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Is Fascism Making a Comeback?


At the Verso blog, several noted critical theorists, including Chiara Bottici, Tim Jacoby, and Charlie Post, reply to perhaps the most urgent question of today: is fascism making a comeback? Below is a snippet of Chiara Bottici’s response:

In fact, fascism has never gone away. If by fascism, we mean the historical regime that created the name and embraced the ideology explicitly, then we have to conclude that the concept is only applicable to the political regime that reigned in Italy between 1922 and 1943. This, however, amounts to little more than a tautology: “the Italian fascist regime” = “the Italian fascist regime.” History clearly never repeats itself, so any attempt to apply the category of fascism outside of that context would be doomed to fail. That may be a necessary cautionary remark for historians, but how about social and political theorists? Can fascism be a heuristic tool to think about and compare different forms of power?

If by fascism we mean a political model that was only epitomized and made visible by the Italian kingdom during 1922-43, then we arrive at a very different conclusion. Consider for a moment the features that characterize that form of power: hyper-nationalism, racism, machismo, the cult of the leader, the political myth of decline-rebirth in the new political regime, the more or less explicit endorsement of violence against political enemies, and the cult of the state. We can then certainly see how that form of power, after its formal fall in 1943, continued to exist in different forms and shapes not simply in Europe, but also elsewhere. We can see how fascist parties continued to survive, how fascist discourses proliferated and how different post-war regimes emerging world-wide exhibited fascist traits without formally embracing fascism.

Image of Donald Trump and Steve Bannon via the Daily Beast.


But this is not the best definition of fascism, as it ought to be used politically. Fascism is the counter-revolutionary violence used in war and repression of imperialist capitalism, at any time and place it is seen. The millions killed in Indo-China (Vietnam, Korea etc) by US imperialist blitzing were as much killed by fascist imperialism (called Western democracy by those who keep wanting to check whether the perpetrators were wearing fascist uniform and doing the right kind of sieg heil salutes) as those killed by Hitler and Mussolini.
Or British troops “shooting to kill” in Ireland in the Troubles or in Malaya in the 1960s, where they cut the heads off communists and sympathisers.
Ditto the hundreds of thousands killed by later US regimes, such as “Democrat” Obama’s non-stop drone blitzing of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan’s Swat valley (three bombs every hour for his entire presidency).
Fascism springs almost automatically out of capitalism in crisis.
I think the definition in the comment above either deliberately or carelessly leaves the door open for middle-class anti-communist cynics to pretend that the Soviet Union had “fascist” characteristics. The charlatan Leon Trotsky, once booted out of the USSR for his destructive factionalising, immediately started pretending that the Stalin regime was “equal” to the Hitler regime.
And fascism is way beyond official parties and Hitler-loving boot boys on the street.
Where the comment above is useful is in drawing attention to Trump’s similarities to Mussolini. The ignorant bombast, the “Make America Great Again” rabble rousing, and his sense that the USA is LOSING its grip of the planet etc.
Fascism is BRITTLE and BREAKABLE; the turn towards all-out violence is capitalism’s last trump card. How appropriately named the orange maniac is.


In 1935 Brecht wrote that fascism isn’t some mysterious sickness. No it’s quite simply the most naked, most shameless, most oppressive and most treacherous form of capitalism, plain and simple. Brutality does not come from nowhere but from the business deals that cannot be made without it. I think this is even more true today. It is no surprise that Trump has a cabinet of billionaires and we see this in the Tax bill that just passed. You cannot separate racism from class warfare from above, they are intimately linked together.