The presence of fascism

In a general way, our present is far from having come to terms with its recent nazi and fascist past … One is called to vigilence before possible returns – it is the motive of the "never again". … Nevertheless, prudence demands that this vigilence be doubled by another, which would be vigilence towards what does not appear as a simple "return", or what cannot be easily thought of as "reaction".  Simple returns or repetitions are in fact rare, if non-existent, in history.  And if the carrying or inscription of a swastika is loathsome, they are not necessarily the signs of a true, living and dangerous nazi resurgence.  They could be more of the order of debility or weakness.  But there are other kinds of repetition, which may in fact be ignored as such, of which the evidence is largely dissimulated, of which the development is more complex and discrete – and of which the dangers are no less real.

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, Le Mythe Nazi

Fascism is comfortably dismissed when reduced to peripheral phenomena of moments of excess, consequence of numerous causes, but all sharing the quality of being exceptional.  As such, it is manageable and unthreatening; and more importantly, imagined as distinct from democratic order.  To the extent that such ideas are disseminated, they serve obvious ideological purposes, masking as they do the authoritarian reflexes of self-proclaimed democratic regimes.  But beyond ideology, for all who focus on fascism as exceptional, they inevitably fail to discern the very profound filial relations between liberal democracy and fascism, a failure born of another, namely, to think through the nature of the fascism of the first half of the twentieth century.  Some may thus be heard speaking of  greece’s Golden Dawn  party as a greek particularity, a mere excrescence of an authoritarian past, to which other liberal regimes are immune.  This would be a mistake, the mistake of taking swastika like iconography as the essence of this political movement, when it is its continuity with the greek state and its’ politics that must be grasped, as must be done in the effort to understand and struggle against other “extreme” right-wing parties throughout Europe and elsewhere.  Walter Benjamin’s contention that we live in a time of exception, the exception of a permanent "state of emergency" remains as actual today as when he wrote amidst the storms of fascism and nazism. 


Hanna Arendt speaking of totalitarianism …

There is only one thing that seems to be discernible: we may say that radical evil has emerged in connection with a system in which all men have become equally superfluous.  The manipulators of this system believe in their own superfluousness as as in that of all others, and the totalitarian murderers are all the more dangerous because they do not care if they themselves are alive or dead, if they ever lived or never were born.  The danger of the corpse factories and holes of oblivion is that today, with populations and homelessness everywhere on the increase, masses of people are continuously rendered superfluous if we continue to think of our world in utilitarian terms.  Political, social, and economic events everywhere are in a silent conspiracy with totalitarian instruments devised for making men superfluous. … Totalitarian solutions may well survive the fall of totalitarian regimes in the form of strong temptations which will come up whenever it seems impossible to alleviate political, social or economic misery in a manner worthy of man.

The Origins of Totalitarianism


And Theodor Adorno …

That fascism lives on, that the oft-invoked working through of the past has to this day been unsuccessful and has degenerated into its own caricature, and empty and cold forgetting, is due to the fact that the objective conditions of society that engendered fascism continue to exist.  Fascism essentially cannot be derived from subjective dispositions.  The economic order, and to a great extent also the economic organization modeled upon it, now as then renders the majority of people dependent upon conditions beyond their control and thus maintains them in a state of political immaturity.  If they want to live, then no other avenue remains but to adapt, submit themselves to the given conditions; they must negate precisely that autonomous subjectivity to which the idea of democracy appeals; they can preserve themselves only if they renounce their self.  To see through the nexus of deception, they would need to make precisely that painful effort that the organization of everyday life, and not least of all a culture industry inflated to the point of totality, prevents.  The necessity of such adaptation, of identification with the given, the status quo, with power as such, creates the potential for totalitarianism.

The Meaning of Working through the Past


Accordingly, any meaningful anti-fascist politics must emerge from what Adorno calls here an autonomous subjectivity, with all that this implies politically.  That is, all effective anti-fascism is anti-capitalist.


Walter Benjamin …

The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the "state of emergency" in which we live is not the exception but the rule.  We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight.  Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism.  One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm.  The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are "still" possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical.  This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge – unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.

Theses on the Philosophy of History


The Golden Dawn Party …

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