Everyday when I watch television footage of brutalities perpetrated against innocent and helpless human beings all over the world I do often remember the words of Norman Mailer when he rightly posited that one can have Fascism come in any form at all, through the Church, through social welfare, through state conservatism, the FBI, the Pentagon.
Fascism is not a philosophy but a murderous mode of deadening reality by smothering it with lies.
Furthermore, Hannah Arendt states that the ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction and the distinction between true and false no longer exist.
I have to point out that Fascism can be a difficult concept to understand. The word often conjures up images of Hitler and Mussolini, but this narrow understanding can be deceptive since fascist thinking can occur and rise within any society or amongst the ranks of practically any ideological following anywhere in the world.
This is because fascism is not really an ideology in and of itself but more a collection of reactionary and misanthropic beliefs.
Fascism in any given country will not look exactly like the German or Italian fascism of the 1930s.
In truth, it is a subtle mindset which arises within a society as a seemingly familiar creature. It uses a nation’s symbols, songs and institutions, and it generally targets the young and those who see their privilege or status imperilled.
It envelops itself in a skin of familiarity, and that’s what makes it so insidiously dangerous. Many of the identifiers of fascism might be familiar to some because historians and those who have survived its horrors have analysed its character for decades.
These include aggressive xenophobia and chauvinism, racial, ethnic or religious supremacism, support for state violence and brutality, rigid belief in traditional roles for women, support for censorship or suppression of dissent, denial of historical atrocities committed by one’s own government, admiration of dictators, a general disdain for or open hostility toward diversity, belief in mythic tales that underpin notions of supremacy and a glorious past and scapegoating and de-humanisation of other groups of people for society’s ills. It is often thought of as a rightwing phenomenon, but it should be understood that there are many elements of the “left leaning” liberal establishment, which are vulnerable to the fascist mindset.
But liberals may be especially susceptible to propaganda handed down to them from the establishment elite who protect the fragile bubble of privilege in which they are ensconced. It may also be why there aren’t many protests when it comes to America’s imperial war machine or global capitalism in general because it simply does not affect most of them directly. But there are some on the so-called “leftists” in the West who, in their justified hatred of American imperialism, show admiration for various authoritarians who happen to buck the imperialist system, or at least the American version of it. And this is done often while absolving or ignoring the documented crimes these regimes commit, from Myanmar to Syria to the Philippines.
This is certainly not an argument in defence of imperialism nor for violent militias who commit atrocities nor acts of terror against civilians for a “just cause.” But it is incongruous with leftist values to have admiration for any totalitarian leader or despotic regime however charismatic or “anti-imperialist” they might appear. In other words, just because a leader stands up to American imperialism does not automatically make them a “hero of the people.” People across the world are oblivious to the fact that fascism asserts itself to this day within a climate of state repression where minorities such as the LGBT community continues to be persecuted by reactionary elements all over the world.
Shockingly, this phenomenon is happening around the world in some of the West’s staunchest allies, from India, to the Middle-East and to Europe and beyond. And it manifests in a variety of ways.
In India, the rise of Narendra Modi attests to the universality of fascism. The biggest democracy on earth has also seen the terrifying rise of Hindu nationalism, a supremacist ideology akin to white nationalism in Europe and the US. It should be of no surprise, then, that violence against non-Hindus, women, lower castes and transgender people has exploded.
Fascistic regimes routinely employ violence or tacitly encourage it from armed militias and vigilantes. And the occupation of other regions often plays a role by bolstering ideas of militaristic prowess. The brutal occupation of Kashmir by India is a testament to this.
In Israel, the far right has become emboldened by a decades long military occupation aided by the US and Europe. The ideology of Zionism has led to an apartheid-like system which is undeniably fascistic in its character.
And the Palestinians are not the only victims of this. Anti-immigrant sentiment and policies of expulsion have gained popularity. All around the world fascism is seeing a terrifying resurgence. Indeed, the neo-liberal capitalist policies of the late 20th century helped to create conditions favourable to its rise; but abrupt climate change, imperialistic wars of exploitation, religious or sectarian extremism and the long legacy of racist colonialism has fuelled its ascendancy as well.Fascism is a disease of the mind. It is that plain where internal fears meet the external realities of the world we live in.
These fears are projected onto that world and react in such a way as to attempt to shut them down; and this is why those with such a mindset find authoritarian figures so appealing.
Fascists often view those that they hate as the “other,” whether they be foreign, indigenous or simply different, are scapegoated, then dehumanised, then incarcerated, then exterminated. It is true that there are many who commit unconscionable acts of cruelty or wickedness. In fact, most of them hold great power. It is also true that the current global order is predicated upon the ruthless exploitation of billions of people primarily in the global south and countless species, and the systematic rape of the planet for coin.