal fascism wing democracy (1997) pointed out the differences between conservative and subversive fascism. The first constitutes the extension of liberalism, seeking to overcome and perfect it, when it loses its ability to face the threat of the left or socialism. The second seeks to implement a permanent change of state and political regime. Based on Bobbio's formulation, we can propose the existence of two types of fascism: liberal fascism, which seeks to limit the damage that violence produces in the representative system and in the relative autonomy of civil society vis-à-vis the State; and radical fascism that seeks to replace the liberal system with a permanent dictatorial regime.

The fascism approach must be integrated with the world-system approach to inscribe it in the temporality of the capitalist system. Immanuel Wallerstein (1995) distinguished three major ideologies in confrontation for the world dispute from the XNUMXth century: liberalism, socialism and radical conservatism. The force of expansion of capitalist civilization gave centrality to liberalism, which was based on the establishment of a representative political system at the national level and the institution of the interstate system at the world level. Such centrality made socialism and conservatism, in most cases, appendages of liberalism.

The author even mentions the establishment of hyphenated ideologies, liberal-socialism and liberal-conservatism, which substantially modify the form of organization and functioning of the propositional and programmatic framework of their matrices to subordinate them to liberalism. However, this subordination is not definitive and in conjunctures of weakness of the secular trends of capitalism, liberalism weakens, and conservatism and socialism tend to seek autonomy, resume their radicalism and break with their liberal forms. Wallerstein considers fascism the most advanced form of radical conservatism and it is possible to think of its relationship with the liberal order as adaptive and contradictory on several levels, which will vary its forms of expression (Wallerstein, 1983).

Can fascism survive as a movement and political party subjected to the representative regime, pulled by the liberal center of gravity, in tension with its original formulations, a post-war dilemma of the Italian Social Movement, the German National-Democratic Party, the French Action and the National Front. It can also constitute a dictatorship limited to the national plan, as in the case of Mussolini's fascist regime until 1935, or Hitler's Nazi regime until 1936, and the Latin American exception regimes of the 1960s, 70s and 80s; or even an expansive and imperialist regime that challenges the interstate system and the hegemony of liberalism on the world stage, threatening one of the pillars of the capitalist world-system.

The point made by Immanuel Wallerstein and which we support in our book (Martins, 2020) is that we are entering a period of systemic chaos, of a terminal crisis of neoliberal globalization, which removes from liberalism its centralizing capacity, opening space for the emergence of radical forms of fascism and the inversion by fascist movements and parties of their relationship of submission to liberalism. Such a scenario is evident with the multiplication of movements and leaders of a fascist nature and their international articulation challenging the liberal hegemony.

The insertion of such movements and parties in the historical process of the temporality of the capitalist world-system is a necessary analytical framework and calls into question the attempts to model and abstract classification of extreme right movements and parties as post-fascist or neo-fascist, which end up for neglecting the dynamics of the concrete reality in which they are inserted.

The resumption of the central elements of the fascist paradigm is a growing possibility and the concept of fascism must seek to distinguish its strategic components from the historical-contingency forms with which it presented itself in different situations, in the same way as it is done with the concept of political liberalism to refer to the long continuity of defense of the principles of capitalist accumulation through the representative State and the defense of the interstate system, however varied their forms may have been, monarchical or republican, with census or universal suffrage, with annexation of peripheries and semi-peripheries through imperialism formal or informal.


Fascism: concept and history

Gyorgy Lukács in The destruction of reason (1954) analyzed German fascism as the most developed form of irrationalism, although not necessarily the last, and whose main objective was to destroy the project of human emancipation from class society, be it radical and revolutionary, or moderate and progressive. , affecting power relations between classes. The strength of fascist irrationalism would thus correspond to the potency and scope in the world-system of the emancipatory project that it intended to exterminate. Possessing an eminently destructive function, its history and the development of its internal logic would be conditioned by that of the enemy it seeks to destroy.

Its content, form, method and narrative would be linked to the negation of the ongoing social emancipation process with the development of productive forces and the political and social organization of workers. Fascism could thus present itself cyclically in history. Defeated in class struggles, but contained or destroyed the emancipatory threat, it could be reborn when this project recomposed itself. The interpretation of fascism as an ideology oriented towards the struggle of the bourgeoisie against the workers, motivated to combat a working class organized around an emancipatory project, was criticized by Nicos Poulantzas who saw it fundamentally as a solution to intra-bourgeois disputes when the class worker is already defeated.

He placed fascism as an alternative for the renewal of the pattern of domination during the imperialist phase within the scope of a general ideological crisis, which includes that of Marxism-Leninism as a revolutionary vision of transformation of social reality. This alternative would imply the extinction of the traditional parties, the imposition of the single fascist party, establishing new contradictions regarding the original petty-bourgeois composition of its political leadership and the interests of big capital with which it is committed.

If Lúkacs' approach overdimensioned the centrality of the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the advent and affirmation of fascism, Poulantzas, by highlighting the intra-bourgeois contradictions, lost sight of the strategic dimension of the struggle between capital and labor, instead of nuanced it. The decline of liberalism, the preferred ideology of big capital, is indeed a key element in the rise of fascism, but its projection as a solution to the ideological crisis rather than the re-establishment of past forms such as monarchy and aristocracy, with the existence of a new social class as a threat, the proletariat, and to fight it requires a hybrid synthesis between the specific appropriation of modern institutional instruments created by liberalism itself and the directing of the arrow of time to the past to recreate it in a new way. differently, in an attempt to destroy and control social processes established by the very development of the productive forces.

If the defeat of the most organized sectors of the working class is of great importance to prevent the emancipatory ideology from filling the ideological vacuum of the decline of liberalism, on the other hand, it is its threat that constitutes the fuel of fascism and the adhesion of the main segments of the great capital to the political leadership coming from the small and middle sectors of the bourgeoisie and from the upper fractions in decline. Despite the defeat of insurrectionary experiences in Germany and Italy, the Socialist Republic of Bavaria and the Bienio Rouge in 1919-1920, the threat of socialist revolution in the West remained during the 1930s-40s, until it was controlled by the recomposition of liberalism under hegemony of the United States, military occupation of Western Europe, establishment of the Bretton Woods system and a new pattern of world accumulation, geographically limiting the influence of the USSR and the socialist camp, despite the instability caused by the national liberation movements in the peripheries, in particularly in Algeria, Cuba and Vietnam, which had ideological effects through the development of counterinsurgency doctrines.

In characterizing fascism, we must take into account its objectives, its class base, and its definition as a regime, political movement, and ideology. We can define fascism as a regime of terror and a dictatorship for big capital that emerges from the era of imperialism, linked to the establishment of monopolies and the fusion of bank capital with productive capital. Fascism elects socialism, proletarian internationalism, the emancipatory or reformist organization of the workers and the social ascension of the poor as its main enemy.

It seeks to replace or subordinate political liberalism to the institutional or parallel use of violence to eliminate or restrict political competition to secondary limits. It intends to impose the establishment of a totalitarian or corporate society to hide and naturalize class divisions, referring to the integralist reinvention of past identities and folklore, exterminating or persecuting those who threaten it or include themselves outside its limits, claiming for this, violence and war as a virtue. The foundations of this corporative society are established by the principle of faith and conviction and by the primacy of irrationalism over reason.

Fascism aims to build a rigidly hierarchical society under the direction of a leader, opposing the democratic principle of number in favor of claiming the existence of an aristocracy of nature. It launches itself against modernity and the Jacobin constitution of 1793, using instruments of modernity itself, such as the appropriation and use of its scales, through domination over mass organizations, political parties or broad-ranging state technobureaucracy.

We define the fascist regime as a dictatorship that employs terror for big capital because it is not exercised directly by its typical political system, liberalism, which allows the control of the monopoly of state violence by bourgeois civil society and the establishment of a strong state to control and subject workers, but which is vulnerable to business monopolies due to the subordination of its political elite to competitive mechanisms of electoral dispute and to the capitalist world market through the dispute for capital and merchandise flows. Ernest Mandel used the term political expropriation of the bourgeoisie to characterize fascist regimes, pointing out the central contradiction between the social class for whom they direct their public policies, big capital, and the intermediary that exercises political leadership, the small or middle bourgeoisie.

Mandel (1976) rightly criticized the simplification committed by the Third International which defined, through the 13th Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, fascism as a terror regime of the most reactionary sectors of financial capital, inscribing itself in the development of the theory of social-fascism, which equated fascism and social-democracy, and whose origins go back to Joseph Stalin, Grigory Zinoviev, in 1924, and whose most prominent formulator in the German Communist Party was Rudolf Schlessinger.[I]

Such a formulation exerted great influence on Marxism and was even maintained by authors such as Georgy Dimitrov (1935), one of those responsible for changing the policy from social-fascism to the popular front. Dimitrov asserted that fascism was the power of financial capital itself, even though he pointed to the change from one state form to another and not the replacement of one government by another, as suggested by the theory of social fascism. Even a sophisticated author like Theotonio dos Santos (1978), who brought a set of pioneering and innovative elements to the analysis of fascism, defined it as a terror regime of big capital, in the stage of imperialism, exercised by the petty bourgeoisie.

The specification of the fascist regime as a “dictatorship and regime of terror for big capital” defines a contradiction at the political level that is important to highlight and allows enriching the analysis of conjunctures and concrete situations, pointing out the contradictions and tensions between fractions and power blocs . The use of political monopoly by the small and medium bourgeoisie or by decadent sectors of capital constitutes a mechanism of social ascension that provides results impossible to achieve through the capitalist market, hence its interest in seeking to preserve and expand it. it taking advantage of the structural crisis of the capital domination system.

This contradiction can appear in different degrees depending on historical and geopolitical conditions and the depth of the crisis of global liberalism. It reopens the discussion on whether fascism is just a reflex and negative regime submitted to big capital, related to the destruction of the left and the repression of the political autonomy of the proletariat, or whether it can unfold in the establishment of a new world system and power . The responses of Immanuel Wallerstein and Ernest Mandel are positive in this respect, indicating the first the possibility of establishing a political empire that eliminates the interstate system and capitalism as the dominant system and the second, based on the experience of Nazi Germany, the replacement of wage labor by slave labor.[ii]

Whether such a regime will be able to impose a new world-system without exterminating humanity, such is the demand for destruction that it would imply, is a question that remains open and one that we hope will never be answered by history. Theotonio dos Santos (1978) also highlights the important contradiction of fascism in dependent countries between its control of the state monopoly and the policies it carries out for big capital, eminently foreign, from the national State, which can evolve into economic conflicts, important geopolitical and ideological

Theotonio dos Santos points out the importance of distinguishing the most essential characteristics of fascism from its particular, provisional and historical-contingency dimensions. He points out that fascism is an internationalist and expansive ideology that competes with liberalism and socialism in the world-system, going beyond its national and regional specificities. He differentiates the fascist regime and movement, pointing out their relative autonomy and the contradictions between them. It emphasizes the priority of the first over the second to analyze fascism as a system of power, contradicting the literature that, influenced by the period of rise of the most notorious European cases, Italy and Germany, when its doctrinal and apologetic formulation was more vibrant, placed the ideological offensive above historical evolution, seeing in the mass base an indispensable element for its configuration.

The author points out that the peak of fascism as a social movement is established in the initial stages of taking power, but its conversion into a regime implies a growing distance from its origins. What defines its essence as a system of power is the establishment of a dictatorship that suppresses or empties the representative system, transforming it into a plebiscitary rite, the favoring of big capital, the use of coercion over workers with the partial or total destruction of their representation bodies and conquered rights, the persecution or physical elimination of the left, imperialism and the international fight against socialism. The more its assertion as a regime advances, the greater the tendency to rest its legitimacy on force rather than on consensus, popular support not being an indispensable or central item for classifying a system of power as fascist.[iii]

Based on his definition of the essence of fascism, Theotonio dos Santos classified the Latin American military dictatorships of the 1960s/70s as atypical cases of fascism, in conditions of dependence, which limits its petty-bourgeois base as a social movement, due to of the overexploitation of work that restricts the extension of this segment, constituting weak fascism supported by the military technobureaucracy, whose political monopoly of the state apparatus can unfold in conflicts with foreign capital and imperialism, exemplified in the attempt of the Brazilian dictatorship to dominate the nuclear and computer technologies, in its break with TIAR, or in the military conflict of the Argentine dictatorship with Great Britain over the dispute over the Malvinas Islands.

The fragility of an original fascist social movement would limit the reach of Brazilian fascism and the liberal wings of the 1964 military coup would end up hegemonizing the process, reaffirming the Brazilian State's commitment to dependence, limited by the impacts of the neoliberal turn of imperialism on the external debt that it had contracted during the neo-developmentalist period of the vulnerable “Brazilian miracle”. The author pointed out, however, that the Latin American military dictatorships that were dismantled in the 1980s were the first stage of a long-term fascistization process against an eventual democratic reorganization that would call into question pillars of dependent capitalism such as the super-exploitation of workers ( Martins, 2018 and 2022).

It also indicated the increasing involvement of sectors of big capital in the fascist offensive in the face of the narrowing of the petty bourgeoisie and the expansion of the lumpesinate. He also pointed out the tendency of fascism to return to the central countries after its long post-war defeat, although he mistakenly interpreted the long-term recessive conjuncture opened in 1967, as similar to the one that would have developed between 1917-45, taking into account only the variations of the Kondratieff cycles.

From this set of analyzes, it is important to take into account the following in order to formulate a definition of fascism: fascism is heir to the anti-modernist and anti-enlightenment traditions that emerged in opposition to the French Revolution, but it represents a leap in scale and quality in the repression of emancipations, a since its main focus is the destruction of workers' organization and their struggles against class, imperialist, ethnic-racial, gender and ecological oppression. It synthesizes other anti-liberal forms in its own model, subordinating estates, medieval, monarchical and colonial traditions to a modern and repressive State.

As a State, it constitutes a dictatorship for big capital in the imperialist period, open or coupled to political liberalism, which it subordinates and violates, being exercised by middle sectors or segments that represent the decadent fractions of the bourgeoisie. Such a State is linked in a contradictory way to an insurrectionary mass base, which it uses to constitute itself and subsequently submit it to the hierarchical centralization of the monopoly of violence, as part of its own development. Its distinction in relation to the old Bonapartisms and military coups lies mainly in its scales of organization, not only of the mass party and foreign policy, as indicated by August Thailhemer (2009), but also of the repressive apparatus that limits the autonomy of civil society.

Fascism develops an irrationalist ideology, based on arbitration, belief and dogma, and is based on the long-lasting imposition of coercion on the libido, deep vital energy, and on the revolt that does not release it, but which reinforces the violent exercise and punitive as part of the rise of a new, purpose-driven power elite, as mentioned by Wilhem Reich (1972 [1933]) in The Mass Psychology of Fascism.

Fascism as a force capable of disputing and achieving state power does not appear alone in history, but as part of a historic bloc with liberals and conservatives that it seeks to lead. The classic expressions of fascism, in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, followed a path of ascension that combined the hybridization of violence and institutionality under the growing dominance of the former, which was only possible through the alliance with liberals and Catholics .

We can point out among the main characteristics of the fascism of the years 1920-40: (a) the designation of Marxism, communism, Bolshevism and social democracy as the main enemies to be destroyed; (b) The visceral fight against liberal internationalism and its main economic and political forms, that is, capital without ties to the national State and representative democracy. The bourgeois aristocracy that supported it had to be restructured, purged of its anti-national elements and subordinated to fascist leadership. Anti-Semitism established the cutoff criterion and circumscribed the limits of opposition to financial capital to ethnic-racial parameters and not class. This would be divided between the parasitic and predatory, for being Jewish and anti-national, and the benign and productive, liable to be integrated into national planning and development;

(c) Corporatism, driven by racism, to dissolve class contradictions in integral belonging to the national community. The concept of race was defined as much by biological as cultural and spiritual dimensions. The need for state control of populations, fascist internationalism, and the alliances it evoked demanded that race be defined in an abstract, random, and malleable way to include and exclude populations, groups, and individuals according to contingent political needs. Inclusion in the national community implied passiveness, propaganda, dogma and obedience. Authors such as Alfred Rosenberg (1978 [1924]) defined the National Socialist State as a folk State and not as a national State;

(d) The exacerbation of inter-imperialist conflicts, culminating in the use of violence and war on a large scale against the Soviet Union and the centers of liberal imperialism in Europe, despite the initial claim to establish an alliance with England and to concentrate efforts on western front against France.


fascism today

The contemporary conjuncture is linked to articulated crises that place us in a context of systemic chaos marked by the crisis of capitalist civilization, the hegemony of the United States and the neoliberal accumulation pattern. In this context, different projects confront each other. Fascism and socialism tend to break with their subordination to liberalism and dispute the reorganization of the world system. Fascism increasingly presents itself as an international force oriented to lead the confrontation and opposition to socialism, anti-imperialism, empowerment and organization of workers.

The United States tends to become the epicenter of world fascism, driven by an extreme right that increasingly takes over the Republican Party and organizes itself in civil society, establishes leadership, penetrating large segments of white workers, disorganized and linked to economically decadent spaces. North American fascism originates from the reaction of the nationally based bourgeoisie and the middle sectors to the concentration and centralization of capital, associated with neoliberal globalization, and the new scales of internationalization that it drives, reacting to the productive decline and the resulting inequalities.

However, the growing loss of relative power of the more transnationalized US bourgeoisie, due to the displacement of China's competitiveness to the technological frontier, brings it closer to the project of a political imperialism that seeks to subordinate the world market to the strength of the US State. American fascism appeals to racism to forge a Causal and Anglo-Saxon national identity, elects socialist China, revolutionary nationalism, multiculturalism and Latino, African and Asian immigration as its main enemies. It establishes a strong irrationalist ideological offensive using mainly digital networks, some segments of the mainstream media and Pentecostal Christian fundamentalism.

It adapts the theory of the great substitution, created by the French Reinaud Camus to banish the Muslim population from France, with the purpose of targeting immigration, especially Latin and Caribbean, attributing to it a risk to the preservation of the American cultural and racial identity. His tendency to break with liberal order and policies is evident in the assault on the Capitol and in a foreign policy that breaks with liberal internationalism and its struggles against “autocracies”. It intends to define US interests on realistic bases, electing strategic opponents, but the unilateralism it establishes, manifested in the pretense of charging for military protection, is combined with an integrism that extends coercion to allies so that they join the siege of opponents and expands the conflict scenario.

US fascism breaks with neoliberalism on the commercial level, intends to restrict the circulation of productive capital, but maintains financial internationalization from which to seek to take advantage of the overvaluation of the dollar. However, it maintains a strong connection with the military-industrial complex and, in the face of an eventual weakening of the dollar and the financial bubble that sustains it, it can boost the expansion of military spending and war as the axis of a new pattern of accumulation.

European fascism is driven by the productive decline, centralization of capital and inequality associated with the neoliberal pattern of European integration. However, it finds itself limited by the US military occupation through NATO, which it cannot get rid of. The rejection of China in the geopolitical bifurcation that is being established ends up aligning European fascisms with US leadership, restricting the claim to national autonomy, military sovereignty and the project of approximation to a conservative and anti-liberal Russia to prevent its linkage to the Asian country.

Contrary to neo-fascist expectations, the US liberal foreign policy option is to block Europe's ties with China, preventing rapprochement with Russia as an intermediary country. Both Marine Le Pen, Georgia Melloni and Victor Orban ceded to US leadership in the war in Ukraine. What unites the various European fascisms is the rejection of African and Asian immigration, mainly Islamic. However, this rejection can take several forms, including a moderate approximation to some liberal values, driven by the LGBT and feminist movements, understood as part of European civilization as opposed to oriental or Arab ones, as in the case of Marine Le Pen, or the defense of the illiberal cultural framework. and Catholic, such as Georgia Melloni, Victor Urban and Vox. Limited by political subordination to the United States, European fascism loses strength and ability to confront the liberal political regimes in which it finds itself, but an eventual return of the extreme right to the White House and the Capitol could expand its room for maneuver.

In Latin America, the resurgence of fascism emerged as a response to the wave of the left and center-left that took hold from 1999 to 2015 and to the wear and tear of the financial, industrial and primary-export bourgeoisies that boosted the neoliberal pattern, making them unable to sustain traditional political alternatives. The world economic crisis negatively affected the prices of commodities and international capital flows from 2013-2015, opening the way for destabilization processes articulated by the internal bourgeoisie and imperialism that resulted in coups d'état and the siege of the most radical experiences. The coups d'état in Brazil (2016) and Bolivia (2019), preceded by those in Honduras (2008) and Paraguay (2012), sealed the turn to the right that manifested itself in the election of Maurício Macri (2015), of Sebastián Piñera ( 2018), Ivan Duque (2018) and the change in direction of the Lenin Moreno government.

However, the turn to the right did not establish a stable pattern and had the important dissension of the election of Manuel Lopez Obrador in 2018. It sought not only to destroy social and political advances achieved in national states, but also to destroy Latin American integration and its articulation with the geopolitical axis of the Global South, centered on China and Russia.

The paradigmatic case of the rise of fascism in Latin America is Brazil. The 2016 coup, the arrest and revocation of Lula's political rights, articulated under the hegemony of the liberal right, needed to be supported by a radical mass base that leveraged the fascist offensive. The 2018 elections indicated the failure of the liberal candidacies and suffocated Jair Bolsonaro in an atypical electoral process. Jair Bolsonaro relied on an emerging bourgeoisie that began to displace the role of the more internationalized traditional bourgeoisie that led the New Republic. This emerging bourgeoisie is constituted by large neo-Pentecostal religious companies, which began to challenge the Catholic Church, by the official media that began to dispute the protagonism with the Globo, by agribusiness that has once again expanded the rates of ecological destruction, by segments of the retail, pharmacological and weapons trade. This is a business community that bargained for militant political activism in exchange for favors and state support.

Jair Bolsonaro's speech pointed to communism and the left as the enemies to be banished, associating them with statist corruption, which should be faced with ultraneoliberalism. Neoliberalism, however, is in global decline and does not provide favorable results in terms of economic growth, employment and reduction of inequality for Latin America, aggravating its negative results when it loses its economic supports, such as the expansion of international trade and flows capital markets with the slowdown of the world economy and possible entry into a recessive B phase of the Kondratieff cycle. Such contradiction limits the ability of fascism to expand its mass base, depending for this on an eminently negative appeal, attacking the enemy, to mobilize it, given its inability to present satisfactory economic and political results.

The elections in Brazil indicated both this weakness of fascism in the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro, and its organizational capacity to replace and reduce to a strict niche the traditional neoliberal center-right in polarization with the lefts. The liberal aristocracy, with strong cultural influence, great economic power and capacity to articulate public policies, but without competitive political-electoral leadership, had no alternative but to ally with Lula and the Workers' Party to defeat Jair Bolsonaro and resist his initiative to undermine its influence over the State in order to occupy it with an emerging bourgeoisie.

The liberal aristocracy loses a large part of the ability to curb the project of a democracy with social substance in Brazil, as it has very little margin to handle the destabilization card, since it runs the risk of throwing water in the mill of fascism in much worse conditions than occurred between 2016-18, given its organizational leap during the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro.

Fascism, on the other hand, despite its strengthening, finds itself in a situation of great vulnerability. Its most extreme fractions demand military intervention to prevent Lula's inauguration and government, but their leader becomes harassed by a dilemma: if he adheres and takes the route of Donald Trump, he can speed up the processes in the Judiciary against him where he does not have a majority. ; if he assumes a moderate and negotiating character, he loses prestige with the more radical wing that supports him.

The lefts are also faced with a set of restrictions that reduce their room for manoeuvre. Lula opted for an anti-fascist front that incorporated segments of the center-right linked to the 2016 coup to expand the range of alliances. This approach brought him few votes. The attraction of former PSDB cadres, such as Geraldo Alckmin, did not prevent the defeat of Lula and Fernando Haddad in São Paulo, who achieved practically the same vote, demonstrating the high degree of polarization. The presence of the liberal center-right generates conflicts with the progressive agenda of the future Lula government and limits a development program committed to reducing inequality, national sovereignty, cultural autonomy, sovereign and solidary Latin American integration, orientation for the Global South, the preservation of ecosystems, the expansion of the State and public spending, reindustrialization, the strengthening of science and technology, the fight against poverty and inequality.

It also generates resistance to the confrontation with the media monopoly, agribusiness, financial capital and the crimes of terrorism or state genocide. The liberal wing relies on the overexploitation of workers, becomes incapable of founding a solid representative democracy and seeks to preserve the fascist wing that was structured in the armed forces with the 1964 coup and limited redemocratization. Brazil is perhaps the only country in South America that has not established a transitional justice system to punish state terrorism crimes. Its strategic importance for the region leads to surveillance and containment by the United States, which has established deep connections with the country's Armed Forces and seeks to prevent the establishment of a regional leader, with similar territorial and population dimensions, occupying a central geographic space to articulate the countries of the subcontinent in converging economic and political processes.

Lula's election seals the new hegemony of a center-left wave in Latin America. The challenges that Lula will face in order to assert himself in the face of the liberal wing of his government, US imperialism and fascism must be answered with a strong engagement of the popular movement in his support, supporting the actions of the segments that constitute the social base capable of establishing a socialist and democratic ideological leadership, where public education and health workers stand out.

The confrontation carried out by the Dilma government with these segments, defeated its most combative leaders, generating the decline of its ideological affirmation and opened the space for the offensive of the right. Making a new pact with the organized social movement should be a priority for the new government, including it actively in the popular front for the construction of a development program that enables ideological connections with the great precarious masses.

*Carlos Eduardo Martins is a professor at the Institute of International Relations and Defense (IRID) at UFRJ. Author of Globalization, dependence and neoliberalism in Latin America (Boitempo).


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[I] See article by Lea Haro (2011), Entering a Theoretical Void: The Theory of Social Fascism and Stalinism in the German Communist Party

[ii] “In the extreme form that revised over the whole of Germany during the Second World War, fascism passes from the militarization of work to the suppression of free work properly so-called, to a return to slave work on an ever-increasing scale. The «economic laws» to which this work responds are specific laws that no longer have anything in common with the laws of the capitalist economy (...) «This means that, within the framework of a political dictatorship, the last phase of capitalism has to become a state of slaves. This is what happens since competition disappears from the job market as well, which is of crucial importance.” (Mandel, 1969 [1962])

[iii] In formulating the doctrinal bases of fascism, Mussolini foresaw an increasingly reflexive role of the individual before the State, due to the increase in what he called the complexity of civilization, with increasing restrictions on individual freedoms and the transfer of the will of the mass of individuals to a only: “We were the first to affirm, in the face of demoliberal individualism, that the individual exists only to the extent that he is within the State and subject to the State’s demands and that, as civilization acquires increasingly complicated aspects, individual freedom becomes more and more restricted. (Mussolini, 1930)

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