Only by understanding the complex intersections between left and right can we begin to develop the analytical and tactical tools to prevent the creep of the working class towards fascist ideology, and to clarify the necessity of anti-fascist struggle against the very state-form as such.
Alexander Reid Ross ROAR Magazine Issue # 5 Spring 2017
Does anti-fascism bear revolutionary potential? This question lingers in today’s tense climes — yet the precise meaning of “revolution” remains unclear. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in the United States this year, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage identified the successes of Brexit and Donald Trump as the beginnings of a “great global revolution.” Either Trump and Farage have joined the revolutionary left — or reality is far more complicated.
To understand the rise of Trump and Brexit, we would do well to return to the notion of the “national revolution,” which has over the years led many members of the working class to actively support, or at least passively acquiesce to, the gains of reactionary movements worldwide. Only by understanding the complex intersections between left and right can we begin to develop the analytical and tactical tools to prevent the creep of the working class towards fascist ideology, and to clarify the necessity of anti-fascist struggle against the very state-form as such.
THE NATIONAL REVOLUTION
The antecedents of the fascist creep go back to the 1920s and 1930s. Before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, his second in command, Gregor Strasser, led a powerful tendency in the Nazi Party that stressed affiliation neither with capitalism nor with communism, but with a “national revolution” favoring a United States of Europe — with workers’ syndicates functioning under a corporatist state within the ambit of national solidarity.
After the destruction of the Third Reich in 1945, the notion of the “national revolution” re-emerged as a dominant narrative of fascist ideology. Led in particular by Otto Strasser, Gregor’s brother, the so-called “Third Position” line held that Hitler had failed, but Nazism had not. For these so-called Strasserists, the leading fight of the postwar decades would be against NATO, which stood for the occupation of Europe by the United States and its ideology of liberal multiculturalism.
As national liberation movements fought to gain independence from Europe’s colonial states around the world, members of Strasser’s coterie created a European Liberation Front, which would deploy direct action against NATO to “liberate” the continent from what they saw as a Jewish conspiracy against the racial purity of Europe. The discourse of anti-imperialism and “revolutionary traditionalism” became essential. Nazi war criminals joined Perón in Argentina and Gamal Nasser in Egypt, producing anti-Semitic propaganda and brokering arms deals. In 1956, Nasser reassured them by expelling some 25,000 Jews (half of Egypt’s Jewish community), and Ben Bella followed up on this after Algerian independence, forcing around 95 percent of Algerian Jews — some 130,000 people — into exile.
Support Media for the People! Rise Up Times needs your support to continue to bring you independent analysis and significant commentary about current issues. Learn more about Rise Up Times.
The network of fascists that adopted national liberation as a guiding principle then began to infiltrate leftist networks and commit terrorist attacks against innocent civilians across Europe. They bragged that Maoist groups were easiest to infiltrate, due to their “impatience and zeal.” After May 1968, fascist ideologues adapted to the anti-authoritarian ethos of the new social movements, deploying Gramscian theories of cultural hegemony in the service of an ethnocentric movement that combined right-wing ideas with left-wing ones. More specifically, they insisted on the breakdown of modern nation-states into ethno-states federated under a “spiritual empire.”
WHITE NATIONALISM AND THE LIBERAL APPEAL
The impact of the mix between Third Position ideology and anti-imperialism found a reflection in the name of the American Nazi Party’s 1960s youth group, the North American Liberation Front, as well as the working-class rhetoric of its leading advocate, a young college student at Louisiana State University named David Duke. Attracting crowds to his regular white supremacist rants on campus, Duke garnered widespread media attention through controversial assertions of racial inequality and the need for authoritarian leadership. His media strategy worked: he would play the polite white guy, making appeals to common sense and reason amid fascist tirades designed to offend on more subtle registers. When leftists and non-whites intervened, he accused them of being “the real authoritarians.”
Duke’s style charmed reporters, but he soon realized the limits of open Nazism in US culture. Switching to the more American tradition of the Ku Klux Klan, Duke embraced the rhetoric of “white nationalism.” Rather than agitating for a Nazi overthrow of the US government, he seamlessly joined fascism with Klan-bred Americanism in an appeal to the public for “white rights.” White nationalism became the politically correct term for the “Klanazi” hybrid and its public discourse. For Duke, invoking democratic principles to forge a white ethno-state did not contain any contradictions, and too many liberals could accept the violent implications if the public presentation seemed respectable.
Over the next decades, former participants in Duke’s new Klan would develop the four pivotal strategic points for the modern fascist movement: “white nationalism,” “national revolution,” “leaderless resistance,” and social networks like Stormfront. These positions were first tested as fascists worked to conscript working-class subcultures like skinheads into the “frontline soldiers” of the “national revolution,” but the unpopularity of militant fascism led them to a strategy of infiltrating the right using the nascent militia movement as their host.
Relegating racism to the back burner and cloaking anti-Semitism in conspiracy theories, fascists used the militias as a breeding ground for ambiguous white nationalist politics aimed particularly against immigrants. Terms like “racially aware” came into use as white nationalists called their enemies “the real racists.” The rhetorical pattern of reversal served fascists’ attempts to call on liberals to denounce the left on the merits of universal applications of rights like free speech and assembly. Using the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” defense, fascists could even label their opposition “the real fascists” — and confused audiences would often agree.
THE CURRENT STRUGGLE AGAINST “GLOBALISM”