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 Fighting Fascism

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Phoenix Quinn
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PostSubject: Fighting Fascism   Mon Aug 08, 2016 6:31 am

Notes on fighting fascism

by Phoenix Quinn


Hello, world.

My topic is the rise of totalitarianism or, if you like, "fascism", in the USA -- and elsewhere in the modern 21st century world -- how to recognize it, prevent it, and combat it.

A little bit about me.. Read a lot. Degree in History, of all things. 60-something computer programmer. Gay-married for 30+ years. Scottish and Polish ancestry, with family roots in the USA going back about 300 years.

My political views are hard to categorize. I dislike simple labels and tend to think things are more complex than they seem. Starting out by applying labels is a convenient and mostly false way of understanding things. Arguing from 'first principles' seems problematic to me without also having sufficient facts at hand. So I've come to distrust purely ideological arguments, though no doubt I have plenty of ideological baggage of my own.

If it seems like I'm less than respectful to a treasured notion, or I veer a bit off into historical allusions, please bear with me and see if it doesn't start to make sense. It's not my intention to trigger any bad feelings. I'm not into controversy for the sake of controversy. I'm not selling anything.

This is an attempt at consolidating some thoughts, after many discussions. Few of these ideas are mine. This is more or less a pastiche of stuff that seemed sensible to share in case others might find it useful.


The meme, the fear.

Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies states that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler approaches 1."

One popular corollary to Godwin's Rule it is that whoever mentions Nazis first automatically loses whatever debate was in progress.

Godwin noted that this Rule can be turned into an attempt at censorship, that is, a memetic device to shut down any discussion involving comparisons to Nazis or fascists. He recommended that if one feels it is meaningful to refer to Hiter or Nazis when, for example, discussing US Presidential candidate Donald Trump, or any other politician or whatever, that being thoughtful about it and showing some real awareness of history is the best way to go.

Such analysis of memes about memes about fascism or Nazism can go on and on -- and indeed has gone on and on -- for days and months and years on the Internet. A couple of fun examples:

   Gordon's Restatement of Newman's Corollary to Godwin's Law states that Libertarianism (pro, con, and internal faction fights) is the primordial discussion topic. Any time debate shifts somewhere else, it must eventually return to this primal fuel source.

   Sircar's Corollary states that if a discussion touches on homosexuality or Heinlein, then Nazis or Hitler must be mentioned within three days.

But seriously. Godwin concluded that the best way to fight inflammatory memes is to craft counter-memes which put them in perspective. That, along with his point about being thoughtful when discussing this topic, sounds like pretty good advice.


Bad behaviors.

In trying to distinguish the casual use of references to fascism from a serious discussion on the topic, try using the following guidelines. If several of these anti-human and anti-democratic qualities can be discerned within a body politic, then one likely has a serious basis for real concern:

  De Jure abolition of civil and poltical rights.

   Exclusion of a section of society from public life.

   Confiscation of property.

   Suppression of and control over the mass media.

   Deportation and murder of extended families and silencing of their neighbors.

   A party or organization that promotes the above as policy.

   A state or party that mobilizes a comprehensive coercive apparatus of terror.

   A party or state that lays 'total claim' to a population, seeks to 'politicize' all social experience, and to extract 'consent' for pre-set ideological goals.

   A party or group that imposes violent sanctions on people on the basis of such 'totalizing' claims, outside the law, but is not called to account for it by law enforcement.

Nationalism and the democratic state.

An important-to-understand relationship exists between such totalitarian tendencies and the confluence of nationalism or religion, or both, with the modern state.

Nations (and religions) are neither inherently good nor essentially bad. On a sociological level, they simply are what they are: a people connected by a shared history and a shared culture. Membership in a nation -- and very often membership in a religious tradition too -- is largely an accident of birth.

The state, on the other hand, particularly in the post-Enlightenment context, is intended to create and protect an open society, which rules over a geographical territory where its power protects and makes the law on behalf of and in the interests of its citizens. The state -- or perhaps I should say "a proper state" -- recognizes only the rights of citizens as citizens, no matter their nationality, religion, skin color and so forth.

The conflux of nation/state, particularly as the "strong" state which seeks to "cement" a national sentiment, is a twist that emerged only in the 19th and 20th centuries. The project of such a totalitarian turn in the running of a modern, post-Enlightenment state, has typically been to exercise some kind of neo-imperial power, globally or regionally. In some cases such a "quest for strength" is inverted in the sense that it is charcterized initially as a project for resisting incursions from other nation-states, rather than for projecting power, and then later "evolves" into the thing it sought to stop.

The largest and most influential moden states were all founded based on some version of an emancipatory, citizen-oriented program, many with an explicit republican rejection of monarchical forms and some with an even stronger rejection of social inequality baked into their foundational legal structures.

The infection of some moden states by murderous strains of totalizing nationalism took on a variety of forms. In both Italy and Germany, the fascist parties both played on popular socialist sentiments but acted directly and violently against communist, socialist and social-democratic poltical gains, as they bludgeoned their way to power through both electoral and illicit means.

In Spain, aristocrats like Primo de Rivera mobilized sections of the military and government bureaucracies, along with supporters in the Catholic Church, to literally wage war against the democratic republic, and especially against the anarchist, left-republican, communist and socialist movements who had sought, in their various ways, to elaborate on the liberal revolution in Spain.

In the Soviet Union, an authoritarian workers party, the Bolsheviks, having toppled a weak and corrupt monarchy, and then toppled its social-democratic successors and suppressed the anarchist revolt as well, once in power created a new set of ideologically-driven social controls that were easily adapted to a muderous nationalism once the party was in Stalin's hands.

More or less the same can be said of China, though there the storyline is a good bit more convoluted.


What it looked like.

Though the particularities differed in important ways, when we examine these historical examples,some common elements might be discerned:

   A persistent campaign to identify some Other as the Enemy responsible for all the problems of the Nation, combined with a denigration of the democratic state as incapable of stopping the "enemy". Promotion of an atmosphere of fear, promotion of a kind of blood-lust as the only way to "save the nation".

   Unrelenting and violent attacks by the fascists against left-libertarian (anarchist, anarcho-syndicalist) movements and others who clearly, openly and in no uncertain terms opposed the entire totalitarian program.

   Confusion amongst many conservative, liberal, social-democratic, socialist and communist parties in the sense that there were many "appeals to reason", calls for coalitions with "reasonable" and "civilized" old-school monarchist parties and other types of "United Front" appeals. Such "moves to the center" were promoted, in many cases, as more important work than actively confronting the emerging fascists head-on.

   Fascists employed a wide variety of means by which to claim the mantle of "tribune of the people" and especially "tribune of the working class", but usually without actually supporting any type of pro-worker policies and movements. Wholly emotional rather than policy-based appeals.


Get real.

Totalitarian tendencies are like stage zero cancer. It doesn't do any good to ignore them and hope they will go away. Early detection is important. As is early treatment. The longer you wait, the more radical the surgery needed to remove the cancer.

At the same time -- back to Godwin's Rule -- shouting "fascist" or "Nazi" just because I disagree with someone, or because their interpretation of what it means to be a fully free and realized human being is not exactly the same as mine, is simply a quick way to lose an argument. Check yourself first. Are you really fighting fascism? Or just trolling?


What to do about it.

OK. Now let's suppose we have reviewed our list and found that, yes, some one is up to no good and it smells like actual, honest-to-god totalitarianism. Now. Even if I am a hard-core "No God. No State. No Caliphate" type of anarchist, the first thing I need to do is to lay out the actual criminal and anti-human activities being engaged in. If I can't actually conceive of a case under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then I am probably just trolling some dingbat, not fighting fascism.

The next thing, in my view, would be to consider what are ALL of the means available for combatting this evil? In other words, sit down and make up an all-around plan. Don't just sit around and whine on Facebook. The things that I need to think about should likely include some or all of the following:

   Vote for the biggest opposition party to the fascist party. Sure that won't solve everything. But it will likely contribute to harm reduction and maybe keep the totalitarians tied up in electoral hoo-ha.

   Speak up and speak out against them using policy points. Don't just call them, or their followers idiots. Point out where they are wrong and why. I may not win people over to my point of view. But I should at least be able to muster enough conviction to make people question their support for the totalizing program. In terms of political discourse, seek to neutralize their program.

   Do not concede an inch on any rhetorical or semantic terrain. It is NOT "their" nation and it is NOT "their" religion.

   Do not concede any ground to either racism or elitism. Embrace the Other, including that Other who you might even instinctively want to reject. For example, many US "leftists" and liberals have a disdainful and dismissive attitude towards poor white people, expressing prejudices about "rednecks" and such that they would never express towards poor people of other races. This isn't anti-racism; it's a form of elitism.

   Be clear and consistent in my anti-totalitarianism. Does "Islamaphobia" exist? Sure it does. In fact, it is very similar to anti-Semitism. But that doesn't mean there aren't fascists who use "Islam" as the basis for a totalitarian state. There certainly are. Get away from labels. Talk about behaviors.

   Finally. Do not let them pass. Unfortunately, in a variety of cases, the bosses, the law enforcement, and the democratic state do not stand up to fascist violence. In such a situation, it is incumbent upon rational human beings to do so, to defend themselves, their families and their neighbors from such assaults.

In every historical case, an emphasis on physical violence is part of the totalitarian program, often beginning with assaults by armed gangs on minorities, foreigners and left-wing politicians and organizers. Such violence should be shut down by any means necessary, but preferably in a public way that emphasizes a strong resolve towards social solidarity. In other words, not just as a response from other armed gangs. In this respect, perhaps a good deal can be learned from studying successful armed resistance against the Klan, as well resistance by the Zapatistas in Mexico against attempts to wipe them out.

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PostSubject: Re: Fighting Fascism   Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:26 pm

Can I repost this somewhere? Think maybe the eUSA Forum somewhere.

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PostSubject: Re: Fighting Fascism   Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:53 pm

Comrade Frank wrote:
Can I repost this somewhere? Think maybe the eUSA Forum somewhere.

Yes, sure.

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PostSubject: Re: Fighting Fascism   Mon Aug 08, 2016 6:47 pm

Jumping off you "fun examples!": do you agree with Gordon's Restatement?

I'm trying to reason through why Gordon thinks that Libertarian is the primordial argument, and I see some of what is being said, but other parts I don't see. I'm interested to hear your perspective!

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PostSubject: Re: Fighting Fascism   Tue Aug 09, 2016 6:52 am

That was a brilliant read, thanks PQ. :-)

Fascists are people too, although that often gets forgotten. How does a person end up fascist? A combination of insecurity and anger? Seems a bridge too far to my mind.
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PostSubject: Re: Fighting Fascism   Wed Aug 10, 2016 2:42 am

Fascists are people indeed and they can be really nice people too. I have spoken many of them and I am convinced the followers of fascism are the ones we need to be in contact with. Insecurity and anger was a main reason to end up as fascists for the ones I have spoken with in Serbia and Croatia about 20 years ago when I was frequently there. They cared for their families and for their (national, cultural) values. I think they are normal people, but their political opinion does bring fierce hatred between people and doesn't bring any solutions.
Fascists leaders are a lost cause I think.

With the ones I have been talking with I brought forward my values (not my political view) and talked about my motivation to help other people. That bridged somewhat the political gap and made their eyes go open a bit about other nationalities and cultures. Personal meetings are the way for me to work on a better society and to put forward freedom, peace and solidarity.
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