Anti-fascism in spain: Tetuán, Madrid

As well as the fascism of concentration camps …, new forms of molecular fascism are developing: the crematoria of Belsen can be satisfactorily replaced with the small furnaces of the family, the school, racism, ghettos of all sorts. All over the world the totalitarian machine is experimenting to find the structures best suited to the situation, in other words, best fitted to capture desire and harness it to the profit economy. Once and for all we must refuse to be taken in by such slogans as ‘Fascism will not happen again’ – it already has happened, and is still happening. It infiltrates through even our most intricate defences, and continues to change and develop. It appears to come from outside, but its energy comes from the core of desire within each one of us. In apparently tranquil situations, disaster can strike from one day to the next. Fascism, like desire, is disseminated in fragments throughout the social spectrum; the form it takes in any one place will depend on the prevailing relations of power.

Félix Guattari, The Micro-Politics of Fascism

The image is telling: dozens of riot police and police vehicles protecting an illegal, neo-nazi squat in Madrid’s Tetuán neighbourhood against a thousand strong anti-fascist march seeking their expulsion.

The protest had been called by the Asamblea Popular de Tetuán, one of many neighbourhood assemblies born in the wake of the spain’s 15th of May movement, for the 30th of August and was joined by different collectives and associations from throughout the city.

The protest passed without violence, but the violence of the squat and what it aspires to remains. The Madrid occupation is not the first of its kind. Inspired by similar efforts in Zaragoza, and in other urban centres, and further afield by the examples of the Golden Dawn in greece and the Casa Pound in italy, the aim is to create a social space for responding to the needs of a population pauperised by years of “crisis”, with the qualification that the population be Spanish! Describing itself as an ocupación patriótica inconformista, the Hogar Social of Madrid is a direct intervention in the social struggles of the city and expresses a growing “strength” of neo-fascist and neo-nazi groups in the country. And even though still not equal to the dimensions of neo-fascist groups in greece, italy or other european countries, spain’s fascist past remains a rich soil to potentially grow in.

It would however be a mistake, as always, to see these groups as singular, autonomous threats: somehow the menace of a reborn early 20th century fascism. Fascism now, as in the past, is a permanent possibility of authoritarian State-Capital. And it may assume forms that have little to do with black shirts marching on Rome. The totalitarian reflexes of capitalism, manifest at all of the levels of the social relations that constitute it, may always, when in need, assume fascist guise. If such groups today proliferate throughout europe, it is no doubt because the recent wave of anti-capitalist movements have threatened the reproduction of capitalist social relations. And if in spain they have found a comparatively modest echo, it is also no doubt due to the scale and nature of 15M, as a mass movement with very strong anti-authoritarian practices.

Fascism has also never been a monolithic and uniform movement. And this is not only to speak of national varieties, but also of layers of agency that occupy in protean ways different spaces of social life. To contest it then can never mean to limit oneself to challenging openly fascist parties (though these can never be ignored – in the case of spain, the Madrid squat is animated by activists from the MSR: Movimiento Social Republicano and other filial groups). Fascism must be fought at all levels, against all of the conditions that render it possible, which is to say, the struggle must address capitalism as a whole.

The creation of fascist squats for ostensibly social political goals also reveals, yet again, the non-existence of any intrinsically anti-capitalist politics, for in spain, the fascists have adopted many of the strategies of 15M activists (e.g. popular food kitchens, house occupations, defense against evictions). Such politics become anti-capitalist only when framed within a total and global rejection of capitalism and all that it embraces. If the MSR, for example, is social-democratic in its social policy proposals and nationalistic economically (leaving aside here inconsistencies on these matters, most notably in their defense of capitalism), even environmentally sensitive, it is openly xenophobic, racist, and sexist. These last alone undermine any serious claims they may make to anti-capitalist credentials. (Click here for MSR’s programmatic statements) And it is here that the Asamblea Popular de Tetuán, in its statement against the squat, refuses to call upon the State to intervene and rightly emphasises that there are no immigrants in opposition to spaniards, that all are equal, and that the struggle of each is the struggle of all.

Gianfranco Sanguinetti, writing at the end of the 1970s on terrorism and the state in italy, said that “all States have always been terrorist but they have been so most violently at their birth and at the imminence of their death”. We may add that the birth and death of states has no date; that they are born and possibly die each day. Thus violence is intrinsic to their very reproduction, of which the violence of fascism is but one incarnation.

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