Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Neo-fascism is a symptom, not the disease

A very good bit on the rise of 21st Century fascism and specifically the strange visuals of this spring in the former Soviet Union by Timothy Snyder over at The New Republic;
We easily forget how fascism works: as a bright and shining alternative to the mundane duties of everyday life, as a celebration of the obviously and totally irrational against good sense and experience. Fascism features armed forces that do not look like armed forces, indifference to the laws of war in their application to people deemed inferior, the celebration of “empire” after counterproductive land grabs. Fascism means the celebration of the nude male form, the obsession with homosexuality, simultaneously criminalized and imitated. Fascism rejects liberalism and democracy as sham forms of individualism, insists on the collective will over the individual choice, and fetishizes the glorious deed. Because the deed is everything and the word is nothing, words are only there to make deeds possible, and then to make myths of them. Truth cannot exist, and so history is nothing more than a political resource. Hitler could speak of St. Paul as his enemy,Mussolini could summon the Roman emperors. Seventy years after the end of World War II, we forgot how appealing all this once was to Europeans, and indeed that only defeat in war discredited it. Today these ideas are on the rise in Russia, a country that organizes its historical politics around the Soviet victory in that war, and the Russian siren song has a strange appeal in Germany, the defeated country that was supposed to have learned from it.
The neo-fascist black shirts are all over the place in Europe - as are those who flirt with them and hang out just at the edges of political acceptability. While the black shirts dress-right-dress; in red square, the red banner flies again on May Day. 

Neither the black or the red are as well defined as their 20th Century grandfathers. Heck, the black shirts aren't even on the same side of the barricades. You can find the pro-Ukrainian neo-fascists and the pro-Russian neo-fascists facing off against each other - all the while, especially on the Russian side, complaining about the Nazis "over there" they are actually funding. It is different this time.
From my eye, it is less a frightening view than a pathetic and slightly comical one. The foot soldiers of modern fascists are a sloppy bunch in appearance, and ill-disciplined in their politics. Some of their leaders may have a bit of sense about them, but nothing in mass. That is, in a way, a good thing. You really can't dominate a nation, gain, and keep popular support when you look and act like a shi-ite sandwich. You can make a mess, but not a movement.

That being said, actual neo-fascists of the flabby type are growing in power from Greece to Ukraine to Russia and those who flirt with them range across France, The Netherlands and elsewhere. They may not be the neat, organized and focused divisions of black-shirts from the 20th Century, but that doesn't make them less of a threat to a healthy democratic system. They still make news and are gaining membership among the young - the question is, why?

From my end it is simple; the mainline political parties have failed their people. Ever more self-focused and detached from the people they are supposed to represent - especially in the European Parliament. As a result, the people are less vested in their mainstream politicians, and the mainstream politicians are less vested in the people.

When many people cannot find an outlet for their concerns and worries - or worse feel dismissed that their heart-felt concerns are "fringe" - then they search out for a new political home. If the only place they can find someone who at least pretends to share their concerns happens to be a bit unsavory, many will shrug and join for a bit. As a result of association, some become more radicalized.

As this gathers strength, some parties start to drift towards the edges of acceptability. The center - the key to any proper functioning republic - thins; and edges grow in weight and the whole system becomes unstable. There is a reason the radicals scream, "NO CENTER!" Disorder and chaos have always been the friend of authoritarianism.

The center is where peace and compromise is made. The radicals cannot have that ...

Radicals in red and black have no interest in keeping a stable system. If the European political classes are inept in keeping focus on the core function of the system, then the center no longer holds the balance of power. 

Not the end of history, just a turn of the wheel.
Whereas European integration begins from the premise that National Socialism and Stalinism were negative examples, Eurasian integration begins from the more jaded and postmodern premise that history is a grab bag of useful ideas. Whereas European integration presumes liberal democracy, Eurasian ideology explicitly rejects it. The main Eurasian ideologist, Alexander Dugin, who once called for a fascism “as red as our blood,” receives more attention now than ever before. His three basic political ideas—the need to colonize Ukraine, the decadence of the European Union, and the desirability of an alternative Eurasian project from Lisbon to Vladivostok—are now all officially enunciated, in less wild forms than his to be sure, as Russian foreign policy. Dugin now provides radical advice to separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine.
Russia has a large hand in this thinning out of the center all the way to the Bay of Biscay. Center becomes center-right or center-left. Center-right becomes far-right. Same happens on the left. Far-right puts on the black shirts - and the far-left joins them with red flags in the streets.
Putin now presents himself as the leader of the far right in Europe, and the leaders of Europe’s right-wing parties pledge their allegiance. There is an obvious contradiction here: Russian propaganda insists to Westerners that the problem with Ukraine is that its government is too far to the right, even as Russia builds a coalition with the European far right. Extremist, populist, and neo-Nazi party members went to Crimea and praised the electoral farce as a model for Europe. As Anton Shekhovtsov, a researcher of the European far right, has pointed out, the leader of the Bulgarian extreme right launched his party’s campaign for the European parliament in Moscow. The Italian Fronte Nazionale praises Putin for his “courageous position against the powerful gay lobby.” The neo-Nazis of the Greek Golden Dawn see Russia as Ukraine’s defender against “the ravens of international usury.” Heinz-Christian Strache of the Austrian FPÖ chimes in, surreally, that Putin is a “pure democrat.” Even Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, recently shared Putin’s propaganda on Ukraine with millions of British viewers in a televised debate, claiming absurdly that the European Union has “blood on its hands” in Ukraine.
Amazing work. Again, don't blame Putin - blame tone-deaf EuroElites.

This is all so sad, and so avoidable. After all the misery and loss brought to Europe by the red and black over the last 100 years, still - they come back.

There is still time for the center to come back in Europe - but it has to grow a spine. It has to acknowledge that there are legitimate issues that they refuse to address that are drawing good people to the fringes - they can start with immigration restriction and a nod to positive nationalism. Make meaningful steps in these two areas, and you will take the steam out of the black shirts and their red counterparts. 

They will have to take some steps that may not get them invited to all the fun parties they want to be invited to - but it will save their political system and what is left of the fruits of the enlightenment from the darkness that is creeping in on the edges. 

Hat tip Pawel.

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