0. We’re talking primarily of ideological systems; the machinery of control, representation and justification. These arise out of the base of productive relations and class relations. But they don’t arise mechanically. Different control approach arise on the regional, national and world levels and “compete as models”, one often winning. Class and productive forces determine over time the winners (with these forces appearing in the form of politics, military power, insurrectionary strategy, etc).
1. If we wish label contemporary extra-right/alt-right groups as fascist, it should not simply be because they present some intensified horrors of ordinary capitalism or because they might claim the mantle of earlier movements (Like they say, “everyone’s a LARPer now”). We can look at South American military dictatorships, colonial and settler-colonial projects of various sorts (Belgium, Australia, etc) as examples of horrors that are simply product of “ordinary” capitalism. A fascist label should show how these folks have a similar structure and function to original the fascists. Concepts of race are older than capitalism and the “othering” and atrocities of the nation state have always coexisted with the democratic, equalitarian, rational face of capitalist relations. Colonialism began in Europe before the area could be called capitalist proper and was a key part of the process of procuring surplus value for original accumulation.
2. To understand commonalities that I believe can be traced between the contemporary extreme right and the original fascists, one has to first understand the liberal democratic state, broadly speak. Along with it’s ever-present colonial face, the rise of capitalist relations has involved the rise of formal equality, rationality, exchange and bureaucracy – “enlightenment liberalism” (with enlightenment used “values free”). The ideals of equality before the law, of rational inquiry, the discrediting of superstition, the creation of a somewhat credible press, and so-forth are inherently significant. That “enlightenment democracy” has at best been partially achieved should not detract from the significant benefits over time that these things have provided to the state and to the “average citizen. Historically, the rough ideals around Equality, rationality and rule-of-law were articulated by the French and American revolutions and how and to what degree they have been embodied has risen and fallen over time.
For capitalist relations, democracy has been “the worst system in the world, except for all the others” Austere hierarchies, meritocratic competition, good faith debate and moderate consumption have always had their opposite side of abusive authority, rigged games, ingenuous propaganda and the general misuse of authority. And these latter things threaten even the capitalists own private venal indulgence. The democratic can claim limit these things somewhat, to produce a relative well ordering which has paid considerable dividends.
And, of course, the illiberal parts of capitalist relations can rise with the “liberal parts”. The “progressive” era of the early 20th century in the US involved the rise of civil service, bureaucracy separated from political bosses and similar measures – along with an intensification of Jim Crow racial laws and a series of anti-black pogroms.
3. Still, the key thing is we can distinguish fascism, both original fascism and our current dime-store variety, specifically by their self-consciousness as the termination of liberal democracy, of them viewing the complete discarding of such things as a “tool chest”. The principle of the “big lie” or the “post truth era” involves both a continual focus on enemies and a continual, escalating distortion of reality. This is in contrast to those military dictatorships which regarded themselves as the midwives of liberal democracy, extracting the poisonous and immature elements or the effective ideology of contemporary China, whose authoritarianism is purely technocratic.
4. The historical fascist regimes were a confluence of particular circumstances around the decay of the workers’ movement and the rise of a capitalism utilizing mass media and mass structures. Dauve describes a situation the working class was no longer revolutionary but needed to be disciplined. What we’re looking at here, however, is the way the fascist parties were particular kind of petty regime that seemed offer a unique and powerful way to rescue capitalist through an explosion of emotionally charge ideology – in a situation where the capitalist class was eager for an alternative means to govern.
Now, the original fascist regimes rose on the eve of WWII and wielded its mass media directly, presenting itself baldly as “a violent resurrection of myth which demands participation in a community defined by archaic pseudo-values: race, blood, the leader. Fascism is technically-equipped archaism.” SoS 109.
Debord describes the Stalinist state as the “concentrated spectacle” and I would claim the original fascists can roughly combined with them here. Both were ruled by a series of official lies and a single hierarchical party, though the NAZIs and Italian fascists coexisted with private industry and the Stalinists ruled an officially nationalized economy. While the Stalinist states lasted much longer than the fascists, both failed to demonstrate effectiveness as models of capitalist relations. Instead, the “defuse spectacle”, which bends and defuses truth and rationality won-out over the single big lie and big leader.
5. While the defuse spectacle doesn’t have fundamental rationality, it does involves an orderly web of expert authority, platitudes, advertising shine, promises of fame and so-forth. A look at media in 1960 or 1970 shows mass scale media controlled by networks of gate keepers ultimately keeping things safe for “monopoly capitalism”. You could this original spectacle a drift towards incoherence in liberal democracy but maintaining a cohesive bureaucratic order.
6. What Debord defined as the integrated might be defined as something like the original defuse spectacle supplemented by the unanswered dictats from the secret state and the mafia; “The society modernized to the stage of the integrated spectacular is characterized by the combined effect of five principal features: incessant technological renewal; fusion of State and economy; generalized secrecy, forgeries without reply; a perpetual present.”
A key quality here is you’re never sure if secret plans lead to a given disaster and requisite emergency measures or whether incompetence simply builds on itself. And this quality has considerable dangers for the curious and unselective. Indeed, one could say that the senseless tales of the spectacle produce hallucination or that many dream of getting close to occult power by being credulous of occult secrets. In any case, conspiracy theory has appeared more and more as a pathological adaptation to the present order.
7. Here, one can see the break-out point for contemporary neofascsts. Over the last twenty years has been the slow movement of the multitude of conspiracy theories into a pattern of rotation around the extreme right and a pattern something akin to the slow formation of nebula out of a dust cloud. Here, our neofascists could appear as the positive pole of lies, tactically positioning themselves for the “post-truth era” and purchasing Facebook and related ads to proselytize each pathological micro-demographic. Of course, this means these tendencies are riven with a multitude of variations and contradictory ideas. A Ven diagram of their ideas would be a crazy squiggle of multiply intersecting (Child abuse, deep state, dubious health claims, fake shooting claims, etc). All this only converges on the person of the leader – just as did the ideas of the original NAZIs merge environmentalism, animal rights, neopaganism and other mish-mashes unified by the person of Hitler. Similarly, The “Capital Riot” demonstrated the complete inability of this neo-fascist right to maintain a coherent plan of action.
Of course, the trajectory of American white supremacy and the ups and downs of the US petty bourgeois are important for also reaching this juncture. America’s rural petty bourgeois have on the decline for decades. Modern “corporate multiculturalism” is the ideal opponent of modern neo-fascism. You could say the small businessperson hates the “liberal” as executant of the large corporate will, a will that offers the petty bourgeois no opportunities for their capital.
But it’s important to note this attitude combines anger and a sense of opportunity. “The liberal’s” base position seems rigid, fat and inflexible. The new platform, the Internet, lies more easily spouted, that are more satisfying, offers those who jump the chance to rise quickly. A large portion of the alt-right vortex is maintain by multilevel marketing, paraphernalia and Patreon schemes. With Trump out of power, the success or failure of these may determine the trajectory.