Where one side is armed with ideas, and the other is armed with weapons
November 3, 2018 7:50 PM   Subscribe

Fascism is Not an Idea to Be Debated, It’s a Set of Actions to Fight In a kind of epiphany, I understood that the letter was written in a language I no longer recognized, not least because he was using a dialect and diction far closer to Gorski vijenac than to our past movie arguments. We were now so far apart that whatever I might say could never reach him, let alone convert him back into what I’d thought was the true and original version of my friend.
posted by bitmage (97 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite
 
"At the end of such an ideological trajectory is always genocide, as it was the case in Bosnia."
"The time of conversations with fascists is over, even if they might be your best friend from high school.".
Re-visit The Elimination thread
posted by growabrain at 8:42 PM on November 3 [24 favorites]


I’m not sure I follow his argument

I’m all against fascism (I’m a biracial gay man for a start) but I’m struggling to understand his definition of fascism, or his grasp of history.

According to the writer not allowing illegal things means that the United States is on a one way to fascism and an inexorable slide to a genocidal civil war is a bit of a stretch.

I understand there’s an election, but I find all this casual use of “fascism” increasingly distasteful and increasingly meaningless and increasingly banal.

Like the boy who cried wolf a bit too many times, we might find we’ve been eaten.
posted by Middlemarch at 8:57 PM on November 3 [7 favorites]


[Please reload, I deleted the early threadshit and everyone keeps responding to it!]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:16 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


Entering the US without papers and applying for asylum is not a crime, it is a human right. Extrajudicially and brutally punishing people for doing so is pretty fucking fascist, yeah. Saying so is not crying wolf.
posted by agentofselection at 9:16 PM on November 3 [85 favorites]


The one thing the authors of these essays never do is present an image of what this kind of "fighting back" would look like to them. I'm not saying you can't criticize if you don't have a solution, I'm saying that it's always missing.

The only thing I can take from that is that nobody knows, that there is actually no imaginable defense to Bannon/Trump/etc., which further implies that there's just a momentum and we just have to wait for it to pass. I don't really know how else to extrapolate it to concrete meaning. Fighting back sounds like a good idea, though!

I don't want to poop on this all the way, but to use two incredibly significant examples of our current condition, both of which the author experience(d) first-hand and just...end where it does, seems like a bit of a waste of effort. I don't like the idea that well, like with Karadzic, it's up to the Hague. And even then, we're dealing with acts of war at that point.
posted by rhizome at 9:19 PM on November 3 [9 favorites]




but I’m struggling to understand his definition of fascism, or his grasp of history.

The man is talking about his personal history with the genocide in Bosnia and you doubt his grasp of history or his ability to recognize fascism?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:29 PM on November 3 [76 favorites]


He's talking about Bannon! An open fascist? And you doubt his definition of fascism?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:33 PM on November 3 [19 favorites]


This is a good article, thank you, I'll be sharing it.
posted by odinsdream at 9:38 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


We have to stop using euphemisms.
We must insist on calling them what they are:
Fascists * Racists * Nazis * Rapists * Antisemitic * Hate-filled * Sexists * Homophobic * Lethal
posted by growabrain at 9:48 PM on November 3 [22 favorites]


That's not what the author is saying, his literal message is #1. Let us call this phenomenon fascism. #2. I observe that the only way out of such fascism is literal war. (By this he says says civil war.) #3. #1 is a possibility, that if actually true, #2 applies.

He's not saying, let's hold our hands in solidarity and metaphorically "fight" using activism or policy change. By fight he means civil war. This is explicit in the last 3 paragraphs.
posted by polymodus at 10:12 PM on November 3 [16 favorites]


but I find all this casual use of “fascism” increasingly distasteful and increasingly meaningless and increasingly banal.

if you're honestly curious as to why Steve Bannon has got himself tagged a fascist, this is a good (and not too long) read that's low on hyperbole:

Stephen Bannon’s world: Dangerous minds in dangerous times
posted by philip-random at 10:17 PM on November 3 [8 favorites]


Yes, treating fascism as just another idea can't work. Espousing fascism isn't free speech, it's an attempt to enact the end of speech. Its only purpose is in physical action to destroy rights, not an investigation of ideas. There are no ideas in fascism except power by the few and control or death of the others.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:19 PM on November 3 [34 favorites]


I really was responding to Middlemarch with my now-deleted comment, but my comment is gone so I'm going to paraphrase it: It's not the "there are consequences for people doing illegal stuff" that there's a problem with. The article uses quotes around one description of an "illegal" thing because the policy in question was something that was resulting in actual inhuman treatment of people who some people see as acceptable to treat in an inhuman way, which is a central point to the article's discussion of fascism.

Even if entering illegally is illegal, there are some illegal thing that we handle without, for example, separating small children from their parents. The particular way that certain law-breakers are treated right now in the US is not accidental.
Every fucking fascist, Bannon included, strives to enact that idea, even if he (and it is usually a he—fascism is a masculine ideology, and therefore inherently misogynist) bittercoats it in a discourse of victimization and national self-defense. You know: they are contaminating our nation/race; they are destroying our culture; we must do something about them or perish. At the end of such an ideological trajectory is always genocide, as it was the case in Bosnia.
So the problem isn't that there are consequences for illegal immigration. There could be consequences for illegal immigration that aren't a step along the road to genocide, but the actual things that are happening are not commensurate with the scale of the actual crimes committed, nor are they things that would be tolerated as consequences for crimes that were committed primarily by wealthy white people, for example. When you talk about what's happened recently in terms of "not allowing illegal things", you're feeding right into the idea that we somehow have to treat Latinx people this way in order to make America safe, and that is not true and it's dangerous.
posted by Sequence at 10:21 PM on November 3 [24 favorites]


Like the boy who cried wolf a bit too many times, we might find we’ve been eaten.

I've said before that there we have been sometimes too glib about use of terms like fascist in the past, but conflating past use to present misses that the wolf does indeed come and the warning goes unheeded. It's not being able to appreciate the warning at the right time that leads to suffering more than having a warning at the wrong time and listening to it. The latter is a mistake, the former destruction.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:31 PM on November 3 [14 favorites]


Restricting citizenship and its benefits (e.g., the right to vote) to a subset of the actual citizenry, who become the "Real Americans";
Harassing and endangering the Americans who stand outside that definition (e.g., Spanish-speakers, immigrants, Jews, blacks, trans folks, the target du jour);
Mobilizing vigilantes and the army against imaginary enemies who are supposed to resemble those non-Real Americans;
Denying the protection of the law and of international human rights agreements to members of the "enemy class";
-- if you don't recognize fascism in those moves, I submit that you are blinded by the details of historical precedent and have missed the lesson the past can teach. If the word "fascism" bothers you, I'm fine with "Milosevicism" or "Kayibandaism."
posted by homerica at 10:52 PM on November 3 [30 favorites]


you dont have to agree with the author's particular definition of fascism to get on board with his larger point: ideologies that inherently are about demonizing the "other" arent amenable to free and open debate, because they are not about engaging in such debate in good faith. they are doing it for the *time being* until they acquire power, at which point they will exercise that power with extreme prejudice.

it's like a locked up cat debating with a mouse who holds the key; the cat will cajole the mouse until he gets a hold of the key, and then he will kill him immediately, without any regard for anything he said previously.

this is what fascists and other authoritarians do; this is what they are. you can recognize them as such because they have no positive platform; it's always about scapegoating. there is nothing to be gained from an "exchange of ideas" if the other party is not a good faith interlocutor. of course, not remotely all people who disagree with you on taxes or immigration or whatever fall into this camp. the question always to ask is: are these people classifying their opponents as fellow citizens, or as the *enemy* ?

if it's the latter, watch out. before they gain total power, they must be deplatformed, ostracized, outcast. if they manage to gain total power, god forbid, prepare to defend yourself with guns.
posted by wibari at 10:53 PM on November 3 [67 favorites]


I thought the article was incredible and sums up exactly what we are facing and where we may well end up.

For anyone upset about the use of the word “fascist” to describe Bannon: could you describe a couple of significant examples of how Bannon’s ideology either lacks or contradicts the central tenets of fascism as practiced in Mussolini’s Italy, Nazi Germany and Ustaše Croatia, at least? (If you’re going exclude Falangist Spain, the Estados Novos in Portugal and Brazil, and other arguable edge cases.)
posted by chappell, ambrose at 10:59 PM on November 3 [8 favorites]


He's not saying, let's hold our hands in solidarity and metaphorically "fight" using activism or policy change. By fight he means civil war. This is explicit in the last 3 paragraphs.

I don't own a gun and don't plan to any time soon. I don't have a stockpile of food and whatever. I tend toward a McLuhanistic perspective that World War Three (we're in it and have been since at least the 1960s) is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation. So yeah, just keep doing what whatever you're doing, and make sure you get enough vegetables.
posted by philip-random at 11:02 PM on November 3 [4 favorites]


According to the writer not allowing illegal things means that the United States is on a one way to fascism and an inexorable slide to a genocidal civil war is a bit of a stretch.

Describing the actions of the current administration as "not allowing illegal things" is some really disturbing, grotesque normalization of what's actually happening right now, in addition to seeming willfully oblivious to the point he's making about Fascism as an ideology.

I didn't think anybody would still need reminders of this at this point in time, but the press announcement for the opening of Dachau in 1933 said "All Communists and – where necessary – Reichsbanner and Social Democratic functionaries who endanger state security are to be concentrated there, as in the long run it is not possible to keep individual functionaries in the state prisons without overburdening these prisons." Ah, well, as you can see, that's just a natural consequence of "not allowing illegal things". A cost-saving maneuver, really.

It's one thing to complain about the little boy crying wolf, but if you're waiting for the wolf to show up wearing a nametag that says "Hello, My Name is Wolf, Ask Me How I Can Help Eat You Today" and refusing to recognize anything else as an actual wolf, it's not the little boy that's the problem.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:07 PM on November 3 [66 favorites]


I drove 55 in a 45 mph zone today. Donald Trump has not sent the army to defend the town of Rehoboth from my breakneck speed. Yet, entering the nation illegally, especially as an asylum seeker, is exactly as illegal by statute and effect (very minor misdemeanor). He wants to kill. It's the ultimate power. War isn't good enough, he wants to kill the powerless and be praised for it. If he ever used an ATM it would ask him to feed it a stray cat.

He thinks you are powerless. You may be next. Be ready.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:19 PM on November 3 [34 favorites]


I always thought the term “Hitlerism” was pretty useful. It avoids the political argument of “what is fascism” and cuts to the heart of evoking authoritarian demagoguery in the service of a murderous ethnic nationalism.
posted by darkstar at 11:22 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]


"All Communists and – where necessary – Reichsbanner and Social Democratic functionaries who endanger state security are to be concentrated there..."

And further to Slap*Happy's point, we see above that it used to be that "concentration camp" was a euphemism. The word "detention" seems to function similarly these days, something that makes it sound so much more anodyne than what is actually going on there.
posted by rhizome at 11:24 PM on November 3 [26 favorites]


Fascism doesn't show up twirling its mustaches and speaking in fake accents. At first, fascism seems like a perfectly normal response to a world that seems to have gotten out of control, and just having a little authoritarianism and law and order will set it back to rights again. Of course, that's not how it works, and feeding the authoritarian beast seldom ends well.

Here are some early warning indicators about fascims:

Demonization of "the other" - whether we're talking about Tutsis during the Rwandan Genocide, Armenians in the 1915 Middle East, Jews in 1930s Europe, or Latinx, Jews, etc. in 2018 America. Terms may include: "harmful microbes," subhumans, vermin, criminals, cop-killers, etc. "The other" is depicted as the source of all problems, ones that, if they are just neutralized, things will be oh so much better.

Restrictions placed upon the role of women. Germans had their Kuchen, Kinder, Kirche. Modern Americans have the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, the ignoring and devaluing of #metoo, and the continue erosions of reproductive freedom. Women can be enormous arbiters of social change - see the abolitionist and temperance movements - but if we're forced to fight battles we thought were over, that will set social progress back generations, and leave the playing field even clearer for those on the other side.

Unwillingness to see any good in those who hold opposing political views. I fear those died with John McCain, God rest him.

Distrust of media and the press. A free, fair, press is essential to a just society.

Calling into doubt election results. See above comments regarding the media.

Doing everything in their power to discourage people from voting, protesting, or owning what agency they have. South Africa resisted free elections for generations. We are now seeing completely unsubtle attempts to disenfranchise voters of color, in Georgia and North Dakota, to name only a few.

Increased xenophobia, and enacting of fiscal, social, and governmental policies that support the heightened view of one's own country and refusing to see the world as it actually is. Tariffs are a prime example of this.

All of these are incredibly worrisome signs that fascism is definitely trying to establish a significant toehold. In my estimation, the most positive path forward is to hear the economic and social concerns of those who are afraid that "the new America" may be leaving them behind, while imposing very real social and communal consequences for those who openly espouse racist, sexist, and fascist attitudes. My personal belief is that we need to change the climate back and move the needle even further, so that these attitudes are driven even further underground, and become a quiet personal struggle, to be discussed with one's loved ones and support team, but are too shameful to see the light of day.

YMMV, of course.
posted by dancing_angel at 11:25 PM on November 3 [42 favorites]


To start, let me say that I think Bannon is a fascist. Pretty simple stuff. Or at the very least a white nationalist.

Look, the man is pretty unadulterated evil.

But, just to pick one example, I'll pick on this last comment. I sincerely disagree with a number of the assertions of examples of warning signs of fascism.

"Unwillingness to see any good in those who hold opposing political views." I know plenty of folks that have this issue that are most decidedly not fascist; mostly on the left (probably because most of the folks I know are on the left, not that the left are more guilty of this).

"Calling into doubt election results." I sure have doubt about the results in Gore/Bush, and I think this is a pretty reasonable opinion. I acknowledge that Trump won the electoral college, but I certainly don't think he has a mandate losing the majority of the popular vote.

"Distrust of media and the press." Oh, I think this is a pretty reasonable stance to have, and while it may be a thing that fascist believe, I don't think such a distrust is unwarranted. Yes, a free, and fair press is a requirement of a functional democracy, but I don't think it's something the US has. See the Iraq war, or the Vietnam war, or the Spanish American war, the list goes on and on... Certainly I don't think it's broken in the way Trump (and his supporters) think it's broken, but it's sure as heck broken.

"Tariffs are a prime example of this." Yeah, I don't think so much. Tariffs are a tool in trade. I'm not an expert in the matter, but I'll certainly accept that the tool has value when used appropriately (again, I don't think Trump is doing this). The "Muslim ban" is probably a better example of the sentiment you are trying to express here.

Dancing_Angel: I actually think we are largely on the same page, and I fear the growing authoritarianism in this country as well. But many of the things you mention are also positions that decidedly non-fascists hold (and anti-authoritarians).

Certainly when the president attacks the news as 'fake' because he doesn't like it (rather than giving a nuanced critique about how all the media seem to be in lockstep on dubious government claims that are supposed to justify whatever war the US is about to engage in) it's a very dangerous thing. But his attacks aren't even on 'the press' so much as attacks on objective reality, unquestionable facts, and truth.

But yeah, fuck Bannon, and no, we don't need to hear anyone debate him. Just as we don't need to debate flat-earthers, creationists, or fully out-of-the-closet nazis; we need to shun them.
posted by el io at 11:51 PM on November 3 [12 favorites]


It is striking to see so much anguish about Trump and Bannon when so many of these same horrors have been carried out by far more civil and genteel war criminals (like Obama, Bush, Clinton, and every single person who has been president, along with eldritch ghouls like Kissinger). Of course, the difference is that the victims, while numbering in the tens of millions, had the terrible luck of being poor people of color in distant countries.

Of course, Obama, the Clintons, and Kissinger are still invited to all the festivals and considered respectable.

I really like this piece, but I think restricting "fascism" to Trump/Bannon only reinforces my sad conclusion that the vast majority of Americans, no matter how woke or progressive they are, simply lack the ability to comprehend the true horrors of American foreign policy.
posted by Ouverture at 12:49 AM on November 4 [21 favorites]


Back when the Berlin wall came down and Yugoslavia was falling apart, I had quite a few friends from there. One of them was a very close friend. And like Zoka in the article, he fell for the propaganda. What is often forgotten now is that back then, the people who became fascists, specially on the Serbian side, but also among Croatians and Macedonians were very smart and some of them artistically significant. I remember reading a very good novel, only to discover later that it was fascist propaganda. Without understanding the context, I had no clue.

It was a terrible time.
But in the end, my friend changed his ways. He doesn't even remember his youthful fascinations*. Luckily, he had never participated in the civil war and that was helpful. So that is one answer to now: we need to avoid actual acts of violence and civil war by all means, because the way back to civility is much harder for those who have actively participated in crimes than for those who have only participated on an intellectual level.

*incidentally, my brother was stationed in Croatia as part of a UN peace-keeping force, and he doesn't remember much either. The Yugoslav civil war was atrocious and I thing a lot of people have been spared from trauma by their forgetful minds.
posted by mumimor at 1:45 AM on November 4 [8 favorites]


Nice attempted derail, Ouverture. For the argument of the original article was that you have a choice about what positions are rationally and ethically permissible, and what positions are not. By endorsing the old "there's no difference between Trump and Clinton" line dear to Russian trolls and Republican operatives, one merely accepts the newest horror as a variation on the horrors we've already endured. If ever the cumulative series of horrors is to be rolled back, we need to maintain such liberal institutions as we still have-- and strengthen them. The Voting Rights Act was a good thing. It's too bad that it was passed during the presidency of a man who stepped up the slaughter of innocent Vietnamese villagers. The bad things the US has done do not motivate me to give up on the promising things it has done.
posted by homerica at 1:46 AM on November 4 [74 favorites]


I’m resigned and resolved to things getting much much worse and in the meantime I’m doing what I can do to hopefully prevent that much much worse from actually coming to pass.

Will the hollow entropy of the repetitive force of our social norms outlast this energetic dyspepsia of fascism that is roiling the guts of our nation?

Only one fascism has radicalized. Most often they lurch and lumber on for decades, acting as an evil drag on the goodwill of a nation and that alone should be enough for a country to mobilize in self-defense and long-term ongoing resistance.

Also, trump may not be the worst fascist leader we get. I fear he’s the precursor.
posted by nikaspark at 3:45 AM on November 4 [7 favorites]


only those safe from fascism and its practices are far more likely to think that there might be a benefit in exchanging ideas with fascists.

This.
posted by chavenet at 3:56 AM on November 4 [19 favorites]


That article reads so much like Address Unknown by Kressmann Taylor, also about the rise of facism and two friends dealing with the growth of Nazi Germany. I'd highly recommend it, it's a short book but so good.
posted by Fence at 4:06 AM on November 4 [7 favorites]


el_io: I wonder whether this isn’t exactly what makes Trump so dangerous, though? He didn’t create the conditions that make society weak enough to be tempted by fascism. You’re right that these conditions are in some ways bipartisan. He’s just exploiting the weakness very well.
posted by eirias at 4:32 AM on November 4 [2 favorites]


Terms may include: "harmful microbes," subhumans, vermin, criminals, cop-killers, etc.

Or "invasive species". I heard that one recently.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:45 AM on November 4 [4 favorites]


[One deleted. I think we can discuss the article without turning the thread into an ongoing fight about US already having been fascist, so what's the big deal, why worry now, blah blah.]
posted by taz (staff) at 7:02 AM on November 4 [5 favorites]


Many have forgotten the Yugoslav civil war, or simply ignored it at the time.

The Croatian government seemed to be flirting with fascism at the time. There was an effort to rehabilitate the WWII-era fascist group, the Ustashe, which actually held power and committed horrors. The state brought back the WWII currency. There was also an attempt to carve out a distinct Croatian language. Then there was the glorification of war, culminating in Operation Blitz.
posted by doctornemo at 7:08 AM on November 4 [4 favorites]


One of the things this article does an excellent job of getting across is the fact that fascism involves people you might love and care about turning to support it. That's often elided to our detriment, since it makes it that much more difficult to accept.

Of course, the stories survivors of the Nazis tell include this aspect as well, and we ignore it because it seems to be overshadowed by the more immediate horrors. To me, though, that's just as if not more terrifying: that as we allow the slide into open fascism to continue we well be turned on by our family and our friends.

There comes a point, and the article addresses this, when civil war becomes inevitable. I don't think the article is trying to say war is the only way to fight fascism, rather, that war is the consequence of allowing fascism to root in a society, because it eats away at our communities until there's nothing left.
posted by odinsdream at 7:38 AM on November 4 [16 favorites]


I think this article is super useful in illustrating the need for distinction between the usual awfulness of US foreign and national policy and Trump policy. Trust me guys, I hated Bush junior. I understand the criticism of the Clinton esp re: their embracing of draconian war on drugs/ gangs ideas for instance. Obama's dispassionate use of drones abroad and tightening of immigration laws here are deplorable. I'm happy to rail against these policies and the F word might pop out of my punk mouth while doing so. But there's arguments to be made. Pros and cons to be even the Bush administration still felt the need to tie their power plays up in ideas like democracy and freedom.

Trump doesn't bother with that anymore. There is no consistent argument other than 'IT's GOOD FOR US!" That's the difference of fascism. The Dubya administration was already full of nakedly greedy fucks crowing about creating reality and controlling the dialogue through action, and we weren't wrong to call that fascy. But Trump doesn't feel the need to even argue about whether his ideas are good for democracy or justice or freedom or human dignity. He's just fighting the prosperity of himself and people on his team. He barely even bothers with the arguments anymore, because he knows they've always been made in naked bad-faith.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:49 AM on November 4 [20 favorites]


A-and don't forget about the "good Germans"
posted by chavenet at 8:24 AM on November 4 [3 favorites]


To start, let me say that I think Bannon is a fascist. Pretty simple stuff. Or at the very least a white nationalist.

For most of the 20th century black people didn't vote and everyone looked the other way. Obstructing the vote was white supremacy, but looking the other way was also part of white supremacy.

Now we're closing in on the point when whites will make up less than 50% of the populace and what do you know, all sorts of mechanisms have sprung up to shave down the efficacy of the non-white vote. Actively supporting this is also definitionally white supremacy, as is looking the other way again.

You point this out to people and they seem to think that if it's just political partisans pursuing what they think is best for the country, that's somehow exculpatory. But it's not. “I'll make the best choice for you, person of color” is still patently white supremacy.

So we have a country full of unhesitating white supremacists choosing to follow a leader who openly refers to himself as a nationalist.

We definitely don't need to be sparing in the application of the terms “white supremacist” or “white nationalist” when we're discussing fascism in the 21st-century United States, nor save those terms for the demagogues themselves.
posted by XMLicious at 8:31 AM on November 4 [16 favorites]


A civil war in a nation with Nukes, drones, and the worlds largest military will be very very very bad. Letting such a nation go authoritarean will be very very very bad. Discussion of what our third choice is would be useful.

NGOs use donations and lawyers to prevebt or slow bad policy in the courts (we see this being tried and sometimes working)

Consumer boycotts of advertisers have hurt revenue and forced some departures from the propoganda apparatus

MeToo name-and-shame has removed from office or power many shitty men inclusing roy moore, rob porter etc.

fascist operations to trigger broader conflict - like the mahluer refugee occupation or the patriot prayer rallies in blue cities have met tactical patience and have thus far failed to be the match/powderkeg.

we need to exhaust all our non-violent options before civil war or tyranny become our only two options. Donate, have awkward,conversations, boycott, rally, name-and-shame, join organizations of like-minded people and participate, train and prepare. Your civility and savings accounts won't save you from the barrel of a gun or a pair of shackles.... so use thembup now why they can still do some good.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 8:38 AM on November 4 [18 favorites]


The part of this essay that really hit home for me:
Much of American media and press on this side of the Fox News darkness does not dare to call out a fascist. That is partly out of knee-jerk complicity with the culture of leadership and celebrity worship. But I believe that it is also a matter of unbearable fear that the shape of American society, and the practices it has long depended on to maintain some semblance of democracy, are being destroyed, and no one quite knows what to do about it, save hoping to be saved by Mueller and/or impeachment.
I'm terrified to call out fascism, because saying the word out loud makes it true. I have a very real fear that this period in American politics ends in severe violence. Maybe not an all out civil war, but something very bloody and ugly. I kind of don't want to say that out loud though because saying it feels like it makes it more likely to be true.

But that's backwards of course. The fascism is happening. I collect a series of links of escalating violence and dehumanization in American politics, here's a few: White House demonizing MS-13 and therefore all immigrants, Attorney General chuckling about locking up political opponents, President calling Democrats "extreme and too dangerous to govern", Republicans embracing the Proud Boys. That's just a sampling. And we're still at a point where this incipient fascism is startling enough that it's being written about, called out in public. It's not quite normal yet. But its on its way.

I sure don't relish the conclusion of this essay, that we must "clearly identify the enemy and commit to defeating them, whoever they are, whatever it takes". That feels like an escalation of violent rhetoric in itself. Also I'm not sure, but I think lithub.com is not going to be the center of effective resistance to a bunch of American browshirts armed with assault weapons. Any armed conflict would lead to horrible, terrible consequences. I'm just beginning to fear it is inevitable.
posted by Nelson at 9:25 AM on November 4 [4 favorites]


A civil war in a nation with Nukes, drones, and the worlds largest military will be very very very bad.

Yeah, and this is why I find aspects of the linked essay very troublesome. Because sorry to say, America, you don't have the option anymore of a violent civil war, and not just because the last time you did it, you went ahead and had The Worst Fucking War The World Had Ever Known. Because now you have nukes etc. Now your weapons of mass destruction would probably drag the whole rest of the world down with you in some way or other. This is (as a friend once put it) the split-atomic truth. As of Aug-6-1945, 8:15am Hiroshima time, war is officially redundant. Not that there haven't been horrible wars since then. But unlike the entire history of war up to and including WW2, those wars were not escalations of what had come before. They were (and continue to be) statistically lesser atrocities. Because there's nowhere bigger to go post WW2 than omnicide.
posted by philip-random at 9:32 AM on November 4 [3 favorites]


I don't think a US Civil War the Sequel would be fought with much else besides information. I think the discourse is stuck on the old "I don't know what WW3 is going to be fought with, but WW4 is going to be fought with sticks and stones" bit, which I think focuses too much on physical violence and leaves us vulnerable to the US government waging information war against its citizens the same way that Russia beat the US in 2016, or groups of citizens fighting each other using the media. The primary atrocity that is committed may very well be to define people out of society.

Don't get me wrong, there will still be pockets of actual fighting, but that will just be for nostalgia and stress release.
posted by rhizome at 9:44 AM on November 4 [2 favorites]


And, to steal from Matt Christman, dehumanization is both here and escalating:

These guys who marched in Charlottesville, these are the people who are aware of the unspoken premise of this sort of zombie neoliberalism we're living in, which is that we're coming at a point where there's gonna be ecological catastrophe, and it's going to either require mass redistribution of the ill-gotten gains of the first world, or genocide. And these are the first people who have basically said, 'Well if that's the choice, I choose genocide.' And they're gettin everybody else ready, intellectually and emotionally, for why that's gonna be OK when that happens. Why they're not really people, when we're putting all this money into fucking walls and drones and bombs and guns to keep them away so that we can watch them die with clear consciences, it's gonna be because we've been loaded with the ideology that these guys are now starting to express publicly. On the other side of them you have people who are saying, in full fucking voice, 'No, we have the resources to save everybody to give everybody a fucking decent and worthwhile existence, and that is what we want.' And that is the fucking real difference between these two. You can tell that to the next asshole who tells you that they're actually two sides of the same coin.
posted by delfin at 10:08 AM on November 4 [21 favorites]


It's really weird to have "this is worryingly similar to historical states just before war" be misinterpreted as "i love war."

Pointing out the very present danger of where we find ourselves is not in any way an endorsement of the possible horrible outcomes.
posted by odinsdream at 10:10 AM on November 4 [16 favorites]


I think restricting "fascism" to Trump/Bannon only reinforces my sad conclusion that the vast majority of Americans, no matter how woke or progressive they are, simply lack the ability to comprehend the true horrors of American foreign policy.

I see this sort of logic from a lot of the hard lefties I know, several of whom I suspect voted for Jill Stein, so I think it's worth spending some time explaining why this is wrong. First let's look at the salient features of fascism, which Aleksandar Hemon has laid out for us in the article:

Fascism’s central idea, appearing in a small repertoire of familiar guises, is that there are classes of human beings who deserve diminishment and destruction because they’re for some reason (genetic, cultural, whatever) inherently inferior to “us.”

Okay, so there are two parts to fascism here, and both are important:
1.) A division of people into an ingroup and an outgroup: setting up an "Us" vs. "Them". We can call this part Tribalism.
2.) Declaring that "We" need to diminish/destroy "Them". In other words, Eliminationism (as growabrain helpfully linked to in the very first post in this thread).

If you're only looking at the first part of that, then it's easy to see a lot of tribalism in the US's foreign policy. In fact, it's easy to see it in every country's foreign policy, because the very act of drawing a national border on a map is always, quite literally, creating a division between an Us and a Them. (And if you want to argue that the very existence of a system of nation-states inevitably lays the groundwork for fascism's early roots by creating those divisions, that's definitely a workable argument [although I'd counter that the nation-state system reduced the number of tribes, and the number of conflicts, from earlier periods of history]; but that's a very different argument than saying Clinton/Obama et al were pursuing fascist foreign policies.)

The key piece that's missing is the eliminationism. We didn't go to war in Iraq to wipe out the Iraqis. We didn't go to war in Afghanistan because we believed Afghanis were vermin who needed to be exterminated. Indeed, the rhetoric the US uses to justify its wars and military excursions is typically some of the least fascist foreign policy noises around - we're always going to war to help those people, because they're good folks just like us who deserve democracy and freedom and blah blah blah. And yes, if you want to take the stance that the rhetoric is bullshit and we're actually going to war there because it benefits us, I'm not going to disagree, but A.) the words we choose still matter, because while we may not live up to our ideals, they still reveal what those ideals are, and B.) "it benefits us" is not eliminationist ideology. Have we caused great suffering in other parts of the world through our foreign policies? Absolutely. Has that been the primary objective of those policies? No. The primary objective has always been to make things better for the US.

Eliminationism had been mostly absent from serious political discourse since WW2 (barring some fringe Cold War extremists), partly because we all saw, in the Nazis, where fascist ideology leads, and partly because with the invention of the nuclear bomb, truly eliminationist genocide became possible with the touch of a button, which made it a far more dangerous ideology to espouse. Full-blown fascist foreign policy would not shy away from using nuclear weapons against enemies that could not nuke back. (I'm just gonna leave this link here.)

Calling everyone from Kissinger to Obama "fascist" not only waters down the use of "fascist" in exactly the way that other people in this very thread were complaining about, but it overlooks how much worse actual fascism could be. Kissinger was a monster, no disagreement here! But if Kissinger's realpolitik is Dracula, Bannon's fascism is Godzilla. It's not that we don't "get" the horror of past US foreign policy - it's that the potential devastation that an openly fascist United States could wreak is on an almost cosmically vaster scale.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:26 AM on November 4 [49 favorites]


Hemon got incredibly lucky. He was in the US when the Bosnian war broke out and was able to stay. As someone who has spent time in Bosnia, I pretty much feel the Current US political situation has too many uncomfortable parallels with Bosnia right before and even during the war.
I also know that there were factions who stole weapons from the Yugoslav military, much as militias have stolen weapons from the US military. Frankly the best thing would have been to round up the Bundy militia.
I think Obama was afraid of touching off a racial civil war if he did order any serious actions against those people.
I think it is wrong to say that Obama was too casual about drones and military action.
He was actually very careful. I think he knew exactly what he could and could not do as a first African - American President.
What is needed is something like HUAC. The fact is that various forms of fascists, White nationalists, KKK, and such have thoroughly infiltrated the military, law enforcement, churches, the judicial system and even entertainment. These people aren’t normal conservatives. They are dangerous whether one wants to go so far as to call them fascists or not and they need to be removed, root and branch.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:28 AM on November 4 [10 favorites]




What is needed is something like HUAC.

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG WITH THAT
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:01 PM on November 4 [8 favorites]


HUACs primary focus of investigation was communism and "premature anti-fascism". Basically all the folks in America who wished Germany had won the war, HUAC was their baby. Who knows, maybe we'll see something like it soon with Antifa as it's focus.
posted by Artw at 4:47 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


(But yes, should democracy be restored just pretending nothing happened and letting all the fascists get away with it should not be an option)
posted by Artw at 4:55 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


This is pertinent to the discussion. Posting without comment, but worth reading.

The Real Lesson of My Debate With Steve Bannon by David Frum.
posted by Telf at 5:22 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


A report from someone who watched that debate. He concludes:
Is populism a polite synonym for xenophobia—or a righteous movement to wrest power from elites? At least since the age of the Gracchi brothers in ancient Rome, it’s always been a mixture of both. Wealth and power accrete to elites in all societies, a phenomenon that naturally catalyzes the creation of needed and well-intentioned political movements that cater to ordinary folk. On the other hand, human beings are tribal creatures, and so it is sadly inevitable that these same movements become contaminated, or even dominated, by demagogues who blame the problems of the poor on conspiracies hatched by outsiders.

This duality is an aspect of populism I had not fully appreciated until watching Bannon and Frum go at it.
posted by PhineasGage at 5:39 PM on November 4 [3 favorites]


Frum debated Bannon because he’s a smug self serving idiot who feels he can score points by seeming open minded towards fascism. He makes his explanation for why he did it on the same spirits. He is in no way against fascism himself or if he is it’s in a very distant and theoretical way, and he in no way did anything to fight against fascism with his actions, in fact quite the opposite.

He’s a collaborator, divnot believe his lies.
posted by Artw at 5:44 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


I want to welcome Frum into the fold. But... will he really join, or just hand-wring. He will always be on the winning team in the end.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:50 PM on November 4


(On preview, what Artw said)
posted by sjswitzer at 5:54 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


he in no way did anything to fight against fascism with his actions, in fact quite the opposite

I will say that that article is the closest he's ever come to realizing, like research shows and will continue to show, that de-platforming works. Of course, it will probably be as close as he'll ever get.

Frum, like pretty much every so-called moderate NeverTrumper, has never once shown even the slightest bit of self-awareness that they supported the substance of the modern-day "populists" and extreme rightward pull on the Overton window. When you gleefully support (like Frum did) the worst of their anti-democratic agenda--the most wasteful foreign policies in history, Jim Crow-style voter suppression, incredibly regressive tax policies, "states' rights" to deny marginalized people's humanity--without even once taking ownership of that? You're not a moderate except in the twisted minds of the populist horde, and you're certainly not even close to being the opposition. You're a useful idiot who will preach the gospel of personal responsibility until you turn blue in the face, but never ever think that personal responsibility applies to your own enthusiastic enabling of the most base and autocratic impulses of those "populists."
posted by zombieflanders at 6:02 PM on November 4 [13 favorites]


Artw,

I don't know Frum's motivations. I know I disliked him under Bush and enjoy his ideas under Trump so that could mean that he's fooled me.

I've listened to a lot of his interviews and I suspect his motivations are honest; in that I think he believes what he espouses. For me, I think he shares some points worth listening to.

When push comes to shove, Frum is a Reaganite-style republican. Yes, he's far right to what I believe. I can't expect everyone who's anti-Trump to suddenly agree with all of my ideas. On the other hand, I think more progress will be made by mobilizing centrists Republicans who still have souls than magically eliminating all hardcore Trumpites. Because that's the long term issue. If the left ascends, what happens to all the people who supported Trump and his policies? Do we quarantine them and remove them from American society? Obviously not. Even if the next two elections go our way, then what? We need some sort of long term engagement to remove these ideas.

A large proportion of MeFites, in general, are happy to gnash their teeth and seethe hatred at anyone to the right of their ideals but I don't see any solutions being shared. Slogans like smash capitalism and fight fascists are all well and good but they doesn't translate into policy, public mobilization or really any action other than being angry on the internet.

We need some sort of bridge to bring people over to "our" side. Crossing our arms and glaring isn't going to make things better.

I think I know what your response is going to be, but using loaded words like "collaborators" strikes me as severely counterproductive. Maybe you're right and I'm being naive. Maybe things are worse than I realize and I'm blind to the reality. In that case you're right to err on this side of pessimistic caution. I just think we can pull out of this and we'll need some open hands to do so.
posted by Telf at 6:04 PM on November 4 [3 favorites]


zombieflanders wrote:
Frum, like pretty much every so-called moderate NeverTrumper, has never once shown even the slightest bit of self-awareness that they supported the substance of the modern-day "populists" and extreme rightward pull on the Overton window. When you gleefully support (like Frum did) the worst of their anti-democratic agenda--the most wasteful foreign policies in history, Jim Crow-style voter suppression, incredibly regressive tax policies, "states' rights" to deny marginalized people's humanity--without even once taking ownership of that? You're not a moderate except in the twisted minds of the populist horde, and you're certainly not even close to being the opposition.

Fuck. You're right about that. Anything I say about working together really misses the big picture. Republicans have been culpable in so much of this slow shipwreck. This has been a long time coming and too much of the American right did gleefully allow things to fall apart.

Not sure how we balance that out assuming we do somehow pull out of this nosedive. Blame is a tricky burden to apportion.
posted by Telf at 6:08 PM on November 4


Plan for doing without a bridge, there is none.
posted by Artw at 6:10 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


Plan for doing without a bridge, there is none.

What do you want to happen? Violent uprising? Civil war? Secession? I'm being honest here, what's your game plan? What steps do you want to make over the next few years?

You're one of my favorite thinkers on Metafilter but I don't understand where your thoughts are. Maybe this nihilism is warranted, but how would you minimize the damage? What do you foresee?
posted by Telf at 6:22 PM on November 4 [3 favorites]


A plan where David fucking Frum is useful is ridiculous. Discounting that is not nihilism, it’s rejrcting defeat through stupidity. Being aware of what is going on is not nihilism, butting your head in the sand is.

Your illusions are not constructive.
posted by Artw at 6:25 PM on November 4 [6 favorites]


I don't want any of those things either Telf, but when they burn all the bridges behind them, will there be any bridges? Artw has a point.

Look, there is a constituency that has power and privilege and are just not going to hand over the keys. How bad it gets is up for question. But it will be bad.
posted by sjswitzer at 6:28 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


But the question remains: so what is our plan?
posted by PhineasGage at 6:41 PM on November 4 [4 favorites]


Votes for whatever good it does us then activism. At some point if that doesn’t work just trying to survive a total collapse. Being blind to the possibility of the last doesn’t change the likelihood of it, which isn’t something that's really changed in our political landscape since 2016, main thing that is different is the worthlessness of the various Frums in this world has been multiply underlined.
posted by Artw at 6:48 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


And in the long term, if we pull up from the present crisis, an acknowledgement that neoliberalism inevitably breaks down and defaults to fascism, and an attempt to guide society into more fruitful alternatives. That’s loling ile horribly rosey thinking right now though.
posted by Artw at 6:51 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


But the question remains: so what is our plan?

I don't know, but whatever it turns out to be, people like David Frum are going to have to make up for their careers by moving the Overton Window leftwards. As Republicans, they will have to use their expertise to undo the Republican Project that brought us here, which is going to involve cutting some large branches off the tree. Republicans themselves are going to have to show the rest of us that this has been done, prominently. I think this is a decent framework for a plan, at least.

Until I see that, he and NeverTrumpers are persona non grata angling to stow away in a Democratic Party-driven recovery.
posted by rhizome at 6:54 PM on November 4 [3 favorites]


back in the politics thread I posted this thing about one of the standard delusional epistemological strategies on the right. That thread wasn't the place to talk about the standard delusional epistemological strategies among liberals, but this thread might be.

anyway, among liberals it's an article of faith that debate is something that changes minds, or at least that it's potentially possible that debate can change minds. "Because debate can change minds," goes the argument, "therefore there must exist some debate strategy that can change minds."

This is, unfortunately, not true. It presumes first that people respond to rational arguments, but more than that, it presumes that value systems are something derived from rational argument; that just like it's possible to present evidence to change someone's mind about what strategy is best for achieving a particular goal, it's also possible to present evidence to change peoples' minds about what goals are preferred.

This isn't the case.

SOME POINTS ON CHANGING A MIND:

1) If you want to change someone's mind, you have to accept first that they might have very good reasons for behaving differently from you that you're never going to dislodge; that no piece of evidence will ever sway them away from fascism simply because they honestly really do prefer fascism — the pleasure of being part of the group that wears the shiny jackboots that kick the outcaste, and the pleasure of having a man with even shinier jackboots for them to lick, is genuinely more satisfying to them than formal equality under liberalism or material equality under socialism.

2) Moreover, you have to accept that your own value system is just as rooted in individual preference rather than rational argument. No reason will ever make you a fascist, because the sweet agonies and pleasures of the jackboot don't appeal to you on a raw affective level, or at least appeal less than the semi-stability of life under liberal capitalism.

3) If anything changes minds, it's shifts in peoples' material circumstances. If it becomes more painful to be a fascist and more pleasurable to be a nonfascist, fewer people will be fascist. If the people around you are fascist, you'll likely pick up fascism from them. If it's to your economic or psychological benefit to support fascism, you're statistically likely to support fascism. If your boss will fire you for being a fascist, you're statistically less likely to support fascism. If you can't get a date if you're caught being fascist in public, you're statistically less likely to become a fascist. If it's to your economic or psychological benefit to support liberal capitalism, you'll be statistically likely to support liberal capitalism. If your boss will fire you for voting for a leftist, you're statistically more unlikely to vote for leftists. If your best friends join DSA and make more friends there, you'll be statistically likely to join DSA and support social democrats and democratic socialists.

4) This has nothing — nothing! — to do with rational argument — with the Enlightenment notion of ideas competing in a marketplace and the best idea with the best arguments for it winning out — and everything to do with environment. If you want to really effectively propagandize someone, you can't focus on changing their ideas. Instead you have to focus on changing their surroundings, which will thereby change their habits and thereby change their minds. Through this process, they'll come to the ideas you want them to have, without you ever having to tell them — in fact, they'll think they've come up with those ideas themselves, independently from anything you've done to make it inevitable that they'll come up with them.

5) Here's the shit of it, though, and it's something that people have picked up on in this thread. If you want to change a fascist's mind, you have to make it socially impossible to be a fascist — by no-platforming fascist leaders, by shunning and mocking the fascist rank-and-file, by, essentially, engaging in social punishment and enacting social isolation to discourage new people from joining the fascists and to discourage the extant fascists from fashing in public. And when you do this, you are in large part really legitimately engaging in tribalism, just like fascists engage in tribalism. The only difference is, your ideas are good and their ideas are bad.

6) Now refer back to points one and two: You can never be certain that your ideas are "good" and their ideas are "bad." In the final analysis, there is no rational basis for value systems. We can reason about methods to reach goals, but you can't ever lock down rock-solid reasons for having those goals in the first place. And so choosing a value system to guide your actions will always in one way or another require a certain leap of faith. We are all, fascists, liberals, socialists, anarchists, faced with the impossible situation of deciding to act, of being forced to act, without being able to fully justify our actions.

But we must act, because failure to act is itself an action.

It's a hell of a world we're in. A hell of a world.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:56 PM on November 4 [57 favorites]


"destroy capitalism" literally is the answer to "what to do about it" though. Fascism has room to thrive in part when social conditions exacerbate divisions and allow groups to start blaming minorities for the problems "their group" is facing. I'm not even slightly just "being angry online" or glib about the urgency with which we literally need to destroy capitalism, because it is literally killing the planet (as human habitable) and putting us on a path to resource wars and massive humanitarian crises. That it feeds fascism is on top of all that.
posted by odinsdream at 6:57 PM on November 4 [10 favorites]


In the long run I suspect it really is true that "smash capitalism" has to be the solution, because liberal capitalist markets inflict far too much pain on most people living under them. And those people, more likely than not, will always find the fascist alternative to liberal capitalism quite appealing indeed.

In the short run, though, the left is small, very small, and capitalism is big, very big. Far too big a thing to fight with our extant tools. Right now straightforwardly attacking capitalism from the left is about as effective as punching the Pacific Ocean. So perhaps instead of focusing on smashing capitalism, we should instead focus on building: building organizations, spaces, and practices that allow for us to thrive somewhat outside of capitalism. Environments that prefigure a post-capitalist life. Environments that give people the idea that there even could be something outside of capitalism, a hint that the end of capitalism really is possible someday. And maybe those environments will seem better than fascism to the people who find themselves at the pointy end of liberal capitalism.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:12 PM on November 4 [12 favorites]


do we have to "smash" capitalism? Couldn't we dissolve instead? It might throw less in the way of lethal debris. And I'm at least half serious here. When Britain had its ass handed to it by Hitler's blitzkrieg in 1940 and found itself at the brink of annihilation, I don't think anyone was seriously talking about smashing Hitler's fascism. Yet they were pursuing every possible means available to them toward undermining its continued spread, cracking codes, working with various undergrounds throughout Europe, exploiting any weakness they could find, and so on. So that eventually, maybe some smashing could be done.
posted by philip-random at 7:30 PM on November 4 [4 favorites]


Couldn't we dissolve instead?

It has to evolve, and in a more equitable direction. The changes should be seismic, just to keep people from going bananas, but the ship needs to be righted. There are plenty of examples of strong democratic socialist models, and besides the importance of doing something, the US could provide a really good example of it working with a much larger GDP. We should probably switch to a parliamentary model at the same time, too.
posted by rhizome at 7:50 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


When Britain had its ass handed to it by Hitler's blitzkrieg in 1940 and found itself at the brink of annihilation, I don't think anyone was seriously talking about smashing Hitler's fascism.

Really now?

No one was saying it was going to be a quick fight. But the rhetoric certainly wasn't meek.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:42 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


in my impression, those are statements of resilience and resolve, not cries of ATTACK!
posted by philip-random at 8:56 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


*putting shoes on* Hi I was told this is was where we meet to erode capitalism?
posted by The Whelk at 9:59 PM on November 4 [7 favorites]


What do you want to happen? Violent uprising? Civil war? Secession? I'm being honest here, what's your game plan? What steps do you want to make over the next few years?

We must throw our bodies on the gears to protect our most vulnerable fellows here in the U.S. and abroad. Musing about placidly building bridges in the next few years without the smashing and tearing down of mechanisms of oppression which will be necessary to protect trans people and immigrants and people who need health care and to stop new wars from being ignited is either a fantasy or a statement of intent to live in a fantasy.

There's one: a moratorium on starting wars. If there is indeed any such thing as a just war we are in no condition to be able to prosecute one. We're like a drunk fishing in our pocket for the keys to the car. Any enterprise of that sort we might initiate in the next few years will simply be an exercise in mass murder.

So whatever we would need to do to stop a war from beginning during the next few years, that's what we need to do. For starters.

And if your conception of the actions that need to be taken arrives at “well you simply can't stop war” when you think about that then the measures you're envisioning are inadequate for dealing with the rest of it too.
posted by XMLicious at 1:57 AM on November 5 [5 favorites]


The notion of a smooth transition away from capitalism entails the wealthy surrendering, with various degrees of willing, their immoral hoards of wealth and ill-gotten control over society. Revolutionary socialism doesn't exist because socialists like violence. Revolutionary socialism exists because the notion of the ruling class handing over power willingly is a fantasy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:46 AM on November 5 [11 favorites]


I think it also bears repeating as others have said before, no-one thinks the slogans are what make change happen. They're more for the people who're already there.

It's the organising and building that leads to the rallies that matters more. The rally is a show of force - but it should be showing not that we can turn up to a rally, but that people are working against the fascists, that they have answers, that they're capable of taking other forms of collective action if required.

They're for further building, meeting new people who want to be more involved, promoting co-operation between groups. Showing up at a rally is the start, not the end. At least that's how I've been taught to think of them.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 4:11 AM on November 5 [6 favorites]


I really like slogans, though. they're fun. Fun is good.

> It's the organising and building that leads to the rallies that matters more. The rally is a show of force - but it should be showing not that we can turn up to a rally, but that people are working against the fascists, that they have answers, that they're capable of taking other forms of collective action if required.

I'm going to continue switching sides of the discussion in order to refine the argument through I dunno some kinda dialectical process ("dialectical" is a term I just came up with, it's pretty good right?)

Anyway, the danger now becomes organizing for organizing's sake — building the organization, in order to build the organization, in order to... (and so forth until you run out of stack and crash). That's how you end up with relatively ineffective groups like the various American Trotskyist tendencies; organizing for organizing's sake ultimately doesn't accomplish much, unless you count selling a few crappy newspapers as an accomplishment.

I'm not DSA, but one reason I like DSA more than the Trotskyists is that they seem to be focused on doing stuff rather than just on growing, even if that "stuff" is often just electoral politics. So organize to organize, sure, throw rallies to promote your group — but do make sure that your group is doing something for others instead of just trying to grow for growth's sake. Growth for growth's sake is the core logic of capitalism, and that logic by itself will never supplant capitalism.

tl;dr: by yr works they will know you.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:39 AM on November 5 [8 favorites]


Yet they were pursuing every possible means available to them toward undermining its continued spread

Yes, and that includes being a part of the Allies (US, Britain, Soviet Union, China), a group of nations that were in some ways more thrown together by circumstance and common enemies rather than ideology or shared beliefs.

Revolutionary socialism doesn't exist because socialists like violence.

Eh, but there will be those that will join because they like violence. Also, if violence becomes the reliable tool for change, then those that are good at violence tend to become leaders.
posted by FJT at 9:31 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]


Violence is a reliable tool for change, though.

liberal hallmark: thinking that asserting that violence isn’t a reliable tool for change thereby makes violence not a reliable tool for change.

The thing is, though, as people noted upthread, we’re living in a world with nuclear weapons in it. And in very practical terms, every nuclear weapon in the world is pointed at the working class. If the White Army had had nukes in 1917, St. Petersburg would have become a smoldering crater by mid-November.

I feel sort of like a tool saying this, or maybe like an essentialist, but I think any successful violent revolution will have to forego the masculinist ideology that goes with traditional revolutionary socialism. The types of violence we need don’t involve great men standing atop barricades with guns, they don’t involve glorious clashes with the cops. they don’t involve glory at all.

The only violence available to us as an underclass in a world where the overclass has access to overwhelming force comes in the more traditionally gendered-female forms; quiet subversion, social misdirection, whisper networks, subtle sabotage, slow poison and knives in the dark, with no clear moment of victory and with no delusions about coming out of the fight clean. Don’t think Lenin striding through St. Petersburg, think Judith sawing off Holofernes’s head.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:48 AM on November 5 [11 favorites]


I haven't been able to read the entire thread yet but via search/skimming I hadn't seen this mentioned.

People up top have mentioned actionable ideas for how to fight back (other, I believe, than the explicit civil war). I recently bought a book by Clara Zetkin, a German woman who tried to bring attention to the rise and inevitability of fascism and a fascist government in Germany without active resistance even farther back than 1923.

The book is called Fighting Fascism: How to Struggle and How to Win. The introduction, the book's modern-day relevance, and the basic breakdown of the philosophy she goes into can be read about here.

I like the book. I consider it enlightening and helpful, especially for someone like me who hasn't actually studied any of it and just has mental exhaustion trying to think about where to go from here. And while I see so many similarities to our situation in the US today I'm... unfortunately cynical about the differences that seem like they would make a lot of her suggestions much more difficult or impossible in US society. But anyway. I'm trying not to be. Nothing we can do but try, right?
posted by nogoodverybad at 9:50 AM on November 5 [6 favorites]


liberal hallmark: thinking that asserting that violence isn’t a reliable tool for change thereby makes violence not a reliable tool for change.

I never said violence wasn't a reliable tool. It is a reliable tool to get what you want.

Also, I think the distinction drawn out between "masculine" and "feminine" forms of violence doesn't really exist. There's nothing that prevents a group from using some or all forms simultaneously.
posted by FJT at 10:37 AM on November 5





Also, I think the distinction drawn out between "masculine" and "feminine" forms of violence doesn't really exist



Sorry to derail, but it mostly depends on what field you're coming from.. In criminology, this distinction does still exist, mostly due to statistical data that has been collected over the years. But I feel ya that these statistics often lead to these sorts of conclusions that sound very gender essentialist.
posted by some loser at 10:50 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that you have to include an awful lot of cases where only one side uses violence, and is doing so from a position of dominance, to even get above a 50% reliability rate for violence as a method.

Not that it has no place in opposition to fascism, hardly that, but the instances where it accomplishes something other than reinforcing the status quo must be even lower than its reliability rate, low enough that you'd want to reserve its use quite a bit to avoid shooting yourself in the foot. We have an awful lot of guns available for foot-shooting in the US...

Anyways, here's a ~4min Al Jazeera English video from last year which made me think of this thread: “Too Extreme For Skinheads” (though it's still approaching fascism as a set of ideas, of course)
posted by XMLicious at 11:06 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]


I am right now going to disclose that I was listening to “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks when I posted that last comment.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:07 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]


but anyway may we all someday have some land and a roadside stand out on highway 109.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:09 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]


I'm just going to go ahead and share what I think is the key quote from that nice article the Whelk just gave us

as Däumig put it, “its formation will never follow a set of bureaucratic rules. Rather, it will take on its exterior form and its tactics according to the demands of a particular revolutionary situation and a particular revolutionary development

That said, there is still a lot to be learned from the past, I had my eye on that Zetkin book myself the other day. All I've read from Zetkin came from Marxists In Face of Fascism, which is a really interesting compendium of interwar Marxists writing on fascism. Great for getting a good sense of a range of responses at the time.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 11:22 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]


But I feel ya that these statistics often lead to these sorts of conclusions that sound very gender essentialist.

Okay. I guess what I meant was, I don't think American society views one as more or much more "glorious" than the other. The use of underhanded tactics is also frequently marched out by conservatives when the argument that their guns would be useless against a standing army. They see themselves in both the Wolverines and the Minutemen.
posted by FJT at 11:53 AM on November 5


Revolutionary socialism doesn't exist because socialists like violence.

Eh, I think everybody, Left and Right loves violent rhetoric. This thread is a case in point.

I think the Left in America and Europe really hasn't come to grips with how political struggle and violence in the modern day works. They're all still stuck in a 5th of May bullshit mindset, when the world has moved on to one where everyone can be tracked, and a private citizen can kill hundreds of people. I mean, in the modern war even killing a person usually isn't necessary- just exposing them online will do.

We're on a very different level of propaganda and moral warfare here, twenty years behind and barely comprehending the important factions we lost, and how far we need to go to catch up. I don't see much in here to give me hope that we will.
posted by happyroach at 2:17 PM on November 5 [6 favorites]


fascism is a *political* enterprise. smashing fascism doesnt mean convincing every white supremacist around that they're wrong. it means depriving them of the political leaders that catalyze their movement. the best way to do that in a teetering liberal democracy is to support (by voting for, donating to, and volunteering for) politicians who are (1) personally charismatic, (2) supportive of broad based social welfare programs and (3) who refuse to even entertain or give a platform to bad faith opponents who want to undermine the political system we are in. that third part is key to what we are discussing in this thread; if we're playing chess and your move is to try to jam a rook in my throat, we are done playing. (if all that fails and the govt collapses into authoritarianism, all bets are off. but until then, i think that's the best plan.)
posted by wibari at 2:26 PM on November 5 [5 favorites]


Eh, I think everybody, Left and Right loves violent rhetoric.

Well then I'd like just take the opportunity on the eve of Election Day to officially go on record and say I very, very much don't care for violent rhetoric. And it's probably what's caused me to nope out of most political discussion (including here) for at least the last few months.
posted by FJT at 6:26 PM on November 5 [6 favorites]


I'd argue we're already well into the new kind of civil revolt that hippybear describes.
posted by odinsdream at 6:35 PM on November 5


*putting shoes on* Hi I was told this is was where we meet to erode capitalism?

We're gonna need more water. And hot air; lots more hot air, blown harder.
posted by eviemath at 3:20 PM on November 6


Macron's plan to pay tribute to Nazi collaborator Pétain stirs anger

As if insurgent far right-wing populists weren't enough, neoliberal center types are also moving right, or at least aping nationalist appeals.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:23 PM on November 7 [4 favorites]


On the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch, how not to respond to fascists
posted by The Whelk at 8:24 AM on November 9 [4 favorites]


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